Interview with Michel Nienhuis from AUTARKH


Autarkh takes a unique position in the world of extreme metal. Synthetic, IDM-style beats and glitch effects-reminiscent of those produced by artists such as APHEX TWIN and AUTECHRE - are perfectly balanced with overwhelming riffs and vocals that range from dark growls and exasperating screams to semi-clean harmonies. Together with fluttering blast beats, dense bass lines and eerie soundscapes these elements produce an intense and crystal clear tunnel of sound where the energy of contrasting emotions is constantly felt.
From the fertile grounds of Tilburg (NL) rises this new contemporary metal outfit AUTARKH, a group of musical extremists dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the auditory senses. AUTARKH is the brainchild of Michel Nienhuis, founding member and composer/guitarist of the now defunct DODECAHEDRON. "Formed In Motion", the debut album that was released in 2021 on French label Season of Mist, feels like an evolution in sound and lyrical content from the two albums Nienhuis released with DODECAHEDRON.

First of all, your first show in Germany, how are you?

I'm feeling great. We figured it was quite a drive, so, we left yesterday, we drove to Leipzig, we stayed there and then another 2 hours to get there. But I knew about the Morbvs Maximvs Festival and friends of ours played here a couple of years ago. So yeah, I was glad that we got invited to play here and it seems like a very nice place, very nice people, very nice food also. So we are enjoying ourselves greatly so far.


Autarkh project starts after Dodecahedron ended, how did all started?

Well, let's see. Was 2019 and then I had a couple of songs that were originally written for the third album. And I was thinking about whether I can still use them or not.

And then a couple of months later I thought of an idea I had a couple of years before to ever try and experiment and see if it would be possible to use that type of metal, but then with electronic beats instead of acoustic drums. So I started to talk to friends and musicians about this idea and we first thought, okay, we need to try to make demos and see if it would work with all the sounds and stuff. So at some point I ran into David, the other guitar player, and we started talking about it and he thought it was a really interesting idea. And he is also a producer so they can do stuff at home. So we thought, okay, I'm going to try something and he is going to try something and see which type sounds comes out and what type of mix works well. So we were just experimenting to see if it would work and then well, we drew some conclusions from those demos and then we started to come up with more songs and then record them and make the production for “Form in motion”.

And that's actually during that production process, it was actually the time when the actual definitive sound got formed because we were mixing and seeing what the guitars should be. If we lift the guitars in this frequency area, then this and this sound from the Glitches, we can't hear it. So we needed to figure out where in the spectrum all the sounds would be.



Your first album came out in march 2021 via Season Of Mist, are you working on new material?

I have no idea. Yes, but we are working on it.

We're not finished. But we have some ideas. We have some demos for new songs and we will pretty soon start doing this video and experiment again and record some stuff. And if that is working, then we can work towards the second album.

We have a contract with Season of Mist for at least two albums, so the next one will be released with them too.


Autarkh project has 2 faces: Autarkh and Autarch III (alternative timeline of their album). Tell us more about it. How is it going to be in the future for album shows?

Well, Autark III, you can see it as a spin off of Autarkh. It's without our bass player. But he is doing our live sound. He's a sound engineer when we play with the trio. And it came up because I had the idea to see if we could transform these songs into something else by recycling the material. So we looked at certain ideas like this part of this song or this other part of this song. How could we reharmonize this intersection and what can we do with the lyrics? And then ultimately, it started to dawn on me like, okay, this is probably going to be some sort of inverted timeline of the original album, you know, also from kind of more of a business point of view. With this type of act, you can play in different type of festivals and stages.

So we have a rehearsal space in the building where the Paradox Jazz venue is. So that would be the type of venue where we also play, which we also did. We recorded our set in Paradox Tilburg in September, where we are from in the Netherlands. But basically it was like, okay, just put our material in a different context and then see what we can do with it.

You played at Hellfest this year and will open for Mayhem (like you did a few months ago) in a couple of weeks. How was the experience?


Well, I don't know, because on one hand, you can have Mayhem fans that are really fans of the older stuff, but also an album like “Grand Declaration of War” is a bit weird and also has an electronic spot. Yes. I'm guessing that the people who also are into the “Grand Declaration of War” or other later Mayhem stuff, might also like us. Although I do not consider us a black metal band. I mean, it's still extreme, but it's not black metal. But the two shows that we played with them in May were actually really nice and they are really nice to hang out with and apparently they liked us well. Otherwise they would not call us for more shows. So yeah, I'm looking forward to play the show.


Which band would you like to tour with?

Well, opening for Meshuggah would be great, but maybe in ten years. At this point, I don't think it fits in the size. It could happen. Yeah, it happened before as well. We had some options for things that didn't work out in the end, but there were options to tour with.

But it could be a metal band that also has electronic components. Or not. It doesn't really matter.

Also, we were supposed to play with Igorrr (canceled because of Covid) would be a nice fit because they have that combination.

Describe Autarkh in 3/5 words.

Intense, adventurous, challenging. Yeah. I'm thinking because the second album is most probably going to be quite different from what we do now, or at least to some parts, because for now, I would also use the word extreme because it's quite a lot of sounds. Maybe layered would be a good word. Or multilayered, because there's so many sounds going on. And we're going to see if we can minimize that a bit. Make it a bit more transparent on the second album because it's so intense to listen to. But yeah, I guess extreme and multilayer, those would be nice words, too.

I'd rather not make the same album twice. We're always evolving and finding different paths and seeing what moves us now. And we are not that much, but we're different people than we were four years ago. So we go to look at what we now have and then see, but I'm not sure yet because we don't know how it's going to come in the end.


How do you see the future for underground music?  

The underground will never die! That's one thing that's for sure. Underground will never die because the people resist. If we don't find that way, we find the other way. However, what you see now happening, at least in the Netherlands, is that venues, for instance, are programming very safely. They will program the bands or book the bands that people will go to because ticket sales are going down and prices are going up. So it makes it harder for new and fresh underground talent to find a way up. That might need an extra impulse or similar. It's actually something else I'm working on with the foundation that I have that we're trying to support the local underground in the area that we live in. Because we can see that one of the consequences of the dynamic could be that there's a gap in between here and there. But I think it will never die.



What do you think about VIP tickets, pay for a “meet and greet”, would you do this?

It's a way to make money. Completely bullshit.

If I would do it? I could not imagine myself in a position where I would be doing that. I will not say no, because I don't know, but come on, it's ridiculous. 

I was pissed off when this happened to me; when I was a young boy, I was a huge Guns ‘n Roses fan, but I never saw them in the 90s. So when they reunited with Axel in 2019 or something like that, they came to play in the Netherlands. And I was like, okay, it's probably not going to be as good as they were back then, but I'm still going to go, nostalgic and everything. And that was the first concert where I came where I figured out that, okay, so you walk up front, and I'm like, okay, here's fine, but at some point, maybe here. And then I see this border here, and I'm like, Why is that there? Like, oh, no, that's the first ring, like, the first area where people with more expensive tickets can be. And I thought: What? Come on, that's a class division. Like, okay, it's just a shitty capitalistic approach, which I do not like.

Maybe it's time for a revolution, we should start revolting against it.


Why should people listen to you?

Well, people should do whatever the fuck they want.

I would recommend listening to Autarkh If you are into Experimental Extreme Music and if you are looking for a sound that you may or may not or may have heard before and if you like an Adventure or if you are interested in artists who try to see if there's, like, new possible combinations.

If you like an experiment, or if you like something fresh or something else, then you can listen and see if you like it.


Thanks a lot!


Interview & live picturesby Fani Nadki at Morbvs Maximvs MMXXII

Thanks to Season Of Mist



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