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..I am deeply in touch with the essences that doom conveys; sadness and mourning, brooding and sorrow, mystery, otherworldly essences, grief, darkness..

Interview with Hierophant.
John Del Russi All doom bands are underestimated, but some bands are more underestimated than others. Take Hierophant for instance, this soul crushing doom project of John Del Russi. His unrelentingly slow, hallucinating ultradoom should normally make of Hierophant one of the contemporary doom-metal icons. Nevertheless, most doom metal fans have probably not even heard of this amazing project. Doom-metal.com decided to investigate the reasons why Hierophant is still an extremely obscure, underground doom band; in our search we stumbled upon John Del Russi and we had the pleasure to 'evoke' from this self-willed doom artist a very interesting interview...

Dark blessings, John, and thanx for doing this interview! Maybe you could start by giving an overview of the history of Hierophant, as our most readers probably don't know Hierophant yet...

"Hierophant is an one-man project of extreme doom/death. I started playing doom at a very young age, influenced by the pioneers of doom diSEMBOWELMENT, My Dying Bride, Thergothon, etc. After having attempted to play with other people throughout the years, I decided to go on my own for two reasons; one, it makes the music all the more personal, and can be done the way I feel it; two, doom is just too extreme and misunderstood by a lot of people, which makes it very difficult to find people who desire to play it."

So if I understood correctly, it was a deliberate decision, so that you can have every aspect of your band under control? Are there also disandvantages of having to do everything on your own?

"It is definitely deliberate, and for the reason you mentioned: it allows to me to do things the way I want to, and since it is an expression of my soul, it could only be done right by doing it alone. As for being an advantage or disadvantage, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, if you're playing with someone who happens to have good equipment that you do not have, that can be of great help. It can also, at times, be an advantage to have some 'feedback' from someone as things progress; they may even add to it in ways, giving you ideas etc. But all-in-all, a much more important aspect is 'where' the music comes from; what lies 'behind' the music. Personally, despite all the troubles of equipment problems (or a lack there-of), financial difficulties etc. I find it much more rewarding when I create something that comes strictly from within me. Playing music with other people, unless it is someone you are very tight with, can add or take away certain aspects from your creations, which makes it alot less personal to you and turn up results you are not happy with. It can also be a 'distraction' when working with another, causing one to hold back a bit where their essence is concerned. Unless, of course, you are the kind of person who plays 'just to play' or just for 'fun', which I am not. I would much rather be on my own, letting my soul out 100%, which can be difficult when working with others."

The production of your both EP's is rough, underground and obscure. Is this done intentionally, or do you rather lack the means to give your music the production you really want? Let's say that you had a big budget to spend, would you change anything on your recordings?

"Truthfully, it's a little of both; one just 'feeding' the other. I really like the 'raw' sound, as I feel it creates a much more mysterious and brutal feel/atmosphere. The fact that the equipment I used at the time was not all that great, that just played right into the sound I was looking for; though I would have liked to clean up certain things, and bring out others. If I had a big budget, I would stick with the same 'type' of sound/style of recording, but it would just be a little less rough around the edges with certain things. It is a fine line to walk for me, as I feel a strong affinity for the 'under-produced' sound, but not to the degree of 'ruining' the music. Of course, if I truly had a big budget, I would make Hierophant the heaviest doom band on the planet. Unfortunately, that is hard to achieve with sour equipment."

I thought that your second EP 'The weight of winter' contained -except of the third mammoth title track- the two same recordings of the songs from your s/t EP. I have the impression that 'Forever dying' starts differently on 'The weight of winter', though. Are those two different recordings?'

"Actually, they are the same recordings; they were simply remastered by Dario Derna (Evoken/Krohm) with whom I've had the pleasure of playing with for a time. Once I finished 'The Weight Of Winter' (3rd track) Dario remastered it, along with the original two giving them a much 'larger' sound."

Since I speak Greek, I more or less suspect what the answer on this question shall be...but here we go anyway: what does the name of your band actually mean?

"An Hierophant is an ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred (esp. the Eleusinian) mysteries. In general, an Hierophant is regarded as an interpreter of sacred mystery or arcane knowledge. To me, the concept is very personal, as I feel a similarity between myself and the definition. Anything 'sacred' and 'mysterious' appeals to me; calls to my soul, as it is in my nature."

The first thing that strikes one when listening to Hierophant, is the unbelievable soul crushing heaviness of the sound and the monotonous, monolithic atmosphere. Do you think those two aspects are essential in making doom-metal? Is it possible to make doom without any of those two aspects?

*laughs* "This is where a 'war' can be started between certain doom 'elitists'. Personally, I find it much more powerful with both of those qualities. There are those who strive to create a more 'serene' form of doom, but I find it very lacking. I feel that the dark emotions and essences that are expressed through doom-metal, are delivered with far much more power and conviction when backed by that monolithic atmosphere and crushing heaviness that you have mentioned. I think both aspects are definitely essential to doom, and actually add to the more 'serene' and moody atmospheres in ways. Doom, in definition, is a brutal experience. Therefore, I feel that along with the extreme emotionality of doom, there should always be that 'brutality' and pulverizing quality to really drive it deeper into the soul."

Recently, humanity has been tested by some really horrible events. Do you think doom can bring some consolation in those difficult times? What's the signicance of doom-metal for the individual, anyway?

"Yes, I was deeply affected by what has happened recently. Consolation? It depends on how you are feeling at the moment. I suppose that if one needed to release those feelings of sadness and desolation, doom would be the perfect release. On the other hand, it could make one feel worse and sink deeper into the 'negative' emotions. I suppose it all depends on the intention of the individual. As for the significance of doom-metal for the individual, I think the word 'individual' basically says it all. It is different for everyone. For me, it is very significant and extremely personal, as I am deeply in touch with the essences that doom conveys; sadness and mourning, brooding and sorrow, mystery, otherworldly essences, grief, darkness etc. It can become a very personal aspect in one's life, as either a release for these emotions, or to evoke them. For me, it is both."

I heard Nick from Evoken recommending Hierophant on several occations. Are you friends with the members of Evoken? Is there any kind of cooperation between the two bands?

"Yes, Evoken (especially Nick Orlando and Dario Derna) have been extremely supportive of Hierophant. I am closest with Dario, as I've actually played with him in a black metal side project. He has been a great friend and an extremely talented musician. Nick is like me in a lot of ways; very to himself and hard to get in touch with, so I haven't spent much time with him. But the times I've spent with him, we clicked strongly. He has been supporting Hierophant for long before I even knew he was! They are all really great guys, and talented doesn't even begin to describe them. Very deep souls, without a doubt. I spoke with Dario about possibly doing a side project with Nick and himself in the future after the new album was released. However, I will be moving 1,100 miles away to Michigan in a month, so I doubt that will happen. It would have been a great honour for me, and I'm sure we would have done something really incredible and very extreme, given my essence and theirs is so similar. Who knows? Maybe one day..."

Is there actually anything resembling a doom-metal scene in New Jersey? It's highly unusual that two extreme doom bands like Evoken and Hierophant come from the same place...

"Yeah, it is a rather unique thing that both of us are from the same state (actually, within one hour of each other), but there is no one else (that I know of) resembling doom from New Jersey. As many people that live here and play instruments, there actually is not much that comes out of Jersey period. There have been a few notable bands, but not many. As for doom-metal bands, I think Evoken and Hierophant are about it."

You have another project running with the name Sect. Is it an one man band as well? How important is this project for you in comparison with Hierophant?

Yes, Sect is another one man project on my part. It is the completely opposite and extreme of Hierophant, being really intense, raging black metal. In this way, I get to express the extreme sides of my personality (of which there are many). As for importance? Tough question, but doom has always been my first love. Doom is the most personal thing to me, above all. But everything I do is personal, being that I never write 'just to write', so I try not to compare (though I'd have to say I am indeed more drawn to Hierophant, for the above-mentioned reasons). Doom to me, expresses emotions, essences and atmospheres that nothing else can, and is probably why it is always my main focus and most personal form of expression."

if you were to promote Hierophant, which aspects of your band would you emphasize? Why should someone f.i. prefer Hierophant, instead of another extreme doom band?

"Well, that is a tough question for me, as I do not like to 'whore' my music. I'm a very harsh critic, on myself most of all, so it would be difficult for me to 'promote' any one aspect of Hierophant. All I would (or could) say is that Hierophant has certain qualities: pulverizing heaviness, mysterious and depressive atmospheres and is slow as death. If that appeals to you, than you might like it. I don't think it should be 'prefered' over any other extreme doom band, if they are within the same vein. Perhaps, beheld as equals, but that would be as far as I'd take 'promoting' my own music."

What are your future plans with Hierophant?

"Well, the ultimate question (laughs). I have enough music finished, and have for some time, to release a very long full-length. My future plans are to do just that; however, I have to get over the constant financial hump I seem to get stuck on. This has been perhaps the hardest and most frustrating thing for me, as creating music is such a personal 'ritual' for me, that is pains me deeply to not express myself (especially being a very expressive person by nature). I just hope that I am very soon in a position to finish the 'legacy' that I started, and leave my mark behind once and for all."

You also have your own label, Black Beyonds Music. Is this label only meant to promote and distribute your two bands, or is it meant as a label for underground doom/black bands as well?

"It was originally created to distribute my own material. I might have considered distributing others if I had the finances. I know how hard it is to 'get out there', and there a lot of great unsigned bands who I feel really deserve attention. However, I do not know if that will ever happen. So for now, Black Beyonds Music remains just one more aspect of the 'personalizing' of my music for me."

That's it, John...thanx for your patience and I wish you good luck with Hierophant. Is there anything you would like to add as a 'finishing touch' to this interview?

"I'd like to say that this is, without a doubt, the most interesting and enjoyable interview I've ever done. I thank you deeply for giving me the opportunity to do it. Doom-metal.com and its staff, namely yourself and Aldo, have been a great support of Hierophant, and I thank you both for that. Thanks also to Dario and Nick, for all their support over the last couple of years, and the rest of Evoken. Doom-metal.com is truly a pillar in the doom-metal community. Take care, and thanks again."

Visit the Hierophant bandpage.

Interviewed on 2001-10-24 by Kostas.
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