Interview: One Man Black Metal Project - VALAC
Words/Interview by Kelly Tee
Valac is a USBM one-man band hailing from the sunny scapes of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since his first album release 'Leaning Toward Bitter Misery' – the underground world of black metal seem to be keeping an eye on this young artist who exudes maturity of darkness into his composition and offers a excursion of frost bitten and intense soundscapes. I caught up with R.P, the creator of Valac to discuss his artistic independence as a solo artist, his inspiration for writing such bleak and confronting black metal and what we can expect from R.P as a rising musician, into the future.
Hi R.P – thank you for chatting with me. You are a young lad hailing from Santa Fe, New Mexico – last year (2019) saw your first full-length album Leaning Toward Bitter Misery smash the black metal scene in the US and worldwide making many top album lists for that year. How successful was this album for you personally and were you expecting this response from so many black metal listeners?
Greetings Kelly, no problem. That is indeed all correct. I'll first start by saying that LTBM was very successful for me for several reasons and I'm quite grateful for how all that has panned out. The album is a lot of pent up emotions, pain, and creativity of mine. I was not expecting the overwhelmingly positive response to the album. I was confident in the material I made but I didn't think it'd connect with so many different people. I can also thank Appalachian Noise Records for being the only label to believe in my music/album at the time.
'Leaning Toward Bitter Misery' was extremely raw and melancholic with obvious underlying darkness – I was impressed to learn your young age, after hearing such maturity within your sound. Where did your journey start? What is your earliest memory of how you fell for black metal and what was your driving decision to create Valac?
Well, I've been playing music since I was around 13. When I was around 16 I started to immerse myself in black metal. Bands like Leviathan, Xasthur, Mgła, Judas Iscariot, and Burzum to name a few caught my ear. Leviathan's debut album in particular was probably my earliest memory of being consumed by black metal. I have always been fascinated with one man bands... I knew that was what I needed to do with Valac. Since I was 16 I wanted to have my project, I wanted an outlet for my ideas. Health issues and certain other factors prevented me from committing to that until the beginning of last year when I was 20. I've been a full force since then.
You backed up your debut full length with an exceptionally good Demo in 2020 – and even though it had only been not quite 12 months your sound seemed to have deepened with intensity and even darker. What was your inspiration for this demo, did it meet your initial vision, and how does a young lad living in sunny Santa Fe conjure up such disdain and hate within his soundscapes?
Yes, the second demo "Years Deprived" and some other material formed right after the recording of LTBM. I feel like deepened with intensity is a good way to describe the evolution of my sound recently. The inspiration for the second demo was a further experience in dismay and cathartic pain. An extension of the debut album. It completely fits my vision. Santa Fe is indeed sunny and beautiful, It can get quite intense during the autumn and winter. When I recorded the demo it was very cold and gloomy. I tend to write and record at night so that probably makes a difference.
The USBM scene is fast becoming huge – often referenced as a movement and a new wave of black metal. How does it feel to be apart of this movement and what do you see it is that sets USBM apart from the rest of the black metal scenes around the world?
I feel honored to be a part of USBM. As stated earlier, some of the most impactful black metal musicians for me are from the states. I just think the number of one-man bands in this country is what separates a lot of other scenes around the world. Lots of prolific artists here as well.
You have recently been involving yourself with some deadly collaborations with various black metal artists, such as Aussie black metal solo project Kommodus & of course your most recent endeavour with your soon to be released Split Far Below The Mortal Grasp – which a split between yourself and Nihil Invocation. How did these collaborations come about and how important is it for you as a younger and newer artist on the scene to do work with other artists aligned to your darkness?
Ahh yes, Kommodus has become a very good friend of mine. Glad I could lend some vocals for his incredible debut LP. I'm extremely happy with how the split with Nihil Invocation turned out. Deathwalker approached me about doing the split... I was pretty familiar with his work so I was interested. Things must align. I only want to work with people that are passionate and dedicated like myself.
Let's discuss your split with Nihil Invocation, Titled Far Below The Mortal Grasp. Your part on this split is completely shattering, and again I hear your intensity and maturity as a musician grow, yet again. It is of course a mundane question, however, I am interested to know who your biggest black metal influences are, but more so, who you feel are your biggest musical influencers outside of the heavy metal genres that help shape your sound?
Some of my biggest influences within the black metal are Orgy of Carrion, Leviathan, Bekëth Nexëhmü, Sanguine Relic, Xasthur, Judas Iscariot, Orlok, Black Cilice, Nächtlich and of course my comrades Kommodus and Grógaldr. Outside of metal... that is hard to say, I don't have a lot of non-metal influences for Valac. I would have to say though Soft Kill, Buckethead, and Old Tower to name a few.
What drove you to create a solo project as opposed to starting a band? And do you look further into the future of Valac, to a day where there might be a call for you to take your music to stage? Do you have a personal interest in doing so – or will Valac remain a recording only?
I wanted full control. When you work with band members, you don't have full control. I knew too I was perfectly capable of doing everything myself. Valac is very personal to me as well. I've thought about doing Valac live... I have a few fellow musicians and friends that would help make that happen but it's very much in the air.
Maybe someday... who knows.
What has been your biggest learning within the music industry so far? Both positive or negative, and have you been faced with many hurdles to overcome so far within the industry and if so, how did you find resolve?
Most of my experience with the music industry has been pretty positive. I've been treated fairly and I have worked with some great labels/people. If anything I've learned patience... physical albums take a while to layout and make.
How would you describe the metal scene in your home town? (Pre COVID of course).
I'd describe the metal scene in Santa Fe as small but passionate. I know quite a lot of people/bands around here. Vanum, Superstition, Predatory Light, and Heretical Sect being my favorite bands from Santa Fe.
The USBM scene and well, the underground black metal scene, in general, seems fairly supportive of each other – less competition more building each other up which is great to see. Have you received support & encouragement from other artists and how has this affected you?
Yes for the most part fellow artists have been very supportive and encouraging towards me. I'm grateful for that. Now and then I'll come across an asshole or such but that is rare.
Covid has seen bands smashing out music – and you are fairly active in your releases at the best of times, therefore, what is next for you R.P? What can fans have to look forward to from Valac?
Next for me is a split with the mighty Grógaldr. A split with Kommodus will also be out in the future. New material coming soon from my dungeon synth project Lost Horizons as well. I have some anonymous projects/albums going on too... constantly staying busy.
What is your vision for Valac, where would you like to take this project by way of sound and overall achievement into the future?
I don't think I have a particular vision for Valac... I just want to keep making lots of crushing and unique black metal.
R.P, thank you for chatting with me it has been a pleasure. If there is anything you'd like to leave the reader with, go for it.
Thank you a bunch, Kelly. Check out my Bandcamp here: valacnm.bandcamp.com