Photo courtesy of Twilight Fauna
Paul Ravenwood, the lone man behind Twilight Fauna, is an anomaly in the US black metal scene. He's open and jovial rather than standoffish like many of his musical peers. Additionally, his music is lo-fi and raw, but he avoids the misanthropic clichés of similar artists by drawing inspiration from the Appalachian Mountains he calls home rather than fixating on occultism and hatred.
His latest musical effort, a split seven-inch with multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Christensen, is due out on December 18, and Noisey has an exclusive premiere of the song "Crossing the Threshhold." The track brings to mind a snowstorm tearing through the mountains of Tennessee. It's harsh and relentless, but there's also beauty to be found if you look close enough.
You can stream "Crossing the Threshold" below, but take a few minutes to read this illuminating interview with Paul first.
Noisey: Alright, so can you start out by telling me a little bit of history behind this split with Jennifer Christensen? Like how it came about?
Paul Ravenwood: Yeah, well I've been following Jennifer for a while with Møllehøj and some of her other projects. So when I was thinking about putting a seven-inch together, I was starting to look around at some of the other musicians who might fit the bill for it. I had a tremendous amount of respect for her and what she does in all of her projects, so I just sort of struck up a friendship with her and it grew from there.
This isn't your first split with another artist. You've done a number of them. You had the split with Old Thunder last year. You've done splits with Crown of Asteria and Filsufatia, too. As a solo artist, what attracts you to splits with other artists?
I think it really helps me grow. With a lot of one person musicians, you don't get to work with people in a studio a lot of times, so I really enjoy the camaraderie of it. The sense of community it brings. But also, for me personally as an artist, it allows me to explore different aspects of my own sound. There are some splits I go into where I want to match what the other artist is doing so it flows together. Sometimes it's the opposite. It allows me to stretch myself writing-wise.
So the process is pretty collaborative as far as writing music?
Each split has its own flavor to it as far as how it all works out. There's a lot of communication up front where we discuss what we want. Is there a theme to it? Is there a common sound that we want? Splits, to me, should be more than just two people throwing songs together. It should be two artists coming together forming one release. I think there is a very communal aspect to it. I feel very close to the people I've done splits with. You share so much personal stuff in this type of music. To come together with somebody else and do a split like that, it takes a lot of trust. I really enjoy being a part of that.
It sounds like it's more of a symbiotic relationship.
It is. I think it's a way to connect with other artists. To me, I almost feel like it's a family thing really. It's two artists coming together for one joint venture. It's sort of unique to what I do. Otherwise it's just me in solitude doing my own thing and unveiling it to the world.
Getting back to you as an individual song writer, you live in Tennessee in the heart of Appalachia. How does that affect you as a musician and an artist?
As a human being, I've grown up here so it's just a part of who I am. As an artist, I grew up hearing old time mountain music. I grew up hearing the older women in my family singing hymns from their porches. All the stereotypical stuff people from outside the area would think with all the bluegrass and folk music. I grew up with that. It's really affected me. When I sit down to write, even though it's black metal, I've always wanted to incorporate that since it's such a part of who I am and what I grew up with.
Do you see any sort of spiritual or aesthetic link between blue grass and black metal?
I definitely do in terms of it being outsider music. Before the 1920s, when bluegrass really caught on, this was music that was sung in the hollers that people lived in. People would get together and everyone would have a good time, but it wasn't something for mass consumption. And really, for the most part, they were singing about their lives. To me that directly correlates to what black metal is. It's so much a personal thing that people do. It's not necessarily meant to sell a product; it's people telling stories of who they are. At least, to me, that's what it should be.
There's a lot of atmospheric black metal bands in the US. How do you see yourself in relationship to them? How do you set yourself apart from the pack?
I feel like I'm set apart because of how isolated I am. It's one of those things where, if I'm going to go see another band that does stuff in a similar vein as what I do, I've pretty much got to travel four or five hours north to West Virginia to see some guys up there. I feel like I'm separated from the pack because geographically I'm so isolated from it. I don't really think about that when I sit down to write stuff. I just try to write really honest music and it comes out how it comes out.
Shayne Mathis is running with the pack on Twitter.