In the pre-internet age, Harassor would rank pretty fucking high on the Black Metal Mystique Scale©. Vocalist Pete Majors is an ex-football player who covers himself in blood, often wears corpsepaint that verges on full blackface, and has a beard that should require its own zip code. Drummer Sandor GF grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Communist Hungary and is the mastermind behind isolationist black metal unit Lord Time and DIY label Universal Consciousness. The guitar player is none other than one-man USBM pioneer Lord Foul, who recorded a pair of cult demos in the mid-90s. His real name also happens to be—wait for it—James Brown III. Today, though, when the idea of mystique is fossilizing before our eyes? Harassor will have to settle for merely being one of the best bands in Los Angeles.
After toiling in underground obscurity for over a decade, the band has released their latest album, Into Unknown Depths, through Dais Records, the forward-thinking, bicoastal label known for collaborating with such disparate artists as Genesis P-Orridge, Youth Code, and Cold Cave. They’re also about to Harass the shit out of you on their first proper US tour. Noisey recently visited F-Haus, Harassor’s secret lair overlooking the black heart of Los Angeles, to find out WHAT IT ALL MEANS.
Below is a video for Harassor's "Strangulated"…
Noisey: Does Harassor have a philosophy behind it, musical or otherwise?
Sandor GF: Musically, no. But we have a motto that I came up with…
James Brown: “Harassor grimly demands the complete extermination of mankind.” That sentiment is like the glue that holds us together.
Sandor: It’s written on almost all of our releases. That’s just my modus operandi as far as ideology. Beyond that, I try to be a nice guy—a humanist. But that’s the grim underbelly.
Was there a band meeting about that?
Pete Majors: I think in general, we try not to over-think things. So in terms of a musical approach, it’s always been a natural thing for us—either from what we’re currently listening to or being influenced by in our lives. We’re always growing as both fans and musicians, and I think that somewhat shapes our sound. But there’s not much pre-deciding.
Sandor: We didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s be a simplistic black metal band,” or “Let’s be a technical thrashy band.” Our skill level and musical vision dictates what we do—and the cohesion between us. We rarely labor with song ideas.
James: When we first started, I was a huge fan of bands like Von and Ildjarn—the minimalist bands that were kind of deconstructing or regressing into something more stripped-down and basic. That was informing a lot of my early riff ideas, especially on our first album. I was playing below my skill level on purpose. I felt strongly about that in the beginning, but I’ve branched out since then.
Sandor: In James’ side project, Moonknight, you hear far more elaborate riffing and leads and well-constructed songs. It’s not that he can’t shred his brains off. But for Harassor, to lock in with my drumming, which is also kind of stripped-down—I have a punky style—he has to do something different. It’s single-minded, but it’s a single-minded killing machine.
James: For me, it’s just about, “Is this riff Harassor-y enough?"
You mentioned punk. Harassor definitely has that kind of immediacy. It’s gut music.
Sandor: It’s definitely intended to hit you on a gut level. A lot of non-metal fans respond to our music, surprisingly, whereas they don’t necessarily like a lot of metal bands that are in a similar genre to us because they’re more technical, more elaborate.
Harassor is right in that sweet spot between metal and punk that Motörhead carved out.
Sandor: That’s a very interesting comparison—except we’re in more of a bittersweet spot because neither camp love us to the point of mass popularity. [Laughs] But we definitely fall into that no man’s land. I’m kinda proud of that. We’re not generic or easily categorize-able, which alienates people because they can’t associate us with a certain scene.
James: It definitely feels like Motörhead or AC/DC in that we’ve stuck to our guns. I feel like whatever level of success we might have achieved, or fanbase, or having labels willing to put out your releases, that’s almost like icing on the cake. We would’ve done this anyway.
Because Into Unknown Depths is being released on Dais, you knew this would be a lot of folks’ first exposure to Harassor, even though you’ve been around for years. Did that change how you approached this record?
James: I don’t think so. We just did what we do. We just happened to get into a better studio with better production values, so I think it’s a lot more palatable for people in that sense. But our aesthetic preference is music that’s recorded badly. To us, the production is part of the atmosphere.
Sandor: The new album is as smooth as Harassor will get for you. I say that because I think it’s perhaps too polished, even though it’s not by most standards. But by previous Harassor standards, the edges are taken off. It sounds nicer to the ear. It has low end, the cymbals aren’t too shrill, yada-yada-yada. So this is our sellout record. [Laughs]
As a band that’s used to doing things for yourselves, has there been an adjustment period in working with a label, getting more exposure and doing more interviews?
James: Promotion is the hardest part for me. It takes so much time to make the music, to mix it and master it, to put together the layout—we do all our own design for our packaging—I’m exhausted when it’s done. And I’m not a salesman. So having anybody help is a huge relief. It’s a burden off my shoulders.
Sandor: Likewise. It’s not part of my personality to pimp my stuff to people. Before this Dais thing, we never sent demos to metal labels, like, “Please put our stuff out!” I’ve been doing my own experimental label for ten years now, so I’ve always had a DIY mentality. It’s a labor of love, and it comes naturally. That’s how it should be: A fully realized artistic vision. But obviously it has limitations. I don’t have enough time, energy or money to self-promote, so it stays in a small bubble on the underground level. We’re excited to be able to share this one with more people.
What about the idea of hatred as a labor of love and positive outlet for creativity? It seems like that’s part of Harassor’s foundation.
Sandor: It’s an artistic hatred. We have no political aspirations or associations at all, be they left-wing or right-wing. We’ve been lumped in with anarchist black metal bands and NSBM bands, completely absurdly, just based on musical elements or hearsay.
Pete: It couldn’t be through lyrical interpretation because people don’t know my lyrics. Most songs that we do now, I don’t have lyrics for. I’ll change the lyrics almost every time we play them because it almost seems difficult and insincere for me to write something that I would just regurgitate over and over again in a certain timing. It didn’t seem right for the band or for me. As I labored on some of that stuff, I just thought, “Why bother?” I’m not trying to send a message, so I’ll go in and out of different stories, whether it’s from childhood or my definite hatred of organized religion, or the lack of separation between church and state. Oppressive things like that.
James: My hatred is very generalized. There’s not a specific thing with a face or name. I hate everything.
So do you view Harassor songs as pieces of art that are always evolving, even after they’ve been recorded?
Sandor: We try to keep it obscure and mysterious on purpose.
A lot of death metal and black metal guys like to say, “If I didn’t play this kind of music, I’d probably be in prison.” It’s hyperbole in most cases, but for some of them it might actually be true. Do you ever feel like that could apply to you?
Sandor: I desperately need a creative outlet, but we’re not sociopaths. I don’t think we’re societal threats. But nevertheless…
James: If I wasn’t in this band, man, I’d be making turns in my car without using the turn signal. I swear to god, dude, I’d take a plastic bottle and put it right in the garbage can. Fuck the recycling bin!
Harassor grimly demands the extermination of all recycling bins…
Sandor: We’re kind of humorous, happy-go-lucky guys, but Harassor is not that kind of band. Musically, it’s pretty grim and bleak. We kinda want it that way. Sometimes the artwork might seem off-kilter, but we’re trying to escape generic cliques.
James: My biggest thing is that I want to be genuine and real. When I hear a band that doesn’t sound genuine, like they’re not playing it for the right reason or their heart isn’t in it, I can sense that and it turns me off. I just want to be down to earth, genuine and real.
Pete: We’re truly not making this for other people. This is our expression. I think that was maybe our reluctance in the beginning to align ourselves with other metal bands or labels to maybe promote or further us as a band. It’s all completely natural. We’ve never had a discussion about what to do. None of us have told the other guys, “I wanna sound like this…”
Sandor: We obviously have influences, but the only thing we’re going for is a Harassor sound.
There’s a song on the new album called “The Harassor,” which could be viewed as kind of a theme song, but having a self-titled song is also the touchstone of some of metal’s greatest bands: Sabbath, Maiden, Motörhead. Are you hoisting yourselves into the pantheon here?
Pete: [Laughs] No, but that title came about when I was driving up to the Bay with Greh [Holger] from Hive Mind. I think I was gonna do vocals with him at a Hive Mind show. We were listening to the song, and we both kind of thought it captured everything that the band does. It might have even been Greh who suggest it—“You should call that song ‘The Harassor.’”
James: It’s only like a minute long, but it’s the pure concentrate of Harassor.
Pete wears an always-changing version of corpsepaint onstage, but Sandor and James don’t. Did all three of you wear makeup onstage at one point?
James: On a rare occasion, Sandor or I might be up for it. We have the all-white outfits that we wear sometimes. But I’m very comfortable being the guitar player and letting Pete be the guy who’s sticking his neck out there into the spotlight. He draws a lot of attention and everybody loves to watch him because he’s on the level of performance art. Every time I think, “Should I wear my spikes tonight?” or “Should I wear some corpsepaint?” I immediately think, “Nah, people might look at me too much!”
Sandor: Pete’s the frontman, the performer. He’s “The Harassor” in a lot of ways. People think of him that way, which we’re cool with. He’s the face of the band—he’s King Diamond, you know? But we might do it at a future gig or for a photo shoot or something.
Pete: There wasn’t any talk about our look. We did agree to wear the white outfits here and there, but nobody ever tells anyone what to wear. They never asked me to do makeup or blood. I started out doing it with blood capsules, but that was fucking weak. So then I got a bottle of blood. Next thing you know, I had like a gallon jug and I poured it over my head. The first time I did that, it was like, “Well, that was fucking fun!” But it doesn’t happen all the time. I’m not gonna go play a punk show and bust out the corpsepaint because they’re not gonna get it. But I also don’t want people to expect it. I’m not just a clown. I’m not there to dance around and amuse people. I do it when it feels right.
J. Bennett never tires of being Harassed.
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