Anaal Nathrakh without doubt represent the best of the metal underground in the UK. Their dynamic combination of black metal and grind core influences, infused with melody, is intense, heavy and very dynamic, both on record and live. More recently, they have added electronic influences, reflecting their musical radicalism and ambition. Room Thirteen interviewed vocalist Dave Hunt, who together with Mick Kenney is the driving force behind the band, shortly before they put on a storming performance on the Terrorizer stage, at the Damnation Festival. With thanks to Keiran and Lewis Allen for asking most of the questions.

R13: You're back at the Damnation Festival after being the most requested band to return, which is pretty impressive considering the eclectic line up this festival puts on every year. Do you think that this is an important festival for the UK metal underground and if so, what makes it so special in your eyes?
DH: Two things, the number of people willing to come here, and that's because of the other thing, they always put together a good bill. If you look at the really big festivals, Hellfest always has the best bill. In terms of something smaller and organic, the Damnation Festival nearly always puts together a great bill. I know that's because Gav, who is the main guy, and his cohort, are genuinely interested in the music, and put on what they would like to hear. Presumably they are representative of at least a portion of fans out there, and they are not just thinking dollar signs in their heads. If anything I would like to see Damnation go even more varied, and I think they would like to do that too.

R13: Your new album 'Desideratum', just dropped a few nights ago, how has the fan reaction been so far?
DH: Pretty good to be honest. We were really chuffed with it. Weirdly as someone who was involved in recording it, I found it a grower. Most of the reaction has been really cool, but its never going to be the case that all of it will be. If you record something that is going to be out there, where quite a lot of people are going to hear it, they are not all going to love it. The vast majority of the reaction has been great, and some of the negatives have been ace, there was one review that gave it 0 out of 10...'this is complete rubbish'...that was great (all laugh).

R13: Can you give us an insight into some of the key influences that have affected your sound, and also the new elements on the new album?
DH: In terms of influences, there haven't been any for years now, as we don't tend to look outside ourselves to make stuff. Because if you do, you are always going to be chasing someone else's original idea, rather than having one yourself. For the most part we completely disregard the outside world, and do just what we think is the right thing to do. Obviously things may happen in subliminal ways, coming in through the pores. That's going to happen, but not consciously. The main different thing on this one, is that while we have had electronic bits and samples before, this time Mick got friendly with a guy who does this as his bread and butter, and we worked with him. Mick sent him an early version with skeleton versions of the songs, and he did whatever he wanted over the top, and Mick got it back, and maybe changed the way the songs were, to synergise with it. He did a lot more than what ended up on the album. We picked the bits we liked, its not as if the album is a hybrid between us and something else, it is us, but its a got a bit more of the electronic thing going on.

R13: Some voices in the underground metal scene have been having a go at your move to incorporate electronic elements in your two most recent albums. Do you have a reply to these comments?
DH: Not really to be honest. If they are looking for some kind of integrity, they have got it with us; they just have their ears on backwards. We have only ever done something because that's what we wanted to do; and to be frank half the stuff I listen to is probably more obscure than what they listen to. To throw animosity back at them, I don't see the point in that. In the same way, I don't see the point in the position of someone who would do that in the first place. If you don't like something, do something you do like. It seems to me born of a certain narcissism, a certain conceit, that thinks it is crucial the world knows they disapprove of this thing. I'm sorry it just isn't mate. It's a big world, there is plenty more stuff going on, do what you want to do, I will do what I want to do. So in terms of a direct reply, no I haven't got a direct reply. If that's what they want to do that's fine, I will do what I want to do.
R13: A really good answer.

R13: The band has come to new levels of success in recent years, to the point where you are now considered a staple and highly respected band in the UK metal scene, especially since becoming a fully functioning touring band. What do you think has been the major motivation, that has pushed you to go so far, obviously it is partly effort on your part, not just fans beginning to pick up on the band.
DH: To be honest I think it is more the latter. We absolutely haven't changed anything about the way we approach doing it; we haven't said we need to push anything in a particular direction to achieve something. We completely do exactly what we did to begin with. We try to make music that we think is brilliant. I don't really see why you would be in a band if that wasn't what you were doing. We do the best we can...always, that's all we ever did. Maybe some more people have latched on to it, you would need to ask them why they like it.

R13: The inclusion of Gore Tech on the new album is a very bold and experimental move, do you see this collaboration being just for this album, or can the fans expect more of this collaboration in the future? (Question by Nick Saxton)
DH: We would happily to do that kind of thing in the future. I don't know about him being a permanent member of the band, but in terms of doing stuff that you are not really supposed to do, yeah why not. It's not as if we are making a statement about the state of metal, and whether or not it's compatible with electronics. Personally I'd really, and I know Mick would like it, to do some work with the guy behind Broken Note, which is another underground electronic type of thing; because we both love Broken Note, we think its fantastic, but whether it would be some sort of statement or comment, no not at all. Half the time if we are driving around, we are listening to a guy called Tommy Lee, not Motley Crew, but Tommy Lee Sparta. He does proper Raga, which we like listening too. So we put that in as well, why not.

R13: Do you think your numerous side projects, such as Fukpig and Benediction have had any effect or influence on Nathrakh, and do you feel as strongly about your side project's musical message as you do about Nathrakh?
DH: I wouldn't call Benediction a side project to the lads in Benediction (laughs).
R13: Yes they have been around longer than Nathrakh.
DH: Exactly. It's another thing that I do. Yeah I know what you mean. Nothing influences anything else, it could effectively be different people, it just happens that you see it through their eyes at different times. In terms of relative, it's a case of you do what you are doing at the time, and you do it a 100%, so there isn't any hierarchy, or implied difference or priority between them. I would quite happily do a load more stuff, but there is only so many hours in the day. Should it ever be the case that Nathrakh blows up and I have nothing better to do, I would probably do something completely different again. That in no way takes away from the significance, importance and integrity of each individual thing, it's a 100% on that when you are doing that.

R13: Can you tell us about how the Radio 1 live session for John Peel came about and what that meant to you?
DH: I can tell you exactly how it came about, because I heard from the person that told John Peel. I am not sure if we released anything as Nathrakh on it, but we used to work with a label called Raging Achilles. It was run by this chap called Duncan, terribly sorry if he reads this and his name wasn't Duncan. Aside from running the label he worked in Tower Records in London, and John Peel did that most characteristic of John Peel things, he walked in and spoke to the guy and said 'anything new'. He passed him a demo of ours. Then I was at work, at a factory as a security guard, and I got a call from a number I didn't recognise. 'Hello I am a producer for John Peel and we were thinking....'
R13: Oh my god...
DH: So I said, you will need to give me a chance to find out if you are taking the piss and phone you back. Given the stature of the man and his importance, you would think if you are going to receive a call about that.... trumpets would sound. That's not how these things work, every day is every day. It was literally the case that John had heard our stuff and decided he liked it, and wanted us to have a go, and we got the call and did it. We went down to Maida Vale studios, which is like a legendary thing in itself. We got on quite well with the engineers and they were telling us about the mixing desk we were using, and at the time the mixing desk was worth more than the house that either of us lived in. I think it was something over 200,000 pounds, and apparently they have those in the mobile recording units, so like the van that goes out to record Madonna live at Wembley. So it was a massive collision of worlds. But the engineers were very down to earth and they knew what we were, we were younger versions of them in many ways. I think the room where we were recording, was where Hendrix recorded a set. The next few doors down was where the BBC Philharmonic rehearsed and performed. So there we were, two spotty oiks sticking our heads to look through this little window, thinking oh my god! But that's what John Peel was for, its what he was about, he was down to earth and moved in high circles. It was quite a thing!

R13: Thanks for sharing that; it's a great story. It's been a real pleasure.
DH: Hope the interview turns out all right. Nice one guys.

Anaal Nathrakh's dedication and commitment to make exceptional, honest and challenging music, shone throughout the interview, and their set at Damnation was simply killer. Room Thirteen would urge you to take a dive into the metal underground and make Anaal Nathrakh one of your first discoveries.