Falling From Your Heavens: A Conversation with M.S.W. of Hell

Hell

In just over a week, Pacific Northwest black doom group Hell will be making its way abroad for the first time ever. In the decade since the project’s inception, it has grown from a solo endeavor to a full live band with three massive full-length releases and a handful of splits and EPs along the way. As one of the only bands to create sounds worthy of borrowing art from Gustave Dore’s catalog, Hell has taken an already unique and forward-thinking approach to overwhelmingly brutal doom and pushed it towards something far larger and more expansive with each release. With Hell’s entire trilogy of full-lengths standing as some of the most influential doom releases of the 2010’s and appearances at Roadburn and Doom Over Leipzig planned in the next few weeks, it’s safe to say that Hell’s future is brighter than ever.

In preparation for all these big new developments in Hell’s trajectory, I decided to reach out to Hell’s mastermind, M.S.W. with a small handful of questions about the band’s creative process and future plans. It seems odd that somebody responsible for such soul crushing music would be so casual, yet it also makes complete sense. As Hell will be performing III in its entirety on select dates of the tour, I’ve chosen to embed it here despite the Hell 7″ being the most current release. Listen below and read on.

Hell is a band that started as your personal project and has now developed into something larger. How did you envision it growing over time and how does its current state reflect that?

Initially I just used Hell as an emotional outlet, but when people started to ask when Hell would perform a live show, I started thinking about a possible lineup. I never thought Hell would be where it is today. I envisioned the project remaining a solo endeavor, which it has, but never thought it would ever get as far as full U.S. tours with a full perfect line up of session musicians or anything like that.  Right now, we’re about to take off to Europe which is unreal to think about. Totally stoked.

In addition to yourself, two live members of Hell have their own projects (Mizmor and Mania) in which they’re responsible for everything. What is the experience like with so many singularly creative minds in one band?

I’ve known Nate (Mania) for a long time now and Liam (Mizmor) even longer than that. Liam and I have been playing music together since we were kids, so we understand each others styles really well and it’s easy to teach him the Hell beats. He picks them up instantly. Nate plays a ton of instruments too and picks things up really fast. Let’s not forget about Sheene Coffin on second guitar; I’ve been playing with him longer than I’ve played with anyone else. We also have a violinist joining us for the first time; her name is Gina and she lives in St. Louis. We met a couple years ago when Hell was playing in Chicago. Every session musician in Hell can play all of the basic instruments and understands basic musical theory and flow well enough to make playing music with one another fun and easy.

How has the addition of a violinist altered your current experience as a band? Do you imagine you’ll write future material with her involvement in mind?

Gina is an extremely talented violinist and has a good ear for the melodies that this projects portrays. Her and I have been rehearsing on the side. She has come up with some really promising additions to “Mourn” and “Foetorem Timere”. Soon we should be able to play all of the Hell tracks that display classical stringed instruments.

Hell Live

You’re about to embark upon a two-week long European tour, with stops including high profile events like Roadburn and Doom Over Leipzig. Have you ever done such a thing before? What are your hopes?

We’ve never done anything outside of the U.S. before. Most of us, including our merch buddies, have had to quite our day jobs in order for this to be possible. We just hope to have a good time, meet some awesome people, and doom the Hell out of every show in Europe.

 

Many onlookers and fans initially assumed Hell was going to be through after the trilogy was completed. You recently released a self-titled 7″ and, if anything, seem to be gaining momentum as a live act. What’s next?

The final box set still hasn’t been released, actually. The project is huge and costly and in Pesanta’s hands. If he needs to wait on it, he will. I’m still writing stuff here and there, but not as much as I would like to. “SubOdin” and “Inscriptus” were songs I had already completed and wanted to put out so people could hear them. I was going to change the name of the project, thinking that a better name would suit the new sound more, but now I’m thinking I’ll keep the name and see how that goes. I have no plans for Hell. Oh wait, I’m working on another really long piece that I’ve been stuck on. It’s taking me forever to finish it. “Decedere” was that way too. It took me four years to finish that one. The live act is working out so well right now that I think we’ll just keep playing together until I lose my voice and hearing completely.

With “Decedere” being such an undertaking to write, how do you feel it has transformed as a live song? It’s certainly been one of the most intense and ambitious songs in your catalog.

That song is particularly special to me and not something I ever planned on playing live. Once you overplay a song in any band, it begins to become “just a song” and looses it’s importance in ways. This has happened with a few songs Hell now has played live hundreds of times in the past tours. That being said, I feel that we execute it perfectly as a live act and I’m glad that we are now able to perform it properly.

Thanks for taking the time to chat. I look forward to sharing a beer with you guys at Roadburn.

Or three! We are really excited to get over to Europe and hope people can dig what we’ve got to offer.