Drone, Anarchism and Devotion : an interview with Allsiah

Ceci est la version anglaise. Pour lire l’interview en français, cliquez ici

A couple of months ago, my online ramblings led me to cross path with Maxim, the artist behind the one-man Drone act Allsiah. I had been enjoying his music for a few months and little did I suspect that I would be interviewing the person behind the riffs, not long after the release of the first Allsiah full-length, Hallowed Halls, Consecrated Stone. We had an Internet chat about music, anarchism, the UK scene, punching nazis in the face, and cloth. Here is what came out of it 🙂

First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview ! I understand the past few months and especially the last few weeks have been especially busy for you, with the album coming out and your work at Desertfest London. How are you today ?

Hey, no worries! It’s been pretty busy but no rest for the weary, I’m one of those people that doesn’t really stop, I struggle to do nothing but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’d like to talk about your one-man Drone / Ambient Metal project Allsiah, under which you just released your first full length. Can you tell me about the inception of the project ? When did it happen and what was the initial drive ? The main influences, musically speaking ?

Yeah of course. I’ve always been interested in doing music outside of a traditional full metal band context, I started with a black/doom two-piece called Sunderer where I tried to play interesting riffs but also sound huge? The easy trap for two-pieces is to only play single note/power chord riffs whereas my challenge was to play full chords, sound big but also somehow maintain clarity. I’ve always loved Drone music and wanted to do it as a solo project that maintained the same focus and was viable in a live context so when Sunderer broke apart in early 2020 thanks to the drummer turning into a fashy dickhead (yikes, go figure that one out), it was the perfect opportunity to say « fuck it » and make it happen.

I play a few mixed bill shows and people who aren’t aware of drone as an entity always give me weird looks and ask why I don’t have a drummer, but for me it’s about playing the music I’ve always wanted to play. I’m (surprisingly) not a guitarist’s guitarist, I don’t have a favourite player or influence, my main overreaching goal is to make heavy and emotional music that people can empathise with; whilst it’s fairly musically disparate influence-wise think the mindset and goals of Conjurer, Sarah Davachi, Bismuth, Hypothermia and Amenra all somehow rolled into one, but through drone.

Let’s talk a bit about the underlying themes in Allsiah. From the song titles and the fact that you qualify Allsiah as “Devotional Drone”, I guess there is something to do with spirituality, in particular Christian spirituality. Am I looking in the right direction ?

That’s definitely in the right direction! Whilst I’m not religious or spiritual to any great extent personally, I was brought up in a semi-religious environment, we had to go to chapel every week at school and I have a few fairly religious family members so it’s always been a fairly inseparable part of my life, if not so much as an influencing factor to me and my behaviour then certainly something I’ve always been aware of.

For me, religious imagery, architecture and themes have always felt fairly powerful and emotive and something I think that many people that have been brought up in a western/christian environment can empathise with. I’m all about context and meaning behind music however I’m also a firm believer in personal experience. If I played you black metal song and told you it was about walking alone in frost-bitten Scandinavian forests you would listen to that track with a different mindset and experience it differently than if I told you it was about the deep struggles someone faces when lost in a crowd of people in a city.

Through utilising this imagery and this language in a way that has direct links to my experience, I’m framing the whole experience for the listener, to direct them into a certain mindset and enhance their experience and perception of the music.

As you know I had developed a particular bond with Sisters in Arms, Brothers in Christ as I literally put my baby boy to sleep to it, quite often. Therefore I grew a very personal connection to your music, and as it is fully instrumental it’s very easy to grow feelings that have little to do with the artists’ original “conscious“ intent and themes. How do you expect your music to resonate with people, both on the emotional and on the conscious level ?

As I said before, the music is presented in way as to guide and enhance listener experience, what that experience is specifically obviously depends on the person and the connection that they might feel with the imagery, the music or the circumstance they listen to it under.

For myself, I can’t write if I’m not in a happy mindset however all of the Allsiah material has been written at times in my life where I’ve also had a lot of sadness and unhappiness lurking in the background so both playing and then subsequently listening to the material is cathartic, uplifting, melancholic and wistful all at once (which of course varies depending on my mood).

I guess overall I do expect my music to resonate and connect with people on a conscious or emotional level but how exactly it does so and to what extent is down to the listener and their individual circumstances.

You also clearly position yourself as part of the RABM scene, and Hallowed Halls, Consecrated Stone was premiered on the Antifascist Black Metal Network channel. From an external point of view, it usually looks like anarchism and leftism doesn’t blend well with Christianity, mostly because the Christian church as an establishment is seen as a system of control and – let’s say anachronically – oppression, enabling and supporting the very few in power for centuries to assert domination over the masses. How do you approach spirituality and the Christianity question as a leftist ?

I do, the way I argue how I fit into that scene musically is that I’m basically playing atmospheric black metal really really slowly – laughs. I agree, systematic repression of the masses, orchestrated by both majority and minority groups and stemming from religious dogma is pretty abhorrent and far too prevalent, both historically and in present day and something that I whole-heartedly oppose.

I don’t however hold the opinion that anarchism, especially on a personal level, must be wholly secular and devoid of any feelings of faith, spirituality or indeed mysticism. To imply that anarchism as both a practice and a system must be forcefully separated from any these does a great injustice to the history of mutual aid, cooperation and radical practice that co-exists alongside personal faith.

For those interested more on the topic I can’t recommend the work of Erica Lagalisse enough, especially her essay ‘Occult Features of Anarchism – With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples’. Within it she does an excellent job of briefly deconstructing the history of anarchism, faith and mysticism, and offers a nuanced perspective as to how western attitudes to faith can lead to a colonial and oppressive mindset when rejecting cultural and religious practices outside of the western sphere, through the lenses of mutual aid and consequently anarchism.

Do you consider Allsiah as a directly militant act with a leftist message that you’d like people to catch on, or do you mainly share your political views with everything that comes around the music like the imagery, where you stand publicly as an artist and a person, the people you collaborate with…. ?

A bit of both to be honest. Whilst I don’t make antifascism or anarchism the core of my personality as a musical entity on which everything else is based off, I’m pretty blasé about where I stand and it is intrinsic in nature to how I conduct myself as an artist and a musician. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by a good network of people locally and most people I choose to hang out with or be around are all on the same page (or at least reading from the same book haha).

Speaking of collaborations, how is the English scene doing nowadays ? Who are the main networks and artists you are in touch with and would like to recommend to our audience ?

The English scene is incredibly varied as always but pretty good! Drone has always been a pretty trans-local genre by nature (all credit to Dr Owen Coggins), much like the RABM scene, however there’s a few core people in the UK making it happen, Bismuth, Orme, Ommadon, Kowa Axis, Plurals, Bong and a whole host of others who exist on the fringes of doom and extreme music.

I’m from Brighton and there used to be a huge doom scene here, now it’s quietened down a fair bit and there’s lots of hardcore and punk bands popping up, which I’m not complaining about. There’s a growing component of leftist metal/black metal in the UK which is getting exposed to a wider audience which is amazing to see, led by bands like Dawn Ray’d, Underdark, Caïna etc.

UK bands that I’m loving at the moment are Zetra, Vacuous, Dawn Ray’d, Underdark, Tyrannus, Ashenspire, Dawn Treader, Hidden Mothers, Torpor, Bismuth, Chinned (rip), Tuskar and loads more haha.

Do you have other projects in collaboration with other musicians, or is there someone else directly influencing Allsiah’s creative process ?

Alongside Allsiah, I also do vocals/synth in the ridiculous cosmic/death/sludge/grind monstrosity that is Wallowing and we’re currently gearing up to go record the next full length in a few weeks so it’s all systems go there, plus I’m also getting an emo/crust band off the ground (a la Morrow/Fall of Efrafa) but it’s early days. In the future I’m looking to do a host of collaborations under the Allsiah moniker, both live and on record so watch out for that!

(note : Wallowing is preposterously good and absurdly crushing, Death/Sludge/Grind with breakdowns)

Any chance of seeing you performing Allsiah live some time soon ? With lots of fumes and red lights, or by a riverside at nightfall ? 😛

Depends where you’re based haha! Outside the UK? Not likely any time soon I’m afraid… (Unless you want to pester Roadburn/local promoters on my behalf haha). I am doing a few shows in the UK, I’m playing in Southampton at the start of July and there’s a few more bits in the works which I’m really stoked about.

We also need to speak about your packaging. When I bought the cassette edition of SiA, BiC I did not expect to receive it hand-wrapped in red cloth and wax-sealed with the Allsiah logo. And with the sachel of incense cones with it ! Honestly one of the best merch I received, and you must spend so much time on this.

Thank you, I really enjoy doing them, definitely adds a certain something ! And not too much time, I’m pretty good at it at this point, it’s great cause I use the leftover fabric for the merch stand at my shows which helps it stand out too.

Two patches, hand-wrapped cassette, and incense cones. Honestly, I felt like a princess receiving this.

Repurposing the useful !

Yeah, that’s the spirit.

Any last words / declaration / advice / punchline ?

Go vegan, drink natural wine, support your local food banks and communities, fuck transphobes, punch nazis, play slow and die old !

Peace x

To read our review of Hallowed Halls, Consecrated Stone, click here

To discover more bands and artists, go ahead and listen to our Artist’s Picks playlist by Allsiah, including the bands recommended in this interview :

play on Youtube
play on Spotify