We speak with Seraphim system about the new album release ‘Xibalba’ on Cleopatra records, released 22nd of March 2019.
John Stancil’s project Seraphim system has been one of the most underappreciated industrial artists in recent times and one of the most enjoyable listens for myself on Spotify over the years. John started in 2013 with the release of the album Deadly force but wasn’t realised in the UK until 2016 where he played the same stage with bands such as Grendel, Modulate (sound system), Ivardensphere, Organ Donors, and many other fantastic acts at what was once the holy pilgrimage for Goths and electroheads every Easter in the UK.. Resistanz fest. Which would unfortunate be the last Resistanz festival but would go down in history as possibly the most amazing industrial event the UK has ever or will ever see.
I was introduced to John by my friend James and was told to expect good things during his set. What an understatement that was! I had enjoyed a lot of conversation with John before his set and so made a point to be at the front to support this as of yet unknown artist to me.
The set blew everyone away. On stage John’s persona of BL4KJ4K came out strong after having electrified the crowd with an amazing remix of the Terminator 2 theme tune, wearing body Armour and joined on stage by an automaton wearing a British cyborg mask. The atmosphere was already intense. Lyrics were spat down the microphone to instant hits like ‘Firebomb’ and ‘This is invasion’ in a mash up of industrial and rap very rarely seen in the industry. Further pushing those boundaries when joined on stage by Syrus for the track ‘Assault Protocol’. Needless to say the UK goth scene fell in love with his work and I have often had many conversations with people wondering if we will see him play over here again. I certainly hope so!
Q. John thank you for doing this interview with Elektro Vox, I’m honoured to have you be the first real content to my site. I’ll start off by asking what was your inspiration for Xibalba and is there an overlying theme and meaning to this album for you, especially as I believe you have moved recently away from Raleigh North Carolina and seem to be a lot happier for it? The track Jameson seems to be filled with a lot of emotion and I sense a slight warhammer influence in this album.
A. Thanks for having me, dude! I always love these chats and helping out my friends who keep the scene alive and kicking. Xibalba was written over the process of a two month period. I had no money, lived on the couch in a shop I worked at, and was just a miserable fucking piece of shit. I produced the entire album from my laptop and had a vocal condenser mic to record my voice with so it allows me to write and produce anywhere I am. I'd record at night while I was alone and could scream and shout and not bother anyone. I remember during this time I had a lot of nightmares. I think they came about because of being totally unsecure with finances and the extreme uncertainty of life at that point. None of the nightmares I actually remember, they don't stand out, but I remember I would wake up terrified and forget what it was about the next day. It's funny you mention the Jameson track because that's the only nightmare I actually remember. Jameson was a best friend of mine who was killed in a motorcycle accident and in one dream I was in a house and he was at the top of the staircase and walking down towards me. I was terrified because I knew he wasn't supposed to be there and I woke up in a panic. I just remember the nightmares were pretty common and it put me in a weird funk for the first half of the day. The theme to the album is introspective. Almost all of the songs except "Witch" are from me looking at myself and trying to pick apart how and why I am the way that I am. It's my own assessment to my self destructive and self ruinous tendencies. I chose the name "Xibalba" because initially I was going to call it "From a Place of Fear". I watched a documentary on the Mayan culture and they had a segment about Xibalba - their afterlife - which roughly translates to "place of fear" and I just saw it as a "sign", not to be too hokey.
Q. You describe yourself as Industrial Metal // EBM // Deathcore but honestly there is so much more to it than that with your well versed and delivered raps, and incredible riffs, and now with some brilliant harmonious lyrics from Ritual Aesthetic on the track Witch.
The albums Luciferium and Pandaemonium were very heavy on the metal, even straying in to a little cradle of filth territory in some parts. On Xibalba the opening track Singularity reminds me of heavy grind-core like The Berzerker, other tracks remind me of more harmonious metal bands such as bring me the horizon and yet all together the albums stays truthful to industrial and synth sounds.
Oh yeah. That makes me so goddamn happy that you said it strayed into Cradle of Filth territory because that's one of the most influential METAL bands that I've ever liked. Probably my favourite all time metal band. On Xibalba I wanted a heavier punk edge. Less shrieks and guttural growls from deathcore and black metal and more of the shouting and mid-range yells associated with post-hardcore and punk.
Q. Are they also the extra voice on You know where to find me, Saviour, and Jameson? I wasn’t sure if that was just you or them as well for the more harmonious parts.
A. Sean is an awesome friend of mine from Ritual Aesthetic and delivered killer backup vocals on Witch. Everything else is my regular singing voice. I grew up listening to emo bands like Senses Fail and The Used so I think I try to emulate that in my clean singing tones.
Q. You used coined the term Swagrotech for your music, is that still the case? Could you tell me more about Swagrotech and your constant mixing of genres and the directions you would like to keep producing in future?
A. Hahahaha, Swaggrotech was coined by my boy Jay over at Ruinizer. We had a lot of production similarities with him coming from Hip Hop and Rap and incorporating that 808 / Dirty South trap vibe into industrial. At the time it was fun and fresh, but not super popular with the scene. I think it was more of a big joke between all of us because it was so outlandish and we just stuck with it. It became its own thing, but in reality it was all one large parody of talking about robots and having big dicks. In a more serious Swaggrotech instance, I collaborated with Sirus on their track "Deep State" on their Apocrypha album which is incredibly politically charged. That would be the only real and honest form of Swaggrotech I'd say I've ever made and the track is absolutely monstrous. Big shout out to Josh Rombout for having me throw down on that track. Swaggrotech was just fun and heavily experimental for us, but never meant to be a SERIOUS movement... just speaking in my own case.
Q. On the remix album Friendly Fire, you collaborated with a lot of fantastic bands, who were your favourite to work with, and who would you like to work with again? Also what bands would you like to be on stage with in future?
Jay Ruin from ruinizer, Filip from Rave The Reqviem, and Josh Rombout from Sirus are all best friends in the industry. I'll never pass up a chance to work with any of them. I've rolled with them since day one in DWA and they are all amazing artists. Sean from Ritual Aesthetic has also been an incredibly awesome person to work with and I'm looking forward to doing more material with all of them in the future.
Q. What band or artist has been the best to chill out with back stage?
A. I met JD from Grendel at Resistanz. I heard "Oh hey what's up dude??" and looked over and it was him. I was zoning out and looking at a plate of sandwiches and lost in a train of thought. Ended up being a super chill and down to earth dude. Funny thing is at shows I typically don't hang out in the back. I love socializing and drinking with people. I love meeting people who come to the shows. I don't ever spend a lot of time in the green room unless I'm right about to go on.
(Elektro Vox: That’s true, I got to know you by hanging out a lot with him at Resistanz at the bars and chill out areas. You’re definitely a guy who does what he does for the joy of the crowd.)
Q. The track ‘You know where to find me’ seems like it could be a massive club hit and I will ask all the DJ’s I know in the UK to make it part of their set, any chance of a more ‘cyber’ club mix of this track in future?
A. I think eventually I'll go back and make club remixes for some of the tracks. I have done that with Luciferium and Pandaemonium and will work to get those out in the future. I love making VIP mixes of already existing tracks and seeing how I can spin it.
Q. A short while back you called out 3-TEETH for their attitude toward the industrial scene and I believe they even responded to the criticisms. What started that and have you guys been able to patch it up? Has it caused tension with fans as far as you know?
Honestly, that came from a night I was on a ton of drugs and don't even remember doing it until when I woke up in the morning and thought - ‘what the fuck?’ /
I don't know what sparked it. It's very likely I was just being depressed, on a fuck ton of chemicals, and resentful of their success. I've gone sober and haven't touched hard drugs since that time period but it wasn't just them I found something to be angry at. I was angry at the rest of the world and myself. I haven't said any apologies because I'd rather do it in person. There will come a time where I physically offer the olive branch, it just won't be via a tweet. Sending out a text message has little gravity and is just informal as hell. Life's too short to walk around on drugs and be pissed off at the world and yourself all the time.
Q. Will you ever be coming to play in the UK again? Possibly Infest festival or Resistanz 2020 reunion (Please Gods let that really happen!)
I have my passport ready and waiting, dude. There's a really, really good chance I'll be in the UK again a couple years down the line. These things are booked 6 months to a year in advance so nothing in the immediate future. The UK is a different vibe and I love playing it. American shows are great but the numbers in Europe seem to be a bit higher as it's more popular over there from what I've seen. America has a great scene as well and good show turnouts when I go to them. The UK just has a different vibe.
Q. Have you played in Germany and would you again, would you in future?
A. Germany has been on my bucket list since I started making industrial music. When I think of Germany I think of beer and techno - two of my most favourite things. I'm sure the vibe there is totally pure. I've seen so many great acts play at awesome clubs in Germany and would love playing in Berlin. I have a habit of going on google earth and looking up goth clubs in different countries and being like "man, how can I play here??"
Q. I was lucky enough to purchase the first vinyl in a set for the release of Luciferum, will you be offering any similar collectible in future?
A. Sure. The record labels decide all that though. I make the music and they deal with the physical and digital mediums. They've got the money and the connections and I just have the creativity and software to create the music.
Q. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and any possible future plans for the direction of Seraphim System?
A. I've hopped around musical styles and directions as a means of experimenting since I've had this project. I appreciate whole heartedly the fans who have remained faithful during the whole ordeal and different styles I've created. Some people didn't care for the metal direction I took and might not enjoy this punk / electro sound I've got going now but it's my nature to try and experiment.
Q. What is the most important life lesson you have learned from Seraphim System and the reaction you've had, and any advice for future artists?
"Do as thou wilt." Make what you want to make. If you want to make stuff you know will be successful and sounds like what's popular, do it. If you want to try and be different and experimental, do it. That's okay too. If you make what you actually want to make people will want to listen because they will be able to see your heart in it. Don't feel obligated to follow the norm. It's okay to attempt and be unsure. Just make something you enjoy and others will enjoy it.
Thank you ever so much for your time John.
Seraphim System’s new album Xibalba can be found on Spotify or to purchase via Amazon for a bargain of £6.49 and on Cleopatra records All his previous work can also be found on Spotify, Amazon, and at the DWA store where you will also find awesome compilation albums from our associates Beat:Cancer http://dwa.store
To book Seraphim system at your event contact firstname.lastname@example.org (I’M LOOKING AT YOUR RESISTANZ AND INFEST!)
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