life’s Damián Antón Ojeda Capitalizes On Emo’s Downcast Creative Potential (Interview)
Texas-by-way-of-Illinois' life is an anomaly: an emo band added to Encyclopaedia Metallum. Categorized as "atmospheric black metal/screamo," this answers a very important question: have we approached the singularity between post-hardcore and atmospheric and/or post-black metal? This mistake(?) on the submitting user's behalf (and the moderator who approved it) shows that maybe, just maybe, these two different ends of a musical spectrum are cut from the same root. Punk music and its credos have invaded black metal for the better. Thematics, deeper lyrics, more developed melody have defined more atmospheric and post-black metal over the past decade, and albums like [insert pink album cover here] have proven that, yes, at times black metal and screamo can be the same thing, and while life mastermind Damián Antón Ojeda will continually insist that life has nothing to do with his black metal alter ego (Ojeda is also behind post-rock/black metal hybrid Sadness, among many other projects), life's roots run hand in hand with the black metal-oriented music to which he's made over the past near-decade, even if it doesn't seem as obvious (especially during Demo 5's downtrodden, catchy choruses). In a new interview, we discussed life (the project and also the experience), emo, black metal, and what goes into being a continually creative entity in the current era.
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Though emo and black metal might not ideologically be close relatives, earlier life demos forged a connection between the two which has been a sort of framework for following material. What first inspired you to make this fusion?
life has always been intended to be just pure emocore. i actually didn't intend there to be any black metal influence at all, so if there is any, it's probably because i'm just so used to making “black metal” type music that the tendency was hard to avoid
life doesn't necessarily follow a specific sound and runs the gamut from the epic and sprawling (Demo 4) to the compact and catchy (Demos 1 and 5). What defines the direction in which a life demo moves?
this applies to all of my music across all projects but there's never any direction or decision to move in any certain sound, everything is always just whatever i feel like doing. things come together in ways that make sense emotionally and thematically as well
With Sadness, the scales are turned more in a black metal or "dsbm" direction, with emo, post-rock, and post-hardcore elements strewn in. life, on the other hand, concentrates more on Sadness' extracurriculars as a focal point, eventually placing black metal as an influence rather than a main style. Do you feel life complements Sadness in this respect?
life is my outlet for whenever i want to make just pure emo/hardcore music (which are genres i've loved for many years) sadness is my project that feels free to combine many different influences while life is one of my projects that i like to keep as pure as possible
There are a lot of bands named "life"–your own Bandcamp happened to be the ninth one in this respect (life9.bandcamp.com). What made you choose this band name with the knowledge that it is used semi-frequently?
the 9 isn't because of any order, i chose the number 9 for the bandcamp URL quasi-randomly because simply “life” was taken, and i refer to the number 9 as in when i was 9 years old and certain emotions that i probably imagined capturing n the music. i don't really remember honestly. when i came up with the name “life” i probably wasn't aware of any other bands with the same name but being such a simple name it was more than likely that there already existed bands called life, but i also didnt care. i chose the name life to capture the purest essence of literally, life: this music has an upward trajectory and is high energy and captures pure joy and color and life
Though you've been in collaborative bands like Born an Abomination and Kaskaskia, both with dungeon synth artist and black metal vocalist Tony Hicks, for the most part you are a solo artist. What is it about creating music alone which is appealing? What is it about the solo process which fits the life approach?
making music by myself happens naturally. ive never been much of a social person who had many friends, much less friends with whom to make music. even when i have tried collaborating it doesn't work out well because i'm very bold about my decisions and i don't listen to criticism or different opinions, or simply being told what to do or not to do. in general outside of music i always tended to just do whatever i want whenever i want. i also got so used to making music by myself because i spend most of my adolescent life in complete solitude doing nothing but making music. i would love to make music (especially hardcore) with others because solo project punk is kinda cringe. i actually tried putting a band together for life once but that failed. but for other projects like sadness i refuse to collaborate because i'm a pushover and need things to go my way, and it feels nice not having to listen to or pull the weight of anyone else
Considering your age and birth year, emo purists tend to say the "best stuff" comes from around the year you were born and before. As a younger emo and emo-adjacent artist in this respect, how do you feel about this type of elitism? Do you feel it's any different than the elitism you experience as a black metal artist?
i used to be the most elitist emohead in the entire world. i remember in 2017 the meme started circulating with the “real emo” but i was genuinely unironically talking about that since years before. for some reason i thought it was really necessary to distinguish “real” emo from fake emo. none of it matters in the end and i don't care anymore. “real” emo bands didn't even call themselves emo back in the 80s and 90s. i also don't care about genres at all. they're tedious and annoying and kind of useless. i do believe the best emo tends to come from the 90s though. i also believe the best black metal is “true” raw black metal. but i don't really care and i don't pay attention to anyone else's elitism
Emo and post-hardcore themselves are pretty heavily rooted in nostalgia. Once again taking your age into consideration, do you feel the nostalgia you feel is more childlike in this respect? Or do you feel wisened given your lengthy time as a solo artist?
the nostalgia i capture in life is personal to my own childhood but i'm also very nostalgic to when i was an emo kid when i was 13/14 and the bands i would listen to. songs like 17 memory are just pure scene kid emo worship. i will always be an emo kid . that's a whole other topic though that i can talk about for years
"Eleven" from Demo 4 is of an epic length, crossing the 20-minute mark. What was it like fusing all these different elements and influences into a longer piece?
i don't really think about it, it was just something i felt like doing
For our uninitiated readers who might misunderstand emo, emocore, and screamo, what are some recommendations you would make?
i could make a list that goes in forever, but some bands would be jasemine, don martin 3, ivich, cedar of lebanon, on the might of princes, jeromes dream, fingerprint, piebald, breakwater, spirit of versailles, tristan tzara, after words, anomie, plunger, undone, rights reserved, the pine, honeywell, lovelost but not forgotten, portraits of past, peu être, mai, jose phine, 1000 travels of jawaharhal, flashbulb memory, chino horde, closure, ordination of aaron, anasarca, bree, weak wrists… etc etc etc etc
life works heavily with the ever-growing Larry Records, a strictly emo, emocore, and screamo label. What led to this connection? As someone who makes (a lot of) black metal in other projects, what has your experience with the emo scene been like?
larry just reached out to me one day. i didn't know who he was but i did realize that this one band i like “mota tears” was on his bandcamp. i really don't have any experience in any “scene” because i don't interact with anyone. i'd like to be more involved though (as in; play live with other bands)
There is generally a period of time between when you record and when you release something, and this is something I've noticed across a variety of projects you spearhead. Though manufacturing certainly causes delays in many cases, a release like Demo 4 was released digitally over two years after it was recorded. Why wait?
it's because i work on so many things at a time and i'm very distracted and disorganized. i work really fast, and usually i finish the instrumental side of a song in a day or few, but then it takes me years to finally get around to finishing the vocals, especially when i sing many layers or it's just difficult to sing. it's usually the vocals because screaming for me has to be on a day when i sound good, or i even remember that i have something to finish. it's also because i'm so busy and typically when it's not the conception of the music anymore, i tend to kind of forget about it . i finished like 95% of demo four in 2018, but then it took forever for me to get around to finishing the last vocal layers on you're the most precious
You brought up "17 Memory" from your recently released Demo 5, which has a pretty powerful and lengthy chorus. What goes into making something catchy like that? Do you have a process?
the melody comes to me immediately , the hard part is writing lyrics to fit the syllable pattern. it's especially hard when i already have lyrics written; but for this song i wrote all the lyrics around the melody i already knew i wanted to sing
Is there anything you'd like to add? Any final thoughts?
thank you for listening to my músic
Follow life on Bandcamp.