The Essence of D.I.Y.: A Conversation with the Extremely Prolific V.C.H. Music (Interview)
Even in the world of single-person black metal artists, there aren't any musicians like Victoria Carmilla H., also known as V.C.H. How many musicians do you know who have released 38 albums in under two years and started their own record label from scratch? On top of that, how many are self-taught, devoted Emily Dickinson fans, and only 19 years old? These are just a few background elements that distinguish V.C.H., though her wide-ranging output speaks for itself. She was gracious enough to answer some questions via email regarding her origins and her philosophy concerning her music.
In just under two years, V.C.H. has released dozens of albums, built collaborative partnerships with the likes of Alex Bjørn, and operated under eleven different names, each of which orbits different extreme metal spheres. There are medieval offerings, romantic blackgaze, and modernist black metal, and electronica marriages, among others. Such hyperproductivity is common among artists throughout the past two years, but V.C.H. drives it to its natural conclusion. Her impressive work rate evolved out of her dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of metal musicians in her hometown in Mexico. As such, she elected to do everything herself, with "everything" in this instance referring to writing, recording, mastering, and releasing her music. V.C.H. has a rigorous DIY ethic to the point that she's recorded entire albums on her phone.
Her talent has enticed labels beyond her own, namely Fiadh Productions, with whom she’ll be releasing three albums in the next few months; Micarlla II with a release date to be announced, Oculi sometime in September or October in a collaborative release with the EU label Vita Detestabilis, and finally, Fotopsia, though that project’s release has yet to be determined. She’s also joined the group The Last Days, whose album When the Tomorrow is a Grey Day is the only release on her label that she didn't mastermind. By peering at the albums she did mastermind, you can see a figure driven to self-sufficiency by curiosity, and you’ll see more of that through her answers below.
What’s the background history of V.C.H. Music as a whole? What made you start releasing music online by yourself?
I wanted to do music for a while but I made that decision after trying to make a band with people in my city and it didn't work out, mostly because it was kind of difficult for me to work with other people and the people were not committed to it and that was frustrating, to be honest. My solution was to study how to make music by myself, then how to program instruments such as keyboards, drums, etc. Then, I studied the mastering and mixing process along with music theory and production to improve my music.
When I felt ready, I started to create one of my first albums on V.C.H. Music. I released The Melancholy of a Fallen Angel by Lacrimal on December 22, 2020. I was trying to make atmospheric/ambient depressive black metal, together with the vocals of Thy Despair and J.A. Since then I have released 38 albums on V.C.H. Music so far. Talking about V.C.H. Music, a friend of mine told me that it would be a better idea to put all my works on Bandcamp. It started as a personal Bandcamp for my projects before I turned it into a digital label for my music.
How would you compare working with people online to working with people in person then?
I personally prefer to work online because I believe it is more comfortable and fast, everyone is in their own place and doing their part of the music when they have time. While in my experience working with other people in the same space can give distractions and the process is slower.
On another note, releasing 38 albums in under two years is amazing. What drives you to release so much music so quickly?
The reason why I release music so quickly is that sometimes I have albums that have been done for some months or years (mostly the collaborative ones) and we decide upon a release date that’s usually months away. Another point is that in some projects I just do one thing like vocals or bass or keyboards, so the process is faster. While my solo projects I take much more time to complete everything the process involves.
What is the local music scene like in your area?
I haven’t gone to any metal-related thing in my area for years cause it’s mostly death metal and similar subgenres, which I’m not really into. Also, the people that go to those places are way older than me, so there are really few people my age and near my age.
How did you start collaborating with Alex Bjørn?
It started when Alex Bjørn contacted me months ago in January 2022 to make a split with several bands. We didn’t do the split though because he asked me to do vocals in one of his songs and we got distracted by that. When we finished those songs, we released them in my project Cantodea Dianthus, on the album Evanescencia. After that, we both felt comfortable working together so we decided to start writing a new album together, but our new sound didn’t match Cantodea Dianthus so we decided to create the band Luna Pythonissam, to combine gothic/death/ black metal with lyrics written in Spanish, Mayan, and Latin. Before meeting Alex Bjørn I only knew two of his bands, Chagrin and Thrown Away.
Since V.C.H. Music has only been around for a year and a half, I’m guessing it is a product of the pandemic, correct?
Yes, because everything started when I had to have online classes due to the pandemic and I didn’t own a computer, so my grandfather let me use his for my online classes. I spent a lot of time there because I had classes in the morning. I completed work in the afternoon when the classes were over and I started using my phone to do music, which is how I created the first V.C.H. Music album, Flores En Mayo by AIAA 7. Eventually, I learned how to create music with the computer and my grandfather ended up giving me his old computer as a gift and that’s the computer I use to this day to make music.
All the albums that I have made only with my phone are:
- The Melancholy of a Fallen Angel by Lacrimal
- Countess Mircalla II Reign by Oblivion Castle
- Mircalla II by Oblivion Castle
- Reflejos de Ayer by AIAA 7
- Lluvia by AIAA 7
- Olhando Para As Estrelas by Cantodea Dianthus
- Ftpsia I by Ftpsia
- Memorias by AIAA 7
It seems that you are very close with your grandfather, right?
I was closer to my grandmother and now that she’s gone you could say that the bond between my grandfather and me has grown. They’ve both taught me pretty valuable lessons and showed me some wonderful things like music. I started liking music because of them. They showed me the music from their age and I felt something words can’t describe.
What is the recording and editing process like when you are only using your phone?
I use DAWs that are in the phone and there are some pretty good synths in there. It’s a little bit complicated to work in it because it’s small and sometimes hard to manage and most of the things are limited, but with time you get used to it. I know some other projects that only use the phone as well and they are great, but I really prefer to work on the computer. The good thing about it is that you can do it anywhere if you have your phone near you, while the computer is bigger to take it to record anywhere.
Why did you choose to release music under multiple different acts (Oblivion Castle, Luna Pythonissam, etc.) instead of as just one?
That’s a good question that some people have asked me before and the reason is that all of them are different even if some are similar, they have their own essence, their own stories, you know? I’m going to describe to you a little bit about each one.
Cora's Heart: This is one of my personal favorites because it expresses how I feel. That’s why it has these nice clean vocals but also harsh screams and nice guitars as well as gritty production and extra reverb. It has some fast changes, it could be calm and then get faster and crazy and the process of making this music is pretty enjoyable because I play with some instruments and vocals to see how it goes. On the other hand, it has personal lyrics that people will kind of understand if they speak Spanish because I also almost never share my lyrics. I’m going to include [some] that [are] public though from “Fotopsia” near the seven-minute mark:
Y cuando la ví pasar,
Entre nosotros, está ahí.
Yo la veo,
Voy huyendo de mis problemas,
sin mirar atrás,
Voy huyendo sin rumbo y sin final,
la vida me consumirá.
Voy huyendo de mis problemas,
sin mirar atrás,
Voy huyendo sin rumbo y sin final,
la vida me consumirá.
In English: And when I saw her walk between us, she's there.
I see her walking through the woods without turning around.
(The first part is a metaphor)
I'm running away from my problems without looking back
I'm running away
I am fleeing aimlessly and without end,
life will consume me
Oblivion Castle: This one was made to share an obscure part of the music I make, in vampirism mostly and witchcraft, The first release is more blackened doom and it’s centered on vampirism while the next album was pure dungeon synth about vampirism and the last one was more about witchcraft with an improved sound. It was faster and had a different vocalist making it more aggressive and I liked that.
Oculi Melancholiarum: This one is a dream to me, when I began to listen to blackgaze bands this was what I pictured I wanted to do and I’m just really surprised and proud of how this band has turned out. This one has more post-rock and blackgaze elements.
Cantodea Dianthus: This one goes for a gothic depressive metal sound with some weird screams that I did by improvising. Those are more remarkable on the album Olhando Para As Estrelas.
AIAA 7: This one is where I try to mix electronic instruments with black metal but it’s more electronic than black metal and it’s a little experimental.
Careus: I wanted to try something different with this sound and I mixed some guitar pedals and got that gritty old-school sound combined with this beautiful piano and strings sounds, it makes me feel nostalgic.
Fotopsia: This one is just starting but I have finished most of the album. I’m going for a post-punk and darkwave sound, which I’ve in love with and what it transmits.
Luna Pythonissam: This one is where I let all my feelings fly and I just scream how I feel over post-depressive black metal together with the instruments of Alex B. The sounds can be different between albums cause sometimes we’ll use death metal and gothic elements in the instruments and vocals.
Micarlla II: Symphonic black metal mixed with Emily Dickinson’s poetry and vampirism, definitely one of my favorites as well.
Persephone's Legacy: This one started when I was writing some songs for Micarlla but I thought I would fit in a different project. It’s melodic black metal.
Lacrimal: Even if this project has already concluded, it shows how I started making instrumentals. It’s more like Post-Rock/Doom.
How does having this many projects at once affect which skills you develop as a musician?
Because I believe there are some things that match with the projects and some others that don’t, like the trumpet that only plays in Cora’s Heart as well as some little jazzy things. This is true even in the vocals; for Luna Pythonissam I use more dsbm-common screams and growls sometimes while in Careus I use more black metal ones. Instrumentally, it could be like in AIAA 7, I try to make it more electronic than metal so the things I use are different.
To touch upon the poetry and your lyrics, why do you think that certain projects (like Micarlla II) work better with poetry from Emily Dickinson? What I mean is, are there some projects that capture the spirit of other people’s poetry while some projects capture the poetry of your own words?
When I was creating Micarlla II I wanted to do something Victorian and vampiric so I figured out Emily Dickinson gives that Victorian vibe I was looking for in the band and of course the beauty in her poetry. And the answer to it is yes, there are some projects that capture the spirit of other people’s poetry while some projects capture the poetry of your own words. I think one of the most common authors that are used in metal could be Edgar Allan Poe-.
How do you decide when an act is simply a continuation of one sound or if it justifies being its own project? For example, Sorciere is different than earlier Oblivion Castle releases. What made you consider it an Oblivion Castle project rather than a brand new act under a different name?
Sometimes I feel that my projects should take different directions to improve and leave the old sounds, but sometimes it's just because I'm like, "Oh, I have too many bands at the time, would it make sense if I make one more?..." and the answer is most of the time, yes, but in the Oblivion Castle one I consider the first option "take different directions to improve."
How have you been able to keep such a high level of productivity over the past year?
Sometimes I can make an entire album in one day, sometimes it takes months, and sometimes years, but I can do it because I organize the projects by months, like "I’m going to work on these 3 projects this month and these other 2 next month." The ones that are not solo in most cases are faster but in other cases, they can be a little bit slower. Music is something I really enjoy making and listening to, even if I have a bunch of things to do and work on, I will always try to make a space for music. Like now, even though I am studying for my bachelor's degree and got excellent grades, I work and I also can release like 2 to 3 albums a month.
Are there any aspects of yourself or your personality that come through in some of your projects by not others?
Yes, mostly in the artwork as I think they say a lot about my personality, but also in the textures, the sounds in general, and the type of vocals that I use. Other examples are in Lacrimal and Micarlla I use Emily Dickison’s poetry and there are some poems of hers that express things that I cannot.
How does the mastering process differ between solo acts (i.e. Cora's Heart) and collaborative ones (like Luna Pythonissam)?
Like I said before, I like my projects to have different sounds and a big part of it comes in the mastering process, for example. The ones that have the more clean sound are Oculi Melancholiarum and Micarlla II because I believe it matches their style. In other cases like AIAA 7 and Cora's Heart, the sound is grittier and has more reverb. Then there are projects like Luna Pythonissam where the mastering is more of a mix between Alex and me. In my other projects like Fotopsia (darkwave/post-punk), the mastering is more reverbed but clear.
Follow V.C.H. Music here.