Ever since Mick Jagger sang "Sympathy for the Devil" at Altamont, rock and roll and evil have gone together like fire and brimstone. Seattle's Himsa takes its name from the Sanskrit word ahimsa, which connotes living in peace and harmony. By dropping the important first letter, the bandmembers transform the word to mean its opposite. As they've noted in the past, the name now means "living with as much violence and evil as possible."
The quintet's latest release, Hail Horror, gives a glimpse of what that might sound like. Horror's predecessor, Courting Tragedy and Disaster, marked a dramatic departure from the band's unremarkable metalcore origins, drawing heavily on classic British metal, a favorite choice of guitarist Sammi Curr. On Horror, guitarist Kirby Johnson got the chance to bring his influences to the fore, mining the depths of both Scandinavian black metal and Bay Area thrash. The resulting aural ordeal is absolutely devoted to musical violence, trading melody and hooks for brute metallic force. For Himsa's bassist and only remaining original member, Derek Harn, this is a natural progression. "It just took a long time for us to define where we're going," said Harn when we spoke with him recently. "We had to get the right people who are committed to it."
Westword: You're the only founding member of Himsa left. What did you do to the others?
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I tied them up, put them on a spit and barbecued them. We kicked out maybe a couple of guys, but the rest have just passed through. It's so intertwined and confusing and tangled that I can't even draw the Himsa family tree at this point.
Who's the most evil band in Seattle's storied music history?
As far as evil or straight-up metal, I'd have to go with Nevermore. They're huge in Europe, and they're amazing musicians. Other than that, you'd have to go with Metal Church or the Accused, who just reformed.
What's the most evil thing you've done today?
Well, I tortured a baby and -- no, I can't really talk about it, because it could incriminate us and land us in jail. You know, stuff happens on a daily basis on tour that is not very reportable.
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These days, when the vice president of the United States is capping his homie in the face, it's hard to be the most evil. If you had to choose, would you say Anton LaVey or John Ashcroft is more evil?
For pure, unadulterated evil, it's John Ashcroft, absolutely. That guy is demented. He's right up there with Jim Jones.
How about Dave Matthews vs. Ozzy?
Well, they're both evil in their own right. I'd have to say Ozzy is the logical choice, but you've got to go with Dave Matthews for the pure harm that he's done. Ozzy has provided good evil, whereas Dave Matthews has provided bad evil. He's made middle-aged women feel like they're teens, so maybe that's good.