There's a moment on "Silencing Machine," the sixth full-length studio album from local black metal noisemakers Nachtmystium, where the dark clouds part and things briefly take a more optimistic turn as frontman Blake Judd howls, "Somehow I know something better awaits me!"
It's an ongoing search for Judd. The singer and creative force behind one of the city's best bands--metal or otherwise--recently went through a bitter divorce and battled drug addiction for years before finally getting clean about 18 months ago.
"It's not always easy, and I'm not going to say I haven't had my moments where I've slipped," said Judd, 30. "But where I'm at now, my eyes are open and I realize I have to lead a completely different life or I'm going to wither away."
Reached at home in Logan Square, the frontman opened up about overcoming addiction, recording alongside Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and the time he (maybe) appeared on "Family Guy."
You mentioned you're about to have a birthday. Is 30 one of those ages that led to some reflection?
That's exactly where I'm at, man. I've had an interesting 20s, to say the least. The band has done well, but overall I'm flipping out, like, "Where the [bleep] is my life at?" I'm 30 years old. I don't own my own home. I'm not exactly where I'd like to be financially. I went through a nasty divorce after being married a little over a year. I didn't see it coming, and it was very disruptive emotionally and in terms of my life. It was like, "How do I occupy my time now? What do I do?" The worst thing for anybody to do is to sit around because you just end up dwelling on it. And that's not good for anyone's mental health.
In conversation you're really genial and upbeat, but then you put on the new record and hear these brutal, desperate songs like "I Wait in Hell" and "The Lepers of Destitution."
Right, well those two songs...are very reflective of my struggles with substance abuse. I feel like the whole drug thing has been publicized, but we did do an album called "Addicts" so it's not like I wasn't asking for that attention. For a couple years there I was really, really, really [bleeped] up. It sucked the soul out of me. I didn't know who I was. My friends would look at me and say, "Your eyes are full of emptiness. You're not there anymore." There were times I was so down and out I was like, "Had I known this was where I was going to be back when I was 20 I might have made that decision to get that job or to finish college and do [music] more as a hobby." That's a lonely place, man. I sought therapy and treatment on my own, and I've very much turned my life around since then.
Disappears worked with Steve Shelley and you guys pulled in Thurston Moore for Twilight (a black metal super-group whose third album is expected out early 2013). What local band is [Sonic Youth's] Kim Gordon going to join?
[Laughs] I have no idea. It'd be funny if she got involved with somebody though. The whole Sonic Youth thing is crazy.
Have you been in the studio with Thurston yet?
Yeah, we recorded the album in August. Ironically my wife chose to walk out on me three days before I started that session. That's the last time I had a slip, so to speak. I completely lost my mind there for about a week...and fell back into a lot of things I shouldn't have fallen back into. I pulled myself out of it quickly and got my head out of my ass within a couple days. Thurston's contribution is neat because he didn't change anything about how he plays. He didn't try to become a black metal musician for this record. What I can say about it is there's nothing in the world that sounds like it.
A handful of metal blogs posted a screen cap of what looked like an animated version of you doing coke on an episode of "Family Guy." Is this something you were aware of?
I know about the "Family Guy" thing. I don't know if that's actually supposed to be me or not, but it is a pretty striking resemblance. I've been surprised before by the people that like or are aware of this band. Guns N' Roses management contacted us saying Axl Rose wanted Nachtmystium T-shirts to wear in press photos and it was like, "What?" We've never actually contacted the "Family Guy" office and asked, "Is that Blake Judd from Nachtmystium?" But it sure looks an awful lot like me...and I certainly spent plenty of time in Los Angeles snorting cocaine when I was younger. Again, I've got a ways to go until I can shake that [addict] stigma, and I know it. It's a struggle everyday. But what am I going to do? Give in and be defeated by it and let it ruin my life more than it already has? Absolutely not.
Nachmystium, 9 p.m. Nov. 21 at Ultra Lounge, $15