One Day It’ll All Make Sense
Blake Judd is excited again. It’s nearly Thanksgiving in Chicago and, after a mild start to winter, finally getting holy-balls cold outside. Inside Judd’s darkened Humboldt Park apartment, Teitanblood’s Seven Chalices spins on a turntable and Judd — outfitted completely in black — shows off the LPs he has acquired recently, including Watain’s Lawless Darkness. He’s blown away by the jacket and insert. (Rightfully so because it’s impressive — above and beyond most vinyl releases.)
Appearing: February 20th at House Of Blues in Chicago.
“I’ve been on a massive black-metal kick,” he says. “I actually ordered a bunch of records the other day. Just got a bunch of super underground shit that I’ve wanted a long time. I think it’s because I want to make this record and I’m kinda going back to the shit I haven’t listened to in a long time.”
“This record” refers to the next Nachtmystium album. A record that Judd, the band’s guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter, has only recently started demoing (hence the four-track recorder on the couch propped up by pillows) and has absolutely no time frame for recording and/or releasing.
But he’s excited, nonetheless.
Five weeks prior, when Illinois Entertainer first spoke with Judd, he wasn’t excited. He was burnt the fuck out. That was early October, a week after Nachtmystium delivered a scorching set at Reggie’s Rock Club to wrap up a headlining tour with The Atlas Moth, Dark Castle, and Zoroaster. Though certainly not a failure, it was Nachtmystium’s first full-fledged headlining trek since signing with Century Media in 2007, and the final nail on an intense year of travel. Three weeks being the man-in-charge of the band-in-charge of a cross-country tour had taken its toll on Judd, and in turn had him questioning his own motives with the band.
“It literally came down to [last] year for me that I finally have made this my job — Nachtmystium,” he says, “and I don’t like that. There’s nights where we’re getting ready to go onstage and I’m just like, ‘I can’t wait to fucking get this over with.’ That’s not the right attitude to have.”
At the time, Judd was more eager to talk about 2010 being over than what it meant for his band. Nachtmystium released Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II in June, and it happened to be one of the best metal records of the year, earning the band a ball-buttering from just about any critic with ears. It also toured with Kreator and Eyehategod, made an official music video (“Every Last Drop”), and somehow even snuck a downloadable song (“Nightfall”) into “Rock Band.”
During our second sit-down, though, Judd’s interest is renewed. He eagerly cranks the rough mix of a new song he has demoed and — with guitarist Pat Clancy, drummer Charlie Fell, bassist Will Lindsay (ex-Wolves In The Throne Room; current Indian), and Sanford Parker (Minsk; metal producer guru) — has begun prepping for Nachtmystium’s seven-week run as direct support on Cradle Of Filth’s “Creatures From The Black Abyss” tour. (“What you see on the Cradle tour will be Addicts live,” he promises.) He isn’t raring to get back on the road yet, but he isn’t dreading it, either. “It will be time to go by the time that time comes,” he says. “I’ll have been home for long enough that I’m sure I’ll get the itch to get the fuck out of here.”
Judd offers Red Bull. He’s got “like 600.” After fetching himself one and lighting a Camel, he stretches out on one of two couches in the living room. He takes a deep drag and considers the question — the highlight of Nachtmystium’s year.
“Roadburn. For sure.”
Nachtmystium played other European fests (Festung Open Air in Germany and the Oya Festival in Norway), but Roadburn in the Netherlands was special. It has become an institution on the Euro metal-fest scene for starters, and last year was Nachtmystium’s debut. Also, it was the climax of a particularly brutal stretch of touring, one where, Judd says, his band proved to its labels (Century Media in the States; Candlelight in Europe; Daymare in Japan), booking agents, and itself that it was capable of plowing through a heavy schedule.
“We did that run with Kreator, it was like 16 shows, I think. We had 72 hours off [afterwards], 24 of which were spent flying to Europe. We had a night off as soon as we got there and then started right back up the next day. Went for like 34 shows with two days off or something. Roadburn was kind of the checkered flag that ended the race.”
“Losin’ Jeff,” he replies.
Jeff is Jeff Wilson, former Nachtmystium guitarist and, before his departure, the longest-tenured member of the group whose name isn’t Blake. Judd was 17-years old when he and high-school friend Patrick McCormick formed Nachtmystium in 2000. At the time both were still members of Chicago BM outfit Ezurate. Nachtmystium quickly became their main priority, though, after Ezurate booted Judd in 2001. McCormick then officially left to prop up Nachtmystium for the next two years, during which they recorded a handful of demos, a split single, and the Reign Of The Malicious full length. McCormick split after that, however, and the band has been has been Judd’s since.
He attributes the revolving-door membership to seeing the band as two separate versions: recording and touring. This past year’s touring lineup (Judd, Clancy, Fell, and bassist Drew Markuszweski), for instance, is completely different than the 12 months prior (Judd, Wilson, drummer Zack Wilson, and bassist Jon Necromancer), and just two of those people (Judd and Wilson) played on either of the Black Meddle releases. Wilson was part of the group for five years, though. That’s, like, eight in Nachtmystium parlance. Case in point, Wilson played on four recordings (both Black Meddles, the Worldfall EP and the — criminally unheralded — Doomsday Derelicts EP), all with otherwise different rosters.
Last April, less than three months after recording and two months before releasing Addicts, and smack goddamn dab in the middle of a European tour, Wilson bailed.
Judd blames Wilson’s chaotic personal life. “He’ll tell you that and I’ll tell you that. He needed to come home and deal with some shit.”
Wilson acknowledges such issues, but insists his decision had more to do with what was going on in Nachtmystium than in his own life. “I suppose there were a few personal issues, but they were directly related to business issues,” Wilson says. “Our booking agent at the time was a complete joke. Everything was unorganized. I was doing all the booking for that tour, and I was told one thing and we’d show up and everything was completely different.
“It wasn’t necessarily a personal issue between us,” he continues. “It was basically business things that sort of made us go at each other. We were both stoked to be doing the tour and doing all these things and promoting records and whatnot. We always have fun on tour, but other things pretty much led to us arguing. At the time it got so bad it was like, ‘All right, if I don’t leave, the entire tour is going to fall apart.'”
“It happened in the middle of the night after a completely ridiculous and very violent physical fight between us,” Judd says. “It was a drag to have that happen, but, at the same time, in the big picture it was better for the band, it was better for him, it was better for me personally, and better for everyone on that tour bus with us,” Judd contends, adding that the two remain close friends. “In a way it was a lame thing, but it was also a very necessary thing.”
So 2010 wasn’t without its flaws. But pretty much anything beats 2008 and 2009, or, as Judd refers to it, the “fucking disaster” that was the Assassins tour cycle.
For the full story of what happened on tour, grab the January issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.
— Trevor Fisher