War black metal singer, musician and artist D.N.E. (Does Not Exist) turns personal spirituality into "visual magical workings" and shares them at Collins Studio Gallery
By Cory Schachtel | January 25, 2023
Edify gets enlightened by D.N.E
Good morning! How are you doing?
I’m good, thanks. I’m not usually up at this hour, but I went to bed early.
Oh well thanks for waking up early. I assume a lot of your work is done at night then?
Yeah, I’m also a musician and I have band practice most evenings, so I get home around 11:30 and don’t go to bed until three.
Oh wow. I should probably keep that in mind when interviewing musicians.
Haha, it’s fine. But when I told my bandmate I was doing an interview at 9 a.m. he was like, “Doesn’t he know you’re an artist?”
Well I appreciate your early morning time, and I’ll try not to keep you too long. You’re an artist I don’t think many of our readers are familiar with — how’d you get your start?
I’m born and raised in Edmonton, and I’ve always been into art, poetry, and writing — when I was in junior high, I’d make poems for people and draw pictures all around them, or I’d make my own little newspapers with comics in the back.
And music was a natural extension of that creativeness too?
I was obsessed with music from a young age, but it really hit home when I took keyboard lessons. I didn’t take them very long, and I never did any of the lessons, but I’d come back every week and I’d have learned something, like a Bach melody or a Beethoven melody, and I had this keyboard where you could record and speed it up. So I learned to play as fast as possible, record it, and then I would play it back, maybe four times as fast.
I’ve read about the similarities between classical music and metal, and how there’s a connection between them — it sounds like metal was sort of in you before you really knew what metal was.
I 100 per cent think that is true. I’ve thought about that before, and I do think there’s a certain type of person that is drawn to it. Some people find metal and they like it… and then they don’t like it anymore. But some for some people, like me, I do feel it is so ingrained in their being that it’s the only thing that makes sense. Like I can’t picture my life without it — my whole life revolves around that essence. Of course, I’ve had other interests in spirituality since I was a teenager, which kind of ties all together with what I do with my work. But I realized that I wasn’t whole without metal. I needed to discover this to help discover myself.
Which is your go-to Christmas movie?
17%Miracle on 34th Street
22%A Nightmare Before Christmas
0%Jingle All the Way
I’ve definitely heard of metal, and I’ve heard of black metal, but what does war black metal mean to you?
There are so many different types of black metal, but the differences in war black metal, to me, is that there are no depressive black metal elements. It’s very aggressive, a lot of fast drumming, but it’s more about the themes. There are war metal bands out there who write albums based on different wars and battles and whatever. But black metal is for me a spiritual war, essentially, the war of self empowerment, like an internal warfare.
So between the visual arts and the music, where are you at now, with this exhibition?
Basically, I’ve had kind of my own version of spiritual practice for a long time. And I started over a decade ago working with sigils as means to develop myself in that practice. And so I’ve been working with these in journals, mostly late night before bed, or in personal rituals, or even rituals for other people for a long time, and it just didn’t really dawn on me to incorporate that into my visual art practice.
So for D.N.E. I ended up doing a tape release a few years ago, and I did an artist edition, which came with these small original drawings. I started off with twelve, then I made four more. And when I was doing those, I ended up doing sigil works on one out of every three, because I wanted them all to be different, but I wanted them to be cohesive. And then I realized that those [sigils] were the most powerful, and I just couldn’t look away from that point. You know, it was almost like finding metal — it kind of clicked for me, like this is what I’ve been leading up to. It really felt like a culmination of a lot of things that led me to that and this isn’t just a one off series. That’s why the name for the show is in numbers, because that’s how far I am in the series.
Can you explain the quote from the exhibition description that says, “The sigils are a means to turn words into symbols, and symbols are a means to teach the subconscious mind”?
That’s more a science-based way for me to try to explain what I understand about sigils in a way that isn’t so out there that will be inaccessible. But basically, until we’re like seven years old, our brains only input things on a subconscious level. And that’s why when children have trauma at a young age, it’s not really something they can work through mentally to get over. It really just ends up altering their perceptions of themselves in the world.
So when I speak about wanting to affect the world on a subtle level, and why this exhibition is a culmination of that, is because I’ve been affecting my own life on a subtle level for many, many years using sigils — maybe I could help impact the world that way too, by sharing them, instead of just filling notebooks up.
Because this is just a totally different process. That’s why I don’t really consider it art in a sense, because they’re made up of these sigils that I’ve been working on for many years. And it’s become second nature to me. I don’t have to overthink it — they flow really nicely. So it’s a culmination of my practice as a person, my own spiritual practice, on display.
In addition to the sigils, what can people expect? You’ll be playing music at the opening, correct?
Yeah, but this show isn’t metal. This work isn’t about metal at all. It’s more spiritual work than anything. You can almost call it abstract spiritual work. Or it may seem abstract, but to me it’s not. I’ll play the keyboard, drums and the guitar kind of simultaneously, and layer them. It’s a very intimate space and it’s just me performing solo. And it’s all improvised, so it really feeds off the energy of the crowd.
Most people who see my shows aren’t into metal, and everyone seems to love them. You don’t have to like metal to like my set, and you especially don’t have to like metal to like my art. If you’re into mind-expanding experiences, or just getting to see different energetic fields of work, it could interest you.
Let Intent Is Power XLII – LXXVinterest you from January 27, when D.N.E. will perform a set (7 p.m.) until February 25 at Collins Studio Gallery.