Death And Selim Lemouchi: A Remembrance
Wednesday began with sad news of the passing of Selim Lemouchi, founder of The Devil’s Blood and Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. His art took the form of occult rock and psych-doom, his message of the drive to enlightenment and the surrender to chaos. Super-fans of his awesome bands, we loved Selim the person too, a carefully-spoken and cheerful interviewee, and looked forward to our encounters with him. He will be missed.
As we offer condolences to his sister Farida (his frequent collaborator), his family, his friends in bands like Watain and Ghost, and his growing legion of fans, we look back at the points were our path crossed his — in music, in conversation, and in our minds. Fleeting are the moments in our lives; we seek to safeguard those we shared with him. Thanks for reading :)
Since 2009, it was my pet theory that The Devil’s Blood could be the next huge band to emerge from underground music. Later, a pat analogy formed in my mind that TDB would crash through the door cracked open by Ghost like an occult-rock Nirvana stomping down the path cleared by Jane’s Addiction. I felt like Atlantic Records A&R in the audience of a club showcase for Led Zeppelin as I first listened to TDB’s debut album The Time Of No Time Evermore, an accessible, powerful, hooky, mystical, angry, and unforgiving juggernaut that’s heavy as Heart and fearlessly ingenious. I liked to tell Selim my theory; it was one of the many times I could sense him smiling on the other end of the phone.
The highest power that an artist has is confusion. If you can wield that sword, then you can literally change lives as an artist. I truly believe that this is our biggest strength in life. But on the other side, music flows as water does: downhill, down the path of least resistance, so to speak.
Selim was fascinating and contradictory, this joiner of timeless melody and wild anger in art of plain appeal that’s sized (but not shaped) like Appetite For Destruction. Holland’s FaceCulture interviewed him at home in 2011 to reveal a quietly upset man who covered his home in occult symbols and old blood. It’s as though, at every moment, Selim sought to align himself with his own demise and the end of earthly suffering. (He also liked to reduce himself, to be referred to as SL or SL/TDB/AO.) In this way, Selim may not have been unlike a fanatical churchgoer, those denial-wracked cheaters who beg the gods for favors and bail out on our world in order to get in line for the next. Only Selim was no coward, he embraced the infinite potential of chaos. Still, I hinted to him that his beliefs — like nearly all those of angry young men — might be conceived by him to validate his anger about personal things. Unable to face the true source of unhappiness — our desires — we seek external things to rage against. That way we express our hate with none of the struggle to surmount its cause. So I asked him if he was having fun.
[pauses] That’s a good question, actually. Well, I’m most certainly enjoying the creation process of the record. Let me put it that way. To have made this thing is something that [brings] tremendous amounts of joy and pleasure and pride. And hunger.
If it was a surprise to find that the author of beautiful, simple, deft hard rock was as dark and complicated as Hemingway, then the sudden end of The Devil’s Blood last year can be ranked as an “astonishment.” Their terse, tense statement of demise banished from my mind the image of my presiding over Selim’s signing of a juicy post-Ghost contract with a huge label and management; a few angry words prematurely cancelled my lobbying of each of the thousand people I know in the recording industry to get in on the first floor with this supernova-to-be. But Selim picked me up in a hurry when we spoke about TDB’s swan song, III: Tabula Rasa, or Death And Its Seven Pillars, a frustrating and incomplete, but skyscraper-high, final chapter. Such were his powers to convince (and my need to believe he was okay) that I accepted his insistence that the band’s end wasn’t marred by bad energy:
What a lot of people thought was bitterness or anger, or even sadness, was actually relief. It was a sense of, Wow, that was what the fuck we did. Look back over the last seven years and tell me one thing, just point at something and tell me it didn’t go exactly the way it was supposed to: There’s nothing. Just a perfect game, you know? Strike after strike after strike after strike [laughs]. No gutters. Again, The Big Lebowski. All strikes, no gutters. [laughs]
The assertion that The Devil’s Blood’s break-up was no common blow-up was easy to accept at that moment, as Selim joked unselfconsciously about the end of something so awesome. And the doubt that settled in my mind was beaten back by a look at the new Selim, a changed man: his long hair cut short, his black leather replaced by a paisley blouse, his driving occult rock morphed into sprawling psych rock. His new band was called Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies, another reference to the battle inside the man, and another hint that his problems were within not without; yet he seemed more positive, and not in his customary “negative is true therefore positive” way. I was tickled when he confessed an uncertainty about his vision for the new band — a total reversal from the prescribed plan of his former group. This represented progression for Selim the person, and regression for Selim the musician. Growth. And I was happy to hear that his buds were pushing him:
I just recently played my very first gig. We did a performance as support for Ghost, which was really interesting. Ghost asked me to do it and they kinda like pressured the venue into telling me to go on stage. Of course, I didn’t even have a band or a line-up or a setlist. So I asked a lot of musicians that I knew, friends of mine, to help me out. We rehearsed once and did the gig. It was pretty good.
Selim soothed me further with talk of a handful of posthumous releases from The Devil’s Blood, to include an acoustic EP, a live DVD, and “several live recordings.” Their release was contingent on his finding the time and energy to parse and prepare, and I cheered him sufficiently to convey that his efforts would be appreciated by fans. Now that Selim is gone, I wonder about their fate and fear the worst. (Requests for comment from Ván Records and Metal Blade have not been answered.) Still, Selim’s message is found elsewhere than The Devil’s Blood’s trio of awesome albums and pair of EPs. His is the most astounding moment on Watain’s perfect Lawless Darkness, the funereal outro solo on album closer “Waters Of Ain.” The Devil’s Blood is the soundtrack of his life, his rebirth unfolded to the sound of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies, and “Ain” plays as we watch Selim drift from shore and far out to sea. RIP.
It wasn’t me that was in charge. It was something outside of me that influenced me and pushed me onward. The hand upon my shoulders. That hand has tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know what? You’re done. You’ve done a tremendous job, thank you, and now fuck off and go do something else.” I’ve been set free. I can do anything I want now.