NONEXISTENCE :  interview with Philip Santoll 


mailer by dalia "gryphon_spirit" di giacomo___October 2007


organized by Mr. Philip Santoll  and dalia di giacomo 


nonexistence    NONEXISTENCE - cosmic doom black metal














Hi Philip! First off congratulations for “Nihil” and thank you for this interview possibility! It would be nice if you could introduce yourself to the readers of GM. Who is Mr. Philip Santoll and who is NONEXISTENCE?

Hell-o Dalia, thanks for the opportunity to introduce NONEXISTENCE to the people out there! NONEXISTENCE is like a piece of art, a virtually created band that comes from the frozen darkness of Antarctica. Unifying elements and atmospheres from two seemingly opposite music styles, namely Doom and Black Metal, along with several other influences, NONEXISTENCE has created something individual and original: COSMIC DOOM BLACK METAL. In June 2007 “NIHIL”, the first album, was released worldwide via Twilight Distribution and received a lot of positive feedback from fans and critics since.
I am the artist who created NONEXISTENCE, thus making an old dream of mine come true. Responsible for the entire songwriting, arranging, production and performance of the songs, I have been working the last few years on “NIHIL” to put it into the desired shape.

 “NIHIL” is an album that impressed me for the music, for the titles of the tracks and for the fact that this whole opus comes from your mind as one man project. It happened to me to listen to your album and review it in concomitance with another (though different, yet also BM) one-man dark project coming from Italy (Mourning Soul). Therefore I would take this occasion in order to discuss a bit about what it really means to be a one-man project. Because this thought has never left me since then: one man projects…you need to be extreme talented, cultivated and/or dynamic and daring? And, in the practice, how is it possible?

After playing in several Metal bands for a decade I found myself stuck in a situation in which I spent a lot of energy into my musical activities but did not find the creative satisfaction I expected. Working creatively with other people can be both encouraging and frustrating, for me it had been the latter for quite a while. I was not able to realise my musical visions with the people I had been working, so the decision was either to surrender or to try a complete different approach. Therefore I built my own home recording studio and performed everything by myself. I don’t know if I am that talented, but I suddenly felt more gifted while not being dependant on other people anymore. I’ve had several years of education in guitars, vocals and drums, so when my studio was set up, I was finally able to create what I had in mind for so many years. The result of all this is the album “NIHIL”! It was a very tough road from the first demos and preproductions to the finished CD, but on the pursuit of my very own dream there was only the choice of working even harder to accomplish my vision.

I suspect you are more then professionally informed not only about music but also about science (in particular biochemistry) and philosophy… Is this true?

In fact it isn’t biochemistry but cosmology ;-)
Since I was a child I have been interested in outer space and cosmology. I have read heaps of articles and books about cosmology as well as quantum physics and string theories. This scientific background is the main inspiration for the lyrical idea behind NONEXISTENCE: “NIHIL” takes place in the bleak deserted frozen blackness of a dying universe where the inner self becomes aware that it is part of the universe and mortal as well. Regarding the question for my philosophical background, I have to admit that I did not deal very much with the opera of any famous philosopher yet. And in any case, the album title is not meant to point at the philosophical position of nihilism, as sometimes alleged.

In “NIHIL” there are influences from Black Metal, Gothic, Doom, a bit of Cyber; and old PARADISE LOST of course and THROWS OF DAWN of the “Quicksilver Clouds” era in the song “FALLEN APART”. And the opener “A MYRIAD OF DEAD STARS” is a bit pink-floydian in its very beginning. Are these the roots that bring to Cosmic Doom Black Metal?

I think you figured it out quite well, apart from THROWS OF DAWN, who I am unfamiliar with. PINK FLOYD is the very first band I remember, I’ve been listening to them for my entire life. Being compared with them is the best compliment one can receive! And PARADISE LOST were such an inspiration to both my musical interest and own activities, that their influence will always shine through I guess. My other main influence comes from a couple of years in a Black Metal band that shaped my style of writing and performing. Apart from that, I like to listen to many other music styles as well e.g. Gothic, Ambient, Trip Hop and Progressive, so a lot of different elements may be discovered in my songs, I guess. But the main idea behind NONEXISTENCE was to create a symbiosis of Doom and Black Metal that sounds naturally and unique.

I would like to go on speaking, if possible, about the concept behind the word Antarctica. Why did you say “NIHIL” was born in Antarctica?

Antarctica is a place associated with coldness, darkness, emptiness and loneliness, things that are not only very important for NONEXISTENCE but also resembling the vast empty spaces out there in the universe. The origin of NONEXISTENCE is meant symbolically. I spent the last few years, while working on “NIHIL”, in such an “Antarctic” state, in which my mind was focussed on these things. I felt like being lost in a cold deserted darkness, therefore Antarctica to me is the true origin of my art, in an emotional way. And for a virtual band like NONEXISTENCE this sounds like a convenient home!

I am also interested to know more about the work at the studio, about the mixing and mastering. Finally how much time was needed in order to complete this opus, starting from the idea till the CD ready in the music shops?

From the first demos to the release date it took five years. I had to experiment a lot and to find out how I wanted my songs to sound. They have all developed from guitar based Doom songs without any keyboards at all to those complex orchestral sounds you can hear now. I made several preproduction versions of the songs, then I started with the “real” recordings. The recording sessions had already taken a very long time before I realised that I was in need of somebody else’s help regarding mixing and mastering. Therefore I went to dbRecordings (, where “NIHIL” was put into its final shape. Guitars and vocals had already been recorded by me, but for the virtual instruments, especially drums and bass, the most suitable sounds and samples were chosen at dbRecordings.

“SIRIUS” is one of the most imposing tracks, concerning vocals too. There is much feeling in this song. Which is the message?

Sirius is the brightest star on the firmament and shines beautifully in every colour. It is a reminder of unreachable beauty that encourages you to persist and overcome all the pain of loss and distress. Even if your life may be shrouded in bleakness and despair, there will always be some beauty beyond all that, which makes worth all your suffering. The song “SIRIUS” describes the moment when your entire life is falling apart. It is a heavy Doom song with opulent arrangements and walls of guitars. The lyrics are very personal to me, such as all of my songs. I tried to transpose the emotions into the elegiac guitar leads and variant vocals.

By the way vocals. How would you define yours?

My music style allows me to use a broad range of different vocal techniques. Apart from my clean voice both sung and whispered I use several kinds of “evil” techniques ranging from low Death Metal grunts to high Black Metal shrieks. Thus I may perform the vocals in a way that expresses the emotional aspect of the lyrics. I had several years of vocal training that helps me very much, although my former vocal teacher never wanted me to use those “evil” techniques, so I had to develop them on my own. I am very proud of my grim vocals now!

“METASTABILITY”: This is the track closing “NIHIL”, an album which is opened by “A MYRIAD OF DEAD STARS”. Is there a common concept that flows in all songs?

“NIHIL” is a kind of voyage and all the songs are fading into each other. The album is meant to be a whole, both lyrically and musically. It starts where it ends: In complete and utter darkness. In between there is a vast emptiness, in which the inner self becomes conscious and finds itself lost in the darkness of a dying universe. The lyrics are mostly metaphorical and give space to the listener’s personal interpretation. There are several layers of meaning hidden between the lines, referring to the universe and the personal existence therein.

Have you already performed live as NONEXISTENCE? If not, will there be any possibility about or is it a hopeless wish?

Up to now there have not been any live performances of NONEXISTENCE and there won’t be any in the near future. Maybe I will take care of recruiting some session members after the completion of the next album, but there are no concrete plans for that yet. This subject is still undecided, so there are some small chances of course!

How wide are the possibilities of evolution for Black and Doom? And which is the best genre Doom can hybridize with? In your opinion, can a kind of genetic engineering of music be really present? If yes which are, in your opinion, the disease-related genes of music, if any?

I do not categorise music very much, as all the genre names are only a raw approximation to what a band really plays. For many of the bands I listen to I do not even have the slightest idea how their style could be described or called. The main obstacle to any creative development is a lack of experimentation with new ways of expressing the music. Heavy Metal is typically based upon the classical Rock band line-up, so it will still take some time until the possibilities of virtual instruments and electronic music producing will have an impact on the development of “new genres”. Black Metal in its rawest form has a very narrow definition, so its development will not go too far I guess. Doom Metal is more variant, so there are more ways to develop it further I think.

Which are your favourite instruments? And which one do you prefer to play? In particular how is your feeling with piano and synth? And programming?

Actually I enjoy playing all the instruments I once learned, which are guitars, drums and vocals, but my favourite instrument is definitely the guitar. I’ve been playing it for twenty years now, and although I really disliked it in the beginning, as the classical guitar did not attract me very much, I started enjoying it when I got my fist electric guitar 15 years ago. Nothing compares to the distorted electric guitar, this is the true essence of Rock music! All NONEXISTENCE songs are originally written on the guitar, some of them even on my western guitar! Vocals are a lot harder to perform and I spent a lot of time for them during the recording sessions. Regarding piano and synth I have to admit that I can’t play the piano at all! All programming is done by the PC mouse, including drums, bass guitar, piano, choirs, strings and pads.

What do you think about the music business?

As a have worked in the music industry for a while, I have quite a complex awareness and opinion and understand all the three parts of the music business: The fans, the bands and the industry. It is just an industry like many others, but it is about art and there are many people who seek for a deeper meaning, as music is able to reach your deepest emotions. You should not idolize artists just because of their art or condemn the industry for making that art available and making business with it.

Do you have a "normal" webpage besides the one in Myspace?

I’ve been planning for quite a while to create my own website, but this project has not yet started. As for now, there is only the Myspace site.

Is there anything “holy” for you?

As I do not believe in any religion or religious concept, the word “holy” has not really a meaning to me. “Holy” compared to what? Is there anything that makes something “holy” or is it a quality that comes out of itself? Maybe life and the fact that there is something that exists, such as our universe, is “holy”…

For you, what is music? A language, a passion, a companion, a medicine…? And how old were you when you began to work with music?

I’ve been surrounded by music for my entire life and it always meant a lot to me. Discovering Heavy Metal at the age of ten was a revelation to me, it was the music I had always been waiting for. The same thing with Doom Metal five years later. I started to learn the guitar at the age of nine and formed my first band at the age of fourteen. After a while of covering METALLICA, SEPULTURA and SLAYER I started to write my own songs that were Thrash Metal at that time. Soon I was dragged towards lower tuned guitars and slower songs and experimented with Death Metal and Doom before I joined a Black Metal band for quite a while. You know the rest…

Would it have any sense to compose a music that cannot be heard?

How would it be possible to compose such unhearable music? This question sounds like something to think about in a Zen meditation ;-)

Typical GM question: the Game. In the specific, The Game of the Tower as yours is the first interview to GM (first interview, first Game: The Game of the Tower indeed): on the top of this bloody high tower 3 bands wait for your judgment: you should kick down 2 of them, making thus a pleasure to the planet. Consequently only one will be saved and spared. The 3 bands for you are: NIGHTWISH, EPICA, DIMMU BORGIR.

This Game of the Tower is kind of hard for me, as none of these three bands is really bad and all of them have plenty of fans that would be disappointed by my decision. So I base my decision upon the fact that I extremely dislike female voices in Metal music. I’ve always detested NIGHTWISH because of their gay vocals and I guess that this band doesn’t sound better with its new vocalist now. Therefore NIGHTWISH are the first to be kicked out of the Tower! EPICA do also have a female vocalist, so they are the next to be defenestrated. DIMMU BORGIR shall be spared for now, as I like their orchestral Black Metal very much.

The last word is left to you for telling us your future projects and for leaving a message to our readers! And many thanks for your time, Philip ... and for your Cosmic Doom Black Metal! Horns up!

As for the future, there will be another NONEXISTENCE album of course! I’ve been working on new material for a while and have already finished a couple of songs. It seems that the next album will bring even more gloom, heaviness and opulence!

Thank you very much Dalia for your support and the possibility of this interview! :-)
I hope all you readers who do not know NONEXISTENCE yet will check out my website right now and risk an ear! Stay Dark and doom on! Cheerz!!!


dalia f. c.  di giacomo   03.11.2007 


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