Gruth is an artist whose style has been hard to pin down over his three releases on the Brazilian experimental label Tormenta Electrica. Finnish producer Juha Puuperä brings a black metal aesthetic to his dark electronic creations, which feed off elements of techno, industrial, avant-garde composition, ritualistic drone music and field recordings. He’s also inspired by rave and soundsystem subcultures and left-field horror cinema, and lists his role in Gruth as “black arts, misanthropy and abhorrence” on his Bandcamp profile.
He elaborates further on his refusal to stay in one field, saying: “Gruth is my attempt to create music without a specific style or genre, combining all the history of music I have – from classical music to black metal, rave music, sound system culture, industrial, noise and much, much more, as well as to experiment with sound and different ways of creating music. Gruth is music born out of hate, misery, sadness and grief. Its a personal therapy and a coping mechanism.”
Puuperä has just released his third Tormenta Electrica EP Befallen, which he calls a “sister piece” to his first EP Futile Demise – which once again digs into a clanking, metallic industrial dub sound palette, while this time adding more processed guitar and hissing black metal vocals and some abstract techno and jungle time signatures. As with his previous two releases, Befallen features collaborators, this time KuJo plays “broken violin”, Ikola is responsible for “witchcraft” and Kamikaze Space Programme is on “frostbite”.
Befallen is a slight departure from the EP Laments, a cassette release which explored ritual ambient themes through minimalist composition and field recordings, over two sides of 25 minutes each. Laments was picked up by Andrew Weatherall, who said: “If I ever were to go lysergic adventuring again, this would be part of the soundtrack. Magnificent.” I’m not sure what acid Weatherall used to take, but I’m not sure I’d take a Gruth playlist to go tripping in the forest at night.
Puuperä is currently in a remote backwoods of Chapada Diamantina in northeast Brazil, capturing field recordings for a later release, but he took a time out to chat to me about his new EP and the Gruth project overall. The internet where he’s based is shaky at best, so this interview came together through WhatsApp messages, a few voicemails, a gas station with WiFi and a fucked up keyboard with broken buttons in an internet cafe…
There’s an obvious black metal aesthetic in your releases, and some of your passages evoke black metal atmospherics. Had this idea been in place since you started Gruth?
In the beginning my interest was more to try arrive at a style of techno that feeds from my history of extreme music, whether it be black metal, noise, industrial, avant-garde, etc. The project started as a collaboration with a Finnish friend of mine, Antti Rasi, and the sound was very different from what you have heard from the releases. There is definitely a connection between the kind of emotions being evoked, but the actual sound and production was much more signature of my partner in crime in the beginning. Since Antti moved back to Finland I continued the project on my own and found my own sound with my own production methods.
What other music has informed or inspired the Gruth project?
I prefer to draw inspiration from other things than the same art medium that you are creating. For me the inspiration for Gruth comes from intense personal experiences more than from other music. It is obvious many other types of music influences the sound and what I do, as my musical background is quite varied and I have gone through — and still am — of periods of very different types of music and music cultures. However, I would not say this is much to do with the inspiration… the inspiration comes from the need to express the emotions I am dealing with.
You’ve had collaborators on each Gruth release so far, is it important to you to have input or inspiration from others?
I see music very much as a collaborative effort. I find it much more inspiring to write music with others than alone. I love the energy between different musical minds. I also adore combining different musical talents and attempting to arrive at new unexplored musical horizons. My musical history started from playing guitar alone, but it went quickly into playing with others and playing in a band. Nothing came out of that band and playing with friends, but it was key in learning about the different energy that you have when playing or creating music with others. Also, music for me is a very personal thing and I find it fascinating to write music together with people I know very well.
On Laments, one of the central concepts was that it should be played to a sleeping audience to induce nightmares. Is that concert going to happen?
I have been working on a concept to start organising sleep concerts where the audience is invited to sleep for the entire duration of the night. It is a kind of an anti rave with an extended DJ set for a sleeping crowd. I have been gathering a lot of material to DJ for this… and therefore wanted to create something that I would want to play that does not exist yet.
Currently I am traveling in the northeast of Brazil, with Salvador da Bahia as my primary base. Experimental music or avant-garde culture hardly exists in this part of Brazil, so I am not sure if I am able to pull off the sleep concert just yet. However, when I return to São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, this will be one of my focuses.
When you write for other releases do you always have a narrative or concept in mind?
Originally, not really. It used to be more about experimenting and playing around with things freely. I think since Laments things changed and I want to be working more on pieces with a strong more strict concept in mind. Currently I am recording the beaches around Salvador and Bahia to possibly create some more violent longer pieces in the future.
The ritual element seems to be very important in the live presentation, is atmosphere more important than more traditional ‘heaviness’ for intensity in this case?
This kind of came without me realising it. It was only when I looked back, that I realised all of my music shares this ritualistic element. Also as we started doing performances with Elsiane Monstra in the clubs of São Paulo, this aspect in my own music came more clear to me. Atmosphere is definitely more important than bpm. I could not care less which bpm each piece is. It is completely against my musical thinking. Starting a track by choosing a bpm for me is like restricting yourself and putting yourself in a box before you start the creative process. Definitely not something I ever want to do.
You’ve said Befallen is a ‘sister project’ to the first Gruth EP Futile Demise. Are you leaving aside the ritual ambient direction for now?
A lot of the tracks on these two EPs were created during the same period in my life and therefore share the same emotion that I was going through at the time. Also both EPs have similar title tracks created in collaboration with KuJo and I see both those pieces really crystallising what the EPs are about.
As to ritual ambient direction, I never had one. I don’t do directions, I refuse to. I will keep on making music that inspires me without thinking about what style or genre it is. I have finished two brutal tracks that have a lot of more black metal type of experimentations with electronic drums… I hope to finish a four-track EP with these ideas and production methods. I am also working on pieces from these recordings of the beaches in Bahia, which I will combine with read out poetry readings of my local musician/poet friend Brian Schultz.
- Buy Gruth vinyl from Juno here.
- Listen to all Gruth releases at Bandcamp.
- Find all other Tormenta Electrica releases on Bandcamp.