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THE BIG NOT HING “This world is too big for me’’ said a 4 year old Selim Lemouchi whilst looking out from his family home. It’s safe to say that this guy was not born to be a happy soul. But no one would ever have predicted the compelling life which was to follow. As artistic director of the in Eindhoven-based hard rock band The Devil’s Blood, he succeeded in putting occult rock on the world map. Yet we mustn’t thank him, for it was Satan who had directed it all. On the 4th March 2014 he chose to end his life, and this is a snapshot into the life of the most intrinsic rock musician that The Netherlands has ever known.
t is a hot May day in the Kruidenbuurt area in the south of Eindhoven. The sun is shining and there is a strong stench of rotting meat in the air, but aside from that, everything else remains as bleak and normal as ever in the working-class neighbourhood. With its houses all pressed closely together, not a front garden in sight, and nothing really notable aside from lots of window decorations; red and white football stickers are common, and on one of the corners someone has a hung a rainbow flag: a sign of peace. Then, upon arriving at number 1 Distelstraat you see HAIL SATAN written in black lettering on the
door, and under the doorbell is a sticker which reads ‘killing is cool’. Jérôme Siegelaer presses the bell. As the door opens, in bursts Jena (Jérôme ‘s labraweiler) and proceeds straight through the house to the back garden, specifically to the shed. Probably because in the shed is about a kilo of meat, bones, and a massive dead dove for good measure. The stench is unbearable. Later that same month, on the 21st May 2010, The Devil’s Blood will headline at Rockhard Festival in Germany, and Selim has enlisted the help of good friend and visual artist Jérôme to make some special images for the show; and this is where the fetid collection of rot-
The illustration is made using the blood of Farida and Jimmy Lemouchi, and the members of The Devil’s Blood (with thanks to Gerry).
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ting remains comes into play. Amongst the collection were some human bones which he had borrowed from a friend, the meat had been procured from a butcher beforehand, and the dove corpse… well he had found that himself in the street. So, with a handkerchief smothered in Vicks’ VapoRub held tightly under his nose, Jérôme enters the fetid cesspool. With sweltering heat and the dog trying every which way to get in on the action, its needless to say there was much laughter involved: sometimes these friends had the most fun in the most absurd situations. There were, however, some more serious, reflective times for these two friends, like when they would walk Jena and Diesel (Selim’s dog) in the nearby forest and heaths; they maintained a solid friendship for many years, that is until Tuesday 4th March 2014 when Selim died. It was apparently only a matter of time.
in bands such as Godhead and Red King Rising, and later also in Judasville and Powervice. His time spent in Powervice was one spent just on the edge of another decline into a depressive episode. “There were a lot of ‘problem childs’ in Powervice, there was always some sort of goings-on” says Farida. “He really didn’t need that, he already had enough troubles of his own to deal with.” Her brother is often depressed, a disease he inherited from his Algerian father. The chaotic rock-star lifestyle fuelled by drink, drugs and women would seem a perfect refuge for many troubled people in their twenties. But in 2007, Selim hit the reset button.
On the fireplace at Farida Lemouchi’s house sits a sword and shield, hand crafted by her brother in 2007. “A present for his nephew Jimmy” explains Farida. She mentions her son and her brother both regularly and simultaneously. “ I can’t help it, they’re so damn alike.” After the suicide, Jimmy has written ‘strijder’ on the shield, meaning ‘warrior’, because that was his uncle - despite all the depression he kept going, he kept strong. What’s more, the waves of strength which came in between the darkness would sometimes spark a strong new zest for life, like in 2007 when he was discharged from the psychiatric hospital in Eindhoven. Not only was this period a massive turning point in his life, but it also signalled the start of The Devil’s Blood. Selim had always played in bands, with his red Yamaha guitar which had been given to him once at a rock night in Helmond. Even from the young age of 14 he had already began to make a name for himself as a gifted guitarist. He began
Farida Lemouchi with her bother Selim (1980).
Once he was out of the hospital, Selim had a clear vision for The Devil’s Blood etched at the forefront of his mind. Typical Selim, according to Farida. “Couldn’t keep his house clean, or take care of his own administrative dealings, couldn’t cook a thing, yet he always had his music under total control.” He was adamant that The Devil’s Blood should be, and would be, an occult rock band. There would be ‘rituals’ not ‘performances’, with candles, goat skulls, blood and incense: the full works. He needed only to convince his sister to come on board and the rest of the world would follow. Farida: “His old band mate Milko Bogaard introduced Selim to the occult at some point. He began to study it, and when he came out of the hospital
(in 2007) he just dived straight in – full force. Just boom! He said: ‘I want you to sing in the band with blood all over your head’. Ehmm, ok….”
“Ehmm” indeed – a thought Jérôme knew well from the ‘shed of stench’ experience! And Selim’s friends would often be presented with extreme situations and ideas in those years of his life. Because it was in those years whereby that dark side of his mind, the shadows which used to torment him and from which he once fled, suddenly had his full attention because he found that he could finally make some sense of them. They actually appealed to his interests, and through the studying and understandings of Satanic philosophies, it was like finding light in the darkness. Farida: “He thought chaos was cool, because things happen just as they do in the animal kingdom - naturally and instinctively, uninterrupted. Even in death he saw beauty.” For some, it was perhaps hard to grasp the motives behind his creative drives, but for others, such as Jérôme, they can fully accept his deeper artistic foundations: “Our artistic collaboration was based on spheres, not on messages.” Those who seek some kind of logical explanation get served a direct, yet fittingly logic argument. Selim was an intellectual heavyweight and an erudite thinker. Farida: “Sometimes I thought ‘Yeah, whatever you say’ but Selim was always so crystal clear with his ideas and visions, and could verbalise them in such a way… And you didn’t have to agree with him. But most importantly, I could see that it did him good, so that made it a lot easier for me to accept the occult stuff.” In this particular phase of his life, the Satan which Selim embraced was not the horned character carrying a pitchfork, rather for him, Satan was an all-encompassing force or energy: Satan was a symbol for the chaos of life. Followers of this kind of philosophy strive for a life without barriers, embracing
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the polarities of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, life and death: everything which is involved in sailing on our course in the big, murky waters of life. “The world leans towards chaos, so we must not try to alter this” explains Darko Groenhagen. The Buddhist tattoo artist was an important spiritual friend for Selim, despite their obvious differences. “Let chaos be. He found that very important. He had a great deal of respect for people who surrendered to their instincts; whether it was fucking groupies or murderers. These were all just things which are following the natural course – survival of the fittest: that notion gave him an enormous sense of freedom.” This freedom becomes an artistic catalyst. The rituals he later performed on stage with The Devil’s Blood were designed to free the mind. The idea behind the band members submersing themselves in blood was to rid the self of the ego and all rational thought. Selim demanded complete surrender to the music. The walls of Selim Lemouchi’s living room were blood-smeared and decorated with inverted crucifixes. Sometimes, as part of the creative process, he would cut his own flesh. “He was convinced that all of the music and creativity was not from him, it was given to him – whispered to him” explains Darko. “And so as an act of gratitude, and to give thanks for this, he gave a part of his own life, by offering his own blood.”
“I’m not pouring pigs blood all over my head!” was Farida’s initial response to her brothers requests. However on Thursday 17th April 2008, she found herself standing with a chalice full of blood in her hands, on stage, surrounded by her blood-soaked bandmates. None of them are Satanists, all of them managed to survive the strict selection process for the band, made by its critical creator, based simply on their impressive musical talents. Even at this very early stage in the bands journey, there was already a keen interest and a hype had
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been building on the internet. This date was the debut of The Devil’s Blood at the famous 013 venue in Tilburg, as part of Roadburn Festival. “Everyone expected some sort of brutal black/death metal” reflects Walter Hoeijmakers festival organiser at Roadburn, but this was far from what they would get. “The band had a very intense, yet well-devised rock show. It was just pure quality rock, like Thin Lizzy back in the 70s. Really catchy. The Devil’s Blood breathed a new life into double guitar solos and classic riffs. Fans of this style of music had been waiting for years for a band like this. The Devil’s Blood answered their calls. Selim
was a troubled guy, and he attracted people of the same ilk. The Devil’s Blood was a safe haven for troubled guys and girls. In later performances I saw people cut themselves before the stage – bizarre scenes, but Selim knew how to strike a spiritual chord with these people. He was a lighthouse of liberation for them, and he never made judgements upon them either.” Following their first live ritual, the attraction of The Devil’s Blood grew and grew, lifting the band, seeing them take to larger stages in major venues all over Europe. After the successful release of the album ‘The Thousandfold Epicentre’ in 2011, the band toured the USA and everything seemed to be pointing in the direction of commercial success. However, Selim walked off in the other direction.
Selim with his first guitar, the red Yamaha (1994).
knew it was a very smart move to serve up the dark psychedelics of the hippy era on to the contemporary table of music: it brought excitement back into rock music. The Devil’s Blood put occult rock back on the map, you only have to look at the Swedish band Ghost to see this; they are now playing huge occult rock shows world wide.” Old metalheads found salvation in the music, but the band also appealed to a new audience. Walter explains: “Selim
Back to the summer of 2010, The Devil’s Blood is on tour in Europe. Selim and his manager Bidi van Drongelen are backstage at the Hellfest festival in France. They both watch as Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) does what rockstars do: having his photo taken with fans, shaking hands – doing everything that people wanted from him. “Look at him!” says Selim, “that’s not what anyone would want to do, as a human.” “Yep, that’s all part and parcel of it!” replies Bidi, “and this is what awaits you too.” Selim watches his manager for a while, and it becomes clear that what is a lifestyle for Sebastian is a total nightmare for him. “He could have gone sky high with The Devil’s Blood, if only he had a more business-minded approach sometimes, but that was something he never mastered, nor wanted to master.” Bidi recalls more difficult moments, one
“He had such strong values in his music that he wanted an audience who would respect and share those values”. 4
involving the legendary record label Roadrunner. All Selim had to do was to sign for six albums. “That was something he said he really couldn’t do”, says Bidi. “Once you start making music on a contractual basis, it becomes your work. Selim felt much more comfortable in the smaller, independent label ‘Ván Records’.” Another occasion, Bidi recalls, was when someone from the Dutch television programme ‘De Wereld draait door’ called. “I said on Selim’s behalf that we wouldn’t do it. ‘They only want to see us as bloody circus animals’ was his response.” Big festivals were also often rejected. “Selim found festivals like ‘Noorderslag’ a kind of cattle market for bands, and the ‘Lowlands’ festival was too far removed from his roots. He had such strong values in his music that he wanted an audience who would respect and share those values”. Selim was well known for being uncompromising with his music, even being known in Eindhoven as the ‘band Nazi’, and the time spent in the recording studio was no different. He worked out all the music in his head and would get really pissed off if it didn’t come out that way in the production. For the bands producer, Pieter Kloos, it would often mean being left with the task of trying to reason with Selim. “Selim once went totally crazy because Farida had pronounced something in the lyrics incorrectly”, says Pieter. “He was the messenger after all, the rest was just the medium through which the messages
“There is no way back once you have chosen to embrace the darkness with such conviction”. 5
were delivered. They had to convey these messages correctly. If you wanted to work with him, you had to be up to scratch, or better. Ron (van Herpen) was perhaps a better guitar player than Selim, and Micha (Haring) could play the most complex drum rolls. Really, they could be fantastic, but this would still sometimes not be enough for Selim. I guess those who want to make explicit music must therefore work explicitly.”
Suicide, or at least the commercial version of a suicide, came at the beginning of 2013, during the making of the album ‘III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven
Selim (l.) with his nephew Victor (1992).
Pillars’. This was when Selim and Farida decided to pull the plug on The Devil’s Blood. There were several reasons behind this decision and it is fair to say that the brother/sister relationship was feeling the strain with the studio environment only amplifying the tensions. The band had been gaining more and more followers and attracting increasing interest, but this pressure and responsibility to keep giving, weighed badly on Selim. In addition, his creative vison had shifted, Jérôme explains. “Forces of nature became more important to him and the occult gave way to a darker spirituality – his musical creativity had discovered new depths. This new depth was also a time of great productivity. Almost borderline manic at times, he would keep
coming out with beautiful melody after beautiful melody.” The beautiful results of this deeper phase in Selim’s life are projected on the album ‘Earth, Air, Spirit, Water, Fire’ (2013) and in the EP released prior to that, entitled ‘Mens Animus Corpus’. Both pieces were released under the title of Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies, a band whose formation was essentially the same as The Devil’s Blood. Selim’s creative energies were working overtime, but the build up to the scheduled shows proved to be very difficult for him. “He found it increasingly difficult to keep himself going”, says Farida. “People let him down, they didn’t meet their commitments, and there was always the same bullshit about the damn money. He asked me ‘what do I do wrong?’, and he stood there shaking in the living room. I think he recognised that certain things were recurring; those depressive phases from before The Devil’s Blood were back, but they were now more frequent and more intense than before. For someone who always had the need to be in charge of what he was doing, this was just too much for him. He had become thin and pale… I was constantly so worried about him that last month.”
On 4th March 2014, Selim Lemouchi departed this world. In previous interviews he had always been very open about his fate: he would stay on this earth so long as he had something to say. “I hope to be a voice which rings true to people” he said during an interview with the American Northern Fury . “I expect that at a certain point my energy will be spent, and I hope to be able to have the self-reflection at that point to understand that it’s time to stop now.” He spoke further about death in that same interview. “The concept of death is only scary if one believes that eternity is darkness. But if one believes that eternity is fire, then there are possibilities.” The question remains whether
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foto: Jérôme Siegelaer.
Selim Lemouchi, 2012.
his death was a rational choice, an act prompted by satanic philosophy, or the desperate act of a tormented soul. Darko Groenhagen thinks deeply on this. “It was certainly a rational choice. I think that back in 2007, before the start of The Devil’s Blood, he had already began his last years. He threw himself fully into the occult, inviting his demons to speak out and be heard, and this worked out for a while. But he always knew that one day, the darkness would call out for him. Much like the devil; the fallen angel knew it was of no use to go knocking on God’s door any longer. There is no way back once you have chosen to embrace the darkness with such conviction”.
The big nothing
For years Selim signed off his mail with ‘death is the crown of all’. For him, death was the reward at the end of life. Giving everything for the big nothing, exemplified lyrically in the song ‘I was promised a hunt’ with the line “I want nothing and in return give all”. The vast majority of The Devil’s Blood’s lyrics dealt with the deep, dark topic of a nihilistic existence. “Even though my voice is choked with joy, my song is a call for grief to come” he sings in the same track. And grief finally came. Farida: “In the weeks before his death, he found value in nothing, he
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lost all interest. The last thing he was remotely interested in was a television series called True Detective, he would become quite absorbed in that. But that Tuesday evening, which was actually the last episode of the series, he didn’t even wait to watch it. I think that says a lot”. On Sunday the 13th April 2014, Farida was once again back at the 013 venue and back to perform at the Roadburn Festival. It was the only performance not be cancelled by Selim before he died. And so Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies took the main stage for the last time. They stood in a semi-circle, leaving a gap in the middle to symbolise the spiritual presence of their band leader. Meanwhile Jérôme filled the screen behind them with visual art. “That you can still deliver a performance like this, even after you are dead” sighs Walter. Selim is no more. He has killed his ego. And this had always been his goal: to destroy the ego so that nothing can stand in the way of the art. The ego is eliminated and the music is what is left. And as far as Selim is concerned, the rest can rot away in the Kruidenbuurt.
THE DEVIL'S BLOOD The reputation of The Devil’s Blood far exceeded the borders of The Netherlands. Their debut album ‘The Time of no Time Evermore’ (2009) was well received worldwide. Their second full length album “The Thousandfold Epicentre” (2012) scored highly on the review site Metacritic with 79 points; a Dutch record in fact. In its seven year- long life, the band attracted a lot of attention across Europe, and their music was especially well received in Germany. In 2010 the band played the biggest metal festival in the world: Wacken Open Air, and also played a number of other large European festivals such as Hellfest (France), Summerbreeze (Germany) and Graspop (Belgium) to name but a few. In 2012 they embarked on a successful North American tour. Despite a number of successful appearances at festivals and clubs, the band never managed to breakthrough to the general public in The Netherlands. This was likely down to the extreme ideas of Selim Lemouchi which often clashed with the existing, shall we say ‘sober’ music culture here.
Text Thomas Snoeijs Translation Laura Caffrey Illustration Anouk Essers
Published on Jul 3, 2014
A lot of fans of The Devil’s Blood asked for an English translation of the article about Selim Lemouchi. Laura Caffrey (living in Holland, o...