Miira Cide is a death metal musician and producer originally from Wendell, North Carolina. If you’re wondering what the death metal scene is like in Wendell, North Carolina, it’s apparently so terrible that she had to teach herself every instrument in order to get a project going. Since 2012, she has released 19 albums and singles under her solo moniker Codex Obscura, screaming over tracks she produces all on her own.
Luckily, she moved to Raleigh last year and has been able to join other local metal projects like Birth the Wretched and Slipcast. Back in August, I visited her home in Raleigh to talk about her bands, her growth as an artist, and where all the anger comes from.
This profile is a collaboration with the Trans Music Podcast. Stream the interview below:
Riley: So what gave you the idea to make a solo death metal project?
Miira: [Laughs] Well, it’s…
Riley: It’s a little weird.
Miira: It started out as… I guess you would call it noise. It was sort of super hard grind. It didn’t have much structure to it, and it was just a lot of screaming and not really saying anything. Around 2008, 2009, I was living in an abusive household, and… all I really wanted to do was make music. I didn’t go to public school yet; I had not gone to public school up until high school. I was all homeschooled, so I didn’t know anybody. I moved to Louisburg from Wendell, which is where I grew up.
Riley: Louisburg, North Carolina?
Miira: Mm-hmm. So I didn’t know anybody there, I didn’t go to school, I didn’t have any friends, nothing. I was just kind of stuck in my room all day, and I was getting so frustrated. I was like, “Okay, I’m just gonna make stuff.” So I downloaded Audacity; my mom got me a guitar for my 15th, 16th birthday, and then I just clicked record. I played really fast on the guitar. I had an electronic drum set at the time, and then played really fast, and then I screamed a lot. And I was like, “that’s it.”
Like, there you go.
So I called that Intestinal Incubation; that was a Necrophagist song. I was like, “I have no creativity, I’ll just steal a song title.” Which, Codex Obscura is a song title I stole from a band called Adagio. It’s called Codex Oscura, which, I just added a “b.” That’s pretty creative, yeah. [Laughs] So Intestinal Incubation became Rage of Asura, and that became Kingdom of Serpents, and then it became Codex Obscura.
So these are all project titles. Like, you just renamed your band a lot.
Yeah. So about 2010, I settled on Codex Obscura, and that’s what it’s been ever since then. And I released a project called Abaddon; that is technically the first Codex album, but I don’t like to consider it, because it was all material for a different project. So I would really consider my first Codex album to be Holy Teachings of Self Defeat.
So at that point, when you put out the first album, you had been playing music for five years?
Something like that, yeah. I didn’t get any guitar lessons or anything, or drum lessons or vocal lessons. I was just sitting in my room, nothing else to do, just figuring out how to play music. And then once I got comfortable enough with that, I got up with the guy from Escape to Eden and just started really writing real music, rather than just noodling around on the guitar. So I learned for a few years first.
I feel like most people who start solo music projects as 15-year-olds in their bedrooms… it’s like… folk songs. Why death metal?
Just the anger of being isolated, being abused, having no friends, kind of hating myself because I didn’t wanna admit that I was trans, but I knew I was. I just knew. It was just something that I’ve always felt since I was a little kid, and I didn’t want to because, well, it sucks. And also, a heavy religious upbringing kind of put it in my head that… it’s not okay. Even when I abandoned religion when I was like 15 years old, I was still in my head like, “That’s not okay. That’s not what people do. You just don’t do that.” So I was kind of fighting that as well. Actually, one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends who I’m still friends with, when I was 10 years old he showed me my first metal band. It was an album called Jesus Christ Bobby, by an Icelandic band called Minus. He was just like, “You gotta hear this.” And I was like, “This is it.” My 10-year-old mind exploded and I was like, “This is exactly what I wanted this whole time.” So 15, 16, I was just like, “I need to capture that sound.” And they were sort of noisy noise rock. I was like, “I really wanna do that,” and it just felt more correct to what I was feeling at the time.
That catharsis and the anger. So you lost religion, or no longer became religious, at the same age that you started making music?
About a year before, I would say. So I guess 13 or 14. My dad died when I was 13, and that took a huge toll on the entire family and made them start really looking at religion, and what it is, and what it meant to them in their lives. Because we didn’t really tackle anything like that up to that point, you know? Nothing… I mean, my parents were poor, and my dad started a business; they were no longer poor. They were just like, “Yay, God does awesome things for us all the time, and we had a nice house, yay, God’s awesome.” Then he dies and they’re all just kinda like, “Well, maybe he’s not as cool as I thought.” So my entire family really started looking at their religion, and I just left it completely. I was just like, “I never really believed this. I now know in my head” – I’m not saying that this is true – but I just knew in my head, “Okay, he officially doesn’t exist. I’m done pretending.” So I just went off on my own thing and started figuring things out.
And you kind of used music to get through those feelings too?
Yeah. Music played a huge part in my life. My parents were musicians. My mom, who still exists – she lives here – she’s a musician. Both of my sisters are musicians; my cousins are musicians. I just grew up around art and music my entire life. Music was my only coping mechanism for pretty much anything. Computers as well; I was basically raised on computers. But… I was just using the computers to download music. [Both laugh] At one point, I just needed more and more and more. That’s why I have so many projects, so many different genres, whatever, ’cause I’m just so in love with music. That’s just the one thing I feel I have a connection to.
[A deep chime sounds from the grandfather clock behind where we are sitting, and we both laugh and lose our train of thought.]
I love that. So we’re in your mom’s house right now?
It’s sort of both of ours. We’re renting.
And we just heard a beautiful grandfather clock.
This was a gift to my mom from my dad when I was 5 or 6, so it’s been around for a long time.
That’s a nice gift!
We actually got it from Walmart, believe it or not; they used to sell grandfather clocks.
[Both laugh] That’s awesome. So you said that you didn’t really have any friends in Louisburg and that’s why you made a solo project. But your whole family is musical. Just, none of them were into the same music as you, maybe?
No, my oldest sister likes metal, but she plays piano. She doesn’t know anything about guitar or drums or whatever. And the other one plays guitar, but she’s more into indie, pop rock, folk kind of music. So I was just kind of like, “Guess I’m stuck here by myself, doing this by myself.”
So how’d you end up in Raleigh?
So we bounced around a little bit. After he died, we lost our house, our land, our cars, every single bit of our assets, personal bankruptcy, whatever. So we moved to Louisburg with a guy that she had met online, and we moved from there back to Wendell. And then we moved basically across the street with another guy that she met, ’cause we couldn’t support ourselves financially. Then we moved from there to here in Raleigh so that we were closer to both of our jobs. That was about five years ago. So I’ve only been here for about five years, I was in Wendell for most of my life. I grew up in Wendell, so Louisburg and Raleigh only probably take up like 2% of my life; the rest of it’s in Wendell. That little town is so boring.
So now you have a lot of collaborators; it seems like it anyway. You’re always putting out collaborations, singles you do with other people. How did you find those people if you’re in the middle of nowhere?
Basically, all of these connections I’ve made just started two years ago. This guy Aaron, who played with a local band called Lorelei, who’s not together anymore, friended me on Facebook last year, year before, and was like, “You make music; do you play live anywhere?” And I was like, “You know, I’ve played live a couple times, but it was one of those sell-your-own-tickets kind of things,” and he was like, “Well, we’re going on tour; do you wanna play in Greensboro?” And I was like, “Sure,” so we played Somewhere Else Tavern in 2016. And there I met JJ Polachek, who was in Ovid’s Withering. He’s in Nekroi Theoi, and Monotheist, and 7 Horns 7 Eyes right now. After I met him, he introduced me to a bunch of people, and then they introduced me to a bunch of people, and it sort of just spiderwebbed out over the last couple years. So now I know so many people in the local music scene because of those two guys, basically.
I really liked the JJ Polachek collaboration, the single you put out. Death of a Cynic, I really liked that one.
I’m glad, thank you.
So are these mostly guys you’re hanging out with?
Yeah, I don’t get along with girls that much.
Yeah… Of course, that’s not always the case, but we just don’t have a lot in common. I like very crude, crass humor, and YouTube videos and memes and stuff, and that just doesn’t seem to mesh well with a lot of girls that I hang out with.
Man, that’s weird, ’cause all the girls I hang out with, that’s all they wanna talk about. I just got a new roommate who’s starting a horror YouTube channel.
Oh that’s pretty cool.
Anyway, do you record everything live?
I do it one track at a time.
Right, ’cause there’s one of you.
Yeah, I record the drums, I do note-by-note MIDI programming in a piano roll, and then I record the left side guitar, the right side guitar, the lead guitar, bass, and then vocals. That’s usually the process of which gets recorded first. Drums are what I grew up playing; my dad always wanted me to be a drummer. He always had me playing drums for him; he was a blues bass player, and he always had me learning jazz and blues lines for him on the drums. So that’s where I come from when I’m writing Codex Obscura: it’s always the drum part first. And right there on the other side of this house, that’s where I record every single thing that you hear on Bandcamp and SoundCloud and everything.
So when do the vocals get written? Is it after you already have a riff?
Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a song, as far as the music goes. And then I’ll be like, “I think lyrics that covered this subject would be really good over this.” But most of the time I have an idea for something I wanna write about – the topic, or the mood, or the feeling, or whatever – and then I write lyrics, and then I write the accompanying music.
I was talking to you online and you’re in, like, five different projects that are all kind of in the metal family. Do you wanna talk briefly about what each of those looks like?
Codex Obscura is the number one, obviously. That’s where most of my art stuff goes, so that’s drawn art, poetry, music; everything falls under that pseudonym. And then there’s Boy Drowned, which has not quite gotten off the ground yet. We have, like, nine songs ready. A few of them don’t have vocals, but the rest of them have been done, so that’s probably gonna be out soon. And that is with two other people. Then there’s Birth the Wretched, which is not my band; it’s just one that I joined from Louisburg. I used to play guitar for them last year, and then I had to quit for personal reasons. Then their bassist and their vocalist left this year, and they were just like, “You do vocals; do you wanna join again?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.” There’s Slipcast, which doesn’t really have anything out yet; there’s some demos on SoundCloud, but that’s about it. That’s gonna be post-hardcore, more ambient; there’s another local band here called Youth League, and I’m pretty much copying them completely with this project. And that’s pretty much it. There’s a couple more that have been sort of retired, that are kind of on the back burner, like Soviet Ghosts, which is a progressive metal thing with no vocals. But there’s really nothing been done for that. That’s really the only last one worth mentioning.
So when you wanna experiment with your sound, do you just create a new project?
That’s how it was before, and now a lot of it’s just falling under Codex Obscura. ‘Cause I did the Orwellian Night Terrors, which was a downtempo beatdown, and then I released a grindcore album, and then a power violence album. And I was just like, “Codex is just whatever I feel like making,” at that point.
Note: Shortly after this interview, Miira was hired to compose music for a team that creates modpacks for the Fallout video game series. Her music will appear in Fallout: New Pittsburgh and Fallout: Cascadia.
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