Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Behemoth
Interview and live pictures By Luxi and Arto

The Polish extreme metallers Behemoth visited Finland at the prestigious Tuska Metal Open Air Festival and gave an uncompromisingly merciless lesson of their own brand of extreme metal to the Finnish metal crowd. The two "extreme metal specialists" of Metal-Rules.com were so deadly impressed by a brutal set of these relentless Polish Death Metal troops that the vocalist Nergal had to be picked up to inquire a thing or two about Behemoth. The interview was completed, but as usual, the tape containing the interview in question, went into hiding rather mysteriously, until it popped up again during some cleaning in this messy Hell - better known as my precious hall of Heavy Metal music.

Things like touring with Danzig never happened for Behemoth for several reasons. Instead, the Polish pagan metallers hit the North American soil with Six Feet Under. While you are reading the interview with Nergal, you´re about to notice, it cannot be denied that Nergal has a huge passion and devotion towards the great music of Danzig. So hopefully Behemoth will be seen on the same tour with the mighty Danzig in the future as it would surely mean something extraordinary special for Nergal himself without a doubt.

The Behemoth line-up has undergone some changes lately as the band´s guitarist Havoc has been pulled out of the band due to personal reasons. As further news, however, Behemoth has started working on the new material: their forth-coming album carrying DEMIGOD as its working title.

You started Behemoth as a Black Metal band over ten years ago, but on SATANICA (on Avantgarde in 2000) Behemoth was introduced as a more Death Metal orientated band musically. What happened?

Well, yeah... everybody asks me the same question over and over again. I don’t know what I really have to say. For example, yesterday some dude told me: “Hey dude, you have to excuse from yourself because you aren’t Black Metal anymore, but cheating yourself by playing Death Metal...” But my answer is always the same: If I have to excuse from myself for being 15 or 16 or 17 years old, you are just something and you can’t do anything about it, ya' know? You just improve and think some things that just come out from yourself naturally. You can struggle them as it is something that comes out of me. I can’t do anything about it. It is just the music that just flows and as far as a technical improvement is concerned, it is different when you started to play live like Black Metal. Black Metal is just easier for me to play and not that challenging, ya ´know? Now our music is more based of a heavy riffing and much more groove stuff. It is because I have learnt the different guitar techniques and started really to play the guitar, not just only behaving and acting. Ya´ know, I mean, all so-called incarnations of our music are me and I am proud of all the stuff I have done, even some of this stuff is crap totally, I don’t really care. We even play some songs that have been done in 1994 already and we play some songs that are from our new album. It is all the same band, y´know, and the feeling of the spirit is Black Metal for me anyway, so...


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Did you think Black Metal was too limited thing for you in the first place?

Yeah, probably so. But I never analyzed it. I never tried to. We are just like: “Ok, this new album is more like Death Metal and that album is more like Black Metal...” and that´s it, ya´ know?



Do you think that Black Metal gained a little bit larger media attention at some point because of all these outside activities?

I didn’t think about that actually. When I formed Behemoth I was 15 and when you are 15 you hardly ever think, y´know what I mean? You just go by your own instincts and you never analyze. You don’t think of the income from the music and you don’t think about the fans even. I didn’t think a fuck about fans back then because I was a fan as well, y´know. I was 15 and I just wanted to play the music that I loved. And I care so much about the fans these days and I care so much about the income, I care so much about a single detail because it makes me who I am these days, y´know. I just grew up, you know what I mean. So, as I told you, it is me here and it was me there. So it’s all like a different person. I am not like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... or whatever. It is a development, y´know. When you get a pic of yourself when you were like ten years younger, it can’t be compared to the current ones as it is so different person. When you grow old, you get bald, you get fat and you are just a different person, y´know. You get smarter of course, you are not naive anymore. And it’s all just so natural. And it is also with the music, it is a very personal process which didn’t start just like that, instead it was like step-by-step development for us. Our PANDEMONIC INCANTATIONS album was still a Black Metal album in my opinion; like a cross between Dissection and Mayhem kind of stuff, y´know. But I would say that this new album from us, ZOS KIA CULTUS (“Here And Beyond”) has definitely got a bit more Death Metal approach. But I don’t even consider Behemoth a Death Metal band either. I don’t think we are a Death Metal band at all. We are like a mix of a lot of different stuff as there is Thrash Metal, Black Metal of course and then there is Death Metal in our music. But I see no single point, y´know, no single thing that we could be compared to Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and so on.



But how about being compared to Morbid Angel?

Yeah, we are quite close to Morbid Angel because our extreme metal is very spiritual, so is Morbid Angel. It has this special feeling. And Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus. Those are Death Metal bands and we don’t sound like those bands at all. Maybe it is a different school of Death Metal. I don’t know and care as long as the music is good, then it is ok with me.


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Like your music being ´extreme´ and ´brutal´?

Yeah... yeah... of course!! It has to be extreme, it has to be emotional and we have that kind of metal and a lot of feelings in our music. It is not just about the techniques about showing off the guitar fuckin´ scales or whatever. Definitely not!! Everything has all places in our music. Writing good songs, good lyrics, good riffs and it just has to be sincere, y´know.



Which is more challenging for you; writing lyrics or writing the music?

Both. I never separate it. It’s one thing and it’s equally important for me and us in this music.



Your lyrics are based on occultism and paganism. How much have you studied these topics in the first place?

We are pretty much a pagan band. People usually misunderstand the meaning of a word ´pagan´, I think. We used to deal many topics with our ancestors from the past like f.ex. on our GROM album (released on Solistitium Records in 1996) as a matter of speaking. We are pagan, but they were in a Slav´s sense; a Slavanic sense, you know what I mean? They are more about those kinds of things. And these days we are pagan, but in a global sense. I mean, if we deal with Egypt, we deal with paganism and if we deal with the ancient Greece or Rome even, we deal with paganism. So we deal with many different topics. We just mix them up, wash them and fit to Behemoth. It is like a lot of things that we work on. And I don´t try to analyze our music too much like this is ´black´ and that is ´white´, y´know.


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What is so fascinating in paganism that you actually want to write about it through your own lyrics?

It is not limited. It doesn’t have doctrines, you know what I mean? It doesn´t have like rules or commands like in more institution-like religions and stuff like that these days. It´s got more freedom like based on nature, human nature. Sometimes it is very cruel and sometimes it´s crazy in a way, but it is pretty much into human nature, about the human nature, so that’s why I find very attractive about paganism.



Let’s talk about easier topics next: How did you like your gig here at Tuska festival yesterday?

It was great, it was splendid, y´know.



And this was your first time in Finland.

Yes, it was the first time for us to play here. Well, it is not just for Finland is great; it´s great in general. This was one was one of the best shows that we have ever played. I mean, we got some problems on the stage, I got some problems with my pedals and I don’t why. And the feedback from the guitar was shit. We have played hundreds of shows on tours that have been technically better, but the reaction of the audience here at Tuska paid it off really.



I guess the main reason why the audience was so intense is because we don’t get that many Death Metal or extreme metal bands in general to play here, but mostly Power Metal bands, though.

Really? I was watching Edguy here and I was like: “Ok, they are cool...”, but I am not into that kind of stuff, y´know. But then I saw people´s reaction in our show and it was far better than the reaction there. It’s like a feedback from what you give to the people and what you get, you know what I mean? If we go crazy and if we are extreme, if you just go really mad, y´know then you get the same from the people. They are intelligent, of course as they do understand what the thing with our music really is, y´know.


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Can you describe what kind of tension and feeling did you have when you played with Danzig?

A fuckin´ great feeling because I am a huge Danzig fan and it was like a ´dream-come-true´ feeling for me in the first place. I met him at the backstage in Berlin and chatted five minutes with Glen and gave him our CD and shirt. I just told him: “I am pretty sure you won’t like this music because it is an extreme Death/Black Metal....”. And he was like: “No, no, no..., I love Death/Black Metal and if I like your album, I will invite you to the “Blackest of the Black” festivals”. And I thought he just wanted to be kind to me. That he was friendly and respectful. Then a couple of months later when we were in the States with Danzig, I got a phone call from our agent saying “I got something big for you, are you ready to join a tour with Danzig?” and I was like: “Uuhhww... wow!”, and it was something very very special for us, y´know - even opening for them as the first band, I don’t care. This fall we are going to do the whole tour with Danzig along with Coma, Superjoint Ritual, etc. and it is gonna be a huge thing in the States. It´s gonna be a big tour indeed...



So you had to cancel this “Bonded by Metal” tour?

Yes, we had to cancel that tour because the tour with Danzig is on the same dates. That’s too bad because already agreed to do this tour, but you can’t refuse to Danzig, y´know what I mean? You can’t say ´no´ to Danzig in this case as it could be a tour of my life, so it has to be done.



You have also played with other legends like Halford, correct? How was it to play with a ´legend´ like him?

It was great!! I mean Rob was great and he was very friendly. We could tour on our bus and a night before we left, he came by and said bye. It was so cool that you could join us in the first place and so on. I talked to him half an hour and it was really nice. We hang out Metal Mike mostly, the Halford guitarist. He is a Polish guy, by the way.




Yeah, just like Wojtek (that Luciferion -fame - Luxi adds!), he-heh!! So the Polish nation rules all over the world… (*laughs*)


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Well, now Rob Halford is back in Judas Priest... how do you feel about it?

I just got a sms message from my label yesterday and I was like: “Woow…”.



Now you gotta open for Judas Priest...

Yeah... Actually Gorefest once opened for Judas Priest and then they split up, so maybe it´s not a good idea after all to open up for them… (*laughs*) But Danzig is a different thing as it is more like Black Metal in a way...



Speaking of the Polish metal scene, which has been very strong lately with bands like Vader, Devilyn, Decapitated, Hate, Hell-Born and so on. How do you see the Polish metal scene from your point of view?

It is very strong, it´s absolutely very strong, I think. But many Polish bands still have problems to break through. Some of them are good and some of them are not, you know, with bad English, no contacts, no managers, etc., so it´s pretty tough for many of them. So basically they lack all of these things. They need some good professional managers and reliable and trustful people around them in general. There are no managers in Poland and all these bands really mean nothing in a global sense. It is cool that Decapitated is doing great nowadays - not to forget Vader and us either. And then we are waiting for a few more bands to tour Europe and releasing their albums worldwide and having a good distribution for their releases. Those kinds of things are important, y´know.


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Poland definitely has a long history in the extreme metal scene, bands like Turbo, Imperator, Violent Dirge, Hazael, and all these bands as good examples out from your past extreme metal scene. Do you know what has happened to some of these bands?

They don’t exist anymore.



But are they still in some other line-ups nowadays?

Yeah. As for Hazael, I honestly don´t know what´s up with them these days. I think they don´t do music any more. Some of them have entirely quit. But I tell you it´s funny because the drummer from Violent Dirge nowadays plays in one of the biggest Pop bands in Poland. They are really good musicians and very technical. And I think the drummer... I don´t know, maybe even that guy plays in one of the biggest Pop start groups as well even if I´m not so sure about it. But it´s still a good band, yeah... a good Polish band.



By the way, is Turbo still around?

Turbo? Well, they tried to make a reunion thing, tour and then recorded a very crappy album and they had a deal with Metal Mind Records which is the biggest rip-off that I know of. The deal and the album with them basically killed the whole band.


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Back to your main band Behemoth again, though. You have this new mini-CD coming out soon titled CONJURATION? What will it contain as a matter of speaking?

It is like a 30-min. long and contains previously unreleased stuff only; a couple of very nice live songs and a couple of studio tracks that we have never released before. Also there´s one outtake from ZOS KIA CULTUS and two cover songs from Nine Inch Nails and Venom.



How did you decide to pick up NIN?

I know the band, I like the band. So it was the same thing we did with a David Bowie track. Actually I got a bootleg CD of NIN. They used to tour with David Bowie and there is a song called “Hello Spaceboy” done by NIN with David Bowie as a guest vocalist on that particular bootleg CD. Imagine... Nine Inch nails with David Bowie! It was actually the first time when I heard that song, “Hello Spaceboy” and then I borrowed the album and realized this song is very dark and atmospheric. And it´s the same thing with NIN. I have known the band for years now and I like the song. I think it has become kind of a tradition for us to struggle with some not really ´metal´ bands, but with some bizarre kind of stuff, y´know which is also very dark because David Bowie and NIN are extreme in their own way and style in my opinion. NIN is a fuckin´ extreme band and in my opinion they are darker than 95 % of all Black/Death bands that are indeed kind of ridiculous in so many ways. For example I think “Wish” is fuckin´ great. It sounds very punk-like. We played it with the seven string guitars, made it sound really crazy as we did double bass all the time - with some strange vocal lines for being given there. It was a nice and great experience for us anyway. I am really curious to know what people will say about this.



Then I assume you have been working with new songs all the time for your next album, tentatively titled NEPHILISM RISING. Is that correct?

Yeah. NEPHILISM RISING is just a working title for it right now. I have some structures in my head, but so far nothing has been completed yet, but we do have a lot of ideas for it already, tho. It is gonna be some kind of continuation and maybe a bit crazier, more barbaric and faster in a way...


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You mean, compared to the previous album ZOS KIA CULTUS?

Yes, it is gonna be more or less the same direction, but like the last albums SATANICA, THELEMA 6 and ZOS KIA CULTUS kinda like step-by-step development, so the next album, I hope, will be just better with better songs and stuff. But as far as I am concerned I am really satisfied with the last one.



So you are working on with the song writing process for the next album?

I am working… I just did my diploma at my university and I could compare it to the working on the diploma. I mean, this is the thing, y´know. You can’t do one tour in two weeks and you have to work months and months and months..., y´know, to have something right from here, something right from there and put all together after months of a hard working. And what finally comes out is the final thing. It´s just working with riff by riff and not making songs in a studio like rehearsing them all there at once: That just doesn´t work for me that way at all.



Well then... what has a band called Possessed meant to you during your own musical career?

Not much really, apart from being another legend Death Metal band. Well, I cannot make any comparisons from our stuff to Possessed, I mean, I have never been into Possessed. I know the band, I do have all their albums at home of course, but I have never considered them as a ´top legend´ for me as I am much more into Venom and Bathory.


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What are your personal top five important albums anyway?

Well... probably something from Danzig. Pick any album from them as they are all important albums especially for me personally. Then Morbid Angel albums, the ZOON album by Nephilim. It´s really one of the best albums ever for me in the very first place!! Hmm… what else? Actually I can’t come up with any other albums that could come closer to these bands, so they are probably the three most important bands for me, so...



What do you think of Sadistic Intent?

We met these guys in L.A.. They are great guys. They did a signing session for us for the second time, because the first time got fucked up because we couldn’t get to their shop because of too long distance. But it was great, it was a great party and they have a really nice shop there “Rising Realm Records”. It is very underground, it is very metal. If you go to The States you gotta visit there, they are great guys. Excellent...


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Before I´ll finish the interview, I have got some gifts to you... Here is a 10-inch split vinyl of Possessed and Side Effect titled RESURRECTION released by a Polish underground label Agonia Records, and also a 7” E.P. of Sadistic Intent titled MORBID FAITH, which features Jeff Becerra in a Possessed cover song called “The Exorcist” as a guest vocalist. That´s why I asked from you both about Possessed and Sadistic Intent in the first place, heh! Anyway, here you go...

Are they for me? Uh, thanks a lot, man!! I really appreciate it!! This is a really amazing gift, dude!!



And thanks for your time for having this conversation with us for Metal-Rules.com.!!

Thank you guys... thanks a lot!!


Band Website: behemoth.metalkings.com