- Interview with Guitarist Bob Vigna
Interviewed by Luxi
Lahtinen & Arto Lehtinen
So you want to get more a hold of brutal death metal stuff?!
Immolation, the long time death metal possessors, have soldiered on
through years by battling through four albums and the fifth is on the
way delivering uncompromising and brutal death metal that every death
metal fan will get into. Album after album, Immolation have kept the
ultimate brutal approach without showing slowdown mercy of any kind. The
forthcoming immolated output Unholy
Cult will continue the expected brutal paved way for another
death metal masterpiece.
We were honored to have an opportunity to talk to the Immolation
guitarist, Bob Vigna, about the upcoming album and especially when the
world collapsed down on the 11th of September 2001.
Good day to New York and how is it going there at the moment after
the two insane strikes and what's up in the IMMOLATION -camp ?
Things are going pretty well right now. Yes, Sept 11th was pretty
insane. We were lucky here in Yonkers, NY though, as we are about 30
minutes from the city. Still we did feel it in many different ways. You
could actually smell the fires all the way from Yonkers for days. We
went down to the city to bring necessary equipment, food, clothing ,
etc. It was unbelievable how many people went down there to help out,
from all over the country. At the site when it first happened the
destruction was immense. When you saw it in person you were in awe. It
almost looked fake, like a movie set or something. Anyhow, New York
bounced back pretty quickly as expected. They are already planning the
rebuild and the site has been cleared for months. Life down in New York
is still just as busy as its ever been!
As for us, well after all that had passed we got back to what we
needed to do,…write another album! And since we were really pissed off
now, the writing was even more intense!
Before getting into the IMMOLATION topics, I can't help putting a
few questions about the two late thrash/death metal icons namely Paul
Baloff and Chuck Schuldiner, their departure from this world must have
been a real strike to your heart ?
Yeah, well I think everyone was effected in some way. Most of us grew
up listening to Exodus and Death, so it was pretty strange, especially
since they were both so young.
You did some gigs with DEATH and obviously with EXODUS as well
when Paul Baloff was still in the rank…?
Death, yes. We did play with them when they toured for Leprosy. It
was a great time! I don’t think we ever played with Exodus though.
IMMOLATED UNHOLY CULT
I did some research right thru your homepage and got to find out
that obviously you guys have been actively spending your time in a
studio lately and recording a follow-up to your crushing Close
to a World Below album - correct? Would you give us some sort of
a run-down about things with this forth-coming album; about the songs on
The new album is finished. We recorded it in May. It is titled Unholy
Cult, and it is the darkest, heaviest and most dynamic album we’ve
made yet! The production is much clearer and more powerful. It is our
best work. All the songs are very different and there is a lot of
atmosphere, feeling and emotion. The titles are as follows: ‘Of
Martyrs And Men’ ; ‘Sinful Nature’ ; ‘Unholy Cult’ ; ‘Wolf
Among The Flock’ ; ‘Reluctant Messiah’ ; ‘A Kingdom Divided’ ;
‘Rival The Eminent’ ; ‘Bring Them Down’.
Could you say that you will continue right from there where you
left off on Close to a World
Below? I mean, "Close to a World Below", the title
track of your previous album, was a truly epic-like masterpiece, lasting
over 8 minutes and basically locking a listener inside by its dark and
evil atmospheres in it…
Yeah well I guess you could say we did definitely carry on in that
fashion, yet in a lot of ways we made things more straight forward and
to the point. Unholy Cult
also clocks in at 8 minutes, and it is even darker and heavier!
You have been using Paul Orofino as a producer on your couple of
previous albums. Do you think he has the best understanding for what
kind of sound you are after on each of your new releases? What are his
strongest qualities in your opinion for working as a producer for
The first thing about Paul is that we are very comfortable with him.
This is key when recording. We get along real well with him. He is very
down to earth and puts you at ease. He has a lot of patience too, which
helps a lot with us! Ha ha! Paul also captures the music and brings
everything out. On this album you can hear everything! Ever guitar riff,
the bass lines come through, the drums are full, the vocals are clear.
The production is monstrous! Paul also helps with the music, adding
suggestions to enhance parts, etc. Even when I’m recording leads he is
like the master ear! He hears things that we don’t and can tell right
away if something doesn’t quite work...and when it is right on the
money! I put a lot of trust in his opinions and in the end, he brings
out the best in us.
To my knowledge Paul Orofino hasn't ever worked with brutal death
metal bands until with IMMOLATION, didn't you find it somehow a risky
choice to hire a guy who has no clue what Death Metal and IMMOLATION is
We never thought about it like that. We met Paul for the first time,
saw his studio and it all felt right. We always like to do our own
thing, so going with Paul was the natural choice. It didn’t matter
that he wasn’t into this kind of music, or knew anything about us.
Believe me, he knows more about us now than most! Haha! Paul knows music
and his heart is in it, and that is what was most important to us. With
each project we progress more and more. Now that this is our third time
with Paul, Unholy Cult is
leaps and bounds from our previous releases, and it shows. The more we
work together the more fine-tuned the music and production becomes.
You have seemed to be somewhat satisfied with his working methods
and production skills and basically with all that what he did on your
last two previous albums. Has he been behind a mixing desk on this
forth-coming album as well?
Oh yes, he’s been there! And he’s glad it’s over! Haha! Really
though, his methods and personality really help as I mentioned before.
How difficult or easy was it for you to start the song writing
process all over again for this new album? I believe that you always try
to top all your previous releases somehow and someway - at least in your
own mind, keep on telling to yourself that you´ve done some really
extraordinary killer and pleasing songs again which basically leave all
your previous stuff under a huge, dark´n´mocking shadow or something
Yeah, well … we always do! Hahaha! The writing process is a strange
one with us in that we rarely write over a long period of time. We often
are so involved with our daily life, jobs, etc, that by the time we get
studio time booked we have about a month to write the album. Yet once we
get started we are like a machine. We just concentrate on the writing in
every spare moment until it is done. I believe we do end up with a
better album each time. This is mainly because our hearts are into it,
and that we still retain that passion to create something meaningful and
worth while. Also I think after doing this for 15 years we kind of know
what works and what doesn’t. We actually will get a whole song
together, play it through for a couple of nights, and then just come to
the conclusion that it is no good. So we scrap the whole song and start
over. We also want to expand this style and be more creative with it. We
are very determined to make every new album more cutting edge, more
defined, yet heavier and darker. Keeping the extreme, yet adding a lot
of feeling. In any case we are very happy with the new one, as I said
before it is our best yet. When you listen to it, you be the judge. All
I know is that Unholy Cult
will blow you away!
What was, or what were, the MOST challenging and time-consuming
things with working with this new album? Did you get everything recorded
the way you originally wanted to, or did you have to compromise
something in order to have everything fit in the right places?
The most challenging is the mixing really. In the writing and what we
create there is rarely a problem where we need to change something.
Although it does happen now and then. With this album I would come up
with ideas for certain parts on the spot. I like to do a lot of over
laying riffs that compliment the main riffs. This adds a lot of extra
life to the music. Nothing is every compromised. If we ever do make
changes they are always for the better and make the song better than we
thought it could be. All the songs on Unholy
Cult were pretty rock solid when we went in to the studio. Me and
Ross actually went through every song with a fine tooth comb and weeded
out any parts or segments that we were not 100% happy with. So it all
went really smooth once we got in there.
UTTER NIHILISTIC BRUTAL SOUND
You have been criticized by having pretty ´muddy´ and to put it
simply, even ´bad´ productions on your albums; especially some of this
criticism has been directed to your 2nd album, "Here in After"
- as well as your 3rd album, "Failures for Gods". Eh… any
comments on these arguments?!
No arguments. You can’t please everybody, especially those critics
who have it out for you. For some reason we always get the 3rd degree on
that subject. And then I listen to albums that these same critics
praise, and those albums sound like shit! So we say fuck ‘em! Believe
me, there is always something that can be better, and that goes for
every album in this scene. We just get targeted for this for some
reason. I’ve had people come up to us and say that they love the
production on Here In After,
or that Failures For Gods
is their favorite. So there is nothing to argue about. Let them hear Unholy
Cult……that will put all their ‘’production" concerns
to rest!!! After they listen to Unholy
Cult the critics will be too busy cleaning their dirty under
wear, after they shit their pants, to have anything bad to say about
Even though the "muddy (well, as some has criticized your
albums´ use that word!)" and "murky" sound has turned
out to become some sort of trademark for IMMOLATION, but you have
managed to capture that downright ultra brutal Death Metal sound for
your albums. Is your new album going to be the same way production-wise
as your two previous albums, having that Orofino´s imprint all over it?
Like I said before, the new album is as clear as a whistle, and as
dark as the Northern Woods! hahah!
In my opinion you´ve always had your own, very distinctive, dark,
heavy and unique sound and there´s no other band that sounds exactly
like IMMOLATION. It´s like once you hear an IMMOLATION song played
somewhere, you can tell right off that: "HEY, pal... Listen! Ain´t
this IMMOLATION…?" Has this always been your goal; to try to keep
IMMOLATION separated from other Death Metal bands by focusing on all
those tiny bits inside your music that gives you this certain stamp over
your musical approach?
Absolutely. It’s called identity! The fact that we have developed
such a unique style is an achievement in itself. For someone to identify
one of our songs, especially when it is brand new and they have not
heard it before,…you cant ask for more than that. Not too many bands
have that these days and that is something we are proud of.
Hmmm… since you started IMMOLATION, I bet you also had some
personal fave bands there that were there as some sort of, let´s say,
´main influences´ for you and for everything why IMMOLATION took a
sound as dark, brutal and heavy for what you´ve become known of in the
metal scene. My wild guess is that bands like SLAYER, NECROVORE,
KREATOR, MASSACRE, POSSESSED, MORBID ANGEL, DEATH, NIHILIST/ENTOMBED and
such were definitely there for being the needed fuel to the IMMOLATION
war machine – just please correct me if none of these names kinda
didn´t hit their targets…
Yeah I mean we were both inspired by, and started up side by side
with these bands. Those and a lot more. Earlier music like Black
Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica all played a major
part. There are just too many to mention, but yes we grew up on it all!
HERE IN - AFTER LABEL SWITCH
you ended up signing a deal with Monte Conner´s ROADRUNNER RECORDS in
the late -´89, the events before that were kind of ´funny´ as Monte
basically HAD to hunt down your 3-song demo which you released in´89
´coz he couldn´t get it directly from you - even if he came to your
Sundance show that year and asked a copy for it from 2 of you in the
band and later even contacting you via letters, requesting the same
thing from you all over again - and you still kept on ignoring him as
you took things maybe a bit ´lightly´ at that time regarding that
particular demo of yours. Anyway, I bet Monte was the happiest guy in
the end for signing you guys up for his label, wasn´t he? Can you still
remember the day when you headed your way to the headquarter of METAL
BLADE RECORDS, met Monte and signed the contract? How was that meeting
anyway? Felt maybe a bit excited…, eh?!
Well first off you’re getting your labels mixed up! Haha! Monte was
A&R for Roadrunner like you said, not Metal Blade. And yes we did
not take it too seriously as we never thought Roadrunner would be
interested in us. You have to realize that this is before the big death
metal explosion hit. So there were only a handful of signed bands. At
that time it was a pretty special thing to be signed to a label, unlike
today where every band in existence has an album out on a million
different labels. So yes we were pretty excited about it,…probably
more excited than Monte was. Actually he probably was not that excited
at alL..... Haha! Even when we signed to Metal Blade we thought things
would be different, but they really never gave us the push we needed,
…never really got behind the band.
Now we are excited though, now with Olympic Records in the US, and
Listenable Records in Europe, we are happy! These guys are both going to
do their best and they both believe in the band, and that’s all we
In the end of the last year, it was announced that IMMOLATION had
departed from METAL BLADE, so could you be kind enough and shed some
light on this topic? What exactly went wrong with them, causing the
departure? Weren't you pleased enough with how they took care of the
promotion and stuff - or was the whole departure based on the money and
other label policy that the label was running for their bands or what?
Like I started mentioning in the last question,…Brian Slagel and
Mike Faily run the label, and they did not believe in the band. So they
wanted to change the contract for the new CD, … this gave us the
opportunity to get out, so we did. We already knew that Listenable was
interested and Olympic came along shortly after. Its better to have
people who are really interested in the band, as they will really work
hard to make things happen.
As far as I know Chris Forbes runs a label of his own called SOLD
SOUL and you are supposed to be involved in it, too. Could this mean
that there´s a possibility next IMMOLATION album will be put out by
SOLD SOUL and then the album would be licensed to some other label - or
labels, in order to get a better distribution? Or have any other labels
already showed their interest to sign IMMOLATION? And what kind roles
does SOLD SOUL have between you and Forbes anyway?
That was something Tom was working on, but that is not happening
anymore. Chris was helping him with it, but the whole thing never got
off the ground. We will stay put for the time being. We’ll see how
things go with the new CD. We are confident in both Listenable and
WHEN THE WORLD COLLAPSED
you consider IMMOLATION as a patriotically disposed band according to
the opening intro of your homepage? You have this often seen picture
from "Ground Zero" in there where some firemen/rescue workers
are holding the U.S.A. flag in the middle of ruins…
Yeah, well that’s easy. Our home town was attacked and thousands of
people died… Some close to us. So it is a feeling of pride in our home
and more importantly a tribute to those who were mainly affected by the
whole thing and those lost their lives to help others. It was a fucked
up thing, the place looked like a war zone. We are not particularly
patriotic… We just put that on the site because we can! Anyone who has
a problem with it can go fuck themselves!
As you are located in New York, it goes without saying that these
terror strikes against your home town HAD to have a huge effect on your
life routines; I mean, the way that you probably start thinking in your
life what´s actually really important for you - and what kind of things
are somewhat secondary for you; things that you don´t necessary need to
live your life and can well be without as well. Using all these previous
statements as sort of ´a red bridge´ to the following, I was just
wondering whether these kinds of mind-shaking yet shocking things might
have had some kind of effect on your song writing process as well.
Meaning that you have probably started writing in a more aggressive way
- probably also using more brutal phrases in your lyrics; and probably
even giving such an impression out of yourself to people thru your own
lyrics that you´d like to wipe most of the Middle East countries away
from the face of the Earth? On the other hand, while I´m listening to
your music and reading your lyrics, I just start wondering how you might
be capable of coming up even more brutal stuff and even more malicious
and evil lyrics than what you have done on your previous albums. What
are those most important sectors for you personally nowadays as far as
everything what I was just stating previously is concerned?
Well yes it had a big effect on us, on everybody really. We were
actually going to start rehearsing together that week, and start getting
new material together for the new CD. Once the attacks occurred I didn’t
touch my guitar for months. The first week was the worst. I mean when
you watched TV there were no commercials/advertisements at all. That is
unheard of here! That was for a week straight! All you did was watch the
TV news, listen to the news radio. I didn’t even listen to music for
weeks either. It was insane. There was just a complete different state
of mind. That was the first time in my life music didn’t matter at
all. A lot of things lost their importance at that time. It was a really
fucked up time. Anyhow, once we did start writing we definitely had some
bitterness to let loose! You’ll just have to read the lyrics on the
new album. You’ll see that we have had no problem coming up with even
more brutal, yet more thought evoking words! These lyrics are the best
yet, I think a lot more people will be able to relate to them.
Do you believe in the power of retaliation anyway?
I believe it was necessary. You can’t let people like that continue
to reek havoc around the world. This was a worldwide concern, not just
the US. War is a horrible thing, there is no doubt about it, but when
there are no more choices left it has to be done. If you try and play by
the rules, while the others continue to play dirty you don’t have a
Basically when reading your lyrics and seeing the cover arts of
your albums at least, I have learned that IMMOLATION's main theme is to
battle against the Christian ethics and ideologies by having lyrics, and
of course the art, based on an anti-Christian approach with your own
point of views added to the lyrics. Do you think that by attacking
against the narrow-minded Christian ideologies and values, offers you a
large range of inspirations for having lyrics about?
Well our lyrics go a lot deeper then that. Actually there is always
something alluring about it because you are kind of using that
personification of good and evil to make your points. Yet with the newer
lyrics, especially Unholy Cult
the lyrics are much different. The songs deal more with the struggles of
belief and the abuse. This album is much more diverse lyrically, a lot
of them look at what is in the world today. You’ll just have to read
them to see what I mean. They are some of the best lyrics we have
written. A lot of meaning, thought and passion. The bottom line is that
our lyrics although rooted in religious overtones always have had more
meanings and often, when you really look at them can have nothing to do
with religion at all. Its all how you perceive it.
FROM RIGOR MORTIS TO IMMOLATION
Talking about your, let´s just call it: ´A compilation CD with
rare RIGOR MORTIS/IMMOLATION songs, titled Stepping
on Angels… Before Dawn and was released on Spanish REPULSE
RECORDS as a part of their "Resurrecseries". It actually had a
cover that was originally meant to be the front cover of your debut
album, Dawn of Possession.
Why did you decide to use that Andreas Marschall´s piece of art for the
cover of "Dawn…" instead of John Rainey´s original artwork
´coz I think it had its pretty evil vibes on it, too, and would have
worked out well enough as a front cover for your debut? Or was Andreas´
artwork simply just slightly better than Rainey´s original painting for
Dude,……. There is no comparison. I have to disagree with you
there. Once we saw the original painting we knew no matter what we ended
up doing, that that could not be the album cover! As soon as we saw it
we contacted Andreas and asked him to give our ideas a try. We had just
met Andreas at the studio in Berlin, Germany while recording the album.
He was a friend of Harris Johns, and he brought over some of his work so
we could see what he had done in the past. We thought it was all great.
So we figured once we got home to the US we would see what Rainey did
and then make a decision. Well that decision took about 2 seconds! I
mean the artwork Rainey did was not really bad, it just was very far
from the feeling we were looking for. So we got Andreas’ artwork and
the rest is history!
"Stepping on Angels…" is, at least in my opinion, a
nicely thought out and well put together compilation featuring all these
rare demos of the past times of both RIGOR MORTIS and IMMOLATION and
even some rare IMMOLATION live songs as well - not forgetting all these
ol´ vintage gig flyers and pictures of the band, sample reviews about
your old songs, copies of the letters that you got from some particular
labels for more than a decade ago, etc. etc. . What I´d like to find
out who was originally behind this idea to get all your old stuff put on
one CD with all the above mentioned stuff on it ´as a bonus´?! Was it
Dave´s (the boss of REPULSE RECORDS) idea or did it come from you?
Also, as far as I have understood, "Stepping…" was released
as a rather limited edition ´coz you can hardly see any 2nd hand copies
for it hanging at any record stores nowadays; I myself haven´t managed
to spot any single copy of that ´jewel´so far, so is it actually THAT
rare of an item nowadays? And are you personally happy with everything
concerning that particular CD?
Well it was originally Laurent Merles idea from Listenable. But at
the time he brought us the idea, we were just not ready to do it. Then
Dave brought it up and it just happened to be at a different time where
we felt like doing it. We put it all together ourselves, that’s why it
came out so cool! Haha! We wanted to take those interested back to the
old days that we grew up with, and it really came out great. We plan to
put out a CD that will be similar to that, maybe not as extravagant ,
but it will have some more un released demo tracks that are not on that
Do you still play occasionally some of those RIGOR MORTIS songs on
your gigs - like "Relentless Torment" or "Holocaust"
or "Rigor Mortis" off your "Decomposed" -´87 demo
if your audience requests that from you? Or when was the last time you
played some of those old RIGOR MORTIS favorites and where did it happen
We did it a few times in the early IMMOLATION days… Sometimes
Andrew (the vocal/bassist) for Rigor Mortis would come up and sing one
of them. It was fun, but I don’t see it happening right now. At this
point we are not going to be playing too much old IMMOLATION, much less
RIGOR MORTIS! Haha! The new album is just unholy, and "Close To A
World Below" has so much good stuff on it, that we’ll probably be
concentrating mostly on those this next year. Of course we’ll always
break out a classic now and then, so don’t worry! We just like to
always keep it different.
What may sound hilarious in your ears, have you ever been
considering putting the good old RIGOR MORTIS back together in the awake
of all the reunion phenomena?
Uh… No… Haha.....
UNHOLY DEATH METAL STRIKE
By the end of the 90's, the Death Metal genre had a bunch of new,
primitive, nihilistic bands in term of sounds and musically aggressive
approaches. So it was true especially for the Brazilian bands like
KRISIUN, ABHORRENCE, REBAELLIUM and MENTAL HORROR who have obviously
created a new style of their own by having hyper blast speed Death Metal
tunes and lyrics that are deadlier and more in-yer-face vein than ever
before. Are you thrilled or surprised by any of these Brazilian Death
Metal bands how they have unleashed a hell of albums what comes to the
brutality in Death Metal in general?
Hey, the more metal the better is what I always say! KRISIUN is a
great band! Our last tour was with them and they are awesome musicians!
Do you, however, think that IMMOLATION is able to compete against
the new generation of Death Metal bands both in brutality and
aggressiveness? Or do you just focus on doing things in your own way
without thinking of what other bands may do?
We don’t worry about competing….we kill, we know this already!
Haha! Seriously, we don’t have to prove ourselves, we’ve been doing
this for a long time, and we just keep writing the best we can and don’t
pay attention to what others are doing musically. We concentrate on
IMMOLATION music! There’s plenty of room for all the bands to make
metal and have fun!
To be honest with you, IMMOLATION hasn´t really been that active
band lately, so that made me ponder whether some of you have had any
side projects going on besides IMMOLATION to carry out some other
musical visions that aren't suitable or just fitting for the concept
that you have in IMMOLATION? So, speak out… or forever be silenced,
No, definitely no side-projects. The only reason we haven’t been
out too much lately is because Metal Blade dropped the ball on 2
European tours we had set up. We were supposed to tour both in October
of last year and then in April of this year in Europe, but because Metal
Blade started being a lemon, those tours did not happen and we had to
get new labels for the new CD. You can’t tour unless you have
something to promote in this business. Believe me, you will be seeing a
lot of IMMOLATION starting in November! We have 1 U.S. tour in November
with Vader, Berserker, and Origin,….then we have 1 tour for Europe in
December, the Xmas Fests,….. and that is just the beginning!!! There
will be a lot more to come!!!!!
As we know, you have toured and done shitloads of gigs all around
the world and presumably seen all kind of audiences. Therefore, I´d
like to know in which countries you have witnessed the craziest audience
so far? While playing these gigs in the front of insane people, have you
ever had any problems with different types of audiences consisting of
skin heads, hardcore people, Death Metal freaks on the same gig who have
started fighting with each other for some reason or the other?
Yes this has happened in the past, but not recently. Its only
happened in a couple of places in the US. For the most part we have had
great crowds all around. Europe always has some really sick fans who go
crazy,…like London, Poland. Italy was great on this last tour we did.
Then, although I hate the event; The Milwaukee Metalfest… We played 3
years in a row, and at each one the response was unbelievable! Mexico,
that was pretty wild too! And I cant forget Peru!
Well, we both of us would like to thank for your time with all
these questions and wish you all the best and are definitely looking
forward to getting a hold of the fifth IMMOLATION album. So, I guess it
would be about time to quit this ultimately long interview and leave you
an opportunity to spit out those final ´immolated words´ to conclude
this interview, so let it go Bob…
I want to thank you guys for the long, but very cool interview. You
definitely helped me improve my typing skills on the keyboard! Haha!
Thanks also to all our supportive fans out there, we appreciate it more
than you know! We are very excited about Unholy
Cult, and we really feel that it is worth your listen…you will
not be disappointed! As a matter of fact you will surely be blown
away!!! See you on the metal road!! Best regards! Bob