Against the Plagues
Interview with Varyen, Adrian, and Wojtek
Interview by EvilG and Luxi Lahtinen
Against the Plagues has representatives from such diverse bands as LOST HORIZON, LUCIFERION, FOREST OF IMPALED, and DAMNATION. This varied experience has made Against the Plagues stand above many other newcomers to the extreme metal scene. We posed several questions to the band and received detailed feedback from three members. ENJOY!!!
AGAINST THE PLAGUES will be a new name to most of our readers, but it’s members come from bands many have heard including LOST HORIZON, LUCIFERION, FOREST OF IMPALED, DAMNATION. So the obvious opening question is, how did each of the members find one another and decide to embark on this new musical adventure?
VARYEN – It’s funny but Wojtek and I have known each other almost 20 years! I remember when we met together in Poland in 1990 or 91. At that time, we were so excited and dedicated to death metal scene. He lived in Sweden and occasionally came to visit the old country during the summer. I was a young kid completely “obsessed” by the death/black metal underground and a huge fan of Swedish bands like Entombed and Bathory. I played in a polish thrash metal band called Major Smiss and he attended one of our shows. We got be great friends and talked millions of hours about music, Morbid Angel and other brutal stuff. It felt refreshing to meet someone who had such a charismatic personality, musical skills, and influences. When I heard the first Luciferion demo in early ’93 I was truly impressed! As time passed by we did our own things. He was involved with Luciferion – I did a couple of Damnation albums, but the funny thing is that we always spoke a lot about forming our own project or band, but we never had enough time or energy to devote to it. To be honest, I felt that I wasn’t that advanced with my drumming skills to be a part of his band….
When I moved to Chicago in early 2000s , I received an offer from Forest of Impaled to replaced their current drummer at the time. I had nothing to lose and after a couple of years outside of the music scene I finally had an opportunity to be on stage again. I agreed to be a part of Forest of Impaled and that’s how I met Adrian. Great guitar player, nice person and very talented musician. During all those shows with Forest we had some extra time on our hands so we starting creating something a bit different on the side. Originally we wrote a couple songs that were intended for the new Forest album but during upon listening to them they were a bit ackward set amongst the rest of the songs. We felt these songs as well as ourselves needed a new outlet for creativity. We felt that we needed to explore ourselves, push our musical lymits, and create a brand new band which had no connection with all the things we did before. We recorded our first 4 songs and recognized that we needed a very sensitive, professional producer, and solo guitarist who could fulfill our needs and help us to build a great band and cosmic sound. I knew only one person for the job … I called Wojtek and after a few listens to the material, he saw great potential and began working with us. I can truly say, it’s the best line-up I have ever been played with in my life.
Your debut album, THE ARCHITECTURE OF OPPRESSION, can not only boast that its members are from moderately known bands, but the material on the CD sounds professional and seasoned. With those 2 factors, you’d expect that one of well known metal labels out there would of worked with the band. Did you shop the album to any of the labels or was the plan to do this on your own?
VARYEN – Originally the whole idea was to record an album by ourselves and then shop it around to interested labels. But after 2 years of hard work meticulous work and when we finally completed the album, I start looking around to see what kind of possibilities we have and then slowly realized that the whole music industry is deeply going down. When I started reading all the ridiculous “offers” we were proposed and all the bullshit surrounding them, I became very disappointed and mad. We had created the masterpiece of our careers and everybody wanted the album for free? No fucking way! I quickly found out that all the labels involved did not deserve to get Against the Plagues. At that moment, we created our own label and are very happy since we are the sole owners of our material and nobody can rip us off or even steal our material for profit. All that I know right now is that after several months of “negotiations” most labels were looking for quick money with zero investment from their pocket. I had experienced that shit with my previous bands so I was not interested in spending my time and energy in return to get nothing but lame promises. Finally the album is available on our official web portals and everybody is able to purchase it. The price is less than a music store with no shipping costs so we hope that this is the beginning of new era when artists can sell their own merchandise without all that “agents” and so-called “labels” assistance.
Assuming you wanted to self-release the album all along ? how has that been going in terms of making the album available in different regions, getting coverage, etc. Any regrets, or has this been the way to go, and the way to go forward, for even the bands next album?
VARYEN – The Internet broke all that rules and regulations associated with releasing an album. I don’t need to take care of different regions as long as the guy from Chile or Australia has a credit card and is interested to buy our album. It takes about 5-7 days to ship and it’s a world wide offer. Maybe it sounds crazy now but I think it’s a big opportunity for many bands who are very talented but don’t have the time and energy associated with jumping through hoops for a record deal or don’t want to entrust their investment to the hands of a label, like us. Maybe we are the pioneers of this kind of philosophy but when you look closely it is just beginning. Radiohead although a larger well known entitly in the music scene accomplished a very successful record release purely via internet sales. We are more connected then ever before with electronic devices and the futre will offer new mechanisms to further promote/release your music. Thing are about to change sooner or later.
Much of the band’s formation and writing began before Wojtek was asked to join. When he was invited into the fold, how much of an impact did his involvement have on the sound and style that the band had already developed?
VARYEN – I can say, a huge impact. Adrian and I wrote all the riffs and music for the album, Wojtek was basically a soloist but also served as a producer for the final sound/feel of the record. He put all pieces together and like a sculptor he slowly molded the band into what is Against the Plagues. He wrote all the solos on the album which in my opinion are the best guitar solos I have ever heard in my life. He did a great job. It was a honor and splendor to work with him , it was tough at times and sometimes we were very frustrated when he re-arranged or cut out something that we believed to be worthy, but in the end the final sound and arrangements are very impressive.
Since the band members are from different places, how did the music take form? Were you able to get together as a full band to do any of the writing and recording or were things done via the internet and phone?
VARYEN – In this day and age you don’t have to spend all your time together in a rehearsal space practicing and writing material. When we finished writing with Adrian we recorded pre-production songs in Studio One and directly sent them to Wojtek in Sweden via the Internet. Then he began analyzing and working with Pro-tools in Sweden and sent his suggestions back via the internet. We spent hundreds of hours on the phone, in chat rooms, talking about changes and everything. It was a great experience as it was something completely different and new way of composing/creating music. In the past, writing music involved a bunch of musicians in a practice room, a lot of noise, everybody has their own ideas etc. I can’t work like that anymore. It is a bit chaotic. In our process, we had a lot of focus and energy that would otherwise be lost if we wrote in the traditional way. I love to work with new technology and with people who are completely focused on material and I don’t have to “play” these songs before the arrangements are finally done. It was a new step for Adrian and I as we learned how to create the songs in a focused sturctured environment. In addition since everyone had own unique role in the process, it turned out to be the easiest, clearest and productive way of recording compared to all the typical practice room bullshit.
How was the band name of "Against the Plagues" chosen and what does it represent to you?
ADRIAN – We went through a dozen names prior to landing on "Against the Plagues" It was really important to us to have a name which was not “cliché” by today’s death/black metal scenes and which would envelope our band’s thoughts on individualism, materialism, social control mechanism’s, and future culture as we see it. Against the Plagues was the perfect choice as it represents our stance on all of the above social and moral institutions without signaling out any specific issue at hand. I believe as a band we all our very strong individuals and we take life by the horns, our mission is to promote a viewpoint that each human being should refrain from the overall mess/distractions of society and look outside of themselves to realize a clearer perspective on life. Everyone has certain drives, aspirations, and dreams that are sometimes blurred by the distractions of modern life, we feel that our music gives you a moment to reflect on certain issues affecting the world/self. Hopefully through self reflection each one can learn/realize an new insight to their lives. Against the Plagues is an outward expression of our thoughts and views relating to life and the fucked up world we live in.
What are some of the things that have influenced the lyrics on the debut album? Please choose a couple of what you consider to be the more prominent songs to explain what inspired them or what, if any, message they hold.
ADRIAN – I think our disdain for the corrupted false world we live in has given us plenty of ideas for lyrics. It was really important for us to concentrate on writing lyrics that are relevant to modern life with a majestic feel and inspiration. For instance, the song, "Renegade Manifesto" is basically about the outward influence of an increasingly controlled society and a call for revolution from this so called life. Whether being watched by increased surveillance, brainwashed by multitudes of advertisements or marketing campaigns, or just plain lied to by the governing bodies of our society we are constantly being barraged and stimulated into conforming, all agreeing, brain dead cattle manipulated for the ruling classes prospects and gains. Towards the end the lyrics deal with finding your inner will to overcome or see through the foul rotten rules of governance and a call to unified renegade upheaval. "Force from Within" lyrical content deals with the struggle to free one’s mind/thoughts from the constraints of society, at which point the lyrics point to self strengthen individual with true will as he walks among the mirrored clones and dreams for humankind’s awakening. For the most part the lyrics on this album deal with various self awakening ideas and the imagery we chose to interpret each of our experiences with these issues. I think lyrics in general vary from the reader’s perspective and we encourage individual interpretation and self relevance for every listener. It’s better to have the lyrics that inspire thinking, it makes the whole listening experience more enjoyable. I feel that with this album we have created a great piece of art, I have never felt so much pride in an album in my life.
Lyrics and lyrical meaning are important to Against the Plagues, but for some bands the lyrics are not as important or as deep. When a band has nothing important to say lyrically, do you take them less seriously or not get as wrapped up in what they are about? Or can you focus on the music and ignore the fact that the lyrics are either meaningless or have no relation to you?
ADRIAN – Why create an album that is not a complete vision of your creativity and musical ability. It is very ridiculous. Although most of the time I am able to get past meaningless lyrics since the music usually is my main focus, but when both our genuine and inspirational the outcome is tremendous. No doubt that music outweighs lyrics in every instance. There are many bands that we listen to that have less then ideal lyrical content, the music speaks for itself especial with extreme metal, it is masterful and powerful. It’s like that feeling of shivers down your spine or goosebumps on your skin when you here a great riff or arrangement. With this album I have that feeling in almost every song, it brings me great joy that I was able to create such personally enjoyable music, with the addition of great lyrics I am ecstatic with the results.
What kind of shows or tours has the band done so far and what do you have up and coming?
VARYEN – We did 20 “warm-up” shows as part of our tour last summer. For us it was the first time we actually played together and the first time we played these songs live so it had to be done to ensure the band could work together and sound like the album. It was a great time. Logan our singer did a great job, given that he had a few weeks before the tour to learn all the vocals including the death metal parts originally recorded by Wojtek. We didn’t spend too much time in promoting the shows but the people who came out were very surprised and impressed as we all were …. Hehehe. We did some shows on the East Coast and some Midwest areas. There are a few songs available from the tour on our website and you tube for your viewing. We plan to do something more professional and more spectacular this year, sometime in late spring or summer. We are an international band and everybody except Adrian and I are from different cities or in the case of Wojtek a different continent all together, it’s not that easy to schedule dates but we love to play live and we are definitely ready to do something big in the near future. Check our site for updates. We will definately tour the US, that’s for sure.
About the debut album, "The Architecture of Oppression". It has been described by some as a combination of Limbonic Art, Cradle of Filth and even Dimmu Borgir. How well do you think those band references describe the overall sound of their debut album?
ADRIAN – I really don’t think that we can be pigeon holed into these 3 bands. Again everyone has there own opinion and interprets music differently. When Varyen and I were in the writing stage for these songs we did not strive to sound like anybody else, we just played what we were feeling at the time. We wanted to bring all of our influences to the table, we come from an era of listening to a lot of 90s death metal and this influence is reflected on the album. After listening to the album as a whole there are a lot of different musical genres represented and everyone should have a listen to the album before they make any comparisons to other bands. I think that there is something for every metal fan on this album, whether you like old school trash/death or technical death metal or black metal it’s all there. Give it a listen and make up you’re own mind.
What are the band’s goals for the next couple of years?
VARYEN – At the present, we are focusing on playing as many shows as we can to promote “The Architecture of Opression”. That’s our goal for now. What happens in the next couple of years – I don’t know and I don’t care that much, most likely start working on a new album. After last few years of hard work we are ready to have some fun and bring Against the Plagues to the masses.
Have you already begun work on the next album and if so what can you tell us about how it compares, and when it might be out?
VARYEN – Are you crazy?? I don’t want to be in the studio and looking at a computer screen just yet, maybe for the next couple of years!! The Debut album just came out…. Give us a little the time to enjoy this fact and don’t even ask me for more because I almost died mentally during the recording process. It took us 2 years to get this thing done!
What do you think is the single greatest challenge facing a new up and coming metal band who seem to have all the pieces of the puzzle in place (sound, songs, image, determination…)?
ADRIAN – I think the biggest challenge is being able to promote your album to a wide diverse group of metal fans. It’s really hard to advertise and market yourself with an independent release, I think the best promotion is word of mouth. Myspace as well as interviews help tremendously to gain greater exposure. Another big challenge is to keep everyone in the band personally satisfied with group decisions, it is very hard to please everyone but communication and compromises help. For the most part we are all on the same page when it comes to band decisions, but sometimes we have very strong opinions as to what or how something should be done. It is a juggling act of struggles but the outcome is well worth it.
Extreme metal has branched off into many different styles with Against the Plagues falling somewhere into the melodic black/death realm. Where do you think the extreme metal scene is heading, what do you think might be the next ?big thing? in extreme metal?
ADRIAN – I think metal in general is heading back to a more old school style, maybe a little more trash influence, but there are so many bands nowadays that it’s hard to say, I think the black/death metal scene is going to grow with greater epic productions and with more classical influenced instruments. Who knows but I’m sure we will all be surprised. The melodic edge will always be sustained in metal, it is one element that can be trusted. Otherwise who knows what’s around the corner for metal.
Who in the metal scene do you look up to for not only musical inspiration but in terms of who they are as people.
VARYEN – I think Behemoth is the band who I respect the most, musically and as individual musicians. I remember the first time I met Nergal was at one of our Damnation practice sessions in the city of Sopot in Poland. It was in 1992 I believe. He was very young back then but you could tell he was desperately ambitious and dedicated to his music and band. Sometimes he turned me off because as he was like a sponge. He embraced all the ideas and concepts from other bands and just grew up with them eventually influencing his writing in Behemoth. We have had some arguments in the past but I have to say that I am very impressed what he did with his personal career. The perserverence and “inhuman” work he did with his band to reach the top of the gengre is truly impressive. Inferno was the guy who replaced me in Damnation when he was 18 years old. Now he’s the one of the best death metal drummers in the world. Great musicians and also very intelligent and open-minded people. I don’t care with all that satanic charade but personally I respect those guys and they absolutely deserve where they are now.
We realize this is an Against the Plagues interview, so we will keep questions about the members other bands to a minimum. For Wojtek, what on earth happened to the project band Luciferion? Are you going to continue the Luciferion saga after the two excellent albums done under the Luciferion name?
WOJTEK – No no, Luciferion is history. By the way it was never a project band. Why do I always have to point that out to everybody… We weren’t an active band after Demonication (The Manifest) times, but it doesn’t make it a project. It’s was just a cryo-sleep until it was time to release The Apostate. Although, now it’s a definitely closed subject. I am 100% disconnected from the whole neanderthal “satanic” awkward mysticism form of expression for working class, problem children, wanna-be-tough-and-mystic, or low life troglodytes with no own insights in life and criticism. Not that the second album had anything to do with that, but generally speaking. I am into serious esoteric, scientific, “conspiratorial”, philosophic etc. stuff. As for the music itself, like I mentioned before in several interviews during the last decade, there is a complete material for one more album; written already between 96 and 98. This material is absolutely light years before it’s time. It will definitely be recorded some time, but for another band or project. It’s extremely out-calculated and worked through stuff. I was cut off from the surrounding world at that period. This material is an unearthly creation.
Also for Wotjek, your amazing band Lost Horizon struck a chord with many people both musically and also with the meaningful powerful lyrics. It’s quite disappointing that this band is on ice with no new material, no new singer, no label, etc. Exactly what are the hurdles to overcome to get this band back, is it something you are working towards and if so when might there be something to report?
WOJTEK – I definitely have to report. Quite encouraging news to be exact. From the first of January Lost Horizon is starting the machinery again. Not having a singer has recently become a very low priority matter. This bullshit will not stop us anymore. We are having meetings regularly now and are planning next steps. We are re-equipping ProTools and structuring up the working methods. This recording of the material for the next album is going to have a very unusual procedure, which is that we are going to record one song at a time. There are now four written songs. The rest will be fully written (finished) after the first four are recorded. There will soon be official news on the official site about the present state.
Official Website: www.againsttheplagues.com