Behemoth – Nergal
Interview by Alan Gilkeson
Soon to be released on Metal Blade records in North America, Behemoth’s EVANGELION attempts to further ensconce them in the Western Hemisphere’s Extreme Metal scene. One of only a handful of Polish band’s to ever make a name for themselves outside their country’s boundaries, Behemoth continue to defy all obstacles, becoming quite possibly the biggest band ever to come from their homeland. Known for debilitating live shows and massive riffs, sit back and enjoy the band’s founder, Nergal, as he explains what Behemoth is all about and how their new album is different from the rest.
We haven’t had a chance to hear the new album yet, what can we expect?
You know what, this record is Behemoth at it’s finest form. It feels like we took a big step back in order to grab all the experience we’ve gained through the years, and just take it to the next level. It’s another milestone for Behemoth. We tried to Challenge ourselves and explore new territories, new places for us. It really defines who we are as people and as artists. Usually when I’m done with a record I have problems even listening to it and enjoying it. I get to analytic, going through all the details, remembering all the bullshit from the studio. It doesn’t work for me that way. This album is completely different. I can actually put it on in my stereo right now and enjoy it, which is awesome.
What is it that drives you, something you want to share with the world or just your own need for self expression?
I think it’s just a need. It’s an artistic need to grab my guitar and express myself in a certain way. That’s why I am doing this music. I just know that I found my place in the universe. It’s an energy in me that I can share with other people.
If you look back at a young artistic Nergal would he be surprised with what you’ve become musically?
Hahaha, shocked probably! He’d have a heart attack or something. I started as a passionate kid. I just wanted to be part of this Metal movement. It was something that totally absorbed me and I was all about playing the music and wanting to be like one of my idols, to be respected, and eventually I became one. I brought this band to a place where people look up to us now. The bands that I listened to aren’t even around anymore, and if they are they lost their courage and spirit. It definitely feels like there’s more responsibility on us now and I know that we are leading the way. On the other hand, it’s always been about fulfilling ourselves in the first place. When I was younger I wanted to express myself, but it was more about being a part of it. Back then I hardly knew my instrument. I had no clue what I was doing. Now, having this ninth album in our hands and really believing so much in it, realizing how strong it is, it feels good. I’m real proud of myself and of my band.
Behemoth is pretty much a band that has never compromised, do you find that as you get more popular, especially in North America, that there’s pressure to try to get you to compromise, maybe slow it down a bit, make it prettier for MTV?
No, not at all. All the credit we get here in North America is for who we are. Yesterday we got on stage it was nearly a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the heat was killing. We went on stage in our outfits, I was wearing the mask and everything, boiling on stage. Then I had this guy come up to me and thank me so much for doing it, for sticking to who we are. He knew that it was hot and not easy to come out in full armor, but that’s who we are. It’s worth doing that, that’s what we believe. In Behemoth we never compromise. Even with the new album, it’s the album that we really wanted to record. With THE APOSTASY and DEMI-GOD we tried to keep up with other bands, we wanted to be fast, make the most heavy shit. On EVANGELION we just wanted to be who we are. If we want to play slow, we’ll play slow. We don’t give a fuck, we’re going to do what we want. We don’t care what the trends are. People respect us for the fact that we are Behemoth. We will not compromise. We’ve reached that place where we can say, ‘This is who we are, love it or leave it’.
In many ways you guys seem to get more extreme with each record. What’s your philosophy on extreme Metal?
It comes pretty naturally for us. Playing this music and writing is just what we do. I have it in my genes and I can’t deny it. It’s just there. The reason our music is extreme is because the message is extreme. It’s politically incorrect. We don’t analyze what we do at all. We are who we are. We speak our minds. We channel it through the riffs and the songs and the lyrics, and it all comes out extreme as fuck. That’s who we are, we basically play ourselves. It’s hard to come up with a definition of it. It’s just who we are. I’m a pretty mellow guy off stage, but on stage I am totally the opposite. It doesn’t mean we are posing or anything, it’s just that people have many faces. The more accomplished you are the more faces you have. You learn to express yourself in very dangerous ways.
You’ve developed your sound to a place where it is easily recognized as Behemoth…
I really think that we have our own unique sound. I’ve never claimed that we are original or anything like that, to be honest I hate the word ‘original’. It doesn’t even exist in my dictionary. I really think that collectively we make very unique art. I don’t really get angry if people call us Black Metal or Death Metal because we do have grooves and riffs that fall into that category. That’s where our roots are and we’ve never denied it. But if you call us Black Metal or Death Metal it is limiting. It’s really very hard to categorize us. I was watching Slayer play yesterday. They started out playing Priest covers and it grew into something that is just their own. When you think of Slayer you don’t really think of a category for them. They’re are just Slayer. The same goes for Iron Maiden. Maybe it’s pretty arrogant of me to think of Behemoth in this way, but I’m confident we can not be easily categorized.
You’ve been around for almost twenty years now, what has been your biggest obstacle?
Just not to get sick of each other, to just get along after spending months and months on the road. That’s probably the hardest thing. Along the way things change, peoples lives change, their goals change, their dreams change, so you have to manage to just stick with each other while all of this is happening. This is the toughest task, sticking together and making the most sincere music we can make.
I think that one of the things that sets you guys apart is the fact that you are from Poland. It’s not like being some Death Metal band from Sweden where the economy is great and there’s access to so much…
I think there’s more identity with what we do, you know? If we were just another Death Metal outfit from Scandinavia it would be much more difficult to break out of it. Very few Death Metal bands from Sweden can claim that they do something special. I think it definitely does influence what we do. It’s history, traditions, and a lot of little things that affect what you do and who you are. I don’t really analyze it, it’s a job for a sociologist. I’ll definitely say though that it does have an influence on our sound.
Is the bible tearing incident as big a deal in Poland as the reports over here in North America make it seem?
Yeah, it’s pretty big actually. The case was basically deleted and it’s over but this comedy against us is trying to punish us for being dangerous, in the public’s eyes… it just goes on and on, what can I say?
What about suing the politician?
I sued him. I brought him to court and I won the case because the guy kept calling me a criminal in the news and I wasn’t even convicted. I thought it would be good to show them that they just can’t do whatever they want.
Lyrically you’ve gotten more complex and detailed over the past three or four albums…
To be honest I don’t like talking about lyrics. I don’t really know what to say. I’ve grown as a person and I like to think that my lyrics have done the same thing. It’s not really me who should analyze it. I’m just being myself and I write about stuff that is close to me and that I find important. I really hope they mature and come across as more intelligent.
Behemoth is a band that manages to put out something every year between albums, ep’s, live albums, DVD’s, and you’re constantly touring. How do you keep up that pace?
I go as hard as I can, than I get tired and burnt out. But then I’ve got this ability where I can recharge the batteries really fast. I might get real tired and lack inspiration but then I go home, hang out in my yard and get recharged. Then I’m ready to start at it again. It gets harder with age and experience. The more stress you have the more difficult it is. It is also difficult to not repeat yourself. I think with Evangelion we have proven that. We challenge ourselves to deliver a better record and this record is better. It’s the desire to make music that keeps us going on and on and we can deliver this kind of stuff, quality and sincere stuff…
Are you always trying to top yourselves?
The last two records were of really high quality so it’s not really about trying to top yourself. It’s about delivering something that is actually different from that which we’ve done in the past. I’m sick of hearing bands where every record sounds the same. I hate that. Listen to Slayer. Their records sound different. The trademarks are there, the same characteristics are there, but it’s different. I’m not saying I like them all, but at least it’s always something new. The same goes for Morbid Angel. These are the bands I respect. That is what we are trying to do, taking different angles, different approaches. I don’t know how much better I can get as a guitarist or if I can be a better vocalist. I do what I do. I’m not going to get better than who I am at this point. However, I can do different things and keep it original.
Your live shows are amazing, larger than life…
When we do something like a live show or album we approach as ‘What if this is the last live performance of my life.’ Whether the shows are big or small we give everything on stage, just like I told you about earlier, the show where it was so hot, yet we still went on in full regalia and gave the fans what they wanted. We want every show to be an amazing experience.
Official youtube page: www.youtube.com/user/Behemothofficial
Official site: www.behemoth.pl
Check out a video for "At The Left Hand Ov God"from their previous album: