INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK MAMELI OF PESTILENCE
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
Pestilence carved its marks in the late ’80s and early 90’s when Death metal dominated and reigned with a strong grip. The legendary Dutch death squad released a number of highly appreciated albums. Pestilence met the same fate as several other death metal bands of that time as they split up and vanished. However, Patrick Mameli resurrected Pestilence in 2009 by releasing two brutal albums until taking another hiatus. In 2018 Pestilence returned with the new killer album called HADEON and a new line-up. Metal-Rules.com sat down with Patrick Mameli to discuss various interesting topics.
MALLEUS MALEFICARUM was more like a mix of thrash and death metal. It has a great cover with different torture tactics. When CONSUMING THE IMPULSE album came out, the cover was odd because of the ants. I know what you think about the album and the cover, but at that time it was different. You catch eyes on it immediately as It was a strange album cover compared to others coming out at that time.
I think that was the idea of robustness and eye-catching. To be honest, that is a well-known story is that the original cover that we had fitted to CONSUMING THE IMPULSE way more, because it was a bunch of people eating each other.
This is in reference to the world, the world is consuming and it wants to consume everything. Instead of giving, we’re so self-aware of stuff. You want to consume information, you want to consume fast food and the stuff like this. It’s almost like we don’t think about it anymore.
Roadrunner, they released the album and the album cover and we didn’t even know about it. We saw it in the record stores, “What the fuck is this?” – It’s like, “That’s not what we wanted.” A drawn face with ants. It has nothing to do with CONSUMING THE IMPULSE.
Yeah, we got red ants that do the bite. I didn’t see any reference and later it became a classic one, but still for me it’s like incredible that a record company takes away the creativity of a band and says, “You’re album cover is too brutal.” Where else album covers like Cannibal Corpse, they can release something like this and it says, “Parental advice.”- The sticker. “Why don’t you put a sticker on there on the Pestilence album?”. We’re not really happy with the album cover and we’re still not happy with the album. The thing is that it became such a cult and classic thing. That when you see the green with the face and the ants, you know its Pestilence. Strategically and marketing wise, they’ve done something right.
As for TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENTS, it has a more surrealistic cover in my opinion. Since then you found the style for your front covers, because it’s basically the same kind of approach on covers or what you think about.
That was the first time we were actively involved in what we wanted to portray ourselves as an image. We’re not really like an image band, where other bands they do like the black metal thing or the blood or the guts or this and that.
We’re more into the music, but we know that something like a good album cover is like a plus. Because we have to think about merchandise, you have to think about t-shirts. In that respect we found the capechaleone and it’s been there ever since, that’s been our symbol. I can think in my head that the next album will not even have Pestilence anymore, it will just have the symbol and you know, “That’s pestilence.” That’s how strong that symbol is and that’s the symbol for ever evolving, because it’s round and there is no beginning and no end.
That’s the whole idea behind it. You see also the lyrics on TESTIMONY, we’re all going towards the esoteric and going away from topics about war or just the stuff that was going on. When we were young and growing up we were listening to death. We were listening to Slayer, Cannibal Corpse and all these bands. But by the time we had done TESTIMONY, I kind of detached myself from all those bands. Because I knew that if you want to survive, you have to have an own style. That’s when I actually stopped listening to metal. A lot of fans saying like, “That’s ridiculous. How come you can’t listen to metal? Then you’re not metal.” If I’m not metal. What is this music then I’m making? How come I make this music, if I’m not metal? That’s my musical expression. I don’t have to listen to all these bands coming out, because I just don’t want to get influenced.
I was thinking that you have some kind of inner demon there, that you want to express yourself musically.
I listen to metal, but also different kind of stuff. I love classic rock and all the way to the extreme stuff. I can’t go back to the the day when I was only listening to thrash/death / black metal, it is not possible nowadays.
Yeah. I thought that people have progressed and matured, but it’s still not the same. I still get those comments by these internet warriors. They’re saying, “You’re not death metal. You’re not death metal for this and that.” I don’t understand that, because I don’t need to listen to. The other day I was going to the gym, because I work out everyday. That’s what I like. I am diabetic, so I need to take care of my body. On stage I drink milk. So I’m getting bashed, I should be drinking beer or whisky or something to be death metal or whatever.
I work out and I was wearing Adidas shirt and then somebody made a comment and saying like, “I don’t know that band Adidas.” I’m like, “Why do I have to always be associated with metal?” If I go to the gym, I don’t have to wear a metal shirt. I never wear metal shirts. Even if I do wear metal shirts, it’s Pestilence.
The Pestilence logo was interesting in my opinion. It was quite simple, but it’s catchy. It looked like made of pieces of wood. I guess you wanted to have a simple logo, when you created Pestilence.
Yes. I think that something that catches your eye. Most of the time it has to be simple. If you’re looking at the simplest logos that work, are not the unreadable logos. They have the basic colors and normally we have the yellow and red. We’ve been using the silver last few albums, but it’s still the most simple form and readable. Because I think that’s the best to do is keeping it simple, keep stuff simple. It lives on forever. I think that’s the one force behind it – it is to have something really catchy. That’s what the Pestilence music is all about. I don’t have to prove myself, being a good guitar playing by playing 30 riffs in a song. Because I don’t think that’s making music, that’s trying to be technical.
Even the word technical I don’t see it, when you play with something that you think is really difficult, but it’s just to string you together. That’s For me, that’s not making music. Music for me is something that comes from the heart, it does not have to be technical always.
Sometimes, look at a song like “Twisted Truth”, which is a very simple song, but it’s one of the most powerful songs. Everybody knows it. People that don’t know it, they can kind of personalize it to themselves. Because it’s something that you can build in your head, not like going to a show and you have all these riffs and you just don’t know what’s happening after the song is finished. Pestilence stands for simplicity in that way, which is difficult by itself.
I have done it ever since RESURRECTION MACABRE. I compose all the music, write all the lyrics, and program all the drums to give the guys a general idea. If they can convince me that what they do is better than what I programmed, we’ll take that. But the general setup for a song, the construction, the carcass of a song is always by me.
If we change that, it’s no longer Pestilence. That’s I think how we work. I think that bands like AC/DC, bands like Iron Maiden, have a formula and stick with that formula. Because if you don’t, it doesn’t sound like you’re Judas Priest. They stick to their formula.
Pestilence sticks to their formula as well. I think it has to be with the fact, that I detached myself from listening to other metal. Because I could be really easily influenced by something that I really enjoy. It’s not like that I don’t enjoy metal. My problem is that I analyze it too much and it kind of sticks in my head. Then when I play something I’m like, “this sounds like this and that”. Then I drop it. To not lose any time, I just keep true to my own inner self and just come up with the Pestilence riff.
When Pestilence went on a hiatus after the first reunion run, you formed a couple of other bands like Neuromorph. Did you write some songs for Neuromorph and then transferred to Pestilence or did you keep the bands separately?
They’re still separated, because it’s a completely different world. It’s more jazz fusion. When Pestilence got into business with Hammerheart Records, they wanted to release new material and it went really fast and then I just started focusing on Pestilence again.
I have this other project called Moordzucht. It’s the Dutch word for the urge to kill. That was going to be pretty brutal music and the label boss told; “We’re not going to release it as you want to, because it sounds like Pestilence” and all these Moordzucht songs are on here. Actually that’s just me again. When I’m trying to do something else, but I can’t, because it’s always Pestilence for some reason.
When Chuck Schuldiner released something else besides Death, it was always Death. He never managed to get the way from the shadows of Death. Do you think shadows of Pestilence will follow you forever?
Yes, I think so. Because I did a recorded album for C-187, I think that was a great album. It’s not death metal, but it’s metal. It’s a little bit technical and people didn’t like it. People didn’t like it, because it’s not Pestilence. I always get compared to Pestilence. Whatever I do or whatever I want is always Pestilence. I conform myself. I’m just going to keep on doing Pestilence and be successful in trying to be successful with something else and then like shit, whether that music is really good or not. It doesn’t matter anymore.
I guess one of the reasons that you’ve created your legacy already in the ’80s and early ’90s and will follow you forever.
Yes. That’s why this album is such a success in my eyes, because it wings back to TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENTS. It gives more Testimony of the Ancients feels, more modern approach. Because of this album I think it’s my best work. It should be, because otherwise I don’t need to make any new music. This album kind of looks back to that era of TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENTS. People accept it as well. It has the same feel to it.
Dan Swanö has mixed this album.
Did he bring his own idea or did he…?
No. It’s always me. Whenever I do something, I’m in charge of the whole process. Starting from beginning to end. I always produce my own albums. There is just somebody doing the engineering. I always say, “I don’t want this – I don’t want that”. Because I just don’t feel or you have to convince me that it works better. If it works better, we use it. Then he kind of respected my views on it. We went back and forth. I went to stuff that he did. I said; ” No. Maybe more of this and that”. Then we were both happy and then it turns out to be this.
Did you visit Sweden when he was working on your songs?
No. I was in the studio recording this album and only the drummer was there for four days. I did everything myself. There was nobody with me, influencing me or telling me what to do. I just did everything by myself, which I like. I only worked with the engineer and the engineer does what I want and that’s it. People could get a misconception about me, because I’m not like a dictator or anything. I’m not like, it has to be my way or this or that. That’s not like me, because I know for a fact that I can’t be Pestilence.
I can’t be on stage all by myself. I need my crew around me. That’s why I’m always trying to find the best positions to interpret my music. The best possible way they can. This is my best line-up as well and these guys are really good and I feel very happy playing live. Normally I’m more of a studio guy, where everything is more controlled. Here we don’t have a sound man. You
don’t know what’s going to happen, so everything is more like a challenge. It’s going to be really, really hard on stage. I already know right now. At least we don’t wear like corpsepaints and leather jackets. We don’t have that image. Thank God.
Well Dark Funeral is melting there at the stage at the moment.
They were going out. I was like, good luck man. It’s going to be fucking hot and it’s got the flame throwers and all the stuff. Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I’m really happy with this and just kind of the general idea. I can’t get rid of my past anyway, so it’s better to embrace it. The first hiatus, because of a lot of things happening in the scene, that was kind of too confronting for me.
Because I always try to better myself as a musician, my compositions and my lead playing. Fans are only talking about CONSUMING IMPULSE or TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENTS. I’m not a fucking jukebox. I want to make new music. I want that them respect that and also listen to my new music. It’s just the same as when Judas Priest brought out PAINKILLER. Everybody embraced that album as well. They still have to play “Hell Bent For Leather” and they have to play those older tunes as well, I understand. They at least get a chance also to play the new music. People need to be open-minded, that there is more than just those first three albums that Pestilence made.
The old generation has paid attention that those who are crying for the old stuff are the younger generation. They want to hear, that’s kinda funny actually.
Actually, for me I feel that my fan base is getting older with me. We don’t draw that many young kids anymore, because I think that’s the lines of what the style has blurred a lot. Now we’ve got deathcore, we’ve got slamming brutal death. We’ve got all these names for different styles.
Where it used to be, now my band is called old school death metal. With back in the days, it was death metal. Now they label it differently and as I’m getting older, my fans are getting older and the younger fans listen to deathcore or they listen to grind or whatever they call it nowadays.
It’s difficult for young kids to have this excessive amount of information on the internet. I guess you know it yourself, I do it too. I listen to a song for 30 seconds, going to the next song, going to the next song. Back in the days, we just listened to the whole album and over again.
I used to do the tape trading as well back in the days. I discovered a lot of bands at that time. I listened very carefully to them, I learned the songs. Nowadays, like you said, “30 seconds, this is not good – then second one”.
Those young kids don’t do their homework anymore. Look at humanity, I was sitting in the train all by myself, going to the airport to fly here. I’m looking around, everybody is like this(watching phones). They’re all like fucking zombies, people don’t look outside anymore. It’s like everybody is just self-absorbed with their own little world. If you want this, then you can Google Pestilence and see whenever. But they can’t, because there is a zillion other bands now. It’s very difficult for young kids to find good music and that’s kind of the problem. Now they call my music old school. That makes me feel old. We’re still Pestilence, nothing else. It is death metal.
For example, like the older people like me, it’s also hard to discover the good stuff because there is too much. It’s getting saturated.
Yes, yes. It’s getting flooded with stuff and also some shit of course. I don’t have that problem anymore, because I just stopped looking for it. I don’t need it. The only moment I am when I’m playing with Pestilence stuff is when I’m making extra music. For the rest, I don’t listen to music at all, like nothing. I’d rather go and sit by myself on a mountain listening to the wind and looking and smelling the fresh air. That’s my piece of mind. Or going to the gym and sweat my ass off, that gives me my kick. I changed so much from a young kid tape trading. Getting the Mantas demos and Death demos and recording my own sheet, drinking lots of alcohol, smoking pot, and all this stuff. From changing my own lifestyle around, becoming the way I am. It’s not like I’m saying I deny it, that I did it. No, I did do that. At one point, you have to let that going and grow as a person, which I did.
If you happen to come to Finland and go out skiing. I’m wondering why people listen to music while they’re skiing. Because when I’m going skiing in nature, I listen to nature.
Yeah. Nature is the best and nature always wins. You always lose. That means that nature is more powerful than us and you have to be humble. Just enjoy the world and just enjoy life. Enjoy your conversation with someone, like we’re doing like now.
Now we’re talking about Pestilence, where they could be any other topic. Most of the time, people are just doing this. I see people when I go with my girlfriend to a restaurant. We make it a rule not to use this thing, just to be and talk to each other. I just look around, fucking everything is doing that thing. Nobody is talking to each other. Nobody has like, you look great tonight.
Something like this. Whatever, what changed. Even with my kids, I’ve got two young boys. When they want something from me, they fucking app me. You’re in the fucking other room dude. I’m here, come talk to me. They do it too, whatever. Things have changed a lot.
It’s getting worse. There was this hotel where we were at and the hotel you can’t pay with money and physical money anymore. You only have to use the credit card and they already have those machines that can read chips. When you have your implant, you can just put it in front and read the credits you have. This is where we’re going. This is where we’re heading to.
I wasn’t able to pay with credit cards in Tilburg. They didn’t accept my MasterCard, because they wanted the local credit card.
That is crazy. Every time you want to use technology, they won’t allow it too. That’s the problem is that people don’t realize anymore how beautiful life is. I understand you have to pay your bills. You have to pay your bills. Having kids is not even a responsibility there. When you’re married, you have a wife. You have other responsibilities. When I was all by myself, I can just fuck off and do whatever I want.
I guess those kinds of things inspired you to write lyrics on your Pestilence album, to bring reality fact?
This album again is a little bit more esoteric. It doesn’t really go too much into real-life topics, other than the first-ever technology. What we’ve just discussed, people are more self-absorbed. I talk a lot about some frequencies and dimensions and stuff like this.
I have had a talk with this guy and his bed is surrounded by a magnetic field. He builds it himself, like this magnetic field. You can influence your brain pattern by changing the magnetic field around your bed. If he wants to have pleasant dreams, he puts it on type of frequency.
So he always has pleasant dreams and he sleeps really well. Then you think, “Wow!” If that brain pattern, you to change into altering your feelings about something. That is kind of weird. Then I ask, “Can you also have nightmares?” Yeah. He says, when you go above one gigahertz, you have only nightmares. That’s where ultra dreams came about. I just thought at the idea. It must be ultra dreams. Those guys, when they feel that there is one gigabyte frequency, can enter your existence. So that’s an ultra view. Any topic can be touched and I’ll make it my own.
A smart device has blue light – I have eyeglasses, there is some kind of lens which controls your eyes and brain. If you watch a smart device with your eyeglasses, it will filter a blue light right away. You get better sleep and without the glasses, you get worse.
Yeah. You get worse. But also having a phone conversation with the ear on your phone. Some people are very… What do we call it? They can get tumors in their brain, because of the waves. I started thinking about all these things, like other dimensions and other realities, coming from this thing. Nikola Tesla, he did the same. He knew about the stuff. The old Egyptians, they already had electricity and then they got lost. We think that was so super human that we could have this, but they had that years and years ago. I am always intrigued by these types of things actually.
Do you think that those kinds of futuristic aspects will inspire you to write more in your lyrics, when working on the next Pestilence album? Because it is a never ending, swamp.
It is. Everything that for me is interesting. That detaches itself or relates itself to lots of guts or Satan, God. All these nonsense topics. That are used before at Pestilence doesn’t want to use.
I don’t want to use this. I’m trying to rephrase myself all the time and coming up with topics and things that are for myself are interesting. Hopefully for the listener and somebody that reads my lyrics. A little climbs of what I feel is actually a reality.
How about these new guys? How are they consulting you with music or lyrics or do they bring up some ideas?
No, everything is me. They just execute.
Speaking on the new guys. What kind of process was the audition was to find them? Because they’re completely new guys.
I’m always happy that I find different people to execute my music. If you’re in a band for the longest time together, routine can come slide in. That’s why we never practice, we never practice.
For us the tension to go on stage and not know what’s going to happen, we need that to become the best musicians at that point of who we’re. If you know, okay. We’re going to do Sweden Rock and you practice for three months, everything will sound really tight.
Are you going to be as enthusiastic about it? No. You’re just playing with the songs, because you rehearsed them to death. There is no wow factor anymore. I always keep my band members new and fresh. So I could come up with this music and execute it in this way. It’s the same with Resurrection or with Obsideo.
It’s like I’m in music, I send it out to people I like. I stream on YouTube for example, I found my drummer. I saw him play with another band. I’m like, “Dude, that’s a good drummer.” I approach him. I say, I’m Patrick Mameli from Pestilence.
Do you want to play drums with me? Then they see Patrick Mameli, they see Pestilence and they say yes. That’s the end of the story. I don’t have to have many auditions. I just go to the guy directly, which I want to use. Then there is of course money issue.
I really would want to work with Derek Roddy, for example. If I ask him to play for pestilence, there is money attached. Which I can’t pay him and then it’s over. You have to find people that play with the heart and put a lot of effort into it themselves, to make it not the money issue as a big thing.
Do they live in Holland or somewhere else?
No. I focus on having international people. I have two Romanians and one from Slovenia
I guess one of them is playing in a German band Paradox.
Yeah. He plays for Paradox.
Who is it?
Tilen. But his main band of course is Pestilence. He also plays for Testament and he plays for…Just like as a session musician when the other bass player can’t play.
Steve Di Giorgio.
Steve Di Giorgio. Then he plays for Testament and then he plays for Vicious Rumors.
What happens when you have a gig there and Vicious Rumors have a gig there and Paradox is there?
Then he chooses for Pestilence.
The other bands have to find a replacement.
Yes, they will find a replacement.
What actually led you to quit Pestilence in the first run? Did you get disillusioned about playing, the touring, or did you just get tired?
No. Tired because the fans only want to listen to the first three albums. There was so much bullshit going on with Pestilence and with Roadrunner. That the business side of it, it was really bad for me. I was not making any money. The record company was getting bigger. Even now after 29 years, Roadrunner still owes me money. But Roadrunner is no longer, now they’re Warner and Warner they say, “We don’t know.” So they owe me 29 years of royalties and the money is gone. I sold more than 100,000 albums for Testimony. Where is the money? Even though the tours when I played, they organized the tours.
I never made any money. I got smarter by saying no more. I have to pay my bills as well. But you have to play music from the heart. I play music from the heart, but if I can’t have my bills to be paid. There is no music from the heart, you’re just going to be a beggar.
I don’t want to do that. I stopped and I just got a regular job, finance and then made some good money. Then I had a family and I just never thought I was going to do it again. Then when I came back the first time, the same thing happened. People only want to listen to the “Out Of Body”. I’m like dude, I’m not a jukebox. I just don’t want to do that anymore. The record company that was working then. I didn’t put too much effort into as well. I said “Fuck it, I’m just quitting again”. I’m not making any money. I thought I was going to make money now, still not working out and then I’m just going to quit. This time is the first time that I’m making money.
You have really good deal with Hammerheart Records. What went wrong with Candlelight then?
Candlelight. I didn’t know this. When they signed us, I thought this was going to be the bomb. Candlelight went financially broke.
You have toured quite a lot. You did the European tour and then South American.
Yes we did the European tour with Rebaelliun and then we did the South American tour. We toured with Rebaelliun here. Then we toured in several countries in South America. We had to calculate very carefully when we do those tours that they are financilly good for us.
Last time you played in Finland at the Tuska Metal Open air in 2009
It was nice. The tuska people were really to us. But we haven’t got invented to play in Finland again.
All right thanks for your time for the interview