Heart of Steel: Interviews

NAILED WITHIN - Interview with vocalist Yishai Sweartz

Interviewed by EvilG

Most metal bands are hard working and struggling
against trends. Place that struggle inside a the
country of Israel where it seems to us in North America
that life itself is a struggle and you might begin to
appreciate just what challenges such a band must face.
So it is with Yishai Swasrtz of Nailed Within, formerly
of the band Betrayer and current founder of Raven Music.
I was given the below brief glimpse into his fascinating
world which 100% revolves around METAL. You have to
respect someone with his convictions and obvious perseverance.
Read on and find out more about the band and Yishai.


Just before I was to send you this interview, I learned that you have renamed the band from Emblaze to Nailed Within. Why the name change, didn't you like the band's name?

We liked the name but we found out that there is a hi-tech company in Israel with the same name, so we didn't want to continue with the name anymore as they registered the name in the "commers sign protector" in Israel or something like that. So when we found out about it we changed the name to Nailed Within.


Who came up with name "Nailed Within" and what does it represent to you personally?

I came out with the name, actually I can see some interpretations which are all relevant, "Nailed Within" can be someone who is located and sure about his beliefs and way of life, on the other hand it can also be someone who got hurt pretty seriously and it changed his situation and mentality within himself.


I read in your bio about some albums that changed your life like Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, W.A.S.P. - The Crimson Idol, Metallica - And Justice For All, At The Gates - The Red In The Sky, and Kreator - Extreme Aggression. How did these albums affect you musically? Would you say they represent what has been your greatest influences? What other bands or musicians would you add to the list?

Well, those albums are more or less my "bible", musically and lyrically, "Seventh Son" (of Maiden) opened a lot of new dimensions in my soul, it made me think a lot during that time, I got deeper and deeper into the meaning of tracks as "Infinite Dreams" for example, not to mention that musically it was godly, "And Justice" (Metallica) influenced me on more social level then personal or mystical, it was when I was 15 years old and one of my best friends lost his 2 legs and 2 arms in an Israeli army in tank accident, he still cannot move today, so it's obvious that track "One" or "To Live Is To Die" made their own impact. Besides this I think that to open an album with the sentence "Blackend is the end" is the best opener ever made, think about it, it's like "this is the end, nothing exist here."

"The Red In The Sky Is Ours" (At The Gates) is the best album name ever in my opinion, it's simply the best album that ever came out from Scandinavia, it's so sad and emotional that it's tear your soul to pieces, tracks as "Windows" can make me cry sometimes, what amazes me is that their music was so fast and intense but at the same time so sad..., a lot of people in Israel really worship this album, I think it never got the deserved attention and respect.

"Extreme Aggression" (Kreator) is a high school in "how to write lyrics", "how to play tight", "how to set up a masterpiece", the lyrics of Mille always touched my soul, again, like in At The Gates, Kreator's music is so fast and thrashy but his singing and lyrics are so emotionally deep that it's amazing.

"The Crimson Idol" (WASP) simply changed my life, I was never a W.A.S.P. fan until I discovered them 2 years ago, I got this album when I was 24 years old and it totally designed my already exist perspective to something which is more focused and straight, this album can change your life if you dig into it, I have to say that all those albums are highly recommended to every metalhead around, before you buy all the shit which is going in the market today, do yourself a big favor and buy those 5 albums.

Other bands in the list? On smaller level I can mention Trey Azagthoth's genius philosophical ideas, Chuck Schuldiner's "Spiritual", "Human" and "Individual", old Judas Priest / Sodom / Venom and from the more recent bands I really like Ishan's writing (Emperor) and Samael-Rotting Christ-Satyricon-The Haunted.


You were previously the vocalist of the band BETRAYER - a band which received some recognition internationally but never really became well known. Was this a factor in the band's demise last year (2001)?

The decision to call BETRAYER a day was done by me after me and the other players wanted to do different things musically. I wanted to do what I do now with Nailed Within and they wanted to do more technical death metal with progressive touches. So in the rehearsals we saw songs and concepts in a different way of course, which led to the decision to call it a day. I must say that BETRAYER made some very nice things for me for example the show we made with Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) together in Tel Aviv, 700 fans came to see it!!! It was amazing, also the final BETRAYER show was done with Rotting Christ as special guests and it was a great experience for me as I really like them, we giged with them 2 times in Israel, and of course our debut CD "My Twisted Symphony", success was never the thing for us as none of us lived from music and if I wanted to set up a highly successful act then I know that the music will not be what we used to do, but I am satisfied with the good things we made and I've learned from the bad things we made.

By the way: the other BETRAYER guys play now in a band called Eternal Gray, they are a great band and their album "Kindless" is out now on Raven Music (in America by "The End Records") it was recorded in the Abyss Studio and the album is very good.


A more obvious question....since Nailed Within is a new name to most of our readers, please tell us how the band came together.

After BETRAYER call it a day I started to work with Alex Schuster, Miko and Evil Haim who just quit from Azazel (a local black metal band), we started to write songs together, replace ideas, very fast we found out that we click together and have the same vision of how the band will sound like. We wrote 14 songs, later Matan joined us, he came from a very good band called "Beitzefer" which still exists and just put a debut CD out, we wrote and rehearsed like crazy and we started to build what is known nowadays as Nailed Within. In January we talked with Harris Johns and booked his studio for a month and tomorrow we actually fly there....:))


Salem's band "leader" helped Emblaze (the name you went under at that time) with the first demo...how did this come about and will future collaborations happen?

His name is Zeev Tananboim, he is a friend of mine for about 11 years, he helped me during all the years with BETRAYER, produced our debut CD and demos, he has a great knowledge about sound and producing stuff and his experience helped us a lot. He worked with Colin Richardson (Fear Factory, Carcass, Machine Head) on SALEM's album "A Moment Of Silence" so his experience grew even more, yes, he will fly with us to Germany as well to be another important part in the process of making this album the best possible!


What are your ex-bandmates currently up to (e.g. a new band called Crossfire, which plays '80s-style glam(?) metal, also features one of the former members in Azazel??).

The singer of Azazel still runs the band with a new line up and he does Crossfire as well which is more glam style, 80's hard rock etc. We stayed friends and everything is very good between all, as for ex-BETRAYER members, some of them play in ETERNAL GRAY and some left the music business...some still play here and there.


What would you say makes Nailed Within different from the bands that your member's were previously a part of (BETRAYER and AZAZEL) - and secondly, what do you think makes Nailed Within different from other melodic death/thrash bands?

Nailed Within is definitely different from Azazel and Betrayer as Betrayer played very, very progressive and technical death metal and Azazel played black metal. Nailed Within have more "direct" attitude then both, our songs are 3-4 minutes each, no musical masturbation needed, straight to the point with technical parts as a bonus but not as the main issue, Nailed Within have a strong 80's thrash influence which can be heard in our music BUT our sound is different and definitely not a retro thrash sound. I can say that me and Alex come from thrash-heavy metal background, Evil Haim and Matan from more grind and old hardcore (everything from Nasum to Black Flag) and Miko is more into bands as Dark Tranquility and At The Gates (GODS!!). Sso the mix of everything creates our own sound, it's very hard to be totally unique nowadays and not always necessary but I strongly believe that our concept and sound brings something new and very intense to the scene.


Where do you feel Nailed Within fits into context of Israeli metal history?

It depends on what you call "Israeli metal history", I manage "Raven Music" which is the biggest metal label here and I follow this scene since the very first steps. In some ways it fits, in some ways it does not. But I look at it on more global level, I compare myself with bands from Europe and the states and not with Israeli ones as what we want to set up with Nailed Within is international in impact. Otherwise I will stay here in Israel and record my album in Tel Aviv and not invest so much. I want metalheads from wherever to have the chance to listen to our material.


How did you hook up with Harris Johns to record in Germany (Spiderhouse Studios - www.spiderhouse.de) and what other factors made you pick the location and studio besides a desire to work with someone who has worked with some other well known thrash bands?

The desire to have a different sound then the other bands, the desire to let someone who knows how to set up a rough sound and raw energy to combine his huge experience with our more melodic parts and more updated vision and to create something which soundwise has an updated sound with old school touch and motives. We could easily go to other Swedish studio and be the next band in the product line with the same sound but I wanted something else, I wanted to create an interesting sound and connect it with our music.


You had some pretty big news announced recently - Kreator's vocalist Mille Petrozza and ex-The Crown/At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg will share guest vocals with vocalist YOU on the track "Dirty Coloured Knife" in the upcoming album. First, how did this come about - did you just ask them?

Yes, it's a great thing for us and we all are very happy because of that, as I said before, we made a BETRAYER show in 2000 with Tomas Lindberg here in Israel, 700 fans came to see us with him playing our songs and At The Gates songs as well. We became good friends and kept in touch all this time, so it was clear to me that I want to guest him in my album as a true tribute and respect and for friendly reasons as well. At The Gates and Tomas lyrics had a very big influence on my writing process and Nailed Within's music. I wanted to thank this man and friend for what his music meant to me and as a friend, so I simply called him and invited him and his wife to our studio in Germany as special guests, he will sing with Mille and me on "Dirty Coloured Knife." With Mille it was a bit different, being a huge Kreator fan in the last decade I always wanted to catch a chat with this guy, I think you'll agree with me that Kreator's music is more deep and honest then most of the bands going around nowadays and back then as well (ed. note: yes, Kreator are gods!), - Kreator was the reason for me to form a band when I was 15 years old. I got the chance 2 years ago to interview Mille for Metal Hammer Israel and I wrote a very big and special article/interview about how Kreator influenced me as a musician and a lyricist as well, and most important: as a PERSON.

So I interviewed Mille and it was a very good interview and I found a very interesting and highly intelligent person, someone who is honest to everything he says. We kept in touch, I sent him the Magazine of course and I called him half a year ago and invited him as well to share a stage with us in the studio together with Tomas Lindberg, what I didn't know is that both of them know each other and were very happy about all the idea. So it will happen very, very soon in "Spiderhouse Studio" and I have to say that for me as a person to have those 2 great people and musicians on our album is a very big pride, and I want to use this opportunity to say how much we appreciate the support they gave us - Thanks and Respect!!


Did they both know who the band was?

Tomas knew more of course as he giged with BETRAYER here and spent a week with me in Israel, I sent both the song some months ago.


What date will this be happening on?

At the end of July (2002).


Tell me about the upcoming album - what label will release it and when? Raven Music? Or will this be on a larger label?

I don't want to put it out on Raven Music because I think that a stronger label can do more for us then I can. Raven Music is very big as a distribution, but as a label we have more to learn and grow, we negotiate with labels and after the album will be done we will send a copy to all of them and also to the ones we don't negotiate with and see who will put it out. What we are actually looking for is a label that will recognize the potential of the band and go with us. We are willing to tour as much as we can. We strongly believe that touring is the best way to promote this band. We financed this album by ourselves because we believe in what we can offer. I want the label to be as motivated as we are and then things can go great. We are not looking for a license, we are looking for a label that will go with us in the same way we will go with him.


Regarding labels, you own Raven Music...I think?!! Tell me a bit about the company and the work that you do.

I formed "Raven Music" 5 years ago. We do exclusive distribution to 24 metal labels in Israel (Century Media, Moonfog, The End, Osmose, Listenable, AFM, Inside Out, Relapse... to name a few...). We sell to stores, chainstores, private customers, mailorder. Every 3 months we come up with a 50-60 page catalogue which also includes interviews and reviews and attached with a free CD. We do shows here of other European bands (so far we made the Tomas Lindberg show, Ancient Rites, Edguy (open air!!), Rotting Christ (2 times) etc).

I work very, very hard, sometimes I sleep 2-4 hours at night but this is the best job I could ask for and it's more than a job for me, it's a way of life, exactly like the band. If this work can give me the tools to make my dreams come true like bringing Ancient Rites from Belgium last year to Israel, me and Gunther know each other and talk about it 10 years!!! Since we both were deep into the underground... I always told him that it will happen... and it did... 700 fans came to see them... for me it was heaven (or shall I say "hell".... ?.... -:))


As a vocalist, do you write all the lyrics for the band? If so, what topics have inspired the lyrics? Perhaps you'd like to give us a run down on some of the songs for the forthcoming album?!!!?

I wrote most of the lyrics, some of them were written by Miko and some together with him. I came from a lyrics background, in '93 I released in Israel a very dark poems book in Hebrew called "Rage Prophet." It was released by a domestic publishing company and sold around 3000 units in Israel. I started to write when I was 9 years old..., I have thousands of songs in my home as I keep them.., all the songs are pure reflection of my soul & mind, it's individual, radical at times, unique and twisted in a way. All the lyrics in this album are a concept in a way, you can find the knife from "Dirty Coloured Knife" in 4 other songs, you can find some sentences from "King Obscenity" in another song called "Impure" and some words and motives which return during the lyrics, the last song "Nailed Within" is a kind of assembly of all the other tracks, it's also the most different song musically, some specific examples? ok.....

"Dirty Coloured Knife" reflects moments of mental insanity, when a person sits in front of the smoked mirror, holding a dirty knife in his hand and thinks about his life... the thoughts, the gray moments, everything that runs in his mind, it says "comes as dirty coloured knife, bright in mirror's gray, one by one, a symbolized blood, reflected pits of pain...." he is not actually going to kill himself but playing with insanity while thinking all those.

"Emblazed" is about everything which is going on in Israel, the never-ending terror, the way people from the outside look at us, the fear, and how all of this effects our lives as individuals in conformitive country as Israel.

"Unhuman Conditions" is highly inspired by writers as Nitsche and Eyan Rand, it's describes totally high level of knowledge regarding your own mentality and dark feelings, self awareness in a very gloomy philosophical way...

Another song is "Whipping Their Minds", it's about a female I know who's been abused and destroyed mentally and physically during a destructive SM relationship with a shitehead, it's a nail in the face of all those who destroy-rape-mutilate other people's souls and inflict them with their own low-scum shit, it's a nail in their coffin.

Some other songs like "Elastic" describe relationship, but as I said before, there is a direct line between all the lyrics in the album and sometimes even more.


What are the challenges an Israeli metal band faces, namely making a predominantly western kind of music in a time of political strife?

It's hard, most of the labels are afraid to sign an Israeli band or too skeptic. We have to work harder and prove our serious attention double then any European band for example, but it will not stop us or make us sad. It's a fact and you have to live with it and if you want to grow - work harder and we do work harder.


It's hard enough for a metal musician to make a living from playing heavy metal anywhere in the world. It must be even harder when you live in a place where you have thoughts of crazy and desperate people strapping bombs to themselves and coming to places where there are large gatherings of people!?!?! So how do you arrange metal gigs there and how does a band make a go of it in such an atmosphere?

We will continue to arrange gigs because if we will stop they will win and they will never win. We rent a serious armed security, like 8-10 security persons and do it, it's hard but we struggle. It's our place and we will continue to spread metal here even if it's hard, we don't live from the band, all of us work. I live from metal (and FOR metal...) but not from the band.


Would you like to relocate the band to a more "safe" environment? Or are you optimistic that there is not only a future, but a bright one in which a metal band can get it's music out internationally?

One thing I know is that we will not change our music because of the recent trends, I played old school thrash with BETRAYER in '93, long before Bewitched-Swordmaster etc... , then in '96-2000 we became technical death when nobody gave a shit about it and the trend was black metal. In Nailed Within we play our style and we will stay in our style, if the bigger media will embrace it that's great, if not that's also great. I am metal fan myself and I felt disappointment so many times by bands, I will not let our fans down, we will stick to our guns.


What are the long term goals of the band?

To bring our music to the maximum amount of people WITHOUT betraying our style and WITHOUT changing our music.

If there are other news items that you'd like us to pass along with this interview, please let me know!!!

Please put our site www.nailedwithin.com in the interview.

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