Our writer Aurko conducted this kickass interview with Behemoth for our friends at Metalbase India. Now we’re spreading the wealth! Read up and learn!
NERGAL, ORION, & INFERNO = Behemoth
MBI = Aurko / Metalbase India
MBI: First of all, a big ‘HAILS’ from team Metalbase. We have worshipped Behemoth since our heydays as Metalheads and it’s an honour to have you with us. Congratulations to Lord Nergal on his triumph over his health condition. How has the New Year been treating Behemoth, now that Nergal is back in the thick of actions and ‘The Satanist’ has released?
ORION: ‘Hails’ back to you! Thank you very much. We’ve went through some hard times but now we’re all back on the track. Last few years were a lesson to learn and we’re now rich with this experience. The European tour for ‘The Satanist’ has just started, and I have to tell you that it’s going great. This New Year is a new beginning for us and we couldn’t expect it to be better. Reviews are better than ever, we’re reaching out for higher and bigger goals. And we’re so ready to conquer!
MBI: Firstly, why the title ‘The Satanist’? Is it to highlight the basic subject/motif behind your music or is there any particular reason behind it? Also, what’s the concept/story that is being told through the album?
NERGAL: There are probably millions of reasons why we chose that title for our 10th album. But honestly, I can’t think of a better title for this band… this moment in time… the nature of things we are entangled with. It’s fuckin’ epic. It’s genuine and dominating. It perfectly reflects who we are.
MBI:We have always been mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of your music, the accompanying music videos and the artwork of course. However, ‘The Satanist’, according to some of your previous statements to the press, takes a more ‘artistic’ and ‘emotional’ detour, as is evident from the video clip for “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” and the album cover art. What prompted this emphasis on art? Is it permanent or will you be returning to more Brutal masterpieces in the lines of the ‘Demigod’ album?
ORION: We felt a need to turn in this direction. We’ve done enough in the matter of brutality and now we don’t feel like competing with anything we’ve done before. Or with anyone else actually. There’s no more racing in speed or technical difficulty, I think we’re looking for other things in music and art in general now. We have always cared about every single detail of what we do – a band is not just the music. It’s the looks and visuals too; it’s the covers and graphics, stage performance, clothing and everything that comes with the sound. And it’s all important. And alongside bringing up the music to the more sophisticated level, all other things need to be brought this way also. We’ve picked Denis Forkas, the painter and the occultist to work with us and what he did is an extraordinary piece of art. There’s way more feeling and atmosphere in what we do musically today and we needed to have it in all visuals and we didn’t want to have just illustrations for the album. We wanted the graphic side to have its own value and majesty; we wanted it to be as strong as the music itself. Same goes for the videos – we’ve taken a different approach to them. We’re giving some space for thoughts and interpretations, there’s way more symbolism, not just striking scenes and imagery. I think we’re just more mature human beings these days and our needs are expanding, which I consider a good thing.
NERGAL: I don’t really look too forward anymore… and having said that, I wanna state that we are NOT interested in revisiting our past and repeating ourselves. Every Behemoth album stands on its own. Every next record is a new chapter. If there is another album to come… again it’s gonna be a new journey through the abyss of the primal and fascinating nature of human existence.
MBI: Since we are on the topic of art, we could not help but notice that the band’s name is missing from the album cover. Why was it left out? Also, if our sources are right, we hear that Nergal has contributed for the process of creating the cover art; obviously this just shows how much the record is personally tied to you, but what was the prime reasoning behind it: a message or a whim?
NERGAL: Well, to me the whole idea came very naturally… I wanted to underline the fact how much my creations are a part of me on every existing level. Logo would simply ruin the integrity of the supreme art we chose for ‘The Satanist’. The painting is a great manifest that can stand alone and proud and perfectly channel energies we’ve maintained through our art.
MBI: We understand that some of the material on ‘The Satanist’ was incepted during Nergal’s days undergoing medical treatment. Is that where all the aforementioned ‘Atmoshperic’ and ‘Emotional’ influences stem from? Given the gravity of what you were up against, how strong and invincible does Nergal the Demigod feel to have conquered a mortal ailment? If this album reflects the ‘Emotional’ side to the phase, will the future albums be more aggressive, mirroring your conquest, a victory lap if you will?
NERGAL: Again, don’t know anything about the future albums… we focus on here and now. The only moment that makes ANY sense in this senseless world. And we are drunk with pride of this new endeavour. It is indeed very emotional record… my personal health issues might have influenced it massively… just don’t ask me to point out which song, which verse or riff… I don’t know…
MBI: What’s the typical song-writing procedure for Behemoth? Was it any different this time than the previous albums? Also, while we are at it, a number of your fans have reminded me countless number of times to ask you about your musical equipment; could you give us a detailed rundown of the musical gear you use?
ORION: Nergal is the one to bring most of the motives, riffs, ideas for the songs. At the point he gathers enough of them, we lock ourselves up in the rehearsal room for two-three months and we play. Non-stop, everyday, with only weekends off. And we arrange the songs all together. Each of us has the same influence here, each of us takes part in arranging, talking about the songs and the overall concept. This time something changed here and I think we’ve started to listen to each other much more. Composing came to the point of finding a common language, common stream of consciousness. The process was long but smooth, there wasn’t much stress or pressure and we are used to this kind of situations in the past. As for my gear – there’s nothing supernatural about it. Speaking in general – I turned back from upgrading my stack and rack to enormous sizes and arming it with tons of stuff and blinking lights. I personally care about my sound a lot and I’m trying to know every single detail of what’s in my signal line and chain. My approach to sound is that I need to know everything about it before I say: yes, now I like this setup. So, at the moment, I’m using my custom ESP basses with EMGs, DR strings. The heart of the sound is Darkglass Electronics B7K preamp, I also go through old Fulltone Bass-Drive, use some simple compressors and EQs, and it’s all powered up by my Markbass amps and cabinets which I fully trust at the studio as well as on stage.
MBI: Originating from a country that is known for its strong allegiance to Tradition, Conformity, and Religion, and mockery of anything alien, Metalheads in India face near-ostracization and judgement on a daily basis. Being one of the strongest and most extreme proponents of the beloved genre, what would you advice our young brethren?
ORION: Well we’re not that familiar with the conditions and the situation in every place in the world. But while we were growing up – Poland was a communistic country, we stayed behind the iron curtain; we had no access to culture, to licensed records, and to professional gear. We had to find our ways to do what we wanted to do with minimum conditions and maximum will. It wasn’t easy, but I remember it being exciting. When you have to fight for something and you’re not being given it just easy, it makes you more aware of why are you doing it. I’m not good at giving advice, and every case is different.
There have been occasions where Behemoth has been involved in battles with religious establishment. Personally I have to ask, what prompted the onstage destruction of the Bible? Was it the general hatred towards organized religion or anything else in particular? Do you feel as strongly about the damage other religions cause?
INFERNO: We were not doing this to feel stronger because we are strong anyway. I can’t understand that so many people were shocked after that little performance which we’ve done on stage.
Last year when Behemoth played in Kathmandu, there was an amazing spike in frustration among Indian Metalheads who missed out on the opportunity to catch you live in action, so close to home. Is there an Indian tour on the cards anytime soon?
ORION: We have no such plans at the moment, but I believe we’ll eventually get to play in India. We were supposed to play one show there recently, on this same tour that you’re talking about – and we had to cancel it a few weeks before the tour. The promoters just didn’t do what they were meant to do according to all agreements. I know things may differ in India, but wherever we go, we need to keep up some standards and our rules of working. It’s also not good for us as a band to cancel a show and we can’t really afford this to happen in the future – it breaks the trust people have in us. So yes, hopefully next time everything will go smooth. I’m sure there are some good people and companies to work with in India.
MBI: There is little to no information on what influenced Behemoth to be such brutal musicians. Would you kindly share with us when each of you picked up a musical instrument, which artists influenced you the most, etc?
INFERNO: I can’t find the answer on this kind of questions. You can find on earth many many more brutal bands and next to them we sound very gentle.
MBI: Is your current status as a gargantuan force to reckon with the culmination of all your records or was there any particular element that catapulted Behemoth into what it is and what it stands for today?
INFERNO: I have in my mind few simple words in my mind which can describe it. It is determination, perseverance and dedication. Our consciousness as musicians is matured now and we know how the band have to sound like.
MBI: European metal is renowned for its precise musicianship and dedicated compositions. Some of my favourite artists including you, and Decapitated and others are from Poland. What was the Polish Metal scenario like when you were starting out? What was the European scenario like as a whole? We would love to hear an anecdote from your younger days.
INFERNO: In early days Polish scene was completely different and more close-knit. Live shows and the audience were more crazy and unpredictable. I really miss those days. I remember when we played together with Deicide in Katowice (Poland) and security used extinguishers to cool the crowd because the organizer allowed too many people inside and they pissed on the floor and on each other while the bands played on stage.
MBI: We would like to know the names of some extreme musicians as yourselves have on your playlist. Are there any artists in particular you’d recommend us to listen to? What other genres/artists would we find in your playlist?
INFERNO: Actually you can find on my player great Polish bands like: Kriegsmaschine, Cultes Des Ghoules, Mgla, Voidhanger, Mord a Stigmata and many more. Most of these bands are underground but you’ll find there are a lot of elements which make their music very unique.
MBI: What are the things that influence all of you on a human level? What genre of movies do you watch, books, etc?
INFERNO: When I wonder about literature then I need to enumerate H.P Lovecraft, E. A. Poe, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, F. Dostoyevski. I don’t waste my time watching TV but there are some good movies I like with very disturbing perception like Begotten, Twin Peaks or Valhalla Rising.
MBI: We tend to ask this to all of our favourite artists we get the opportunity to speak with: What is your opinion as musicians as the everlasting rift between the Old school Metalheads and the so-called Modern metalheads? Do you feel there is anything to be gained by labelling and lumping art and its patrons into a definite category or would you be more than happy to know that there are people who listen to Mainstream/Pop music have actually started liking Metal after listening to your music?
ORION: Although I’m not trying to categorize people this way, still I don’t really get this entire new school metal thing. I can’t really feel and hear the difference between bands in ‘modern’ metal music. Bands sound exactly the same to me; I can’t really feel any spirit, anything special in this music. Actually I’d rather listen to mainstream music than to modern metal and all this crap. I’m rather searching back in time regarding metal music and what I enjoy listening is rather old school, the older I am, the further back in time I go. At the same time – there’s a lot of new bands, mostly European, and mostly Scandinavian – which are just amazing today. They’re not really following any trend in metal; they rather grow up on all classics and find their own way to cope with it. Actually, most of the new good music comes from this territory of the world in my opinion. I have no idea what’s so special about this geographical location, but if I had kids, I’d like them to go to music school in Sweden. Apparently it teaches good habits and taste. As for our fans – they come from all directions. There are people who liked us since the very beginning, there’s some who we won on the way to the point where we are now, and there’s some who are turning to us by now, coming from other music genres. It’s all music, what matters here is the good music, not its genre. It’s not a surprise to see a gentleman in a suit or a family with kids at Behemoth shows and I think that’s amazing.
MBI: In the last few years India has seen a downpour of industry greats such as Gojira, Testament, Slayer, Meshuggah, Textures and Megadeth, which is a solid proof backing the theory that India’s Metal Familia is growing exponentially. Are there any Metal bands from India that you are aware of?
ORION: Not really. And I just spoke to my band mates here and they too don’t really recall any names. I remember seeing one good Indian band on this Kathmandu festival, but exactly – I have no idea. You guys definitely need some more recognition here. And yeah, I heard that there was a band called ‘Orion’ in India hahahah… Don’t know anything about it though :)
MBI: Last of all, as is protocol, this is your space. Is there anything you would like to convey to your fans, especially the ardent Indian ones?
ORION: Hopefully we’ll be seeing you guys soon. We need to make it happen and finally make it to India. Keep it up, stay strong and fight for what you need in your lives. Eventually, at some point, it will all make sense.