Conquering The World (Interview with Behemoth)

19.09.2001  :: АрхивАрхив интервью Автор: Andrey Kugaevskiy

Behemoth is the band that doesn’t require any special introductions. Hailing from Poland, they were born as a classic guitar-driven black metal band which slowly gathered strength and gained world-wide recognition with «Grom», released in 1996. After proving that the band can play black metal on par with the genre’s maestros, Behemoth slowly started to transform into a death metal beast, releasing one strong album after another. «Pandemonic Incantations» was followed by «Satanica», ungodly brutal yet melodic death metal masterpiece, showing not much black metal roots, but opting for Slayeresque thrash riffs based on a flesh-ripping brutal death metal percussion instead. While «tr00» black metal kids went apeshit, all other fans of extreme music embraced the change with utmost joy. «Satanica» was rightfully hailed as one of the best extreme music albums issued in 1999, and everybody was waiting for the next album. Some people hoped that the beast will return to its black metal roots, some were eager to witness more brutality. Behemoth returned in the late 2000 with its new antireligious anthem entitled «Thelema.6» which turned to be more death metal and more brutal than ever. Thus the transformation was somewhat complete and I gladly used my chance to interview the mastermind behind the beast, lurking under the name «Nergal». To my amusement the interview turned out to be rather strange. Judge by yourselves:

— (AK) It goes without saying that Behemoth is a popular and well-known name in extreme music scene. Nonetheless, what would you like to tell our readers about the band and its history?

— (N) Well, it’s been around 10 years now, so it’s rather useless to start talking about the history of the band, etc., don’t You think? [Methinks that talking about history is useless only if there’s no history at all, otherwise it’s nice to put things in historical perspective, don’t You think? —AK] But still I can say what we’ve always stood for throughout the whole existence: determination, dedication and the will to improve and move to yet unknown dimensions of musical expression. It’s the same aim today as it was 10 years before; the only difference is the distance we’ve learned, the distance to ourselves, to the scene, the band, business etc. It’s something that makes us feel healthy and probably will keep us goin’ next ten years. [That’s what I wanted to hear in reply. Thanks. —AK]

— (AK) Keeping in mind band’s purely black metal origin, the answer to this question looks pretty obvious, but anyway — why have you chosen this name? What meaning do you put in it? Does it influence the band’s music and lyrics? Why «Behemoth» and not, say, «Leviathan»?

— (N) Because it fit this band, it simply sounds good. I like this name, it’s definitely something that influenced the style, etc. Why not Leviathan? Well, I don’t think we would have been the only Leviathan if we had chosen that name back than. [C’mon, man, I used this name as an example. —AK] You see, we called the band Baphomet in ’91 but of course there were 10 Baphomets around, we were forced to find alternative name yet sounding similar, and fitable to what we did.

— (AK) What music have you been listening to when you just started the band? Have your tastes changed in any way since then? What music do you prefer to listen to now?

— (N) Yeah, I transform all the time, ha-ha! Back then I was in love with such acts as Beherit, Blasphemy, Morbid Angel, Necroschizma (does anyone remember them?) and Samael. Those were my gods. I still have a great respect to them but I’m much more open minded; it’s not only extreme stuff I listen to, for instance, today I got last Stabbing Westwards album which I find pretty enjoyable. Also the last Slipknot album sounds great, though it’s still VERY extreme band. [It’s nice to see open-minded people like you in extreme music scene. —AK]

— (AK) What are your current favorite albums and musicians?

— (N) Well, I adore Ian Astbury and The Cult. The same goes to Glen Danzig and all his bands, I love Misfits, Samhain and Danzig equally. Morbid Angel never let me down with their outstanding records, which You surely can hear in Behemoth’s songs, ha-ha. Last Nick Cave’s album is also pretty cool, really dark and atmospheric. New Depeche Mode simply kills, I love them; yesterday I saw their performance and it blew me away. Great rock band! Speaking about death or black metal, I noticed Nile which does something very original and individual, it’s probably the biggest hope of this genre. Yes, they rule. I’m looking forward to start the tour with Nile we’re supposed to do this fall. [Behemoth & Nile tour? Sounds killer! —AK]

— (AK) Have your musical tastes ever influenced Behemoth’s music? What bands have influenced you the most back then and what bands (if any) influence you now?

— (N) I’ve mentioned most of them I guess… [Oh really? And what about the «back then» part? And if the answer to the first question is an automatic «yes», then why I can’t hear the influences from Depeche Mode in your music? —AK]

— (AK) Who is the main songwriter and who handles the lyrics? What comes first?

— (N) There’s no rule. Sometimes it’s the melody that comes somewhere from within and then come the lyrics, sometimes it’s the lyrics that influence the music, so You see, it differs. I write 95% of the riffs. We work collectively on the arrangements. I also write most of the lyrics though I still share this duty with my friend, Kristofer.

— (AK) Can you please tell how your lyrical topics have been changing throughout the years? Are the lyrics as important for you as the music?

— (N) Yes, it’s all -very- important to me, really. Music is the essential part of my life and it surely pays a huge role in this earthly existence. No doubts about it. I’ve been through everything I would say, ha-ha. Yes, some still can’t undertand why Behemoth was changing so drastically from record to another but that’s the way I am. When I feel that I run out of ideas, I simply move to something more influential at the time. I’ve always been into history, occult and stuff like that, but I guess on each next album I become more and more personal and straight, but that’s just my impression. [Nice to see someone who cares so much about the lyrics. —AK]

— (AK) Can you guide our readers through all the line-up changes Behemoth has suffered through the ages and the reasons behind them, if it’s not too boring for you? [If it is, you may tell us a joke, I’ll appreciate it. —AK]

— (N) Hm, I prefere joke in that case, ha-ha. [So where is the joke, huh? —AK] The point behind all those changes is that I really stopped even paying any attention to them, I simply do what I love myself not taking care for others. The music speaks for itself, not people. Ok, yeah, I have to admit that the present line up seems to be very stable and we get along really well, but You never know what happens next. I have to be prepered for everything, that’s the way life is.

— (AK) What do you think of your music from pre-«Satanica» era right now? Are you still proud of it? What songs from the early albums do you usually play live?

— (N) I’m proud of everything I did. Well, maybe except the mistake called «Endless Damnation», the first demo-rehearsal we released officially; it’s so crappy that I almost love it, ha-ha. Yeah, all I’ve done is a kind of a diary so it’d be rather stupid if I’d try to deny it. I like «Pandemonic Incantations» a lot. It was the first ‘conscious’ album we made, it started the new era for us, the new beginning, we proved we could handle our instruments finally, ha-ha.

— (AK) Do you put any particular meaning in album covers or you just find the picture that looks good and will probably fit the concept?

— (N) Both, I need to enjoy everything we make as a fan, I always put myself in a position of fan and if I like it, we keep the idea.

— (AK) Starting with «Satanica», you’ve apparently gained many death metal fans who obviously like the strong death metal influences in your music. I’d say that from the musical standpoint your two last albums are pure brutal death metal with obvious thrash influences (rhythms- and riffs-wise) on «Satanica», and with little or no black metal at all. Personally I really love the change, but what about good ol’ «tr00 black metal» fans? Have you received any complaints about the gradual «death-metallization» of your music? If you did, does it bother you? Do you still call yourselves a black metal band or you prefer to think about Behemoth as a band playing «extreme metal» or «extreme music», just like your fellow countrymen from Vader do?

— (N) I consider myself and my band as an extreme act, simple. We still bring some black metal traditions in our music. If some can’t hear it, it’s their problem. [You mean, if I can’t hear a bit of black metal on «Thelema…», it’s my problem? I don’t think that it’s a -problem-, You know, especially keeping in mind my general dislike of BM. While «Satanica» definitely has its share of typical BM-riffs (which didn’t actually spoil the music), «Thelema…» is so BM-less that the only BM «tradition» that can be found there is Your high screamy vocals, don’t You think? —AK] Yeah, sure, there are always people who complain but who cares? I don’t. [So, You don’t give a crap about what your fans think? —AK]

— (AK) Speaking about fellow countrymen, what is your relationship with other Polish bands? Do you have any problems with the so-called «tr00 black metal» bands or it’s hardly a problem for a band of Behemoth’s caliber? What do you think of NSBM (national-socialist(ic) black metal) and people like Rob Darken?

— (N) I don’t think about them. I’m only into serious bands and people who are trustworthy and solid, the rest can fuck off.

— (AK) One more question on NSBM: don’t you think that it’s just another trend? I think that satanism and black metal in general had quickly became so trendy because of the kids who listened to it and considered themselves «extreme» and «scary» satanists, and now, when your typical 12-years old teenager is wearing DarkThrone and Dimmu Borgir T-shirts, they can’t do it anymore and they seek for another extremities like NSBM, so that when they find it, they can consider themselves «extreme» and «scary» again. Do you think that this NSMB trend will soon wear off and these people will be searching for whatever thing they can use to separate themselves from the others, to put themselves, common «uncommon people» above the common «common people»?

— (N) I don’t give a fuck. Have no opinion, sorry. [That’s what I call «elaborate and insightful reply», guys. —AK]

— (AK) Okay, enough about kids, your progress on the last two albums is really admirable — Behemoth surely doesn’t sound like any other black metal or death metal band. Do you think that you’ve finally found your sound? What changes we could hear in Behemoth’s music in the near future?

— (N) I would’t agree that we are original. [This stunt has left me literally speechless. —AK] There are -a lot- of things from Morbid Angel to Slayer, but it’s really not a problem for me. [I guess so, because if it would’ve been a problem for You, You wouldn’t have talked about it. —AK] I just enjoy playing this kind of music and I believe people can easly notice that we are in this for real. You can’t fool people, they are smart and know when You’re trying to fuck around, really.

— (AK) What were the bands you’ve toured with? What was the relationship with them? What bands you’d like to tour with one more time? Any bands you’ve never toured with, but you’d like to?

— (N) Well, we’ve toured with the biggest black/death metal acts like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Satyricon, Cradle Of Filth, etc., and we went quite well with most of them. Well, I’d love to join Slayer one day and I’m sure it -is- possible! [I wish your dream will come true one day, Slayer & Behemoth show would’ve been a total killer. —AK]

— (AK) Are you satisfied with you current label’s Behemoth-related activity?

— (N) Yes, indeed. They do a great job for us. We still record for them one more album than we’ll see, but it’s quite possible we’ll stay on {Avantgarde} if they offer us a good contract.

— (AK) Is it hard for you to sing and play simultaneously?

— (N) No, I got used to this. Of course I sometimes might have problems with the new songs which obviously are more structured and detailed, but I say no, it’s just in my blood now.

— (AK) What is your favorite Behemoth album and song(s)?

— (N) Last two records are the best, no doubts. Can’t mention any songs now, I like them all I think.

— (AK) What do you think about the strong tendency in modern music to mix different styles, create crossovers that weren’t even imaginable several years ago? Do you approve or disapprove it?

— (N) Well, this crossover in most cases sounds like shit but Slipknot is cool for instance, last Korn album is also cool, Machine Head kicks ass, Amen is good. It’s all about the same I would say, there’s a lot of punk, metal and -core influences, sometimes it’s interesting.

— (AK) What do you think of the bands that use gory lyrics? Do you view this kind of lyrics as a bad joke or as a musical equivalent of horror movies or as something else?

— (N) I don’t know, it’s not my cup of tea.

— (AK) Do you take seriously typical BM lyrics about «forest trolls of Satan» (to quote Dying Fetus) and other stuff of the same ilk? Do you think that such lyrics now are rarely something more than emotionless cliche?

— (N) I take seriously everything that’s serious and honest no matter what subject is. [Man, it’s obvious, the question is whether such lyrics -are- serious and honest. —AK]

— (AK) What was the most shocking listening experience you’ve ever had? What black metal albums you consider to be the milestones of the genre?

— (N) I guess Ulver must be one of the biggest surprises. The most shocking evolution, but still highly appreciated!

— (AK) What do you like more — to tour, to play local shows or to work in the studio?

— (N) I like everything. Really, I almost never rest. I always work with the band. It’s interviews, rehearsals, touring and studio work. It’s all part of the same sometimes tired but after all very enjoyable work! [Call me an obnoxious prick, but judging by your answers I don’t think You were enjoying this interview. —AK]

— (AK) What are your thoughts about narcotics? Drinks? What do you think about using drugs as a «creativity steroids»? Do you play drunk/stoned sometimes?

— (N) Never. We have this key principle in the band that we never get wasted before the shows. We try to act as much professional as we can. After the show it’s everybody’s own business what they do, and of course they usually go fuckin’ crazy of course. But that’s part of rock’n’roll, isn’t it? [Sure. But if retching in the lavatory pan in the morning is a part of rock’n’roll, I don’t want to have anything in common with it. —AK]

— (AK) Do you think that corpsepaint has lost its original meaning and is currently used only as a «label» showing that the bands using it consider themselves to be a part of the BM scene? Do you still use corpsepaint regularly? Are you putting any particular meaning in it?

— (N) Yes, we use it, but I guess in a different way than others.. We will still paint ourselves as it simply fits this band and music. I don’t analyse what other bands do, I don’t care.

— (AK) Judging by the title of your last album, you’re really high on Aleister Crowley, huh? :) What books by Crowley have influenced your personal views?

— (N) No books, just some of his doctrines and ideas. I find it very innovative though it’s mostly inspired by eastern beliefs. But of course I have to mention LIBER AL VEL LEGIS as one of the most influencial works he did, no doubts about it.

— (AK) It would be criminally stupid to interview a black metal band and forget to ask them about their (anti)religious position, right? Do you consider yourself a Satanist, an atheist, an agnostic or maybe someone else? If you’re into Satanism, what branch of it do you follow: «traditional» devil worship, La Vey’s Church Of Satan, Crowley’s Left Hand Path or Nietzsche’s egocentrism/satanism?

— (N) I’m on my own path. You might call it whatever You want. [How can I «call it whatever I want» when You don’t even bother explaining it? —AK] I never put myself in one box, I’m a bit of everything [Everything?! —AK] and of course I hate religions ’cause they limit you, that’s obvious.

— (AK) Poland is considered to be a country with a strong Catholic influence. Do the bands playing extreme music have any additional problems and difficulties connected with the Catholic church? Is it true that there are a lot of evil grannies with frying pans screaming «Jesus loves you» and running after anyone with long hair and metal T-shirt? What reward do you get when you shoot them down?

— (N) No, it’s more about the old people, they are into this catholic traditions, the new generation is so far beyond this, it’s more into money, sex and drugs, that’s a new religion.

— (AK) You like to use the number 69 — does it have any «sacral», esoteric meaning or, it’s your, erm… favorite position? :)

— (N) Heh, I’d better let You make up your mind and find out for yourself. [Find out for myself whether 69 is your favorite position?! Oops… I think I’ll pass this one. *lol* —AK]

— (AK) What do you think about the current state of extreme music scene in Poland?

— (N) It’s good. Not great but good with a certain amount of very talented death metal bands.

— (AK) What are your thoughts about the Internet? Does it help or hurt the bands? What about mp3s and Napster?

— (N) I dunno… [I didn’t know that this question is so hard to answer… —AK]

— (AK) What do the band members do in their free time? Does the band rehearse a lot? What equipment do you use?

— (N) We do a usual shit everyday, but still a lot concering the band. We use Gibson and Yamaha guitars and Marshall amps.

— (AK) Is it possible for Behemoth to earn their living by only playing the music? Even the bands from States are having a tough time earning enough money to cover their daily expenses, and it looks like earning your living is an impossible task for a band playing extreme music and residing in Poland.

— (N) Well, I manage to make my living from the band. And I still have to pay my rent and fuel my car, so… it’s not bad and it seems it goes in a good direction now.

— (AK) What do you think about the future of the extreme music?

— (N) Rather in bright colours I would say.

— (AK) Do you think that creator can do everything that is okay with his/her inner sense?

— (N) Definitely.

— (AK) What do you know about Russia? What Russian bands do you know?

— (N) No bands, sorry. What I know about your country is that it’s rather cold there and people drink a lot, ha-ha. But seriously, I was highly surprised by the way we were invited there, by your kindness and dedication. Russian people seem to be very straight and honest in personal relations, and I really admire that. I also noticed Your woman are probably the most beatiful I’ve ever seen. [Hell yeah! :) —AK]

— (AK) Irond, one of Russian labels, has licensed your last album for distribuion in Russia and CIS-states. What do you think of it? You played live in Moscow last year — did you like the crowd and do you plan to play more shows in Russia?

— (N) It was amazing. We already got an offer to do another few shows there and we’ll surely come back as soon we can. [Thanks for the good news. —AK]

— (AK) If you were told that there are 24 hours left before the end of the world, how would you’ve spent these 24 hours?

— (N) Maybe contemplating, listening to my fave records, visiting my ex-girlfriends and friends. Yeah, I guess so.

— (AK) Your dearest dream?

— (N) I won’t tell You. [I was asking about Your dearest dream as a musician, it wasn’t THAT personal. —AK]

— (AK) If you would have ever had a chance to go back and change something that happened or not happened, what would you have changed in the history of Behemoth?

— (N) Nothing, all that took place led me where I am now and I’m definitely happy about it.

— (AK) What will be the future of Behemoth? How would you like the fans of Behemoth to remember it?

— (N) Lotsa touring, conquering the world with intense shows and blasting records. Nothing more to add.

— (AK) Any questions I didn’t ask that you wish I had? :)

— (N) I don’t think so, ha-ha.

— (AK) Any final words for the readers?

— (N) Keep on rockin’!!

— (AK) Thanks for the interview, Nergal! We would also like to thank Jim Forst, publicist for Olympic Recordings, for his invaluable help with this interview.

Visit official Behemoth site @ behemoth.metalkings.com

Visit Olympic Recordings site @ www.olympicrecordings.com

Visit Avantgarde Music site @ www.avantgardemusic.com

E-mail Behemoth @ nergal69[AT]poczta.onet.pl

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