Пустош - Interview
Musicians who mix metal music and epic poetry might not be a novelty to most people, but in Serbia they aren't that common these days, at least the good examples. One of such examples is the epic black metal band Pustoš from Inđija, which has been quite active in these past two years since the release of their debut album "Suton". In the meantime, the band received a cult following in the metal scene, reaching a respectable status among fans who frequently attended their shows. Their reputation got increasingly bigger and better after performing as an opening act for Russian atmospheric black metal band Grima on March 8th this year, while recently they shared the stage with two other well known Serbian black metal bands, Svartgren and Šakal. Although I have been very close with the band members in these past few years, I always wanted to know a bit more about the band's background and their overall artistic direction. So for this occasion, I've decided to exchange some words about Pustoš with their vocalist, bassist and founding member Vožd. Please join me as we speak about the band's history, the current lineup, their upcoming album and some other things along the way.
Greetings Vožd! First and foremost, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew.
Greetings! It is great to be here and thank you kindly for the invitation! Best regards to the whole MetalBite crew, and to you too, dear reader.
First, I would like to start things off by asking you a few questions about the band's history. Could you please tell us about how you guys managed to get together as a band? How did you come down to the decision of forming an epic black metal band and what is the story behind the name Pustoš ("wasteland" in Serbian)?
Well, Zmaj had a dream of creating a black metal band for a long time. Ever since he got into black metal probably. So, naturally he bore me to death (laughs) to join him in this project, mostly because I started learning bass guitar and because we are on the same wavelengths when it comes to the music that we like. But I didn't want to join him all those years because I thought I wasn't skilled enough to participate in such a thing. So I finally gave in to the idea in 2019 when Pustoš was officially born. As for the name, well it was simple. We had a brainstorming session of what our name should be, so that we can basically build our identity over it. We needed something dark but meaningful. After a while, we translated the name of the Icelandic band Auðn (as we had just listened to their album at the time) and got a verb with a meaning along the lines of "desolating" (pustošenje)... so we just shortened it to Pustoš (Wasteland).
Pustoš has been very active recently and quite successful with their last gig with two other black metal bands Svartgren and Šakal. I still have flashbacks when I was attending your show, and I still remember how insane it was and how the whole club was packed with fans. Looking back from your earlier gigs up to this one, do you feel like you have achieved a lot as a band in these 2 years from doing gigs and selling merch? Also, do you believe that Pustoš managed to gain a wider attention?
Hard question (laughs). Honestly it is always hard to observe a personal path - in this case personal meaning of the whole band. Because we do believe that we have achieved and improved a lot as gigs and time pass by, but we don't know if that is objectively true. But as you asked, do we feel that way... absolutely. When it comes to the growth of the band in all aspects, we believe that we are steam-rolling up a great hill and that great things are yet to come. So have we gained wider attention? ...depends on what you consider a wider attention. But we sure have reached, and are constantly reaching new metalheads, more bands and gig/concert organizers. Which is really important. Constant, steady growth. And just to reflect on the aforementioned gig and in line with the questions asked... It was the first gig that I heard the front row crowd sing (from videos after the gig) one of the lyrics, in unison. To me, that says a lot.
Not long ago before that, you opened for the Russian atmospheric black metal band Grima in Belgrade when performing in Atom Akademija. The show was packed with your local fans from Serbia and with Russian metalheads as well. How did it feel to perform as an opening act for a well received modern black metal band such as Grima? Did any of the Russian metalheads reach up to you after the gig and give you any feedback?
Well, feelings are personal, so I'm going to express mine obviously. The gig felt just like any other to be honest. It's a different thing when you play in front of a band that you really looked up to on your musical journey, and Grima is not one of those bands for me. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy their music, but it wasn't a driving emotional factor in my being for me to feel a difference on stage (and before the gig itself when bands hang out together). The other thing in this equation of course is (and let's see how many people agree) that you treat your band, and especially your live shows like a job. Before heading out, you make sure you pack everything, at the venue and during sound check you make sure that everything is fine and in place, during the show you both focus on what you're playing and also try to stay relaxed enough to feel your music and transfer it to the listener. Quite a task. As for Russian metalheads attending the show, even though they didn't express emotions in the crowd like our people, they were observing closely and have given feedback. And believe me, all of it was positive. As always I was behind the merch table so most of the feedback I've heard myself as they have recognized me from the stage. One guy even brought strong drinks for everyone around the table for a shot and cheers!
That was also your first gig with the new member Grobokoza, who joined as the band's second guitarist and is currently the youngest member in the band. How did he manage to fit with the rest of you, especially since Pustoš has existed and performed as a three-piece for quite a while?
Quite honestly, and now that even more time has passed by since that gig, Grobokoza fit in quite well. Of course he had a few struggles with some techniques that we use, but it was nothing that couldn't be ironed-out through practice, which is for every praise. As he had joined only one month before the gig and mind you, we don't have tabs, so he had to learn by ear, through videos and of course by visiting Zmaj and practicing songs with him. So I hope he, and actually all four of us continue like this, and all will be well. But yes, I could say we all adapted quite well, as a second guitar was much needed since it further enriches our sound.
Pustoš has a very unique and recognizable sound, and I don't think that you can compare it to any other band despite noticing various influences from black metal to doom metal to viking metal and even sludge metal. I know this might be a very bothersome question to ask, but be itmetal or non-metal, what were the biggest musical influences for Pustoš? Are there any particular bands you look up to?
It is not bothersome at all, believe me. We always love to talk about our influences and the music that we listen to, because it really is a conglomerate of those various metal subgenres you mentioned, and more. To state some: For Zmaj it would be Tony Iommi, Quorthon, Varg Vikernes, Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), even Lightnin Hopkins to name a few. Morgoth on the other hand I know loves the playstyles of Darkside (Mgła) and Mario Duplantier (Gojira). For myself I'd name Raivo Piirsalu (Metsatöll), Alexey Solovyov (ex-Alkonost), Geezer Butler and Peter Steele, of which Alexey was probably the reason I picked up the bass guitar and fell in love with its sound. As for Grobokoza we still haven't talked that thoroughly about influences, but I know Jon Nödtveidt is one of them for sure. Also one of the bands that we really look up to, besides the aforementioned, in terms of general sound is our native Serbian force - All My Sins. As you can see it is a large array of various sounds, and the human brain as it is, absorbs everything. We aren't trying to directly copy anyone, so if you hear a distinct playing or writing style in our music, it is just because of that.
I also noticed that Pustoš has very poetic and imaginative lyrics in each song, so I would like to know are there any other influences outside of music, be it poetry, literature or even film?
To be honest, there is none that we can specifically point out to. We can all name a few bands that are heavily inspired by Tolkien, Lovecraft, Edgar Alan Poe, etc. But in our case it's different. When it comes to writing lyrics, we strive for the purest emotion that is our own, from which we can grab onto and try to pull out the best from it. Writing lyrics "out of the blue" and just shooting them out was always a problem, at least for me. A partial example of this were the lyrics for Suton (the song) which were written only one day before recording the vocals. So personally, I always have to intensely immerse myself into the role that I'm trying to portray in order to make it as believable as possible, which always leaves me drained out. To top everything off, we usually first write instrumentals and then lyrics, so we also incorporate the feelings the riffs give us and let them guide us to the subject of our song.
I always regarded Pustoš as one of Serbia's new generation of black metal bands including Strahor, Praznina, Šakal, Chaoist, Aura Mortis, Ljuska and others. What is your overall opinion about the local black metal scene? Do you think that these bands are successfully maintaining the genre's core foundation and creative drive despite being a part of a small scene?
Oh, it's strong. In my humble opinion, within the Serbian extreme scene, black metal is the third most dominant subgenre. First of course being thrash metal, tightly fighting with the second place held by hardcore punk and crossover. Which is not all too surprising for all of the mentioned styles, considering the living standards in this country and all of the things which "plague it". So of course, these types of lifestyles make a lot of emotions within a man burst to the boiling point. It's just that each group of musicians takes it to their own extreme world. As for the black metal genre and the sound itself, within the Serbian metal scene, I'd say that the bands are keeping the foundation and creative drive, but also pushing it further, which is of course perfectly normal and expected. What I wanted to say is that, despite some bands maybe having clear inspirations in other bands, they are still pushing their own sounds, their own story, and their own understanding of the sound. The more time passes the more bands I see emerge which really have a greatly rounded up sound which is their own and which is handled perfectly. So yes, if the Serbian black metal scene keeps pushing like this, it's going to reach great new heights!
It's been two years since you released your debut album Suton, which was followed by the band performing the entirety of Suton everywhere you went in these past two years and pretty much a majority of local black metal fans became familiar with your songs. Although during your last gig, the things shifted as you performed one of your new songs as an instrumental, adding a new piece to the setlist. Have you been working on any new songs recently? What can the audience expect from Pustoš when it comes to the band's future material?
Exactly. We have played so many times in Novi Sad in these two years that we decided to at least treat the fans with the new instrumental of the song that we're working on. And when it comes to said songs, we actually never stopped creating new stuff (as one should). As every artist, of course, you have some dry spells here and there but the main drive is always present. So we do have a few instrumentals almost complete, only waiting for lyrics to determine if some riff lengths need changing, or even sometimes complete changing of the riffs and creating new ones to better suit the lyrics and singing style. Hence why I said it was almost complete.As for the future material, the audience can expect a lot of different things. With all the mentioned influences that just pour out of our hands when we play, songs oftentimes can sound very distinct from each other. So now we're basically separating them by category and rounding them up for future material. But the general consensus is that the next album will have Slavic folk influences, even more ambient songs and possibly a more melodic sound. We don't know exactly until we sit down and put everything in place. So you'll just have to wait and see.
So far, how do you see the band's future at this moment? Do you think that this year will be a great one for Pustoš and do you think that the band will get a chance to perform outside Serbian grounds?
On this question I will stay silent. For every time that we have expressed our plans or ambitions out loud, have they always gotten dragged, delayed, or slowed down. Be it our deep-rooted Slavic belief in a sort of jinx, very probably has. So we will only be patient and let the time tell its tale.
Thank you so much for doing this interview Vožd! I hope we'll get to hear the new Pustoš material quite soon. Are there any final words you'd like to leave to your fans?
Thank you very much Vladimir, as well as the Metalbite crew, for this honor! I also hope that we get to hear new Pustoš material soon (laughs). For the end of the interview: Thank you for reading my mile-long blabbering and never stop exploring... not just the music, but everything else in the world and in your life. Stay strong, stay true to yourself and never stop!
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