Behemoth - Interview
Finally! After years of sweat and blood, hard work and dedication Behemoth invaded North American shores and did what every fan of extreme sounds would expect; they destroyed every place they put their foot on. On the stage they left ashes, in the bars they left empty bottles, in hotels... you don't want to know. But that's just one side of this multidimensional band. Visually, musically and lyrically Nergal and Co. live up to the bands name and with every album deliver even bigger, more monstrous and powerful creations proving Behemoth has their place at the top of extreme metal world. Behemoth is an art where every element has its value and meaning, and "Zos Kia Cultus" is its testimony. If you haven't already heard it do yourself a favor and boost your miserable life with one of the best releases of the last few years and one that will put them into cult status in the future. Mark my words – you've heard it here first! So, without further overdue I give voice to one of the most charismatic people I had pleasure to meet, Nergal, mastermind behind the beast called Behemoth.
First of all I want to congratulate you on outstanding new album "Zos Kia Cultus". It's not only my best album of the year but if I could judge it by the number of spins it's getting close to becoming one of the best ones of all time (to tell you the truth one copy already stopped playing). Did you expect such rave reviews from all over the world?
Well, yes and no, because you never know what to expect when you put out each new album. But, since we spent so much time on writing this album, the production and mixing... man, it took us two months just to complete the recording process. It was never that time consuming and intense. We just knew how good "Thelema.6" was. Therefore we became even more demanding towards ourselves, more critical. I took guitar lessons months before we entered the studio. It seems like it all paid off... we gained so much positive feedback from all over the world. Yeah, it still surprises me somehow though I always try to keep the healthy distance in these matters.
A few months ago you completed your first 2 tours in the United States. Are you satisfied with fan's response, did those tours meet your expectations, and did anything surprise you?
So far it was one of the best experiences ever! Really, I mean, first of all, touring the US and touring Europe is so much different. It's just totally different world, but we felt so much excitement about this American affair, you know? And surprisingly, as a band from nowhere, and we're just a newcomer over there, we got extremely good feedback from the crowd and unbelievably strong support from both the fans and our label, Century Media.
It seems now that we will expand even more in the future. We believe this kind of extreme metal has huge future prospects in this country, and the US is an endless market for metal. Not that limited as the European one. It just feels good to go there and play in front of totally new people, who've never experienced Behemoth. I had this feeling all the time that we were winning new fans. It was something in the air, you know?
Were those tours anything you imagined them to be? It seems like some bands have very high expectations before coming here and leave somehow disappointed, on the other hand some can't wait to come back. What impression did States and its fans leave on you?
As I said, very positive. It was my first visit to the US ever so everything was so new and fresh to me. And after touring Europe over and over again it was just very refreshing. The great time we had in Hollywood and New York are some of the best times I've ever had.
One of the reasons I saw 3 Behemoth shows during your last two visits was Behemoth's stage presence. You literally eat, drink and breathe metal. The energy coming from you guys is simply incredible. Any band playing after you had a tough task at hand keeping the energy level so high and I could see some of them were not too happy about it. In many cases the crowd was getting smaller after your show, especially on tour with Amon Amarth and Deicide. Were you the reason that Deicide pulled out from the middle of the tour?
No... I guess not. [Laughs] I feel flattered, but both bands, and especially Deicide, have a cult following in the US. We truly respect those guys. They were always very helpful and respectful to us. They're awesome guys indeed, and a great band to tour with. But on the other hand, death metal tours are in a way a rivalry, but in a healthy way. It's always good to have great bands on the tour because you can watch them, and this might give you some kind of inspiration. That happens when you tour with Morbid Angel, Nile, or the mighty Danzig.
As we all know it wouldn't be the first time that band gives up after dealing with you for a longer period of time. What's the official version for Khold leaving the European tour? Unofficial has a lot of drinking and sex involved...
Yes... but I don't want to say much about it [laughs]. It makes people gossip and I hate it. Khold just didn't take things easy. They couldn't handle touring with a rock 'n' roll kind of band, that's true [laughs].
Before we dive into your last record, could you give us some detail of your future touring plans and when can we expect you back in States, and with whom if it's already known?
Well, it's too early to say but we might be back soon. With a great bill, but as I said, it's too early to say anything. Let's wait... we are doing some one off shows in the summer, Israel, Finland, Germany, Czech, and focusing on new songs. There is some stuff already composed, so...
Speaking of new stuff, after such a huge success with "Zos Kia Cultus" do you feel any pressure composing new material? I know that most probably you would end Behemoth if you didn't feel that way but do you think that you can top "Zos Kia Cultus" with the music you compose right now?
In a way we feel a pressure, but let's be honest, it's always the same feeling, the responsibility you take recording such albums, you know? But I'm pretty sure we can top it. At least we will try. We always do. We simply give 100% and work as hard possible to reach the best possible results. In all the cases so far, it worked out for us. We have never recorded an album worse than its predecessor.
What can we expect from the new material? Is Behemoth going to be even faster and more brutal or do you plan on shocking the metal world with few surprises?
Yes, of course [laughs]. To be honest, yes, the new material seems to be even more furious and brutal. There will be a lot of really heavy parts, like on "Zos Kia Cultus," but I think we will just go further with the heaviness, as well as with the blast parts. More technical, more varied, more intelligent, more of everything!
While for the last two albums you used 7-string guitars do you think that you can take it a step further and use 8-string? Behemoth with 8-strings... that would literally destroy my speakers.
No, that's ridiculous. I mean, I recently saw Meshuggah in L.A. and they totally blew the place out but those guitars don't sound like guitars anymore. It's as if they used bass guitars. We always try to keep it natural and to not exaggerate...
You always mention that life is your main inspiration. What happened between "Thelma.6" and "Zos Kia Cultus" that makes the overall atmosphere of those two albums differ so much?
Well, a lot of things, but what you can hear on the albums reflect what was the most essential. I turned to fucking stone. I'm stronger than ever as a persona, you know? I've never been that confident with who I am and what I do here, on planet earth.
Even though you used this same studio, everything on "Zos Kia Cultus" is taken to the next level. Is it experience, better equipment or combination of both? Do you plan on using Hendrix for your new release?
Yes, it's a great studio with so many possibilities. Just take last two albums, they both sound great but at the same time so different. We keep our individuality, and this I think is essential for this band.
Why do you stick to analog equipment? You don't trust new technology?
I trust digital, I really do, but we will never reach the same warmth of sound using only digital. It's dead, if you know what I mean. Digital is dead, while analogue means alive. Using both technologies gives the best results. The new quality with the traditional stuff... the best mix ever.
OK, the cover of "Zos Kia Cultus" is fantastic but I've got used to seeing your face on it. Where did this change come from?
Well, if it's my face on the front cover than I must be a goat! It just happened man. I mean, one day I became a goat [laughs]!
As always, the visual part of "Zos Kia Cultus" is thought out to the smallest detail. How important is the visual aspect of your music?
It's essential and the same as music. Especially these days, when kids burn CD's and when they download the stuff from the Internet. I have to make sure that buying a Behemoth album they will get the best quality possible. Music, production, cover artwork... simply everything. And the result is really nice sales. Not as great as they could have been, but still satisfying. But, if people will stop buying albums one day, which unfortunately is happening now, the labels and the end the bands will die. So, fans, it's up to you. Buy music legally, or let the bands rot! Sad but true.
I believe that real music fans will always buy CDs and I think it's especially valid statement in the underground world... metal fans always were and I believe always will be about quality, originality and being loyal to their favorite bands. I would never replace my music collection with few hard drives filled with MP3s, would you?
Well, of course not. It means a lot to me. I'm emotionally connected to my collection too. I believe it won't be that bad, though. But I do think it's necessary to warn people about the situation.
"Zos Kia Cultus" starts with English speaking radio going through religious channels to finally find Behemoth? What was the idea behind this? Is your music an alternative to religion?
It's about the contrast, you know? All these catholic radio preachers turn into Crowley's speech. It's controversial, it's magic... I don't know what more to say but it perfectly fits the atmosphere of the album. And it's one of the most powerful intros we could have come up with for such an album. It just works out for this album.
Do you have prophetic dreams? I mean, someone could translate that intro as a sign of finally bringing Behemoth to the States and then you end up on Danzig's Blackest of the Black tour, which is exactly the title of one of the songs. Care to explain?
No, I don't have any, but I'm huge Danzig fan by the way. That should speak for itself [laughs].
Throughout the lyrics for "Zos Kia Cultus" there are many references to ancient history. Why ancient Egypt and what fascinates you the most about that period of human history?
Because it's the cradle of today's culture. Ancient Egyptians came up with things, theories, and systems that turned out to be essential for modern civilizations. But we don't really deal with Egypt. We borrowed some of the names from it, but we don't really speak about its culture or history. Egypt is just one of the topics on that album. However, we are interested in Egypt through Crowley, who was deeply influenced by this culture.
Krzysztof Azarewicz wrote half of the album's lyrics. Do you feel confident giving an integral part of your music to someone from outside of Behemoth? How does it work? Did you ever reject his lyrics?
It just works out for this band. Kris has always been a great individual and a great friend of mine. We share a lot of opinions. Some we don't, but I would call it a perfect contribution, as he can really feel the atmosphere of the band. He's very clever guy...
What's the ideology behind Behemoth? I hear people describing your band as Satanic, pagan, occult and anti-religious. What meaning does it have for you?
Well, it depends on what you mean. You mentioned few different things, but the truth is that we are a bit of everything. We are a multi-dimensional kind of band. We speak in many languages, if you know what I mean.
Speaking of band's progress, do you plan on staying with Avantgarde Music or is it time to move on?
It's high time to move on. No doubt about it. I think we've reached everything we could have reached with that label. They did a lot for us but at this stage we need more. More of everything. In US we feel the best would be to stay on Century Media and it seems that negotiations will lead to a deal which will be signed soon. Europe is not decided on yet, but Sweden's Regain Records seems to be the strongest candidate. Though it's a difficult decision as we've received offers from many strong labels. We'll see.
Are you satisfied with what you've achieved so far? Did you meet your goals? What was the biggest Behemoth success and failure/mistake during last 12 years?
I try to see everything as a great experience. There have been things we could have done better, or avoid, but who cares now? It counts more for me that today, after 12 years of coping with that shitty business, I'm a much smarter guy.
What is the biggest success? That we didn't lose the spirit. We're still around and doing fine, doing best tours ever, and close to signing the best deal yet. It's all paid off after years of hard work and determination. That's how I see it.
What future goals do you set for yourself and Behemoth? How long do you think you can keep this machine going?
It seems endless [laughs]. I don't know man, really... we'll see. I hope we can go for 10 more years. So far I'm pretty happy with most of things we've done and it seems we still have the best to come.
If tomorrow there was no Behemoth, what would you do?
Commit suicide? [Laughs] I don't know. Tough questions my friend. There is no way there wouldn't be Behemoth. As long I have a will to keep this going, it will last...
Before we end this interview, is everything on track to make my Christmas joyful with new Behemoth DVD or maybe MCD?
Yes. Both if possible. The MCD for sure, in the upcoming months. We are also negotiating a DVD as well, but it's too early to say anything. It's going to be the first official and authorized stuff by the band. We have plenty of shots from various tours man. I know fans would love to see part of this so we'll do our best to keep it interesting.
That would be all, Nergal. Thank you for your music, inspiration and good times spent in Chicago. Stay hard, stay true to your beliefs and "...with every step on the Path, beyond good and evil, stronger GOD you become." Last word belongs to you.
Horns up brother! Than you for all the support! There is nothing we need more than a strong following in US! Thank you and see you soon on the Blackest of the Black fest this fall! No fucking surrender!
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