Behemoth med Nergal i spetsen, återvänder till Sverige i slutet av januari nästa år och kommer då spela hela “The Satanist” live. Vi ringde upp en munter Nergal någonstans i Polen och snackade bl a om arbetet med en teaterpjäs, kommande album, längtan efter barn och det där med att inte bry sig om vad andra tycker:
“I don´t give a fuck about the pace, the tempo or the heaviness anymore. There are bands that are heavier than us, faster and more technical and I don´t care. All I care about is that when I see my reflection in the mirror, I can be proud of what I´ve accomplished.”
First off. There were a couple of photos on your facebook page a few days back, that showed you sitting alone in a studio playing guitar. Did that have anything to do with your solo album?
Nergal: Yeah, but it´s not really my solo album, because it´s a separate and regular band that consists of me and a few other people. We´re still working on it and I believe that in about two months we should be ready to share some info and the band´s name and so on. It´s still an ongoing process and I really don´t wanna talk too much about it. From the short samples posted earlier, you can hear it´s very dark, but it has nothing to do with metal or the extreme genre.
So I guess you´re looking at a release sometime late next year then?
Nergal: Yeah, autumn next year would be good and then maybe some touring later. Behemoth will occupy most of my time next year, because it´s gonna be the final year of “The Satanist” touring cycle and we wanna make sure we play the shit out of this record. But I think that if I find some spare time, I really wanna do some touring with that blues band too.
You seem to be really excited about the forthcoming Bowie album “Blackstar” (January 8 2016)? On your facebook you wrote that you´re “psyched as fuck”.
Nergal: He keeps releasing these singles and the impression is like every next single is better than the one before. Fucking hell! The guy is almost 70 years old and just keeps on astonishing me and I really love the last album he did. A very rocking album, but this one looks like it´s not gonna be rock and roll, but more arty and avant-gardish. Judging by these two singles it´s gonna be fucking spectacular! It´s gonna be the album of the year and I really have high hopes for this one.
Are you a big Bowie fan? Did you discover his music early on in life?
Nergal: I take pieces here and pieces there from his discography, so I´m really not that familiar with his back catalog. I don´t know if you remember, but back in 2000 Behemoth did a cover of “Hello Space Boy”, so it´s been about 15 years that I´ve been familiar with his stuff and some of it inspired me to the point that I wanted to make a cover. He´s a pretty significant artist for me. Some of the stuff is amazing and some of it is ok. He´s super inspirational as a whole and I remember I travelled to Berlin to see the David Bowie exhibit and it was fucking spectacular. It was amazing and very inspirational. It was just like with Johnny Cash and the American recordings. I was more into the dark stuff when his voice was worn out and rusty, than his earlier country stuff. His persona was so inspirational, I read his autobiography. There were some exceptional truths and I was digging his past.
Bowie, as you mentioned, is getting quite old (68) and even though he has retired from the stage, do you still see yourself being active and performing at that age?
Nergal: I don´t know, man. I plan out the whole year and next year I´ll be 39, so maybe it´s a bit too early to look into the next 30 years. I remember when I was 20 and people asked me in interviews “What will you do when you´re 30?” and I said “Well, maybe I´ll be too old to do this and I´ll do something else.” Then when I was 30, people asked me what I was gonna do when I´m 40 and I´m almost 40 now and I´m still doing what I do. Honestly, I have to confess that this (The Satanist) is the best I´ve ever done as an artist. I just go with the flow and I live for today and what gives me joy today. I love what I do more than ever and I´m definitely the most aware, of what I´ve been in my whole life, which is pretty much the key to fully explore yourself basically, so hopefully. I don´t know. (laughs)
What made you decide to hit the road playing the entire “The Satanist” album?
Nergal: I have no problem naming the best Behemoth albums and it´s “The Satanist” (2014), “Demigod” (2004), “Satanica” (1999) and “And the forests dream eternally” (1993). The stuff on “Demigod”, I don´t know if I wanna play that. I love it and it´s amazing, but “The Satanist” as a whole is a statement and it should be listened to from start to finish. It might seem arrogant and maybe it is arrogant, but I really mean what I say when I see bands that just go around the world playing albums they made 20 or 30 years ago and they cash in on the sentiment that it was the best. There´s nothing bad about it and I would love to see Black Sabbath do the first two records, but the cool thing with being in Behemoth in 2015 or 2016, is that we are not playing an album from 2004 or 1999. We´re playing the most recent record and there is a massive interest in that one and that should be the answer.
I´ve heard rumours about Behemoth working on music for a theatre play. True?
Nergal: I really don´t wanna talk that much about it until we have some truths. There´s some stuff happening, but I can´t go into any details. It´s something that´s gonna be pretty big. It´s a big deal with some big names and there´s a pretty dark story behind it, which is worldwide known, because it´s a classic. We´ve been asked to make some music for it and we´re trying. We have even recorded something, but it´s too early to officially give any details to the public.
Are you already making plans for the next Behemoth album?
Nergal: Not really, but I can say that when we were in the studio fucking around with ideas for this theatre project, it kinda triggered my creativity and I think I´ll be getting into writing mode earlier than I expected that I would. It´s still too early, but I think I wanna start doing some work in 2016 and I think it would be really smart and good to have a new album out in 2017. But I know how it is, you say something in an interview and then they say “You promised there was gonna be a record in 2017.” It´s been two years since the release of “The Satanist” and it couldn´t have been done better. I love the record and that´s why we´re playing it and it´s the bestselling one and we´ve gotten the best reviews for it. I read an interview with Blackie Lawless where he said that as soon as the latest record was done and he left the studio, he was already thinking about the next one. I used to be like that and it´s great to wanna outdo yourself and constantly progress, but by doing that, you sometimes forget to live in the present moment. Art is no different, so what I´ve realized to be aware of is the present moment. Today, I´m the happiest artist alive, because I have the strongest fucking album in my hands and I´m super proud and fucking bursting with pride. I don´t really wanna pollute my mind with future projects yet, because I wanna fully explore and enjoy the trip while it´s happening. Everybody´s asking and pushing for the next record, but my question is: “Do you really wanna have a record that is not going to be 100% honest and driven by whatever economic reasons or contracts? Do you really want that?” I would hate to see Behemoth always have a new record out every two years. I´m taking my time and I´m telling people to be patient. Let me live my life. I need to learn and I have to write and fall and I have to rise again and collect all the experiences in order to make something that´s gonna last longer than one or two seasons. It´s like me ripping out my liver and putting it in front of you and go “This is it. This is my life.” That´s the only art I´m interested in performing.
“The Satanist” has been very successful. Do you think you´ll feel any kind of pressure to top yourself once you start working on the next one?
Nergal: No, I actually think it was worse on “The Satanist” and I´m not playing with you, to be honest. If you have “Evangelion” (2009) and “The Satanist”, they´re like opposite poles. “Evangelion” is… I don´t wanna say over produced, but it has a top notch production and is very modern and “The Satanist” is way more chaotic and it´s slower. For us, it´s not really about topping ourselves anymore. We did that before. These days it´s about doing things differently, so I am not worried at all. When we enter the studio, you can expect the next record to be different than “The Satanist”. If you´re a band and stick to the same formula, unless you´re AC/DC, you have a problem. If you´re an average artist you have the tools and the technique and can easily fabricate records. Obviously we could do the next album in two weeks. Just go into the studio and do it and it´s not gonna be bad at all, but the whole point of being an artist, is being fucking honest. Behemoth is a radical band, an extreme band, and we are radical about our honesty and sincerity and no one can fucking argue about it. I don´t give a fuck about the pace, the tempo or the heaviness anymore. There are bands that are heavier than us, faster and more technical and I don´t care. All I care about is that when I see my reflection in the mirror, I can be proud of what I´ve accomplished.
I saw photos of your barber shop visiting an orphanage and cutting kids hairs. Is that something you would like to do more? Help people in need in some way?
Nergal: Yes, it´s amazing. It´s something that comes with age, I have to say. I love it. Unlike most Catholics that say things and then never do or never practice what they preach, I have to say, being on the side of the fence or the barricade, I do things they talk about but never do. There´s nothing wrong about empathy. There´s nothing wrong about being friendly and sympathetic to people. It has nothing to do with the Christian dogma or doctrine and shit like that. I don´t really see things in black and white. I would love to see more of that. I´d love to see my crew and staff get involved in actions like that. It´s very instinct and intuition driven for me. I just look at it and feel “Yes, this is right.” I know what we do with Behemoth is meaningful and I know that it means a lot to a lot of people and it feels amazing. It goes along with what´s within myself and that´s all that matters.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about Nergal?
Nergal: I don´t know. You tell me.
That people think you´re really Satanic?
Nergal: I think the biggest misconception is when people say we´re not Satanists. (laughs) I get that quite often. But I say “Who the fuck are you to tell me what Satanism is and what it´s not?” I´m not here to put people in boxes. There´s a lot of black and white going on in my art. I have no problem working with opposites. They work within the same energy basically. I have no problem dealing with both and playing with them, combining them and just balancing them to make my life meaningful to myself and other people. With Behemoth, it´s a lot of masturbation and a lot of egoism obviously, because we start off with our own satisfaction. If we don´t get satisfaction, we never move on. It starts with me and I admit that. You pass on the stick. If you earn money, you gotta fucking spend it otherwise you´re gonna do harm. You gotta pass it over to other people, otherwise it´s very toxic for you. Energy should be floating. I really think that what we do with Behemoth is a great service to people.
What´s left on your bucket list? You´ve recorded numerous albums, written a book, you own a barber shop, there´s Behemoth beer and you´ve ripped a Bible to shreds.
Nergal: Well, I´m very fulfilled to be honest. I´m economically secured and I have no stress. I don´t stress about the future. To be honest, I would love to get established and I´d love to have kids one day. That would be amazing and that would make my trip even more worthwhile.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk, Michaela Barkensjö