INTERVJU: Nergal i Behemoth

Behemoth med Nergal i spetsen är högaktuella med nya albumet “I loved you at your darkest” Vi träffade Nergal för en kort stund när han nyligen besökte Stockholm och vi pratade självfallet om nya albumet, men även om musiken till teaterpjäsen som inte blev av:

We had to cancel that. There was an offer from a theater and it was very interesting. It was supposed to be ”Frankenstein” and we were supposed to do the music for it. We thought it was cool and it was going to be something new and I still think that we must do something like that, me or the band. I want to be engaged in that kind of thing. If it´s not making music, I want to be a part of the play. I feel that I need to explore that platform somehow and sometime.


Of all the stuff going on in the world at the moment, was there anything of that which ended up on the album lyric wise in any way?

Nergal: Never in a direct or certain way, but I´m sensitive to what´s happening on the outside obviously. It gets to me somehow, it touches me and I guess that´s how most artists work. It´s hardly ever in a direct way. You take something and you bring it forward. What works with me is that I´m like a filter and I just digest stuff. You´re breathing in the air and then you happen to have cancer because you got some shit from the air. That´s exactly how I see the situation world wide. It affects me and I spit it out or vomit it out or piss it out or, you name it, shit it out, in this way or another it can be art. It can be a conversation and I can get it out of my system with the sweat at the gym or several other ways.

Behemoth, make up, backstage, Nergal. Foto Therés Stephansdotter Björk

In Poland you have these conservative winds blowing and…

Nergal: In Sweden as well.

Right. In a lot of countries and in the US as well. It´s fascinating. In a country as Poland, which is very religious, I can see that the stuff you´re doing with Behemoth is looked upon as very controversial. On the other hand, in a country like Sweden, which is probably the most secular country in the world, it´s really not that controversial doing what you do.

Nergal: I´ve said this already a couple of times during this trip. I bet that Sweden doesn´t need Nergal. I said it when I was in Helsinki. I don´t think that Finland is a country that needs me, but I bet that Poland needs me in order to evolve. There is no evolution without questioning the laws and provoking people into discussions. That´s what we do and that´s what art is made for. I´m gonna paraphrase one of my favorite Polish novelists, Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), he said about literature and I´ll paraphrase it and bring it to a musical or art level, ”Art is not there to make people´s lives easier. It´s there to make your life more difficult.” (Serious literature does not exist to make life easy but to complicate it.) That´s why. Let it fucking disturb you, let it stir shit up, let it be controversial. It must not be easy. If it´s easy, it´s probably some some opera on TV. That´s not art and far from it.

Do you feel like your… not your quest, but the way you look at what you´re doing with Behemoth, do you feel it has changed a lot if you look back to the beginnings of the band? Or did you feel when you started out that it was going to be one of your main purposes?

Nergal: No. I mean, I was unaware of who I was. I mean, what does a 15 or 16 year old kid know? All I wanted to do was to express myself the way I wanted to, play noisy music, sing my blasphemous lyrics with no deeper understanding behind that. It was very instinct driven. I felt it but I didn´t really realize all of it. That came with time, with understanding, with experience, with consciousness and it´s still growing. It´s a never ending process.

Tell me about the album. I love the title ”I loved you at your darkest” What´s behind it?

Nergal: It came straight from the Bible, a quote from Jesus Christ. It started with me thinking that there was no way I could top ”The Satanist” and the genius of it. I mean, speaking of the title. It was this one word, super strong and a powerful statement and nothing can really compete with that. In order to follow that, I must come up with something completely different, so we said we would bring something revolutionary within our own subgenre. This title is refreshing and new and redefining and that´s what it´s meant to be. I´m super happy that it grew on me because I´ve had it in my head for a year and I wasn´t entirely sure. I was like ”Hmmm, maybe it´s risky?”, but then I was also like ”It´s risky, let´s go for it!” You know, we´ve got a saying in Poland, ”If you don´t risk it, you never drink champagne.”, so let´s hope for at least a little glass afterwards. I just thought that… let´s make a long story short… let´s go to the source of all evil and steal this sentence and twist it around and redefine it and give it our own meaning and then just throw it back at our opponents and see how they react. Or maybe they don´t. I don´t give a fuck. By doing that, it´s a very sophisticated blasphemy so to say, because obviously I´m quite the opposite to your regular catholic friend or whatever. I´m anti this and I´m not following their rules, I follow my own rules. I´ve always been about this and played with it, these black and white, ying and yang kind of meanings and symbols and these contradictions and opposites poles and extremes and when you confront them together, that´s what triggers the most interesting effect. To me, when you go through the album and you listen to ”God = dog” you get these kids versus this extreme heavy music and the kids are singing pretty controversial verses for many people. To me, that´s the point. You confront the innocence of a child with a grown up´s aware statement, an anti religious statement and that´s what I find fascinating.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is ”Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” Tell me about that it.

Nergal: It´s gonna be the third single or fourth single. Potentially it was meant to be the first single. It has a certain drive and it´s very groovy. It´s gonna be a great live song. I remember it was our obvious choice for our first single, but then we were like ”No, let´s start with one of the most intense songs on the album. Not release something that is more radio of fan friendly.” It´s easily a song that heavy metal fans will dig. That´s what we are in the first place, we are an extreme radical band. A very diverse band, but this is it, it´s extreme so take it or leave it. It was cool that we went all the way and we´re gonna reveal other aspects of the record later on. This song was meant to be like a middle finger to everyone and say ”Hey, we´re not gonna compromise on this record.” and this is like the pinnacle of not taking any compromises in our career. It´s very aware and self conscious and a very rebellious statement, but I also hope it´s not done in a typical cliche heavy metal way. It´s very tricky, intellectual and deep.

Behemoth, make up, backstage, Nergal. Foto Therés Stephansdotter Björk

I remember interviewing Orion at Sweden Rock Festival a few years back and he mentioned that you were working on some kind of play. Is that still happening?

Nergal: No, no! We had to cancel that. There was an offer from a theater and it was very interesting. It was supposed to be ”Frankenstein” and we were supposed to do the music for it. We thought it was cool and it was going to be something new and I still think that we must do something like that, me or the band. I want to be engaged in that kind of thing. If it´s not making music, I want to be a part of the play. I feel that I need to explore that platform somehow and sometime. Anyway, we got this offer and we went into the studio and jammed this song and recorded it as a sneak peak for the director to listen to and his reaction was immediately ”That´s too intense and it´s going to take away all of the attention from …” and I was ”Ok, this is us. What are you expecting? That´s how we are. We are unstoppable and it´s our music. We can be flexible to some point, but we cannot compromise and we cannot stop being ourselves, so take it or leave it!” and he said ”Sorry, I have to pass on it.” We said ”Ok, no hard feelings. Maybe one day? We´re not going anywhere yet and you´re not going anywhere yet, so maybe we´ll meet in a few years or something.” or maybe we´ll meet another director. I would love to do that or make music for a movie or something. If you´re familiar with the vision of Behemoth, it´s more than rock and roll and I really want people to feel that. That´s why we´re coming up with these series of pop up galleries around the release. One will take place in Poland, one in Berlin and one in London and then we want to move it to Los Angeles and New York. It´s going to include human sizes sculptures which is a reflection of the cover and it´s going to be made of some kind of steel and all the paintings and everything is going to be printed and presented in the form of old paintings with frames and stuff. It´s gonna be really cool with a documentary movie on a loop and other stuff. I love exploring different territories and dimensions because it´s within us and we have this need to go further than just catchy or groovy or fast riffs, because maybe one day we´re not able to last anymore and maybe one day we can do something else and we can transform into something else or some other artistic beings. I don´t know about it yet, but hey, if you´re an artist, you´re an artist for life and you just don´t decide ”I´m gonna be a rock n´ Roller!” If it´s in you, it´s gonna be in you till the end of your days.


Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk, Josefin Wahlstedt