Interview With Nergal From Behemoth
Band Photo: Behemoth (?)
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to interrogate Behemoth's mainman Nergal after their blistering live performance in Worcester, MA last friday.
Gothique: First of all, tell me how's the tour been going?
Nergal: Very good so far. It's been our third, fourth tour in a row right now, so it's pretty much we jump from one tour to another so we got our reasons to be burned out but still. Today I was totally sick, I caught pneumonia with all this. I had an awful headache.
Gothique: You sounded very well on stage despite that.
Nergal: You know what- it's adrenaline and it's the people. My theory is that it's the people who make the show. And we just help them out, that's how it works. When you get such dedicated and extreme metal lovers you just can't suck, you know, you go totally mad. So that's what we did.
Gothique: You're touring with King Diamond and Nile afterwards?
Nergal: Yeah. I love Nile, they're great guys, good friends of mine. And King Diamond, of course, there's no question they're a legend and they've been a legend, so it's amazing. I'm already thrilled about this.
Gothique: Are you going back to Poland between the two tours?
Nergal: Yes, but there's no rest really, because when we finish this tour, we fly back and we start another tour in Poland. We do 11 shows there and after that we do another Russian tour. And then we go to Austria and Germany for a couple of shows, like a mini tour. Then we come back to the States 3-4 days before the King Diamond tour starts.
Gothique: I won't ask you why you changed your style because I know you're sick of that question ...
Nergal: We didn't really change the style, you know, we just followed our emotions and feelings. I go for what breathes within me and then I just do my best for this to come out, shape it the best way possible. So for me it's all about sincere, honest, good quality music. Behemoth's not about all these categories and labeling. We've been called Black metal, Death metal with Thrash influences. Of course, there're heavy metal influences too- just listen to solos on some of the records. I don't like this myself but if people want to put labels, that's fine with me.
Gothique: How do you feel about your older stuff?
Nergal: We still play old songs but tonight we were like- "ok, we wanna play as many songs from the new album as possible". But usually we play songs from Pagan Vastlands. If we get an hour- long set, we play Transylvanian Forest and Pure Evil & Hate from the first mini album from '94. Though it's been 10 years now, we still play these songs. But now we're promoting Demigod so we focus on the new songs pretty much. But of coure, we're definitely gonna give people what they want.
Gothique: One of the things that you're relatively well-known for is the tremendous amount of research and preparation that you go into while you're writing the lyrics for the album?
Nergal: Well, I try to keep it as complex and intelligent as possible.
Gothique: Intelligent metal. Not just dwelling on the mundane but going deeper.
Nergal: Yes, that's how I see it too. For me it's all about the power and strength that live within us. And to convey that, we use different means like ancient cultures, ancient languages, barbaric history and stuff like that. This is what I find the most suitable for that kind of music, it fits us. It's a package, I care about the packge. I want Behemoth to exist on different levels, in different dimentions. And to be as perfect as possible in every dimention.
Gothique: What's the main concept of "Demigod"? And why did you choose this title?
Nergal: Well, Demigod- it just came natural. I remember when I came back from the Six Feet Under tour in late 2003, I found myself in a very bad and uncomfortable life situation, personally. But I tried to keep myself together [ laughs]. I picked all the pieces from the floor and now I'm stronger than ever. I've become something which I never was.
All of us Behemoth, we're very personal and very emotional about what we do, it's a fact. Even if I sing about Pazuzu, I sing about something that pretty much happened in my life, something I've witnessed.
And demigod stands for sometging very powerful and since we've dealt for years now with this Crawleyan concept of iron will, I felt that demigod is just a perfect way of expressing this kind of feelings. And believe me, I'm a much happier person these days. I've washed all the toxic shit from my body and my mind. I started to care about myself - working out, dieting, martial arts. I'm just trying to respect myself as much as possible as a human being. Because some people just lose themselves in some crappy situations. I want to do the opposite. I want to be an example that metal can be cery creative and motivating, very intelligent. Of course, we use brutal forms to express that we're anti- religious, anti- political- any authorities that try to restrain you and put you in box.
Gothique: Could you tell me a little about your beliefs. You obviously have an interest in Crowley and occultism in general- there are sumerian and aramaic writings on the covers of your albums and numerous mythological references. Is this something that you’re truly interested in?
Nergal: I use anything you read in our lyrics as I said before. I'm very pragmatic when it comes to life. I use things. I use them as tools. I don't try to spiritualize things and go like- "oh, I believe in God, I believe in Mother Nature". Of course I do [believe] but it's all tools for me- to lead me to a place where I want to go, to make me feel happy and fulfilled. I just want to get my satisfaction in life, you know. That's why I use all those tools and means that are given to me. I just try to keep myself as wide open as possible. It's just like meals- one day you feel like having a banana and the next day you want to eat an apple. The same goes with beliefs- you pick out what suits you. And there isn't really any religion or magical system for which I can say- "ok, this is what speaks for me, I can truly express myself as a person". No, not at all. That's why I rejected catholicism as a kid. I just found life too inspirational to limit myself to just one doctrine. So it's way better to be selective, to be picky and to make your own system of beliefs. Because all you do in life represents who you are really. If I want to get respect from others, I have to respect myself in the first place and do things so I'm in harmony with the universe. So that's pretty much about it, that's how I see things.
Gothique: Your layouts, artwork and cd booklets are always well designed. For example, the limited edition digipac of Zos Kia Cultus, when unfolded, forms an inverted cross. Tell me about the artwork of Demigod. What does it represent?
Nergal: It represents us. This is like the first time we took pieces of each of our bodies and we sewed them together. You can see the old metal stitches between the different body parts. It looks like a cyber creature. There's some reference to the bible, of course, there's Nephilim and stuff going on here and there. I pretty much deal with this biblical theme- the old testament, which is very barbaric and it's also very influencial in a way, so I just think it's cool, you know. We just modified it [the creature on the cover]. Many people see Christ on the cover, which is their logic. Actually, the whole posture is pretty much how Christ was depicted on many paintings, you know, with the stick and the blessing fingers. We added some extra elements like the mask, whixh symbolizes some kind of inhumanity. When the album bears the name Demigod you can't just put a regular man's face. That's how I feel. And I thought it was gonna be more scary and at the same time more scary that way. We also used the Phoenix stick which is an artifact of power in ancient Egypt. And since I have tattoed on my back this huge Monada and Crawley quotes, we put this on his chest. I see it as a
At this moment we were interrupted by the merchandise girl who handed Nergal a big roll of money. I just had to comment on that:
Gothique: Wow, so things are going well?
Nergal: I don't really see things that way. I mean, if you overwork you can't really be objective. I'm just gonna do my thing like I'm a robot [ Nergal is also the manager of the band]. I love what I do but people only see one side of things- you're on the covers, you do interviews and pose for pictures but they never see what's behind all this. We have no personal lives, we're doing 250 shows for this album within one year which means we're hardly ever at home. We dedicate ourselves totally to this band, because this band represents what we are as individuals. So [ he looks at the money] this is of only material value and I don't care much about it. If it helps me achieve a better production, that's good of course.
Gothique: As Satyr said- money means artistic freedom.
Nergal: Yeah, exactly, that's how I see things too.
Gothique: Karl Sanders of Nile does a guest appearance on the album, how did that happen?
Nergal: He's a good friend of mine and I just asked him. We did a tour with them, after Thelema 6 and they likes the band. They liked what they saw live. And then I gave him [ Karl] Zos Kia Cultus and I got this huge e- mail from him where he stated that this is like he best Death metal album he's heard since Gorefest's False. And he really meant it, he was really serious about this. He's a huge Behemoth fan, which, for me is like- "come on, there're hundreds of better bands than ours. They play better. they get better sound and stuff".
Gothique: Your production is quite good.
Nergal: Yeah, I don't know. We go for spontaneity. That's how we win the fans in the audience. Because if we don't get the proper show that we'd like to get, we say- " f**k it, let't just rock 'n' roll", you know. We go f***ing crazy and rock the place, just blast it. That's how people see that we're totally real. There's no bullshit there. I'm sweating for real, I'm bleeding for them, I go totally crazy and I do it for the fans and it all works both ways, of course.
I'm a kind of egocentric person but I'm perfectly aware of what a big influence the surroundings and the people have over me. There has to be harmony. I feel this symbiosis with the people in the crowd. It's like, with every next album I have more and more respect for them. I used to be an asshole back in the days. The band was nothing then and I thought we were this huge rock star band and we deserved all the best- of course, you can't expect a lot from a 17 year old kid. But then I got more mature.
Gothique: It's a natural process.
Nergal: Yes, exactly. I became more social and a happier person as a whole.
Gothique: Tell me about the video, Conquer All.
Nergal: I love it. We worked with this female producer from Poland. She had no metal experiance at all, just big- budget pop and rock bands. So Century Media, Regain and Mystic, our Polish label, I asked them all- " come on, give me the money and if I collect all this money from you, I'm gonna give people something that is more than just a metal video. If you give me the money, I'll give you the best thing I can afford". And it was like, all night shooting, very hard work until 6 in the morning. Actually, I helped out too. When the producer was tired, I felt so good directing it myself.
Gothique: Adrenaline rush?
Nergal: Yeah, something like that. I'm a natural born director. I may sound pathetic but I just feel that I know how things should be. I'm that kind of person. Some people surely have problems with that kind of attitude. But I feel like when you take responsibility and you never have problems with anybody else but yourself. It's very helpful. We work as a team, we take all the shit on our chests and if something f**ks up, it's only our problem, which is cool.
Anyway, it's a good video. It's on the air now in U.S. People recognize the song when we play it. Tonight it was like- "ok, they should know this song, let's play it second". Because we initially were gonna play a song from The Pagan Vastlands but we said "no, let's change it for the last couple of shows".We try to keep the sets kinda varied. We don't fo exactly the same set every night. We try to be flexible.
Gothique: What do you think about the Polish metal scene?
Nergal: It's strong, it's very productive, very creative. We have many bands. There's a Polish team touring Europe right now- Dies Irae, Crionics, Hate. They're all great bands. We got Azarath, which is Inferno's other band. We got Desania [ I spelled this one phonetically, I don't know if I got it right], which is Orion's band. They just recorded an album which kicks ass, you'll love it. It's Black metal, but high- quality, big production.
There are many good bands, they just need exposure. They need to know how to deal with the business side of things, they have to learn proper English, find a good manager. They have to open themselves to the world, you know. You just need to be smart and diplomatic and you'll be successful somehow.
Gothique: You toured South America for the first time in December? How did it go? I've heard that those guys go insane when they get some famous metal act from Europe?
Nergal: Yes, I remember it was even dangerous at times. They're all very enthusiastic and all but sometimes it becomes dangerous. They're totally all over you. In Colombia we were actually running away from the crowd. We had to run away from the stage after the show, with all the security guards running along with us and punching all the fans who were jumping from all possible sides. They just want to tear out a piece of you because they love you so much. It was kinda funny, you know, but then it was kinda scary too. They do crazy shit. They had some riots when Gorgoroth were playing. Cradle had some riots too- somebody set a fire.
It's crazy but I love it over there. I'm going back as soon as I can. If not touring for the next record, I'm going there for vacation. I mean, in Poland the climate doesn't give you positive reasons to live. While in South America there's sunshine all the time and that's what I like. I like winter too but I'm a typical sunny beach boy, I just love it when it's warm. Or maybe I'm just getting old, I don't know.
Gothique: And one last question- how did you come up with the pseudonym Nergal?
Nergal: I just saw it, I thought that it sounds good. It comes from Babylon but I actually found it in a LaVeyan book.
Gothique: The Bible?
Nergal: Yes, the Bible. But he has his own description of what Nergal was. But Nergal pretty much stands for the powers of the underworld, the god of the underworld. I mean, come on, this is very metal. And Nergal to me is more important than my real name, which is Adam, and only my parents call me Adam. Most people just call me Nergal or Ner. It's cool, you know, it's totally me. This band is 99% of my life and I just feel comfortable with me. It's me.
Gothique: OK, thank you for this interview and I'll see you again at the New England festival.
Nergal: Yeah. Thank you.
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