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Interview

Behemoth Bassist Comments On Tours, Videos For "The Satanist" And Making It In The U.S. Market

Photo of Behemoth

Band Photo: Behemoth (?)

A behemoth is something gigantic. The word also pertains to a hippo (a gigantic creature) being described in the bible. Both of these usages can be applied to Poland's black/death creation of the same name. Their music is large and lyrically looks to the Bible's antagonist, Lucifer, for inspiration. In terms of touring and selling albums, Behemoth has become a giant in the extreme metal market. Part of this can be attributed to touring. Part of their success can be attributed to their merchandise and on-stage visuals. Another facet of their success, obviously, is putting out good records.

In their early days, Behemoth played a major role in defining Eastern Europe's black metal scene. Midway through the band's career, they started moving into death metal territory in the vein of U.S. bands such as Morbid Angel and Deicide. The last couple of albums including recent hell blazer "The Satanist" showcase a black/death approach with a greater philosophical bent in the lyrics and epic transitions. I was fortunate to catch their act on the Metal Alliance tour. Their set was mired in theatrics--horned masks, face paint, fire and elaborate back drops. While the band has always wore costumes while performing, they bring so much more than the armor and corpse paint of the last show I caught in 2009.

Before playing in front of a 1,000 or so people at Emo's in Austin, Texas, I stepped onto Behemoth's bus to chat with bassist, Orion. In the following interview, he breaks down how the band worked on aspects of "The Satanist" such as working with artists and video production companies to get the proper visuals for the album art and forthcoming videos. He talks about the band's set list, touring cycle and making it in the United States.

Rex_84: Behemoth just finished a tour with Cradle of Filth. How was the tour?

Orion: Yes, that was a month ago. It was pretty good, the very first one for "The Satanist." It was a great tour. We finally had the opportunity to tour with a full production, which made us very happy. The turn outs were great, and the bill was pretty good, too.

Rex_84: What does a full production consist of?

Orion: We're not really able to do the same thing here in the U.S. There is no way to fly over all this stuff. Plus, having pyro in the U.S. is very complicated. We had a completely new stage design and full pyro show. That's what we were doing in Europe.

Rex_84: Do you and COF share a fan base in Europe?

Orion: I believe we do. Maybe years and years ago we were similar, but now I feel we're going into opposite directions. If I'm in a venue and we are playing a show with them, I believe I can tell which guys are here for us and which ones are there for them, so I believe there is a difference between the fans of these two bands.

Rex_84: Over here, the people really into black metal, especially the raw black metal, hate Cradle of Filth. Is it the same way over there?

Orion: They still draw a lot of people to their shows. They still have quite a solid fan base. It's all a matter of taste. It's their point of view, how they see it. You're saying this, but I believe there are a lot of people who say completely opposite. I'm not a fan of this thing at all. It's just not my music, not my taste. I'm not trying to be a hater, or anything.

Rex_84: How do you feel about this current tour, the Metal Alliance?

Orion: So far so good (laughs). I think we've just done five or six shows on this one. The first three were sold out, which we were very happy about. It's going good. We've got some bands that we wanted to have on the bill, so that's a good thing. We're just a week through it and it's never been better for us. The turn outs are the biggest we've ever had in the U.S.

Rex_84: What's your set list look like? Are you finding a balance between new and classic material or mostly focusing on "The Satanist?"

Orion: We're trying to balance it because having ten albums on our back, we need to go through at least a few of them, even if we're here especially for "The Satanist." We've changed the set list completely compared to what we were playing here on the last tours. I think we're doing five songs off "The Satanist," which is almost half of the album. The rest of the set list is going through the most important songs throughout our career.

Rex_84: The final song on the album "O Father O Satan O Sun" has an outro quality to it. Do you use this song to close your show? It's the end of the chapter, end of the story so it fits perfectly.

Orion: This is exactly what we're doing at our shows. We're opening up with "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" and we're closing with "O Father O Satan O Sun." We used to use the last song from "The Evangelion," which is "Lucifer." With this album, "Lucifer" and "O Father O Satan O Sun" are two songs you can either play as a last one or don't play at all. There is no "Lucifer" in the set list and we are closing with this one. It's exactly as you said, it's a closing of the chapter. That's how we see it, so we wanted to incorporate into our show.

Rex_84: With the album having been out a couple of months, do you see your fans singing along with the words?

Orion: Oh yeah, definitely, especially here. An album before we go on tour needs some time. You can start over right away, but then people are still getting into it. On this European tour, at least for the first half of it, we could feel what we were doing was very new for the people, so they were rather listening than getting into it. The second half of the European tour was better in this matter. Here, in the U.S., it's just working perfectly. It seems like there are a lot of dedicated fans here. I really enjoy seeing the people sing the lyrics with us.

Rex_84: You made a video for "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel." Can you talk a bit about making this video?

Orion: Group 13 is the same production company that we did the previous videos with. Working with them is fun and creative yet demanding at the same time. The way we work is we talk about the things we want to do for weeks. Before we come up with a script, we send miles of emails and hours of phone calls. We wanted to move from what we were doing before because all the previous ones had the same sort of atmosphere and pictures. We wanted to move into some other direction and see the quality of the image. I think we've managed to do it, it seems like, this production group is able to do whatever we want to do. They are very diverse; they can adapt to whatever we ask them for. I think the next thing we're going to do, because we're already planning one or two more videos for this album, we'll probably do with the same people. They are just very open minded. We're thinking about bringing in some other director, but still working with the same production company. They are very open to these kinds of things that I like to experiment with and combine lots of things together. So that's probably going to happen. The next one should be the video for "The Satanist," the title track.

Rex_84: You mentioned the quality of the image, are you relating the cover art from your album? Does that come across in these videos?

Orion: The album cover is a different story.

Rex_84: Doesn't the album cover contain some of the concepts you approach on your songs?

Orion: Definitely. The thing is we are trying to stay away from what we call classic heavy metal imagery. We are trying to stay away from the things that are being made by illustrators. We wanted to have artists on this one.

Rex_84: So the cover art was actually painted?

Orion: That's an oil painting. It was painted by Denis Forkas. He is a Russian painter and occultist at the same time. It also took months of talking. Working with artists is a pain in the ass sometimes because they are artists, right? The first thing they say is "this is what I see." The other thing is "I'm not going to do it tomorrow. I'll do it when I do it." End of the line.

Rex_84: Don't you usually do work when you're told if you're getting paid to do it?

Orion: That's not how this works, at least in this case. We're on a schedule and we have deadlines, but we've crossed all of them with this record and with this art work and everything we're doing for this record. We wanted to incorporate too many free thinkers and artists on this one. The video is pretty much the same symbols and archetypes in it as it is going across the lyrics and on the cover. All the things that you've seen in the booklet is painted and hand made. It was made by the same guy. Most of it is on an oil painting and pictures.

Rex_84: Nuclear Blast released it in Europe, while Metal Blade released in it in North America. What led to using Nuclear Blast in Europe? Have you worked with them for a while?

Orion: Yeah, it's our third album for them, I believe. First of all, we are self-managed. Just in the U.S. we have the seperate management, but it's the same thought in it that I want to tell you about. The thing is we're control freaks. We want to have things under control, that's why we have a seperate label for Poland, which is our own market. We have an European label for Europe and a U.S. label for the U.S. We license records. We own the records and we license them. Having three seperate companies as your main labels makes them try more. They have limited markets. Every single one of them is doing different things for promotion. If you combine all these things, it just works perfectly.

Rex_84: That gives you a different crowd, too.

Orion: I think so, but they are very good labels. Working with Metal Blade, they are just the perfect corporation. With the self-management thing: we are doing all these things in Europe and in Poland and everywhere else, but for the U.S. we do have management here because this market is so big and so specific that we needed someone from here to do all of these things for us. That's the way it works!

Rex_84: In a few days, you play the New England Hardcore and Metal Festival. How do you feel about going into this fest?

Orion: I know the venue and I know the place. I've played there quite a few times and it's always been great, so we're looking forward to it.

Rex_84: After this tour, what are you doing next? Do you have more tour dates?

Orion: For us, the touring period for an album is between two and three years. That's how it usually is. It's just the second tour for this one. After this U.S. tour we have two-days break, which is quite enough for washing your clothes (laughs). We're flying out for a month to Russia and Ukraine, actually. Hopefully that's going to happen with all of these things that are going on in Ukraine. That's just the end of the tour. We have three weeks there, then we do most of the European festivals. We have like 25 or 26 of them throughout the whole summer. Then we have September off. I'm doing stuff with my other band (Vesania) at this time. Then we do Poland. Then we do South America. Then we have this thing in England in December. We are already scheduling another U.S. tour in January and February of next year. We have another European tour, which is in April 2015, so we're working on stuff.

Rex_84: You're road warriors.

Orion: We'll be on the road for the rest of this year and probably all of 2015 and maybe some of 2016.

Rex_84: Do you attribute much of your success to being on the road?

Orion: There are some markets in the world, and U.S. is definitely one of them, where you just need to earn your position. It never works you release the album, you're a big band and you're selling well. You just need to work hard to get into the position we have. To get where we are in the U.S. now it took us eight years. Our first tours we did were not as good as this one. It was not that comfortable. So yes, there are some markets that are very demanding of touring. Definitely, if you can see yourself successful, it's probably because you've been working hard. But there are some places where you just fly in for a few days every year or every two years and it's always good. It just depends on the market. It takes a lot of effort to be successful in the U.S. We never stay away from that. It's what we love doing.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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