I’ll be completely honest. When I was told I’d be interviewing the front man for one of the world’s most extreme metal bands I became a little nervous. Turns out I had no reason to be as Nergal is one of the nicest and most genuinely enthusiastic musicians I have spoken with!
Read on for all things Behemoth…
Interview w/ Nergal (Vocals/Guitar)
By Cameron Chambers
Nergal, it’s Cameron calling
from Melbourne, Australia. How are you?
I’m actually very good thanks
man. How are you?
thanks mate. I’ve got to keep my eye on the clock so let’s get into
Ha ha, let’s do it.
Behemoth has been in existence
(in one form or another) since 1993. Did you ever imagine that a band
you started when you were 16 would be releasing records and
touring the world more than a decade later?
Not at all man, ha ha. Not
in my wildest dreams did I ever guess or imagine that this would happen.
I remember when I was doing
air guitar in my room when I was kid… but for some reason it’s happening
to me right now and I’m living my dream.
Back when I was a kid it was
a dream… I couldn’t foresee that these things would happen but eventually
I succeeded and managed to do that.
The band came from humble
beginnings but your unique approach to your music
has seen Behemoth turn into one of the most respected metal bands in
the world. Was it always important to you as an individual – and as
a band – to try and do something a little different with your music?
Oh yeah, but you know what?
I never really tried to do something special at any cost if you now
what I mean? I always tried to express myself but the main thing was
that it was for me.
For some reason the stuff that
we do is so naturally different than anything else and I think that
helps Behemoth to really stand out from today’s extreme metal scene.
We sound different and we write differently than other bands.
It took us some time… it
took a few albums to get us our own sound… maybe it was “Demigod”
that was when we managed to make our own sound? It took us some time
though, ha ha.
As you just mentioned, it
wasn’t until you released “Demigod” in 2004 that people outside
of Europe really started taking notice of the band. What do you
think it was about that record that caught people’s attention?
We were really determined man.
I was like… I had some personal stuff going on here which wasn’t really
cool. I remember that I was going to dedicate myself one thousand percent
to this band and do anything it takes to bring it to the next level.
I was so determined to tour
like crazy and I was lucky that my band would back me up with my decisions.
It was a breakthrough thing for us… the whole “Demigod” touring
cycle. We’re always in front of people’s faces and even if they were
people that didn’t like us we’d just come back with the next tour and
we’d make them like us!
In Behemoth’s early incarnations
you were labeled a black metal band but in recent years your music has
begun to incorporate a range of different influences. Did the stylistic
changes within your songs come about naturally or was it a conscious
decision to move away from straight up black metal?
This band is all about being
honest with ourselves… we’re very honest people.
It’s just about getting in
a room and clearing out our systems and going with whatever comes up
naturally. If it sounds this way or that then that’s what it is… and
that’s it. We’re not here to call it or label it, we’re just here to
make Behemoth music. I really like to confuse people because they’re
losing ground… they don’t know if we’re black metal or death metal.
It’s finally time to call us
Behemoth music. It’s like Slayer. You never say Slayer in the context
of thrash metal… you just say Slayer! When you think of Iron Maiden
you don’t think of the whole New Wave Of British Heavy Metal
genre, you just think of Maiden being a separate category.
What we’re trying to do…
it’s just happening. It’s not a main goal or anything. We’re really
sick of people trying to find out if we’re still black metal or death
metal. As long as it’s heavy and extreme we love it!
Your most recent record
“The Apostasy” progresses even further from your work on “Demigod”,
with a wider range of instrumentation being used within the songs as
well as the inclusion of a choir. Given the ambitious nature of the
record can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording sessions?
It was long and painful. It
was a very grey period. It wasn’t bad or enthusiastic… it was something
in between. I was drifting around trying to make the best record I could.
I can’t imagine making a record and being entirely happy with it…
but being happy isn’t the best circumstance to make this music.
We managed to make some killer
tunes on the way. We explored new territory which is awesome and we
spiced it up with new elements which we never used before… or we’d
used them but this time we did them properly! There were horns
on “Demigod” but it was all synth or done on the computer but on
the new one it’s real people doing real stuff.
It was amazing that the record
came out so organic. It took us three months to track, three weeks of
mixing and then three different sets of mastering. It took a lot of
money, energy, time and stress and fucking everything! But hey, I can
say it was all worth it!
The pain, the confusion and
the doubt was all worth it. It was what we made of it and people seem
to love it. Even the media love it but most importantly we love it!
“The Apostasy” actually
debuted in the US Billboard Top 200. Did you ever imagine it would be
possible for a Behemoth record to achieve such mainstream acceptance?
You know what? I still can’t
believe it! That’s what I keep on saying… I’m living my dream! All
these things that are happening to us are still pretty fucking abstract.
I just got this scan from the “New York Times” and there was a review
for our show with my picture… the “New York Times” man, ha ha!
You can’t hit higher than this.
The new issue of “Revolver”, which is the biggest mainstream metal
magazine in the US… they put us on the cover! I’m like “what the
hell???”. There’s bigger and better bands out there but for some reason
there’s something really fucking cool happening to us. I’m grateful,
what can I say?!
The way I see it, we owe these
people something and I promise is that we’ll work harder and come up
with a stronger record for everyone!
I read somewhere that Behemoth
aren’t actually allowed to play in your native Poland, is there any
truth to that? Was there a particular incident that lead to your band
being barred from performing?
Shit like this happens in Poland…
it’s a fucked up country. There’s a conservative, Catholic influence
which is never good for anyone. Religions only cause damage to human
kind and Poland is no exception.
The politicians have attempted
to stop us from life’s activities. They tried to boycott the shows and
they even succeeded in some places but I’m happy that logic won out
over stupidity and we managed to complete the whole tour in Poland…
and it was the most successful tour ever! We sold out most of the places
and we’d never had so much promotion… every big press in Poland did
interviews with us!
It turned out really well for us and the fact the government, well we’ve
got new government now, but the previous one had right wing, Catholic
tendencies and that’s why they took the opportunity to fight people
like us… because we’re a dangerous band and we question things like
They find that very dangerous
and damaging to the youth and they tried to take advantage of that.
It turned out to be great promotion for us… they tried to fight us
and failed! It feels good that democracy won over this time, although
I think we’re close to some kind of regime again. It looks like democracy
but feels like a regime.
There’s a few guys in the government
and it’s not going in a good direction. It feels very limiting… like
there’s some kind of oppression in the air. I hate this vibe and it’s
always growing but at the end of the day it was a great tour so I can’t
You guys co-headlined the
second stage of the Ozzfest this year. I
know you’ve played in the US before but how was the crowd response for
Behemoth this time round?
You know what? The way I see
it is that “Ozzfest” isn’t death metal people or a death metal crowd,
but I really see that there is the potential for them to be a death
metal crowd. That was our role… to bring danger and Satan back into
the music and remind the people that there is extreme metal out there!
It’s not about girls singing
and this groovy metal stuff or emo, which is pretty fucking massive
in the US! There’s extreme metal though, which is supposed to be dangerous!
Every day at four pm we’d be in full corpse paint doing all the crazy
shit that we do and being offensive and just being who we are. I could
tell that the people dig it. Some would leave the pit but some would
I saw people who would see
us and go “what the fuck”?! There’s been many kids that had no idea
that a band like Behemoth could exist… they’d never heard that kind
of intensity before. It was very challenging and refreshing for us.
How many times can you play to the same people, you now? We won new
fans and it was great!
We just did the “Radio Rebellion
Tour” with Job For A Cowboy and Beneath The Massacre and I saw ten
year old kids in Behemoth tee shirts and you know that they’ll be coming
back for another headline tour which is great!
That’s about all we have
time for Nergal, is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’m not just saying this, but
Australia is one of the best places on the Earth and we can’t wait to
get our arses back there… and New Zealand! You are all amazing, friendly
people! The tour two years ago was one of the best experiences ever…
I’ve said this before!
I’m really looking forward
to that and I’m seriously considering staying there for two weeks after
Thanks so much for your
time man, it’s been a pleasure and I’ll see you in
You too man! Take care.