Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Alan: Hi Nergal. Welcome to Dublin. Firstly; Wow! You guys went out of your way to make it here to Dublin tonight despite the terrible weather. What did that entail?
Nergal: Well, what can I say? Leukaemia wouldn’t stop us; neither will bad weather conditions. We’re unstoppable, you know? There was no way we would just cancel the show unless they cancelled all the flights! We were looking for every possible way of getting here. So once we learned that the earliest ferry leaving from Glasgow to Dublin would be at 7pm today, which would have made it physically impossible for us to play, we searched through the flights, and we decided to fly early in the morning without much sleep, but I’m super-proud to be here. There’s some kind of bond with Ireland. I’m not just talking about the fact that there’s probably fifty percent of polish immigrants here. I hope that they don’t bring a bad name to my country!
Alan: No I think the Polish and the Irish are actually very similar in some ways.
Nergal: That’s what I mean. Every time I go to places, I hear that we share a lot of common ground, and that there are some parallels, even in our history. Yeah, it feels good just walking the streets. I love this place. There’s a good vibe and there’s good energy in the air and I get to hear a lot of Polish voices here, even when I entered the building here earlier, there’s a lot of Polish people that are really proud and happy and appreciative about the fact that we made it here. It’s about ten years since we’ve been here; on the Demigod tour probably.
Alan: So, seeing as you had to get flights here early this morning, how did you get your backline and all your gear here?
Nergal: Unfortunately, we’re just doing a budget version tonight. So we had to leave all the heavy shit, like mic stands. But then again, the stage here is relatively small, so I think it’s even for the benefit of the spectacle that you can experience the stripped down Behemoth show tonight. But I can assure you that we’re going to give our very best, to make people happy and satisfied.
Alan: I think overall people are very appreciative of the efforts you and the promoter went to to get here tonight. You posted on Facebook just this week that you’re planning a “totally insane new video in New York city”. Can you tell us firstly what track it is going to be for?
Nergal: I picked ‘Messe Noire’ as the next single. It’s going to be Zev Deans, who’s the video producer from New York and he’s amazing. Very talented. And he’s got this very unique style of filming and shooting. You can see the videos he did for Chelsea Wolfe or Portal; another extreme metal band. He did amazing work on some of their songs and I just fell in love with the way he captures the vibe and he transformed it into video. It’s definitely going to be an outstanding video, out of all the work that we’ve done so far.
Alan: And you invited fans and members of the public to be involved. Exactly what sort of involvement do you see them having?
Nergal: Yeah, we just need some people starring in the video. You should really ask Zev, because it’s all his crazy ideas why he needs all these people to contribute. I don’t want to reveal the script, you know? It’s pretty fucked, and bizarre and crazy and dangerous and disturbing and all that I love.
Alan: Taking the ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ video for example; how much artistic input do you and the band have in the videos? Or are they driven by the producer and director?
Nergal: The Gabriel video and script was pretty much all my ideas.
Alan: And were you happy with the way it turned out? Was it how you saw it in your own mind?
Nergal: Yeah. Lucifer and Gabreil are the best videos we’ve done. No doubts about it. And now we’re not trying to top those videos, we’re just trying to keep the standard up. And keep the dynamics and variety.
Alan: So, back in October you had a performance scheduled in Pozna?, which was banned. How did it make you fell to have been banned from performing in your own home country?
Nergal: I kinda foresaw that. Occasionally, here and there, you get people protesting, and some politicians that are not necessarily fans of our band or supporters of our philosophy. But you don’t need to be, to let our show go on. For some reason they just want to stop us. They consider Behemoth as probably the worst evil on Earth and public enemy number one. I’m guessing there’s a political game being played there.
Alan: It seems like they make you a scapegoat; somebody to blame for the evils of the world.
Nergal: Well, yeah. I’ve learned to be the one. I’m used to being a scapegoat.
Alan: And on the other side, your last two albums went to number one in the charts in Poland. But yet this same band can’t perform in their home country.
Nergal: What makes life so exciting is all the contradictions, and all the extremities. That’s what I love the most.
Alan: You’re also pushing the boundaries yourselves and you come to expect these knee-jerk reactions.
Nergal: But then again, I’m kinda drawn to these difficult situations. So if I can sense that there’s some problems waiting for us, I just fucking go into it and see what happens.
Alan: Do you fear that perhaps your performances might be banned in other cities and countries now that Poland and Russia have set precedent?
Nergal: Whatever. If they ban us in one city, there are still thousands and thousands of cities we can still explore, and come back and play and be successful. There’s still a few steps to be taken to get to the civilised level. Civilised places would just let artists do their job, no matter what. And I think we’re still a bit behind. But it’s good. It means there’s potential to work in this territory.
Alan: Would you ever go back to Russia after the way you were treated there this year?
Nergal: I would never give up on people, because they are a great people; they are generous and honest people in Russia. I have many friends there. So we’re not giving up. But we still need to wait five years until they let us in. I’m sorry to say, but Russia is led by an idiot. And I officially say that. These people in Russia are victims of politics and we are victims as well. We’ve been victims, Polish people; we’ve been manipulated. Let’s just be patient. Things will go good for everyone eventually.
Alan: And how did they treat you when they arrested you?
Nergal: Bad. It was rough. The cell was like 3 metres by 2 metres. And we were four guys, lying on the ground, and it was all smeared with bloodstains on the walls, you know? There was shit and piss all over the place. It was fuckin rough man. But it was an interesting experience. I had never been arrested in my life, so I’m kinda thankful for the fact that I found myself in this situation and I learned from it. I definitely don’t want to go back there [prison].
Alan: Well it’s good that you got out of there safely and there is no serious criminal aspect hanging over your head.
Nergal: Yeah, there was none. It was a fucking set up. They just wanted to get us out of the country. We didn’t do anything that was against the law! We got visas from the Russian consulate in Poland. We didn’t fuckin make them up ourselves. We officially got visas to go there and play, and then for these visas that were issued by the Russian embassy, the other Russians arrested us. There was no logic there, you know?
Alan: What was their actual justification for arresting you?
Nergal: We were arrested earlier as well, but they just let us go. In two different cities in Russia, they would tell us that we need two different types of visas. In this city they would tell us that we need work permits, and in this city they would say that we need artists’ permits. So even within Russia it was not consistent. Which clearly means that it’s all free to their own interpretation. If they want to fuck you up, they’ll do it. They’ll bend the rules to their own benefit.
Alan: I’m sure you’ve been asked many times about your miraculous recovery from your illness a few years ago. As a band that promotes Satanism, do you feel that there could have been any influence of a supreme being in your recovery?
Nergal: Yes. Myself.
Nergal: And the knowledge of the doctors that took good care of me and made the right decisions to lead me to full recovery. No higher powers ruling over us, no.
Alan: And how do you feel now?
Nergal: I’m awesome. I feel great. I’m at the peak of my physical and intellectual abilities. I work out every day; even today. I just go and swim, run, lift weights. Just stay in good shape. Stay focussed, and stay healthy and eat smart. Yeah, just being aware of who I am and my body. It’s life man. Life’s a bitch. Eventually we’ve got to learn how to deal with that bitch.
Alan: Is there anything you could say to fans of yours who are undoubtedly going through the same thing you went through or very similar?
Nergal: Well, I could talk forever about it. And if someone comes to me and asks for advice I’ll do that. But sitting here talking about it ex-cathedra, it’s not really who I am. I’m myself and I can talk about my experiences and eventually people learn from it. When I was in deep shit, I would call other people, and it would be uplifting. I did my research and I did my homework to get some extra strength from outside.
Alan: And when you eventually got your bone marrow transplant… Do you happen to know who the donor was?
Nergal: Yeah, yeah. I met the guy. He’s a 26 year old miner from Poland. He’s a pretty cool dude. I might be seeing him in a couple of days because my bone-marrow birthday is happening on December 17th. So there’s going to be a small gathering and a small party and a reason to celebrate life. Victory over death.
Alan: How does it make you feel to think that somebody gave you a part of their own body for you to live?
Nergal: It’s awesome. There’s some alchemy aspect to it. It feels good. It’s surreal. You do whatever it takes to get out alive. And then you’re thankful and grateful to anyone or anything that helped you.
Alan: Moving onto something a bit less personal. You’ve covered quite a few songs over the years. Have you ever had any feedback from the original artists?
Nergal: Yeah, sure. That’s one of the best things that can happen an artist, when you cover Danzig or something and then you get to meet your idols, and they appreciate what you do. They actually become fans of your band. It’s not very often that it happens, and it’s super rewarding when things like that happen. I grew up listening to Danzig, and they happen to be really decent guys.
Alan: Are there any other songs or artists that you would like to cover?
Nergal: I could come up with a billion names! Life’s too short. But let’s just focus on what we’ve got now. We’ll be performing this Polish Punk band tonight; Siekiera. It’s all in Polish. I’m guessing there’s a lot of Poles in the audience tonight who can appreciate that we’re singing in Polish.
Alan: As 2014 draws to an end, what can you say was the top moment of the year for you; either personally or as a band?
Nergal: Well, we released probably the most important record in our career. And it feels weird after two decades of being around and struggling and touring and releasing albums. That was the tenth record in our career. And both fans and media claim The Satanist is the best Behemoth album ever. It’s a big deal. We’ve done a lot of crazy shit this year. We’ve been to a lot of great exotic places. We’ve been to places that we’ve never been before, like South Africa. The band keeps on expanding and it just feels good. A lot of touring, and a lot of positive energy. A lot of great feedback from people, the biggest turnouts, the best sales. Everything is awesome.
Alan: So the whole year is the best moment of 2014?
Nergal: Yeah! And the next year is going to be as exciting as this one. No new releases, but we’re doing new videos and there’s going to be a lot of more touring to come. We’re flying to Iceland for the first time ever which is wow! We’ll be flying to Dubai. We’ve never been to any Arabic countries before. It’s very refreshing to be in a band for so long and still do things that you do for the first time. We’re still hungry, which is amazing.
Alan: You mentioned going to Dubai. Do you anticipate any problems with performing there?
Nergal: No. The paradox is that it’s a pretty civilised place. We may think of Arabs as savages, but I’d be very surprised if I don’t see a futuristic and very smart people and civilised world, very appreciative and tolerant. I think that’s exactly what it’s going to be like.
Alan: What would you say was the best album of the year? And obviously I’m excluding The Satanist!
Nergal: Let me check my phone… The new Billy Idol is amazing. The new Beastmilk record – I fucking love this band. There’s more. The new Goat album is fucking killer. Jack White. New Laibach. Leonard Cohen, just came out about two months ago; I fucking love this album.
Alan: You have quite a wide range of musical taste.
Nergal: Yeah, to me, music is either good or bad. So yeah, a lot of good stuff.
Alan: What will you be doing on December 25th?
Nergal: Chilling probably. I actually dream of having some quality quiet time on my own. Just me and a book and a good cup of coffee, and eventually meeting a friend or two. Having a walk; I live in a really nice area, an old town Sopot which is really beautiful in the winter time; not many people. There’s a nice sea view there. So I just want to chill. I really need to recharge my batteries and reflect.
Alan: Thank you very much for taking the time; it was a pleasure to meet you. And thank you again for going to such lengths to come here tonight after the cancellation of your ferry.
Nergal: No. We are super excited about this show. Seriously, all the band is like “Fuck, we made it!” We’re really really happy. London and Glasgow were great, but we’re so happy that we didn’t miss this one.