By “Metal” Tim Henderson
Black metal and the beach; an antithesis that organizers of the recent Barge To Hell journey were happy to unite for the first time when the ship travelled from Miami, FL to Nassau, Bahamas and then back to Miami, FL in early December. During the journey, BraveWords caught up with some of the leaders of the extreme, including a very relaxed BEHEMOTH frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski who spoke about the unique new adventure of heavy metal cruising, his battle against Polish “conservatives” who want him crucified over his bible-tearing incident, the band’s follow-up to 2009’s Evangelion and whether or not we’ll see his new autobiography (Spowiedz Heretyka – Sacrum Profanum) in English anytime soon. Sail on below…
“It’s an amazing idea this whole cruise,” Nergal begins from a state room overlooking the Caribbean. “It’s our first one here in the US, with such a big profile. A few weeks back we did a smaller one between Sweden and Finland – it was shorter pretty much one night stay over. But this is warm and we’re from Poland and it just started snowing – not that I don’t like snow, I do like snow but I’m a warm animal, so I would rather go for this kind of environment with the sun.”
And how do tattoo-riddled metalheads react to the sun?!
Nergal: “I don’t give a fuck anymore, whatever (he laughs). I like changes, I like when my skin is changing too. Pretty much most of the year I’m pale, so if I get a suntan that’s fine. But, after all the chemo and therapy and stuff it’s not really advised to stay long in the sun. I go out in the sun but I need to use lotion to protect my skin. No sun overdose, but I used to do that spend hours and hours in the sun. I loved the warmth, but not anymore.”
How do you think a cruise environment affects the image of a black metal band?
Nergal: “Well, you get to see me in the morning wearing my pajamas at breakfast … seriously not so much. Obviously we’re not walking in the streets in our full stage gear and armour and stuff. During the day it’s my casual look but at night it’s my stage persona. Of course they are mixed with each other other and I’m not pretending on stage, I’m being myself, I’m being Nergal. On stage I’m like this animal that’s been unleashed. I’m more tame in the regular environment like this. We will deliver, we will do our best, but we are so much more limited. In Europe we can bring our stage gear, we can bring pyros and stuff. The boat limitations are obvious; we didn’t even have a smoke machine. But during the meet and greet we had people comment to us that they had seen us many times and this was the best that they had seen. I don’t know‚ they just said that it was pure and raw, and no effects that would distract them. Just pure energy and you guys, that’s all we need. And I’m like, ‘wow, okay.’ It’s just different perceptions of what people see.”
What does this kind of floating concert environment do to the scene? On 70000 Tons Of Metal even CNN was aboard, so obviously it’s drawing plenty of media attention to the hard rock and heavy metal scene.
Nergal: “70000 Tons Of Metal is higher profile, more radio friendly music. This is extreme pretty much all the way, fucked up and evil and stuff. CNN is probably just scared to get on board. But hey, we still have all the essential media on board with us which is cool. It’s like a festival on water, there’s no where to run, we can’t escape. It puts you in a very special mindset. It’s also very friendly atmosphere too. I walk around, eat, train and do whatever. There are friends everywhere, band members, people I know. There’s a respect. And then I look at other faces and I say ‘I’ve seen this guy in Germany.’ It’s very much a family vibe here‚ it’s awesome.”
Are you comfortable with the fan interaction you see on a ship?
Nergal: “Actually they are not so much all over you. They are very respectful. They notice, but we are just walking around like normal human beings like we are. They really treat your territory with respect which is awesome. Obviously they approach you for a pic or a photo or whatever but that is the nature it’s awesome. If it was in some kind of different environment, I would want to go and hide. But here I don’t give a fuck, it’s good to socialize. I was hungry for that, and I definitely want to do it again.”
Let’s get more serious from moment, and talk about your current life; this bible-tearing incident and the European Commission now saying that prosecution for “blasphemy” is against European values. Where does it stand, and who actually wants to lynch you?
Nergal: “You have to realize that there are some very conservative parties in Poland, who want to take advantage of fighting a person like myself, because I’m in the media and it’s very easy to spot me and attack me. I’m prolific with a face that’s very much exposed in the media. Obviously there are a lot of people who use blasphemy as a metaphor in their art. But they choose the one that is an easy target, and I’m an easy target for them. So they want to build up their name, they want to build up whatever, they want to win something over this case, and I am doing everything humanly possible for them to fail. I’m just not accepting the present situation where an artist is limited on stage, because he shouldn’t. If I decided to be an accountant, I definitely wouldn’t be doing blasphemies and commit blasphemous acts in a bank let’s just say. Are you reading me? I’m being very sarcastic now. No, I’m an artist and that’s the way I want to express myself. That’s my manifest, that’s it. I’m not attacking people. I’m never in the street attacking people because I’m not fighting with people I’m fighting with ideas that I disagree with and I do it within my battlefield, my territory. When I go there, I fight like I’m in the ring just like two boxers where one boxer knocks the other one out. He doesn’t get arrested because they know this is the ring and these are the rules. That’s what I’m trying to explain to some people that are very narrow-minded. They don’t even see the difference. We live in a democratic country and they have to realize that there’s going to be people that have a very negative opinion about their religion. They have to understand that these people also have the right to speak up, that’s how I see it. I know I’m here for the right reason, I fight for the right reason. It’s not a battle between Satanism and Christianity, it’s freedom against bullshit. Freedom against narrow-mindedness. Liberating philosophy versus something very limiting. It’s something that limits one’s freedom and I can’t let it be that way. It’s very obvious, very natural to me.”
You must’ve been elated when the European Commission supported your plight.
Nergal: “That’s awesome. Just imagine how much of a mess that caused in the media. Politicians and all the fucking right wing conservative media freaked out when they saw it because we are part of the European Union and you must obey European values. ‘And European values protects this gentleman on stage – let him be who he is.’ I was like ‘yes!’ Even if I fail in Poland I will go to Strasbourg which is the plan and I will start a case against my country. I’m pretty confident at the end of the day I will win. The case is set to take place on January 8. If I fail – and I hope not – but if I do, it’s not over.”
Is this fuelling the creative juices for your next album?
Nergal: “I can’t say much now because we are in the middle of the creative process, or writing. I’m still collecting ideas in writing music. Actually I wrote a pretty cool riff before the show last night. I was jamming out, fucking around with my guitar and I came up with something awesome so maybe a piece of this cruise will make its way onto the next album but it’s too early now. I’m a peaceful animal, but there are people that don’t want me to be in peace because they are afraid of me. But they give me reasons and inspiration, which I’m very thankful for.”
Every era has it’s rebel, whether it be Elvis, James Dean, The Beatles or Ozzy.
Nergal: “Yes, rebellious icons. I’m not that egocentric to say that I am becoming one because you’re talking about big guys, the classics. But I’ve got my mind, about my thoughts and my philosophies and I stand behind what I say and what I do and I hope that I’m very honest with listeners and with myself. The bottom line is honesty. Maybe I’m stupid, if I am, that’s me. But above everything is honesty.”
Let’s talk about your biography (Spowiedz Heretyka – Sacrum Profanum) being translated into English
Nergal: “Soon I am flying to New York and I have meetings with some publishers, so cross your fingers that this will come out soon. It’s actually a bestseller in Poland, so I’m very happy to see that. It’s selling like hell, it’s awesome. It makes me think that if I don’t do this in English, I won’t be complete. So let’s hope it will come out, it’s really beautifully packaged, it’s like a photo album with tons of pictures from my toddler era, me getting baptized. When people see that, they freak out, they love it. There’s a lot of distance that I show towards myself. It was a really cool process to go through it and write about it. I really learned a lot about myself again.”
What are your thoughts about METALLICA owning their masters now with Blackened Records they have their own label and they are finally in charge of their own destiny I believe it’s a game changer and it affects all bands.
Nergal: “I’m happy for them because they probably always wanted to do it, and they have the resources and power to move the way they want. I’ve always tried to keep the rights to my records on. Not with every label, but I always force the other party to sign a license deal. That’s what we do with merchandise and most of the album deals, but not all of them. So we just couldn’t. I pretty much owns the rights to half of the catalog, so I’m secure. This business is changing every day and it’s hard to trust people. I don’t know where it’s going to lead us, but we try to be alert.”
How are you balancing business with being creative.
Nergal: “I must do both. That’s what Mick Jagger said once, ‘I hate the music business but I have to do it.’ Otherwise there is a line of people waiting to screw me over. I hate business, but I must deal with that if I want to get my share. I’d rather just focus on writing and being an artist but there ardmore duties that I have to handle in order to have my band active and doing so well.”
Photo credit: Håkon Grav