INFERNO - A Rare Interview With The “Spinal Cord” Of BEHEMOTH
January 16, 2019, a month ago
A different perspective on a piece of art is always welcoming, especially when the lead creator is the outspoken poster-child of evil, and one who dominates the press the way Adam Nergal Darski has managed to do. Take Behemoth skin-pounder Inferno (real name Zbigniew Robert Promiński), who has been a staple in Polish extreme metal for over twenty years, and the unquiet backbone in the band’s rise to Satanic superstardom since 1997. Bear in mind, Jimmy Page stated that every Led Zeppelin album started with one single foundation - the drums. So akin to John Bonham, Inferno - as he describes it - is the “spinal cord” in the band and a dominating presence to our BravePick of 2018, I Loved You At Your Darkest. So here is a rare peek at the inner-workings of the extreme, a band that has certainly vaulted into the black metal throne with their latest work of macabre majesty.
Dare to step into the inferno…
BraveWords: Canada is familiar territory for Behemoth, almost like your second home.
Inferno: "It's a little bit darker here - but people are people. I still remember the tour in 2005 (in support of 2004’s Demigod) when we were travelling in a van for 26 shows - small bars, playing to 50-100 people. The biggest show was in Trois-Rivieres, and that was a festival so there were like 400 people there - I still have a lot of good memories.”
BraveWords: Everything really came together on I Loved You At Your Darkest.
Inferno: "Nice to hear it. We are very proud of this record. And I hope it wasn't an accident. We knew exactly what to do, and how to do it - in terms of music production - we said we have to be, we must be, satisfied.”
BraveWords: But you own the whole organization. Behemoth is not just a band, it's this working entity that you have ultimate control of, right?
Inferno: "It started to run faster the moment we signed with 5B Artist Management last year - and they have bands like Megadeth, Amon Amarth. They were very intense - same as us.
BraveWords: Well you need that - you need that Mustaine intensity, right?
Inferno: "I'm a huge fane of their lineup with Nick Menza and Marty Friedman, everything since Cryptic Writings.”
BraveWords: Now I'm curious about the creation of the new record, because it just seems to be Nergal writing the music, but what is your role?
Inferno: "What he does, he brings the riffs, the melody, but working together we had a chance to choose different studios. For example, I had an opportunity to record in a brand new studio in Poland, really beautiful - and the project was designed by the guy who did Abbey Road studios for Sting or Ringo Starr - and what they have is a seven-metre high live room for the drums, and it sounds beautiful, amazing. Huge, powerful, and so natural. Six months before the proper recording session we had a chance to check out the studio and record a couple of songs, four or five songs which were released by Legacy magazine. It was on cassette only, limited to just a couple of hundred copies. So, Orion (bassist Tomasz Wróblewski) would go to his best friend's place - he has a studio and he's also a very good bass player - and Nergal recorded guitars and vocals - and that's how it worked - and then Matt Hyde mixed it.
BraveWords: As a drummer, Jimmy Page was in town a couple of years ago with his photo book and he was explaining that every Led Zeppelin song started with one key element, and that was the foundation, which was John Bonham.
Inferno: "Okay, John Bonham is one of my biggest inspirations, ever. Together with Neil Peart. I'm not talking about metal music, ok? Just about drummers. So, I agree - his groove is absolutely fantastic. And he never died, you know what I mean? Definitely. The drums for me are like the spinal cord in rock music and metal music. If I make a mistake live, they're all fucked. So I never drink before a show, even a single beer. After, yes, I like some good scotch, and that's it.”
BraveWords: And you realize that you are Neil Peart territory?
Inferno: "Exactly, so you can probably hear the rapid tones on the album, that's a Neil Peart inspiration too. But also Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill, and Sepultura’s Schizophrenia. Very vintage, not so popular, so that's why I decided to use them.”
BraveWords: Ventor’s drumming on Pleasure To Kill took the double-bass and blast beats to a different level.
Inferno: "Ventor! He plays so hard!”
BraveWords: Back to Neil Peart. He was quoted saying that whenever he wrote his drum tracks for all these numerous Rush songs, he actually made it harder because he knew he was going to have to play it like 2-300 times a year.
Inferno: "You can see that he put so much energy on his toms, especially when he does the regular rhythm he's more relaxed and that's what I try to do.”
BraveWords: But you're pretty famous for not just playing hard and fast, but also keeping it simple.
Inferno: "What I like in music is balance between technique and precision - not speed anymore, we're too old to be part of a fucking competition or whatever. That's not what it's about. You don't have to be the fastest, or the fucking craziest one to do good music. I like balance - there is a spot for guitar, vocals, drums, and bass guitar - you can't takeover the territory. You have to know where you can do more, or less, and consider what's going to work best for the band as an entire thing. I think this is very important.”
BraveWords: Were you ever a Scorpions fan?
Inferno: "I like their old records, especially the first one.”
BraveWords: Herman Rarebell told me that on all those famous Scorpions tracks, he kept the drums more simplified and straight-forward because that is all the song required.
BraveWords: So he's a better drummer than what we have heard and I thought that was quite profound.
Inferno: "Exactly! If a song doesn't require it, like crazy parts, then you don't do it. Sometime you need more air, more atmosphere, You can't do fucking atmosphere with blastbeats all the time. And when you play that fast, you can't hear 100% the tone of your instrument. There were no triggers on the album, everything is real and natural.”
BraveWords: But I Loved You At Your Darkest is still fast and aggressive.
Inferno: "It wasn't easy to record. I'll tell you one thing. What I try to do is hear what the sound engineer needs. It might be uncomfortable for me to play if they say you have to move your cymbals 15 cm higher, but I say yeah, no problem, I can learn how to play it that way. If it's better for them becuase of the microphones, the sweet spot in the live room, this is very important. Same thing for tuning. For example, the snare drum. I prefer to have it in the middle - but they might tell me to try to tune it a bit lower - but then all the blastbeats might be fucking torture for me. If it's going to work for the whole production, then yes, but for the live shows that's the most difficult.”
BraveWords: What were some of the struggles for Behemoth trying to build a following in Poland and eventually getting noticed outside your homeland? Very similar to the roots of Sepultura for example.
Inferno: "I struggle all the time myself! But you probably mean the old times, right? There was no fucking internet, no YouTube, we only had tapes. So we had to figure out how it's done, and we didn't take lessons - there was one publication, and everyone had this publication. One magazine for the whole fucking country, imagine that, in the beginning of the ’90’s.”
BraveWords: So what is the main musical reason why you are sitting here?
Inferno: "So you already have two (John Bonham and Neil Peart). I would say the third is Doc (Krzysztof "Docent" Raczkowski) from Vader.
Because of their demo tape called Morbid Reich (1990). It was something crazy, and I've never heard this kind of drumming before. So it was probably 1991 when I heard them for the first time, so I decided to play drums, because of him too. I knew Led Zeppelin because of my father.”
BraveWords: What would be your favourite drumming albums?
Inferno: "It's hard to say, but Killing Joke, the orange album (2003), with Dave Grohl. This is fucking amazing. The drum sound - perfect. Also, South of Heaven from Slayer.”
BraveWords: Was Reign in Blood too fast for you?
Inferno: "No, no, not really - but South of Heaven sounds so dry, so natural. It's so close, you know what I mean? The drum mix is right here, so that's why I really like it. And I like the album from the Chick Corea band Paint The World (from 1993 with the official title Elektric Band II: Paint The World) with Gary Novak on drums. This is crazy. And yeah, it's a different kind of take for us, but I remember I listened to this album a lot.”
Photo credit: Grzegorz Gołębiowski