Pestilence: Patrick Mameli makes no compromise

Saying that Patrick Mameli, leader, guitarist and singer in Pestilence, knows what he wants for his band is an understatement. He only wants the very best for the band that has been his baby for more than twenty-five years; and he also wants Pestilence to reflect his vision in its purest form, to the point that he won’t even listen to any other music in order to avoid external influences. As it appears in the following interview, there is something egocentric, almost selfish, in the way Mameli leads his band. This leads him to a few contradictions, for example when he says he wants to gather a star lineup around him but at the same time admits that he has trouble accepting the fact that they could question his music.

The new Pestilence album, named Obsideo, focuses on the journey of a human soul after death. A journey set to music through brutal, heavy and technical songs. Because even though Mameli doesn’t want to be part of a band which only evolves towards something more brutal, and if Pestilence’s music seems to be heading towards this direction, this will only happen with a more technical side, better musicians; and for himself, the best level he can possibly reach at a given point within his progression and the one of his band. Indeed, just like his choice to start playing eight strings guitar shows, his ambition is first and foremost to “do a little bit more, better and different.”

« I had to debate with those guys about my music and this is something that is kind of difficult to me, because I’ve always had a vision of how Pestilence should sound like. »

Radio Metal: There have been a lot of movements in the band’s line-up lately on the bass and drums spots. It’s become kind of hard to follow…

Patrick Mameli (guitar, vocals): Are you really serious about this? Because I thought that the official Facebook page or my Facebook page has been pretty allusive about who is the line-up in the new Pestilence album. It has nothing to do with the first ideas that we had about having a line-up with Stephan Fimmers or Tim Yeung in it. Really soon after that I made a really official statement that it would be George Maier on bass and Dave Haley on the drums. So, I don’t understand the confusion about this whole thing. Please tell me, what is the problem with all the information all of you guys have been getting?

Well, if you check on the official Pestilence website it’s not very clear, George Maier and Dave Haley are both mentioned as the bass player and drummers on the album on the latest news about the band’s signature on Candlelight Records, but with no specific prior announcement, since the previous post dated back to 2012 and was about Stephan Fimmers and Tim Yeung being respectively the new bass player and drummer, with even a statement from Fimmers. Plus there’s not much news about the current line-up on Blabbermouth or other international news website either…

I know, Nicolas, that there’s been a lot of confusion on the internet about this and obviously the internet is not real time, because you can post something in the past and it’ll be read by people right now. So, you’re right. Originally, I really wanted to have Stephan Fimmers, because I wanted to have like an all-star line-up. I need people that can understand my music and know how to use their instrument, and Stephan Fimmers from Necrophagist, of course, is an amazing bass player and I wanted to have a really good drummer that could pull it off. There were a few drummers that I could think of and Tim Yeung was one of those guys. I’ve also had Derek Roddy, for example, and some other guys in mind. Actually on the internet somebody mentioned the guy from Psycroptic, that’s why I emailed him and asked him if he wanted to do the album. And he wanted to do it and it was just awesome. George Maier used to play in a band called Dehydrated, I think (laughs), that’s something that I really like and he loves Pestilence. This is how the line-up was completed.

Stephan Fimmers, when he was announced, at the time, he was going to be the new bass player, seemed to be quite happy about that and gave the following statement: « I’m looking forward to be part of a great, new Pestilence album – Obsideo – I’m sure that the upcoming album is gonna blast!! It’s great to join the band and play with these awesome musicians. » Didn’t he foresee that he wouldn’t be able to continue with the band?

Yeah, I understand this question and I will tell you what happened. Stephan Fimmers is not only a bass player, I think he’s married or he has a girlfriend, and he has his own studio, he does his own recordings for bands. Initially, he thought that he would have the time to record and play with us live. And all of a sudden he got really a lot of requests for productions. A lot of people wanted to go to his studio. That’s what happened, so he didn’t have the time anymore to go ahead, record an album with us and do some shows, because his studio was getting really big.

« I’m scared to get influenced. […] My music has to be pure, it has to be Pestilence, you know? »

Are you somehow frustrated by the band’s line-up instability? You seemed quite happy with the Doctrine line-up…

Well, let me tell you, it’s just a logistic matter. If you have an all Dutch line-up, everybody speaks Dutch, you don’t have a gap of understanding in what you’re trying to say. Like I said, logistically, it’s easier to go and do practices. And I was really happy with that line-up but the downside of that line-up was that those guys were all stars, they all are amazing. I mean, Jeroen (Paul Thesseling) is amazing, Yuma (Van Eekelen) with his young age is amazing as well. So, I had to debate with those guys about my music and this is something that is kind of difficult to me, because I’ve always had a vision of how Pestilence should sound like. And working with those geniuses… They have their own ideas about what they think about my music. So, it was always difficult to have everybody do what I want, really. With this new line-up, those guys don’t question my music, it’s just the way it is, they understand it and they try to get it to a high level.

But don’t you think it’s enriching to discuss your music with other musicians, see if they have better ideas than yours?

If somebody has a different view on my music, then he has to prove me wrong. What we did with Obsideo, is that I sent files to Dave through the internet, just rough guitars and some click tracks, whatever, and he would just play along to this and he would give me four or five suggestions on how my beats could be. That’s something that really helps me, instead of just trying to debate on whether the riffs are good or something like that. Those guys that I have in my line-up right now really understand the way music works and makes it really easy for me to adapt to them. It’s just like sending each other files, the files come back, everybody agrees and it’s history.

How would you actually compare Obsideo to Doctrine?

Wow, this album is the total opposite to Doctrine, really. Like I said, I had to discuss with two genius players and they had their own ideas about my music, so we had to compromise and that’s how Doctrine was born. I mean, I still think that this album has some classic songs and super talented people on it. It’s a classic album. In twenty years, I’ll be dead, and people will recognize this album. It’s just the way it’s going to be. I think, with Obsideo, what I did is going back to the roots of my own music and to what I really like, which is this kind of total brutal heavy stuff. I’ve never had a line-up with which I could accomplish this, this wish that I had, to try to make the most brutal music. Now, with Dave Haley, it’s different, this guy’s one of the top three best death metal drummers ever. So, he’s capable of reaching those speeds that I really want and make a groove out of it as well. Doctrine was more like « Let’s try to do something, and let’s not go overboard. » And with Obsideo now, it was more like « Let’s just do it! » I mean, Obsideo is the most brutal Pestilence album ever, right?

« The music that I do hear is on the radio […] It’s more like a techno or dance type of music and I listen to that shit all day, and I do realize that there are some positive aspects in any type of music, because everything is valid, you know? »

Right. I have read you talk about how Pestilence was always evolving and how the fans loved the band for its progression. So, how would you qualify the progression you made with Obsideo?

Listen, it’s always very difficult to try to evolve, because if you try to evolve into something else… You know, the metal scene – especially the death metal scene – is very old fashion. So, every time I try to do something else it’s a big risk for me. But I do it because I just love the music and I want to try every time to give people a different view on Pestilence. You know, most of the bands that are out there will try to make the same album but just more brutal. So, it’s more of the same. What I try to do is to always evolve and make something else than the previous album. Nobody can ever say « This album sounds just like Doctrine » or « This album just sounds like Testimony Of The Ancients ». No, because it’s not like that at all. With Obsideo I made a combination of all those albums, with better musicians. I had more possibilities to create the most brutal music but all super technical.

The three albums that Pestilence has produced since the reformation are much more brutal than what you did with Testimony Of The Ancients and Spheres which are reference albums in the technical progressive death metal genre. Like you said, Obsideo is the most brutal Pestilence album you ever made. Are you more interested in brutality now rather than developing the progressive side of your music like you did on Spheres?

I don’t know. I mean, every time it’s about evolving and progressing. So, I don’t consider Obsideo different from Spheres, really, because Obsideo is about trying to find different ways in showing my music. The only thing that was messed up with Spheres was the production. If the production had been way more brutal, it wouldn’t have stood out as much as it does today because of the fusion influences. Every time I try to do better than what we did before. That’s what I do. I just try to be a better musician, a better guitar player; I just try to be better overall. With Obsideo, I never thought of it saying that it had to be an exceptional album. It’s just the best thing that I can do at this moment. If I become a better musician, then I can try to do a little bit better than that. I’m just trying to prove to myself at what point I am in my musical life, let’s say.

You’re playing now on an eight string guitar. How did you end up using such instrument? Were you somehow influenced by a band like Meshuggah or the djent movement that has popularized the use of eight string guitars?

Well, you know, honestly, I’ve had this question a lot, with people asking « Are you guys trying to be Meshuggah? Have you guys got into the eight string because of Meshuggah? » and that kind of stuff. Listen: we don’t listen to music. I don’t listen to metal music, I don’t listen to pop, I don’t listen to anything. So, I don’t have any clue about what’s going on in the world. When I was kind of fed up with the six string, because I learned it and I know how to play it, I wanted to try to do a little more, better and different. I’ve heard that there were seven string guitars and then I thought that there should be eight string guitars as well. When I started reading on the internet, I read about this band called Meshuggah that was using eight string guitars, and I wasn’t like « Oh, these guys are using eight string so let me use it as well! » No, I just had my own idea about it and I was thinking about scales, how to downscale and how it works if you have different intervals because of the B and F# strings. I was just thinking about these things myself and we started using it for Doctrine. That was such a relief for me to play this guitar. Imagine driving the car that you had for twenty fucking years, you know everything about this car, right? So, now I exchanged my six string for an eight string: now I’m driving a different car, it feels different. You just have to try to feel what’s going on here. So we tried it for Doctrine and I thought it worked for us. Maybe the production wasn’t the best, or maybe people didn’t like the vocals or I don’t know, because Pestilence has always been the same. I’ve always used the same formula for my whole life, so I don’t understand what they don’t like in Doctrine. But for Obsideo, the songs were especially written for an eight string, not on a six string and then transposed, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

« There are not a lot of things that I really enjoy listening to, except when I watch those comedy channels on TV because they’re just laughing all the time. »

Since a couple of years metal music is expanding its extremities, like using lower tunings as you’re doing with the eight string guitar. Do you think this is metal music’s vocation, to push the boundaries and grow to be more and more extreme?

I don’t know. I don’t have any ideas about how that works. I don’t know what defines a style. I think that everything has the sign of the times, so you’ll have different musical movements appearing. One movement goes on for two years, another one for four or five years. I don’t know if the eight string can put that much of a stamp on the music of the years 2000 or 2010. What I do know is that people always want more and get more crazy, it has to be fast, it has to be more brutal, it has to be more in-your-face, until it kind of slows down and then other movements will come up. It’s all about groove or something like that, you know.

You just said a little bit earlier that you don’t listen to any music. How is it possible to make music without listening to any music?

Well, that’s what keeps it fresh for me. The music that I do hear is on the radio when I’m at my regular job. I have to listen to it because it’s on the radio and everybody wants to hear it. It’s more like a techno or dance type of music and I listen to that shit all day, and I do realize that there are some positive aspects in any type of music, because everything is valid, you know? I mean, if it’s rubbish, it’s rubbish but if it’s good music, any type is good. For me, I’m scared to get influenced. I mean, everybody gets influenced by the media or the radio or anything, and I get influenced by it too. So if I’m a person who tries to produce music and I listen to other music, and my music gets compromised, then it’s not my music anymore. I try to really stay away from those types of input so that there can be no influence from outside that would make me change my music. My music has to be pure, it has to be Pestilence, you know? That’s how I operate. I try to be original. I know from listening to my old demos and tapes that I was influenced by Slayer, by Death and some other bands. You can hear it in my music and I just don’t want to do that. I want to be Pestilence.

But do you think we can make music out of no influence at all? Because, if it’s not by music, you’re certainly influenced by other things that happen in life…

I don’t like to watch the news on television because it’s all just so fucking negative and it sucks. I don’t like to listen to the radio. There are not a lot of things that I really enjoy listening to, except when I watch those comedy channels on TV because they’re just laughing all the time. Life makes you really depressive at some point. I can relate to death. I can relate to, if somebody dies, what happens to the person’s soul – is he going to heaven, is he going to hell? So, I have my own ideas about what can happen to the human soul after somebody dies. So I thought that maybe that would work as a musical idea, and that’s how Obsideo was born.

« I’m like a guitar god as well, so… »

And actually this is a common lyrical theme throughout the album, “the journey of the human soul”. Can you tell us more about it?

There are people who are atheist and they believe that there’s nothing after death, that when you die you’re done. I always try to have a positive idea, thinking that maybe there’s a purpose in life, that whenever you die you’re not just dead, you go to another place. And I started reading books about esoteric and the different layer of reality, etc. It made me think that maybe this would fit into my music. It’s pretty brutal. The intro, when the guy dies, gives you right away an idea of this album’s context: it explains what could happen after death. Most of the music that we listen to on the radio is about love or whatever, but this is something that takes you on a journey. Every song takes you further into the soul of the person that is dying.

You produced the album yourself…

Since I have my band Pestilence, I always produce my own albums, starting from Malleus. I’ve always done the production of all albums. For Obsideo it’s the same. I’m the guy that knows everything about my music and I can give to the engineer who does the recording all the ideas that I have in my head to make it work. I’m here 24 hours a day and 7 days a week when it’s being recorded and mixed. I’m always there. It has to be like this. I don’t want to be one of those guys who give the ball away and see what happens next. I always try to keep the control of my product until it’s released and then they can do whatever they want to do with it.

But in the credits of Testimony it says that it was produced by Scott Burns, on Doctrine Victor Bullock is mentioned along with you on the production…

Those guys are called engineers. They engineer the stuff, I produce. I’m the one that is telling them what to do, because I’m the one who knows my music. Do you think they listen to all of our demos before we come into the studio and say that this part is not good or this and that? No, of course not. We come into the studio and these guys are recording our songs, and I’m giving them my view on how it should sound or how it should be. That’s the way it works. It should say « produced by Patrick Mameli », because I produce all the fucking albums. I did Resurrection, I did Doctrine, I did Testimony, I did all that shit, I was always there. Sometimes the people at the record company want to say that it’s produced and engineered by the same guy, because he actually recorded it, but that doesn’t mean he knows the music, right?

And do you think it’s wrong for a band to call a producer? Because that’s what most bands are doing, they’re not producing their albums on their own…

Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. That’s just crazy.

Pestilence just signed with Candlelight Records. Do you think they’re a better suited label for Pestilence compared to Mascot Records?

Well, you know what it is?! Ok, I did the Resurrection Macabre album with Mascot Records but after I did Doctrine, I saw on my Facebook page that a lot of people couldn’t get the album because it’s just not in store. Then I started thinking that maybe Mascot, globally, isn’t that big. So, I just stopped with them. I was given the opportunity to talk to the guys from Candlelight. Since I didn’t have any contract anymore, I could choose from different labels. I wanted to have a label that is not too big but that has global coverage, instead of just having a really big office like Nuclear Blast and be one of those bands. I don’t want to do that. I know how the music industry works and I know that I have good ideas for this music and I want to keep it alive as long as I live. So, I try to have a record company that support me and they’re just the best for us at this moment.

Maybe the problem with Mascot Records was also that this is not that much a label for death metal. They don’t have many death metal bands; they’re more into classic guitar players and stuff like that, right?

Yeah, that could be true as well. On the other hand, I’m like a guitar god as well, so… I could play that stuff. Guitar gods recognize me for being a good guitar player as well. I hear it all the time. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t get that coverage just because they have guitar heroes and more blues stuff. It’s just a money issue. If you’re a big company you can really push your bands. And if you don’t have that money you can’t, you know.

Interview conducted on October, 15th 2013 by Spaceman.
Transcription: Spaceman.
Introduction: Spacemanimal.

Pestilence official website: www.pestilence.nl

Album Obsideo, out since November, 12th 2013 via Candlelight Records.

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