Vesania: the machine is on its way

Tomasz Wróblewski, aka Orion, has had a busy year. As a bass player with Behemoth, he released the eagerly awaited and largely acclaimed The Satanist in February, then went on tour for a year. Now, this time as the leader/singer/guitarist, he’s back with his own symphonic black/death metal band Vesania and a new album, Deus Ex Machina, seven years after the previous record, Distractive Killusions. The least you can say is that he’s had time to refine that one, and you can hear it in the overall dramatic quality of the record and in the extremely rich arrangements (including strings, drums, a harpsichord, a saloon piano, Spanish-sounding trumpets and various scary ambient noises). When you listen to this album, you understand where the richness of the latest Behemoth records comes from: it’s all due to keyboard player Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś, who’s responsible for the orchestrations of both Polish bands.

We’ve talked to Orion to shed some light on the years Vesania was on hiatus and the way the band goes about its music. And of course, we couldn’t fail to talk about Behemoth and ask for his opinion on Nergal, one of the great figures of extreme music.

 » We’re not trying to be super popular or make our living with this band, so we’re actually free to play whatever we want. »

Radio Metal: This new album, Deus Ex Machina, comes out 7 years after the previous one. Why such a long time?

Tomasz « Orion » Wróblewski (vocals / guitar): After Distractive Killusions, the last album that we’ve released back then in 2007 I believe, we did some tours and for some reasons we were very unlucky with all of them. And the third one in a row was a tour in Europe… You’re based in France right? Well, that’s a coincidence because the worst part of it was the French part. The promoter just ran away from the tour, he was just creating problems from the beginning to the end. On the day of the Paris show, he just never showed up in the venue and we had to cancel the Paris show and the rest of the European tours because the booking agency just couldn’t handle it. Leaving the venue in Paris, being forced to cancel the show and passing by all these people waiting in front of the venue and seeing their impressions, you know, showing their middle fingers to us… That was just enough. I’m not blaming them for doing it because they don’t need to know what’s happening behind the scene. We just worked with the wrong booking agency. It was just unlucky coincidences, one tour after another. And all these three tours ended up badly. After this Paris story we just came back home. We had lots of debts. It cost us a lot of money and we just decided to put the band aside for a moment. We’re a group of friends. We’ve grown up together. We’ve shared the same enthusiasm about things and it just wasn’t there back then. So we decided to put it aside for some time and wait for things to happen in the future maybe.

Do you want to come back to France after what happened?

Well… [Hesitating] I have had bad experiences but I am pretty sure there are a lot of good people there and a lot of fans, and I do want to go back there. I’m just not sure if the people will be very pleased after what happened because what they saw, was us cancelling the tour and leaving the show. They don’t know any details. But yeah I do want to go back there.

Did you also want to have more time to polish the album, since there are a lot of arrangements, orchestrations and complexity?

We did have a lot of time. Recording the sound took us, I don’t know, a year and a half or almost two years. But it’s just the way we work. It’s a very multilayered music and arrangements, and there are a lot of elements in it. Recording, tracking down things doesn’t really take that long but the mixing does take a lot of time. So, usually, we do breaks in the recording session. We do something and we have a break for like a week or two, or a month, just to get some distance with what we’ve just done and eventually rearrange some things. It’s a complicated music. I wish we were a band where you plug your guitar into the amp and you just play, you record and you’re done. We’re not that kind of a band unfortunately.

Was it frustrating or, on the contrary, do you enjoy not having any pressure for a release date and taking your time to let the music grow?

I couldn’t really let myself sign a deal which would cause any pressure because we’re involved in different things as well, aside Vesania. My behemoth schedule was pretty tight and all the other guys are also in other bands, so being pressurized by the labels that would just not work. That’s not the way we want to do things. I never understood these bands who are recording and releasing an album every year, it’s not for me and it’s not for us. We need time to play the tours, then to get back together to write some music and to record it. It’s a much longer period than a year, usually. It’s at least two or three years for me. Maybe I’m just slow [laughs].

The band features members of Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir and the music of both bands has evolved to a more complex and orchestrated music. Has this evolution been somehow an, at least indirect, influence on this album?

Dimmu Borgir has always been all about tons of keyboards and orchestral arrangements. So I can’t say it has any influence on us. Naming my influences, that would rather be the first Emperor album regarding this kind of music. As for Behemoth, this actually works the other way around, because the person responsible for most of the samples on Behemoth’s albums is Seigmar, the keyboard player from Vesania, and he is doing all these things. So in this case, the influence goes in the other way. Vesania has always been like this. We just incorporate a lot of factors into our music. It becomes complicated at some point but that’s what it is [chuckles].

You do some nice clean vocals on this album on some songs. What are your influences when it comes to clean singing?

First of all, it’s far from clean singing. For this album we wanted the sound to be more “rocky” than metal and we were all against these kick drum sounds straight in your face, super high gain guitars, etc. It just sounds more organic, like you can hear the drummer playing harder and lighter, same thing with the guitars. And when it came to clean singing, we decided not to tune all the vocals. We just didn’t want to make this music square-like, you know. In these times we’re leaving in, we’re used to see computers editing the recorded stuffs to the very edge; it’s just too much. I’ve recorded too many albums like that, sounding like midi, like robots playing music and we didn’t want that here. So the clean vocals are not even run through any kind of auto-tune plugin, they’re just as they are. When it comes to influences, I don’t know. We listen to thousands of albums all the time. It’s our world, we live and work in the music industry. It’s really hard to name some sort of particular vocalist or band, you know. We’re influenced by whatever makes us think and that’s the way it is.

« I’m rarely nervous before going on stage with Behemoth and I’m always super stressed and super nervous before going on stage with Vesania. »

On this album we have a lot of really good dark melodies. One could think that it softens your music but it really isn’t. Is this a balance that is hard to find?

Every balance is hard to find. We’re not trying to be super popular or make our living with this band, so we’re actually free to play whatever we want. And it seems that we’re just at this point in life where we need this sort of balance in the music that we are making.

There are some extreme metal fans that think that adding some keyboards and some melody to death or black metal automatically transforms it into non-extreme music. What do you think of that?

Well, there is a lot of people and opinions, and I’m not going to argue with anyone saying that this band or another is extreme or not extreme. Let them think whatever they want to think. I mean speaking about genres of music and everything, it is a matter for journalists and reviewers and I’m never good at it or at saying if we’re closer to this or we’re closer to that and adding this thing makes us this or that… I don’t really care.

The album’s title is Deus Ex Machina. This concept has actually been overused in modern entertainment…

That’s true!

Did you feel the need to remind people the true meaning of this concept, that comes from ancient greek tragedy?

Well, not at all. I agree it’s been overused and I myself know at least three or four albums named Deus Ex Machina. The thing is Vesania has always been very theatrical in a way and when I started writing lyrics from the albums it turned out to be a very sad story behind all of them. They’re all very hopeless, showing a human being in a situation with no solution. I just thought it would mechanize concepts here because Deus Ex Machina, in this case, is rather like a call for help, a call for some sort of intervention or solution to things that are just helpless. And even if there are a lot of bands or a lot of art in general that has used this concept, I don’t really mind that. It’s what we needed at this moment.

Did that happen to you to be in a situation where you felt the need to call for help?

Even if you’re a writer or an artist, even if you are able to create a completely theoretical structure or subject in what you are doing, there’s always some part of you and some part of your thoughts in these things. So, partly, yes, but these super private stories are not really going public this time [laughs].

You’re the main singer and guitar player of the band, whereas you’re Behemoth’s bass player. How do you feel, as the frontman of the band? Have you got used to play that role?

It’s really different from what I do in Behemoth. I’m rarely nervous before going on stage with Behemoth and I’m always super stressed and super nervous before going on stage with Vesania. Everything probably depends on the position you have on stage. When you’re standing in the middle and you’re supposed to be the band leader and the lead singer, you have the eyes on you. So you just feel the stage differently. It’s a different experience but still Vesania is the band that I started with. I think we started in 1996 or 1997, and the first show that I have ever played was a Vesania show. After that I actually joined Behemoth and all my other band mates joined all the other bands, and these bands still exist. So I’m jumping from one position to another and somehow I got used to it. Some people are surprised that I still want to jump into this different position and different sort of circumstances which comes with a much smaller band which is Vesania. But somehow I’m finding a way, because I’m feeling very enthusiastic about this band since the very beginning.

People often say that singing is worse than being naked. Do you agree with that?

It’s probably very similar. I would not choose which is worse; it depends probably on how you look naked [laughs]. But it’s a similar sort of impression that you get, I guess. You’re just showing everything you can do and you let the people judge you. It’s probably the same with being publicly naked.

For many years, when the media talked about Behemoth, they especially talk about Nergal’s popular success. Is it something that frustrates you or are you comfortable with staying in the shadows?

I keep my fingers crossed for him and I’m very happy about each of his personal successes. We’re great friends since the very beginning when I joined the band. I’m not this kind of person who tries to be in the spotlight too much and I’m rather fine with the position I’m in the band. He’s the band leader and he’s the master mind behind Behemoth so he is supposed to get this much exposure, and I’m glad it’s happening.

« When you have a chance to get some money, you need to find a way to invest in yourself somehow because the music story, no matter how big or cool it is, this is going to end at some point. »

We talked with Peter Wiwczarek from Vader about Nergal’s success and he told us that even if it raises curiosity about metal music in Poland, it won’t change anything about metal music’s recognition there, because people will keep having their prejudices. What do you think of that?

I don’t think his personal success – let’s call it that way – has any influence on the perception of metal music in general. It’s probably a little bit different in Poland because Nergal is a sort of celebrity there and not only metal fans know who Nergal is. It probably adds some sort of new recognition for metal music, in the sense that people who are not connected to metal at all can see it in the media and can judge it and comment it or whatever. But I don’t think it has any influence at all on metal music in general.

For the first time in Behemoth’s existence, Nergal may have hinted that the last album you guys did could be a great way to conclude the band’s career. He also said that he has a lot of ideas and he would like to do more things outside the metal universe. What is your opinion on that? Is this something that you have actually discussed?

The thing is he has never been happier with anything we’ve done before. He conquered the sickness after being in hospital for that long and he recorded an album that he was probably afraid of at first, but then when it all happened he just could feel the album’s success and everything. So his point of view on things changed a lot after the leukemia story and saying that anything that we’re doing at any time can be concluding the entire career is just true because, you know, anything can happen anytime. So he meant it like that: I’m proud of this thing and if it all ends today, if we die today or whatever, that’s a beautiful thing to end a career with. Nothing like this is probably going to happen so we will record other albums and just proceed with the band. The journalists and some media stories are just taking this Nergal sentence out of the context and saying that Behemoth’s going to end his career. That’s just wrong, that’s bullshit, that’s not how it was.

Do you think that is a problem in our society, that people read things too fast and misinterpret things?

It’s the way the media works. I wouldn’t argue with that, it’s just the way it is, you know. You can’t win with this. It all leads on sensation and let it be this way, whatever.

Do you share Nergal enthusiasm about nonmetal music and the other stuff he’s doing or do you sometimes think « Ok, maybe he’s going too far”? Like the comedy he did or him being a jury in a kind of pop music show…

He gets the chance to step aside from the metal music and metal business in general and get paid for it. He did this and I don’t really consider this a bad thing at all. A metal band is not something that you can do for your lifetime because we have no social retirement money or whatever. At some point, I know we’ll have some problems with our spines or with health in general… Anyway, somewhere around your forties, fifties or sixties, depending on the band, you have to go-off stage and quit doing it. And what’s there for you? No one’s paying you for anything at this point. So, at some point in life, when you have a chance to get some money, you need to find a way to invest in yourself somehow because the music story, no matter how big or cool it is, this is going to end at some point. And we’ve got to make our living somehow, but there’s nothing else we can do because most of our lives will have been spent being on stage. So I keep my fingers crossed for whatever he’s doing and I’m happy that he’s going well. You know, it all may end someday.

And what about you: are you interested in other types of music outside of metal?

Of course, aside being in bands when I have a little time, I’m trying to work at the studio as a music producer and it’s not only extreme metal music that I work with. Metal is not the only music I listen to. I need to know what’s happening in music in general, so I do listen to a lot of bands, I do read a lot of new press and everything. Yeah, there’s a lot of things aside metal that I do like and enjoy.

For example what’s the last nonmetal album that you have listened to and enjoyed?

The new Yello album. It was just released a few days ago. I’ve always been a fan of this band and I think that some their records are amazing, especially production wise, it’s perfectly done. This new thing has been out for a week or something. That’s the last one nonmetal thing that I’ve enjoyed listening to.

You said that you worked as a producer, but do you actually make a living with music or do you need to have another job?

I can’t have more jobs. There’s no time for this. Just to give you an example: this year, 2014, I have a month off from Behemoth which is in September and during this vacation time in September I went on tour with Vesania. That’s it. There’s no day job for us because we’re all the time busy with bands and that means I have to make a living out of it.

Interview conducted by phone 1st, october 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Retranscription: Thibaut Saumade.
Traduction and introduction: Spaceman.
Promo pics: Aleksander Ikaniewicz.

Vesania official website: www.vesania.pl.

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