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Interview conducted June 11 2010
Interview published June 17 2010

A few hours before Behemoth's mindblowing gig at the Sweden Rock Festival this year, I got the chance to hear out bass player Orion on a few topics around the band, their current tour, legal incidents and the polish music scene. A very nice and friendly chap indeed, even though he seemed a tad bit sad that he could not go and watch Cinderella play...

Tommy: Considering how well Evangelion has been recieved, having been highly praised in most metal press lately...

  • Orion: True. We are all a little surprised by that...

Tommy: ...and also taking in account how proud the band indeed is of the record; are you getting nervous about topping it with the next record?

  • Orion: Well, we are trying not to think about it at this point of time. As soon as we are done with the album, thinking about topping it with the next one gives you kind of hard thoughts, because we're trying to do as good as we can, like 200 percent of ourselves into the album that we are making and it's not a good thing to think about the next one in those terms. What we do is that we release an album, we do a period of live shows, promoting it and so on, and as soon as we are kind of fed up with shows and tours, we start to think about another one. So hopefully, you know, we will be two or three years older at that point than we were during the Evengelion album. And I believe we are gonna make it. We had the same problem when we were done with Demigod and The Apostasy, but somehow we made it with Evengelion, so I think it's gonna be the same way next time around.

Tommy: When we interviewed Nergal in 2006, he said "when an album is done I'm already working on the next album". Is that still the case today/nowadays? Are you continously working on actual new material along the way?

  • Orion: Not really. What we do is that we are indeed thinking about the next album, but it's not "musical" thinking, so to speak. We are not making riffs yet, we are not rehearsing. We just talk about it and about what we would like to do and how we want it to develop. We tried that before; we tried writing new songs on tour, but it didn't really work out well.

Tommy: Given how much Behemoth is pushing the boundaries in extreme metal; in what direction do you think that you will be going new material in the future? Something even faster or perhaps going towards writing slower and more groovy songs as Slayer did with "South Of Heaven", to name one example?

  • Orion: That's completely not the way we think. We are gonna do another Behemoth album, and I don't think any of us in the band can tell at this point if it's going to be for example slower, faster or whatever. I don't think it's gonna be faster. Somehow we managed to develop some kind of a style, that's what people in general think, and we'll just continue doing that. We are not trying to compete with other bands that are ten times faster or ten times heavier than us. There are always going to be bands extreme to the point of speed or whatever else. We just want to do good extreme metal albums.

Tommy: Are there some elements (musically, instruments, arrangements, lyrics) that you have not tried yet in Behemoth that you want to try out or are thinking about developing?

  • Orion: Sure. There are things that we have not tried before, and if we are talking about something else than just ordinary albums, we were just offered to do music to a movie and if it's gonna happen it's supposed to be a Behemoth soundtrack album. It's going to be a military movie, so all kinds of orchestral- and military instruments will be used. We want to try as many things as we can. I am sure Nergal will be thinking about some oriental instruments for the next album plus developing some samples that we started with on Evengelion but were not included. Let's see what happens. We plan a lot of things but during the recording sessions we change a lot of the original ideas. We are not really afraid of using anything on a Behemoth album. Why would we?

Tommy: You have received quite some more or less underground awards the past years in magazines like Metal Hammer, Terrorizer and so on. But you just recently also received a Grammy in Poland (and was even nominated in as much as five categories). Tell us what you think of the fact that such a thing can happen nowadays? You are quite extreme…

  • Orion: We have been nominated for this award in Poland quite a few times before. We never won, though. There have always been other bands beating us to it the past years, for example Vader and Acid Drinkers. For some time we just stopped thinking about it, but at this point with Evengelion we were like; Ok, this is the moment. We want to have this one now. And it happened. It's just a nice thing and the fact that so many people are appreciating what you do is great, especially in a country like Poland where there are so much controversy and discussions in papers and tv around Behemoth and similar bands. It's also nice to show to the mainstream people that we exist. That's the way we treat this award. Plus the fact that it's always nice to get a prize, you know.

Tommy: How far can a thing like this go? If you look at for example Keep Of Kalessin who participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, and Dimmu Borgir turning into a very big selling act the past years. How far do you think extreme bands can take it in the mainstream scene in the future?

  • Orion: Yeah, I heard about Keep Of Kalessin playing there. Well, we'll just see where we all can bring it (laughs). From some point of view, I would say that Behemoth are already some kind of mainstream. Well, it's always this discussion about being underground, mainstream or whatever you could call it, and if being underground means not showing up in any papers or on tv, then we're mainstream. We're trying to do as much as we can for promotion. I would say that bands like Dimmu Borgir, they've raised the bar. They have pushed this kind of music to the limit and they now draw as much people and have sold as many albums as you can do in the extreme metal genre, I believe. Behemoth is not at this point yet. Hopefully we will get there, and we'll also see if there will be anybody that will cross the next line.

Tommy: You have done some extensive touring for quite some time, and will continue to do so. How much are you changing the setlist?

  • Orion: We are changing the setlist depending on the time of touring. If we have released a new album we are of course adding a few new songs, and before we start the touring period we are trying to go through all the old albums and find some other songs that we could play, some songs that people talk about or ask for in metal forums and in emails to us. Whenever we do a tour in Poland we try to do some extra songs for the polish people, because Behemoth has been around for 19 years now and there are a lot of people demanding the old stuff so whenever we have a chance we work on those old ones and we keep changing the setlist around. Having nine albums in the catalogue means that playing, I don't know, two or perhaps three songs from each of them makes the set over an hour already. So it's a hard thing to pick songs because there are also a few songs that we can't skip, so we just try to do a variety for different tours.

Tommy: Is there a difference in how you change it between Europe and the US?

  • Orion: Sometimes it is, it depends a lot on stage time and a lot like that. In the US it is a little bit different indeed, because we started to break there with Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond), which was the first album released over there, so what most people know when we go there are the last four albums.

Tommy: Your live shows are quite massive, to say the least, like a well oiled machinery. Do you plan to expand that in the future, perhaps with more props or effects? Taking it to the next level, so to speak.

  • Orion: I am glad you describe it like that, because that's how it's supposed to be. Of course, whenever we can take it to the next level, we always try to do it but it's always about the money available for production. When we do tours home in Poland, we know all about the rules for fire and pyro, but for example here at a festival it's impossible to bring anything. It's so much paperwork and money involved that it's just not worth it. We can not afford it. But we are all the time thinking about a better and better production, and this time we are bringing our own light guy which for us is a big progress since the last album, and we're just putting as much into the show as is possible for us. We are going to shoot a video soon and we are going to have some cool things happening in it. As soon as we are done shooting it, we are bringing all those props to the stage for another tour. Behemoth has always been about expanding everything that the band is about as much as possible; lyrically, graphically, musically and on stage. We do as much as we can. We are not one of these bands that say "it's all about music, nothing else matters", and going on the stage wearing the same clothes that you wear all the time otherwise and doing a whole tour like that. We don't really do that, we have a different point of view. I am not saying that either is more good or bad than the other, just a different approach.

Tommy: The last thing you said brings me to my first question that I initially scrapped, since it was written for Nergal specifically if he was going to be around, but I might as well ask you anyway. When I read other interviews with Nergal, he seems to me like an intelligent and thinking man, even cultivated one might say, and so does the whole band.

  • Orion: Thank you, that's a very nice thing to say.

Tommy: You are most welcome. What I would like to know; do you all in the band feel that you are able to let out and express everything you have inside you within the frames of Behemoth? Artistically, I mean. Do any of you do something on the side to ventilate things that are not able to come out here, for example writing, painting or anything like that?

  • Orion: I can say straight up that Behemoth is a projection of Nergal's mind. He's doing, within this band, as much as he has in his head and the rest of us try to fill in the space. We're being there, we're doing as much as it's possible for us but at the same time each of us has his own band. That's how we all joined Behemoth. I got my band called Vesania, the guitar player is in Nomad, the drummer Inferno's got the band Azarath. Take me as an example, I started with Vesania and I dropped that band after the second album, that was three or four years ago, we simply split up. I was like; ok, I got Behemoth now and I got some sideprojects too, even though those really didn't matter mindwise, and I got my private life. That should be enough, I though. It took me three years to realize that it was not possible. I need Vesania to develop myself. Whenever there is an artist saying that one thing that he's doing is everything that he can do and that thing is finished, like it has borders, it's a bad thing. It's like saying that you have achieved everything you could. Nergal is doing a lot of things besides Behemoth as well. Even if it's just plain normal stuff, he's always a very busy man. He needs the other things as well. But as far as I know he does not do painting, poetry or anything like that, and I know him quite well (laughs).

Tommy: Everything that he has inside of him goes right into Behemoth?

  • Orion: That's how it works. The inspiration is taken from wherever he, or we, can and we're not inspired by a certain band or something, we are inspired by anything that makes you think.

Tommy: Just a few months ago (March 2010) Nergal was on trial in Poland for this bible ripping incident on stage in 2007.

  • Orion: Yeah, again...(sighs and chuckles)

Tommy: As far as I understand it from other metal press, he is still on trial and are possibly facing some time behind bars? An update on this?

  • Orion: No, I don't think it's going to happen. There have been three, or even four, trials already and there are three cases running at the same time. The first thing was this guy from the Committee For Defense Against Sects accusing him of ripping a bible on stage. The guy was not present himself, but he made the accusation nevertheless. Then this guy did an interview with tv saying that Nergal is a criminal. So Nergal in return accused this guy for calling him a criminal without any substance behind it. Then, we also have a vote coming up soon in Poland and Nergal's a pretty famous person nowadays because of his personal life and for being engaged to the main pop star in Poland, so he's on the first page on every newspaper pretty much all the time. It was a political thing to make another trial, so one person belonging to one of the candidating political parties accused him of the same thing as the initial guy, and it's just going on and on and on, over and over. Let's just see what happens, but even if they find him guilty he's not actually going to spend time in prison. He might be found guilty of the charges against him, but in that case he's just going to get a conditional sentence, not actual time behind bars. For us that would still be a problem, because we need to have visa's for american tours and such, and having a criminal record in Poland means no visa. So that will put a stop to us in that aspect. So we're doing everything we can to avoid it.

Tommy: The whole thing with your overall satanic approach and everything around that; what is the status on that lately in Poland? Is it calming down a bit nowadays, or…? Is it somewhat "ok" to be satanic in Poland now, as long as you are not tearing apart holy books in public?

  • Orion: It's a little bit better now. But we're always getting a hard time for that, there are constantly people trying to cancel the shows and to ban us from tv, newspapers, all kind of media. But they never really succeed. They can not do anything according to the law, as long as we are not breaking it ourselves.

Tommy: I know that the power of the church has always been quite big in Poland. Has that changed lately or is the situation still the same?

  • Orion: Poland is very catholic, yes. But I can tell you that none of the church authorities, or none of the priests, has ever said anything about Behemoth. Anywhere.

Tommy: Never ever?

  • Orion: No. Actually, we just talked about it with Nergal earlier today. We were talking about everything with the trail and all that, and we all agreed that we've never to this day seen any note in any newspaper or website from any church authority saying anything about Behemoth. There are some things happening, but you can really never point to who's saying what or why things are happening and who's behind it all. Perhaps they are just well covered, I don't know. (laughs).

Tommy: Just a few day ago I read an interview with Michal Wardzala, the guy who runs the Mystic Production record company.

  • Orion: Aha, ok. A good friend of ours.

Tommy: In the interview, he says: "Poland will explode as a music nation the coming 5-10 years", and he points to an abundance of upcoming prog- and death metal bands, among others. What is your take on this? Do you feel the same?

  • Orion: I would love to believe in this theory. I'm pretty sure that Michal will be releasing most of these prog metal bands, he searches for them and he really knows what's going on in the scene, and I would love for Poland to become Sweden one day, you know, with all the rock bands there. They're great, and I would say better than anywhere else right now. I could pick a few bands in Poland at the moment that are good, but...

Tommy: Name a few.

  • Orion: There is a band called Riverside, they are a prog band and they are becoming quite big now. Hmmm... there is some guy from Denmark getting bigger and bigger in Poland now. He's got a polish name, because he is from Poland, and his music is on tv and everywhere at home at the moment, his name is Czeslaw Spiewa. He came from Denmark and he started his career in Poland and now he's one of the biggest artists in the country. There are a few more bands as well, but... I don't want to sound sceptical, but I don't believe what Michal is saying. He runs a record label and that's a great thing to believe, to put your money and your heart into believing that the scene will spread. I would like to believe that as well, but I can't see it happen.

Tommy: Finally just a few words about Sweden Rock Festival, which you will be playing tonight. It's your second time here, right?

  • Orion: That is correct indeed.

Tommy: What is your opinion about the whole thing, about the area and the arrangements?

  • Orion: Well, first of all we had to wait an hour and a half for our passes to get here, and that was after we were told to drive an additional 12 kilometers to the artist check-in as soon as we arrived, so that was a bad and time consuming start this time. (laughs). But I love to be here, it's such a nice festival with so many people and great bands. Bands that I have always loved to listen to. It's not a very good thing that we are playing today, because I checked the bill for tonight and I would have liked to see Billy Idol, for sure, and it's too bad we were not in time for Aerosmith, and Guns N' Roses are playing tomorrow. Danzig were playing last night - we missed all the good ones! There's Cinderella today, I think they are even on right now as we speak (we're listening out of the bus window and are agreeing that's correct), Watain is playing tomorrow... yeah, we're missing all that. It's a great thing to see, though, so many big bands in one place. It's definitely also quite well arranged compared to other festivals.

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