Interview with Behemoth — “I’ll do whatever the f*ck I need to, to complete my vision.”


On October 5th, Behemoth will release their new album their much-anticipated album “I Loved You At Your Darkest”. Adam “Nergal” Darski came to Finland and we had the opportunity to meet him to discuss the new album. 

Watch the interview here or read the full text below.

Hi Nergal! Thank you so much for taking the time. I hope it’s not too much of a busy trip.

It is busy! But it’s supposed to be busy. I have no problems with that whatsoever!

Great. How has your summer been otherwise?

It was one of the busiest summers ever. There was a lot of work. We needed to finish up the record, the graphics and in between those things had to play at some summer festivals and now this trip. It’s been amazing, okay. I’m tired, but I’m happy. This promo trip concludes with an almost two week holiday for me. I’m going to shut down all of my social media to just decompress fully. So, there’s a reward at the end of the tunnel.

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The new album “I Loved You At Your Darkest” will be released October 5th. I would like to dive into the thematics later, but first, let’s talk about the sound. How would you personally describe it and how does it differ from “The Satanist”?

It’s hard for me to compare my own music. I embrace all of it, it’s part of me, the albums are my kids, you know. I don’t really like to put one over the other. It’s hard to compare. But, I personally think the sound of the new album is awesome, so far the best. It’s pretty diverse, very multilayered, it has more dimensions than any other Behemoth album. But still, it’s very coherent, very compact, monolithic, especially the intro and the way the entire album is structured and so on. Even though it’s very rock based, it’s extremely radical. It’s all over the place and overwhelming.

Obviously, since your career started, you have been putting out a lot of dark albums. This one seems even darker than the previous ones.

Maybe the title suggests you that! (laughs)

One would assume so. (laughs) But perhaps darker is not the right word for me. Heavier, rawer? Straightforward? Anyhow it was an intriguing experience to me.

Ah cool! I always thought that “The Satanist” is rawer. But then you say the opposite. I really like the first confrontations with journalists. Because they are basically the first ones who listen to every new album. It’s cool to hear their feedback because this is the first time I hear what people actually think about the record. So when they tell me something I learn more about the record. I got my own ideas about it, but it’s just my own thoughts so I might be wrong. Sometimes I can think it’s a fast record, a very heavy record, but then maybe it’s not the general thought. It’s cool to get different angles.

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I think what makes me describe that sound, is just how the album starts. The introduction, and then also the part in the latest single God = Dog with the kid’s choir. To turn something “innocent” into something else is contradictory and perhaps that’s for me what made it even darker. I looked into some YouTube comments, people wonder how a black metal band convinces parents to get their kids in a satanic music video? How did you approach them?

I bought those kids from gypsies. So they had to do whatever I asked them to do. (pauses) No no! I’m actually good friends with those kids. Most of these kids actually happen to be fans.

Little black metal fans? (laughs)

Well you know. What I want to say is that I’m actually a rock ‘n’ roll uncle. You know what I mean? I’m a likable person to them. They enjoy my company. Most of them knew me from before, so it was easy. They don’t know English, they don’t know how to pronounce things and you can even hear it in their accents. But that’s actually very cool. I think only one or two of them met me for the first time. But they were all cool, it was super exciting.

Did they actually realize what they were chanting? Did you explain to them what it means?

Well, let’s put it like this. When you were 6 or 8 years old, would you really question that kind of stuff? They are probably only going to realize it a few years down the road. Then they get back to it and wonder why they did that end how they ended up there. Then, they either are proud or ashamed of it. (laughs)

Yeah, I guess it’s also a bit different. It’s not like the kid that’s on the Nirvana cover, who everyone knows the name of by now. They’re kind of more anonymous in that sense. Anyhow, this was supposed to be a question for later on. But it just popped into my head. Let’s go back to the album. What was the creative process like?

The songwriting process was pretty regular. Usually, it starts with me jamming on my guitar and bringing ideas to the rehearsal room. So, nothing spectacular about the songwriting process. I think it took me several months to collect ideas. It took a couple of months to work on the arrangements and then it took six months to track everything down. That’s the longest we have ever taken. The whole recording process was so spread out in time and space. We recorded pretty much every instrument on different locations and cities. The sub-mixes for the drums were done in Sweden, it was mixed in the US and also mastered in the US. It took us six months to complete it, or perhaps even longer. It feels like it was an eternity, but it was pretty smooth I would say. With “The Satanist” we faced some serious problems and we even had to postpone our release date. Here that serious mess stayed out, it was relatively smooth. We sometimes clashed within the band. Because sometimes the three of us clash when we discuss. We collide because we have different visions, but we are pretty much on the same page most of the times, sometimes there can be some tension, but it’s good that it’s there. The result took a while, but we must have done something right because I’m super proud of it. I mean… Of course, it’s too early for me to judge, but it’s one of those records that when it’s done it’s done. I don’t feel like I want to do extra tweaks. When I think of something I would change or that could have been done better, I don’t think I would change anything, no fucking way!

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So, “I Love You At Your Darkest” is also thematically quite intriguing, because of the quote, to begin with, directly pointing towards Jesus Christ. Let’s talk a bit about the music video for “God = Dog” you released some weeks ago. The title is a reference to Aleister Crowley and his Book Of Law. What else can you tell us about it?

Actually, “God = Dog” is the first song I wrote. And it’s funny. It’s the first riff that I made for the record (sings). And it’s my favorite part, I was exploring the fretboard. I brought that to the rehearsal room and then we came up with the part with the blast beats. It felt like a very traditional Behemoth song. But then we left it there. I proceeded with other songs, and then six months later, we went back to this initial idea. I added the ending in there, it felt like it was finished and it was pretty fucking awesome. But before that, I felt like it wasn’t completed. And to be honest, if we didn’t wrap it up nicely, it wasn’t going to end up on the record. So it’s funny how it went from the idea of being a pretty generic song to the first single. It’s weird you know. Sometimes you write something and you are not aware of the journey it is going to take from there on. For instance, what many people don’t know about “Chant for Eschaton”, which is our evergreen, we always play it live, is that it was an experiment I did. Both Les and Inferno, who were in the band back then didn’t want to play it. I asked them to play it once, that I would tape it and that we would record it the next time in the studio. If it doesn’t work, it won’t go on the album. It happened to be one of our biggest songs. “Ora Pro Nobis” on the other hand, we put together in 45 minutes. Just because of that timeframe I would question its quality and honesty. No good song in history could have been done in 45 minutes. People always say that it’s like giving birth. The process must be painful. Wrong! There is no formula. You never know what happens. It’s art. You can spark inspiration, you can trigger it somehow, but then it just evolves, it just goes. It can drift away back and forth. You can try to navigate it, you can try to control it, but you never know what the effect is going to be at the end of the day. At least in my case, it’s very exciting sometimes to see the trip that a song undertakes. So, what it is from the first scratch to the last when it becomes a single. I wrote the music first for this song, in the end, I still didn’t have a title. I was in my car in LA driving downtown and I saw this poster of a band called Prayers. I hadn’t heard about the band before, but my friend who was with me in the car played a song “From Dog To God”. I love the song (plays the song) it’s electronic music, but it’s so awesome and I really dig it. It’s actually a really cool band. I saw the title and I thought it was awesome. It somehow reminded me of Slipknot’s “People = Shit”. I thought that maybe it’s a good title for the song that I still lack a title of. Then, when I came up with the title, this quote of Aleister Crowley came to mind. And then everything came together. Really weird you know, when I think of how that song came together. First the music, then the lyrics, then the title, then some extra lyrics because of the title. It’s very random. I like to observe how it goes.

That seems like the definition of the creative process…

I call it a puzzle, a puzzle you put things together and if you are lucky you complete it.

When I watched the music video for the first time, it seemed like there were so many clues connected to the thematics of the album. Who came up with the idea?

It always starts with a creative dialogue between me and Dariusz from Grupa13, who is the main producer of our videos. I send him the songs, we talk. Sometimes I come up with something, sometimes I come up with a complete picture, sometimes I come up with nothing. I approach him with pieces and tell him to help me out to put it all together. This particular video consists of moving paintings of the crucifixion and all that. It’s based on the altar by Grünewald [The Isenheim Alterpiece]. When you see the actual booklet, you will also see how it’s connected with the video. The main concept for the booklet was to get literally inspired by some classical painters. We cast ourselves, the band, as characters. I’m Jesus for instance. We got Memling, Caravaggio, Grünewald etc. We took their paintings and we built a whole story behind it. We also filmed all of it. So we ended up with moving paintings, it feels very static in the video, but things slowly move. I think it’s awesome. I love it. There is this theater company called PunchDrunk. They are based in London and New York City and I saw them twice. They have this one scene of the Final Supper, which is a reference to the actual final supper. That’s how we wanted to do it. It’s very anonymous, all the spectators wear masks, like as if they were in a movie. It’s really cool. When I saw it I was like it would be amazing to shoot a video like that. We followed the idea for “God = Dog”.

It’s true that the music video looks very much like one big painting.

It looks very tasteful. I like to build things that look very distinct. That quality is there and I really hope. You must be stupid to say it’s shit. You don’t necessarily need to like our music, but you can see at least that a lot of effort has been put into it.

I think that’s pretty clear! How much time did you spend on the video?

It started with me and Sylwia Makris, the photographer, who brought the idea to me. We developed it together. I guess that was about a year ago. We were sitting in a bar in Berlin and met there for the first time. We started talking about it, when she was talking about it, I told her this and that. We took it from there. She came to Poland and we collaborated with Grupa13. They produced the video, she made it. It’s a lot of pieces put together.

Again like a puzzle.

Yeah a puzzle, always. (laughs)

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When you look at all the art related things Behemoth did in the past. It looks as if this artistic dimension, plays an important role in your life and in the band in general. Is that a correct assumption to make?

I guess so. I like to think of Behemoth as something more than just a rock ‘n’ roll band. We are not your typical heavy metal band. We use heavy metal. But it’s just one platform. There are more dimensions there. We have so many interests, we have distracted energies. We float everywhere. We explore different channels of the universe. We try to bring what’s interesting and inspiring in one place and make art of it. Quoting one of our own album titles, “Here and Beyond”, I really see Behemoth as a musical band and beyond. So I’m really interested in exploring these different dimensions with this band.

So, back to the title of the album “I Loved You At Your Darkest”. It’s a quote from Jesus Christ, taken from Rom 5-8. The specific section is about sinners in general. My question is. Why that specific quote?

Well, first of all after such a strong and powerful title like “The Satanist”, it would be a huge mistake for us to try to invent or come up with something to top the magnificence of the word satanist. It’s the ultimate title. There’s nothing beyond that. I needed to go back, redefine myself and my thinking, bring something that is groundbreaking within our own subgenre. Something that will make people confused, something that will make people think, something that will make them ask, and question things. That’s what this title does. The meaning behind it and where it comes from and the new meaning we are going to give to that, make it so strong. Because we are not a Christian band, we are quite the opposite. We use it as a tool, it’s not just twisting it around and throwing it back out there… There’s nothing more blasphemous than that. I think a lot of people from both camps can be very confused and very disturbed. Metalheads, children etc. They might ask themselves what this Nergal guy is thinking. But if my vision demands it, I’ll do whatever the fuck I want to do to complete it. So yes, I think it’s cool. I wasn’t 100% convinced about it in the first place. I came across the sentence and I was like oh shit, that’s amazing. It sounds fresh, it sounds new. I told our bass player Ryan about it and he thought it’s cool. He immediately put it as a wallpaper on his laptop. He kept it for months. Every now and then I would see it and ask him about it. It’s an amazing title. For a long time, I wasn’t completely sure about whether it would be the title. Other options were going back and forth, but none of them were as brilliant as this one. It was kind of risky, but those who are not taking any risks, are not drinking champagne. So, bring on the champagne! (laughs)

Is the title also a statement to point out the hypocrisy of the church? I feel that there are so many dimensions to it. That’s at least how I would interpret it.

Out of the ten or twenty interpretations, I could throw at you right now. The first one, and I never said it before, would be like “Hey Christians. How about that? I’m way closer to what you preach that you think and I’m way closer to putting it in action than you are.” The true meaning behind is, is something that will confuse both camps. To me, it sounds very humane and sincere. But then again, when I was thinking of this title, “Sympathy To The Devil” came to my mind after attending a Rolling Stones show. There are some obvious parallels between the both of them. Because who is falling now? Who is at his darkest? Who is down there in the Kingdom below and who should he embrace? Well… I’m not gonna answer those questions.

Unfortunately, we came to the end of our discussion. Do you still have any last words for our readers?

I remember the first time we played at Tuska. It was the longest trip ever. We took two ferries, one from Gdansk to Sweden, another one and we had to travel by train as well. When you think about it today, it sounds surreal, who would have fucking taken that much effort to come to Finland to play. Nowadays planes are cheap, but back then they weren’t and we also couldn’t really afford it. It was cheaper for us to travel like gypsies. But it was worth it. Ever since we come to Finland, we should come back more often. I’m really excited about the shows that are happening in Finland very soon. Stay tuned, it’s only a couple of months away. I hope to meet you out there. We are bringing the biggest production, great company, Wolves In The Throne Room and At The Gates. We couldn’t be more excited about this. So, see you soon!

© Grzegorz Gołębiowski