INTERVIEW WITH AGATHODAIMON
Questions answered by: Sathonys
Interview took place on 15/03/2002 in Ljubljana (Metelkova)
Interviewers: Anja & Maja
The first thing I want to ask you is how come you decided to do a gig in Slovenia when you have cancelled whole European tour?
The thing with this tour was that... it wasn't us who cancelled the tour. At first there were five bands: Aeternus, Mork Grining, Hecate Enthroned, us and Infernal Poetry from Italy. One or two months before the tour started Aeternus decided to cancel the tour because they said they were not happy with the way things were going and they thought the tour agency was a rip-off or whatever, so they cancelled it. A few days latter Mork Grining also cancelled the tour because they had the same management as Aeternus. Now we were only three bands left and we thought: "Well, what can we do?" The headliner cancelled the tour but we said we don't want to let the fans down because in some countries, like Slovenia or Slovakia, we have never played before and therefore we thought: "Well, even if we play in front of 50 people, we'll do it!" Then Hecate Enthroned decided to cancel too three days before the tour started. Then we were like... well, the bus has to be paid and it costs a fortune, also the crew... We thought we would never get that money back so we would lose a lot of money. And nobody would be interested in seeing us because all the other bands were missing so we thought the only thing we can do was to cancel. We've been asked by some clubs in Slovakia and here in Slovenia: "Oh, can't you do anything to come?" And so we said: "Well, of course. We've never played here so we would like to do it." It was real horrible last weekend because we had to travel 29 hours there and back (He was referring to Slovakia - ed.) and this time it was like 10 hours or so. But it's ok, I mean... the show last week was really great and I expect this show to be quite nice also because the audience in Eastern countries is really enthusiastic compared to the German one.
Tell me more about the gig in Slovakia.
The gig was really... It was the best one we did. I mean, it was really horrible to play because we didn't get all the technical equipment we wanted. Our drummer plays by using a metronome and we couldn't use it so we had to play without it. The playing became really sloppy because we were used to it (the metronome, not playing sloppy - ed.)... and the sound wasn't the best. But the audience was really great. It was really fun to do the last gig and I'm looking forward to the one tonight.
What about the financial support? Does Nuclear Blast cover your expenses on this trip?
No, we do it ourselves. I mean, we get a certain payment here and... Well, I have to correct myself: they did support us. They landed us this transporter. I asked them because Nuclear Blast has its own transporter and we thought as I am also working at Nuclear Blast... I asked if I could use it so we don't have to rent a van. It's very hard to get vans for Eastern countries. But usually labels don't care about tour things, you know. They release records and the other things are handled by tour agencies.
Are you thinking about doing a tour soon?
We'll try to. But the thing is that we are not professional musicians. We don't make a living with this music. Some of us work, others are studying at the university, others are learning a new job and therefore it's quite hard to have the same time available for everyone to go on tour. That's the main problem.
But do you plan to have a tour before releasing a new album?
I would like to but the last album is already quite old. We've released it in November and... I'm not sure. We'll try to do many small gigs at the weekends, like two gigs in a row, then drive back and do the same next weekend. But a full tour... I'm not sure if we can do that because it also costs a lot of money.
Do you have any new material?
We haven't got no finished songs so far but we've got something like six songs already... more or less structured, you know. We will start working on the songs in four weeks or so. We'll do some pre-production, some demo-recording, something like that. There are so many different influences again that we don't know in which direction to go... getting heavier and faster again or going more into slower, more melodic direction. We're not sure about it yet.
So you can't really give us any hints about it? The new album, I mean.
Not really. On one hand I would be happy to do a really brutal album but on the other hand I've got more or less a feeling that we have reached a point where we can't get any further because we perhaps need some more development or some more change concerning our style also. I think we have a lot of styles in our music already... but at the moment we're not sure in which direction to go. That's still opened for discussion.
So when can we expect this new release?
I would say if everything goes well, then probably at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year. Because we also have to find a studio and we need some time to record everything.
How was your last album "Chapter III" accepted in comparison with the previous one "Higher Art of Rebellion"?
I think it was received a little better by most people than the last one. On the previous album we experimented too much, I guess. But the main problem, in my opinion, was the weak sound on the previous album. It had quite bad production because we were forced to record it in Romania and the producers there weren't very experienced with metal music. They rather do pop or techno productions. There were also many technical problems in the studio itself so we had to improvise a lot. The new album was much more structured and we worked on fine details so... Most reviews I've read so far were really positive.
You don't have that typical Black Metal lyrics like "hail Satan" and stuff. Where do you get the inspiration?
This last record was very special to us because it was the first time we worked on an album without our Romanian vocalist Vlad. It was completely done without him. We used all ideas we had since his departure in 1997 and therefore it was mostly the case that the person who did the songwriting also took care of the lyrics. Therefore there's a wide range of styles, not only in the music but also in lyrics too. In my case I've used a lot of personal feelings, private feelings concerning relationships. I've had some bad experiences there. The ones of Akaias, "An Angel's Funeral" and "Burden Of Time", those were quite traditional, sort of say. I guess they were the most traditional Black Metal type of lyrics we did so far. And the other ones, by Hyperion were quite... also personal but more in a philosophical kind of view. We also took some stuff by Eminescu. He was a Romanian poet and we used some of his stuff on the first two albums.
So you do music and lyrics in a very democratic way. You don't have a leader of the band who decides about everything?
More or less I see myself as a leader in the band but I'm not a dictator, you know. Everyone has a voice and everyone is allowed to bring his own ideas in. Agathodaimon is not about an individual person, like... I want to have five songs from me on the album and you only get one song or something like that. We try to take the best ideas. If the drummer, let's say, is able to write good songs, we'll use them. Why not? We just try to get the best out of this group.
Does one person do the whole song and you do the details together or do you combine everything?
Sometimes yes. In the past we did it like: "Oh, I've got one riff," and then the others continued it. It was really horrible. Like "Near Dark", the song which is 15 minutes long on the first album, it took us about four months to work on this song only. It was really stressful because there were so many versions in the end. It just became longer and longer. So we thought that it's better to write songs on our own. Sometimes it takes us a year or so. Especially me... I am a very lazy songwriter but I'm always very picky about ideas. It depends on my mood if I like them or not. Usually I throw all my ideas away.
So when you get to the studio and you have all the different equipment there, you probably complicate it even more. Or do you try to have everything done before you start recording?
On the second album it was really chaotic because it was very improvised. We came to the studio and some songs weren't even finished. We had to find suitable lyrics and stuff like that. But on the last album we recorded every song before we actually recorded the version for the album so we did some kind of demo recordings, a pre-production for the album, so we knew what we were doing before we actually recorded the album.
How much time do you usually spend rehearsing?
Not much to be honest. Nowadays I live at Donzdorf, the home of Nuclear Blast, which is 270 km away from our rehearsal room so I only return to Mainz at the weekends. We rehearse on Saturday and Sunday. We usually rehearse 4 or 5 hours, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter but we work at home. Everyone works on new ideas at home and then at the weekends we try to bring them all together, if there are some new ones.
How long does it take you to prepare all the material and record an album?
It really depends, you know. Sometimes we've got lots of ideas and we don't know how to continue in a positive way because the ideas just come rushing in. Other times we just sit there like: "Oh, what can we do? I don't have any ideas. I've got no inspiration." In the past two weeks Akaias recorded four songs which we might use for the album because they are really great. Yeah, sometimes you just have a certain period when you have lots of ideas and then it takes some months before you have some new ones.
Do you have some kind of dead-lines? I mean, does the label say when you have to release an album?
Not really. Usually they try to have an album every 12 or 18 months. But what can they do? If you don't have enough ideas to release a good album, then they say OK. They don't pressure us. Look at Manowar. They need five years for an album or something like that. No, Nuclear Blast doesn't pressure us. They've got so many releases and we're not the biggest seller at Nuclear Blast. There are other bands who sell more records, of course and therefore it's not a problem.
Is there any certain philosophy behind Agathodaimon?
Yes, there are more or less lots of philosophies. One philosophy is that we don't want to limit ourselves. We've never labeled our music Black Metal but the roots came from Black Metal. It's the music, I would say, it's most passionate, there are a lot of feelings in it and you can do a variety of things in this music... Even though some people would probably disagree because they think that only the true Black Metal counts. We always want to be opened to experiments, to have the freedom to work on new ideas. This is just a part of our philosophy. Some others are that we want to evolve, try to get the best out of everything we do and that's not very easy because there are many things that enable you to get further on your way, like playing abilities or whatever. We always try to become better and better in everything we do. You're striving for perfection but you know you will never reach it because that's impossible. That's also the meaning of the band's name, in a way.
The artwork on your last album was brilliant. Do you intend to cooperate with Gerald Axelrod also in the future?
In my opinion no, because we cooperated with him on all albums so far. It just depends on his ideas, you know. For every album he gave us something like 2000 photos to choose from. It took us weeks to get through all photos and decide which to take for a certain song to give it a special atmosphere, which take for the cover. I think three albums might be enough. I still like his work but I would be interested to know how another artist would fit into our concept. So we are currently talking to another artist... about different possibilities. He has already done stuff for Destruction, Dimmu Borgir and Marilyn Manson. He's very expensive but we'll talk about it and see what happens then.
I'm curious, what happened to Vlad and Byron?
As I said before this is the first album we've done without Vlad and there were many reasons for it. The songs on our first album were written together with Vlad, of course. The problems started when we wanted to record it. Vlad wanted to come to the border but he was caught and sent back to Romania.
Yeah, we know the story.
So we decided to record our second album in Romania. We have not been very happy about some things, like the whole improvising thing and the way the recording turned out so we thought that this time we shouldn't do another improvised record like the one before. We wanted to work on everything with patience, we wanted to take our time to work on the songs. Vlad didn't have the possibility to come to Germany so that we could rehearse together 'cause he still had to make his exams at school. So we did it without him. Byron was never a member of the band, he's a session vocalist, but... (At this point we got interrupted so he couldn't finish his thought - ed.)
Which bands have influenced your music?
I would say Samael, Venom, Slayer - of course, Morbid Angel...
Wait. Are you talking about your influences or influences of the whole band?
No, if I would speak about influences of the whole band then I would talk for hours. Everyone has his own influences.
Any other bands you didn't mention?
Celtic Frost - very important, Iron Maiden...
Does the fact that you're a member of a Black Metal band effect other people's behaviour towards you in your everyday life?
Not really. I mean, sometimes I get recognized when I'm somewhere but that's quite rare when it's a non-metal audience.
Do people that know you're in a band act differently towards you?
Not really. If they are also playing in a band, then it differs... When it's a small band then they say: "Oh, I really loved your first album," or whatever. It's different than with someone who isn't listening to metal at all. But we're not Kiss or Bon Jovi so it isn't really a big deal. We're just a small band.
Most German Black Metal bands are regarded as...
Second-classed Black Metal bands.
Yeah, I know.
I would like to hear your opinion on that.
I have a similar opinion in some ways. I mean, there are many good Black Metal bands in Germany like Lunar Aurora, Nocte Obducta, Nagelfar but most of them aren't very known outside Germany. (Oh, people know them but they are also regarded as second-classed bands, by most people anyway - ed.) We've got a lot of bands and I guess there are many good ones but it's hard to get recognized.
In my opinion they've got good riffs but they just don't seem to develop the music. Most of them have good keyboards also but... they just don't develop the music, if you know what I mean. They get boring after two songs. And most of the vocals are really horrible.
Yeah, but I think the acceptance in foreign countries is also not the best, you know. When you're from Germany it's different like when you say: "My band plays Black Metal and we're from Scandinavia." People treat you differently right from the beginning so it's hard for us to get recognized outside of Germany. We're quite big in Germany but in other countries they mostly say: "What? They're from Germany? That's bad." In my opinion people should always try to be open-minded and check out the music before labeling it. They shouldn't pay attention to which country the band is coming from.
I was really interested in what the guys thought about the gig in Ljubljana. This is what Sathonys told me two days after the concert:
We really enjoyed the show a lot, it was great to play in front of such an audience. I just hope we'll have a bigger stage next time so we can deliver a better show! We couldn't move as there was no room for us, hehe. But we enjoyed the fans and the atmosphere a lot. It doesn't often happen that a crowd is so enthusiastic!