It takes a careful equilibrium of timing, genuine artistic integrity, intelligence and some rather thick skin to overcome the countless battles that have, over the years, presented their sharp bloody claws at the very doorstep of one Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski.
In this time, the 41-year-old has defeated leukaemia, stood his ground against the Polish government (twice), became a savvy businessman and most notably, a tremendous force to be reckoned with, thanks to his increasingly successful musical exploits as frontman for black/death metal extreme outfit, Behemoth.
As the bands latest touring leg winds down, Overdrive caught up with the man himself prior to another sold-out show (and the biggest to date) in the Irish capital.
OD – It’s been a challenge to find a starting point for this interview seeing as you have accomplished quite a wide variety of goals in your life. I’m interested in the approach that you have for each challenge and how you confront it. Do you have a specific internal process to which you take on each project; be it with Behemoth, Barberian Academy, Me and That Man etc?
NERGAL – Yes, I suppose whatever I’m turning my attention to, I make a point about doing it very passionately and conceptionally. I like to think of every aspect of the project, what it will look like, sound like, and it’s existence/legacy as a finished piece of work. I really embrace the ‘wholeness‘ of the project, do you know what I mean?
Say it’s music, I think to myself: “Okay, how should this look and sound?“. I don’t really need someone to take care of logistics for me. I’m not saying that I’m good at everything, but I do like to capture the project with a bigger picture in mind if you know what I mean.
OD – Behemoth has been in operation for the guts of 28 years with an increased amount of success more recently as a result of The Satanist (2014), which really saw the band draw so much attention from the more mainstream of media platforms. Do you find this new found interest from more of the mainstream media surprising, and do you find yourself having to backtrack on your beliefs more frequently nowadays, in order to explain who you are and what you do?
NERGAL – Yes, sometimes I guess. I don’t necessarily believe that I have to make up a primitive biography for who I am, but I do tend to give a ‘quick‘ version of it, should the need to clarify something comes up.
But… I don’t know, I’ve no real problems talking to mainstream media. I always think to myself: “It’s not about the questions, it’s about the answers” (laughs) So, it doesn’t really matter about the questions that these people are asking me, it’s about what I want to say (laughs).
OD – Do you find that still today, people can’t accept the concept of a different religious stance. And more importantly, the tendency to overlook and turn their heads away from the abhorrent behaviour of their beloved, Church be it Christianity or Catholic, Protestant, Gnostic, Mormon, Evangelical, Anglican or Orthodox, or follower of another branch of the religion?
NERGAL – It seems like for some people and some organisations, I’m an easy target. They don’t’ really do much research or do any digging into who I am, what we are and what we are doing. They see the aspect of metaphorical evil, or me as being the poster boy for a campaign against the Church. They think that’s what I’m obsessed with and the be all and end all of my motives is purely for all my artistic creations.
While sometimes, targeting the concept of Nergal, or other artists that seem too ‘radical‘ for these people, is what all they know. They should spend the time to look around and they’ll notice that there are far more dangerous and disturbing things happening right under their noses, especially in their own beloved organisations. There is some really evil shit happening right now that these people are not seeing. Do you know what I mean?
This is my everyday bread and I deal with this type of stuff literally on a daily basis, but I don’t have problems being who I am. They just need a scapegoat and that’s how they capitalize on attacking someone or something that they find is too radical for their own beliefs. They attack me, and the name comes out, they capitalize on that, but at the end of the day, there is no substance.
This happens every now and again back in Poland and the shit-storm is about to start again and the truth is, it doesn’t really bother me anymore.
OD – What is happening in Poland that you’re referring to?
NERGAL – Now, it’s gonna be the ‘Jesus Dildo‘ case and it’s ongoing. There’s gonna be a court case. There was already a hearing, and I’m going to be charged. So, I mean, it’s another case. It’s not the first one, nor will it be the last one.
Like I recently said on my social media, I can promise I can never stop being myself and it seems like these people have a huge problem with me exercising my artistic freedom. I find this very sad. When I enter Poland it still says: “Democracy“, so within that ‘democracy‘ I WILL be using my freedom in any way that I want.
Even though they state ‘Democracy‘ they (Poland) want to turn it into a sort of totalitarian state of sorts. It’s all going in that direction right now. As long as it’s a democratic country, I’ll be using my freedom.
The reason for all my legal problems in Poland is a blasphemy case and I believe that Ireland recently just deleted it from your constitution.
OD – That’s correct. It was thankfully removed by referendum back in October 2018.
NERGAL – I find this amazing! To me, there is no evolution with this case being part of any constitution and I’m really supporting Ireland for doing this and the government for giving the people the chance to make their own minds up.
I really look up to Ireland for being a Catholic state and choosing a civilized way for people to co-exist with different religious beliefs and backgrounds. There is no reason why people with different beliefs can’t co-exist. It’s not like I’m active creatively do you know what I mean? It’s not like I’m saying: “Kill all the Christians” or “Burn all the Churches“, don’t do this, because my artistic creativity is going to be very, very limited and I would hate that.
I’m a part of society, and I accept that fact. So, in so many ways, I need these people there. I truly believe in the symbiosis of both entities. But, they MUST accept me also. If we want to evolve and enter a new decade and develope as a country (Poland) we MUST delete blasphemy from our law system just like Ireland did.
OD – Do you plan to be an advocate for this to happen in Poland?
NERGAL – This is another mission for me. I know it can be done as I’ve seen it here (Ireland) and I’m prepared to be the stepping stone for this to happen. I’m not saying how we’ll do it, because I’m not a politician.
OD – When you were prosecuted for blasphemy in Poland back in 2007, to me it seemed almost medieval in this day and age. To lambaste someone for believing in what they feel is true with the idea of certain entitlement to freedom of expression. Did you find that there was a divide in opinion, and did your situation raise any groundbreaking debate that changed opinions within the Polish government or legal system?
NERGAL – Absolutely! I have no problems accepting myself as the scapegoat in this situation because either way, I’m a winner. Convict me! Because whether I win or lose, at the end of the day I know that the rest of the civilised world will back me up because what stands behind me is a very reasonable and logical explanation, while my adversaries have prejudice on their banners. It’s like they should know: “Hey, this system is not working anymore and if you don’t learn that today, then you will eventually discover it in five to ten years“.
OD – Do you foresee this change in Poland coming sooner than expected?
NERGAL – It’s hard to say. Perhaps I won’t be around when it finally happens but I’ll be in the history books, not them. It must happen. The next debate that needs to happen is to separate the State from the Church, and that must happen not only in Ireland but in Poland and anywhere else also.
Churches are benefiting from the Polish tax system, so I’m fucking paying for this institution and its people that I’m 100% against. I don’t want to do that. I want to have the freedom to make that decision. They need to separate that as soon as possible. That’s why I’m so ani-Polish government. It’s just wrong all the way. I’m definitely vocal about this and have no problems taking all the attacks on my life and my art because I’m used to that. I’m used to being a target and a scapegoat.
OD – With regards to Behemoth, considering the band as one of the most important architects of extreme music today, do you find that the genre itself is somewhat restricted with reference to experimental boundaries much the same way Death Metal became back in the late ’90s and did you/do you have to rethink the approach to the writing with a more open mind to innovation, much like Chuck Schuldiner did with DEATH?
NERGAL – It’s kind of difficult for me to compromise on this because I consider art to be freedom to express whatever what you wish to, so don’t fuck with me, as I’m an artist and this is my rules and my theatre. But then there are some kids every now and again that say things like: “You’re a traitor” or “You’re not true“.
I mean, what’s the definition of “true” because I’ve not read that book. Trust me, when you see the live show, there are parts that I’m sure some people will say: “It’s too gimmicky and not serious” and with all due respect, when I’m creating something, be it writing lyrics, creating a vision of what I want, or what I wish the stage to look like, I’m thinking more about the bigger picture. To me, music is music and art is art.
Extreme Metal music or Black/Death Metal is part of my vision, so I try to be…let me quote one of our album titles ‘Here and Beyond‘. Do you know what I mean?
I like to be part of it and also beyond and outside things. I know this doesn’t really make much sense, but that is exactly what ‘Zos Kia Cultus’ was all about. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s kind of like being very much a part of something, however, also separated from it in the same breath.
These days there are just so many sub-genres of metal bands and people that worship the ‘old-school‘ extreme metal sound, which is cool. Some days if I feel that I want to approach things with an old primitive sound then so be it, and other days I might feel that I want to listen to something refreshing, and other days I might go for something very different; perhaps a new band that is trying something different.
To me, it’s like if you imagine the metal scene as being sort of a buffet and you can approach it and you just pick up whatever appeals to you.
But I just don’t understand the people who attack other people just for what they happening to be listening to. People should be entitled to execute their freedom in whatever they are doing. Live and let live, you know what I mean?
OD – Do you find that the artistic freedom as a whole is in a positive place now, and do you have faith in the future, based on the epidemic of over-sensitive generations of youths who are easily offended?
NERGAL – No, not at all. In the last ten years, things just really got out of control. We lost the line. It seems like there’s no balance anymore. Everyone is just sensitive about everything and we all seem to be watching what we’re saying all the time now.
This all just makes me think that if there were smartphones say, twenty years ago or even back in the ’60s ’70s whatever. Things would be so, so different right now. It’s all about how fast the information travels these days and back then, people didn’t give a shit! I like technology, don’t get wrong, it has its advantages but it also has many disadvantages also, and the sensitive, snowflake people are very much the downside of this.
Just for one second, imagine these smartphones existing back when Punk music was exploding. Would the Punk movement/scene have happened at all with all this sensitivity? These days, you don’t see anyone bashing Sid Vicious! That guy is considered to be one of the fallen idols and is respected and immortalised in history.
Again, look at Led Zeppelin, no one is saying anything about what those guys did in the past. I just finished reading a book about them and those guys were fucking groupies with fish!!! Then you have Jimmy Page and his interest in younger girls!!!
So, all of this stuff tends to just stay in the past and no one is interested in doing anything about it, or even talking about it. It’s kind of like they pick and choose what they want to be offended by and that’s just wrong.
With Behemoth, we want people to think about things, to have debates, to approach a different perspective on their beliefs just for a moment; because you don’t know just what you might discover about yourself.
We’re not preaching to anyone, we’re just offering ideas and people have their own brains to make up their own minds on how they feel about things. I’m not here to give anyone answers.
OD – With reference to your book Confessions of a Heretic (pictured below) did you hold back on anything or did you just let it all flow out with no intended filter? What I’m asking is; did you have any hesitations at all about being completely transparent and honest about your privacy and personal life?
NERGAL – No, I didn’t hold back on anything at all. I found it to be a very liberating and cathartic experience, to be honest. I actually loved the process of putting it together. We spent hours and hours in different locations with the tape recorder on and I would just open up. It really was a great experience.
OD – Of all the things you’ve already accomplished to date which would you like to be remembered for most, and why?
NERGAL – One thing that I need to point out; and I believe is a huge part of Behemoth’s success and longevity; is that I’ve managed to keep the same lineup for 16/17 years now. The biggest Behemoth years so far has been this three plus one piece, and we’re still doing fine and everyone knows who Inferno (Zbigniew Robert Promiński) is and who Orion (Tomasz Wróblewski) and the band is not just some band that has just had some random success with anonymous people behind it.
That’s what Cronos (Venom) pointed out in one of his recent interviews. He talked about the metal scene needing more characters. Do you know what I mean? People that stand out and not fucking bland and faceless band members.
When I was growing up I was looking to Lemmy (Motorhead), Cronos (Venom), Paul Stanley (KISS) or Gene Simmons (KISS). Everybody knew who these guys were. When you look at bands these days, there are very few characters. Most bands have people thinking: “What’s that singer’s name again?, Who are they? I know their music but I’m not sure of any of the band members!” do you know what I mean? It’s all different and kind of sad in a way.
Where is the new Abaddon (Venom) or Kerri King (Slayer), or Tom Araya (Slayer) and so on and so forth… Do you know what I mean? These people are out there, it’s just that they need to be found. ]
We have Tobias (Forge, GHOST) and hopefully myself as being people that stand out from the normal. I want people to know that I’m different, I stand out and I have my own agenda going. But, when you look at the scene today, there are very few characters there. It’s all just blurred and comes across as very fabricated.
So, when younger artists, musicians or bands come to me, my advice is to make your fucking mark. Just make a statement. Just make sure that the world hears about you and don’t be interested in fabricating stuff, because the world is already over-polluted with generic stuff, so try to stand out and make your statement.
Get the full review of Behemoth live in Dublin 10/02/2019 here.
Behemoth ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest‘ is out now. Get your copy here.