Your latest full length “Of Death Blades And Blood Soaked Paths” has been made available for streaming on YouTube and Facebook. Will it be released on CD and cassette, or will it solely be a digital release?
Greetings Dave!! It’s an honor to be interviewed by you again! I guess bad habits die hard! Ha ha, yes the latest album was initially available as a digital release. It was our first time doing it, so let’s see where it will take us. We did it because we had to. As I said somewhere, we must adapt and survive, times change and the only way to go is full speed ahead. Also we did it as a sign of life; since it’s been a while since the last album, people might have actually thought we are done and gone. Of course there are plans to put it out there on various physical formats, because why not? For sure there are others who have the same insatiable lust for physical releases like us, so it will be better if it would be available for anyone who likes their metal digital and traditional physical formats.
What labels will release “Of Death Blades And Blood Soaked Paths” on cassette and CD? Are these labels from the Philippines or from other countries that can spread the word?
As we speak, labels from Sweden, Japan, Thailand and the USA have agreed to release the album on tape, CD, and vinyl. I never speak of releases when they’re not done yet. I just don’t like it when we mention something and it gets scrapped for whatever reason. All of these will get proper announcements of course as we progress. As always we are honored that such labels are willing to work with us and interested with the brand of thrashing metal we deliver.
As partly mentioned, we deem streaming activity to be a sign of life. For us it is something new that seems to be the norm nowadays. The “wait” was unintentional as we took time to finalize and agree on the mix, then we decided to do it ourselves as our previous engineer couldn’t handle METAL well. This pandemic also took our time. Lots of challenges or should I say fuck ups happened along the way. Then if I remember correctly by the time we agreed on Alvaro's mix and decided to stream there was a waiting time of at least thirty days before the release went “live”. YES, someone has shown interest to do vinyl, but it’s pending more discussion as our time zones and lives won’t jive yet, haha.
Did Paganfire draw on the same influences of your previous full-lengths? Why has the band maintained those influences for so long?
Let me see, as far as influence is concerned, it is the same THRASHING metal sound and attitude that we use as reference. The only conscious decision made was to improve or double whatever we have achieved with the debut, especially in the songwriting department. We always wanted the songs to be varied, not repeating ourselves often but still having the signature Paganfire style, whatever it might be. Said influences worked because it is the common ground where we all work from. If certain songs don’t come close enough or riffs sound “away” from this we collectively junk it and move on. Having said that, ultimately we let the METAL flow! We rehearse, get drunk, and discuss ideas a bit, the get drunk some more, as it has been since day one!
Is the same line-up responsible for writing and composing the new album? The material sounds as fresh as anything released in the 80s and 90s. Why does Paganfire have so much youthful energy?
Yes it is the same line up since 2008. Four of the six songs were written by Alvaro Martin (bass, vocals). I did the remaining two. As always, we come to the studio and present what we have. If there are suggestions and re-arrangements we try them all until we arrive with what we think is worth keeping. Again, we do not have specific eras in mind; we just work on them and do what we know of what THRASHING so no doom and gloom for us during this time, just fast and faster, argh! Nothing ridiculous also, just pure metal mayhem!
What improvements did the band make over their previous releases? Do the new songs sound faster, more technical, more energetic, or all of these?
I could say all of the above. After years of playing we are finally learning our instruments. The new songs are all METAL to the core. Plus we avoid to repeat ourselves constantly, thus the songs themselves take on a different form, or at least what seems to be the Paganfire sound.
The development of your playing has had what kind of effect on Paganfire's sound?
I can say the impact is positive and for the better, because now we can actually hear bits of what we are doing. The muddy buzzsaw dirt got lessened to some extent. Getting familiar with our instruments helped us express ideas easier and made the natural flow of metal stronger, making the material improve compared to what we were doing before. As for the Paganfire sound it will continue to evolve as the process of development never stops. THRASHING metal ‘til death!
Name some favorite songs appearing on “Of Death Blades And Blood Soaked Paths” and explain what the lyrics are about?
I like all six of them. The lyrics are all heavy as the music. They talk about serial killers, metal and violence, despots, how a rioting mob will treat you if caught, politicians and their promises and some social commentary. When you have the sing along with the lyrics you'll see they are quite self-explanatory. Not necessarily cheesy or anything, just pure metal madness!
Did the band write about any specific recent events in the Philippines for “Death Blades”?
Reading the lyrics to some of the songs, I know that they are inspired by what happened to our country in recent years, all the killings, political fanaticism, despots, etc., I also noticed Alvaro wrote them to apply in general situations but still they are solid. Heavy lyrics for heavy music.
What are the benefits of drinking heavily while writing? Are you in the habit of recording what you compose for future reference?
Beer binges take time, and we come to a point that we discuss song ideas before we all get drunker. Due to the pandemic we can’t do this as often as we want. Online band meetings don’t get to me yet. Perhaps I will come around and take it more seriously soon. I used to record what I wrote when I had a tape recorder. Nowadays I just write it down then present it to the rest of the band during rehearsals.
Are bands from the Philippines (including Paganfire) becoming more popular abroad? Are more labels outside your country recording Philippine bands or are more Philippine bands touring outside your country?
With Facebook yes. Many Filipinos use social media. We decided to utilize it as we now see it being mandatory. Of course before that we’ve been known to correspond with anybody from anywhere. From our standpoint it is always how you understand what a true D.I.Y. underground band should be. Currently there are a handful of bands being signed overseas; the number one factor is there are no local labels around to do this, argh! Talent is never a question for Filipino bands; vision and attitude have always been. As for touring, there are a handful of Filipino bands who play neighboring countries and there is a good number of bands interested to play Manila thanks to budget flights. Fuck the pandemic for messing all this up.
Have more festivals been held in the Philippines with more bands performing, or has the pandemic affected the festival industry?
In December 2021 a few sporadic shows took place in various parts of Manila and some provinces. I wasn’t able to check any out as I have things to do with my son. I am not aware of any festivals that happened lately as with the lockdowns it’s very unlikely. The pandemic affected live shows; aside from being scarce there are few bands playing out. Screw this Covid shit! When this is over I can’t wait to come up on stage and bang my head! Argh!
Has the amount of band rehearsals declined since the pandemic, or are they still constant?
Aaaargh! Sadly, since the pandemic we’ve only met up three to four times minus Alvaro! We haven’t seen him in two years! No rehearsals happened, just a few beer binges between me, M.A. (guitar) and Jay Roco (drums). Communication is done via online platforms and I still don’t get the hang of it! Hopefully things will change soon and rehearsals must commence as there is more METAL to be done!
How much has having to communicate online slowed the band’s activities altogether? Is Alvaro still a steady member of the band despite his limited time with you? How has the rest of the band held up in that regard?
ALL is at a standstill. As we were always a “live” band, to rehearse then drink was our routine, so now it ain't happening regularly, argh! Then again we try and adjust. Right now we are in the midst of setting up a home recording facility; that is what makes us busy at the moment aside from continuously looking for labels that might want to release the latest album. Alvaro is still a member of PAGANFIRE and nothing has changed. As a matter of fact he did the mixing and mastering of the new album and is now working on the layout for the vinyl release. All of us are OK with it. We just need to drink again soon!
While you’re unable to practice, what do you discuss during group chats?
Last chats we discussed how the new songs for the third album will be like and how we would want to step up the production and studio skills. We also talked about the second album and how it will be promoted and with what labels we’re going to work with this time. Now we just reply to each other's messages via chat in that group, no more videos! Argh!
How much work on your home recording facility has been completed? What equipment are you loading it with?
We have a computer, electronic drums, amps, guitars etc. We are hoping that within the next few months we’ll get to acquire more. We have our sights on some other stuff, we are carefully choosing as our budget is limited so we aim to maximize it on future purchases. When this is completed we'll definitely churn out a demo or two just to see how it will go.
What gave you the idea to practice and record with electronic drums, and what sort of an impact should it have on your sound?
With all the rehearsal and recording studios in our area closing doors, we thought of this as a means to survive again. We can't be left stranded with our metal. Plus with e-drums we can record drum tracks “silently” so as to not disturb the neighbors. We think that with all the technology available, we could make the drum sound better or at least suit as well this time around. This will be seen in the next demo we will do soon.
What role will your computer equipment have in recording rehearsals, demos and official releases?
We'll store the songs, sessions, artwork, layout etc. in there for future use. Again we hope we'll get better sound now as we can mix it as much as we want with no time and budget pressure. Tracking the instruments hopefully will be hassle free. Doing interviews and constant communication will be a lot easier too with a computer ready to use at home, I will not be living in a PC-less house anymore. Argh!
What additional instruments and equipment are you hoping to acquire once your budget allows?
We have our eyes set on monitor speakers, portable recorders, mics, chairs etc. among other peripherals that will be of use to us as this "project" moves on. Instruments and amps are on hand so we just need to focus on much needed recording equipment.
Has Paganfire considered doing a live streaming as bands have done since the pandemic started? Or maybe a Youtube video diary?
At the moment not yet. Perhaps when we have the aforementioned home recording gears up and ready we might do it, or shoot a video. Or whatever we might want to show as a sign of life. Video diary? We’ll see but again as we speak no talks about all of this just yet.
Would you consider live video interviews a possible option to tell people about your current activities?
I haven't tried it yet, but for now I prefer written interviews as there are a bunch of things needed for videos such as a stable internet connection, lighting etc. I am not sure if I will enjoy talking to my cellphone. We'll see if this will change soon.
How has the search for more labels from other countries gone since you started looking?
As we speak the album is set to be out on all formats (CD, LP, tape) in four to five different countries. I am still looking for people who can do it in other key territories. We will properly announce who's doing what when all is set. Anyone from South America, Europe, Malaysia etc. reading this and interested enough to work with us just drop us a line!
In what countries did you arrange to release your next full length? Are previous releases directly available in those countries?
I have talked to people from Thailand, Chile, Japan, Sweden and USA. I need to reach more maniacs from South/Central American countries and parts of Europe. We had previous releases done in Chile, USA and Sweden before, also the same maniacs that will do “Death Blades”.
Would you say that your listeners from different countries have anything in common with each other? Why do you think they all resonate with you and Philippine thrash?
They all prefer their metal raw, brash, and loud. Fans of true underground d.i.y. thrash metal sink their teeth into our releases which is always welcome. I am proud that most true maniacs dig what we are doing and no fans of sucky music embrace us which again is good and an achievement in itself. Perhaps because all that they like about metal is found in PAGANFIRE. Raw, fast, aggressive, loud, brash and everything else in between.
Can audiences here respond to the energy you project on stage as well as they do in the Philippines if you had the opportunity to play shows or metal festivals in the US?
If the attendees are all fans of true underground d.i.y. thrashing mayhem I am sure that they will have a blast! If and when given the chance to play there, I hope to see furious headbanging and raging pits, the type of crowd reaction that will suit the music itself.
How do you expect the band to develop their sound when you’re able to communicate regularly again?
The newly written songs reek of total metal, so if the songwriting will be given a much better approach in production, I am sure they will be killer. Plus if we get to rehearse regularly again that will be an advantage. Being the "live" band that we are, we will be able to learn and apply some ideas to the new songs as we always work that way.
In the future, what new ideas do you and the band intend to incorporate into Paganfire's sound? What importance do you still place on keeping your roots from the beginning of your career?
We want more aggression and more interesting ideas in songwriting. Often times we refer to our past works and do our best not to repeat ourselves. The future will bring more metal into the PAGANFIRE sound. As they say, we all learn from history, the lessons thought by the past is important to make proper decisions for the present and aligning it with a not so distant future.
In what ways has being an underground band for almost twenty years benefited Paganfire and the Philippine underground? How do you advise new bands interested in getting signed?
Being in the shadows is always better for us, as we never liked being anyone's flavor of the month. We never thought of this as being beneficial or what, this is just the way we are and let's see where else will this take us. Filipino bands that want to get signed should work harder and learn the true underground ways. Stop trying too hard and just make sure that your band is loud enough to be heard by those who should. Write, record, release. Drink beer.