Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Interview with HEATHER WASTELAND by Dave Wolff

Interview with HEATHER WASTELAND

Heather Wasteland is described as “heretical folk art”, “medieval metal” and “neofolk rock.” What do these titles mean to you?
Sergey AR Pavlov (4-string bass): We describe our music as “3-bass Heretical Folk Art created by Cimmerian metalheads in neo-medieval way”. We try to keep following our own heretical way of experiments with three bass guitars to create our unique sound, when we mix clean, distorted and processed sounds. In a certain sense, a 6-string bass plays two roles – a role of a bass itself, and a role of wind, string and keyboard instruments, because the 6-string bass is used with Roland GK-3B midi pick-up in conjunction with Roland GR-55 processor.

Do you make a conscious effort to redefine extreme metal, or just do what comes naturally?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I guess both parts of your question are completely right! At the same time, I may add, we made an effort to redefine folk metal in a way we found natural for us. All of us prefer different kinds of hard music, and in the beginning just half of the band preferred folk metal, but all of us always had our utmost respect for some American bands referred to as old school technical death metal – DEATH, CYNIC, ATHEIST, NOCTURNUS, as well as PESTILENCE from the Netherlands. So, here’s a case when old fans of techno death decided to play folk metal without distorted guitars – not for fashion but with passion.

Where are you come from? Different sources give different information. So, Ukraine, Greece, Russia?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’ll allow myself to crack a joke saying that we are from the Ancient Greece!  We are an international project. Ok, the band was found in Ukraine in 2000, and our native city is located in the territory of the Ancient Greek city Χερσόνησος (Chersonesus/Korsun), the Crimea. When we made a reunion of the band in autumn of 2014, we had an intention to make an international project dedicated to the heathen times and to the Dark Ages. We live at the crossroads (and graveyards) of the great civilizations, so we can, literally saying, easily touch history of the Ancient Greece, Cimmeria, Gothia/Gotthia, Genoa, a part of the Silk Road… It’s just a part of the official and tangible history, let alone the area of myths, legends, “forbidden topics of history” or alternative history. So, in any way, we are definitely an international project based in the Crimea, but featuring guests and members from different countries. And even different planets. Our Anatoliy Polovnikov (drums) and Alexander Vetrogon (6-string bass) play rather complex and beautiful music in their progressive metal band PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. These guys are extraterrestrials, and “the truth is out there” (c) – here’s some proof.

What imagery is the band’s name meant to present, and how does it relate to your music?
Sergey AR Pavlov: The band’s name comes from some associations with European folklore. Desolate battlefields with ruined old castles, scattered bones, rusty arms and armors, and heather growing everywhere – look like a symbol of new life and resistance in a broad context, as one can find some desolate heather-grown wastelands in the godforsaken places. At least, we can say that we resist the modern trends, but at the same time we try to revitalize folk and metal scenes. As far as I remember, the band’s name in 2001, in some ways, was inspired by a Galloway legend described by Robert Louis Stevenson in his poem “Heather Ale”. I’m sure that all original members of HEATHER WASTELAND remember this poem and an old cartoon based on this poem.

Explain Robert Louis Stevenson’s Galloway legend in Heather Ale. Tell the readers about the cartoon based on it.
Sergey AR Pavlov: This legend concerns the Pict secret recipe of heather ale kept from their enemies. I don’t want to give any spoilers of the story. It’s not a long-read novel, so one can find the poem “Heather Ale” in the Internet and easily read it. In what way does it speak to the band? Well... it’s a legend, and a story line of this old legend is like food for thought about life, death, sacrifice, desperate acts… or even a kind of, so to say, trolling. All legends give food for thought and inspire to learn more about real historical events, or imagine our own alternative history as a part of “our own Universe”. So, if we are talking about a hypothetical heather wasteland, then such a distant grim and beautiful place may have enough secrets to be kept or storied. The cartoon was created by Kyivnaukfilm (Ukraine) in 1974. The text is in Russian, and the image multiplication is rather rough, it looks more like parts of artwork for a raw black metal band, not like a cartoon for children of primary school age. If someone dares to check it, here’s a link.

How well was Kyivnaukfilm known in your country? What was its historical significance?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Kyivnaukfilm (or Kievnauchfilm) was a film studio in the former Soviet Union located in Kiev (Ukraine), established in 1941. It was one of the largest European non-fiction film studios for production of popular science films and documentaries covering a broad range of topics. In addition, it released more than three hundred animated films, a large number of which are still popular today, at least in ex-USSR countries. The studio's films received numerous awards at international and national film festivals, for example, the documentary "Interpretation of Dreams" (Freudian interpretation and "equation" of Communism and Nazism) (1989). After the fall of the Soviet Union, the studio went into decline and was renamed National Cinematheque of Ukraine.

Has anyone in the band seen "Interpretation of Dreams"? What other films of note was made by the studio?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Frankly speaking we haven’t seen this documentary yet. In the 80’s we were school boys, so we liked their serious and funny cartoons about ancient Slavonic warriors, Ukrainian Cossacks, brave mariners and pirates. And, of course, we watched some of their documentaries on TV. I should say that their documentaries were really good for that time (if we don’t talk about any political propaganda). In those days we didn’t have any special TV channels dedicated to sport, music, science or news, so their documentaries were like a good blend of Animal Planet, Science, History Channel and other educational channels. I’m not sure that it’s possible to find them in English, so there’s no sense to name many of them. At the same time, I should mention their last documentary “Мольфар из рода Нечаев” (1992) (“Molfar from the Nechays’ Kin”).
Molfars are a kind of Carpathian/Hutsul magicians, and Mykhailo Nechay was the last molfar of the most powerful and famous ones. He was killed in 2011 by a Christian fanatic, who appeared to have a mental illness and had previously been convicted of killing a woman. According to indications, the accused killed Nechay because Nechay did not accept (in the killer's opinion, didn't respect) the customs and norms of so-called "traditional" Christian religion, and confessed to being a Pagan.

How important do you consider filmmaking today? Are documentaries made today as informative as those from the Kyivnaukfilm era?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Of course it’s important, but it’s getting worse nowadays. There’s a wide variety of the modern hi-tech means to make “a picture” better in this form of visual art, but, at the same time, many filmmakers do not pay too much attention to fact checking and their own competence or knowledge of important things, and it makes their achievements too pathetic… Frankly speaking, I’ve not been an active TV viewer since 2001, when I became an active Internet user. As far as almost all documentaries express the only point of view, I prefer finding information from the several opposite points of view – including the insiders’ opinions, and opinions of independent observers. So, I analyze the information and draw my own conclusion.

Was there independent filmmaking in the Soviet Union? How was American cinema viewed?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Oh, no, there wasn’t any independent filmmaking in the Soviet Union. All Soviet movies for TV and cinema theatres were made with the government’s money. Independent post-Soviet filmmaking appeared after 1991, and the majority of such movies looked like clumsy imitation of movies from the other side of the Iron Curtain. As for American movies in the Soviet cinema theaters, I should mention the movies “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “Spartacus” (1960), “Convoy” (1976), “Orca: The Killer Whale” (1977), “Capricorn One” (1977), “Hangar 18” (1980), “Tootsie” (1982), “Starman” (1984), “Romancing The Stone” (1984), “King Kong Lives” (1986), “Short Circuit” (1986), “Flight of the Navigator” (1986), and “Crocodile" Dundee” (1986). Of course, in the 80’s, we liked such movies like “Terminator”, “Back To The Future”, “E.T.”, “Star Wars”, but they were available in the half-“underground” pirate video clubs only!

The U.S. also had what would be considered war propaganda movies like “Red Dawn” (1984), “Spies Like Us” (1985) and “Iron Eagle” (1986). To your knowledge, what opinions did people in the USSR hold of those movies?
Sergey AR Pavlov: You forgot to name “Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985), “Rambo III” (1988), and “Amerika” (1987)! As far as I remember, “Spies Like Us” was rather popular comedy here, and we treated it like a parody in spite of the elements of anti-Soviet propaganda, but, of course, it was possible to watch it in “underground” pirate video clubs only (as well as other anti-Soviet films)! Ha! Probably, one of the reasons why this movie was so popular here among the youth, was Seva Novgorodsev (a radio presenter on the BBC Russian Service famous owe to his rock music programmes), who played just a little part of a Tadzhik Highway Patrolman in the movie. “Red Dawn” (1984) and “Amerika” (1987) weren’t popular here, but everybody knew about them because they were, of course, strongly criticized by the Soviet press. I didn’t watch “Amerika”, but “Red Dawn” looked like a very cheap, clumsy, stupid and weak movie! Before Gorbachev’s Perestroika, people in the USSR were sure that “the aggressive and (of course, stupid) USA” could start the Third World War and nuke the whole planet. I remember very well my own childish thoughts and fears in the end of the 70’s – the beginning of the 80’s: our spy mania, anti-Americanism, and fear of a new war were strongly mixed with our belief in the power of Soviet Army. I think almost all of us, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, had very similar feelings. “Ours” are always a kind of noble gentlemen without fear and without reproach, while “theirs” are always aggressive spies, ruthless bastards and nuclear maniacs! I guess that it is “normal” state of affairs in any century, if we are talking about the propaganda in the Orwell’s style of his “1984”. Sad but true!

How did most moviegoers in your country perceive the Rambo films when and if they were released in ex-USSR countries?
Sergey AR Pavlov: As far as I know, in the 80’s, some parts of Rambo films were in the official movie theaters, but only at the closed shows, some cinema festivals or closed lectures for communist propagandists, but it was possible only in capital cities of Soviet republics. Just “a man from the crowd” could not attend such closed shows. Of course, some clips from the Rambo films were shown on TV as an example of violence and anti-Soviet (namely anti-Russian) propaganda. Such kind of forbidden films was available in the totally “underground” pirate video clubs, and it was risky enough for the club owners in the 80’s (before Gorbachev’s Perestroika). The club owners had serious chances to go to prison both for anti-Soviet propaganda and illegal economic activities. As for moviegoers… films like that were a kind of forbidden fruits, and fruit often tastes sweeter when it's forbidden. Usually they were delighted with special effects, action, scope of activities, but found the story itself rather naïve, primitive and unrealistic.

Speaking of Orwell, does his novel “Animal Farm” continue to have relevance today?
Sergey AR Pavlov: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. The same story with the people. And it doesn’t really matter, what a country we are talking about, if we pay attention to mind control, and the art of propaganda. I’m not surprised that Orwell encountered difficulty getting “Animal Farm” published, mainly due to fears that the book might upset the alliance between the USA, the Soviet Union, and Britain in the 40’s. At the same time, his political satire was a very good illustration for effective manipulation of opinion. Yes, it looks like a very detailed description of “Overton window” for psychology of power. I don’t think that the authorities of any state are happy when their citizens clearly understand that they are manipulated with propaganda.

How much has post-Soviet indie filmmaking progressed since the early 1990s? Any recent examples of good Russian indie films?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’m not an expert in post-Soviet indie filmmaking, and I’m not a fan of, for example, post-Soviet arthouse, so I can’t give you a reliable answer. I’d prefer to name a couple of post-Soviet movies that should be brought to attention. They are considered to be indie in a way, because they were not sponsored by the government. At the same time, as I know, “The Island” (2006) by Pavel Lungin was sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church. Why did I mention this movie? The filmmaker managed to create a “multi-layered” work of talent, and every audience will interpret it their own way. A Christian will say it’s “the most Christian movie”, an average man from the crowd will tell you that it’s a sad movie, but food for thought, and an atheist, heretic or antichristian will treat the movie as a good black comedy, and food for thought. Who is right? It’s up to the viewer. It was a serious example.
Another movie that is low-budget and indie, but featuring rather famous persons who play in a pompous and intentionally clumsy manner, created just for fun, was “Star Fiber” (“Звёздный ворс”, 2012). Every detail in this movie has cultural, historical, mythological and religious references, but done through the prism of humour. If a viewer is an erudite person with a broader vision, he will appreciate it, otherwise it will be a big disappointment for him! It reminds you, in a way, of the American sci-fi parody “Spaceballs” (1987). But “Star Fiber” is more sophisticated and looks like a parody of a parody. Even the movie’s title in Russian has a reference to “Star Wars”, because in Russian “Star Fiber” sounds like “zvyozdniy wars”! At the same time, the movie is officially titled in English as “Starworms”.

Who appeared in “Starworms” and how well did it do upon its release? Do you know if it was released outside Russia?
Sergey AR Pavlov: The most famous and successful person among the actors is definitely Sergey Shnurov, who appeared once on the Forbes Magazine’s cover. He is a controversial Russian musician, actor and songwriter, best known as Shnur (from ska-punk band LENINGRAD). Other actors are very interesting persons, and although they are well-known among the fans of Russian rock scene and artistic society in C.I.S., their names probably won’t say anything in the rest of the world. Although, I should name Dmitriy Tikhonov (an opera singer (basso profundo) of Grand Théâtre de Genève), but he is also known as Alexander Liver (a singer of the experimental rock group N.O.M.).
I don’t think that “Starworms” became popular even in the audience of the controversial stars appeared in the movie. Even the majority of my friends wasn’t strong enough to watch it to the end! Ha-ha! I’m not sure that it was released outside Russia, but one can find it with English subtitles at the film director’s official YouTube – but remember it’s a kind of “a parody of a parody”.

Back to the band, how did the idea of three bass guitars develop? How does the three-bass approach redefine folk metal?
Anatoliy Polovnikov (drums): The idea to create a band with this line-up came just by chance. All members of HEATHER WASTELAND were acquainted with each other for ages. All of us took part in different bands in former times. My appearance in the band happened in 2001 after the decision of Sergey and Alexander to create a folk metal group with two basses. These guys were looking for a drummer for their music with two bass guitars, and I accepted such offer with interest. After the reunion of the band in 2014, participation of the 3rd bass player Andrey Anikushin initially wasn’t supposed. Having come across him in the autumn of 2014, I’ve got to know that he didn’t play in any band, so a sudden thought struck me: "What if …!?" Right there I rang Sergey up, and told him about this crazy idea. Sergey was rather surprised, but took this idea enthusiastically, because a band with three-bass line-up would be, at least, interesting. All of us worried before the first 3-bass rehearsal, but the result, in fact, surpassed our wildest expectations!
Sergey AR Pavlov: In the first place, it concerns the sound. Secondly – our strange decision to use only bass guitars, and a drum kit. When people get to know about this line-up, they think that we are an industrial/noise or industrial metal band. When they start listening to our music, they are surprised with the music. Taking into account the fact that the modern folk metal has some trends in the sound, we, at least, had an attempt to evade any trends and make something unique.

How much of a process was it for the band to find equipment?
Sergey AR Pavlov: We had all the necessary equipment, so we needed some time to find how to use our equipment in a proper way. I think you understand, if I say that some sound engineers feel panic at the thought of using a couple of basses. So, just image what they could feel in the presence of three bass guitars!

Does your mix of clean sounds, distortion and processed sounds vary from song to song?
Sergey AR Pavlov: It depends on the authorship of a song’s main melodic structure, but usually a song is made out of the “bass-bass” with the distorted/fuzz “bulldozer-like” parts; the “rhythm-bass” parts, mainly with several “clean” tones; and the “lead-bass” parts usually using non-bass tones. The final result depends on our personal sound preferences and technical capabilities of our instruments and sound equipment.

Does technical death metal help influence you? If so, how does it enhance your originality?
Sergey AR Pavlov: All of us played in some local technical death metal bands in the 90’s. Now Alexander also plays a contrabass in the very sophisticated jazz trio PARANORMAL JAZZ. Of course, all kinds of technical experience appears in our skills and, as a result, in our music, but we never tried to be “a technical folk metal band”. HEATHER WASTELAND pays more attention to atmosphere. Some people are able to feel our “technical death metal past” in our music, other people also feel my “dungeon synth past” on the debut EP of HEATHER WASTELAND. We hope that all our music/technical preferences contribute to the band’s originality, but the last word in this topic should be said not by us, but our listeners or musical critics.

How much material has been released by Heather Wasteland to date? Are your releases available on indie labels or directly from the band?
Sergey AR Pavlov: We self-released our debut mini-CD “Under The Red Wolfish Moon” in the end of 2016. The first edition of 100 hand-numbered digipacks is almost sold out, but the last copies are still available through Season Of Mist (France), Casus Belli Musica (Russia), Archaic Sound (Ukraine), and Dead Center Prods (Ukraine). The debut EP is also available in CD and digital format through https://heatherwasteland.bandcamp.com. Our first digital single and our cover version of PESTILENCE's song "Personal Energy" are available there for free download.

How long did it take you to secure those label deals to distribute Under The Red Wolfish Moon? How many hits has your Bandcamp profile received so far?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Not much time, because I’m not a newcomer in the metal underground. I know in person all the owners of the labels I named (except the chief of Season Of Mist). Frankly speaking, I’ve focused my activity more upon the distribution of physical copies at concerts and through distributors. As for our Bandcamp and other digital shops, I can’t brag about business, so a number of plays at Bandcamp is about 2100 after the EP’s release.

How much has Season Of Mist helped spread word since signing Heather Wasteland?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Casus Belli Musica’s owner cooperates with them, so he found a way to interest Season Of Mist in distribution of our self-release. No, we promoted our debut on our own, although at some stage we took advantage of the services rendered by Transcending Obscurity PR (India).

How much importance do you place into taking critic and fan advice? Has the feedback mostly been positive?
Sergey AR Pavlov: We appreciate any kind of sound and constructive criticism, especially when we deal with any musicians who inspired us in our past, or perfect strangers and successful professionals. Their opinion may be completely different from our point of view, but we respect it and keep it in mind, even if we don’t follow their ideas. As for any narrow-minded haters, judgment call devotees or local “Clever Dicks”, they make us smile. Should we pay attention to an anonymous message in our native language with spelling mistakes? Nope. Should we feel the satisfaction of getting a message from Joel McIver with his proposal for an interview in Bass Guitar Magazine? Yes, we are more than happy!
Sometimes our fans say they want more heavy sound or they lack the sound of distorted guitars, but at the same time they understand that our specific line-up is a key for our unique sound, and ask us leave it the way that was!
Until now we have received only positive feedback from all over the world, so we are trying to do our best with our forthcoming album in order not to disappoint our fans and, of course, our guest participants!

Who are some of the musicians who helped to inspire the band?
Sergey AR Pavlov: CRUACHAN, EVOL (Italy), early IN THE WOODS…, BURZUM (of ambient period), as well as early MORTIIS, BATHORY (of Viking period), and SKYCLAD (feat. Martin Walkyer) were sources of my inspiration for HEATHER WASTELAND. The band concept was definitely influenced by ANCIENT RITES. It means that these bands showed me the path to follow and made me feel something I’d never felt before, and such spiritual experience helped me express my feeling by means of my own music.
Anatoliy Polovnikov: I have no limits for creation of my drum parts. Therefore, I evenly use various techniques of different music styles. Such performers as Chad Smith (RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS), Gene Hoglan (DEATH), Sean Reinert (DEATH, CYNIC), Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER), Dave Lombardo (SLAYER) and some other honoured gentlemen made an influence on me.
Alexander Vetrogon (six string bass): No influences.

Describe the process of writing, arranging and recording the songs on “Under The Red Wolfish Moon.”
Sergey AR Pavlov: The EP consists of five compositions including a bonus track (single edition of the title track). I composed this music from 1995 to 2001, and it was arranged by HEATHER WASTELAND members from 2014 to 2015. The EP was recorded and mixed by Andrey Ignatenkov, a sound engineer with a high level of concert experience owing to his work, at the shows in the Crimea, with such diverse performers as Joe Lynn Turner (ex-RAINBOW, ex-DEEP PURPLE, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s RISING FORCE), Goran Bregović, ARKONA (Russia), BONFIRE (Germany), DE-PHAZZ (Germany) and many more. The EP was mastered by Iurii Kuz’kin, who is well-known to the fans of Slavonic Pagan metal due to his work with CHUR and OPRICH.
Alexander Vetrogon (6-string bass): This process is rather standard – sometimes a melody, sometimes the accompaniment is primary, then it becomes covered with the music themes developing an original idea, and then the sketches of drum rhythms defining a composition’s mood appear. Well, and then the final arrangement is created. Working in a team, we take this out at our general trial. And, of course, the band members are free to change both separate themes, and structure of a composition.
Sergey AR Pavlov: As for our forthcoming album, an important thing will be added!

Name the songs on the EP and describe what they were written about. Who in the band usually writes your lyrics?
Sergey AR Pavlov: All these tracks are instrumentals, but they have their own historical, mythological and cultural backgrounds. The EP’s track s have thematic references to different periods in time and different places in Western Europe. If you take a look at it through the lens of the little-known historical facts concerning Cimmeria-Taurida, no contradictions will be found, because archaeological, linguistic and cultural heritage of the Celts, Normans, Greeks, Goths, Genoeses are still alive on the shores of our Πόντος Ἄξενος, better known as the Black Sea. Sometimes the closely spaced subjects may be considered from a far distance, so we set out on the travels through space and time... Let’s take a look at the track list:
I – “Tre Sverd” – Having cut the rising blood-red waves of Hafrsfjord in Norway by the steel of our strings, we will behold the faces of Úlfhéðnars in the sea foam….
II – “Under The Red Wolfish Moon” – Driven by the Red Moon’s ghostly shining we will turn into those whom the Dark Ages’ autos-da-fe are very glad… but neither their flame, nor the Runemeisters’ Wolf-Hooks are destined to chain us. We will disappear in the centuries to return to other place…
III – “Venice (Barocco Veneziano)” – Let the riot of carnival colours on the gray quays of the Venetian channels will become such incarnation! Though, what kind of faces is hidden under our masks? It is doubtful that you will discern them – these bright-colour costumes of jugglers will suddenly turn to shapeless garments, and the actors themselves, having just begun to juggle with their torches, vanish in the night. In your mind's eye some visions will appear...
IV – “Beltane (Intro) / Wicker Man” – …These fires are neither the ones of Walpurgis Night of the Dark Ages, nor the Inquisition’s autos-da-fe. Those are the forgotten fires of the Vernal Equinox of the barbarous Caledonia, this high one is a Summer Solstice flame of the Wicker Man… and his uninvited guests writhe in the death throes in his belly...
V – “Under The Red Wolfish Moon (Single Edit)” – Yeah! Let the Red Wolfish Moon shine again!
Sergey AR Pavlov: I created the conception of the EP. As for the forthcoming album, the majority of the band’s lyrics was written by Alexander Vetrogon in Russian, then I edited the lyrics and translated into English. The rest of the lyrics or “poetic liner notes” were written in English by me.

How did Andrey Ignatenkov come to record and mix your EP? Did he provide you any worthwhile advice during this time? Did he provide you any worthwhile advice during this time?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I and he have the same day-time job in a design engineering bureau, but in different departments, and sometimes we attend the same concerts – Andrey as a sound engineer, me as a spectator or a musician. So, we trusted him as a great sound engineer, and when he got to know about our band with three bass players, he took it as a great challenge to “tame and handle” our “bass beasts” on a field of his sound-engineering skills and talents! Of course he gave us advices, and did great work for free. We really appreciate it, but unfortunately, he is a busy person and refuses to take any money from us as we are friends, so we could not make him work faster. I guess sometimes it’s a big problem of cooperation. We wanted to speed up the process, that’s why we decided to change the studio for mixing and mastering.

What are you planning for your new full length? Will there be re-recorded versions of songs from the EP or will all the songs be new?
Sergey AR Pavlov: We are not an instrumental project anymore. From 2016 to 2018 we failed to find a singer in our native city, so Anatoliy Polovnikov proposed to invite some guest vocalists from different countries for our forthcoming album, and we did it. So, now I can name (in alphabetical order) the following ladies and gents, who have already provided us with their recorded parts:
- Andrey "Indian" Merzlyakov (GRENOUER, Russia) – vocal,
- Cruinh (RIMMERSGARD, Germany) – vocal,
- Eugen "Chur" Kucherov (CHUR, Ukraine) – battle intro,
- Graham Gosnell (U.K.) – vocal,
- Jadranka "Tzeetzah" Stanić (SUPERHAMMER, ELSEWHERE SHINE, Serbia) – vocal,
- Maria "Scream" (ARKONA, Russia) – vocal,
- Monica "Demonica" Janssen (DOWNCAST COLLISION, X-TINXION, the Netherlands) – vocal,
- Mortiis (ex-VOND, ex-FATA MORGANA, ex-CINTECELE DIAVOLUI, ex-EMPEROR, Norway) – spoken words in Norwegian from “Heimskringla”,
- Newton Schner Jr. (LEBENSESSENZ, Brazil) – piano outro,
- Roibéard Ó Bogail (ex-MAEL MORDHA, Ireland) – vocal.
I will also name one more lady, when her vocals are recorded.
And, of course, I must name the painters we cooperate with. Rotten Fantom created the album’s cover art. Rotten Fantom is a project of two artists: Elena Snegotskaia from Saint Petersburg and Vladimir Snegotskii from Moscow, Russia. Rotten Fantom created cover arts, for example, for such bands as ARKONA (Russia), OLDD WVRMS (Belgium), LES INFÂMES (Canada) etc. Of course, I should mention Vladimir’s own black metal project WARDRA. You definitely should check this band!
Another painter, my old friend Nickholas Mortem from the Occult Black Metal band MERKNET (I also recommend this band!), is busy creating his pencil drawings for the interior part of our booklet, and for a lyric video. Nickholas created cover arts for such bands as NUNSLAUGHTER (USA), SABBAT (Japan), MOLOCH (Ukraine), ELDERBLOOD (Ukraine), NECROGOD (Russia), MELEK-THA (France) etc, and he is also well known owe to the outstanding painting with his own blood.
We re-recorded our old instrumental track “Tre Sverd” in a new arrangement, but we also added vocal parts of Cruinh, Chur’s battle intro, and Mortiis’ spoken words in Norwegian from “Heimskringla”. As for the rest of our tracks, they are new and previously unreleased. At the same time, some surprises may be added.

How did you manage to hook up with all those musicians appearing on the next album?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’ve been involved in different spheres of music underground since 1990. It concerns music itself, as well as ‘zines, promotion, translation of lyrics etc. So, it means almost 30-year history of different contacts and music collection which finally led me to these great musicians and great persons! Some of our album guests are our old friends we know personally or my very good pen pals, some of them supported and encouraged us after our EP’s release. Regardless of these persons’ status, all of them deserve to be mentioned in detailed stories, but I’m afraid that if I start telling these stories, our interview will be transformed into a thick book! I just want to add, these people became a great and important part of our life and band, even if they don’t know about it!

Can you recall just one or two stories about the guests on your album for this interview?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’ll try to do it in brief! But just one. In 2013 I tried to find a way how to deal with bullying in kindergarten, when my eldest daughter complained that some boys had offended her. Discussing this topic, she saw a picture of Mortiis on a PC screen in my Facebook account and asked "is this monster your Internet friend? I like his hair style! Tell him about it!". At that moment, suddenly, I clearly understood what we needed to do... So, when the boys in kindergarten started to offend her again, she said firmly: "Wait a minute! I'll be right back and we will continue our conversation!" After that, she brought a troll-like portrait of Mortiis and very convincingly said: "It’s my dad's friend. If you offend me again, this friend will first come to your dreams at night, and then come to kindergarten in the morning with my dad and other dad's friends!"
Believe me or not, but this statement hit like a bombshell, producing an explosion of boys’ comments. One of the boys told others: "If her dad has such friends, then it’s terrible even to imagine what kind of man her dad is..." The problem was solved. I decided to tell the whole story, and wrote a comment on that Mortiis’ photo on his Facebook. I jokingly apologized for printing the photo without his kind permission for such a terrible mission! Well, at the same time, I expressed the hope that he, being the father of his daughter, would understand me and forgive me for “the unlawful use of his intellectual property”. Of course, his fans started writing their funny comments, asking me for permission to use my know-how for protection of their children! Ha-ha! Half an hour later, Mortiis appeared online, put a smiley face and wrote something like "I'm not happy that you used a photo of such poor quality, so if a similar situation arises again, let me know – I'll send you some scarier photos of good quality!"
After this “incident”, after some time, Mortiis sent me a message and asked if I had vinyl records of the Soviet metal bands of the 80s – early 90s, and would I want to trade LP’s from my collection for some albums of his projects. So our communication began in this way, we traded, and last year, when I came to the festival “Ragnard Reborn Nove Kolo” (Ukraine), I finally met in person “the favourite troll” of both of my daughters!

How long had you known Nickholas Mortem, and what was it about his artwork that made you want to hire him?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Our correspondence began in 2008 or so, when he found the album of 1999 by my project AR (esoteric neoclassic Pagan darkwave), wrote me about his opinion and sent some links to his darkwave and black metal projects, as well as to his works of art painted with his own blood. I was really impressed with sincerity and philosophical depth of his works! So, I’m not surprised that Vincent Castiglia and Hans Rudolf Giger (R.I.P.) commended his works. By the way, as far as I know, there is a couple of Mortiis’ portraits (painted by Nickholas’ blood) in Mortiis’ studio. What made me to hire Nickholas? I suddenly found his pencil sketches in a completely different manner, the manner I really needed precisely to create artwork for the interior part of our booklet and singles’ covers!

Does Nickholas have an official website where his artwork can be viewed?
Sergey AR Pavlov: You can find the works painted with his blood at: Painting With Blood. Also check his Instagram for his tattoo works, painting and other: .

Where do you intend to record and produce the next album? Will you be working with anyone or producing it independently?
Sergey AR Pavlov: Our upcoming album is already recorded, and we are busy finishing the process of mixing and mastering. Anatoliy recorded all his drums’ parts at Andrey Ignatenkov’s studio, and all bass parts were recorded at Alexander Vetrogon’s home studio. As you understand, vocal parts were recorded in different parts of this planet, and shared through file storage systems. After that we initiated active collaboration with Sergey “SeratonIn” at his SeratonIn Studio (Sevastopol, the Crimea). To our mind, it’s the best studio not only within our “walking distance” in our neighborhood, but in the Crimea as well. We know each other for ages, we trust each other, and we really like the way of working with this studio. We set a task, then Sergey works on his own and tries to present his views as a preliminary variant. After that, we gather in the studio discussing the way to improve everything up to the moment, when we feel that all of us really happy with the result. Of course, we show our guest participants this result, and make the final cut taking into account their opinion. So, we can say this album is mainly produced by Sergey “SeratonIn” with the participation of Anatoliy Polovnikov and yours truly.

How soon do you expect the new album to come out? Do you intend to promote it aggressively on the web and perhaps push for U.S. distribution at some point?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I hope this year. I’ll try to do my best with promotion. We had already spent considerable time and effort, as well as a lot of nerves, working on the album, so it would be unforgivable to become “frozen” with indecision. We respect our guest participants very much, so we feel responsible for their contribution to the common cause. We’d like to present the result as widely as possible. According to statistics, we have many Internet subscribers from the U.S.A., so if there is appropriate interest in distribution or publishing, we will discuss this topic with our supporters from shores of Vinland!

What domestic Russian label, if any, will it be released on?
Sergey AR Pavlov: We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, so time will tell! Keep in mind that we live in the Crimea, and this region has been under strict international sanctions since 2014. So, this point provokes a lot of problems with the logistics, international banking, postal services, “heightened interest” of customs service etc. International sanctions pose a huge obstacle in the way of the realization of our plans. The only efficient way out is the strong support in different areas from our old friends both in Ukraine and Russia. They know who they are! And I’m happy with the fact that our friendship means something.

How much do you hope the next full length will help elevate your recording career? Would you like to go on to having your releases on one of the major independent labels, going on regular tours and making regular fest appearances? What would be next?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’d rather prefer presenting our modest but important results, instead of chattering about our great, but vain plans! Of course, we dream about everything you listed in your question, but we are realists: to date, some of us can’t cross the border, some of us have a family emergency, some of us don’t want play concerts, some of us have too serious regular day time job and can’t go anywhere, etc. So, at the moment, we do what we are able to do – doing our best. In any way, we do try to make some unbelievable things –unbelievable, at least, for our haters!

Anything you wish to close with?
Sergey AR Pavlov: I’d like to thank you for interesting questions, and all your readers for their interest. We appreciate your attention very much! I’d like to express HEATHER WASTELAND’s gratitude to all our heretical supporters! Look for your own Path and don’t betray the dreams of your life. So, don’t advocate a view, but common sense: "9" may look like "6", especially from the opposite point of view, but "0" is always "0". Be blessed! \m/
If you are interested, you can follow us on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram and VK.

-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Interview with Ivan "Paranoid" of VISTERY by Dave Wolff

Interview with Ivan "Paranoid" of VISTERY

Vistery’s third full length ‘Death Is Dead’ has recently been made available for streaming. Is it also available on CD and/or vinyl? How well has it been received since it came out?
We released the album on CD as a limited digipack edition, available exclusively on our Bandcamp profile. Since the release we've received a lot of great feedback, praising various features of the album, but we personally like that the people seem to hunger for classic old school death metal. 'Death Is Dead' feeds that hunger, at least to some level.

Vistery is described as “keeping old school death metal alive against the odds” with their new album. What are the obstacles you see standing in the way of this genre which has survived changing tastes and trends for the last three decades?
Whether we succeed, it’s for the listeners to decide. There’s still love for this kind of music among the listeners, however dwindled their numbers are. We can see it on every live show we do. We’ve been keeping track on our local Death Metal scene for a while now, and it seems to us that there’s a hole in this particular Metal subgenre, that currently is trying to be filled solely by us. Hopefully, there’s someone out there right now trying to prove that Death is actually not quite Dead yet. It looks more hopeful for the Western world, of course.

Have you seen fewer listeners locally or in your country as a whole? Last I checked there were more bands from Eastern countries.
It is more relevant in Belarus. The situation is a bit better in Russia, but that is accurate for all genres of metal, not the least for the fact that there are more bands in general.

How long has Vistery been active? Tell the readers of any demos you released, your previous two full lengths and how much the band has progressed and grown.
Alexei Wicked, who is responsible for creation of Vistery, produced the first record ‘Procreation of the Wicked’ as a solo project. It was published in 2011, and shortly after Wicked began seeking likeminded people to form an actual band. We started as a band in 2012, what led to the recording of the second album ‘Sinister Prophecy’. It was always an idea of making the next record at least a step ahead of the previous one in quality, and this is something that we have not failed to deliver. Now we have a band in which each of us understands and feels the music that we are playing and contributes to the final result.

How do you define classic old school death metal? Are there bands you cite as direct influences or cite has having helped inspire you pursue your own sound?
There is quite a number of names in old school death metal that would speak for themselves, such as Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Deicide. We are all familiar with them and their music, and it is not too hard to find the similarities in it. Chris Barnes’ Six Feet Under and early Sepultura were a huge influence to Wicked and some of us when we were just starting. There are more bands that we know now that play music close to our understanding of how it is supposed to be – Jungle Rot, Torture Killer, Bolt Thrower, to name some.

Does Wicked write the band’s lyrics on your albums, or is it more of a collective effort?
He did write all the music and lyrics on ‘Procreation of the Wicked’, but with each new record there’s more input from all the band members. For ‘Death Is Dead’ the lyrics were written more or less equally by Wicked, Paranoid and Soulless.

Are ‘Procreation of the Wicked’ and ‘Sinister Prophecy’ also available on streaming sites? If so, on which sites are they streaming and how much exposure did those get?
They are now, but unfortunately, they were not at the time of their release, that might have got them more exposure. Although there have been quite a lot of changes in the online side of the music industry during that time, so at least we’re caught up with that now.

Was the title of the first album ‘Procreation of the Wicked’ intended in any way to be a Celtic Frost reference? Do your listeners sometimes ask you this?
Oh yeah, there have been a couple of those questions. The recording of this album was made right after Wicked’s previous band was disbanded, so this solo project at the time was a new start for him. Of course, he was familiar with Celtic Frost, but that was a coincidence more than a homage.

What was the band Wicked was involved in before he began his solo project? How active was this band and why did they eventually part company?
Evil Unleashed, a Death Metal band, split up after one album and a handful of live performances due to artistic disagreements. Most of the members chose to pursue their own path in music.

Is there material by Evil Unleashed available for purchase or streaming? If so, from what sources are they available?
A quick search tells that there is nothing to buy for sure, and the only place you can still find this music is the band’s page on vk.com. It is probable that some of the band members still have the actual CD.

In what ways was the material recorded for ‘Sinister Prophecy’ different from ‘Procreation of the Wicked’, when the second album was recorded by a full band?
First of all, Wicked did not have to sing on this one, to his relief. Our bass player at the time spend a lot of time on crafting his signature sound that was very different than the bass sound on the first record. All of us were trying to make the music sound as good as we were able at that moment. This tendency further developed in recording of ‘Death Is Dead’, a fruit of collective labor for all of us.

‘Death Is Dead’ is available for streaming on Youtube as well as Bandcamp. How much exposure has the band gotten through Youtube?
More than we would have if it was not there, actually. Some of the people who checked it out on Youtube headed on to Bandcamp and bought the album there. There have also been streams on Spotify, Google Play Music and Apple Music. In today’s society your presence online should be as wide as you can make it, so we’re basically on almost every online platform now. Although you can get the music in lossless from our Bandcamp profile only.

What are the good and bad points of streaming your albums? Have fans who heard your releases on Bandcamp and Youtube bought them on CD to help support the band?
Currently there is no point in trying to restrict access to trying out music for free. No matter what you do, people will share and re-upload it on torrent trackers and other platforms. So why not give them access to do so without breaking any laws? After all, the more exposure you get, the more is the chance to stumble upon the people who would like to support your music, and we’re glad that it’s working for us more effective than before.

Since bands started streaming on social media, are fewer people re-uploading albums on net platforms? Do unsigned bands in your country have copyright laws that work to their advantage?
There has been a bit of a shift from downloading music to streaming it online in general. Personally I understand the convenience of listening to whatever you want to with just a few taps in your favorite streaming app, like Spotify or Google Play Music (unlike Youtube, those streams bring revenue for the bands). The re-uploads are still there, but fewer people care about them every day. Unfortunately, the copyright laws – even though they do exist here – are virtually impotent. Nobody gives a damn about it nowadays.

What other steps do you think bands can take to keep their music from being illegally pirated? Labels and PR companies watermark their promos before they are released to prevent leaking. Unsigned bands use more privacy settings. Would the latter method help you and other bands from your home country?
The most efficient way of fighting with illegal piracy of the music is providing this music free of charge legally. There should be no barriers between the music and the audience, especially for bands making their first steps on their way to earning recognition. If people really like your stuff, they will support it, so you’d better have options for that too – be it a CD/vinyl record, lossless digital version of your album or some cool merch. As for privacy settings for promos – that will most likely end in your promo being deleted and never considered. People from labels, magazines and even webzines are so overflown with promos that some of them won’t even bother if it’s anything other than a link to a streaming website, so that there would be as few steps to listening to the music as possible.

This last is true enough, and I speak from experience as I most often review promos from bands and labels that send me a Youtube or Bandcamp link. Unless something really interests me. Do you see a greater or lesser amount of reviews in zines these days?
There are definitely more of those, at least due to the fact that overall online presence of people is growing. Some of them migrate to Youtube.

How many CD copies of your albums have been released? Are they limited editions or do you plan to press additional copies?
There are hardly any of the copies of ‘Procreation of the Wicked’ still available nowadays, and maybe only a handful of ‘Sinister Prophecy’ digipacks. We were always sure that a limited run was enough in this digital age, so if you want to have a physical copy of ‘Death Is Dead’, you’d better hurry while they are still around.

How many copies of ‘Death Is Dead’ are available for purchase? Will you continue to stream it when all the copies are sold?
There’s just about twenty or so copies left reserved for Bandcamp, but the option of buying a digital lossless album will still be available.

Name the songs on ‘Death Is Dead’ and describe what they are written about. How did the band write and arrange the lyrics to go with the music?
Our approach to lyrics writing is the same in its method – music comes first. After the songs were composed and got their more or less final structure, we started writing the lyrics that would fit them. Sometimes Wicked or someone else had a title or a single line ready, which then was developed into a story.
‘Winds of Devastation’ is about ruthless forces of nature that a single human has no chance of fighting. ‘Tormentor’ is about sadistic pleasures that some people can indulge in. ‘Rotting Earth’ may be considered as a warning to mind what we are doing to the world we are living in, so that it wouldn’t have to be reborn in a purifying fire. ‘Picnic Party’ tells you a tale of what dangers can you stressful daily grind at work lead to. ‘Omniphobic’ is about how fear can hold you back. ‘Swamp’ is a grim fairy tale about dark corners of the Earth, which have no place for humans. ‘Die From Within’ is a satiric take on child-free beliefs. ‘Black Magic’ is what you make of it. Lethal incantations are fun! ‘Mortal Fear’ is complicated. I am still trying to decipher this one. ‘Butchery’ may as well be a spiritual sequel to ‘Tormentor’. ‘Death Is Dead’ is a fable about importance of death in our lives.

The titles of those songs sound like they have an old school thrash feel. Did you try for it or did it just come naturally?
I believe we were just trying to stay more or less within the borders of the genre as we see it.

Was the concept of ‘Swamp’ partly influenced by any fantasy authors or entirely from your own imagination?
Wicked wrote this one, and it resonates with our country social and economic position overall and our local metal scene as well – it reminds of a pungent and still swamp, with progress at a very slow pace.

Are there specific examples of what the human race is doing to the earth in ‘Rotting Earth’ or is the song a general statement about the present state of the earth?
I would consider it as the latter, after all, not every song should be literal even for such a straightforward at times genre. For more metal music on environmental themes refer to Gojira.

What do ‘Tormentor’ and ‘Butchery’ have in common so that the latter could be a sequel to the former?
General disregard to human suffering and sadistic notions. You know, classic death metal attitude.


Name some of the zines that favorably reviewed ‘Death Is Dead’ since it was released. What did most of your reviewers like about the album?
To our surprise, most of the reviewers praise the bass sound and lines, which we had a lot of grief recording, changing instruments and gear. Apparently, it was all worth it. It is also pleasing to read a lot of them enjoying our take on old school death metal genre, which makes us feel that we are definitely on the right track. ‘Death Is Dead’ got reviews from a bunch of little independent zines from all over Europe, one from Canada and a few from the U.S. – Dead Rhetoric, Headbanger Reviews, Ugh Metal to name the few. Apparently, if we started plugging our album earlier, we would have got more of those, so that will be a lesson to us all to remember when we make our next record.

How much grief did you go through as far as changing gear and instruments during the recording of the album?
This record was the toughest any of us participated in so far. The whole process was stressful and painful more that it should have been, each one of us dealt with complications.
Wicked has injured his shoulder and was unable to use his arm at full capacity for several months. Def started to have severe back problems and was on painkillers when he was recording his parts. Soulless had to fix his bass for three times unable to get a clean and consistent sound, which resulted in changing his instrument and all of his gear, at one point he was so frustrated that he was considering giving up bass at all. I encountered some troubles with my voice after the recording, which lead to a long healing and recuperation process and took months to get back at full strength.
At times, we thought that this would be our swansong, the last thing we do. And so we pushed through and persevered.

Since the band made ‘Death Is Dead’ available on Itunes and Spotify, have you received orders from other eastern countries and some western countries?
We sure have, and to our surprise, most of the orders are from Western Europe. We still have not had a customer from the Asian region, so maybe we should put some effort into fixing that.

Are you in contact with people from Asian countries who are interested in hearing your material? How about Western countries like the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil?
I think our music was on some local radio in the U.S., but not apart from that.

Has the favorable response ‘Death Is Dead’ has received encouraged the band to continue?
Truth be told, that’s the reason we still do all of this after nine years and three albums, the response from our fans and all the metalheads that bang their heads at our live shows or support us by buying our albums. The energy you receive when everything comes together on stage makes it all worth trying.

You released a video recorded live in Minsk, Belarus in 2018, which is uploaded to your Facebook page. Who filmed the video and what equipment was used? Do you plan to post more live videos?
That was a fun little project, we asked our friends to film us on their phones, cameras and action cameras, and cut those into this video. The next live video should probably contain more of the live sound though, preferably recorded from the mixer. We’re thinking of shooting a proper music video with a little storyline sometime this year.

The song chosen for the live video was ‘Rotting Earth’. Why was this song chosen for the clip and was there a reason the song is over dubbed rather than featuring the song as it was done onstage?
The reasons are the most obvious and practical. This was the song for which we had the most number of video sources, and, unfortunately, we did not manage to get a proper recording of the sound through the mixer, so we decided to use the album audio over poor quality tracks from smartphones.

How was the quality of the video, being that it was made with phone cameras and the like? Will you be working with the same people for the next live video?
Modern smartphones are equipped with quite good cameras, making the costs of just shooting a video of more or less good quality decrease dramatically. It might not be the approach for the next live filming though, we will see about that.

You have a lyric video of Omniphobic streaming on Youtube. Do listeners who watched it go on to stream or purchase the album?
There were some transitions from this video both to other Youtube videos and to our Bandcamp, even some to our website, but unfortunately no purchases, that I could trace directly. But the main reason for publishing this video on our Facebook was to show that there are more of those on our Youtube channel.

In addition to separate tracks, all three of your full lengths are uploaded in their entirety to your Youtube profile. Has uploading your albums generated even more interest?
The ‘Death Is Dead’ full album video is the most popular on the channel and the one that we got the most of clicks over to our website and Bandcamp from.

What ideas are you developing for the storyline of the new video?
We have some general ideas, but it should resonate with the lyrics at some level. However, we still have to find a person who would direct this process, so that the final product would not be another silly clichéd amateur Youtube video.

Does the band have any ideas in mind for the next release? Is this planned to be an EP or a full length album at this point?
Actually, there’s quite a bunch of new material in works for our fourth album, and some ideas for the concept of it. But it’s too early to speak about any details.

At what point do you imagine the band will expand their audience into other countries? Anything else you want to mention to conclude this interview?
With a little bit of luck, it may happen at any moment. We have to continue to do what we are doing and build up our online presence and recognition even more. A single great video with a correct advertisement campaign could start the wave.
I don't think death metal is dead for good yet. It's the people who love this genre that are pushing it forward, even a comment on a social media brings inspiration to the musicians. So keep on banging your head, go to your local gigs, support what you like, everything counts.


-Dave Wolff