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

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