Behemoth are currently touring in support of their latest album, I Loved You At Your Darkest. As the tour came through Manchester (read our review here), Louder Than War’s Dom Walsh caught up with the bands singer and visionary, Nergal. We discussed coffee, drinking, health, new fans, festivals and living for the now.
How are you? How is the tour going?
It’s been a busy four weeks. The tour is going amazing. The best headlining tour we’ve had, ever. The biggest…the most enthusiastic…the strongest numbers…incredible.
The London show looked spectacular?
That’s exactly what it was. It was relentless and unstoppable. Fierce and wild. Maybe the best show on this tour. Certainly in the top three shows.
The UK has been an important market for us for the past ten/fifteen years. I don’t remember too many shows in Manchester.
How does touring work for you these days? Have you been around Manchester?
I’ve walked around Manchester. I’ve been to the gym. That was cool. I got to work out for free! Then I went for a massage. It was relaxing. I really needed that as my whole body was aching. I not only perform every night, but I work out every day.
That sounds hefty!
It is, but that’s actually…you know…I mean…working out kicks you out from the routine. It mobilises you. It’s like a boost. Even if you feel weak or something during the day, you just go and work out and you really boost your system. The paradox is, you make this effort, but it feels better afterwards. You feel more alive. That’s exactly how I like my day. I don’t just want to waste it on being hungover ‘til like 3pm. That’s not me.
I went for coffee – a nice coffee shop. I went there last time when we played in 2014.
Do you have any familiar places or favourite places on tour?
When we interviewed Mike Åkerfeldt he mentioned Brussels as one of his favourite places.
I was in Brussels recently. It was my first ever experience of downtown. It’s spectacular and so beautiful. How come I have missed this?! I’m 41 and I’ve never seen that. It felt weird. It was cool. I and my friend went to see some galleries and museums and saw some incredible paintings. It was a good time. There are record shops, vintage stores and coffee stores that I remember but it’s hard to pick one out of the blue now!
Coffee is obligatory every day though. I hate chain coffees. I hate regular shitty coffee at the venue or club. I’m always trying to find the places dedicated to coffee. They burn their own blends and do their own thing. It’s my first and most important stop wherever I am!
I wasn’t like that before. First of all I didn’t have funds to do that. I was relatively poor throughout most of my career. I just wouldn’t like to just spend money in the restaurant or things. I’ve learnt throughout the years that you live here and now. My experiences, health issues (he had leukaemia) and stuff has taught me that. Go and treat yourself. Put the good coffee in your body. Put the good glass of wine in your stomach after a show. Go and have a massage. Go and read a good book. I watch a shitload of stuff on Netflix. I’ve been like that for about 15 years now. I really wanna make sure that a tour is not just for wrecking. It’s not just for raging. It’s 1% for raging these days – I go for it sometimes. It’s part of rock’n’roll but I don’t wanna waste my time being a wreck and sleeping when the day is nice. I will squeeze out the juices from every day. I really want to use my time on Earth. I use my time on tour. I use my time wherever I am. I don’t want it to be meaningless.
Nergal with Dom, backstage at The Ritz
That’s smart. Not drinking is a challenge for me. I went to Sicily for a holiday a few months ago and I was thinking I was going to experiment and not have a single glass of wine every evening. It wasn’t possible!
If you enjoy it though, why give it up? Don’t demonise it.
Exactly. It’s never been an issue with me. It never became a problem as I am happy to say no when I don’t feel like it. If I drink, it’s never big amounts.
The Satanist was my first foray into Behemoth.
That’s a good entry point.
It felt like the best work you’d done having gone through your back catalogue after The Satanist. Would you agree with that?
I agree, yes. It was a crowning release. It really helped us to step up and stand out. It was a solid statement.
With your health issues coming just before that release, did it feel like a rebirth?
Yes. A rebirth. A revival.
You can feel the heart and soul and life in it, and through the live show on Messe Noire.
It feels life affirming in the way that you came back and triumphed.
I loved it. It was, as you say, life affirming.
And you got to headline Bloodstock with it. What was that like?
It was a game changer because we were not in the position to headline back then with the size of the festival.
Oh really? Do you not think so?
No…it was the first time they’d put us as a headliner and the next day was Alice Cooper I think. The next day was some other legendary act. It felt like ‘holy shit’ there’s some responsibility going on. So for us, t was the first time that someone had put us in such a high position.
That’s a real nod isn’t it? Plus going up against Alice Cooper who has the theatrical show, which Behemoth has too; there aren’t many bands that do it properly.
True. Within the genre, most of it is gimmicks. The best compliment I can get is that it’s scary when we do it. It’s disturbing. It’s so fierce and overwhelming. That’s what I want a Behemoth show to be.
It takes a lot of effort from us. Its very energy involving. We give a lot. We give more than ever. I can feel it from the US tour and I’ve never felt so drained from shows. We know we give more than ever though, now.
The reactions from your bands Instagram montages from the shows show how vicious and great the crowds are. Bristol seemed crazy.
Bristol was crazy. London was crazy. They were over the top.
After The Satanist, did you have a sense of ‘Where next?’ or did it feel natural?
It felt natural to go even further in both directions. What was more classic sounding is even more classic sounding these days. I’m happy that we did a record that is maybe our most diverse album. It’s a very diverse record. Maybe the next one should be more compact and shorter; more consistent, because this one is all over the place. It’s too early to judge but we’re making new music already for the next Behemoth album. It’s being written as we speak. But it’s way too early.
I like it though. We’ve released 11 records so far…there are no two records that are alike. Every record is different. That’s what I love about bands that I look up to. Well…there’s AC/DC…I don’t want them to deliver different records but then when you look at Bathory, every album is a different world; a different universe. Maybe were not that drastic when it comes to changes but I’m happy to deliver each time. Not everyone is happy. Someone is always complaining. At the end of the day, people buy the honesty and sincerity that we bring along. We’ve never compromised our music. Never. The reaction to the new record is confirmation of my statement. Pretty much everyone said we didn’t expect that. That’s the best compliment ever!
I’ve learned that people need time. I remember when we started playing Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel at festivals, first. People were like…what’s that?! Now it’s like…holy fuck! It feels that way Bartzabel now. I think it will stay in the set list for the next ten years. People react really well but in a couple of years they’ll be all over this song. O Father, O Satan, O Sun is the same. People are asking why we’re not playing it. We just messed around with the set list a bit.
Was it hard to drop things from The Satanist?
No. We killed that record live. We played the whole thing. No were doing two songs. It’s just enough. Loads of people saw the full set so were not going to play 3/4/5 songs. Maybe in the future. Surprisingly, until we were into the tour, I only realised we were doing three songs from Evangelion! Maybe in the future, my plan is to dig something out from The Apostasy that we have never played before which is to me, not my favourite record, but there are some songs that I think maybe we should play this one. It would work fine, live. There is so much back catalogue that we can have fun with it.
I’m kind of disappointed every time Judas (Priest) is back because I would love them to play some songs that they have never played before. Why have they not played Ram It Down or some other songs? I guess they have a lot. Maiden…that’s a challenge to please everyone! I’ll still be there for them but I’d love to see Judas play other stuff.
Seeing Iron Maiden last year, on the Legacy of the Beast Tour, was amazing. That set was unreal.
That was the best set list ever from Maiden.
It was the best show I’ve seen them do.
Same here. I saw three shows. Bruce Dickinson is a monster. He’s a beast. He’s an animal. He’s one of those guys that I would truly look up to from a different genre so to speak. He’s awesome.
Have you ever met him?
Not yet! We’re working on it!
Would you feel a sense of ‘that’s Bruce Dickinson’ if you met at a festival?
No. I know he’s very down to earth. We have mutual friends and he’s aware of me because we were supposed to meet. I know from my friend that he’s tried to make it happen. I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t be talking about Maiden; everything but! He’s a man of renaissance. I try to keep my interests as diverse as possible. I feel we’d click! I hope so!
You’re off to Australia next?
Not quite. Israel and Turkey first.
And that’s with Slayer and Anthrax? How does that feel?
You toured America with them, right?
Does that bring new fans in?
Absolutely. The numbers have gone up on the last tour. A lot of people were people from the Slayer shows who came to see us for the first time ever live.
With bands likes Slayer, like Maiden, you’re just in the way of seeing Slayer or Maiden!
That’s what it is.
It’s no surprise that people want to come back and see your band and your act. It’s impossible not to take notice even if you didn’t particularly like your band. The way you talk of moving on and the next record, I take it there’s no plans for Behemoth to stop anytime soon?
No plans at all. We have the momentum at the moment.
You’ve been announced for Download Festival 2019. First time on the main stage!
Scary! Awesome. I’m ready. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We are super self-confident. I’ve checked the bill already; you know what…at least were gonna stand out! I don’t know if were gonna impress people but we’ll just be ourselves. One thing is certain…we will stand out!
On the poster you’re listed just below Trivium. Trivum had a triumphant mainstage moment a few years ago…they’ll be returning like heroes. That will be a killer afternoon.
I’ll definitely be hanging out with Matt (Heafy). We’re friends. Really support him. He’s always been super cool. Are Slipknot headlining that day?
I’ll look forward to seeing Slipknot and having a good coffee with Corey.
Do you know him well?
Not really, but we message and he’s a coffee geek like me. I send him coffee!
Would you ever think about putting on your own festival?
We’re talking about it. There’s a cool plan. Something might happen next year but I don’t want to spoil it. I don’t want to talk about that too much!
Thank you for taking the time to chat.
No worries. Good talking to you!
Behemoth continues touring worldwide throughout 2019 and return to UK shores for this year’s instalment of the Download Festival.