Ave IMMOLATION! Was just sitting and listening to your latest album "Kingdom of Conspiracy". The album which was released some time ago. What feelings about the recordings do you have now, after some time? If you had the occasion, is it something you would do differently now? How did critics and fans receive the recording and how does the new songs work live on stage?
Hey Jakub! First of all let me say that I appreciate your great patience with me getting back to you with this interview! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in work and life, and before you know it many months go by! So thank you for your patience and understanding!!!
I have to say that after it’s been out for over a year now , "Kingdom of Conspiracy" is truly one of the best releases we have had. I love everything we have done in the past, but I think we get better as we go, and this release is very strong, very straight forward, but has a lot of atmosphere too. It just takes everything we have done in the past and brought it up to a new level, one that sounds better, feels better live and is some of the most powerful music we have created.
In the live setting the Kingdom material has been going over phenomenally! In our half hour live set on the Decibel Magazine tour here in the states, with NAPALM DEATH and CANNIBAL CORPSE, we would play 4 new songs when the album was barely out yet, and the crowd’s reactions were awesome! And we really love playing the new stuff too! So the material has really proved itself.
Overall, myself and the rest of the band are very happy with Kingdom,…and we look forward to what’s next!
If I speak for myself, I really like the novelty. Only two things stopped me. The first is relatively the unusual cover art of the album. I had to get used to it for some time. It is designed by Pär Olofsson. Today, I am satisfied, but I have to admit that at first sight I was somewhat shocked ( laughs ). While his work on "Majesty and Decay" is brilliant. How did you chose this cover? Was the label intervening into your decision?
No this cover was completely our idea, and once you read the lyrics and understand the whole concept of the music, it all makes perfect sense. Par did an amazing job. We usually put a lot of thought into the concept and the art. This one was definitely a tougher one to conquer, as in the music we were looking at a possible future of lost freedoms, lost identity and the devastation of all that truly makes us human. A future where all the structures that we have created as a society have not only failed, but have consumed us.
So to bring this to life, and make it work was not an easy task, but together with Par we made it happen! I agree it is unusual perhaps for some at first, but again, once you understand the idea behind it, it truly is quite a dark vision. And we are not known for being “usual” anyhow (smile).
The second comment which I have is relatively much discussed is the sound of the drums which initially sounded quite a bit "plastic" to me and to be honest, I expected more aggressive and harsher sound. I finally got used to it but I must admit that at first, I thought, "what is it" ? Was it somewhat a changed approach to recording, in the studio? The technique of the game is as always perfect, just the sound initially seemed weird to me .
I think this is actually one of the most professionally produced recordings we have ever had. And that does take some getting used to apparently, haha. We have always had production issues in the past. Not that anything was bad in a sense, but people always wanted to hear a stronger, more defined sound from us. Many of our past records were really good,…but now that we have been working together with Zack Ohren, our last 3 releases have really stepped up our sound, and the over-all power of the music. It really has taken it to the next level, especially on Kingdom.
When you make a record you become your own worst critic,…trust me! And you second guess a lot, ...but you also have to trust the professionals you are working with and allow them to do their thing. It is not an easy process, and once you start listening to so many different versions of the same songs,...it gets harder and harder. But we are very confident in Paul Orofino and Zack Orhen. And their combination has now brought our sound to the highest level we have had.
I recently listened to Kingdom in my car after work one night. I hadn’t heard it in quite some time. And I have to say, it sounded amazing!! Powerful, intense, and professional. It took us a long time to get our sound to this level, so as even we are getting used to hearing some of our stuff sound so good,…I guess there will be a few in the metal community who will have to get used to a more professional sounding IMMOLATION too! Haha.
A separate, even if it forms an integral part of each of your record are the lyrics. I like that you give great importance to them. My jaw dropped at the news. The lyrics are very sophisticated and it seemed to me like you're talking out of my soul. All nicely corresponds with the music . How were they created in the last year's album? I'm interested about the initial idea.
Ross came up with initial concept. Being that there has been so much going on recently in the world, with all the corruption coming out, …from the economy to the food we eat, ,...the intense surveillance, the fear of terrorism to create less freedoms and more control. There was just so much going on that it was reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. So we kind of took that, which was just about becoming reality, and kind of looked at our world today and where it was headed, and what the possibilities could be if we keep on this course.
As most is with most of our records, we don’t fully start writing lyrics until we are in the studio. So as we are tracking drums and guitars we start the process of creating the lyrics. Ross would get a feeling from the music of a song and come up with some concepts for what the songs could be about. We would discuss it and go from there. Normally we both would have ideas of where the actual lyric parts in the songs would be, and Ross will kind of write up a rough draft, then give it to me. Then I will look at that and get an understanding of what message we wanted to relay in that particular track and start writing my own stuff. So we will typically go back and forth until we feel it is where it needs to be. Steve also will come up with lines and ideas too. So it becomes a group effort. It is definitely very much a creative process, as you need the words to not only be very strong and meaningful, but to also fit in “musically” for the song itself.
It is a process, but we have really developed our own system over the years, and we can walk into that studio with not one lyric written and feel confident that by the end of the two week period, we will have 10 songs of lyrics finished and recorded, without one doubt that we can get it done. And, with also having the words stand for something we believe is important.
Still about the new album...... you always have as a band delivered completely " unmistakable brushwork ". Not only does the connection of Robert‘s “atypical” riffs but also Ross's original vocals sets you apart from all others. How do you compose new songs? Do you compose it inside the drawer at home and after all that you do in the studio or does one of you has the final word? How long did these ideas take time to form and finally implementation of those ideas on the new album "Kingdom of Conspiracy"? Do you guys communicate and exchange your ideas via the internet or prefer the personal touch in the rehearsal room?
Once we get started things start to come together pretty quickly. I write riffs and create full parts with my computer program. I start with the guitar and then add drums and overlaying guitar work. I try and create the most I can with each part with a number of different layers, depending on how it feels. Then eventually I start piecing the parts together to make the songs. Once I feel I have a full track I send it out to the guys as an mp3 and we go from there. We may make some minor changes and sometimes some larger ones,…but overall I will get all the stuff together until we have a full album. We add all the lyrics/vocals in the studio, but most of the time we have a pretty good idea where the vocals will be in the song as well as solos. But I will always add things in as I go depending on the feel.
I always like to write music from scratch though. I never save anything from previous efforts or hold songs back for the next release. When going into a new project I like to start fresh and let that project take its course. I think the music comes out better that way and enables every one of our releases to contain its own natural vibe.
Overall I try to write what I feel works for what we are trying to do, and I try and make everyone in the band happy. It isn’t always so easy,..but I think we have had a pretty good track record in making the songs strong, and the band members comfortable with everything. I think we all love playing the newest material from Majesty, Providence & Kingdom the most.
I will add one more question on this topic. How does a band like IMMOLATION rehearse ?Do You have the classic rehearsal in the rehearsal rooms, as you probably should get when you had started or you had met each other a few times a year for writing new material, new concert setlist? Do you practice the guitar ( and other instruments of yours ) every day Robert ? Between people sometimes rumours are circulating that some musicians train even ten hours a day.
We have not rehearsed as a band in a few years. Not even before a new record studio session. I write everything on the computer and then we all rehearse to that separately. Once in the studio we all record our parts separately. And the first time we play any new songs live as a whole band is when we hit the stage for the first time for that tour. We literally never rehearse as a band at all.
We all live in different parts of the country so it is really difficult to rehearse together. And with the technology and the fact that we are all very dedicated to what we do,…each one of us rehearses at their own discretion , and once we get together on the stage we all know what we need to do. It may be a little unconventional, and somewhat unbelievable, but that’s how we get it done,…and it really works out great for us!!
Personally I don’t practice a lot. Only before tours or a new record really.
The new CD has a very compact feel to it. Everything (text, cover, music) have been beautifully done with . Who was the first to come up with the idea about the whole theme of "Kingdom of Conspiracy"? When I look around the cover I often feel like those characters from the cover. Are we all really locked in "chains"?
Well like I mentioned, Ross had that idea of doing a “concept record”. Once we started going back and forth with ideas and especially what that first song was about, I came up with “Kingdom of Conspiracy”. And then after months of deliberation trying to figure out a title for the album itself,…we ended up realizing (thanks to Steve) that “Kingdom of Conspiracy” really encompassed all the songs on the record. So we also chose this as the album title.
I think it was a great idea that Ross came up with though, for the concept, as we have been watching and reading about all the stuff going on around us in this world today and how truly dark it all is. With all this media, and fear of terrorism, and freedoms being slowly taken away from us, hidden in bills and laws without us realizing it,…we are actually becoming a chained down society. It’s a bad path we are on. So we thought it was important as well as an extremely dark subject matter. It’s real,..and there are things really happening.
And it’s been good to see such a great reaction from the fans. So many people seem to feel the same way about what is happening all over the world, and they relate to it and understand it. And that is a good thing.
Let's stay on the theme of "conspiracy". Going by the text content, I sometimes have the feeling that you are “fans” of conspiracy theories. Do you really think that the Illuminati controls us? Sometimes I have similar feelings, but on the other hand I tell myself, that things like these really allows itself to manipulate mankind very easily?
I wouldn’t say we are fans of conspiracy theories, but we are interested in seeing both sides of an issue, and all the facts and coming to our own conclusions about things.
A few months ago people in the world would tell you that you were insane if you thought that our government was recording all the data from our phones and able to get all the information out of them at any given time. Yet now it’s out there in the public and fact.
There are always people out there conspiring to do bad things on all different levels. Control is a very powerful tool, and I think that many of the masses don’t realize just how easily those in power can manipulate the world around us. Now I personally don’t buy into everything, but I have an open mind and I certainly do not trust our governments, or the media to give us all the true facts about things. It’s been proven time and time again.
"Kingdom of Conspiracy" you recorded in Milbrook Sound Studio in New York. If I'm not mistaken, you are faithful to this studio since 1999 (from recording "Failures for Gods"). Why this studio? Does it offer something different or exceptional? It is interesting that on every album the sound is gradually evolving and you never sound exactly the same as your past albums which is sometimes quite a problem for some studios and bands. Is it due to the fact that you have Paul Orofino? Or Zack Ohren for (mixing and mastering)?
We love Millbrook and Paul. It is a great studio and Paul is a great engineer and producer, and even a better person. We get along with Paul great. He creates the perfect atmosphere for recording and really makes things super easy for us.
It’s great to get away from work and our regular lives and just stay in Millbrook for a couple of weeks and concentrate on the record. And when have some down time here and there we BBQ with Paul and get to enjoy his in studio Pub! The whole experience is always fun and as pressure free as you can possibly be in that situation. So we will continue to work with Paul at Millbrook.
We have had really no need to go elsewhere, and now with Zack Orhen on board and the way studio and computer technology is today, we can make those advances in the production, all while remaining in our comfortable and enjoyable Millbrook setting.
Between the last and previous album "Majesty and Decay" you released the EP Providence. It was possible to download and listen to it for free from Scion A/V. For us - the European (Czech) fans - a big problem lies in getting the original CD into the collection. If I remember correctly, the original CD was available only on the U.S. tour in 2011. What we in Europe (laughter)? I was looking on Ebay and the the price of this CD was considerably high. Will we see a reissue?
The whole Scion A/V thing came about pretty quickly, and Scion car company (part of Toyota), was a U.S. division, its marketing was only for the United Sates. So as cool as it was to get free music and have some free CDs available,…it was a little unfortunate for those outside of the US or those who were not able to obtain the free cds here in the US.
All that aside,…the whole Scion A/V experience was amazing and we would do it again in a heart beat! They were super cool to us and really did a lot for the band!
The good thing is that we are now able to release it ourselves and do have copies available. So don’t go crazy on Ebay,..just order it directly from us and you won’t have to pay a ridiculous price for it.
Overall I think ‘Providence” was a great release, one of the top of our career, and we are glad we are now able to get it out there!
Speaking of “ collectibles “ ...is it still possible to get somewhere your first demos of 1988 and 1989? Have you considered about their remastering and re-release? When I look more back, what about RIGOR MORTIS?Personally I have at home already a lot of scratched vinyl which is of the same name as single of 1990 and the new edition I would appreciate (laughs)?
Demos will not be happening I can tell you that! Haha. We might release the “Stepping On Angels” CD eventually though, which pretty much contains all that early stuff anyhow. So one day maybe that will again see the light of day,…but its not the highest priority just yet haha
In 2010 for the album "Majesty and Decay" You've changed the label from Listenable Records for Nuclear Blast. Why the change? Have you not been satisfied by the previous label?
Listenable was a great label for us. They did an awesome job! However being that we were on Listenable in Europe and Century Media in the US, we just felt it was better for the band to be on one label world-wide, so once our contracts with Listenable & Century Media were over,…and after many months of consideration we took the Nuclear Blast offer.
In the autumn of 2012, I saw you at the Prague gigs together with MARDUK and Czech death metal band Heaving Earth. Do you remember how the tour went? Were you satisfied with the European fans? By the way, in Prague, it was a great show and we all enjoyed it.
This tour was awesome, and all the bands had a great time! We’ve been out with Morgan and the MARDUK guys before, they are the best! And HEAVING EARTH are great people and musicians. We had FORSAKEN WORLD from France on that tour as well as NOCTEM from Spain, DIE PROFUNDUS and DEAD BEYOND BURIED from the UK, and SOUL SACRIFICE from Turkey. All great people and bands and it was definitely a killer tour!!
Of course Prague is always one of those anticipated stops on any European Tour,…you know the crowd is going to be great and the city is amazing as well! We have good friends there too, so it’s always a pleasure!
You put up a very relaxed and sympathetic impression on the pictures and during interviews. Probably I don’t know “ merrier ” band. But once you're on stage, "fear" comes from you. I always say, where does the darkness ,"badass" riffs and music come from you? After you leave the stage you are all "cool dudes" again. Do you have a some chip inside, which you toggle (laughs)?
Haha yeah I guess so! Look, we are all very down to earth, and we are all fans of music and love what we do. So when we are off stage, we are just ourselves, having the best time we can and enjoying not being at work! Haha
When we hit that stage though the music comes out in full force! The emotion of the music came from within, so when we are on the stage it gets unleashed and we just “go for it”! To us it’s a great release, but a lot of fun as well. And when you see the crowd getting into the music and singing the lyrics, knowing that they are relating to the messages and the mood of the songs,…it’s a great feeling.
We have been doing this for over 25 years now,…yet every time we hit that stage, we get excited and want to put on the best show we can. We are still very ambitious and 100% into the music, so it is just more natural than anything else. So yes,…lets just say when we hit the stage we turn on the “Metal” switch!
The last clip which I saw from you was the song "Illumination" from the EP "Providence." Are you not going to support the novelty by the some interesting videos? And if so, can you tell us, for what song will it be?
We have some stuff we would like to do, we hope to get a video shot for Kingdom soon. Sometimes our schedules get hectic and before you know it a lot of time goes by, and these things need to be thought out and carefully planned. So lets keep our fingers crossed and hope you’ll be seeing something new from us in video form in the near future.
Worldwide decline in sales of CD in recent times because of downloading music online. Did you feel it too as a "big" band? Are you forced to do more concerts or concentrate on selling merchandise? Or have you never even addressed It or do you leave it to solely to the discretion of the label? Do members of Immolation go to „normal“ work? If so, how do you manage and combine employment with tours, recording, etc.?
We’ve been lucky with our jobs understanding our situation. I keep my company informed on what I’m doing and when dates are coming up,...so it works out well. Its not always so easy, but we always make it work somehow haha
As for the downloading,…well, we are not a “big” band, that is for sure haha So we are not losing much! But really I think in metal, when people like a band, they will go out and buy a physical copy,…unlike most other kinds of music. There are also digital sales and services etc. So I don’t see too much harm in people downloading an album or some songs to listen to the stuff and see if they like it.
There really is not way to stop anyone from hearing or listening to any given album or band etc. Between YouTube and downloading sites it is really impossible to stop that.
The important thing is that the music is getting out there, and I think the fact that it does get out there and people do have a chance to listen to it, will only help sales in the end.
Of course CD sales are down, and will continue to go down, and probably disappear within the next 10 years or so. Physical media is great, I love it, and so do many others in this scene. But the fact is that technology is just going in a different direction and eventually I feel there will be very little physical media left. And the funny thing is, I believe that out of all physical media available now, it is the Vinyl LP’s that will outlast everything, As this novelty will be the one that people will hold on to, while they also may purchase Digital versions of an album,…it is the LP that will be the most interesting to have as a physical copy. The record labels will somehow endure this one way or another I’m sure.
Are you interested about new young bands? Do you go to some concerts in your free time…etc.? Do you have in your recorder some record, the last time, which you listen to over and over again and for a long time you did not take it out from recorder? Our readers will certainly be interested in knowing what forms of music you listen to in your spare time?
I like all kinds of music. People would probably laugh at most of the stuff I listen too,…and Bill and Steve usually do! Haha But I am extremely open minded and like all kinds of stuff. I am a big fan of MUSE for instance. They are a great band and amazing musicians. I think when you create and play so much dark unholy music,, you need something completely opposite as a balance. I have also been getting into older stuff that is new to me, like LAIBACH. I found many similarities in the messages they have, with the stuff we have on Kingdom, which is pretty cool. Sometimes it takes a while,…even decades, to discover a band. Music is weird that way. You can hear of a band for years , but just never actually listen to them or give it a chance. But that’s what is great about music, when it’s good, it stands that test of time and there is no right or wrong time to discover it.
I also work for a DJ / Production company here in NY, so I am exposed to a lot of popular music, and house music, club stuff etc. After being in the business for over 20 years I have developed a taste for it as well. So, music is a personal thing I think, and everyone likes something different for one reason or another,…so to each his own.
As for the more extreme metal, I do like hearing new stuff, but it is hard to keep up with it all, especially with work and everything else going on. There are so many young bands out there. We do go out to shows as much as we can though, saw BEHEMOTH recently here in NY. Been really getting into their new record. But with the young bands it does get harder to keep up. We’re old…, haha! Bill and Steve are the best for keeping us in the loop with the newer , more extreme stuff. They don’t listen to the sissy stuff that Ross and I appreciate, hahaha. But that being said, Ross and I do go to a lot of shows here in NY, both large and small, and even with our busy schedules manage to be very supportive of the local scene and our friends that come through town.
It’s always great to see friends from other bands come through NY,…especially when we have toured with them before,…as for that night we feel like we are back on tour with them,haha!
Undoubtedly you are a death metal band which indicates the direction in its style and song writing. I like the fact that you are constantly evolving , and not stagnant like many other bands. Even after all these years IMMOLATION is a living constantly changing organism.
Thanks, we definitely appreciate that. We really do try our best to keep things interesting and try to be as creative as possible, …without losing the dark and intense feel. It’s not always so easy,…but I think because we are really so into what we are doing, and still so ambitious to push ourselves, that we have been able to develop and grow in a very natural way. I may like and listen to a lot of different types of music,..but I know what IMMOLATION is, and what it stands for, all of us in the band do. It’s in our blood, so there is no question of how it should be. So with the writing process, it’s just like that “switch” we hit when we get on stage. We get into that mode and make it happen. We know we want to achieve something different than before, and we strive to do the best we can.
This summer you will be getting off at the legendary festival OBSCENE EXTREME in our country. Are you planning some surprises for us? How do you look forward to about this one since its mainly a "grind" festival?
I think it’s going to be awesome! We’ve heard so many great things about this festival over the years,…so it’s going to be great to finally play it! We always look forward to tours and fests, especially different stuff we haven’t done before. So we can’t wait!!!
I dare say that although the Czech Republic is a small country you have a lot of devoted fans there. If you want to say something to them, you have space here!
Oh we love Czech Republic for sure! Haha. We have met many cool people and fans there! We have played many shows and been guests at Brutal Assault a couple of times too,…so we have no doubt that OBSCENE EXTREME will be a great experience!!!
We look forward to having a great time with the fans and thank them for their amazing support over the years!!
Thank you for the interview, wishing you great concerts, loads of record sales and I personally look forward to meeting you all at some gig.
Thank you Jakub! Your patience in waiting for this interview is greatly appreciated! You are a good man! Haha. Hope we will get to have a beer with you in the near furture! Maybe at OBSCENE EXTREME! All the best and our greetings to all our fans in Czech Republic and all who will come out to OBSCENE EXTREME!! See you there!!!
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