TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Vorph of the Swiss industrial extreme metal band Samael was done by Boris Van Berlo prior to their live performance at the Biebob in Vosselaar, Belgium on December 18th, 2004.
With several albums in the 90s like "Worship Him" and "Blood Ritual", Switzerland's Samael quickly established themselves as one of the leading and most innovative bands on the European black metal scene. They never wanted to stay in one place though and steady development has been a trademark for the band throughout their career. This is what characterizes a great band and today, having been active for more than 15 years, they are still one of the leading European metal bands. Boris Van Berlo discusses the new album, the label situation and other things with the band's co-founder Vorph. The album "Reign of Light" will be released in the US on February 18th through Nuclear Blast.
First of all I would like to congratulate you with the new album. I think it’s great!
How is the tour going so far? I think it’s near the end?
Yeah, we have another gig tomorrow and then we go back home.
It was great, playing the new songs. Maybe we should have waited some more time before we went on tour, because we were kind of afraid that the people would not know the songs of the new album, like in Poland we played Wednesday, and the album just got released on Monday.
So a part of the tour was before the release date?
Not really, the shows before the release date got cancelled. It was five shows in Germany, so we started strait in Poland. But it was great to be on the road again and play the new songs.
But probably also happy to go back home after tomorrow?
I like to be on the road, so I do not mind actually. But I just got sick on the last leg of the tour, so I’ll be able to recover.
And like you mentioned: it’s great to play the new songs.
Yes it is! It was something we were waiting for and we were really excited about it. And I think they work well. It is something you do not know in advance. We were working hard on them and were wondering how they would be received by the people. But I think it worked well.
Is this tour a full promotion tour for the new album, with the biggest part of the set list new songs, or is it more a mix?
It’s always a compromise. We try to play as much new songs as possible and some of the older stuff for the people that know us for a long time and are expecting them.
There was quite a long time in-between Eternal and Reign Of Light. What are your feelings now that the new album is finally released?
A feeling of relief in a way! We actually did not finish any songs before last year. In October we really started working on the album. And we also did several different things like the project “Era One” with all electronic music, that isn’t yet released. It should have been released in 2002, but maybe it will be released next year by Century Media. So for many people it looked like nothing was happening with Samael … and we also toured for Eternal in 2003, what is actually weird compared to what is usually the rule to be done for an album.
You actually already answered my next question. I wanted to ask you what happened for Samael in the last years?
We had a line up change in early 2002, Kaos left the band. He wasn’t interested anymore, I mean, we did not have much activity, and as we did not live together, he lives in the south of France, he started up some different things over there, and he called us and said “I an not going to be a part of it anymore”. Luckily we did not have any tour planned at that time, so we had time to hook up with Makro for some festivals in 2002. And I’m so glad he joined the band, because we click in a way that never happened before. It was always 3 + 1, and I think we are with 4 members now.
You already mentioned it shortly, the “Era One” project. I’ve read that there is not only one album ready, but actually two?
Exactly. What happened is that there was a request from Century Media to deliver new material. And when we delivered “Era One”, they did not release it, but they were still asking more to let us go from the contract. So actually Xy did something by himself, electronic music and chill-out things. We did not spend much time on it, and we did not know if it is going to be released or not.
Are you going to release it as Samael or under a different name?
Our idea was to release it as “Era One”, but it depends on them (Century Media - BVB) at the moment. We are going to discuss it and see if they really want to release it.
Musically it is quite different from Samael?
It is very different. Actually the main idea was to not care about anything we did in the past. And to try something completely different. So we did not have any guitars, only programming, keyboard and vocals.
Ok, let’s go back to Reign Of Light. How is the response so far from fans and press?
We did not have anyone tell us it’s a bad album. Except in England we had bad press in Terrorizer and Kerrang, what came as a surprise, because in Germany it was really applauded. But it is ok, if people did not like it, it’s fair enough. We are happy with it so we do not give much concern to eventual negative reactions.
And is it for you the ultimate Samael album up to now?
At this moment definitely. Yeah. I think you can find everything we did in the past in some way on this album. There are ideas that we worked on for a long time that are now there. And we are happy!
You also have a new label now. Was it hard to find one?
Yeah. What we actually did for this album was release it on our own label (Galactical Records - BVB) and sold licenses to others. It is released through Regain Records for Europe and South America, and Nuclear Blast for North America, were it will be released on February 18.
And do you like working in that way?
So far yes. I think it is good. We have a closer contact with the people we are working with, we still have control on the production, so we are not giving everything away.
So you are not really looking for a full deal with a new record label?
If we can work like this in the future I think we will stick to it.
Do the problems you had with Century Media in the past have something to do with this decision?
Yeah. We have nothing to hide. The thing was that we reached a point that we thought we have delivered enough to them. The relationship was too long in a way. We signed in 1992, we were young, and with time passing by you learn things and you are not the same person you were 10 years ago, and you are looking for something different. And they were actually kind of stopping this all, so we tried everything to get out of it.
At some point we had some tensions. We did not agree on certain points and did not see things the same way. Now we get along better, even better that ever before.
Back to the new album: musically I think it is a logical step further when you compare it with Passage and Eternal, but there are also different ‘old school’ influences in it. So do you agree when I say that you combined the newer Samael with the older?
I think that the main crossover was somehow between Passage and Eternal. With Passage we really had the guitars that we might miss on Eternal, but Eternal has a more wider sound. And with Reign Of Light it is kind of a compromise between the two.
How do you personally look back on all the Samael releases? Do you still love and support them, or do you say: “we were young …
… of course we were young! (laughs)
… but not in a negative way.
It is part of our history. I just kind of remember everything from that time. It is like with a travelling machine. I remember the people I was with, were I was living… It is good memory, well not all good memory, but definitely a way to conserve some thoughts.
So do you think that there will always be room for the older Samael songs in your set list?
There are always certain things we want to try, and we did it with success back then, and maybe today we can do it better, so when there is a song that can overcome what we did before, with somehow the same idea, we are going to take that new song. And I know that some people like it the other way around, but I like it that way.
It is always the problem that some people come to the show and only want to hear that one song which they like for 10 years. Do you take this into consideration on festivals or headlining shows when you have enough time?
Yeah, a little bit. Now we are playing two songs from Ceremony Of Opposites, this is not our first album, but it is already 10 years old. And this is because people were asking for it, but I also enjoy playing them live as well, so it is always a kind of give and take. When you are on stage and people liked it, it makes you feel good.
Is Reign Of Light a concept album or not?
I’m going to say no, but you never know. But I would not say so. I did not think Ceremony Of Opposites was a concept album, but when I look at it now I can find a certain concept in it. The songs are bound together in a certain way, and maybe this is also so with the new one. Maybe I need 10 more years to look at it, but for the moment I would not say so.
In the track ‘On Earth’ you mention different cities. How did you choose them? Is it something personal because you like them? Because of their importance in the world, now or in the past? Or because they fit lyrically in a rhyme?
No, it was not for the rhyme. It is mainly cities I visited myself with the band or personally, and to some I’ve never been, like I haven’t been to China yet, but it is appealing, I want to visit a town like Beijing. So basically every city has something that appeals to me.
Was the recording process more relaxing than in the past or not? Because you worked on different locations?
It was more relaxing. The recording was mainly in Switzerland, and we had all the time in the world. We actually had almost 3 months time to record, this was never the case before, it used to be like 3 weeks, which was the longest time we ever had before. So yeah, it was more relaxed. But still we wanted to do it the best way possible. So we went on and on with the songs, especially with the vocals. We did record the vocals 3 times I believe: one time for the demo versions, then another time and finally for the album.
So you had a lot of work.
Kind of, but it made me progress a little bit. So it is good at the end.
Now that you mention the vocals: I think that they are really good and strong on this record, they stand out and it was one of the first things I noticed listening to Reign Of Light.
Thank you, that’s cool.
To finish up: what are the future plans for Samael?
There is the release of the album on the 18th of February in the US. We are also going to tour there at a certain point, but we still do not have any idea with who and when exactly. And probably also some festivals in Europe during the summer.
And new recordings? Are you already thinking or working on new material?
We have some ideas but nothing really concrete. We do not want to do the same thing, so we might wait a little longer, not as long as after Eternal, but probably at least a year.
Great! Any last words for our readers and your fans?
I would like to say hallo and thank all the people that come to our shows.
Thank you for the interview.
No problem, thank you.
Links of interest:
Samael @ Tartarean Desire