Pandemonium are one of Poland’s best kept death metal secrets. While there has been plenty of attention to bands such as Behemoth and Vader, this four-piece group do all they can to let the fans (and world) know that they are still active and ready to take on the metal world ever since 1991. It has been some time since anyone has heard anything from these guys since 2007, but they haven’t been lounging about on an island sipping Pina Coladas while calmly discussing ideas for their next album. Instead, they’ve been hard at work merging life with the real world and life in the music world to prepare themselves to deliver something that will really blow the minds of death metal lovers all around the world. I got a chance to catch up with Mark, the band’s guitarist and keyboardist, about what their history and future plans on to keep Pandemonium as brutal as possible while retaining a sense of balance in life.
Hello from BRUTALISM. First off, thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m sure you guys are busy enough with songwriting/ touring going on.
Hello to the BRUTALISM and the readers! Huh, there is never enough time to do everything, but we’ve already completed most of planned work for this year, except songwriting of course. However, we don’t need to hurry in this matter. Everything has its time to reveal…
So from what it seems, Pandemonium has been a bit quiet since 2007. Care to share with the readers what you guys have been up to lately?
Actually, we haven’t been sitting hidden in the woods praying to Satan during this time ;) We had to rest, take a breath and wait for inspiration for new songs. We also played many gigs in Poland, promoting “Hellspawn” album. Some time passed and we felt like we need someone who could take care for promotional issues, who would lead us to the new age of Pandemonium. You know, we have families, daytime jobs, so it is very hard to make music, play gigs and organize it all in professional way. I must say we were lucky - we started to cooperate with Greg from Godz Ov War Productions. He is a fantastic guy, who perfectly knows what has to be done and how to lead us right way. Greg did a lot of promotional works, it is hard to mention all the marketing moves, but the most important are: photo session, new MySpace profile, plenty of emailing actions, promo recording, new hellish stage design, you should see it in action ;)
How did Pandemonium come to be? Was it meant to be a serious project from the start or did you just want to have fun in a death metal band?
It was a serious project. You must have heard that beginning was stunning; our first demo tape, “Devilri,” has been sold in many thousands of copies. Of course it was underground. Pandemonium played abroad but times changed, many different situations appeared… in Poland it is almost impossible to make a commercial success playing this kind of music. There is Behemoth, Vader, KAT… But I really doubt the rest of great metal bands could make their living. Although, this music adventure is always fun, always a kind of other life…
What is it about death metal that drives the musicians behind it? Why choose this style? Any particular influences you would really like to name?
We just feel this kind of music. We grew up listening to metal bands. It formed our personalities, perception of life. This music offers tones of expression, rebellion, free will and all what we believe. Actually we draw from many styles: death, black, thrash and doom metal. The key is a dark, mysterious atmosphere, ancient religions, and philosophy. I suppose you really want some band names, hah. I cannot deny bands like Morbid Angel, Samael, Bathory, Celtic Frost and others inspired us and influenced on us.
Would you say the same reasons that made Pandemonium back in 1990 still make the band what it is in 2010, or have the values changed over time from experience?
Time has changed, reality has changed, and we all have changed. Of course, nowadays we have different expectations, different feeling about this and more experience. Except the founder, Paul, the line-up of members also changed. Those are all problems that every band meet and must face during its music life. Most important is that the current back-line became stable and strong like never before. We understand each other and share the passion for old school music atmosphere. Answering to your question, it is old Pandemonium with a new look for reality, but paying homage to the roots.
What do you think defines Pandemonium’s sound that makes it stand out amongst other death metal bands?
It is very simple: we just don’t look at the current music rage and technical aspects of sound processing. I mean, there are always standards of sound that point how guitar, vocal, drums etc. should sound.
We always look for something with a vintage atmosphere and dark tone. The sound is very important in our music and very often determines if we like the song we wrote. But as I said we’re all old-fashioned guys and follow our feelings rather than market expectations. That’s about the sound. It is hard to classify what kind of metal we perform; we draw from many styles but not really consciously. Some could describe our music as dark metal.
Do you think the fans have reacted well to ‘Hellspawn,’ or will ‘purists’ throw a fit? What inspired the idea; a lot of bands have used the whole ‘Hellspawn’ and ‘Satan’ idea before. How did you decide to make this particularly album different not sound like a broken record on the subject?
The album title and the music that it contains match each other. We felt a need of writing something hellish, brutal and filthy but also groovy, with dark rock & roll notes. I imagine the concept as a drawing: an old fucking horned devil laughs in bastards’ faces showing the finger. Reading opinions and reviews we became convinced that the album was satisfying not only for us, but also the fans were quite surprised and… really liked it! By the way “Hellspawn” is the fastest and the most brutal album in Pandemonium career.
What do you think metal fans expect out of the genre in general these days? Is it significantly different to what was expected ten years ago?
I really don’t know the answer to that question. 90’s were open for every kind of heavy playing. Everything relevant to death metal was fresh and met with enthusiasm. Nowadays, I suppose brutal technical death metal is the king, but who knows what will be in next 6 months? There was a time that death metal got less popular and black metal started its majesty. From the other point of view there are thousands of bands playing similar genres; people could get bored with this. I am convenient every subgenre has its fans but we don’t care what the current and future expectations in the metal matter. I know that lots of metal fans miss old majestic times as we do. Doesn’t matter how we call the music, it should have big balls.
In other musical genres (like pop), the music industry generally controls the direction of the artist, particularly when it comes to ‘radio singles.’ How does Pandemonium, and possibly metal itself, dodge that bullet and try to keep the music for itself rather than corporations?
Trust me, we don’t have such problems ;) If we start to play hip hop or other shit and a big motherfucker from any fucking label was interested in making money on us, we would start to think, of course it won’t happen. We live in fucking Poland and play metal so we can play what we want and underground labels don’t give a shit. They like it or not and support us or say: I don’t understand your music, fuck off.
How’s the touring life? Do you find it a lot more fun than being the studio?
Yes, gigs are the life, rock & roll on stage is the real spontaneous life, you can enjoy and express your feelings, feel the climate and be close to people, see how they react. These performances are essential in this music. The time in studio while recording album is something different. It is a really hard work but of course we have some fun too. Very often we change the song ideas and start to record different sounds. It is the time full of work but also satisfaction and surprises.
The fans must be a lot of fun to see at shows, and after shows. What is the nicest/ craziest thing that a fan has done for the band so far?
I can’t tell you all details, I am married, hah ;)
In the future, I think we will write something like biography with all those stories and incidents. I am sure there will be a lot of stuff that Mick Jagger wouldn’t be ashamed of ;) Most of the gigs and after parties we remember as amazing moments; if we were sober I could recall something more probably.
With the Internet and the ease of posting music on places such as MySpace and YouTube, do you find that it is easier to reach fans and in turn for them to reach you as opposed to when one had to receive actual mail, or is it even harder to manage with millions of updates probably coming in each week?
Yes, definitely. You can see the number of visits or ‘listenings’ to your songs. It is also easier to communicate quickly with the fans even if they are thousands kilometers away. The problem you mentioned concerns dozens of bands which try to promote themselves. I still hope smart people will find good music anyway.
For a band that professes death, Satanism, and evil in their music, do you find it difficult to interact with those who either take the music seriously, or explain that the music doesn’t exactly represent who you are as people; it is just an aspect of musical expression.
It is a vast problem for a discussion, for many people metal music cannot be considered without the anti-catholic ideology and dark topics like Occultism, Satanism and death. We also touch finding it interesting and adequate for the music we perform. Of course we see it as form of a lyric performance and treat it symbolically; Satan always was the symbol of rebel and free will. If you don't rebel, you don't live. From the other point of view we also touch ancient legends and beliefs which can be interesting for many people who don't treat death metal ideologically. We are not literal in telling our stories; we refer to different philosophies, mystic stories of ancient civilizations. The most important thing is to create a specific climate and mood which allows you to feel something unspoken, see ordinary things in a different way.
Do you find Poland’s fans extremely accepting of your work, or are there been other places that are either more open or tolerable to death metal like the U.S.? I know there’s been a lot of controversy in Poland with death metal bands, particularly Behemoth and their anti-religious antics…
Polish fans are fantastic, intelligent people who mostly don't let Catholic Church and conservative politics shape their minds and views. The bad thing is that our politicians would like to censor any kind of art that criticize them or the current reality. We don't expect any help in organizing festivals or gigs with death/black metal bands’ participation. The worst is that authorities usually make problems and try to make it difficult to organize metal festivals. If you look at the situation of the metal bands in Scandinavia - it's unbelievable. In Sweden or Norway or many other European countries, you can count on the government’s support, in Poland you can count only on yourself. It's ridiculous that in XXI century artists still feel like in medieval ages and meet with religious censure.
When not deeply intrigued by your work in music, how else do you like to enjoy life, either with family, friends, self, or pets?
You can be surprised but we mostly spend our free time like everybody else in our age. We have families, wives… Paul has a little daughter, so the biggest part of our everyday life we spend with our families, in work, etc. Sounds boring? It is not, we have hobbies like fishing, sports, traveling across the country. We spend weekends with friends and party with them celebrating rock & roll. I love trips to the mountains to take a deeper breath and contemplate within nature.
Where do you see Pandemonium in ten years? Are you comfortable with your current sound or will it continue changing?
Huh, I don't go too far in the future with my thoughts and expectations. Every new album is different from the previous one and it's determined by our current musical needs and visions. The most interesting thing for us is next year’s release of the new album and all the promotional actions, contracts and festivals. We will see then if it is time to keep going forward or maybe slow down and go fishing instead of playing metal ;) Anyway we have good thoughts about it and are focused on current works.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next opus. Best of luck with future endeavors and thank you again for all the words of wisdom. Brutalism and the hordes appreciate it!
Thanks a lot! Best hellish regards from Pandemonium to all metal fans and BRUTALISM readers. We hope you will enjoy our new music and the future live shows! Horns up bastards!