Last Sunday I reviewed the latest EP (Basic Instinct) by a three-man Israeli band named Promiscuity. In a nutshell, I liked the shit out of it. It’s the kind of infernal rock ‘n’ roll that makes a direct connection to the spirit of early Venom, Celtic Frost, and Bathory, without just aping any of those bands. The review led to a conversation with the band’s founder, bass player, and lyricist, who calls himself Werewolf (the other two members are one hell of a vocalist/guitarist named Butcher and the formidable drummer from Sonne Adam, Steel)
I don’t do many interviews. Time is too short, given what else I try to do with this blog, and I don’t hold myself in terribly high esteem as an interviewer. But this one I couldn’t resist, not only because I’m so high on the music but also because this would be my first direct contact with a metal band from Israel, which is a musical scene I know next to nothing about.
And so, beginning early one morning (for me), Werewolf and I messaged each other back and forth on Facebook, taking unsynchronized breaks for snatches of sleep (the time zone difference is pretty significant) and to pay attention to our respective day jobs. We finished yesterday, and you’re about to read the conversation.
It’s a long, wide-ranging discussion (which includes tips about some other Israeli bands), because it turns out that my interview subject is bright, articulate, thoughtful, and funny — especially for a werewolf. And for those of you who like to listen to music while you read, I’m going to help you out.
Below you’ll find song streams for both of Promiscuity’s releases — Basic Instinct (2013) and the Infernal Rock ‘N’ Roll demo (2011) — which are available as “pay what you want” downloads at Bandcamp. I also want to link you to a brilliant, one-of-a-kind review of the demo by the much-missed Cosmo Lee at Invisible Oranges, as well as to my own review of the Basic Instinct EP, not because I hold a candle to Cosmo Lee but because (duh) few things give me more pleasure than linking to myself.
I: Well, here we are. Through the magic of higher technology and strong coffee, I am writing you from Seattle and you are writing me from… where exactly?
W: Hi! I’m writing from Nahariya, Israel. (It’s the north of Israel)
I: Are your Promiscuity bandmates in the same area or are the three of you scattered around?
W: By Israel’s standards – you can call it “scattered around”, but we are talking about a country where it takes exactly 3 hours to get from the extreme southern railway station to the extreme northern one…
I: How did the three of you come to join forces in the band?
W: I just started to write some lyrics and some bass riffs, showed my ideas to Butcher, whom I got to know through his project Kever (which had a different moniker back then). He offered his help as a guitarist and later it became obvious that he can also handle the vocals way better than me.
We got to know Steel through Sonne Adam, but only after the debut demo had been recorded (with a session drummer).
I: Out of all the styles of metal you might have chosen to embrace for this project, why did you decide to tap into this vein of early Venom/Bathory/Celtic Frost nastiness? Not to suggest that’s all that’s going on in the music, but those are the influences that jumped out at me first.
W: It would be wrong to say that either of us decided one day to do something specific and “stick to that plan, no matter what”. I like primitive, straightforward music, as well as nasty, rude and even offensive black humor a lot, so it was natural for me to make something that carries such an attitude.
My and Butcher’s tastes in Metal have quite a small common denominator and Venom, Bathory and CF are among our favorite bands for many years now, so some influence is probably inevitable, but we try to come up with our own ideas. It might be easier to figure out when the songs are “analyzed” for what they are, instead of just trying to figure out what those who played them like to listen to. Check out the lyrics of the song “Gybenhinnom” from the demo – there’s some quite uncommon stuff going there, for example.
I: Those lyrics did catch me off guard, given the horror themes in the Basic Instinct EP. But I guess what happened at Gai Ben-Hinnom (Gehenna) WAS a horror. I liked the use of it as a metaphor in the song too — “it’s still the same, as long as people turn to dust / In order to fulfill one or another God’s lust.” Great song, by the way.
W: Thanks! Also for having paid for the download of our stuff!!! Yeah, you may say “horror” in this case, but I hope that you get my point – I try to find ideas that are not as recycled as Dracula / Elizabeth Bathory / Zombies. Oh, and the song “Maniac’s Blues” is a dedication to our first ever fan (R.I.P.). It IS damn cliché’ stuff, but I bet he would love it.
I: But even though there’s a lot of darkness in your lyrics and in Promiscuity’s music, it’s far from depressive. It sounds like evil party music to me, and with the exception of “Gybenhinnom”, the lyrics seem a lot closer to black humor than anything else.
W: Indeed. As I told – black humor is a natural thing for me.
I: How did you guys pull the songs together for these two EPs? Sounds like you’re not all exactly neighbors. Was it done through file-sharing or did you actually get together and record everything together?
W: We do meet from time to time, I get to meet Butcher at least once a month and the 3 of us surely rehearse together before recordings are made. We do show our ideas to one another online. But Promiscuity is not a “cyber” project! The recording of the demo was made in the drummer’s basement and the recording of Basic Instinct was actually made in one of the best studios in Israel (where the biggest local mainstream Rock artists record and rehearse).
We might be the only Metal band ever to record over there, but let’s say that the sound engineer knows his work when it comes to recording music, better than many narrow-minded so-called “metal sound engineers”.
The bass and the guitar solos were recorded in a rehearsal room, which is located in the middle of the road between me and Butcher. Coming alone for recordings and choosing the sound of your instrument when there is no another band member around to provide a second opinion is a big mistake.
I: Well, that makes sense. I think the sound on Basic Instinct is definitely a step up from the demo, yet it’s still got the kind of rough and raw tone that this kind of music needs. If your engineer is used to working with mainstream rock artists, did it take a lot of effort to get him on board with what you were trying to achieve? I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t sound over-produced even though there’s a lot more clarity in the tracks than on the demo.
W: It was enough to give him a reference in order to get the sound we wanted, when it comes to the recording sessions. Mixing is a different story, though. We might be the only band ever in his career, which took the mix to a totally different and unexpected (for him) direction (no compression, the reverb overdose in “Pedophile”, no clicky bass drum etc). It would get overproduced if we hadn’t interfered, but we don’t rely on anyone’s reputation.
But he wanted us to be satisfied and we liked some of the ideas that he had offered as well, so we are all pleased with the final result. Also, Leon Manssur’s (Apokalyptic Raids, Brazil) mastering work is really well done, but I’ve been in contact with him for around a decade and I knew that he is the right person for this job.
I: Why did you decide to go with the murderous bedroom scene for the Basic Instinct cover art, instead of the interview in the police interrogation room?
W: We wrote the song first and were very satisfied with the result; hence we decided to use the scene that represents this movie the best way possible for the cover. It might still look cool for those who are not familiar with this movie as well. I think that it would be absolutely pointless to draw the actress sitting on a chair instead.
I: Not an entirely serious question, since the scene you chose suits the lyrics much better, but there’s something about that interview scene that an entire generation of movie fans will never forget. But anyway, who created these eye-catching cover art and logo?
W: Haha, the moment when she “flashed” her holy place is a great moment, indeed! The drawing was made by the Japanese artist Takashi Kawasaki. He mostly draws for Punk bands, it seems. He did everything rather fast and added some details that made the “murder scene” look much better.
Also, he is the only artist I ever contacted who had asked to check out our music first, before he agreed to work with us, which is an uncompromising attitude that I really appreciate. This guy is really recommended!
The logo was made by Christophe Szpajdel. It doesn’t look like his typical work and it’s surely intentional. Too bad that many bands seem to be using the services of artist like him or Chris Moyen, just in order to get the same logo or the same personage painted. These people are capable of providing so much more than self-plagiarism, if you only know what YOU want them to draw and explain it properly to the artist.
I: You’re right that it doesn’t look like his typical work. I suppose people look at the kinds of creations that he and Chris Moyen are best known for and just assume that’s what they do, and all that they do. And I think it’s worth adding that many bands may not have a definite or distinctive concept about what they want.
W: True. And that sounds like the very opposite of “doing things differently”, “going against the grain”, “not giving a fuck about trends” and other things that, in my humble opinion, represent… well, METAL. The same thing could be said about sound production, unfortunately. COPY.PASTE.DONE.
I: Seems like there’s always been that kind of tension in metal culture. It’s an outsider’s kind of scene – rebellious, angry, out of step with the mainstream — and yet there’s still a herd mentality. We have our own norms and rules. I guess it’s that tribal part of human DNA at work. We’ll never get rid of it.
W: I thought about it as well and my conclusions were similar.
I: You sound like someone who’s been involved with music for a while longer than Promiscuity has been in existence. Without meaning to pry (too much), what can you tell us about your own background as a musician?
W: I’ve always been mostly a fan, rather than a “musician”. I also used to make a printed fanzine that survived 3 issues and I used to run a small cassette label/distro for a brief period, but I guess these are just more consequences of being a fan.
I just play some simple and ugly riffs on bass and write lyrics. Apart from one joke project that is not worth being mentioned, Promiscuity is my first serious project. I’m working on another one at the moment, but it’s still too early to reveal any details.
I: I confess that, being an ignorant American, what I know about the Israeli metal scene would fit in a thimble with room to spare. The only bands with any current or former connection to Israel besides Promiscuity that I can name off the top of my head are Orphaned Land, Melechesh, Sonne Adam, TamutAmen, and Whorecore (and I only heard about the last one from a friend this past week). It’s kind of a big, vague, unfair question, but what can you tell us about the Israeli metal scene and what it’s like to be in a metal band in Israel?
W: You aren’t missing out on anything special. I’d rather recommend that you check out some old Brazilian bands that you might not be familiar with!
I would also recommend that you check out Tangorodrim, Hell Darkness and Kever, though. The last one is Butcher’s Death Metal project and his EP Eon of Cycling Death should be released via Dark Descent and Me Saco Un Ojo in the near future.
The majority of this “scene” is mostly bands that try to mimic “the current flavor of the week” (mostly metalcore / deathcore stuff). They do their music for the wrong reasons and they mostly just come and go. (As soon as they realize that a couple of half assed tracks on youtube won’t provide them a contract with any major label.)
My personal most recent discovery that is worth checking out is An Inner Conflict by GUILTVILLE, released 24 October 2013. Heavy stuff!
I: “The majority of this ‘scene’ is mostly bands that try to mimic ‘the current flavor of the week’ (mostly metalcore / deathcore stuff). They do their music for the wrong reasons and they mostly just come and go.” So in other words, Israel is just like everywhere else!
W: For the most part – yes. But Sweden, for example, has more worthy stuff to offer, even if you weed out the copycats. And that country’s population is not that much bigger than that of Israel…
I: Do you have any theories about why Israel has produced fewer good, distinctive bands than countries of similar size in Europe?
W: I’m sure that Daniel Ekeroth has a point in his book Swedish Death Metal, where he wrote that back in the 80’s – Sweden was a kind of a “rich but boring country”, which offered great conditions for playing music or doing sports. It’s not the case here, in a country that spends so much money on security.
I: How does the much greater emphasis on security factor into the subject?
W: In a direct way. The more you spend on security – the less budget you have left to support education, culture etc.
I: I would guess that the location is also something that makes Israel a tough place as a launching pad for metal bands. I mean, metal is a pretty small niche everywhere, but it just seems like the Middle East is a region where the fanbase and the demand for extreme music is much smaller than Europe or North America, and I would guess that it’s even tougher for an Israeli band to find an audience in the region outside of Israel itself.
W: Yes and no. Sonne Adam and Tangorodrim have fans in other countries, much more than local ones, without being nearly as big as Orphaned Land. There are no excuses “not to be able” to spread your music further at the age of internet. The fact that you can’t tour any neighbor countries (contrary to how much easier it is to organize such a thing in the EU) is another thing. But then again – there are Israeli Punk bands that tour the EU every summer.
I: Speaking of shows, do you foresee Promiscuity becoming a live band — or maybe it already is?
W: We haven’t played a single gig yet, but never say “never”. Tangorodrim will play their debut gig in December, after being active for 18 years and having released 4 full length albums, as well as an EP and a split. Maybe we will raid some stage when the age of PROMISCUITY reaches puberty as well!
I: HA! Well, I think Promiscuity is way past puberty already, sort of into the full-fledged, vandalizing, juvenile delinquent stage. 🙂
W: Never say “never”, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to hold his breath…
I: Do you have plans for the next Promiscuity release?
W: We keep writing new stuff, but we take our time. We have always done so and I still believe that it’s better to write something, then forget about it for at least half a year, then check it out again and see if you are still satisfied with it. It helps to filter stuff that we would otherwise regret about having recorded.
The plan is to make a full length album, but that might take a couple of years. No rush here, anyway. Meanwhile – maybe Kever, Sonne Adam or my other project will bear some more withered or poisoned fruits!
I: Well, thank you very much for letting me pester you at such length. And if there’s anything else you’d like to tell our readers, please do . . . and best of luck to you and Promiscuity.
W: Thanks for the interview, first of all!
We have already found a label that will handle the cassette version of “Basic Instinct” – it’s Dying Victims Productions (an official announcement by the label will be published in the near future).
Until then – everyone is more than welcome to stream both our new Basic Instinct EP and our 2011 demo Infernal Rock N’ Roll and use the “name your price” or FREE download option via our bandcamp page . Stay tuned for more updates via our feces-book page!
We will have some merch (the first Promiscuity merch items ever, by the way) for sale in the near future as well.
Anyone can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions!
Enough self promotion, thanks to those who have read thus far!