(Guest contributor Pablo Balbontín, editor of the Spanish webzine Subterráneo, brings us Part 2 of an interview of Vön Pax, vocalist of the Spanish band Barbarian Swords, whose latest album Worms we premiered last November in advance of its release by Cimmerian Shade and Satanath Records. Part 1 is here; Part 3 will appear tomorrow.)
Your relationship with labels, it’s a mess… First of all, you’re signed with Cimmerian Shade Recordings, and then with Satanath Records and The Ritual Productions. Some of them have carried out with the CD version, I think Cimmerian handles the cassette version… Why did you decide to work in this way? What does each one do? Which are their tasks? Perhaps they handle the distribution for some different countries?
Von Päx: This was organized in the underground way. I mean, we are a tiny band. Only a madman can get ahead of our music and invest in it, and we were lucky to find that. Cimmerian Shade Recordings from the USA handles the double gatefold vinyl, the double cassette edition, limited to a red one and a black one, and then a Digipack CD, which is pretty awesome.
On the other hand, Satanath Records from Rusia and The Ritual Productions from Netherlands both produce the regular jewelcase.
Then, why did we choose three labels from three geographical zones so distant from each other? First of all, due to the press campaign. Both Satanath and Cimmerian are working with Transcending Obscurity and that, added to the Blood Fire Death promotion, has resulted in a great press campaign. Transcending have a large relevance on the outside, while we are doing our job in Spain, plus all the contacts that our agency has, which are quite a bit. Just in this week six reviews have just come up.
Distribution is a different matter. We were talking before about press campaigns in each country, each zone, like Eastern Europe, United States… Distribution works in the same pattern. If our guy from the United Stated trades our work with his buddies there, the album reaches more people. Then we have Central Europe, with our Dutch label, who distributes it in Germany, Belgium, and Holland, something interesting for us. And at last, Eastern Europe, where I believe our music can impress the people from these places.
Everything is about expanding our tentacles, like an octopus, in an undeground manner, the only one which this band has, and of course, with professional back-up work.
I’m sure that you’ve been asked this a thousand times, but the label you own, Blood Fire Death, what has it handled? Press copies of the CD, like the one that I have, I know that was distributed by you, but what’s the label’s task, and why didn’t you decide to just use your own label?
Von Päx: This time Blood Fire Death just played the role of an agency, pure and simple as that. It is its main task, what we do. I don’t care if the album is released by Season Of Mist, Nuclear Blast or it’s self-produced. All press campaigns are the same, whether you have a label supporting you or not.
Could have been released by Blood Fire Death? Yes, why not? Hunting Rats and our first demo were published by Blood Fire Death, but also my ego played a part in this, because I wanted to test whether anyone would take a risk for this record, to see if it was good enough to provoke a total stranger with no hidden agenda (like someone trying to suck up to me or try a record trading) to show a real interest in it and take some hazard for it. “Holy shit, could it be that some folk who lives 4.000 kms away from me, decides to invest 3.000 euros to release this record?” Fuck, man, it has really happened. At the end, I wanted to prove it.
Blood Fire Death has its own tools, its own contacts… But evidently we would haven’t reached so far if I had taken care of everything just on my own.
Going back to the song “Requiem”, on that one you have the Ze Pequeño’s collaboration, a drone, doom, noise artist from Barcelona. Quite harsh, I’ve checked out his music, and I’m not the biggest fan of that kind of sound. I like doom, but I can’t stand drone (laughs). Besides, that white mask he uses, has always creeped me out.
But what really caught my attention was that you decided to collaborate with him, when that kind of music isn’t very popular around here. I just know the guy from Like Drones Razords Throgh Flesh Sphere thanks to his collaboration with Teitanblood and composing for them some intros on the famous Seven Chalices album.
Are you a fan of that type of sound? How did you contact him and what does he take care of in the song? I know he plays some noise on it, but I don’t know if he does anything else.
Von Päx: Our relationship with Ze Pequeño came from a long time ago. I’ve known him for twenty years, when he was a kid, and then my middle brother, Uretra, who now plays on Onirophagus and Bizarre, back then was the drummer for a legendary antifascist grindcore band in Catalunya, named Entropía [Entropy en.] that plays drone now.
Holy shit, what a change.
Von Päx: Yes, they have radically changed, but with quality and being very extreme.
Ze Pequeño, who didn’t have that artistic name back then, played with him in Entropía, I mean the musical relationship is quite old, and when he did the album we thought that no one would be better than him to participate; he has an incredible voice.
In “Requiem” we did a bestial vocal duet. The most brutal and deeper voice is his. I can’t perform it in that way for the moment. Let’s see in a few years (laughs). Well, he also made his presence with some synths, and furthermore he brought a strange flute, which plays one note, as far as I can remember. Also brought a cheese scraper, a spoon… I don’t know man, he started to do some very weird things in the studio and we were all freaking out.
But the truth is, we managed to have a really disgusting and diabolical song, as we wanted. We are very happy with Ze Pequeño. And, as I told you before, our relationship is a long-term one; this guy has seen me in all the possible situations in my life.
Is Barbarian Swords the typical band which has been influenced by drone and noise bands?
Von Päx: As friends?
No, in the sense of “hey, I’ll incorporate some typical drone characteristics for my music”.
Von Päx: Not at all. Truth is, we are not a band that comes to think, “How cool is the last Archgoat record! Let’s do this,” or, “I love the first Treblinka demo, let’s create a song based on it”. We are in a fucking bunker and we all have important extreme metal feedback. I and Panzer are obsessed with war metal, all day long listening to Revenge, Black Witchery… What happens when we put ourselves in the Barbarian Swords mood is that we don’t think, “Use this pedal and you will sound like Entombed in ‘93”. No, it’s all about what we create together and the first riff that my brother Voice of Noise comes up with, and from there comes the rest.
It’s more like an accident that somebody from drone came into our music, rather than is calling someone from the drone world in order to be influenced by him. We didn’t have in mind a collaboration, it just happened, “come to the studio and let’s see what happens”. We have no fucking clue if we will include more collabs on the next album, if we will banish it, or anything else.
Another curiosity that a lot of people probably have but haven’t asked you before, is this: Where the fuck did the “Carnivorous Pussy” sampler come from? Because I’ve been looking for it and I couldn’t find the film.
Von Päx: I’m going to tell you the most bestial anecdote from this album. A friend wrote us to tell us that he had recognized who the porn actress was from that sample. You must be a sick guy who jerks off the whole day to end up recognizing the sound of how a particular porn actress fucks and then tells you that she is Sasha Grey.
Incredible! I’m not an expert, so…
Von Päx: It was very simple. We told Panzer: “Look, you aren’t doing anything for this band, so now you’re gonna work like a son of a bitch. Start to watch porn, because we know you love it, that you’re a pervert and like to jerk off… Spend five hours watching, when your wife and daughter are not at home, and if you have to masturbate twice (I think he did it) to find the perfect sampler, which of course has to be about anal sex, then perfect”. When he showed us the sampler we said: “Very well, you’ve earned it Panzer”.
Before, you affirmed that “Requiem” was the purest Barbarian Sword song. And then “Carnivorous Pussy”, it’s just the opposite, a hardcore punk song, very short… Furthermore, it’s placed just before those two megalodons at the end, I think that’s not casual, in order to relax the listener.
Von Päx: Yes, it isn’t a casual location, but when we composed them, we didn’t think that people would commit suicide after listening to them. But we’ve always had that punk vibe. Back then in Hunting Rats we already had “For my honor” and also more self-destructive stuff, similar to Eskorbuto (Scurvy, a legendary spanish punk band from the eighties .en), which were like an anal tear, with a riff composed by a three-year old kid with Down Syndrome. We already have that vibe on our first record and we also love it.
At first we weren’t going to a have a punk song on the album, but I’m going to tell you how the song came about, which is a pretty funny story, in order for you to see how pathetic and disgusting this band can be.
The first recording day, we were together around eight o’clock in the morning, hysterical but also fucking sleepy, just thinking, “What the fuck are we doing here, when we could be in our beds?” As always Voice of Noise invented a riff from out of nothing and Joe, our drummer, followed him, playing with his knee, and that’s how we created that tune, in twenty minutes while we were on the train, at the same place where I wrote the lyrics. Then we arrived at the studio and we recorded the punk song of the album (laughs). Now you can see how we work in this band.
If you’re going to bring Worms to the stages, because I know you already have some dates planned, how are you going to figure out how to recreate the whole sound’s density, to be as loyal as possible to your real sound?
Von Päx: I can tell you that we manage that. Barbarian Swords is more bestial and rawer when we play live.
Is it hard to translate all your sound to its live versión or not?
Von Päx: It isn’t a problem, as long as you take the correct pedal board, guitar head, and the amplifier screen, and also the technician does his job. Besides that, I need a little bit of gain on my voice and everything else… If you work on it, you can achieve that sound, and I can tell you that Barbarian gets a bestial sound because we are very perfectionist. It’s rare that somebody has told me, “Fuck, we can’t hear anything”.
Perhaps some people may get upset about our high volume: “Shit man, you’re going too loud, you’ve left us deaf”. Lots of folks have left the venues because they couldn’t stand our decibels. But regarding achieving a filthy sound, the truth is, we manage that. We take our own gear and we usually accomplish it.
Besides that, how do people react? Are they quiet, excited…?
Von Päx: You can see all kinds of people. The first show we ever did was in Tarragona [a city located in northeastern Spain en.] with Hyban Draco, who were also presenting a new album, like us, and besides that, a local viking metal band, who brought all the kids to the show, around thirty people. Then, I remember when we started the first song, I had my eyes closed, and when I opened them, all the audience was gone. They couldn’t stand the brutality of the sound. That show ended up with a guitar head being set on fire.
What the fuck did you do?
Von Päx: Well, we push it to the limit, as it should be done (laughs).
About the reactions, you can find all kinds, but there’s people who really like funeral doom and black metal, and from what they tell us, they hallucinate about the level of pain we can transmit.
They always tell me that Barbarian Swords are a very demanding live band. We’re not the typical Spanish band you can listen to while hanging out with your best friend, having some beers and having fun. No, it is very possible that if that happens I may lose my mind and hit you (laughs). Our show it’s very physical, very visceral, I even tell people that they must strike me… Lot of things happen, we’re not a static band; this isn’t like Ahab, this is more punk.
I remember the show at the Primavera Club (a Spanish festival en.), where there were two photographers working, and I threw them a bottle of water at their feet, and they freaked out, like “this guy is insane” (laughs).
You are the Mötley Crüe of funeral doom.
Von Päx: No, because at least Mötley Crüe succeeded with women, and we don’t (laughs). We have some spectacle, but people think that just because we play slow they are going to get bored. They get surprised when they see how we create chaos: we headbang, my brother loses his head with his guitar, the drummer makes a spectacle, and I’m nervous as fuck. I can’t tell you what I’m going to do on stage, because when we start playing I lose my mind. It’s something curious to see.
(To be continued tomorrow….)