(Guest contributor Pablo Balbontín, editor of the Spanish webzine Subterráneo, brings us Part 3 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 2 is here.)
The genres you play, black and doom, don’t have much acceptance in Spain, and even in the underground are misunderstood. They don’t have much support, unlike thrash or death, but nevertheless Madrid, the dark (venue), which is more focused on doom and gothic metal, has been a complete success. So, seeing how those styles aren’t very valued, did you think that you wouldn’t succeed in your own country?
Von Päx: That’s a quite complex answer that I could be answering today. Let’s make clear that, in Spain, the most minority styles are black and then doom. That’s a battle that you have already lost. In this country they like blast-beats. If you don’t play fast they are not gonna like you. In addition they also don’t understand shrieking voices. If it isn’t guttural, you also have already lost support.
But this is what we wanted to do, and if they don’t tolerate it, well fuck ‘em. Barbarian Swords doesn’t make music to make happy anyone, not even us, because I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, losing my time with those motherfuckers (laughs).
The thing is, with Hunting Rats we sold more copies outside, the reception was better, also the reviews… But man, I’m freaking out with Worms, because strange things have happened. Suddenly, a lot of websites which you would never have thought would include a band like us gave our CD a nine on their review. A guy who loves Iron Maiden listens to Worms and says “what the fuck is this? This is really extreme” and gives you a ten on his review. Then it happens that in Germany they seem quite obsessed with the fact that a funeral black/doom band can’t be named Barbarian Swords, it has to be a power metal band. Or that the cover reminds them to a black/thrash band and they dislike that we had that artwork, and they negatively rate you just because of that kind of bullshit. This only occurs in Germany.
There’s a lot of countries where the acceptance is great, like France, where we’re selling a lot, and what I was telling you before about Eastern Europe, a lot of crazy guys, many people from Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortum who really enjoy this music. Sometimes I see in forums some very sinister people speaking about Barbarian. They are in their right to do so, but you know… (laughs)
I thought that here they were going to throw us shit but I’m surprised, the reviews’ scores are excellent. Right now I have no fucking clue about where we could fit Barbarian Swords.
Perhaps receiving so many reviews in so many places has to do with distribution — the labels which you have worked with have tried to move your album in other places, which perhaps has provoked your receiving so many reviews in so many different countries.
Von Päx: Yes, I expected lots of reviews, but the best ones are from here. You can see fanzines which have on their cover Stratovarius and Leo Jiménez and then Barbarian Swords, and we have way better qualifications than them.
Let me tell you something: I have little faith in the media of this country, but I believe that the level has risen up in comparison to the times when Hunting Rats came out. The cultural level and appreciation for extreme metal has been increased on lots of websites. I mean, now they have someone who knows who Thergothon are, or has listened to the latest albums from Dis Gob and 13th Moon. I’m gratefully surprised.
What’s your opinion about bands like ALTARAGE, LORDS OF BUKKAKE, OF DARKNESS, who are Spanish and play a dense, complicated kind of music?
Von Päx: Well, ALTARAGE have released such a cool album, more like PORTAL style, and besides, the CD has been released by Iron Bonehead, which shows you what quality level they possess. LORDS OF BUKKAKE could do anything they want, the problem is, they like weed, drugs, and lazyness more than they should. The other day I was hanging around with them at the Rocksound, in Barcelona, and it seems that they are thinking about returning, but you never know. Fuck, these people will be known someday due to all they noise they have been producing in this country.
I think OF DARKNESS are pretty good, without getting out of this extreme metal world, they have an aura of knowledge and erudition. I think their last work is about Penderecki.
Yes, their latest output was dedicated to him, I think that there are just two or three tunes.
Von Päx: What I mean is that those dudes are way better musicians than us (laughs). Whether I like the result or not, that’s a whole different story. But I deeply respect the extreme metal of this country. But if we’re speaking about a musical scene, in the sense of being a brotherhood, helping each other out, playing together, I believe there’s not one, but anyway, the musical level of this country is very impressive.
This question goes out more for personal curiosity that anything else. Some time ago, I read on your Facebook that they had offered you a European tour with GRAVE, although you’d said something like “I don’t trust who’s behind this tour”, and you didn’t participate. LEGACY OF BRUTALITY took your spot and they screwed them up, because in the end the tour was cancelled. I don’t know if I’m right or if my mind is playing me tricks.
Von Päx: It was a Spanish tour, and yes, it was organized by a person in Spain well-known for some unethical actions, let’s keep it there. It would have been a new oportunity for BARBARIAN SWORDS but I’m a guy who still believes in ethics, how you do things, who are your companions, if there are folks who deserve some respect… And at that moment I didn’t see it as convenient, I had a bad feeling on speaking with that person, so I decided to stay at home and not get dirt on my hands with the possibility of that tour falling apart. And then we just got out of it, because in the end that tour didn’t result well.
Keeping on with tours, we have a shitty system, not just in Spain, but in the whole extreme metal world. You pay to be the support act of a big band, and when I say big I refer to being a support act for a band like VADER, but they are also almost as poor as you. They have to be touring every year in order to feed their families. In the end you pay for being at the Spanish tour of any band. And that’s the system we have, I obviously don’t think that it pleases you, but I’d like to ask you if you see some kind of alternative to this “pay to play”.
Von Päx: You can see this issue from multiples interpretations. Here in Spain it’s complete bullshit to pay for a slot and then touring around this country. If some promoter approaches you and says “you are inside the tour but I will only pay you a little,” you can refuse it and pay for a whole month of touring on your own.
But if you’re going to tour in Spain with VADER, I already can tell you that playing with FOSCOR and GRAVEYARD in Barcelona is a way better option than the tour with the Polish band. There are going to be 200 more people who will see you. Another different thing is, if you stop for a moment to analyse the international slots, and separate every part of the process, perhaps it isn’t pay to play. I mean, if they provide you a bus driver, gasoline, catering, money for the European tolls, they take you to a decent venue and 300 people are going to attend, you see that the differecet between the money that the agency earns and what they charge you, is not so high.
Sometimes it is not like that, it’s just a fraud, but in that case, you have to be wise about the world that surrounds you. But I tell you, if you’re in a tour with Entombed, that costs you around 300, 400 euros per day, and you analyse how much it would cost you if you did it on your own, sometimes it’s very similar, they are not cheating you, but you have to be smart knowing when you’re really paying to play and when it’s a good chance for your band.
At first you just see just numbers and you really don’t know what is really going on, until you stop to analyze everything, where the money goes. You aren’t going to get rich, but at least you’ve saved your ass and won’t lose much money.
Von Päx: Exactly. You’ve probably lost some money, but this is our drug. This music doesn’t generate tons of money; it only matters to a few people (laughs)
We’ve almost reached the end of the interview. Did you have any other band before Barbarian Swords, some kind of musical formation? Do you play an instrument, or are you self-taught?
Von Päx: I’ve never been interested in that aspect. I don’t know know how to play any instrument and I don’t want to. I mean, to start to learn and to study… I’m off of that.
Barbarian’s history is quite simple. Panzer, the bass player, and my brother Voice of Noise, created a doom metal project, but it didn’t work out. Then, in March 2011, me and my older brother went to an Electric Wizard show, and while we were discussing Burzum’s Fallen, which had just came out back then, we thought, “fuck man, we have to create a band that mixes what we love, doom metal with a black metal voice”. And that’s how it was born.
I hadn’t sung in my entire life. Then we went to his house, just to rehearse a little bit, something that the whole neighborhood remembers for sure (laughs). I lost my voice for a few days, but since then I’ve been practicing and now I have a quite powerful voice, I can sing black metal for three hours long without any discomfort. But like I’ve said before, I’m not in the mood for singing… I’m not a band person and I think I have enough with Barbarian Swords because I have enough work and it’s a mess (laughs).
It’s an expensive hobby in every aspect: it consumes time, money… Like a useless kid, it costs a lot of money and brings a lot of bad news.
Von Päx: Also, I have to say that although Barbarian Swords is a tiny underground band, we did well with this album. The recording sessions with Javi Félez [a famous Spanish extreme metal producer .en] were absolutely great and very cheap. They have payed us all the album editions, even the t-shirts, which, by the way, we are selling very well, I’m very surprised.
And then, we will support Necrophobic in Zaragoza [February 17th en.] and we will play at Catalonia Extreme Winter at the end of January, at home [this interview took place at the end of 2016 en.]. Yes, we may lose some money on our rehearsal spot, but that’s the same amount that you can spend any Saturday hanging around and having some beers.
Furthermore, you aren’t a 16-year-old kid who has just entered the business and has no idea. You’ve been around for a while and, while being in a band was an aspect of this world that previously hadn’t drawn your attention, you have certain experience in other fields.
Von Päx: For sure it’s important, as you’ve stated: Barbarian Swords isn’t a bunch of teenagers who have formed the band to get experience with their music, with no idea of anything and a scumbag manager who cheats money from them promising that they will play at Resurrection Fest. No, we are grown-up people.
The rest of the guys have been playing for years in thousands of different bands, and nobody deceives us. We know who’s a thief, who’s trustable, who’s not. If some promoter comes to me to offer a date for a show, I can make some calls to figure it out who he is. I know how to make a presskit to gain the attention of a label, some important e-mails… Even though the band is very underground, our background in this extreme metal world helps a lot.
Last question. I always ask my interviews for some musical recommendations, without paying attention to genre — it can be extreme metal, pop… anything that has blown your mind recently.
Von Päx: Today I’m very happy because Nuclear War Now! has just sent me the newest work of the band composed by members of Conqueror, Blasphemy and Revenge: Death Worship.
Pure War metal.
Von Päx: Yes, the guys from Conqueror have reunited, and I already have the EP. I saw it back then and thought, “Holy shit! That’s cool!”
Well, things that I’ve been digging recently… now I’m with Void Meditation Cult, ultra-dark death metal. Also with Goat Funeral, Krypts, who have recently released a great album, Sacrificio, the latest Teintanblood output, Deathspell Omega, who has created a masterpiece, of course. As well as the new Benighted offering.
I’ve freaked out with the newest album of Deströyer 666, what a hell of an album. Wildfire is a fucking beast. Classic heavy metal with epic touches, similar to Bathory with some black/death traces. Also Forteresse, an epic black metal work, similar to Mgla. Plenty of stuff, I’m always looking for some more. Also the Black Anvil album has recently arrived, a split of Funeral Storm… Extreme metal forever, that’s the fucking law (laughs)
Well, I have nothing more to say
Von Päx: Great man. It’s been a honor, and like I always say, we have to screw up those judeochristian dogmas and don’t let them fuck you, fuck them first! That thing about turning the other cheek is bullshit!
Fuck them! (laughs). Very pleased with this conversation.
Von Päx: Thanks for your effort!