Bal Sagoth Interview

 

Hail the warriors of Bal-Sagoth,letc start with the latest news from your side,what is happening in the Bal-Sagoth camp?
 
BYRON: HAIL! Well the news from the Bal-Sagoth camp is that the other guys in the band are at home sitting on their asses andrelaxing while I’m doing thousands of interviews every night! As usual, I suffer for my art! Ha!
 
 
Byron, although it might sound a bit clichée, but some people might be unfamiliar with Bal-Sagoth. Can you tell us a little bit more about your band?
 
BYRON: The Bal-Sagoth concept was something which I dreamed up a long time ago… back in the 1980’s. I wanted to form an extreme metal band which would create powerfully symphonic, bombastic and dark black/death metal, all entwined in and guided by a grand lyrical concept which would form the core of the entire project. It took me many years to finally locate personell who were suitable to enlist, but I finally found the Maudlings who were interested in the idea. In 1993 we recorded a very brutal, raw demo tape which only hinted at the greatness to come. Shortly thereafter, we were signed to England’s Cacophonous records, and over the course of the next five years we recorded our amazing First Trilogy of albums, consisting of: “A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria”, “Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule”, and “Battle Magic”. In 1999 we signed to Nuclear Blast and recorded our fourth album, “The Power Cosmic”, and in 2000 we completed our fifth opus, “Atlantis Ascendant”, and our sixth album “The Chthonic Chronicles” will be released in March 2006. As far as tours and shows go, we have toured and gigged with bands like Dark Funeral, Emperor, Marduk, Mortician, Return to the Sabbat, and a great many more over the years.
 
 
Can you tell us some more about your lyrics, which form some kind of concept…
 
BYRON: The lyrics are the mana which sustains this mammoth cos mic engine. They are the coruscating crystals of power which energize the Bal-Sagoth war-machine. All the Bal-Sagoth lyrics are part of the same grand saga, a saga which encompasses the entire vista of creation from the beginnings of the universe to the cataclysmic end of all there is. They are tales of lost civilizations, ancient kingdoms, epic battles, distant worlds, dark sorcery, diabloical demons, rogue gods, and incredible journeys beyond the parameters of humanity to spheres of existence unparalleled in the annals of the cosmos. My tales are born of the imagination and are inspired by many things, including ancient myths and legends, arcane history, dreams, and a myriad other sources. The alternate-universe of the lyrics is a fantastic place teeming with dark and sublime wonders, a place complete with its own unique history, theology, geography, mythology and cosmology; a place of glorious carnage, epic adventure and unparalleled darkness. The saga is eternal and there are countless stories yet to be told…
 
 
Key usage has always been initial in Bal-Sagoth.Do you record the keyboards “live” in the studio, or do you use a sequencer?
 
BYRON: Keyboards are essential to our sound. In truth, they are the core of our musical approach. Our keyboards are wholly orchestral. The way we score our material and the method by which we record it is very symphonic in nature. When recording the keyboards, we will record the various constituent orchestral instruments layer by layer, instrument by instrument, utilizing the advanced synthesizer technology available to us. Thus, we will record the brass parts, the string parts, the woodwind and the timpani, and the choirs all individually and separately, in a very symphonic manner. This is part of what gives us our powerfully and uniquely orchestral sound.
 
 
Have you written any unreleased songs?And if yes,are you thinking of releasing them in some way?
 
BYRON: Everything we’ve recorded has been released, apart from a few “rough draft” and alternate versions of existing songs.
 
 
As far as i see,one can assume that Nuclear Blast has been promoting you much more than Cacophonous ever was able of. What do you think is the biggest difference from before and after you signed with Nuclear Blast? Are you pleased with the work they have done for Bal-Sagoth so far?
 
BYRON: Nuclear Blast certainly put a lot of effort into promoting albums. Over the years NB just let us get on with our second trilogy without hassling us, which is very important to us. We have no complaints. One of the good things about NB is that people who want to buy our albums don’t have any difficulty finding them in stores, which is always a plus point!
 
 
Is any video planned or has been planned?
 
BYRON: Unfortunately, video clips are very expensive to produce, and we can’t finance such a project ourselves. I have several video ideas storyboarded, so perhaps one day these may be filmed if the funds become available. I have many contacts in the re-enactment and film industry who would be willing to provide fully costumed extras for such a video, and battles of truly epic proportions would thus be feasible to recreate. There was a plan to make a video some years ago, which was to be directed by an Emmy award winning director who specializes in historical pieces, but the label would not come up with the money. Recently I’ve been compiling a lot of old video footage of our 1997 tours with Dark Funeral and Emperor, which we might release at some point.
 
 
What other bands do you listen to in your spare time?
 
BYRON: Well my favourite bands will always be Bathory, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Metallica, Sabbat, Iron Maiden, Emperor, et al. Jonny also likes a lot of old extreme metal, but his favourite bands are stuff like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and the Police. Chris is a big fan of Metallica and Slayer. So, in reality, all these classic bands can be seen as having influenced our art in some way or another.
 
 
The musical and the conceptional of Bal-Sagoth have always been very different from the other bands in the underground and the mainstream and audience still haven’t seen any bands trying to copy your music in a direct manner. What do you think is the reason that you manage to keep such an unique style over so many years – and still not being copied in a major way as it’s obviously popular music you’re making?
 
BYRON: From the very beginning, I always thought it of paramount importance to strive towards a totally unique and original sound and approach, and that is something we’ve maintained ever since. We never follow trends, and we never concern ourselves with what other bands in the genre are doing. Essentially, we have built the Bal-Sagoth engine from the ground up, infusing it with our own passion and our own fervour and commitment to this dark art. The quest for originality was always one of my prime directives, and I always sought to do something totally peculiar and avant-garde… that was always the key to my interpretation of extreme metal. When we write material, we totally lock ourselves away from the outside world, not allowing any aspect of the music scene to influence or interfere with what we are creating. There is a touch of magic about this band which no one else could ever hope to emulate or fully understand, and that is an essential element to our individuality.
 
 
Talking about the song-writing,How do you go about writing song lyrics? i.e. do you come up with a basic idea and work around that, or do you write the music first and then the lyrics later? Do you have to do any research for any of your lyrics?
 
BYRON: The music is always written to reflect the overall Bal-Sagoth concept, and the thematic essence of each story. I always have the lyrics and stories planned out or written well in advance of the commencement of the music writing. I will then inform Jonny about the nature of the stories, and what moods and atmospheres are ideally required, and what keyboard “special effects”, if any, I think would be beneficial to a particular piece. Often I will give Jonny a very detailed synopsis of the events in a particular story, which pinpoints precisely where the implementation of particular themes should occur and which moods should be evoked. My lyrical inspirations are summoned from a wide variety of sources, including a lifelong fascination with ancient legendry, arcane mythology, history and the occult, as well of course as an enduring love for all aspects of fantasy, science-fiction and imaginitive media. For the mythological or historically based  songs, a great deal of research is conducted.
 
 
How important is the cover art for you when you, does it have to indicate the album’s title directly or?
 
BYRON: I always work very closely with our cover artists, as it’s very important to me that each cover reflects the essence and concept of an album. I always design rough sketches or conceptual outlines of the cover ideas to convey the overall concept I have in mind for a cover, then the cover artist is unleashed. For instance, the new cover artwork maintains a very definitive theme. The cover of the new album is intended to convey the actual apocryphal ancient book known as “The Chthonic Chronicles” itself. There were many different translations of the original manuscript throughout the ages, and the one which people will hold in their hands when they have the album is the most dangerous one of all. The idea is that the eye on the cover of the book opens and looks directly into you, to sense whether the potential reader is ready to uncover the dark secrets contained within the book. The book is only one of many ancient grimoires and occult tomes within the Bal-Sagoth universe, but it is the one which hides the most terrifying and malefic lore of all. It’s an idea very much inspired by Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. I just figured it would be cool to have a booklet cover which was literally a book cover! That’s an idea I’d had in mind for years, and finally when I came up with the idea for “The Chthonic Chronicles” I knew the time was right. I just hope people don’t go into book stores or libraries looking for copies of the book, because of course it doesn’t exist!
 
 
I heard that in  1995 you were involved in a serious accident. What really happened?
 
BYRON: I broke the bone in the centre of my chest (the sternum). It was a stage diving accident. METAL!
 
 
Has the current band members been in any other bands prior to Bal-Sagoth?
 
BYRON: Both myself and Jonny were in a couple of old small time “garage” bands many years ago. Jonny’s old thrash band released a few demos. Dan’s previous bands include Thine, and he’s also currently in The Raven Theory.
 
 
On the other hand,have you ever though about the negative sides of the “side-project”?Dont you think that musician can be more effective when he focus on only one band,one Project?
 
BYRON: Yes, I think it’s generally quite important to focus all your creative energy on one project. That’s one of the reasons why myself and Jonny don’t have any side projects, although we’ve often considered the possibility of perhaps doing another part time symphonic synth oriented project along with Bal-Sagoth.
 
 
Actually this is a fruquently asked question,You have worn Braveheart-style Celtic warpaint for your concerts. Is this to set you apart from other bands who wear corpsepaint, or is there any significance to wearing this?
 
BYRON: I first started using the “woad” warpaint as a way of reflecting the historical and mythological content of the lyrics, and also as a kind of visual representation of the band’s British culture and heritage. It added an interesting theatrical element to our gigs, and gradually I got some of the other members to try it too, in small amounts! These days however, we no longer wear warpaint during gigs.
 
 
Music and Politics.Bal-Sagoth are known for maintaining a separation between music and personal political /ecclesiastical views. What do you think of artists (for example  Burzum, Grave land,Nokturnal Mortum, Slayer) who do not hold to this distinction?
 
BYRON: Well, each to their own. I’ve always kept politics and socio-political topics out of the Bal-Sagoth lyrics, but many bands make such concepts their primary themes. That’s cool, but that kind of thing just doesn’t particularly interest me personally.
 
 
What is the name of the band that you hate most?Most of the people are eager to utter their fave bands yet i want to learn the band you hate most?Can you give an honest answer to this question?
 
BYRON: There are a lot of bands out there that I truly despise, in all avenues and styles of music. Seriously, if I were to give you a list of bands I hate, it would take up about 100 pages of text! Ultimately, the best way I’ve found of dealing with hated bands is simply not to listen to them.
 
 
If you had known all in advance; what things would you certainly have done an other way and any warnings/advice for new-coming bands?What would you advise or not advise?
 
BYRON: A brief list of warnings to new bands would include: Read your contracts thoroughly. That’s ALL your contracts, including recording, publishing, merchandising, performance, et al. Get some kind of music lawyer to look over all documentation. Don’t be intimidated by record company personnel or gig promoters. If you feel they’re taking advantage of you or not giving you a fair deal, then tell them to fuck off! Make sure you come to some kind of an agreement between the members of the band itself, too, including stuff like song writing acreditation and writing shares. If you have difficult members within a band who are causing stress and friction, get rid of them! Above all, believe in your art and don’t listen to the detractors and naysayers. If you stay true to your art, no matter the odds, you will never truly fail.
 
 
What about films or books, Tv series,anything you recently read or saw that impressed you?And one more thing,Chose : Desperate Housewifes VS Sex and the City? I prefer Simpsons, though…
 
BYRON: I watch pretty much just sci-fi shows or documentaries on historical topics. I guess both Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City are more girls’ shows, so I’ve never really watched them. Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica are two of my favourite shows at the moment. Also Justice League and Teen Titans (cartoons) are cool.
 
 
Do you play any video or computer games?
 
BYRON: Yes indeed, I’ve played video games for many years. I still collect a lot of old retro consoles and games, as well as new ones. I like RPG’s, survival horror games, strategy games and first-person shooters a great deal. One day it would be cool to release a strategy RPG based on the Bal-Sagoth universe.  
 
 
Another weird one on the way;Are you married? And what kind of effects could marriage have on the creativity of the artist? Have you ever thought of this? It sure one may be more creative when he is alone,yet what about a man married with children!?
 
BYRON: No, none of Bal-Sagoth are married. I guess marriage could be both beneficial and detrimental to a musician’s creative powers. We’ve seen examples of both over the years! I suppose if you had a wife who understood your art and who was very supportive of the creative process and respectful of the work that went into it, that would be a good thing. Better yet, a wife who is an artist herself!
 
 
Thanks a lot for the answers, Finish this interview quoting the words of a man you admire the most, please!
 
BYRON: “The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”Thanks for the interview! Many thanks to all the Bal-Sagoth fans who are reading this, we greatly appreciate your support. Check out our website for news and features on the band (the site will soon be totally revamped and improved) at http://www.bal-sagoth.com and http://www.bal-sagoth.co.uk. We
 
hope you enjoy the dark and thrilling ride which is “The Chthonic Chronicles”! Sic Itur Ad Astra!

 

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