Behemoth's Nergal on The Voice, Being a Mental Gypsy and Other Important Stuff

Is this Behemoth's final album?

Nergs. Nergy. The Nergal. Behemoth’s legendary front man is getting about the place in his car in Poland, and we’re chatting on a phone connection that’s not dissimilar to a piece of string and two tin cans but nonetheless, we push on.

So Behemoth’s tenth album The Satanist (2014); have you already moved on from it? "Absolutely not" Nergal asserts “Not at all. We’re two thirds into the cycle and I can honestly say, even though we’ve played between 150 and 200 shows, I’ve never enjoyed touring more than now. All the songs from The Satanist; they’re just meant to be played live so it’s really joyful to support this record on this tour. The feedback has been amazing so there’s no reason to complain.”

And the band will be heading our way at the end of the month. He’s genuinely excited. “Oh yeah! Big time! Coming back to Australia; it’s gonna be beautiful weather, good people, beautiful people, and I’m so thankful that we have such a decent following over there and we’re bringing the most solid, extreme metal line-up – fucking Bolzer, Watain and Behemoth on one bill! I think it’s a wet dream for every extreme metaller so I seriously can’t wait.” I ask if he thinks he’ll have any trouble keeping up with the young pups of black metal and he assures me that won’t be a problem. I can just picture Nergs and the young fellows of Watain and Bolzer, all running about in a variety of graveyards, in the night-time.
After Australia the tour moves to Asia then back to Europe; admittedly there are some breaks but it’s still a long old tour. Do you get a bit shitty on longer tours? He’s honest enough to note that “It depends,” before adding “I love touring in general – I’m a mental gypsy! – so I have no problem with that.” Nergal is a mental gypsy. Fact.

I mention his apparent interest in Victorian era British occultism such as 2002’s Zos Kia Cultus, the use of Austin Osman Spare’s ‘lyrics’ on Fornicatus Benefictus and Behemoth’s liberal use of Thelemic imagery throughout their career. Nergal doesn’t seem to wish to expand on this, brushing the question aside with the brief reply of “To a point, yes…” – fair enough, what about your time on Poland’s The Voice? Again, he doesn’t seem to want to discuss it in depth but admits “It was a TV show – so I gave them a show,” and he laughs, continuing “It was exciting, and I eventually got use to being in front of the cameras, but I wouldn’t do it again. I’ve done it now and I have no plans to do it again.” How did the Polish media take to you? “Well, you know; media’s a bitch so the right wing media was picking up on the radical elements of my nature and my art and using it like some weapon against me but I had so much distance between them that I never stressed out about it. I collected my money and fucked off! On a daily basis I get a certain amount of love and a certain amount of hate!”

Turning to the band’s longevity – Behemoth will be 25 years young next year – have you always thought that the band would ‘make it’ or have there been moments where the doubt-goat sunk its teeth into you? Nergal opens his chest cavity and says “In general, I’m really determined and I’m all about just pushing to the top and getting better and just conquering the fucking universe! But then on the other hand, I’m just a human being and I get my down periods, I get my weak moments and it doesn’t bother me to admit that – I’m almost 40 now and I think we’ve accomplished some really great things with the band and we’ve inspired quite a few people along the way so I have no reason to complain and no reason to be dissatisfied. I’m pretty happy!” Nergal is a mental gypsy AND he’s relatively happy. Fact #2. He mentions poor old Lemmy’s obvious health problems and you can tell it saddens him and he reflects “I know I don’t want to be a 70 year old Nergal putting the make-up on, or like Keith (Richards) with our final, final, final tour and just cashing in on the name. From my perspective, where I am now, it’s not where I’d wanna go; I wanna leave the stage while the songs still call. If we retire and if we end our exciting, artistic trip with Behemoth I definitely want to make sure we do it in a victorious way.” He adds the rather startling observation that “If you asked me, this would be perfect timing to do that – the record has done its job – there’s no other Behemoth album that’s been heavier than The Satanist and we’ve done some amazing touring and been everywhere.” It’s almost like he’s alluding to some real heavy news …but he adds “But I don’t know, man! You might find me next fucking year working my ass off on the next Behemoth album if I feel the spark, if I get the fire and I just wanna do something that’s gonna fucking move the sun, if you know what I mean. I need that kind of motivation.” He mentions the fact that some other bands are obsessed with touring and selling merch but he’s not driven by such concerns. “I’ve reached a point where if I don’t wanna do it anymore I’m financially safe and I can do whatever the fuck I want – and that’s the definition of art and being and artist; it’s to be free, and I would hate to be a slave to a contract that I would need to follow and release records. It would be some kind of slavery for me and I would just refuse that. I wouldn’t do it. It’s a beautiful thing to be in a position to make a record or to go on tour only, and this is the only reason, if we want to do it. If you really have something to say then you say it; if you don’t then shut the fuck up and stay home! This is the greatest comfort in my life.” Right on, Nergal. Right on. I mention that they can’t quit now – next year is the band’s 25th anniversary. “Ah! That scares the shit out of me! 25 years?! Come on! I’m 38 already! I’m deadly proud. I’m super-proud of who we are as a band; we’ve released ten records so let’s see!”

One final question; do you have a message for Australia? “Yeah – thank you so much for sticking with us ; it’s always been a pleasure and this is our fifth visit and you never cease to impress and support us. That feeling is amazing – it feels like coming back home. Never change. Stick to your guns!”

He’s a lucid fellow is Mr Nergal – I’ll admit he almost lost me with his The Voice shenanigans but he’s an erudite interviewee and I’m only sad that we didn’t get to chat for longer.

Behemoth on tour in September and October. Get the fuck down.