sobota 23. dubna 2022

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Interview - !T.O.O.H.! - We just like it when the lyrics are provocative.

Interview with avantgarde, progressive death grind band !T.O.O.H.!.

Answered Schizoid, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Ave !T.O.O.H.!! Hey, I do experiments like this sometimes – I take some music, in this case your latest CD "Free Speech", and I play it to people who have no idea what it's about. They're pure as a lily, untainted by listening to thousands of metal albums. You know what's interesting? Everybody likes your record! The girl who listens to disco, the old dad who rides a fox tail to the potlucks. At most, somebody had said that it was creepy, but they always say it was great! Can you please explain how that's possible? How do people, listeners, reviewers perceive you anyway? And what kind of response do you get to the record?

Hi Jakub! That's interesting, those experiments of yours. If people who don't listen to metal tend to like our record, that may be because it's musical and it has vocals one can clearly understand. So that's probably the reason. Otherwise, it's nice of you to broaden people's musical horizons. And how do other people perceive us? I don't really know. We've read some reviews, but there haven't been many. The response has been mostly positive. The main thing is to make ourselves satisfied with our efforts. And so we are.

I'll admit it without torture. I have my rituals, like everyone else, I guess. Monday through Thursday at work, I listen to whatever I feel like to, but on Friday I'm so tired that I either put on something totally off metal or !T.O.O.H.!. I return home happy, with a clean head and feeling just fine somehow. I am not afraid to say, your music has literally a chilling effect on me like a way of meditation. What state of mind do you have to be in order to compose music? How did "Free Speech" come about? When do you say to yourself - okay, it's time, let's go, let's compose!?

The music on Free Speech (hereafter FS) was composed quite quickly. Of course, one has to be in a good state of mind, which Humanoid usually was. Composing FS was a continuous process. With Humanoid grabbing guitar and recording his ideas with his phone. Later on, he transcribed those into GuitarPro and I laid down the drum patterns which we programmed into the demo. Everyone of us practiced his parts separately, we didn't even have one rehearsal together. My brother practiced directly with GuitarPro and I practiced with the Wave file he emailed me. We then tweaked and improved the songs for the better here and there. At the end of the day, the drums I recorded on the album turned out to be completely different from the ones we demoed. I improvise a lot...

When I listen to contemporary progressive and technical death metal bads, it's some mad stuff. Seventeen-year-old boys playing like gods. Technically, they're actually perfect. It's just that quite often their music doesn't have any balls. You guys aren't really young anymore, but tell me, how do you actually play so fast and complicated? How much time do you spend practicing? I would see it that you have to sleep with the instruments or am I wrong? Correct me in case I am wrong but I can imagine you even sleeping with your instruments.

We don't overdo it with the practicing. I think the main thing is talent. When working on FS, my brother grabbed guitar and played two to three hours a day, sometimes more if needed. Once the album was done, he played it once or twice almost every day to stay in shape. I practiced as needed and as the mood took me. Sometimes I would sit behind the drums for two hours, sometimes just an hour. Sometimes I sit somewhere else... ie. behind the computer screen where I spend more time than behind my drums... :-) And yes, you're right. Today's youngsters play like gods. It's because there are expanded learning opportunities. That's something our generation could only dream of. Speaking on behalf of drummers, nowadays you can find everything on YouTube – from the way of how to hold drumsticks to learning what techniques to use when playing the snare, drum kicks... Everything. But I listen to these new bands just out of curiosity. The vast majority of them sound very similar. It's as if the music has been manufactured in one and the same manufactory...

All your songs sound different from one another. The mood, the energy differ. Does that mean the songs are composed in different moods or settings? Things coming more aggressive when you're angry, etc.? How does all that you feel, see around you, all the politics, human dullness, but also joy and humility, mirrors in the music you create?

I'm glad you noticed that. In our case, it's a very natural thing. It's not like we would compose only when we were angry or something. My brother sends me a song that's composed from A to Z. With a clearly defined tempo. Occasionally, we may speed up the song during the process but I am not involved in the composing process as such that's all my brother's thing. I'll just run with what he delivers but at the same time, in return, my brother has no say in whatever drum patterns I create for the song. It's a mutual respect and I think it works for us. And the world around us and the emotions it brings, that's rather imprinted in the lyrics...

You are both very talented. And I don't mean just technically, but also compositionally. Plus, you're brothers. Is music in your genes? Did you trace a great-grandfather who composed, let's say, some classical music? Did anyone sing in your family? Oh, and not to forget, I have a brother too, but we don't get along at all, he's completely different from me. Are you arguing with each other? Who does usually have the final say?

Thank you. Music is definitely a part of our genes. When it comes to immediate family, my mom used to sing when she was young. And very well. From the age of 10, she went to a singing teacher once or twice a week. At 16, she was preparing for the State Conservatory. But because it was 1969, the specialization in Musical Comedy she wanted to apply to got cancelled because a lot of people were fired and stuff... In the end, she was offered to enter an Opera Singing course. But my mother declined that opportunity since she always hated opera singing with all her heart. So she joined the Folk-art Conservatory and started singing various (also jazz) songs in Prague. Those songs were written straight to fit her mezzo-soprano. But then she met her dad and... the singing was over. Eventually, she finished medical school and worked in a nursing home. Her singing career was over. Her dad, our grandfather, played mandolin. And his whole family, his sisters, they all played musical instruments. So my mom liked to sing with them even when she was a little girl. On my dad's side, his grandfather, my namesake, played the clarinet. Maybe I'm his reincarnation... hahaha.

It's sad to hear about your brother. I mean, from my point of view. Having a sibling I don't get along with, I don't even want to imagine that... I always got along well with my brother.

You know we argue with each other. But only sometimes. When one of us is irritated which is mostly myself. We had a few fights. But that was a long time ago, and it was always caused by the demon alcohol. My brother's been abstinent and a non-smoker since 2008. So there's no danger of a fight anymore... -)))

I really liked the reaction to your board from an old gentleman at the workshop. He said, dude, that's passion in disguise. And he was smiling like me. I'm telling you straight up, you just have a gift for conveying emotion, for shocking or even more shocking, for captivating. Tell me, what were your beginnings, why and how did !T.O.O.H.! come about? Please dive deep into the history with us.

Thank you very much. My brother and I decided to start a band sometime in elementary school. We discovered a beautiful style of music. We discovered metal. I remember at the cottage, we were fooling around in front of the mirror with badminton bats that represented guitars, swaying to the beat of Kern's "Blízko nás. There was no internet then, it was before 1989 and we had a complete lack of information. When my friends and I were scavenging in salvage yards, I would cut out all the mentions of metal in the press at the time. We knew a lot of bands just by name. It was better just before the revolution. My brother used to go to the Havel market with his friends, so he experienced the police raids on metal record sellers. We didn't have a gramophone at home, so he just admired the covers. Then we found a contact in the Holešovice market. We used to buy recorded tapes from him. Overkill, Sodom, Coroner, Living Death, Laaz Rockit... And of course Polish original tapes... That was after the revolution. There used to be stock exchanges at Letná, at the Sparta stadium. That's where we discovered other bands. After that, it got easier and easier...

Our first project was called VVD. That is: Veselý, Veselý, Dvořák. It was actually pure noise. We made noise on everything and recorded it on a cassette recorder. It had funny names and we screamed, shouted and mutated into all this mess. That was fun. My brother and I still have the tapes. Then me and another friend started a band called Devastator. We had just discovered Napalm Death, so it was clear that we wanted to do the biggest shit of the time. Heavy metal was the style of a different generation, thrash metal was slowly peaking and death metal was coming on the scene. It was clear what direction we were going to go in. It took us quite a long time before we decided to come out with our own work. That was in 1995. Demo You guys are pieces of fucking meat. I think our fans know the story by then. From our online biography.

You went through the beginning in the 1990s, then the turbulent period in 2000-2005, and then suddenly it was gone. You've been coming back at greater intervals since then. Why is that? Have you been consumed by work, families? Or "not so many ideas", the desire? I'm asking because you know, nowadays if you don't see the band, it's like it doesn't exist.

We first came back in 2011. My brother decided to buy a guitar again and rebuild the band. Before that he was always creating, writing electronic music and painting pictures. I had no objections -) The work definitely didn't swallow us or our families. We are both childless. Neither of us has ever been married in our lives. Could you imagine us being bothered by the families with the lyrics we spawn? Maybe so, but it would be very strange... -))

We disbanded in 2013 for the second time. It was because of my brother being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He just decided to call it quits again. I had no objections whatsoever...

In 2017 we announced a comeback again. The impetus came again from my brother. I'm glad it happened. I think we still have a lot to offer. My brother is just a pioneering soul. Our music and lyrics are constantly evolving, so it makes sense. If I, or my brother felt we lost our drive and inspirations, I'm sure we would put the band to rest.

!T.O.O.H.! You two are Schizoid and Humanoid. But Android, Freedom, Wokis have played with you over the years. Always just for a little while. Why is that? Didn't anyone fit in with you guys?

No, no, we've had guys fit in and get along well with us, but it has usually been the circumstances that did not work to our favour. Pavel Slavíček (Android) started a family and his own band Misogynist. He started writing his own music and playing guitar, something that he enjoyed more doing than just playing bass guitar. And at the time of the release of "Order and Punishment", we were also a great bunch of friends. But again, circumstances didn't favor us. The only one guy who was able to keep up the pace with whatever my brother came up with was the bass player Freedom. Guitarist Wokis was in college at the time and had other hobbies... And then the problems with the label occured and some unpleasantness in personal life. So my brother decided to lay it down to rest.

If I'm not mistaken, you haven't performed in a long time. I think you still have a lot of fans. How about Prague, maybe my favourite Modrá Vopice, invite a few friends to make the possible embarrassment less (joke) and get it back on the boards? How do you feel about gigs? Smaller tours?

We are planning to start playing gigs again. It's going to be a very interesting experience. Since my brother is schizophrenic, he doesn't have as much energy as he used to have. Still, he made the decision to give it a try. We've already started practicing together a compilation of songs from the demo and old albums. We've upped the tempo of the songs by a bit and added synths here and there... We're still figuring out how exactly we're going to perform everything live. We will use playback for electronic bass and the synths. I will be drumming on the electronic drum-kit set. We're going to play to a click which we are used to... We're going to try out the performance at a private event first, to see how things will work out and if my brother can perform the songs live in front of people. After that we'll see. I'm confident he will pull it off. In fact, I can even tell you where our first show will be. It's going to be at our friends' place in Studanka, North Bohemia. The guys have a band called Evil Regiment. We made a promise that our first public performance will také place there and we will keep that promise. And I hope it won't be a shame, don't worry... -)) You can be there if you want. You're entitled to that just for making these great questions. It's going to be an exclusive event and I'm looking forward to it.

It's such a weird time these days, everyone's commenting on everything. The problem is that most of them are people who have not been given much by nature, God or Satan. You're musicians, you must be a little crazy, different, different. Still, do you have anyone whose opinion you'll give? Who's gonna tell you, like, this is over the line, this is too much. Or on the contrary, you can lean into it here?

We are setting that line, that boundary ourselves. But we actually have such a person. It's our publisher, Honza. I think that if he had any problem with our lyrics, which he hasn't had so far, we would definitely take his recommendation or opinion. I recently sent him the titles of our new texts and wrote to him what they are about. He wanted me to send the lyrics over, so he could read them. But then it wouldn't have been a surprise if he knew the content in advance. So we'll see what he'll say when he hears the new madness in the complete package (with music)... -))) We just like it when the lyrics are provocative. And since the boundary is constantly being pushed further (who is shocked by brutal scenes nowadays?), we decided to push it a bit...

!T.O.O.H.! cover arts and the band's sound. Those are the two things that take your band into a whole different realm. I love the cover art for Komouš, I love it, and if I had a gallery, it would take pride of place. Where do you go for those ideas? They're so fresh, fresh, funny. And the sound by the master Standa Valášek. Why him? Is he the one who understands your fuzzy souls the most?

I'm so happy to see how you perceive our band. As for the ideas, I guess we ate a lot of funny porridge... -))) Do you know what it really is? It's a program we have been already born with. I'm very interested in astrology. When I saw our horoscopes, it's all written there... My brother often laughs at me, saying that I'm like an old woman who believes everything... But I see it there. It's all there. My brother's imagination, his energy, his artistic inclinations and, after all, his illness... In my case, it includes artistic inclinations too, of course, and I also got to know that „sarcasm is my second language“, etc. etc. It's a very interesting subject.

Also, about the ideas which grace the cover-arts my brother paints. It has always been his imagination and his ideas. But on Free Speech we agreed to come up with the content together. So we sat down together in front of the computer screen and had that something going on, I think it's called brainstorming nowadays.

And why Standa Valášek? He's just a professional and a nice person. We've had a great experience with him since the album Order and Punishment. At that time my brother and I wanted to go back to the Hacienda Studio. But the guitarist Wokis was worried about analogue equipment, so he persuaded us to try a digital studio. So we went to the Šopa. In the end it was a very good idea. Dodo from Hacienda Studio was also able to manage the recording process digitally but but he just prefers analogue sound. When we relaunched the band in 2017, we decided to go with Standa again. Although he also does analogue, of course. We wanted to symbolically start where we left off with our most successful period...

My wife is a teacher and she told me that it's starting to scare her how kids today don't read books at all. It's like they're losing perspective, imagination. I don't know, I'm not an educator, but I always liked your lyrics. These are masterpieces! Where do you get the inspiration for them? What influences you?

It's a gift, as I mentioned before. We were born with that gift. When we first started, my brother wrote the majority of lyrics. But he always encouraged me to write something too. Nowadays, he doesn't have to do it anymore. Speaking for myself, it's like when you want to poop... Your stomach hurts, you know you're full of inspiration... -)) Then comes the first rhyme. If I laugh at it and don't forget it by the other day, it's almost certain that something will come out of it. It's stuck in my mind for a day, a week, it doesn't matter. Or things simply happen when the setting is really good, I'll get right at it and if it continues to evolve smoothly, I know it's going to be good. When I finish the lyrics, I am not revising it in any way. It has to be coming out of the same water, so to speak. Well, sometimes I'll fix some details. Or if my brother has a note, we adjust the lyrics.

And the kids are not reading books anymore, it is a plague. It's modern technology. The new people will soon be completely demented... Even monkeys can learn to operate devices at a user level. I've read about how there was an experiment to teach monkeys to use tokens to obtain food when they were hungry and things soon went downhill. Prostitution and shit like that occurred amonst them, just the way like in our society. Humans are still basically animals. Critical thinking is being suppressed. Just be obedient, follow the entertainment...

I'm quite conservative in my personal life, but I do like science fiction, for example, and in music I also sometimes choose things that move me from our stinking planet to higher realms. I love VOIVOD! Who influenced you? What music do you like, do you listen to, do you go to concerts? What about books, movies? Other hobbies?

I totally understand. My brother loves Alien and Terminator. He's still watching those flicks a lot and relaxing. He's seen the last Terminator about 20 times... -)) Or now he's obsessed with Underwater with Kristen Stewart (his other favorite actress)... He's seen that one about six times. I like sci-fi, especially movies. It attracts my attention. I barely read science fiction books.

VOIVOD. The first time I heard them, it didn't grab me at all. I think it was some of their early albums. Compared to what I was listening to back then, they were a flop. So it was a quick resolution and I didn't bother following them. But after some time, Petr Korál played some songs from Negatron on a radio station “Radio 1“ and I liked it a lot. So I am still not a real fan, but they have some great songs.

If I wrote down what music I like, it would be a very long list. I like mostly good music. The genre doesn't matter. I love Depeche Mode. I like all their albums, even the new ones. I also listen to a lot of remixes from different artists. I like classical music. I like rock. I like jazz, especially from the '50s. I appreciate a well-written pop song. I'm pretty picky.

I don't go to concerts. Music occupies most of my time already. And you can't talk much in the noisy environment that live events are about.

I love books. I've always loved to read. Nowadays, I more read the news about what's going on in the current world. Alternative media that brings serious topics. With links to sources of information (evidence based), of course. I'm interested in what's going on around us. I don't follow disinformation news of the mainstream, and when I do, it's just for fun... Corporate media tells you nothing. They just lie, cover up and obfuscate. Filthy stuff.

In your email you told me that we fans can look forward to a new EP from your stable. Can you tell us more? What's it about, where have you been trying to push it, where did you record it, where will you be releasing it? Tell me, exaggerate.

The EP is called Premiant. The recording process was the same as with FS. We recorded the guitars at Šopa Studio, the remaining instruments and vocals were recorded in our home studio. Mixing and general supervision by Standa Valášek.

This material is probably the peak of our work in my opinion. Seriously. I'd probably just be bragging if I had to describe it... -))) And the cover-art my brother painted is just perfect. It's got four songs on it. Compared to FS, the EP sounds different. Everyone would be able to hear the progress. I can't wait for it to be out.

Damn, I'm talking again, but you know, if I like a band, I don't know my brother. Anything you want to say to the fans? To the promoters? To the government? To the Facebook debaters? There's room.

Jakub, first of all, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak out. We could probably have conducted the interview with ourselves, but that wouldn't have been the right thing to do... -)) You did a great job. I like reading your site, you know that.

To the fans I want to say: By supporting Lavadome production, you are supporting us too, thanks. To the promoters: We don't play gigs for the travelling costs anymore -)) I won't say anything to the government. I didn't vote for this bunch. To the FB debaters: Wake up and just be factual. Everyone can just criticize.

Thanks for your time!

Thank you so much for the interview. I appreciate it. I look forward to more music from !T.O.O.H.! or just a beer concert somewhere. I wish you all the best in your personal lives and may strength follow your steps.

about !T.O.O.H.! on DEADLY STORM ZINE:

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