neděle 11. prosince 2022

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Interview - CORTEGE - A dark, crushing death metal ceremony!

Interview with death metal band from Poland - CORTEGE.

Answered Sebastian Bartek (Bass, Vocals), thank you!

Translated Duzl, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Ave CORTEGE! Greetings to the Polish underground. I hope everything is fine with you. It should be because this year you have released a third full-length album in your band's career. I have to admit it has literally blown my mind. It is dark, energic and as if it cuts by the sharp edge of the knife. I can hear from the record you did a really good job, and you added a big portion of the talent, too. How do you perceive the new album in comparison to the previous one? Where did you want to move and in what are these two records different?

Hello Jakub, things are fine, thanks for asking and yes, you are quite right, everything is OK because our new album has been out for seven days as I write these words. It is also very nice to hear that you like “Vandari” which is fantastic because we put a lot of work into it. Whispering Voice is taking care of things now and I must admit, they’re doing a pretty god job. We can only hope that the cooperation will be better and better with time.

As for comparisons, “Vandari” is another step up in our music. “Touching the Void” was the best we could achieve back in 2016 and our new album is the peak of our skills, writing, performance now, or to be exact, at the time we were preparing and recording the new songs, because it’s been a couple of months since the album was completed. If I may notice here, “Touching the Void” was created in more peaceful times, so to say. We’d had a stable line up since 2010, gigged regularly and thought it would last. Then, just right after we started working on “Vandari” our guitarist announced, he would not be able to play with us anymore, so we called for our old friend with whom we recorded our two first demos, and fortunately, he agreed to join us, but when we decided to enter the studio, he also left us, then this whole pandemic circus began, so we could not enter the studio, because it was closed. There were also some minor obstacles I won’t mention here but I assure that solving those problems was time consuming and sometimes frustrating.

“Vandari“ includes all attributes of good death metal. For me personally, it represents the record, which I really like to listen to. How did you produce it? How look the writing process of new material in the case of CORTEGE?

Since 1996 the process of creating our albums hasn’t changed at all, it means that first Artur brings some riffs and together with the drummer they’re put together. Once the music is done, I prepare the lyrics and arrange vocal lines. That is pretty much it. When we have enough material for the new album, we book a studio and record it. We have no time pressure, no obligation so the whole process goes naturally. No big magic about it, just time, sweat and perfecting the songs until we are satisfied.

I found out that Artur Ambroży is signed under the mix and mastering of the new record. I have to confirm that the sound is literally killing. It still makes me add volume to the player. Arthur has created a sound that is cruel, raw and at the same time dark and organic. How went the work with him and why did you choose him? In which studio did you record it? How did the recording process look like?

Jarek Tiofl is the producer but Artur was at every stage of the album production, he always is. You could say he is some kind of control freak. He’s got all what he wants to hear already planned but he is also open for some new options if they come up even at the stage of recording or mixing. As for the studio and the producer, Jarek is the guy we worked with on „Touching the Void“. That album we recorded in Orion Studio in Wodzisław Śląski and later took it to MAQ Records where Jarek did the mix and mastered it. Now, we did both recording and production at MAQ Records. Jarek is a passionate man and he lives for music, different kinds of music. He is a recognized producer and he’s worked with lots of really popular artist in Poland. His experience and profound knowledge of this art influenced „Vandari“ in a positive way, of that I am sure. Besides, Jarek is a funny, outgoing guy, you like to spend time with so recording instruments, vocals or working on the final shape of the album was a real pleasure. Frankly saying, it’s a kind of enigma why in such a good atmosphere we managed to prepare an album you wouldn’t call optimistic or funny?

An important part and a kind of extra bonus for fans today is the physical CD. You released the new album at CD through Whispering Voice Records, and it has a corpsy cover art. Who is the author? Do I explain well the picture when I would think it is a demon of darkness? How did you choose the motif and how does it relate to the music at the record?

Yes, we are old schoolers and releasing a new album only as a digital version was never an option. I do not claim that listening to music from services like Spotify or Tidal is something wrong, or if you don’t own a CD or, vinyl or cassette you are a poser. Times change, people change, there is no need to feel offended by that. You want to have our music on your phone? Who am I to forbid it to you? Do as you wish, that’s fine.

As for the cover art it’s a work of a fantastic artist, who happens to be our drummer, Kamil. I think the idea of putting Kamil’s painting on the cover of our album emerged when we worked on our previous record but do not ask me why it didn’t happen, I just don’t remember. As for “Vandari”, we agreed to this title a year ago, so Kamil had plenty of time to prepare something related to it. Artur and I liked the painting right away. I am always happy when every member of the band contributes to the album in a way, it gives the feeling that it is really a teamwork. As for what you see in the picture it is the Vandari itself, or how Kamil sees it. A demon, whose name was a mix of three words, which are VANDALS + DARKNESS + I. I picked the name from the terrifying book called “Not without my sister”, describing the life in a sex cult called The Children of God. In a nutshell, Vandari was another tool of controlling those who wanted to leave the cult, a kind of a demon to keep the followers in line and obey the will of the highest priest or whatever you want to call that dirty bastard.

I wonder what the lyrics on the new album "Vandari" are about. Who is the author and where is his inspiration?

As I already mentioned, I am the author of all the lyrics. These are usually my personal demons, things I believe are important, or worth singing about, though I avoid writing about them in a direct way. The lyrics show things, people usually are familiar with but in a twisted, reversed way. Funny thing about writing, I remember an interview with David Lynch, a reporter asked him about a certain detail in Mulholland Drive, if I remember correctly, he wanted to know, what it was supposed to symbolize, and David answer “I don’t know, we just had an idea, to put it there.”. I guess, I sometimes work this way. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I like it. If you read closely and keep in mind everything I’ve said, you will find religion, depression, stupidity, politics, and a lot of different things in the lyrics, so “Buckle up and hold on tight, here the journey begins.”. As for an inspiration, there is a lot of things around. You don’t have to look for them you just have to keep your eyes wide open.

I have been wandering the underground for over thirty years and I still go to Poland for music with certainty. I think we have a similar nature and taste when it comes to metal. I like your bands a lot and I monitor your scene carefully. Maybe I envy you a little, because we only have a few death metal bands that are worth it. How do you explain that black and death metal are doing so well in your country? How do you perceive your scene, fans, labels?

A friend of mine once noticed that in Poland we do great death metal and in the Czech Republic you do great grind core. I think it’s hard to disagree with this remark. On the other hand, one of my Czech friends who is also a musician, and a music producer wondered why black metal still exists in the Czech Republic since they have really nothing to fight against. Death metal or black metal, as you know, are usually a kind of response to the reality, it is a kind of disagreement with what you see, hear, experience, and believe me we’ve got in Poland tons of crap we are not happy about, so you can see, or hear it in music.

As for the scene, it isn’t what it was twenty, thirty years ago, but there are good bands, a couple of labels, magazines, zines and they keep the scene alive. As for the Czech Republic I like Krabathor, Hypnos or Tortharry very much, also our friends from Bloody Obsession, or Soul Massacre with whom we shared the stage are worth mentioning. These are very good bands and there is no shame about them. I am also aware that in your country there is also lots of stuff to rebel against.

You play devastating death metal influenced by, among other things, the American school. Today, the band can't avoid comparisons, but I would like to know how the idea to start CORTEGE was born, who was and is your metal idol? Where do you want to move your band? Are you attracted to large foreign festivals, for example, are you willing to go on tour with a more famous band?

The band was started by Artur and his friend, also Artur about the year 1996. They played together for a while, then I joined the band and finally we found a drummer, so we could have proper rehearsals. A year or two later we had a new guitarist, Łukasz, and a new drummer, Michał. With this line up we recorded our firs demo, “Awareness” which was released on a cassette in 2000, and that was how it all began. Between that time and the present time, a lot of things have happened, but it is a long and sometimes boring story so let us spare it to the readers.

Comparisons? Artur is a great fan of Morbid Angel, from which he was widely known among the people who knew him, when he was a teenager. Since he made the music, we were constantly compared to this band. We never wanted to copy Trey’s group but what we wanted to make music both brutal and, let’s be honest, a little bit catchy, like MA did. We were never interested in pushing the limits of speed or brutality just to be super-fast of super brutal. I like when you can remember a song, that is why songs on our albums differ from one another, to keep the listener interested. I appreciate when a band can surprise me. I myself like many artists from many genres and though metal or rock is still 80% of what I listen to, you will find on my playlist Depeche Mode, Gershwin, Miles Davis, Penderecki or Dvořák. I don’t want to butter you up, but I also like Czech rock bands like Kabát, Traktor, Dymytry or Daniel Landa.

As for where we see ourselves in five years time, I would say that we do not really know. We will do everything to present the name Cortege to as many people as possible. Gigs? Yes, but now we do not have a second guitarist, so we try to decide, whether to hire someone or perform as a three-piece band. I love playing gigs, for me it’s always been the most important part of being in a band.

Sure, I would go on a tour with a band I’m a fan of, and it doesn’t matter if we were to play in clubs or on large festivals.

When I started my website six years ago, I had a vision that I would try to support bands that are not so much popular, or they are lost in underground. To let the world knows about them. I think I'm doing quite well, at least according to the responses. How do you approach the promotion of your music? Do you rely upon the label, or do you send the CDs for various reviews by yourself? For example, I buy albums that I really enjoy. What about you? Are you also fans who often support your colleagues? Do you go to concerts?

The label is one thing, and they do what they think is good for the band or for the business, but we also try to help and come out with some initiatives, like making a video. I mentioned, we are old schoolers, and we still remember flayers, tape trading and this kind of stuff. However, we know that nowadays we need something else, that is why we are on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube. Without this you would have to go to everyone’s houses and leave the info in their mailboxes, which is impossible, of course. Yes, you can stay in your basement, garage and make your music for yourself, it’s not forbidden, but if you want people to hear about you, you need those means of communication, whether you like them or not. Yes, tape trading, writing letters, it was all fun and necessity back in the 80’s or 90’s, now we live in a different world.

As a fan, I go to the gigs of my friends and I pay for the tickets, I see no problem about that. I also buy a CD when it’s the kind of music I like. I am afraid, I am a collector so sometimes it’s hard to say “no” to the chance to purchase another piece to my collection.

I go to concerts every two months, on average. I love going to see a band live, especially when it is a band I have not seen before.

On the one hand, today the new band has a lot of opportunities to make themselves more known, but on the other hand, there are a huge number of groups, and the fans are getting lost in this big metal sea. A lot of people just download mp3s from the internet and instead of to visit the concert they prefer to spit poisonous saliva on Facebook. How do modern technologies affect you as CORTEGE? What do you think about downloading music, google metalists, streaming music, etc.?

I made my point earlier, there is no use to cry over the fact that times have changed. Repeating on and on that it was better two or three decades ago is silly and shows that the person is an old fart. Instead of criticizing new technologies we should try to think of how they can be used to serve our purposes. As I mentioned, like many bands nowadays, we have profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, our music is easily accessible. The point is how to make people notice you in the hundreds of albums released every day.

As for the Internet critics, I really do not care. Let them write, probably they have their reasons to do it. I don’t want to waste any more time to them.

I like to ask the musicians what death metal means to them. How would they define it, whether it is more the philosophy and lifestyle thing for them or "just" relaxation? What does it mean for you? How do you perceive and experience it?

In a way, I define myself through this music, I listen to it almost every day, so it is constantly present in my life. Over the years I’ve played in a couple of bands, had a label, written to some music magazines, interviewed bands, and attended tons of gigs. It’s never been my job and usually it cost me a lot of time and money, but I’ve done it, anyway. Reasons? Love for this kind of music, maybe I was possessed? Who knows. After all those years I do not think about me and music separately. Music is a part of me, and since I am also a musician, I am a part of this music either. No matter how enigmatically it sounds, this is the way the things are.

Finally, a classic but important question. What is CORTEGE planning in the upcoming months? Where can we see you at the stage and when will you visit the Czech and Slovak Republics again?

When we have a new guitarist, we start gigging again and that is something I am looking forward to. To play in the Czech Republic? What a question? Always. We’ve played in your country many times so far, mainly because it is close to us. For almost twenty-five years I practically lived on the Polish – Czech boarder. I have a lot of Czech friends and spent there a lot of time partying, so if anyone invites us, we’ll come. As a matter of fact, Neurotic Machinery, whom we are sending our ‘hello’ here, are to organize a gig for us in return for the concert we prepared for them two, or three years ago.

Thank you so much for the interview. I wish a lot of success to the new album and let the number of your fans expand as much as possible. I will look forward to seeing you somewhere live again. I wish you a lot of success both musically and personally. I'm going to push " Vandari" into my head again!

Thank you very much, Jakub. I can also hope we meet during a gig and dame se pivo nebo dva. We have always been well received in Czech Republic so I believe that “Vandari” will possess metalheads in your country.

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