Face to face Interview with Abgott
5th of December 2014
Interview by Ancient Winds
Photography by Graham Hilling
After a long 5 years break, the Abgott horde is finally back in December 2014 with their fifth opus majestically called “Masters of Illusions”. With a new fresh line-up, this melodic black metal band has just finished its European tour along with their friends Throne of Molok. Tonight is Abgott’s unique date of the year in the UK. We have taken this opportunity to discuss with their leader Agamoth and his new musicians just before the beginning of their last European tour concert. I would like to deeply thank him for his warm welcome and for the time he gave us to answer our questions about his new album.
Hails Agamoth! First of all, could you please tell me briefly what happened since the release of your last album “Godfather In Black” until now?
Well, “Godfather in Black” was in 2009 if I’m correct and that was after “Artefact of Madness”. So, what happened? We played a lot. We did several gigs, you know the usual festivals like Bloodstock, Hammerfest, Deathfest and others. Then, I think I needed a break. Since our first 1999 demo, after 10 years, I definitely needed a break. So before jumping straight to the new album which is kind of 5 years later, I really said I want to take care of my own business.
You know, I’ve been playing music for almost 13 years now, so I concentrated on myself a little more into that which was good. I explored lots of fields so I started to play not just black metal but writing songs in different styles. I have the chance to be sessionning with several bands of power metal, thrash metal, not just my style of music. The little break I took from the band was kind of good because it gave me a chance to express myself better than what I’ve done so far. And obviously, that’s why I started to decide that I wanted to change of environment. You know, London is in my heart, I love it. My heart is in London, this city has grown me up, it made me turn into a man in good and bad. So, I will always stay here. But I wanted to explore the world a little bit more, despite having been to Europe extensively, you know, going East, North, South, West, I’ve done it all. I really needed to take a break. So, I decided to move to the States.
The fact that I had a prospective, which I think I took the decision in January 2012 or 2011… No, January 2011! I did a gig in South London and I said I think I’m going to the States now, just out of the blue, right? So, I planned it and it took me a little while. While I planned the trip over there, I actually started to write a new album. So, it’s not that I haven’t done anything. Abgott is all that is alive. I cannot kill it. It will die with me but until I’m alive, it is alive. I took a sabbatical year, I went to the Caribbean, better weather. I’ve had enough for snow, wind and rain everyday and as they say over here, if you don’t like it, leave it! So that’s what I did. I went to the Cayman Islands, I’ve stayed there one year and a half so far. But despite being in sabbatical year, when you play music, you cannot stay away from it. So, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in Louisiana in New Orleans and I mixed my way of playing with the typical New Orleans sounds, a bit of jazz and blues influences.
I’ve been to Los Angeles, doing quite a few auditions for several TV series and auditions for a couple of movies. And I actually got it! So probably you guys, you’ll have another nightmare when you switch on the TV and say: “What the hell is he doing on TV now?!” (Laughs). Yeah, I’ll be there too. Obviously, between 2012 and 2013, I managed to make a cameo appearance in a movie with David Frankel called “One Chance”. That was quite cool because I was having so much to do with live music or forced to do an album ASAP. I could explore my other passion which is acting. So yeah, I think the past five years have been intense in a different way, a little bit more self exploring. I had a chance to cut off people who were destroying my life. So, I changed my way of approaching, feelings, sentiments and my way of approaching personal aspects of my life basically. Yeah, it was good.
Let’s talk about your new album “Masters of Illusions” now. How would you describe it in general and does it represent a new change for the band or not?
Well, “Masters of Illusions” is a little bit me being… I’m always upset! One thing you can be sure with me: I’m always upset. I’m smiling, I’m upset for something, so my music is upset about something. Even this time, I was upset a little bit for how the whole London scene and whole UK scene is being deteriorated or fractured. And with “Masters of Illusions”, in terms of concept, I used that sort of lyrics, that sort of extreme metal sound to say how annoyed the whole thing is. It’s not an album about negative things, believe it or not.
It’s actually an album to say: “Hey! Wake up and fight.” I’m upset at the infrastructure that has kind of ruined the passion into metal music. At the end of the day, metal music has been born and generated here in the UK. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal screams miles and somehow there is nothing coming out of it at the moment that actually manages to stands out. And I’m actually taking that in consideration why this is happening. It’s not due to the musicians because each guitarist, bassist, drummer and others are all passionate about what they do. But it is no money, it is no help, it is no… Again! Infrastructure. Even the venues, they’re closing down.
The Mayor of London is decided to change the underground systems and so on… And the scene is gone! And this is gone and that is gone! We kind of get pushed out of our boundaries a little bit, so “Masters of Illusions” is about that. Musically, it’s a bit different. I always love my heavy metal so instead of playing progressive or technical black metal or death metal, I’ve said I’ve had enough for that too. I’ve expressed myself quite enough into that. Unless it comes with the age… When I was 21, I liked to kill everybody with music that is. When I was 25, I liked to be the most technical guitarist and now that I’m almost 40, I’m like I just want to enjoy the thing you know. You grow up with things, I’m not leaving it. It’s still with me and it will still be with me. So, “Masters of Illusions” is different from the previous albums but again, as I was saying to one of your colleagues before, each album is different. I don’t like to repeat myself.
How would you describe your style of music? Is the label “Melodic Black Metal” appropriate for you?
Yeah, I understand that. I’m not a big fan of labels (laughs)! No worries, I’m not upset as you. I’m just laughing for real this time. I’m not a big fan of labels so, melody, harmonies… For me, you have no music unless you have melodies. You have no music unless you have harmonies. They come together. So what we do is Metal. Yeah, there are elements that can be recognized as black metal. There are elements that can be recognized as thrash metal. There are elements that can be recognized as death metal, heavy metal, blablabla… It’s metal. Again, I’m not just playing a distorted guitar. I’m doing it in a way that expresses our feelings as a band or as an individual.
Melodic? Hum… No. We can’t be described like that. In terms of melodic metal, everybody thinks of power metal or classic heavy metal. No, we definitely cannot be described like that because we are noisy, we are raw and tonight, something is going to happen. I took off all the elements of crystalline clean sound in guitars and crystalline clean sound in drums. I want to go back in the nineties. I want to have a punk rock type of approach. So, we’re going to be really punk/black metal tonight (laughs) just as to speak. And there is melody of course but our vision of melody. So, good luck with that!
“Masters of Illusions” has just been released through the label Helvete & Hate Records, the same one since almost the beginning of your career. Have you ever sent some demos to other labels to get some better opportunities?
Well, Helvete & Hate Records was originally just Helvete since 1992 and then, they joined with another group of people that made the Hate part. So, it became Helvete & Hate. And now, Helvete & Hate is part of Stage Fright Music which is another company. Labels and record companies are not the same anymore. They’re going to hate me. But I honestly don’t care because they don’t care about me. So why should I fucking care about them? They are dinosaurs. Labels are dinosaurs unless they evolve and accept a new way of doing things.
With Internet and the way it works, they’re going to die. Reason for that is the manufacturing companies have adapted. You can print whatever you want, when you want and at an affordable price, especially for the USA. And record labels have become now obsolete. Yes, I could go and bother the usual suspect of the metal scene and say: “Hey! Can you put out my album?” But what they’re going to do really? They’re going to produce maybe 10 000 copies, promote a little bit and then say: “Alex, we have paid a good 7 000 Euros or pounds or dollars and now, you owe us this money”.
Now, tell me what’s the difference of doing that and going to the bank to say: “Can I have 7 000 Euros or whatever because I’ve got to do this?” Right? Or you say: “I’ve got 2 years time, I’m going to work and every month, I’m going to put around 100 pounds and in a couple of years, I’m going to do come out with another album, do another tour and do another release. It’s exactly the same thing. Labels are just “do it yourself!” That’s how it works and this is the future. So, as a band, I don’t mind going with the same company because at the end of the day, it’s the same job with anybody else. I’m treated well, I’m here today. I flew from Charlotte to go on tour in Europe. I’m now in London and I will fly back to the States on Sunday. So, honestly, why should I bother a record company to pay for that? That was the eighties, it’s not going to happen ever again. And I promise you, if you look at bands like Metallica, they have labels obviously but they own the rights of their own music. That’s smart. Yourself, you produce, you manufacture and you get the money. The label helps you out, obviously at their stage it’s very easy to do it because they have the name. A smaller band can do the same. I mean, we have an underground band playing tonight Mørktår and they do it themselves. You look at them, they have t-shirts, they have pins, patches, CDs… What is that? That’s what a label does. We asked them if they want to play, they said yes and there you go. They’re going to play tonight, they did promotion by doing that. Will a label do that? Hum, yeah maybe a label can put you in a bigger tour but if you are honest enough and do your job properly, you’ll end up in a big tour anyway.
Soon or later, those bands are going to disappear. So whoever is surviving, these will go ahead you know. Helvete & Hate? Yeah they’re good. I’m OK, they don’t call me for money (laughs). I don’t call them for money, they just put the mark on whatever it is so it doesn’t look like a demo. I’m happy with it, I do everything myself full stop.
Are you planning to do 1 or 2 video clips for the new album like you did in the past for your previous releases?
Agamoth: Yeah, video clips are always good fun but unfortunately, the fact is we are miles away now you know. My band is in London and I’m in the States. It’s a little bit awkward. So, what we do is we try to be smarter. We collect a lot of images, we collect a lot of recordings, we collect as much as we can and then we decide what to do. I don’t know if you’ll do the usual videos because I’m bored of it. I’m a person who gets bored quite easily. So the usual band playing, the scenario… I’ve done it. The horror scenario like the horror film “28 Days Later”, I’ve done it. I want to do something different again. So, there will be videos, maybe a documentary… Who knows!
Maybe the next video will be just a DVD of a recollection of the past 20 years. So, instead to do a 3 minutes video for a song, I prefer to do something of half an hour or 1 hour so you know more about us. There you go, that’s what happens. There are lots of biographies nowadays and it seems everybody has to have a book. Yeah that’s nice but you know, maybe people get bored to read a book. If you do a documentary, then you can sticks it somewhere in a computer and watch it like: “Oh yeah I like that! Oh yeah, I remember that!” It’s going to be good for us too because we actually had the chance to recollect a lot of memories, me and
Azael: “Oh you remember that! Yeah, that part!”
Azael: Glad we didn’t have a camera back then!
Agamoth: Oh man! Very glad! So, all those elements actually made a big difference. Maybe we’re going to do some special release and put that one for everybody to see a little bit of our 20 years of Abgott.
By the way, I really like all the video clips you have done so far…
Of course you do! There are lots of chicks on them!
… Not because of that but due to the fact I’m a big fan of horror films. So, I would like to know what’s your favourite horror film!
All right, OK. Too many to describe, mate. Put it this way: in “Masters of Illusions” I challenge body to recognize one movie I’ve hidden in the lyrics, OK? I love the eighties. I’ve been a little bit naughty. I went through all my eighties horror movies collections, I picked up lines from everywhere and stuck them in my lyrics. I promise they are printed so there is no way you cannot find them. They are printed in the record, you just need to find them. So, if you are a horror fan, good luck with that! My favourite horror movie… Let me think…
Sorry, that’s a difficult question…
Agamoth: No, no. I can answer it. I will answer it this way. I can tell you which one is my first ever horror movie that I saw as a child and that actually put me into metal before anything else: Phenomena. From Dario Argento, the Italian director. My parents were sick enough to take a six years old boy to see that freaking movie at the theatre, I peed my pants, I didn’t want to leave the car and I didn’t want to sleep because I’m like “something is going to jump on me”! But here you go, that was my first horror movie. I remember that there were the songs “Locomotive“ from Motörhead and “2 Minutes to midnight“ from Iron Maiden (Note: in fact, “2 Minutes to midnight“ hasn’t been used for the film. The chosen song was “Flash Of The Blade” from the album “Powerslave”). That was also my first encounter with heavy metal and it stuck with me. In terms of horror movies, I like Clive Barker, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, all the collections.
I like Hammer Horror a lot because again as a child, I used to see Hammer movies on TV and Christopher Lee was one of my mother’s favourite actors. So, I saw the Christopher Lee’s movies, all the Draculas, The Brides of Dracula, The Son of Dracula and everything related to vampires. Christopher Lee was probably one of the iconic figures who has really left a mark on my life in terms of horror movies. And then of course, I finally had the chance to met the man in London which was awesome and discovered he‘s actually half Italian. I was actually quite surprised he lives in Italy and we were so close so far. In terms of videos, the very first video that we shot was “Kronos’ Cosmic Throne” and that was shot in a couple of days down in Reading in a really abandoned warehouse with a very Spartan approach. The conditions were quite funny.
Azael: One camera in a skateboard as I remember!
Agamoth: Exactly. All I did in that video was trying to represent madness so it was quite mad. It was quite dark with smoke going on, not because we wanted that way but because there were no lights. We literally had 3 lights and the smoke that you see was actually our own steam. That was the situation. Then, we shot “Thy Infernal Fields” and we used the same set they used for the film “28 Days Later”. So, we went to the 3 Mills Studios because we worked with a group of students coming from the London Film School. They said:”Yeah let’s do it!” One of those guys who was actually one of my former work colleagues, said he could help me out. So we went to the 3 Mills which was a fantastic experience. We were lucky because during the first day of shooting, it actually snowed in London. It was in February, I was freaking cold.
The second day, we went to the warehouse that they used for the entrance scene of the “28 Days Later” movie where the monkeys are jumping out of the cage. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the movie. If you’re not, you have to watch it because it’s awesome! Seriously, it’s a great horror movie, you have to watch it. It’s mental, it’s Twilight Zone all over again. Then, for “Lustmord”, we did use something like the London Dungeon but it was called Passage of Terror, in the Trocadero centre in London. We took the place for the whole night, we locked ourselves from 8 o’clock in the evening until 6 o’clock in the morning. Everyone was about to die. We shot everything in one night and then that’s it, I’ve had enough for horror now. I don’t want to do it again. What else left… “Godfather In Black” was a collection of live images that we took from a gig we did at the London Underworld and I made a video out of it. I was bored, didn’t know what to do and picked up my laptop, saying:”That could work!” There you go, you have a video. That’s how we do it really. Next stuff will be different. I can promise you that.
What’s your general opinion of the Italian black metal scene? Do you know personally some bands?
There are loads of bands over there, mate. I mean, it’s like mushrooms. They spawn like… You go to sleep, you have 10 bands. You wake up in the morning and you have 20. Then, you go to sleep again and you got 5. You wake up again and you got 50. It’s insane! Everyone has got a band which is good in a way. It’s hard to find originality unfortunately. So, they tend to copy anything else that has already been done. That is maybe a little bit of a lack of expression. There are also bands that are actually pretty cool. Who I am in contact still? … Handful of Hate. Have you ever heard of them?
You should check them out. They’re mighty and use some sexual themes into their black metal, not just the usual satanic thing. Nicola (the singer) is a very good friend of mine. Whenever we are somewhere in Europe, somehow we manage to meet each other. We didn’t do it this time unfortunately but Nicola is a very good guy. I suggest you listen to his music. They did like 8 or 9 releases so far. I think they are in Germany right now, they should be in Germany doing like a massive festival. In terms of other bands… Throne of Molok. They’re playing with us tonight but they’re not really black metal. They have a little bit of a techno trance mixed with extreme metal, death and thrash metal. They call that something like Nuclear Metal. They’re awesome with their gas masks. Their guitarist Vincenzo (Kaoma Mega) is also our synths player. So, I’ve got an extremely good relationship with them obviously and whenever we have a chance to play, we try to drag them along which is cool. And then I don’t know! There are tons more bands but I really can’t remember all, mate.
What are your projects for the future?
Agamoth: Going back home and chilling out on the beach (laughs)!
Azael: Sleep, sleep, sleep!
Agamoth: We have quite a rough run this time around Europe with the police chasing us… I mean seriously! Due to some passport issues which were not issues. There have been lots of crazy moments that have made our lives not easy. So, I’m really looking forward to come back home. Think it this way: we have 7 degrees outside now and I’m going back to 34 degrees. I will jump on a boat and spend time on the ocean and that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t drink much. This is my first beer in 3 years and it’s an Iron Maiden beer so I need to have it! So, I will jump on a boat and feed some stingrays coming along. The water is shallow. That’s it! I’m going to get tanned! For the next 6 months, I’m planning to organize a West Coast tour for Abgott.
Despite that I’ve got to move to Los Angeles for good this time, my plan is to arrange with tour with them and enjoy a little bit of my life after all what I’ve achieved so far. Honestly, I hope everybody can reach the same at some point as everybody deserves beauty, not just beasts. What else I’m going to do… There is one thing! Basically, our bassist Charlie (Lord) is a crazy songwriter and he has proposed me a couple of ideas already. So he might push me to sit down and play more guitar in the next 6 months. Tim (Azael) is an awesome guitarist and said:”why don’t we reproduce some of the old stuff that people can’t find anymore?” So, we are considering replaying and recording a best-of which is weird in black metal but who cares. I do whatever I want, we do whatever we want…
Azael: We do whatever you want!
Agamoth: Oh thank you! That’s how it works you see? (Laughs). I decide; they do! Very good. We are also preparing a documentary as I was saying before. So there are lots of things ongoing but I don’t like to burn my steak on the fire. I take one piece at a time. All I need for now is to let these boys rest. I need to rest myself and then, we take it from there. Next phase is moving to L.A. and working for at least 2.5 years nonstop. That includes gigs on the West Coast and eventually the launch of a new album.
Thanks a lot Agamoth for your time. Do you have anything special to add?
Thank you for your time, thank you for doing your search. Thank you for not giving up because we need people like you, you know. I’m pretty sure you’re doing this out of your own pocket and your own passion. You don’t get paid as we don’t get paid. So, all I can say is we wish there will be more people like you who do it for the passion of music and not because:”Oh, I want to get paid tonight or I want to get paid at the end of this month!” I really appreciate your support and hope you will not give up. I’m not going to give up, I can promise you that. Unless they kill me and make sure that I’m dead! Abgott is going to carry on. No matter what, no matter how, no matter with whom. Different every time. Good luck for you and thank you ever so much for being here.