Interview with VK (Guitars, Vocals)
Interview by Demitri Levantis
We caught up with New Zealand’s black and death metal outfit Vassafor to discuss their new album and what the band have in store for the future.
Hi and thanks for your time. Let’s begin with the new album “To The Death”, how long has it been in production?
It was started after our performance in Berlin at the first Never Surrender festival and wrapped up in the first months of MMXX.
Does it cover any topics you haven’t tried before, anything different from death worship or satanism?
No, we are consistent. If it wasn’t to do with Satanism then it wouldn’t be black metal, and we ARE a black metal band, not death metal, doom metal or whatever else we seem to be classed as.
How would you say your band differs from the rest of New Zealand’s black and death metal scene?
Us and Sinistrous Diabolus were here since the 90s and go our own directions. Although one of the best things about NZ scene is that our bands don’t tend to follow trends or even each other’s styles. Exordium Mors are their own band, as are Winter Deluge, Blood of the Moon or older bands like Witchrist, Ulcerate, Skuldom and Anno Domini Mortus (RIC). Not a single one of the bands mentioned sound alike…
Your press release describes you as a mix of black and death metal, would you say this is accurate or do you have your own way of describing your sound?
We are black metal because of the lyrical content. We play metal that we consider dark, so whether that’s extreme metal of a death metal style to some I wouldn’t know. I like our music to be evil sounding, no matter what micro-genre others consider it.
Your press says this album is your “most direct statement yet”, could you elaborate on that, please?
I don’t think anyone hearing this record would consider us anything other than a black metal band. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel.
For anyone new to your music, can you tell us where the band name comes from and why you chose it?
I heard the name spoken by a voice inside a dream when young. That was the first step that leads to where we are now.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you, have you had to cancel gigs or tours?
We endure and thrive during a crisis. In fact, as of this date (July 29th), we are just over a week away from playing 2 gigs with Ulcerate in Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand. We have no restrictions on audience sizes as our country has a handle on the virus, at this stage anyway. Satan moves in mysterious ways…
Have there been any changes in the instruments you employed on the new album, and would you recommend them to any musicians reading this?
Much the same as usual, we record as a 2 piece. Although our other guitarist contributed a good dose of the solos on here as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and our bassist are involved with next recordings now we have a solid lineup and have for several years now. We add a lot of extra things sitting under the surface of the mix in our songs, but most are recorded elements rather than samples, even if they aren’t played on conventional instruments.
What inspired you to start the band in the first place, was there something you felt you could bring that other bands could not?
I was always playing music and dreaming about it since I was young. Brought up around music and musicians. It was inevitable. I don’t ever think of music as a competition, but only in terms of what music I am “hearing” in my mind. Having said that I’m not so sure what bands we sound a lot alike. Easier for others to judge that.
Are there any major non-musical influences on Vassafor like art, books, etc? Is there anything from NZ’s surroundings or culture that influences your music?
Mostly it is books, artwork as well, but especially authors and conceptual non-fiction writing. I would never compare my writing to his but I like to read authors with exceptional prose style or language and hope it rubs off. Authors like Cormac McCarthy or Thomas Ligotti can write more with a single sentence than many can from multiple paragraphs, I certainly strive to get to a level stripped of excess one day.
You’re releasing “To The Death” on CD, cassette tape and vinyl, do you have any preference on which of these mediums you think is best for your sound?
LPs are always going to be a favourite with the artwork and design elements available to have an effective visual side to compliment the audio, but I still have a love of tapes. The hardiest format that refuses to die. When I play Vassafor music on my stereo, it’s very often on tape.
What do you make of NZ’s metal scene today and how has it changed in your time?
Well, it’s still completely underground, and we can expect absolutely no help from anyone else here so it makes every band that really wants to do things be self-reliant and do it themselves. Certainly many more bands now, and quite a number able to release things overseas and get their music out there. So that’s is a far cry from the early and mid-90s when very few overseas gave a shit about NZ metal bands.
What about black metal in general today, what do you make of the genre’s growth across the world?
Plenty of bands now, but probably the same percentages of good vs garbage. A lot of new bands in the underground releasing great demos and EPs, and established bands that are popular and complete shit in my view. At least it’s not in this idiotic mode of thinking just because a band comes from a certain country it must be good. Of course, morons still think that way, but they are sheep that are marketed too so their opinions are meaningless.
What bands are you listening to most right now, and would you recommend any?
I listen a lot to the bands I am working with for mixing and mastering obviously, but in terms of last few months I’ve especially been listening to both Aethyrick albums, Mekong Delta new album (absolutely killer), Evilfeast (all of it), Abigor, Culto Profano, Mortem (always), Nyogthaeblisz, Nexul, Blot Mine, the 2nd Funereal Presence LP still, Helstar (often), the finally released Pentagrammaton of Ofermod and as always lots of Mercyful Fate. Some are new, but mostly just records out of the collection.
Newer releases and/or newer bands I really like are Necrobode, Deathwomb, can’t get enough of the Hellvetron album from last year still, Bloody Sacrifice from Chile, Prophets of Doom, Invocation, Temple Desecration, NZ band Cruor Vexilium, the Concrete Winds LP is fucking great, the Orthodoxy LP, another NZ band Crypt Incursion and Human Agony from Canada and recently heard the Urwerk demo which is fucking amazing. All are quality in my book. I also mixed and mastered a killer band from Poland called Rites of Daath earlier this year, check out their album if you are into Dark Death Metal, a deadly strike! Force of Darkness is still probably the greatest band in the underground still to me currently active…
Do you have any venues or festivals you like to play? Where would you like to play most once touring gets back on the road?
Touring is more what we prefer, festivals (mostly) aren’t really great for bands in terms of any atmosphere or controlling your elements and presenting things the way we prefer. The Never Surrender first edition in Berlin and Austrian festival Celebrare Noctem were notable exceptions in my more recent experience, both were fantastically run, killer lineups and attracted quality crowds that had great taste in Metal. But touring with like-minded bands is best for black metal I think. For people actually possessed by the music, they want to see. Many bands we would like to tour with, but of course, South America would be the ultimate area to really get to tour across. Eastern Europe as well. We need to play in Greece, Poland and Finland especially. It would be basically following our musical roots.
Does Vassafor employ a DIY ethos as you say you exist “on your own terms”, and if so how do you go about that ethos?
We do. We create everything using our gear and in our own consecrated spaces. Once I have down all the steps for recording we are able to give it to our Iron Bonehead and know it’s in the hands of a label we can trust 100%. We can go in any direction and be Vassafor. We choose how and when to do our live performances and at what level we choose to conduct it at. We are limited by nothing.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
Well, it certainly isn’t doing interviews…
Finally, do you have anything to say to our readers?
Hail Satan, to the death…
Thank you so much for joining us, we wish you all the best with what the future brings.
Vassafor’s new album: To The Death is out now on Iron Bonehead Productions.
1. To the Death
2. Egregore Rising
4. Black Talon
5. The Burning Ìthyr
6. Emanation from the Abyss