Interview: Samael

Samael, the industrial black metal masters from Switzerland are back! On October 13th they will release their new album, Hegemony, which also marks Samael’s 30 year anniversary. DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen spoke with Samael’s guitarist/vocalist Vorph about Hegemony, amongst other things.

Hey, congratulations with your new, upcoming album!

Thank you very much!

Looking forward to releasing it?

Yes, it has been six years in the making so I look forward to have it finally released.

It’s a really cool album.


In January you signed with Napalm Records for releasing Hegemony, as it is called. What made Napalm Records the best label for releasing it?

We have tried a few labels before, we had a agreement with Nuclear Blast for three albums. We actually finished the album before looking for a label to release it and Napalm was already interested in us before. This time we really wanted to have an label that could spend time on us. About Nuclear Blast, who are great but very big, I was sure they would not spend so much time on us. We discussed about it with the people from Napalm, who are very dynamic at the moment, really on the rise. They are the best option for us.

When you compare Hegemony to its predecessor Lux Mundi (2011), what do you notice?

I see it as a following. Since some time already we tried to focus ourselves to what we thought was the most important. Trying to have an album that we can say here it is what we are. In the past we had a lot of experimentations and we enjoyed doing them, but somehow those were not exactly what really belongs in our core. With Lux Mundi, our previous album, we reached that point. We finally had an album of which we could say, this is what we are, what we do. This album is build on that, kind of next level.

The cover of Hegemony is created by Patrick Pidoux, who already did some other Samael covers. What’s the story behind this one?

We spend some time on the cover, it’s a long story. At some point we thought we would like to name the album Samael too. So, we went with the cover, but we already had a song called Samael. So we thought that if the album was also called Samael, it would put so much focus on that song and the rest will not have the places they deserve. So, we went for the opening track, Hegemony, which we thought would fit. We changed some little details and now it is how we wanted it.

The lyrics are mostly about the world we live in nowadays, what do you think of today’s world?

There is a big connection with this album and the present time. That wasn’t really something we were looking for, it just happened that way. On the previous albums we always pretty much isolated ourselves, created our bubble and stayed in it. After recording we came back to reality. Nowadays, you almost can’t do that. Information is coming at you all the time, it parasites on creative things and that made the connection. I don’t see it as good or bad, but it’s true.

When I read the lyrics it came to mind that it describes a lot is wrong in nowadays world.

I don’t know, I am not trying to judge it. There has been a lot of wrong things before in a different way. Personally we are trying to be the best possible in the world we live in. It’s a fact that at the moment a lot of people are stepping back. Maybe they are afraid of the future or because of things they are unknown with. The media also scares them all the time. I don’t think we judge it, we said it the way we feel it. It’s more a reflection, a mirror of the world. It’s not a confrontation but a response. When something comes at you, you take it for granted or you react. There is also part of reaction in the lyrics.

Hegemony marks Samael’s 30th anniversary, how do you look back at those years?

I don’t really look back. Of course, as we’re talking about it, I do. This is our 30th anniversary, but furthermore we didn’t plan anything special. We didn’t want to have a special tour or something. The best way to celebrate it for us, was to do this new album. We’re not looking in the past, we aren’t a nostalgic band. We look forward, we come with an album which is really strong. It makes sense of the many things we have done. We are moving forward, this is not an album which is looking at the past.

Since you already have a long history, is there anything still on your Samael wishlist for the future?

Of course there is, a lot of things. It’s always the same thing, do a new album and do a tour. Now, when the album is done, we want to present those songs. We already played live many times, but we haven’t played much of this material. We want to present it to the people, play it live to them. After that, I don’t know. Probably at some point, we feel like we should do a new album, it’s like a circle-thing. It’s very basic, but it still gives a kick. It doesn’t have to be more than that.

Nothing on your wishlist you haven’t done before?

It’s pretty much playing shows, there are many places we haven’t played so far. I would say Japan, we look forward to play there once. It might happen next year, hopefully. We haven’t played Asia in general, Australia, didn’t play a proper tour in South America. We played some shows there, but we would really like to play something like ten or twenty shows in South America. A lot of other places too of course.

You and Xy are brothers. How is having family in your band?

It’s been easy for us. At the time we started playing together, still living at our parents’ place, so we always played together. We were rehearsing every day. After our bassplayer joined in, you can’t keep that tempo, so at that time we rehearsed around three times a week. Now, there is some more distance, we don’t live together, we each have our own live. We still have the connection through the music, so it’s kind of a red line for both of us. When I remember things in my life, quite often I think of it as around which album it was. Those are the landmarks of my life. This is the backbone of my life.

Since you formed in a period without internet, what do you think about it, as an artist?

It changed a lot of things, but it was also progressing. So I got used to it, I can’t tell you whether it is better before or now. Of course, somehow it’s better today, communication is easier. When you made a song you can distribute it through internet to a lot of people. Back then you have to record it on cassette and then you will have to find people to send those cassettes to, which made it a really slow process. At that time it all went very slow, you had to share flyers to get people hear about you. Nowadays it gets a lot faster, but on the other side there are a lot more bands so it’s more difficult today to be noticed. We probably are lucky to already have a name before it got out of proportion as it is nowadays.

And what about piracy?

Of course on a different level, but it also existed before internet. There will always be people who love to hear music, but don’t want to pay for it. There’s nothing you can do against it. Personally, besides playing music, I also am a fan of music. I always paid for my music, it is some sort of respect.

You already announced four upcoming tourdates at this moment. Can we expect more tourdates in support of Hegemony?

Definitely, at the moment we are looking for an European tour, but nothing is confirmed yet, so I can’t give you any info yet.

Will The Netherlands probably be part of it?

We will definitely want to come to The Netherlands, if we can’t do a clubshow there, we will come to a festival. It’s one of the places we played a lot, especially in the early days. It always is a good place for us, so we are definitely looking forward to that.

What are some differences between audiences you saw?

There can even be a difference between the audiences in the same country. You’ll never know how the response is going to be. You have to convince the people at the concert. We always prepare to give a great show and look to make a connection with the audience, that will decide how the show will go. When that connection is made, everything will go great. If not, you have to fight through the show to keep the people interested.

What does a Samael show look like?

Well, you should come to see one.

Would be nice!

Well, we play our songs and try to give them a different dimension than on the record. Studio and live are two different things and so we aren’t trying to do it live the exact same way as in the studio.

What do you like more, touring or studio?

I like both, at first I liked playing live more, but then I learned to love the studio. Studio times are great times too, it is more intellectual, you think and discuss about your music and try things multiple times. Live is more like you know your songs and you have to show it, I really like that too. Live and studio are two absolutely different things for me, I really like both of them.

Besides releasing Hegemony and some, already confirmed, shows, are there already any other future Samael plans you can tell something about?

Actually no, but I think this is already quite something. This is a very exciting moment and we will see. We will look forward to what’s coming.

Thanks for your answers! Is there something you want to say to DutchMetalManiac’s readers?

It was a pleasure. I hope they going to check our album, Hegemony and I hope they are going to like it. Because we spent a lot of time on it and I sincerely think this is our best album, like every artist will say when they have a new album, but just listen to it and make up your mind.

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