First a little personal question. I sent you the current edition of Pařát to England but you are native Polish. Did you come to England for a job, prospect of a better life? How long ago?
It is correct. I moved from Poland to London 6 years ago. I also lived there for 1.5 year in 2007. In Poland I was doing quite well, I had my apartment, a good car and I was the owner of a large real estate agency, but I felt that I had already achieved what I had to achieve there and it was time to leave the comfort zone and try to achieve something more. I was almost 40 when I left, so I thought it was either now or never. England and London have always attracted me. I do not mention metal issues anymore, because there are concerts every day and lots of metal people from all over the world. So far, I am very pleased with my decision to move. Everything turned out much better than I expected.
BLACK ALTAR was founded in the mid-1990s, Odium Records a long time later. Was this a move mainly related to absolute control over BLACK ALTAR recordings? For this reason, I am interested in your relationship with the labels signed under the early works of your band. Of course, I know that last year, after fifteen years, you made the first "Black Altar" album in a self-branded reedition.
You have wrong information here. Black Altar and Odium Records were created practically at the same time. The debut demo of Black Altar was released before the craetion of Odium, in 98. Practically from the beginning I wanted to run my own label and I knew that I would do it well. However, the debut album of Black Altar was handed over to the German Chrishunt Production, which at that time had certainly more respect. I also wanted to appear on the foreign market. The second and last material that was released under the name of a label other than Odium was the mini-album "Suicidal Salvation" released by the German label again - Darker Than Black.
Your pseudonym Shadow was created at the same time with BLACK ALTAR?
Yes. Shadow represents the dark side of my nature, and in a broader sense, human nature.
The initial impulse to establish Odium Records was related to BLACK ALTAR needs, in other words, to have everything in your hands? Or did you initially have a great vision of helping other bands, and then the need to focus mainly on your own band prevailed? You are now publishing a new album ENSHADOWED, recently there were GRAVELAND titles and some other titles, but I wonder if you had bigger publishing plans at first and, after years, it was better to cut them mainly to focus on your own band.
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to run my own label from the very beginning. I didn't know anyone else who could release the debut demo of Black Altar so it was a perfect time to start. The first CD I released was in 2000. It was the Black Altar split with Vesania, limited to 666 copies hand-numbered in corpse blood. Now it is quite a rarity. It was their first big material and the musicians of this band are now making careers in bands such as Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir. In the meantime, I was focusing more and more on releasing CDs and well known bands like Mephorash, Varathron, Thornspawn, Beastcraft and less known but playing music at the proper level and representing the right ideology. I attach great importance to the promotion and I buy full-page advertisements in the largest magazines, space on compilations, premieres of videoclips in the largest media. I have good distribution, I hire 5 different promotional agencies for the same release. For several years I have been trying to limit the activities of the label and focus only on Black Altar, but when you get some offers it is difficult to refuse, such as from Graveland, or new releases that will be released at the end of the year as the cult, Norwegian Vulture Lord, which returns in the full lineup after 17 years, or the Polish Hell-Born including co-founder and former members of Behemoth.
Why did "Black Altar" actually need remastering? Does that mean that you see the dirty, underground black metal differently now? I'm interested in how your demands for achieving the highest quality sound for BLACK ALTAR have developed over the years and what a good quality sound means for the music you play. At the time, Selani studio, where VADER and BEHEMOTH were also recording, in some phase of its existence, was not up to the time. That's why I'm interested in what respect did you see the studio's sound as insufficient after the years… or simply needing to be reworked.
The debut album "Black Altar" was recorded in the studio, which was very popular at that time, and it was probably the last big album recorded there. At the end of the session, I moved with then the sound engineer to a much better studio and after he left the studio began to collapse rapidly. Earlier, my debut demo was recorded by Doc, Vader's drummer. Sadly both Doc and the producer Szymon with whom I moved to a better studio, as well as the studio owner of Selani are no longer among the living. The sound that I got there was very dirty, quite distorted and bassy. So it was slightly polished and adapted to modern realities by the producer, who works with Behemoth on a daily basis, although the difference is very small. The best for me is a compromise between high quality, clear sound and rawness. Unfortunately, the sound of the new split was a bit too clean due to some mix-ups and experiments.
After fifteen years, everything is different. In my opinion, we live in a better time because there are incomparably more opportunities in virtually everything, and it is up to each of us to handle those opportunities. For example, if someone does not sympathize with social networks, then they can simply avoid presenting anything on them, and so on. And the roots of commercial thinking in black metal began to grow much earlier than social networks were launched. They only accelerated the process that is in place today. What values in black metal do you personally perceive as lasting for twenty-thirty years? And do you respect them all?
For sure my perception of black metal has changed a bit over these 25 years. Once upon a time, everything was taken deadly seriously, there were many rules in the underground that had to be followed. The Polish scene in particular was very radical in this. For any nonsense you could have been a poser, etc. At the same time, those who shouted the loudest, took church weddings or committed other things with which they fought with. In most cases there is no trace of them on this scene today. Having dealt with all of this over the years, I can't still be super serious about all the old principles. The experience of black metal has changed a lot over the years, it used to be something elitist and dangerous, but now it has become just another sub-genre of metal. I am still a radical, but I look at it all with greater distance.
We talk about BLACK ALTAR as a band, but it has been a de facto one man project all the time. Even if you've been working with other musicians for a few years, the planned concerts have not taken place. What were your thoughts on BLACK ALTAR at the end of the 1990s? The absence of concerts was related to your reluctance to play? Or have you never found the right people around you?
That's right, neither Black Altar nor I have ever played any concert. There were several reasons. At first, the musicians of Black Altar's first line-up didn't want to hear about playing concerts, later when I removed them from the band, I stayed alone for a dozen years or so, started a family, children were born and I didn't have time for anything. I am also picky in choosing the band members and somehow nobody met my criteria. During this time I was getting various, very interesting offers and I had to say no. The situation has changed recently, since I live in London I have found that I have perfect conditions here to play and that either now or never. On the spot, I could not really find musicians who suit me, so Ondskapt members came to me and I brought a very good guitarist from Poland. However, this cooperation has not stood the test of time and they are no longer in the band. I have a new, full line-up, I was joined by Mauser (ex Vader) among others. Finally, I agreed to the first offers, and so we will play the first concert at Samhain festival in London, as a headliner with Akhlys. And later in November at Darkness Guides Us Fest in Glasgow, where the squad is unearthly. I hope everything goes according to the plan and neither the corona virus pandemic nor the antifa will prevent this.
You certainly do not only work remotely with Polish musicians, even though Mauser, who once played with VADER, for example, seems to be also living in London. But do you see anyone who participates in BLACK ALTAR only as some who is helping you and who doesn't receive any significant decisive position in the band? In other words, it is your band, which everyone immediately recognizes and respects?
It is known that as the founder and for many years the only member of this project I have by far the most to say and I set all the plans of the band. However, I would love for someone else to be deeply involved in the band's issues and with a similar vision, and I would like to give this musician some control. However, there are no such things so far and I am definitely the one most involved in the band's issues, and thus all decisions are up to me.
Of the former members of VADER, did the late drummer Docent also play in BLACK ALTAR? I am not entirely sure whether this information is based on truth.
He was a sound engineer while I was recording my debut demo and he also programmed my drums. I would like to add that during our recording session at Selani Studio in the evenings, on the same days Behemoth recorded their "Pandemonic Incantations" album.
Last year, I heard that a new BLACK ALTAR album must be out now, after twelve years. That was last year, it is now half 2020, and it will be 21 August when the interview comes out. So is that real? I am asking this specifically, and I do not want to hear that there is no hurry and so on, that is very clear to me. If BLACK ALTAR is released on physical media in a year, two or three, the same fans will wait for it… if you don't die by then you'll want to manage it again under Odium Records.
Of course this is not real. I have about 4 songs so far. Maybe the album would be released earlier. When I played with Ondskapt musicians, they composed 3-4 songs for Black Altar, but after we broke up, they took those songs with them. Perhaps they will use them in their band. We are now working on tracks for the split with Norwegian Vulture Lord and a full album in parallel. I think it will be released in about 2 years.
However, this conversation is happening shortly after the release of split album BLACK ALTAR / KIRKEBRANN. Why them? Is there any concept of this split release? Or why didn't you save those songs for the upcoming full album of BLACK ALTAR.
It was more of an accident. We didn't know each other before, but I talked to my friend from the band Svikt, who mixed some of their material. And I mentioned that I was looking for a quality band for the split and he offered them. Both sides agreed and so after more than 2 years the split was released. There is no common concept here. Back then, I was still playing with Ondskapt musicians and I thought that we would have enough songs for the split and the full album, that's why the idea of a split came up.
BLACK ALTAR is the only name that attracts you from the point of view of active playing? KRIEGSGOTT and other projects are definitely a thing of the past? Have you ever played live with them? I wonder if you made a live concert with any black metal band/project for the past quarter-century.
I've never played a concert in my life. Kriegsgott and RAUS! are definitely studio projects and no matter what I'm not going to continue with them, but you should never say never. Maybe someday I will change my mind.
BLACK ALTAR was founded at a time when few people perceived Satanism as a matter of trend. This resulted in some young people taking it too seriously and committing acts of violence in its name. With the development of everything, Satanism and things around it have become a good marketing brand. Whatever the time is, has nothing changed for you, will you always see Satanism as a revolt and a fulfillment of your own will, respecting the same values as you did 20 years ago?
Surely my views have evolved in some way. I have recently delved into the occult again, especially the Draconian Path, and am walking through the labyrinths of Sitra Achra. Certainly also Satanism and the occult has become a big trend. There are bands that are really into it, but for the vast majority it's just an image and they do it because that's how it should be.
In Poland, there are so many new black metal bands that refer to the 1990s. Are you not afraid of declining quality when those few musicians who have played since the beginning quit for good? Even though I'm not entirely sure that "many new bands" is the right term. I look at this from the position of an inhabitant of a country where there are hardly any new bands.
Maybe there are some new bands referring to the glorious 90s, but they are rather deep in the underground. However, there is a powerful trend of new post black metal bands with Polish names and increasingly stupid Polish titles and lyrics that has long since turned into a cabaret. As you may have guessed, I'm not a fan of them.
Who do you most value in underground black metal on the Polish scene for everything that they have done and enriched the scene with? Could you actually name just one person and give a detailed explanation about why he is important.
Currently, there are no such charismatic people anymore, and besides, everyone is focused on themselves. However, if I had to name one person, it would be Rob Darken from Graveland. For many years, although he has been moving into other, pagan climates, it is impossible to overestimate his contribution to the Polish black metal underground.
You have both band and label as a hobby, so what do you do when you're not making music, black metal? If I understood this well, your parents are recognized capacities in science in Poland. Are you in any way following up on their scientific work?
No, my mother was one of the first well known models in Poland, and my father is a writer and over 200 of his books have been published, many under different pseudonyms, e.g. Andy Collins. Although he has written books on many topics, he is a specialist in the prophecies of Nostradamus and so on. I have practically no free time at all. I work as a security manager on BBC TV and I have a lot of free time only there. I play guitar, answer e-mails and do various side stuff. This and the gym consumes all my free time.