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27th April 2011
VORPH: Well, I’m sure it is metal! [laughs] I’ve got no doubts about that! [laughs] Then, really, it doesn’t matter much to me. As we’re working with a drum machine, people always tend to find some industrial element. We’ve been listening to industrial metal for some time now but it’s not like a prime influence; it’s something I enjoy from time to time. The movie score thing you mentioned is definitely there. I see more of the classical music but this is not really what Xy’s listening to. We are trying to have the fine balance, you know, between the melodies and the heaviness, and it’s kind of difficult to find because if you go down the path of melodies, which a lot of bands kind of avoid nowadays, it’s kind of cheesy! [laughs] But if you have something cold and without any melody, Fear Factory style, this is not our intention either. We try to find a bridge in-between melodic music and heavy industrial.
METAL DISCOVERY: I personally hate labelling music and particularly the way metal’s been divided into so many different subgenres, particularly these days, but if you had to choose three words to describe the new album, what would they be?
(Vorph on Samael's core sound)
"We are trying to have the fine balance...between the melodies and the heaviness, and it’s kind of difficult to find because if you go down the path of melodies, which a lot of bands kind of avoid nowadays, it’s kind of cheesy!...We try to find a bridge in-between melodic music and heavy industrial."
Samael - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011 [uncredited]
Interview by Mark Holmes
Samael Official Website:
Worship Him (1991)
Thanks to Florian Milz at Nuclear Blast for arranging the interview
Blood Ritual (1992)
Ceremony of Opposites (1994)
Samael Official MySpace:
Passage (1996)
Era One (2002)
Reign of Light (2004)
Solar Soul (2007)
Eternal (1999)
Above (2009)
Lux Mundi (2011)
MD: Yeah, I think it’s a perfectly balanced album. I think you’ve struck a perfect balance between melody and heaviness…and groove as well.
V: Thank you.
MD: The cover artwork…I haven’t actually seen the final CD yet as I only had access to a digital promo, but the cover artwork I’ve seen online is by Patrick Pidoux from Sludge?
V: Exactly, yeah.
MD: It’s kind of mesmerising to look at and I gather it’s tied in with the album’s title and its themes of light and dark?
V: Definitely. My idea was just to have a black on black type of thing; you know, shining black and matte black. The idea of this kind of eye in the middle was his idea but, when I saw it, I thought that’s fine with me as it makes it, probably, more interesting. The main idea is, basically, ‘Lux Mundi’ means “Light of the World” in English and to have a cover you will not see unless there is light on it. I mean, if there is enough light you will see the artwork but, if not, you just see a black square. That was the idea of the light rippling something, and it’s kind of a metaphor on a couple of songs – ‘Luxferre’, for example, and some other as well. We’re using light as a metaphor for the quest of knowledge and understanding. I suppose not that this is the main thing in our life but, definitely, that’s what makes you make a step in life every time.
MD: Yeah, it’s great having the cover tied in with the concept as it makes it more of a whole.
V: Yeah, we try! [laughs]
MD: I guess innovation and experimentation are two words that are always associated with your music but do you always set out to be experimental with your sound or would you say that evolves more naturally in the songwriting?
V: That was not the intention on this album. I have to say we’re more looking to have solid songs which will work fine in a live environment. So far, we’ve only played two songs off the album at some concerts and they worked fine. I’m just excited to play more because I think there is some potential there. But there was not an intention to experiment. I mean, we’ve experimented quite a bit before and nowadays we’re more trying to find what matters the most to us than trying to go some left-field way again. Once we find something which tends to be a little bit too fixed, probably we will try to push it a little bit further. But, at the time, just to make an album which would sound like us. That was the idea, anyway.
MD: I mean, again, as with the perfect balance you’ve struck between the heaviness and the melodies, I think you’ve hit a good balance between experimentation and accessibility too. I can hear experimentation in there but they’re also good, accessible songs so you’re not distanced when listening to them.
V: I take that as a compliment; I love to hear that.
MD: Do you ever look back at any of the earlier albums and speculate what you could’ve done differently or is Samael a forward thinking band more so?
V: We’re more looking in the future, definitely. Of course, usually you’re not really going too far in the past because, basically, the more recent album you did…there’s a point where you’re thinking, well, you kind of get tired of it and thinking, well, it could be different, it could be this or that and that’s really the moment where this is time to do another album. Maybe you did a step in your life in a matter of taste or a matter of experimentation, as we said before, and you want to go for something else. But, usually, every time we do an album, most of the time we’re pretty satisfied with it for at least a couple of years. ‘Above’ was kind of…I did love it the way it was but we had this project for some time so it was nothing new, really. But, this time, I’m pretty confident that for some time now I’m good! [laughs] Until there’s gonna be a moment when you think, let’s take another step.
MD: I noticed you have some festival dates booked for the summer, around three or four dates…
V: Yeah, it’s gonna be pretty calm this summer. We tour in September; we’ll do a headlining tour across Europe. I know there are gonna be some dates in England but I haven’t got any schedule so far. We will tour with the Greek band Sceptic Flesh…
MD: Oh yeah, a great band.
V: And there are gonna be two other bands which haven’t been confirmed yet. But, so far, this is what I know.
MD: And there’s definitely going to be some UK shows, did you say?
V: I heard that, yeah.
MD: Cool.
V: I even heard they’re already booked but I haven’t seen anything.
MD: Obviously you’ve played a fair few gigs in your career but what’s the biggest Spinal Tap moment you’ve ever had onstage during a show?
V: I don’t know if it was a Spinal Tap moment but…we’ve had a few bad shows, of course, but I remember one show in Poland which is often the one I mention when they say about bad experiences. We had to travel all the way from Switzerland just for one show. It was a festival; the Metalmania festival which we actually headlined a few times after that. But, on that particular day, Xy was playing with Rotting Christ so he detuned his keyboard to their tuning and I think…well, this is what I remember went wrong…after the second song we actually noticed we were not in tune! But that was very much in a rush; we had no time. I wanted to retune my guitar but then I wasn’t in tune with the bass player. You know, it was just like this mess and it was not sold out but it was very, very packed. People were really into it. The result of this was we actually played just two songs. I apologised to the people and said, “apparently, there’s something wrong here and we cannot fix it”. We went backstage thinking, well, maybe we’ll just do it with the drum machine and guitar, bass, without keyboard and that might work. Just at that time the promoter came in and said, “yeah, you’ll get paid, no worry” and we’re like, “well, it’s not about the money…we’ve travelled all the way from Switzerland!” There was no way we could play more and I felt bad, not only for myself but…we had this rush of adrenaline, you know, this is a good moment and then everything crashed down. And you feel a little bit like, I don’t know, it’s the end of the world! [laughs]
MD: Maybe people in the crowd thought you’d gone really experimental with all kinds of different tunings or something!
V: [laughs] Yeah! We only had two songs, and two bad songs, so that was very much a shame.
MD: The final thing I wanted to ask – is it, I believe, nearly twenty five years since you originally formed as a two-piece?
V: Yeah, that’s kind of true but I’m not really into that. Yeah, I know…you’re the first one to remind me of this! [laughs] We’ll not be doing anything special…[laughs]
MD: Ahh, it’s a quarter of a century so you need to do something to mark the occasion! Nothing planned at all?
V: We haven’t planned anything. I mean, if something comes our way then maybe we’ll think about it but, even for myself, I’m not really into making a big thing every year. So, for the band, try to be relevant to the moment more than to have a celebration from the past.
MD: That’s a good answer. Does it feel like twenty five years?
V: It doesn’t feel that long, no, definitely not. It feels like we’ve got some experience now because I can remember the first time we went into the studio when you’ve got no clue about anything and you’re not even with the right people in the studio! [laughs] Luckily, we’ve had a chance to meet the right person with the time to evolve step by step.
MD: So at least it’s nice to look back into the past as a measure of how far you’ve come and where you are now kind of thing…
V: Yeah, well, you remember there was a time when certain things were more difficult.
MD: Right, cool, thank you so much for your time.
V: It was a pleasure.
MD: And good luck with the album. An awesome album, like I said.
V: Thank you very much. And let’s meet in England somewhere.
MD: Yeah, I’ll keep an eye out for the tour dates and I’ll definitely come along to one of those.
V: Great.
MD: Okay, cheers then.
V: Have a good evening!