This interview with Bob Vigna of Immolation features questions by Y. Arkadin.
I'll start on a lighter note and then gradually work my way up to tougher and tougher questions. Sort of like an entry exam to a prestigious college (Erebus University), but in this case you come by with a passing grade whatever the results you give. What I'd like to talk about first is the album artwork that has always been an integral part of Immolation to me, and not only because I'm an artist myself. How is it executed? Do you have some plan in mind and then give the artist the concept, or is there more free reign in this department?
Andreas Marschall is an amazing artist! He really knows how to bring the concepts we give him to life. We write down all the details of the scene and explain to him what we want and what it all means. We send him the music, we send him the lyrics, everything to give him a feel for the painting. Then he takes all that and creates the cover. He is really unbelievable!
Concerning the bands latest release, "Failures For Gods", looking back, are you 100% satisfied with the way things came together? How has the response been overall, and, for the chief sake of curiosity, what was the most negative thing you've read about it thus far?
We are very happy with the album. The songs are our best yet and the production was very good. The response was amazing and we actually, for the first time, got a lot of press enjoying the album too. This is new for us! (Laughs) Even the crowds at the shows have been unbelievable. We've definitely picked up a lot of new fans on the last tour we did in the states with Six Feet Under too, which was great. But there hasn't been too much bad feedback, just some critics on the production. This I can understand though, I mean there are certain things we feel could have been different, but each album is a learning process, so the new one will be even that much better!!
As Immolation is a death metal band that is prone to do a lot of touring, I was wondering what show or shows were the most memorable for the whole band? Where do you remember having had the best response to your music? Any kind of amusing stories to relate? Bloopers, practical jokes?
Poland was an awesome show! The crowd was truly insane! (Laughs) A lot of the European shows were really good, London was very receptive, Holland was great, met a lot of cool people there, the guys in Severe Torture brought us to this out door picnic type bonfire deal. There were all different kinds of music being performed and people just hanging out, it was great. We get along with people pretty well, so we had a real good time. We are not your rock star type, we like to mingle, hang out, meet people check out what's going on. To us touring is the best part. You see the world, experience different cultures, people, ... we are real tourists too! (Laughs) We'll go out on small expeditions and look around the cities and go sight seeing as much as possible.
As for bloopers and jokes, well hell our whole tour was a joke! (Laughs) That is there was a lot of crazy stuff in Europe; problems with the borders, getting searched and detained causing us to miss a couple of important shows; then I lost my wallet like the first day we were there ... that sucked! (Laughs). (It's right up there with when I lost my passport back in '91! (Loud laughter) I went to make a copy of it at a post office for incase I lost it, and I ended up leaving the damn thing in the copier! (Laughs) ... I did get it back a few days later, but what a jackass!; we had some good times though obviously in Holland and in Belgium, that was cool. As bad as it was that our show in Paris got cancelled, we ended up hanging out at The Frontline club in Gent. So that day we ended up meeting Gieke of the band Hooverphonic, which was pretty cool, and that night it was our soundman's (Earl) birthday. So we hung out, played cards and drank Duvel beer all night. It was funny because we never drink and to drink such strong beer was a real trip for us, we were a bit silly for sure! (Great laughter) We are pretty laid back people though so nothing too out of wack usually goes on when we are touring on our own.
In light of this touring experience, what would you say is the greatest difference between the American metal scene and the European, international one? Is it justifiable to speak of one as being 'superior' than the other? What's the deal with all this factionalism in the metal world?
I don't know, I think we've had great shows both in the states and abroad. But there is a feeling in the European crowds, and it comes from the fact that metal is just more present in Europe, where over here it hardly exists. Over there it is accepted as a serious form of music, where here it is always being pushed out by the main stream. No more metal on MTV, etc ... However very recently there seems to be an interest gaining, so we'll see. We are obviously here to do our part! I think the metal influence is starting to take place!!!!
I'm sure you're noticing that many bands today are adding technological influences into their music, and even mixing in elements from genres as diverse as hip-hop to progressive space-rock. But Immolation has never been part of that. Do you ever see the band including something like techno remixes in the future? Avulsed did it and I've heard that there was generally a very good response.
I don't see us going down that route, but we will always try to improve musically and progress in a way where the emotion comes through even more. We always try new things, you have to, or then it's just the same old thing. To us making new songs is a challenge because we want to make something very different but stay as heavy and dark as possible.
Do you think the crossbreeding of metal and other genres is positive for the scene overall?
It can be in some cases. Sometimes things are taken too far, but that's the way music is. I may not like certain things that are being done, but that's the way it goes. However, I think some of the very large bands can be very good and a positive thing, like Slipknot. They mix a lot of different elements to make a very demented sound. A band like that is very positive for the scene. They can introduce people into more extreme music that normally would not consider it. There are a lot of metal overtones in a lot of other popular music these days too and I think people will be curious or more accepting of newer heavier bands, or more underground ones.
I know that some members of Immolation have had first-hand experience with the Catholic educational system. What are your thoughts taken in mind the psychosis you've faced? In some way, do you think that it helped you in your life? Obviously, whether detrimental or beneficial, it had a lot of influence on you.
Well we all were brought up with it, so yes it does have an effect on you. I think a lot of the lessons and stories are not bad. I think that being taught that all of this was true is what is bad. That and being looked at in a bad way when you choose not to believe.
A question I often ask bands that make use of key Biblical topics is whether you consider the God/Devil debate to be overplayed and over-saturated in some sense. Do you ever think that making use of such a dichotomy is oversimplifying something that is much more complex? Take in mind, for instance, the mind/matter dualism that has prevailed for so long in Western philosophy ever since Descartes arrived on the scene. Scientific progress is at such a point today that to speak in such a way could be meaningless. You can draw a parallel to something like that and come to a resolution that all talk of 'good' and 'evil', God and Devil as symbolic entities, is strictly 'idealistic' and nothing more. What do you think?
We do consider it all nonsense in many ways; that is why we continue to move in that direction. This good vs. evil thing and moral judgment is always present so we like to keep stabbing at it. So many people are wrapped up in being better than others and feeling superior to others, meanwhile they are closed minded and immature. We take all that and taunt them with it. God and the Devil do not exist. Man exists, and chooses between the two directions. I actually feel silly talking about it to my family or friends. It's in our music and that's our view of it. We personally do not live with religion in our lives at all, as it does not play a role in our everyday events. As people we are probably more Christian-like than those who go to church every week. They hide behind the church, do wrong and only feel that they can continue to do so just because they are forgiven by God the following Sunday. These people hide from themselves too. They make mistakes and do wrong as everyone else, but fool themselves into thinking that they are justified because their outside appearance is that of a church going person. The only person who can judge you is yourself. If you can look yourself in the mirror and like that person you have accomplished a great deal, because that is the one who knows you best, that is who knows your truth.
As a continuation of the prior question, consider the fact that so many bands in the Anti-Christian underground are violently opposed to Christianity and belligerent for no other reason than they think that the religion is a diabolical and corrupt entity. So what so many of these warriors of evil are truly in favor of is good; but in order to put their message of good across, they rely on evil imagery and expression, the 'bad' in short - and are in favor of anything but the good. How can this be reasonably explained? Maybe we're dealing with something else here?
Well that's kind of it in a way. It is dark, heavy music. It is a release and an expression. It is a feeling of power and really in a positive sense. I mean when you are playing music on stage and others are enjoying it and having a good time, maybe venting their frustrations in life, or purely just taking in the music, you feel that you are really just creating positive energy. I mean when we get off the stage, people have smiles on their faces, so to me that tells us we did something good ...no? We are not evil, bad people. The music is primarily for entertainment. That's what it is, it's music. It's almost like creating a feeling of victory for the underdogs in many ways. It's like when the Christian, or even supposedly good people think you are a bad person because you play that crazy music, "You are the devil!!!" So our way to get back at that is to go, "Boo! Yeah we're the Devil and Jesus was nothing but a carpenter!!" However in our music we just do it in a more creative and thought-inducing manner!
There are some people living today that are convinced, even in light of all our current knowledge of space, biology, and reality in general, that after they die they are destined for either eternal torment or eternal merriment. But if one really ponders about it, aren't both situations equally horrible? For the sake of the question, suspend your disbelief and take the following into consideration: Living in an eternal bliss, angels flying round playing their harps continually while you are floating on a cloud, eating grapes and singing gay ballads with your dearly departed. All could be enticing - for a few hours, no more! - But eternally...!!! What do you think about such a divine horror? How could the terror of such a frightening situation escape the grasp of our pious mortals?
Yeah that is pretty silly isn't it? I mean, obviously we all wonder what is after life, maybe it's another plane of existence, maybe it's another demension on this planet. We'll all find out one day, but Heaven and Hell seem the least likely of any.
Now if you found out that Jesus Christ was living today in, say, Alabama (which is in a sense very possible), and was a big fan of Immolation's material, would you cease writing such disrespectful lyrics about him? John McEntee told me he would like to 'pump yogurt' on him. What would you do?
Well, we would probably set the record straight. Actually, we will kind of deal with such a thing on the new album... you'll have to wait and see. That would be awesome if he were a big fan though ... we could have him join!
One thing that I really like about the Immolation crew is the relentless positive and friendly attitude that I come across in your words and interviews. You've remarked on more than one occasion that you're disgusted with crime, drugs and gang violence in society. Is it reasonable to assume that the band serves as a vehicle for the emancipation of your negative emotions? Do you think that if more people listened to violent music the world would be a more peaceful place to live in? If not (and I could give a hundred reasons why not personally!), what could be at least one proposed answer to such a pressing problem?
I think people need to find something that they can use as an avenue to vent their anger, etc. I personally hold in a lot of emotion myself, and, yes, the band is a great way to get it out of my system. I think the fact that I have so much inside works to an advantage, because it fuels the music, as well as the ambition to keep pushing forward. People need to escape from their everyday lives. People need a direction, something they truly are into, or want to do. A lot of people would be much happier if they just make an effort to find that particular thing of interest.
There's a really interesting philosophical speculation I read in a book by Paul Davies called "About Time" several months ago that the reason why we are living today, in this age, is that mankind will only exist for a comparatively short period of time. The reason he gives is that, if the human race were to exist indefinitely into the future, the probability of our existing today would be dramatically reduced. From these premises he infers, somewhat speciously, I admit, that we are in store for extinction in the nearby future. Your view?
Uh, huh . . . . .
Now explain to me how ribosomes are directed to the endoplasmic reticulum by binding to signal-recognition particles. Just kidding! Thank you for dealing with my long and tedious questions. Good luck to the whole Immolation crew! Keep it brutish!
Oh, well that's an easy one. Ribosomes are often directed to the endoplasmic reticulem through neuron electric wave patterns brought on by the paramecium chromosome. Once that incurs the ameba is then absorbed by sickle cell anemias that conjunct a vast pattern throughout the aorta cavity. Of course if any one knows the endoplasmic reticulem, they will also be aware that the blood vessels that run adjacent to that of the lower bicuspid will eventually erode due to the lack of aspartame in the system.
Anyhow I'll have to thank the University of Yonkers and of course Erebus University for the interview and furthering adult education. Thanks a lot to all the fans out there that have been so supportive. We appreciate it! Visit us at www.ImmolationDirect.com and we'll see you on the road!!!!!
A very interesting interview with Immolation can be found here, where they discuss some of their compositional principles.