doom/death from Canada? Yes, it's possible and ZARAZA is the band that would
pull it off. Their music ranges from one extreme to another, always remaining
harsh and dissonant. I'm glad I finally got a chance to do an interview with
Jacek and I'm very proud to have it in Eternal Frost. This band is doing
something very obscure and original. --goden
Eternal Frost: How long has ZARAZA been together? Has it always been just Grzegorz and Doomhammer?
Jacek Furmankiewicz: We've been together since early 1993. It has been the two of us (and only the two of us) since the beginning. The topic of other members never really came up - we've never felt like we need anyone else.
What does the name "Zaraza" mean and what does the album title Slavic Blasphemy mean?
"Zaraza" means "plague" in Polish. Inspired by the likes of LAIBACH or EINSTUERZENDE NEUBAUTEN, I decided to choose a name from my own language, thus making it somewhat stand out in an ocean of similarly-named bands. "Slavic Blasphemy" was the title of an instrumental track from our demo - we decided to use it as the album title because it seemed appropriate.
Slavic Blasphemy was released not too long ago. How has it been selling? Do you have any distribution deals with any companies or do you handle it all on your own?
It's been selling okay, although of course it could be better. Our CD was a 100% independent release: we financed and organized everything from A to Z: recording, production, mixing, mastering, printing, CD pressing, promotion, etc. As usual, promotion and distribution is the biggest problem for a new band with a limited amount of funds. A lot of distribution companies seem to be a bit hesitant about carrying truly underground releases. We have distribution through mail-order by Relapse in the U.S. and there was some talk about Cold Meat Industry selling it in Scandinavia. I'm still waiting for Roger Karmanik to get back to me on that one - he liked our first demo a lot due to its raw 'industrial' character.
Has the album been getting any airplay? What has the feedback to the album been like? It seems that fans may be divided due to the industrial and death/doom metal mix.
The CD has been getting quite good airplay in Canada: we've made it onto the "Top 20" lists of a few student stations in Canada. I've sent out a few copies out to radio shows in Europe and the U.S. and we'll see what the response will be like. The feedback on the album has been rather good, even enthusiastic at times. Admittedly, some reviewers (especially on the metal side of things) have been somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer ugliness of our music. These days trendy metal is based upon goth vocals, pleasing melodies and melodic guitars. We prefer to stay away from that and concentrate instead on a intensely depressing, sludge-driven, sampler-enhanced hybrid of all the ugliest and darkest elements of industrial and doom/death metal. Also, let me clarify one thing, since the term 'industrial' means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The sort of industrial material I am influenced by is the works of such bands as Laibach, SWANS, Einstuerzende Neubauten, IN SLAUGHTER NATIVES, DISSECTING TABLE, MYNOX LAYH, ORPHX, old TEST DEPARTMENT, etc. Commercial, dance-laced drivel such as KMFDM, NINE INNCH NAILS, etc., is NOT 'industrial' in any way, shape or form, at least not in terms of what this genre was supposed to sound like. All in all, we are a bit of a problem for fans of both genres: industrial fans find us mostly way too brutal (especially the vocals), while some metal fans find us sometimes too 'industrial' because of our violent use of samples and keyboards. But then on the other hand, a lot of industrial fans use us as a gateway to a more extreme form of art, while some metal fans like us because we are the most brutal industrial band they ever heard (as one of my friends, an avid CANNIBAL CORPSE supporter once remarked). I guess it all depends on one's attitude towards music. The funny thing is that some metal fans remarked that they found the vocals too brutal and would want to see more melancholic, clean, gothic vocals on the next album - I DON'T THINK SO. Any way, our infatuation with doom and death metal stems from the fact that these genres equal harsh industrial in sheer ugliness and brutality. Both genres share the same aesthetics, they just express it differently and Zaraza was formed to combine the two into one.
Is there any particular reason you opted to use a drum machine instead of a flesh and blood drummer?
I've always been fascinated with programming drums and the sort of complex and exceptionally heavy patterns one can generate with a good drum machine. We never even considered adding a live drummer - there is nothing such a person could add to Zaraza. Besides the usage of a drum machine gives me easy access to an almost unlimited array of different sounds that would be next to impossible to incorporate with a live drummer.
What language are the lyrics spoken in on Slavic Blasphemy?
Four of the songs are in English, two of them are in Polish. I always wrote the lyrics in English at the beginning, but became a bit more open to writing them in Polish after realizing how much better my control over my mother tongue is and how much better the lyrics are.
There are elements of doom metal in Zaraza's music. Was there a conscious effort to appeal to the doom metal underground with your music?
Of course not. We love doom metal and that is the reason why we play it, not because we want to appeal to some specific group of listeners. I still remember the first time I heard WINTER and CATHEDRAL on the radio - it was as if a whole new universe of possibilities exploded in my head. Further works of bands such as My DyING BRIDE, ESOTERIC, NOVEMBERS DOOM, UNHOLY or SKEPTICISM only enhanced our love of this sort of music. It is a pity that it seems to be in decline these days and overshadowed by more commercial-minded bands (such as EVEREVE, etc.). Grzegorz used to join me sometimes during my radio show and we would do a full two-hour onslaught of all the slowest, most depressing doom artists we could think of (anything from Unholy to RAISON D'ETRE).
Does Zaraza play live very often? What is a Zaraza set like? It seems like you would only be able to play a few songs since they're so lengthy.
Zaraza has thus far played only two live shows and both of them were in a radio studio during my radio show in Montreal. We are planning organizing a real live show with the great Quebec band DECAYED REMAINS, but with me living in Montreal and Grzegorz Haus ov Doom now living in Ottawa, it is increasingly hard to find time to get this done. It would definitely be an interesting experiment - our last live show was a great experience and I think we are both looking forward to expressing ourselves live and experiencing the burning intensity of that sort of event.
Will Zaraza be following up with another album soon? Will it continue in the style that Slavic Blasphemy introduced?
Our tentative plans are to start recording the new album in late 1998/early 1999. It will be called No Paradise To Lose and from the material that we've worked on thus far it will be a bit different. It seems to be coming out even slower than the first one (no blast sections in the new material as of yet). The reviewer in Terrorizer Magazine described our music as "incredibly ugly, yet strangely beautiful on occasion". I believe after listening to the second album he will just simply describe it as "incredibly ugly", period. Some of the more pleasant elements of our music (violins, pianos, etc.) have been mostly replaced by more dissonant 20th Century classical influences. We in Zaraza have always been influenced by classical music and for Slavic Blasphemy our favourite classical composer was Arvo Part and his somber melodies. Right now we are definitely more into the dissonant, unpleasant sounds of composers such as Penderecki, Lutoslawski or Bartok.