CRYPTOPSY – A New Soup (Retro)
Eternal Terror writer Kristian Brandsås went to see Cryptopsy in Oslo back in 2006 and while he was there, he met up with vocalist Lord Worm and here’s the result of the worminfested whiskeysmelling interview.
How has the response on Once Was Not been so far?
As far as I know it has been mixed but mostly positive, one thing that not everybody liked was the different sound. Sometimes you just got to experiment to see what will work better. Most people have accepted it and like it a great deal, then there are some who prefer other things but that’s going to happen anyway. All in all the response has been positive.
Will you be moving in the same direction with your next album?
There will definitively be a lot of experimenting with the new material now that we got a full time second guitarist with a lot of different ideas, and he happens to have a voice also so there will be a lot of backing from him. There are a lot of new stuff to look forward to.
Do you have a lot of material ready for your next album?
We have begun writing for the new album and so far it is going well. I like it. He he he.
To find the last album you featured on before Once Was Not we have to go back to 1995 and None So Vile. Was there a huge metal scene in Quebec at that time and why did that album make such an impact on the world?
There has always been a fair sized scene in Quebec with Voivod as the most known band. When it comes to None So Vile I must say that the success was accidental. People accidentally picked up on it to the extent that it became a classic, but it certainly wasn’t written that way. It was just written to be as extreme as it could be at that time, it just worked. Nobody writes a hit, hits are born
…and the underground spread the tapes?
I suppose, and everybody just picked up on it. But you can never guaranty something like that. I mean; you can go out of your way to write the best material you possibly can, make it as well arranged, well performed, good sounding and original as you’d like but if people don’t pick up on it for whatever reason, too bad! It’s the way things work. You can have a totally garbage production performed on so-so instruments from mediocre musicians, but the material stands out, and that’s what catches. None So Vile was an accident, but a happy one.
What inspiration and influences did you have at that time?
Musical influences were fairly diverse but normal at that time. Things that had gotten big and were getting bigger like Napalm Death and Carcass to Morbid Angel and Deicide and going way way back to the stuff that prompted us to add our voices to the metal chorus. Bands like Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator. The point is that if you let your influences take over, you will end up sounding like a collection of influences. Nothing prompted us except the desire to be as fast and "horrible" as possible. We just wanted to create something that would knock people back onto their asses and we wanted to be the guys to do it so we could lean back and enjoy as much fear as possible. We were, if you want to put it that way, an early metal band with a rock’n’ roll idea behind it. Not as much "Live fast, die young" or "sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll" as "go for the throat and don’t let go".
Was that the reason for starting the band?
The reason for starting the band was more like: "Wow! Listen to all this cool metal; let’s see if we can do it too". It just worked.
…and the reason to keep going now?
New members keep us going as old members leave. The idea is to see how far we can take it. If you can’t move forward, move sideways, but keep moving. There is also the fact that we haven’t constrained ourselves to yearly releases. You can’t live by the rules; you can live like Impaled Nazarene and just ignore the word "rules" and do what you want to do. We got bitched at for waiting five years to release this one. We got all kind of reasons and excuses but the point is that it took five years, take it or leave it. The next one won’t take five years, but that’s fine too.
You released None So Live in 2003, was that to remind the fans that you were still out there?
Yes, sort of like a snack between meals. We also did a live DVD where some parts have somehow managed to leak out, but that is nothing new. The entire Once Was Not album also leaked out, but it helps. People will either like it and pick it up or not like it and then we don’t have to see them. But underground metal- punk- hardcore- fans are the most devoted fans there are, so even if they download they will support the band by buying the album if they like it. We are collectors; we buy re-masters, LP’s and so on. In Cryptopsy we accept it, but we didn’t invent it. Once we like a band, that band has to go out of its way to fuck things up before we let go of them. I can think of a couple of such bands… For us it is not about the money, if it was, we would not be doing this tour. For us it is about what we are doing and if people pick up on it: great! Let’s face it; people are going out of their way to come see us, we have to deliver. When we see the fans enjoying themselves it recharges our batteries. Mind you; a small room with few people and they are all dead on their feet and make no noise is going to cut into the set a bit. But you have to look at things demographically. If the city only has ten thousand inhabitants, how many of them are into metal, and of those how many are into your band and of those how many can actually come to your show because of time, money and whatever reason? The percentage is puny, that is why we call it an intimate show among friends. He he he.
What are the best and worst aspects of playing in Cryptopsy?
Difficult to say. There are some magical moments happening on the road like hanging with the guys some place really cool or visiting interesting places. But if you want it in a musical connection I must admit that opening for major acts is cool if the bands are nice to us like Morbid Angel and Celtic Frost was. They were really great to talk to.
What sucks is when a little deepshit opening act gets an attitude because we play in their hometown or whatever and start going "Your lucky to have us playing with you, we really packed the house for you tonight" like we really need your fucking help! It helps to shut up and be professional. The worst part is having to shut up to people who really need a slap in the head. The best part is meeting people with a brain and personality, no matter where they come from or what they are about.
Do you have a say in witch bands you have as support on a tour?
No. Usually it is the booking company who handles it by looking at who is available of those they know that are professional and can travel. As much as we would like to push other bands we really don’t have the power to do so. We don’t have much power to say no either, we have a bit more power there but we seldom have a reason to say no.
How do you spend your time when you’re not with Cryptopsy?
Most of my time is spent in my other job, I’m an English teacher. Most of my time is spent working with one thing or another, I don’t relax much, and I am a reader. But I can’t read, watch TV, or relax without a beer in my hand. I need to have beer with me and whisky goes well with that.
Which sort of whisky?
Single malt, but bourbon is fun too.
Which is your favourites?
I taste them according to variety of woods that they were aged in and their age and just compare them. There are no bad whiskies, only better ones.
(At this time the interview drifts far into flavour country for quite some time since none of us could picture living in a world without single malt whisky. Let’s skip this part and return at a later stage)
…All in all I probably should have done the smoked beer with an island malt, maybe a Laphroaig.
Or something stronger like Ardbeg?
Ardbeg? It’s been peated 60 times! It’s like dipping a pouch of tea into hot water 60 times, and it’s not even the harshest one. Try Pulteney.
If it’s harsher than Ardbeg I’d rather stick to the milder whisky’s from Jura like Blair Athol and Caol Ila.
I love Pulteney! I had a 29 year old; it was like having two tigers fighting in my mouth. It was wonderful.
What were the circumstances around the departure of long time guitarist Jon Levasseur?
He mostly felt that he had contributed all that was credible and did not want to leave Cryptopsy at a point where we had no credibility. It’s better to be welcomed than tolerated. A lot of bands should give up.
You mentioned the new guitarist Chris. Care to tell me more about him?
LW: Chris Donaldson. He is new school, 26 years old and he is aware of old school and respects it for what it is, but he is all about the new sound. So when you put him in a room with Alex, witch is old school you get a variety of different influences, quite an interesting soup. That’s what the new material is going to be like; a new soup.
On Once Was Not you have experimented with lyrics in German, Latin, and French. Is there any possibility that the new album will contain one or more songs with lyrics in French?
I won’t write one that way, but that is because I have an easier time expressing myself in the recognisable way that people either love or hate. I would not be able to be that kind of dark poet in French. I find that the words flow better in English. But if someone else wrote it for me I wouldn’t mind doing it if the other guys didn’t object. I like touching on other languages, some things are said better in other languages due to turn of phrases or whatever. Latin is great for that.
But you will most likely be writing all the lyrics for the next album, so the French lyrics will never happen?
I am the lyricist! That’s it! There is no argument!
Then there will never be a Cryptopsy song with French lyrics?
Well…I probably won’t, but if I did I would prepare the guys for it and show them what it looks like. I don’t think they would dispute the words or the content, it’s more because of the fact that we are not about singing in French. It’s a political thing. Not that we are for or against anything, but the world knows us as a band with English lyrics. It is one thing to throw in a phrase here and there to add colour, it is something else to impose a whole song in another language upon the world. It would have been different if we had done it from the start. There are changes, and then there are changes. It remains to be seen. I certainly won’t say that it will never happen, but it might be a while before we do it. We’ll see what happens.
Can you fill me in to what led to your departure and later reuniting with Cryptopsy?
In fact they both revolved around the same thing; priorities. I wanted to have a home, which tends to be a top priority with most people. Not many people will give up their home for their music. Anybody who did would have to be a complete idiot by my definition. Back then Cryptopsy was basically pay to play. I was the only one living in an apartment so my money had to go elsewhere, but it ended up going into the band anyway so I was facing homelessness. I was not about that. It’s one thing to live with your folks and not contribute; they will not throw you out, a landlord will however do that. It was a tough call. I did not want to leave, but I had no choice if I didn’t want to end up on the street. We chose Mike DiSalvo to be my replacement and I trained him for a couple of months, and when he was comfortable I left the band. Years later, after Mike’s departure, Flo gave me a call and asked if I ever would be interesting in doing it again after all these years. I didn’t give an absolute no, but I needed time to think about it. I had been completely out of music for seven years doing the old English teaching thing, why would I want to disrupt my schedule? I asked him to come over and we talked about it, it was Flo, Alex, Jon and me. It felt like being back with old friends. No, it was being with old friends. I’ve been friends with Flo for 15 years. Both in and out of band, so when he asked it was a friend asking, not a co-worker. It is certainly easier to say yes to a friend.
So for you it was either Cryptopsy or staying away from music? There were never in your thoughts to join or start another band?
Well, for a while I played with the idea of getting some supreme black metal art thing going in Montréal. There were many that supported the idea, but nothing came of it because I am very paranoid. There are very few musicians that I trust. Those I do trust are already in bands so it never happened.
I have heard about an old routine you used to have on stage, something involving worms, a chalice, and the public. Care to amplify?
It is not old; I am trying to turn it into an old routine. Only because it is a lot of bother in some countries, especially at certain times of the year. For instance it was impossible to do in Poland at the end of January. So what are you going to do? True story: This happened in the States. I had bought some worms beforehand; they come in packs of 12 or 24 usually, and I had gone for the large ones of course. Nightcrawlers, 6 to 8 inches long. I need them that large for the show so that the people at the back of the room can see what I am doing. If I dangle something 6 to 8 inches long, they will see it. If I dangle a maggot they will not see it. The people up front will see the maggot, but there are only twelve persons up front. If you want the whole room to see it you need something big, and it looks more extreme if you got a big worm in your mouth. Also it is very sexy feeding large worms to girls. So all that said: Yes it is true about the worms in the chalice. I show the worms in the chalice to the audience, I eat the first one myself, and then I feed the rest to the audience. Whoever wants them gets one. Back to the story: I had bought the worms and the best way to keep them alive until the show was to put them in the refrigerator, they were in a box filled with dirt and the fridge slows down their metabolism. The problem was that this fridge was set to cold and killed the worms. I get to the venue, whip out my worms, and take the box to the bathroom to wash them in cold water only to find nothing but death. So now I got worms, but they are dead and I refuse to feed dead worms to people because they are a potential danger. If they are alive it is the ultimate sushi. So I got dead worms and a chalice and a crowd yelling for worms. It’s like "sorry, they are dead". It is that kind of bother. First I must find them and keep them alive and if it does not work out people tend to get bitchy. Fuck it! I am going to wind the world off the worm idea, maybe come up with something else instead. I experimented with whisky, people like to pass around whisky but then you might end up drinking from the same cup as someone with facial leprosy, or someone sneezes into the cup. Worms are so much safer; they get handed directly from me to the person who will eat them. You must take everyone’s safety into consideration. It’s a bitch all around. On this tour London was the only place I did the worms, and that was because the promoter brought some with her. They were alive and huge, I found one that was ten inches in there and it was a girl who ate it, which is great.
That concluded my list of questions. Would you like to add some final words of wisdom?
Yes, but the point is almost moot at this point. If you come to a Cryptopsy show in the future and we do have worms: Don’t chew it! It’s very nasty! Just swallow it whole.