Interview: Adam “Nergal” Darski of ME AND THAT MAN + BEHEMOTH
Words/Interview by Steve Jenkins
Nergal’s darkened blues project ME AND THAT MAN has just released the eagerly awaited new album, New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1. Three years after their initial debut, ME AND THAT MAN has returned with an offering that is indeed different from the first, but in no way less brilliant. The mysterious collective has surpassed themselves with their bewitching new collection New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1 – featuring ominous lyricism atop unfiltered blues, gothic-laced folk, outlaw country and Americana-influenced anthems. The enthralling album visits a completely new spectrum of dark desert vibes and sees notable heavy music icons such as Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Brent Hinds, Matt Heafy (Trivium), Ihsahn (Emperor)and Sivert Høyem (Madrugada) join the pact with the devil. New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1 is a diversified, dynamic masterpiece that presents Nergal in a completely new light, providing a strong contrast to the heavier sounds of Behemoth. Evil has truly never sounded so good. We spoke with the man himself about the new album, getting the collaborations together, Behemoth, his platform as a figure and much more.
Congratulations on the new album, I absolutely love it. Have you had mostly good feedback and reception towards the release so far?
Thank you, yeah the feedback has been amazing and I'm very happy and fulfilled with how everything came together for this album.
You're obviously inspired by many types of music ranging from black metal to folk and blues music, at what point in your career did you decide to take this project and make it a bigger deal?
I had my attempt maybe like 20 years ago, I tried to do something on the side that wasn't very serious, I had a band called Wolverine which was like a heavy, bluesy band. Very much in a Danzig way, since I've always been such a huge fan of Danzig. I remember meeting my friend John Porter who's my friend and is also on the same label as Behemoth which is Mystic Productions, and was making a new album at the time so I just decided to make friends with him and get to know the guy. And I had this project in my head, like me and him wanting to do music together, and we met and then the rest of history. So I guess that was like the spark in the catalyst of Me And That Man and the fact that I really wanted to do something professionally .
Now there's an incredible roster of musicians on the album, plenty of diversity also which is really cool. Did you have these people in mind when writing the album. And was it fun to reach out and get them all to be a part of the recording?
Nah not really, the music was done long before. Some of the stuff like "Coming Home" and "Compassion" I would do full on demos with me singing those songs about three years ago around the time of the first album. But because we had so much material, you know I just put it aside and maybe if I continue then I might use those songs. That was my plan. Quite a few of the songs were actually written by other members of the band, so you could say that I'm author to about 60 percent of the songs. But no, there was no song where I had a certain type of vocalist in mind. For example Niklas from Shining would just call me up and ask me about business tips, and I just threw it back at him and said "Hey man, I got a ballad here, did you want to sing on that?" And he was like, "Yeah sure, let's do it." Then with the song "Deep Down South" I remember I had David Vincent on standby, and I was looking for a female singer that could partner with him in the song. Because the song is about a guys slaughtering his lady because she cheated on him. So I needed a lady, then I just ran into Johanna Sadonis and Nicke Andersson backstage for Lucifer and immediately I connected the dots. So you see, a lot of that was very spontaneous actions and I just went along with that. Sometimes it didn't work out either, with "Coming Home" originally I wanted Ville Valo, I showed him the song and he said "Yeah I like it, but can I just do the backing vocals?" And I was kind of trying to have him sing the whole song, and then he retracted. Every song has a different story.
Sounds like you had the picture in your mind and then you had it in your vision and then you just needed the pieces to fit the puzzle.
Absolutely. At this very moment I am working on new music for MATM and with some of the songs already I can feel that this song would be good with this guy singing, or that girl singing, and that sort of thing. So already, I've reached out to potential artists, and it's kind of a secret now but I'm not spoiling much by saying that I already have some stuff tracks laid down and we are moving forward with some demos. Things are happening.
That sounds very exciting, and intriguing. Do you hope to reach new audiences with this project? And likewise for the guests you have on the album. Like someone who enjoys MATM may have never heard of Shining before and the goes to discover that whole realm of extreme, dark, black metal.
Yeah, that is my plan. It's not like the number one mission of MATM, because obviously there's a lot of people who have no fucking clue what MATM is and already are Corey Taylor fans or Slipknot fans. Then they just come across the song and think "Holy shit, this is cool, this is different." You know? Well, that's my hope anyway. Then on the other hand I wish this would work the other way around. Or like what already happened with Vegard (Ihsahn) from Emperor, people would just be shocked that he can sing so emotionally, and it's one of the biggest bangers on the album. People have said that song "By The River" is one of their favourites. To me, one of the main goals here is already achieved because I made the main guy from Emperor contribute and fucking outdo himself, leave his comfort zone and do something that is absolutely mind-blowing. That's my opinion, and people seem to love that song. You recently posted on Instagram a little teaser for some new Behemoth material. Can you say much about that?
We are planning to enter the studio later this year, so next year I think it's reasonable to say that there will be a new Behemoth album in 2021. Yes I did say that there would be new music this year, but it's going to be on a much smaller platform. An EP of sorts, which is still very exciting. It's a smaller format but it's going to be music that people have never heard before, but as we speak I'm already demoing some new Behemoth material that will be out in an LP format next year. It's going to be a big record. I think with The Satanist and the last three albums we kind of established our sound, one angle can be very technical and the other angle can be quite simplistic so to speak, maybe even a little primitive. I like this balance, and like balancing on those two poles, coming up with stuff that I find very creative and exciting. I can't say yet what it's going to sound like, but I'm imagining the record in my head and yes I do have an image, and I have a vision, and I'm following it. It's way too early to say anything, and even if I had it's way too early to spoil any sort of concept.
Definitely. Has the current COVID-19 pandemic caused many problems for you in terms of major plans or shows being cancelled?
Yeah I mean, we had the launch party for MATM in London, didn't happen. We were supposed to be touring Poland now, it's not happening. There are some festivals that are already off the table, and honestly I think there's going to be no touring until at least Fall (September, October, November). I'm not the last one to complain, I'm always the first one to act. So I stay occupied, I stay healthy, I stay physically active, intellectually inspired and always with a guitar working on something.
Very good. Some people may say that you're the face of extreme metal, almost like the spokesperson for that darker side of metal, also making your anti-religion views known. How do you feel about being that type of figure for people and being able to use your platform to speak your mind?
I don't know man, I really can be an arrogant prick sometimes, but in my heart I'm quite humble and very fortunate and grateful. It really depends on who you talk to (laughs) but honestly I'm just super grateful that I've been here for almost three decades doing what I love. A lot of that hard work and passion is paying off which is amazing, and I embrace that. Every time I talk to journalists, I always try to be passionate even if I feel tired or burnt out, I don't ever want to lose that passion. I think fans and people that follow me know that I'm legit as fuck. I'm not here to pretend, I'm not here to make money, I have higher goals. These are high artistic goals that are my driving force in life, and also the fact that I never compromise when going for things, and MATM is just further proof that this guy, being me, is doing whatever the fuck he wants. If you like it or you don't like it at the end of the day, it's doesn't matter, but if you don't respect that then you must be an idiot. I'm not asking you to like MATM, but it's quite outside that black metal comfort zone if you know what I'm trying to say. But then again, am I even black metal? I don't really like to be slapped with a label you know? I played in a black metal band for almost thirty years and I've done it successfully, this is the music that I love and is deep in my genes, I plan on continuing doing that. But art is a broad term, and I'm an artist. I have visions and I try to materialise them, put them into songs, paintings, photos, videos. That's how I see it, it's bigger than just being black metal, or blues or whatever type of music I'm doing at the time. It's something else.
When you recorded The Satanist and when you released the album, did you have any idea that it would turn into many peoples favourite extreme metal release of the decade? It's had some absolutely huge success.
No, it came as a surprise. I felt very strongly about the record, but once it's out there and you've released something into the world you kind of lose that control over it. You don't really have much influence on what people think about the album once it's out there. You can tour your ass off for the record and still keep working really hard, which we did. You just have to support it and that's our ethics, if you release something you have to back it up and give your very best. Because if it's really you then you have to prove your quality, you have to go on the road and be in people's face and make a statement with your record. There's way too many records in the market today, there's way too many bands, people are overwhelmed with the content, it's just way too much of everything. So I definitely respect those bands who maintain their careers and sometimes go through those ups and downs, but they do not quit and they make their names. You go on Spotify and you click on a band like Watain and then there's a bunch of similar bands that you've never heard of, and it's hard to get recognition like that because there's just too much. The cover art looks the same, the logos look the same, you put on the music and it's still really good and they can play, but show me the charisma, I cannot hear the charisma. I prefer to live in a world with extreme metal when there is Bathory and Venom, then you go to Morbid Angel and Blasphemy, then the 90's bands like Darkthrone and Burzum, to newer bands like Watain and I hope that Behemoth is included in that pack as well. If you have a band and you release a record, just do something to stand the fuck out otherwise you're going to get lost in the shuffle so to speak. I wouldn't want to be a youngster entering this generation of metal because you're almost lost before you get started, it's definitely harder now to get noticed and stand out.
Yeah, these younger bands might mold themselves based on their love for Behemoth or any other extreme metal band but they need to be confident enough in themselves to branch out and do their own thing but still have that foundation of what made them begin in the first place.
Yes, I see that. I see that coming. But this needs time. Even amongst my friends, you hear that there's any album coming out, then there's hype, that hype lasts two days. Then you forget it. Because three days later there's another band and hype for that. Will the world remember that album in two years? Will the world remember that album in a month? Because I truly doubt so, and I'm not saying this is the case with all bands, of course not, but it's certainly very common nowadays. Same goes for any sort of artistic expression or release, not just an album or music. TV shows, books, there's just so much content now. Every time I watch something or read something I want it to leave a mark on my life in some sort of way. Like yesterday I was listening to Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, where is the next De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas? I mean maybe it's already on Spotify, but I've never found it. The newest album that sort of stood out for me was the VLTIMAS record because it's so extreme and it's got charisma.
Thank you very much Nergal for the great chat and for your time as well. It was a pleasure talking with you.
Thank you, it was a really good talk. Again, inspiring and very passionate conversation which is what I enjoy about these interviews. I want you to remember the interview in five or ten years because we're probably going to meet when we're on tour and we're going to talk about it. Then when you bring up some of the topics we discussed today then I'll be like "Yeah of course I remember that interview." You know what I mean? So yeah, awesome stuff man and I really appreciate it. Take good care of yourself and goodbye for now.
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1 is out now via Napalm Records and on most major streaming platforms.
Listen to "By The River" below:
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1 Tracklisting:
01. Run With The Devil, feat. Jørgen Munkeby (Shining NO)
02. Coming Home, feat. Sivert Høyem (Madrugada)
03. Burning Churches, feat. Mat McNerney (Grave Pleasures)
04. By The River, feat. Ihsahn (Emperor)
06. Surrender, feat. Dead Soul / Rob Caggiano (Volbeat)
07. Deep Down South, feat. Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer) / Nicke Anderson (Entombed)
08. Man Of The Cross, feat. Jerome Reuter (Rome)
09. You Will Be Mine, feat. Matt Heafy (Trivium)
10. How Come?, feat. Corey Taylor (Slipknot / Stone Sour) / Brent Hinds / Rob Caggiano (Volbeat)
11. Confession, feat. Niklas Kvarforth (Shining SE)