INTERVIEW : Robert Vigna of Immolation talks Direct Underground Fest and more
By Kyla Scrivener
The last two years of Direct Underground Fest have been received incredibly well by Australian metal enthusiasts and bands alike. This year the success continues with another killer heavy line up that is building the foundations for DUF to be one of our most eagerly awaited annual mini-fests in the Aussie extreme metal scene. Those who attend will be annihilated by a handpicked mix of black & death metal that will strip the flesh from your bones.
Direct Underground Fest will be held in both Sydney and Melbourne this year, with a line up that includes Swedish black metal heavy weights Dark Funeral, death metal kings Immolation, local death metal pioneers Abremalin and lastly South Australia’s Christ Dismembered & Victoria’s Reaper.
Kyla from Everblack Media was lucky enough to sneak a quick talk to Immolation’s very own Robert Vigna about the upcoming tour; their musical influences and how to make it all work over a career that spans over 30 years.
Thank you so much Robert! We really appreciate you taking a moment out of your busy schedule to talk about your upcoming tour!
No worries all, glad to do it ;) We just finished up the summer with two awesome Open Air festivals in Europe,....Brutal Assault in Czech Republic and PartySan Metal Open Air in Germany. Now we are flying back to the states for a week and then start the Asia dates soon after! We’ve never been to Asia, so we are pretty excited! And directly after that we return to Australia for our second time which we are really looking forward to!
Well Australian metal heads are so excited to have you back for your second visit to our sunny shores. We are going to have to get you guys back a few more times given you have three decades worth of great material. Are there any favourite tracks that have been added to the set list for this visit that you are excited to play for your Aussie fans?!
We have over 20 or more songs ready for our trip. Picking a setlist is always the hardest part for us. After 10 albums and 100 songs, it does not get any easier as time goes by. So we do our best to represent most of the records and also make the setlist interesting enough in how it flows.
We will definitely be pulling out a few off the first record and some other classics from the rest of our catalog. I think the fans will be happy as we do our best to make the set as strong as possible.
I’m sure it will be received fantastically by fans!
You all have worked so hard during your thirty one years of bringing death metal to the masses, juggling both work life and Immolation life successfully. What do you guys do to balance yourself out with such a hectic music life versus work life schedule?
We have kind of designed our lives around the band in order to make this work. The jobs we had over the years were good enough to earn us some money while also enabling us to take time off when needed for touring. That being said though, for the past two years we have taken on the band full time and have been able to now push harder and make more progress. We still do some side work here and there to help when we are home, but for the most part it is a full time band now.
It is great after all these years to now have the opportunity to really make the band our full focus. This is what we are most passionate about and we feel there is still so much potential moving forward. So we are super excited and really looking forward to all of the touring and preparation for our new album that we have ahead of us!
From a viewer/listener perspective, you all seem like you thoroughly enjoy the touring and creation aspects of Immolation and continue to get stronger and tighter as a band as you progress in your musical endeavours. Do you have any tips for bands on how to keep that comradeship and enjoyment throughout the entirety of the bands journey?
I think one of the most important things is to enjoy what you are doing. You have to have a passion and love of the music as well as the touring and work that goes with it. It isn’t always fun and games, and there is a lot of business, sacrifice and hard work involved. So you really have to be able to enjoy, or at least be open minded in dealing with such things if you are going to be successful. We’ve been at it for over 30 years and we are still working hard and struggling to keep our heads above water, but we love what we do so that’s what keeps us going.
Finding the right people is another important factor. Ross and I have been at this since the very beginning, so having that partner along the way, always backing each other up and helping each other out, goes a long way. We’ve been luckily enough to have had a great solid line up over the years as well. Steve has been playing with us since 2003 and we had Bill in the band since 2000, until 2016 when he just decided he wanted to step down. Now we have Alex since then (who we have known for over 30 years) and we didn’t miss a step. All of these guys have been into it 110% and we all get along and respect each other, so that is what keeps things together. I would say that the touring and travelling has just gotten better and better over the years because we all have a great time together and are loving what we do.
The rest of this year is going to be super busy, so it’s a good thing!! Haha
It’s such a fantastic attitude and level headedness that you all seem to bring to the table here that makes it all seem so enjoyable.
Given your experience in the business, you would get to meet a lot of personalities that could make tours very memorable. Do you go out of your way to tour with certain bands who you know you will have a great time with both on and off the stage? Do you have any favourites in particular that you would like to share with us?
We have been pretty lucky over the years. We are pretty easy going and we get along with just about anyone really. So just about every tour we have been on we have had great experiences. I’d say there were only a couple of times where bands on a tour were kind of a “fail”, and luckily those were few and far between.
Some of our favorite bands to tour with, and who we have been out with on several occasions, are Krisiun, Marduk and Cannibal Corpse. We’ve done multiple tours with these bands and have had great times doing so.
We have also had some great times with bands like Full Of Hell, Napalm Death, and too many to even remember haha.
With these bands we have had the opportunity to tour with them both separately as well as in a bus together where you really get to hang out for longer periods of time. That’s when it’s really cool because you have more time to really get to know each other.
We have had great experiences with so many bands though and are so lucky to know so many cool people in the scene.
What is unique about your position in the metal community is that you have been a part of the death metal scene since its inception. Leaning on that experience and watching bands come and go over the years, is there anyone at the moment within the death metal scene that you think are making waves and carrying its legacy forward in an exciting direction?
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to tour and meet many great artists over the recent years. There are a lot of up and coming bands. Some of the younger bands we think are making some waves in the underground today are bands like Full Of Hell and Blood Incantation. You have Full Of Hell with a more noise/grind approach, but with great heavy riffing and a lot feeling,...which is awesome. And then Blood Incantation who brings a lot of the old school darker elements to the table, with diverse passages and newer approach. Both pay homage to where the genre started, but add new and fresh elements in unique ways to bring it to the next generation.
It seems it has taken a lot of years, but finally the newer bands are taking the music in a darker more atmospheric direction rather than all chaotic brutality, which is great to see.
It’s the younger bands and fans that continue to inspire us and give us that everlasting ambition to move our music forward.
Fantastic choices! That is one of the best aspects of death metal though is being able bring fresh elements to the table with room to experiment.
One of the important aspects of creating a successful metal lineage and keeping patrons wanting more is consistency. This word has gone hand in hand with Immolation for decades. You continue to be the spine of reference when it comes to being able to stay true to your death metal heritage however have been able to modernise it in a way that is unique solely to the immolation sound. Is there a process of creation/elimination when it comes to how you preserve the core sound of Immolation?
I’m not sure there is any complete process. We just know what we are looking for. We love the idea of creating new music and taking what we do further each time. You have to expand and try to be as creative as possible,...that’s just how we look at it. But at the same time we want to keep that vibe and feel that our music has had since the beginning. For us this style was more about feeling than speed, or brutality. It is extreme music, but we want that music to serve a purpose. For us the music has to have the thought, emotion and subject matter behind it to make it all work. We always strive to make each song interesting and stand out on its own. The music, the lyrics, the vibe and atmosphere,...they are all important.
So after over 30 years of writing , we have gotten better at it and more in tune with what works and doesn’t work. It’s a never ending learning process.
You’ve mentioned over the years that you are all quite influenced by all styles of music including non metal music. It is so easy to fall into the “I only listen to metal” stereotype these days, which you guys seem to enjoy breaking the stigma of often. What are you listening to at the moment that you are really enjoying that will ruffle metal heads feathers?
I know there are a lot of “metal only” fans out there, but from what I’ve seen in the metal community I don’t think I will ruffle many feathers, as most people I run into are very open minded in their musical taste ;). Personally some of my favorite non-metal artists are Muse, Depeche Mode, A Perfect Circle, The Cranberries, Bjork, Tori Amos, to name a few.
I am extremely open minded when it comes to music. I find that I am interested in the feeling and atmosphere of the music, whether militant or dark or sometimes just powerful , but those are usually elements that attract me. Sometimes it’s just the energy or creativeness of the artist. There is always so much to find in music and it’s sometimes difficult to explain why you like or dislike something.
That being said, it is always inspirational.
For your 10th studio album “Atonement”, yourself & Ross did a track by track explanation on The Nuclear Blast YouTube page which gave incredible insight into the process behind the scenes. Being able to break down each song and go that in depth on each track from the source itself is such a delight for metal enthusiasts. Is this a process that you enjoyed and will continue to do for future releases?
Well those videos were pretty funny actually as at the time we did them we were so fresh out of the studio , that I didn’t even know which songs we were talking about half the time haha. Once I realized the song number to its brand new title it made things easier, but after you write and record 11 songs as “#1 thru #11, in that order, then give them titles and put them out of order,...it throws you off a bit haha
We probably wouldn’t be opposed to doing that again, but to me a record is like one long song. You keep writing until you fill the gaps you feel need to be filled. The approach is usually the same for each song though, try to create the best music we can. So sometimes dissecting each song can be a bit redundant. I think next time we will just need a little more time to get used to the studio completed versions of the songs, and that will help us to make for an even better behind the scenes song by song break down session ;)
The lyrical undercurrent in Atonement really emphasized to me the need to unplug from social media, the news, television and any real government biased content. Politically minded bands like Immolation are thrusting the listener into critical analysis mode and really address the need to assess what people are exposed to via any forms of media. During the 80’s PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) movement, bands of your stature were seen as public enemy number one for sullying the minds of the young due to provocative subjects expressed via lyrical content, music videos and album art work. Do you find it ironic, 30 years later, that your lyrical content encourages the masses to be enlightened to the idea of the Government and the Tipper Gore’s of the world are who we really need to be frightened of?
Yes it is pretty ironic. There is just so much corruption and deception going on out there, that it is very hard to tell what the truth ever is,...and that’s exactly how they want it.
Our lyrics always look at that darker side of mankind , and although we do examine the world, we try to do it in a very ‘open to interpretation’ kind of way. We want the messages to get out there, but we also want the listeners to get there own personal experiences out of it as well. So we usually design the lyrics to take on double meanings and come at ideas from different angles so each person can get their own thing out of it. We like the music to be dark, so we want the lyrics to match that.
With the current state of the world I think we will have plenty to write about for some time to come!
Well thank you so much again for taking time out of your day to talk about the tour and help get Aussie metal patrons psyched for Direct Underground Fest. We look forward to epic show you have in store for us and we hope you get to see some of our wonderful country while you are here!
Thank you Kyla, we appreciate it and are really looking forward to playing for the Australian Metal fans once again!! We are excited and ready to decimate the land down under, so prepare to burn with us!!
See you all very soon!!
DARK FUNERAL, IMMOLATION, Christ Dismembered and Descent
September 5th - Brisbane, The Triffid
TICKETS ON SALE immediately at www.oztix.com.au
DIRECT UNDERGROUND FEST 2019 with
DARK FUNERAL, IMMOLATION, Abramelin, Christ Dismembered and Reaper
September 6th - Sydney, Crowbar
September 7th - Melbourne, Max Watts
IMMOLATION - The Distorting Light (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)