About Me

Interview with Samael

Samael is one of those bands that impressed an entire generation. Their album “Ceremony of Opposites” was considered one of the highlights of the Black Metal scene in the 90’s but, then, they started experimenting and adding more electronic and industrial elements to their sound and fans didn’t appreciate it. However, the Swiss band is returning to their roots and the 11th album “Hegemony”, released by Napalm Records, is the perfect example of that. Metal Imperium had a nice conversation with the vocalist, Vorph.

M.I. - It’s a pleasure talking to you after being a fan for so many years and I need to say that I think you have the sexiest voice in the metal scene. 

[laughts] Thanks! It’s nice to hear that.

M.I. - This year marks the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation. How do you feel about it?

We haven’t planned to do anything special. To have a new album, it’s a way to celebrate that, to show that we’re not in the past that we are moving into the future.

M.I. - What’s the best memory of Samael’s history? 

Wow, there are plenty. It’s the 1st time you do something. The 1st album, the 1st time I had it in my hand, that’s a fantastic memory, then we had the first tour after “Blood Ritual” and to play every night to a new audience, play festivals. I remember the 1st time we played Portugal, we were on tour with Cannibal Corpse, I think it was in Porto, it was a big theatre and Moonspell were playing too… it was nice! The first time we played Dynamo Festival in the 90’s before all the big festivals that came up after that… playing Dynamo was a dream for every metal musician. But I still hope the best memory is yet to come.

M.I. - Now that you’ve been around for 30 years, what have you learnt about the music industry? 

We were pretty naïve, we were so happy to get a record deal but then again the internet changed the way people consume music. We had to adapt, we just go with the flow and see what we can do at the time we are.

M.I. - 30 years of constant musical evolution… and yet only 11 albums. The last album was released in 2011, 6 years ago… which is the longest hiatus in your career. In the spring of 2016, the band was back in the studio with Waldemar Sorychta, and in July you mixed the new album in Sweden with Sefan Glaumann. What caused this delay? 

Time goes by so fast, it doesn’t feel like being so long because we were active, we had all songs ready by 2013. Xy was invited to prepare a music project for our city of Sion and it was good for him as it was his first time working with an orchestra. Plus, we had a line-up change and we had a few shows of the “Ceremony of Opposites” celebration. But then we decided to stop and finish this album once and for all. We inked a record deal with Napalm and here’s 6 years already.

M.I. - "Hegemony", combines everything that SAMAEL have learned through these decades and is not for the faint-hearted! Why?

I don’t know. Who said that?

M.I. - [laughts] It’s Napalm I guess!

Then we should ask them! People who follow us know what we have done and it makes sense to have an album like this. “Lux Mundi” was us trying to make a point, but in this one we are trying  to converge all the ideas, the music that represents us in the best way possible. 

M.I. - Some of the newer tracks remind me of the sound from the older albums and this seems to be kind of a return to your roots. Do you agree?

[laughts] Good to hear that! It’s great we somehow found our identity between Ceremony in which we included keyboard in all the songs and then Passage where we started to program the drum and have a more industrial electronic sound. Those 2 albums are the ones that define us. We tried to develop upon that and this means that we still have a line that may not be easy to follow but things do make sense.

M.I. - The new album means leadership or dominance. Why? 

First we thought of calling it “Samael” but we have a track titled Samael in the album and it could overshadow the other songs and put too much pressure on it. So we knew “Hegemony” would be the opening track and it’s a strong song as well so… and it fits with everything we have done so far… at least in my mind it fits.

M.I. - Yes, it fits! The band hasn’t been afraid to experiment… Samael have shifted from black metal into Industrial Black Metal and now you’re returning to your roots. How complicated was it experimenting in such a close-minded scene? 

We didn’t think in those terms. First and foremost we never labelled our music as Black Metal and I didn’t care about that at all but I was a fan of BM, of bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, and that’s why we started to play this kind of music. When we heard bands like Godflesh and Ministry, we thought that they that had elements close to us and it would work for what we wanted to do. I don’t think it’s metal to think/worry about what people are gonna say.

M.I. - How’s the reaction of the fans to the new tracks been so far?

I’ve seen some comments ‘cause I’ve checked it and we have already played 3 songs live and the 3 songs work very well.

M.I. - According to the band, the creative process of “Hegemony” took over 4 years and it is an album that acknowledges the world we're living in… It's all about change and evolution. Do you think it is your duty to open people’s eyes towards the dangers in society? 

No [laughts] I don’t think we have the duty to do anything. We are entertainers. If by expressing ourselves we find a way to connect in a deeper level with some people, that’s just a plus. It creates a kind of energy that we are comfortable with. We are not trying to preach or point our finger at things that should be looked after. It’s just a reflexion.

M.I. - Who or what inspires Samael these days?

That changes with time. The older you get, you can speak about your own experiences, a lot of things I was reading about, knowledge that I acquired through books and things I experience in life.. that comes up in the songs. I haven’t changed my way of life radically, so this is a reaction and a reflexion upon the life we have now.

M.I. - Your lyrics seem to include the words light, earth, force quite a few times… why this obsession with these words?

Oh really? I never analysed it but now that you said it, I guess I agree with you.

M.I. - Why do you use them so often? 

It’s so strange when you say it… I don’t really know. I guess it has to do with the dark things in life. I always jump from one side to the other but I always try to find a the middle ground. 

M.I. - The video for “Black Supremacy” is quite strong. What’s the concept behind it? 

I had a few ideas but it turned out a bit different than what I had in my mind. The producer is a metalhead and we shot this video in one night.

M.I. - The other videos for “Red Planet” and “Angel of Wrath” were chosen by you or by Napalm?

The 1st one was the “Angel of Wrath” video. It was done by a guy from Russia who actually did a video for us in the past. The 2nd one “Red Planet” was Napalm’s choice. I really couldn’t care less. Anything would go. The latter one was done by somebody from England. 

M.I. - Are you planning on doing more videos? For which tracks?

We want to do that but probably afterwards. I know the opening track has just been released but it isn’t a video, it’s just audio.

M.I. - The cover for the “Angel of Wrath” single is quite reminiscent of Samael in the early days so it really seems you miss the good old days… 

I think you are right. It is funny because our very 1st album cover was done by a tattoo artist and I had a tattoo in my hand and I didn’t know who could draw something like that so we asked a tattoo artist. The “Angel of Wrath” t-shirt and single cover was also done by a tattoo artist, but a different one.

M.I. - I think humanity is destroying our planet and we should all be on alert. Is that the meaning of lyrics for “Red planet”?

That’s one of the things… it belongs to the listener and there is no wrong way to relate to a song. I had something more abstract than that in mind but your explanation is fine as well.

M.I. - Do environmental issues such as pollution and the overpopulation concern you at all?

I don’t have kids so I didn’t contribute to the overpopulation yet and I don’t think I will because that’s not something I want. But every one lives life in his own way and I don’t want to preach about the choices that I make because those are my choices and I am not promoting them saying they are better than the others. But yes, there are problems with the environment and everyone knows about it and everyone is free to do their own way. The next generation will have to pay the price.

M.I. - The new album contains 13 tracks and was released on Friday the 13th October… Some believe it brings bad luck. Do you believe in the strength of the number 13? Is this a coincidence?

It is a coincidence, I am not a superstitious person but I like it and I think it is fun and it is a good day.

M.I. - In January 2017, the band inked a worldwide deal with Napalm Records… how are things working so far?

It’s great. They had been interested in the band for a long time even before we were in Nuclear Blast and then we were there for 3 albums. This time we decided to go with a label that didn’t have a million bands to concentrate on. We visited the office in Berlin and did some promotion there and it had a certain vibe, certain energy that made us feel good and put us in a good mindset.

M.I. - The band has a few dates lined up already but will there be a tour to promote the new album?

We don’t know. We’ll play festivals and we have a few unannounced ones. I would like to tour but it has to be something that would make sense. If we start thinking of it in January, it won’t happen before the summer and I’d like to do it before the summer otherwise it’ll be a bit late. 

M.I. - Your catalogue is so varied in terms of sound… how complicated is it choosing the set list for the concerts?

We are not going to complain. There are a few songs we tend to play most of the time, that make us feel well and the concert is not complete if we don’t play them. Once an album comes out, it’s a normal thing to play 2 or 3 new songs but we always try to play like 6 or 7. We were playing 3 new songs and the album wasn’t out so now we want to do more of “Hegemony”.

M.I. - Samael is already on its 3rd logo… you used the 1st up to “Ceremony of opposites”, the clean letters from “Passage” to “Lux Mundi” and now the 3rd one shows up… why the change?

It somehow fits with the music and with our state of mind. I also think this is our 3rd one but I don’t calculate the same way. The 1st ones looked like roots, it marks our beginning. The 2nd one was only a very flat fount and we don’t think of it as a logo, this time we came back with a square logo a bit more minimalist than before.

M.I. - In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Ceremony of opposites” you played the album live in its entirety… How did the fans react to these shows?

That was good. I know we played in Lisboa. 

M.I. - I am in Porto so I didn’t attend the show!

We should have played 2 shows in Portugal! Some people were expecting us to do it with the drum. It was great to go back to this with the new line up and give them the opportunity to play our older stuff live. This week we’ll play in California this album in its entirety but we are also playing new songs as we are headliners and have more time.

M.I. - Lucky fans! You also have the project W.A.R. (Worship And Ritual) under which you will play Samael’s two first albums “Worship him” and “Blood ritual”. Why change the name? 

Because I think if we limit ourselves to the first 2 albums, that’s not what we are these days. Our identity came up with Ceremony and Passage and if people discovered us later on, and they come to the show, it would confuse them. It is a nostalgic thing, we decided to try it but we do it under a different name because people know what they are coming to see and it won’t be misleading. So far we only played 2 shows in Switzerland. I don’t know how many shows we’ll do but maybe a few more cause we have received some offers.

M.I. – Do you know any Portuguese bands, apart from Moonspell? 

That’s the thing, I don’t know… I know Sinistro because they are touring with…

M.I. - Paradise lost! 

Yeah! Are there any bands you would recommend?

M.I. - Yeah, Sacred Sin, Heavenwood, Holocausto Canibal…

Ok, then, I’ll check them out.

M.I. - When will the Portuguese fans have the chance to see Samael play live here again? In 1996, you played in Porto with Sentenced, Tiamat… I saw you there and you need to return as soon as possible.

We will come back, sometime next year!

M.I. - You say you listen to a wide range of music… what are you listening to at the moment? 

At the moment I don’t have much time to listen to music or do anything at all.

M.I. - You've chosen Aline Fournier to shoot the promo pics for the new album... since she is not frequently associated with underground bands, why have you opted for her?

Well, she’s living here and we knew her from before. We like her way to work and she has a sensibility that we appreciate and we are happy with the result.

M.I. - What can you tell us about Samael’s Merlot wine? 

It is not for sale. We did a few bottles but basically we drank most of them with friends and family. It’s complicated to sell wine in Europe because it’s very expensive to post. But you have good wine in Portugal as well.

M.I. - Thank you so much for your time! Please leave a message to all your Portuguese fans and Metal Imperium’s readers. 

I just hope they will find some time to check our new album and that they like it. I can’t promise when but we are going back to Portugal as soon as we can. Maybe we’ll meet then!

For portuguese version, click here

Interview by Sónia Fonseca