“Total Dictatorship and Submission”
from Legacy Magazine (DE) 22 of February, 2013: issue 083. (Originally published in German)
For 20 years, they have both been the alpha-wolves of their bands: founders, front men, guitarists, [and] head composers. Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy) and Helmuth Lehner (Belphegor) have similar skills and visions, but they are different as well. Both have excessive personalities and have stood already with one leg on the threshold of death. [These are] grounds enough [to have] them at the round table [to] further [discuss] similarities. But also to hammer out the differences.
LM: Peter, three years ago you offered Esa and Tomi a listening session in Helsinki at the Round Table, having just stepped onto the then upcoming Amorphis-Japan-Tour. Now you have produced Belphegor’s new album. How did you persuade Belphegor that you were better than Andy Classen?
Peter: If I remember correctly, I was requested to take the job. I was not that much familiar with their history, but we were both on Nuclear Blast.
LM: Do you remember the first time you took notice of Hypocrisy?
Helmuth: That was in the time of “Obscolum Obscenum”. I heard the band on a “Death is Just the Beginning” Label sampler from Nuclear Blast and was impressed: slow, dark, but extremely brutal! Bands like HYPOCRISY and Dissection brought this Iron Maiden/Judas Priest influence that was an important development for the Scandinavian death metal genre.
LM: How did your communication in the studio continue?
Peter: BELPHEGOR had a very clear vision of what they wanted to achieve and sought only the best possible sound for the album. The song structures were already very sophisticated. So my task was to see to the tone and for that also, to make sure that everyone sounded as good as possible.
Helmuth: Exactly. We rehearse often and are always close to completely prepared when we enter the studio.
LM: Do you need a dominant Producer?
Helmuth: No. I have so much will and discipline, and can motivate myself when I see that it is necessary. As a musician, you do what you want in the end . You go your own way and make your own decisions. With progressing age, one will be wiser and see many things from a different perspective.
LM: Will this be a new era?
Helmuth: One can never know; expect the unexpected. We value the sound that Peter welded together for us a lot [on Blood Magick Necromance]. In the summer, we’ll let the upcoming album [produced by Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal] out and then we’ll see from there.
LM: Would it be a dream to work once in a U.S. studio in the future like Belphegor?
Peter: No, that would be a step back. With a particular studio, one can split up the work time much better. The current situation is very comfortable. We can take up work when suits us. Flexibility has become in the last year the highest priority for my bands. I also don’t have any dream producers that I absolutely must work with. With this in mind, I’ve built my own studio because one always has to deal with a lot of blablabla from swollen egos. Then, one comes home and the results sound shitty.
LM: . . .2013 will be celebrated as the 20th anniversary of Belphegor. “Bloodbath in Paradise” came out in 1993. Taking a look back, is there any album that you absolutely hate?
Helmuth: “Blutsabbath” is really shit–but because of the sound, not musically. That was 1997 and the producer had no experience with our kind of sound. Like Peter says, the guy stole too much oxygen for his chatter. I learned that then: work with people who have the Know-how and knowledge to make metal with the right sound.
LM: Peter lived in the U.S. in the end of the 1980’s for one year. Could you see yourself temporarily turning your back on Austria?
Peter: Would I want to live in Austria with Helmuth?
LM: Also an interesting vision. . .
Peter: I was 18 then. Now I am damn old–who would want to do that again?
Helmuth: For the whole time we were on tour and made our album, and learned to love that.
Peter: But one is always happy to come back home. I need silence and freedom in order to gather myself when I’m working on songs. I can’t compose songs on tour.
Helmuth: Yeah, during tours it’s chaos. Specifically, excess and extreme drinking.
LM: Aren’t you both Country folk? Peter grew up in a neighborhood like Pärlby.
Helmuth: I come absolutely from the country. You can withdraw yourself efficiently, you have silence, in order to store new energy for the upcoming invasions. At the moment, we have over a meter of snow in Abtenau, where our rehearsal bunker is stationed. I still remember well the five weeks that I was in Pärlby. Wonderful pieces of land there above a large lake.
LM: Are there any rivalries in your domain? Do you have to set limits for any of the band members?
Peter: If I didn’t always have the rein in hand, absolutely nothing would happen with Hypocrisy.
Helmuth: Democracy doesn’t function in Belphegor. One person must decide in what direction we’re marching and how we want to reach our goals. It’s like what it is in war. We need many soldiers, but only one General, not the opposite!
LM: Peter called it “Pain as democracy”, as he would be discussing band decisions with himself.
Helmuth: Total dictator, submission, hahaharr. [A] joke. There are millions of opinions and opinions are like assholes: everyone has one. It is not simple to lead a band for 20 years, especially not a band like BELPHEGOR. We are always swimming against the current.
(Photo Credit: Thomas Adorff, http://www.thomas-adorff.de )
LM: Have either of you any experiences out of the ordinary from the typical hangover stories, like blackouts on stage or writer’s block?
Peter: On stage, you forget every once in a while lyric fragments, but milliseconds later you find them again. For me, writing music is not a problem–it’s more difficult to find the time [to write music]. But there’s much more in life than music to think about. There is also pussy. . .
Helmuth: (laughs dirtily) Metal, drugs, and alcohol–fuck yeah!
LM: Peter, you’ve stated in an interview before that you hate “flowery” sex and tenderness. Helmuth must not have had to give you a briefing in the S&M world?
Peter: No, I’m honest about that, believe me. I am a hedonist.
LM: And in the name of pain. . .do you train your vocal chords before gigs?
Peter: No, I don’t play with them warm. I prefer to get my guitar first when the intro runs. Because [warming up your vocal chords] doesn’t help.
Helmuth: When you’re younger, you need that. But with our schedule you go out to the stage and plug the cable in. But I practice a lot on the guitar, because I simply love playing. The guitar is my psychiatrist and when something doesn’t go well, I go off and shred.
Peter: I have never really trained myself in playing guitar. Actually, I seek to better myself more as a song writer.
LM: Both of you were not singers in the beginning, instead you slipped into the role at the last minute.
Peter: Our old singer (Editor’s Note: later [played] a long time in Dark Funeral) split during a running tour.
Helmuth: Our second singer left us before “Blutsabbath” and I was tired of the entire discussion. Do this, do that. Then I would rather take it all over myself and I can’t complain anymore. I needed a few years before it all worked out. I love singing, you have full control.
Peter: When I’m 60 and screwed, I’ll hang out in the corner and play Blues.
LM: Dan Swanö admitted that he borrowed a Choir passage for “Crimson” directly from Queen. Have either of you already known of a melody or riff and took it simply because it fit excellently in a song?
Helmuth: Peter. . .
Peter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. . .I’ve determined that so often afterward. Oh shit, this riff is from this or that band. Too late, we’re keeping it. That’s why we’ve thrown no songs in the trash, because one always brings their own particular handwriting to it. Listen to the Blues. It’s always the same shit in different songs.
Helmuth: If anything, I restrict myself to classical composers. Naturally, I have inspirations. Those that must be named are: Morbid Angel, Slayer, and Black Sabbath. One cannot create completely new material, every Goddamn riff has already been played. Technology and sound make many things possible.
LM: Do you miss the old, excessive times or do you celebrate a rebirth?
Peter: I’ve changed absolutely nothing. At the most, I’m more relaxed when I smoke too much.
Helmuth: I had to change a lot. I underwent some quasi-forced-cleansing, but through that I didn’t mutate into a born-again, shitty Christian.
Peter: I’m not dependent, Simply, I’m always willing to party–that’s a big difference.
Helmuth: I’ve always worked out–even on tour, and I did still much more drinking. Rock music and excess go hand-in-hand. No artist who was not on drugs, alcohol, or whatever there was, has ever created something noteworthy. In earlier times and now. Most of the classical composers were sons of whores from the finest.
LM: Do you regret any mistakes?
Peter: Sometimes one regrets decisions, but one doesn’t look back anyway, instead they look forward. There are many songs or also productions from me, that are–from the present day’s point-of-view–shit, but were in some point in time the best that I could do.
Helmuth: I don’t focus so much on songwriting, rather [I focus] more on atmosphere and intensity. Bettering oneself is always the Master Plan, as instrumentalist, as a band. When Peter says that he never practices, I can never imagine that because he’s an excellent guitarist. I have no idea how he does it–maybe he’s very talented? Respect!
LM: Would sudden deafness be grounds for suicide?
Peter: Should I lose my hearing, the possibility would be tremendously big that I would become a pro-drinker. No, seriously: I wouldn’t be walking on the edge anymore. Considering this[going deaf], it doesn’t matter whether I drink a lot or a little, as long as I enjoy my life.
Helmuth: It would be enormously difficult for me to live without music. I’m listening to music all the time, actually, naturally not just Death and Black Metal. Recently, Motörhead, Rolling Stones, The Who, and Kiss “The Elder” were in the player. And I love to create music myself.
LM: What would be grounds to give up on the band?
Helmuth: When my good health no longer lasts. If I no longer could give 100%.
Peter: For myself, if PAIN and HYPOCRISY were to disband, I would continue to write songs. It would simply open a new chapter [for me].
Helmuth: [To Peter] But that would be hard, right?
Peter: Definitely. But when one doesn’t feel comfortable in a band configuration you perceive everything as an agony and you want to storm off in a different direction, this [going a new direction] is better than being pissed off for the whole day. That could happen to me someday.
LM: BELPHEGOR lyrics heavily contain German lines. Peter, the only Swedish title one can find from you is on “The Abyss” debut, “The Other Side”, right?
Peter: That would definitely make no sense, the language doesn’t sound [good]. Of course, I’m imagining right now the Swedish Cook from the Muppet Show, [and] how he would sound screaming over a 250 BPM blastbeat.
Helmuth: I like to scream in German. We use that on every album here and there. It is damn heavy and sounds simply like Soldiers who are marching into the war. Latin [is] the same: blasphemous and archaic–a Belphegor trademark.
LM: A similarity between you two is definitely your diabolical pleasure from blasphemy. When did you determine that [blasphemy] is more than a “fuck you” rock ‘n roll attitude, and instead a primary pillar of your art?
Peter: With Venom 1980, “Welcome to Hell”. . .music, I’d already heard before I could crawl, and I wanted already in that time to be up on the stage. But Venom were in that time simply the most brutal sound that one could imagine.
Helmuth: Rebellion was always important for me already. It hit me during the course of my first extreme concert experience: Slayer in Munich, Deutsches Museum, during the “South of Heaven” tour. That was in the year 1989 around-abouts, with Overkill. Brilliant, good memories. My musical taste evolved from this day forward, and would then become more brutal, along with my guitar playing. Sigurd, the second founding member, left the troop around 2006 for reasons of health. He brought much of the “Fukk you all” mentality attitude in the band. The anti-religion stance came from ourselves , inspired by where we live, to drain everything right and conservative from [where we live].
LM: Would you produce a band with offensive, Christian texts?
Peter: No, I still haven’t gotten a request from such a band, except for Belphegor.
Helmuth: Höhöhö. . .
LM: For a while, you [Peter] were also the tour guitarist for Marduk. Do you still feel familiar with the other members [of Marduk] even though you’re no longer taking part in the band?
Peter: We had a great time with each other in the studio, just as we did on tour. It would definitely be cool to simply get up on the stage again and not have to think about the usual guitar playing.
Helmuth: Peter, we’re looking for a second guitarist.
Peter: Nah, Marduk doesn’t need [a second guitarist]. Oh, you’re talking about you guys? I’m there. Fuck HYPOCRISY. (smiles)
Helmuth: Goat. . .
LM: Is there a band that means so much to you that you would enjoy providing temporary help or even permanently stepping in to a role in the band?
Helmuth: In a temporary situation, yeah. Man, if there existed some. Slayer for example. I play very dynamically [and] powerful. I wouldn’t put it past myself though.
LM: Would you ever as a producer suffer through unprofessional musicians with out-of-tune instruments?
Peter: As a producer one is everything: Mentor, Psychologist, and Sound Engineer. One tries to appease the bands, and with that they’re not making huge mistakes out of nervousness. One shouldn’t handle these people too hard. It is hard work to bring something to light, especially when one can rush an individual musician, there’s more to give.
LM: Part of your customers have furiously abandoned the Uni-sound Studio because Swanö edited unauthorized flawed recordings [played by musicians other than those in the band].
Peter: I’ve had to do that sometimes. . .whether I play the bass or someone else does, it doesn’t matter—as long as the person playing the instrument has his photo on the cover. In the end, it doesn’t matter, the album just has got to have the best performance and best sound that an album can have. If a bassist instead of any of the other three members visit at the same time, it is damn hard for it in the end to maintain a good sound.
Helmuth: That would never happen to me. I don’t let any strangers on my guitar parts. Preparation is everything. If it doesn’t work practice-practice-practice, or stay home with mommy.
LM: Are there songs or albums in the earlier Belphegor history that you feel the actual material was hobbled due to the technological capabilities of the time?
Helmuth: We always have particular tracks through which we absolutely try to overstep boundaries, where we know that there will be a fight in the studio [in order to do so]. But it’s very important to support oneself and the band. Some like it, others don’t. Kiss my ass.
LM: Peter, the KISS-fanatic would gladly hear that.
Peter: I’m definitely no longer as preoccupied with them. KISS were phenomenal in the 70’s and partially in the 80’s, and then afterward they were damn rotten. In that time extreme music came into my life. But I do still collect KISS Memorabilia. I’m interested only in the earlier makeup phase, and today [collecting] isn’t really a hobby for me. But I have great childhood memories with all the posters and records from my youth.
LM: What was the beginning of their end for you—the disco taboo-breaching “I was Made for Lovin’ You”?
Helmuth: With that song I got on board. I immediately went out and got myself the “Dynasty” LP. Back then that was the most extreme that there was, KISS and AC/DC. Sikk.
Peter: Right. You’ve already explained that. In that time, I was nine and considered it “cool”. But sometime later I had to rethink that.
LM: With their macabre and erotic lyrics and cover photos, Belphegor have felt the whip of censorship. Have there also been objections against Hypocrisy’s work?
Peter: Only from the Label side, also with Pain. Hypocrisy had a song in 1992 called, “God is a Lie” and they attempted to get us to change our minds and change the title to “God is a. . .” Since “Penetralia” was our first album, we didn’t want any quarrels from breaking the bridle, so we gave in. (Editor’s Note: The previously mentioned title can be found on the “Inferior Devoties” MCD and the “10 Years of Chaos and Confusion” Double album.)
Helmuth: The whole business is full of restrictions. Haha, I remember back when “The Last Supper” came out, what fun we had with the cover etc. Everything overflowed against the barricades. We pissed on the leg of each and every one.
Peter: Today, if someone were to submit such a proposal this would be my answer: Lick my ass. Then I would just go to another firm. There are always people who want to have things as harmless as possible and [these people] want to live in la-la land. One has to make their mark.
Helmuth: We always had problems with the Mainstream. That means, we’re doing something right.
LM: “Infernal Live Orgasm” was released in 2002 by the former label, “Phallelujah”. Is this a pattern for the future?
Helmuth: It is almost impossible, because one has to pour in a lot of grit at the forefront. At the time [of the release of ILF] that was ten years after the band had begun and we wanted to celebrate that. But nobody wanted to release that album with the cover, the photos, and the attitude within.
LM: Has the Metal Scene lost its spirit?
Peter: No, we were only younger back then, and the music that came out was better. Today, there are two trillion metal bands worldwide. One gets what they earn. There reigns a fast-food and Drive-in mentality. For me, it means that since over 20 years ago: I must, I must, I must. And I enjoy going on-stage, traveling, and writing songs. I can’t do anything other than that. I’ve said often that I would leave this shit-business in a heartbeat, if I had an alternative. But without music, I would go completely insane. It’s not just fun and partying, one must also surpass themselves with every new album. Sometimes, I notice in hindsight, that I [haven’t surpassed myself] with some efforts.
Helmuth: All the stuff having to with metal has become really big. On the one hand, there are things that are good, but naturally there also are always a lot of clones that come along with it. The exchange of ideas of bands is a farce. As long as I hear nothing new, I’m not interested.
LM: The last word belongs to you guys.
Helmuth: Fukk the church.
Peter: (Laughing) We won’t be fucking any churches here, more like in the church. But I’m too old for that shit.
Helmuth: Me too.
Legacy Magazine (Germany)