It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to make today an interview with Zagan from the Folk/Viking Metal pioneers of Black Messiah.
Even that your latest release “Walls of Vanaheim“ already leads back three years ago, there is always some activity going on within Black Messiah. Already in the summer of 2019 you announced a re-release of your first full length release “Sceptre of Black Knowledge“ ( Black Metal Release) and you planned to play some exclusive “Old School Shows” with songs from your first two albums. Why you decided to do so? What was the feedback out of your fan base?
“Dear Jürgen, Dear Folk-Metal.nl community. It is a pleasure for me to hold this interview and to give you some insights into Black Messiah. Yes, you are right, “Walls of Vanaheim” is already three years old and due we did not had the possibility to work on new songs, I was thinking about what else can we do for our fan base. The main issue was that after the creation time of “Walls” we and I in particular felt quite empty. Such a concept album takes a lot of power and is much more exhausting to realize then a normal release. This small creative break was really necessary. Of course there had been attempts to work on new compositions, but I quickly disregard the same, because I did not like them at all.
The idea of the re-release of our first record “Sceptre of Black Knowledge” was there already a long time. The album is not available for purchase since the year 2000 and our record label back then “Last Episode” already closed their doors. A lot of people asked us if it somehow possible to receive a copy of it. Due to legal reasons we needed to wait till now in order to re-release the record on our own and to bring the record again into the market. Also the create break made this step possible and of course out of it was also coming the idea to bring those songs back on stage. The people who know us understand that this was not possible in those days. In the mid of the 90s, once “Sceptre” was released the band only had two members. Therefore we had not been able to perform it live and thereafter we had already enough to do with our upcoming releases. Due the playing time of “Sceptre” is quite short the idea was born also to include songs of our second release for the “Old-School Shows”. There are a lot of songs which we surely did not have played live since 15 years.
The feedback of that idea was very positive. A lot of people wrote us that they are looking forward to see us playing that old stuff. Of course we reworked all that old songs in respect of the sound. They are coming now with much more power and a much harsher sound. I am really excited to see how the people will like those special shows. Till now we did not had the chance to perform any of them due the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”
In respect of the “Old School Shows” you had been already booked by remarkable festivals as the Dark Troll Festival in Bornstedt (DE), the Cernunnus Pagan Fest in Noisel (FR), the Mead & Greed in your hometown Oberhausen (DE) and the Barther Metal Open Air in Barth (DE). As per my knowledge due the CoVid-19 pandemic none of those shows happened, right? Or was there any possibility to perform at any of above festivals? How does an artist handle such situation? Had those gigs just been postponed to 2021 or what can your fans await in respect of those old school shows?
“Indeed this Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed the whole year of 2020 for all artists and fans. It is right that we had been booked with this special show on many festivals. We only had the chance to play at the Cernunnos in France in February this year, but this was a normal set. Till now there was no opportunity to perform this special show, but no worries all those gigs had been currently postponed to 2021. Therefore I am optimistic that you will have the chance to see it during next year. I sincerely hope that this pandemic if over soon. I never experienced in my life such a quiet summer. I do not like such quietness at all. I am really missing all the hustle and bustle.
During the total lock down we just used the time to do nothing. We have done in the last years so much, that it was really good to have a break. This break also have some positive side, as slowly new ideas for new songs were growing. It would be really great if this pandemic is going to an end and that the restrictions in respect of events are vanishing. To be honest to play gigs in front of 100 people in a concert hall, which is made up for 500 are also not the real deal. Furthermore a lot of promoters and event managers can’t even reach the break-even with such events and this is a no-go as well.”
In the end of September 2020 there had been the next breaking news and you announced your 30th Anniversary Festival on the 04.12.2021 in the Resonanzwerk in your hometown Oberhausen.
It is really amazing how the time flies by. As special guests you announced Asenblut, Obscurity and Helgrindur. So it will come to the show-down of the Viking Metal bands. What is the connection to your invited special guests for this gig?tate that Oberhausen is not our hometown. All members of Black Messiah are from the Ruhr-Area, but nobody is from Oberhausen directly. Black Messiah was founded 1991 in Gelsenkirchen and this is actually a kind of our home-base, mainly because I am the last member of the founders and was raised there. We choose Oberhausen because the concert-hall there is perfect for our needs and it is only around a 10 minute drive away from us.
What connects us to our guests? There are basically three points which come to my mind. First of all Asenblut and Obscurity are already active in our scene for a very long time and certainly count to the Viking Metal Veterans in Germany as well. Therefore it was clear that we met on concerts and festivals, which brings me to the second point. We all have a very good personal relationship, had been celebrating together at parties, had laughed together and made commonly a lot of nonsense. I really can say that we became friends and that it is always a pleasure if our paths are crossing somewhere.
Third it is the music which connects us. We all have our own styles and therefore I think the billing for Viking and Pagan fans could not be better.
Helgrindur is a young band from Solingen, which already could get some good live experiences in the past. The first time I met their guitar player Flemming at a petrol station he was working for around 3 or 4 years ago. I was refueling my car and as I wanted to pay, this blond, long-haired cashier asked me if I am Zagan from Black Messiah and if it is ok to give me one of his demos. I found that approach very cool and took his demo and immediately listen to it in my car. Since some years I am listening to a lot of demos, but this one really was outstanding due really good song ideas and a very amazing sound quality. Therefore we decided to invite those guys to our festival and I believe they are totally fitting into our line-up. I can only recommend you to listen to them. The best possibility for that would be on the 04.12.2021 in Oberhausen at our Anniversery Show.😀”
At your 30th Anniversery Festival you will perform a Best of Viking/Pagan Metal Show and as well as a highlight a Black Metal Old School Set. If you look back in your bands history, what had been the biggest highlights so far?Correct, we will perform two times. First we will perform a “Best of set” and the second time an “Old School Set”, which will be different to our other “Old School Shows”, as we will go further behind in our bands history and will also add songs from our first demos. I guess that this will never happen again and should be a unique experience only for this show.
Highlights in our band history?! That is really not an easy question. In all those years we have experienced so much great things, so it is really hard to filter out some single happenings. Of course big festival shows are always great, but also small club concerts are intensive and have their benefits.
Anyway I must state that it was something special to play our cover version of Moscow in Moscow. The crowd just went crazy and after the show I have the feeling that we spent nearly the whole night to give autographs.
I can imagine in 30 years of a band history you had the one or other funny situation while touring. During this critical pandemic which we are in can you bring us a smile in our faces?
“Yes, you are absolutely right. For us it is always a happening when we are touring. We are laughing all the time and this is what makes touring really livable.
I can remember a story which is some years ago. We were on our way in our tour bus somewhere in the middle of the deepest Bavaria. During the night, everybody was more or less drunk and we stopped at a rest stop. Once we were getting out of the bus a police car was approaching us and two police men jumped out of their car. They immediately started to control us in such a manner that they nearly took apart our full tour bus. Thereafter we also had the pleasure of a body search. Everything was really taking quite long. After around a half an hour they found our merchandize case below all our instruments. Once they opened it one of the police man came to us and asked us “Are you really Black Messiah? “. After we confirmed the same he wanted to take some pictures with us, which we did. After that we sent him the picture via mail. This was somehow funny, I mean he could get the photos as well without a 45 min foreplay. 😀
Generally traveling with Black Messiah means drinking till the end, so there had been some funny stories in this respect. Once we were flying to England at the mid of the flight we already had emptied the whole bar of the airplane. No more “Schnaps” available 😀
Another story was in Moscow when we emptied the whole bar of the promoter, who could not believe what happened 😀 Beeing on tour is hard work 😀.”
Black Messiah is already active since 1991 and during your first two releases you much more focused on Black Metal. Thereafter you took the decision to go into the direction Viking/Pagan Metal. How that decision had been made?
“Basically this was not really a decision, but more a development which took place within our band. We were never sitting on a table and said “now we are going to do Pagan Metal”. Over the years my lyrics started to drift more and more into the German or Northern Mythology. If you check the lyrics on the album “Sceptre of Black Knowledge” you can already see that. Songs as “Pagan Winter” or “Old Gods” are 100% pagan. Actually already on the old Demos from the early 90ies we had a mixture of satanic and pagan themes. Therefore it was only logical that our music was also adapting and changing during this process. I am quite proud that we belong to one of the first who did so. In that times there even had not been any sign of a Pagan Metal wave in sight. It also comes to my mind right now, as far as I know we also had been one of the first who included Humppa elements into Metal. Just listen to the ending of the song Old Gods, that was years before Finntroll or Korpiklaani. There you can see that we had been part of that scene from the very beginning.”
Even if nobody can hear it anymore I want to ask you because somehow it is fitting to the current situation. I believe in 30 years of your band history you never faced such crucial times as during the CoVid-19 pandemic. How did you managed this time and which challenges you had?
“Of course it is annoying if you can’t play live, due all that restrictions. We had the big luck that nobody of us is living from Black Messiah. We all have regular jobs and see our band as relaxation. We had a lot of options to sign a mayor deal, but always refused to do so.
For us it was always important that only Black Messiah can make the decision, where we want to play, when we want to make a record or how we want to present us. These choices you do not have if you have a mayor deal. Of course you will find people, who will say that this was a wrong decision, but we look at it from a different perspective. This freedom we kept was always inspiring us in our music and as well in the create processes. We will never change this attitude. Of course the Covid-19 restrictions hit us, but never could destroy us. I know from a lot of other bands, promoters, bookers, event managers and many others that they have way more problems with the situation. You can be assure that Black Messiah was there before the pandemic and will be there thereafter, as long as everybody keeps healthy. As already said before we used the whole situation for a creative pause and to relax. That was quite good for us all, it did not had any influence on our health or creativity. However we would be very happy if this shit will end as soon as possible.”
The Beauty Off…
You last album „Walls of Vanaheim“ lays back already three years. Is there any hope for a new release soon?
“Well, it will not be very soon. We slowly start to focus on new stuff and I am sure that at the end we will have good product, but I can’t say how long it will take. We will definitively take our time until we sharing all the opinion that new album is ready for release. It is better to make in 5 years 2 good releases then every 3 year a “so and so” album. This is as well the beauty in having no major deal.”
Thanks a lot for your time and the interview. At the end do you want to give any shout outs to the Folk-Metal.nl community?
“Absolutely! Dear Folk-Metal Community, I hope that we can welcome some of you on the 04.04.2021 to our 30 Years Anniversary Festival with Asenblut, Obscurity, Helgrindur and two times Black Messiah! A small recommendation from my side, from our concert hall there is a small B&B hotel only 10 Minutes away, this might be important for people who are coming from outside.
Otherwise Party On!! And stay as you are!!”