Interview with S.A. Destroyer by Eric May
Keeping in with the spirit of Memorial Day, I’m releasing this recent interview with S.A. Destroyer of Napalm Breed (among several other acts). He discusses the new album, as well as the long process behind writing it and what it was like to work with Nocturno Culto. He also discussed much of the war-themed material on the disc and how he considers it a tribute to veterans worldwide. You know that I despise the Military Industrial Complex and horrors of war, but have great respect for those who choose to serve and defend our country believing in what they love. Also included are some extremely metal tour stories!
It has been seven years since your last album, Fields Of Rot. Did you guys feel that you needed to take a break or were there a lot of other projects going on at the time?
There have been several other projects during this long waiting process, but I think in hindsight, a break was good for the band. We had a lot of the material and riffs lying around for years. But the time never seemed to be right for a full-on recording process. We lost both our guitarists in 2010 and 2011, so we had to put all album ideas on hold a couple of times and regroup and trace our steps again. There’s also been a lot of personal shit that hasn’t got anything to do with the band and that really took some years to dig my head out of. T.Terror has really been the driving force these last seven years as to keeping the Breed locomotive on its rails. He’s stood there through thick and thin and very bad days for the band. So I owe him allot for keeping the fortress and will up and running. When our new guitarist V.Fineideath stepped in to the Breed Army back in 2010, he also carried the band into a much more creative process than had been the case of the latter years. Personally I spent allot of time on bands and projects like Aiwass, Combath, Svartalv, Antikrist, Conjuration, Nåe and Cold Orbit. So at the time I have more than ten un-released albums lying around here just waiting for the perfect label or opportunity. I also do a lot of lyrics for the 1349 albums and I guess I’ve been a “ghost-member” there since they got started. I also do lyrics and guest appearances on albums for a bunch of different bands like Satanika from Italy and SickRites from Russia and many others. Yet still through all these years, all of us kept making new Nocturnal Breed material from time to time. But in all we never spent more than a few days in the rehearsal room during these last seven years. I guess it has been through these projects I think we in a way built up the urge to give it a go with the new album. Especially working in Conjuration, which has been a delight to do. To explore a much more blood-drenched and grotesque “universe” both lyrically and musically. It is a meat-reeking death Metal project that included, apart from myself, my right hand Breedsters T.Terror and V.Fineideath. So after recording the Conjuration EP The House on Nuclear Hill and doing some gigs related to this, we just started talking more and more about doing a new Nocturnal Breed album. And thus we arrived with the new album. In a way it reflects much of the dark times we’ve endured the last seven to eight years, both in music and lyrics. From a fan perspective I think the people out there should be glad the wait was this long. The result feels much more honest and heart-felt this time; “To the bone!” as I like to say it, and I sure hope the Speed Metal Legions out there enjoy the recaptured feeling in the band. We sure do…
Let’s talk about the album. This disc actually features your original guitarist (shredding up a storm, by the way) I. Maztor in addition to several guest appearances. It sounds like you guys really wanted to come back with a bang!
Hell yeah, we did! We kinda told ourselves that if there’s any point to releasing a new album then it must be because we really have something new to offer the fans, without sounding like lame-ass modern, you know. And the return of I.Maztor sure lifted the band’s feel and spirits towards the old days in our camp. I have been in contact with I.Maztor for most of the time since he left the band in 2001 and he’s a very good old friend. He never left the band for other reasons than just to get his life back on track and regroup his forces and take care of his family. So when we were in urgent need of a new guitarist back at the start of 2011 when A.E Rattlehead retreated due to a fucked up arm, we were very happy when I.Maztor got in touch and told us he wanted to re-join the band. Maztor was a big part of the early days of the band and he helped forged it into what it is today. He was our first permanent lead guitarist and he did some wicked work on the albums No Retreat… No Surrender and The Tools Of The Trade as well as a bunch of EPs and 7″ as well as all of the tours and gigs we did back in the nineties. So we are blessed to have him back in the bunker. His style of lead guitar playing is in my mind one of the best there is out there nowadays and he sure brings back that classic metal feeling with his Adrian Smith, Andy La Roque and Dave Mustaine approach to the six stringed axe he carries. He mixes this up with a very heavy old-school Motorhead dirty grind to his solos, making them quite unique in our ears. His contribution to the overall old-school feeling that we’ve got in the band these days was just what we and the tiny black thrash scene needed. I am eternally grateful for him coming to his senses and rejoining us. Also having A.E Rattlehead and Nocturno Culto with us this time gave the album a wicked and vicious edge to it. The killer atmosphere that we had in the studio with these guys sure leaped over to the recording I think.
How long did it actually take to write and record this album? How far back do some of these songs go?
“Thrashiac” is the oldest track on this album and I made that one as a demo more than eleven years ago back in 2003, when it featured ex. Breedster T.Thrawn on the lead guitar. I really don’t know why we decided not to record it when we did the Fields of Rot session cause it turned out to be a Hell ov’ a raw thrash song. But I guess it was voted off back then. The “Speedkrieg” track is the only track that was not written by T.Terror and myself and I think I.Maztor came up with it during the first half of 2011 and presented it to us all late that same summer. His wicked style of song writing has a very typical Maztoric kinda drive, as you hear very well through his songs from the earlier albums, like “Down by Law” from The Tools of the Trade or “Fist of Fury” from the No Retreat…No Surrender album. It was also “Speedkrieg” that was the first track we started rehearsing on for the new album. So in effect, it was very inspiring as to the further writing of the album. Songs like “The Bitch of Buchenwald”, “Dawn Campaign…Flamethrower Ridge”, “Cursed Beyond Recognition” and “Dragging the Priests” were written during and in the actual studio process. As was “Under The Whip” in a way, which we made only a few weeks before we entered the studio. T.Terror makes some very wicked songs, and his contribution to the album was immense this time. The tracks “The Devil Swept The Ruins”, “Krigshisser (D.N.K.)” and the title track “Napalm Nights” clearly shows this. He adds a different aspect to the songwriting process than the rest of us since he writes the music from a drummer’s perspective. This gives the broadness and variables to the songs on the new album. His riffs I guess, have been boiling in his cauldron for several years and I think some of it might have been written as long as three to five years ago, albeit some of it more recently. So as you see, the album spans the last decade and then some in its creation.
Where was the album recorded and what was the atmosphere like in the studio?
It was recorded in Killer Studio, just outside Oslo. Killer studio and our co-producer Nicolai Ryen Christiansen, is very much to thank for the final outcome of the album. ‘Nico’ really got the clue and Breed’s essence of what we do and what we where after. And he had tremendous patience, time and effort to put into this album. I think it really fucking shows in the individual songs and the totality of the final product. All songs have been thoroughly thought through this time. And compared to former albums, this time it felt even more “straight to the bone.” The line-up that we have now gave the band back that feeling we shared in the old days together, and I guess that really shines through in the intensity we ended up with on Napalm Nights. Also since ‘Nico’ is a very good drummer himself from bands like Oceans of Time, Mudslide and several other local acts, he fine tuned the recording of the drums. We have never had a producer that really got it when we asked for drum sounds like; “Get those toms sounding like Sodom on “Persecution Mania” and “We need more Motorhead drive in it!” and ‘Nico’ got it all, we just played the music and he really took care of all our weird requests. T.Terror put down some wicked beats on the album as he has a lot of intensity similar to that of a drummer like Mickey Dee and Dave Lombardo and that drive was just as crucial to getting the songs to plow on like they do. This combined with the rock-wall-steady riff work put down by V.Fineideath made this album pretty much close to achieving everything we wanted to achieve with it and then some. V.Fineideath really lifted the whole riff section to a new level and he is probably the tightest guitarist that I’ve ever worked with. The same goes for the infamous I.Maztor’s goddamn hellishly good solos, because they kind of made the album come together in the seams. We recorded a lot of the album individually and that gave all of us good room and space to make sure we got the shit the way that each of us wanted it to be. Thus we came together every now and then too under the banner of beer and booze, as we brought the album to its conclusion and when we had the guest appearances in the studio and stuff like that. Personally it’s one of the most comfortable and worthwhile albums I’ve ever recorded and the atmosphere sure was electric and loaded with old-school feelings through the one year process.
What was it like working with the great Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone on the album? Have you heard his self-titled album yet? If so, what did you think of it?
I fucking love his album, man! He captures a lot of the essence of who, what and how it all should be done. He truly is one of the few guys in the scene that still wears his lead boots proudly and earthbound. When we heard T.Terror’s track ‘Krigshisser (D.N.K.)” the first thing that came into mind was “Fuckin’ Hell, N.Culto needs to do the vocal on this one!” So I went home and called him that same week. “There’s no one better to do this than the man who wrote the cookbook himself, Right?” He is a good old friend, by far one of the most grounded and sturdy guys I’ve ever known. We live pretty close to each other, far off in the Norwegian forest. So we hang out and walk in the mountains and such. We had such a good time in the studio while recording his mercenary work for the new album. He did the main vocals on “Krigshisser (D.N.K.).” Actually, he was fist off asked to do the lead guitar on it as well, but due to short time we never got down to doing it. As we had our ex-member A.E. Rattlehead doing some guest solos at the same time on the tracks “Under the Whip” and “Thrashiac.” But then we had such a cool time and we had some beers, and ended up with N.Culto doing backing vocals on “Thrashiac”, “Dragging the Priests”, “Speedkrieg” and “The Bitch of Buchenwald.” So in a way he did vocals and backing vocals on half of the songs on the album. It really lifted the rawness and the Accept/Exodus feeling and the intensity on many parts of the tracks to a new level. He has also played live with us in the past, doing covers of Sodom and Death and such. He was my right-hand gunner on strings when we played with Satyricon back in 95 and 96. N.Culto and I actually went to the same school and grew up in the same shitty suburban valley outside Oslo. And this surely colored Darkthrone’s perspective on life as it sure colored mine. It was very inspiring to have a local band being as raw and relentless like Darkthrone close by. And as we had hoped, it turned out just fucking vicious if you ask me! N.Culto’s voice kinda hails from a much darker side of the street than most vocalists and adds a really killer strike to his work. N.Culto lays down the law as a flittermice outa’ Hell and I’m very grateful to him for doing this.
As I expected, the album is very much a blackened sort of thrash, which is a direction that many bands are going into these days. Do you think that there’s an outcry for a return to the old days of metal, before prog and core and breakdowns?
Yeah and it’s a fucking outcry long overdue. I guess the whole scene collectively has finally recognized that the old ways of doing metal and thrash were the best ways. All of this experimenting and going here and there musically from known thrash and metal bands in the last twenty years have in a way forced the whole scene to look backwards in time. And the hip hop influenced nu metal bands and the mongoloids from the grunge scene almost put a nail in the coffin for the whole metal community, like when former cool bands like Metallica took the whole thrash thing to the grave and served us those god damn nineties albums. I was sure there for a moment that we’d never see another dawn in metal. The shit that came out through these years hasn’t been very good to say it mildly! And I notice that that goes for all the other metal related genres too. But it’s a much more back to basic old-school feel out and about nowadays and that’s in my eyes just a very good thing. It got very boring there for a good fifteen to twenty years. And I wouldn’t complain if I never heard a nu-metal band ever again in my whole life! So bring out those fuckin’ denim vests and studs and patches and fucking lay low the goddamn ramparts metalheads!
As far as the songs on this album are concerned, what do you think are some of the strongest? The title track on the album is almost thirteen minutes long. Do you think we could see something of that length played in its entirety on the stage?
Of course, we’ve already played it on stage at our release concert in Oslo in March and it worked well despite the long running time on that track. As for the strongest tracks, it’s hard to say. Since they’re all so fucking personal it is damn hard to pick out a favorite. All of them have parts about them that make them stand out for me. At the time I’m a bit hooked on “The Bitch of Buchenwald”, “Speedkrieg”, “The Devil Swept the Ruins” and “Krigshisser”. But these things change all the time. Yet if I look to the fans, it really seems like there is a song for every taste on this album. All the different songs have had people saying it’s their favorite track and that’s pretty cool that it seems like the variation and diversity on the album struck home for people.
As far as the lyrics are concerned, what is the album focused on? Where did you find lyrical inspiration?
The album is in whole most inspired by the Vietnam War. And there are not that many songs on the album that feature a non-war based thematic, but some do. Like for instance “Dragging The Priests”, which is the most political ‘Breed lyric to date. As it is my personal verbal vendetta towards the Catholic Church and their child-fucking priesthood. As well as the Vatican nest of pope’ish vipers who always cover over the shit their own priests do and defend them no matter how heinous their crimes might be. There should be mandatory torture and death put upon their heads. But the world keeps looking away hiding from the fact that this religious pit of whore-mongering child molesters is a very strong influence on politics and corruption as well as the more spiritual sides of things. So as you see it’s a theme I feel very strongly about. The words for the track “Cursed Beyond Recognition” is another lyric that does not portray war and destruction, but rather a very honest text about the curse that hangs over myself and the band too. It affects us all on a daily basis and through all the years it’s felt like there’s a black sticky cloud that rains down upon us. On a personal level it felt good to just let it all out there, my inner demons and how it is to live constantly haunted by whatever it is that I may have pissed off out there in the cosmos.
The track “Thrashiac” is purely a tribute to our fans and to the Old-school scene and all those who walk in its iron footsteps still. It’s been a song I had been looking forwards to writing the lyrics to for many years. And if you read it, I’m sure you know where we’re coming from…
The last non-war themed track on the album is “Under The Whip”. This lyric has also been on the drawing table for quite some years. It’s a kick to the teeth to those relationships we’ve all been in. You know… that and those women who just fucked up your head. I guess mostly all have been through that shit right there. So it’s basically us, just gritting teeth and sharpening horns on that thematic. As I said, most of the tracks are based on historical facts from the Vietnam War and the 2nd World War. The thematic of war is of course a very versatile subject and one could spend the rest of one’s life pouring from that bottomless well of inspiration.
I study my history well before I get into the actual writing process. Many of the stories got handed down to me by my own family and grandparents and other family members that had been through real fucking war. I guess these stories and images just got stuck in my head and now end up forcing themselves out through the music, like birthing a war child. In a way, it’s not like I can choose. I’m sure a lot of musicians and artists can relate to these phenomena. Some songs, titles or lyrics, just pick you to tell their story or to express that specific feeling or message through the art. And there is no way that thought is gonna let your soul get any rest before you have gotten down to doing something about the damn beast. That is just what happened on many of the tracks on the new album as well. All the war related stories on the new album are true and based on actual historical events. I find it much more rewarding and interesting doing the research and really getting into the matter of what the story and music is supposed to portray, then to take the easy way out and just fill in the blanks with pointless words and sentences. Tracks like “The Devil Swept The Ruins”, “Napalm Nights” and “Dawn Campaign…Flamethrower Ridge”, have all been based on true stories and battles that took place in the Vietnam War. From the Carnage at Khe’Sanh to the death-hills of the A’Shau-Valley and the Ho-Chi-Minh trail bombings etc. In a way this album is a tribute and hats off-salute to the Veterans of these and of all other wars through history’s cruel pages. The tracks “SpeedKrieg” and “The Bitch Of Buchenwald” has been taken from the iron-drenched history pages of the second World War. As has also the cut “Krigshisser D.N.K”, but more from the perspective of the Norwegian resistance during World War 2. My family is tied to World War 2 in so many ways and in a way; I guess they are much of the reason why I have become such a history nerd. As I grew up, I was constantly surrounded by books containing harrowing photos and epic tales from most wars on this planet. My dad comes from a long line of navy marines and he was an elite navy seal and a deep-sea diver for most of my upbringing and looking through his books as a kid, I got inspiration for a lifetime of creativity. Those wicked photos and stories get to you after a while as one grows older and becomes more conscious to the world around you. My grandfather was in the UK Norwegian Convoys trying to duck the torpedoes of the U-boats, while my grandmother was back home and helped out the resistance. She was also tortured at interrogations, as was my other grandfather who spent several years in a concentration camp. My father’s aunt sadly, was a Hitler-jugend and got caught in Berlin in the last days of the war and was sent to a Russian gulag in Siberia. She told me some of the most gruesome shit that I’ve ever heard in my whole life, trust me! Let’s just say that. Abortion through ripping the fetus from the womb means a lot in my family. The stories these family members have told me have been very influential on my view of the world and they used to take me with them when I was only eight to ten years old to these Invalid-Veterans meetings. I’m sure you understand what an extreme impression it was to a young boy talking to people who had survived Auschwitz, Belsen and other death camps and seeing the blackness in their eyes as their stories took them back to that Hell on earth. I guess this war influence has always been there, deep in my bones and core. I’m sure that is why I tend to write so many songs about it too. It’s been a constant on all the albums in some way or the other and it probably will, to some extent on our future work and albums.
Though some of it’s quite self-explanatory, what bands influenced you to make this kind of music? What are some bands that you’re currently listening to these days?
Good old Living Death and Assassin are two of the bands that I’m really into at the time. I’ve known about them since their debut days, but these old bands keep coming back to me in waves. I’m always into the stuff from Mercyful Fate, Black Rose and King Diamond up until “Spiders Lullaby.” As well as Sabbat (UK), Old Sepultura, Deathwish (UK), Infernal Majesty, and bands like Duct, Pentagram, Steel Mill, Coven, Aphrodite’s Child and Candlemass. The latter keeps grinding out good doom albums that are still very good in my ears. At the time we recorded the new album I was very much into the old US thrash scene like Dètente, Possessed, Flotsam and Jetsam, Exodus, Overkill and especially the first Megadeth album. I’m sure you can hear the influences from all this stuff on the album too.
Let’s talk touring. What are the plans for touring on this record? Where can we catch you live and will you be playing the states?
I sure hope we’ll be able to do a US tour. We’re working on the details with some companies as we speak and in the fall I hope to be able to bring the iron forces over to kick some ass. But as for now, there are no confirmed dates on the table. We get a lot of offers, but it always takes time to get touring going. We hope to do a bunch of festivals and a US and Europe tour this year, as well as South America if we’re lucky with some promoters over there. So I’m sure we’ll be over the pond in not too long a time.
What are some of the best and worst tours you’ve been on? Have you ever had a chance to meet any of your influences or play with them on stage? What about on the road comedy?
Hells bells yeah! We have opened for both Coroner and Testament and we had Martin Walkyier from Sabbat doing some of his old classics with Breed’ as his band at the infamous Ubertrash 1 gig, which is very inspiring for us. To join the stage with Martin was just one of my life’s most awesome musical moments man!
As for tours; there is always shit happening, both comical and shitty. No tour is without its extreme ups and downs. We did a tour for the No Retreat… No Surrender Album in 1998 with Aura Noir and Aeternus. The label hooked us up with the oldest, most crappy bus in the memory of bands touring. So of course when we hit the roads in the Alps going from Germany to Switzerland, the goddamn heating system broke down. And since it was mid-winter and there was snow up to your neck, we literally froze ourselves almost to death in that old crooked bus. I remember all of us sitting fully dressed in winter coats and all under blankets, while doing endless lines of speed and drinking a ton of alcohol and smoking joints; just to try to keep our minds off the freezing and icy and fucking dangerous mountain roads that we had to traverse. So we ended up doing way too much drugs and alcohol and felt constantly cold and shitty for some weeks there. (Laughs) But in hindsight it’s just comical now, though I’d never do a tour like that again. My bones are getting too old… Apart from that, there have been a million little things I could mention as to touring. Our former drummer, Andy Michaels had a fucking epileptic seizure while we did “Frantic Aggressor” on the Aggressor tour we shared with Emperor and Bal-Sagoth. He had to be helped and half dragged off the stage, as me and Ihsahn and some of the other guys got some pills into the poor man. He slept twenty hours straight after that. (Laughs) On the Satyricon Nemesis Divina tour, the turbo in the bus blew up and we were stranded on a parking lot in Gravland in Holland for a whole fucking day. And when a new bus was in place we realized that it had way too few bunks, so the poor guys in Gorgoroth had to sleep in the seats as Satyricon and Dissection took the beds as we were the headliners. Shit like that doesn’t make for a good tour atmosphere. Once we had to fire the tour manager and sound-tech as well as our two roadies who ran off the bus in Paris, due to them having taken way too much LSD. We were going to give them a suitable beating for being fuckups in all ways. It made for a tour to remember I promise you. (Laughs)
Finally, what are some other projects that we can catch you guys in when you’re not playing in Nocturnal Breed? Got to represent everyone, you know!
As I mentioned in the start of this interview, we got the Conjuration thing going and we hope to be able to do some new recordings for that late this year. Apart from that I’ve got my personal projects like Antikrist where I have one full album almost ready. Svartalv Is my atmospheric ambient BM outlet and I’ve got four albums finished for that. I’ve got for albums for Cold Orbit laying too. It’s more film music and such and will possibly be featured on some of Nocturno Culto’s film projects that are due for the next years. We just released an album with NÅE on US label Nine Gates Records, which is my wife’s personal project. I’ve made a few songs for that album and made a lot of the soundscapes that are in the background of the tracks. I’m also doing a doom project with Shaun W.T.S from My Dying Bride and Anathema together with my wife Elenyx as well. It’s a very Victorian influenced and more concept angled album. Then there is the work I do with Ravn from 1349. We’ve got a project together with Dolgar from Gehenna and a bunch of other people called Aiwass and it’s been around since 1992 actually. It’s very Industrial and electronic, but in the vein of legendary acts like Alien Sex Fiend and the old Ministry stuff. You also can catch my work on the new 1349 album that is soon due for release, where I’ve done most of the lyrics this time. I also have a recording from the late nineties with only me and Ravn’; we titled it Hell, but there’s so many bands named that that have come along during the years, so maybe we’ll release it under another name one day. I’m also doing some guest vocals for the new Oceans of time album this year, so I’m a pretty busy man. For most of this you can find some teaser tracks from on YouTube, so please go check’em out if you’re interested. I don’t think the other guys in the band are doing any other bands at the moment. T.Terror was to do some drumming for a project with Blasphemer (ex. Mayhem) but I don’t know if that’s still on track or not.
Thanks for making a kickass album that really captures the spirit of old-school thrash with the bite of bands like early Venom and Sarcofago. It’s an awesome disc that was worth the wait. – Eric
No problem Eric, It was a good interview and I’d like to thank you for the support and to the bone attitude…Metal to the Bone Bro! S.A Signing off