Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Death is the Answer

When we got news earlier this year that Germany's cult kings (and queen) of bestial thrash Nocturnal were going to come over to the States for the coveted Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, we here at BBQ Booking wet ourselves a fair amount. One of us even has a Nocturnal tattoo, for fuck's sake.  Which is not to say that when we were bestowed upon the task of setting up a show with them with tourmates (and the equally impressive) Witchaven,  we — for a lack of a better term — completely lost our shit.

It's been two months since that unholy evening and we thought we'd catch up with Nocturnal's head commando Avenger for his thoughts on the band's first-ever U.S. tour, New York City, MDF and the future.

What’s up in the world of Nocturnal at the moment?
Hey, currently not that much. We're currently rehearsing with a new drummer. We have a gig in October in Belgium lined up, but nothing else at the moment.

You guys hit the road with Witchaven in May, traveling from coast to coast in the United States. How was that experience?
Overall it was a fantastic experience. Those are not the kind of things you do everyday. Some bands never make a tour anywhere, and especially that we managed to tour the U.S. is a really special thing for us.

Was it everything you expected?
Well, I kept my expectations low. We knew it would be hard with all the long travels and everything but it was a lot better than we expected it to be. Some things are different in the U.S. compared to playing gigs in Europe so there were situations we really did not expect, but nothing which we couldn't handle.

What were the high and low points of the tour?
The low points were the long travels and sometimes the venues and their owners… Some do think we're little kids on their playground and they don't realize that it's the bands who bring people into their shitholes. Building up a whole stage setup every gig was another crappy thing. Luckily, we had not much to do with it beside carrying around some stuff. The Witchaven guys had all the work and when we were on we just had to plug in and thrash the hell out of their equipment. I will never understand why bands don't share their basic equipment. Here, it is pretty common that the promoter has to take care of the basic stuff, usually it's the local opening band who needs to bring their shit to be allowed to play at the first place. We sometimes had backstage rooms filled with six full drumkits and tons of boxes and crap. Anyway, beside those minor things we had nothing to worry about.

The good parts were being able to meet all the new people, all the guys I was sometimes in contact with for many, many years and finally could drink a beer with in real life. And the Witchaven guys were among the greatest you can have doing a tour with; down to earth and full of support in every detail.

Talk about Destruction’s notorious tour manager, too…
Actually, it's not a big thing. That guy thought he can boss around Witchaven and Nocturnal while setting up our gear and merchandise. And when Henry [Witchaven vocalist/guitarist] told him to fuck off he was pissed and tried to kick us [off] the Houston show. That little incident happened in San Antonio and he called the promoter from Houston and said he does not want us to play. But luckily the promoter is a fan of both of our bands and he was responsible for bringing both of our tours together on this date in the first place. So, Mr. Tour Manager had us around a second time and didn't speak a word to us, which was the way we handled it as well. The funny thing is that I heard similar things from various sources at places we played later and the Destruction tour stopped before us. Seems no one likes this guy, ha ha…

Prior to Maryland Deathfest, Nocturnal headlined a packed house in New York City with two of the city’s best bands: Villains and Syphilitic Lust. How did that show go?
The show was excellent. I really enjoyed all the bands playing, which was not the case with most of the shows we played. The sound could have been better on stage, but compared to some other gigs we played before it was still like heaven, ha ha.

Did you guys do anything exciting in NYC?
We did some sightseeing before the show, visited the Times Square, being all tourist. We parked the van at the Hilton for 40 USD / two hours. But there is so much to see in this city that half a day shows you barely anything. We were eating pizza at some “supposed-to-be” legendary pizza place, which was just a small unorganized place with old and fucked up furniture… No idea why that thing was packed with people. And as you probably know the CBGB's club once was near the venue we played. And we stepped into that Morrison Hotel place next to it to check it out. The guy running it is a photographer who asked us for a photo and he suggested it making it from the same view as that famous Ramones pic from the late-70's in front of the CBGB's. That was somewhat cool. He came later and brought us a print of the photo to the venue.

After the gig we were visiting a bar in Brooklyn where we were drinking for the rest of the night until the morning sun made us drive off to our hotel in Baltimore…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Nocturnal usually play with two guitarists? If so, where was he?
Yeah, you are right. We now have Teutonic Slaughter [also of Cruel Force with bassist Vomiter] as the second guitar player in Nocturnal. The problem was that because of his working situation he could not come with us. He tells everyone he stayed there to see Iron Maiden a dozen times but that only made it easier for him to not come with us. In fact, the reasons are way more uncool, ha ha. But you need to keep in mind that Nocturnal played with one guitar for many, many years and Teutonic Slaughter is a recent addition. We only played two gigs with him prior to the tour, so I really did not want to cancel the whole tour idea only because of that. Of course when we are coming back we will bring him with us.

Explain the addition of Ketzer’s [drummer] Desecratör for the tour. How did that come about?
Since Hellbastard left the band we were working with Doomhammer (ex-Old) as a session drummer. He helped us out for the gigs we still had booked. But he is mainly a guitarist and did not feel too comfortable behind the drumkit. Beside this he could not come with us to the U.S. anyway for other reasons so we asked Desecratör if he would do the tour with us and that's how we made it. We had to find someone who is a good enough drummer to play our songs and most importantly needs to be someone we could imagine being on tour with for 2-3 weeks. We became really good friends during the tour and we thank him eternally for helping us out.

Are there any differences between German and American thrashers/metal fans?
The only difference I've noticed is that the Americans don't give much about those fashion kind of things. In Germany, it's a lot about the “look.” I've seen people with shorts and stupid hats being beaten the shit out of if they showed up at the wrong gigs, ha ha. In the U.S., sometimes people showed up straight from work and somewhat looked like that, and no one seemed to care.

In terms of dedication to heavy metal it's the same as in Europe. If not even more since sometimes people were driving more hours than we did to see the shows…

Germany has some killer bands right now, such as Cruel Force, Desaster, Blizzard, Ketzer, Occvlta, Venenum, Beyond, Katharsis, etc. Are you familiar with America’s current metal scene?
I really don't like talking about scenes. There are good and bad bands everywhere. I´m familiar with a lot of bands from the U.S., past and present. My favourites nowadays are Midnight, Nunslaughter, Cianide, Pentagram and Profanatica (still) to name a few. I never really liked the so-called “Bay Area Thrash” bands like Heathen or Testament, never had and never will. I preferred the bands from the east coast like Overkill or Carnivore.

We were up in front for you guys at Maryland Deathfest and though the performance was killer, there seemed to be some incident with your set time. Can you explain what happened there for those who didn’t know?
As you may know we were the first band playing on that particular outside stage. We were there about an hour before we were supposed to start. But they did not start building up the stage until half an hour before maybe.

To make it short, they brought all kinds of useless crap, like six or eight guitar cabinets, 3 - 4 microphone stands and so on… But we were missing a power cable for the guitar amp and a stand for the snare. We told them numerous times, and that one guy really did his best to get things going, but in the end when we were supposed to start, we were standing on stage, people were waiting and we still didn't have that damn snare stand. Thanks again to the Witchaven guys who got their own stand out of the blue. That led us starting the gig later as intended. And when Tyrannizer announced the last song they told us to stop right away. Vomitor and Desecratör were getting in an argument with that guy and he told them they will cut the power when we start the song… So we left the stage pissed off about that. So it was us and the fans who didn't get what they should just because they don't have their shit together. Even the two bands afterward still played with the snare stand from Witchaven… I don´t know, but I think something like this is very weak for a festival which is supposed to be America's biggest one. Even on the smaller German festivals things seem to be better organized. And you somewhat get treated with a minimum of respect.

What were some of the highlights of MDF for you? Did you buy any cool records/merch?
For me that was Witchaven (their best performance on the whole tour definitely), Machetazo, In Solitude (even when I missed most of them), Repugnant, Cianide, Aura Noir, Inquisition and fucking Nunslaughter! Nuclear Assault was cool as well, but I never was a big fan. Never gave a shit about Coroner. I sadly missed tons of other bands I really wanted to watch, like Acid Witch or Doom… I bought lots of 7-inch vinyl and shirts. I was looking for an Impetigo shirt for ages. You don't get that stuff that easy over here, and MDF sellers had tons of them.

What’s next for Nocturnal?
There are plans to check out a new studio before we will do a new full-length album. We will record a new track and a cover song most likely. This will be put out on a 7-inch or split 7-inch with another famous German black/thrash band. I won't say any name here, since it's not set in stone yet. Just a random idea between both bands…

Last words?
Thanks for your support, especially for bringing us to New York City. I hope we'll have more time for sightseeing in your city next time we're around…