VOGG On DECAPITATED’s Cancer Culture, 20 Years Of Nihility, Joining MACHINE HEAD And Overcoming Trauma – “What Doesn’t Kill You Probably Makes You Stronger”
May 25, 2022, a month ago
Poland’s Decapitated were positioned to become the heir apparent to the global death metal crown. But life has not been without struggle for the mighty cohort of riff makers.
Loss of life, of freedom, and of time, have caused numerous start-stops for the band in the past 25 years and counting. But now their long-awaited return album Cancer Culture (May 27 through Nuclear Blast) may cement the group once more as death metal’s most promising band of shredders.
Founding member Vogg caught up with BraveWords for a deep dive into the new record, the trauma and turmoil the band has overcome personally and professionally, his love and former work alongside Vader, joining groove metal icons Machine Head, two decades of the seminal album Nihility and much more!
BraveWords: Vogg, this album fucking rips. How are you feeling personally? We're talking 25 years-plus of this band. No shortage of struggle to get to where we are now with this record. To me, this is top to bottom one of the best albums you guys have ever done.
Vogg: “Thank you so much. It's such a great feeling to come back on the stage after everything. I mean, after COVID, after all this bullshit happened, wherever. But it's just like we are here. We are stronger than ever, which is amazing. We're going to just go there for all the tours we are planning right now and show everybody that Decapitated is in the best shape in years and the best line up.
“We have James (Stewart) on drums right now, we have Paweł (Pasek), the bass player who will come back after a few years, which is also an amazing thing because he is such a great musician and most of all, such a great human being. James is a great human being and just an incredible drummer, spending his last 11 years with the legendary death metal band Vader playing about 1000 shows, and Rasta, who is in the best shape probably ever. Like for me, his vocals on Cancer Culture are his best live work for sure. Like, really, I can listen to it and I can enjoy it a lot. And yeah, we are back with the amazing album.
“It's really exciting because it's been a long time, a lot of troubles and a lot of things have happened. But right now I have to say again this is the best lineup, best times for Decapitated in a real long time. I would say it seems like Organic Hallucinosis probably. And we have this new album coming out ... I'm really happy about what's going on right now.”
BraveWords: You mentioned this lineup of the band, and it feels like there's a lot of melodic tendencies on this record as well. Its pulverizing heavy, like every Decapitated album is heavy. You're not going to skimp on that. But like the melodic tendencies are something that I think could even draw in your more not-so-heavy into death metal listeners.
Vogg: “I hope you will have it right in saying that. It wasn't like we were planning something like that, it just happened naturally, accidentally. I have all those melodies. Maybe this is all about my inspiration from the music I've been listening to for the last few years or maybe also what inspiration for everything that was going on in our lives? It's all the time, all together. And I'm glad you make this point about how melodic this album is compared to the last two records that did not have that much melody.
“I was looking for more of these Pantera influences like these catchy riffs, crunchy sound and stuff like that. And not thinking about the left hand, you know, melody, like delivering different key changes, harmony changes. There's a lot of things going on. There's a few surprising moments, like having Robb Flynn on vocals, and Tatiana from Jinjer also. We have clean vocals, which also changes the taste of this album in general, which most of all is a furiously death metal album. The ‘Last Supper’ song, ‘Suicidal Space Programme’, ‘Locked’, ‘Cancer Culture’ or even ‘No Cure’. There's more like 60% of this album that is really aggressive death metal, coming back to speed, coming back to a brutal album. But still, there is something new.
“And even talking about the production is another step and the other level of amazing sound, mixing by David Castillo from Stockholm and Ted Jensen who did the mastering in New York, also a legendary producer. So all those elements. Also the cover of this album by Fabio Timpanaro is really a beautiful piece of art. This is an artist who has never worked with a metal band before. So we also have something kind of fresh in here talking about not just the production, but also about the artwork, which is also important because it's creating a whole view for the music and in general the optic of the album.”
BraveWords: You touched on the guest spots with Robb, who obviously you have a whole new connection with now through Machine Head, and Titania. Jinjer is just one of these bands I think we're going to look on and they're going to be one of these huge breakthrough bands over the last decade or so. Having these guys on the album I think that really adds, as you said, a totally different layer to previous Decapitated records.
Vogg: “Thank you very much. I think that having this time during the COVID, really bad times, very dramatic times for everybody, basically the whole planet. Like we lost so many human lives. But still we take this as a time that we can really focus on the album, on the songs, and at least because of that we make something good in the dramatic times. We have bigger chances, more time to focus on the riffs, on the drums and listen and have time to come back and live this material for weeks and then come back to listen again, to check with the fresh ear if everything is alright, or if we want to change something, whatever.
“Also, with the time in the studio, we have no pressure. We have no deadline from the label. I mean, we have this album ready actually one year ago already. So it was a long time between we finalized the mix and right now to release. But still it was also because of the COVID. We didn't want to release this album and not have the opportunity to go on tours because we still didn't know when the touring would be back. And you know, that doesn't make sense to me. Like releasing the album and not going on tour. So right now it's a good time to release it and it's just before the summer festival season. Then we have this Despised Icon, Brand of Sacrifice tour here in Europe and some other plans. And hopefully we will not face another version of COVID or another bullshit happening for this planet. So we can just come back to normality and just continue what we've been doing before the COVID times.”
BraveWords: I don't want to spend much time talking about past events, but I just look at it in terms of the 25 years of this band. Obviously everything that happened 15 years ago (bush crash), everything that happened in the U.S. Was there a time for you where you thought fuck this, I'm just going to find something else to do. Maybe you'd lost faith in this career, maybe it's snake bitten. Were there moments of self-doubt? This is a band that's been through more than your share.
Vogg: “I mean, everyone else has some bad moments in life. And life is sometimes great, sometimes it's brutal, sometimes you go into very depressing times. But I never thought about quitting this band. When you have bad times, depressing times, you don't really think about things like a band or music or whatever. When in life you have bad circumstances you just need to go forward. That's it.
“As you mentioned, in this band we have a lot of bad situations. The passing of my brother and the accident and the flying accident also. We've been in a flight crash and more and more things. So we're taking this as another life experience. That's it. And then everything, what doesn't kill you probably makes you stronger. And then we go forward because there's no other way. You just need to keep it going and doing what you're doing in your life, what is best for you. So best for me, best for my friends, I just keep with making music, making albums.
“So we are right now here with the Cancer Culture release in a few days and it's really strong and probably we take all the experience from our personal life as well, which I don't really want to talk about because that's not an interesting thing. We are here to talk about the album and music and riffs crushing because we are metalheads and we don't want to talk about some bullshit. So it's all about doing in your life what you love and no matter what happens you need to keep it going and keep going strong and better and better, which is already going on in this band right now.”
BraveWords: You mentioned Vader a while back. I know you had your own personal experience with the band a few years back. I think about Poland and really if we look at kind of the cornerstone of metal bands in the country, particularly in the ‘80s, it had to be Vader. For you coming up as a young man listening to metal, discovering metal, was Vader a particular influence?
Vogg: “Yeah, of course we've been really, really influenced musically, especially in the beginning, like talking about Winds of Creation. And even now you can still hear some of the Vader influences in Decapitated almost on every album. Sometimes it's stronger, sometimes it's less of this inspiration. But for sure, Vader was a really important band for me, one of the top with my favorite death metal bands together with Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Dismember Entombed and Hate Eternal. So Vader was really, really important to one of my favorite bands which influenced me a lot.
“I became a big fan of this band and then after years I had the pleasure to be a part of the band and touring with them across the world, in the U.S. and Europe and doing the summer festivals. I spent maybe one year and a half, something like that, and then I began again with Decapitated. Also with Behemoth, but the Vader shows to all people here in Poland especially like metalheads, inspired that it is possible to go with metal music from this country outside across the borders. I remember I think the second or third demo, Morbid Reich, sold like 40,000 copies of the demo. It was the highest selling demo in the history of metal from what I remember. And they've been on MTV. They've been in the U.S. You cannot imagine at that time, it was like 1991 or 1993, something like that. So they've been in the U.S. already. They've had a video on MTV, they've been in the program with Headbanger’s Ball, and all this stuff. They played in Japan. They realized all the dreams that all the metalheads from Poland, not even metalheads, like every normal human being in this country couldn't even imagine to live like that. They do a lot for the metal scene and metal music from Poland.
“And maybe also that's why right now we have Decapitated, we have a Behemoth, we have Mgla, we have many, many bands because they've been an inspiration. And I think everybody's looking at Vader wanting to have the same dream to become one day at least like half of the career they made. But sometimes people ask me like why you have such a strong scene from Poland and a few nice bands and I don't really know what to answer. I think right now that one of the answers would probably be Vader because they're motivation for the other bands.
BraveWords: Talking about being involved in bands you grew up loving or you came to love, obviously now your work with Machine Head. As a fan, just being a part of that band must be incredible, and now you have this new record coming out, huge touring plans. From a fan perspective and as an artist and someone who loves riffs, this must be a dream.
Vogg: “Yeah, for sure. When I was a teenager I would never dream about being on the same stage as Machine Head. It’s an amazing experience. It's really a huge, huge feeling for me that all these things that happened, like I've been a part of that Burn My Eyes anniversary tour in the U.S. and here in Europe. I had an opportunity to see something different, something really on the highest level of touring, of being on tour and being in the band. It was a really huge experience for me to be part of this band and such a pleasure.
“I'm so thankful and appreciate that Robb involved me to be a part of Machine Head. Burn My Eyes was my favorite album when I was a teenager. I was a big fan. They always sounded great. They looked great. It was one of my favorites. There was Pantera, Slayer, Metallica and Machine Head for me, kind of ... Machine Head was one of the most important bands for me when I was growing up. And right now being a part is a huge thing for me, I have to say.”
BraveWords: Looking back at the history of this band, and 2022 is 20 years of Nihility, which I think is pretty incredible. That's still an album that I know really resonates with fans. You guys still play a lot of the songs on the setlist. What's your thoughts with 20 years of hindsight on that record and of that period in the band?
Vogg: “When I think about this record I have in my mind really, really good times in my life. Really good times like making the riffs and just the amount of ideas that rise those days from nowhere. I mean, we'd been fans of metal. We'd been listening to lots of different bands and we'd been inspired by lots of different bands and during this writing process I remember me and Vitek working in our rehearsal room for a few months and then we had just as much fun and so many ideas came. And it was a really bright time. Really exciting, bright, nice, peaceful time that we have a good energy around us to somehow give us the power, strength and everything to create some of the amazing riffs and songs of this album.
“Also, the recording session was amazing. We had so much laughter there and we'd been just a bunch of friends. Really amazing times barbecuing together, drinking beers and recording the album. Those were the times you could smoke in the recording room no problem. It was just great times. We'd been very productive, had so many ideas and everything seemed quite easier in some ways. We'd be not stressed about the deadlines. We would not stress about any expectations. We'd been trying to deliver just the most crazy, unexpected technical albums we could do. We'd be looking for some tricks. We'd been young and full of death metal in our blood, I have to say. So it was great.”