I don’t want to simply copy and paste my introduction from my last belated, overdue entry. But, if you read Angel’s interview with The Sword bassist Bryan Richie – as well as Nick’s photo gallery of their set at The Ready Room with Royal Thunder – the transition from the end of one year to the beginning of the next is challenging for us here to update our contributions to Damnation Magazine. The holiday season requires all of us to log require extended days and hours at our day jobs (as many of you can surely relate). So, we are now finally starting to catch up on our backlogged projects so that we can bring you our newest original content.
Now that my explanation for my tardiness is out of the way, I’m proud to present my interview with Santa Barbara, CA comedic, symphonic, melodic death metal act Nekrogoblikon. On Wednesday, December 9th, local promoter Mike Judy booked the wacky yet surprisingly technical quintet (well, technically sextet – more on that later) at the St. Louis, MO venue, The Firebird on a warm-up date, leading up to their run supporting Battlecross on their second annual “Winter Warriors” tour, along with Havok and St. Louis’ own Black Fast. Local acts Lyluth and Absala provided opening support for the first time that Nekro- would made their live debut in town.
In another one of our recently-published-but-long-awaited band interviews, we chatted with Pustulus Maximus, guitarist of GWAR. Such a band is well-known for its satirical humor, which is the driving force of their creativity. But there are many more metal bands that have their own unique brand of humor, without being entirely too derivative of those larger, more well-known acts. I spoke with three of the members about the identity of the band, their latest album, Heavy Meta, and other topics including their own business, Mystery Box. But first, I had to begin with being able to identify each of them by their own unique names…
Where did the nicknames even come from to begin with?
Tim “Scorpion” Lyakhovetskiy, (lead vocals, keyboards): I have biker parents. So, Scorpion… That’s my name.
Aaron “Raptor” Minich (keyboards): [Screeches] I do that, so that, kind of, is why.
Alex “Goldberg ” Alereza (guitar, backing vocals): I just always wanted to be Jewish without actually learning anything about Judaism. So, I figured the shortcut would be, just like, “Goldberg”
So, wrestling was not involved with that at all? Not a fan of Bill Goldberg from the W.C.W.?
Well, I wrestled a few Jews in hopes that I’d become Jewish. But, it didn’t really work.
Stupid physics, getting in the way of that.
I thought religion and physic were more related. But, turns out they’re not. [Laughter]
All the good physicists have faith. I mean, I’m an agnostic, I don’t give a shit. But, there’s just that trend, you know. People who learn a lot about the universe tend to realize, like, “Oh… Yeah, we’re fucked.”
Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said that you can always gain wisdom from religion… We are two and a half minutes in to this interview, and already we’ve gotten deep.
Then let’s swim back to the shallow end. [Laughter]
Sure, but first… God damn it. I’m a huge fan of paleontology, and now this whole interview has just been derailed, because I have to talk to you (Raptor) about what you thought of Jurassic World.
Oh, that’s the new Jurassic Park movie right? Haven’t seen it.
I thought it was stupid. And apparently, I’m in the minority.
I actually wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a little kid.
Fucking-A, dude! [*high five*] The rest of you guys can go, we’re just going to geek out. [Laughter]
My opinion of the movie is, Chris Pratt is in it.
OK, so now let’s get into the actual interview. What is “goblin metal,” and where did it come from? Besides the forest.
It came from space. A forest in space. On an island… In space. Originally, we were just pizza delivery guys, back in 2004… Who always worked together as a team.
One guy holds the pizza, one guy greets. It’s just hard to hold a pizza and greet somebody at the same time.
So, after we had done this for fifteen years or so, we went to a house. And guess who answered the door? Goblins. So, after that, they invited us in. We’re like, “All right, this is good! Goblins, this is novel, let’s go in. We don’t need these jobs that badly. Let’s go hang out.” Then they locked us up in the basement, and tortured us for about fifteen more years. They kept us just barely alive. And they said, “The only way you’re going to get out of this [is if] you make a band about goblins. A goblin metal band.” We didn’t know how to play instruments or anything at that time. But, we had to learn, so here we are. We don’t usually like to talk about that.
It pains us to talk about [it], but we feel that people have to know.
You’re very brave. But, let’s just say, hypothetically, that I didn’t believe in goblins, and I’m not convinced by your story. If I listen to your music, from my perspective, it might sound a little silly, or tinged with some level of humor. Again, if someone were to call bullshit on the goblin story, is the band intentionally humorous?
You know what it is? It’s all about the fact that metal should be so much more than it is, and elitism kills it; it kills the whole scene for everyone. I first heard “growly” metal when I was 15, [and] I hated it. Now I’m 28, and the “growler” of a band. So, I realized that… When viewed through the right lens, it can actually be a fucking awesome genre. But, I think a lot of [the] time, people are just elitist dicks about it. And, let’s be honest, it’s fucking hilarious; metal, inherently, is ridiculous. Like, yelling at kids, this is what I do.
There’s a huge lack of self-awareness in metal that, by itself, is hilarious.
But, that’s not to say we don’t like to shred or write technical stuff, or whatever. It’s just, we like to do it with a smile. And the humor aspect helps with that.
Do you think that same “elitism” of metal has a purpose at all? Can there be room for the coexistence of both that and humorous satire?
It’s a defense mechanism; it’s a way for kids to forge an identity in high school when they feel like they’re [being] picked on or bullied, or they want to stand out.
Elitism is funny, because [that whole], “Death to false metal!” I think of nu-metal, which I liked growing up and everything, I was a huge KoRn fan… I actually describe them and Limp Bizkit the same way, [as] gateway bands.
Now we’re filling that role. [Laughter]
Elitists claim they’re more “trve metal,” but they’re filling the same niche as these nu-metal bands, which is providing this staunchly aggressive and angry [music]. They’re doing the same thing.
But then you meet the people, and they’re never actually like that. So, what’s the big “lie” all about? Metalheads are a bunch of jokers.
But, at the same time, it does appeal to hormonal, angry teenagers.
Well, so does Nekro-… The perverted ones. [Laughter]
But, I feel that people who are beyond that mindset can still enjoy [us].
It’s an interesting concept, though. People ask me, “Why do you listen to something that’s so angry?” Well, because it makes me feel good; it’s a funny concept. You can’t take anything too seriously, I just want to have fun; I dig the heaviness as well.
What about when it comes to touring? Whether it’s touring with other humorous bands like GWAR, Green Jell-O, Okilly Dokilly, or Psychostick [*hint-hint*] or more serious metal bands, is that a challenge for you? What kind of feedback or results do you get when you play with bands that are very different from you, even within the metal spectrum?
It’s really mixed, but overall it seems to be positive. We toured with Butcher Babies in October, and that’s something where I feel that, musically, we’re about as distant [as we can be]. But, people were really receptive to it.
We’re doing something unique and, to a degree, something that’s really fresh that’s not taking it too seriously, but still trying to make awesome tunes. So, people don’t know how to deal with that. Initially, they might just [say], “Oh, this goblin band.” That’s how you hear about [us], that’s the business card. And then when they see the band, they’re a little more confused, maybe. But, I think by the end of it, everybody’s having a good time. In high school and middle school, I was always the class clown, myself. I feel that now, Nekro- is like the band class clown; we’re like the class clown of metal. [Laughter]
Besides goblins, are there any concepts that go into your music?
Bears. We have a song called “Bears,” it’s about bears. Actually, here’s what happened. Originally, it was all like, “GOBLINS!! DESTROY!! GOBLINS!! KILLING THE HUMANS!! SPACE!! KILLING!! SPACE!!” That’s all it was about. We started in ’06, so it’s been a while. That got old, and it’s like, “How are we still going to write these songs when we’ve kind of covered all the topics about goblins killing people in various ways?” So, we’ve got bears, and various other songs that weren’t necessarily about goblins. We have “Return To The Sky,” a song about giant deadly birds. Some people are like, “Yeah! We embrace this!” Other people were like, “What about the goblins! This isn’t ‘trve’ anymore!” Even for something as ridiculous as our band, we get people [that are] like, “No, this is not what it used to be!” [But] It never used to be anything! [Laughter] But this last album, Heavy Meta, that we just put out is basically a story about angst-y life in your twenties, the way things are for the band and stuff, but it’s all paraphrased through a story about goblins. So that was a way to find inspiration about goblins.
Is that also kind of where the influence for the song “We Need A Gimmick” came from?
Right! That song is actually about the gobins coming up with a gimmick so they can entice more humans into being killed.
It was four and a half years after we started playing. But then we played one show with the goblin, just because [of the flyer], “Come to the show! See the goblin from the ‘No One Survives’ video!” And as soon as that show was over, we’re like, “Fuck, now we have to do this forever.” [Laughter]
Agents were talking to our manager, saying, “We’re going to try and get you on this huge festival, is the goblin going to be there?” And we didn’t even know the answer, but he was just like, “…Uh, yes! Yes, he is going to be there!” [Laughter] It suddenly became this trump card for us to be like, “Well, I guess; we can’t really not do this right now.” [Laughs]
But also, we love goblins so much. So we really wanted to do it… There was a period where I was like, “Man, fuck this.”
It was just something we never planned on doing. [It] just kind of happened.
We specifically wanted to not go down the GWAR road to where we’re all dressed up. Because, since day one, people were like, “You guys should dress as goblins!” We’re like, “No! This is about the music and the jokes.”
Everyone was always saying something about an image, “You need an image!”
But it’s funny; now we’ve just placed this ‘image’ into this other being on stage, and we get to just be us now. We get to be dudes, with a goblin [laughs]. And that dynamic is funny, and the idea of just treating that goblin like he’s a band member.
He’s also kind of a loser, you know? He’s just sort of on the road with us. “Fucking John! What are you doing?” [Laughter]
There’s a lot of projected insecurities on this creature.
He serves a purpose – getting us gigs. [Laughter]
Now I get it! But clearly, John is your mascot though; he’s the face of Nekrogoblikon. How do you think he would fare if put up against all of the metal mascots across the board?
[He] pretty much wins, I feel.
Or The Bosstone from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
John Goblikon is a mascot, but he’s also a personality. And I feel like that’s the difference. He kind of came from the music far after the fact.
Tell me about your own label, Mystery Box, which released your latest album, Heavy Meta. How did it come about? Are you going to be releasing anyone else’s material through Mystery Box?
For the longest time, when I was starting out, it’s like every band’s dream to be signed to a label, to get to the next level. We were always a band where everyone had interest, but we seemed like such a risk to people, and they wanted us to conform to more of what they thought of [with] typical themed bands.
Basically, people were [like], “You can’t get this tour unless you’re on a label.”
So far with this band, we’ve done everything ourselves, so this was just the next logical step…
…As soon as we got over the teenage dream of, “We made a label!” Once we saw how labels really work; they steal everything from you.
I started working at a label; I was kind of seeing it from the inside. I was kind of thinking, “You know, we can do this. Why do we have to give up all of our rights to someone else to do this for us?” It allows us to really separate ourselves [and] have our own identity. It’s like being shunned from the cool kids table; we’re like, “Fuck it, we’ll have our own table.” No one wants to sit at it, but it’s our table [laughs]. I intentionally started it really vague, that’s why it’s not called “Mystery Box Records,” because I feel like the record label model is outdated; and no one is really paying for music anymore. It’s kind of a stance, in a way, saying, “Hey, we do our own shit, and here’s a funny little ‘Wizard Lizard’ to go along with it because fuck you.” [Laughter] …But there are plans to sign more artists, there will be some announcements made.
It’s also like a venue right now, and a music video shoot location. It’s a warehouse, a “mystery box.”
What are your thoughts on the relationship between music and social media, particularly crowdfunding?
We did a crowdfunding thing one time to get a van. Then, to meet our goal on Kickstarter, there [was] like friends of friends [who were] donating $3,000. And we never actually got a van with the money… Oh, we got a van that, like, broke down immediately, or something. When I [think] crowdfunding, you want to support it because you think your friend will think less of you if you don’t, not because you have this enthusiasm. And that sort of taints it, it feels like begging. We try to avoid the crowdfunding, even though it can work; it’s not that classy, I guess. Just from the other side. It would probably be really successful, but it’s just like a moral thing [laughs]. I don’t want our band to irritate people in a way that we didn’t intend. [Laughter] Just make it seem like it’s worthwhile, I guess. “There’s no other option! We’ve exhausted all other options, now we have to do this.”
I feel like, if we crowdfunded something, it would have to be something ridiculous. Like, “We want to buy a Ferrari so the goblin can blow it up.” [Laughter]
Oh, shut up and take my money! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I can think of worse things to spend my money on, as long as you get Michael Bay-level explosions. [Laughter]
I can just see the goblin pressing down on one of those old-fashioned dynamite plungers and the Ferarri just keeps blowing up. [Laughter]
You guys just made me laugh so hard that somehow, my contact lens almost fell out! [Laughter] So, bravo; because I feel like that’s a first. I don’t think there’s anywhere else that we can go after that.
Look out for our new crowdfunding campaign: Help us blow up a Ferrari with the goblin! Hashtag… Uh…
There we go! [Laughter] That’s it! We figured it out together!
As always, thanks to everyone involved in making this opportunity happen for us. Also as always, thanks to everyone for their patience in taking so long to publish this as well! Make sure to catch Nekrogoblikon on their upcoming North American tour with Psychostick and Urizen! Finally, check out our photo gallery of Nekrogoblikon’s set with Lyluth and Absala here!