(*the country, not the U.S. state)
– Featuring interviews with members of ENNUI, I KILLED THE DEVIL, DIAOKHI, INFADUS and DISMYTH
Part 3: People Making Music
Welcome back for the third and final part of our journey into the Georgian Metal Underground. In part 1 we met some of the musicians and found out about their backgrounds and what set them on their paths of music making; in part 2 we got some insight into the society and culture in Georgia, and what the climate is like for making Metal music.
In this final part, we’ll be finding out more about the bands themselves, their experiences on-stage, the difficulties of keeping a band together, song-writing processes and more. Read on…
Keeping The Band Together:
Even from my own limited experience I know how hard it can be to keep a band together, especially when making and performing music is not paying the bills or paying for your supper. Of course it’s not all about money, but even for musicians who just want to make music together for the joy of the music itself, everyone has their own lives and commitments and keeping everyone together and feeling motivated is a hard task. So how has much of a challenge has this been for our musicians in Georgia?
Catherine Polak (Diaokhi): “It’s been so long ago that I don’t remember all the details but it was quite difficult to keep a band together. Mostly because we all were so different, some of the band members were not into metal at all, all of us were a different age and the gap was quite significant. Some of us were professional musicians, like our drummer for example and then some of us were complete amateurs. You can imagine what it is like to keep such a band together. But somehow we survived, at least long enough to record one album.”[In answer to how the band initially came together] “In a small city like Tbilisi, you didn’t have so many people who were into metal, so we all kinda knew each other. Most of us even lived in the same neighborhood. That’s how bands were created back then.”
“To set the record straight, Diaokhi was not the first band to play black metal in Georgia. Before Diaokhi we had a different band called Pergamo with a different line-up. It was the only time we actually performed live. but as it always happens, there were misunderstandings, we were kids, we were fools and things did not work out, the band broke up and all went separate ways. I and the bass player remained from the previous line up all the rest were new.”
David Unsaved (Ennui): “It is not very difficult for us to keep Ennui as an active band, since we are only two members of the project, and all the rest are just session musicians. There were some difficulties with looking for someone who is able to play this kind of music, but now I hope everything is left behind. We selected the best musicians, who are also our good friends. Usually there are no special problems, as the band starts rehearsing only when some live shows are planned. The rest of the time we are not practicing together. All the more so the songwriting and recording process of our albums depends only on Sergei and me.”
Gio Xurcilava (Infadus): “Creating and keeping a full band is problematic not only in Georgia, but in the whole world I guess. Every band has got some inside the kitchen problems, and so does Infadus. But the key to our loyalty and devotion to each other is that for us Infadus is not only a band, it is a family. We are very close friends and we try to involve each other in our lives as much as possible.”
Luka Daniela (Dismyth): “It is very hard to put together a full band in Georgia and keep working steadily, I mean a copyright band. There are financial problems, not having free time, but I think nothing is a hindrance, it’s just a matter of priorities.”
Nika Maisuradze (Dismyth): “Yes. it’s kinda hard to be a band in here, because you don’t really get paid for it, and if you don’t get paid in Georgia you can’t do the thing, though it’s not hard to get members for the band because the bands quit and the bands get together all the time.”
Nino Datunashvily (Dismyth): “There are many musicians in Georgia, but it’s hard to find the right ones, who are not lazy and will work hard.”
Holly Mad (I Killed The Devil): “Because of not earning any material gain with our music it’s very hard to find band members who will work with you and will be dedicated like you are. That’s why it often happens that someone is leaving the band. To find the ones with whom you could share the stage and become as a family and one it’s always hard not only in Georgia but everywhere. When you add to that our factor of no money politics, it gets much harder…”
In part 1 of this musical journey our musicians spoke about the first music that really lit a spark for them. So how about when the time came to make music themselves? What do they see as the biggest influences on their own musical styles and songs? I also asked Catherine specifically whether she thought the Pagan Black Metal tag I’d seen applied to DIAOKHI was accurate from her point of view?
Catherine (Diaokhi): “Honestly, we never labeled ourselves as any type of “Black Metal” and I don’t really know who gave us this description. The Diaokhi name itself is the name of the Iron Age Georgian tribe, and we drew lots of inspiration from pre-Christianity beliefs of Georgians. We also mixed some elements of Georgian folk music into our songs. Kinda like Black Metal Jethro Tull, with a Caucasian twist…. Probably that’s how and why we were labeled as Pagan Black Metal.”
David (Ennui) “It is a bit difficult to say exactly what things are the biggest influences on our music. Of course, we’re sometimes inspiring by some great and more influential metal bands. For example, the legendary UK Funeral Doom/Death Metal band ESOTERIC. Me and Serge are biggest fans of them. We also even had a collaboration with this band and hope to share the stage together in future. But the other things are very conditional. For example, Sergei and I have slightly different musical preferences, therefore, we can be inspired by different musical directions. Sergei loves progressive and technical music, and I prefer more simple but also extreme and dark. I guess this is the reason of Ennui’s unique sound. Sergei makes our songs sound very professional and technical, while I write dark and heavy riffs. Moreover, the result is always very great.”
“I write all the lyrics myself. Usually, inspirations come directly from life… Also my friend AK.izor from Comatose Vigil sometimes helps me with the lyrics. He simply has a phenomenal talent, and his poetry can drive into the hopeless and long-term melancholy any person on this planet.”
Gio (Infadus): “The most interesting part in our music writing, I think, is that every single one of us has a different taste in music. There are of course several bands which we all love, but still we have different visions. For example my concepts for lyrics come from great authors such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Carl Jung and so on. Mostly philosophy and psychology of human nature. The style of rhythm and lyric writing I would love to assume as my own, but I know I have lots of influence from Dark Tranquillity, Slipknot, Tool. We have guitar influences from such bands as old Opeth, Gojira, Ne Obliviscaris etc.”
Luka (Dismyth): “Tony Iommi is my biggest influence. I have learnt from him songwriting, soloing. When I started playing guitar I was only just playing Black Sabbath songs, nothing more. Also Leif Edling (Candlemass) helped me a lot.”
Jan Staubach (Dismyth): “My contribution to the process of creation of music is definitely influenced by a lot of quite different sources. While Dream Theater, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse fit more into the scope of Metal & Rock, I am also listening to a lot of Jazz and Fusion, especially the Esbjoern Svenson Trio. My latest influences come from Metalcore bands like While She Sleeps and Architects.”
Nino (Dismyth): “I always write after my own imagination.”
Nika (Dismyth): “I have always been inspired by other bands and these bands always changed, as my music taste, now it’s gotta be ZZ Top and such bluesy bands.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “Korn was one of the key factors why we started this project. there are a lot of bands which I might consider as an influence, Gojira, Mushroomhead, Pink Floyd, Death, Infected Rain, Sikth, Alice In Chains, P.O.D and many more. I won’t put myself in the frames and we are using various styles of music and mixing it as our mood and taste will guide us. If you had a chance to create your own universe would you set a limit for yourself? Where would be the edge of “that’s enough I did everything”? So music for me is to do what you want, play what you can, write as you want. That’s our universe and we are the ones who set the rules.”
The Songwriting Process:
Being able to identify influences and inspiration is one thing, but how about the songwriting process itself? How does the collaborative process work and how do ideas turn into fully-formed songs?
David (Ennui): “It is usually very simple. Sergei and me never participate in the making of each other’s songs. I am doing my part of album and he’s doing his own. Both of us are recording demos at our home studios and then we advise each other what to keep and what to remove/change. I am happy with this method of collaborations. Regarding the songwriting process as such, it happens very quickly, while inspiration is near.”
Gio (Infadus): “The songwriting process is the most interesting part. Each of us brings some ideas in rehearsal room, we share those ideas, add, mix, and finally forge a track. We don’t write music individually, we love when all the band members take part in it.”
Luka (Dismyth): “When I’m training on guitar I’m always doing improvisations and I’m trying to catch some riffs or solo licks. I’m trying not to miss a day for improvisations, because you surely don’t know when the stuff comes.”
Nino (Dismyth): “It just comes to my mind from time to time and I take paper, or just my phone and write lyrics and chords that come to my head.”
Nika (Dismyth): “It’s always different, sometimes in my room while playing on bass or guitar, it could be a toilet seat too, always when I’m inspired.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “Every time I write music it’s like I am hearing whole song in my head and I’m trying to do a cover of it. sometimes I just take a guitar and start improvising until I find a trigger for the new song. It’s like treasure hunting, you never know where it is or which way will help you to discover it. So I follow the path and collect those little hints that are left behind.”
In part 2 we heard about Georgian society and the kind of reception Metal music gets in general, but what about the experience of performing for an audience? Are there any positive or negative on-stage experiences that stand out?
Catherine (Diaokhi): “I remember the excitement of playing live for the first time and fear that no one will come to see us. I was opening the show all alone, playing some Bach fugue to create the atmosphere. It was complete darkness, except candles that we placed on the stage in huge black chandeliers, and one dim beam of light falling on my keyboard with a human skull placed on it. when I finally looked in front of me, I saw that the venue was literally packed. Seeing all these people with excited faces and realizing that they all came to see us was quite amazing.”
David (Ennui): “Probably the worst experience was in Moscow when we brought a local session drummer in the band. Unfortunately, he was not ready enough to play our songs. I am sure the audience were very happy anyway, but we stayed very unsatisfied with this performance. However, that failure was a great lesson for us. And the good and memorable experience was meeting the people who traveled a huge distance to attend our live show. This sincerely means a lot for us.”
Gio (Infadus): “The first live show we ever had was in 2015. I remember all of us were so nervous. Nobody knew Infadus back then. And so the show starts and it’s the first 20th second of the show when a crazy little kid runs up to the stage, makes the horn symbols with his hands and jumps off the stage, but it was so unexpected that nobody managed to catch him, so he fell to the ground and broke his arm as I remember. It was all captured in a video, and people in social media made a gif out of it, which kinda made us popular instantly.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “Sure we all had good and bad experiences as in life so in music. For me bad experience it is when you can’t deliver your music as you want, if there are technical problems with equipment, it’s not enough or something burned during the show. That always pisses me off but still we will do our best to not disappoint our listeners. I also remember in the beginning of the 2000s with my very first band, someone stole our guitars. That was like an apocalypse for us. We were hardly able to get money to buy the guitars and losing the only bright thing we had in our lives for that time was devastating…”
“Every good show is like a best experience for me, I even remember that with my previous band on one of our shows we sold only 2 ticket, we still played the whole show and that live show was one of the best lives that I remember. I will also never forget the European tour with my band and Wacken, but like I said for me every good show is best and an unforgettable experience.”
Speaking In Tongues:
From the lists of inspirations and influences we’ve already read that much of the music our Georgian musicians have absorbed has been that of English speaking bands. But of course, Georgia has its own language. Then there’s also the potential impact of Russia’s close proximity and historical relationship, with Georgian Metal bands such as PSYCHONAUT 4 incorporating some Russian vocals into their songs. So how have all of these sources influenced the language our musicians chose to express themselves with? Furthermore, does it make a difference to them which language bands choose to sing in?
Catherine (Diaokhi): “The truth is that a huge percentage of Georgian land till this very day is occupied by Russia, so no one would even consider singing in Russian and hoping to gain some popularity. Probably singing in Georgian would give everything an extra mysterious flavor, but one can also say that with the Black Metal vocals it doesn’t really matter in what language you are singing.”
David (Ennui): “We started with the Georgian language first. The main reason was the poetry of Georgian decadence epoch poet Terenti Graneli. To tell you the truth, his lyrics inspired me to start making Funeral Doom Metal. We used his lyrics for our debut album ”Mze Ukunisa”. Then after a big quantity of great reviews, we decided to sing in Georgian on the next album too. It gave our music some individualism and mystery for foreign listeners. But there is a little problem with Georgian lyrics – we must always put translations in our booklets which makes some issues with design sometimes, because some of my lyrics are huge and it is necessary to use small fonts to place translations on each page, etc. Therefore, we moved on English lyrics on our last albums, but we always sing one song on Georgian, to keep tradition. I do not see anything bad when a band sings in its mother tongue, it always makes the music sound very beautiful and individual.”
Gio (Infadus): “I decided to sing in english simply because it’s way easier to spread the word in english worldwide than in any other language these days. But of course i would love to put some Georgian lyrics in our songs just to let the world hear of our ancient and beautiful language.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “For me language doesn’t matter in the music, everyone should express themselves in the music as they want. Some choose English, Some Russian, Some German or Georgian. That’s only up to them to decide. I can only listen and get what they offer.”
People make music for a lot of different reasons and the same music can affect people in very different ways. What have been some of the reactions to these bands and how do they want people to respond to their music?
David (Ennui): “Good question. First, we want the listener to travel to different dimensions, which exist only in our music, and regarding the lyrics, we want people never to forget about mortality and the bitterness of life. I think it helps you to enjoy and treasure your life. When you listen to some of our songs – you are listening to one of our stories. When you realize everything you might think that life can be full of terrible things like death experiences, loss of lovely people, loss of will, sanity and life. Then, maybe you will pay more attention to things you have never thought about before.”
Gio (Infadus): “The best reaction I can remember was of my parents. They never really understood the music, but my mom actually was into some Nightwish and Rammstein. But hearing of my growls… It blew their minds. They instantly got worried if my throat was okay. Then they secretly started to investigate if I was in some kind of satanic cult or something. But eventually, as they noticed a little success we made, they calmed down and accepted it. Right now my parents are completely okay with the music we write and perform.”
“In my opinion, the purpose of writing a song and performing it live, is that you have to show people what you have put inside that song. A certain feeling, emotion, chaos in your head. Anything that you experience. You become an instrument for music and you just let the music play you. So… I guess the whole purpose is to share. Share whatever is in your mind and soul. Hopefully some people will understand, embrace it and appreciate it.”
Jan (Dismyth): “For me, music is about transporting emotions. I deeply enjoy observing the audience letting loose, closing their eyes and following their feelings being caused or amplified by the music. Influencing the ambience and aura of a moment, this is what I am making music for.”
Luka (Dismyth): “You know that Doom Metal is an old genre and I want to keep it alive in people’s minds.”
Nino (Dismyth): “I want people’s emotions to burst while they are listening to our music.”
Nika (Dismyth): “Effect? I just want people to enjoy the heavy riffs.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “We haven’t had lots of concerts, since we played our first show in December of 2018, yet we receive good feedback from the people, and the amount of our listeners is growing, slowly but it keeps growing.”
“I can’t really explain why I make music. I know that I can’t live without it; like you need air to breathe for me it’s music. I can’t imagine myself without it. If I had a chance from this point to start everything from the start I’d always choose the same path that brought me to this point. That’s everything for me.”
Getting It Out There:
Making music and choosing to perform it isn’t the full picture. A further consideration is how to make people aware of what your doing. When I interviewed Aaron Pickford of Sludgelord Records for Blessed Altar Zine recently, he spoke of how for him social media is vital for promoting bands. So how is it from the musicians’ perspective? What avenues are available for Underground Georgian Metal bands to promote their music?
David (Ennui): “The best experience of promotion is the collaboration with huge Metal music media resources. And of course not in Georgia, here there are no magazines or some radio shows/podcasts about Metal music. Unfortunately. No local store points or something else.. so we do not even count on some local promotion options.”
Gio (Infadus): “Social media is one of the most important platforms for promoting music, but it’s either work hard or pay to promote. You either have to share your music manually to hundreds of groups and posts or just pay money and let the platform do its job for you.”
Luka (Dismyth): “Promoting our music is really difficult as there is no established format like magazines or radio station focusing on distribution of Metal music and related information. The only platform that can be used for reaching people is Facebook/Youtube.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “Nowadays social media plays a huge role to promote your music, it became an obsession of the 21st century and it affects all of us. So without it you can’t do anything. At the same time it’s both an opportunity and a curse of modern bands.”
I was extremely fortunate to have all the contributors for this article take the time to answer my questions and give us all this insight into their bands and their musical worlds. And who better to tell us about other Georgian Metal bands we should be listening to?
Catherine (Diaokhi): “There is a band called “Dismorial” which consists of two members of Diaokhi (singer and guitar player). They won Wacken Open Air Metal Battle for Caucasian Republics and played at WOA in 2014. They’ve also released two albums and opened for bands like Sodom, Vader, Napalm Death etc. So I highly recommend them.”
David (Ennui): “I recommend Sergei’s Technical Death Metal band ANGEL OF DISEASE. Very highly-professional performance and just very beautiful music. Also the band EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY are very cool, they played on Wacken Open Air last year, representing Georgia. Also I recommend the band OF NOAH which are playing very interesting, slow and atmospheric post-metal with elements of doom.”
Jan (Dismyth): “Besides Psychonaut 4 already receiving quite some attention from the international scene, I really enjoy the music and live performances of Scratch The Floor. Also, Lilla Land is a unique project and worth listening to.”
Luka (Dismyth): “Focussing on still existing bands, my favorites are I’m Nebel and Vril Ya. Also Triskelion, Omophor, Iahsar, xResistenciax, and Infadus. And for bands which are not performing anymore, it would be Thunder Statue and Tanelorn.
A big thank you again to all of the contributors. To end things here I’ll leave it to them mention anything they’re working on or would like to promote. Catherine from DIOAKHI, stopped making music after the band split up, and she spoke about how she (mostly) left the Georgian Metal music scene behind.
Catherine (Dioakhi) “I guess it’s just run its course naturally. Since we were pure amateurs not making any money from the music, it wasan obvious decision for me to focus my energy and time on my main occupation and pursue a career in graphic design and video production. However, I never walked away from the music world completely. I did music videos for pop/rock artists, designed covers and other materials for bands and music events like Eurovision. Almost like the Jonas Åkerlund of Georgia ;)”
“Since the early 2000s, I work as a designer, mainly as a broadcast designer. I worked for various TV stations all over the world. I was creating TV ads for various companies, brand identities, designing newsrooms, intros for the shows etc. I also make music videos for pop and rock bands. Currently, I live and work in the USA.”
David (Ennui): “We’re going to play on a Haunting the Castle III in Belgium on 2020. I really hope to see a lot of people there! We’re are going to play a new song from upcoming album which we are currently in the process of writing, so keep it doom! ☺”
Gio (Infadus): “We are working on our new pieces of music, trying to create something new, unusual and unfamiliar sounds to find our own place in the music industry. We are done following a certain genre. We want to shift the music in a way we see it, write something that we don’t get to listen to from any other bands. As soon as we are done working on music, we are going to hit the gig, stage a performance and show no one has ever made or seen in Georgia at least. Only then we hope to bring our music across the globe”
Luka (Dismyth): “We are currently working on the second Dismyth album which consists of 8 songs. This might also be accompanied by some gigs of Dismyth this winter and we will release our new single with the music video.”
Holly (I Killed The Devil): “The name of our upcoming album is “BEDTIME STORIES”. Each song for us is like a fairytale with it’s lyrics and music. Behind every song there is a huge world that you can discover. For us it is very private, special and important to deliver the message which we put in. It’s like reading a book, you can imagine and find so many new things every time you read the book and so is how we try to write our songs.”
I Killed The Devil
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