Fresh off their one-off reunion show with original line-up and 14 years after their impressive debut record on legendary metal label Earache Records, experimental gloomy metallers ZATOKREV are back with its first ever vinyl pressing on Czar Of Bullets Records, and first teasers of their new work, a possible follow-up to 2015’s “Silk Spiders Underwater...” album. These guys have been pushing the limits of metal for 16 years with their inimitable, dark, forward-thinking sound and it’s high time we nod our heads in appreciation of their work. I sat down with the band’s founder and mainman Frederyk Rotter (also of Czar Of Crickets Productions, Czar Of Bullets / Czar Of Revelations label), to learn more about their legacy and see what’s up and coming for the band in 2018 and beyond.
Although their first self-titled album was only intended for demo purposes the band immediately got offered various deals and finally released the record in 2004/2005 on Code:Breaker, Earache and Division Records to overwhelming critical reception all over Europe and America. Their unique mixture of slow, heavy rock and extreme metal styles brought them a creative and unpredictable reputation early on. In 2004 Metal Hammer UK used the term „avant-garde“ to describe what Zatokrev do. Fifteen years later this term is more pertinent than ever before.
Zatokrev have claimed stages on countless tours and festivals all over Europe while gaining the status of an intense live act. The numerous line-up changes throughout the years did not harm the creative output of the band; they have now reached a state of experimentation which expands their horizon even more – not only on a musical level but also on a visual and thematic level.
The highly metaphorical lyrics and artworks aim to express personal/spiritual struggle as well as growth in different ways; both negative and positive energies are part of what the band builds up and tears down. Their musical repertoire is no less than impressive, reaching from the typical monolithic sound and slow groove to moments of psychedelia, ambient and industrial, over to black & death metal, leaving no stone unturned.
Hey Frederyk! Thanks so much for your time. How are you? You’re fresh off your recent April show with the original line-up. How was the live experience?
Hello Karol. The show was damn great. Many people from our generation came over, a few we didn’t see for many years. It was truly a joy and an honor to share the stage again with my ex-band mates Silvio Spadino and Marco Grementieri. Everything around this show happened very natural, everybody involved had a lot of fun to work on this. The mood was incredible. And playing after so many years at the Hirscheneck with this lineup definitely brought back a few great memories as well.
Please tell us more about the “new” line-up and the musical background of the rest of the guys.
We always liked to hear a lot of different music. From Jazz, Country, Experimental, Old School Hip-Hop, 70ies Psychedelic Rock, Electronic Music to various extreme metal styles.
The new lineup is not really new anymore. With Lucas and Fredo I play since 2010, just our new guitarist Steffen Kunkel joined last year. Frédéric Hug is French and used to play in several death- and black metal bands when he was younger. His last band before Zatokrev was „Sounds Of The I“, a very interesting instrumental trio doing some kind of jazz mixed with various rock and metal styles. Also he’s playing guitar for his brilliant acoustic dark atmospheric jazz folk solo project, where he’s telling poetry from William Blake at the same time. Lucas Löw used to play bass in a local thrash metal band called Total Annihilation before he joined Zatokrev. Also he’s working on various other electronic and psychedelic projects and has a solo project as well which is called „The Cause Acoustic“.
Steffen Kunkel actually didn’t play in any band for 10 years before he joined Zatokrev, before that he toured with coverbands as at this time it was hard to find musicians for the kind of music he wanted to play around the area he lived.
Can we count on more shows later this year?
We are working with Dead Pig Entertainment, our new booking agency, and we are working on a project we can’t tell much about yet. For sure you can expect European shows by autumn, details are going to be revealed within next few weeks.
Your debut record was a landmark release for the group. How do you feel about it now that it’s 14 years old?
Probably mainly because we practiced and played the entire record live last month it feels pretty much like back in the days. Back then we were pretty surprised that labels were interested to release our debut, as it was originally meant to be only a demo. We recorded the songs with a cheap harddisc recorder, without being great producers at all. Already back then I liked the songs but I never really the production. Anyway we didn’t have the money to go in a good studio. So as the labels were excited about it we decided to put it out like that, which was an important step. Due to the great press we had, we were able to play nice shows across Europe.
Through the years I guess i kind of grew as a musician and hopefully also as a human, which was probably the reason why I started to feel the old lyrics more and more „pubertal“ or unformed. During last months it was an interesting process to practice all the old songs and especially to sing the old lyrics again. It gave me the chance to work on the relation with my old lyrics and their topics. So many memories came back and I realised that all the lyrics from our debut were actually not pubertal at all. Every word that was spoken still carries a logical truth and the energy from that Zeitgeist. So this anniversary show and the debut rerelease were also a process to accept a few things that happened in the past and also to get closer again to my old texts.
Apart from ZATOKREV, but speaking about your personal influences, what landmark records shaped your musical consciousness?
I guess there are too many to mention. But the two albums from Smashing Pumpkins; Siamese Dreams and Gish were pretty much the reason why I started to play guitar.
What is your broad view of today’s post metal artists’ efforts over the past few years to reinvent older interpretations of the genre with unconventional composing and arranging styles? Do you believe it’s still possible to propose something new in the field of atmospheric, dark heavy music or music in general?
There are so many bands in the genre and there are so many releases every month that I lost the overview a long time ago already. Nowadays the music market is crowded with brilliant bands, who want to express themselves in their own way and I guess a few of them can still manage to put out something new and original. Of course it’s getting harder and harder. But for example we have Zeal & Ardor in our hometown, who are radically hyping since last year, pretty much because of their weird combination of Gospel and Black Metal, that’s definitely something pretty new. Don’t know what will be next.
Would you say that being imaginative is one of the key factors of approaching composing new works? How do you reignite your creative spark? Tell me about your inspirations.
Everything in Zatokrev always happened very natural. To me the way we write songs has something meditative, completely out of any inner competition. In every moment we work on a new song we want to compose like we never did before. It is the continuous creativity which makes me wanna go further with Zatokrev. To me this is way more important than playing live. When you create something new (a part, a song, improvisation etc) it is the purest moment in music. When you play a song live it’s nice, but there it already lost its purity. The creative process in the rehearse room, when we are creating stuff together is the essence of everything. How we are in the rehearse room reflects on everything else we do with the band. I would not even say I ever reignite the creative spark, because it already sounds like I wanna force it. Creating music is something that has to happen in a natural way. No matter HOW I try to force it, I’ll not get there this way. It can only work when I grab the instrument without having any goal. Head and heart should be as far as possible free from influence. And still that is not a guarantee to be able to write good stuff, just it’s the only possibility to have a chance to get there. Doubtless pure music has to happen natural and unbound.
Speaking of new works and inventions, tell us about a possible a follow-up to ‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’? Are you already in the process of writing new tracks? Please give us some teasers on that.
We are working on it since a longer time. I guess it will take next year until we’ll be able to release it. But before that we’ll put out something else. More news about this to come soon.
Alright Frederyk, thanks so much for your time. Feel free to add anything you like and take care. Cheers from Warsaw!
Thank you very much for your interest & time Karol. Unfortunately we never had the chance to play in Poland so far, but fingers crossed, we should make it in fall. And to all the readers, stay tuned ! We’ll be happy if you come over for our first Poland appearance. Peace & love.