Slovak blackened sludge / post metal act NIČITEL’ sat down with us to talk about their second concept album ‘Matka’, dwelling on various aspects of nature, whose wonderful world of woods surround the band’s hometown Spisska Nova Ves.
Founded in the city of Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia in early 2012 NIČITEĽ released their debut “Hnev panteónu” in September 2014. This was followed by 2 split EPs and more than 30 live shows covering the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The band released their new album ‘Matka‘ this past Summer and proved that the band has taken a significant step forward and created a more powerful and emotionally intense sound. Hosting a violin on 4 tracks, using field recordings and more thought through arrangements and lyrics, what was once a straightforward release of neanderthal anger gained a sense of deeper thought.
“Matka” by NIČITEL was released in mid-August via Haluzeum Produkt, Togue Sol Distribución, Extinction Records, Ingot-Andrejco Records, WOOAAARGH, Skaven Records, Dingleberry Records, Totalitarianism Still Continues, and Different Records.
The following interview took place over the course of most days of October 2016.
Hey there guys! Thanks so much for taking some time with us. How are you? You’re the very first artist from Spisska Nova Ves that’s being interviewed for IDIOTEQ. Tell us a bit about yourselves and your hometown in Slovakia.
Hi Karol, first of all let me thank you for giving us the chance to present ourselves and our music on your webzine. To describe our present state, we are now preparing for our mini tour that will take place at the end of this month in Slovenia and Croatia. We will play three gigs in Izola, Rijeka and Krško. We are very excited about this trip for that it is our first chance to present our music behind the Czecho-slovakian borders.
What to say about ourselves? Me and Martin (drummer), both born in Spišská Nová Ves, know each other for more than 15 years, the same time we play together (with some pauses during our studies), beginning in an alternative instrumental band at the start of the 00s at our elementary school. After getting back from university we decided to start a different kind of musical project influenced by the inner frustrations of the every day life and the hardcore punk scene in our city, which is still quiet active also in the present time. We needed to release the steam and therefor NIČITEĽ was born. Beginning as an instrumental project, we slowly found out that adding vocals and lyrics would make the project more intense. At this point Vlado (singer) came into play. Not having any experience with shriek before, with every practice and gig we played together he transformed into an essential part of the project and its sound.
Regarding the town Spišská Nová Ves its a smaller city with 30 000 inhabitants in the northeast part of Slovakia surrounded by nature from every side. We all were born here, spent our teenage days in the beginning of the 00s in a community of metal fans, punks, hippie guys all joined around the, for us crucial, club Semafor. Semafor is closed for several years now but most of the people, that are actively trying to change the situation in our town and its surrounding (f.e. in the environmental or cultural sphere), are all grown ups connected with Semafor from the past.
Great, thanks! Can you elaborate a bit about what kind of worthwhile bands, labels and other independent art projects are currently active in your area?
If I would limit it to our city the worthwhile bands would be the noise project SUPRAPHON FAMILY, the thrash folk band POD ALTÁNKOM and the hardcore punk band COCO BONGO. The last two mentioned have basically the same members. They are part of a collective of young fellows presenting themselves under the name “Chaloši zo Spišskej” (Youngsters from Spiš town). Besides doing great music they are also supporting the local skateboarding scene, putting out zines, doing DIY art exhibitions, etc. Regarding labels I started to help out a friend of mine which runs the label Skaven Records, on which NIČITEĽ also puts out his releases.
Are you yourself involved in other bands? How are these projects positioned in relation to NIČITEĽ? How do you balance between them?
Two years ago the members of NIČITEĽ and SUPRAPHON FAMILY formed a side project called SUΣMA, an audiovisual primitive noisecore collaboration. This collaboration did not end but is not very active in the present time because we now try to concentrate on NIČITEĽ mainly. Besides this project I personally am not active in other bands. Vlado used to play guitar in a local punk band and is still motivated to be part of a band where he could play guitar. Martin is a graduated art painter so besides NIČITEĽ he focuses his time on this type of art.
Photo by DeeGee.
Ok guys, so let’s learn a bit more about your undertaking. What inspired you to form NIČITEĽ in the first place? What initially captured your imagination about this particular moody niche of bleak metal?
As mentioned before we somehow needed to release the steam. Me and Martin were playing softer atmospheric instrumental music before and we felt both we want to experiment with something new. Beginning as an instrumental project, most of the songs from the first record were made without vocals and lyrics (these were added later), they were very primitive in their structure, made up in less than an hour each. We went to the rehearsal room after a working week and emptied the inner trash throughout the music. I personally was never really listening to black metal, Martin knew some bands but was not a great fan either. Our goal was to play a bit harder and darker than before. After Vlado joined the band we told him to scream and he began to shriek. Thanks to that I think many people describe our music as sort of black metal but that was never our intention. We never told ourselves we want to play a certain type of music. We wanted to work with the inner positive anger by composing primitive minimalistic dark music using a bass, drums and vocals.
Did you decide what you’ were going to create on ‘Matka’ after analyzing a certain concept, or did you have some ideas beforehand of what you wanted to deliver? How do you approach the continuity in your records?
After adding vocals and lyrics to our music we decided we will make conceptual albums concentrating on a specific theme. The first one was inspired by mythology, for the second one we decide to focus on nature. As mentioned before most of the songs from the first album were made before adding vocals, so the lyrics were written afterwards. The musical part was not in direct relation to the story told through the lyrics.
For the second album we chose a different approach, deciding on the themes and stories of the songs before any musical parts were made. All the melodies and rhythms, verses, choruses and intermezzos were then made in relation to the decided themes. After that the lyrics were written. For example the song Jeleň, I had a visualized topic, it was in my mind as a storyboard consisting of three pictures, a city in rust, than cut, a lonesome deer in the forest, and again cut, back to the decaying city. I then searched for the right melodies to be the soundtrack for this story. Vlado afterwards wrote the lyrics.
Photo by DeeGee.
What is it about nature that made it your preferred subject?
Spišská Nová Ves is a town surrounded by beautiful nature, we have three national parks in our region (even though this term doesn’t mean much to the local authority for that many trees have been cut down in protected areas). We all have grown up spending a lot of time in the woods (some more than the others) and we all somehow feel the positive impact it had and still has on our lives. For me personally a walk in the forest calms me down, gets my mind back on track, helps me remember the important stuff in life that matters. This subjective experience led to a very basic conclusion, which many people surprisingly hardly understand. I believe men is not above but a part of nature. Sadly a disappointing one. It was natural for us to concentrate on something, that had such a big influence on our lives, and is at high risk of getting completely destroyed. The situation awaits actions. Making an album on this topic can be one of them.
Photo by slovenskoo.estranky.sk
And how about your relation with other people? Do listeners’ suggestions enrich yourself and your records? How much do you care about reviews, social media feedback and opinions shared through offline networking?
I met a guy a month ago in Bratislava, he organised a gig for us last autumn, I didn’t see him the whole year and I was like “did you listen to our new record?” awaiting some positive response. And he said “Yeah, I checked it out, but I enjoyed the first album much more, it was more straight forward, more raw.” Opinions like this might come but there is no way of going back and there is no reason to do so. DIY scene gives you the chance to experiment because we do not make music to make big earnings. We do so because we have an inner need. And if this inner need will guide you through changes to a new perspective, and this new perspective will bring a loss of interest from some fans, than it is the way it should be. The great thing is you are not limited to do so.
The album was released on a number of independent labels. How did you manage to team up with so many distributors and what these cooperations mean to you?
Most of the people standing behind the Slovak labels we know personally. They are also active in organizing gigs, managing zines or playing in bands. We therefor were either invited to play in their town, interviewed for their zine or joined stage with their band before. The community in Slovakia tries to support each other quit well I think. We are thankful that as newcomers (many people know each other for many years) 3 years ago we got the opportunity to present our music at different places and found people that were open enough to participate on this experimental release. The labels from Germany, Poland and Czech Republic were known to us from cooperation on other releases with Skaven Records. We just gave it a try, sent them the mastered songs and somehow they wanted to support the release too.
How much of new opportunities do you think new digital solutions can represent for independent artists? How do you see the modern technologies and the revolution they created in these fast moving times?
We appreciate the possibility of sharing our music worldwide digitally through internet. Thanks to that our album got a special tape release by a record label from Kazachstan. This surely would not happen if there would not be such a connection. Still with a web site, bandcamp and youtube account created, we try to concentrate on the offline more than on the online. This means playing live shows, doing physical releases, supporting local shows, meeting people from the community face to face. You can get easily lost in the online world, ending up with an instagram account mapping your daily life, sharing pictures of what you had on breakfast. This doesn’t support the music you create as an artist, but more your ego. We don’t want to go this way.
Photo by DeeGee.
What artist, art movements or solutions do you think exemplify the current or exciting times in music?
I was a big fan of independent music since I was a teenager, but found out what the DIY scene really means just a couple years ago by visiting local shows and lately by becoming a member of an organisational collective called S.U.M.A.. This collective organizes gigs in Spišská Nová Ves of DIY artists of different genres from all around the world. In the last two years I got the chance to see a huge number of talented people, whose main focus is on playing honest music instead of trying to earn money by making compromises. There are I believe hundreds of them on the road also now as we speak with only one desire. To play you their songs. And they are available if you can get them a PA system, give them some food, a place to sleep and some money for gas. These are the exciting times in music for me right now.
As an independent artists trying to develop your band, what obstacles do you encounter? What tools, solutions or help could you use to meet your band’s needs?
There is not really an obstacle I could mention. We are pretty much satisfied with how it is. We are thankful for having a great rehearsal room, for which we don’t have to pay that much, because of the support of a friend of ours (thanks Addy). We are thankful for our girlfriends (wives) that tolerate our activity (just joking, they are very supportive). We are thankful for the record labels that participated on our past releases. The 12″ was a dream come true and would probably not be real without them. And mostly we are thankful for the people who found what we found in the music we play and seem to enjoy it as much as we do. If there will be enough of them in the future, we will be playing for them, if not, we will stay in our rehearsal room and play for ourselves. Because we know we want to.
So what are your future plans for NIČITEĽ?
We composed three new songs which we want to record in the near future. If everything goes the right way, they should come out on a split EP with the band ZOZOO. Two of them focus on the topic of health care and pharmaceutical industry. I needed to clear my mind on this topic, but did not want to make a whole album about it. Two songs were enough. The third one is a cover of a song by ZOZOO. Besides that we hope we will get the chance to play some shows, a few are already in discussion, we will see how it goes.
Lastly, what are your ambitions concerning the band?
What is important for us is to play. As mentioned before, if we will connect with the outer world, there will be records and live gigs, if not, there will be Friday evenings with two of my best friends enjoying the moment playing together.
And either way is fine, right? :)
Alright, thanks so much for your time guys. Feel free to add your last words.
Cheers from Warsaw!
Yeah, it surely is. :) Thanks again for the interview, Karol. NIČITEL’ wishes you all the best.