EXCLUSIVE: Stefan Zaharescu (NEGURA BUNGET / KISTVAEN) interview

On July 2nd, 2012 we talked to Stefan Zaharescu “Chakravartin”, the lead vocalist of the legendary Romanian black metal band NEGURA BUNGET and his new relatively new project KISTVAEN.

Hi, Stefan. Please introduce to our readers and drop us a line about who you are and what projects are you involved in. Are there any who don’t know NEGURA BUNGET? [smiles]

My name is Stefan, 24 years old, resident in Bucharest, Romania, content administrator for www.metalhead.ro, event promoter and musician in different projects ranging from industrial, alternative rock to metal. About your question regarding NEGURA BUNGET, there will always be new places to go and spread our music and concept. The universe has endless possibilites, it’s something similar in the global musical scene.

What were the origins of KISTVAEN, you relatively new project that released its debut album in 2010?

It was a project started in 2008 I think, after me and Fenrir (guitar) left Sincarnate, a pretty well known (and very good) band here in Romania. It was his idea to start the band in the first place, I just taged along for the ride after he found a second guitarist. Then we started to work on some ideas, got a steady line-up and started to do pretty much what any band on this Earth does.

What were you seeking both musically and lyrically when you decided to launch this project back in 2008? How is KRISTVAEN different from you old band?

Besides Fenrir, I don’t think anyone had any clue on what we were doing there, it was the first live band in Romania that promoted this depressive/suicidal kind of metal. I don’t know if it’s the right definition for it, just sounded really different. I for once had some problems constructing a personality for this band, once I realized it required a different approach both musically and as a live concept, it became quite a personal thing so everything I did – from the rehearsal room to the stage – was deeply personal and a difficult experience on a psychological level. That’s the main reason why I never published the lyrics for the first album, it’s quite a personal experience and I wouldn’t wanna share it with anyone, not on that level anyway.

You said that “the music is more of a reflection of the ideas, but the main thing is to get the concept across.” I could not argue with that. So I nod and kindly ask you to reveal what’s the main concept of your art, what’s the ideology and main lyrical ideas behind both bands? I guess you must conceptualize without describing your thoughts separately for each bands as you’re one human, having certain thoughts, feelings and attitude. So how do you split ideas and doctrine between these projects?

As i said, KISTVAEN is too personal to talk about that. As for NEGURA BUGNET, Negru is the one responsible for the lyrics and thus drawing the basic lines for the concept. I can only say that it’s that kind of band where the words somehow blend with the music and for someone who doesn’t know a single word in Romanian, still it becomes quite clear what the whole message is about, lyrically and musically. It’s on a human level and beyond…I for once met alot of people that understood the music and the concept even though they can’t translate the words…and that’s a quite unique thing, makes you think about the influence music has on our mind and spirit. But yes, it is a doctrine.

What other bands are/were your pals from KISTVAEN involved in?

Well, me and Fenrir played together in SINCARNATE, he also played in a doom metal band called ABIGAIL, good friends. I played in quite alot of local bands before KISTVAEN, now i’m also focusing on some tribute bands (NINE INCH NAILS and PANTERA tributes) and working with an alternative rock band called TEP ZEPI. The drummer from KISTVAEN also plays in another black metal band called AKRAL NECROSIS, our guitarist is ‘single’ and our bass player shared the stage with Fenrir back in the days when he also played in ABIGAIL.

You’’ve been building and then supporting your local music scene since the beginning of 90s. [smiles] How did Bucharest metal scene change over the years?

Not really because I was born in 1988 :) But I’m really into supporting the scene since I was 14 years old when I was cutting tickets at local metal shows. Afterwards I became involved with www.metalhead.ro, with some great people made it a profitable business (6 years now), got myself involved into local bands, started promoting shows, helping out other musicians and so on. It takes a lot of sacrifices but there are some memories that could never be replaced…I wouldn’t change anything if I could go back to those days. Bucharest scene? Changed a lot, people come and go, some people are not with us anymore, some people gave up on this whole culture, some young people are still proving us that there is big musical potential in Romania, some old people are still thrilling us with their tunes…it’s like a normal life circle. Things change, hopefully for the best…I’m optimistic in this matter and usually I’m not the positive guy.

[smiles] After a huge success following NEGURA BUNGET’s “OM” album (2006), a lot of magazines and media covering metal news realized you’re there! How was it from your perspective? Was it a big difference, a moment of glory for the band? How did it feel?

Well I wasn’t in the band at that point but I remember it was quite a buzz in Europe. It’s a very complex album, I think it came out exactly at the right time and it also offered people a different perspective on black metal…it was also a change for NEGURA BUNGET. People started to look back to the older NEGURA BUNGET , especially N Crugu Bradului and Maiastrul Sfetnic, two black metal masterpieces. So yes, I imagine it was quite an impact for the international scene to find out about this really mysterious east European black metal band. Don’t know about glory but I think it was a turnout point for the band…made people see the music through a whole different perspective.

Ok, so here’’s a tough one. I know we shouldn’t dwell on the past, but it’s kind of important when we take a look at your history. Tell us about the dark times when two NEGURA BUNGET members left the band. What happened?

Honestly I’m not the one who should talk about this, Negru covered pretty much everything in past interviews given these last couple of years (go here, here, here, here, here or here). Line-up changes happen all the time in bands, it’s somehow normal because we are human beings and we have different personalities and perspectives in life. Worst thing you can do is try to copy what’s been already done…you can always try to see things from another perspective, give it a new breath of air. That being said, I’m really looking forward to hear what Dordeduh will release, puting everything aside they are exceptional musicians.

What did emerge from that change? How is your latest stuff different from the music you taught us to cherish? How has your black metal evolved since its origin in both sound and culture?

Well the concept remained the same. It meant a different approach on music but I think people embraced it pretty well and saw that the essence of NEGURA BUNGET didn’t change. I strongly believe that there is a solid spirit in this band that can’t be altered by some line-up changes. It’s far beyond music. And about the music, I didn’t see such a big change, it was a pretty natural evolution to a more progressive perspective, more traditional instruments, more spiritual lyrics.I think the major change with the new line-up was that the music became somehow more accessible to people who are not into this kind of music. For example, nowadays shows are more intense, it’s like a complete ritual and people do relate to that. But every album is different, I can assure you that the next record is quite different from the previous one and still it keeps the same spirit, like every NEGURA BUNGET  album. It’s still black metal :) That’s the fascinating part of this band, it can give you the same feeling through different perspectives. Pretty much like life.

You sold more than 10 000 CDs in 2010! You’re a millionaire, man! [laughs] How do you manage to keep the high number of physical formats sales these times? How do you see the transformation of modern music industry in digital age?

Well you have to tour really hard and that’s what we do…in four months we had over 70 shows…so people feel the need to take home a piece of that live ritual. You can’t stop progress when it comes to the music industry. I believe record labels will have to go through a revolution to survive, some already do that. Digital age has it’s ups and downs of course but there’s a solid strategy in it. Bands are learning to take advantage of modern times, going independent is becoming a regular thing nowadays. Digital sales will probably grow every year, the irony is that vinyls are selling really well in the last couple of years and that’s a really cool thing. But music will never die, as long as there are good bands in this world we will still have a market It’s just a weird way to adapt. For the record labels it sucks because bands are going independent and big record corporations are becoming useless unless you want to go on top of the Billboard chart but that’s a different story. We will still have record labels, only difference will be that passion and dedication will finally make a final stand.

What’s the farthest you have ever been from home with a band?

I think it was New Mexico, we had a show there on the US tour…traveled to the borther with Mexico, guess that’s the farthest spot until now. I know though there are some plans to go even further next year.

What is your current touring schedule?

Right now we’re taking things slow as our drummer Negru went through two surgeries so he needs some time to recuperate. Also we are working on a new album right now and we have to record it so that’s our priority in the next couple of months. We have some upcoming shows in Romania, Italy, Czech Republic and Germany and that’s about it for now. We are working on tours for the future, trying to reschedule the tour for Australia..probably do Europe again next year with the new album.

Since we’re covering mostly hardcore punk music Has your musical circle reached such styles as widely understood punk? How about dark metallic hardcore bands like THIS GIFT IS A CURSE  and the new wave of post metal / black metal influenced acts like DEAFHEAVEN? What modern extreme music are you into these days?

I listen to alot of experimental metal stuff, I know about DEAFHEAVEN, their last album is very good. I’m a big fan of TOMBS, THE SECRET, RWAKE, DODHEIMSGARD, MINSK, BARONESS, BURST, alot of scandianvian stuff, also into CONVERGE, KVELERTAK, KYLESA, BLACK TUSK.. My favourite metal bands remain NEUROSIS and CULT OF LUNA though…I listen to a lot of stuff at home, a lot of non-metal music also. It’s good to be open minded when it comes to music, gives you more wider perspectives. There is good music in every genre.

So tell us about Transilvanian Spirituality and magic around Romanian historic lands. How do you compare it to other mystical places you’ve seen? What are the most amazing places you have visited?

Well I can honestly say that I love my country, I got the chance to travel a lot and I would never move out of Romania, we have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world….and a very rich history. As a tourist I would recommend a trip to Romania, it’s something you can’t find in any place on Earth. Back in the US we saw some pretty impressive stuff, a sequoia forest, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, memorable experiences. I for once felt really happy we got the chance to visit Roswell, I’m a big X-Files fan. Wish we got to the forest where they shot The Blair Witch Project, that would’ve been quite a cool thing. I think Europe is very rich in landscape but that’s only because there’s such a rich history. Scandinavia is always great to visit, there’s really something magical about that place. UK also.

Tell me about it, man [smiles]. I’ve spent lots of moths traveling through their lands and I’m just speechless. I simply love Norway [smiles].

Do you read a lot? What authors would you suggest for mystical, atmospheric reading?

I only read Sci-Fi stuff and things related to paranormal so I’m not the one to suggest mystical reading :) Frank Herbert and Stephen King remain my favourite writers, sound like a common thing I know but the books are fantastic. Also, anything with conspiracies, history, religion and political goes for me.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. There are so many other things I’d like to ask you, but it’s already a big one. So feel free to add anything you want and let’s hope we’ll get a chance to chit-chat again sometime soon. Thanks!

Learn to read between the lines, there are so many things in this world we’ve yet discovered.

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