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GHOSTCHANT: “Of Anger and Passion and Love” – exclusive interview + “Slaves” EP premiere!

Long time, no see, huh?  After a really busy December, including the birth of my daughter, I’m back, bringing you all the good stuff you need :) This new band right here hails from Budapest, Hungary and features Zoltan Jakab of NEWBORN and BRIDGE TO SOLACE. Along with his friends, Norbert Czetvitz (of NADIR), Gabor Nagy (NEWBORN / THE IDORU), Daniel Kosa (of NADIR / OUR EXISTENCE IS PUNISHMENT / PLANET VOID) and Mate Kocsis (THE IDORU), he started GHOSTCHANT – a new, non-compromising project to “pay tribute to their influences drawn from the past three decades of heavy and politically/socially aware underground icons”. Here’s my interview with Zoltan, selling you all the insights about their music, inspirations, lyrical content and personal attitude.

Along with the interview comes the exclusive EP premiere, available for your listening pleasure below! The 4 melodic, yet powerful metallic hardcore punk tunes treat the subjects of the economic destruction and crimes against humanity committed by the modern man. Showing its own strong identity, the EP features the amazing artwork of GHOSTCHANT’s friend, Barber’s Art! Make sure to check it out and share this piece right now!

Hey Zoltan! It’s so nice talking to you man. What’s up? How are you?

Hey Karol! Doing pretty excited. It’s been three and a half years since I last played a show and almost five since I have been putting anything out with any band, so obviously I am really psyched to do this and I am happy I even got to talk about it, haha!

Wow! So I guess you’ve just answered my next question. We’re here to discuss the new GHOSTCHANT release and your upcoming adventures under this new name, but I was dying to find out what’s been happening with your 2 previous bands, NEWBORN and one of my favorite European melodic metalcore bands BRIDGE TO SOLACE. What’s the status of these projects? What happened to BTS?

Well, NEWBORN had an untimely death in 2002, after four years and three EPs. We were young and to be frank we were assholes. Mainly to each other, haha. It was not a healthy environment for anyone to be in, it was always a challenging task to be in the same space without wanting to kill each other. But there were 5 young, idealistic and quite honestly clueless kids and whatever we did, it was magic. That is how it felt back then. We had a brief reunion in 2008 for a dear friend’s benefit, and it felt like that again. It was a one of a kind experience and I am happy I got to be a part of it. I used to look back. A lot. Now I don’t anymore. BRIDGE TO SOLACE was very very fulfilling and again a very challenging task, cause again this band had really strong personalities. Myself included of course. I think we did what we could. We did three full-lengths, an EP and we ran our course. It’s a lot harder to maintain a band in Eastern Europe with a different financial background than most would think. Also, we had a lot of lineup changes and it got to a point where I asked myself – do I want to be a circus clown or should I get on with my life and look at different perspectives of things? And yeah, I was actually happy, genuinely happy to put an end to it. And no, I don’t regret anything at all. It just felt right at the time. I was 30 years old when BTS broke up and I have started my first band when I was 15. Half my life was defined by me being in bands, doing shows and running like an idiot. And hiding. And going on tours, getting out there, giving 200% night after night, because I didn’t have a clue how to live a life where I actually got to spend time with myself and how to live a life where what I am does not define who I am. When BTS was over, I felt I was happy, truly happy. And calm. I have a great life-partner, she’s smart, beautiful and wise – she taught me so much over the years about how to be calmer, how to be less self-destructively impulsive. And I enjoyed it. I missed playing in bands. Anytime I saw a favourite band playing a kickass show, my heart was shattered into pieces. But at the same time I was happy not to be a part of this crazy circle that’s getting crazier and crazier by the minute. Where everything is more defined by the product you deliver and not by the size of the heart you have. Because that’s what hardcore punk is for me. To be relentless, impulsive and to have a heart the size of a lion’s and never compromise, no matter how much of an asshole you become, haha. Because this is for me still something raw, unbridled and it still has a message. That’s why I’m actually back. Because I feel I have something to say.

And I’m very glad you are! But let’s dig into the top housing first. How did GHOSTCHANT begin? Give us the story. Who does what in the band?

It was supposed to be a two man show, haha. I have this friend in Hungary, one of my best friends ever, called Norbi. He’s a great guy and he is in a doomy hardcore band called Nadir, they’ve been around for 20 years, a truly amazing DIY metal band with a punk hardcore attitude. We love the same music, we both have a bunch of sheltered dogs and we both support the same football team, haha, so it was natural at some point in our lives we’ll honour our friendship with a band. So we first played around with the idea of doing a band, where he does all guitars and bass, we get a friend to play drums in the studio and I sing. This was summer 2012. Then we figured we shouldn’t have this as a bedroom project only, so we should maybe rehearse once. He called in then-Nadir bassist Daniel and I called my friend Mate, who’s drumming I freaking love and he plays in THE IDORU, the other post-NEWBORN band besides BRIDGE TO SOLACE. We had a rehearsal, the four of us in the fall of 2012, where Mate suggested we should add a 2nd guitarist and it could be his current THE IDORU and my former NEWBORN bandmate, Gabor. I loved that idea, as he is an extremely talented musician and an amazing guy who I loved touring with back in the day. We came together first late 2012 and all of a sudden we had a full band. Then we didn’t really do anything much, cause everyone was still busy with a ton of other projects. This past October the rest of the dudes hit the studio and did a very impulsive, impromptu recording of the drums and we all realized this is real and it was my time to do the lyrics and vocals. And then here we are now, with a bunch of ideas. We even talk about playing a few shows every once a while, even if it was something we were almost sure we won’t do.

Oh yeah, we’ll get to shows right away Sir ;)

How would you describe GHOSTCHANT’s sound to everyone as most of us haven’t heard anything yet? Who were some of your influences this time? Are there any particular or a plan to sound a certain way? Or did everything just happen?

Well, we always wanted this band to be heavy and non-compromising. I have gone through enough compromises in my life. We wanted to sound heavy, fast, gloomy and evil. Everything from bands like NEUROSIS, CONVERGE, ENTOMBED, HIS HERO IS GONE to thrash metal, black metal, raw punk hardcore is an influence on what we do. We have all reached a point in our lives where we just don’t really care about appearances or want to live up to expectations and we just wanted to do something what is a very dark and very pissed off thing. Because if we take a good look around in the world today, there’s reason to be pissed off about. So the music of GHOSTCHANT is pretty much the soundtrack to a world that doesn’t treat anyone very fairly.

How different of an experience was singing on this record, compared to your previous albums with the other bands?

I was more stressed out, because I haven’t been in a studio as a vocalist for about 5 years and I was a little worried about how my voice will handle it. And at the same time I was relaxed because there were no expectations and I could just do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I mean, obviously, we wanted to come out with this EP as soon as possible, but still it was on our own terms. No pressing deadlines or anything.

By the way, how long have you been working on this new EP?

The writing part, as I said earlier dates back as far as June 2012, but the recordings took place much later and thankfully pretty quick. We had drums done in October, guitars and bass in November and I did Shards in November, so we can put something out for people to listen to and the rest over the month of December. I’m happy I didn’t get to spend more than 4 hrs total in the studio, haha.

Haha, nice!

Considering your debut record, what are you most proud of?

The whole thing. It’s just a great feeling. I feel like I’m 15 years old, and I am very excited doing this. It’s a great release of anger and passion and love. So this is what makes me proud, that even though quite often I felt like I’m never going to be in a band again, here I am, still got something to say and I get to do this with some of the best people I have ever known and we do everything just the way we please. We are artistically free to create. It’s liberating.

Hmm :) Do you have a favorite track off the record? Why is it close to your heart?

Again, the whole thing, haha. I know this is a cheap answer. But it’s extremely hard to pick one. If I’d have to, I’d say Prosperity Through Enslavement, the first track. I love the dynamic of the song and I love how my songwriting ideas (you got to know I have very poor – heck, let’s call it ZERO – skills when it comes to songwriting) were incorporated in this. I mean, nothing too big, just an insight here or there, haha. This has been a song that has been two different songs and we shaped it a lot over the last year and a half, took parts out, put parts in, extended it, shortened it. The intro to the song was basically one of the first riffs Norbi ever played me and that’s when I figured this band should be pretty damn good if we really give this a shot!

Cool :) Speaking of your favorites, I bet that the artwork for the release stands out in the crowd of album cover arts, am I right? :) Tell me more about this piece. How does it tie in with the lyrical content of the EP?

Not sure how much it stands out, as there’s a whole lot of great artists nowadays, but we sure do love it. It was done by my friend Barnabas, who works as a freelance artist under the moniker Barber’s Art (http://www.facebook.com/barbersart). When Norbi and me started this band, we both agreed we should keep everything simple and as dark as possible to properly describe our music and lyrics. One of the most influential and best 7” records I have ever heard and owned is the self-titled 7” by San Diego band STRUGGLE, released on Ebullition Records. I first came through STRUGGLE when I was around 16 years old and I loved the artwork as well, as it completely described how the modern world feels like. I wanted Barnabas to go into that direction, but I gave him a free hand, as we quite often think alike and if there’s anyone I ever trust 100% artistically, it’s him. We’re good friends, he knows what I think, he knows what I want to say and what GHOSTCHANT represents. As of right now, the band’s plan is to start with four 4-song EPs, each circling around one topic.

The first EP became Slaves and it is about how we are treated by the powers around us and how we allow those powers to treat us. If it weren’t for the hardcore scene, I’d most likely be just another average Joe rotting away in some shit job, with little or no moral compass, surviving mindlessly in the world with little care about what’s going on. And that is what the lyrics represent. Besides pointing fingers at the obvious, it also tries to point fingers back to us – to humanity as a whole. Because no matter how much this outside world forces their set of standards and dogmatic strategies on us, we also have a choice in making our own lives better. If you take a good look at the economy of the past couple years, everything has been so fast. And that’s what I have built the lyrics on.

Prosperity Through Enslavement deals with all those who could do to humanity what they did. The constant games with interest rates, credit loans and currency values. How the always mystic “them” could do this to “us”. Everything was available so cheap and in a country like Hungary, where let’s face it, the average person is close-minded, poorly self-educated and speaks little or no foreign languages and is content to eat whatever is fed – all these big companies can come in and do as they please, because the opposite side won’t do shit, as it would be way too challenging to look behind the curtains. Literally, anyone with almost nothing to their name could apply for a mortgage loan and when the 2008 recession hit, it hit hard. Because when you have nothing, but they provide you with an option to own let’s say your own home, you weren’t thinking of buying a small apartment, but immediately jumped for a small house. Same with cars and whatever gadgets and appliances you could think of. All the Euro and Swiss Franc based loans got sky high payment terms as the artificially strengthened Hungarian currency just collapsed. And these people in banks and stock-markets and the politicians they knew this was coming. But the artificial economical boom and a shortsighted plan was more important. Even if those cost the lives and the comfort of others. And we live in a capitalist democracy, it CAN BE done without further repercussions. And here’s where the 2nd song, Where Nothing Is Sacred kicks in. That before we start shaking our fists at the bankers and stockbrokers and politicians, we should ask ourselves – what the fuck have WE done to avoid this? We all knew what kind of world we grew up in. Why didn’t we do shit? Simply because it was too comfortable to even think about the consequences of such financial negligence towards our own selves and our own families. I am coming from a place where it is always easier to blame someone else before blaming ourselves. It’s easier to say “them fucking jews destroyed us” and being anti-semitic when you don’t have the backbone to stand up for your own fucking self. That’s what the 3rd song, Shards talks about. The utopia where people actually stood up. Where people said enough and realize there’s strength in numbers. The recent economic tendency this world brought upon humanity is making the middle-class disappear and alienating the poor from the rich. While you are busy blaming “the jews”, “the gypsies”, “the immigrants”, while you are busy calling your neighbour and your friend out for voting left or voting right – you forget the big pictures. That this world is no longer about isms anymore. This world is about a constantly growing margin between rich and poor. This all leads up to the last song Devoid/Disposed, that is a bittersweet goodbye to the commodities of this world. Where you realize no matter how much you bowed down to these standards, and no matter how much you did it willingly, with a smile on your face, with your ambitions and hopes high – this world strips you from your very being. You are left there, thrown out like a piece of garbage by the side of the road, while you believe you gave your all.

And here’s where we go back to the artwork – what Barnabas thought would be a great idea is to have a stripped Justitia-statue in a mask, where the balance of justice has burning money in it. And the people down there holding each other, trying to stand up and fight back at this world with justice behind them. It perfectly reflects to the utopian nature of some of the lyrics – which paint a grim, devastating picture of the world we live in, but also offering hope and salvation.

“Purchase, consume discussing the economic destruction and crimes against humanity committed by the modern man.” We do live we in an all-consuming market culture, causing several imbalances in our minds, relationships and environment. How does that make you feel?

It makes me feel like shit, and you know why? Because as I have pointed it out in my answer before where I was talking about our lyrics – I am guilty, too. To consume and to stand in line is tempting and easy. Much easier than to look for alternative ways of living. You live in a society where not only the powers that be force themselves upon your everyday life, but those around you, too. Where you get looked down for not owning the proper status symbols, job, haircut, body figure, musical taste, dietary lifestyle, etc. And you can try and stay an outcast from this world and keep swallowing and swallowing day by day or you can chose the easy way. “I’ll be just like them. They’ll accept me.” And on one hand, I can’t blame people, everybody wants to belong – on the other hand, I hate this world around for making people feel like this. And as you said in your question, this all-consuming culture influences our everyday lives, our personal relationships as well. We don’t repair what’s broken anymore, we throw it away. And that’s a shame. And I am no saint either, I am not necessarily an exception. Sure, there’s enough lifestyle and attitude choices I have that makes me an outcast and I sure do feel like one – but every once a while I also get sucked in by the outside world. All in all, this still inspires me to be a better and more critical person, and that’s good. There’s still so many people around who like to point fingers at others before pointing fingers at themselves. Nobody is a saint and everybody has room for improvement in his/her life.

Do you talk to people at your shows about all of it? Have you got a chance to play some gigs with GHOSTCHANT yet?

We haven’t had the chance, yet. Initially, we didn’t even want to play shows. Now that we all love how this EP turned out, we are more and more into the idea of doing it. However, since for now we’re thinking in terms of 4-song instalments, we most likely want to wait at least for one more EP to come out. I’d say the earliest I can think of is the last quarter of 2014 where we would be able to start playing shows. We need to get ready for this properly, both mentally and physically – especially myself, I haven’t played a show since 2010, haha. But seriously, I know my guys, we would need to rehearse hard and make sure everything is in its place before we do any of this. As for talking about lyrics at shows. Talk VS Rock, has always been a topic in hardcore punk. Many may think a longer speech stops the intensity of a show, but when I look at dear friends of mine, like Greg Bennick or Brian D from CATHARSIS, whatever they offer is pure inspiration and unbridled passion and I love how these two charming and handsome individuals make it work and get people so intensely into the flow of the night. You won’t find people like them in every hardcore punk band – with that said, I like a good public speaking opportunity and I don’t think I’m bad at it, but again, it’s just been too long I’ve been playing shows, we’ll see what the future brings.

Greg Bennick is basically everyone’s best friend”, Daniel of DIE YOUING says :).

It’s a shame you don’t do live shows that often anymore! Can’t wait to see you on stage sometime soon :)

Zoltan, you’ve been involved in Hungarian punk scene for quite some time. Can you remember who was playing the first hardcore show you attended? :)

Yes, I do. Late 1994 I went to a legendary club called TOTAL CAR and saw one of the most influential hardcore bands in Hungary called SEDATIVE BANG. They played the more melodic CAUSE FOR ALARM / TOKEN ENTRY kind of New York Hardcore and the atmosphere created at that show got me hooked forever – helped me find purpose and channel my rage. 

Fast forward 15 years, do any bands/artist around town stand out to you? What gigs do you like to attend these days?

Haha, sadly fast-forward almost 20 that is, it’s scary, haha. For years, and I mean YEARS I have been the youngest one around. One of my favourite Hungarian bands is THE SOUTHERN ORACLE. I work for them as a matter of fact, since I run a small management for local talent. But THE SOUTHERN ORACLE stands out a bit for me – they were the first one I started working with just around the same time we decided to put BRIDGE TO SOLACE to rest. They are a metal influenced modern band with kids coming from all backgrounds, and I personally admire their work ethic and attitude. They were socialized in a fully changed music environment and they still deliver passion and humility like me and my friends did when we started NEWBORN. There’s also a new band called SATELLES, some of the most dedicated hardcore kids are in this band and my buddy Adam from NEWBORN played drums on their EP. Besides them, there’s some other great, Hungarian artists that deserve to be checked out: STUBBORN, TÉVESZME, RÁKOSI, HUMAN ERROR, BLACK HOURGLASS, THE LAST CHARGE, then I recommend everyone to check out Norbi’s band NADIR as well as his other doom/industrial project, OUR EXISTENCE IS PUNISHMENT. Great bands. Also, the death metal scene has a great band called KILL WITH HATE, worth checking out! I am always highly critical of the local scene as I think there’s always room for improvement, but then again, I gotta admit, there’s some pretty good bands around! Wish there’d be more. As for shows I like to attend. I’m almost everywhere. That might be because I do a lot of shows, haha. With that said, I have pretty much heard everything I wanted to, so I expect a band to wipe the floor with me. I really enjoyed seeing the French band, BURNING BRIGHT a few weeks ago, very impressive set they played! It was also amazing to see HARM’S WAY and TWITCHING TONGUES bring a good show to Budapest, EYEHATEGOD, NARROWS, BOYSETSFIRE, BANE, CATHARSIS, BETWEEN EARTH & SKY – so many great shows I got to go to this past year. But if you look at these, most of them older bands.

Do you think 2013 was a good year for music overall?

A year where SHAI HULUD, BOYSETSFIRE & BLACK SABBATH come out with great new records is a great year for music, haha! Seriously. There were a tremendous amount of great records coming out this past year and I am happy about it, it’s just too many to name. Even BAD RELIGION’s True North turned out to be amazing, and that’s coming from someone, who thinks they haven’t done anything good in the past 15 years, haha! Well, what can I do, I am a Suffer-No Control fan. CATHARSIS did a brief run of reunion shows and I got to be on this tour with them. It makes me happy. 2013 was indeed a GREAT year in music!

What do you expect from 2014?What do you hope to achieve this year and what are you most looking forward to now you’re back with this new project?

Also, as far as the future goes, is GHOSTCHANT a band that you feel will be able to continue to release records and tour in the future despite your other activities you’re involved with?

The good thing with being in GHOSTCHANT is that we don’t have any expectations and we don’t care about any expectations at all. This is a 100% DIY band, that’s why release our own records and do everything ourselves. Because I have reached a point, where I decided to come back to music after all these years and I have promised myself that I won’t stress out about anything. We do this because we love doing it and we do this whenever we wanna do it. Who knows, maybe we do the next EP in two months, maybe in a year. It could always change. I mean, obviously, since you love doing something so much, why not speed it up a little, therefore we hope to bring out two more EPs and start playing shows by the end of the year, but if it’s one EP and if the first show we do is in 2016, we are not really concerned. I do feel that I still have something to say to people and I am aware people will have certain expectations. I also am aware that just like in the past, some of these lyrics might mean something to some people and they would want to experience this live. So do we and I cannot even begin to tell how amazing it is, when someone walks up to you, or emails you because they give a fuck about what you do/did, what you say/said – but I have been driving myself over the edge so many times, that I really just want to kick back, relax and see where we can go from here. So I think the optimal achievement for 2014 would be bringing out one or two more EPs and play some shows, but the overall achievement that I want for myself is to chill out and stay cool-headed about whatever the hell’s going to happen musically. I feel this project very very close to me. I love the people in this band and I love how I sort of reinvented myself here and how this has given me another great outlet to channel all the anger that I still feel – I want to keep this project as pure and as close as possible. And the only way I can do this is if I don’t go crazy and I don’t start jumping in a circle I was happy to leave. So 2014 – let’s go with the flow, hahaha!

Let’s go with the flow, right on, Sir! :)

Thanks so much for your time, Zoltan. Any last words for the kids out there?

Thank you so much Karol for giving us an opportunity to talk about what we feel is important, it feels great and I am happy the first ever GHOSTCHANT interview we did here with you! Keep up the amazing work you do with this amazing magazine!

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