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Interviews

Thanatos - Stefan Gebédi

21/05/09  ||  Kampfar

Thanatos

It’s been a while, but the mental institution known as me is obviously back to do some more interviewing. This time around, shit for brains, I’m hooking up with a veteran act who’s recorded extreme metal since the mid 80’s and, by the sound of it, aren’t about to quit any time soon. The reason I’m so cocky and sure is because I’ve heard “Justified genocide” at least 12 times already. And, one of the reason I’ve bothered to do so is because their 2009 release is more enthusiastically brought together than fuckloads of debuts made yesterday, today or tomorrow. That’s a fact, not an opinion.

GD: Shitty intro aside and very much welcome to you, Mr. Gebedi. It wasn’t you who asked to do this interview, your label-boss it was, but I anyhow hope you’ll enjoy answering these crap questions of mine. Here goes. Is it true that Thanatos was the first ensemble from Dutchland ever to perform extreme-metal? The Metal Archives tells me so, but due to paranoia and general skepticism I need to get it confirmed.

Stephan Gebédi: Well yeah, I guess so. The idea to form a band that should be faster and heavier than any Dutch band that existed in those days already crossed my mind in 1983. Eventually I hooked up with some likeminded people I met in high school and in April 1984 we formed Thanatos. Our musical skills were not really developed yet but the will to play fast and heavy were there from the start. The word death metal didn’t exist yet (The first time we heard that term was later that year when we got hold of the first Possessed demo tape, so we just called our music ‘thrash metal’ or ‘ultra heavy speed metal’, hehe…

Thanatos

Was there a specific song, band, you name it, that triggered the lust to have your own ensemble? And, are you the only founding member left?

Hearing the first Venom album really made me decide to form my own band. I was heavily into Kiss, Maiden, Priest, Raven, Sabbath back then but ‘Welcome To Hell’ was such a revelation..and yeah I’m the only founding member left.

I’ve only heard your latest, and I’ll get to it before long, but first I’d like you to wisely spend a few words on all other albums courtesy of Thanatos. Which debut was best, the first time you put your cock into a cunt, or when Thanatos first emerged from the netherworld? Is there any of the platters you wish another band had made? Excluding your latest, what do think of as Thanatos’ finest effort? Et cetera, et cetera.

I think actually holding my own CD/LP (yes it was an LP back then) in my hands was far more overwhelming than the first time I put my cock into a cunt… I’m not going to get into any all the details though about putting my cock into the album sleeve, which was even better! but seriously… that was my best first time ever; actually holding and playing my first own album.

Emerging from the netherworld:

I still like quite a few songs off this album, but I’ve never been too happy with the production; it sounds like a good demo, nothing more, nothing less. The sound should have been a lot heavier and more intense. I also feel the album gets weaker towards the end, but for a debut album it’s OK I guess…

Realm of ecstacy:
This has remained my personal favorite throughout the years; the album sounds much darker and cohesive than the 1st one. It’s pretty technical by our standards but the songs are still actual songs without too much freaky bullshit going on. I think my vocals are too monotonous on this one though. If they had been a bit better and more aggressive this would have been the best Dutch metal release in the 1990’s…and yes I know which other Dutch albums came out in the 90’s ;-)

Angelic encounters:

Basically a black page in our musical history; bad production, bad drumming, everything sounds rushed. Most of the songs are quite OK but the performance is not good enough. I was very happy we could remix this fucker for the Chinese box set that came out in 2006 so we were able to pimp the sound quite a bit and edit the most disastrous drum parts…

Undead. Unholy. Divine.

A big step forward from ‘Angelic…’ I was happy to have a good drummer back in the band. The album is more thrash metal orientated and has some killer songs. Listening to the new album the sound of ‘Undead…” could have been more brutal, but all in all a very good album.

From all full-lengths besides “Justified genocide” and over till just that one. I mentioned, in my rambulistic writings passed on as a review, that you guys obviously went for a 90’s sound on this here offering. Am I full of it, or spot-on?

We did not plan to have a 90’s sound to be honest. We simply wanted the album to sound very raw, direct and in your face… and that’s exactly what Dan Swanö achieved. If that’s a “90’s sound” then that’s fine with me. To me it can compete with most of the albums that are being released these days in terms of aggression and it sounds more pure and honest than most of today’s productions

How did the recording go, did you have it all nailed beforehand or is there anything on the album, entire songs or whatever, conceived whilst in studio? Did you spend a long time in there?

The recordings of this album were one big disaster; we entered the studio in March 2006 and we were planning to have the album finished before the Summer; 2 – 2.5 weeks of recordings and 5-8 days for the mix and that was it. During the 2nd week of recording we found out that our record label Black Lotus had gone bankrupt and were not going to pay for the recordings as promised. So now we were in the studio with an unfinished album and a pretty high studio bill already. Since we know the guys form Excess studios quite well, we agreed to finish the basic tracks first, try and find a new label first and come back to finish the recordings and the mixing. So every now and then we came back for a couple of hours to work on the tracks. The search for a label didn’t work out ‘cause no label was willing to pay 7000 Euros for an unfinished album + the mixing/mastering costs of that. We shopped around for a deal with a roughly mixed version of 3 album tracks. There was some label interest but nobody made a financially interesting offer… then at the end of 2006 Hail of Bullets took off and absorbed most of our time. We decided to put the band on ice for a while and in 2008 we picked up the pieces and finally landed a new record deal.

For how long has the line-up responsible for churning out “Justified genocide” been together?

This line up has been together since the end of 2001 I think, so 7-8 years. And it really shows on this new album.

Is the Internet, and all magazines out there, happy with your performance anno 2009? And, kinda related, do all yours fans download your stuff for free nowadays? I mean, did you sell more records before the age of easy and gratis access came along? On a related note, which of your albums has sold the most?

The reviews have been very, very good so far. As a matter of fact I cannot recall any of our albums being received so incredibly well and we’re really happy with that. I just think that we haven’t been selling that many albums yet; we’re on a small label, we haven’t been featured in the big magazines yet…although that’s going to change with the next few issues of mags like Terrorizer, Rock Tribune, Rock Hard Greece etc… Still it’s pretty obvious that most people download the album these days… Our album leaked on the Internet one day after the promo CD’s had been sent out and that sucks. We definitely sold a lot more albums before the Internet age. We’ve never been that well informed about our album sales, but it’s pretty safe to say that the first two albums must have sold s.th. like 20,000 copies each at least, and that was pretty normal/decent back then. “Angelic Encounters” has sold a little over 10,000 now (which includes the Chinese re-release and box set) and I have actually no idea about the sales of “Undead…”.

Thanatos

What’s the meaning behind “Justified genocide”? The title I mean.

It was meant in a cynical/ ironic way; in the eyes of the world leaders/tyrants mentioned in the title track (Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung etc.) they did nothing wrong; they believed they were fighting for a better world and didn’t give a fuck if that meant that 10 or 20 million people should be killed off to achieve their goals. So genocide was justified from their point of view…

Is there an upcoming “Justified genocide” tour in the making? How ‘bout festivals, doing any this summer? On a side note, but still related, what is the worst performance you’ve ever seen from a band you thought had the grips? And here is more: what is the biggest and smallest crowd you ever did with Thanatos?

Since we were already more or less fully booked with Hail of Bullets and Asphyx shows this year we don’t have many possibilities left to play a lot of Thanatos shows. We’re trying to squeeze in a few Thanatos shows in the fall, but a full tour is not in sight. Although we did get some tour offers already…

The biggest crowd we ever played with Thanatos is s.th. like 5,000 people I guess and the smallest 35 or so? I’ve heard stories about bands playing in front of 1 or no paying visitors…we haven’t experienced that yet, but 35 is not much either, I can tell you, haha.

I enjoy my death metal the most when performed inside, preferably in a not too large tent packed with sweaty metalheads. How ‘bout you?

Yeah me too; a tent or a medium sized venue (not more than 1500-2000 man) are the best places to watch a death metal band. The large Arenas and open air stages are cool for major acts like Kiss, Iron Maiden etc, but death metal doesn’t work too well in that setting…

If alive when 50, do you picture yourself banging out metal still? Fucking hails to Lemmy.

Yeah why not?! I just think that playing in a death metal band at 50 is different from playing in Black Sabbath or Motörhead though. I will always be into metal, but if I really look and feel like a 50 year old, it might be better to limit myself to studio recordings and leave the live shit to the younger generation… we’ll see

When younger and quite a lot sweeter than today, a necro death-head I was. Or, not entirely a death-head, but I mocked people into black metal, was allergic to clean vocals, that kind of shit. Hell, I even shed tears of anger the first time I heard “Nothing else matters”. I still despise every second of just mentioned crapper, but fuck knows I nowadays like music old but still younger me would sincerely hate. Then again, I still like it br00tal, so I’m not considering suicide just yet. How ‘bout you, your taste buds evolved over the years? Or rather, in which way have they evolved?

I guess we’ve all been through that phase where you only liked the fastest and most brutal stuff around and considered everything else as gay and wimpy. Nowadays I must admit that I more often grab an old Sabbath or Priest album to listen to than brutal death metal. Although I still enjoy all the classic death, thrash and black metal stuff, I like to listen to a lot of older metal and hard rock as well. I still think I’m very focused on metal cause 99% of my CD collection is metal/hard rock. I also must admit that I like some Mötley Crüe stuff these days and that was a band I really hated back in the 80’s. “Shout at the Devil” and their latest one are quite good albums though.

And the best album released this far into 2009 is?

Candlemass- Death Magic Doom

Please rate these bands on a scale from 1-10:

Within Temptation – 3 … I would do the singer though … that’s why it’s still 3 points ;-)

Gorefest – 7

Houwitser – 6.5

Asphyx – 7.5

Pestilence – (first 2 albums: 8, later stuff: 5)

Severe Torture – 6.5

God Dethroned – 8

Orphanage – 2

Van Halen – (First 4 albums: 9, more recent shit: 6)

Krokus – 7 (only because of the Headhunter album!)

The Dutch scene is an interesting one indeed, at least to me it is, and I guess you agree? If or if not, how ‘bout the Norwegian one, paying any attention to what we retards are up to?

It definitely is an interesting scene. The good thing about the Dutch scene is that the bands all seem to have their own individual style. Something that is less common in the Swedish and American scenes, and I really like that aspect, I mean bands like Hail of Bullets, Legion of the Damned, Sinister and God Dethroned all sound totally different to me… The most Norwegian bands that we hear from are still black metal bands and you have quite a few great bands in that genre. At this moment I’m really enjoying the latest Keep of Kalessin album very much. We did a few shows with those guys in the last few months and I really liked their shows. I’d heard of them before of course but I hadn’t bought their latest album yet. Now I did and I think it’s a great album.

Thanatos

What Gods did the Dutch prey to before all them desert assholes got added to the equation? Was it Wotan? Speaking of awesome beliefs, do you know much about the one you guys nicked your name from? Greek mythology, that is.

I had lessons in ancient Greek and Latin for 5 years on high school, so yeah I know quite a bit of Greek mythology and these guys really had some great and brutal stories! I guess the Dutch more or less had the same gods as the Germans in the early days

Do you think people who insist preaching religion in public, TV included, should be shot in the face? I don’t, I think they should be tortured first.

Totally agree with that! And after shooting them in the face, torture them again. Haha! Then, finally, desecrate their corpses by shitting on their faces…

Are you guys on drugs? I am, a complete hashtard to be precise, and I also drink beer. And coffee. In addition I’ve taken a liking to an herb named Salvia something. On the other hand, I hate many a drug, especially those made by human scum. Your thoughts?

At this moment? No… The original band members used quite a bit of drugs in the past. That varied from hash/weed to cocaine. Personally I started smoking hash/weed at 15, but I was more like a weekend smoker. In my mid-twenties I really enjoyed XTC and a bit of cocaine every now and then, but nowadays I simply stick to beer just like the other band members. 2 guys in the present line up never even touched a joint I think, but everybody drinks occasionally.

During my research I learned that you guys are from Rotterdam, a Dutch city with a Turkish mayor, and my hunt for info also told me that this very mayor holds dual citizenship. So I wonder, do you think Geert Wilders will move to Turkey and take charge of Istanbul city anytime soon? Personally I’m seeking out to be the king of Saudi Arabia.

Actually the mayor is from Morocco, so Geert should not try to take over Istanbul…that would be a bad move, he he. The dual citizenship is quite ridiculous, but we’ll give the guy a fair chance; he’s not very popular among the criminal Muslim youth over here, because he’s not too much into ‘pampering’ these fucks unlike a lot of Dutch politicians, who are afraid to stand up against them, so I hope he will stand his ground… if he does, he might even be the right man at the right spot.

“Fitna” happen to be some of the least offensive shit I ever saw, some tame newsclips mixed with a couple of Koran quotes, still it prohibited this Wilders I’m on about access to England. That very Geert is a little too Christian for me to entirely dig, but fuck knows I’d rather have him for breakfast than any pinheaded Islamist prick or do-gooding socialist out there. And that makes me Nazi according to some. Is there still freedom of speech to speak of in Europe?

You’re quite right about that. Freedom of speech gets more and more limited in Europe and I get sick and tired of people mixing up things like standing up against a religion/attitude with being a Nazi/racist. I don’t care about people’s ethnicity, their race or color, whatever, but I do oppose to loss of freedom by religious rules that are being shoved down our throats, whether they come from Muslims or Christians. I don’t consider Wilders a Nazi, he simply fears the Islam and all the shit it’s causing in the world and he has reasons enough to think that way. Christian fundamentalists are also on the rise again in Holland, they even got a male stripper show canceled in a nearby village over here. I was already standing in line with my dick out, so I’m pretty pissed off about this….

There will be more foreigners in Oslo than Norwegians somewhere around 2029. Our so-called capitol, that is. In Rotterdam this scenario is already a reality. Working out fine, or is the rumor about the Dutch leaving in droves entirely true?

Well, I lived in Rotterdam my entire life until I moved to a nearby village 3 years ago, and so have many of my friends and relatives. So no, it’s not working out fine at all. The city loses its glance, more and more districts are becoming “no go areas” for Dutch people, the city gets dirtier everyday. Amsterdam is even worse… The big cities over here are lost I guess…

Thanatos

I predict that Europe, at least us idiots in the Western part, will have a new major war at our hands no later than 2020. I put 10 dollars on that attempt at foresight. Do you chip in, or perhaps you think I should rather go see a shrink in order to get me some strong pills against paranoia and shit? I’d respect that.

I don’t know about 2020… I guess most Western Europeans simply try to run/move away from the problems, so I have my doubts about this war… you might be right though, but I’m afraid we’re not gonna win that war if it ever happens… we’ll be outnumbered and slaughtered like pigs.

I know it’s kinda childish, but in many ways I do hate life. How ‘bout you?

When you’ve been going against the grain for your entire life it’s pretty logical you hate life, or at least certain aspects of it. You don’t want to fit in with society, but you can’t turn away from society all the time. You need money, you need a job. If you have a family you you’re your responsibilities, etc…. The hatred’s not always there…there’s a lot of things I enjoy in life, but also a lot I hate; work, lack of time, mortality, morality, the uselessness of most things you do, more work… At really bad days I can hate everything and everyone. But fortunately not all days are like that. People in general are worthless pigs though…

I wonder, how dark must ones skin be before immune against being labeled a pigheaded racist? Are the Spaniards and Portuguese brown enough? Fuck if I know, do you? And, do you seen any logic in communism being held as a lesser evil than Nazism? From where I wank, the main difference between Hitler and Stalin seems to be the size of their mustaches.

No idea about the skin color, bro, but you’re damn right about Stalin and Hitler, they were both major assholes fronting a system that didn’t work and they both caused the death of millions of people…

Thanks for your time, keep on rocking till you have none of it left. I know I will.

Thanks to you as well. I sure as hell will! Cheers!