“Metal was political all time” – interview with Norkh

Black metal is usually associated with themes strictly related to satan and rather simple style of play. But sometimes there is a gem, that outstands from the scene, both when it comes to the music and the message in the lyrics. What’s even more important – after playing two gigs with Berlin-based Norkh I can easily call it the beggining of a new friendship. Therefore I decided to ask some questions to the screaming drummer – Maacki.

Hi guys, thank you for an interview! How it’s going with Norkh, any concert plans for the rest of 2023? 

Hey man, thank you for the opportunity. Everything’s good. Just daily madness as usual. Think we’re all very busy these days with work. But things are getting better than in the past. Had some things going on. Began with covid, then a rehearsal room change, and then there was a huge summer hole. But we are on the line again. We go on working on our new material. We have two concerts left for this year. But only in Germany.

Norkh is a black metal band with strong influences from both crust and death scene. With that mix I need to ask – what kind of music do you normally listen to?

Just German Schlager. No, just kidding … do you know German Schlager? Anyway … In general we are Metalheads. We’ve been kids in the turn of the century. A lot of things around the 2000 we felt deep into and been influenced by. We have common interests as the love for Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Sabbath, Doom stuff like Paradise Lost, Candlemass, black metal stuff like Darkthrone, Satyricon, Enthroned, Celtic Frost, old Dimmu, deathy things like Death, Nile, Cryptopsy, Exhumed, Inhume, and so on… Also each of us has their own special interests. Marian and Stefan for example like a lot of stoner-sludge-drone-doom music where I’m not into. And I like a lot of old school traditional heavy metal, thrash, speed clobber where the others smirk a bit sometimes. 🙂 

As we were kids we hung around with punks, so we started getting in touch with punk music like a German band called Dritte Wahl. It also influenced us a lot. All the years as we grew up we saw so many new bands, styles and ideas of making music. All the underground black, death, grind, stoner, speedmetalpunk, powerviolence bands Berlin gave us over the years inspired us so much as well.

So, as the Polish zine I need to ask you…. how did you like your first time in Poland?

Some friend bands told us, you have to play in Poland. The crowd is really cool. They were right! The people there celebrate the music from the beginning of the concert and don’t just stand around. We played in Koszalin. We know it’s not a large city. We also come originally from a small town. It’s different to the big cities regarding the scenes of subcultures. On our show the audience did not know us before. And the people seems to be hungry and authentic. Hungry for new stuff. In Berlin the audience is sometimes a bit tired because they can go to a concert every day. But in Koszalin the people were banging, screaming and doing moshpits. It was crazy. And by the way, we met really cool guys.

Germany has always been a stronghold for a heavy music in Europe – both punk and metal. Do you think that it is still like this? What made German scene such a strong one?

Well, I don’t know if Germany is more important than Poland. Okay, we got Kreator’s pleasure to kill. 🙂 But you got Vader. That’s pretty hot, isn’t it?

I think Germany was more important and pioneering in the past. I mean the 80s thrash wave in west Germany and especially in the Ruhr area for example. In this time, the music was inspired by dismal grey coal-working-class slumber which marked the lives of the young kids. Just like Sabbath in 60s-Birmingham. It’s not for nothing that everyone speaks about the Teutonic thrash titans. They made awesome records. But what is now? Still got a lot of good bands. But I don’t know if there is still a “made in germany-predicade” from other countries. I hope not.

It’s been already 4 years since your first (and so far the only) full album – when can we expect something new from Norkh?

Haha… we often say “this…” or “next year is probable”. And then there’ve been these issues that I talk about before. But I’m sure next year we’ll make it. We have already a few new songs that are implemented in our latest setlists. We just need to assemble our latest riff ideas and write some lyrics.

You’re close (both with lyrics, album tittle and all the graphics) with the topic of environmental pollution. Do you think that finally the humanity will realize how much they fucked up the world, or are we just going to poison our planet till the very end?

You can see that everything is going worse. That the future will bring us more environmental disasters, problems with water supply and basic care, higher sea levels which swallow islands and cities. As a result, climate refugees from so many regions. In case of that, countries will protect themselves. More walls, more borders, more frontex is the result. We got species extinction, which means lower harvest. Means food crisis. If you ask someone he/she would say, “yeah man this is shit. I don’t want that. Not for me and not for my grandchildren.” BUT, people act together. As a society. People talk with each other. They got fears. The fear of changes. They like their economic prosperity and don’t want to lose it. It’s uncomfortable to abridge life for something “abstract” like visions of some “experts”. “Oh, I should drive just 100 km/h on the highway or better not to drive a car anymore”. “Oh, no flying to Thailand every year anymore? … well OK …hmmm, I think this crisis is not that grave, yet.” 😀 Do you know what I mean?

I’ve always had a feeling that most of the black metal bands with openly anti-fascism attitude are rather trying to blend into punk scene instead of being part of the metal one (at least here in Poland). Yet from I can see it’s a bit different with you – you really feel good on a metal gigs, and yet you do your thing. Do you think that music is the thing that provides and actual change on a wider consciousness?

This has always been a difficult matter. It depends on who is listening. In which subscene you’re in. Metalfan is not like metalfan. You have a bunch of people who listen to the most famous metal and rock artists, they got their Thor’s hammer necklace because they are really hard people. Hard as Vikings. 😀 Some of them are dissatisfied with their lives and are into populist nonsense. (It’s a bit exaggerated and just an example.) These people, in addition to the NSBM idiots, say “metal should not be political!”. Bla bla bla. But open your eyes! Metal was political all time. Look at Kreator (Europe After the Rain), Sepultura(Territory), Death (Zero Tollerance) and Napalm Death(everything!). On the other side you have these left-winged and open-minded packs. So, sometimes you don’t know where you will play and how the people react to our song-announcement “grind the patriotic hordes”. If there are these Burzum, Mgla, Horna fans maybe it results in stupid discussions and in the bad case someone wants trouble. Luckily the last we had not, yet. Back to your question. It depends what you want to convey with your music. Sometimes it just grabs your feelings like for example your aggressions, and you want to smash someone’s head. And sometimes it’s a political message that carries the music and turns up your rage. The next question is: As a listener, do I actually want to understand and think about the content of the lyrics? Or do I just want to freak out and jump through the mosh pit?

Having three vocals is very impressive, but it’s even more insane to hear you combining screams and your insane drumming parts. I know it’s just a technical question, but…how do you practice doing that?

In my first metal band I was the drummer and responsible for backing vocals as well. I kept it that way for the next band projects. Later I joined the band Toxic Trace as the lead singer. This gave me the chance to improve my vocal skills. 

So the idea of not just one singer was there from the beginning of Norkh. At first just Stefan and I were singing. Marian also got some experience as a singer in his past band projects. When he joined the band, we got the opportunity to mix all three vocals together. For most songs Stefan is doing the main vocals and Marian and I are singing opposite parts or scream in a lower vocal range. But there are also parts of songs where just Marian and I do the vocals. In the end, we arrange instruments and voices in the way that gives us the maximum power.  

Allright, thanks for an interview ! The last word goes to you !