Interview with Ataman Tolovy (bass, vocals)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 15, 2011
The Polish unholy union of Death Metal STILLBORN recently had their fourth album, "Los Asesinos del Sur", released on Ataman Productions, and it is also now being distributed by Pagan Records worldwide. These Polish torch bearers for extreme, old school Death Metal have been around since 1997, but never kind of made it as big as some of their country mates in bands like Behemoth, or Vader and Decapitated. Reasons for this may be many, but let's have the band's vocalist and bassist Ataman reveal more about this and other things. This genius and evil Polish beast of Ataman has been unlocked now...
Luxi: STILLBORN's 4th studio album, titled "Los Asesinos del Sur", was released on Ataman Productions in September 2011. Would you say this album represents STILLBORN in exactly the way you wanted – I mean, absolutely as your best work to date?
Ataman: Confession would be as trivial as daily life without ability to create. You must know I joined the band over five years ago and participated in the recordings of the last three albums. From day to day I realized that the best Stillborn album, in my opinion, is the debut. I am a fan of this album. It was recorded at Hertz Studio, which is well known because of many wimpy polished productions there – and it's proof that it isn't impossible to make a piece of good Metal there either. At this time Killer and others didn't have as much experience as they do today. Actually I produced "Asesinos" with the knowledge of how to do it, but I'm still not sure it contains as much emotions as the debut album, so answering this question is not simple for me at all. Time will tell. But at the moment, I'm sure that the way of preparing this disc is the best so far.
Luxi: Having been listening to the record through quite a few intense sessions, to me the songs on it have really caught the same primal brutality, primitiveness and rawness what it takes to create an utterly convincing, dark old school Death Metal – reminding me basically of such torch bearers for old school Death Metal as Sadistic Intent, Angelcorpse, early Krisiun and even your fellow country mates Behemoth to a certain extent. What do you think of these band comparisons to STILLBORN's own sound, and can you subscribe some of these three aforementioned names as some sort of influences for STILLBORN?
Ataman: The bands you mentioned still do exist somewhere in our collective subconscious, but I cannot say all of them exist in mine. I don't know Krisiun at all, I listened to Sadistic Intent last time some 20 years ago – and Behemoth is not my kind of music, apart from "Evangelion". These bands surely affect our music, but not much more than hundreds of others we bear in us. When I listen to this album as a fan, I can hear clearly Metallica or Morbid Angel in some moments, but above all, the old Stillborn stuff. When I wrote my own songs for the album, I ripped old Stillborn off – and as my main musical inspiration, I can mention Stillborn without Ataman.
Luxi: What non-musical things (books, films, philosophical thoughts, etc.) have had an impact on STILLBORN, both music- as well as image-wise?
Ataman: You mean we look like gods who just became sober because of lack of offerings? What a tasteful allegory. We are gods who lost their faith in the world of men, became useless and this fairy tale is happening in the kingdom of Metal. So they are like that both in the sound and look. And they are growing furiously. Hangover is pissing them off, showing no mercy. The reason is the man - and the only inspiration. ‘One step ahead and thousands back!'
Luxi: "Los Asesinos del Sur" was recorded at Kwart Sudio in Bochnia, Poland, with the cooperation of Piotr Lekki as sound engineer. What were the uttermost reasons for you eventually ending up choosing his studio and craftsmanship to work with this product – and was there something special that he brought along into the record that only he could be credited for?
Ataman: Realization of the album is the common work of the band and Piotr. I've known him since the late eighties. When I recorded my first album with Stillborn – "Manifesto de Blasfemia" – I suggested doing it together with Piotr. Initially Killer seemed to be distrustful but actually we didn't see any alternative possibility. The man is always most important. First of all, Piotr's job was catching a truly natural sound of instruments and vocals. He also mixed the material, which was so well prepared that I could do the mastering in a quarter. Furthermore he helped us with the production. We admire the job this man did.
Luxi: Did you use all the songs from the "Los Asesinos del Sur" band practices for the actual recording session, or did you have to leave some songs out simply because you could not fit into the same record? If so, do you already have some other plans to re-use some of this so-called ‘leftover' for some other future release of STILLBORN?
Ataman: We never work in such a way. Never ever during Stillborn's album recording sessions we have had a song that we would have wanted to reject. If we will be going to record an EP, or a split-LP with some other band, we write new songs especially for this occasion. However, I'm afraid we are interested in doing full-lengths only.
Luxi: Talking about your songwriting process in more details, what kind of things do you normally pay lots of attention to whenever you work for a new STILLBORN song? What type of elements does a new STILLBORN song need in order to sound like a STILLBORN song as an end result of all this, in your opinion?
Ataman: Usually a single song is written by one person. Later it is arranged with drums. When such a skeleton is ready, each of us holds his own score on it. Each of us has his own unique style of playing an instrument. When I write a song with my guitar, Killer will play it in his own individual way. The sound of the band is the amalgam of our musical personalities. When the arrangement is ready, we never change it. We only improve individual parts up to the certain limits – and the most important thing is the right way of sound extraction. This is where we pay the maximum attention to.
Luxi: How much did each of you contribute the actual songwriting process by your own ideas and stuff? Who can be credited, and for what usually?
Ataman: All the songs on "Asesinos" were written by me and Killer. I always write a complex arrangement while Killer prepares for his own input with August. Rzulty added some riffs to "Whore of Whores". Most lyrics can be blamed on me; one is written by me and Killer, and the other one is Killer's crime.
Luxi: Being a Polish band like STILLBORN, I was just wondering why you have chosen to use album titles written in the Spanish language? Is there any deeper thought / or idea behind this?
Ataman: We are not connoisseurs of Spanish art, but this insignificant touch we experienced gave us a reflection that Spanish is the language of death. In this culture, death exists so commonly and is still present all the time. It's exotic for us, obsessively fascinating and it's the right way to honor our music of death.
Luxi: Poland has always had one of the strongest underground scenes for extreme Metal bands since the late 80s, with such troops of death as VADER, DECAPITATED and BEHEMOTH probably being the most known so-called ‘Big 3' out of the whole pack when being measured by an international level of success. How would you see this from your point of view, what kind of things have made Poland such a known country as far as the country's countless (especially) Death and Black Metal bands are concerned?
Ataman: There's something in the air, water, earth and people. But seriously, from my point of view when you live in Poland you cannot show your weakness. There's no place to describe so many aspects of daily life in this country to make it any clearer. It is also inherent in the Metal music itself. If you play some music in Poland, it's usually the heaviest form. But speaking the truth out, 90 per cent of these people are posers and Catholics from nature. There are exceptions of course, whom we keep in contact with.
Luxi: Even STILLBORN has been around for a long time already, actually since 1997 with changing line-ups. Do you think this may be one of those reasons why STILLBORN hasn't quite reached the same status among the extreme Metal-loving community as, say, VADER or BEHEMOTH or DECAPITATED?
Ataman: Your expression ‘loving community' explains fairy well why Stillborn hasn't made it so big thus far and probably is not going to reach the same status of the aforementioned bands. We have a completely different approach to music and Metal as a way of life. We know our place in the line and some personal changes in the band only helped us to stick with it. This stuff is not to be played at stadiums filled by crowds of accidental persons, but at smoke-filled clubs where the stench of sweat and urine interfere with the smell of blood, sperm and vulva. Twice in three years. Stillborn is meant for extreme Metal people, living an extreme life – and it somehow comforts that band is not our daily job where you are able to get your living out of.
Luxi: Would you describe in a few words how your fellow band mates are like when it comes to their determination and enthusiasm to work their asses off for STILLBORN? Do you believe because of them, STILLBORN has never been as strong and solid as a band unit as it is nowadays?
Ataman: This is the question you should ask Killer. He has been in the band from day 1 – and his strength for the band carries it on. But as the devil's herald, I'm sure he would answer ‘yes'.
Luxi: STILLBORN has also shared the stage in the past with some international extreme Metal acts such as ANGELCORPSE, IMPIETY and ARKHON INFAUSTUS. As far as I have understood, it's been about three years since STILLBORN has played with any international acts. Can you see any other reasons for this except some unfortunate line-up problems of the band?
Ataman: Personal changes are not a serious problem for us. Shortly after Rzulty joined the band, we were crisscrossing 2000 km through Ukraine, playing gigs with Ukrainian and Russian bands. When we get a gig offer, the first question is: who will we play with? Secondly, we played with the bands you mentioned only because we organized these gigs. We are not often invited to play, which is a good thing.
Luxi: How would you see the future of Polish underground scene for extreme Metal bands? Do you see it like younger kids in your country still have enough interest and enthusiasm to form their extreme-sounding Metal groups and play straight from their hearts without fearing whether their bands will ever get noticed and become popular? I mean, do you think that they still do form these bands to play the kind of extreme stuff simply because they love this type of music; they do it from all their hearts – and not because they necessarily want to achieve a part of this ‘fame & fortune' shit that may still well come along with the whole package if you know what I mean by all this...?
Ataman: The youth can be forgiven for many things. Young people don't have not much data and even less analyzed data. In the beginning everyone wants to play what somehow attracts and charms them, and a little part of young bands will grow up but most of their members will eventually only care more about agriculture, children, church and all these things in life. But I don't know them, so I can't answer to this question straight. Also the fact is man has lived for the "fame & fortune" since the beginning of times. This is what Stillborn was founded for in the first place. Don't get me wrong, "fame & fortune" is another dimension for us, not so negative as you may imply in your question. "Flood of his semen in your village, it burnt your shrines to the ground".
Luxi: You also have a Black Metal side project together with two of the current members of STILLBORN. This side project is called GENIUS ULTOR, and you have already recorded one full-length studio album, titled "Dzien Nocy", which was also released on Ataman Productions in late 2010. What kind of things actually did lead you to put GENIUS ULTOR together in the first place? Does it somehow work out as a welcomed ‘therapy band' for yourself whenever you may feel like letting loose without any strict musical limits or boundaries for the stuff you do with GENIUS ULTOR?
Ataman: No. There is time and place for everything. Genius is the band August tried to start many years ago, but he had to wait until this moment. We probably made material for Stillborn's third record "Esta Rebelión Es Eterna" when August and Killer – during their free time – composed four songs for Genius Ultor. They both live in the same town so they have regular contact with each other. One day they played these songs during Stillborn's rehearsal and I told them: "I fuckin' want to play with you..." After releasing "Esta Rebelión Es Eterna", we were preparing to record a full material for Genius Ultor, which we entitled "Dzien Nocy". This is the whole story. And now, after releasing "Asesinos", when the dust has fallen a little bit, the time will come for the second album of Genius Ultor.
Luxi: If you described STILLBORN to some metalheads who haven't heard the band yet but are curious about the band, how would describe STILLBORN to these curious bastards by your own words?
Ataman: I already wrote this on a CD mock-up: not for cunts who are listening to Metal.
Luxi: What kind of goals / or plans do you have for STILLBORN for the next couple of years, where would you like to see this band as status-wise? I guess this ‘fame & fortune' thing would not harm you that much either, ha-ha!!
Ataman: Actually we don't have any plans apart from the mentioned new Genius Ultor's album. We act instinctively as murderers.
Luxi: I wanna sincerely thank you Ataman for this opportunity to interview you. It was my pleasure really to have this chance to talk about your killer band STILLBORN, and I also want to wish you all the best with the band and all your future endeavors as well. If you have still anything you'd like to add to this interview, then here's your ultimate chance to do so...
Ataman: Thank you. I can see that you spent your time getting well prepared for this interview. It's an honor to us.
Ataman Tolovy, Tarnów, 29.IX.2011
|Other information about Stillborn on this site|
|Review: Los Asesinos Del Sur|
|Review: Testimonio de Bautismo|
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