Interview with guitarist and vocalist Branislav Panic
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 6, 2012
Serbia isn't necessarily the first country your mind associates with Metal music. However, as we have heard so many times, good Metal music can come from any country, even Serbia (or, more officially, the Republic of Serbia), which is located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe and has a population of over 7 million people.
That's where the geography lesson ends. Bane, a 3-piece extreme and melodic Black/Death Metal outfit, from Novi Sad, has been around since 2006 and has recorded two full-length studio albums; the band's debut, Chaos, Darkness & Emptiness that came out in 2010, and the follow-up album, The Acausal Fire, which was recently released via Abyss Records. Both records showcase Bane's burning, creative fire and sheer undying determination to reach the masses. Crisscrossing around Europe playing gigs has helped gain ground and the band is finally getting some of the recognition they deserve.
Vocalist and guitarist Branislav Panic took some time to tell The Metal Crypt more about this Serbian secret. Read on...
Luxi: So, there's a new Bane album coming out soon (Ed. November, 6, 2012 according to the label's website), titled The Acausal Fire, which will be released by Abyss Records. You must feel pretty thrilled about this, correct?
Branislav: Definitely! This is without a doubt Bane's best material yet, so I'm looking forward to having this album released and playing the songs live. Also, it will come out as a really nice 3-panel digipack-CD, very professionally designed, so I really can't wait to have this release available worldwide.
Luxi: What can you tell us about this 9-track offering (or 10, depending on which version you get)? Was it a tougher and more challenging process compared to the debut, Chaos, Darkness, Emptiness, which came out on Grom Records in 2010?
Branislav: When comparing the new songs to the ones from our first album, I can truly say that The Acausal Fire sounds much more mature than Chaos, Darkness & Emptiness. So my answer would be yes, indeed. Much more time was put into the writing/arranging of the new songs and lots of time was spent harmonizing all the instruments. On this album we've achieved new heights; clean/choir vocals, keyboards, and playing up to 240 bpm; none of this would have been possible on previous Bane recordings.
Luxi: Were you able to avoid making any compromises, either song or sound-wise, or were there things that you were forced to do because of time or other studio limitations?
Branislav: Luckily, everything on the album sounds exactly the way I wanted it to sound. This time I wrote all of the music and lyrics for the album (except "Light the Black Flame"), sang all vocals (growls/screams/clean vocals), recorded all guitars (lead/rhythm/acoustic), and wrote most of the drum parts for the album, with help from Nokkturno who also recorded the bass lines. So, the final product sounds really how I imagined it before we entered the studio. However, I must add that I would probably never have been entirely satisfied with anything if it wasn't for our producer, my long time friend, Honza Kapak, who is the owner of Hellsound Studio.
Luxi: Are there some songs on The Acausal Fire that you like more than others or that are personal favorites?
Branislav: That's a very tough question. You know, it's always hard to choose just one child when you have many of them, as they say. I can't say that this or that song is my very favorite, but there's one song that I really like and means a lot to me. It is a song called "Existence in Denial", and it's actually a vocal duet I did with my brother Patrik from Anachronaeon (Sweden). We have been friends for a long time now, and I have always been a huge fan of his music so I'm really happy we did something together.
Music-wise, I think the most professional-sounding track on the album is "As Chaos Rises", which is why we chose it for the 7" split EP we recently released. That version contains guest vocals from Danish musician Lord Beezanborgh.
As for playing live, I really enjoy playing and singing "The Truth Unleashed" ( youtu.be/ZAvPBvpw_Hw ) a lot, because it is really intense and interesting for me to perform. Also "In Endless Silence" is an easy-listening melodic track that we chose for our first single and video. It sounds very Swedish, mid '90s-like.
Luxi: Just as on your debut album, you recorded The Acausal Fire Hellsound Studio in Èestice, Czech Republic. Is it hard to find professional recording studios in your home country of Serbia, or has it been the band's own choice to go outside of Serbia and record elsewhere?
Branislav: Well, as I mentioned earlier, Honza and I are long-time friends and when I can choose, I would always work with him because he really is one of the best producers in Metal today, and he is probably the best musician I have ever met in my life.
But to answer your question more precisely, 99% of all studios here in Serbia, and amateurs who claim to be "producers", are total wrecks, lifeless beings who don't know ANYTHING about the recording process itself, sound engineering or production. I know that because I also work as a sound engineer myself (mostly live) and do some home recordings (ex. just recently I finished Keychain – my side-project, you can check out the single "These Empty Skies" here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a3HDGoDggw&feature=relmfu).
So, why don't I record/produce Bane myself? I admit that I am simply not good enough at it. I don't have the biggest ego in the world, as opposed to the, as I like to call them, "cult producers" in Serbia. Between 2005 and 2009 I unfortunately worked with many of them, and there is simply no one who can get the job done right, or even least decently.
Luxi: You had Honza Kapak taking care of the engineering, mixing and mastering on this new Bane record, just like on your debut album two years ago. Is he the type of guy who truly has the understanding of what it takes to produce a band like Bane or did you have other names in mind before you entered the studio?
Branislav: Again, as I mentioned above, Honza is my #1 favorite Metal producer, and there is absolutely no other person with whom I'd rather work with on Bane's recordings. There is just not much more to say. You'd really have to spend a few hours in the studio seeing him work, with any band, and you'd realize how awesome this guy is at what he's doing. So, any bands that want to work with this amazing musician/producer/sound engineer, feel free contact him at: email@example.com
Luxi: Many people have made comparisons between your stuff and Sweden's Dissection. How much would you say Dissection was an influence on you when you started this band back in 2006?
Branislav: Honestly, Dissection is the reason Bane exists. It's without question my personal favorite Metal band of all-times. The vast majority of my influences come from this band; it's simply endless inspiration for me. Of course, back when I started the band, in 2006 as you said, I did not really have the knowledge or skills to play anything similar to Dissection, but as the years went by, it's pretty logical to see why people compare us to them, as our music is heavily influenced by those Swedes in Dissection (R.I.P.).
Luxi: You recorded a cover version of Dark Funeral's "The Dawn No More Rises", and included it as an exclusive track on the digipack version released by Abyss Records. Where does your fascination for all these Swedish melodic Black/Death Metal bands come from?
Branislav: Correct. Well, being in Metal for 10 years now and having listened to or heard just about all the sub-genres, I can say the Swedish style Black & Death Metal (especially from the mid '90s) is definitely my cup of tea. In my opinion, it's the most thought-out Metal genre because it simply has everything in it: aggression, melody, various types of vocals, etc. Every element is present and makes the music sound so rich.
Luxi: Are there any other bands in Serbia with a style similar to Bane that have chosen to perform this more melodic, Swedish-style of Black/Death Metal (Dissection, Naglfar, Mörk Gryning, Unanimated and the like)? Obviously you are not completely alone with the type of stuff you do...
Branislav: Actually, we were literally the only band in Serbia (and quite possibly in the Balkans) playing that Swedish-styled Black/Death Metal until our current bass player, Bojan, formed his own band called Paimonia. They play, more or less, the same style we do.
Luxi: Bane did their third European tour in early 2012, the "Keepers of the Black Flame" tour, with shows in four different countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia. How was overall the response on this tour? Were you able to connect with new gig organizers, bands and so on?
Branislav: That was the best tour Bane had until this date. To my surprise, we sold out all of the merchandise we had brought along and we had some great times with the bands on the tour.
As for contacts, not really, as most everything was done with friends of mine I already knew, but we did have to chance to see some other really great bands that were playing as supports.
Luxi: You have also done some one-off concerts and festival appearances in countries like Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary and so on, sharing the stages with some bigger and more well known international acts (Malevolent Creation, Root, Decapitated, etc.). How different is it to play in countries, like Germany or Poland, that are known for their huge Metal scenes, versus countries like Macedonia or Hungary where the Metal scene (with less music clubs, concerts venues, less everything. really), isn't necessarily as advanced or, may I say, not as professionally organized?
Branislav: I must say that I am really impressed by your knowledge of today's Metal scene, (Thank you. Your compliment is well taken – Luxi) and how updated you are, knowing that you come from a country which is miles and miles away from where I am.
Anyway, your question basically contains the answer to this subject. Bane have played in over 10 European countries thus far, and I must admit that, in most cases, the difference between clubs, equipment, organization and everything that comes with that is huge when comparing the countries that you mentioned. Although, I would like to point out that from my experience, The Czech Republic and Slovakia are the best countries, professionally, at least for Bane concerts.
Now, a pretty important thing to remember is that when most underground bands, such as us, play in a country that has a very healthy Metal scene, we don't really get much feedback from the audience, media, labels, etc. However, in countries like Macedonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, we have always gotten an enormous amount of great feedback, probably because the people, referring to Metal-heads mostly, are still "hungry" for Metal, new bands, concerts, etc. From my experience (since I've, more or less, been constantly touring Europe since 2009), the response everywhere else is weaker and weaker, unless you have grown a fan base in some cities, which in our case can best be proven in Sarajevo (BiH), Burgas (Bul), and so on...
Luxi: Do you believe that if Bane originally came from some other European country, like Germany, Holland or France, people would talk a lot of more about you?
Branislav: I am absolutely 666% sure that that would have been the case. Some people just cannot imagine the kind of problems I am facing simply because I live in Serbia. I would be sick to my stomach if I started writing about some of the usual, everyday stuff that is going on here. It literally makes me sick. People who know my position and this country know and those who don't... well, maybe it stays that way. I guess it's better if some things are left in the dark.
Luxi: What does Serbia lack most, from your point of view, as far as the music industry is concerned?
Branislav: First and foremost, it would probably be a stable financial/economical situation. Right now it is almost impossible for people to buy merchandise and tickets to shows and for organizers to rent quality clubs, good equipment, etc. An average monthly salary here is about 200-250 euros, while some people work for only 70-80 euros a month, and that includes the fact that food prices here are similar to those in Poland, Czech Republic, etc. where people work for a much higher amount of money.
Apart from that, people here still need to learn (in my opinion never will, but who knows, time will tell) that bands need to support each other and that Metal is Metal, no matter what style you play. I mean, we have no TV show supporting Metal, no magazines about Metal music (only 2-3 webzines), 2 or 3 underground Metal labels, and that's basically it.
Luxi: How's the local Metal music scene where you live? Are there some cool places for Metal bands to play? Are there any record stores, in which bands could get their stuff sold, in your area?
Branislav: I don't know if you will believe me here, but I have no reason to lie. I currently live in Novi Sad, which is the second biggest city in Serbia, where 300,000+ inhabitants live. There is not one Metal club or Metal shop in my city, so, I guess, only the deranged mind would be into Metal while living in Novi Sad, or Serbia in general.
Luxi: As soon as your second album, The Acausal Fire, is out and hits the stores, what kind of plans do you have to support it?
Branislav: We just completed a 3-date Bulgarian mini-tour, and, this weekend, we have a Bosnian/Serbian mini-tour as well. The plan after that is to get as many reviews of the new album as possible, because the band will be on-hold from November 2012, and I will be re-locating to Canada. I actually lived in Quebec for 10 years but returned to Serbia in 2004. Anyway, the plan is to find a new live line-up there and to tour North America as much as possible. We will see how it goes eventually...
Luxi: Do you have plans to arrange a record release party in your hometown after you receive a couple of boxes of your new album to sell?
Branislav: As I told you, it's impossible to do it in Novi Sad, because there is no club where I can arrange a release party. Only a "record listening party" could perhaps be arranged, but I'm not too sure I would be up for that. The only Serbian date when our band will be promoting the new stuff, is on the 6th of October, in the Capital of Serbia, Belgrade.
Luxi: What about plans to get a whole concert on DVD some day? Have you been talking about that possibility?
Branislav: Well, we are a really small band at the moment. Maybe after Bane's fourth full-length album or something, I may start thinking about that more closely. Until then I am pretty sure it won't happen any time soon.
Luxi: If you take a quick glance in a crystal ball, what does it tell you about the future goals and achievements of Bane?
Branislav: Well, as mentioned just earlier, it would be really cool to spread the chaos on North American soil. That is the only goal that I have thus far, apart from having a third full-length album released some time in 2014. But it's too early to speak about that yet.
Luxi: We have come to the end of this interview and I want to thank you, Branislav, for your time and for speaking to The Metal Crypt. I also want to wish you all the best with all your future endeavors with Bane. May your road be paved with great things. Any last comments or curses perhaps?
Branislav: Thank you, brother, for the support, I really appreciate it. As for the readers of The Metal Crypt; keep on supporting underground Extreme Metal, and be sure to check out our new full-length album The Acausal Fire that was just released on Abyss Records (USA).
HAIL CHAOS! -Branislav/BANE
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