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Interviews Hemlock

Interview with Danny Lilker (Balth)

Interview conducted by Wilhelm

Date online: July 8, 2001

I recently received the HEMLOCK piece "Lust for fire" and to my surprise it displayed a certain quality I feel is lost in most American black metal bands. This quality is RAW, HATEFUL METAL music without the typical blast beats or annoying norsecore vocals. HEMLOCK plays a mind numbing mix of TRUE death metal, black metal and ancient speed / thrash like the old gods- SODOM, BATHORY even some MERCYFUL FATE and VENOM. A highly interesting group of talented and extreme individuals. I got the opportunity to talk with Balth HEMLOCK's bass man maniac about music, his years in the scene with many prolific bands and the type of people he'd like to murder and how. Fucking killer interview!

Greetings Danny. First and foremost I am interested to find out why exactly you joined HEMLOCK. I know you were playing in bands like ANTHRAX, NUCLEAR ASSAULT and a few others before hand, but what made you decide to join a more obscure and violent band like the one you're playing in currently?

Greetings, Wilhelm. Well, I enjoyed the classic b.m. bands in the 80's when they were around, in fact when I was "released" from Anthrax in early '84, I wanted to play it back then, but no one around me was into it, so we ended up with Nuclear Assault, a somewhat political "crossover band". Back in '92 I discovered the newer generation of b.m. bands and got into it all over again, and by '96 I had hooked up with D777 and the guys. So, after 12 years, I finally got to play black fucking metal! Not that I didn't enjoy all the other bands I've done, of course. Regarding the "obscure" factor, well, you know damn well I'm not in this for the fame or money, don't cha?

Do you find playing in a band such as HEMLOCK different from the more well known acts you've played with? Is it any more or less rewarding? Why or why not?

Every band I've been in has been different to every other band, naturally. Hemlock functions on a different level than, say, SOD, of course! We are not signed to a label that's gonna give us thousands of dollars to record, we're not gonna have thousands more from gigs to afford a tour bus, but we haven't toured in the 5 years we've been jamming so obviously, that's not a big priority. We are a nasty, raw black metal band, and I don't expect us to be touring the world in style (although it would be killer!). I thoroughly enjoy playing in this band, which is all that matters to me.

What's the current line up of the band? Who's playing what?

D777- vocals Azalin- guitar His Eminence (The Wicked)- drums Balth- bass

Also some former members of HEMLOCK are stirring up some shit with the current group. At least this is what I saw at the FullMoon Productions message board. Any comments on this?

That's our old guitarist Tom (Laconist). He's actually a cool guy when he wants to be, but he's somewhat unstable.

I believe one thing that sets HEMLOCK apart from the normal American black/death metal band is your use of more "melodies" (not to be confused with be fucking melodic though) in the music. A bit like DISSECTION or maybe even some of the older black/death bands like BATHORY or VENOM. I don't hear that a lot in to many North American bands these days.....

I think that comes down to the fact that we are probably a little older than some of these other bands and consequently we are more influenced by the 80's bands you mentioned. I have the feeling some modern b.m. fans and bands do not have "Welcome To Hell" or "Melissa" in their album collection.

There also seems to be sort of a growing "cult" interest in American bands, like JUDAS ISCARIOT, THORNSPAWN, BLACK WITCHERY and now HEMLOCK. Is this a positive thing you'd say? Have you guys any connections to the first three mentioned groups?

I have had some contact with Andrew Harris, I met a couple of the Thornspawn guys last year in Milwaukee, and D777 speaks to the Black Witchery guys, who I will meet at the big b.m. show next month. While I think it's good that the States is finally getting some recognition for having good b.m. bands, I don't really get patriotic about it or anything... face it, the USA is like 30 times the size of Norway and it is impossible for all the bands to hang out and drink together all the time. All in all, it is a positive thing as long as everyone means it...

I understand HEMLOCK has a loyal following throughout the international scene especially South America! These guys seem to have a fanatical appreciation for sick as fuck metal bands!

South America has always been known for its love for totally necro sounding bands, no keyboards allowed!! Just look at MYSTIFIER'S incredible BLASPHEMY imitation. You can say that the savage tones of Hemlock are tailor-made for these Satanic Hispanics! lol!

All the members of HEMLOCK seem to have a deep respect for the older bands both black metal and real death metal music. Unfortunately, a lot of people rather not pay much attention to them or care much for their existence. It's common. Especially, among younger kids who are first getting into the metal scene. These bands like BATHORY, MERCYFUL FATE, VENOM, MOTORHEAD etc.. Simply don't appeal to them. Maybe you could comment on this.

Well, ironically, I already kind of touched on this a few questions back. It's the age difference, primarily, combined with the fact that (just like death and grind) black metal is a much FASTER beast nowadays than when it first appeared way back when. So, if you take some 18 year-old kid brought up on Immortal and MARDUK and play him VENOM and SODOM, he'll probably lose interest quickly 'cos it won't be extreme enough. IT MUST BE EXPLAINED TO TODAY'S YOUTH THAT THESE BANDS ARE THE ORIGINATORS, AND THE REASON THAT BANDS LIKE IMMORTAL EXIST TODAY!!! Heh, heh, sorry for the speech! By the way, ask anyone in Immortal about this and they'll agree heartily.

It can also be said all members of the band hold an extreme ideology to, especially Lino (Desecrator 777). I remember reading an interview w/ him a few years back where he described beating up some homeless junkies (hahahaha!) And shit like that if I can remember. I also shouldn't leave out the fact you guys are total weapons freaks. Living in New York must make one hard in spirit eh?

Well, speaking personally, I am actually a very laid-back person! However, I think this is due to the fact that I exorcise my hatred through extremely aggressive music! Well, I have a few daggers and swords, but they're pretty much for show, mounted up in our apartment! Living in a big, crowded (and currently VERY HOT) city certainly makes you more intense and aggressive, hell yeah.

Would you ever kill a man if you had the chance? If so what would you do to him? How would be the ideal type of person to dispose of?

In all honesty, no, unless: A- It was guaranteed I would not be punished, and B- It was necessary to protect my wife or my parents. BOTH would have to apply. If I HAD to commit murder, I'd use my Isis dagger, stabbing the stomach and ripping upwards until prevented by the ribcage. The ideal person to dispose of? Don't really know. The closest 2 kinds of people that the world would benefit from the absence of are: The teenage wiggers in my neighborhood that bop around in their baggy pants with their baseball caps perched at precisely the right angle talking like they're from the hood and thinking they're "gangstas". Pathetic. And even worse, the jock/guido/sports fanatics that mob the bars in Bayside, Queens where I live. I call them "Neanderthals" because of their extremely low intellect. These testosterone-fueled apes with their gold chains and fade haircuts and "Fear This" windshield stickers are definitely worthy of termination.

One thing that most people find shocking is that you're Jewish. Then again it seems most don't seem to mind it. Have you had any problems with this?

No, not at all. By the way, there are a lot of Jews here in "Jew York City", LOL!!! One thing that's interesting is that people in a scene like the b.m. scene really care at all. After all, you're talking about a group of people who have quite obviously discarded and disowned the religion THEY were born into, right? Well, me too! I'm about as Jewish as these people are x-tian. The Jewish "stigma" is carried over from "regular" society. You'll never hear some average middle-aged guy go off on x-tians, but there are plenty of anti-Semites out there, right? So if black metallers are truly liberated from the hang-ups of regular society, they shouldn't care what I used to be. Unless they wanna have something in common with nutcases like the CHRISTIAN Identity Movement!

Of course I'd like to hear your thoughts on the NS ideology. Is this an appropriate part of metal music? Why or why not?

I am answering this from the viewpoint of a black metaller, not a "former Jew", LOL!! The elitism present in NS ideology clashes with the natural elitism that has always been a part of black metal. Why are we superior to others? Because we are not slaves. We are not suckers that literally buy into the myth of christianity. This elitism is a cerebral elitism, and transcends boundaries of race, etc. NS philosophy seems to be more earthbound, and the elitism that comes into play is focused on race and ethnicity. Inevitably, these 2 kinds of elitism clash. The example being a black or a Jew (ahem) that embraces the true black metal elitism I mentioned before, or a man with "pure Aryan blood" who is a hardcore x-tian. Black metal with lots of NS shit mixed in is watered down to me, leave the politics to punk bands and fucking DESECRATE THE VIRGIN!!

Being a part of HEMLOCK would obviously mean that there are a lot of confrontations with Christians and conservative type people. What usually happens during a confrontation? Are there any interesting stories here that we would find interesting?

Actually, as much as I'd love to tell you stories about us throwing Molotov cocktails at picketing x-tians, we have not had any such confrontations. NYC is a very hectic, bustling metropolis. My point being that maybe in a small town we might attract more attention, but here? Nahhhh.....

What is a typical HEMLOCK show like? Is there anything unique or extreme on the stage at the time you're playing?

We don't have any props or anything, we just kind of go for it. Although D777 has said something about a banner at the next show. No blood. paint or even spikes. Not that I have a problem with newer bands doing "the whole bit". But YOU try to find a mirror before you go on at CBGB's, LOL!!!

I know you're an old fart now (like 666 years old if I am correct) but reflect back onto your younger years, a few centuries back and tell me what kind of kid you were growing up. Tell us alittle bit about it.

I remember being really hyper, not actually clinically hyperactive, but hyper all the same. I was the youngest of 3 kids (the only male sibling) in a middle-class family from Queens. I was into metal by 78-79. (Priest, Sabbath). Blah blah blah. And here we are today!

What plans do HEMLOCK have in the future? "Lust for fire" was a definite masterpiece of American blackened DEATH metal, will this continue with each new release?

I assume you are referring to ancient death metal. We have 4 songs ready to track for Stephen O'Malley to release. The death metal will continue, albeit it will not have any grunting vocals or lightning speed double kick parts!

Nice talking to you brother Balth! Anyone you want to send a death threat to now before we leave?

No. Suffering through earthly existence is worse than the release of your mortal coil. Fuck off and live. -Balth

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