Interview with Istvan Lendvay (vocals, guitars, bass)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 27, 2012
Rise is a relatively unknown Death Metal force from Los Angeles, California that has released 4 full-length albums since the band was formed in 1992. The band's latest record, Pentagramnation, was released on the small label Hymnus Records in 2009 and without question proved Rise should be included with the hottest elite of real Death Metal.
Rise has been on temporary hiatus for some time. Now, the band's heart and soul, István Lendvay has slowly but surely been reactivating this monster, raising it back on its feet and working on new Rise material for the last few months.
István himself wanted to tell The Metal Crypt what's been going with Rise and how it has been possible for the band to keep such a low profile, even about their existence in general, these past few years.
Luxi: Hello there, István. How's it going in sunny California?
István: Despite the sun my friend, things are always dark and grim.
Luxi: It's been a while since your official homepage has been updated, the last time being November 18th, 2009. Does that mean your band, Rise, has also taken a break from creating music, or is it just that your webmaster has been "a bit lazy" for some time? Heh!
István: A little bit of both. The musical creativity has not stopped, but due to circumstance output has been less than optimal.
Luxi: The band's 4th studio album, Pentagramnation, came out at the end of 2009 and gained a lot of positive reviews around the globe. I guess you guys must be pretty darn happy how the record turned out, correct?
István: Yes, I am pleased with how it turned out, although there's always room for improvement, and the next one shall be even better.
Luxi: Pentagramnation is the first Rise album to have keyboards. I suppose the main purpose was to bring more depth and a stronger atmosphere to your songs, making them stand out better and overall making them sound thicker, etc. Do you believe you accomplished all that you hoped for, maybe even more, in adding Johnson's keyboard parts?
István: Our previous album Divine Aeternum was the first to incorporate keyboard parts and yes, at the time, I did believe it would enhance the depth of the music and add yet another dimension to our sound.
Luxi: Was Pentagramnation an easy album to make, from the songwriting all the way through to the recording process? Did you have to make any compromises in regards to any of the songs on this record?
István: Pentagramnation was absolutely not an easy album to create. It was yet to date the most difficult album to record and create because I typically wrote my songs on previous albums with lyrics ready, and wrote the music around them, and with this record the music came first, and lyrics later, and a lot of revisions were needed to tailor the existing music to the lyrics. This created more delays, but the end result I'm very pleased with.
Luxi: You had Milosz Karubin, who is originally from Poland, in the band playing bass and doing some backing vocals on Pentagramnation. Is he officially still a member of the band or did he leave the Rise troops right after the Pentagramnation album was completed?
István: Milosz was actually added to the lineup as a live musician after recording had already been completed, and came in right before we shot the video for the title track Pentagramnation. He's a very energetic guy, and helps with our live performances quite a bit, as bass parts were previously played by Johnson on the keys for our shows, while bass recordings were handled by me in the studio.
Luxi: James Murphy, Dave Suzuki and Angela Gossow are credited as "special guests" on Pentagramnation? Did you know them already, making it easier to ask them to contribute to the album?
István: Yes, I did know these individuals prior to their contribution to this record. I've known James Murphy for years before. We previously went to see him to record "Slaves of Illusion" back in the day. He coproduced this record, recorded his guest solo, and engineered, mixed, and mastered it as well. How could I leave out James Murphy's soloing on my record if given opportunity? I think that his playing blends perfectly with the song, and was grateful for his help, and endless sleepless hours of work.
I have known Dave from touring with his former band Vital Remains. I toured on their Dechristianize album in the US with Glen Benton, Tony Lazaro, and Tim Yeung. I was astonished by Dave Suzuki's solo guitar abilities, and asked if he would be willing to write a solo for "Opus Requiem" that would make me want to open my veins when I heard it. He definitely delivered everything I could have hoped for and more. Not only did he send us a solo, but he sent us 6 individual tracks of acoustic and electric guitar harmonies to complete the aural assault. Dave is an amazing musician. Not only is he a great solo guitar player, but he's also a super fast amazing drummer. Having another great musician on my album is an honor to me.
Angela sparked the idea to recruit guest artists for my record. She offered her beautiful screaming if I should ever need it. As you can hear on the record, she's capable of very vile things! We met a few times in the past, and she's been very kind, and I'm flattered that she would take the time in her busy schedule in Arch Enemy to help us out with the record.
Luxi: You also shot a very professional and nice looking video for "Pentagramnation," the title track from your latest record. Would you like to share a few thoughts about the concept behind the video, the team that made it look the way it does and the process of getting it from start to finish?
István: The video was one of the best things we've done for this record. This is our only video, and I'm very very pleased that it was this professionally done. The team was extremely efficient, everyone knew their jobs, everything got taken care of, and it was a lot of stress off of my mind when I saw how smoothly everything was going. I'm happy that I never took the opportunity to make a shitty video in the past. The experience was absolutely perfect. With the chaos in it, it was 2 short 10 hour days of shooting in Los Angeles with Von Swank productions, which came about quite interestingly.
A friend of ours in LA had seen Mortiis work with this team on 2 of their videos previously, which were very professional, and when we approached them with our idea for a video, they were very receptive and interested in working with us at a reasonable rate. If I'd had the money, it would've been a complete gorefest, but I'm extremely satisfied with the end product.
In the first paragraph of "Pentagramnation" there are 4 lines from the book Paradise Lost by John Milton. In the video, visually, we tried to create with our own ideas, disregarding the literal meanings of the book or anyone else's perception of it, the way Christianity oppresses people, and attempts to deny them knowledge and steer their lives. As long as you're stupid, we can be your God. The old man in the video is portraying Milton, and the 2 girls are his daughters. Milton was supposedly blind, and his daughter was transcribing the book for him. In a simple, short, 5 minute video, it's not easy to replicate an entire book, but we tried to convey the message of someone being punished for seeking knowledge when Christianity wouldn't allow it. But, since this is metal, we had to kick the priest's ass for punishing the girl. The end scene with the priest wouldn't have just been a kick and a stab, but would've been a full on evisceration and dismemberment to show how I really feel inside.
Luxi: Were there any other songs from Pentagramnation you thought of shooting a video for?
István: Yes, "Martyrdom" would be our next choice, but since we didn't have the funding to do all of the murdering in Pentagramnation, it never came to life. The video of this song would've been the true bloodbath of all time, because it would've made Passion of the Christ look like a Disney movie.
Luxi: You have been responsible for writing the lyrics for the band. How important are the lyrics for Rise? Do you find them equally important to yourself, personally? Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?
István: Yes, lyrics are very important to me. Each of the songs I've written has personal meanings, as I'm sure it is for all musicians. Since English is my third language, it is challenging to express myself as one should: although it is very important to get all of the help I can without losing the meaning, which has to come from me because I am the one screaming it!
Luxi: "Organized religions:" what kinds of pure hatred and nauseating thoughts to those two words bring to mind?
István: Well, I think most organized religions are ignorant and stupid. I do not have a religion of my own. I am my own god. Best Christmas Carol: Tsjuder's kill for Satan!
Luxi: It has been 3 years since Pentagramnation. The obvious question is how long do you think it will take until Rise is firmly back on its feet and you guys start composing new material for the next release?
István: I am currently working on the next record, and have been for quite some time. I have 5 songs completed musically. I do believe this will be better than any of the previous albums. My personal situation at the moment, living separated from the rest of my band, has slowed the process. Despite the delays, I plan on having it done before the end of this year. I believe the sound has progressed even further, and I'm very pleased with how things are turning out.
Luxi: Is it a possibility that you might record 3 or 4 new songs for a promotional release? Something you could shop around to some well-chosen labels, to try and bring Rise to the next level towards world-wide domination?
István: No, because I don't believe in bending over for some record company to give me a deal. I've personally funded the Pentagramnation album which will stand up next to any other major release in quality and sound. The record may not be as well known as some of these other major releases, but if my motivation were to get my music to every corner of the earth and be wealthy because of it, I wouldn't be crafting Death Metal. This is my passion, not my bread and butter.
Luxi: All of your releases, except perhaps Pentagramnation, are pretty hard to track down nowadays. Any chance you might consider re-releasing some of your back catalog, maybe with some bonus tracks, liner notes, etc.?
István: It is definitely a possibility, because there are a lot of great songs in the past that deserve a bit more attention than they originally got, but my primary focus is for the future without relying on my past for recognition. I believe in forging ahead.
Luxi: How much does free music downloading concern you?
István: There is really nothing to be against. People are going to do what they are going to do. It is yet another reason that I don't deal with labels. Nowadays people can do whatever they want despite your efforts of working on your music and getting yourself known. It was a similar thing in Hungary back home when I was a kid. One guy had a dad with some money that would buy him the tape, and the rest of us would make copies. It's the same now, but situated behind a keyboard, and with much greater numbers. The people that are going to buy the record buy it. The people that were never going to buy the record download it, and maybe they'll come to a show and support us there, so what's the real harm? Only those dependent on a record label are going to hurt.
Luxi: Both your 2000 Slaves of Illusion and 2001 Divine Aeturnum albums have been released on the relatively small Hungarian label Nephilim Records. What's even a little more strange, to me anyway, is the fact Divine Aeturnum was recorded in Hungary. What made an American Death Metal band travel all the way from LA to Hungary to record their 3rd album?
István: I was born and raised in Hungary, and moved to the US at age 14. I have been in California since then, and always long to go home to visit. Once I had the opportunity to record and play shows in my home country, I did it. It was chaotic and beautiful at the same time. Nephilim was the company that released the records in Europe, but they went out of business shortly after the release of Divine Aeternum, and therefore didn't help us very much at all to distribute the album as it should have been.
Between X-mas and New Year's, even during the recording sessions, we had 2 shows in Hungary. One of them was in Budapest with Sear Bliss, Christian Epidemic, Testimony, and Frost. It was a great show in the capital. We had lots of great friends meet us there, and it was a fully packed show. We also had a show in my home town Gyor with a similar lineup and it was probably one of our best shows ever as far as crowd response. It was in my hometown with all of my friends, and also, ironically, the singer of Mayhem, Attila Csihar. During one of our songs from Slaves of Illusions - "Weakness Spread by Fear" - I asked if someone from the crowd would want to sing it, expecting maybe one of my friends to come up, but Attila was eager to get on stage, and started screaming in a maniacal Black Metal style that had nothing to do with our song... but I guess it's ok because the crowd liked it. It's a great memory for me. He was almost beaten by some of my friends for ruining the song, but it's all good.
I am born and raised Hungarian, and I could spend an eternity elsewhere, but I will always be a Hungarian. So, when an opportunity to play and record at home knocked, I answered.
Luxi: In fact, you spent six whole weeks in Europe in 2009 seeing some of your friends and relatives there. Plus, you also tried to arrange some distribution deals for your releases in Europe and even talked about touring with Rise. What eventually came out of that? Did you get a chance to play some gigs here in the old continent?
István: Not with Pentagramnation unfortunately. The deals that we had to come and tour did not pan out on 3 different occasions due to unavailability of some of the band members. It was a great loss, because it would have been awesome to do a full European tour.
Luxi: Would it be possible that you might travel to some more obscure country again to record a future album far away from home?
István: Absolutely if the opportunity is given, and it's a good thing, then why not? I believe the new album will probably be recorded on US soil though. The working title for the new record is "Hymnus Apocalypse".
Luxi: I was kinda surprised to hear about you guys for the first time in 2012 considering the band formed back in 1992. Despite being around for 20 years, it seems to me that not many people know of Rise yet, so why, on Earth, have you been hiding in the bushes for so long? Have you tried to promote Rise to bigger metal labels (Candlelight, Century Media, Metal Blade, Earache, Nuclear Blast, etc.) over the years? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Pentagramnation is the kind of quality Death Metal release that should appeal to the masses, being a very strong record.
István: There are many reasons for all of this. The existence of the band for 20 years, without getting to a major label to work with, has to do with many lineup changes throughout our history, and the timing being off. We had many opportunities, and strong local followings, but we never quite made it because of the turmoil in the band. Even with the setbacks, I've never stopped, be it alone or with other members. Had we done more during that time, Rise would probably not be as unknown as it is now. Being an unknown good Death Metal band, by your opinion, is still much better than being a well known shitty band (I just couldn't agree with you more, István - Luxi).
Luxi: Do you ever feel like there's no justice in this world because some shitty, more trendy bands get signed to labels so easily while other bands that richly deserve a record deal never seem to be lucky enough to get signed?
István: You know it doesn't make me feel shitty that other bands get signed. It probably has to do with their efforts to get signed. They're happy with that and working for a label. I don't share their misery because when I play, I play for those who come to see me by my own efforts, which aren't going to be the same numbers, but at least they're my efforts. I'm not bitter that they are more known or successful. They have their own brand of misery, as do I. My misery is my own creation at least.
Luxi: LA is not only a great place for the well-known and massive Glam Rock/Hard Rock scene but also for some killer Death Metal. My dear friends in Sadistic Intent come to mind but I believe there are a lot more bands from the LA area that people should know about. Would you kindly be our guide and let us know what evil and brutal sounding bands are hot in the LA underground these days?
István: Man, am I the wrong man to ask this question or what? I am almost a caveman and very much not in the scene. There are probably lots of good Death Metal bands in LA, but recently I moved and I have not been able to follow up. Really I have never really seen a local Death Metal band in LA that blew my mind completely. Maybe there's something new out there, but I don't know of them.
Luxi: I guess that is it. I want to sincerely thank you, István, for taking some time to answer my questions and wish you all the best with your future endeavors. My Rise's path be full of great victories. Any last comments?
István: Thank you for being interested in conducting this interview with me. I am probably the most boring guy to interview, for my answers are blunt and to the point. Thanks for your time. p.s. Don't forget this X-mas to listen to your Tsjuder, and come New Years get out the Horna albums. Cheers!
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