Interview with vocalist Serpent
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 27, 2022
Nightside, formed in 1996, was a black metal band hailing from Turku, which is a former capital city on the southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of the murky Aura River. The band existed for roughly eight years, released one demo, one EP, a couple of splits and even one full-length (The End of Christianity, on Portugal's Sound Riot Records in 2001) before calling it a day. They were never that popular on their home turf, but that's the case with many bands, even today.
Seventeen long years passed by, and no one would have guessed that these obscure and infamous hooded black metal warriors had collected their troops together again with plans to announce their new coming at Turku Saatanalle Festival IX in Turku, Finland, this past February where they shared the stage with Horna, Barathrum, Warmoon Lord and the like.
We here at the old cemetery of The Metal Crypt decided to check in with the band's vocalist Serpent to ask him the reasons for resurrecting the old corpse and whether there will be more gigging and new music from the dark and dust-filled catacombs at some point in the future...
How's your summer been so far? Getting ready (or busy) for the hectic festival season that's been going on for quite some time already?
Serpent: Ave! The summer's been good, hot, and somewhat busy, even if things with the band have slowed a bit since the spring. But festivals and other activities take time during the summer, so it all balances out. Rehearsing and making new songs as we speak. Also getting prepared for some future gigs that should take place in fall/late 2022.
OF BRINGING BACK THE BLACK PLAGUE
We are here to talk about your band Nightside that was away from the limelight for 17 long years. What triggered you to bring this old corpse back from its dark and dusty grave?
Serpent: That's correct, even though for me personally, the "break" was longer than that, around 20 years with this band. What triggered us is a harder question to answer. Things in our lives have changed and there was already talk between the guys of doing a comeback gig a few years earlier. This didn't happen for a variety of reasons, but gave us the idea to bring the band back for real. Not just for one gig, but to make new songs and resurrect, or should I say reincarnate, the whole band. To take it to the next level. The passion to play this music never died, it's more like there were lineup problems in the past and then "life happened." Other bands, work, family and the usual. All those things played their part in these events and soon escalated. You know how it is when it's not just you, but everything and everyone around you. It's like the ever-expanding universe; chaos and evolution happen. But with enough focus and dedication it's possible to pick up the pieces of the puzzle you want and need in your life and make things happen. Sometimes it just takes a lot longer than expected.
It's you and Beleth from the original lineup when talking about the resurrected band. Did you want to have the original lineup make this comeback or was it completely out of question?
Serpent: The original lineup in the case of Nightside is a complex thing. Even before the first (and only) demo some members had left. After that, others got replaced before we made our debut album. After that, the same process repeated. We never had a very steady lineup and that was, in my opinion, the main reason the band faded away in the first place. But Beleth is the only founding member. I joined the band a few months later as the first vocalist, so I guess we're the glue that keeps the band intact.
With this so-called second coming, we got TH back in the game (as he was part of the band in the early 2000s) and as this trio planned what could be done with Nightside, who we wanted to play with us and who could join. Basically, we asked ourselves, can we pull this off without sounding and looking like shit. Can we do this honestly and well? And if so, who would be part of it.
As described above, the original lineup was never possible, not even the demo lineup. We thought about the possibility of the album lineup, but no, some guys have moved on from black metal so much. But me, Beleth and TH are still here to do that. TH and I had Annihilatus going on and Beleth had other bands, but basically, we never stopped doing black metal. As far as the others go, they ventured to different genres or stopped playing altogether.
We needed some new blood and we started thinking of people in the scene we knew and who had the right mindset and with whom the chemistry would be there and who would have the energy and time to make this happen. We found them pretty quickly. It was easier this time than in the past.
Would you say Nightside's comeback was a now-or-never thing for you?
Serpent: I don't know if it was so much now or never kind of thing in our minds, but now that you say it, in a way yes it was. I don't think we would have done this if we were in our 60s.
Did you feel relief when you finally took the steps to resurrect this ancient evil? Were you all of the same mindset early on?
Serpent: Yes, we were definitely relieved to see that we still have it, that we could play this music with passion and energy and not just some cheap ass pale shadow version of what it was in the past. It certainly looks different now, even more focused and dedicated, if we can say that, because now the vision is clearer. We have had good communication within the band since we restarted, and everybody shared ideas of how we'd play live, how we'd look and to do this seriously or not at all. Rent has to be paid and time put into rehearsing, so why not do it properly and not just fuck around? Nobody at this age has the time for that. Or should not have.
I also think this successful gig strengthened the band and boosted us into making new songs and doing more gigs. So at least for the time being it feels like Nightside is back stronger than ever. As it should.
THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY IS EVERYTHING
What kind of role does the right chemistry have if you are in a band? Is it the backbone of everything, more or less?
Serpent: Chemistry is almost everything. Without that, it doesn't matter how good the riffs are or how interesting the lyrics might be. Things don't happen without band chemistry. We've already been on that path when people come and go too soon. It's two steps forward and one step back, sometimes even two. Always more or less resetting what has been done and achieved. It fucking ruins everything.
People who don't believe me or have not experienced it are free to try, but I wouldn't recommend it. I think the lack of chemistry is the number one reason so many bands fall apart or become solo projects. The other reason, but with bigger bands only, is money. When you don't have it, the chemistry is everything. But I guess money can ruin even good chemistry. Then again there are bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden or Darkthrone that have kept pulling the same rope for over 35 years without too many lineup changes... something to think about.
What killed the band in 2004? Apparently, it was the sum of many things if I am not mistaken...
Serpent: Those lineup changes and weak songwriting killed it. TH and I had left the band around 2002 so I don't know the details after that. I have heard the album which the new lineup made and it's not good. That's why it was never released. There are some cool ideas here and there and some parts that, in my opinion, could be cannibalized and used in the future for some songs, but in general it was better that it never got released.
The End of Christianity was Nightside's first and, unfortunately only album during the band's initial eight years. Did you hope that Nightside would have recorded at least one more album during those years, keeping in mind T.E.o.C. was actually a really good album, obviously having a bit of a soft spot for early Emperor's sound, but also containing a good load of its own identity?
Serpent: I wish we could have done more good songs during my stay in the band, but like said, it never happened due to lineup changes and going back and forth. There were some songs ready after T.E.o.C., but they weren't recorded during before I left. I don't think we ever played them live either.
The other guys then pushed on, but it didn't turn out too well. To this day, I still enjoy T.E.o.C. songs, most of them a lot, while the planned second album is not exactly good.
How did you end up signing a deal with Portuguese label Sound Riot Records back in the day?
Serpent: I don't remember the details, but I guess we weren't patient enough to find a good label, so we went with them as they gave us a decent deal. In hindsight it doesn't make much sense, but what did we know? It was the first album by any band any of us had since all our previous efforts were no more than demos. Getting a decent deal from a label that actually kept its word was pretty cool.
It could have ended worse, and it could have ended better, so no bitterness or regrets in this decision, even if I wouldn't do it again.
TURKU FOR SATAN
Nightside's comeback show happened at Turku Saatanalle IX Festival in Turku, Finland, this February and you were in very good company, sharing the stage with Horna, Barathrum, Black Crucifixion, etc. Did it feel homey to return on the stage after such a long period of inactivity, like maybe you had never actually stopped the band's activities?
Serpent: Yes, it was an honor to play with such important cult names there. Not just because of them, but it meant a lot. I guess it meant even more for us that we got to play at a festival we know is a good one, with good and hard-working promoters who do their jobs well. Also, restarting on our home turf meant a lot. It felt weird, I'm not going to lie, in a good way to be back on stage after over 20 years of not doing that. I feel we did a good show and got good feedback, too. To be honest, I don't know if there could have been a better comeback gig for us.
How was this experience for you personally playing at that festival, which is known for supporting true underground black and death metal?
Serpent: It was really good. It gave the whole band a boost. To feel we're doing the right thing for the right reasons, not for gimmicks, money or fame, but because this is what has been in our lives for so long. This is the music and lifestyle that has grown with us during over the decades. It's impossible to separate this from us and our lives.
How much pre-work did it take to get to the point when you knew you were ready to conquer the stage once again? Did you have any second thoughts about whether there was enough dedication or the right mentality and/or chemistry?
Serpent: The first few rehearsals with the lineup defined the direction. When we were rehearsing the songs for the gig, it soon started to feel like we had the right guys with the right kind of attitude to do this. No bullshit, no excuses, no problems. Not like we had in the past, which caused the break-up.
There are always those second thoughts and people getting cold feet. Been there done that. But once you get that engine firing and everybody is enjoying what they do with the chemistry we spoke about, then things can move on. Things can happen.
We rehearsed a lot. We decided to get ourselves stage attire. Something other than everyday looks, even though by no means would I say we look unique (we don't). We planned and talked about what we wanted to do and the things we didn't want to have or do. Everybody was focused and dedicated. That paid off.
To celebrate the band's comeback, have you talked about doing one or two videos in the coming months to get the band back on people's lips again?
Serpent: We have never planned a video for the band. I don't like the idea of the band just playing for the video in some factory or ruins looking outright stupid while doing it. And let's be honest, anything bigger than that would require a big budget and we don't have that.
THE UNDERGROUND – PAST AND PRESENT
Many things have obviously changed during the band's years of inactivity. Bands have come and gone and the whole metal scene has had its successful phases when certain subgenres have taken a more prominent role than others. How relevant is Nightside's timing, returning now after keeping the corpse mummified for almost two decades?
Serpent: In so many ways our timing is good. Black metal is more popular than death metal and thrash metal, etc. And by that I don't mean money or fame, but just the possibility to play gigs and get a decent deal. Also, the timing is bad since the world is filled with lots and lots of talented bands. Having been a reviewer of metal music for over 20 years now, I've witnessed so many good bands during all these years. In that sense, to get a foothold in the scene is harder these days. In that sense it's a fierce competition, even though, in my opinion, art should never compete. Paradox, yes?
NEW STUFF IN THE WORKS
Are you intending to release a follow-up album at some point in the future?
Serpent: Yes, if it is up to me, there will be a follow-up album sooner rather than later. We have a few songs somewhat ready, and new riffs and keyboard parts are pouring from the other guys in the band. I mostly focus on lyrics and keeping it all together. To be honest I wouldn't be surprised if there was a new Nightside album out in 2023 or 2024, but you never know. It all depends on how songs get made and honed and if there's a label for us or not.
Can you describe this new material to the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Serpent: I guess it could be described as melodic, intense, and mostly fast-tempo black metal in the '90s way which always defined Nightside to begin with. We all have our roots in the black metal of the '80s and '90s, but since our style was never in the vein of the first wave of black metal, I guess Nightside will stick to the path of '90s style, for better or worse. Expect some intense and compact fast ones and also some more "epic" and more complex ones with more variety.
The Chinese label, GoatowaRex, released your debut album as a luxurious gatefold vinyl just a couple of years ago. How did that vinyl release of T.E.o.C. come about?
Serpent: Yeah, it came out late 2020 in China, I think, and we got our copies in Europe in early 2021. The boss behind the label said he loves the album, and he contacted me via my YouTube channel Rauta and asked if there was a way for him to release the album on vinyl as it had never been done. I asked the other guys about it, and they were okay with it. This might also have ignited the comeback of Nightside in subconscious ways. Now we're keeping our thumbs up that there will be an official reissue of the CD version, too.
... AND THOSE FUTURE PLANS?
None of us is Nostradamus, but how would you see Nightside spreading the black sickness in the next 2-3 years or so? Or would you rather not predict the future and let fate decide what it might have on a blood-coated silver plate for the band?
Serpent: I would definitely do a bit of foreseeing as self-fulfilling prophecies do happen. I would say we will do some new songs, do a few more gigs here and there and then proceed to doing the second album. That would push us to do a few more gigs and boost the band in a natural way. Nothing too big, but steady work.
It's rather easy to book us for gigs/festivals, so people interested just get in contact with us.
I, for one, would like to thank you, Serpent, for your precious time, and in the very same breath I'd like to wish you all the best with your future endeavors, whatever they might be between heaven and hell. Any last comments perhaps to wrap up this conversation?
Serpent: Thanks for your time and work, Luxi, your efforts and support mean a lot to us.
My final word for this interview is to always keep your eyes peeled, question everything and have an open mind for new music and other art. Don't let prejudice fuck you over. And more importantly, stay true to yourself, whatever that may be.
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