Interview conducted by Pulak Chakraborty
INQUISITION is a name that stands as a subject of devotion for all black metal enthusiasts of this day and age. With release after release of path-defining darkness — both conceptually and musically, the band has taken the genre to new pathways leading to the astral majesties. Pulak Chakraborty met the mastermind behind the band Dagon on 24th January, 2015 at the gig at München, Germany during Obscure Verses for the Multiverse European headlining tour where the band played alongside other great bands like Archgoat, Ondskapt and Blackdeath. Read the following conversation as Dagon talk all things Inquisition.
Hails to Inquisition. It’s an honour to catch up with you again. Also, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. So, let’s start this interview with the inception and journey of Inquisition. Tell us about it from the very beginning.
Dagon: In 1987 (1988 is always mentioned, because that’s when I started to record the rehearsal demos with Guillotina), I started Guillotina with a drummer named John Santa and we were identical to what we are today: a two-piece band. By 1988, we had a rehearsal demo recorded. On November 16th 1988, we had a show with Reencarnación and Nemesis from Medellín and it was a classic show. Those were two extremely important bands at that time, especially Reencarnación; they were hailed by the early Norwegian scene. By January 1989, back then in the underground, there were like two or three bands called Guillotine (and I also saw it in the thanks-list of Celtic Frost’s ‘To Mega Therion’ album, where they were thanking a band called Guillotine) and I thought there might be more bands with the same name. So, I started thinking about changing the band’s name. After a couple of months of thinking it over, I wanted something obscure with some history behind it and so by early 1989, I baptized it with Inquisition. I started writing more material and by 1990, we were in the studio. I also remember the date; it was September 3rd 1990 and I was 18 years old at that time, with several songs written up, but I only had the money to record two songs. The rest of the money, I had to save it for the vinyls. Back then, you could not rely even on an underground label for releasing your demo. YOU released your demo, YOU had to pay for the studio, for the vinyls, and then you travelled the country with your bag, going to different shows and that’s what I did. Some people may still have that vinyl, from the EP in 1990 called “Anxious Death.”
What were your musical influences at that time?
Dagon: Influences were, absolutely, without a doubt, Kreator. I was a Kreator fan and Bathory was also one of my all-time favourite top three bands, but as a guitar player and a vocalist I thought Mille Petrozza was just the ultimate symbol of real Thrash. Sodom was also a huge inspiration. I mean, you do not really hear that in the music, but they were an enormous source of inspiration to me; more from the guitar works of “Obsessed by Cruelty” and “Persecution Mania.” As a guitar player, these two albums were great inspiration and influence to me.
In 1993, I continued writing and then there were also songs which I could not afford to record in 1990, which I then recorded on the 1993 demo called ‘Forever Under’. By then, Death Metal was huge, and Black Metal was growing. Thrash Metal began to sound – and we never thought that would happen to Metal – Thrash started to sound ‘dated’. These were my thoughts back then, even if maybe you don’t agree with me. But back then I thought there was so much extreme stuff coming out, that thrash just did not have the extreme effect it used to have. And that’s why on my demo ‘Forever Under’, I made sure even though it had all my Thrash songs, I would get them recorded as heavy and extreme as I could. The production doesn’t sound like that though. I only had around 300 dollars in my pocket to do it. To reproduce, I would sit at home with three cassette decks and double it….. paste little papers on them and some of my friends helped me doing all that. I mean, that’s TRUE REAL Underground, man. You can’t get any more DIY than that. But I started to move forward and I thought, ”I don’t care what people think…. I don’t care what people are going to say”, because I knew what they were going to say, ”that you are jumping on the black metal bandwagon. You are getting trendy and now you wanna do what everybody is doing”. And so I thought, ”I don’t care…. I am not going to start a new band, I am going to keep it Inquisition”. I noticed that for example Bathory…….even though Quorthon was a creator of genres, he also, despite that, kept the name Bathory. And I thought I can do the same. I was not comparing myself with him, but I just thought ”why can’t you?” It’s just like the author of a book. He can write different styles….fiction, non-fiction, biography….it’s the same author. I wanted to make Black Metal. I wanted to make vicious Black Metal. By then, I was already really involved with the Black Metal underground scene. I wanted to transpose my Thrash Metal school and do something as unique as I could.
Did it also influence you to change your vocals’ style?
Dagon: It’s important to attach this answer to that. By 1994, I had already written the new songs for the EP ‘Incense of Rest’ and that’s the first actual Black Metal version of Inquisition. The drummer and I, we did not really connect to each other anymore and he was not really up for doing this genre. So I outed him in a nice way. To make a long story short, I decided to move back to the States. My life in Columbia was over and I did not need to be there anymore. I thought about getting a good job in the USA where half of my family is from and just start a new life…..but Inquisition will continue….there will be a rebirth of it. My dream was to have a good job to have a comfortable life, so I could be highly inspired and comfortable. Make sure my personal life was in order, so I could begin to write the best material at that time I thought I could ever possibly write, and in 1996 I moved back to Seattle. I had my guitar with me, a headphone and a little tape recorder to record and use it as an amp. Thought I need to find something.. At that time I was not content with the vocals that I did in the previous demo ‘Incense of Rest’ (…which was kind of screechy), and I wanted to do something different… I needed something grim and lifeless… I wanted to go against the grain. I wanted to do something that hasn’t been done, even though subconsciously, I really liked of course Attila’s vocals and Rob Darken’s vocals. And I was back then (..and I still am) a huge Graveland fan. Thousand Swords is one of my all-time favourite Black Metal albums. And also of course Quorthon and that school. And NO, Immortal had zero influence on me as a vocalist even though they inspired me and I already had some similarities with early Immortal guitar works in the Thrash Metal version by coincidence. So I wanted to do my own thing. And that’s really what it is. I wanted something spoken, meditative, not loud, not on top of the band. I did not want vocals that led the band, but rather sat side by side with the music.
How do you connect the name Inquisition with your music?
Dagon: I would not say that the music is parallel to the historic meaning or value of the name ‘Inquisition’. The irony is though the name somewhat should kind of have some parallel to the music being played. So instead of talking about our music I would rather say, how does the name of our band ‘Inqusition’ tie and connect with Black Metal. And ironically the name was created when we were a Thrash Metal band. So goes to show you, I was already searching for something obscure and a meaning behind not coming from a genre that the band itself is from.
So think about what ‘Inquisition’ did. The actual historic Inquisition persecuted. They persecuted anything that posed a threat against the power of the Church, that posed a threat against their faith, posed a threat against even their culture. So they highly guarded this by forcibly converting people under their faith or asking them to leave the country. Think about how wicked and obscure that is….. to an extent I believe that’s everything in Black Metal we either sing about, write about or agree to an extent or even if you do not agree you fantasize about. It should not be a taboo topic. Even people who are truly not racist or anything, they have a romance with WWII, Holocaust and the Inquisition itself… the persecution of heresy. The Inquisition was one of the greatest mass movements of murder, torture and persecution under the power of the monarchy, the Government, the Church. And they slaughtered millions and millions of people. If that’s not bloody enough, if that’s not obscure enough, if that does not fit as the name of a Black Metal band then I don’t know what is!!
I think that ties in heavily with the music what we do. When you listen to our music, it inspires many many obscure things, good or bad, and I think that goes well.
Tell us about the lyrical influences of Inquisition. What’s in your mind when you compose?
Dagon: Cosmology is the biggest influence. It used to be mother nature…..what Black Metal has been for many years…. you don’t see a tree as just a tree, or a mountain as a mountain or a river as a river…. you see it as an embodiment of God or whatever you believe in. So it’s rather ironic to what Black Metal is and at the same time you are worshipping the nature…. it’s like the hippies in the 60’s, except with a twist, a good twist, something deeper. But I have chosen cosmology for the last five or six years (actually much before that), since the ‘Ominous Doctrines’ album. I thought that I would need to go deeper and further than just the mountain over there or the tree over there….. or the cultures…. I think it’s a beautiful thing that you sing about your culture, you sing about your ancestors…. but it’s been done a lot and I can’t just sit and dream in a cloud and be a constant traditionalist. Because… well, if you get too caught up in the ‘piped dream’ like ‘this is what Black Metal should be’, ‘this is what we should always sing about’, then at the end of the day, there’s gonna be the first generation that gets burned out. And I thought we need to go deeper and further, literally further. I was always very obsessed with cosmology and science… quantum physics and all. And before, I never thought it can work, because I thought science is kind of shallow to some of us in Black Metal or Metal in general. When you think about science, you think about numbers and telescope and making notes. But what about the quantum aspect of cosmology? Things we don’t see, not even with the telescope, and that’s when I thought, that’s the occult. The dark matter, the dark energy…
Something which is quite visible in the last album cover…
Dagon: Absolutely, absolutely!! And it represents that mythology and sciences of quantum which have something in common, science confirming what religion has spoken for thousands of years. Mythologies have done some great things for science and philosophy also. They make other people think and some of those people think about becoming a scientist when they grow up and see if the things said in the mythology were true or not!! Maybe there are multiple dimensions, maybe there are parallel universes!! It’s not that crazy to think about it. So, that’s what in my mind: the cosmology, the universe.
What’s your opinion on the current Black Metal scene?
Dagon: You know … that’s a good question because I have a very positive view right now. Positive because things are positive for Inquisition, may be it moulds my outlook on how the scene is right now or it just REALLY is a good fucking moment again. Because even though things are (thanks to everybody, the fans, the supporters) great for us, I step outside of the band and I look at things. To be honest, this is reminding me a little bit about the early nineties again. It really is and I don’t know who can disagree with that because as far as the old guys who have been around – I am 42 and people who are in my age group – I think we can understand and see the parallels of now and the nineties. There are so many die-hards right now and so many good new bands coming up and I feel the fire of the early days are coming back. And I would like to see some of these bands on the professional level so that we can have our own circuit like this… like this tour has proven that you can get some obscure bands together, make a real professional tour, good venue, great killer sound and still maintain that essence. I am really positive about the Black Metal scene right now. A lot of people coming to the show, a lot of people supporting you by buying the merchandise.
You have been touring Europe for quite a while right now. Do you see or feel any difference between the metal fans in Europe and in USA?
Dagon: Ummmmm… in little things but that’s the cultural aspect. Apart from that, the obsession… the craziness – it’s the same over there as well.
Are you acquainted with any Asian bands?
Dagon: I heard a few bands but cannot remember the names right now. The one that jumps out right now from my mind is Genocide Shrines from Sri Lanka; ahhhhh I love that band! I need to know and learn more on that part of the world.
All the best for the hellish times ahead.
Dagon: Thank you. It’s an honour.