Xantotol was one of the first Polish black metal bands. Formed in 1991 and deeply influenced by Swiss bands like Hellhammer and Samael, they were amongst the earliest of their genre alongside Christ Agony, Graveland and Mastiphal. The band split up after releasing two demos and an EP. Masterful Magazine talked to drummer Jacek "Venom" Szczepański about the band's share in Polish and international black metal history, their philosophical lyrical direction and the original black metal mentality and spirit.Hi! Thanks for doing this interview with us! So, how are you feeling about Xantotol's classic "Thus Spake Zarathustra" album being available again for a whole new generation of black metal fans?
Hi, to be honest I don't care much about the new generation because I have no positive feelings about persons who worship all those bands called them self black metal. In fact, they are only caricatures of real black metal bands existed in the past. Some of them existing even now but those bands are not objects of attention of all pseudo-black metal kids.
Xantotol formed in Kutno, Poland in 1991 as one of the country's earliest black metal acts together with Christ Agony and Mastiphal. Did it start out as just a couple of friends jamming out to their favourite bands – or did you have an immediate idea of what you wanted the band to sound like?
I think Crematory, Mastomah and the mighty Pandemonium were older than Xantotol and the mentioned bands. Pandemonium is still existing and they are going to create new great stuff. In 1991 I knew exactly that my band will be a real black metal band with lyrics based deeply on Satanic philosophy. There was no place for any other ideas like NS or other pagan shit.
Xantotol clearly has a death metal foundation in your black metal assault, reminiscent of (early) Ancient Rites ("The Diabolical Serenades") and Samael ("Worship Him"). Of what degree of importance was the emerging Scandinavian black metal sound around the time you decided to form the band?
In 1991 there wasn't something like the Scandinavian sound. Darkthrone played death metal, Varg [Vikernes aka Count Grishackh] played in Old Funeral, there was Amputation not Immortal and only few persons heard about Mayhem. In fact, only Bathory represents Scandinavian scene and to be honest they were the only Scandinavian band which I respect.
In 1991 you released the demo/rehearsal tape "Glory For Centuries", which consisted of an intro/outro, three original tracks and a cover of Samael early classic ‘Into the Pentagram'. How do you remember these early days of the band and the first recording sessions?
Great, but very difficult times. We were 16 years old, we had no cash and no place for rehearsals. Conditions were very uncomfortable, but we had a very strong dark flame inside and in 1991 we recorded our first stuff during rehearsal. Great times, really.
"Glory For Centuries" became a benchmark for Polish black metal and brought the band numerous international contacts. It was widely available in distros all over the world. I guess you spent days writing letters all over the world to the response to this tape?
Yes, it was incredible. One day we were anonymous persons and few weeks later we were in contact with such important persons like Magus [Wampyr Daoloth, George Zaharopoulos] of Necromantia, Stephan [Necroabyssious] of Varathron, Mortuary Drape, Samael, many zines, labels, distros, private persons and many, many more. I'm still in contact with many of them and I've send them our "Thus Spake Zarathustra" re-edition. I think I wrote thousands of letters a week at the time.
In the summer of 1993 the "Cult Of the Black Pentagram" was recorded at KDK Studio. This record once again contained three tracks, plus some intros. At this time the band received a recording contract from Finnish label Hammer Of Damnation Records, which was promptly rejected.
Yes, but it isn't a dramatic story. We received few offers and from Nicko of HOD as well. I don't think it is an important episode in the Xantotol story. Nicko had just asked us if we were interested in a cooperation. We said no because we were in contact with Witching Hour and besides we don't wanted to issue our stuff as CD format because in 1993 this format was reserved only for commercial band which wanted to be famous. That's all, there is nothing heroic in this story.
How would you describe Hammer Of Damnation Records' status and profile in the scene at the time? I wasn't really able to track down any notable information on the label, seeing how there's also a Brazilian black metal label of the same name.
It was label from Finland. I think it was a small label, but they issued few numbers of a really great magazine called Hammer of Damnation. It was an underground magazine, but made in very high quality. I remember that Nicko of HOD had its own very good doom metal band. Also, I remember that HOD issued one of the first Graveland stuff on CD format after we rejected their proposal.
Around this time members of Xantotol decided to form the Fullmoon collective, which came into contact with leading Satanic organisations all over the world, including Order Of Nine Angels (UK), Luciferian Light Group (USA), Collegium Satans – Order Of the Left Hand Path (New Zealand) and authorities as Alberto Vorkt. Did these groups form an international Satanic think-tank together with Fullmoon?
We were in contact with many persons from Satanic organizations all over the world. We strictly cooperated with Faustus Scorpius and his Order of the Left Hand Path. This great organization was recommended by Magus of Necromantia. Magus was in close contact with Faustus too. We needed this kind of activity in Poland because there was no other sources to find interesting and true information about the Satan cult. There was no Internet at the time. Here in Poland, in early 90's, was only chaos and we decided to help Polish people to find this information which they needed.
A bit later an agreement was made with Collegium Satans – Order Of the Left Hand Path for distribution of didactic material and literature prepared by OLHP in Polish territory. At the time it was practically the only source of pragmatic knowledge about 'Satan Cult' in Poland.
Yes, we don't wanted to create our own materials and then we decided to distribute materials made by famous organizations. It was a very reliable source. We had many interesting materials in our offer and we sold it at very low prices, but we sold it only to persons who we knew from the beginning.
Given Poland's rigidly Catholic nature, it was surprising to see that Fullmoon at one point couldn't keep up with the demand for the Satanic literature they distributed. The collective drafted in new members. In the beginning everything went smooth, but at some point the incompetence of new members Fullmoon no longer was hermetic, but became open to all. What exactly went wrong as far as organization and its demise is concerned?
It was my fault that Fullmoon grew too much and too many persons had access to the organization. I've trusted too much and too many persons and they used Fullmoon to promote themselves and their bands. They used other persons for its own target and it was the cause of the organization's demise. As I said it was my fault, I shall be much suspicious.
Xantotol then severed itself from Fullmoon and created the relatively short-lived Temple Of Fullmoon. Temple Of Fullmoon eventually fell prey to internal power struggles and chaos, which sealed its fate. Tell us a bit about that.
Creating the Temple was in practice end of Fullmoon due the reasons mentioned in previous answer. I've put my whole soul into Fullmoon and that's end of Fullmoon story isn't something of a pleasure for me, personally.
1995 saw the release of the ambitious conceptual "Thus Spake Zarathustra" tape, released by Polish label Witching Hour Productions. As the name suggest, it was based on the work of German philosopher F. Nietzsche's output, who is to some extent a spiritual mentor for Xantotol and its output.
Aleister Crowley as well. Yes, Nietzsche was a kind of mentor. In 1995 it was hard to understand for many persons that real Satanic philosphy comes from Nietszsche's philosophy. People believed and many of them still believing that Satan is a kind of person with horns and only one thing which Satan does is burning churches and crashing crosses. People can't understand that the real Satan cult has nothing in common with evil presented by the Catholic church. It was very difficult for us in 1995 to show how the things really were.
At what point did you decide that the philosophical literature of Friedrich Nietzsche was to become the lyrical and conceptual focus. Was it any of his books in particular that set you out on this remarkable lyrical course?
There was two ways. One was to write own lyrics concerning Satanic Nietzsche'anism or use words of a mentor. We chose the second way to not lose any important word and thoughts. In my opinion not LaVey's "Satanic Bible" is a Satanic bible, in a fact, but mentioned "Thus Spake Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzsche is.
"Thus Spake Zarathustra" was supposedly planned as a mini-cd, but ended up being released as a tape instead. Was this the result of miscommunication between the band and its label – or was it done because of economical reasons, I can imagine tapes being cheaper at the time?
There were never plans to issue "Thus..." as mini CD. We knew that this stuff in 1995 would be issued in tape format. All Witching Hour Productions materials were issued as a tape at that time.
In 2004 Kampf Records and Seven Gates Of Hell Records released "Liber Diabolus: 1991-1996" – a retrospective album compiling all of the band's recorded history remastered in a digi-pack cd, which was limited to 666 copies. What made Kampf Records and Seven Gates Of Hell Records the ideal companions to release this compilation, in what ways were they different a label than Hammer Of Damnation Records?
The difference was about….. 15 years and completely new situation. In 2004 the CD format means nothing. Just a way of sound transporting, but in 1993 it was a sign that black metal scene was going into a commercial direction. The CD format was, in 1993 for me personally, a symbol of the fall of the black metal underground. I prefer to issue our stuff as a rehearsal than to issue Xantotol music on the CD format.
In the early 1990's Poland was carving out a place on the international metal map with crude but promising (symphonic) black metal acts as Christ Agony, Graveland and Mastiphal. Was there much camaraderie among Polish black metal bands, how was the scene at the time?
Yes, here in Poland we were in contact with many band like Graveland, Mysteries, Bustum, Mastomah and many more. Everybody knew and supported each other. I have no idea what is the situation at the moment. I'm personally in contact with persons from bands like Pandemonium, Taranis, Hermh and some younger bands like the extremely interesting Blaze of Perdition.
Black metal of the early 1990's was entirely different in mentality, execution and outlook than it is today, now that the genre has exploded and much of it has become sterile and commercialized. The genre was swathed in mystique which is something that is sadly absent today. How much do you still identify yourself with the black metal scene of today?
I don't identify with the present black metal scene at all. To be honest, there is only few black metal bands - the rest of them are just pseudo-black metal bands and they are not worth of attention. Here in Poland I recommend great band called Blaze of Perdition and Pandemonium, of course. This is true black metal with no influences like melancholic (!), symphonic (!!!) and other shit. Necromantia, Rotting Christ and Mortuary Drape are still existing and, in my opinion, those bands still represent the true black metal spirit.
Witching Hour Productions also was slated to release "Czort" for which the band prepared 60 minutes worth of material. This project was cancelled by the label and the material for these sessions was never officially recorded. Why was that and did you end up re-working this material for new projects and bands?
Well, in about 1995 the situation of the black metal scene had changed dramatically. It wasn't the same environment anymore. We didn't wanted to exist in this kind of reality and because of that we decided to finish our activity. In other words, there was no place for old school black metal band in the scene.
At what point did Witching Hour Productions approach you about a possible lush re-release of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and how did things move from there on? Were there ever any plans to re-issue "Liber Diabolus: 1991-1996" or were the copyrights too difficult to obtain?
"Liber Diabolus" will not be re-issued anymore and "Thus Spake..." as well. I would like to re- issue "Cult of The Black Pentagram" on 7" EP vinyl but only by Witching Hour Productions. If Bart will not do that, nobody will. We were not in contact with Bart of WHP since 1996. When we met again in 2009, we both decided to re-issue "Thus Spake..." and that's all. This is a deal based only on non-profit and friendship base. Thank you again, Bart.
Tell us something about the hardships, problems and struggles that extreme metal bands behind the Iron Curtain went through in the early 1990's. I can imagine that it was hard to get decent gear, a rehearsal studio and find affordable recordings studios that knew how to handle and correctly produce extreme metal?
Only one problem we had it was that we were very young. We were 16-17 years old. We had no cash for good equipment. I don't think that the Iron Curtain was a problem. Honestly, we didn't think about that this was. If you had the cash you can record stuff in good conditions even in 1990.
Okay, that about sums it up. Feel free to end this interview in any way you like. If there's anything of importance we might have forgotten to mention or anything you'd like to add, just go ahead. Thanx a lot and all the best to all of you!
I would like to thank you very much for this interesting interview. I think it is very good that somebody wants to remember the old bands and old good times. Please support Witching Hour Productions and all true black metal bands. Thank you again for your attention.
Czy damy radę wpasować się w panujące dzisiaj trendy tego nie wiem. Mam nadzieję, że tak i płyta zdoła troszkę namieszać i odbije się to echem w środowisku. Mam też nadzieję, że będziemy w stanie pokazać, że scena ma się dobrze i zachęcić innych do tego że warto coś robić mimo tego, że się mieszka daleko od siebie.
Jest old school, bo nie zagraliśmy ani jednego oryginalnego dźwięku, kawałki są krótkie, jest w nich mnóstwo thrashu i punka, szczypta death metalu – to dla wielu będzie właśnie przepisem na grindcore, zmieniają się tylko proporcje. Nie boli nas ta łata, nie chce nam się też szukać innej.
Może dzięki uwielbieniu Dissection jest na Heading Below więcej melodii? Może za sprawą Testimony of Ancients znalazły się klawiszowe podkłady? Być może dlatego, że kochamy Autopsy jest więcej tłustych zwolnień? Jakoś tak to wszystko naturalnie przyszło.