Before heading on stage to play sets for two bands, eGigs grabs ten minutes with English drummer James Stewart of Polish death metal veterans Vader to discuss his experiences with the band, the forthcoming 12th album and what he hopes to draw into their belligerent sound.
How are you?
Very well, thank you.
How have the crowds been on this tour?
So far, so good. We had a really nice crowd in Rotterdam. So far, the crowds have been really great.
This tour, you're playing songs from your first album 'The Ultimate Incantation' and your demos. What was the decision behind that?
The demos were re-released at the start of the year and we've been doing the shows in Poland for a little while. We were contacted by Venom Inc. saying that they were putting this tour together. They heard the demos and they really liked them. It's kind of a blast from the past tour.
Nice. So they got in touch with you first?
As far as I'm aware, yes.
How do you find playing this older material?
I've been doing it for so long now. I love these songs; I've played most of them before so it's not a big deal. When we did the last album 'Tibi Et Igni', we recorded two really old ones and they were…all Peter [Wiwczarek, frontman] had for reference was a recording from the rehearsal room from '83. You'd hear a four count and then [makes static noise]. Trying to get anything out of it was a nightmare. Thankfully, a lot of the songs have been re-recorded so you've got bonus tracks on the 25th anniversary album and on 'Impressions in Blood', there's a re-recording of 'GiÅ psie!'. It's much easier for reference and then I can go back and listen to the demos to capture that old school feeling as well. The modern re-recordings are definitely a blessing because you can actually hear what's happening. It's worked out ok. The songs are fun; the crowds are liking them. It's good.
'Tibi Et Igni' was your first recorded appearance with Vader. How did you find the experience? Obviously, you had been playing with them for a few years before.
It was definitely a feeling of 'no pressure' because it was the first album I'd ever done that was going to be released by Nuclear Blast and so I really wanted to make a good impression. Vader has had a long line now of good drummers. It was definitely quite an intense feeling but I tried to put that feeling aside and get on with it. We did quite a lot of work before so we were able to go for full takes. It does sound quite a lot more old school than the previous few releases so I'm happy with how it turned out but it was hard. It's the first ever blast album I've done. It was a real learning curve.
Were you given free rein on the drums or were you briefed on what they wanted?
It was a collaboration more than anything. The way Pete works, the way he writes the songs, he has the song in his head and we'll map out a structure together so I haven't heard any of the riffs before the recording. I know what the drums are going to be doing – or roughly – so we've agreed on a structure and then after that, as long as I keep the structure – as long as I blast where I'm meant to blast, as long as I play the 'polka' stuff as the Polish guys call it, as long as I play that stuff where it's meant to be – when it comes to the fills, then yeah, I get a lot of free rein and actually I get a lot of free rein on stage. I get to be a bit more expressive or flashy or whatever; I get to throw stuff in. It's not total free rein but it's enough, more than enough. When you listen to the Vader stuff, I think 'Tibi Et Igni' is an incredibly well structured album. The song writing is really well structured and everything fits together. Peter has been doing this for a really long time and it works.
Vader have released over ten albums. How do you think they try and remain relevant or try new things?
Vader do what Vader do, regardless of any sort of trend. It has evolved, it has got faster and it has got much heavier. We just try and do it better every time. There are some things that haven't been done on Vader albums that I'm looking to bring back.
Like the sort of more crazy side of things like on the 'De Profundis' album, there's a song called 'Vision and the Voice' which is a bit more out there. And 'Silent Empire' as well – it's aggressive and it's blast-y but it has got some tempo changes and some slow groovy bits. Something from what we're doing now, we're doing 'Breath of Centuries' and 'The Final Massacre' and they're quite slow blast songs but they feel really fast and they've got a lot of energy and so we want to bring that thrash edge back to it.
Yes, the earlier material had a lot of Slayer-esque sounds to it, especially in the solos.
Yeah but Vader just unapologetically just keep being Vader. Some people like it, some people don't and that's all there really is to it.
Vader are releasing a new album next year.
Yeah, we've got plans to have everything ready by autumn next year. We want to be ready by festival season to be playing new stuff. We've already had some really nice festivals confirmed – I can't say anything now but I'm really looking forward to playing new stuff in front of a lot of people.
Have you got any album titles or song titles kicking about?
Not as far as I'm aware. We haven't even sat down and started writing yet. We've taken 'Igni' everywhere and the response was overwhelming so we just want to get on and just do it. We set a date to go into the studio and we just really want to go in there and make a better album.
When do you think you're going into the studio?
The plan is sometime in spring next year. We've still got some other touring to finish off and we've got some bits and bobs to do for the rest of the year so we'll probably get together in January and start doing the song writing and pushing ourselves there. We're going to take a little break off touring for next year and we'll start up at festival season, basically.
Vader tour a lot. You were here earlier this year.
Yeah, hopefully people aren't getting too bored of us! It has been a really crazy year, it's nuts. We kicked off the year with over thirty shows. It went from a few Polish shows to the European tour to the Six Feet Under tour. We had a short break, we had a few Polish shows again then we went to festival season, we had Russia, we had planned to do South America but unfortunately that wasn't able to happen; we're trying to rebook that. Now we've got this tour, which is another thirty shows. I'm doing double duty with Divine Chaos as well. I've been busy with other bands as well so I'm knackered.
Doing two sets is pretty strenuous.
It has been so much fun. I love it, absolutely love it. I would do three if I could, if I had the opportunity.
You don't feel exhausted by the end of the night?
I'm exhausted but it's a good feeling. I suppose it's like going to the gym when people get really into it; they get really pumped or whatever. It's a similar thing, a physical reaction that goes on in your brain, some chemicals get released or whatever. My arms feel like they're going to fall off but I just don't care.
That's a good attitude to have! Do you have any final words for the readers of eGigs?
Keep supporting the local metal scene, going to shows, buying merch and staying metal really.
Thanks a lot, James.