interview by: Alisa Z
The magnetism of Otargos manifests itself in the apt musicianship of these Frenchmen from Bordeaux, such that they remain black metal minus being wearisome. Their infernal melodies gleam with the exaltation of vigorous tunes, integrating originality and skill into all of the songs. Powerful, dark and yet demure, Otargos have released albums that ooze demonic talents without being over-the-top. Their drummer, Arkhamian, poured out his thought (and a little more) in this interview.
Maelstrom: Are you proud to be French?
Arkhamian: We aren't more proud to be living in France than to be living elsewhere. But, in a way, yes, we are proud to be where we are now; in a country that is not known to produce famous bands. Even if lots of French bands do some quality work, few arrive to be famous. There are lots of different problems. The system we evolve in isn't favorable to the emergence of extreme music, so a lot of involvement and willpower is needed in order to succeed and to be recognised. This constitutes the real strength of the people who do succeed.
Maelstrom: How do you like the extreme metal scene is France?
Arkhamian: We can divide the scene into two parts, the bands and the public. Unfortunately, the public is not so big as we'd all like it to be. But usually, it is very motivated. We are beginning to gain some fans and we are always very proud to meet them, to see them during numerous shows, wearing our bandshirts, staying in touch with us... As for the atmosphere of the concerts, it usually resembles the apocalypse, and it's a real pleasure to share our rage and to see the crowd getting frantic throughout the setlist. Concerning the bands, they are excessive and certainly of unequal quality. Some rise and some disappear. Some become friends and some get on our nerves; it's life.
Maelstrom: Do you not fear that you might be considered as a copy of what has already been done instead of being innovative?
Arkhamian: Music, like all art, is always the outcome of something that has already been done. The most important thing for us is that it is done right. Honestly, the riffs we attain from our rehearsals and turn into songs come as they come. We are all influenced by various groups and various styles, so when a riff arrives, it comes from our unconscious. It can be due to the memory of another song and anyway, that is an occasion to have a good laugh, imitating other bands. But we don't really care. The most important thing is to conserve the spirit of the riff, which returns to maintaining a cold and aggressive atmosphere, creating coherent songs which reflect our state of mind and, above all, to give all we have!
Maelstrom: What level of popularity do you hope to achieve?
Arkhamian: The level that could permit us to live off our music without having to modify our music in order to please others.
Maelstrom: How do you intend to recruit fans? I mean, you cannot just say, "Oh, our music is like that of Darkthrone, so you must like us if you like Darkthrone."
Arkhamian: No, we will just say, "Band of BASTARDZ, we're gonna come to your home and blow everything up, and if that's not enough, we will do it again as soon as possible!!!" Up until today, that's how it's been and it seems to be working.
Maelstrom: How is the BM scene in Bordeaux?
Arkhamian: Since the disappearance of Seth, we have become its most important representatives. There exist certain other BM bands, that are more or less stable and longstanding, but few of them play at a national level. Bordeaux is more of a hardcore and death metal town ( I'm thinking of Gorod, for example).
Maelstrom: What does "Otargos" mean? How did you find the name?
Arkhamian: Otargos means "goat" in ancient Greek. The name had been founded by XXX and Dagoth, a long time ago now. It isn't very original, but it doesn't sound too bad and I think that it's an original name for a BM band. Moreover, since our conceptual universe is alienated from BM clichés, this alliance seems fruitful.
Maelstrom: I know this is a banal question, but who are your musical influences?
Arkhamian: These are very diverse. In the band, we find all kinds of influences as long as they are, essentially, unrefined and genuine: death, black, heavy, thrash, grind, rock... We all have a common passion for mythical BM groups like Dissection, Immortal, Dark Funeral... That probably provides the coherence for all this shit. Otherwise, Dagoth and Astaroth see Dave Murray as a god. Personally I think that Nicko McBrain spoils everything, but that's just my opinion...
Maelstrom: And your influences from other spheres of life? Philosphers, writers, rulers, etc.?
Arkhamian: They are numerous as well as diversified. Dagoth has a passion for sstronomy and sidereal cataclysms. Personally, I feel close to it because I am a fan of science fiction and when I was younger, I was into astronomy. I began with Lovecraft, and now I have a passion for other science fiction writers (such as Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Sturgeon...) I regularly practice karate and I'm interested in the history of civilizations and in classical and medieval western art, which, according to me, reached a level of perfection that cannot be equaled. Then, there are studies, a bustling occupation...
Maelstrom: What materials did you use, when recording your last album?
Arkhamian: Dagoth used his Jackson Warrior, connected to a Peavey 5150. Kernun (the ex-lead guitarist) used a 7-string Steve Vai Ibanez, connected to a Laney. XXX used his amazing Warwick Vampire Bass, connected to an Ampeg. I used a Tama (I don't remember which model) with Sabian AAX cymbals.
Maelstrom: Are you satisfied with it or would you like to change something about it?
Arkhamian: We are extremely satisfied with the result. But it is true, that there are certain things that could be improved. Personally, I think the guitar sound could be more sharp and evident, and, in the larger picture, more heavy. We are particularly proud of the sound of the bass. I find Dagoth's solos (the most exuding, à la Slayer, like on "Havocalypse") perfectly amazing. His vocals are also excellent; the work on the voices is really great. I have to say that, I did not at all expect all of this on the final CD. We hope to put these remarks to good use for our next album, <Kinetic Zero>, which comes out in May of 2007. The songs are already finalized and I can say that they will hurt you, A LOT!
Maelstrom: I really liked the songs from the new album, which I had heard. Do you intend to preserve this style or will you experiment in the future, keeping in mind that you will retain this raw BM sound?
Arkhamian: The new material is in the same vein as that of "Havocalypse" and "Unaltered Negative God": straightforward and mean. We also have a mid-tempo song ("Open the Circular Infinite") of which we are very proud, which we play live systematically. As for the guitars, there are a lot more parts for two guitars, with harmonizations that are stranger and more melodic that previously, games of questions / answers that provide a spatial aspect that is perfectly adapted to the conceptual universe conveyed through the lyrics.
Maelstrom: What's the worst thing that happened to you during a concert?
Arkhamian: A pile of shit always happens during concerts, at which point it is relatively unexpected such that everything happens as if with roulettes. From the breaking of strings to the double pedal that doesn't match, or a wire that disconnects, or a drunk guy who falls on it, occasions that aren't lacking. One of the worst memories which remain is that of the haste to play at La Locomotive with Dark Funeral. Having been stuck in traffic, we arrived five minutes before we had to go on stage. We had assembled everything in quadruple the speed, all under the evil eye of Dark Funeral's manager. In spite of the fact that we were missing our corpse paint and not being able to hear ourselves on stage, it did not go too bad and we managed to wake up the Parisian crowd without massacring the songs too much. Having so closely approached a band as mythical as Dark Funeral, this will remain an unforgettable recollection...
Maelstrom: Would you say you're a pessimist or an optimist?
Arkhamian: It depends on the moment and the subject. When it comes to the group, I tend to be an optimist, and, anyway, that is the attitude that one should develop so that the group functions. Our actions and their consequences are the meticulous reflection of our state of mind. Within this context, one should have the morals of steel under all circumstances, and project oneself into the future, knowing how to profit from past errors.
Maelstrom: In your opinion, what is the meaning of life?
Arkhamian: We're all going to die some day. Virtually, we are already dead. So, we should take advantage of the moments that our short existence offers in order to have a really good time. For me, enjoyment does not mean to waste time but to construct things, to amend oneself, to let out steam and to express oneself. It is within this sphere that Otargos is good for us. Personally, playing on stage with Otargos permits me to pour out all the hatred and the rage that has accumulated in me through everyday life. You feel a sensation of power while you are on stage, that is incomparable and orgasmic. You get the impression of doing this solely with the energy that the audience returns back to you. It's really great. In this way, you can see that BM is good therapy for me.
Maelstrom: What do you think of homosexuals?
Arkhamian: They do whatever they want, these DIRTY FAGGOTS! (Private Joke) Seriously, it's the last of our worries. Okay, sorry for the gays and the fucking associations that are reading this, but when you're a guy, you cannot help but think that it is disgusting to suck dicks. I don't care about what they do at home. Concerning the guy who Jon Noidveit killed, I will say..."pas de pot" (note: “pas de pot” = “bad luck”).
Maelstrom: As you probably know, Jon from Dissection and Otto Wiklund of In Battle have recently commited suicide. What do you think of this? What is your view on suicide?
Arkhamian: Ah, look, we find ourselves with Nodveit again. Concerning Otto, I don't know the details. Concerning Nodveit, I find that the circumstances of his death are honorable, in his anti-cosmic sphere of "dying when we are at our maximum." I understand this extreme philosphy, more or less, which makes sense to me even though it is not politically correct. At the heart of this, it is the more beautiful death, having died by one's own hand in full possession of one's capacities, rather than having died old and impotent in a hospital bed. Besides, this made me think of Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.), preceeding Jon involuntarily in this anti-cosmic track. His disappearing is a tragedy, but at the same time, it was a beautiful death, unexpected, at the summit of his art, during a moment of accomplishment.
The disadvantage, if we can say, of Jon's suicide, is that he isn't going to settle the image of BM and Satanism in the media... that which will put sticks on the road more that anything else... Jon, you dirty bastard, You couldn't have waited a bit?! In any case, it will be a shame if all the guys from all the brilliant bands start to kill themselves, one by one.
Maelstrom: How would you like to die?
Arkhamian: I don't want to die (sorry, Jon).
Maelstrom: What would you like to accomplish before dying?
Arkhamian: To understand Dagoth's lyrics.
Maelstrom: If you had a gun, whom would you kill?
Arkhamian: A bunch of people, if I could, but it is better for me and for the band if I don't mention names. But in any case, I would not kill anybody in today's world, even if I had a gun in my hands. I have too much to accomplish to waste my life doing time.
Maelstrom: Is there anything else you would like to say to BM fans?
Arkhamian: Thank you.