Witching Metal: Hails Dagon! To start this interview off, why don’t you tell us a bit about Inquisition? Just some background information on who is in the band, what bands you and Incubus have played with in the past, what Inquisition has released over the years, how the band was formed and anything else you find relevant.
Dagon: From 1983 to 1996 I lived in Colombia, South America where half of my family is from and it was there where I discovered metal music at the young age of 13. After learning to play guitar, by the age of 14 I had some bands, none worth mentioning… by the age of 17 in 1989 Inquisition formed. It was like a different band, it was a Thrash Metal band, a very aggressive one especially live and I released two demos in that style dating 1990 and 1993.
I eventually broke away from that style and moved Inquisition into a darker arena, the members I had were not sharing the same tastes at the time and did not care for this musical and ideological “shift”, myself feeling very strong about this I asked the members to leave, I basically gathered my things and decided to move back to the United States in 1996 and start my life and Inquisition all over again.
I met quickly with a drummer when I arrived in Seattle whom I had met through Odin of Moribund Records, Tom Stevens (Incubus), who also had been playing drums for many years in everything from old school hardcore to Death Metal bands like Blood Ritual from Seattle. The chemistry was there, it worked and here we are 16 years and 5 albums later and moving forward as the same two piece that started in ’96.
WM: How would you describe Inquisitions unique sound to someone who has not heard your music before?
Dagon: Somber, powerful, majestic… raw and bold to the taste with a polished finish in the end. The vocals are invocative, spoken, never trying to dominate the song, they simply set a mood of serenity with a reptilian tone.
I would tell anyone who is expecting traditional Black metal to not keep their expectations high because Inquisition will never meet those expectations. We will either be below them or far above them, we are a love it or hate it band.
We make effort to bring something new to the table and give you an experience. If you don’t find that experience on your first tries you just might find it later and that is why many label us as a “grower”… that fine drink that tasted like shit before but eventually you learned it was something special.
WM: Why did you choose to change direction from the more thrash influenced material present on your early releases to the ritualistic black metal Inquisition is now known for?
Dagon: Change is the only thing constant and the reason is nature tries to improve itself while changing. In Black metal almost anything goes musically speaking, there are no barriers. If you try to blast beat in Thrash Metal purists will question it for example. Black Metal is where pushing the limits, and more, is the very essence of its existence. This is what I wanted, a place in music where everything mas accepted so long it was done tastefully and with maximum meaning. I could identify with it and wanted it, Black Metal, obscurity, occultism, Satanism in general on a spiritual level to label it so and beyond that I was seeking a genre where music was beyond the rock and roll spirit.
WM: What ideals are behind the music Inquisition produces? Judging by the song titles, lyrics and artwork; one would assume a Satanic and/or Occult agenda, could you go into a bit of detail behind your theological inspirations?
Dagon: The spirit of nature and the astral plane. Whenever you question why we are here, I seek the answer through deep thought and try to make sense of it and sing about it. Everyone from the Egyptians and Sumerians, to the ancient Greeks and Native Americans questioned this, why we are here and what role does nature and the cosmos play for us. I cannot clearly explain in a logical context what our topics are because they are questions I have yet to answer, but I will leave you with the fact that everything we sing about is adoration for the unseen, the forces of nature and the cosmic forces that are constant and destroy while they also create. Who are we amongst this cycle and war between the forces of black holes and expansions of multiverses?
I hope my metaphors guided you into somewhat of an idea.
WM: Expanding on my previous question, what musical influences have an effect on how you go about writing music for Inquistion? What type of music do you listen to on a regular basis?
Dagon: I listen to allot of Old Tangerine Dream, their music from 1969 to 1976 grabs me like nothing can in Metal. I have been listening to them since the 70’s when my older brother was playing the album “Stratosphere” all the time. Michael Jarre, his two classics that need no mention here are also playing through my devices allot. I think this is where the repetitiveness and ritual aspect of Inquisition comes from.
Dead Can Dance, basically every single album possesses me. It is some of the most beautiful music ever made in modern times, they do it right.
Music from the Gothic period to the end of the Baroque encompasses my favorite music. It is here where everything I write and feel come from. This is where the most mystical, dark and yet beautiful music comes from… in my world. No amplifiers needed, no distortion needed, no screaming needed… subtle beauty is the beast and as a musician I owe everything we do to the masters of the old past of early Europe. To keep the answer simple I will not mention any particular composers.
When it comes to Metal music, who inspired me so much have been AC/DC because of the guitar work, stripped down “basic” playing with incredible tone, but behind this simplicity comes the ability to make it work just right. To start with a million ideas and strip everything down to the point where minimum is maximum is something I adore and AC/DC are in a clear first place when it comes to this approach I apply myself. Early Kreator, early Sodom and Bathory and into the 90’s bands like early Immortal and Graveland inspired me very much.
WM: Why did you choose to name your band Inquisition? Does the word hold any particular meaning to you?
Dagon: I primarily chose this name because of the era it comes from and because of what was behind the entire institution. Dark Ages, mass execution, mass torture, genocide in general and the struggle to dominate a continent through a religious institution is a classic example of the beast in man.
WM: Do you feel Inquisition has “progressed” or “evolved” musically since your beginnings way back in the late 80s? If so, how?
Dagon: Good question because I always choose the word “evolve”. Basically you can still hear the old Inquisition in the framework of the current Inquisition. Most of what would have been palm muted on the guitars in the old days is open tremolo picked chords today, blast beats now versus half of that before, power chords then and power chords now but with more minors tucked away in there keeping the mood nostalgic. It’s like taking a Thrash Metal song and “blackening” it… that’s what Inquisition is.
WM: How did you come up with the idea to use the ritualistic “chant” like vocals that serve, along with the interesting guitar work, to set Inquisition apart from the black metal pack?
Dagon: There are multiple reasons behind this. The main reason is I tried on demo #3 (Incense of Rest) the screaming style and later realized I wanted something more mystical, by mystical I mean a voice that was not a primary focus and that sort of sat in the back ground quietly not drawing too much attention to itself… if that makes sense.
I thought this out over a course of time, how to sound, how to do it and what tone did I want so it simply didn’t sound average. But I clearly remember one day in April ’96 sitting in a camping trailer out in the woods, only having my guitar and a cassette recorder on batteries experimenting and finally finding “the” voice. It was a bit different but quite grim, a bit like old Tormentor or Root.
I later moved into an apartment and being I could not be so loud at night I began recording my riffs and vocals at low levels… it was then when I noticed that this style of vocals at lower levels, performed quietly would suit the music just the way I wanted it to and conveyed the message and essence perfectly to my taste without ever thinking, for a second, that it would be one of – if not – the most controversial thing I could have done.
As for the guitar work in response to the second part of the question. I never wanted thin and bright guitars like the type that were being used in most Black Metal of the day. I always wanted a thick and heavy sounding guitar to back up those subtle vocals creating a contrast. I aimed for a heavy and strong tremolo picked style with heavy gauged strings and tuned down to D while also applying some basics of classical guitar I learned for five years. Basically this combination of important techniques used in Thrash Metal, Death Metal and Classical guitar combined into one mass. One thing you don’t see and realize you hear is, I play hard, very hard, heavy picking at all times and at times creating dynamics on the opposite end of the spectrum by picking very lightly to add some dynamics, this is done mostly more now than before but in general this is what you are hearing.
WM: Another thing I have noticed about Inquisition is that you are one of few black metal bands who continue to use corpse paint whilst many other bands have abandoned its use. What does the paint symbolize to you and why do you continue to use it?
Dagon: If we stop using it I would hate to have to tell you we stopped using it because everyone now uses it or removing it is the thing to do now.
My favorite part of the face paint is knowing it no longer holds shock value. It should not have shock value and it should not be a distraction from what matters most which is the music and the mood you are trying to lead listeners into.
The face paint is an aid to eliminate the “you” and bring out the inner self for reasons of heightening the spirit. It is an ancient practice, if not a pre historic practice always done before battles and rituals or on occasions of great importance and a brilliant idea to have brought into Black Metal because it enhances the mood of the performer, it wipes away the personal connection between you and the listener as your face is no longer “there” and gives the musician a moment to transcend into the mood right before stepping onto stage.
WM: Why does Inquisition choose to work as a two-piece? This seems rather unusual in the case of a band that regularly tours and plays live. Do you feel the practice of only having two members in the band affects the sound in a positive or negative way, if any way at all?
Dagon: It has been very positive and this is why we choose to continue this way. The simple answer is “it works” and “it is not broken so why fix it”?
The details are that we had a bass player for 3 months; he had some personal issues that became conflictive with the band. Unfortunately we had to continue without him and after a while of not having a bass player and not even being interested in finding one since there were none in our area we could relate to, I figured if we sound good in a rehearsal room we could sound even better live as a two piece. We tried it and it worked, we tried it again and it worked. We went to Europe in 2001 as a two piece and it worked well… so, why not continue this way and so we did.
I like the bass; it is a vital part of music. However, you can exist without one. What I mean by that is that if your style allows for it, you can exist without a bass. Our first full length album has a bass; you don’t even notice it, because our style allows for it not even being there.
I actually have a demo of our latest album with every song having a bass line because I wrote bass for the album to see if we should do it. The verdict was that we sounded different and not different–good, rather different in a way we did not like it, and yes I wrote very good bass lines yet we still felt the same way some bands would feel if they were to add a keyboard to their music.
At the end of the day, what adds to the Inquisition sound is the fact that we are a two piece on and off the stage. Remember what I said earlier, anything can be done musically in Black Metal as long as it is done tastefully. I respect bass, I cannot imagine allot of music without low bass lines… just remember, my guitar style incorporates bass lines in at least the guitar lines so there are some bass melodies most of the time.
WM: Does Inquisition often perform live shows? What can one expect upon attending one of these?
Dagon: We perform allot, every month we are somewhere performing. We enjoy it, that’s why we do it so much. I feel music is best understood when the artist is there in front of the listener executing a song they have listened to at home multiple times. Unfortunately shows are not the best atmosphere for listening to music, but we have to come to accept the fact that these are modern times when Metal shows are not going to be in castles and caves.
What to expect from us live? A quick 60 minutes of transcendental and ritualistic Black Metal while offering the most head banging you may ever do at a Black Metal show. We keep things mystical but we never leave out groove, we want to move you spiritually and physically.
WM: What short and long term goals are planned for the future of Inquisition? Are there any plans to tour, or perhaps work on a new release? I know you’ll be touring Australia next week, playing a couple of shows with Vomitor and also headlining the Friday and Saturday nights of the Evil Invaders festival next week, a weekend which I am really looking forward to, what are your thoughts regarding this tour and festival?
Dagon: I definitely cannot wait to hear Vomitor. Believe me, if I am saying that it is because I truly mean it.
I know the Australian scene well when it comes to bands and its role in music. What I also know is your bands are absolutely violent, catchy and perform from the heart with allot of passion. That says allot about the people down there and what’s in your water. That being said my conclusion is that Inquisition will fit right in. This is our first time there and it’s a special trip for sure. I am glad this happened now while having 5 albums and not before, this enables us to offer you a great set list.
Next year we will have a new album out. Season of Mist Records signed us and will be the label releasing it worldwide, not just in their territory. We have already made some progress with new songs, working slowly, carefully, methodically while inspiration leads us.
Sometime after Fall we will be closing the chapter of the “Ominous Doctrines…” world touring, take a break, get the album finished, enter the studio and wait for its release while giving the scene a break from Inquisition. Once the next album is out, tours will have been booked for 2013 and we go from there. We want to grow in a healthy way by pushing the limits more and more and we want to leave a good name in Black Metal before we stop doing this one day, we cannot do that if we don’t work hard at it. That’s the future you have asked me about.
WM: Thank you for taking the time to complete this interview. Any last words?
Dagon: This was a good opportunity to bring readers into our world for a brief moment and introduce them lightly to our activity. To the readers: support your local promoter, this really is no easy task for them and in turn we will leave you with an experience. We are not out to make history, but we definitely will take you places through the spells. Enter the cult.