WM: Greetings VK. To kick things off, could you please provide some background information about Vassafor, for any readers who may not be familiar this band? When did you form Vassafor? Who is or has been involved? What have you put out so far and where can interested people get their hands on your releases?
VK: Vassafor started in mid 90s after having been possessed with enough of the Black Metal feeling to do something about it. We were only a 2 piece as there were only DL (now a Sydney resident) and I in Auckland at that time who had any musical skill and similar tastes. We wrote songs and recorded them with our extremely primitive equipment at the time. These dubbed tapes were what we consider our first demo made up of 2 of the songs we had written in the first era of the band. As Dan and I drifted into our own drug hells and moved to different cities Vassafor slumbered until MMIV when I finally found musicians to fill out the lineup. The modern era of Vassafor began once Ben joined on drums in MMIX. We have released demos and vinyl previously but now our debut dLP Obsidian Codex is out via Parasitic Records and a CD/dLP called Elegy of the Archeonaut, which is compilation of selected tracks from our past, has been released by Dark Descent Records. We will have copies of both at Evil Invaders….
WM: What influences Vassafor, both musically and non-musically? What inspired you to play such a dark form of music? It would seem that Vassafor is a very personal project to you, why is this?
VK: Satan, Classical music that was the soundtrack of my childhood, Hellenic/East European BM of the 80s/90s, lucid dreaming, Martial Arts, Blasphemy, Beherit and Mercyful Fate. And then it was all filtered through the drug use of that time and being stuck in Auckland where there was NO ONE to play with other than 2 or 3 people who actually had any skill and taste.
WM: With the only consistent member of Vassafor being you, it makes one question; why? Do you prefer to work alone or in a group-type situation? Are there any musicians you have preferred playing with over the years?
VK: I am Vassafor and the demon has become me over the years. I would prefer to have a solid lineup and create music within a full band framework, it would take a hell of a lot less time, energy and resources! However I don't compromise 1 iota when it comes to music so perhaps that wouldn't be such a successful method towards composing Vassaforian material. I have never found a 100% perfect full lineup. Its been very close over last few years. I have been extremely fortunate to have guys like Heath Mortlock involved for years playing live bass with us, but his band is Skuldom (who are fucking brilliant!) so he, of course, has that as his priority. We had Mike Hoggard from Ulcerate playing 2nd guitar with us for a while which was the ultimate lineup so far, but Ulcerate are enjoying well deserved success and touring opportunities now they have signed with Relapse so again he had to prioritize them. As I previously mentioned though, Ben is without a doubt the person I have related closest to musically since the original era with Dan and myself. I have put together a lineup for Vassafor now in the States that combined with Ben would be perfect….now to sort out moving the timezones closer haha!
WM: I understand that you have been playing music for a very long time and that Vassafor is only one of many bands that you have played with. Would you mind providing a brief history of what you’ve been involved with outside of Vassafor?
VK: I am 40 now and have been playing music since I was a young teenager. First bands I was proud to be part of were the Death Metal band Spine which was from 91-96 and dark rock band Canis which was over a similar time period. That was in the vein of Birthday Party/Babylon Whores. I was a bassist for hire for a bunch of bands as a young musician and got to tour through Europe and States which was awesome experience…but it was playing other peoples stuff that I wouldn't usually listen to and it got in the way of my doing Vassafor, hence the massive delays in our history near the beginning. That taught me that if I was ever going to play someone elses music then it had better be things I was into and was proud to be a part of. When I returned to Auckland after having been away for some years I played in a few bands as I put together Vassafor lineup. I played with Ulcerate for a while as they refined their style before the first album. Shortly after this time I recorded the Diocletian demo and subsequently joined them as a contributing member until the end of the 2nd album. The first Diocletian gig we played was Evil Invaders 2 in Melbourne. In MMIX I received the War Kommand and joined ranks with Blasphemy for the Helsinki and Montreal shows. During this entire period, Vassafor has always been priority, even if its seemed like it was bubbling away under the surface outside of many peoples consciousness.
WM: I’ve heard that you like to present a live Vassafor show as a “ritualistic” experience. Could you elaborate on that and somehow describe a live Vassafor set?
VK: We try to stimulate as many of the senses at once when we play. So that means sight, smell/taste, touch and obviously hearing. The music is illustrating the lyrics…which tend to be written first these days so I can make sure the music is appropriate to the content of what is being vomited out. As the majority of the lyrics have a basis in death worship in various forms (from Aghori to galactic entropy, endless cyclical warfare to hagakure/bushido) it is appropriate to have a stage that stands outside of time. That is why we have minimal light, as much fog/smoke as possible, hooded demons to depersonalize the band members on stage and endless death via the bone sculptures we build. At the centre of our stage is the altar we build whenever possible, usually with mounds of decaying rats. They have a truly horrific smell and have been used over and over, frozen and re thawed till they become a mass of sludge with tails. The incense and candles create a haze and distort the senses further so all that is in focus is the cold, bleached sterility of eternal death on stage with the warped, slurred evil penetrating the audience via ears, eyes, nose etc. We'll probably have to spare you the rats in Sydney….but most NZ maniacs who have witnessed our live hell will tell you our rituals linger in your mind, as a scar that slowly fades….
WM: Continuing from my last question; is there a ritualistic element to your writing process? This is not uncommon in black metal, but, I always find it interesting to read how different musicians approach their writing process.
VK: I have written for so long now that I have abandoned most of the earlier methods I once employed to write material. Also I'm not using drugs anymore so that helps get things out now haha! Once upon a time I would go to any length for music, whether mixing really bad chemicals or driving myself into trance states through sleep deprivation or cutting or whatever I could do to get the Black Metal feeling rushing through myself as I would play and write. I have used what I would call Chaos Grids that came to me in dreams and write out long phrases where each letter would relate to different notes on the guitar as I would play them. I would try and write as much via my dreams as possible, and would always try a will my self awake to then pick up my guitar and work pieces out. You can imagine how well that went down with some of my girlfriends during that time! Not that I gave a fuck…
Now though I rarely use any of these methods, well I still occasionally bring out the Chaos Grids. I can write anytime, anywhere at will and I don't even really need a guitar or bass anymore. I think its much stronger now because this music has been subjugated to my will and I am its master, rather than being its slave. Vassafor is the conduit when the mind empties and creation vomits forth.
WM: What was your experience playing with the legendary Canadian black metal skinheads Blasphemy like? Could you please detail your involvement with Blasphemy?
VK: I live in Vancouver now so my experience with Blasphemy continues. I am part of the Ross Bay Cult now even though I considered myself merely to be helping these guys out when I first came here in MMIX. Blasphemy is a unique group of people that couldn't exist in any other environment. The various insane stories you may hear about the Desecrators seem at first to be over the top and fanciful….until you hear the real stories and they are often far more insane than you would think possible. And they have the scars to match. The Vancouver scene of the late 80s and early 90s was rough as guts. Blasphemy has strong ties to various Aussies and bands. I know Blasphemy would be into playing in Australia, but I would be very surprised if Black Winds, Storms or 3 Black Hearts would be able to enter the country with their legal histories…very surprised haha!! We will never be able to play in the States that's for sure...
WM: For a while now, there has been talk of a Vassafor full length entitled “Obsidian Codex” that has yet to emerge from the abyss. Do you still have plans to release this album? Has the recording been finished? What can you tell us about the musical evolution of Vassafor? How about the lyrical themes?
VK: It has manifest out of the void and into the now. Epic is one word for it…Its Black Metal but it definitely has plenty of Doom and Death influences I guess. All I try to do is make every song as dark as possible. Whether its with ultra doom in the song Nemesis or using the destructive tone of 2 basses on album closer Makutu. Some songs have much chaos involved (Archeonauts Return, Sunya) and some are more straight forward (Rites of Ascension, Obsidian King). I prefer albums to have variety, I can't stand records where the listener has no idea which song they are listening to. One of my biggest complaints about metal that is based on technique and not songs...
WM: Could you provide a brief description of what each of the following things mean to you on a personal and spiritual level; “black metal”, “Satanism” and “death worship”?
VK: "Black Metal" - Satanic music, that is all. Zero political agenda!! Fuck feeble minded political slaves.
"Satanism" - many things to many people. My left hand path started as Might is Right mixed with Do What Thou Wilt but has headed down a different road. It must come from an individualistic background and experience to have any form of meaning however.
Death Worship - Vassafor. Veneration of black doom and eternal death….cleansing Sunya.
Death Worship - Vassafor. Veneration of black doom and eternal death….cleansing Sunya.
WM: Earlier this year, Vassafor played in Australia at the Devil’s Arcana black metal festival, an event which I unfortunately was unable to attend. How was your overall experience during the festival? I’ve been told by a few people that your performance was excellent. Were you satisfied with your performance? I’ve also heard that your set design was incredible; can you tell us a bit about that? Were you behind the design of it?
VK: I was extremely pleased that Devil's Arcana was the first Vassafor Australian performance as we have very strong ties with the organizers Suzanne & Adrian. I have a huge amount of respect for both of them, personally & professionally. They went above and beyond to accommodate us with what we needed to present our plague, and as a result we delivered a suitably potent dose of Vassaforian Hell to that room and the people who witnessed it. I certainly enjoyed seeing the look of shock on some of those peoples faces at Valve that night. A few appeared traumatized haha! The venue owner, Greg, is a great ally of ours from his years running a venue in NZ also and he gave us exactly the sound we going for. I was very impressed by some of the other bands there, especially Ill Omen and Spire, both of whom delivered strong sets. It was great for us to be able to play with our allies Erebus Enthroned as well, I had been looking forward to seeing them for some time and thought they played extremely well and with real conviction behind their words and performance. I'm looking forward to seeing them once again at Evil Invaders…and more whiskey ritualization of course!
WM: Vassafor will be playing in Sydney again at the Evil Invaders festival next year. I understand that you have been involved with and attended this festival in the past. What are your overall thoughts regarding Evil Invaders?
VK: Between playing at Evil Invaders 2 and then mainly attending #3 and mixing a good number of the bands at the 4th installment, I've been really impressed not only by the growth in the event but also the great camaraderie there seems to be within much of the Metal scene that attends these gigs. Certainly the standard of bands is superb, and I like the fact it is getting more diverse each year. I personally would have enjoyed more BM in earlier fests but I think the lineup announced for #5 has the balance pretty much perfect to my tastes. I like the fact there was some Doom involved last fest, and we certainly will have some doom elements to our performance but we intend to make sure Black Metal is well and truly represented along side our brothers in Archgoat, Spire and Erebus Enthroned. Something I think is great about this festival is that it smashes foreigners idea of Aussie metal being one style that still seems to linger in some parts of the globe…..its been a long time since the prevalence of Black Thrash coming from your shores but I suspect the perception still exists in many European minds. One look at any of the fest lineups of last few years should shatter that assumption.
However I would say a massive FUCK OFF to the HiFi bar in Melbourne for fucking everyone over at EI 2. What bunch of cunts they were…
WM: I think it would be safe to assume that you are a fan of some Australian metal. What bands stand out to you the most from this country?
VK: Absolutely! The Aussie scene has been very inspirational over the years. It was the usual suspects like SadEx, Bestial Warlust, dISEMBOWELMENT, Nazxul and Misery that were the first ones that I really got to listen to but these days it seems like the underground is incredibly healthy there. Grave Upheaval is a band that really stands out to me as they are inhabiting the exact same atmosphere that Vassafor exists within, even though both of our musical styles are quite different. I have a massive amount of respect for the SA bands Denny and Damon have been involved with. Quite apart from their tremendous musical skill and songwriting ability, I am always blown away by how varied bands like CBR, Misery's Omen, Martire, Stargazer, Mournful Congregation, Johnny Touch are, but all the bands are still utterly metal as hell, all at such a high level and no compromise! I can't even believe how damn great the finally released Martire LP is, total worship!! That's how to play vicious assaulting DM! Obviously its impossible to go past a band like Portal when talking about unique musical entities. And same can be said for Impetuous Ritual or Spire for that matter. It was great to see Ill Omen at Devil's Arcana and then hear the Divinity Through Un-Creation album (an absolutely deadly record!!) and the Temple Nightside material, which I have played a lot over the last 6 months. Other bands I play regularly are usual suspects like Innsmouth, Ignivomous and Sacriphyx. And those damn Crucifire 7"s! What happened to those guys anyway? Those tracks are savage!
Still, after having said all that, the Oz band I thrash on my stereo the most is still Vomitor…what can I say, I'm old and still worship Obsessed by Cruelty!
WM: Aside from playing Evil Invaders, what future plans are in the works for yourself and Vassafor?
VK: As always the main thing is music. We are completing a series of split LPs and compilation tracks. Those should all be completed by Evil Invaders. On the live front, plans are in motion for appearances in a variety of timezones. By the time this is published we will have played in Berlin at the Storms of Damnation gig that is/was after NWN fest. We will play in Calgary next year at Torment in Fire fest with Mystifier which I am pretty rapt about! Other fests and potential tours are on the cards but we'll see what happens. I have never been that interested in repeatedly playing gigs in the same places to the same people, so I have targeted places/bands/gigs I wish to be involved with. It would be amazing to play in Aokigahara for example….
WM: Thank you for the interview. Any final words?
VK: Cheers. We plan to give Sydney a taste of total hell next June. To the fuckin death!