Behemoth: Better Than Before — Exclusive Interview
The past year has been a life-changing experience for Behemoth frontman and guitarist Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski. The rocker spent the past year in a hospital in Poland battling leukemia, which he was diagnosed with last summer. Since then, he had been going through treatment and facing some of the toughest moments of his life.
Fans reached out to assist Nergal to find a bone marrow match. After dealing with the ups and downs of his illness, he is slowly working his way back to doing what he does best — making music with Behemoth.
Noisecreep recently spoke to Nergal about his health issues, his experiences battling leukemia, and how that has influenced the writing of his forthcoming record.
Noisecreep: It’s been a while since we last heard from you. How are you doing these days?
Nergal: I’m getting better. Each week I’m getting stronger, more power, and more vitality. No complaints really. I’m mean it’s still going to take few months until a full recovery but it’s developing and I’m happy about it.
So how long were you in the hospital?
Six months. I started in August and it took me almost six months to recover. Three months after the transplant. The first eight weeks were rough. I wouldn’t move that much out of my house. I had to keep myself in a sterile condition. With time and now after the 100th day after the transplant, I’m more relaxed. The worst times are behind. From now on it will be better.
Did you go back to playing guitar right away?
I’ve played guitar for about two months now. No electrics — just acoustic stuff. Chill out stuff. Things that stretch my fingers [like] no fast picking, no leads, [and] no black metal stuff. This will come soon, within one or two weeks. I wanna start playing the old Behemoth stuff and within the next six weeks, we start rehearing for the shows coming this October of this year.
What was it like picking it up again after so much time not being able to play it?
I was really scared to grab the guitar and start playing. When I did I was terrified. Originally I was thinking it was like bicycle riding. But it’s exactly opposite. The longer the break, the more you lose. You lose the technique. Then to bring back the technique, you need to work twice as hard as before. So it’s kind of a pain in the ass but there’s a lot of fun ahead of me and I’m getting more passionate about it. I’m more optimistic about it. Nothing can go wrong really.
Did you get a renewed appreciation for the guitar during your health scare?
Not really. Definitely my way of viewing things after I left the hospital changed…not drastically but I had to value things in life. When I came back from the hospital I valued friendships way more than I did before. I tried to spend more time on things that really do have meaning for me in life. Not to waste time any more. I learned before I was sick I would try to do everything by myself. Because I was like no one else could do better than me. Things had to be done today. I would stress myself. Everyone else wouldn’t have stuff done. And now I’m like, ‘take your time.’ Take it easy. If it becomes tomorrow instead of today, the world isn’t going to collapse because of that. I’m becoming more relaxed than before, and I try not to stress myself too much.
So how did you originally discover something was wrong with you? Do you remember the first signs of the illness?
I found out that I was sick in the hospital when the diagnosis came. It was in August , but the symptoms came approximately two months prior to when I was diagnosed with leukemia. The symptoms were I had bumps all over my head. Everywhere where my hair was I has like this skin infection or something underneath my fingers. I thought it was a skin infection or skin disease or allergy or something. I had no clue. I left for a tour and it wouldn’t disappear. It was still there. I felt fine but I was playing shows every day.
I was drinking alcohol. Everything was fine. This time, I would have diarrhea pretty much all that time. I would lose weight but I was in good spirits all the time. It was weird. After that, because of the concerts starting, I started having breathing problems and started sweating like a pig. Two days before I officially got to the hospital it was pretty disastrous.
Does this whole experience seem surreal to you, that you got a clean bill of health while other patients may not?
To be honest, for some reason, I was aware. Everything was so great [for me]. I know there were people dying and people leaving in black body bags. I saw that. With the others being there, it could happen to anyone there, but everyone else’s health cases are different. For some reason, I had to find strength, and in my case it’s going to be not as heavy and not as dangerous as others. I had this faith and I never questioned it. I never doubted that. On one hand, I’m relatively young when this happened to me. I was in really good shape because my whole life I’ve been taking good care of myself. I was never a heavy drinker or doing drugs. I was doing sports. Probably if it had been a different person, [there may be] more damage and may go probably the other way.
I’m saying I had one hundred percent faith and I was aware that everything was so great. I was making plans for Behemoth. I’ve been working… not every day… but constantly I’ve been working on new projects… a DVD and a book and doing some interviews here and there. I tried to make plans. That’s me thriving through the whole process. Stay there and be decadent. Stay there in the hospital and go ‘let’s see what happens. Let’s see what doom brings.’ No f—in’ way! It’s myself who determines my doom. That’s how I see it.
Did you do any lyric writing while you were in the hospital?
I did some writing. I didn’t do any music. I probably recorded some lyrics on my record player and might use them on my next album. I wasn’t actively writing but did get some cool inspiration from reading the Bible and other stuff. I had two to four pages of notes for the next record. Some of them are real, real cool. Some of them are crap. I’m sure I’ve got some cool stuff ready for the next record. I’m not going to rush. I’m not going to hurry. We’re going to take our time. The whole circumstances around it, this might be our most important record of our career.
I thought ‘Evangelion’ is the defining point. We have to rethink and refine ourselves. Now it’s time to prove it. I’m really sure it’s going to be the defining Behemoth album and hopefully open new doors for us. Show the fans the potential from a different angle. I would hate to record the same record as ‘Evangelion.’ Even though I love ‘Evangelion‘ — I think it’s the top Behemoth album.
During this time, your fanbase really came together for you.
It was crazy. I never expected that. I don’t expect massive feedback from people. I’m not that egotistic like when I get sick, everyone’s going to help me out. Let’s see what happens. If I mean something to people, they’re going to help me out. They’re going to give me support. I’m not that arrogant to say that everyone’s going to support me. I was f—ing shocked! All the metal community would help me out and gave me strength. It definitely kept me motivated during this hard time. It meant a lot.
I’m sure you received a ton of letter from fans during that time. Were there any that stood out?
Yeah I had some people who offered their bone marrow. There were people actually offering to come to Poland because they didn’t know the procedure. You don’t need to come to Poland in order to become a donor. There was one guy. He was notorious for sending the same email every week or two. It was like ‘I’m ready to give you my bone marrow, but you need to pay for my flight costs and the next Behemoth show I enter for free.’ There were some more demands. He’s an idiot. I never replied to that email. I was terrified by his mental condition, writing this crap. But 99 percent of the emails were ‘what can we do to help you out?’ I replied to maybe five percent of them because there were too many. Every occasion I had to write news from the hospital, I would mail people to say hey.
What did you miss most about touring?
Any aspect of touring was missed. The first week I was shocked with everything. It was all new to me. Then I got into the hospital I wanted to get back out on the road. I wanted to be in the same company as my guys, traveling from town to town, and meeting people. Playing this music and touring is a cure for me. It’s everything or nothing. Obviously I don’t think that way, but it’s such an integral and elemental part of my life and I can’t deny it. I just want to get back in shape and make another record and get back on tour.
When do you resume playing shows?
We’re doing some shows in Poland in October. I’m excited about it. We’re probably doing some Asian and Australian dates around December. Full-on European and US headlining tours are planned for Spring 2012. Get ready. It’s going to be a full-on tour. We need to complete the ‘Evangelion’ cycle and then we start recording the next record. We’re not rushing. We want to make sure that the come back tour is planned with pyro and the craziness. Behemoth is better than before!
Is there anything else you would like add?
I’m so thankful for all the people for lending their support and for the faith in me and the band. I’m just speechless. We owe them and we’re going to give it back very, very soon. Behemoth will be back stronger than before. That’s the most important thing you should know.
Watch the video for ‘Alas, Lord Is Upon Me’