Me and That Man’s Nergal: ‘Burning Churches’ Song Title Would Never Work in Behemoth
Behemoth's Nergal was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. He discussed New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1, the latest record from his dark folk side project Me and That Man.
In the interview, he dove into how he first engaged with dark music outside of the traditional rock and metal scope, learning about artists such as Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison through Glenn Danzig, who wrote songs for each aforementioned legend.
Connecting with the variety of styles at play that are all centered around gloomy atmospheres, Nergal welcomed a dynamic cast of guest singers on the record, exploring the depth of his new music.
Read the complete chat below.
Me and That Man is very different from Behemoth. How does that free you creatively to work outside the framework of behemoth?
That's one of the main reasons why I even started the band, because I really needed an extra impulse. I needed a separate catalyst to rejuvenate my brain — just to refresh myself and to get away from the Behemoth. When I go back to Behemoth, I'm still hungry and I'm still inspired. Me and That Man is an opposite pole. Starting a death metal band or even a thrash metal band would make no sense because Behemoth is extreme metal and all over the place. But Behemoth and Me and That Man are separate entities. I just created the project to keep my brain hygienic [laughs].
There's a very broad display of styles and influences at work with Me And That Man. What artists inspire this side of your musical personality?
I mean, I remember in the early '90s I would ridiculously worship extreme metal only, but I would indulge in some other sub genres of metal or rock music, but it'd still be dark. They were not really metal artists — Danzig, Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Diamanda Galas — alternative artists, who still dealt with darkness and the topics around that. I just couldn't really place them in the death or black metal label.
When I started discovering Danzig and all them, I just came to the point where I noticed that Glenn wrote a song for Johnny Cash. I was like, who the fuck is Johnny Cash? [laughs] And then [he wrote a song for] Roy Orbison. The whole genre, let's call it Dark Americana — outlaw country or neo-folky stuff — would be unfolding in front of me when I would just explore some of the basic artists that I would like. Then you start with Danzig and then you find out that there's stuff like Johnny Cash behind that. Then when you get to know Johnny Cash, you want to know more, so you find out about other classics. There's too many to mention, but anyways.
Johnny Cash, "Thirteen" (written by Glenn Danzig)
Then I just came to the point that I just started getting to the very roots of any rock music. The roots of any guitar based genre starts with blues. It all goes back to old black musicians, slaves in a lot of cases singing dark stories about their miserable lives. There was already that darkness and that was something that I would find very appealing and enchanting. So I carried that along, but I want people to realize that Me And That Man is not a retro band. It's not a blues worship band. It's not an outlaw country worship band. I myself am a fan of Jack White and Josh Homme and artists like that. What they do is draw a lot of inspiration from those [older] artists but they just elevate that to another stratosphere and it feels so modern.
Danzig, he's inspired by blues and Black Sabbath and Elvis Presley but his music is not very much like Black Sabbath or like Elvis Presely.
At the start, there really wasn't a roadmap for this record. What aspects of the end results are a pleasant surprise?
Personally it was a lot of fun. It was a big challenge because you had to get together with the gang of guys that are just scattered all over the world and meet their deadlines and their schedules and make it all work. It was great fun and sitting here in Poland mostly and just waiting for the files to come, I've never had that before, it's almost like expecting a Christmas present. You just wait and wait, and in all these cases, the magic of that vocal adds much to the charisma of the song.
Not that I'm playing a modest guy here, but some of this stuff, if you take away the vocals and fuck around, you just strip it down to the basic chords, its nothing very special. [laughs] Excuse my sincerity, but that's exactly how I think. Like when you put the pieces together and you make the puzzle one piece, you add the magic and experience of an amazing guy that's telling his story, his charisma and his lifestyle and everything, and you put it into this record and you blend it together, that is when magic happens. So just imagine my face — I wish I could see my big fucking smile on my face when I heard Ihshan singing "By the River" for the first time because I was literally just blown away. It was unworldly.
Me and That Man, "By the River" (Feat. Ihsahn)
There's a subversive humor throughout the album. Why is that such an effective artistic tool?
I don't know. I remember talking to someone lately and someone suggested, "'Burning Churches' sounds like the title could be a Behemoth title." and, not that I got offended because I never get offended, but I was like, "Seriously?" If I ever come across a black or death metal band singing a song called "Burning Churches," trust me, I'm never going to pay attention to a second of that because it's so cliche, so naive and so cheesy. But, making a shanty song called "Burning Churches" like a very unexpected pattern, it can be absolutely humorous and disturbing and funny and intriguing, and everything.
Me and That Man, "Burning Churches" (Fear. Mat McNerney)
I'm not a reggae guy. Just imagine if a band did a reggae song and just called it "Burning Churches." That is where that real humor starts — I like that twist. I like things that are unexpected, that are bizarre, and weird, like the last song on the album "Confession" ends with a blast beat. No one would ever expect that, but I did that deliberately because I wanted people to leave confused — maybe smiling? Maybe mocking? But it doesn't matter, any reaction is good. It felt very liberating to be going back and forth between stuff that is very serious like "Coming Home" or "Surrender," or "Confession" or "Męstwo" and there are songs that are pretty humorous that are done with a big wink.
You can't really treat them literally and super seriously like "Burning Churches" or "The With the Devil." So, that feels very liberating to be doing that kind of stuff, which I cannot do in Behemoth.
Numerous people collaborated on the new album like you mentioned is Ihsahn, Matt Heafy and Corey Taylor. From a creative standpoint, how did having all those musical textures empower you?
It's very challenging and the songs are very different from each other. Then on top of that, every song tells a different story with a different timbre, different voice. It challenges you as a curator of the project to make it sound consistent. But it's very, very empowering and very uplifting. I feel very satisfied and very completed. I'm super pleased with the results. It really enriched me a lot on many levels.
Thanks to Nergal for the interview. Get your copy of Me and That Man's 'New Man, New Album, 'Same Shit, Vol. 1' here. Follow the band on Facebook and Instagram and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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