The thing about metal I love most is the passion and dedication that exists in this scene. The metal scene – and especially the underground – is filled with passionate individuals. If it were not, you would have never heard of your favourite bands like Vader, Behemoth, Carcass, Morbid Angel. This even concerns huge bands like Iron Maiden, who have obviously started as an underground band (and – debatable – still carry the underground spirit). Nevertheless, what makes this scene so awesome and intimate is the fact that it is not all about the bands and the “rockstars”. The metal scene is filled with people working behind the scenes to support their favourite bands and their music, their hobby, their culture.
One of such personalities is Grzegorz “Fijoł” Fijałkowski (or simply Greg in English) from Poland. He is the man behind Godz ov War Productions which cooperates and used to cooperate with bands like Armagedon, Embrional, Sphere, Pandemonium and Masachist to name just a few. Add to that he is the editor of Poland’s very interesting and very passionate Psycho Magazine – which used to be printed but now is only a webzine. Back in the olden days, he used to be the boss of Kicha zine – yeah, one of those old-school xeroxed black and white zines which some of us probably have never ever held in our hands (you can actually go through a vast directory of 80s and 90s zines in this awesome directory and one edition of Kicha zine here!!!).
So, sit back and enjoy the chat with Greg where he discusses the bands he listens to, music formats, the importance of promotion, the underground and the history of Polish metal! Aren’t you excited already?!
Dom: Hey Greg, what’s up? What are you listening to at the moment which you would like to share with us? Maybe something which you recently bought? What is your favourite music format?
Greg: Hello. Thank you, everything’s all right. While answering these questions I am listening to the debut album of Imprecation – unfortunately in digital format at the moment, which is the format I prefer the least because of the sound quality. This format is practical, especially when it comes to getting familiar with a band for the first time. However, it still lacks in quality and I try to hurt my ears the least I can with this format. Although I listen to compact discs most often, it is vinyl which was and still is my favourite music format. Although very often there is no time, or no conditions, and, thus, I use vinyl the least, it still forms the majority of my music collection. It is, of course, getting bigger all the time and I wonder when will I run out of space to store them. They are literally everywhere! I also wonder if I have enough time in my lifetime to listen to all of them?!
From the most recent releases, I can recommend debut albums from the following: Thaw, Egzekwie, Dormant Ordeal and Ulcer. The debuts from Deus Mortem, Atheos, Ragehammer, Deathstorm and Entropia are also not bad. The latest albums from Cultes Des Ghoules, Evangelist, Turin Turambar, Gortal, Massemord, Kingdom and Plaga are still spinning in my player. As you can see all of these bands are from Poland as we have a lot of good new material recently. Many of these bands are not new, however, and I believe a lot of your readers should be familiar with them. Of course, I also receive a lot of material from all over the world but I reach for them with a huge delay even if the name means something for me. The new album from Headhunter D.C. is amazing and the new recordings of Hypnos, Sorcery, Revel in Flesh, Zombiefication, Krypts, Entrails, Cult of Fire came out really well. Death metal dominates as always, however, I don’t stray away from good black metal and grindcore.
Nonetheless, I still reach for the classics most of the time. That means the early material of Death, Possessed, Venom, Terrorizer, Kat, Morbid Angel, Samael, Bathory, Obituary, Nuclear Assault, Napalm Death, Vader, Godflesh, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Nuclear Death, Pestilence, Nocturnus, Immolation, Protector and many more. The listing of all of them would take too much time and space.
Dom: What is it that you like most in music? Is there something which you look out for?
Greg: Regardless of the genre, technical skills or talent, the most important are always genuine, unrestrained emotions and a little bit of the Devil. I hate artificiality and refinement in music; they kill the essence of creating sounds and composing them into defined structures.
Dom: You have your own promotional agency, Godz ov War Productions, and you also take care of Pandemonium’s management. Additionally, you are an editor of Psycho Magazine and you help out with Musick Magazine. Tell us a bit about your work and how you find time for all of this!
Greg: You know, saying promotional agency is a bit too much, similarly with management of Pandemonium, the latter which I actually do not do anymore. Indeed, as well as Pandemonium as a few others which I worked with or still work with, receive from me some form of promotional help. However, it would be inaccurate to call it managerial work. What I do is send out press information to a bulk of media outlets, delivering them promo packs in either digital or physical form. Sometimes I also try to attract the interest for a certain band to bigger promotional or booking agencies or publishers. Therefore, this is just standard promotional work.
My “journalistic” work is of a similar nature. Currently, I write the most for Psycho, especially since we do not print anymore. I do not have any limits, nobody tells me for when and what to prepare, which was the main reason to not work with Musick Magazine or 7 Gates Magazine. Of course, it is great to write for print magazines especially if they are very reliable, professionally prepared and published regularly. I, nevertheless, do not have the desire to change my passion into a factory, if you know what I mean.
Generally speaking, despite the sincere nature of my work, I also have time constraints and, to be honest, I do everything in my “free time”, which is decreasing all the time. That’s why I keep turning down new offers of cooperation.
Dom: How important is promotion for bands even if they are underground and “anti-mainstream”? What would you recommend to bands which are starting out their career and promotion?
Greg: At present times, reasonably prepared promotion is very important to reach potential customers. You know, with this huge amount of artists out there, when information dies out quickly, every bands wanting to stay in the memory of fans should be reminding them quite often about their existence. Naturally, we are not talking about some routine harassment and pushing yourself everywhere by force at any price because this kind of politics brings opposite results. The band has to inform their fans about simple things like concerts, personal changes and new releases. They should also update their websites regularly. Of course, in the end it is the music which is the most important which the people will either accept or not. If the people won’t accept it then no kind of promotion or advert will change it but it will rather be a soulless product in which you won’t find true art. Unfortunately, many good bands lose with the lack of promotion because they count on the fact that their music will defend itself. Indeed, it will defend itself but if it will reach a certain amount of people is a different question.
To new bands I recommend a little bit of humbleness, perseverance and patience as well as ideas for themselves. The latter is usually the biggest problem. The lack of originality in some bands is really frightening
Dom: As a band promoter, which media do you get in touch with? Do you look at their audience and popularity?
Greg: I get in touch with all media that I am able to. But I cooperate with those which expressed their desire to cooperate. The range and popularity make no difference for me, especially that the bigger the media the less possibility that they will feature the bands that I cooperate with. I am a realist. You know, the big guy talks to the big guy and the small guy to the small guy. Knowing your place makes it easier to work with everyone who offer us their support. And every form of support counts. For me, it is important that a band shows up in various places, better or worse. Yes, credibility and integrity of the media is important but it is sometimes really hard to know from the beginning who you are working with.
Dom: How did your musical “career” start? What sucked you in?
Greg: I seriously got interested in metal music during the second half of the 80s and that’s how it stayed since then. I don’t really remember how it all exactly begun. It was the ferocity and aggression of this music which fascinated me… I was impressed by the image of bands like Venom, Sodom, Destruction. You know, leather, chains, bullet belts haha! It was something new which my young mind absorbed totally and uncritically. Before that, I used to listen to punk rock, hard & heavy, alternative. However, when albums such as Show No Mercy, Welcome to Hell, Kill ‘em All reached me (with a delay), they totally turned my life upside down and I knew from that time that this is what will stay with me for a long time. After that, I reached for only heavier stuff: Seven Churches, Scream Bloody Gore, Reek of Putrefaction, and especially Scum destroyed me emotionally. The world was not the same anymore… Altars of Madness and Streetcleaner completed the work of destruction haha!
Dom: Why the underground? What’s so special about it? How does it differ from the “mainstream” musically but also behind the scenes: the people and how the media and promotion works?
Greg: Why? Because the underground was always more authentic and devoted to the music, it highlighted its independence. Nowadays, at the time of Internet, it is difficult to say which band is underground or is it already eaten by the machine of the music industry. This division used to be clearer before. The underground kept a bigger autonomy and was more consolidated, committed and selfless. There was a bigger connection among the people and the music enjoyed more respect. There was something magical and unavailable to the usual bread eater. Paper zines, tape-trading, small club concerts and a small amount of festivals.
Besides, the underground is a natural stage of almost every band’s evolution. Look at all the bigger metal bands – I think all of them started in the underground. It’s a shame that at present not many talk about this openly and there are others who cut themselves off from that period. On the one hand, it’s sad because it was the underground which helped them reach their status, opened the gates to the big music business. On the other hand, it’s also a natural consequence so there’s no need to elaborate and dramaticise. Everybody chooses their own path which feels just or convenient. We can’t escape these kind of dilemmas. I can’t expect the elderly from Napalm Death, Carcass or Morbid Angel to follow this ideology all their life. Like all of us, they have to eat, drink, pay bills and taxes; so, making money from their music is the normal choice to make. And what else should they earn a living from? And as a fan, I will decide on my own if I will keep on buying their music. As long as a certain kind of level will be kept, I will keep on doing so, whether it is an underground band or an official scene. The music is the indicator, the essence of all the fun, and not how the band is labelled, the artistic ideology or life philosophy.
Dom: It was during Communist times that heavy metal begun in Poland. That means that it was harder for bands to get equipment, organise concerts and sell their music abroad. Nevertheless, the country did not lack originality in the metal scene. How important were the bands from the West to create the Polish metal scene? Do the West media exaggerate their influence on Eastern Europe?
Greg: Of course, it was harder. We had limited access to everything, many things were created spontaneously and about a lot of things we had no damned clue about. Equipment-wise you could not match us to what bands had in Western Europe, Scandinavia or America. But I am not going to regret this because no one who did not even come close to the realities that were taking place in Poland will never ever understand certain things. He/she will simply not understand the political, economic and mental complexities as they are very difficult to put in words.
It is, of course, true that the majority of bands were influenced by foreign artists. Nothing weird about that. If metal was born in Poland then it would be the opposite. It is not like that, however, and we won’t change history and nothing is unusual about that. At that time, a lot of good bands were established, loads of good material was created and many interesting initiatives. We had certain standards that we could draw ideas from but we also put in a lot of our own ideas. We were young, wild and devoted to what we do. Although we were honest and spontaneous we were not convincing and not original enough for the foreign customer, who knew shit about the Polish scene. I will tell you this; I do not know any metal band from those times which built its own position with such passion and determination like Vader. It needed years and a good promoter to convince the West about its value. But, nonetheless, they were still treated like second category citizens until a few people realised that it is possible to earn a few cents from this band. Anyway, what can the foreign media know about our scene if they basically don’t know it?!
Dom: How does the scene look like now in Poland? Is it harder for less-known bands to be recognised because of the success of bands like Vader, Behemoth, Hunter, Decapitated etc?
Greg: I think it’s similar to how it was 20 years ago. We still have a bunch of quality bands, decent record labels and a few quality metal magazines, loads of gigs are taking place; and all of this is taking place in the underground as well as the “official” scene. Only certain things changed, like the easier and faster access to potential receivers of the music, thanks to which a majority of the Polish bands have been noticed abroad.
It is difficult to tell if the success of these bands has increased the interest in the Polish scene. I would say yes and no but it’s a complex issue. I don’t even know if I can explain it while making sense?! Nonetheless, looking at the Polish scene only through the bands like Vader and Behemoth, and the constant comparisons of Polish bands to these two at times it is very irritating and even absurd. This does not change the fact that these bands paved the way for many younger Polish bands.
Dom: Thank you very much for your time, Greg! There are many interesting things you talk about here. Cheers, man!
Greg: First of all, I would like to thank you for the interview and the whole MetalRecusants team for the support you have shown for Godz Ov War Productions and the bands we work with. You are doing a great job and, most importantly, you can feel a lot of passion in it. Keep it that way!!! Underground Forever!!!
Some Godz ov War Productions bands were featured in our free digital compilation: