With their newest release “Tau” on the horizon and some truly important metal releases in their history, I decided to try to catch up with Negură Bunget and talk about line up changes and the future. Negru was gracious enough to chat with me about how things are in the Negură Bunget camp.
There has been some considerable changes in your line up since the release of the previous album “Vîrstele Pamîntului“. Who is now in the band, how did you meet them and what do they do?
Our current line-up is: Tibor Kati – vocals / guitars, Adrian Neagoe – guitars / vocals, Petre Ionutescu – traditional instruments / trumpet / keyboards
Ovidiu Corodan – bass and Gabriel Mafa – drums / percussions. I’ve known most of them since the beginnings of the band already, they all worked with Negura one way or the other in the past. We are all around the same age, which matters a lot when working under pressure, and were quite familiar with what’s expected of being a member. We started the work on the album from zero, and all the members had their input. Every Negura Bunget album was the collaborative effort of the members at that time. Otherwise it would make no sense to have other band members. It’s kind of strange think they’re somehow new in the band, being very old friends, as it is the case here. This allowed us to get straight ahead intro everything, like performing live and writing new music, and now, two years and over 200 gigs later, we’re naturally inclined to take things to an even higher level. The current line-up is for sure one of the strongest we ever had, and there’s lots of plans ahead of us.
When a person thinks of black metal bands, the more ‘bread and butter’ metalhead pretty much assumes it all originates from the Scandinavian countries. What problems did you encounter in the early years of forming the band in your home country of Romania?
Coming from a country like Romania had its beauty. There wasn’t exactly a metal scene around here when we started, being a black metal band in the 90’s was quite unheard of and raised suspicions, you could hardly find quality musical instruments in the country and travelling outside was hard, we needed visas for everything… But was nice to see it all developing along naturally in front of our eyes. It was also a challenge because when building something from the very foundation it makes you more responsible in a way that shapes your personality. I think we managed to transform those early problems into advantages in the long run… We are prepared to take any difficulties, always find solutions for problems and never give up. Local influence on our music was a key element that shaped our evolution as a band, so outside of Romania there wouldn’t be possible to have it.
Will you be on tour this year to promote the release of ‘Tau’? What countries are planned? Are you headliners or as support for another band?
Of course we’ll be touring to promote the new album. We just announced a 70 dates tour in Europe for spring, covering pretty much whole Europe, and we’ll also have a North American tour in autumn, in US and Canada. We’ll be headline both tours. This year will be by far our most intense in terms or touring, and we’re looking forward. If all goes well we’ll be going also for the first time over the 100 gigs in a year limit. We’ve come close a couple of times, but never over it.
What countries have you enjoyed visiting while touring, and what countries have you enjoyed the least?
We had a great time in the US back in 2012, so we’re looking forward to be back there. This time we prepared a plan that will allow us to visit some more remote places, and get deep into the wilderness, combining touring with mountaineering quite a bit. We had some horrible problems getting to Ukraine (we waited once over 12 hours at a border crossing, only to head back in the end cause it was too late to get to the gig), some difficulties in Russia (they misplaced our wooden plate instrument), but that means we’re only more determined to get back there when we’ll have another opportunity.
What bands have influenced your sound, and what are you favourite bands?
I think our early influences were the Black Metal classics, like Immortal, Emperor, Enslaved, Satyricon… but we also tried to shape our own vision from the very beginning. We listen all different music, from authentic Romanian folklore to cameral music or contemporary acts like Dead Can Dance or Enya. If the listener feels some influences in our music it is not because we planned so, it is because everyone connects to a certain cultural background.
What inspires your writing and the whole creative process of making an album?
We always start with the concept, and then work the details into the lyrics and music. This album is part of a musical and visual trilogy about Transilvania, so there’s no bigger or more direct source of influence than that. We had to choose doing a trilogy also because it was such a vast concept.
Coming from such a controversial place as Transilvania we noticed people are asking us all the time about it, and also have all kinds of ideas in their mind about it. As we’ve also explored the local history and spirituality since our very beginnings as a band, we felt somehow we owe it to present a personal vision on what all this means to us. And hence we came up with the trilogy concept, which explores the Transilvanian concept not only through music and lyrics, but also visually.
The first part of the trilogy focuses on the natural elements, by exploring some symbolic places. The second part of the trilogy will focus on the human element, on the traditions, practices and beliefs that shaped the spiritual horizon of the people living on these lands. Finally, the third and final part will focus on the ideas and concepts that made those lands immortal. Each part is quite different, but put all together should offer a pretty detailed view.
The TAU precisely allowed us for example to re-visit and discover some new amazing natural places we have around here. We took some trips exploring on the very nature of Transilvania: hills, mountains, lakes, forests, even the name “tau” in Romanian has a double meaning: it’s small but often deep mountain lake and but also a sing of possession – “your”. Metaphorically we wanted to express the nature revealed in textures, shades, clouds, colors, waterfalls as an experience with all senses that finally becomes “yours”, your nature, your encounter.
Due to the line up changes and album sound since “Vîrstele Pamîntului”, I personally feel that “Tau” has the sound of a band that has settled musically and firing on all cylinders so to speak. In fact, I feel it’s on an equal level of quality with “Om”. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel there are improvements over the previous album?
I think each obstacle we faced made us stronger in the end. Since we were all old friends it’s not like we had to take things slowly… we began this journey with pretty much high standards and we’ll keep on continuing further. For us the last album is always the best, we put into it all we are able on that time. I would say each album represent a certain step in our evolution as a band and has its own personality.
We had some good friends doing appearances on the album: Rune from Mayhem/Aura Noir did a guitar solo on the track “împodobeala timpului”, where we also had a famous Romanian pop singer – Alexandrina doing some vocal parts, we then had Sakis from Rotting Christ doing some vocals on the track “tărim vîlhovnicesc”, our friend Gabriel Almasi doing Theremin on the track “nămetenie” and another Romanian singer, Bean MC some vocals part on the song “la hotaru cu cinci culmi”.
It was really an interesting experience, especially with the Romanian guests, who are all a rather unexpected presence on a Metal album, but all manage to blend in very well. I think “TĂU” is a step forward musically speaking, experimenting a lot of instruments and sounds that will be the departure point for the next two albums of the Transilvanian Trilogy, which will take everything way further. There’s a lot more to come around the album, which is just the first part of the trilogy, you haven’t seen yet its visual part yet…
What bands have you particularly enjoyed touring with and got along well?
We had some good times with Rotting Christ and Twilight of the Gods in 2013, an amazing time with Solstafir, Primordial and Eluveitie at Paganfest 2011, same as the year before with Enslaved. I guess we’ve been fortunate enough to have good touring, so really no bad experiences regarding this aspect.
Many underground bands often have day jobs to make ends meet while not touring. What are they?
I guess everybody has its own life plan, expectations and possibilities. Underground Metal scene hardly allows anybody to live out of music alone. Partly because of our particular situation (living in Romania, but playing mostly outside the country), partly because our other interests are also close to music, we are fortunate enough not to have regular jobs which allows us to focus a lot more on the band.