Nergal on New Me And That Man Album: ‘Art Isn’t There To Suck Everyone’s C–ks’ – Interview
Nergal doesn’t give a fuck what you think, especially if you don’t like him. After splitting with former bandmate John Porter, he decided to rip up the rulebook for his Americana-loving side-project Me And That Man, collaborating with the likes of Corey Taylor, Matt Heafy and Brent Hinds to create an 11-song collection that, sonically, appears as far away from his black-metal day job with Behemoth as you can get.
Here, he tells Loudwire about the inception of second album, New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1, and why he’s more determined than ever to keep pissing off those who want to see him silenced.
Did you have a clear vision in mind for New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1 when you began work on the record?
I’ve always seen this album as an open project — it was like being on a highway and seeing where it would take me. It was getting the other people involved that really showed me the direction the record was going in, and there was no single formula for how I approached working with everyone.
I had some people come in and do exactly what they were told to, whereas others would fuck everything around and come up with new arrangements and lyrical ideas. Jørgen Munkeby from Shining (Norway), for example, added saxophone over the guitars, which wasn’t my intention, but it made the music more memorable.
"To be completely frank, working on this record has made me feel like a teenager again, opening Christmas presents from all these artists I respect so much."
Did many surprises stem from working with 11 different artists on this album?
Loads. Ihsahn from Emperor surprised everyone with what he did. All the people who’ve heard “By The River” have commented on how they never knew he could sing so emotionally. The world has never heard him perform like that before, which is amazing.
Me and That Man, "By the River" (Feat. Ihsahn)
And then with Corey Taylor, just the fact that he’s taking part in a niche project like this is mind-blowing to me; he’s such a busy guy, but he really took his time with this and contributed some awesome parts — working with him has made my career, to be honest.
To be completely frank, working on this record has made me feel like a teenager again, opening Christmas presents from all these artists I respect so much. And I’m not taking this for granted: New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1 has been a great artistic adventure and challenge for me, and one I feel I’ve pulled off. Doing this has left me feeling very fulfilled.
"I’ve not heard an album where extreme metal musicians get together to make a non-metal record..."
Was it strange to initially step out on your own for this record after the split with John Porter?
Not at all. Even when John was still in the band I knew we couldn’t continue that way because there was too much drama and too many problems that were caused by him. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never had to deal with that kind of thing before — the situation was just wrong.
I knew I was going to part ways with him, but he ended up being faster than me and kicked himself out! I felt relief, to be honest, and after that happened, I decided I was going to do something unexpected with Me And That Man. I’m a big fan of what Josh Homme does with The Desert Sessions and what Dave Grohl did with Probot, so I decided after the split with John to do something in that vein, and make the next Me And That Man record a collective of individuals doing cool shit together.
Some critics thought the band was done after John left, but my reaction to that was, ‘Fuck you — what I’m coming up with here is going to surprise the shit out of you and everyone else.’ This is an unprecedented record, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s never been another album like this made in the history of music. I’ve not heard an album where extreme metal musicians get together to make a non-metal record that’s a blend of Americana, blues and folk. This whole thing has been a trip.
Freedom of expression has been an important thing to you over the years. What does this project allow you to express that Behemoth can’t?
These are two totally opposite entities, and the main difference is that Me And That Man can be a humorous project, whereas Behemoth is by its very nature a far more serious band. On tage and on our albums, Behemoth deals with a lot of metaphysical and philosophical stuff, meanwhile Me And That Man is way looser, and because of that, it’s a very liberating project for me.
"As a creator, I believe you can do whatever the fuck you want — that is a sacred artistic law."
On the face of it, people will likely consider Behemoth and Me And That Man to be very different genre-wise, but given that blues and folk music can often be quite dark in tone, is there perhaps more in common with these two styles of music than people realize?
Musically, yes. All rock music is based on blues, even heavy metal — it’s just a great progression from that, and that’s a fact. Me And That Man allows me to go back to those roots, and means I don’t have to do loads of fast picking or screaming; I can just play one note and sustain it while telling a simple story. Not that the stories have to be simple — they can be brutal too.
With Behemoth, there’s obviously a lot of subject matter that people find very controversial and radical. But take the ballad “You Will Be Mine” from the new Me And That Man album: The narrator is basically saying, ‘If you’re not going to be mine, you’re going to be nobody’s, because I’m going to fucking kill you.’ Obviously, that’s not a very politically-correct message, but I see the world as a whole as being way too sensitive.
That song isn’t an instruction to go out and kill women, because that’s not my intention — I worship and love women as a feminist. But I’m also an artist, and I praise the separation of art and artist.
Whatever a filmmaker is putting into his movie, or a musician is putting into their lyrics, or whatever a painter is painting, it doesn’t necessarily represent their literal views on the world. As a creator, I believe you can do whatever the fuck you want — that is a sacred artistic law.
One of the biggest problems with today’s society is that people no longer see things that way and take everything literally, which is why I’m regularly in Polish court, because these opportunists think that if I talk about putting a nail through Jesus’ penis that means I’m gay or hate a certain aspect of something they believe in.
People make primitive connections between art and what people actually believe, and my attitude is, ‘How about I’m just poking? How about I’m just goofing around? How about I use my right to be silly when I want to be silly?’ I have a serious problem with the world being so uptight and sensitive about stuff. Just take it easy, for fuck’s sake.
"People being pissed off is good news, because that’s why artists were brought into this world."
And that must feed into Me And That Man, because this music allows you to take things not so seriously…
Yeah, like with the songs about the anti-hero church-burner — he’s got Jesus tattooed on his ass, how cool is that?! It’s quite obviously not an instruction to kids to go out and use bazookas on their local church, because you will kill somebody, and that is always wrong.
Me and That Man, "Burning Churches" (Feat. Mat McNerny)
These are metaphors, and artists use metaphors all the time — in this case, I’m using them to have some fun and bring a bit of joy to things. And joy isn’t P.C., but fuck that, because we’re having fun with it. People being pissed off is good news, because that’s why artists were brought into this world. Art isn’t there to suck everyone’s cocks, and it’s not supposed to please everyone. Art is supposed to disturb your inner peace — that’s the most legit, genuine form of art.
Behemoth has obviously pissed plenty of people off over the years. Do you feel like Me And That Man has the potential to do that, too?
Nah, but then again, in today’s world you never know. I’ve confronted some of the most absurd accusations lately, and it’s led me to the conclusion that I’m never going to be surprised about people’s reactions to my art.
The way people interpret art is regularly so entirely wrong, and in today’s age of the internet and everything, they’re just waiting for you to do or say something that they can call evil by their own standards. And my response to those people is always the same: Get a fucking life.
Thanks to Nergal for the interview. Follow Me and That Man on Facebook and Instagram and get your copy of the new album 'New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1' here via Napalm Records.
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