– Versión en castellano AQUÍ –
The perspective of those who consume music versus the ones that create it, as you may already know, is completly different. We get the final product and, from that comfortable position, we only have to listen to it, analyze it and draw our conclusions. But do we really know what kind of effort it takes to compose, record, mix, master…? I had the chance to sit down with Lex Berdea, guitarist of the Romanian band HATEVIRUS, to ask him about the mentioned process and his band. Please sit and read carefuly.
Subterráneo Webzine: Hello, Lex, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer some questions for Subterráneo Webzine. Let’s get started!
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Thank you for coming all this way and for all that you and Subterraneo Webzine are doing! Really wanted to say that.
Subterráneo Webzine: When listening to the album it feels like you have invested a lot of time working on it. In fact, there’s an important gap between the band’s year of creation (2011) and the release of your first album (at the beginning of 2019)…
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We all split from another project previous to the band, and when we initiated HATEVIRUS we would be rehearsing almost every weekend. Working on it and also looking for more members: a second guitarist and a drummer actually, because the rehearsals were to a drum machine, waiting for the right person to come in. We did have some auditions, but they didn’t get anywhere. Shortly after, I emigrated to the UK and the first years were a bit hard, as for anyone that goes to another country. I didn’t really find the time to get into writing, recording, or even keeping contact with people.
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We weren’t really composing for the album. We kept on sharing new ideas and we weren’t really set for recording the album straight away. We just had it in mind, like a wish, that some day we would be able to get together again and release an album, at least ten songs.
I was also getting involved in two projects in the UK. They didn’t go forward, or turn into something bigger, and kind of made me melancholic towards what we had with HATEVIRUS. These really brilliant awesome guys that connected really really well with each other.
I wanted to go back to that and that was the time I got into researching about mixing, mastering and recording. Soon I realized we could actually do it with me in another country and then have it mixed in some other place. The idea of having reamped guitars, so I could send the signal that was recorded somewhere else and that person could reamp, and actually mix and master it on his own in a different country. You don’t have to be present, and you only have to record it. And I got to a point where I was able to do this.
Subterráneo Webzine: So you did record your music…
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Yes, my guitars and obviously all the midi drums.
We realized that we wanted to do it and I had a trip to Romania so we could talk about it. We just had this moment that we thought: ”let’s do this!” Let’s try to at least record it, even if we don’t release an album, just have them recorded.
We met with a friend that has got a studio and is doing a good job with other bands he had recorded. But he had never done it in this particular way. He kind of opened the ways for us to actually do it. He is local to the other two band members, so it was even more reassuring. Then, right after I got back to the UK, we started the process. The first song was «Hateful Mind«. I did the guitars and started working on the drums, sent that over and that started the chain of things.
It took some time because some of the songs we had prepared for the album, or that we had in mind, we hadn’t practiced as much. So I had to re-learn them and that process took a toll on the entire thing. Myself having to learn the song, master it so could record it… and add my own stuff on top of things. Not just replaying the bass line and so on… That was part of the reasons why it took so long to record the album.
Also, because I was never present at the master and mixing process, we would always have to do it over the Internet. It takes time for one to, you know, get home from work, listen to the song, talk to the guys and see what it could be improved, changed… Then send the file, see if there are other amendments to do, mixing … Also you are not always available. You take holidays, work extra shifts… it wasn’t the whole band in a studio for two weeks. So it took a while for everybody to do their part.
HATEVIRUS (Lex): No, ha-ha. I was always intrigued by drummers and the sound of drums.
I am not a drummer, but I can say that I am inspired by Mike Portnoy, I do love DREAM THEATER. Every instrument in that band influences me and it sparks a feeling of wanting to start playing that instrument as well. When I started programming drums I used to watch some tutorials and talk to people, drummers, and see if they would change anything. Most of the times they would change everything, because… I remember changing the midi files a couple of times after listening to them and realizing they were wrong. I didn’t nail the drums from my first try, or the second, or the fourth. It was actually a very long process. I would come back to each file everyday and I would take out a cymbal, I would add something, simplify some other things… It was a creating and learning process for me.
Subterráneo Webzine: Do you play any other instruments?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Not really. I sometimes play bass guitar because it has a different feeling. If you play something on a different instrument you get another kind of feel and that adds to creativity. It brings another kind of inventiveness. That’s why I even got a bass: to have another point of view.
Subterráneo Webzine: You mentioned before that it was difficult to find a drummer and I do get a lot of “complaints” from bands about drummers being some kind of endangered species. Is that why you ended up choosing programmed drums?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): There’s a mixture of feelings and reasons there. I have actually approached several drummers to try and start the process of them getting accustomed to the songs and then record them, but it didn’t really go anywhere. They were all involved in other projects and for me to take them away for some months, or years, wasn´t really conducive.
Time was ticking as well. We were actually hoping that in the process of recording someone would come in and want to do this with us as a drummer/member. That didn’t happen so we just cracked on with it.
We wanted to have this done, not just for having an album released, to make us known or anything like that. It was going to be for us. It wasn’t a show off, it was for us to listen to in our bedrooms and just think about the times we spent creating it.
Subterráneo Webzine: So it kind of became a studio project, right? That must be one of the reasons why I haven’t seen any HATEVIRUS concert poster. Have you ever played live?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We haven´t played live with HATEVIRUS, no. We played at rehearsals with some friends but that doesn´t count, ha-ha. We do present ourselves as a studio project, just because of those circumstances.
We just haven´t had the chance to take it to that level yet. Because of the issue we have already talked about. If we ever go live it would have to be with other members, at least with a drummer. Midi drums live wouldn´t be as appealing. And it wouldn´t be that fair to the people coming to see the show.
Subterráneo Webzine: In my opinion people wouldn’t be expecting live drums if they knew the album has been recorded with programmed ones. Have you never thought about doing it with samplers?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We have thought about that option way before releasing the album, but it felt a bit odd. We all wanted that feeling on stage. But it felt like cheating somehow, so it made us reluctant to act in that way.
Subterráneo Webzine: Going back to the mixing and mastering… As mentioned on my Hateful mind review, the mixing was the only negative factor I could find on it. Loud drums, an almost missing bass… Are you happy with the outcome?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We can say that at the end we were happy with the result in the view of the first album ever done (recorded, mixed and mastered). Also the time limit, the delay it would have added to releasing the album played a part as well.
The studio that we were working with had been really really busy with tons of other projects. The back and forth emails that I mentioned before, with amending songs and sounds, took a lot of time and we didn´t really want to be nit-picking everything and re-design everything, work on each segment that much; have something become really messy. There is only so much you can say on an email. How do you describe a sound? You cannot give names to a flavor, to a sound. So it was really difficult for me to say “I want that sound”, “I want it to be beefier”. What is beefier for you, and what is chunky for me? It’s a very different point of view, or perspective for everyone’s eyes or ears. So we didn´t really want to dwell on that very much. We didn´t want it becoming something stressful, we felt like going with the flow.
Metal sometimes has that: putting some stuff together and that’s it. We did want to keep it raw, and in some respects we did that. Ultimately the sound will obviously come from the engineer. He has got the tools to do it, and felt like placing this project in the hands of somebody with more experience and depth to what this process is. And that of course reflects on the album. I think every album has not only got the player’s signature, but also the engineer’s. Lots of big projects have more engineer signature than the players. They are the ones that in the end come up with great sounds, or not so good sounds.
Subterráneo Webzine: So, what about the lyrics? Seen from the outside and by the name of the band, the album, and some of the lyrics, you can guess your themes are related to hate. But then you get “Floods of Enki” or “Plague” which seem to be talking about something completely different…
HATEVIRUS (Lex): He-he. This goes a bit deep, but… Bear with me.
The concept of the album is having these emotions triggered by day to day life, the kind of feelings you get by living in a society. And the process you go through that ends up with you hating something and nurturing certain feelings. I think that’s what we are trying to express and talk about.
Subterráneo Webzine: But then there’s also this figure of Medjuza…
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Medjuza is like today’s society. You get a normal person that’s fine but then becomes very hateful in time. Starts to hate things, starts being bothered about things, starts realizing where it stands in this scheme of things. And that’s why we use the concept of Medjuza in the song and on the album.
She was a very beautiful woman and she didn´t have any fault, but she fell in love with another Goddess’ husband and so she got cursed and became this ugly creature with snakes on her head. And that is what society does to people, they like to nag you, to poke and throw stuff at you… Then you become this ugly person. No one understands why you now are so angry, why you are like this. But people are not born like that; they are made into that ultimately.
We kind of keep that mindset throughout the album, even if we talk about “Plague”, and especially with “Dawn of consciousness”, which speaks about the wakening of people that consciously realize what they are feeling, why and what is there to be changed.
Even with “Plague” and “Floods of Enki”. Because of me being into the whole theory involving the Anunnaki and them being the creators of Humanity, engineering us; using our own thoughts, our own lives, juices, our insides, to make something else. And hate is part of that primordial soup that has created us. I saw this creation process of the Earth and Humanity from this point of view, Garden of Eden being a laboratory where Adam and Eve escaped from and Lucifer being an Anunnaki and not some creature in the sky.
“Floods of Enki” talks about hate from an almost conception point of view. As the Biblical deluge, the Earth kind of got cleaned of the bad people and re-instated another Era. But that other Era starts having hate again. “Floods…” talks about that moment in time where people didn´t realize what was happening. What that whole experience must have been like. And in some way it applies to us today even if we are not in the middle of a deluge. But we always look back, we always try to look forward as well, and remember everybody, all events…At the end of the day it was some personal approach to writing lyrics and to express this feeling in a more diverse way, or as diverse as we could have taken it.
Subterráneo Webzine: Really interesting. It actually got me reading about the whole Anunnaki story. But let’s change the subject a little bit to ask you about other projects. Are you currently involved on other music activity?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): We all were part of a band called DARK AEVUM from which we separated and started doing stuff for HATEVIRUS.
Before that I wasn´t involved in any other project. Obviously because of the age gap between myself and Iuliu, he had more experience and he had played in other bands before. One that I would like to mention is HATE from Petroșani, Romania, which when I first saw a live concert video of, I was blown away. To realize that they played at that level at that time for me it was mind blowing.
Previously to recording the album I was involved with a band called SPECTRAL PAIN. I am not aware of their current situation. I wanted to have another project with other people in Manchester, but didn´t go to fruition. In the end, leading to recording and actually investing all of my time and efforts into one thing, which is HATEVIRUS.
Laur is also involved with other projects. Pop-rock and the entertainment industry. The current one being called DEVORCHESTRA, sort of a jazzy-pop band, and they attend events.
Subterráneo Webzine: Besides your band I don’t think I had heard another Romanian metal band before, and that is totally my fault (ed: not true, I didn’t remember NEGURA BUNGET were from Timișoara). So I would like to know: how is the scene over there?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): I could strongly say that Romania has developed into a bigger scene. It’s quite alive nowadays with a lot of projects coming up every year. Not only band related, also mixing engineers are coming out, older ones are improving and getting international exposure and appreciation. It has definitely blown up. It’s pretty big if I think about it, as an insider, it’s much bigger than it used to be even five years ago.
Subterráneo Webzine: What about concerts and public? I am guessing that as in every other country, the bigger cities get to have more concerts rather than smaller ones, right? What about the public?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): The public has been growing which is something I am really happy about. At some point it felt like we were less and less people interested in these genres but now it has definitely increased directly proportionate to the scene or even more. I can say that every festival is fully booked, tickets are selling completely. Big bands are going to Romania, something that wouldn´t have happened before. But it seems that the industry has improved on that part.
HATEVIRUS (Lex): That kind of goes hand in hand with the bigger festivals. It has lead to having more and more local clubs bringing bands. That way groups have kept on growing, getting exposure, developing into a bigger name… And that influenced on putting on more and more festivals. We didn´t have one festival that was local to us, but now there are about three, so bands and people are actually working together in making it into a real thing.
Subterráneo Webzine: Which Romanian bands would you recommend us?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): DAYS OF CONFUSION, UNTOLD FAITH, EYESEERED (split), TARG3T, ECHINOX (split), FRONT, TAINE, SPECTRAL, THEORY OF MIND, DIRTY SHIRT, NECROVILE.
Subterráneo Webzine: Here comes a complicated question. You are tagged as melodic death metal, progressive, progressive melodic death metal… Depending on where you look about the HATEVIRUS’ information. I get influences by MORS PRINCIPIUM EST, GOJIRA, SCAR SYMMETRY, you mentioned DREAM THEATER before… How do you define the music that you play?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Well, it is not that difficult. And I am sure this might apply to other people.
When you start off, you don´t have a recipe in mind. You just do what you feel like, or comes to your mind from a creative point of view. So we didn´t really think “let’s make a progressive song” or a death metal song… We just started playing together, creating things. And ultimately what would come out was going to be a mixture of genres due to our background, which is in some respects similar, but yet different. We grew up listening to different genres and we unintentionally blended in the parts that we felt like we had in common. We didn´t have to agree on playing ‘this bit’ that we all liked, it just came natural.
But to keep it short and not go through my life story, we set off to play metal. And whatever came out… We are not bothered with anyone labeling us as anything or to their own taste. One thing is certain: we want to play metal. Whatever spice or flavor it will have, will only depend on the mood, or the creative process.
Subterráneo Webzine: We are going to start closing up, but first I must ask: What is your next step? Is there going to be a second album? Are you already working on new songs?
HATEVIRUS (Lex): Again I have to go back to the time when we decided we wanted to give this a go. There were several other songs that we left out, if there was going to be a second chance to do a an album. We had a larger number of songs that made us condense the track list into these ten songs, leaving the ones left out to be considered for the second album.
Before releasing the first album we started talking about which was going to be our next step… That process is alive and going and I am hoping it won´t go at the same pace as the previous. Improving techniques, communication, so we can have a second project out quicker that what we did with Hateful mind.
Subterráneo Webzine: Thanks again for taking the time. Hope to have that second album in my hands soon.
HATEVIRUS (Lex): No, gracias a ti un montón, por todo ¡Con mucho placer!