Each person is the main character of their own story. And every story hast its music.
We live so many beginnings everyday we can’t be aware of all of them. But when a beast arises music changes and if we pay attention it will help us understand what’s going on. This is TORTUGA’s reason to exist: the noble art of storytelling mixed with a generous amount of dirty riffs and heavy rythms.
They are some nice guys from Poznań, Poland. And they agreed to answers a few questions about a lot of unrelated stuff. So if you want to know a bit more about the band, don’t you dare closing this tab. Unless you are curious about their last album, Deities. Then you can read the review here: ‘Deities‘ review.
But just when you finish reading it and listening to the album come back here; you have to know more about them.
Subterráneo Webzine: Welcome. I would like to begin this conversation making a trip to the old reality when there were shows and bands travelled from one place to another. So for anyone who doesn’t know you yet can situate TORTUGA and get out of these weird times we are living before getting into your disturbing world: what bands would TORTUGA play along with in a perfect tour?
TORTUGA: Hello there! We start with a tough one… I guess all of us would have a different answer, and we are going to assume it doesn’t matter if the bands are still playing or even living, so:
Pablo: I think TORTUGA should tour with CANDLEMASS, TYPE O NEGATIVE and MEGADETH.
Kłosu: I totally agree with Pablo and I would also add KING DIAMOND.
Marmur: TOOL would be cool. But also RED SCALP, they are lovely.
Heszu: I agree with the rest of the band, but I would add PENTAGRAM, ELECTRIC WIZARD and TURBONEGRO.
Subterráneo Webzine: How is a psychedelic stoner-doom band born in Poland? Is there no need for deserts to make this kind of music anymore?
TORTUGA: Well I guess that’s true for real stoner. This psychedelic stoner-doom tag is a little bit closer to the Polish reality. This is a doomed country… but you still can find a lot of bright points. You have long and cold winters, but if you spend them smoking joints with your friends in your rehearsal room… suddenly you have this kind of psychedelic stoner-doom. Then you can evolve in one or another direction, but I guess that’s how many bands here started.
Marmur: The guys are right, but in their speech you can see some romantic point. In fact people always have some reasons to escape from reality by listening to music. Doom penetrates deeply into your mind’s world, so it’s an easy way to escape, as a drug is for mental illness.
Subterráneo Webzine: As I said in the review I think your album radiates creative freedom. I think that is what makes each song flow by itself but despite this the full album has its own coherence. That feel is something many bands try to achieve while creating music but when it’s artificially added it results in very similar songs and little ‘flow’ to it, something that not even remotely happens in Deities. Did you put a lot of effort on trying to make the album sound like a whole trip or did it turn out to be a just a happy coincidence?
TORTUGA: Definitely, there was some effort to make the album as it is. We didn’t want it to be attached to any kind of specific genre, and a lot of different musical inspirations are mixing there.
We mostly created songs using this way: we decided what is the song about, which deity is involved, what is the history, and then we compose around that. That’s why you have songs like «For Elizard« and «Galeon de Manila« in the same album. Writing the first one we knew we wanted it to be “funny”, it is a Serpent God doing like a reclamation because he hates Godzilla and I think the music relates to that. On the other hand, «Galeon de Manila« is a classic lovecraftian story written by us about a galeon’s captain going crazy and killing the whole crew because of Cthulian nightmares… and I guess it is also well printed in the song style. We tried to give every song a unique character and happily it became a whole conceptual album.
Subterráneo Webzine: I don’t know if each one of you is a Lovecraft fan or there is just a huge fan that has drawn the rest of the band to get into those gloomy lovecraftian places. Who is responsible of the theme? Considering that you came from a mostly instrumental album, did Lovecraft stories inspire your music or did the music come first but demanded to talk about gods and disasters?
TORTUGA: We all dig Lovecraft somehow, some of us have read a great part of his bibliography. However, the storyteller of the band is Pablo, he is the one who wrote all the stories and came up with the album’s topic. The rest of the band loved the idea of a Lovecraftian deities concept album because we all love this universe.
About the second question, the concept of the album came first and then the music. As we told in the previous question, every song was created to fit every deity. Once we knew the “mood” that the song had to have we created the music.
Subterráneo Webzine: As much exploited as Lovecraft might seem in metal, there still are innovative approaches to it, like yours. Leaving aside musical influences, did you have any other Lovecraft inspired album or band as a reference on how you would like to portray the concept?
TORTUGA: Actually we don’t have any other cultural reference for this album than the Lovecraft work itself. We just liked the idea of a concept album, it just made sense for us. I guess there are a lot of lovecraftian albums but we weren’t inspired by any of them, thematically speaking – musically speaking we could be talking for a while.
Subterráneo Webzine: The quality and care put on your album caught my attention from the very first moment I knew it was a DIY product. Bands that choose this way to present their work usually put a lot of effort on its presentation and the result can be magnificent, but there are also occasions when the resources are limited and can play as a handicap. Why did you choose the DIY way?
TORTUGA: First of all, we love the way of DIY: we feel that it’s truly an honest method of doing things, and nowadays, with enough work and effort, you can do a lot by yourself not being limited by e.g. access to a recording studio. Speaking of our recording session, well, the key thing here is that Kłosu (guitarist) is also a sound engineer, so he had a lot of the audio stuff that we needed but also the knowledge of how to do it in a slightly different way. We also have our very good pal Joachim who is our live sound engineer and he also helped us develop our album.
Having this said, it was not an easy way. The reason for doing it all on our own is that we wanted it to sound truly special and for that you need to change a lot of things that are normally done on recording sessions. For example, the drums were not recorded in a studio’s live room. We recorded them in an huge old barn in the middle of the polish countryside during three nights. On the drums tracks lay why the record sounds that atmospheric and overwhelming: because of that long, dark and natural reverb. Then we recorded the rest of the tracks in our own rehearsal room, during calm cold nights, trying some non-conventional mics on guitars and bass, and natural reverbs on vocals.
After that Kłosu mixed and mastered the album on his own, keeping uniqueness in mind. DIY is a very hard way for a whole album, we were lucky to have the resources but the amount of work we had to do was insane. With the next album, we are going to do it slightly different, but still with full control of the sound. Kłosu’s friend is now building a recording studio in central Poland’s countryside, and he shares a similar approach to our vision of recording things and using natural acoustics.
Subterráneo Webzine: To those who might be thinking about releasing their music without a label or a producer, what would you tell them? Without going into detail, could you tell us about the steps you had to take to edit your second album by yourselves? In case you would have done this with a label, do you think it would have been less ‘yours’, less personal?
TORTUGA: Get ready for tons of work! I guess the steps are pretty straight forward. We composed, recorded, mixed and released it. The first three parts are pretty logical, well you have to know how to produce an album or you have to pay someone to do it. Then for the release is where it gets tricky.
First of all, we live in times where doing this has become easier than before. For all the digital releases you have Bandcamp, YouTube and all the digital platforms. Bandcamp has to be done by yourself, for YouTube you can go by yourself or search for well known channels that will give you more audience. And then for digital platforms you have companies that will do it for you for very little fee. Then you have to reach a lot of people inside the scene, you have to search for all the reviewers, zines and people that talk about music and send them your press pack and your album. These people know about music and if your album is good they will speak about it and make it known in the scene.
Physical release is completely another thing. For CDs we paid for everything, for merchandising we paid for everything and for vinyls we made a deal with a small but fastly growing label from Greece, Made of Stone Recordings. They helped us with vinyls since they are the most expensive part of the release.
We can proudly say that all the money we invested has been returned even in these pandemic times without gigs. The stoner-doom scene is pretty amazing and the people have bought through bandcamp a lot, not only to us, but to a lot of bands we know. They saw that the bands cannot earn a lot without gigs and they spent the money of the gigs to buy CDs, vinyls and merch from the bands. Eternal love to this awesome community.
About the last part of the question I guess it depends on the label and the agreement you have with such label. We know for sure that it wouldn’t change a thing for us, we have an idea and we want to do that idea. We don’t know what will happen in the future [editorial note: it happened, TORTUGA is working now with Napalm Records]. If we decide to cooperate with a label we are entering in the cooperation with our terms and that means full creative control. We have our concept for the third album, the theme is settled and we want to make it real. If a label wants to cooperate with us we will make clear from the beginning what is our idea.
Marmur: returning to DIY recording, it is hard to imagine the whole process without enjoying this work. If you really like to wind up the cables and carry the equipment, then you will realise that time is going so fast.
Subterráneo Webzine: Now that the music industry is wobbling, bands like TORTUGA that have chosen to do it independently are watching the world as it burns while eating popcorn? How does the actual situation affect you? Besides the absence of live shows.
TORTUGA: I guess underground music is a whole different thing. We don’t rely on big agreements or thousands of people buying CDs. We rely on music lovers that still want to support the music they like. As we said above these people have understood that there are no shows and they are using their “music budget” to buy merch, CDs and vinyls. We are speaking here about the stoner-doom scene, since it is the one we know, but we hope it is the same for all underground scenes.
Subterráneo Webzine: Are there too many premade bands and a lack of groups that want to show their music because they have something to express? If you are left with nothing else to say with music would you keep on creating it? Does music have to express something?
TORTUGA: I think every band will have their own goal. Maybe some bands will sound premade without originality, suited for radio. But maybe that’s their goal, we have known people that want music to be their job and certainly doing more accessible music is an easy way of doing so. And that’s totally respectable!
For us, music is something that has to be like our child, if we wouldn’t like to do it, we wouldn’t, we have our daily jobs. Tortuga has become… how to say this? A very ‘jobly’ hobby. It is still the thing that we do for fun, like a hobby, but somehow it grew bigger and sometimes it feels like a second job. But one that we are very proud of and that makes our life better.
Subterráneo Webzine: I think I have already made enough questions to not give the impression that I requested this interview only to ask for this (just kidding): what’s going on in Galeón de Manila? Why did you choose to end things that way? Are you working on something (or planning to) along that style? Because I think it suits you quite well.
TORTUGA: «Galeon de Manila» is based in a short lovecraftian history that Pablo wrote. The song is about a galeon that ships from Acapulco to Manila in the XVII century but on its way, during the nights, the captain is being manipulated by Cthulhu’s desires. They cannot control the course of the galeon and it heads towards the R’lyeh (underwater lair of Cthulhu).
What happens during the song is that the captain, blinded by the Old One, kills the whole crew. At the end of the song, when the boat has arrived to the R’lyeh position, recovers his sanity for a few moments and then, he prays for his soul and for the crew’s souls while destroying the galeon with an axe (that’s what the drums’ beats are trying to emulate). The aural-hypnotising synth drone at the end symbolizes the ship sinking to the R’lyeh. We thought that synths used in such a dark song symbolized very well the cosmic horror. That’s the weird part, and it’s supposed to be like it.
It is a style that we like a lot as well. We surely will use more synths in the next album since we loved them in «Galeon«. And we surely want to do another total doom song with synths. There are already some ideas for that, but the third album is one that is going to be strongly conceptual as well and this style won’t suit all songs.
Subterráneo Webzine: The ‘rockstar’ figure that many of us grew up with and hoped to become some day is disappearing day by day. Personally I think that your music would be more enjoyable in a not fully sold out hall than in a stadium. There’s some kind of ceremonial halo that surrounds your style. How would you describe one of your live shows? Restrained and with summoning vibes or do you play like a rockstar even if there’s ten people in the audience?
TORTUGA: It’s nice that you say that because frankly that’s how our shows look like, not fully sold out halls, but more atmospheric, intimate. But there are some things on our checklist when we are playing live:
First we take a lot of care of our sound. Yes, we do worship old tube amplifiers and vintage cabinets and we want them to sound as huge as possible. That’s why most of the time we have a fifth member, Joachim, which is a live sound engineer and comes with us to our tours and makes sure that everything sounds like it should.
Then we have smoke, a lot of smoke. For us there is no atmosphere without the smoke. Once, the smoke machine broke in a gig and it wouldn’t stop working. That venue had no ventilation so we played the show without even seeing our pedal effects, there was thick smoke everywhere. After the gig, a lot of people complained about that, because all that they saw was flat green colour but others, the trve ones, said that it was epic. We think as well that it was epic.
Lastly, the lights. Usually we want not too much and mostly green or blue, or ultraviolet.
As for the attitude it depends a lot on the audience. If the people are involved and screaming and so on, we are as well. Live shows are a two way interaction, musicians also look at the audience and share the mood. If the audience is quiet and standing so we usually are as well, and that’s OK too! There are not two identical shows so we don’t have a prepared attitude. It will depend on the audience, the venue and the general mood.
Subterráneo Webzine: With the unexpected stop due to the pandemic and your album just released, how are you getting organized? Are you still meeting for rehearsals, composing, planning any online show, or did apathy defeated you?
TORTUGA: We only got to play seven shows after the release of the album, so that sucked pretty hard. As you can imagine, there were some apathetic days where we didn’t play as much as we would like.
But we have used the time to settle the bases for the new album, theme and concept. We have created some new music that will be in our third album and we have also made some deals for future and present collaborations. We have also made tour plans, but those are not certain since we don’t know what will happen with this pandemic.
On the good side, we found a new and awesome rehearsal room and we came back to play!
TORTUGA: Our prays to the deities have finished.
We have the feeling that some people think that Tortuga is a lovecraftian themed band. However TORTUGA is a story themed band. We like to tell stories, we like concept albums. Deities had this theme but the next one won’t be related to Lovecraft. It will be a strongly conceptual album but the theme will be something different.
Subterráneo Webzine: Don’t just leave without letting us know some bands that you enjoy. Maybe some close friends, underground local bands… And even if almost everyone does it it’s not mandatory that those bands are fully integrated by men. We also like to know women that play cool music, sure you know some.
TORTUGA: Very close friends of ours are RED SCALP, we have toured together and now we even share a rehearsal room. Some other friend bands from here (not strictly Poznań) could be HYDRA, SMOKES OF KRAKATAU, SPACESLUG, SUNNATA, MOONSHINE, BANTHA RIDER, SHINE… there are tons.
As bands with female members, sadly there are not too many in Poland. There is a post-punk girls band from Poznań, HER SIDE, and there was a doom band called BITCHCRAFT with a female vocalist, they had a huge sound! But they are no longer playing.
We are also proud to have shared the stage with WINDHAND and their lead vocalist Dorthia. She is a myth within the stoner-doom scene!
Subterráneo Webzine: Take a lot of care and don’t let chaos and uncertainty beat you. Hope to see you soon in Spain.
TORTUGA: You too, hopefully someday we will tour our way there.