Voluptas is by no means a common name for a band, so please write a bit about the background of it and what made you take it.
- Yeah, probably because we are not a common band :). But seriously – just a few months after the band was founded (spring 2006, or thereabouts) we had a confirmed gig, so we needed a name quickly and no one had any relevant ideas. At that time I was studying for my Latin exam and I liked how the word Voluptas looked and sounded. Also the meaning seemed ok to us – we played something like crossover/alternative rock/punk at that time. Voluptas was the daughter of Eros and Psyche and the word in Latin stands for (and, in Roman mythology, personifies) pleasure, delight, satisfaction, and enjoyment.. In retrospect, I’m not sure if we would choose this name again, but it’s just something that stuck with us... After all, music is still a pleasure for us.
Why and when did you start this band? What has been the initial idea, so to speak?
- Štěpán and Pepa
- The two of us played together in one no-name project a few years before we started Voluptas in 2006, along with our ex-singer and didgeridoo player Lukáš. We also used two songs from that time later in Voluptas. After a break of one or two years, Pepák found a capable guitarist (Jakub/Guly) and we finally started Voluptas. Each member contributed his own approach and influences, which was mostly crossover/alternative rock/HC/punk music even with “ethno” influences. It was a rather strange brew, and every song was different in style. Around 2010 or 2011, after Martin came to the band, we moved towards black and doom metal. In 2011, the vocalist Lukáš left and was replaced by Michal. In 2012, we parted ways with Jakub, after which Jan/Sup joined the band in early 2013. Since that time, the line-up has been stable and new songs started to be a bit more coherent in shape and tone (though there’s still a lot of space for improvement in terms of songwriting).
The Metal Archives does not provide much information on the band members, well aside from their names of course. Have any of them prior experiences to this band and are some even active in other projects right now?
- I’d been doing vocals with some black and death metal bands in Moravia before I moved to Prague, but there were no recordings to speak of. For the future, I do have some plans outside Voluptas, but nothing is officially confirmed yet.
- Although I started doing music prior to my engagement in Voluptas, it was actually my first band. Before that, we formed a project of sorts with Štěpán, but I would even hesitate to call it a project – it was merely an idea – and we basically ended before we started. The name was Xulogozothoth, I think, and we only managed to compose two funeral-ish riffs. Funny thing is that we have recently resurrected those two riffs and are going to use them for a new Voluptas song. My second band is Adonis DNA, kind of psychedelic-blackmetal-rock, something that I've started with Jan several years ago. For me, Adonis DNA is more of a musical confession than a genre-based band and it has a special place in my heart, as pathetic as it sounds. Aside from that, I have two yet-not-properly-executed projects, one being an unnamed black metal project and the other a lo-fi neofolk project. It is a shame that though the songs are composed and lyrics written, there is neither time nor people for proper execution.
- Apart from Voluptas, my most recent band is Olaf Olafsonn and the Big Bad Trip. We play rather unconstrained psychedelic rock with lots of improvisation, some classical influences… and a flute! We only started last year, but things have been going pretty fast from there. Like Martin already said, the two of us also play in Adonis DNA. We like to call it “psychotic black metal”, but it’s not even meant to have any real descriptive value. ADNA is indeed more of a pampered child than a routinely functioning band at the time being, but I’m sure there’s some potential buried deep below, we just have to keep digging. I also used to record some deranged impro stuff as Věž, and lo-fi nature-inspired folk/ambient songs as Modřínový háj, but these have lain idle since I started Adonis DNA and joined Voluptas. Generally, what all my bands seem to have in common is wobbly mental health and a mild to moderate degree of eccentricity. Voluptas are no exception.
- Around the time we started Voluptas, I played in crust/punk band Discunt´e! We had some good songs, we rehearsed a lot and were in pretty good shape, but everything went down the drain, because we couldn’t find a singer and one of our members had some drug-related issues.
Your first and so far only release "Ved Rums Ende" points to a peculiar band from Norway: Ved Buens Ende. Could you elaborate on all things hinge together and what made you pick this reference. How can "Ved Rums Ende" be translated?
- For most of us, Ved Buens Ende (which stands for “At Rainbow’s End”) are a great source of inspiration. We love this band as much as we love rum (and that means a lot!), which is why we put these two things together. Ved Rums Ende is not a very serious name – it could be translated as “At Rum’s End”, and it is also a nod to the end of our “ultra-punk” era, pointing at the fact that after this record we would perhaps like to start taking the band a bit more seriously.
- Ved Buens Ende are an inspiration, that’s for sure – especially when it comes to disharmony and magical/surreal atmosphere. Their influence is probably most detectable in Plísně kosmické. But we certainly don’t intend to be a VBE revival or something like that, leaving aside the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do that even if we wanted to.
Would you consider playing a cover version of one of their tracks? If so, which one would you pick?
- I would pick I Sang for the Swans – mainly because it’s my most favourite track - but the problem is that Ved Buens Ende did something that is very hard to imitate, at least for us. It would be almost impossible to redo drums for example, but guitars are also quite difficult at some places. We could do some adaptation or something of course, but I think their songs are better the way they are :)
- It´s hard to choose only one track, because almost everything from them is brilliant, but probably I would pick A Mask in the Mirror (maybe it’s strange, but I prefer little more their demo instead of full length). In that others I agree with Martin. We are not yet able to do it with dignity. But one day...!
- Covering such a unique and original band would require some serious creative input. Playing a VBE cover note for note just doesn’t make sense. And like Martin and Štěpán said, I think we have to walk a few more miles before we can just bang our fists on the table and say “Alright, let’s cover VBE/Arcturus/Ulver/Dodheimsgard” and do all the work that it takes with, well, dignity.
How does the artwork of your release fit into this? Who had been responsible for it?
Michal: The author of the artwork is Jan’s uncle and he had almost complete creative freedom, we only gave him a couple of keywords related to some themes and motifs that we wanted to incorporate. And we have to say he’s done an excellent job. If you have a closer look at the artwork, you can find some of our songs in it. The most striking one is probably Golgotha, but there is also the mildewed moon (Plísně kosmické, which stands for The Moulds from Outer Space), Evil and Forests (Zlo a lesy), and, as an easily detectable Easter egg, there’s also a rum bottle. The inside of the CD case has not been published yet, but on the physical copy, there will also be some Twin Peaks allusions, etc.
Judging from the fact that the bandcamp entry has the lyrics available in English it would be safe to say that the band also uses these texts, but why are the track titles in Czech, then? And why no lyrics in Czech?
- The thing is that lyrics are always written by me and titles are always Štěpán's ideas. Many of our songs had no lyrics at all before I came into the band and those that we composed after my arrival (which, therefore, had lyrics from the beginning) were also named by Štěpán. Some titles are actually puns: “Plísně Kosmické” for example is a play on “Písně Kosmické”, which is a name of a book of poetry by Czech poet Jan Neruda (“Písně kosmické” translates as “The Songs from Outer Space” whereas our title means “The Moulds from Outer Space” – the Lovecraftian motif is more than obvious, hehe).
The main reason why we've chosen English over our native language is that Czech would just sound a bit silly. It has a different dynamics. English is generally more suitable for this kind of music, I think.
- The thing is there’s this enormous bulk of international English lyrics which has generated over time a sort of “twilight zone” of wishy-washy conventional phrases, where you can hide with mediocre-to-crappy lyrics and be more or less well shielded from the critics, unless one of them cares to look at the words really closely. If your Czech lyrics are no good, especially in a genre like black metal, they somehow tend to stick out a bit more, even to less demanding ears. The specific dynamics of the language plays a role, of course. But also convention/tradition. As for Voluptas, most of us have a background in English that goes well beyond grappling with basic grammar and knowing there once was a guy named Dickens. Some of us use the language every day, admire the literature, etc. (not only Lovecraft), so I don’t think we (Martin) chose English merely as a soft option. While it may be easier to hide in the shadows, it is quite challenging to produce above-average lyrics in a language other than our mother tongue, but generally I believe it can be done, as long as you’re good enough to pull it off. I’m by no means saying that’s our case, though – dog forbid! :))
What do your lyrics deal with? Do these follow in line with what is common in the black metal scene?
- Every theme is different and I have no intention concerning continuity neither with myself nor with some kind of scene or genre. To paint a picture: Catastrophe is about natural disasters and the nature of mankind, Podzimní (Autumn Song) plays with pagan imagery, Leland is obviously a theme from Twin Peaks... And the most recent thing, Plísně kosmické (The Moulds from Outer Space), is actually a rearranged poem I wrote some time before the creation of the song itself, and it is about one very bad night I had. Last but not least, Zlo a lesy (Evil and Forests) is a song about falling face down on the ground shitfaced – one of our deepest lyrics for sure.
Speaking about black metal, how would you describe your music? What are its core essences?
- There is no single core essence. Our older songs (Podzimní, Catastrophe) were mostly rooted in dark hardcore, crust, emocore/screamo and doom/sludge/post-metal (Golgotha), while our newer songs mostly build on black and doom metal, but we still play it in a somewhat punky manner. The reason is partly the simple fact that we can’t play it any better, but on the other hand, we kinda like it that way!
What bands have and still play a role in terms of influences?
- In newer songs it’s VBE/Virus/DHG, Oranssi Pazuzu, Bohren & der Club of Gore (Plísně). In older songs it would be Angelo Badalamenti (Leland), Carpathian Forest, Agalloch, Darkthrone (Zlo a lesy), Celtic Frost, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard (Lože vyvrhelovo), Sólstafir, Lvmen, Madame Germen (Golgotha, Podzimní), Hellshock (Catastrophe). Maybe old Opeth in terms of mood. Some people have told us they can hear the influence of Master’s Hammer in our music; that also makes sense.
- Also definitely Comus in terms of atmosphere, though it may not be so evident in Voluptas. And of course Ulver – as a distant beacon.
The opener breaks with the flow of the album or is it the other way around? It is difficult to say, but it is strange to experience such a furious opening and then a certain avoidance to follow it. How does the opener and the rest fit together?
- Most tracks on the album are pretty old. Plísně kosmické is by far the newest song we’ve created (at least it was at the time of recording). This is why we decided to display it in the shop-window, so to speak, with the rest of the songs following as a sort of a trip into the band’s history.
- Štěpán: That’s true. There are actually great temporal gaps between the individual songs. We are far from your idea of a well-functioning band – it’s pretty common for us that we don’t see each other for a few months, during which we have no rehearsals and no songwriting is taking place. We were an active band barely for a half of the official 10 years of our recorded existence. Our oldest song is Podzimní (2007–8), then Catastrophe (2010–11) and Golgotha (2010–11), followed by Leland (2011).
- Even as somebody who joined the band late, I can definitely sense that there’s been a change in songwriting, with Plísně kosmické being the landmark. I have to say that some of the older songs are actually really well written (e.g. Leland), but as a larger whole they are quite disparate. With Plísně kosmické and the new songs we’re working on now, things are finally starting to settle for something more coherent.
How do the elements in your compositions fall into place? How do you approach the song-writing aspect as well as maintaining a certain consistency in terms of style, sound and concept? Is this something the entire band is involved in?
- Podzimní was composed mostly by me, Catastrophe and Golgotha by me and our ex-guitarist Jakub/Guly. The rest, the newer songs, are mostly Martin’s job. We’re talking about the composition of the song’s core, of course – every member then plays around with their part or makes it up completely, as long as the rest agrees (or doesn’t protest too much).
- As for composition, it’s almost the same every time – I come to rehearsal with some basic draft, we do some brainstorming and frequently change things like order of different sequences etc. Others create their parts on the go – often someone brings a new riff that is added into the song etc. Since Jan is a far more talented and trained guitarist than I am, he is responsible for solos and melodic ideas. Pepa can come up with rich, layered drum patterns and he adds some uniqueness to our songs, because he is not exactly a typical metal drummer. It is important to say that we sound the way we do mostly due to Štěpán’s distinctive way of composing bass lines – they are frequently melodic lines rather than typical groovy bass lines. Last but not least, there is Michal who also creates his vocal lines. For the first two or three songs, I actually recorded my own version of vocals for him to learn, because we thought that I am able to do the right flow since I wrote the lyrics, but time has revealed that Michal does the job better than me, so it’s all up to him now.
While there is certainly metal in the tracks, this aspect is not put up front, but rather merged among other influences. Well, how does your band fit into the broader (black) metal spectrum? What does your local scene look like?
- People with whom we are in touch are actually mostly from the local DIY HC/punk scene, although most of them also have metal bands. We can drop a couple of names of some young bands: The Tower (traditional doom/heavy) and Black Aspirin (crust/sludge/death) from Prague and Self-hatred (funeral doom/black) from Pilsen. Also worth mentioning are Plague Porter (avantgarde black), and then there are of course Master’s Hammer, but they reached kvlt status long before Voluptas was even born. From non-metal Czech bands, we love madebythefire (math/prog/post-rock) from Pilsen – they are really great.
- Some more great Czech bands, both young and not-so-young, are Zkouška sirén and Argonaut (off-the-hook stoner), Ubožák (delirious post-rock/metal) and Permon Balet Superstar (one-of-a-kind math rock-ish band).
Currently your music is only available digitally, but there are plans to spread it on CD or so as well. Can you name a definite date?
- The CDs have already been printed, we are just waiting for the cover. It will be a DIY cardboard package, and I think it will be quite a treat. We’ve got 100 copies and there will be a release party at our gig with Alkerdeel on 30th October in Prague. https://www.facebook.com/events/946599172133693/
We are releasing the CD ourselves and we will also take care of all distribution, there’s no label involved. So if you want a copy, just drop us a line and we will be happy to ship it to wherever you are. In the future, we would like to have a vinyl, too – maybe not of Ved Rums Ende, but some other future record. But it will also depend on how the CDs will sell.
Could you write a bit about your experiences on stage? Do you only stick to you music or play cover versions as well? How does the music differ from your album stuff once you are on stage?
- We drink a lot of rum and we fuck up bigtime! We love playing live, even though we don’t do it that often. But there’s no special message in our live shows and we don’t have any special image either. We played a cover of one Norwegian blackmetal band a few times, but otherwise we don’t usually play or even attempt covers.
- Rum is very important for our gigs, we usually have at least one bottle on stage. Very soon we found out that we actually play better when we drink rum than when we’re sober, but the problem is, of course, to find good measure – it’s a real tightrope.
How and where can someone get/find/buy your music?
- You can download it on bandcamp and, like I said, we will soon have CDs. That will be announced also on bandcamp, as well as on our facebook page.
What would be your plans with the band for the future?
- On 30th October we play with Alkerdeel in Prague and we decided to turn this occasion into a release party for Ved Rums Ende. At the moment we are working on three new songs, and we will play one of them live on the 30th. It is mostly black and doom metal with some other influences – and hopefully also at least a microinjection of DHG-like insanity. Other than that, we just hope to come up with some new songs, play live every now and then, and not to kill ourselves with the rum.
Closing comments if you like.
All: Thanks for your interest in our lousy crew. This interview has been a fuzzy and heart-warming experience, which is very welcome in this cold realm of mould, forests and evil that we usually inhabit. Godspeed y’all!