Piracy on the Digital Seas
People often assume that Bal-Sagoth
sell countless thousands of albums and make lots of money. I'm
afraid the truth of the matter is somewhat different. We've never
sold large numbers of albums; this is simply too much of a niche
market to be truly financially successful. And that's the way it
should be. Bal-Sagoth was always intended to be an obscure and
underground kind of band anyway, so I've always been happy with our
"minority appeal" status. We never really sought to make money from
this hobby, but by the same token, we don't want to lose money
either. On a day to day basis, I'm in contact with a lot of bands,
record companies and promoters. And the message from all is the
same. Record sales are down across the board. Gig attendances are
dropping. The music industry is in a state of flux, and must adapt
to survive. The twenty-first century's "something for nothing"
culture proliferates. It's a culture in which people want their
music, their movies and their games for free. And that's something
which will cripple the entertainment industry in the long run if
left unchecked. If bands don't make any money from their albums,
they'll be forced to stop making them. Even legal downloads through
valid channels pale into insignificance next to the vast plague of
illegal downloading, file sharing, and the like. All this might not
affect the big bands in any truly noticable capacity, but when
you're a niche band which sells very few albums anyway, the
consequences of piracy and buyer apathy can be devastating. Of
course, all this isn't really a new thing, but the scale of it is.
In the old days, people bought an LP, and then maybe made a
cassette copy for their friends, and then swapped it via the old
tape trading network. But these days, with the rise of digital
technology and the internet, a song and an album can be copied and
shared throughout the world in a matter of seconds, and rather than
getting a poor quality third generation analogue copy, you can have
a pristine digital copy of crystal clarity delivered to your hard
drive in the blink of an eye. You can even print out the album
cover, burn the album onto a CDR, and at the click of a mouse
button, print a label for the disc, too. All instead of buying the
album. So no, we never sold multitudes of albums in the old days,
and we sure aren't doing so now. Add to that the fact that even our
t-shirts are being bootlegged by dishonourable and nefarious
sources, and you have an industry in which many musicians are
finding it increasingly impossible to find a viable platform from
which to actually create art for their legitimate fans.
Will there be any further BAL-SAGOTH albums?
To be quite honest, the question of subsequent Bal-Sagoth
albums is something that has not yet been decided. Obviously all
the core members of the band would have to agree to proceed with
any further albums, and the reasons for proceeding would have to be
right. One thing is certain: the hexalogy is complete, and the
first phase of Bal-Sagoth is certainly over. But that doesn't mean
there will never be any more Bal-Sagoth albums. I'm not prepared to
close that particular door forever just yet. And yet perhaps the
legacy is complete, sacrosanct, and should remain untainted. You'll
soon see the various members of the band going on to new, exciting
side projects. And as for subsequent Bal-Sagoth albums... well,
I've got all the lyrics, stories and artwork already prepared for
such a venture. So, maybe one day... if the stars align...
Why doesn't BAL-SAGOTH play many gigs?
It is very difficult to recreate this material accurately in
the live environment. The music of Bal-Sagoth is so multi-layered
and intricate that there is really no way in which we can genuinely
translate the songs live to a truly satisfactory extent. Some of
the other guys in the band are okay with this constant compromise
in their desire to continually play shows, but it has always vexed
me, particularly when we attempt to play the more complex songs.
Additionally, I have always felt that when a band plays live,
much of the magic and the mystique which is contained on an album
is generally lost. No matter how good the show might be, the very
act of playing live often demystifies a band and brings them back
down to a mundane and earthly level; such are the limitations of
the technology and the very medium itself.
I'd also like to add that it takes a lot of preparation and
logistical planning for us to undertake shows. Rehearsals have to
be arranged, tranport has to be coordinated and band members have
to take time off from work. The low gig fees and shirt sales from
shows often simply do not make all that expenditure worthwhile.
Additionally, we don't have our own sound man, so we are
constantly forced to rely on the sound engineers available at
whatever venue we might be playing, and those sound engineers
invariably have no idea as to what this band should sound like in
the live environment. Even if we're afforded a thorough sound check
during which to educate the sound men as to the band's nature, the
levels and monitor mixes always end up wildly incorrect.
All in all, the live realm is certainly not the ideal
platform from which to showcase the artistic vision of Bal-Sagoth.
So basically, those are the reasons why this band doesn't
play live very often.
How did BAL-SAGOTH start?
How did the band start? This question has been asked so many
times over the years, so here’s the definitive version for the
archives! Here you will find out about the origin of both the
concept and the band itself. I came up with the idea and concept
for Bal-Sagoth many years ago (around 1989), and had tried
unsuccessfully to start it up with a succession of different
musicians. Unfortunately, it was the era of socially aware thrash
metal, and nobody was at all interested in commiting to a fantasy
oriented black/death metal project. I was determined to start the
project however, and continued my attempts to find musicians who
might be interested in the idea. Then, a guy I knew called Mac, who
had played guitar in a prominent local thrash band called
Systematic Insanity, asked me if I wanted to jam with some guys
he’d met. They were only playing Metallica and Napalm Death covers
in their bedroom (in an old manor house which had once been a
lunatic asylum), but they were interested in starting a serious
band. So, I went and met the Maudling brothers Jonny and Chris
(Jonny Maudling had previously been in a thrash band called
Igniter, playing the regional pubs and clubs) and also Jason
Porter, and we jammed some stuff. Unfortunately however, I really
wasn’t interested in playing the kind of material that they were
into, so I figured it just wasn’t going to work out. Jonny and
Chris weren’t at all familiar with black metal, and also Mac didn’t
like the fantasy/mythology concept I had in mind for the band, or
the name “Bal-Sagoth”. Mac wanted to do a sort of thrash/death
metal band with contemporary socio-political lyrical topics. He was
also, at that time, somewhat horrified at the suggestion of a metal
band with full keyboards. I figured I might as well keep jamming
with Mac until I found someone else with whom to start Bal-Sagoth,
so we called the non-serious bedroom outfit “Dusk” and continued to
spend Sunday afternoons making a horrific noise. Well, this went on
for a few months, but absolutely nothing came of it. I wasn’t happy
that I couldn’t implement the Bal-Sagoth concept fully, and Jonny
and Chris also confided in me that they too weren’t happy with the
kind of material which we were playing as Dusk. Then, for a variety
of reasons, we parted company with Mac (but ironically, Mac would
later re-join us on bass). At that point, I explained to Jonny and
Chris in detail the kind of music I wanted to do, and gave them a
rundown of the Bal-Sagoth concept, saying that keyboards would
ideally play a prominent role in such a band. Back then, I kept all
the lyrics, logos, and ideas in a large black folder, which I
showed them to give them a firm idea of the whole concept behind
the band. They thought it was all pretty weird, but Jonny, who was
a trained pianist, was very intrigued by the idea of keyboards, and
when I showed them material by black metal bands such as Emperor,
they were sold. And so, Bal-Sagoth was formally implemented during
the summer of 1993. We still had Jason on bass guitar, and for
keyboards we recruited Vincent, and we began crafting the music
which would ultimately end up on our demo and later on the debut
album. And that’s how the band started.
Over the years, a few people have asked me the following
questions, so I've added them to the FAQ...
Q: Wasn't the Circus Maximus used just for chariot racing? But
you have gladiatorial combat taking place there in "Blood Slakes
The Sand At the Circus Maximus".
BYRON: The Circus Maximus was very much an "all purpose"
arena. Although it is perhaps best known for the epic chariot
races, many different events were in fact held there, including
parades, beast hunts, plays, recitals, athletics, religious
ceremonies, gladiatorial contests and horse racing.
Q: Isn't "chthonic" pronounced wrong on the album "The Chthonic
BYRON: Sure, the "ch" is technically silent, but I chose to
pronounce it as "katonic" for a couple of reasons. First, I liked
the alliterative qualities which the "hard c" sound afforded when
paired with the word "chronicles", which neatly paralleled the
alliteration of the previous Bal-Sagoth album title "Atlantis
Ascendant". Second, I always liked the Lovecraftian connotation
which the "katonic" pronunciation suggested.
As editor Simon theorizes in the fictional "Necronomicon"
"The pronounciation of chthonic is "katonic", which explains
Lovecraft's famous Miskatonic River and Miskatonic University, not
to mention the chief deity of his pantheon, Cthulhu..."
So, although he is technically wrong about the pronunciation,
I always rather liked that theory and the phonetic link to HPL
which it afforded. So, that's why I decided to use the "katonic"
BYRON Winter 2011 (C.E.)