Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 7, 2019
New York's Immolation are considered one of the pioneers and most respected bands of the Death Metal genre. They have established their position as one of the most hard-working bands as well, one that has put out quality albums one after another and seem to be constantly touring around the globe. This year is no exception as they have tours in South America, Australia, Asia, North America and Europe coming up.
Immolation was booked for Steelfest on May 17, 2019, which is located in the small town of Hyvinkää in Finland. The guys arrived straight from Amsterdam under a tight schedule. Despite this, yours truly was able to arrange a quick chat with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna to talk about the band's touring plans for the rest of the year, working with new stuff, staying loyal to your roots and some other things as well...
BACK TO FINLAND AFTER ELEVEN YEARS
Luxi: First of all, welcome to Finland, guys! It's been a while since you last played in Finland eleven years ago, when you were doing the "Shadows of the Emissaries Curse" tour in 2008 with Melechesh, Goatwhore and Sickening Horror. Damn, it's a long time...
Bob: You probably remember better than me [*laughs*], it's been a while. I remember it being good. We did a few shows here over the past few years. We played Helsinki with the bands that you mentioned. We might have done some other shows before that. I honestly don't remember; it's been a while since we've been here, but I remember it being awesome. It's just good to be back after all this time because some tours just don't go through certain areas and that's unfortunately how it goes. It happens in the States a lot too. You'll miss certain areas a lot like Florida, for instance. It could be years before we played down there. We'd been actually going back there recently now. It's cool. It's just the way it is, but we're happy to be back and especially on a fest like this. It's awesome.
Luxi: Now you are here at Steelfest which has a pretty badass lineup this year, with such names as Vital Remains, Asphyx, Belphegor, Marduk, you and so on. How do you like this venue? I guess you have been walking around a little bit, just to see how this place looks like?
Bob: I saw the lineup, and I was like, "This is going to be awesome". We just saw the Marduk guys, who we played with at Graveland Open Air Festival in Holland. We just got to see Helmuth who is just about to go on stage. We saw him and I was like, "Cool, Belphegor is going on soon". The whole fest is definitely cool. A lot of good bands and we thought it would be great. We just took a walk out there quick and it was like, "This is awesome". It's a cool vibe because it's outside, but you have the buildings around, it's contained, the stage is in a cool spot. Everyone can convene there.
Luxi: You'll be playing pretty late tonight (from 11:45 PM to 01:00 AM). Knowing our Finnish drinking habits, it's very likely that most of the audience will be very drunk by the time you get on the stage...
Bob: Whatever, we don't choose the times. When it comes to the fest, we'd rather be playing like 8:00 PM at night. It's always better to play a little earlier. That's what they gave us. We take what we get, and we go. I'm sure it'll be cool. Hopefully, most people will hang out and we'll have a good time [*laughs*].
DIFFERENT FESTIVALS, DIFFERENT SCENES
Luxi: As you mentioned, prior to Steelfest, you played at Graveland Open Air Festival in Holland on May 11th with bands like Entombed A.D., The Crown, Lik and so on. This is a pretty new Metal festival. How did you like it?
Bob: These are all new for us, but that one, yes it was good. This one seems a little bit bigger, but that one was very cool. It was in a nice park area as well. It was fun, we had a really good time, fucking Entombed A.D. was there, so L.G. (Petrov) was there and we hung out with him. The Marduk guys were there, of course. We had the Massive Music crew that we always usually tour with, the promoters from Poland that set up all our tours. Those guys were there because they had a Marduk tour going on. We got to see all those guys, too. It's always like just meeting up with friends and having a good time.
Luxi: After this Steelfest, you will play at Maryland Deathfest's XVII...
Bob: We go home and a few days later we do Maryland Deathfest, which has a pretty extreme lineup, pretty underground. That should be fun, too. We just played Baltimore a few months ago with the Decibel Magazine tour. This will be nice, we'll go back again, and it will be a different scene because you have all different people from all over the place going to the fest. It will be fun. We are looking forward to it.
Luxi: I know that you have played at Maryland Deathfest before, three or four times as far as I can remember?
Bob: We're very spaced out. The last time we played it was 2014. It's like every five or so years, but it's always a great fest. It's changed over the years. When we first started playing it wasn't even in the area it is now. It's developed and those guys are super cool and they branched out and are doing a lot of things all over the place. From California to the Netherlands, et cetera. We have a good rapport with them and it's always a good fest no matter which one we're on, it's always a cool time.
Luxi: You'll be touring a lot this year, doing some festival shows here in Europe then playing some shows in some South American and Asian countries, going to Australia and Japan as well. It's a pretty interesting year for you gigging-wise.
Bob: Yes, it is an interesting year for us with all these shows across the planet. We are doing three shows in Australia with Dark Funeral and then we will do about eight dates in Asia. We're doing about six or seven dates in South America, about eight dates in Asia, we're going to Japan for three dates as well. We have a forty-date North America tour that we are going to be announcing soon. That's going to be coming up. That's going to all be in the US and Canada. We're working on something for Europe for November. We're busy.
NEW IMMOLATION IN THE WORKS: HEADING TOWARDS A MORE ATMOSPERIC AND DARKER DIRECTION
Luxi: After you have finished all this touring, do you believe that you will take a break at the end of the year and then start putting your energies toward the next Immolation album? Can you tell us about any new Immolation stuff that you have been working on?
Bob: Yes, that's the plan. We've got four new songs already and we're going to be working on new songs. The idea is to get the album recorded before the end of the year and put out early next year sometime, the earlier part of next year, then start touring hard. That's the whole thing. We did a couple of great tours in the US, one with the Cavalera brothers and one with Mayhem in 2017.
We did a European tour in 2018, just select stuff, and the end of 2018 was slow. We decided we really wanted to get out there and just support the Atonement album which to us, was one of our best releases. We figured, let's get out there in a big way and just do a nice Atonement run for the rest of the year, get out on some festivals, get out in the United States, get out in Europe. At the same time, we're going to be working on a new record. 2020, we'll get that out, then we'll start over again.
We just wanted to get out there more. We think the record's great. We have a couple more videos we're going to be releasing soon. We're just going to just keep going out there and pushing and having a good time. Everything we've done so far has been great.
Luxi: So, we cannot expect a teaser from you guys before the next full-length, like a new EP, for example?
Rob: We're going to write six more and put the album out.
Luxi: Dammit. My impatience is killing me! [*laughs*]
Rob: You know us. You're lucky we get any songs done [*laughs*]
Luxi: Could you describe your new songs, style-wise? In the vein of your previous album, Atonement?
Robert: Yes, I'd say so, it's like the last one. A little different, I'd say. We are going in probably an even darker direction. It's going to be like Atonement, but maybe a little more atmospheric and a little darker. We're always trying to develop ourselves and make things different. Whatever comes naturally, of course, but that's the direction it's taken. It's heavy, but it's dark and it's got the atmosphere. That's what we do.
Luxi: I suppose you want to keep certain limits to keep the Immolation trademark sound while still being able to push the envelope a little bit with each album?
Bob: It's always Immolation. We are always trying fresh ideas for the band. We always sound like Immolation no matter what, we always try and push things forward and that's key for us to just take the music to a different area for ourselves. The only thought is to write and come up with some really cool stuff and that's what we do. In doing that, we always try and find a different avenue and make things fresh and that, to us is important.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STICKING TO YOUR ROOTS
Luxi: Immolation has been one of the most respected Death Metal forces among extreme music fans. You guys have been around for such a long time, since 1988, and have stayed true to your roots. Sometimes it's hard for bands to keep their musical concept intact. Many fans feel betrayed and bitter when bands change their sound too much. Is it about betraying your fans if you change your sound too radically?
Bob: It depends. Look, some bands maybe find they want to do more as they go. I can't speak for other bands, but there are some that have done that. Their recent albums are completely different from their first couple of records, but I like them both. Some bands develop a certain way. We've always known what we were going for from the beginning and granted, we've gotten better at it as we go, but we try and change things up and just do what we've always done better.
That's just the way we've done things. Other bands, maybe they start out doing one thing, and they find their niche later, and they say, "we're going to do this now". It works for a lot of bands and some, maybe it doesn't, but it's all up to the fans what they like. Like I said, plenty of bands that have done that, and I totally liked both eras.
Luxi: I know Immolation fans respect your band very much because you have stuck to your style since you started out. Your musical formula really hasn't changed too much over the decades. When someone hears an Immolation album, it sounds like Immolation...
Bob: That's our thing. We want to keep the essence, but we want to move things forward too, and that's important. Both are important. You can't do the same exact thing over and over, but you don't want to change. We want to keep the roots but see what we can do with them, as opposed to changing everything. That's just the way we look at it.
Luxi: This has become a great year for comeback releases by extreme Metal bands. Possessed just released their comeback album, Revelations of Oblivion, and Nocturnus AD's album, Paradox, will be released next week. Have you had a chance to hear these albums yet?
Bob: I've heard some of the Possessed and that sounded pretty good. It's been a long time coming for them. I'm happy that they finally got the record out and it sounds like Possessed. They did a really good job taking the essence and moving it forward. They'll do good with it and the fans appreciate that, too. I haven't heard the other one yet. It sounds like Possessed did it right. They pretty much picked up where they left off and just kept it in that same vibe, which is great and I'm sure the fans will love it.
"METAL GOES IN WAVES"
Luxi: What do you think of this "trend" where once disbanded (Death Metal) bands are making comebacks? Do you think they are making their comebacks for the right reasons or just trying to cash in the current trend?
Bob: The thing is that Metal in general goes in waves. Right now, Metal is on a nice upswing and it's underground music and things are happening to Metal, which is great. Perfect example, you have Slayer out there bringing bands like Obituary, Napalm Death and Behemoth on tour. That opens up a lot of doors and it opens up a lot of eyes and ears for the fans that have been listening to Slayer all these years. Even the young kids that are into them and they like, "Whoa, what's this? What's this Napalm Death? What is Obituary? Behemoth, what's that?" It gets them interested and that alone helps things tremendously. That being said, a lot of bands maybe haven't been doing things for a while, they're like, "Metal's coming back... Let's do our thing again". I can't say why they do it, they do it because they want to and that's fine.
We've just kept going, [*laughs*] maybe that wasn't the right thing to do but we just keep going and we're happy to see that the music is just getting better and more popular now. It's really on an upswing, which is great. When you're doing this long as us, 30 some odd years, it's nice to see that. It's always been underground, but it always had peaks and now, it's definitely on a rise which is really good to see because we've been through some lows with the scene. The scene has been really low for long periods of time but it's nice to see it on an upswing and we're just happy to be here doing our thing. We feel we're at the best we've been doing it. We're just looking forward to just doing as best we can with it as we go.
Luxi: Would there be a comeback that you'd like to see someday?
Bob: I don't know, we're just trying to keep ourselves going but it seems a lot of bands, they're here and they stopped for a while, they came back. Good for them.
YOUNGER EXTREME METAL BANDS ARE STRIVING FOR A DARKER SOUND
Luxi: Immolation comes from New York City and you have been there for a long time and paved the way for many newer extreme Metal bands, both as an inspiration and influence. How has the New York City extreme Metal scene changed since your inception in 1988?
Bob: I don't concentrate on the New York underground scene primarily. I've seen how the underground has changed. With the way the internet is now, especially Instagram, people can watch stuff instantaneously. It's a different type of thing which, it's good in a lot of ways probably, it's more good than it's bad. Back in the day, you know how it worked, letters and tapes in the mail.
Now, everything is at least a lot more accessible. That's the main change. It seems like a lot of the younger bands are going for the darker, heavier stuff as opposed to the more thrashy stuff. Now, you have Blood Incantation doing dark stuff. You have like fucking, Full of Hell, which is just sick and really cool guys, we toured with them a couple of times. They have a new album that just came out today. Those guys are fucking on fire. It's good to see that so many of these bands are really taking the younger bands to start and get more on that niche as opposed to more-- I don't know what you would call it, like thrashy or commercial. It seems like they're digging into the darker stuff now which is nice to see with the younger bands.
PLANS FOR 2020
Luxi: 2020; what do you think next year will hold for you guys?
Bob: Just a new record and getting back out there. Right now is concentrating on getting that new record written and recorded then touring our asses off this year. Hopefully, by the end of the year, it'll all be done and we'll find a good place to put that out next year. We want to come out, get some good tours. Our goal is to just to get out there and just keep pushing and--
Luxi: ... probably get your own headlining tour arranged after the next album is out?
Bob: Yeah, headline or we're going out with other bands that are larger than us, we don't care. We just want to get out in front of people and we love what we do. Like I said, we're sure we're at our best point now. We just want to keep doing it and do it better than we have before. We're excited about the new shit, we want to get our new record out, get this year done and get out there next year with new stuff.
Luxi: OK, our time is running out and you have this meet & greet coming up shortly. Thank you for your time, Bob. It's always a pleasure to chat with you.
Bob: Thank you, Luxi, for coming over and having this chat with me. Likewise, it was a pleasure.
|Other information about Immolation on this site|
|Review: Close To A World Below|
|Review: Failures For Gods|
|Review: Bringing Down The World|
|Review: Shadows In The Light|
|Review: Majesty and Decay|
|Review: Dawn of Possession|
|Review: Here In After|
|Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna on March 19, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna on December 13, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with guitarist Robert Vigna and vocalist and bassist Ross Dolan on June 11, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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