Interview with guitarist and vocalist Bruno Penserini
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 17, 2024
Supertzar, formed in 2017, is a 3-piece doom metal band (with some stoner influences) from France who have a couple of EPs and one full-length in the catalog. The band's debut album, Epic Truths & Fantasies, released on November 18, 2023, is what caught yours truly's immediate attention with its old-school doom metal/heavy rock vibe and brought the undisputed dinosaurs of the genre to mind: The one and only Black Sabbath.
It was only a question of when we would find out more about this hippy-ish French trio. We eventually decided to contact the band, asking politely whether they'd be up for an interview, and they agreed.
So, without any further ado, let's find out what Supertzar is all about, and whether there's more than their deep admiration and love towards the Birmingham-based doom/heavy metal heroes...
Hey there, how's life in Colmar, France?
Bruno: Hello, Luxi, and thank you for the invitation!
Well, Colmar is a pretty quiet city, with no great interest in alternative culture, unfortunately. To be honest, that's a French problem in general.
Despite that fact, we have learned to live with it and we have a big metal community in the area (Mercyless, Sacrifizer, Dionysiaque, Maussade, Peine Kapital...). There are a few relentless folks who are determined to make things happen, like unexpected bands stopping by to produce great shows. We are lucky to have a place called Le Grillen, which is one of the most balanced concert halls of the region. It has great sound and 300-person capacity, so you have real proximity between artists and spectators. That's kind of our second home. We have played there at least once a year since the formation of Supertzar, and we are there as spectators as often as we can.
Supertzar was formed around 2017, so my question is what made you start this band? Is it your love toward a band like the mighty Black Sabbath who are basically an epitome of all heavy metal...
Bruno: Yes, Supertzar began in 2017, on October 14th to be precise. That night, Jules (on drums) and I (Bruno, guitar and vocals) went to a gig with Monolord, Conan and Grooott. We were blown away by the roughness of the entire show, and we were speechless after such a raw and pure moment of live music. We left and, on the way back home, it seemed obvious: that's what we wanted to do also. Then I asked my best mate, Jonas, because we played music together for a really long time, and he agreed to take care of the bass. And here we are. Of course, for us and just like any other band, Black Sabbath is among our roots, is it worth remembering. But there's a lot more bands that we should not forget about.
How did you find the right musicians to carry out the vision of what Supertzar should be all about musically?
Bruno: All three of us come from different genres. We have played in grindcore bands, black metal bands, blues-rock bands, hard rock bands, etc. We played a lot of different stuff before we met each other and have listened to an uncountable number of different genres that have nothing to do with doom metal. Supertzar is the exact type of music we need to play at this moment in our lives. The band's evolution has happened very naturally, and even if the first two releases were more conventional, we are slowly drifting to something more personal where you hopefully can hear all of our references. We don't want to be the kind of band that is copy-pasting Electric Wizard eternally. Also, we don't like the "stoner" tag that everybody's using, mostly for tasteless and wishy-washy bands (I feel sorry for them). We have our own personality, and we can do something with it, something better, something worthwhile, even if it hardens the future path, that's the path Supertzar will take.
SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH
What makes Sabbath's music so tempting and unique for you personally?
Bruno: For me, the thing that stuns me about Black Sabbath, but also in art generally, is the sincerity in the interpretation. I want to hear and see the artist crying out his deepest fears, his strongest griefs. I don't want him to act; I want him to be true, to talk about himself, to do deep soul-searching, to find the right spot and pressing on it to the point of tears. And I'm not just talking about singers, any musician can make his instrument cry. But you will have to kill your own privacy and modesty for an instant of musical truth. Also, I don't pretend to be a good singer or an incredible guitarist, I don't claim to making it every time, but I try my best to get naked, to show the deep meaning of the music I'm playing, because as a spectator, I'm really sensitive to that. That's something I'm asking for.
So, going back to Black Sabbath, "Megalomania" is not their most famous song, but to me, they just nailed it.
Are there some certain Sabbath albums that you look up for different reasons maybe?
Bruno: My favorite album is Sabotage, as Ozzy hits his climax with this album. Also, in the Dio era, I really liked the Mob Rules album for the same reasons. Dio didn't deliver such a performance since the first Rainbow album. By performance I mean the sincerity I was talking about earlier. And finally, I would like to mention Dehumanizer which is way underrated.
I realized I haven't really spoken about Iommi, Butler, and Ward but, hey, there is nothing I can say about my personal prophets that haven't been said a million times by my peers. So, let's just worship Iommi without any pointless words. Everything has been said about him already.
2018: FIRST DAZE EAR
You guys released your debut 4-track EP in August 2018, titled First Daze Ear. Could you tell what it was like making it, and if it caused the impact you hoped for?
Bruno: The first EP was indeed some kind of attempt to take the temperature among the metal community. We played our first gig in front of our eminent elders (ex-Bloody Sign guys, among other examples) and released the record a few months after that.
We recorded it ourselves with little means, in the moist cave we are using as a rehearsal room. We (kind of) mixed it then threw it on the Internet. A few days later, we had hundreds of downloads on Bandcamp and hundreds of views on YouTube even though we didn't upload it anywhere other than Bandcamp. We really discovered the passion of the guys like 666MrDoom or Rob Hammer, and that was astonishing. The response was way beyond our expectations.
Did you try to promote the EP to get signed to a label?
Bruno: No, it wasn't worth it at that time. As I just mentioned, this EP was quickly done so we could only show to the world that we are there and making this stuff. We never meant to sell anything with this recording. In fact, it was more like a demo than a proper EP.
2019: THE SUPERTZAR
Roughly eight months later, you went back to the studio to record your next EP, which carried the name, The Supertzar, and featured four songs. How would you say your sound had improved from the days of your debut EP?
Bruno: The second one was more elaborate. We took more time to create and arrange the songs. We needed this to be a real evolution, something we could press and sell, but also we needed to create an identity, to make a difference and leave an impression. Now that the world knew we were here, we had to show what we are and where we want to go. Also, once again, we recorded everything ourselves in the same place, but with a little bit more experience and a little less hurry. Hopefully, we succeeded.
There's a song called "Iommi's Child" on this EP. I suppose it tells the story of your band, Supertzar, unless I am mistaken?
Bruno: You are maybe right. I really enjoy writing my texts as subjectively as I can. There's always a true meaning behind every one of those tales, but it's my own meaning. Feel free to understand them the way you want based on your own past and experience, none of your interpretations will be considered false.
This EP was released in almost every possible format (both digitally and in physical formats), so apparently you managed to create a fuss around the band. Did you notice an increasing amount of attention that started pouring your way after the release?
Bruno: Oh yes. In short order we didn't have to chase venues anymore, they came to us frequently asking for our arrival. We played a lot of shows, we began to write our name in this little world of promoters with the birth of this EP, through France and even above, then the COVID thing paralyzed everything, i.e., the music business slowed down and took a lot of time to get back on its rails.
What's Supertzar anyway? Does it have a deeper meaning or is it "just a cool name," so to speak?
Bruno: First of all, yes, it's a cool name indeed. It's coming, as you may know, from Sabbath's instrumental song you can hear on the Sabotage album, which is the best Sabbath album in my sincere opinion. Then for the second EP, we wrote the song "The Supertzar" that tells the story of Ivan IV Vassilievitch, the first tzar of Russia, and how crazy he became. Consequently, we can say that the name Supertzar refers to a general love for history, and the constant madness emerging through time. The more we are civilized, the more we stay absolute animals. That's fascinating, and kind of a constant theme in our texts.
2023: EPIC TRUTHS & FANTASIES
Moving on to August 2020, that's when you gathered at the studio again to record your debut full-length studio album, Epic Truths & Fantasies. What kind of process was it to get the songs fully written and eventually recorded?
Bruno: We recorded every song three times before entering the studio. First during the rehearsal, right after we had finished them, then we use this take to rearrange one or two things, maybe more, until the song is kind of complete, ready to be played on stage. At this point we recorded it a second time, to give us a good base to record every instrument on the computer before entering the studio, sort of what we call a witness track. Because with this track I can already work on the future arrangements like double voices, double guitars, etc. pretty much everything I cannot do in rehearsal with only one guitar and one microphone, but that I want to hear once the song is ready to send in press.
This album was my first touch of your music, which I naturally loved, being a huge fan of hippy-ish, Sabbath-esque heavy sounds. How proud are you of this work?
Bruno: We had so many issues releasing this album that, from my personal perspective, I have a really strange feeling. Due to the vinyl crisis and an unscrupulous salesman who tried to rip us off, we have waited three years to show the world the fruits of our labor, but now that it's finally here I really feel like it's no longer topical and relevant. Of course, the final result makes me proud, but also it is no longer in tune with the person I am today. The upcoming album will hopefully fix this feeling.
Analog Spleen Records, correct me if I am wrong, is your own record label that you used to get this goodie out. Have you also tried to license the album with some other labels to get it to as many shops as possible around the world?
Bruno: Analog Spleen Records is the record label of a friend of ours who runs a record store in Selestat in France, called Discobole. He spontaneously volunteered to release our album, so we didn't really try any further. That was already lucky enough! And as he works a lot with worldwide record stores, we are now known in a lot of countries.
Have you been overwhelmed by the response you've gotten so far regarding the album?
Bruno: We have only received good responses, even from those who have known us since our beginning and despite the evolution of our sound and compositions. Those who didn't know us before are now very curious and that's encouraging. The vinyl is already sold out and another press will arrive soon. The views on different platforms are increasing, that means people keep on listening and sharing our stuff weeks later, and to be honest we didn't really do much for all this to happen to us. Maybe overwhelmed is the word indeed.
2024-25: NEW ALBUM AND BACK TO THE STAGES AGAIN
What kind of plans do you have to conquer stages around France and outside of your home territory? Are you also aiming to play at some festivals in 2024?
Bruno: 2024 will be a year with less shows, as we are aiming to record our follow-up album and release it. But, of course, we will be proud to announce a few upcoming concerts. We will share the stage with our friends, some French bands at French venues, that's all I can say for now. But we hope the year 2025 will bring a large amount of gigs. We will go anywhere if there are people who want to see us on stage, and we'll be glad to share a beer or two with them, too.
Last question: If Supertzar was a vehicle, what kind of vehicle would it be (now feel free to use your imagination as much as you can)?
Bruno: A Volvo 740 GL from 1988 because you just can't have a cooler car than a Volvo 740 GL.
I sincerely want to thank you for taking your time with my questions, and in the very same breath, I would like to you guys all the best with your future comings and goings. Gods of heavy metal thunder bless you all... Any closing comments for the readers of The Metal Crypt perhaps?
Bruno: Many thank you for your support. Wishing you guys all the best!
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