by Niklas Göransson
Nowadays one can’t really specify where they’re from or what style of metal they play. What’s indisputable is Deströyer 666’s return, heralded by new album “Wildfire”. I catch up with founding member, guitar player and vocalist KK Warslut – a roaming Australian nomad currently dwelling in London. He gives a candid account of his journey from harsh beginnings in a desolate town to a LSD-induced descent into rat-infested darkness where being hunted as prey gifted him total predatory awareness. How he went from utterly drained of creativity to attaining divine inspiration while alone in the night, conducting a dirge for a deceased friend.
– Shrapnel leaving was the deciding moment, says KK. I spent a few months in a stupor but then decided that not writing an album I liked would be disrespectful to both of us.
In 2012, the guitar player of 16 years left DESTRÖYER 666 in order to move back home to Australia. Instead of resignation, this turned out to be the jackboot up his procrastinated posterior KK needed to start composing again – the result being “Wildfire”.
– It was both old and new ideas. Some that didn’t get the push they needed in the “Defiance” (2009) writing sessions but mainly new ones. The new boys also added bits and pieces, the album wouldn’t be exactly what it is without them.
– Ocka of BÖLZER also lent a hand and Laurent from CHAPEL OF DISEASE played some solos, each adding their own paw prints.
Seven years have passed since “Defiance”, an album on which the music was entirely written by Shrapnel and ex-bass player Matt Razor (RAZOR OF OCCAM). After “Cold Steel… for an Iron Age” (2002), KK found that settling in the Netherlands had left his connection to the Muse completely severed.
– It would be wrong of me to blame a whole country for my own laziness and lack of inspiration but I’m going to anyway. As many things as I love about the Dutch people and their culture, living there for seven years sent me into a black hole of inspiration-sapping depression. The country imparted upon me a pragmatic inclination to previously abhorrent abstracts like careers, security and familiar routines.
KK remembers Holland as a mostly mundane, yet strange place.
– You could buy whores, grass and mushrooms and yet the people were strangely conformist. Perhaps liberalism pacifies the urge to rebellion and other governments could learn from it. On the other hand, I think its small size and largely village-based populations bred a need to get along which led to this kind of apathetic conformity.
During a few periods in the time he lived there the country didn’t even have a functional government but instead of infrastructural collapse, everything remained working; trains arrived on time, business went on and people seemed to take it all in their stride.
– They accepted both the Euro and subsequent doubling of the cost of a loaf of bread with barely a murmur. They saw their public health service taken away and were then charged three times the amount for private health insurance and not a protest to be seen. Perhaps they saw that voting against being in the EU achieved nothing and lost hope. As Selim once told me: For the Dutch, ‘normal’ is crazy enough.
In hindsight, he believes what depressed him the most was the country’s lack of natural wilderness.
– Driving across it, it seemed every single piece of land was accounted for. All neatly divided up into right-angled subdivisions with the express purpose of providing food and making money. Having no mountains only insured that the acquisition of land seemed total. My eyes would light up on seeing a forest and I’d think: Ah, Europe as I saw it in pictures. Then a few hundred meters later it was gone! More fuckin’ cows and fields. No wonder they legalised drugs.
Surely, it can’t have been all that dreadful if you remained there for seven years?
– Of course I’m generalising about a whole population here – in no way do I want to belittle their generosity and hospitality, I made some lifelong brothers and sisters there too. I could just as well have described their many positive attributes but that would go nowhere in explaining my descent into a bureaucratic spiral of spiritual poverty.
KK points to the nation’s contributions, or lack thereof, to the extreme metal scene as an example.
– There’s a reason there are no comparable bands to BATHORY, PRIMORDIAL, BURZUM or EMPEROR from Holland. For that reason we can only marvel and wonder at how the fountain that was THE DEVIL’S BLOOD sprung forth from such a place. And from fucking Eindhoven of all places, which I can say unequivocally is a great spiritual void.
DESTRÖYER 666 started out an Australian band and managed to remain one for the longest time, despite intercontinental relocation. Alas, homogeneity has now yielded to the forces of reality and with members from Sweden, Australia, Chile and the UK implemented an ethnic diversity more in line with contemporary European multiculturalism.
– The countries you mention are all western to my mind so there is nothing multi about it. In fact, our session bass player is from Iran and there is still nothing multi about it. His father was brought up under the Shah’s regime and grew up listening to AC/DC and METALLICA. He left the country to escape the totalitarian theocracy that has hindered that country since the ‘revolution’ of Islam over the previously western-backed corrupt government that at least allowed some degree of freedom of choice.
KK himself is from a rather peculiar place; Whyalla – a small town in the south of Australia with a populace of 22 000. What makes it remarkable is the town’s massive influence over the Aussie metal scene, with her wayward sons venturing out to become driving forces in the likes of CORPSE MOLESTATION, BESTIAL WARLUST, DESTRÖYER 666, RAZOR OF OCCAM, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS and VOMITOR.
– It was a small, isolated industrial town run by the one steelworks company, bikers and a strong drug culture. For my generation, folks were predominantly termed ‘rockers’; long-haired hard rock fans who wore BLACK SABBATH, MOTÖRHEAD and Harley Davidson t-shirts. There was also a small contingent of skinheads and punks which gave us an ‘other’ to loathe, fear and fight.
The elder rockers were into George Thorogood, Rory Gallagher, PINK FLOYD, THE DOORS, BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST and MOTÖRHEAD. When the young adepts embraced thrash metal, it was not appreciated in the slightest and devotion to this new musical phenomenon would render chastisement.
– Studded armbands were especially despised and a bullet belt would’ve been considered laughable. Folks there actually hunted and owned guns so for a kid to wear empty machine-gun casings would’ve seemed ludicrous and good cause for a beating.
Due to availability of cheap government housing and work at the rapidly diminishing steel industry, Whyalla was used by the state capital as a dumping ground for various undesirable elements of society.
– Welfare cases, single mothers, ex-cons and the like. The ship-building industry that instigated the house-building boom folded when I was still a child, leaving a void filled by bikers, V8 culture and dope growing. I’d say the small yet motivated metal scene came about due to the musical background of our elders and for much the same reasons it did in places like Newcastle and Birmingham. It was such an austere and otherwise depressing place it made harsh music wailing about better and usually violent things seem not just appropriate but essential in dealing with our surrounding.
Despite its barren bleakness, KK still believes Whyalla to have been a decent enough place to grow up in. Fights never reached knifepoint and disputes were settled with fists and steel-capped boots conveniently supplied by the local steelworks industry.
– Though it could be tiring due to everyone else being a potential rival to your sovereignty and reputation, including your own mates. It was like being brought up by a pack of wild dogs – every dog for himself. You were challenged constantly, a ritual that could begin hundreds of meters away. Simply seeing a stranger walking towards you was cause for extra strut and the inevitable stare-down as you passed. Looking away meant surrender and you could rest assured your reputation would have suffered by the time you reached your destination. Even if this was not the case, it was enough that both parties believed it to be so. This could get very tiring when music had become your primary interest.
He adds that if the town could be summed up in a single verse, it would be RIGHTEOUS PIGS’ “Stone Cold Bitch”.
I’m in the middle of nowhere
Nothing to do but grow my hair
Drinking vodka and Jim Beam too
I got myself a bitch but she won’t be fucken true
– Though to be fair, only one of us was good-looking enough to actually have a permanent girlfriend. The rest of us squabbled over the scrubbers before they got pregnant and embarked upon a career of bad mothering at age 17.
The reasons none of the town’s musical prospects remained there for very long are gradually becoming ever clearer.
– I’m generalising for comedic effect, for every ten slappers carving a path to a seat on the Jerry Springer show there was one that didn’t. My first girlfriend got pregnant at age 14, raised her child and then returned to school. Last I saw her she was a partner in an international wine company and had just bought a 60 000 dollar Jeep Cherokee for her daughter’s 21st birthday. As I was bragging about having played a show in Chile, she feigned interest and remarked that she ran an office in the same country and spent about four months a year living there, whilst not in Paris, London, Milan or Sydney. Or in her holiday house on the beach south of Adelaide. Then she brought up how I use to fuck her for about three seconds when I was 14, it was around then I remembered a super important band meeting, made my excuses and left.
Moving from an isolated settlement of 20 000 to Melbourne, a metropolitan city of three million, was a bit of a culture shock at the tender age of 18. KK’s upbringing under the law of the club and fang made life in the big city quite perplexing at first.
– Simply too many others to contend with. Fortunately, metal and my natural disposition had been pushing me towards a more individualistic outlook before I left. Taking LSD and reading Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung and Charles Manson provided the final push from the ‘desolate city’ mind-set. Having said that, I don’t believe we’re ever truly free of our cultural roots. Unlike a real culture that has constants, ours is an ever-changing thing swayed by transient nonsense. When I last returned five years ago it reminded me of nothing but the things I’d disliked about the place. Gone were the denim-clad, steel-capped, long-haired biker rocker types who were the half-decent role models of our youth.
Something else that differed from his hometown was the metal scene.
– I loved the abundance of metal. Whyalla had one metal gig from an out-of-town band in the entire time I lived there and the nearest venue was 500 kilometres away. The biggest difference was, at home it was the cool and heavy kids that got into metal whereas in the big smoke it seemed to be mostly spotty dweebs. Another thing I noticed was the kids who were the most into it – the ones writing to Dead (MORBID, MAYHEM), had a pink-covered “Deathcrush” (MAYHEM) and ordered the “Thy Kingdom Come” (MORBID ANGEL) demo; a few years later they were the first out of the scene. The more fanatical, the more fleeting it seemed.
At the time, Melbourne had a huge glam scene and boasted the world’s biggest glam rock nightclub.
– The fuckin’ thing got 2000 people in there every weekend! You’d walk in for a piss and there’d be fags fluffing up their already fluffy hair in front of the mirror. You’d wait in line for a piss – stroll over, undo ya’ zip, take a leak, do ya’ zip up and then have to make your way past the same fags still pruning themselves. Sadly, by the time our hair was long enough to get laid in that place, grunge had hit. It looked like a sad, empty graveyard with a few old decrepit glam rock zombies staggering about looking for the flesh of the drunk and the stupid. Luckily, the effects of BEHERIT, BLASPHEMY and NUCLEAR DEATH were starting to make not getting laid seem momentarily unimportant.
In 1990, KK was one of the founding members of what are now underground legends CORPSE MOLESTATION, who went on to become BESTIAL WARLUST in 1993. At this point, divisions had appeared in the Melbourne metal scene, with BESTIAL WARLUST on one side and seemingly everyone else on the other.
– We had a fella called Damo on vocals, he had a falling-over problem when drunk. He started falling over into lots of fights, which dragged me and Death Dealer (VOMITOR) into it. At one point, we were all falling into fights. Things turned really sour when Skullfucker (guitars, BESTIAL WARLUST) was drinking and fell into a fight with an old lady collecting donations for some desperate cause. I left the band not long after that.
This is what ultimately led to the formation of Deströyer 666.
– Before I left I had started jamming with Chris Volcano (ABOMINATOR, IGNIVOMOUS), who ended up playing drums on the “Six Songs with the Devil” (1994) demo. Initially it was just to play some thrash metal and being the usual egotistical little cunt musician that I was, I’d taken offence that BESTIAL WARLUST rejected my song “The Eternal Glory of War”. In retrospect, they made the right choice but at the time I was unduly hurt by this grave injustice. Anyway, it was all these things combined that led me to leave the band. I rarely make a big decision based on just one reason alone – for me it’s not about whether the coffee cup is half full or not, it’s how quick and easily I can get a refill.
Lyrics on the previous record were a bit more opinionated in comparison to this one – have you had a relapse to the disdainful nihilism of the “Cold Steel…” era?
– No, I hope the opposite. I fear my previous rants might have been misconstrued to justify apathy and resignation, which wasn’t my intention at all. I despised the world that man had created but never had any perverse loathing for the planet itself. It would be disingenuous of me to use the symbol of the wolf as often as I did and not have a genuine love for nature.
This usage of the wolf as an archetype, the concept of lycanthropy and outlook of the predator has been with DESTRÖYER 666 since the demo.
– Like many a wayward youth I was fascinated by serial killers, in particular their lack of compunction and seeming lack of remorse. Further research taught me they were just sick puppies screaming for help and whose deviant sexuality compelled them to kill, despite the subsequent crippling guilt. Nothing to learn there, I thought. Now, the so-called ‘Manson girls’ were a different kettle of fish.
August 1969; under guidance from a man named Tex Watson, three female members of the so-called ‘Manson family’ murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several other people, primarily by stabbing them multiple times. According to KK, Manson’s involvement ended at providing the spiritual foundation to be able to commit such acts. He claims the entire case and the circumstances leading up to it have been heavily distorted into the present-day ‘Helter Skelter’ fantasy and urges whoever is interested to check out Nikolas Schreck’s 2011 book “The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman”.
– To kill out of love – a foreign concept to most of us. I was intrigued at how twenty year old women could first stab and mutilate, then make a sandwich and hitch-hike home. Every girl I knew, despite eating meat couldn’t kill a fucking chicken. For half a year or so, alone in the park, I would attempt to find that place within me and despite my most earnest efforts – without any luck. That’s what happens with little guidance and much fumbling about in the dark – women, take note here.
Eventually and following the Manson family’s lead, KK turned to the ergot fungus for guidance – synthesised in the form of LSD. Deeming the trail to journey’s end a long one; he thought it prudent to ingest two doses at once.
– Describing a psychedelic experience to those who haven’t had one is like describing being in love to someone who’s never been in love. My first port of call was a sense of timelessness, as if my year in Melbourne had started that very morning. I knew from Manson’s ‘coming to now’ that I was onto something and was overcome with a great sense of excitement, coupled with the fear that comes when the ego finds itself being usurped.
Later that night, a friend came over and wanted in on the trip. Ever vigilant, KK kept his stash in a baby bottle hidden in the crawlspace under his house. Climbing down through the hole in the floorboards, he commenced the 15 meter crawl through cobwebs and inky blackness.
– All the while surrounded by an infinite army of rats, seemingly intent on following my every fucking move. Nobody likes wild rats, especially when ya’ can’t see the disgusting, bitey little cunts. Thanks to the LSD I could actually visualise them; big, ravenous and seemingly keen on chewing my face off. Now understand that due to the drug this seemed to last a lifetime, like a suburban teenage Beowulf’s adventure of sorts.
Being preyed upon alone in the dark forced him into fight or flight mode, the instinctual test of one’s mettle – settling for the former alternative. He swore that the next rodent within striking distance was going to get its head ‘chewed right the fuck off’.
– I froze. Absolute stillness. My breathing became slow, controlled and imperceptible. My ears filled in the spaces the pitch black had deprived me of as sound became magnified beyond anything I had ever experienced before. My sense of smell became infinitely more acute. From the moment I froze, so did every living thing down there. Every rat in the darkness knew I was no longer a fumbling, bumbling human twat – but rather an acutely aware kid, high enough on acid to bite heads off rodents.
And that was the moment he experienced what he calls lycanthropy.
– No full moon, no howling, no fantasies of hunting humans around cemeteries. In retrospect, I look upon it as a form of meditation. Not meditation as most of us know it; the eastern practice where one sits for hours contemplating your navel kind whilst trying not to think about your navel. It’s my belief that won’t work for many folks – especially westerners with our fast-paced, distraction-led existence. We need something more vital. More ecstatic, tangible and real. It taught me many things, one being that the path to this kind of enlightenment is not through wishful thinking of being the predator. One needs to first feel the absolute and complete awareness of being prey. Presumably, the state man and his half-monkey predecessors were in for millions of years.
This is a state of being mentioned often in Charles Manson’s writings, the philosophy being that total fear equates total awareness.
– For me, it was essential that fear be instigated by something real and tangible. Which brings me to another revelation I had that night; that for myself, the spirit world – and I hate to use that hackneyed term so fraught with preconceived new-agey notions, and this world are neither distinct nor separate. There’s a reason many a great psychedelic experience is best had in the woods; “where beast and man intersect – there one finds enlightenment”. If your primeval sense of survival isn’t part of it, you’re guilty of putting another concept above and beyond your natural state. Being animals with exaggerated cognitive abilities, only the human animal is capable of doing this and we do so to our own detriment.
He adds that religious ascetics regularly indulge in this kind of behaviour. Now, the question is whether he ever discovered how those girls did what they did, supposedly out of love, back in 1969.
– Yes, I did. It would however be pointless to explain how. Not because I’m too wise and above the simple man, nor because it’s too complicated for you mongoloids but because it’s just far too simple. I’d never have understood it without going through it myself. There’s an important current running through all this, enlightenment wasn’t found in some Buddhist temple or by reciting incantations to obscure deities. It was simple, dirty, and subterranean. It didn’t happen above the clamour of the masses, nor in some therapist’s armchair but rather beneath all that in the filthy rat-infested crawlspaces most folks wouldn’t venture into. Who can blame them – it stinks and is full of rats, spiders, cockroaches and snakes. Besides, there isn’t enough space down there for everyone anyway.
After this experience, he would try to attain this lycanthropic state in various ways outside the rodent nest.
– Each time it got easier, until it became a natural state. Did I lose my way at times since then? Yes, of course.
After having experienced this timeless predatory realisation, I’m curious to hear KK’s take on modern technology and its effect on society.
– Inevitable and over-rated. There are many good documentaries about the original optimism those in Silicon Valley had for the internet. It says a lot that their top CEO’s choose to keep technology at a distance when rearing their own children. If they kept this a secret, in years to come folks would claim it was a conspiracy to keep us stupid, distracted and in chains – but it’s not a secret. Industry, technology and commerce are all lauded by many but it’s hard to pinpoint much of it that didn’t come with so many negative side-effects it cancelled out any positives.
To illustrate his point, he refers to something as mundane as food.
– Processed food revolutionised the way we ate. Now, we know just about all of it is no good for you. Everything from fuckin’ sliced ham to orange juice; salty, sugary, overly processed, additive-filled shit. But we’re stuck with it now and it must be good because that’s what we’ve been told.
The only lyric that deals with current day gripes is “Hounds at ya back”, which assails the anti-biker laws implemented in the Australian state of Queensland.
– Well, that and “Die you fuckin` Pig” which concerns the kiddie-fiddling followers of Abraham. The theme of “Hounds at ya back” is the VLAD (Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013) laws, which are just one further step to the total surveillance state sweeping the western world.
One reason this hits home is KK’s belief that metal culture has drawn much inspiration directly from the outlaw biker movement.
– In almost every respect. From unwashed denim vests and leather jackets, a love of patches and studs all the way to lyrics about the freedom of the road and gang life.
This is a bit contradictory to the standard narrative, attributing the studs and leather to Rob Halford (JUDAS PRIEST) who in turn got it from the mid-seventies gay scene.
– A forgivable mistake but not a well-researched one. The fags actually took it from the biker scene themselves, in the mid-sixties. There was a contingent of them riding big motorcycles and although not fitting in with mainstream society’s sexual mores, also didn’t fit into the camp-ridden gay scene. These folks were no pussies; they just preferred man-arse to women. Gays that weren’t fags, if I can blend colloquialisms like that. They rode motorcycles and beat up folks who gave them the wrong kind of hard time. They adopted the look the outlaw motorcycle clubs had been using for quite some time, in fact all the way back to the release of 1953 movie “The Wild One”.
KK points out that the VLAD laws could potentially be used to target other groups, not only bikers.
– As the one prominent club has said since seventies: If they come for us – you’re next!
The final song “Tamam Shud” is a requiem for Selim Lemouchi of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, who passed away in March 2014.
– Firstly, I’d hate for anyone to think that I’m insinuating that I was Selim’s closest friend or part of some inner circle of confidants. I knew him since 2007 and we were in quite frequent touch during his final five weeks. Yes, it did have a profound impact on me. I think it’s fair to say that Selim’s presence had an impact on most folks so it only makes sense his sudden departure would have one too.
He describes the conception of the revised lyrics as the only truly inspired moment of his life. In this instance, inspiration as the ancient Greeks meant it; ‘entheos’ from the ancient Greek meaning ‘possessed by a god, inspired’.
– I had already finished them before the studio, then one night our engineer and close friend Criss Mersus (who was also the DESTRÖYER 666 drummer from 2001 to 2012) gave me the keys to the studio and left me for the night to record vocals. The first part of the lyrics were simply some questions about mortality I’d asked myself once too many times to forget. The second half – though ostensibly about Selim, seemed to again reflect too much of my own thoughts and feelings. Once I’d decided this wasn’t right at all and I’d need to start from scratch I let myself slide into the night, so to speak. A cool clear evening with the full moon illuminating the darkness.
He describes a sensation in which the words seemed to simultaneously come from within and without.
– I was both in tears and joyous at the same time. Fear came and faded. There are many words for this flood of emotions, none of which will mean anything to those who haven’t experienced it. Suffice it to say; I truly understood what it means to feel as if you’re channelling pure energy. I felt first-hand the great transformative effect writing music can have for the artist. What it means to have witnessed and known a truly unique and amazing individual passing through this world. Even the kind of rock vibe going on in the latter part of the song came from that experience; all made in the studio that night. The subject matter dictated and demanded it end this way.
Taman shud is a Persian term, meaning ‘the ending’. It’s from a collection of poems called “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”. Khayyam, who lived between 1048 and 1131, was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet.
– I came across his book out of curiosity, the words ‘tamam shud’ were one of few cryptic clues in the intriguing South Australia murder mystery named after it.
Thus; a song called ‘the ending’, about the ending – written by the ending.
– It felt like a gift imparted from the man and it’s true to say, in my experience, that he was a man who gave a lot. Someone you could truly learn from. It’s testimony to his shining brilliance that I was still learning from him even after he had exited. I feel honoured and privileged to have known him the little I did and I know many share this sentiment. If my recollection of the song-writing process seems overly romanticised, then I don’t apologize for that. That’s just how it was. Only with copious use of LSD had I experienced something like it before.
What are your strongest memories of him?
– Sometime at early o’clock, still up and cognisant, watching him on his acoustic guitar singing a new song called “The Yonder Beckons”. The song ended up brilliant and still moves me today but will never have the impact it had that night.
The remaining songs appear to dwell on the venerated crafts of carousing and copulation – preferably in combination.
– The lyrics reflect my life of the past few years and also explain why it took so long.
The saga of DESTRÖYER 666 has been playing out uninterrupted for 22 years now, which is rather impressive for an underground metal band where hard work reaps few monetary rewards.
– I’m not sure I feel pride that way. In my younger days, strangely enough for a metal head, I thought it important to ‘say something’. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t supposed to do that in an underground metal band. I understood pop bands were shackled to labels with large financial concerns but that was not my path so of no bother. Of course, I would be proven wrong. I always understood a ‘record’ to also be a record in the other sense, a record of events or of one’s life and thoughts. As you can see, I had some romantic notions about music – ideals I probably picked up from the artists of the sixties and seventies. And for better or worse I’m happy I did that. I’m glad I surrounded myself with some top-notch musicians who went on to become lifelong mates.
Do you think the band has already hit its peak or is there a greater plateau on the horizon?
– The trip comes in waves, everyone should know that.