Rok (Sadistik Exekution)
by Niklas Göransson
In this first instalment of a multi-part conversation series, Australian artist Rok – more known as the frontman of mental metal pioneers Sadistik Exekution – explains how the true feeling of death is the source of his finest craft.
– Over the last few years I’ve been painting, drawing, and generally making an endless stream of fukked up art. The reason for this is very simple – it’s my job. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that I’m gradually working towards making a full-time living out of this. A lot of people never stop to think about all those bands out there who never quite made it big enough to make a living from their music, and SADISTIK EXEKUTION was one of those. Sure, we’ve made plenty of money over the years but certainly not enough for four individual band members to live off. So, like many other people from smaller or more underground bands, we need an income in order to survive in this world. Of course, the other option is living out in the woods, like a caveman or an animal, with little or no belongings and limited contact with the outside world. But generally speaking, we all need finances to survive.
What have you been doing in terms of careers up until now?
– Over the years, I’ve worked a number of what I’d call demeaning jobs; earning just enough to scrape by, pay my bills, and so on. However, with such a positive response to my art, I ended up deciding that this will now become my profession. This means I’ve been doing a lot of commissions for bands, labels, and individuals as well as all the artwork I have for sale. At this stage I’m not what you’d call making much out of it, but the work is gradually increasing – as are my painting and drawing sales.
These days, Rok primarily promotes himself through social media where he blends SAD-X memorabilia and personal musings with his latest artwork. But back in the latter half of the 80s – before the internet – he was forced to employ other means of garnering notoriety and did so with impressive efficacy. SADISTIK EXEKUTION were featured in mainstream magazines such as Penthouse, various newspapers, and even a popular television show called Good Morning Australia; all this despite only having released a rehearsal tape. Obviously, I’m wondering how the hell this came about.
– This is very simple and straight-forward: I bumped into a journalist around early ‘86, I think it was, and simply threatened to kill him if he didn’t get me in some magazines! Way back when we first formed SADISTIK EXEKUTION, I was well aware of how important it is to make people notice the existence of your band. To me, publicity was just as essential as song-writing and rehearsing. What’s the point of going through the trouble of making music if nobody’s going to know about it? This is precisely why I still see all these bands here in Australia, week after week, playing to the same crowds of only thirty, forty, or maybe eighty people – it just goes nowhere. The bands put in a lot of effort in the rehearsal rooms, and for what? To play the same shitty local venues for five or ten years and perhaps record an album or two before eventually breaking up, still largely unknown. I could see and understand this even back in the 80s and had absolutely zero intentions of being one of those acts. If we were forming a band, then publicity was needed so that’s what I aimed for.
Were there other appearances besides those now floating around online?
– Yes, there were similar things – a couple of features in the Australian edition of People Magazine, another publication called Post, some radio interviews, smaller newspaper articles, and so on. Of course, underground metal ’zines were another branch of this and I used to write a lot back in the early days. Metalion and his Slayer mag was perhaps the best known, but there were many more around the world, most of which I’ve long since forgotten the names of. So, this is exactly how SADISTIK got a crowd of something like six hundred at our very first local gig in Sydney; one that we headlined, obviously. Over the years we headlined most of our gigs, supporting other bands was never really our thing!
Despite establishing a legendary status in the metal underground, SAD-X never quite broke through to mainstream metal like many of their contemporary Osmose label mates. In our Bardo Methodology #1 conversation, Rok explained how it might have been for the best that they never attained true commercial success and began touring regularly. Given their proclivity for violence and chaos – more often than not directed towards each other – he predicted they would’ve all either been dead or imprisoned by now.
– This is true. However, it must be said that we don’t walk around acting constantly mental. Most of the time we just come across and function as most other people do. The reality is that one needs to be somewhat ‘normal’ to properly function in the world we live in. I mean, you can’t walk into a shop to buy some food, covered in blood, and shouting out ’HAIL SATAN – I AM DEATH, FUKK YOU!’ or they’ll instantly call the police and have you arrested. So, obviously, just to function in day-to-day living we’re all generally normal people. However, each of us has certain personality traits and psychological conditions which means we can be a bit off the planet at times. We all have very bad temper problems, although I’ll admit that myself and Dave Slave are more extreme with anger than Kriss Hades.
When the exchange that ended up in #1 took place, I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting the venerable Reverend Kriss Hades in person. Despite having followed this band for quite a while, as well as hearing numerous eye-witness testimonies, I had yet to be fully convinced that their reputation wasn’t at least slightly exaggerated. However, spending an afternoon and evening socialising with Hades prompted a swift revaluation of this notion.
– What you experienced with Kriss Hades is exactly what he’s like most of the time. He can be quite scattered in the mind, forgetful, confusing, and absent-minded but mostly calm and even quiet and relaxed. But, as you noticed, it’s when he drinks that problems are likely to arise! I remember way back in the early 90s when he went mad for a few days. It’s a very long story but, in summary, we were having a party one night and something strange sparked in his mind. First, he went completely silent and then disappeared after a short while. We went looking for him at the house he lived in at the time and, upon entering his room, found that he’d spray-painted ‘THE WRANGLERS OF HELL DWELL AMONGST US’ in big red letters across one wall. After that, we didn’t see him for two days and when he eventually returned to the house, he didn’t speak to us at all for another twenty-four hours. Then he refused to talk about that particular night altogether. This incident wasn’t fuelled by alcohol, it was a different kind of thing; hard to explain but weird, peculiar, and baffling are all suitable words. But when it comes to drinking a lot of spirits, Dave Slave is probably even more dangerous and unpredictable.
This is an analysis Kriss agreed with. ’Dave Slave hospitalised me… twice? Nearly three times. Dave is the most violent… he’s fucked in the head.’
– Dave Slave is an odd fellow. The way he goes about his daily life, bass playing, song-writing, talking to people… even his demeanour – he’s definitely what you’d call different! He’s not a relaxed sort of person either; just hanging around him you’ll end up feeling anxious and probably wondering if he’s on some sort of drug. You’ll likely question if he’s like that all the time and, if so, the answer is yes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if Slave is likely to turn violent out of the blue, but he’s simply different. If he does lose his temper though, it can be frightening. Many years ago, he threw a house brick at me… as in a solid, heavy house brick. Luckily, I moved out of the way or it could’ve killed me, or at least caused serious injury. At one stage, I also watched him take a big iron bar to a portable sound system… then he turned in my direction, pointed with the iron bar and threatened to clobber me with it. That particular time I was actually scared, anyone who’d seen him demolish the sound system would’ve been frightened. I forget the reason why he snapped but maybe it was playing some music he didn’t like. Then, of course, there’s the infamous incident in Europe where his anger towards some poser black metal-heads stayed with him as he boarded the tour bus.
This regrettable affair took place on SADISTIK EXEKUTION’s April 1995 European tour with IMPALED NAZARENE and ABSU. ’They call themselves mental metal’ observed IMPALED NAZARENE frontman Mika Luttinen when I spoke to him in 2017, ’and it’s the best description available for this band.’ ’It’s the craziest band we’ve ever toured with, it’s the craziest people I have ever met in my life.’
– Mika is fukking brilliant. He’s a very unique individual with his own style and personality who doesn’t seem to be in the slightest bit swayed by any sort of trends or opinions. He’s not trying to come off as cool, or to be this or that – he’s simply the real deal, doing everything his way. Mika might be a maniac but I will always beat him when it comes to craziness, haha!
You’re not generally fond of Scandianvian black metal, but what about IMPALED NAZARENE?
– I do like IMPALED and have always had a great deal of respect for that band. While they may have had some obvious elements of that typical Scandinavian black metal look and style back in their earlier days, one of the main things I like about them is that they do things their own way; completely detached from the rest of the scene, trends, or what other bands are doing. To me, their music – through pretty much all of their albums – has a sort of punk and hardcore feel to it. Almost as if you injected old-school punk into black metal and then added extra speed and aggression, all with a distinct Finnish twist. Their song titles and lyrics are also done their own unique manner so whatever they do it’s always got IMPALED NAZARENE clearly stamped on it! In a way, it’s a similar attitude as SADISTIK in that, sure, we’ve been influenced by certain bands from the past and that comes out a bit but we did everything our own way with no regard to what the rest of the metal world may or may not be doing.
Returning to the tour bus anecdote, both Rok and Mika previously mentioned that Dave Slave went on a rampage during the drive from Germany to Italy – to the extent where he had to be forcefully pacified by way of blunt force trauma. However, I’ve not really been able to determine what set him off to begin with.
– Everything started when he was handing out SADISTIK stickers after the show; there were a few posers present who threw the stickers back at him or just dropped them to the floor. So, anyway, he got on the bus in an enraged state. Over the next hour or so, his anger and stupidity increased. He really wasn’t in a normal frame of mind at all and it caused most of us to move up towards the front, near the driver, while he remained down the back – drinking, smashing things, and being generally out of control. Eventually, it reached the point where he was seriously going violently mental so myself and Hades had no choice but to go deal with him. We went down to the back of the bus and I grabbed Slave from behind while Hades started beating him up. But, as I’m sure you could imagine, it wasn’t quite that straight-forward; Slave was out of control and trying to fight back. At one point, Hades was twisting Slave’s leg and telling him, ‘I’m gonna break your leg, Dave Slave, because it’s payback for breaking mine before!’
This is a separate story – years earlier, Dave Slave actually did break Kriss Hades’ leg. Perhaps we’ll return to this in a future instalment of this conversation series.
– After this bus madness had been going on for maybe two hours and Slave was all battered and beaten, he eventually calmed down enough to go to bed. Besides getting up a few times and wreaking some additional minor havoc, Dave Slave eventually ended up falling asleep. The next day, he was quite calm and normal but badly bruised and could hardly walk at all. His leg wasn’t broken, as Hades intended, but certainly injured. Furthermore, Hades had a broken wrist from punching Slave in the head and his hand was really swollen. This was bad news, seeing as how we still had three gigs to play – two in Italy and one last show back in Germany. Some Italian paramedics treated his hand, so it was only barely good enough to play the guitar. On the flight back to Australia, we sat away from Dave Slave; I can still remember his face covered in bruises. Hades had his wrist bones taken care of back in a Sydney hospital. End of story!
Speaking of stories, Hades began telling me one, but – as is prone to happen – got somewhat distracted along the way. Before drifting off, he mentioned a rather ambitious prank Rok and himself played on the excitable bass-player.
– Ah, this would’ve been 1986 in the small unit Slave and I rented for six months. At that point, we’d moved to Melbourne to look for a guitarist and, obviously, found Kriss Hades! Okay, so one night when Dave Slave was away, working the night-job he had, Hades and I were drinking, playing metal, and so on. We decided to set up the room with different colour lights, spread stuff like records and art all across the floor, plus other bits and pieces – meant to create a weird, unsettling environment that would seem confronting when Dave opened the door and walked in. We also knew what time he’d arrive back, so Hades set up his small practice amp and guitar so it continually repeated the same feedback loop. MERCYFUL FATE might also have been playing, I can’t remember exactly. We also acted as if we’d both passed out on the floor, our whole idea was to make Dave Slave freak out when he opened the door. Sure enough, when Dave eventually did get back, he went absolutely mental. Shouting ‘WE ARE FUKKED!’, he snatched the glass bong we had and smashed it on the floor. Then he announced his immediate plans of moving back to Sydney – which he also did, with a few of his belongings, first thing the very next morning! He returned two weeks later.
While Rok’s two band mates have their documented volatile sides, they would certainly appear to be in good company. ’That’s what scares me about him,’ commented Hades, ’he’s too calm. Doesn’t get angry, he just… snaps. Like he… he’s got black eyes. There’s no colour in those eyes. You don’t know if he’s angry, or if he’s… Rok’s too calm for me. Because I’ve seen him when he snaps…’
– Overall, on a daily basis, I’m just like any other average person. But I do have a very sharp, violent temper; I can normally feel it building up inside me and then it’s like an explosion, I just erupt and anyone in the vicinity will feel the brunt of my fury. Mostly, I don’t really hurt other people and am far more likely to just break things – like punch or throw something. No different to anyone else who has a bad temper, I suppose. One thing though, I’ve noticed it happens much less than in my younger days. So, perhaps it’s one of those things that decrease with age? Aside from that, I have very strong opinions and do not subscribe to what most others follow. And if I feel something, I’ll let people know about it in no uncertain terms! I’m also very much a recluse these days and, as the years go by, seem to retreat further away from people in general.
Hades’ wording when describing this transformation brings to mind what Rok told me about his own painting routine. He described conjuring up a genuine feeling of death, perceived as an evil sickness running through him – a sort of malignant oozing forced out and into his art through mind, eyes, and hands.
– That anger is an entirely separate thing. What I mean about the feeling of death when working on my art is much more to do with internal emotions experienced when I’m listening to HELLHAMMER, early BATHORY, the first VENOM albums, and so forth. The same applies to when we were making and performing SADISTIK music; it’s what I call the true feeling of death, and this is what I need to conjure up in order to create my best and most brutal art. Sometimes I just paint in silence, but if I play music it will most likely be VENOM or something from the 80s – music promoting these exact feelings – and I strongly believe this then carries over into my artistic output. In fact, I can honestly say that I feel the sound enter my ears and being processed through my brain. The same energy from the music then comes out directly into my hand, paintbrush, or pen and onto the paper or canvas. We called it death metal back in the mid to late 80s, which is why the term always stuck in my mind. I don’t, as most other people do, consider stuff like old MORBID ANGEL or OBITUARY ‘death metal’ and then separately think of BATHORY or MAYHEM as ‘black metal’. Back in the old days I just lumped it all together as ‘death metal’. Hence, the feeling of death.
Rok has consistently, throughout his thirty years of interviews, voiced rather strong opinions about the state of affairs in the metal scene. I’m wondering if he still follows it enough to have an informed opinion.
– Yes, I’m generally aware of the modern metal world, although in a very different sense to how most younger metal fans would be. When I say younger, I mean roughly under the age of forty. I’m fifty-one now, turning fifty-two later this year, so forty is definitely younger than me. But I’ve noticed in my communications with people from all around the world that sometimes you’ll run into a twenty-year-old who’s surprisingly knowledgeable about bands and albums from the 70s and 80s. They may even be like me and listen far more to the older stuff than more recent post-2000 metal. I mainly dwell in the older 80s era; nine out of ten albums I’ll play over the course of a week range from VENOM’s first three albums to HELLHAMMER and early CELTIC FROST, lots of old traditional heavy metal like JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON, IRON MAIDEN, BLACK SABBATH and sometimes branching into stuff like AC-DC, RAINBOW, or even SEX PISTOLS. But I certainly do play newer metal, which could include anything from WATAIN to some very small unknown bands. Just as an example, some younger or lesser known bands I’ve enjoyed over the past year are WRAITH from Indiana, USA, a local band here called TWIN CITY RIOT, and a few South American bands like VOMIT OF DOOM and ATHANATOS. So yes, I’m open to listening to bands – from the famous to the completely unknown – but I mostly stick to old traditional 80s stuff.
Rok says that one very important fact that nobody ever seems to understand, is that he’s generally not a fan of what today is referred to as black metal.
– By that I mean most, if not all, bands who have a similar image to IMMORTAL, early BEHEMOTH, and so on. Of course, these days there are fukking ten million such bands and maybe if I took the time to listen to more of them, I might like a few. But I can honestly guarantee I wouldn’t care for most of them. I get really turned off by that typical Scandinavian image: lyrics, song titles, and themes about Vikings, frozen moons, fog, snow, and mountains. I especially hate the way so many bands over the years have copied imagery and, in particular, the same old black and white face paint. No disrespect to Abbath as a person or musician, but I cannot tolerate looking at this same sort of face-paint over and over again, regardless if it’s him or some band from Singapore, Finland, or Mexico. If they have that sort of image it really turns me off – sometimes to the point of anger!
Another style of metal he’s violently unenthused by is the really polished, refined ‘power metal’.
– I’ve discussed this at length with Dave Slave because he also agrees, I always thought that metal – be it heavy metal, thrash metal, black metal, or whatever – needs to have some rawness or roughness about it. If the sound is too clean or refined, it detracts from what true heavy metal is all about. Some examples to reinforce what I’m saying: take the earlier KREATOR albums compared to their later work. It’s easy to hear the change in sound over the years despite the fact they’re still using similar riffs and song structures, it’s just been cleaned up too much for my liking. The same applies to a lot of bands, including IRON MAIDEN.
Some might call this a natural progression as bands get bigger and more resources can be poured into studios and production.
– I understand that but, sometimes, it just reaches a point where it’s too much. Now, the shit I seriously detest are bands like NIGHTWISH, DRAGONFORCE, ARCH ENEMY, and so on. That sort of stuff makes me vomit. It’s sickening – absolute pollution to my ears. A prime example can be found here in Australia with a band called TEMTRIS, fronted by a female singer. Technically a good band, but I cannot tolerate listening to it at all. I very firmly believe such acts to be focusing way too much on their musical prowess and totally forgetting the real essence of metal. Of course, many of the so-called black metal bands have also gone in this direction which I, as you can imagine, absolutely despise!
I noticed that you on Instagram referred to Nuclear War Now! as your ‘new home’?
– Ah man, that thing was in reference to “The Magus” master tapes, the original two-inch analogue tapes used for the recording back in early ’88. Dave Slave had the tapes and, a few years back, asked me to take them for safekeeping at my house. So, a few months ago I was talking to Dave Slave and mentioned that if anything ever happened to me – as in death – then my family members or whoever goes through my belongings wouldn’t even know what they were and likely throw the lot of it in the trash! He mentioned that Yosuke had once inquired about them, and that he might be interested, which is exactly what happened. Hence the ‘new home’.
Rok adds that whereas Kriss Hades is somewhat of a hoarder, neither himself nor Dave Slave are ones to cling onto artefacts from the past.
– Over the years, people have constantly requested or asked to buy this or that – and my way of thinking is that, to me, SADISTIK was more of an experience rather than objects, so I’ve let a lot of old stuff go over the years. And, as I said, after I’ve died a lot of things would simply be tossed out anyway so they might as well be owned by others who’d appreciate and put them on display somewhere. Myself and Slave are more inclined to keep such things stowed away in boxes. If you walked into either of our houses, you’d see very little evidence of SAD-X or even metal in general. No posters, no vinyl, no CDs on display in cupboards or anywhere obvious. We’re just not into that sort of stuff. Metal to us is and has always been more in our minds and our display of metal was via our albums, records, tapes, CDs, shirts, flyers, and so on. None of us even have tattoos. Aside from the typical metal band shirts, we mostly wear boring everyday clothes – we’re definitely not your average metal-looking people!