by Niklas Göransson
Broken bones, parted flesh, powerlifting, and underground metal: Black Winds and cohort Caller of the Storms, founding members of notorious Canadian black metal skinheads Blasphemy, reminisce on the creation of a modern-day music legend.
The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is more than twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #5. The same issue also includes conversations with DAUTHA, CLANDESTINE BLAZE, ACRIMONIOUS, LYCHGATE, MORBOSIDAD, NUCLEAR WAR NOW!, CULT NEVER DIES, MYSTIFIER, ROME ,W.A.I.L., WINTERFYLLETH, and PHURPA.
– I hung out a lot with 3 Black Hearts back when we were kids, says Black Winds, we grew up together in this German-dominated area of East Vancouver. It’s funny though, most of the Germans had moved over there from South America. We were pretty much the youngest ones around, the other guys were all older and bigger than us – it was a pretty rough neighbourhood. But we formed our own little crew and had some of the older greaseballs grease out a few people here and there when it was needed.
The foundations for Canadian black metal skinheads BLASPHEMY were laid when its orator, Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds, befriended percussionist 3 Black Hearts of Damnation and Impurity. I’d initially surmised that their colourful adult personalities were cultivated through a somewhat unorthodox childhood, an assumption which would soon prove entirely accurate. For instance, Black Winds mentions getting his first tattoo at the age of twelve. Among the many questions forming upon this revelation, one wonders what kind of ink parlour caters to pre-teens.
– Ace Tattoos, Vancouver, BC. Old-school. Fuck, they’re so old – they’re probably all dead just from age by now. The tattoo itself is like a half-eagle, half-tiger type-of-thing. I still have it.
What on earth did your parents have to say about this?
– The fucking shitty thing was, I got home drunk as fuck and my mom was sleeping upstairs since she had to work in the morning. When I went into the room I shared with my brother and crept into bed, he got up to piss and left the door wide open. I’m like, ‘Close it!’, but he didn’t hear me so I got up to do it myself. Then mom came down the stairs just as the band-aid covering my new tattoo fell off, like, fuck! She starts freaking out, ‘My son, what a greaseball!’ I just pretended to be asleep, you know; ‘Get over it, lady.’
Besides assorted mischief of various legality, forming a band had been an obsession of Black Winds and 3 Black Hearts ever since they were eight years old.
– His mom even said, ‘I know you guys are so serious about it,’ she went out and bought a drum-kit, bass guitar, and amps. We were like nine or ten years old, so we set this shit up on the front porch of his grandma’s house and started making fucking noise of all sorts. When the right type of music finally came around, in 1984, the only guy I knew who could play black metal guitar properly was Caller of the Storms. I was sixteen at the time, had my first car, pulled over and said: ‘I’ve got a drummer and we’re thinking of starting a black metal band – are you in?’ ‘Oh, yeah’ he said, ‘I’ll come and check it out.’
– I’d already known Black Winds for a few years, says Caller of the Storms, I thought he was a really tough guy – that’s it really. Both he and 3 Black Hearts were pretty popular people in our city even before all of this. All known for different stuff.
Were you in any bands prior to BLASPHEMY?
– No, those were the first songs I ever wrote.
– Back then I did the bass as well as vocals, Black Winds continues, but both 3 Black Hearts and myself still had some learning left to do. Storms was already ripping it up on the guitar; we were like, ‘Holy fuck are we shitty compared to him, man. We better fucking hope he’ll stick around and fucking teach us a few things.’ He did – taught me how to play the bass. The first cover tune we ever did was “Blasphemer” from SODOM. Then BATHORY’s “The Rite of Darkness”.
After brief stints under the names ANTICHRIST, DESASTER, and THRASH HAMMER, the young men settled for BLASPHEMY in 1986. It was around this time they took on their ritual names. On vocals and bass we find Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds; Caller of the Storms on guitar; drums courtesy of 3 Black Hearts of Damnation and Impurity and, finally, rhythm guitar by Black Priest of the 7 Satanic Blood Rituals. What impresses me about their adolescent pseudonyms is that they’re not just straightforward vulgar profanities but also quite subtle, clever, and almost creepy. Like a blend between an 80s Brazilian band and H.P. Lovecraft. Black Winds refuses to divulge who came up with them.
– We all sort of deserved and earned them. The thing was, we didn’t want to be like anybody else. We wanted to be as original as possible, that’s where the shaved heads came from; back in the early days, I let my hair fucking grow long. Then a couple of our friends had shaved heads and we were like, ‘We’re gonna keep this band original, right, we’re all gonna shave our heads and we’re gonna be black metal skinheads.’ There was no such thing – that was an original. We didn’t want to be some average death metal band in our favourite high-top running shoes, blue jeans, t-shirts, whatever. We just wanted originality.
From surveying old photos I noticed Black Winds sporting head tattoos as early as 1989. That must’ve been regarded as supremely extreme at the time, since even visible ink on one’s arms was socially taboo back then.
– Yeah, well I’d just gotten out of… eh, I’d been in a different place, where head tattoos were more commonplace.
These leather-and-spikes aesthetics – the hardware and war paint – no one can accuse them of catering to the acquisition of scene points. Reading contemporary metal press, their image appears to have been regarded as highly out of fashion. I came across a review from ’89 ridiculing the outdated ‘facepainted 1983-outfitted evil photo’. This was also a recurring question in old interviews. I can’t imagine they received all that many complaints in person though.
– None. Pussies weren’t gonna write and give their address out or something either. Would be stupid on their part. Anybody who ever wrote was always somebody cool. Nobody ever sent a letter saying, ‘You guys are a bunch of bozos’, you know. It would’ve been like, ‘Bring it on, that’s awesome – happy to meet ya.’
In 1989, the original BLASPHEMY line-up recorded their debut demo, “Blood Upon the Altar”, in Fiasco Brothers Studios in New Westminster, British Columbia. This was the beginning of a long-standing relationship between the studio and Canadian black metal skinheads. Even in recent years, the establishment has been used by current BLASPHEMY guitarist Ryan Förster for DEATH WORSHIP – a project recently covered in Bardo Methodology and that also features Black Winds. “Blood upon the Altar” was received with enthusiasm and sold an estimated one thousand copies, carving its musical mark all over the world. The tape was obviously a great influence to BEHERIT, something which has been stated many times, but it wasn’t until preparing for this conversation I realised that Holocausto’s famous vocal style seems to be distinctly influenced by Black Winds’ work on the demo version of “War Command”.
– Yeah, that was something… see, when we entered the studio, it was our first recording and even when rehearsing we had more effects on the vocals. If you know what that demo sounds like, you know the vocals are kinda dry. But yeah, the whole clan of us kept in touch back in the caveman days, paper to pen – me, Holocausto, SARCÓFAGO, fuck, a lot of bands… MORTUARY DRAPE, MYSTIFIER, SAMAEL.
Besides bass and vocals, Black Winds was also responsible for non-metal compositions such as “Winds of the Black Godz” and “Ross Bay Intro”. In some old interviews he sounds more enthusiastic about these interludes than the actual songs. I was equally surprised to see him speak about his favourite classical composers – not a musical preference I imagine would’ve enjoyed much prevalence among either skinheads or headbangers.
– You’d be surprised sometimes. Played backwards, it sounds fucking… if you play it backwards and slowed down, it could sound good or it could sound like shit. I just wanted to find an intro without having to copy someone else.
Have you made any more such music since?
– Not so much, but just recently myself and Evandro – the bass player and vocalist of GOATPENIS… he did most of the work, it’s called SUPPURATED FETUS and is like some electronical music. I just added some voices for him.
During my research for this feature I came across two different accounts regarding the first departure of Black Priest – some interviews credit a nervous breakdown following troubles with the gentler sex whereas others state he lost his mind following sorcerous escapades at Ross Bay Cemetery.
– I’d actually say that’s correct on both scores. He fucking brought home some tombstone from Ross Bay and then did too much acid and started having these nightmares about an infant, and as soon as he brought the tombstone back – it had little crosses on it so it was a baby’s – the nightmares went away. Then he got pussy-whipped, fucked up.
In the late summer of 1989, Black Priest was replaced by Marco Banco – or rather, The Traditional Sodomizer of the Goddess of Perversity – guitarist for then-recently dissolved Vancouver thrash metal band WITCHES HAMMER, alongside whom BLASPHEMY played their first-ever gig in 1988. Since powerlifting was a mandatory habit to join the war command, they began dragging their new recruit along to the gym.
– Marco was the first person we trained with, says Caller of the Storms, real big eater.
This conversation took place during Never Surrender in Berlin, early November 2018. The festival featured a reformed WITCHES HAMMER and I spotted Marco at the venue, following which I could swiftly conclude that heavy lifting appears to still be a pastime of his. As if the man’s size wasn’t enough of a deterrent, another gargantuan gentleman known as Big Rob – BLASPHEMY’s combined manager and security detail, or ‘problem solver’ as he refers to himself – informed me that The Traditional Sodomizer’s proclivity for swift and merciless retribution would make it a sensationally poor idea to vex him in any way.
– Yeah, says Black Winds, I guess you could say he’s surpassed us since – he devoted his entire life to lifting. Back in the day I had to drive over half of Vancouver to pick up Storms and then Marco before hitting Gold’s Gym. By the time you finish power lifting there’s no food left in you so we’d go power eating at this buffet that wasn’t far from the gym, get as much protein and shit like that as possible. Then I’d drive us out to these really steep stairs in the woods where you don’t really see anybody – Wreck Beach – and we’d slap on fifteen-pound ankle-weights and just have at it up and down the stairs until we puked or collapsed. Good days.
In early 1990, BLASPHEMY played two US dates – Seattle, Washington and Berkeley, California. In conjunction with the latter date they undertook a road-trip to Los Angeles and visited the storefront of Wild Rags Records, met the owner, and then returned home to Vancouver with a record deal and studio budget. BLASPHEMY’s debut album, “Fallen Angel of Doom”, was immortalised at Fiasco Brothers Studio later the same year. Caller of the Storms’ strongest memory from the recording consists of Marco having purchased a brand-new Ibanez guitar which he brought along to the studio, as to demonstrate how ‘wicked’ it was, but absent-mindedly left the unsecured instrument on the roof of his car.
– Then he drove off and it went flying into the road, brand new fucking guitar. He recorded the album with this shitty old guitar, right, fucking piece of garbage. Always making the right decisions.
Additional album-related calamity took place during their photoshoot at Mountain View Cemetery – a venture ending in heavy-duty police action after terrified passers-by had witnessed tombstones set ablaze and concluded that there must be some manner of black mass afoot. I can’t help but think that it would’ve been interesting to see the reaction of law enforcement responders as they came upon powerlifting black metal skinheads sporting war paint and several kilos worth of spikes, nails and explosive devices.
– We had loads of straps and bullets and grenades and chains, the cops thought it was all real and everything so they were a bit agitated. ‘We heard you had witches dancing naked!’ ‘That’s bullshit, man. I know who this is coming from; it’s the lady and the fucking guy walking their little fucking dog, they saw a little bit of fire and got all scared.’ Just some soccer mom or something.
Eventually, a full year later, they were cleared of criminal charges. As for the actual album; when listening to really filthy and violent metal I like to think that part of the savagery ingrained in the music stems from the lives of its performers. I read an old interview with Marco where he mentioned how the band, during the recording of “Fallen Angel of Doom”, would leave the studio to either visit the cemetery for inspiration or head into the city and end up jailed overnight for fighting. That’s pretty much spot on what any BLASPHEMY fan could possibly hope for.
– That wasn’t something we necessarily sought out, it just seemed like the good thing to do. I mean, we weren’t really looking for problems but problems sure seemed to find us. To be brutally honest, we never intentionally set out to cause any trouble.
Caller of the Storms explains.
– The punk rock scene in Vancouver was always, like, people constantly trying to outdo each other… so, you know, walk into that crowd with a HELLHAMMER shirt and stuff on and you’re gonna stick out and people are gonna poke you in the fuckin’ eye. And they’d get shit-kicked. Like one time when I went to a party and was wearing this leather biker bomber jacket, right. I was about to leave, just standing outside when some guy comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, nice jacket – does it fit me?’ and grabs the lapels. What the fuck? So, I just threw a couple of punches… his head hit the window behind him, the glass broke and a big shard went straight past his head and cut my arm wide open. Almost chopped it off. Two tendons and an artery.
Did it affect your guitar playing?
– Oh yeah, I could barely use my fingers for months. Anyway, I headed over to the Skytrain, it was brand new back then, walked up the stairs and my vision just went out… I was blind, then an ambulance showed up and patched me up. Almost bled to death.
He shows me vicious scarring on his left wrist. Bleeding to near-death appears to have been somewhat of a regular pastime within the BLASPHEMY camp. Black Winds is riddled with scars, but none quite so striking as the flesh rift that runs all across his throat on the left side. It looks like someone tried, with a moderate amount of success, to decapitate him.
– Fuck, I went out with my uncle one morning, hit the beer-barn downtown; a place called The Cambie. Got wailing away on the fucking beers, hit the hard stuff good and proper. Just a typical day really. We kept pounding the beers back, in fact we even left the bar and went to the place of this girl who ran a metal radio station and just loaded the fridge up with beer and told her to crank some tunes. We were sick of the shit at The Cambie, where they didn’t play black metal. Then we showed up at the bar again after those two flats of beer were gone. Lots of odds and ends going on. A friend of ours, Skinhead-Dave, who lived with me and my uncle at the time, came down and met us after he got off work. My uncle says to Dave, ‘Throw me your car keys, I gotta get a pouch of tobacco from your glove-box.’ Now, that parking lot is pretty dimly lit and it was dark outside. ‘Don’t worry about it, Jim’, said Dave, ‘I’ll go get it for you.’ At this point I was probably into my thirtieth beer… I don’t wanna exaggerate here but we started pretty early that morning. The bar was spinning and I felt pukish so I said to my uncle, ‘I gotta go pass out in the backseat of the car, let me know whenever you guys are ready to go. I’ll probably know about it.’ Dave walks out ahead of me and is just putting the keys into the car door when a guy with a knife comes up behind him. This Dave-guy, mind you, is quite big – about as tall as Fabian over there.
Black Winds points to the World Terror Committee warehouse manager – W.T.C. being the German label disposing over the rehearsal space BLASPHEMY have borrowed – who in a room full of rather voluminous men appears to at least lay claim to the vertical crown.
– Some guy tapped him on his shoulder, ‘Hey buddy, you got my bus pass?’ Dave goes, ‘Bus pass? I don’t ride the peasant wagon, I got my car here – can’t you see?’ So he turns his back on him, goes to unlock the door and this time the guy taps him again, ‘Empty your fucking pockets!’ Just then, I come stumbling up to the fucking car to go get some Zs in the backseat. I thought it was a friend of Dave’s or something and just, ‘Hey…’, put my hand on his shoulder and the guy flipped around and plunged the knife right into my throat. Severed my jugular vein, chipped my spinal column… I spun around and my arm went up by sheer instinct, clipped him on the jaw so he stuck me in the back for good measure. The parking lot leads to a busy street… guess I was in shock or something, I don’t fucking know; I staggered into the middle of the road just as a car came whizzing by, went up on the hood and through the fucking windshield. It was an Asian family and I noticed my neck going… squirt!
Black Winds gesticulates in a fountainous motion.
– Just blood shooting all across us and I’m like ‘Wow, fuck, that’s pretty wild.’ The way their mouths dropped… I just started laughing, ‘I’m outta here, man, you gotta fix your own car. Hell, you hit me – you’re lucky I’m not hitting you back.’ Anyway, I dragged myself across the street into a real scummy bar and collapsed. A World War II veteran came, some stinkin’ old drunk really… well, saved my life though. He was probably about ninety or something, he put his finger in the hole where I’d been stabbed to stop the blood from pumping out. I guess with all the commotion and everything, Dave and my uncle were too busy beating on this guy. Dave got stabbed twice in the back of the leg. The ambulance said they just traced the trail of blood, it was apparently quite easy to follow. They scooped me up, took me off to the hospital, putty’d me together, nine-hour surgery, tied off my jugular vein; there were all these arteries severed and shit like that… so, yeah, that’s about the end of that scar story.
Since we’re getting into anecdote mode, I was advised to inquire about the time Black Winds had to do battle with a giant skinhead at some party. Something about a frying pan.
– Oh yeah, no, that was a cast iron pan. He was a professional kickboxer, the champion of this So You Think You’re Tough contest. I was maybe two years older than him, we had a few brawls in our younger days. There was a house party and about fifteen of us – about three car-loads – showed up. You know, a lot of other cars there too so why not bring our cars out, do what we want? But it was the weirdest thing; as I’m talking to somebody in the bedroom, I notice a VHS tape on the floor so I reach to pick it up when, all of a sudden, a punch just fucking skims my face. I spin around, grab his arm, and slam him into the wall. We’re tumbling around the living room, into the kitchen… and this guy isn’t going down for nothin’.
– Well, says Caller of the Storms, you had him down on the ground but there was no way you were putting him to sleep. He was waiting for you to gas out.
– Yeah, I was about to gas out. And this guy’s cardio was crazy, him being a kickboxer. Then I look up and see a black pan, reach for it… crack! He just went limp, blood coming out of his mouth.
– The way you did it though – it was a like a methodical lining up of the strike. I remember watching it, you mapped out a straight line in the air and just went BOOM and he just went, ‘Aaargh!’ He’s the type of person you could do that to though, afterwards he was fine. He also fought Malakai and another time my brother, ended up shit-kicked by both.
– I think Malakai had to bite his ear off, adds Black Winds, he was also like Fabian size big.
After the release of their debut album, BLASPHEMY performed only one or two gigs at home in Vancouver. Since the album sold really well, surely there must’ve been some demand so I don’t quite understand why they didn’t play more often.
– Promoters didn’t want to put our shows on, says Caller of the Storms, because we were known for fighting, going to places and…
– They knew the place was gonna get destroyed, explains Black Winds, it was like, ‘If you play here, you have to pay for the repairs; can you deposit five thousand for us to hold onto to cover all the damage that for sure will happen, as we’ve heard and has been told around the city?’ ‘We don’t got five thousand to hand out, we’ll do our best to not get shit going. Riots, walls getting taken down, or whatever the case may be.’ But yeah, cops would come and try to shut down gigs and, you know, fans would run out and start flipping cars. A lot of fights. I guess it was the aggressiveness of the music that kinda sparked that up. I wasn’t telling people… you know, ‘You, you – brawl!’ I don’t know, East-Van is just a brawly type of place.
I read a 1990 interview with Black Winds in Septicore Zine #6 where he mentions how at their latest gig, some maniacs grabbed a table and ran through the pit using it as a snow-plough – until decked by the bassist of Canadian punk pioneers D.O.A.
– Decked by the D.O.A. bass player? He just died. Let’s see… oh, right – I remember! That was Red-Hair Rick, Victor, and…
– Gatto, adds Caller of the Storms.
– Oh yeah, says Black Winds, Gatto; a lot of crazies.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is more than twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #5. The same issue also includes conversations with DAUTHA, CLANDESTINE BLAZE, ACRIMONIOUS, LYCHGATE, MORBOSIDAD, NUCLEAR WAR NOW!, CULT NEVER DIES, MYSTIFIER, ROME ,W.A.I.L., WINTERFYLLETH, and PHURPA.