Deströyer 666 IV
by Niklas Göransson
After their May 2001 tour with Immolation, Deströyer 666 sought to carve out a foothold on European soil. With limited resources and nowhere to stay, they set out on the festival circuit – only to have an old, familiar problem rear its head.
KK WARSLUT: Crowd-wise, it just wasn’t the right tour for us. To my understanding, some of our fans didn’t turn up because… I mean, it was IMMOLATION, DECAPITATED, and DERANGED: all of them are death metal, which our fanbase wasn’t really into. Still, it was killer to meet IMMOLATION – great fucken lads – and get some tips and pointers on being a professional band. Admittedly, I’m not sure we took their lessons to heart. We attended class but probably didn’t pay much attention.
A May 21 gig in Paris concluded the 2001 Darkness Over Europe Tour. Four days later, DESTRÖYER 666 played their first open-air festival: Fuck the Commerce in Torgau, Germany.
SIMON BERSERKER: I forgot about that one. Real bizarre. It was mostly grindcore – SKINLESS and shit like that, which I’m not into at all. The only band similar to us was DESASTER from Germany. But we went down okay; people seemed to like it. Perhaps because we were a bit different: not flat-out blast beats and stuff. I remember the DESASTER guys headbanging up front while we were on stage.
WARSLUT: We were playing in Sweden the day after. As soon as the gig was over, we jumped into the rental car and drove towards the ferry port in Rostock, Germany. I was doing 210 kilometres an hour, which is the fastest I’ve ever driven. The scary thing is that after twenty minutes or so, it starts feeling like 120; it becomes normal. This is from midnight ‘til 6 am, so I’m screaming along the autobahn, thinking I’m fucking Mad Max – king of the road. But then I’d get this flash in the rear-view mirror and one of these crazy motherfuckers in a Mercedes, Porsche, or something… Zoom! They’d zip past us doin’ 280.
The day after Fuck the Commerce, DESTRÖYER 666 performed at 2 Heavy 4 You in Falkenberg, Sweden. This festival was a historic underground event – the last major gathering of its kind and a perfect representation of old-school Swedish black metal.
BERSERKER: It was the fucken best! Loved it. Still to this day, I tell stories from that one single night. We felt as if we belonged, you know? It was awesome, especially after touring with a big death metal band and then playing that grindcore fest. We drove through the night and arrived in Falkenberg… I don’t know, mid-afternoon? We were greeted by the NIFELHEIM twins and The Shit Man.
IAN SHRAPNEL: Yeah, that was fucking mental <laughs>. I met you there, right? We also met the infamous Shit Man – and fuck that. The festival was right next to a golf course, and I remember that someone kept shitting on it. Imagine some old geezer trying to pick his ball out of the hole… just horrible.
Bajsmannen, ‘The Shit Man’, garnered nationwide notoriety at Swedish open-air festivals during the 1990s. Besides a penchant for various transgressive escapades – many of which included excrement, hence the nickname – he has worked with a number of metal bands. For example, he produced and mixed NIFELHEIM’s 1998 “Devil’s Force” album. It bears mentioning that Bajsmannen took no part in guerrilla-fertilising the golf course; that was the late Dave Lepard of CRASHDÏET.
WARSLUT: It reminded me a bit of the Sydney crowd, with everyone trying to outdo each other in being degenerate and obnoxious. You know, the Swedish guys couldn’t keep their dicks in their pants, man… always whipping their fucking cocks out. And Carl from KILL – his little party trick was to punch himself in the face. Yeah, just punching himself in the fucking face.
BERSERKER: We started drinking early – which is stupid, but that’s what we used to do. Ian had a bottle of whiskey, so I walked up to him shouting BULLDOZER lyrics: ‘It’s fucking whiskey time!’ I grabbed the bottle, took a hefty swig, and immediately threw up. Ian just shook his head, ‘Ah, gimme that!’ I had to soak up the booze because our set was approaching. I kept my bass in this giant keyboard case I tried to carry backstage. ROOT played before us, and they were in there. ‘No! Get out, get out!’ I didn’t like that much.
SHRAPNEL: I remember when ROOT played: there were maniacs hanging off the rafters, and it was just fucking mental. And then some crazy fuckers were doing burnouts at the campsite, driving right over people’s tents. I was like, ‘Fuck, someone’s gonna die!’ The whole thing was a weird experience for us. That wasn’t normal for Sweden, was it?
Perhaps not for Swedish metalheads in general, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary in the context of black metal. That festival in particular brought out many of the remaining radical elements from the late 90s scene.
BERSERKER: I was sitting on the bonnet of a car, trying to chat up this hot chick, when some bloke ran past and fucking coat-hangered me. I got up off the ground… ‘What the fuck, man?’ and he’s like, ‘Rah, rah, rah!’ – something in Swedish. I couldn’t understand a word, so I just clocked him, and he went down. Then his friend came running, so I tried to get one in on him, too. The chick didn’t like it at all and walked off; I kinda blew that one. Then I passed out in a field and, we think, got run over by a car.
SHRAPNEL: In the wee hours of the morning, Simon came back to the van where I lay sleeping. He was really agitated: ‘I’ve been bashed!’ Sure enough, his face was all red and cut up. I’m like, ‘What the fuck happened to you?’ We later learned that he’d passed out on the ground and, somehow, a car had fucking hit him <laughs>. I mean, he could’ve died. That was our introduction to Sweden, and it was mental.
BERSERKER: Whatever that was, it gave me the worst headache I’ve had in my entire life. I was concussed for several days. We figured it was the side of a tyre, so I suppose I got off lightly there.
SHRAPNEL: What was ridiculously hilarious is that after the festival, we went straight to our drummer’s parents’ place in the south of Holland. Eric’s family were quite well off and very conservative; they had a beautiful home with a big outdoor dining table. A delicious meal had been prepared for us.
BERSERKER: We get there, and half my fucking face is missing. Ian and Keith’s hair was a mess. We were all filthy and severely hungover. Eric’s parents had a nice garden with a little pond with fish swimming around in it. The table had a spread, as the Dutch do, and there was cheese and all that.
SHRAPNEL: So, we’re all sitting down with the family, having this real classy meal, and… <laughs> at first, there’s this painfully awkward silence. ‘Can you pass the salt? Thank you.’ Simon’s face was covered in cuts and bruises, and we were all in rough shape from the last few weeks on the road. They must have been thinking, ‘Who the fuck are these clowns?’
BERSERKER: They tried to make conversation after a while – but by then, we’d started arguing about band-related stuff. Keith got angry at us and made a point of storming off but walked straight into a screen door. All the while, Eric was being totally nonchalant. His poor parents must’ve been like, ‘What the fuck?’
SHRAPNEL: We turned up in Europe under the assumption that we could stay with Eric’s parents and use their place as our base, but it was soon made clear to us that this would not be the case. They suggested that we go to a nearby caravan park or some shit.
WARSLUT: Eric had assured us that we could stay there, but it turned out his parents knew nothing about it. Or if they did, they changed their mind as soon as they laid eyes on us.
BERSERKER: His mother seemed shocked: ‘Really? Eric said that?’ ‘Yeah, before we left Australia.’ ‘No, I’m sorry, but you are not staying here. There’s a caravan park down the road.’ Luckily, some friends a little further south helped us out.
The trio ended up going to Bladel – a country town in southern Holland where two of the Europeans who came over to Australia for the New Year’s gig lived. This became the new base of operations for DESTRÖYER 666.
BERSERKER: One highlight from the Bladel era was a three-day festival called Mind Over Matter. It was just outside Vienna and had headliners like JUDAS PRIEST and MOTÖRHEAD.
SHRAPNEL: To get there, we had to borrow an old wreck of a van. We put our guitars in the flat tray in the back – but it had no cover, so they were just sitting out in the open. It was an absolute piece of shit, and we drove that thing all the way to Vienna. Since it could only go about seventy-five Ks, it must’ve taken us twenty-four hours. It was fucking insane.
WARSLUT: Our friend Sjors fixed up an old postal van for us. And when I say ‘fixed up’, I mean he welded in an entire backseat. Had we hit anything, that fucking thing would’ve come flying straight through the front window. It was a death trap, mate – an accident waiting to happen.
SHRAPNEL: When we finally got there, we approached the guards and said, ‘We’re here to play.’ They couldn’t believe it. All the other bands had arrived in luxury buses, and we rock up in this beat-up old van spewing oil and smoke. But I think the security fellas actually liked us because we were a bit rough and ready.
BERSERKER: We shared backstage with BEHEMOTH. After the show, all of us were having a drink when they asked, ‘Hey, can we invite our friends from ENSLAVED over?’ ‘Sure.’ So, we partied fucking hard.
SHRAPNEL: We hit the piss with them. Keith, as he was often prone to, challenged the singer from ENSLAVED to a drinking contest. I don’t think he fared too well with that one – he rarely did.
WARSLUT: It was neck and neck for a while, but Grutle (ENSLAVED) ended up kicking my arse. We were skulling big fucking steins of beer in one hit, so it was a hard competition. At one point, Grutle jumped on top of a table at the festival area, raised his arm, and called out, ‘If you are into metal, follow me!’ <laughs> I thought it was brilliant. Of course, follow him where? That wasn’t made clear.
The festival’s final day was headlined by British heavy metal legends JUDAS PRIEST.
WARSLUT: After PRIEST had finished, I made my way backstage to fetch something to drink, and there was KK Downing and Glenn Tipton. They said, ‘Oh, are these your beers? Do you mind if we have some?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, no worries. You didn’t get your own?’ ‘No, there’s fucking nothing here.’ I said, ‘Oh, right. Help yourself, mate. And just hang on a second.’ I strolled away – totally casual – but the second I got around the corner, I fuckin’ sprinted back to the festival grounds.
SHRAPNEL: PRIEST played, but with Ripper Owens on vocals – not Rob Halford, unfortunately. Still, it was a great show. Afterwards, Keith came running up to me: ‘We’re drinking with JUDAS PRIEST, let’s fucking go!’
WARSLUT: Ian and I ran back towards the backstage area, and just as we turned around the corner… ‘Phew!’ Both of us composed ourselves and strutted in cavalierly, like, ‘Hey boys!’
BERSERKER: When JUDAS PRIEST played, I was up in this VIP area, headbanging and singing along. Once they were done, some Austrian guy came up to me and said, ‘You really enjoyed that, yes?’ ‘Yeah, fucking great!’ He goes, ‘Do you want to meet them? Come with me.’ So, we went backstage and walked out to find PRIEST, the DIMMU BORGIR guys, plus Keith and Ian.
SHRAPNEL: We ended up hanging out while they waited for their bus to pick them up. I remember looking around and seeing that I was chatting with Ian Hill, Keith was talking to Glenn, and I think Simon to KK Downing. It was a surreal moment.
BERSERKER: They’re like, ‘Alright, lads – we gotta go, nice meeting ya’, and this that and the other. JUDAS PRIEST got on their bus, DIMMU BORGIR on another, which left us standing there alone.
SHRAPNEL: The irony is that even though it was amazing, and we had massive smiles on our faces… once PRIEST left, the festival shut down, and we got kicked out. There was nowhere for us to go; we didn’t have a hotel or anything.
WARSLUT: As soon as we stepped outside, it started bucketing down rain. There was no shelter except for these portaloos, so Simon and I got in one and Ian in another. We were all sitting there in silence when I muttered, ‘Can you believe that ten minutes ago, we were drinking with JUDAS PRIEST? And now we’re in these plastic cubicles sniffing piss and shit.’
BERSERKER: It went from high to low. Like, ‘Man, we were just hanging with PRIEST, and now we’re all stuck in a fucking portaloo.’ Once we made it back to our tent, everyone crawled in and went to sleep. Then, in the morning, we had to drive for twenty-four hours because our van didn’t go faster.
SHRAPNEL: The drive home was really shit. We were sleep-deprived and hungover as all hell. We got pulled over, and once the cop realised that we were foreigners, he demanded money. He was trying to come up with something to fine us for… it obviously wasn’t for speeding, ‘coz the fucking thing couldn’t speed. But we had to give him some of whatever currency they had in Austria before the euro.
Back in Bladel, the trio returned to their respective accommodations. KK stayed with a friend he’d met in Europe the year before, whereas Simon was hosted by Rob Reijnders (LUCIFERICON) – a Dutch metalhead who’d spent two months in Australia in early 2001. Joining Rob on the trip was Sjors, whose floor Ian slept on.
SHRAPNEL: Sjors woke up early to go to work, so I’d head downstairs. And there was his mum – a pig farmer who spoke not a word of English. I’d sit there, like… <nervous chuckle> using a bit of sign language while she boiled me an egg or something. Fortunately, they had a pushbike I could borrow, so I’d ride through the countryside to Rob’s place and hang out with Simon. That went on for a couple of weeks.
BERSERKER: I didn’t mind; it was just me, Rob, and his flatmate Tim. They were cool. I’d just go downstairs, have a beer, and hang out with them. But yeah, Ian was a bit… ‘Man, they keep talking to me in Dutch, and I don’t know what to say.’
SHRAPNEL: Keith spoke to some Italian chick he’d met on his first trip to Europe, and she got in touch with a Dutch friend of hers: Paul, who played in a band called HAMMERHAWK. So, we travelled north to a place called IJmuiden where we met up with Paul and Thijs – an Aussie guy who sang for HAMMERHAWK – and went out for a beer. ‘How’s it going, mate? You’re in a band? Yeah, cool.’ Eventually, Paul said, ‘Alright, you can stay with me.’
WARSLUT: The strange thing is that Paul didn’t really have anywhere for us to stay. He lived in a one-bedroom house; off of his bedroom was a little studio cubicle, and off that was like a recording room and booth. And that’s where all three of us slept. So, credit to him for that.
SHRAPNEL: Paul had the most metal house I’ve ever seen. Hanging on the wall were these beautiful old BC Rich guitars… Mockingbird and so on: models I’d only seen in magazines before. ‘Wow, look at those guitars!’ Then, in the lounge room, there was a heavy metal pinball machine. ‘Fuck!’ Paul also had a proper analogue studio desk and this sort of narrow room to record in – that’s where Keith, Simon, and I slept. He called it Voodoosoundstudio.
WARSLUT: Paul was quite uptight and stressful – which I could very well relate to – so it’s bizarre that he’d let three complete strangers into his house. I remember once when he was on the toilet: his doorbell went off, and the phone started ringing, both at the same time. I called out, ‘Hey Paul, do you want me to answer?’ and he just went fucking mental in there. All I heard was him screaming, ‘I’m taking a shit! Stop harassing me! Stop, stop, stop!’ <laughs> I found out he didn’t like being spoken to when he was on the toilet.
BERSERKER: Paul was somewhat of a lonely old fella. Or not old – I mean, he would’ve been in his mid-thirties, which I suppose was old to us. But he seemed a bit lonely, and I imagine it felt exciting to have these guys from far, far away moving in. He probably thought we were mega-famous, which we clearly weren’t.
WARSLUT: Whenever you move somewhere, there’s gonna be a period when everything is really fucking hard. You don’t know the language, you’re out of your comfort zone – everything is difficult and nothing straightforward. For instance, I remember us driving around in our old postal van somewhere not too far from Paul’s house, and we got lost.
Paul lived in a place called IJmuiden – which is pronounced ‘ay-mow-dn’.
WARSLUT: Of course, we had yet to learn how to say it properly. So, we just stopped and asked some fella, ‘Hey, do you know where Emoda is?’ ‘Never heard of it.’ Simon calls out from the back, ‘Imoda?’ ‘Nope.’ Ian goes, ‘Amoda?’ ‘Sorry.’ We must’ve tried ten different variations – all to no avail. Twenty fucking minutes from this place. That kind of shit really gets to you after a while.