To start, can you tell us a little bit about the start of the band? Seeing your from Lebanon, not really the most peaceful region in the world. I wonder under what circumstances did you form a band?
Anthony Kaoteon: Hello Berto, first of all thank you for your interest in our story. When you are born and raised in a war torn country infected with corruption, you don't really realize it right there and then. Music was definitely an outlet to release the pressure and revolt against all the terror we were dealing with on day to day basis. Nevertheless, I must say that although we had a lot of wars, assassinations and invasions to name a few, Lebanese people were always full of life and searching for opportunities to party and be up to the trends. Metal came to Lebanon in the form of pirated tapes and through MIRC download chat rooms for those who remember that portal. Having said that, I was introduced to metal through my uncle and would listen to his collection from King Diamond to Napalm Death. Kaoteon started as I was drawn to the dark riffs of black and death metal and in 1998 I got my first electrical guitar with a very cheap amplifier which distortion was so fucked up but perfect to play Burzum- like riffs. Back then, I started the search for members helplessly and composed many riffs some of which you can hear in ‘Raging Hellfire’ on this album and then I met Walid Wolflust in 2001 who I still remember sent me a voice over of his vocals for a track from Moonspell's ‘Wolfheart’ and I said: "That’s the guy I want". We were bonded by metal and the rest is History.
What kind of bands were you into when you started listening to metal? And what is it that makes metal important to you?
Anthony Kaoteon: As I mentioned I listened to anything I could put my hands on but what stuck were the dark riffs of doom, black and death metal. I was hooked on Slayer at some point, King Diamond at some other time, Metallica and Megadeth and then I remember Carcass and Death, Bathory and Candlemass. Later I found myself attracted to My Dying Bride and the likes of Darkthrone, Satyricon and Emperor took charge. However, I must admit I was never a metal only kind of guy. I was always open to good music from classical to grunge to The Doors and King Crimson.
Walid WolfLust: I started my progression into metal music gradually, first with heavy metal and the classics, followed by thrash metal, then got more and more into black, doom and death metal. I always wanted darker bands, it was an innate thirst which couldn't be quenched. Some of my favorite bands for over twenty years are still Bathory, Hypocrisy, Satyricon, Morbid Angel and Dissection, I've followed their progression and it feels as if our liking progressed together as I enjoyed the different sounds they honed. As for what metal means to me, it's a calling and a message. Metal discusses vital topics that are neglected by the mainstream crowd although these topics are precisely what matters in my opinion. Also, absolutely nothing rings the same as metal! That said, some of my all-time favorite music is also non-metal. I am a big fan of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Jill Tracy, which is again, generally dark music in its essence.
Where did you get your music from? Through regular music stores or through some kind of underground scene?
Anthony Kaoteon: It was always a thirst trying to get its dose from whichever source possible, the cover mount cd of magazines, the radio, pirated tapes (because original CDs were a freaking luxury) and so on. I feel bad for the amount of music I downloaded back in the day but it was the only way to get our hands on music.
Walid WolfLust: I used to buy my CDs ($20 minimum per CD back in the mid-90s because of the difficulty of acquiring it) from an underground shop. The owner tried to bring into the country all sort of metal records, far from the eyes of the government as metal was still highly illegal, and two years later he was given the option of either seeking shelter in the UK or facing a decade in prison.
Could you say there was or is a metalscene in Lebanon?
Walid WolfLust: There was and there will always be a damn great metalscene in Lebanon, regardless of all the censorship. Lebanon (and all third world countries) need this escape. However, it's a scene which lacks support in all aspects, and all local metal musicians are full-time employees as they can never make a living out of metal, which means they sooner or later cannot find the time any longer to keep doing the music they love. Nonetheless, there's a lot of amazing bands in Lebanon and they deserve a chance.
You left Lebanon under circumstances that not a lot of people might know or recognize. Could you describe the circumstances under which you had to work as a band and later on even had to leave your homecountry?
Walid WolfLust: I remember something from my childhood which will always stay with me, and is very difficult for others to understand. We have school busses in Lebanon as a main mean of transport for students, and I remember many occasions where the driver of the bus would shout "cover" to us. Cover means we need to grasp our chest close to our knees with the school bag covering our head, in case an F16 decides to shoot somewhere nearby. This stays with you forever. Lebanon is not as catastrophic now, it might be wonderful for vacation, but there's still a lot of pain and basic human needs that haven't been fixed and never (in my opinion) will be. It's a short life, I'd rather live it well.
Things have changed in Lebanon perhaps, I understand you even go back later this year to perform. Is it safe for you to return or are there still situations that might give the government reason to arrest or deport you?
Walid WolfLust: It is safe for us to return, in terms that we are not "wanted" by the government and metal is not used as a scapegoat for the last few years but you always have a certain feeling in your stomach after so many years of censorship.
Did everything that happened to you in the past leave a mark on you that is showing in your music now?
Anthony Kaoteon: Absolutely, we are what we experience and we have experienced three folds the lifetime of a western boy living in a safe neighborhood. To each their own problems and troubles but we cannot deny that our lives shaped us into what we are today. No regrets but sometimes I wonder what we could have done if we had the same dedication and tenacity in a world where you could grab opportunities by the pussy. Ha!
Where do you get ideas for the lyrics? I guess your past is not the only thing that you get pissed off about?
Walid WolfLust: Everyday life and everything that surrounds us. As I stated earlier about the school bus memory, some things stay with you and others still exist every day. I don't write my lyrics about Lebanon only, but I try to write about everything that is unjust in the world and unfortunately the opportunities are endless.
In 'Non Serviam' there is the line 'Non fucking serviam, I screamed these words before, Non fucking serviam, I will scream with every breath'. I guess you are not into religion?
Anthony Kaoteon: I believe in a world free from religion where goodness is rewarded and wrongfulness is rehabilitated. All else fails to interest me.
Walid WolfLust: I am religiously irreligious and I hope for a future where we will worry about the now, rather than burn today with the hope of a promised heaven. You live one fucking life, should heaven exist or not is irrelevant as most religions indicate that you do not take your memories and experiences (which make the you) but you transcend into a "greater" being.
What goals did you set yourself when you started this band and did you already reach any of them?
Anthony Kaoteon: I do not know how to do things half way and I am still doing this after twenty years as today I have the means to reach out and the experience to make myself heard. Every step of the way was extremely hard and orchestrated but each achievement was amazing. To see my band's demo on an American underground label in 2003 was orgasmic, to have distributed on Extreminal Records in Turkey in 2004 was amazing, to see it released on a limited tape by Diabolical Masquerade Records in the Netherlands in 2005 was fantastic, to be able to get distribution with Ketzer Records in Russia back in 2006 was phenomenal and then the reviews and interviews that led to people talking in the underground and getting a record deal with Osmose Productions for ‘Veni Vidi Vomui’ in 2011 that was a dream. Today we decided to go independent as we learned more and more about each step of the way. We are featured here on Lords Of Metal, have had two pages interviews with Metal Hammer UK, articles on Metal Sucks and Metal Injection and have been featured on Guitar World Magazine and Noisey in the USA. All of this were on our checklist but I still want Kaoteon to be ‘Larger Than Life’ and it will happen because as I said I do not do things half way and Walid has been the perfect partner to make this journey ever more exciting and each step of the way more deserving. Wish us luck Berto and stay tuned for more news.
Walid WolfLust: We were kids when Anthony and I discussed Kaoteon's sound and started shaping it, and we were kids when we selectively chose our daily playlists in the car to discuss songs we liked, but we still had a clear vision of the Black Hearted Beast and we are still going at it. Personally I focus more about our sound, rather than magazine reviews (for which I'm very grateful and delighted about nonetheless) but sharpening the sound along the years would be my ultimate goal. Whatever comes along is great!
The core of the band is Anthony Kaoteon and Walid Wolflust. How would you describe your partnership?
Walid WolfLust: We are brothers inside and outside of the band and that's one of the many things that kept the band going. We have been through a lot together and the fact that we share a similar overview about life definitely helped provide a solid ground to build the band upon. Musically speaking, we have progressed at the same time into the sounds we are attracted to, since we share the majority of the music we like. This also helped keep coherence into the band.
How do you write your songs? Does it always start with a riff or is some jamming involved?
Anthony Kaoteon: It all starts with me composing all music and then working with other musicians on their part then Walid Wolflust writes his lyrics, take a dose of my riffs into his brain and once they hit hard, he lays his own orchestrated vocals over and above the music to awaken the blackhearted beast in them.
How did you get these two amazing musicians (Fredrik Widigs and Linus Klausenitzer) to help you on 'Damnatio Memoriae' and what did they bring to the table to make this album the monster that it is?
Anthony Kaoteon: Following the same methodology of no half way bullshit, I wanted to hunt the best musicians out there and I contacted a few which were all positive when they heard the music. This was a great motivation as both Fredrik and Linus are fucking fantastic with their instrument, very neat with their recordings and absolutely fantastic as people. Linus is now a friend of mine touring with his band Obscura alongside Sepultura. Their influence on the sound was definitely enriching to me personally as a musician and groundbreaking to the album. You don't know how beautiful it is to describe a bass line in words and feelings to a musician and he nails it for you. Same thing with Fredrik.
Who would be your main five musical influences?
Anthony Kaoteon: Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Classical Music and 70s Rock!
If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, dead or alive, who would it be?
Anthony Kaoteon: Tom Waits.
Walid Wolflust: Trym
Nowadays, metal is always produced in a more or less clinical way with ProTools and other programs helping bands to create a slick sound. On the other hand you see that about every band releases vinyl again. Where do you see music go in the near future? Will vinyl take over again, including a more organic production?
Anthony Kaoteon: I truly wish as I am very bad behind any software and I enjoy music raw, rough and nasty.
Walid WolfLust: I am a vinyl collector and I definitely see the world asking for more vinyl (which makes a lot of sense). I am not in favor of overproduction or a constrained sound, so I definitely wish for a more organic and honest production. We did our best to have this on all our records and I think it makes a big difference.
What makes your music different from bands that play a similar style? Is it just combining different styles of music or from different periods in time or is there more to it?
Anthony Kaoteon: I leave it to the listener to judge but I believe that our ability to put over fourteen riffs in one track at times without sounding progressive at all and going from pure black metal to death metal then throw a couple of epic folky sections with a vocalist that can scream, growl and shriek like a venomous snake at times and an angry lion at others distinguishes us from a whole lot of bands but to tell you that our sound will not change and evolve with every record is a limitation to what we can achieve in the future.
Are there any non-metal bands that you like and can recommend?
Anthony Kaoteon: Nick Cave, Pink Floyd, Tom Waits, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, The Cure and the list goes on and on.
How would you convince even the pope (or mullahs) to listen to your music?
Anthony Kaoteon: Metal is music with a lot of expression. Anyone can listen to it. The pope, the butcher, the executioner and the clown, they are all humans and I don't see why they can't.
Walid WolfLust: And if that fails, tell them they could get richer out of metal.
When will you be playing live shows to promote the new album?
Anthony Kaoteon: We just played Complexity Festival in the Netherlands and we are looking into a couple of more festivals this year. We want to play to the right audience. Quality over quantity this year so that we can focus on the follow up album.
Well that's it guys! Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Good luck with the album and future plans and if there is anything left to say or I forgot to ask here is your chance!
Anthony Kaoteon: The single most important thing for metal is the press and fans supporting the bands. Thanks a lot for this opportunity and the fans who are buying the album to help us endure and keep delivering metal. Support us at Bandcamp page.
Walid WolfLust: Dank je Berto and everyone for supporting extreme metal! Keep the flame burning m/