This time we will learn more about the Colombian musician Andrés Vargas, vocalist of the Black Metal band THY ANTICHRIST, who generously agreed to give us this interview.
• How did that taste for extreme music come to you, which led you to become a musician and specifically to play one of the most extreme and controversial genres within Metal such as Black Metal, instead of Death, Thrash or Heavy Metal?
Andrés Vargas: Everything starts from a youthful attraction for music and art. I formed my artistic project from the age of 18. During that time I experienced the wave of Scandinavian Black Metal that for me brought a completely different sound, which complemented very well with the facial makeup and costumes of the musicians; also with the dark, pagan and mystical themes that surround Black Metal and make it a different genre than the others.
This was undoubtedly what caught my attention. It was also a very complex and dark time for me, because I did not have family support when I developed this taste for a non-traditional music class and my interest in being an artist and singer of a Metal group. On the contrary, I experienced rejection and a very hostile and sharp criticism. For my family as a typical Latin American family, deeply rooted in their Christian traditions and customs, it was obviously not welcome for me to wear black and long hair wearing flashy and outrageous shirts from rock groups.
Being fan of thunderous music and of supposed orchestration of the devil for them. Also I was stigmatized as a drug addict without being one, because drugs never caught my attention. Despite those very hard years and when my band was just a project. I decided to continue on my path and on my whim to consolidate my spirit of artistic vocation, for which I hope one day and hopefully the message I sought to convey would transcend the borders. Today I can say that I have flown free in the realization of my dreams.
• You are the only remaining member of the founding members of THY ANTICHRIST since 1998. How were those early years like and why did you decide to create a Black Metal band at that time?
Andrés Vargas: Since the band’s inception, I have been the sole founding member. During the first days I had the help and collaboration of my great friend Rubén Restrepo, renowned guitarist and composer for his work with the band Infernal. With him I recorded the first three songs. Then came other musicians like Xekthor on guitar, with whom I recorded the first album, several singles, and a short album.
All part of my personal interest in forming a solid artistic project, both musically and philosophically and in visual staging. Black Metal was that starting point.
Many of the first years were a personal challenge and that put me to the test in many aspects of my life. I didn’t have enough financial resources to finance my band. At the beginning, with the salary of my first job, I covered all the expenses of rehearsing, paying the musicians, renting equipment and paying for recordings in one of the best studios in the city. I remember that once during the composition of the songs for the album «Wicked Testimonies» I had no money to pay for the rehearsal room and we decided to practice in the room of my drummer, Diego López’s house.
He had no drums because he had sold it days before, and instead he improvised with one of the the dining room chair of his house. Sitting from one end of his bed, with his pair of drumsticks which was the only thing left of his drums, he used the seat of the dining room chair as if it were the snare drum and the back with metallic finishes were the cymbals. The double pedal was simply his feet tapping the floor rhythmically as if hitting the nonexistent bass drum, while Xekthor played an awkward acoustic guitar with a missing string.
For my part, I whispered the lyrics of the songs because we couldn’t make much noise. They have been very skilled musicians and we just imagined the instruments that we did not have. We were also very lucky not to break the chair, which would have cost me more than paying for the rehearsal room.
Unlike the European or North American bands where there is another culture and there is another kind of support, I was able to overcome many of the adversities of a country like Colombia and get ahead with a risky and unusual musical project. Today Thy Antichrist is the first Latin American Black Metal band to be part of Napalm Records roster, an important European record label and one of the most prestigious today.
• How true was the band originally called «THE ANTICHRIST» by Friedrich Nietzsche’s renowned book «The Antichrist» and where does this influence come from?
Andrés Vargas: From an early age and after reading several books and authors of world literature, Nietzsche personally caught my attention. How a writer was so transgressive and critical of an ethical, moral and religious model in the 19th century and in the middle of the conservative Victorian era.
For the particularity of his thoughtful, critical and humanistic ideas that collided with the religious establishment of Christianity of that time. Ideas that today retain that validity. So the name of that book and its author laid the foundation for what Thy Antichrist is.
• As far as we know, your entire musical career has been with THY ANTICHRIST, which is quite significant, since generally musicians today participate in different projects or bands. What is this about?
Andrés Vargas: Time commitments can be one of the causes. Working on other projects and getting things done right takes time, work, and dedication. Personally my work with the band absorbs all my attention.
• Something that has made you «famous», to say the least, is the corpsepaint or body art makeup you use when singing live, which we know you apply yourself. How did that idea of making that corpsepaint so BRUTAL come about?
Andrés Vargas: Like the work of music, it has been an evolutionary process of more than 20 years of constant work dedicated to art. Obviously the influence of facial makeup comes from the Scandinavian Black Metal bands, and also by the influence of the character of Gene Simmons from Kiss with his performance, but in my case I wanted to give it a more personal and different touch. Carrying the corpsepaint to the torso and arms.
Also part of this makeup is inspired by my indigenous ancestors who used body paint as a state of ritual trance to come into contact with the elements of nature. For me it is also a mystical trance that prepares me to enter the stage. This process is quite demanding, since it takes me more than 2 and a half hours of work without any help before each presentation.
I really enjoy doing this transformation as well as every performance, and this is what has made Thy Antichrist stand out as a unique band in the genre.
• What do you seek to convey to listeners with the music and lyrics of THY ANTICHRIST?
Andrés Vargas: Philosophically, the band emerged as a reflexive response to the anachronistic religious systems, of criticism of the commercial, hypocritical and double moral face of Christianity, also towards that dark facet of the human being that tends to a wicked and insane action, where good and evil are part of human genetics. Music is part of the language of this message.
• THY ANTICHRIST despite being a band with more than 20 years of career has only 2 complete albums, the first «Wicked Testimonies» from 2004 and «Wrath of the Beast» from 2018. Why is this and what are the plans of a new album?
Andrés Vargas: Outside of these two albums we also have an EP titled Human Pandemonium, various singles and compilations. Personally I have had to face many adversities. The change of musicians at various times, the suicide of one of my drummers “Sebastiano di Morte” in 2010 and with whom we had planned to record an album, also my change of residence to the USA where I had to rebuild the band almost from scratch.
With a new lineup of musicians we recorded the recent album «Wrath of the Beast». We are currently writing a new album and I hope it will be released next year.
• Tell us a little about the relationship you had with Héctor Escobar, who I understand was an important Colombian writer and poet better known as «The Black Pope of Neosatanism in South America» for his kabalistical and mystical studies. How did he influence your musical career?
Andrés Vargas: Having known and having the closeness that I had with maestro Escobar, has been one of the great experiences that marked my life both personally and artistically. His advice, books and poems full of a magic very unique in his style were part of the wings of my artistic career. In fact the cover and title of the album «Wicked Testimonies» come from his book Wicked Testimonies, as well as poems in his voice that are included in the discography of the band.
The recording of the poems «Lo Temporal» and «Transmigraciones» was somewhat curious. While I was in the studio in Medellín recording the «Wicked Testimonies», I decided to call him at his house in the city of Pereira. I was holding the phone in front of the microphone in the recording booth while he did his magical recital. And that’s how we recorded these poems with that special telephone effect.
• Do you personally think that you can live from making extreme music with all that that entails and what can you recommend to emerging bands or musicians?
Andrés Vargas: Times change and in part we also change over time. Today the musical diversity is much broader than it was 20 years ago and the music industry will continue to change in the near future; therefore new generations of fans find new sounds and musical styles in the midst of the explosion of social networks.
I do not think we will ever see artists with history and the likes of Metallica, Slayer or Iron Maiden just to name a few and who alone fill arenas.
Today thinking about living economically or making a fortune from extreme music or any metal genre is a leap in the dark, especially for Latin American bands.
From personal experience I live for music and art, but I don’t make my living from music unfortunately. I recommend to the emerging bands or musicians do what they do because they are passionate about it. Art without passion leads to no destination or will have no future.
Be recursive and try to use all the tools that exist today such as music production softwares and social networks to build and consolidate your project. Be creative, original and look beyond the bubble.
• THY ANTICHRIST has participated in renowned festivals and tours worldwide which has led you to visit different countries and learn about different cultures. What differences do you find between European and Latino audiences when it comes to enjoying a concert? What positive, fun or negative anecdote do you remember from one of your many trips and presentations?
Andrés Vargas: I think the Latin American public is more passionate and dedicated to artists, although the North American and European public also make their delivery. Anecdotes and stories I have many to tell. For example starting our first extensive tour throughout the United States and Canada with Septicflesh and Dark Funeral in 2018.
In Los Angeles, California on the first date of the tour; the venue was just a few blocks from the famous Skid Row street. Thieves broke our van and stole all the clothes, medicines and passports of some of my musicians.
Fortunately we did not lose any instruments but we had to get clothes, medicines and process emergency passports to enter Canada.
In some large airports we have practically had to run with suitcases and instruments from one end to the other to avoid missing flights. We have also lost luggage due to airlines and other similar stories of this glamorous Rock n ‘Roll life hahaha! But without a doubt, the best experiences is taking our art to other countries, learning about their cultures and meeting personally with followers who later become your friends.
My greetings and thanks to them!
• Let’s talk now with the human part behind the artistic character of THY ANTICHRIST. What do you do when you’re not making music or touring with the band?
Andrés Vargas: I work full time for one of the most important Dallas hospitals in the area of computer science or IT, giving technological support in all areas of medical care. I also follow a physical exercise routine 4 times a week and read certain books that catch my attention.
• For a some years we have known that you live in the United States, specifically in Dallas, Texas. How was the process of getting musicians and continuing with the band?
Andrés Vargas: It was a bit of a difficult process at the beginning. But I am made of challenges and overcoming obstacles. Trying to get the right musicians is not easy, where apart from the skill with the instrument the synergy with the mystique and philosophy of the band it’s very important as well.
It took me around a year and several auditions of musicians, until I consolidated a stable lineup with Robert on guitar and Benjamin on bass with whom I have written some of the new music for Thy Antichrist, also the later addition of Chris on drums and Scott on the live guitar.
The other part of the process was to consolidate the band on the North American scene, where thanks to the affection and support of the fans, a very positive balance has been achieved.
• With everything that is happening in the world with the Covid-19 virus, what is your vision of humanity in relation to this event and what do you think we should expect after all this happens? Do you have plans for when the pandemic ends?
Andrés Vargas: I have experienced first hand what the impact of the coronavirus is, due to my work in the hospital. I have witnessed how difficult this time is for both patients and medical staff.
Patients must face their treatment in a solitary way due to the restriction of family visits and the staff due to the exhausting and long working hours amidst the rigorous protection measures.
I believe that we are part of a life cycle where life on earth turns and is transformed, either by cataclysmic events or by man’s hand. Over the course of hundreds of years, human history has experienced other pandemics, and this will not be the last time we suffer from it.
But today when modern man thought he was on top of «postmodernist power,» we are surprisingly confined to cities and homes, with the economy almost paralyzed, lamenting and fearing the unexpected deaths caused by a virus that has become lethal in its walk. It will take a while for everything to return to some normality and then it will be just another statistic number to the past on the shelf of history.
Hopefully we can return to tour with the band soon. Meet again with friends and followers to enjoy what we are most passionate about.
• We recently saw on your personal facebook where you published a post offering your financial aid to acquaintances or followers of yours in Colombia who had difficulty in acquiring food or basic necessities due to quarantine measures for the coronavirus. Tell us a little bit about this.
Andrés Vargas: We are living a very surreal moment and moments like this is where the spirit of solidarity is put to the test. It is not about being millionaires to extend a helping hand to those who may need it. I personally spent part of my savings to help families who contacted me from different cities in Colombia and who are having a very difficult financial situation to buy food.
Households who lost their jobs and daily support due to the quarantine and the closure of companies. I also donated some of the money to volunteers who work in my hometown of Medellín, and who help some of the most needy people in very poor neighborhoods.
I know very well what it is to go through needs and endure hunger in a family with very little economic resources, because that’s how I lived it in Medellín, in a very hard time of my adolescence.
• Thank you for granting us and allowing us to do this interview, something else you want to narrow down and at the same time send greetings to THY ANTICHRIST fans.
Andrés Vargas: Thanks to you Februus and Headbangers Latin America for supporting my artistic work; for allowing me to reach your readers and followers of Thy Antichrist. I wish you many successes! Hope to see you soon on the road and Cuernos Arriba!
Interviewer: Februus Fenrael
Thy Antichrist – Links:
- Main Imagen Credit: Kat’s Photography