Patrick Mameli of Pestilence
by Alissa Ordabai
Patrick Mameli, the frontman of Dutch cult death metal Pestilence, and the self-described lost child of the genre, has been interviewed by Hardrock Haven minutes before the start of the band’s London show on Easter Sunday.
Resurrected from the annals of metal history with the release of a brand new album “Resurrection Macabre” on Mascot Records (their first in 15 years), Pestilence are now truly back, which the show at one of the best London clubs – the Underworld – later proved with sweltering heat and plenty of old-school death metal panache. Careful not to call this comeback a reunion, Mameli is right to be candid, as of all previous members of Pestilence only he and the bassist Chris Choy are present this time around.
Inside Pestilence’s imposing tour bus Hardrock Haven found the singer in a chilled mood, relaxing in a spacious leather armchair while sipping on a glass of red wine. Nothing gave off the mayhem that this calm, laconic gent would later unleash on a 400-strong chanting, yelling and headbanging crowd less than an hour later, as Mameli dispensed concise comments on the new album, his approach to his instrument and the state of the metal scene.
HRH: How does it feel to be back on the road under the name Pestilence?
Patrick Mameli: Well, it’s like I’ve never been gone. It’s the same. Same all old CRAP! All the stuff that has been happening before to me, but it feels good though, it feels good.
HRH: What kind of vibe are you getting from the metal scene these days? Because one of the reasons you cited for breaking up was the general state of the business and the heavy metal scene. Has anything changed for you? Is the vibe different?
PM: No, it feels the same again.
HRH: Same old shit? Ha-ha!
PM: Yes, it’s the same old shit, you know! But we are under a different record label and they’ve been supporting me really well, so that’s a different side of it. But yeah, you are right, it’s the same crap, it’s the same shit. Like I’ve never been away, really.
HRH: Are you happy with the way the album has turned out?
PM: Oh yeah, definitely! It’s early days but the album has been picked up by quite a few people, maybe 500 already. I’m happy with that. So people haven’t forgotten about me since I’m a death metal god. Yeah!
HRH: Your approach to guitar always had an earnesty of a serious guitar player, but at the same time your leads have always been very laconic. But on this album, it seems to me, you have taken this approach further and reduced your guitar solos to the absolute bare minimum. What’s your approach to deciding how long a solo should last and what kind of message it should convey?
PM: You know, people absorb stuff in sixteen seconds. So you have to make sure that people get your stuff within those sixteen seconds. So if I have, like, two bars or three bars, you have to do that stuff. And really it’s not about wanting to be the guy who shows off.
HRH: Which you could do potentially.
PM: Yeah, yeah! But I just want to play the best solo that I can and if it’s going to be in four bars, then it’s fine.
HRH: How do you distil your message into two or four bars? Does that take a lot of thinking or is that a spontaneous kind of process?
PM: It’s very spontaneous. But then again, like with any spontaneity, on the back on my mind I go, “Oh, I’ve got to do this and that.”
HRH: Like a computer?
PM: Yeah, so how spontaneous is that? It’s difficult.
HRH: Do you still retain your interest in jazz and fusion? Do you follow that scene?
PM: Yeah, definitely. But it’s not my primary drive anymore. I wanted to make the heaviest music I could possibly make. Back then it was like, “Oh, I’m the best guitar player, blah-blah-blah…” It kind of fucked up really the whole structure of the band, you know.
PM: Yeah. So what I want to do now is be in a favour of the band.
HRH: How did you decide the time was right not to do a reunion, because it’s not a reunion, but how did you decide to resurrect the name of this band?
PM: Well, it’s like driving a bike. Or riding a bike. You can. If you have ridden a bike fifteen years ago, you can still ride your bike, right? So it feels very natural. I’m like the lost child of death metal, you know. I’m Patrick Mameli. I’m happy to be back and to serve the masses.
HRH: What is your take on the changes that are taking place in the record industry right now? The way the fans are recruited, the way music is distributed? MySpace, YouTube, free downloading?
PM: Everything is more fast-paced, everything is on the internet, everybody is like checking Hotmail, the fucking thing, you know… So I feel one has to step back and think about the ancient fucking gods being there on making music. Like we were. I’m not saying that we are the ancient gods, but I’m talking about Death, I’m talking about Mantas, I’m talking about Nocturnus, all those fucking guys who were out there way back in the Eighties who were trying to make it happen. So we are just one of those guys who want to make it happen. Definitely.
HRH: It terms of emotional and intellectual effort that takes to make an album, which of the Pestilence albums was the most difficult to make?
PM: I guess “Spheres”. Because “Spheres” is an album everybody said was ahead of its time. We just wanted to get rid of the record deal so we made that album and said, “See ya!” So that was a difficult album for us to make. We were like digging our own grave.
HRH: But at the same time it was…
PM: It was groundbreaking.
PM: But we did that album Roadrunner was gonna drop us, you know. So that was kind of a crazy thing. You are getting off but you’re not.
HRH: I have one last question and it’s a bit goofy. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t like it.
PM: I will answer any question. (Smiles).
HRH: Oh, here we go. If you could have an answer to any question in the universe, what would you ask?
PM: Well, I would have to ask god, why we have to go through all this bullshit for him to like us.
HRH: Are you a religious person?
PM: Yes, I am. I don’t understand why we have to go through all this bullshit with African kids dying because they can’t get food, and all that crap, for him to like us? Why would god have to be so cruel to like us? That’s what I’m saying.