by Ivona Bogner: October 2019
This might be the hardest interview I have ever done. Why? Simply, working with friends is always Hell on Earth. On October 11, 2019, Croatian band Defiant had a show in Belgrade, so it was nice opportunity to talk with friends as a professional and test my communication skills. I hope you will enjoy reading this interview as much as I did speaking with Kris (guitarist) and Tomislav (vocalist).
Welcome to Belgrade! This is not the first time you are playing here, so what do you expect from the show tonight?
Tomislav: Thank you, this is our 6th time in Serbia and we are pretty much thinking that maybe the Serbian crowd had more than enough from us but last weekend we were in Novi Sad and it was a blast. We expect the same for tonight.
You will share the stage with Scaffold and Flesh Cult. How important for you is to share the stage with bands from similar metal genres?
Tomislav: We are pretty happy to share the stage with Scaffold, which is playing since 1992. Defiant is usually the oldest on the stage so it’s a nice change, and Flesh Cult is pretty new so giving a chance to new blood is always good.
It’s a good package. Every band stands on its own.
Ok, let’s find out something more about the band. Just basics. Where and when the band was formed, how many albums did you release by now?
Tomislav: Defiant started in Požega in around 2005, at first more like a melodic death band but a few line-up changes the sound grew more darker and more aggressive which is now today.
We have 4 albums so far: “End of Beginning” (2006), “Era of Substitution” (2012), “Morbid Spiritual Illness” (2015) and Insurrection Icon” (2018). But I believe Kris has far more info…
Kris: I am the founder of the band, after playing in a few local bands around I was returned from a college to my hometown and decided to have my own band so I immediately started to search for a musicians who might be interested to play. The whole idea at the beginning was a melodic death metal, influenced from a bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy and so on…
Before “The End Of Beginning” was recorded, I knew that I wanted a more aggressive approach for the next album, that’s how the title for the first album was made
After the first album ″The End of the Beginning″ was released, the band toured across Croatia. Also, Defiant supported bands like Vader, Impaled Nazarene, Exodus… Any interesting stories you could share with us?
Kris: Actually, Defiant toured over Europe immediately after release of ″The End of the Beginning″. I remember when the drummer left the band, 2 weeks before the tour, we had luck to find even better replacement who jumped in and practiced the whole setlist in 10 days.
Same thing happened last year when we make a preparation for the tour, 10 days before we start, the drummer quit (this time for health reasons) but we found a new one who is now a full member and a great person and a friend! It was the best thing that could happen to us.
Tomislav: I did watch them supporting Vader in Osijek in 2006, grabbed their CD and a decade later I’m in the band.
Back to the period when you were only a fan, could you imagine yourself being part of the band one day?
Tomislav: A bit, yeah. Of course, the circumstances were a factor as well. I did with them two Romanian festivals in 2016 I think and since then we were in talks about it.
Kris: Tomislav was our fan, back in the days, but he showed big interest for the band. Of course, nobody couldn’t know that he will be our new vocalist but I’m glad, because he brought some good ideas in the band.
In 2009, the band split up. Why?
Kris: Many reasons, mostly personal stuff, some people who were make contributions at the beginning started to disagree and avoid each other. I didn’t want to be in the middle.
Everyone goes his own way and I think that was best for all.
Then, in 2011, the band resurrected. ″Era of Substitution″ was recorded.
Kris: Yeah, I found new members, a young blood. The whole material that I made for “Era of Substitution” was already prepared for recording and the band’s sound was becoming more aggressive. ”Era of Substitution” have also symbolic meaning, it was time for a new blood.
The band was evolving over the years. At first two albums you played melodic death metal, and then the sound became darker, more aggressive. What is the main cause of that change?
Kris: Evolving would be the best word for it and it’s a normal process for every band.
For me, experimenting with a few metal subgenres through the years brings different sound on each album. This is where we are now.
2012 brought you record deal. ″Era of Substitution″ was finally released for Grom Records. Defiant played at Rock Maraton in Hungary and later toured in Europe. Unfortunately, there were too many line up changes. Tell me, why is so hard to keep stabile line up?
Tomislav: The human factor which is a well of bullshit and excuses you would not believe. In our current line up every member lives in a different city and even different countries but we still manage to do gigs as much as possible. I knew bands that all of the live in the same town can′t even do a rehearsal on Sunday. You really have to love this stuff and know that you gonna sacrifice a lot of blood and tears to get things done.
There are no half measures in this kind of thing.
It seems, the year 2014 was crucial for Defiant. You signed record deal for Miner Records, finally you have stable line up and new album. ″Morbid Spiritual Illness″ had great reviews.
Kris: Yes, ″Morbid Spiritual Illness″ brought more darkness and it was obvious that we should continue writing the songs in that direction.
Tomislav: Yeah, I even wrote a positive review for the album. I remember calling them ”late bloomers”. Well, not so stable; the band changed vocalist and a drummer.
Tomislav, you just mentioned a review and I can′t resist to say that you actually stole me from one magazine we both were writing for, and three months later I became an editor. I have no idea should I thank you or should I kill you (laugh). So, tell me something about that side of your personality, how it feels being a writer?
Very blunt I would say (laugh), if I don′t like something in the album or the show, I′m gonna write it. In the most professional way possible. It′s pretty much what I would like to see from reviews of albums that I′m in. What works and what does not work… Every good critic should work as a guideline for your next album or performance.
You joined the band a year and a half before you entered to studio to record ″Insurrection Icon″. How much are you involved in creative process?
Tomislav: Pretty much. I wrote all the lyrics, Kris did all the music.
It was a testing field could two of us work together. I think that results are evident.
Tell me something more about the album. Where and when it was recorded?
Tomislav: It was recorded in Hellsound studio in Czech Republic with Honza Kapak as producer, it was early in January of 2018. I think we did the album in around 3 days. I think that even Darkthrone records longer.
Kris: It was one of our best time in studio, short but sweet .Of course, if anyone’s interested how it was, there is our studio documentary on Youtube.
Can you tell me something more about cooperation with Honza Kapak?
Kris: I contacted Honza after we accidentally checked one of his albums, we really like the production and we agree that it could be good for us too.
Tomislav: Honza is a real pro and nice guy, the next album is definitely being recorded there.
″Insurrection Icon″ was released for Spanish Art Gates Records. What that cooperation brought?
Tomislav: A lot of promotion and reviews which is good, but it’s a lot of ”give or take” like with any other labels today.
During the summer you have been playing at some European Festivals. Now, when you have rich experience, what suits you the best: clubs or festivals?
Tomislav: Well, we mostly played in smaller festivals with a very in front audience so most of the time the biggest difference is that you have more oxygen. Something like Dark Circle Festival in Rijeka, the event was in ruins of paper factory. It has the best elements of both worlds.
Kris: Every place is good if there is a good organization and decent backline, but I prefer clubs.
It seems Defiant is more well known international than in home country. Tell me, what challenges do you deal with in Croatia as death metal band?
Tomislav: The game of broken telephone mostly. That’s not anything unusual for any extreme band in his local scene. Luckily this year we played in Croatia quite a few a times. Our last gig for this year will be played in Zagreb where the band did not play since 2012.
Kris: It’s easier for us to organize and play a gig at any time outside of Croatia.
Should I say more?
That brings us to the next question… Can we talk about metal scene in Croatia? Do the bands support each other, how hard is to organize gig, sell albums, merch…
Tomislav: Depends, some bands are very open for cooperation and some are not. Organizing gigs can be quite difficult with the whole “the scene is dead” attitude. Well dude, you as an audience were part of the scene so you gave in its demise and share the blame.
I see more people in Romania and Bosnia wearing our t-shirts, take it for what it is!
Name me top 5 Croatian metal bands of all times.
That’s a quite a hard one.
Old Night, Voloh, Usud, Black Cult, E.N.D.
I hope that nobody got offended.
Tomislav, as a musician you told me list of best Croatian bands, but as a librarian, can you tell me the books you thing everyone should read?
Tomislav: You did your homework, that’s a nice change.
This one is quite easier:
For the Mind:
1. Erich Fromm – The Anatomy of human destructiveness I and II
2. John Cornwell – Hitlers Pope
3. Jonathan Black – The secret history of the world
4. Anthony Rhodes – Propaganda: The art persuasion of World War 2
5. Paul Carus – The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil
For the heart:
1. Michael Moorcock – Elric novels
2. Robert E. Howard – Conan: The complete chronicles
3. Michel Houellebecq – Atomised
4. James Elroy – White Jazz
5. George Orwell – pretty much anything from him
Tonight you are promoting ″Insurrection Icon″ in Belgrade. Do you already have plans for next album?
Tomislav: We have around 9 skeletons and I’m currently working on lyrics and laying the vocal tracks. It takes longer than usual from my part. It′s going to be the closest things that we will tackle with a concept album. We are entering the studio the next summer, that′s the plan.
Kris: Actually we have now 10 or 11 new songs (just the riffs and drums) but it is possible that will be more until summer 2020 when we enter the studio. Of course, we’ll see which one of them will make it to the album.
Thank you so much for your time and cooperation. Do you have any message for our readers?
Tomislav: Big regards to everyone who checked us and supported us over the years.
You know who you are. See you at the nearest venue, stay heavy!