Five The Hierophant interview (07/2022)
|With:||Mitch Barrett, Krzysztof Włodarski|
Five The Hierophant was one of the bands I was most bummed about missing a few years ago when they performed at a festival in Romania where I only attended a single day, so I was pretty eager to correct that when they performed at Roadburn. Little did I know they'd have a tour that would stop very close to me, while on a tour with Wyatt E., a band that I had missed at Roadburn and was making up for it now. So I messaged them about it, got there early, and managed to sit down with Mitch and Krzysztof and talk about jazz, tarot, "Careless Whisper" and pizza. Then I took some awful pictures because the light in that venue was pretty nonexistent.
Through Aureate Void
Radu: So we’re here with Five The Hierophant. How do you do?
महाकाली (Mahakali, or “Kali” for short): Fucking tired.
Mitch Barrett: Tired, hot, slightly stressed, but having a good time.
Radu: All right. Is it usually like that in tours, or is Romania a special place? [Ed: Both can be true.]
Kali: No, it’s not just Romania. It’s the whole tour, it’s just a couple of places in a tour where we’re doing like a really long distance in one day, and it doesn’t really give much space to do anything other than just drive and play and drive again, so it’s not just Romania, but in general it’s great, you know.
Radu: But I reckon the playing is the best part. [Ed: Actually, it’s talking to you.]
Kali: Yeah, yeah, it’s –
Radu: Or do you prefer the driving?
MB: Oh, well, the driving is great… No, no, no, it’s all about the playing. It’s the best hour of the day, hands down.
Radu: Okay. So which acronym for Five The Hierophant do you prefer: “FTH” or “5TH”?
Kali: You know, I really don’t know. I didn’t think about it.
Radu: I think “5TH” is more suggestive. [Ed: Odd choice of word. “Suggestive” is kind of… suggestive.]
Kali: 5, like 5 number?
Radu: The number 5, and then “TH”.
MB: So I generally write it “VTH”, as in the Roman numeral V and TH, but then I like being difficult, so.
[Ed: So far I’m not seeing abbreviations for Five The Hierophant but for “fifth”.]
Kali: No, it’s just – we do it like that because the name Five The Hierophant is long and it takes three more seconds to type, so we just go *ding-ding-ding* and you’re done. But there’s no, like, really deep meaning behind it; it’s just FTH or 5TH, just short.
Radu: Yeah. Which one do you prefer?
Kali: I think I prefer the one that he said, with the letter V, which is the Roman numeral for five.
Radu: Fünf die Hierophant.
Kali: Ah, fünf, that would be okay! (laughs)
Radu: So then… I completely forgot what I was going to say.
MB: That’s cool.
Radu: You mentioned that it doesn’t really have any meaning. But wasn’t it a tarot card? Five the Hierophant? [Ed: Oh, geez, I always thought it was the name of Kali’s Stand.]
Kali: Mhm. Yeah, I mean, no, the name has a meaning, but –
Radu: But the acronym doesn’t.
Kali: The short, however way we’re gonna, whether it’s gonna be 5 or FTH or whatever, that doesn’t really matter, because that’s just a short way to write the band’s name, but the name Five The Hierophant is a tarot card: five, the Hierophant, which is basically like the hierophant or the pope card, and it’s the card number five, so that’s where the name comes from.
Radu: So you know how to play tarot. [Ed: Dude, anybody can. Just click this link.]
Kali: No. No, it’s just… It’s like… To be honest with you, I never really played with it, I don’t believe in this –
Radu: So you’re a poser.
Kali: Yeah, I’m a poser. Yeah, you could say that.
(general laughter at posers)
Radu: Also then if we play tarot then I’m gonna beat you at it.
Kali: The what?
Radu: If we play tarot, then I’m gonna beat you at it.
Kali: Yeah, probably.
Radu: That’s good to know. So let’s go back to the beginning. I reckon this isn’t the first band you’re playing in, right?
Kali: No, no, no. So you want to know about the bands I played before?
Radu: What have you been playing in before?
Radu: Because there are so many sounds that come into Five The Hierophant, I’m curious to see what your experience in music before this.
Kali: Mhm. So my first band that I played was a band called Profanum from Poland that we started in 1993. In the beginning, it was just black metal, kind of simple black metal like Samael or Rotting Christ or this kind of stuff, you know.
Radu: That explains the Beherit shirt you’re wearing.
Kali: Yeah, exactly, Beherit, there we go. So that’s what it was, and then over time it evolved into more electronic kind of, like a synth sound, so to speak –
Radu: So just like Samael.
Kali: Yeah – no, no, not in that direction, no, sorry. More, uh…
Radu: Then just like Beherit!
Radu: Also following this.
Kali: Yeah, I would say I would prefer the comparison to Beherit than Samael because I don’t like the later Samael.
Radu: Or Ulver.
Kali: Ulver is good, too, yeah. But you can check it out. We did a couple of nice albums.
Radu: We need at least one band that starts out electronic and then ends up black metal. It usually is the other way around. Goes to show that electronic is better than black metal.
[Ed: John Carpenter started out electronic and eventually made it to creepy heavy. Does that count?]
Kali: Well, if you say that, yeah… it’s difficult to say. But the second band that I formed was with the same guys that I was in Profanum. The band is called Witchmaster, and this is more like old-school black metal, thrash metal, this kind of stuff, more like Sodom, Kreator, Sarcófago, these type of bands, you know, going in that direction. And we still play with Witchmaster; we just recorded a new album.
Radu: Is it out yet?
Kali: No, it’s not out. It’s gonna be out in… in the autumn. It’s in the pressing plant right now, so it’s gonna be ready for maybe September or something like that.
Kali: So this is like… when you asked where does the sound of Five The Hierophant comes from, this is my background. I also had a couple of projects like industrial/noise kind of ambient stuff, which I was doing over the years, so I suppose that contributes to it, too.
Radu: Yeah, there’s a really very strong thrash metal influence to Five The Hierophant, I can tell. (giggles at his own obnoxiousness)
Kali: Nah, no… that’s a completely different story, you know? I try to keep it separate.
Radu: Right. And what about you?
MB: I’ve been in a lot less than Kali has, but I’ve been in a few sort of bedroom bands from when I was a teenager. I was in a few different sort of punk and hardcore bands –
Radu: I can tell. [Ed: I can’t. Was he wearing a UK Subs shirt or something?]
MB: There’s been a few stupid ones, a few comedy ones. There’s one called Twerp, there was one called Letterbomb, um…
Radu: Comedy as opposed to…? [Ed: Tragedy bands]
MB: Well, “comedy” as in “tongue-in-cheek”, not taking ourselves too seriously.
MB: And then a bunch of sludge bands as well. And that’s probably my main sort of influence and focus; for most of the time it’s been that sludgy sort of music. Again, not as many as Kali, but I’m in another band at the moment called Candescent A.D, which is just hardcore. Varied, very different.
Radu: Right. And how did Five The Hierophant get together?
Kali: Well I was working with this, I was working with Chris –
(some sound as Radu moves or possibly drops the recording device)
Kali: You got it?
Kali: I was working together in a tattoo shop with Chris, who was a drummer, and I was a guitar player, and we just thought that we were gonna start, you know, maybe jamming something together, just for fun, so we started jamming and it was all right, it was cool, so we thought maybe we need to find a bass player to add something to the sound, and we got this guy! (presumably indicates Mitch)
Radu: Mhm. And this was around 2013, right? Or was it earlier? [Ed: That’s Radu: database-keeper first, interviewer second.]
Kali: I don’t even remember, to be honest with you –
Kali: Yeah, something like that.
MB: Around then.
Radu: Yeah, because in 2015 you had your first demo.
Kali: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, maybe you’re right. You know better than me.
Radu: Well, I had to do my research.
Kali: Yeah. So Chris isn’t in the band at the moment, because he’s got other commitments, but you know, we’re still here, and… yeah, there we go.
Radu: Right. So I’ve seen that there’s three guys in the band, there’s the three of you, but in some pictures I also see up to five people in the band –
Radu: So it’s clear that your live lineup is not always set in stone.
Radu: Right. But sometimes it’s frustrating looking at Five The Hierophant, seeing five guys on the main page, and then three guys in the lineup. [Ed: Yes, indeed, that’s Radu: database-keeper first, interviewer second.]
Kali: Yeah. Well, like you said, the live lineup sometimes changes. Sometimes we have a percussionist, a guy just playing different types of percussion – bongos, all sort of strange effects – but we usually only do that if there’s some bigger production, a bigger gig –
Radu: Something like a festival.
Kali: Like a festival, yeah. Because he cannot always commit himself to traveling with us around Europe, so this time we play here just the four of us.
Radu: So who’s the fourth person?
Kali: Well, there’s Jon [Roffey] on the saxophone, and there’s Rory playing drums.
Kali: So this is like the basic lineup right now.
Radu: So Rory is your usual go-to live drummer?
Kali: Yeah, Rory’s our drummer now, yeah. We had some changes in the lineup and Rory plays with us now. And we came to Romania a couple years ago –
Radu: Yeah, yeah, at the festival.
Kali: That’s why you saw the five people on stage. We came with the percussionist. But this time unfortunately it was not possible to bring him with us. I think it’s good to be confused; it’s three or is it four or is it five of them? You know, it’s like – makes people think. (laughs)
Radu: But it’s frustrating for me. I have to keep your profile up to date!
(general laughter at Radu’s plight)
Kali: Yeah, exactly, there you go!
MB: It’s to keep you on your toes! You gotta be doing something, right?
Kali: Next time it’s gonna be six or seven. Or two!
Radu: Oh no. You’re gonna go full Wolvennest on us.
Radu: Well, there were more people on stage when you were at Roadburn, but you were playing with the Atonia project.
Radu: It was with Wyatt E. and somebody else I don’t really remember. MC something?
MB: MC Slice?
MB: Which is Tomer.
Kali: Tomer Damsky is her name. Before the project, we did a split EP album with Wyatt E., so it’s just one song on one side for them and for us –
Radu: And this was released?
Kali: This was released already. I’ll show you in a minute; it’s a really nice release. And the song that Wyatt E. did, it included vocals. Their stuff is usually, like with us, it’s usually instrumental, so just for this project, just for this release, they invited a vocalist who, I think she’s from Israel? Or something like that. And after hearing this split, the organizers of Roadburn invited us to play and they thought that because we did a split it would be really cool if we did a collaboration on stage also. And so Tomer was also involved in the whole project, so then we brainstormed and we did a couple of Zoom calls and we had to go to Belgium to meet in person, to have some rehearsals, and then we came up with the material that we played in Holland.
Radu: And was it recorded?
Kali: It was recorded, yeah, yeah. We recorded it. I think there’s also a video recording? I’m not really sure what’s happening to this, but I’ve been told that Jonas [Sanders], who’s the drummer of Wyatt E., is mixing it now in the studio as we speak, so –
Radu: Right now? [Ed: Timestamps or it’s not happening]
Kali: Well, somewhere in Belgium, yeah.
Kali: Well, I don’t know if at this time; maybe he’s finished already. But yeah, I’m looking forward to hear it, because we were not really involved in the recording; we just played there and somebody else took care of the recording, so I’m not involved in any of the production, but I’m looking forward to see what’s gonna be the final result. Maybe cool. Maybe shit.
Radu: Yeah, I hope so. So what was it – recorded like live recording together, or was it…
MB: Yeah, live recording.
Kali: Yeah, it was just the gig that we played; it was all miked up and there was somebody else apart from in front of the house, there was another guy with a mixing desk or some kind of recording device that will put it on tracks.
Radu: Yeah, it was one of the things that I didn’t like missing at Roadburn…
Radu: But there’s a lot of stuff that you’re missing at Roadburn, because that’s the festival.
MB: So you haven’t seen it? You didn’t see it?
Radu: No, I didn’t. I just saw your performance.
Kali: Okay. Well, like I said, there’s a recording, so you can listen to it in the future – if we’re gonna put it out. I think also somebody recorded it like a professional video. I’m not really sure, but I think this is what I’ve been told, so… It’s very unlikely that we’re gonna do it again. Right?
MB: Yes. It was booked as a one-off, and it’s potentially gonna stay as a one-off. It’s nice especially that way, ‘cause it was an amazing thing that we did together, and we’re proud of it, so it would be nice to get it released if possible, but it’d be nice to keep it as that.
Radu: Yeah, just to keep it away from me, right? [Ed: You already review too many things in a year.]
Kali: Well, we have to be honest; it’s probably not going to happen again.
Radu: Yeah, well, I can tell, but you’re with Wyatt E. on stage right now!
Radu: Well, soon enough.
Radu: How did you get together with Wyatt E.?
MB: So we played a gig at the Black Heart through a promoter called Chaos Theory –
Kali: In London.
MB: The Black Heart in London. They put us on together. They obviously felt that we would meld. And then once we played that show, we realized how much our sounds do meld and complement each other, and from that we’ve kept in contact, and that’s how the split came up. We played a show with them again, I believe in London again, and then from the split obviously it went into the Atonia recording, so it all started from that gig in London. Just realizing that we’re two very similar bands that have a similar aesthetic and goal and sound, so it’s a perfect match.
Radu: Right. What’s your least favorite Wyatt E. song? [Ed: This is called music journalism]
MB: I mean…
Kali: I don’t listen to the songs. I mostly just put my ear plugs.
MB: Difficult, because… all they’re doing is playing two songs per set! So I either have to go “one” or “two”.
(laughter at Radu’s senseless violence)
Radu: I’m making it easy for you!
Kali: Yeah, they’re all terrible.
MB: (laughs) You’re trying to get us in trouble. This tour’s stressful enough without us saying that we hate them!
Radu: All right, what’s the worst thing about touring with Wyatt E.?
MB: There’s too many of them, so there’s not enough room in the van.
Radu: Right. Do they snore?
Kali: Actually, no. They don’t snore.
MB: They’re incredibly quiet Belgians, actually. (laughs)
Radu: That’s good for Belgians. I might tour with them in the future, then.
[Ed: Do Belgians snore? Is this one of those minor European stereotypes that I am not exposed to as an American?]
Radu: All right, I have read two Five The Hierophant interviews, so I know the usual questions. So we’re gonna go through them again.
MB: Kali’s favorite.
Radu: I know that there is a bit of an improvisational aspect to your music, obviously, because it’s influenced by jazz, and everybody knows that jazz is just randomly playing things.
Radu: Obviously. And having saxophone. These are the two core aspects of jazz. [Ed: Sorry, I got ahead of myself earlier. THIS is music journalism.]
Radu: How much – because when you record stuff, first it’s improvisational, a bit, then you see what you’ve done on that improvisation, if it was good, and trying to replicate it. How much is it still improvisational while you’re playing it live?
Kali: When we’re playing what?
Radu: When you’re playing live.
Kali: Oh, okay. Well, I mean, I would like to say that maybe it’s not quite like what you said. From my perspective, it’s not really influenced by jazz in a sense – the structure of the songs is not like jazz, basically. We don’t play like jazz men. We’re not good enough.
Radu: Yeah, I can tell. [Ed: Sometimes I wonder why I let Radu do interviews.]
Kali: So basically there I would say that the songs that we have, they’re like pretty straightforward metal songs: riffs and some things going on over and over, you know, quite repetitive, and the thing that brings jazz to mind is the saxophone.
Radu: Right, right.
Kali: This is the improvised part most of the time, you know. But when you actually listen to the structure of the songs, it’s not like jazz at all. And then once we rehearse something and once we record something, then obviously we need to be able to play pretty much similar or same way live, so with this improvisation, I would say this aspect is mostly in the studio or when we record material, when we write the material, but once it’s there… There’s a little bit of space, like I said, with the sax, because Jon can do whatever he wants on the top of what we play, you understand what I’m trying to say?
Radu: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kali: But for us there’s not really much space. There needs to be, there needs to be certain…
Radu: A skeleton.
Kali: Skeleton, like a structure that we need to follow. Otherwise it’s just gonna all be chaos.
Radu: It’s gonna collapse upon itself.
Radu: Oh, that would be interesting. A full-improvisational album. Yeah, free metal.
MB: Yeah, obviously the tapes that we put out, they’re pretty much all completely improvised –
Radu: The magnetic ones?
MB: Yeah, the magnetic sleeve tapes. They’re more myself and Kali and the other guys sort of putting together soundscapes and noises and layering those, so those are pretty much the improvisational stuff, but the actual song stuff is structured for us. We’ve got a few interludes where we might be able to cut loose and go a bit mental and stuff, but then it’s all Jon that – and he has set stuff that he does on the record, but he’s also that kind of influence where he loves to go off and go on his own journey during the set as well, so he will happily toodle away and do his own thing.
Radu: All right, so the jazz part of Five The Hierophant is not at the table right now.
Kali: No. He’s not here.
Radu: Everybody knows if you have a saxophone in your song, it’s jazz.
MB: So we’ve been told.
Radu: “Careless Whisper”: jazz.
MB: So we’ve been told many, many times. (laughs)
Kali: So the way – just to finish this – the way we did it, when we recorded the mini-CD and the first album that we did, we just recorded the stuff and then we invited Jon to the studio and he just came with a saxophone and recorded.
Radu: That’s it. “Do something over it; if it’s good we’ll keep it.”
Kali: Yeah, and he just went, “Okay, here we go, 1-2-3”, and he just recorded everything like fwip straight away without any preparation, basically improvising, so this is how it happened. And now he needs to remember how he played, more or less, not to make it completely different.
Radu: Well, who’s gonna notice?
Kali: Well… probably, yeah.
Radu: He could just play “Careless Whisper” over it.
Kali: He actually does play “Careless Whisper” every day. [Ed: gigachad]
MB: Too much. Too often, too often.
Radu: Too often?
Kali: Yeah, every day.
Radu: All right. When are you going to cover it?
Kali: You’re probably gonna hear it today when he’s warming up.
Radu: Perfect. This is why I arrived early. [Ed: I can’t believe he didn’t record that as part of the interview. I am disappointed.] All right, so, I hear that one of the main influences on why Five The Hierophant sounds the way it does is the band Zu. Is that correct?
Kali: It’s not quite the influence on the sound. I mean, I like [Zu; don’t get me wrong. Ehm… yeah, maybe you’re right, to an extent. I mean, I got the idea – I went to see Swans and Zu was supporting them, and when I saw them live, my head just exploded. I was thinking, “What the fuck is going on? This guy with the saxophone is just destroying the room completely.” It was at that time when I was playing with Chris, like when I explained to you the beginnings of the band. We didn’t really want to add a vocalist as such, and I saw Zu and I was like, “This is it. I’ve got it. I don’t want a singer, I want a saxophone player in my band”. So in this respect, they influenced us –
Radu: As the core concept.
Kali: As the concept and as the sound, because Zu in itself is much more mathematical and –
Radu: More cerebral.
Kali: Yeah. Not so trancey, more kind of [and here he makes some kind of rhythmic quacking sounds]
Radu: Ah, so they’re like the Meshuggah of jazz.
Kali: Yeah, yeah. So it’s not necessarily that they influence us in a strictly musical sense, but they helped me understand…
Radu: What you wanted to do with a band.
Kali: What you can have in a band with a saxophone or what kind of other instruments you want to do.
Radu: So the saxophone is the vocalist.
Kali: The saxophone is the vocalist, yeah. You could say that.
Radu: In a way.
Kali: He is the… he tells you the story, basically. Like somebody would tell you a story with singing, he tells you the story with a saxophone without words. Right?
MB: But don’t tell him he’s a frontman.
MB: He’s got a big head anyway. He doesn’t need any more of a big head.
Kali: Yeah, his ego’s –
Radu: I’m so gonna tell him.
Radu: ‘Cause I also noticed, from the interviews I’ve read, you’re really against this cult of personality in rock music.
Radu: So I’m here to stroke that. [Ed: I don’t want to listen to this]
Kali: My personality? Okay, here we go!
MB: Good luck.
Radu: Do you think pineapple belongs on pizza? [Ed: Now that’s a hard transition.]
Kali: Course not. Oh, what are you talking about? Come on, man!
MB: We’re in a band together!
Kali: Jesus Christ…
(laughter at the chaos Radu has caused)
Radu: This was the most important question of the interview.
Kali: No, no, that’s blasphemy.
Radu: Now I know what kind of people you are, I like Mitch more.
Kali: I’m a purist.
Radu: You’re a purist.
Radu: Well, you’re from Poland. That tells a lot about you.
Kali: Well, I mean, you can’t put a pineapple on a pizza, sorry. This is against the rules.
MB: Course you can. Beautiful. You need those oppositions. (smacks his lips tastefully)
Radu: Well, it’s an avant-garde pizza. You don’t really understand it.
Radu: You have to understand the contrast it makes between the saltiness and the sweetness.
MB: Exactly. Have you tried kiwi on a pizza?
Radu: Not yet, but now I’m intrigued.
Radu: It’s like with music. Mitch is more open-minded in this regard.
(the interview has degenerated at this point)
Radu: I can describe the experience of trying a Hawaiian pizza with seeing Zu live. Then you know what to do.
Kali: (laughs, for he is a broken man)
MB: Maybe you should try pineapple on pizza again.
Kali: (sighs beautifully) No comment, no comment.
Radu: Then you can make the official Five The Hierophant pizza.
Kali: I think the Zu guys would not agree with you.
Radu: Well, they’re Italian. [Ed: …were we not talking about the Norwegian Zu?] You know, I have interviewed Alessandro Staropoli from Rhapsody Of Fire just to ask whether he likes pineapple on pizza. [Ed: It’s true. I was there. In a sense.]
MB: Does he?
Radu: He said he’s not against it.
Radu: And if the most Italian man in metal doesn’t...
Kali: Maybe he’s not true Italian.
Radu: No, he’s Italian. [Ed: I think he was kidding]
(this is the biggest laughter break in the interview)
Kali: Maybe he’s a poser.
Radu: But he made the most –
Kali: I’m more Italian than all the Italians, as you can see!
Radu: Okay, Pope John Paul! All right. So then I cannot wait to hear you guys recording “Careless Whisper” and making the free metal album. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kali: Well, thanks for your time and thanks for supporting.
Radu: That’s great to hear.
MB: Yeah, we appreciate you coming down. Hope you enjoy the show.
Radu: I will. I already paid money for it.
(laughter at Radu’s expense [quite literally])
Kali: Well, maybe – it’s too late now to get it back.
MB: We can make sure it’s real terrible, then.
Radu: Please do. I’ve already seen you once live and it was good; now it’s time to see you once and it’s terrible.
MB: Where was it you saw us?
Radu: At Roadburn.
MB: At Roadburn. You did see us – oh, you did say that, yeah.
Kali: Yeah, of course.
Radu: Last question. What was your favorite band to see at Roadburn?
Kali: Personally, for me, it was the collaboration between Perturbator and the guy from Cult Of Luna, was it?
Kali: When I walked in the room, I was like, “fuck, what is going on here?”, you know? Seriously, the sound was massive and I was really impressed.
Radu: And you’ve listened to the album?
Kali: Is there an album? No.
Radu: Yeah, they’ve already released it as Final Light.
Kali: Okay, well I haven’t listened to the album, I just saw them live. I’m gonna check it out whenever I have wi-fi.
MB: Mine was Midwife.
MB: The one-piece sort of one-woman show. Amazing music; I’ve listened to it a lot through the last few years, and seeing it live was an experience.
Radu: Yeah, I was a bit pissed off that she didn’t play that one song which I like, but, I mean, all of them sound like a warm blanket, so.
MB: Exactly. Well, it was just an hour of – especially how early it was – just an hour of coming out of a hangover and having a few tears and then getting on with the day and feeling better about yourself.
Radu: Yeah. Usually bands that start out are more heavy, and then here comes Midwife, completely nighttime music.
MB: Should’ve been on later, for sure.
Radu: Right. So, thanks for coming to Timişoara. I hope you don’t regret it too much. [Ed: Radu will soon be rewarded by the Romanian government for his years of service to the Romanian tourism industry.]
Kali: Thanks. How do you say “thank you” in Romanian?
||Posted on 12.07.2022 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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