My mind is continually blown by the ways in which the internet has opened up the metal scene. Now, instead of scrounging for information about new bands, one can simply google a band name or head to Metal Archives and find out everything you need to know. But the best part has to be the people I’ve met from all over the world via the wonders of the web. Pedro “Poney” Arcanjo, bassist/vocalist of Brazillian thrash quartet Violator is one of the those people who’ve been gracious enough to develop a correspondence with me. His enthusiasm for all things metal is downright infectious, his sincerity and social conscience is refreshing in these often phony and pretentious metallic times we currently find ourselves in. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his band is one of the best modern thrash bands I’ve heard. Combining the unhinged brutality that Brazilian bands are known for (see early Sepultura, Sarcofago, etc) with the razor-sharp precision of the German strain of thrash (Kreator, Sodom), Violator have been in the game for nearly a decade and can give just about any band riding the current thrash revival wave a run for their money and then some.
I sent Poney a ton of questions in order pique his brain about Violator, life in Brazil, politics, and thrash metal’s past present and future.
THKD: For those readers who might be unfamiliar, can you tell us how Violator got started? What was your inspiration for forming the band?
Poney: Hey! First, let me say thank you very much for all the support and interest. I really dig THKD and it’s an unbelievable pleasure to keep in touch with you. Anyway, Violator got together in early 2002, we have been (trying to) thrashing together since 1999, but we were just really young kids that could not manage guitar amps. At the time, we were totally fed up with the metal scene here in our town. The late 90’s were the “new metal days”, you must remember (I would like to forget) and everything just seemed so fake and trendy to us. Everything seemed to be won by status or commercial success, and we hated that. We wanted to do something more real (not in the Manowar sense, I mean sincere, you know) and spontaneous and we found all of that and much more in old Thrash Metal records in abandoned stores here in Brasilia. We didn’t know anyone who enjoyed “old school” metal or punk, but we really identified ourselves with that (counter)culture. Now, it’s almost ten years later and we have travelled a big part of the world and released lots of records, but the essence it’s the same, four friends that enjoy being together and playing the fastest we can.
THKD: You guys just put out your first official music video for the song “Futurephobia”. What made you want to do a music video? What was it like filming? Did you enjoy the process? Why did you choose that particular song for the video?
P: We felt like it would be nice to have to have a video, that’s it. We have a friend that’s starting work with that, he just bought a camera, and he offered to do a video for us. We shot it very quickly, on a Friday night in a studio a friend borrowed us. I’m really satisfied with the result. I think it’s a big step for Violator. But what makes me totally happy is that we were able to put out something with a nice quality and we didn’t have to compromise one millimeter in our underground view. We were able to do that following the ethos of “do-it-yourself”, which is really important to us and working not with money relationships but partnerships based on friendship. You know, it may sound corny, but we still see this scene as an international network of friends (as Heresy used to state). I think that the video really captures the kind of energy we want to promote with Violator. I hope people can see that. What you see on the video is what you will see on stage. There’s no fantasy or characters on it, and for me that’s one of the nicest things about thrash. You can just be yourself.
P: Annihilation Process is a six-song EP we released through Kill Again Records (a label from our city which we have been working with since the early days of the band). As for the musical side, I think this material is another step in the constant evolution we are trying to make since our first demo. We are always trying to sound more aggressive and I really believe Annihilation Process is another step on that direction. The songs are shorter, faster and louder. There were a lot of people who didn’t enjoy that, maybe they were looking for a ballad or some moshin’ songs about beer. (laughs) But for us, we enjoy this more “direct approach” to thrash. Straight-forward stuff like Darkness Descends, Reign in Blood or Torment in Fire. One day I hope we can achieve a little percentage of the adrenalin discharge of these albums. As for the lyrical side, I think the EP is a huge progress for the band, you know? In my opinion, Annihilation Process shows a more mature band and much more political and critical approach to the songs. I believe we are finding a nice way to channel all the aggression in the music towards relevant contents. In a way this is a much more “non-fantasy” album, and on this perspective (at least on this one) much more thrash, I believe.
THKD: Violator has a lot of songs about nuclear war, destruction, the apocalypse, etc. What is it about these themes that appeals to you? What are some of the other topics you address with Violator’s music? Do you consider Violator a “politcal” band?
P: Our previous album was filled with songs about war and destruction. We tried to make an approach to that theme not emphasizing “how cool is the radiation logo”, but trying to raise a reflection about the fragility of our world and how everything can be vanished by politics that are guided by profit. Anyway, even on that record we had songs about the legal system and the death penalty, the extermination of homeless people from Brazil, for example. On this new album, there’s this concept of this process of annihilation that is not something from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi dystopia, but something that is happening everyday right before our eyes (there’s a text in the record about that). So there are songs about consumerism that rapes the Earth, vivisection, cars and oil industry of war, etc. I don’t know if I would consider Violator a “political band” (I don’t even know what that really means, to tell you the truth). All I can say is that living in a really fucked up country like Brazil and ignoring all the violence, abuse and corruption that surrounds us would be really conformist. People here get used to the injustices, to seeing kids dying on the streets everyday, you know? I don’t believe music has the power to change the world, it would be just too naïve to think something like that. I just don’t want to be a part of those who ignore all the horrible things of our reality. In a third world country, to ignore that is to consent.
THKD: You also recently put out “Futurephobia” on a split 7″ with Hirax. How did that come about? Were you excited to share a release with such a legendary band?
P: Yeah, really excited! You know, we grew up listening to “Hate, Fear and Power”. I really love that hardcore edge, carried by Eric Brecht. So it was something really surreal to have a split 7” with Hirax. We got to know them when we played in Japan together in 2009, and they showed to be great guys. No rock-stars bullshit, just simple people that love to play their music. And Katon is incredible. Probably the most charismatic person in the metal scene, don’t you think? And all of that passion he demonstrates is really sincere, I totally admire that. So, when we get back from Japan, Katon wrote us and invited us to do the split EP. We were really happy to release that. I love that cover.
THKD: You’ve done a few other splits with bands like Bywar and Bandanos. What is it about doing split releases that appeals to you?
P: People usually ask that to us. I don’t know exactly, I just think we normally like to become friends with bands we play with. So, during the trips together, or having bands in my house for example, we talk about doing something together and it works fine. I enjoy very much split albums, here in Brazil people used to release in the 80’s bootleg splits of records that weren’t originally together, so you can have a great split like Destruction/Sodom with “Sentence of Death” on one side and “In the sign of evil” on the other, which is a combination hard to beat (laughs).
P: Yeah, we’ve just released a DVD, live at Santiago, Chile in 2007. It’s not a big super production, it’s just a honest capture of that adrenalin rush we try to promote at each concert. Probably, one of the best gigs of our lives, the crowd in Chile is totally insane. This DVD is being sold at a very low price (something like 7 dollars) and it’s a kind of a gift and a big “thank you” to our friends from South America. It is the record and the best memory of a crazy adventure we had in 2007, when we dropped our lives, jobs and universities here in Brasilia and spent an entire semester traveling with Violator. This show in Santiago is perhaps the better record capture of those intense days of 2007. I hope people can feel something close to that when they watch it.
THKD: Thrash metal has made a comeback in recent years. Did it ever really go away? Why do you think thrash has become “popular” again?
P: If you look really specifically, there were always people producing thrash, all over the world. In a very shitty time like ’97, you would have bands like Bywar here in Brazil, or Aura Noir in Europe or the coming back of the original line up of Whiplash with that explicit thrash reference. But probably for the mainstream metal market (something that we shouldn’t pay much attention to if you ask me) it was gone and buried, I guess. This if you agree with me that things like Machine Head or Pantera are not thrash metal. That’s why maybe this whole concept of “old school”, is kind of empty, its just thrash, I rather say. Well, I don’t have a right answer, but I guess it became popular again because people were missing that spontaneity, that “good friendly violent fun” that thrash can produce. I guess people were trying to go to metal concerts to see guys catwalking with their beautiful hair or making a championship to see who is more evil. I was tired of that. But I don’t know how much time this “popularity” (which is pretty relative, don’t you think?) will last. Here in Brazil, it seems to be fading away again. People seemed more interested in thrash in 2005/06. I hope the good bands continue, cause one of the worst things for thrash in my opinion is to be always associated with a time or a generation. It’s like it is never just a subgenre of music, but always like a “revival” or a “nostalgia”, and this is really counter-productive.
THKD: Do you think the recent resurgence of thrash metal has anything to do with the current political/economic climate?
P: I have never thought of that. What do you think? I was reading an article last week that was talking about that the most important figure of the first generation of the American hardcore-punk was not Jello Biafra or Ian Mackeye, but Ronald Reagan. I think this couldn’t be truer. But I don’t know if the George Bush era had the same importance. Honestly I think the kids in the metal scene usually don’t care much about that, and all the great reaction we could have to the conservative wave seems pretty weak. Here in Brazil, I think this resurgence had much more to do about musical feelings than political ones.
THKD: With that said, you guys have been doing this since 2002. Do you worry about getting lumped in with these “retro” thrash bands that are coming out of the woodwork lately?
P: People usually put Violator together with this “new wave”. I don’t have a problem with that, and I really enjoy lots of these new bands. I know there are people who see that as a big trend, but I guess the best way to know that is time. I also know that there are a lot of bands that enjoy cultivating something like rivalries and I’m sorry for them. “Cooperation, not competition”, this punk cliché could not be better to describe how we feel towards the international thrash scene. We are not making any money with this, so let’s just have a good time, right?
THKD: Brazil has a very rich history of producing great metal bands. How does living in Brazil inspire/inform your music? Do you feel that you have a reputation to live up to, coming from the country that brought us legendary bands like Sarcofago and Sepultura?
P: First, I think there’s this huge inspiration that I mention before that comes not from the music produced here in our country but from the totally fucked up third world situation we find ourselves in. I don’t believe this is even necessarily a conscious inspiration and I just realized that when we first toured Europe. When I came back I started to pay more attention on all the abuses we see everyday (and get used to) and all the difficulties that exist to produce underground music in Brazil. You may imagine, but having a metal/hardcore band over here is something really against the grain. Somehow I guess the kids can transform these difficulties into energy and aggression, maybe one of the reasons we’ve had so many great bands over the years, I don’t know. Answering your second question, there’s always the name “Sepultura” when we talk to people from overseas. There’s a kind of association between Violator and the old Sepultura. If you ask me, I think we will never sound as good as those guys sounded back in the days. What they had here was something really special and I don’t know if anyone would ever sound as tight and aggressive as those guys. “Beneath the Remains” is maybe my favorite album of all time and we love old brazilian metal like Sarcofago, Mutilator, Corpse, Witchhammer, Explicit Hate, etc. We even recorded some covers of old brazilian bands: Taurus and Executer.
THKD: What are some modern Brazillian metal bands people should be listening to? Do you have any recommendations for THKD readers?
P: Here are some recommendations for the THKD readers (which I think are very exigent) of brazilian metal and punk bands: Farscape, Bywar, Apokalyptic Raids, Deathraiser, Infamous Glory, Pesticide, Flagelador, Em Ruinas, Low Life, Possuido Pelo Cão, Acid Speech, DFC, Discarga, DER, Hell Bullet, Hate Your Fate, Slaver, Defy, Social Chaos, Ameaça Cigana, Lei do Cão…
THKD: What are you listening to right now? What were the last albums you bought/heard/downloaded/etc?
P: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Swedish and Swedish-influenced Death Metal stuff. Old bands like Nirvana 2002 and new stuff like son o Earth, or even stuff that maybe is not totally death metal, but has a lot of influence of that boss-sunlight studios guitar sound. Stuff like Nails and Black Breath. I’ve been listening to a lot of doom and stoner stuff, other types of slow music (laughs). Lately I just can’t stop listening to Serpent Throne, Graveyard and Dead Meadow. Also, what hasn’t left my stereo for the last five years are the new bands of old American hardcore-punk. Bands like Direct Control, Government Warning, Double Negative… The last Lp’s I bought were just some new punk rock stuff. I guess it was the second Red Dons album, the second Masshysteri and the Imposters’ “Time has come” LP.
THKD: Your website lists several upcoming shows in Brazil. Have you ever played/toured outside of South America? Is Violator’s music best experienced live?
P: Yeah, we have gone two times to Europe and one time to Japan. We have plans for this year to do a Mexico and Central America Tour. Yeah, we play a lot live. We have regular jobs during the week, but even though we play and travel almost every weekend.
THKD: What does the rest of 2011 have in store for Violator? Can we expect any new material?
P: I don’t know if we will be able to record new material for this year. We are planning to do that in Europe, but I guess we will use our vacations to tour in Central America. You know, playing for nice people and getting a beach at the Caribe, the best combination. We also have a tour with DRI here in Brazil and some concerts with Hirax. These are the plans so far.
THKD: Where is thrash metal headed? How do you see the genre progressing in the future? Is thrash timeless music?
P: I hope it is! (laughs) No, seriously. I think the urgency and the aggression of thrash music is timeless. Of course, I don’t want to hear the same riffs over and over, nothing worst than generic uninspired songs, in any genre. But I truly believe it’s possible to make Thrash Metal that is relevant for nowdays. It’s a challenge, we have 25 years of history of this subgenre, but people have being playing jazz and classic rock for much more time. And we usually don’t hear about the “jazz revival”, it’s a genre of music, with good, relevant, catchy stuff and lots of generic disposable production. I believe with thrash is the same thing. As it concerns Violator, I hope we can keep trying to push the edge of thrash violence and concentrate our efforts on producing the most intense music we can.
THKD: If you had the opportunity to book the ultimate thrash metal concert, what bands would be on the bill?
P: If I had access to the Nocturnus Time Machine or the Delorian, it would be: Exodus (Paul Ballof era), Sepultura (circa 1990), Anthrax (in the Among the Living tour) and Kreator (during that US tour 1988). If it were today, I would call Farscape, The Force, Warbringer and Fueled by Fire.
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
P: I just want to say thank you very much for this awesome interview. And thanx to everybody that read all that and support Violator. Hope we can get the visa to tour in the US someday (laughs). Support your local scene and keep it simple. UFT!