Hells Headbangers have just re-released the PROFANATICA compilation "The Enemy Of Virtue" as a digibook CD and deluxe double vinyl edition. Additionally to the material that was already featured on the original release from 2006 (early demos, EPs, split and live tracks) this new edition comes with a totally different artwork / packaging and now also features PROFANATICA's songs from the "Trampling The Holy Faith" four-way split album from 2008. The following interview with PROFANATICA mastermind Paul Ledney is included in the booklet, but since it's really difficult to read in the CD edition (due to a rather small font size), we got the permission from Hells Headbangers to re-use it here. Enjoy!
The year was 1989, Aragon Amori, Paul Ledney, Brett Makowski and John McEntee joined forces to form a Death Metal act by the name of INCANTATION. Prior to INCANTATION, Aragon and Brett were involved in a band called BLOOD THIRSTY DEATH, while Ledney and McEntee played in REVENANT. Due to artistic differences, Paul, Aragon and Brett left the band to form PROFANATICA the following year. Influenced by such classic cults as VENOM, NECROVORE, SARCOFAGO and BATHORY, the unholy trinity together had a passion to create raw and sacrilegious Black Metal.
Tell us about the very earliest days of PROFANATICA - writing, rehearsing, all that.
"The early days were tough - no shows, no help, etc. But writing material was always a great time. Piecing the riffs together in our own way is something we still look forward to. Our rehearsals were fucking crazy. We played really hard to mimic a live set. Always people there with us watching, live blaspheming. At the time, we thought we were the best new thing, because PROFANATICA was coming along just how we envisioned it."
Was PROFANATICA initially what you wanted INCANTATION to be? Or did you simply have a different vision from John McEntee?
"Both. This is what I wanted it to be back then. Very similar sounds and idea, but way different in looks and how the band was to be viewed."
So, why the name PROFANATICA?
"We made it up, so we would have full control over it. Many bands at that time were using the same names, meaning there were at least three bands all using the same name hailing from different places, and there were more than a few of those situations."
In the summer of 1990, they unleashed their first demo entitled “Putrescence Of...”. After receiving much praise in the underground from this tape, PROFANATICA released a second demo called “Broken Throne Of Christ” in December of the same year. Brett Makowski was unable to participate in the recording of this demo, so the band recruited an old friend, John Gelso, to step in on guitar. John was previously involved with Paul in the Black / Death band TOTEN during 1987 - 1988.
It's shocking to think of the context in which “Putrescence Of...” was released, what with Death Metal from Florida and Sweden in full flow. Did you receive any hate mail, simply for how different PROFANATICA were?
"Yes, but not for how different we were. The other Death Metal bands ignored us, mostly. The Euro Black Metal bands came out a good year and a half after us, and we knew it. A year and a half is a long time in the music business. There are a handful of bands that separated the first and second wave of Black Metal. A few of those bands are SAMAEL, SARCOFAGO and BLASPHEMY. By the way, NECROVORE were first wave."
Why exactly did Brett leave PROFANATICA?
"Differences in opinion. His influences were not the same as ours, and his goals weren't like ours. He also listened to a lot of what we called CRAP!"
What did John Gelso bring to the band in the early days?
"He brought everything. Gelso pretty much came up with the entire concept of PROFANATICA. Most of his best ideas, songs and riffs were when he wasn't in the band. He was the first one to bring the concept of blasphemy into the band and was always there to help and teach the riffs to whoever we had filling in on guitar."
Both demo tapes eventually caught the interest of After World Records and PROFANATICA signed a deal with the label. In 1991, they released the infamous “Weeping In Heaven” 7” EP, strictly limited to 500 hand-numbered copies. Following the success of this EP, After World chose to re-release it on cassette with two bonus live tracks the following year. Also in 1992, the band signed a deal with France's Osmose Productions (a fairly new and uprising label at the time) to release the “Tormenting Holy Flesh” split 12” LP/CD with the Colombian band MASACRE.
“Weeping In Heaven” and the split with MASACRE have long been considered PROFANATICA's most legendary work. Why do you think these works are so enduring?
"I guess the answer is, we just went for it full on and didn't care what anyone else said. Our old saying was “what you think of us is none of our business”. After we recorded the split and sent the tracks to Osmose, we were not happy at all. There was lots of turmoil behind the scenes. I felt that that should have been an EP with just us on it. Osmose insisted on the split. While we liked MASACRE's side, we still think it should be pressed with just us, like two separate releases."
Surely, during this time, you merely recorded these works without any thought about how they'd be viewed decades later - right?
"Correct. I mean, everyone was questioning how I was doing things - the other members, studio engineer, friends, girlfriends, etc."
Also during this time, the American "Black Metal" scene was virtually non-existent. Did you yet view PROFANATICA as Black Metal by definition?
"Fuck yeah, we did! We would listen to recordings of other bands and felt, in a non-judging way, that they were not marketing themselves properly. Lots of Death Metal bands with way-evil riffs and never used that to their advantage."
During this time, PROFANATICA extensively toured the northeastern United States, often shocking many with their sick and blasphemous live act. As the end of the year approached, both guitarists officially left the band. Paul and Aragon invited their close comrade Wicked Warlock Of Demonic Blasphemy (these days known as Ixithra) of the band DEMONCY to perform the guitar work. The three of them played one gig together, and planned to participate in an American Black Metal festival that Halloween along with ORDER FROM CHAOS, VITAL REMAINS, ACHERON, etc. However, this gathering unfortunately never took place. Instead, they entered the studio together to record a full-length PROFANATICA release initially entitled “The Raping Of The Virgin Mary”. Sadly, the master tapes of these recordings were destroyed in the studio (there are conflicting stories about this), and the band parted ways quickly after. By then, Osmose Productions had also re-released the band's first demo on a 7” EP entitled “As Tears Of Blood Stain The Altar Of Christ”.
Tell us about some of the most shocking PROFANATICA live shows in the early '90s.
"Not so shocking, as we would get caught at the clubs with blood and urine. We were stupid kids at the time and thought it was normal to have two of us carry a huge cooler full of blood into the club, telling people to get the fuck out of our way."
This early American Black Metal fest with ORDER FROM CHAOS, VITAL REMAINS and ACHERON among others - although it never took place, did you get a sense that things were changing in the Metal underground, that there was something different than Death Metal rising?
"We did. There were many, many zines coming out at the time featuring bands with corpsepaint, etc. We always considered it warpaint. Our blend of Black Metal is from a different slant, as we had Hardcore and Punk influencing us, as well. USBM is a style of playing, and NOT meaning a band that is from America who plays Black Metal falls under that category. Most American bands are copying what has been going on in Europe for a long time. Doesn't mean they are USBM."
“The Raping Of The Virgin Mary” is one of the most legendary "lost" Metal recordings. What can you tell us about how this potential first PROFANATICA album sounded?
"This is what I remember about that session. The drums were finished as well as the scratch guitar, and no bass, and there was a long time between the final guitar tracks, so I did all the vocals, to get them out of the way. There was only a very rough mix of it. It had a very DRY feel to it, similar to “The Return” from BATHORY - only in production, although played in a very USBM style. The vocals were a bit more higher-pitched than what was previously done before. Although at the time it was quite magical, it really can't be compared to any of the full PROFANATICA albums, which, by sound and playing, totally crush this unreleased recording."
What were the circumstances then, of it being destroyed? And does Jim Stanic really have the only existing copy of the album?
"Not fully sure about the circumstances to this day, but to my knowledge, Jim Stanic does have the cleanest copy of that session. It is my tape, and he refuses to give it to us. Not sure what he is getting out of holding on to it for all these years. Maybe someone who knows him can convince him to give it back to us, where it belongs."
Paul formed HAVOHEJ in 1993 with some assistance from Brett Makowski on bass and guitars. Aragon pursued his Black / Death project CONTRIVISTI until his untimely death in 1996 and Wicked Warlock continued on with DEMONCY, who are still very much active in the American Black Metal underground to this day.
What led to the original dissolution of PROFANATICA?
"Our full album being destroyed is what led to it."
Although the differences should be apparent to any maniac, what did you aim to create with HAVOHEJ initially versus PROFANATICA?
"I formed HAVOHEJ so I could do it fully by myself."
In 1999, the underground U.S. cult label Samhain Productions broke silence with the “Unholy Black Death” split 7” EP with Singaporean cult IMPIETY. This limited pressing of only 500 copies featured unreleased tracks from a 1991 rehearsal and the final studio sessions. By early 2001, Paul Ledney recruited two new members and resurrected the black cult of PROFANATICA. Paul soon released, on his own label Necroscope Productions, the Live CD consisting of three live PROFANATICA performances from 1991 - 1992. This same year, the now-defunct War Hammer Records released the “Collection” on CD, and a 12” picture-disc edition under Necroscope Productions soon followed. Shortly after, the band had recorded two brand-new blasphemies and released the “Broken Jew / Fuck The Messiah” 7” EP on Metal War Productions in 2002. A 7” single crowned “Passion Of A Liar” was also recorded and to be unleashed on Supreme Art Productions although never surfaced.
The early 2000s were an exciting time for PROFANATICA maniacs. First, there was the Live CD, and the “Collection” conveniently compiled most of your recordings to date, but best yet was the “Broken Jew” 7", which sounded like the ancient spirit of PROFANATICA but even uglier and more crushing. How easy was it to slip back into "PROFANATIA songwriting mode"?
"Way easy. No matter what I seem to write or how different I wish to make it, the recording always sounds like PROFANATICA. Some of our material has been freestyle, but still remained within the system."
Were you at all worried about people doubting your motivations bringing PROFANATICA back? That you had so much to prove with “Broken Jew”?
"Not at that time, because it was rehearsed and recorded before anyone knew about it. Nothing to prove. We do what we do and that's it. It's who we are. Us sticking to our guns for so many years, and not really caring what anyone else thinks.”
The track 'Passion Of A Liar' was recorded in 2002 and briefly hosted on Supreme Art's website. Were there any other songs from this recording?
"No other tracks from that session, but that promo track was an extension of the “Broken Jew” line-up and recorded shortly after that."
After the original release of “The Enemy Of Virtue” sprang a lot of PROFANATICA activity, namely the “Profanatitas De Domonatia” LP in 2007 and the four-way “Trampling The Holy Faith” split the year after, as well as a rare performance at the final Sacrifice Of The Nazarene Child fest in San Antonio, Texas. Did this all seem like an entirely new era for the band or a continuation of what you originally wanted to accomplish with PROFANATICA?
"Continuation. Any lapse of time in the past was due to not having a stable line-up, people living in different areas, someone is not interested in playing shows and / or can't do it because of time constraints. We never ever used the term “re-form”. If we go away for a while, it's our business and nobody else's."
Since then, PROFANATICA have released three full-length albums - “Disgusting Blasphemies Against God” (2010), “Thy Kingdom Cum” (2013) and “The Curling Flame Of Blasphemy” (2016) - and two EPs - “The Grand Masters Session” (2010) and “Sickened By Holy Host” (2012) - through Hells Headbangers. And capping 2016 with their first performances on European soil, there's no slowing the immortal, timeless power of PROFANATICA.
"There is no slowing our ideas and concepts. They go on and on. All of our recordings have a similar thread or sound. Sometimes the production varies, but it's always from the same source. Depending on what is going on at a certain time of life manifests itself in the recording. By far, the one I had the most trouble with was the second full-length. I redid the vocals twice on the entire album before finally getting it. That one also took a lot longer from start to finish. It seemed never-ending in the studio, and if you listen closely, you can hear the anguish contained. “Sickened By Holy Host” was extremely quick to record. Again, it's because of the line-up. We completed that EP in three sessions, but that had a lot of pre-work to it. It shows the more ripping style of PROFANATICA. “The Curling Flame Of Blasphemy” is a very natural advancement to what we did in the past and are still doing."
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