Thanx to the small (yet very fine) underground label Picoroco Records we can add another cult act from the 80’s to our record collection after all… Yes, we’re talking about Chile’s very own Death / Thrash lunatics PENTAGRAM here (not to be mixed up with the American Doom Metal band of the same name of course)! The band only released two demo tapes in their rather short lived career (well, yeah ok – and a 7" featuring two songs off one of the demos), but those tapes are still very special to a lot of die hards these days (inluding your truly), that we needed to get a couple of first hand information from Anton Reisenegger, the original PENTAGRAM guitarist / vocalist for our old fashioned magazine…
Just like myself you’ve also been actively involved in the Metal underground for quite a long time by now… So I was wondering if it still delivers the same magic to you as back in the early 80’s? Or has it lost most of its original charm by now?
"I would have to say it doesn’t give me the same sort of excitement that I got when I first started listening to Metal. But I still love it, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved in it anymore. It’s been two decades man!"
How did you actually end up in Chile? I mean, were you born there? With a German name and the ability to speak the German language, you are not really what I would consider a true Chile native, so
"I was born in Chile, and my parents were born there as well. My grandparents were the ones who emigrated from Germany to Chile for different reasons. But of course my name and the way I look are not exactly typical of a native Chilean."
At what age did you discover heavy music and was it love at first sight or did you need a while to get used to this form of music?
"I started listening to "softer" stuff like QUEEN or UFO, which I still love, probably when I was around twelve, but it was when I heard "Kill ‘Em All", "Melissa", "Show No Mercy" and stuff like that, that I really started getting into it more seriously."
Do you still recall the first record you bought? Has it changed your life in any way? I mean, do you still own and worship it?
"I’m not sure, but I think it was "The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent" by UFO, which I actually bought off of my older brother. I wouldn’t say it changed my life, but I still enjoy listening to it."
Was it difficult to get information about the happenings in Europe and the bands that started to make themselves a name over here in the early 80’s?
"Actually I was quite lucky that I went to Germany on vacation with my parents in 1983. I picked up a magazine called "Desaster" (a rather crappy, newspaper like "magazine" – Ed.) in a record shop, and started writing to all the addresses in the classifieds. This way I slowly started making a lot of contacts and I can say I was quite well informed about what was going on in Europe, getting all the demos and sometimes advance tapes of records that weren’t out yet. But in Chile it was really fuck all, there was no way to find out about cool stuff. Just going to the only HM import shop and buying overpriced LPs without even having the chance to listen to them first."
What actually led to the decision to form your own band then? I mean, did you ever play any instruments before or was the love for heavy music so big that you forced yourself to learn it?
"I had been playing guitar since I was very little, but when I heard METALLICA, VENOM and SLAYER I just thought I’d give it a serious try myself."
So, it wasn’t until you discovered the more heavier bands, like VENOM, METALLICA and so on… Why did you never feel the urge to play in a band while JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON and IRON MAIDEN were still the ultimate bands to praise?
"Well, I did actually play along to PRIEST albums and so on, but I guess there weren’t the right people to form a band with back then."
How and when did PENTAGRAM come to live exactly then? Did you guys all know each other before already? Was anyone already experienced in playing music? Have there been any other bands around in your area that you could also check out?
"The first show was on the 28th of December 1985, just as a trio. There were six bands on the bill, I think MASSACRE, NIMROD, BELIAL, RUST, CRYPT and us. I think the drummer was the only one with a bit more of experience, but we had a really hard time convincing him to play this sort of stuff, because he was more into Power Metal like ANTHRAX, MANOWAR, and stuff like that."
Who came up with the band name and did you pick it because you had a satanic / occult concept in mind or just because it sounded kinda cool? Was it inspired by a song title, lyrics or something?
"PENTAGRAM was a word that sounded really cool, and that popped up in most of the band’s lyrics. There wasn’t really an occult background, it was more that we started writing lyrics to fit the music, and the band name… And I was the one who came up with it by the way."
Do you still recall the very first band rehearsal? How did things develop at the time? Did you try to compose original songs straight from the start or was it mainly cover stuff you preferred?
"I can’t remember the first rehearsal really, but I actually wrote most of the stuff in my bedroom, and brought the songs almost finished into rehearsal. I was never really into playing cover songs, because most bands at that time did just that, and it really pissed me off. But when we started gigging we played some SLAYER and VENOM stuff because we didn’t have enough material of our own for a long enough show."
How long did it take you until you had enough songs finished to play live for the very first time? When and where was the first PENTAGRAM show and are there any memories you can share with us, good or bad?
"Well, I told you about the first show already, but it took us a whole year after that to really define our style and to convince the drummer to join, so it was really in 1987 that most of the band’s shows and recordings took place. About the first show, I remember that one of the bands on the bill, CRYPT, told the audience they had invented a new style called "speed kaka", and subsequently threw shit into the room. People weren’t too chuffed, so they spat on them throughout the whole show. Spitting was actually a very usual thing, and I never understood it. It was also one of the reasons why the drummer decided to leave the band."
What kind of reactions did you get? Were people in general already aware of this brutal form of music?
"No, I actually think lots of the people didn’t really understand what it was that we were doing, but it was such an extreme form of rebellion that it just caught their attention. Keep in mind that at that time Pinochet was still ruling the country."
In January 1987 you finally recorded three songs, which became the first PENTAGRAM demo. Tell us a bit more about the experiences you gained at the time. Where did you record and how much money did you have to spend on it?
"I don’t remember how much it cost us, but it was a really cheap recording. The drummer had worked at that studio (Nacofon) before so he took us there. When we finished we were really happy with the sound, but looking back to it now it’s pretty obvious that we were a bit overexcited."
How was the response on the tape? Did you just sell it locally or were you already involved in the tape trading underground movement? How many copies got spread around at the time?
"We never really sold the first demo, because, naive as we were, we wanted to use it to get a record deal. But it started spreading throughout the international underground, and started getting us loads of interest from people all over the world. I was heavily into tape trading at that time, and it amazes me now how far those recordings got known."
What made you go to Brazil afterwards? Just to visit SEPULTURA? How long did you stay and was it any different, or maybe even more attractive over there than in Chile for you?
"I think I stayed for about a month. A friend and I just went there, first to Rio and then to Belo Horizonte, where the SEPULTURA guys lived. We met a lot of bands, like EXPLICIT HATE, MUTILATOR, HOLOCAUSTO, etc. but the main reason to go was because Max had invited me. There was a lot more going on there. At least they had independent labels and shows all the time. Well, it’s a bigger country anyway."
It seems to me that the band made a big step forward shortly after as you were even getting pretty popular in your country… What do you think was the reason for that and did you benefit from it in any way?
"Well, we never made any money if that’s what you mean (no, not really… Ed.), but the crowds were getting bigger and bigger, it was really insane! I don’t really have an explanation for that, but PENTAGRAM was probably the most outrageous band you could see playing live in Chile at that time. There was a Punk scene as well, but for some reason it seems the Thrash and Death Metal scene interpreted the people better."
In September the same year (1987) you already recorded your second demo, which without a doubt turned out a lot better in every aspect. So, did you rehearse more often, did you take things more serious already, was it the live experiences or how did you manage to reach this big improvement?
"Well, of course playing more often had an effect on us as performers, but to be quite honest we were really lazy with rehearsals. We just practiced once a week, and sometimes we just got drunk and really didn’t get much done. But I think the most important improvement on the demo 2 was the song writing anyway, and that is something that has to be matured."
Which bands did influence you the most in your early days? Did those influences change in any way from the first to the second demo?
"At that time the two bands I mentioned when asked about our influences were POSSESSED and SLAYER, but of course we listened to a lot more stuff, and not just Death Metal. Really everything from METALLICA to obscure bands like VOOR."
Next already came the classic 7" on Chainsaw Murder Records from Switzerland, a very small underground company that originally also released the MESSIAH debut… How did you get together, how many copies were printed of that 7" and would you say that it helped promoting the band even more?
"I had been corresponding and trading tapes with the guy who ran Chainsaw Murder for a while, and at some point he just asked if we wanted to do a 7". Of course we said yes, and he paid us with copies of the record. From what I have heard, the single is a very appreciated collector’s item now, but I couldn’t tell you if it helped promote the band back then. As far as I know, only 1,000 copies were printed of it."
Even though the reviews you were getting were often very enthusiastic, you never really managed to secure a record deal for a full length album. What do you think was the reason for that and when and why did the band split up then?
"The reason was probably that we were from Chile, a country too far and obscure for "big" labels to deal with. That made us increasingly frustrated, also seeing that a lot of shit bands were getting signed but not us, so we eventually gave up."
How does it feel that so many people nowadays consider PENTAGRAM a cult act, with bands like PENTACLE and NAPALM DEATH even covering your songs? I mean, it seems to me that you are more popular these days than you were back in time… So, did you ever think about a reunion maybe?
"On the one hand, it feels great to get that sort of respect form bands and all kinds of people everywhere, but of course it also makes me think that maybe we should have stuck to our guns and carried on with the band for longer. As for a reunion, I’m not really into that, because so many bands have reunited and it’s just a sentimental thing really. But we did a one-off show in Santiago last year with the three original members plus a guest bass player, which was also recorded and released on CD (check out our review section for further details on it – Ed.). I think we would also consider touring Europe if the right offer came in, but I can’t imagine doing it on a permanent basis, because times have changed and the stuff I listen to and write now is quite different from our original style. I just don’t want to fool anybody."
Your demos have recently been re-released on a CD that came out on Picoroco Records… Tell us more about that. Do you still get requests for those tapes or what lead to this release? Was Picoroco the first to offer you this opportunity?
"Oh, people were asking about that stuff all the time, so at one point I just gave in and decided to do it. I did it with Picoroco Records because the guy who runs that label was there from the early days (he actually played drums in one of the bands on our very first show) and I knew he would do it the way it had to be done. I really wanted to make sure that the people got the real thing, so I got all the old flyers, photos, reviews, etc. together and wrote the liner notes as well."
How many copies were printed of that CD as it seems to be very difficult to get a hold of copies (at least over here…)?
"I don’t really know right now, but we are actually looking for interested labels that might want to give it a proper European release. Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade have declined already, but of course I’d also go with a smaller label if the promotion and distribution was right."
If you would get an offer to do a real PENTAGRAM album now, do you think you would still be able to record the old material with the same feeling from back then?
"If it was just the old material, I think we could get the right feeling, just not writing new stuff, because we would be forcing ourselves to write something in a way we did fifteen years ago, which just wouldn’t happen."
Anything else you’d like to add?
"I’d just like to thank everybody who has been into the band for so long."