FANTHRASH is a Polish thrash metal band (yeah the name is a dead give-away) that has been going since the forever it seem. Has the time come for them now. Read and find out. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
I gotta say that your band name doesn’t fit right in my mouth. It takes some time to get used to. Fanthrash sounds like a really bad English teacher. What was it that made you stick with the name?
-Hi to you and all the BATTLE HELM readers. At the very beginning, back in the 80s, the band was called FANTOM. (the Polish word for Phantom) but we changed it when we learnt the there was already a band called that way. FANTHRASH is a blend of the words FANTOM and THRASH and is taken from the title of our only instrumental piece that we wrote round 1986-87. Many people don’t like our name but we decided to stick to it just to provoke. Especially when you consider the fact that we don’t really play classic or old school thrash metal. As for this bad English teacher, it might be a good nick name for our drummer Radd, who actually is an English teacher, heh. Sorry Radd, just kidding.
You actually formed the band under the Communist regime. What kind of climate was it back then to form a band in?
-Forming a band in the 80s in Poland, in times of communism, was quite a challenge. We lacked practically everything: instruments, amplifiers, rehearsal rooms etc. but mostly money. Everyone led a simple life back then. Those who decided to start a band new had to encounter difficulties and were fanatically involved. Believe it or not, but if you wanted to play at any festival, and there weren’t many of those, your lyrics had to be checked by a censor. That’s why the music that was made in those times was so authentic and uncompromising. Punk rock was really in, back then, and it had a great impact on metal music. In the final days of communism bands like VADER started their career and thanks to hard work and foreign contracts they made most musicians’ dream come true – they escaped from this communist, and later actually post-communist hellhole and released albums and played gigs in the West.
When you look back on all those years you’ve tried keeping the band going is there something you wish you had done differently?
-First we have to make one thing straight: FANTHRASH was active from 1986 until 1992 and then came back in 2007 so we can’t really talk about keeping the band alive. We should actually be talking about a completely new band rather than a reunion of the old one. Although three members, including me, come from the original line-up, dating back to the 80s. What would I do differently? For sure I shouldn’t have allowed for such a long break in the band’s activity. I should have been more consistent in keeping the band going, should have kept the band on the surface in the 90s, despite line-up changes. All the bands that survived that difficult transformation period and kept doing their job, like VADER, got their chance thanks to contracts abroad. At that time I thought that a short break would be enough to take care of my family and that I would be back playing in no time but I was wrong, daily hardships, hard, also physical work at the beginning in order to provide for my wife and three kids put me aside from playing for many long years. Unfortunately I had to choose between my family’s existence and music that couldn’t bring any profits. That was life in Polish conditions of the 90s.
When you look at a band like Vader that also started around the time you got started do you see similarities in how you?ve developed? Can you learn from the journey Vader has done?
-As I mentioned before, VADER survived because Peter was consistent and kept the band going even in the hardest times, when the interest in thrash or death metal decreased and many bands and fans took up lighter kinds of metal. Maybe Peter had more strength, more support from his closest ones, maybe it was easier for him because on his way he met people who believed in his band and helped. Besides, needless to say, VADER is a great band that has become a model for a whole generation of metalheads and they clearly deserved their success.
Back in the 80s there was no internet. All you could do to communicate was to send letters. How did that work in a totalitarian country? How did you get to hear about all the new thrash metal bands?
-It’s true, it was a time without the Internet, mobile phones (yes, my dear young readers, we somehow managed without them, heh), no cable TV or an access to… photocopiers. The reason was that the communist authorities didn’t want a regular citizen to be able to copy documents, print out leaflets or posters calling people to overthrow the communist regime. You need to know that only certain people could go abroad and even if you finally got a passport, you weren’t allowed to keep it at home (with few exceptions) and had to return it to the militia precinct after coming back.
In those times the only way to communicate with other bands, zines and fans, in Poland but also abroad, was sending letters, taped albums etc. Although the authorities tried to control the citizens, letter exchange worked quite well and this way we had access to information and recordings. There was a hole in the totalitarian system, namely metal music programmes, broadcast by Polish radio stations. For many it was the only source of information about new albums released around the world. You could hear a whole album in those programmes, record and listen to it till the tape was completely worn out.
When you have been going for so long, the breaks included, how liberating was it to finally release something on record for the first time?
-Emotions that accompanied the release of this long-awaited album were impossible to describe. We were happy to have finalised our dream that had been born back in 1986. We had been working really hard making the material and recording it and we believe that the actual result is quite good. We think that ‘Duality of Things’ will prove important to many metal maniacs and that they will be returning to this album over and over again. And here we should mention the Swedish theme – reamping, mixes and mastering were all done by Jocke Skog from FEAR AND LOATHING STUDIOS in Sweden – a keyboard player from Clawfinger, who has recorded and engineered such famous bands like Meshuggah. The album release meant also playing concerts again. And here emotions were even greater, since stage is every metalhead’s and musician’s second nature. For us the most important moment of those was supporting VOIVOD, that was our dream come true.
How did a Polish thrash metal band get in touch with a British record label? Do you feel that Rising Records is the right home for Fanthrash?
-The deal with Rising Records is a result of our advertising campaign after the self-release of ‘Trauma Despotic’ EP in 2010. They liked our music and after long negotiations we signed the contract. So far for the debut only. We’re one of many bands in this label and our contract doesn’t cover booking actions, so as we still own the copyright we’re looking for a bigger player that could re-release ‘Duality of Things’ or our next full-length album. What the band needs most right now to promote our debut is a solid booking agency which would organise concerts, especially outside Poland.
The Polish metal scene has exploded the last 15-20 years. How does Fanthrash fit into this scene today? What do you think of the other Polish metal acts?
-I think FANTHRASH fits in just perfect. We fill the gap between death metal which is so popular in Poland and the new wave of thrash metal, played by young people, often my children’s age. It’s some kind of generation legacy. We have many great bands that make international careers, like BEHEMOTH, VADER that was mentioned earlier, also HATE, DECAPITATED, LOST SOUL, ANTIGAMA, TRAUMA, SCEPTIC. Our underground scene is quite strong as well, with bands such as PANDEMONIUM, DEIVOS, and many others. Hardcore/grind core stage is flourishing too, with bands like PARRICIDE, known in the whole Europe, or SQUASH BOWELS. Polish bands have indeed raised the standards high and we have nothing to be ashamed of. Although it’s hard to find a serious label or booking agency in Poland and metal fans don’t really have money to to go to concerts and buy records, the underground scene is in really good shape. It’s all thanks to great dedication, often non-profit, of metal maniacs and musicians who keep the whole metal scene going.
How hard is it to see all these younger metal bands racing by you in terms of exposure and success? Any envious feelings towards them?
-Sure, it makes us sick to see all those successful young bands and we wish them all the worst! No, kidding, heh. It’s not envy, it’s actually pride that we feel, we’re proud that so many young bands manage and that their skills are better and better. The more good young bands we have, the more motivated scene and fans will be. Support among the bands is also important, we get it sometimes and it really makes it easier for us to function on this otherwise difficult market.
When will Fanthrash’s spot in the sun come? Is 2012 going to be the year everybody gets to hear about the band?
-We do hope that 2012 will be the year when FANTHRASH takes the plunge and is noticed and appreciated by all the fans of the metal world. Achieving this goal depends on many factors but we will consistently try to get there. Now we’re focused on playing even better concerts than before and on our second album which we want to release in early 2013. I’d like to give my regards to all BATTLE HELM readers and metalheads in Sweden. Maybe there is an agent who would invite FANTHRASH to play concerts in your country. We promise to do our best. In the meantime buy ‘Duality of Things’ and visit our website and MySpace profile where you can find all the news and info about the band.
Metal Hail to you all!