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Negură Bunget - Interview

Interview with: Gabriel "Negru" Mafa
Conducted by: Ines

Finding out the Romanian black metal outfit Negură Bunget, a band that probably needs no introduction, as it’s known from combining various influences - most notably ethnic, folk and even avant-garde features - is coming again to play at MC Pekarna in Maribor (Slovenia), I was determined in a second I must not miss it. Being completely honest, I have known Negură Bunget’s music for ages, but it wasn’t until I saw them perform live in 2010, that I really became to feel, experience and appreciate their music on a whole new level. Their performance is - just like their music - so astoundingly transcendental and atmospheric, engulfing every single particle of you and taking you on a long and mesmerizing journey. It was no different this time. Their fellow Romanians Grimegod opened the evening with their unique combination of ambient death/doom metal and Negură Bunget only intensified the entire ambient. As the event was entitled Tău preview show, we had the pleasure and honour to hear some of the band’s new material, making me anticipate Tău even more, as from what I’ve heard, it’s again going to be massive collision of darkness and mystery. Even though the entire evening was an extreme metal event, the whole performance felt and must have been seen more like a shoegaze concert. There was no loud screaming and metal horns in the air, just laid back audience, who let go of everything and became one with the music. Very different from the last time I went to see Negură Bunget, but more than enjoyable. Before the show started I had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel "Negru" Mafa, the only remaining founding member of the band, to ask him some questions. Unlike the coldness and obscurity, which oozes from Negură Bunget’s music, Negru is such a delight to talk to; incredibly warm, kind and filled with positive energy. See what he told us about the upcoming album, which is a part of the so called Transylvanian Trilogy and will be out in February 2015 and some recent events, which occurred in Negură Bunget’s camp.

Ines: Hello Negru and Filet me thank you so much for taking your time to talk to me; I know you are busy preparing for the show tonight. This is the fourth time you are playing in Maribor, am I right?
No problem, it’s my pleasure. Yes, this is the fourth, maybe even fifth time we're playing here now.... I'm not exactly sure.
Ines: Do you like coming back here, are we treating you nice?
Negru: Yes, we always had a good time here and the audience is always very nice.
Ines: We are here today at this event, which is entitled the Tău preview show. Does that mean we are going to hear the entire playlist from the upcoming album or just the highlights?
Negru: You will get to hear some of the new songs, but not the whole set. Next year, once the album is out, we'll be doing some shows and we'll play more new songs then. But you will also get to hear quite a few of the new songs.
Ines: The new album is coming out early in 2015 and as we already mentioned, it's entitled Tău. What does Tău mean?
Negru: Tău means something like a small, but very deep lake, that you can find in mountains. It looks small, almost like nothing’s there, but it's very deep, sometimes you cannot even find its bottom. Tău also means something like "your", something that is of yourself. It has two different meanings.
Ines: The recordings of the new album are finished and Tău is a part of a trilogy that is coming in the future, under the name Transylvanian Trilogy. Does that mean that the second and third parts of the trilogy are already prepared?
Negru: Yes, we started with the concept of the whole trilogy. The whole concept of the trilogy is about Transylvania; the way we see it and understand it. Tău is the first part and it focuses on natural elements and landscapes, the second part will talk more about the human elements, traditions and practices and the last, third part, will be mostly about the spiritual ideas and concepts. It’s a very broad, big and complex project, but we wanted to take things to another level each time we start will new material. I’m really looking forward to having it all complete. Tău is now completely finished, and for the other two parts we have some ideas and concepts already in mind, so I hope it will happen soon as well.
Ines: Did you intend to make a whole trilogy before you started recording Tău or did the idea of it came when you were in the process of song writing?
Negru: For the past few years we always started our process by establishing a concept first. We had the concept for this whole trilogy before we started working on it.
Ines:  Well, can’t wait to hear it. Now about your live shows; I remember seeing you the last time you were here, at this very venue in 2010, your show was incredibly transcendental and atmospheric - just like your music. It really adds something special to it. Would you daresay that your live shows may convince some people, that don’t know your music so well, but come see play you live, get somehow engulfed into your music through your performance?
Negru: Well, not everything is for everyone, but yes, I get some feedback that seeing us was something that they did not expect and found it interesting. Our context is very wide, even people that haven’t heard out music before can get into the atmosphere and into the ideas we explore.
Ines: You toured very extensively around the Globe; covering Europe, North America and even Australia. Would you say fans on different continents react differently to your music?
Negru: Yes, there is a difference, but all in all we always try to convince the people to enjoy in our music as a personal experience. It’s not like we expect the same kind of response or attitude or even understanding from everybody. The difference is not big, it doesn’t matter where we play, in our audience we notice people really can connect to our atmosphere. People outside Europe, like in the US for example, are maybe more accustomed to other genres, so to them our music sounds a bit different, but it’s the experience that counts.

Ines: One interesting thing that also occurred recently was you releasing one of your best and most critically acclaimed album, Om, as a cassette, via Archetapes Industries - a label, which only releases cassettes. Was that your idea or did they contact you?
Negru: They wanted to do it. It’s a very limited edition, only 100 copies were released and they were already sold out before they were officially released! But we have some tapes here and fans can also buy them at our merchandise table on live shows. Archetapes Industries contacted our label directly and then they contacted us, to talk about the cover artwork and stuff like that – more about the technical details.
Ines: Now that you mentioned your label, Prophecy Productions, I have to ask - because our webzine is in really good terms with it – would you say you have a good working relationship with them?
Negru: Yes, they are very cool and they never push us to do anything. It’s more like we have an idea and we want to do it fast, but they’re like, "yeah, okay, take your time". So sometimes we would need a little push, but they just don’t do it, hehe. So we have to push ourselves by our own and yes, we have a great working relationship.
Ines: You know that I can’t go pass without asking you about all the line up changes that have occurred over the years, because there has been quite many of them. In 2013 the entire line-up, excluding you, has changed. Could you briefly present who is with you currently in the band?
Negru: Yes, we have a new line-up, but on the other hand it’s hard to say it’s a "new line-up", because we played for probably hundreds of gigs together and the people that have joined me in the band are not new. For example, our guitarist already played before with us and he was also our sound engineer since 2004 I think, so he was somehow already connected to the band for ten years. The vocalist and the bass player are also very old friends and they have played in another band, with which we worked a lot also in the past and recorded some songs together as well. It’s more like old friends joining the band. And this time we are more or less the same age. But you will see tonight what they are like, because I can say they are the best and the greatest, but that doesn’t really matter – the music has to speak for itself. But I think we have a very good line-up and I’m really looking forward to working with the people around me in the band in the future.
Ines: Are you all contributing to the album with the ideas or is someone predominant when it comes to composing and sing writing?
Negru: Everyone is doing his part, we all work together. Of course we contribute different things, but each one of us has his own role in the process. We try to bring all our ideas together and that’s why we’re a band and not a project.
Ines: You have Grimegod supporting you on this mini-tour, what can you tell me about them?
Negru: We have a pretty much common line-up, we only have different drummers. They were the band that I was talking about earlier. They are actually one of the oldest bands that I know, they’ve been playing since 1991 I think.... We’re good friends. Two of them are officially in Grimegod and our second guitarist plays with them on live shows.
Ines: All in all, what can we expect from tonight’s evening?
Negru: I think it will be interesting; Grimegod and we are quite different bands. I really hope it will be a nice evening and an interesting experience for everyone who will come to see us.
Ines: Well, I’m really looking forward to see what you have prepared for us and to hear some new material. Before I let you hit the stage, I would again like to thank you for your time and of course ask you, if there’s anything you’d like to add at the end?
Negru: As I said before, we prefer to let the music do the talking and with the new album coming out soon, we’re leaving that up to the listeners.

Negură Bunget links: Official Website, Facebook, YouTube