MATG Exclusive: The Black Metal Bitch Talks with Jim Bresnahan of Kommandant
Written by the Black Metal Bitch – Photographs courtesy of Maria Sarakatsiano -Logo by Francesco Gemelli
Kommandant has been in the Black Metal game for over a decade now, and they’ve always been band known for their ferocious, hard hitting blend of death metal technicality combined with a very militant and nihilistic black metal foundation. Of course, they throw in the military getup for good measure.
Formed in 2005 in one of America’s most dangerous cities, Chicago, Illinois, by founding member Jim Bresnahan (formerly of Cianide) the band has been pumping out quality black metal and crushing fans with a live act only Kommandant can deliver. The band has been on the march since the 2008 release ‘Stormlegion,’ which is a raw and extremely vicious full length album full of war-driven drum beats, face shredding guitar riffs and more destructive energy than a Panzer division.
After switching labels and a few adjustments in the lineup the band cemented their status as genre heavyweights with their 2012 release, The Draconian Archetype, which is loaded with fan favorites like ‘Victory Through Intolerance,’ ‘Hate is Strength’ and ‘Procession of Black Hearts,’ which demonstrates the bands capabilities of creating a unique, diverse album while never straying from the crucial, fundamental components of the black metal genre.
In early 2015 rabid fans had their bloodlust satisfied with The Architects of Extermination, another punishing full length album with more kick than a nuclear warhead. The band again proved to be a black metal steamroller that continues to redefine itself and the ever changing genre through recording and touring. So to have the opportunity to sit down with founding member and guitarist, Jim Bresnahan, was truly an honor.
Black Metal Bitch: Kommandant has been a part of the Chicago metal scene since 2005 and originally you had an entirely different lineup with the first demo, Iron Hands on Scandinavia. How did the four of you guys initially get together? What was the Chicago scene like at the time?
Jim Bresnahan: Kommandant initially was founded as a musical project only. It was only given consideration to be a live band after the first EP was released. It was a project between myself and Andy from Cianide, a friend of mine for over 20 years at that point in 2005. The Chicago scene at that time was saturated with corpse painted black metal bands, much like it is today.
BMB: I have to ask about the band’s stage presence. You guys have one of the most badass looks when you hit the stage. The gas masks, the fascist-esque uniforms and banners were one of the reasons that drew me to Kommandant. How did the gear become one of the staples of the band? Would you consider Kommandant to be a political band?
JB: The stage wear all started with a band photo session. I never intended to wear the gear on stage; we just wanted to create a photo. We tried to compile a militant look while not trying to represent any particular regime. Our ambiguity is not out of fear of backlash. We represent an idea that is bigger than some past, historical outlook. We have many components we try to represent. The term Dystopian Society comes to my mind most when I am asked to describe “what we are.”
BMB: On the flip side to the look, have you ever had issues with being labeled a NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) act? And I can only assume playing a full set with those gas masks on must be absolutely brutal.
JB: We get that label all the time. It’s not something that surprises me. I know what we may represent to some people. To each their own. I believe in 100% free speech and non-censorship. The gas masks take some getting used to, but it is the price we pay for our expression.
BMB: Has being mistaken as a NSBM act caused any problems as far as playing live? Or has it any way affected distribution or sales? I imagine some venues may find some ridiculous reason to prevent a concert if a band had “right wing” lyrics or messages.
JB: Thus far we haven’t had any problems such as being prevented from playing gigs due to any political wranglings. The people that know us also know where we stand. It’s the same party line I have been proclaiming since the beginning. We are apolitical. They always try to find something from nothing, since they can’t believe it’s possible that a band that looks and sounds like we do, is not political.
BMB: You’ve been in the scene for a long time now, having come from Death Metal band Contagion and Cianide. How did you get into playing Black Metal? Was it a natural progression? A need to try something new? What do you enjoy playing more?
JB: Yes, for me it was a natural progression, and I don’t think one style is better than the other. I don’t think that Kommandant is a pure black metal band anyway. It is a hybrid of both of the mentioned styles, and a few others as well. I am always looking towards innovation. The next Kommandant album will not sound like our last. I have always appreciated a band that wears many coats. The band VoiVod has the album War And Pain, along with the album Angel Rat. Anyone familiar with this band knows the two albums could not be more different from one another. However, any true fan of the band can hear VoiVod in both of those albums. I want Kommandant to be a band like this in that regard. Both of our albums “Stormlegion” and “The Architects of Extermination” have us in them. A real fan can detect this.
BMB: I’ve noticed over the years you’ve swapped musicians with Blake Judd’s Nachtmystium. Most recently bass player Patrick McCormick. How did Patrick come on board Kommandant?
JB: Patrick came to us in 2010. We needed to replace one of our auxiliary drummers for a tour, so he came and filled in and has never left. Patrick has since then been moved to bass guitar and that is where he will remain.
BMB: How is it working with Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum (ATMF)? You guys initially started off with Planet Metal but didn’t stay there long and have been with ATMF since 2012 and the release of “The Draconian Archetype”. What happened with Planet Metal and how did you hook up with ATMF?
JB: Chris Black from Planet Metal is a long time staple to the Chicago area. He helped us out greatly when he picked up our first album from Battle Kommand. Stormlegion was almost doomed to history when Chris came along and saved it. I will always be grateful to him for this. Planet metal released both “Stormlegion” and the “Kontakt” E.P. also. We were approached by ATMF around the same time that Chris was changing his plans to focus more on his personal band endeavors, so the timing couldn’t have been greater. Chris gave us his blessing and we moved on. We extended our contract with ATMF for one more album. It will be a collaboration between ATMF and the American Label Behold Barbarity. We did this for increased presence and distribution in the USA. The collaboration should benefit both labels.
BMB: Last year you guys did a split with French Black Metal band Aosoth. How did that come about?
JB: I have been in contact with M.K.M. for some time, since Antaeus days. We have a mutual appreciation for each other’s band, so it was only natural to express this through a collaborative combined release. It sold out in a few weeks. Great release. The Kommandant song “Drums Of War” is exclusive to this release.
BMB: What’s the deal the Minenwerfer (California Black Metal) split? Did you guys actually record the tracks? Will fans ever be able to get their hands on a copy?
JB: Patience. The artwork is complete and we are simply awaiting the completion of the vocal tracks. The completed Kommandant tracks should be sent over to the label (Purity Through Fire) by the end of 2016. It will be released on 3 formats: 12″ vinyl, c.d., and cassette tape. The Kommandant side will feature two re recorded versions of the songs ‘Der Maschinenraum’ (from Kontakt EP) and ‘Stormlegion’(from the Stormlegion full length) . One original song, called ‘A Godless Age Feared Everlasting Night,’ which will also be unique to this release. This is a good one. I look forward to it very much.
(The brand new artwork for the Kommandant/Minenwerfer Split by Francesco Gemelli)
BMB: Care to walk us through the creative process on putting together a Kommandant album? How do you guys arrive at the finished product? How has the process developed since Stormlegion?
JB: It has changed quite a bit since Stormlegion, which was entirely written by myself. The Architects of Extermination was mainly written by Marcus and Myself. I tend to write pieces, which I offer to Dave to arrange. This is the way I have been writing since I started. Marcus will come down with completed works, which he then shows the band members. Both approaches are completely different, and this is exact reason that I think this approach is so effective for us. Marcus will apply the vocals at the very end in the studio.
BMB: What are some of your biggest influences as a musician?
JB: Too hard to answer that. I’ve been listening to music for way too long to get a handle on that answer. Let’s just say that many of my influences for Kommandant are at times very unexpected.
BMB: I’ve been asking everyone I interview to name their top five USBM acts. Who do you like?
JB: 1) Kommandant
2) Black Witchery
3) Judas Iscariot
5) Kult Of Azazel
BMB: You picked your own band?! I’ve never had anyone else do that before! I love it.
JB: Of course! There is a distinct difference between arrogance and confidence! If you don’t believe that you are in the best band in the world, then you are doing something wrong, and you are in this for the wrong reasons; probably because you don’t have the stomach for it. This is a very serious business to me and I have no time for those who do not take this seriously. I am here to defeat you; not to help you.
BMB: What are some of your hobbies outside of the music world?
JB: I collect WW2 Items, specifically German U-Boat items.
BMB: Where are some of your favorite places to play live? Is there anywhere you want to play but haven’t for one reason or another? Is Europe or Scandinavia a possibility?
JB: I honestly don’t prefer one place to another. I really desire to get back over to Europe to play soon. I guess it’s a possibility since we played in Germany at Kings Of Black Metal. It’s only a matter of time. Great patience is what I have learned over the years.
BMB: Totally off the subject, but you and I have spoken about politics in the past. Are you psyched about President-Elect Donald Trump?
JB: Yes. We needed a great change in this country. I am very optimistic for the upcoming years. I’m old now, and what comes with that is watching the political spectrum; something I could care less about when I was younger.
BMB: What’s 2017 going to look like for Kommandant? It’s been almost two years since “Architects” dropped. Can fans expect another full length? And I would personally like to know if you guys are ever coming out east, here in New England! Any Chances of seeing Kommandant in Worcester this upcoming year?
JB: The closest we have been to Worcester is when we played in Boston. We will have to change that for sure. We are currently working on the writing of our next full length, so we are locked away and busy with that right now, and should be for the next several months. We have four songs written, so we are half way towards completion. Judging by what I hear so far, we are truly creating a monster. It will definitely not disappoint. It will be well worth the wait.