Mephistofeles interview with Gabriel Ravera
Mephistofeles is a band from Paraná, Argentina. They describe themselves as a proto doom/heavy psych rock. Influenced by Electric Wizard and the likes, they released a few extremely dirty releases.
Who’s in Mephistofeles and what do you all play? Have you all made any changes to the lineup since you started or is this the original trio?
Now on, Mephistofeles is a trio composed by Ismael Dimenza on bass, Ivan Sachar on drums and me (Gabriel Ravera) on guitar and vocals. The lineup did have a few changes since the project was born. It literally started with just me as the only main integrant. I did record some stuff alone at home during that time, as I was not getting along with anyone to make a band. Some time later, I found a couple of dudes that were willing to play what I had in mind at that time. We had a couple of gigs, we recorded them, but then we split up. Although that Mephistofeles was crafting something really good at that moment, it didn’t work for me. There was something missing. Then when I recorded Master Doom, it was a big change on the band’s “meaning” and sound. I really wanted to do a thing that should sound like something straight recorded from a crypt. I think I downtuned my guitar to A, or so, for that demo. It was just something angry. Rather quickly after that, I met Ivan, the actual drummer of the band. We were friends from the underground music scene here in our city and we decided to rehearse as a duo to see what could come out of that. We tried a few different bassist but in the end it just did not work. We stopped the project till Ismael came in. He was a friend of mine from another project I was playing with at the time. The funny thing is that he was always there, but I never bothered to ask him to join Mephistofeles till late 2015. We have the same lineup since that moment.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
Well, the three of us had different approaches to it. In my case I remember being a young kid and finding out “If you want blood, you got it” from AC/DC in my father’s record collection. The album cover was insane to me at that time. It turned out to be my favorite record. I literally didn’t know what was happening to me while I was listening to it. It was something really new to me, but I really enjoyed. Some time later, and because of that record, my dad bought me my first guitar and everything started.
When and how did you all originally meet?
We were friends from the underground music scene from our city. Every each one of us had its own different project at the time and we used to meet at gigs.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?
Since ever, I guess. I really thought that we had something really good that should be played, or recorded at least. That’s why we have ton of demos, some published, some others archived. We were really into this since the beginning and we didn’t want to keep it just for us.
What does the name “Mephistofeles” refer to in the context of the band name? There was a psychedelic rock band from the late 1960s called Mephistopheles. They recorded In Frustration I Hear Singing on Reprise Records.
My mum is a person that loves collecting every sort of literature. The older, the better. I remember myself, 7 or 8 years back, looking at a book from her library that really caught my attention. It was this red and golden printed leather type cover book called “Faust,” a German novel. While looking at it, I stomped over an engraved picture of a demon that was called Mephistofeles. I did know that the word was spelled as “Mephistopheles,” so I thought it was a printing mistake, but “Mephistofeles” kinda talked to me. At that very moment, it was like it suddenly meant a ton of things to me, it’s hard to describe that in words. It was like finding out the missing “piece of the puzzle.”
And yeah, doing some research later on, I found out about plenty of other bands called “Mephistopheles” (even “Mefistofeles”). Some great bands from all over the world, but none of them were spelled as on this book I talked about. I also noticed, not so long ago, that Mephistofeles is composed by 13 letters. It developed some kind of mysticism to all of the attraction that the name caught on me. It kinda sounds pointless, but it matters to me.
What’s the songwriting process like?
Since the beginning of the project, songs were just a couple of riffs picked up from different jams we had. We just structured them as to make a solid composition where we could jam on without loosing the idea of what we were crafting. I kinda got fed up of that as we started to have problems into getting things to work. Several bad ideas, mixed with good ideas, turned out into a non convincing “thing” for us. I remember that the best jams from that era were the last ones before the band split up. Everyone was so angry during the jams that I think it just got the worst and the best from us (later I managed to put several cuts from those sessions into a compilation called Devotional Doom). After recording Master Doom, I clearly did know what I wanted to do, what I was looking for. When Mephistofeles finally reached this actual lineup, our way of working turned out kinda “mechanic” I would say. You know, I manage to compose/arrange songs myself, work on riffs and just bring everything to the rehearsal. That’s just the way it is now. We still do like to jam, jamming live more than anything, but it’s not the main way of doing things nor writing records anymore.
What would you say influenced you the most? Have influences changed during the years?
Absolutely, before Master Doom we were more into bands like Queen Elephantine, Acid Mothers Temple, Gong and things like that.
This might sound kinda of a gag, but my life changed literally when I first saw and heard that black ‘n’ white video of Sleep’s “Dragonaut.” Later on I found Elder’s Homegrown Valley sessions. It literally blew my mind. Their sound was thick, heavy, epic. Deeper research on the genre took me to Blood Lust from Uncle Acid and later on a friend of mine led me to meet Electric Wizard, with the “Funeralopolis” track. I can’t describe it, never heard something like that before, I never went back. It was a state of non return, basically.
Lately I’ve found myself on late 60’s, 70’s proto metal, heavy metal bands. I believe that’s the place where I belong. It’s also a throw back to my early days of discovering bands for the first time as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
Can you share some further details how your latest album ( ( ( I ‘ M H E R O I N ) ) ) was recorded and released?
It was entirely recorded live. Then we added some dubbed guitars and isolated vocals. It did not take us more than 8 studio-hours to finish everything. It was pretty intense, we recorded during summer (February 2017 over here), around 35 ºC. All equipment were isolated in different rooms but everything was so loud that it did not even matter.
It was a really good session, besides the console that kept stop recording from time to time for no fucking reason. Because of that, we needed to do like 7 takes of “Addicted to Satan,” and the only take that we rescued of it was the only one that was complete.
We did not feel like mixing it that much and we kinda left the tracks in standby till May. We released a single (“Into The Night”) for the Sahara/Mephistofeles split and then we focused on finishing the record.
By the way, as there are plenty of people always wondering about our tuning… we just tune in E standard and sometimes we drop to D.
What kind of process do you have at mastering material for the release?
We are really broke, we don’t have any money to use any expensive nor vintage equipment to make the kind of mastering we would like to do. A friend lend us use the tiniest reel machine you would ever expect to see for this last record. After mixing tracks and doing pretty much little retouches on a few things, we ran the tracks through tape just to give them a “color” and the lovely annoying hissing sound. Nothing fancier than that, as we wasted pretty much all of our bandcamp money on cabinets and tube amps. We still own money to our engineer.
What about your first album Whore? How would you compare it to ( ( ( I ‘ M H E R O I N ) ) ) ?
To be honest, I’m hating a lot Whore at this moment. Not only because on how it sounds and its production, but it just disgusts me the fact that I’m not proud of it anymore, I guess.
Some people really do love it, some others just hate it with all of their soul. I think it turned out not to be our best.
In the other hand ( ( ( I ‘ M H E R O I N ) ) ) is just dirtier in every aspect. It’s not only a step further on the band’s evolution but a true record. This is what we wanted to sound like, this is where we were aiming since a couple of years back. I really wanted to push the concept of this record onto a sleazy terrific scenario where it should be hatred, putrid, just being fucking punk in its very own way. Disgust people, basically. It kinda did, and gave the record another kind of reputation, I would say it’s worth it.
There is some other material available.
Yeah, demo sessions more than anything. You can have all of them in our bandcamp page. I really like them, each one of them are a milestone on Mephistofeles. Master Doom still keeps being my favourite from them all. Devotional Doom is a compilation of raw recordings, live material, and some studio takes of what was Mephistofeles before 2015. It really sounds different from what most people would expect from us. We were very young at that time, 16-19 years old. Pure Fucking Noise is just trash. But we really like it as it has some actual live material from the band like in Mayhem Sessions.
Who is behind the artwork?
I am the one responsible for it. I pretty much do all the band’s image. I really don’t think that I can give this task to anyone else. It’s so frustrating trying to transmit your very own ideas to other people that might not understand what you want to say. It just doesn’t work.
Creep Purple (https://www.facebook.com/creeppurple/) released both of your albums on tape. I think your artwork and the atmosphere of your music goes really well together.
Thank you, I really appreciate that. It’s something that I really do care about.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Well, we love Sahara. We are friends and they are even from our same city. So we can plan some gigs from time to time with them. There’s also a band called The Black Furs. They’re from Tapiales, Buenos Aires. Cool dudes, we became really good friends with them. They are actually the guys that made us tour for the first time ever outside our city. We could have played with another personal favorite band from Mar Del Plata, that is called VLAD, but unfortunately it did not happen.
It’s pretty obvious that you’re a fan of obscure horror films of the 1960s & 1970s.
Yeah, we enjoy old movies and that kind of stuff. But we have different tastes into what are certain kind of films. I’ve enjoyed old Italian cinema, class B movies, bikers stuff. Sometimes they turned out into a great cult movie, and sometimes into a great laugh depending on how bad or low budget was. WW2 vintage movies are my go as well, really enjoying those. Recently I’ve been into MORBO (Gonzalo Suarez, 1972) and another strange movie called Wat Zien Ik (Diary of a Hooker, 1971) from Paul Verhoeven. Sometimes it just feels like I’ll die without seeing tons of really good movies that are mostly older than me.
What are some future plans?
We are planning to gig more than last year. Also working out on some new stuff. Sometimes kinda gets tedious to be playing same songs all over again. There are plans to release a video clip with a new track, no date in specific. We just have an idea on how it should look like. Record more stuff, try new things and who knows… maybe another record if we feel like it.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Yeah, I’ve been into Japanese rock music for a long time now. If you are looking for heavy induced-fuzzy-analog-psychedelic-70s rock I would recommend “Yura Yura Teikoku” ( ゆらゆら帝国 ). I’m loving their entire discography. Their albums 3x3x3, Me No Car and III should be a great starters.
Not so long ago I found out about a band called “Westfauste,” they have only one record called In a King’s Dream from 1971. That record is just beautiful, I don’t have words to describe it.
I’ve being listening to CAN lately again. Tago Mago is such a cool record, but I fall truly in love with Ege Bamyasi. That record is just perfect.
Recently I’ve found nice records, I’m really enjoying Weedpecker album III, as well as Ball’s self-titled album. I liked the way Electric Wizard turned out with Wizard Bloody Wizard. As a ton of other people, I was expecting to hear something heavier than Time To Die, but to me it’s great that they are reborn with this new album. They did not loose the mystic and to me that’s what’s all about. This also will give them a great opportunity to return again heavier than ever. I also found out about a duo called Black Cobra with their 2006 album Bestial. Sometimes I hate myself for not finding these gems earlier in my life. People should also listen to Dracula & Black Magick SS, hatred black psychedelic metal.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
I really appreciate this interview and being part of “It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine.” Thanks for your time.
– Klemen Breznikar
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