Sincarnate is one of the few Romanian bands that, among a very restricted handful of other local bands, has really something important to say. During their 8 years of making music, they have evolved from a “regular” bunch of guys who played doom/death metal into a very serious, dedicated band that can stand its ground in this already strange scene. Guitarist Giani Stanescu took his time to answer some of the questions I asked him and the result can be read below. Hope you’ll enjoy this really interesting interview.
1. The band was born in late 2005. Why did you decide to play music in the first place and why did you choose this name? Does it have something to do with James Murphy’s Disincarnate?
Giani: I always had something going on related to music – I started playing accordion early on, during high-school I had an alternative-rock band where I played guitar and wrote the first songs. One of those songs (heavily influenced by Nirvana) will later become “Sincerely Yours”, recorded on our first EP, “On the Procrustean Bed”.
The name came later on, as we had our second guitarist onboard, Catalin. His proposal, Sincarnate, beat mine (Unspoken) and has nothing to do with Murphy’s band (one of my favorite solo guitarists, though). We knew what we will be singing about and Sincarnate (a “short” version for Incarnation of Sin) encapsulated the idea: the human religious conditioning. Later on, we started exploring also other kinds of human conditioning, but this was the starting point.
2. Your initial line-up was made of friends with more or less musical skill and experience (I would say less, haha). I remember your very first show in Suburbia, everybody was literally shitting their pants. Now, looking back after 8 years, how do you see those times?
Giani: None of us had any live experience, both guitarist were somehow beginners, the drummer learned drumming during our rehearsals…what can I say, it sounds even to me somehow foolish what we tried to do… We rehearsed like three times the week for more than a year, but still didn’t feel prepared for a live show. Now I know we wouldn’t have ever feel prepared, unless Coro (a friend of the band and our first manager), wouldn’t have pushed us to play our first show…
And since you were there, I cannot avoid recalling that I played the first show with the back to the audience, behind the PA…Legs were trembling like hell, I got no air, and fingers didn’t listen during the first minutes of the show. But the audience seemed to enjoy our music; I got courage and continued playing. As we finished our last song I almost started enjoying it.
3. The first Sincarnate EP, “On the Procrustean Bed”, was released by Axa Valaha in 500 copies. Until some point in your (early) career you performed live a song or two from this EP, and then you stopped (“Requiem”, “Sincerely Yours”). Why did you do that, don’t you find that material representative anymore for what Sincarnate stands for today? I still think: “Sincerely Yours” is a fucking good song though.
Giani: I see our records more as “snap-shots” along our development as a band and each of them is a statement for a certain time and point in our evolution. We got better at playing our instruments thus permitting us expressing our ideas better …The past is like looking at pictures of you when you were a toddler. You cannot be critical but also cannot help smiling…It doesn’t mean it’s not you there and you’re not the same person…
I am nostalgic listening our first songs, but as much as I do like them, I also cannot help perceiving certain parts as “childish”…I am sure we will play at least some of those songs again and make them shine with our current approach. It is a promise!
4. You always had some problems with the line-up, especially with the drummers. From the original formula, only 3 members have survived to this day, you, Marius and Cristi. Why did that happen, was Sincarnate “doomed” from the beginning? Was it that hard to find the right members or your standards were a bit too high compared to what the scene had to offer?
Giani: We had a lot of line-up changes, but considering our age and how many bands appeared and disappeared on the Romanian metal scene meanwhile, I rather consider us lucky and quite stable. No matter the line-up, we played (even if rarely) and came up with a record every three years…not planned, it just happened, but makes my point – we were and remained a constant presence.
For a band that started with members knowing close to nothing about playing, we weren’t for a long time what I would call “picky” when it came to new members…Secondly, we almost never “fired” members of the band but rather had to replace them because they couldn’t play anymore (some moved to other countries or cities, some stopped playing because of lack of time, some started something of their own and got quite successful doing so, and so on…).
Now we cannot afford members without a certain skill and experience, but for the moment we have a solid line-up and hope to maintain it as long as possible.
5. Watching (knowing) the band since the beginning, I can honestly say I saw you evolving from just “another” doom/death metal band to a solid, crushing entity. You are much more experienced now, perhaps due to the many shows you played, both in Romania and abroad. Has that live experience helped defining/polishing your style and way of playing?
Giani: Sometimes a new member can help a band make a decisive step forward. For the moment, in our case, it is the new drummer, Andrei. We have some songs written years ago which we never played because the drums were too difficult…
Playing live helps being better on stage, but does not improve your playing skills; this has to be done at home, studying. As you know, we do not play very often, so it would be suicidal to rely on the live apparitions for getting better…Moreover, we are a band with members from three different cities and rehearse together rarely…Luckily we got all to the point where we can play after one or two rehearsals.
6. You have toured abroad quite a lot, especially in Germany, where you have many friends. For a Romanian band, that is quite something. What is the difference between the German audience and the Romanian one? Where did you have your best show so far?
Giani: I must be sincere and say that, at least for me personally, the best shows we had so far were in Germany. Why do they react so good to our music?
Well, first of all there are (at least considering the bands we shared the stage with) few bands in Germany having also a “doom-ish” side.
Secondly, I think we are a little bit exotic for them, mostly because of our oriental influences, common here but not there.
Another explanation (and the most realistic, probably) is that our friends there (Sebastian from Sado Sathanas, Erdie from Dark Moon) invite us to play at shows that suite us and our style best…
7. What is your main influence when you compose the music and who writes the lyrics? The approach is very philosophical, almost very religious. What books or authors you draw your inspiration from? Did the Bible play an important role in this process?
Giani: The main influences in the beginning were pretty clear – the British doom trinity (My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost), as for so many Romanian doom-death bands of the 90’s. Still, it was courageous to try it again 10 years later, after the wave already passed…on the other hand, we always had also strong death metal influences and played mostly a mid-tempo kind of depressive death metal with slow parts here and there. Now we didn’t get only faster but also a lot slower – we have faster and slower parts than ever and that was always my drive – to combine somehow depressive, slow parts with the fury of black and death metal while maintaining our kind of feeling. We are now closer than ever to this goal…
As for the lyrics – as a teenager I had a close connection to the church (for some years I’ve been going to church regularly) and later I studied and graduated Philosophy (which I genuinely enjoyed). I was always interested in religion, mysticism, psychology and have a weakness for literature…as for authors, when it comes to Sincarnate, from Marquez and Llosa to Dostoievski and Camus I went through a lot of writers and philosophers that I really like (Cohen, Houllebeque, Murakami, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Bukowski) and list goes on. The Bible just made me curious of other sources like the Greek Gnostics and other related blasphemers.
Related strictly to the Bible you can rarely find a better collection of misogynistic, homophobic and misanthropic myths that had such an immense impact on our society – so yes, the Bible plays also an important part in the lyrics. Still, it brought forward the first humanist and commie of the world – I could say I have a “love-hate” relationship with it.
The lyrics are very important to me and therefore not very accessible.
8. I mentioned earlier the problems you had with finding the right members for Sincarnate. Up til now, no less than 4 drummers and other several guitar/bass players have been involved with the band. It took some time to build up this golem, but it was worth it. Is this actual line-up the best one for Sincarnate to go on?
Giani: At each point in time we had actually the best possible line-up of that time…I cannot make up scenarios related to how Sincarnate would have been at a moment in a certain line-up, because I know for sure, each of its members made Sincarnate what it became today. I am sorry to disappoint, but each one of the members were crucial in their own way, at their time.
What changed is the fact that in the current line-up kind of “lined up” with my vision about the music we should play. Now, yes, this is the best line-up Sincarnate could have had today. It will be plenty clear when the new album will be out.
9. If I’m not mistaken, at some point earlier you were “that” close of releasing a split LP with a German band (was it Sado-Sathanas?) What happened with that split and why was the release put on hold? Are there any chances it will happen in the near future?
Giani: We were very close to record a split 7 inch LP with Sado Sathanas…Short before starting to record, their bass player had a pretty bad motorcycle accident and everything got put on hold. Meanwhile, Sado Sathanas changed their publishing house and the project had to be delayed.
Both bands never gave up on the idea, we’re still discussing it and it seems to be a good time to try again. We will always have available two really good, exclusive songs for it, so…let’s hope we will surprise you with some exiting news soon…
10. In 8 years you have released only two EPs ( “On the Procrustean Bed”, “Nothing Left To Give”) and one full length (“As I Go Under”) . This fall, your second album “In Nomine Homini” will come out. What can one expect from it, especially if they are not too familiar with this band? Will it also be released only on cd, or maybe a vinyl version can be taken into consideration too?
Giani: People speaking about great bands say they have a certain, specific “sound”…You cannot mistaken a new Slayer song for something else…
The interesting thing about it is that that “sound” has nothing to do with some magical recording techniques or enchanted hardware…For decades actually, the hardware remained the same…Mesas, Peavyes, Shures, etc… What makes Slayer sound like Slayer, is not the guitar brand, the amps or the microphone. Now everybody has access to those resources, and still, Slayer sounds like Slayer and few others can match it…
I do not imply we are there… we’re just striving and got closer to it more than ever (to have a sound of our own). “In Nomine Homini” is Sincarnate at their best now, furious death and black metal mixed with depressive slow doom parts, mystical choirs and life mind-setup endangering lyrics.
11. I know that you and Marius have a strong death metal background, since you grew up with that music and you still like it very much. How do you see (playing) death/black metal now, when basically all was said and done? Do you have any personal favorites that you might get inspired from?
Giani: To my surprise I hear now and than new ways of playing death or black. Cut the gain on a black-metal song, play clean vocals and there you go – post-rock, or post-metal, or post-black-metal, or whatever they like to call it now.
Is there really anything new or the music reinvents itself and uses a new name for its newborns? Hard to say…For such an underground music, the simple fact that we still speak about death and black, more than 20 years after their breakthrough is something …there are few music genres which actually match it.
As long as there will be electricity and a small social class that doesn’t go brainwashed, metal will survive, in one of its manifold manifestations. We are a just a humble part of it.
12. Up til 2013 Cristi used the play the keyboards live, but since then he switched to guitars and the band became a quintet. The keyboards added a very special sound live and once they’ve been removed, an empty space remained. Of course, that’s only my opinion and I’m sure you’ve had your reasons to give the keyboards up. Is there a chance to include them in the live set again, or your next album will not feature keyboards at all?
Giani: From the beginning we intended to use only choirs played from a keyboard. Having somebody playing keyboard made it gain importance along the years, but we never conceived it as a main instrument – no songs were written on it, even if two of us play it quite good.
Confronted with so many changes in the line-up, I grew tired and thought: the less members, the easier to go on… It is not really only a joke – Cristi wanted to switch to guitars for a longer time, since we wrote some of the songs together after Catalin left the band and the most writing is done starting from the guitar parts.
I never wanted to have the keyboard as a “main” instrument or ingredient in the music of the band. I wanted to use it just to create atmosphere, when needed to emphasize certain guitar riffs. Since its use was scarce, there was no need to have an additional member and have it on the click-track, like all the other effects.
The next album features keyboards, integrated in the guitar lines. It would be rather awkward to suddenly hear a piano solo on the stage and see nobody playing it…Some keyboard parts will be replaced by real choirs, so actually there will be plenty of keyboards…
13. What’s your opinion about the Romanian (extreme) metal scene? Unfortunately I think we don’t have too many good bands that can really stand out. Bloodway, Deceased, Sincarnate, Dordeduh come to mind, but then, nothing. There are either bands that copy this so called old school thrash metal thing, others that play some obsolete doom/gothic whatever and then we have the pagan/folk metal crap. I honestly think we lack originality and we prefer quantity over quality. Any words on that?
Giani: I rather look at the full part of the glass. Sharing with you those times when there was nothing going on in our country I got to encourage the support for all bands getting born in the latest time. If there is variety and numbers, there is a chance for better music, a bigger and more varied scene and audience.
The public and the media has to trim them down to the ones deserving to shine. If you think that the scene is overwhelmed by questionable acts, I can only say that the media didn’t made its best in educating the audience to be more selective in its choices.
If the scene goes berserk and glorifies low quality nationalistic endeavors it is your duty, the ones who love metal and write about it, to speak openly about it. I am really hoping that our generation gets replaced by a newer one and they need your support in acquiring an educated taste for metal. I know you are doing it, along other lonely voices, like Tanu Index or Coro. If propagated, this kind of critical approach will benefit a lot the scene. And closing the subject, I have to mention that I do not share a lot of your views (the worst being your “purist” side) but I appreciate the open debate you are always putting forward.
It’s been a pleasure to have you guys featured in scrollsofdarmoth, thank you very much for accepting this interview. See very soon on stage, I hope. You have the last words, for closure.
Giani: Support the local stage – it’s not an empty statement; we have some bands that are really better than a lot of the bands visiting us, and I do not advertise Sincarnate.
From Sincarnate expect, in the fall, an album that will make a difference in the whole 26 years of Romanian extreme metal scene existence.