Underground Metal Blog since 2013

2017. szeptember 19., kedd

Septimiu Hărşan

Interview with Septimiu "Septimus" Hărşan
(Questions compiled by Cornelius of Encomium and 
Georgius of Archangel's Lantern)

Hail Septimiu! How and when did you start to listen to metal music? Which were the very first metal albums you listened to and the ones that immediately caught your attention? The very first live show you visited?
- Hey, nice to be talking to you!
I think I was around 10 when my sister received a cassette with all kinds of pop rock stuff on it. At the end of the B-side of that cassette however, there were a few Metallica songs; I was struck by the difference. The depth, the atmosphere, the attitude were all like nothing I ever heard before so I instantly knew I was dealing with something special which would stay with me for many years. The first albums were “Load” and “Reload”... For those who don't consider them to be metal albums, my first was “Master of Puppets”, haha! After that came the whole host of Sepulturas, Slayers and so on. And then another breakthrough was Morbid Angel's “Covenant”, bringing me the revelation of death metal. First show must have been something local, but I don't recall much about it. 

When did you start to play drums? What motivated and/or influenced you to pick this kind of instrument instead of others? At the beginning which drummers had an impact on you? Actually, which are your favorite ones and why? Could you pick out 5 bands/albums with any of those?
- I started playing drums just around that same time, because it was originally Metallica that made me want to play music. So when the time came for me to pick up a particular instrument, it was pretty much a random choice. I thought the drums would be cool because it's always nice to hit things and get away with it, haha! It's proven to have been a very good choice, because I don't feel any desire to be under the main spotlight, so sitting at the back of the stage, behind a drumkit is definitely the more comfortable option for me. 
In the beginning, my main influences must have been Lars Ulrich, Ian Paice, Vinnie Paul, Dave Lombardo, Paul Bostaph, Igor Cavalera... I also used to be fascinated by Carl Palmer, after watching an Asia concert on VHS. And then Morbid Angel and Pete Sandoval brought the extreme metal revolution into my life and that changed a lot of things for me. Also, the more serious I got about learning drums and music in general, taking private lessons and even going to the Conservatory at some point, I got familiarized with the jazz/fusion/funk drummers, as well as the progressive rock guys. Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Erskine, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, Steve Smith, Mike Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Andre Ceccarelli, Derek Roddy, Tony Laureano, George Kollias, pretty much all the greats influence me up to this day and I still study them. I am also into a whole bunch of new guys, drumming has reached remarkable heights nowadays. Hell, I am friends with phenomenal drummers around the world that almost no one knows about. On the other hand, the older I get (just tuned 30, haha), the more I tend to lean towards subtlety and touch and finesse and depth of understanding and attention to detail, rather than technical ability. That's one of the reasons why I love Eskine so much. That's also why I appreciate the playing of my good Italian friend Sergio Ponti.
Band-wise, I'd definitely pick Chick Corea's Electric Band, which included so many amazing drummers, Dream Theater for their good old days, Porcupine Tree with the amazing Gavin, Nile with George, Hate Eternal with Derek... I'd definitely say Hate Eternal's “I, Monarch” was a drum landmark for me, as were Nile's “Ithyphallic”, Dream Theater's “Falling into Infinity”, which is quite an underrated album, but definitely featuring some glorious drumming by Mr. Portnoy, Morbid Angel's “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh“, which is Pete's best drum work in my opinion, Weckl's “Master Plan”... There are so many it's really hard to just pick out five of them.
There are dozens of bands you are actively playing in. How do you manage to keep focusing correctly on every band? Besides the Romanian bands you are quite well involved in the underground life of The Netherlands as well. Lately you finished recording drums for DISAVOWED and PESTILENCE. How those recordings went from your point of view? Was it hard to accomplish the ideas you worked out for those 2 albums? Any schedules yet for the next studio session?
 Quite a lot of bands indeed, haha! Very different styles as well and I think that's the key for me to be able to focus, musically. Some of them aren't metal, some of them aren't even rock. This stylistic variation keeps things fresh for me and it keeps me hungry enough for each particular act. Also, it prevents me from putting too much fusion vocabulary in a metal band or vice versa, which I would be quite tempted to do if I only played in one or two bands of the same genre. Also, time-wise, it is true that not all these bands have a lot of activity. It's the most visible of them that also demand most of my time.
 “The Dutch connection” is something I am extremely proud and happy about, because I think Holland has always been a death metal paradise, those guys really know how to get things done in this genre. I'd tend to say they are the truest part of Europe when it comes to death metal.
 The recordings for both albums went really nice, both feature some crazy, over the top, non-cliche, extremely high quality music and although you can call them both death metal, they are very different in actuality, which also calls for very different approaches on the drums. But both albums are amazing in their own style and I can wholeheartedly say I am honored to be able to express myself creatively on two of the very best musical statements I've heard in a long time in the death metal genre.
 The next recording sessions should probably be the new Necrovile album, which is also going to be a set of crazy, uncompromising, full-drums-blazing brutal death metal tracks. Necrovile is one of the bands that I feel the best about, everything works so smoothly and we always have a good time. It's also one of the few Romanian underground acts to consistently tour internationally. Very active group.
You've just become a proud endorser of Zildjian cymbals. My congratulations for that! How did you hook up with them? If you don't mind, please tell us the detailed story.
- Thank you, yes, I am a Zildjian artist now! Actually, unlike with Vater and Axis, I got contacted about this endorsement deal, I didn't initiate it myself. But it makes me rather happy, Zildjian are the original cymbal makers, they are legendary and definitely need no introduction to anyone. So many of my favorite drummers played Zildjians on so many of my favorite recordings, it's surreal to now use some of those same cymbals myself. Through my endorsement, I got a number of “mythical” Zildjian models mixed with some of the newer models they introduced more recently, from the factory itself, but I also bought some additional golden oldies that are not in production anymore. I had some of them long before becoming a Z artist. Anyway, I feel in cymbal heaven right now, pretty much. I seem to be liking a lot of the same cymbal gear that Dennis Chambers is playing, as well as  a lot of the stuff that Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl used to play back in the day. Those are time-tested, time-proven, studio-and-live-certified sounds that will never go out of fashion, because they are not about fashion: they're about timelessness. 

You are also using Axis pedals and Vater drumsticks for a while. How those endorsements come about? I am sure you've tried out a bunch of different pedal brands and sticks in the past, until you stopped with the actual ones. It's kind of evolution. So let's have a flashback on equipment you used in the past and a little comparison of them to the ones you use now.
- I did try a lot of stuff, gear-wise. Everything I could get my hands and feet on, I would try. I still do it today. I always put a lot of focus on what's in between a drummer's limbs and the instrument itself, because that's going to have a dramatic impact on one's feel on the kit. And that's the sticks and the pedals, obviously. 
With drumsticks, I used to play a lot of different stuff and didn't really want to use only one brand or model because I didn't want to become dependent on one particular feel – the finish, the balance and so on. I wanted to be able to play with anything that was healthy enough for the hands. Here's a disclaimer for those thinking I used to play grip sticks: I didn't, the ones I was using in some older videos were actually Tama Red Zone Japanese oak sticks that were worn out at the top - great high impact sticks, but not too versatile for anything else. 
Vaters are not the easiest sticks to find in the area where I live, but every once in a while I would buy a few from somewhere and would always be very satisfied with their quality control: perfectly straight, always solid feeling, beautiful, parallel grained white wood, significantly more durable than other hickory sticks, nicely tone-matched, the wood would always produce a clean, high-pitched sound when I'd click them together and they would always feel balanced and easy to play. I also persuaded a few other drummers to try them out and they never looked back. Since I got the endorsement, I play Vater exclusively on all shows and studio sessions and they just work great. Currently, my stick of choice is the SD9 hickory, an orchestral model modified for drumset playing. I have broken one stick in two years thus far.
As for pedals, since I first heard Pete with Morbid Angel, I started dreaming about owning a pair of Axis. I did go through a lot of other pedals and liked many of them for many reasons, especially my old Yamaha Flying Dragon double, which is not in production anymore. However, I sold that one in order to get money for my first Axis A Longboards and, a few years later, the Axis endorsement came, so I play Axis exclusively for many years now. They are very specialized pedals, not too versatile, not for everyone, but definitely unique in a lot of respects. I love them and they have become part of me now, it's very hard to play anything else at this point!
I believe every drummer has a unique practicing routine. What kind of yours? How many hours per day you play drums? Which genres are your most beloved ones and why?
 I am not a “practicer”, really. I always despised the word “discipline” as being the opposite of liberty and enjoyment (along with “duty” and “must” and so on), to such an extent that I almost feel like I'm breaking some kind of primordial vow with myself if I'm even thinking in such terms. I realize this is an exaggeration and I know training more would improve many areas of my playing, but I also need to keep drumming  in the realm of pleasure and artistic fulfillment, rather than on the mathematically-measurable, ego side. So if I drum by myself, what I do is just jamming and basic maintenance stuff. But that happens quite seldom outside of the actual playing, many times it's less than one time per week. So I'm definitely the wrong guy to talk about practice, haha! 
- In terms of just the drumming itself, I enjoy myself the most when playing colorful, dynamic fusion stuff, but most times that won't work in metal contexts. However, I do adapt that kind of drumming to some of my non-extreme bands. Strictly playing-wise, I prefer that style of drumming to extreme metal, because the latter is so much more physical and demands that I'm always in perfect shape.

How your parents and relatives react on the chosen path? I suppose you exceptionally play drums and don't have any other jobs, right?
- It was just the typical parental reaction: they were a bit skeptical about it, especially in the beginning, but they got accustomed to it once they noticed my determination and also some of the results I got with it. I suppose being born in an intellectual family helped with speeding up the process of them understanding an artistic inclination and the positives of a life lived on vocation and dedication. I was educated to believe in artistic values and to hold music in the highest regard.
You are living in a very beautiful city, Brasov (Kronstadt, Brassó). Which places, museums, festivals, local foods and drinks would you recommend to us? 
- Yes, the city of Brasov is absolutely beautiful indeed. I do encourage everyone to visit it, but I avoid making specific “tourist” recommendations, since everyone is different anyway; taste and the notion of time well spent are all very individual. So I invite you to come over and experience Brasov exactly as you want to!

Bran (Törcsvár, Tölzburg) lies about 30 kilometers from Brasov. The medieval Bran Castle, which was once besieged by Vlad the Impaler, is a rather popular tourist spectacle, partly because it resembles the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel. Would you be so kind to share some of your thoughts about that castle and Vlad Tepes?
- The castle is indeed a very popular tourist destination. There would be quite a lot to say about this whole Stoker-Dracula-Bran-Tepes story, but again, it's not a subject that I really want to get into here. As for Vlad Tepes himself, he's always been one of my favorite historical figures. My Disavowed mates also took notice of some kind of physical resemblance between me and him, so now they mostly call me Vlad and Robbe introduces me to the crowds as “Vlad the Impaler on drums”. Since then, Patrick Mameli also started making jokes about me sleeping in a coffin and everything, haha! I do live in Transylvania afterall. That's standard procedure around here.
What books and movies belong to your favorites? Are you visiting libraries or cinemas from time to time?
- I tend to have a rather classical taste in literature, I think that stuff is canonical for a reason. Shakespeare's “Hamlet” is surely one of my favorite pieces of literature; also Kafka's “Trial”, Proust's “In Search of Lost Time”, Joyce's “Ulysses”, Camus' “Stranger”... I love 20th century modernism. Gide, Sartre, Cocteau, Ionesco, Beckett, Pound are among my favorites. Baudelaire, of course, as well as Rimbaud. I really enjoy a lot of Romanian writers as well, including a few of our contemporaries. Actually, Brasov has become one of the more productive and powerful literary centers of Romania from the '80-s onward. Other than that, I used to read quite a lot of philosophy in my teenage years. Again, mostly the European canon, like Plato, Descartes, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant, Husserl, Russell, but also Foucault, Derrida or Chomsky. Weber was an eye opener in many ways. Also Hayek, Adam Smith... And so was Marx, for sure. Not all of these are favorites, but they surely left their marks on me. But definitely one of my all time favorite reads was Pico della Mirandola's “Oration on the Dignity of Man”. So clear and concise and glorious!
Currently I'm not really visiting any libraries or cinemas, I'm quite focused on music, which takes up most of my time.

I am sure there are plenty of good metal bands in Romania, nevertheless which ones would you name without any hesitation and why?
- Well, I actually play with most of the bands that I would mention from the Romanian underground, hahaha! I am especially proud of the music we make with CodeRed, Necrovile and The Thirteenth Sun. As mentioned before, Necrovile is also one of the few Romanian underground bands to consistently play international shows as well. Other than that, in my personal opinion, Dordeduh are doing a really good job. They are also one of the bands you might have heard about, because they too play a lot of shows outside of Romania. However, most of the better Romanian bands, I think, are on the more modern, proggy side of things. White Walls could be a good example of that in my opinion. A lot of the younger, fresh blood bands seem to sound better and better nowadays in Romania.

Besides music do you have any other or special hobbies?
- Not really. I have a reflective type of personality and I enjoy spending most of my time by myself. I also enjoy having some beers with my friends and sometimes going for some strolls in the mountains, as there are lots of them around here in Brasov. I dig sportscar racing, especially endurance. I indulge in walking, I always walk to my destinations if possible and I also love to take a walk with no particular destination. 
At the end, please enlighten us some of your future plans, like tours ahead or compulsory missions to be completed. We really do hope you enjoyed our questions and hopefully we will meet you soon too. Last thoughts are yours!
- My future plans mostly revolve around writing my drum parts and recording them for the next Necrovile full-length release, doing some more shows, getting the new Disavowed album out, which is going to be mind-blowing... and then, in the beginning of 2018, starting the world tour with Pestilence, with an old school setlist until March the 1st, when we will release „Hadeon”, and then touring again with Pestilence for launching that album. Some other stuff will happen in the meantime as well.
I did enjoy the interview, thank you very much for inviting me to do this! Hopefully I'll meet you and as many of your readers as possible on the road, either with Pestilence, Disavowed, Necrovile or The Thirteenth Sun! I'll be there!

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