Me And That Man
Heavy music has often been at its most potent when it has aimed for something beyond the ordinary, something transformative and liberating. In the last few decades, few musicians in the metal world have been more consistently and persistently dedicated to those noble goals than Behemoth founder and frontman Nergal. Over 25 years and ten studio albums, the Polish titans of sonic blackness have become one of the most legendary and increasingly successful bands in the history of extreme music, but Nergal is about to shatter any preconceptions people may have about his creative vision.
A newly-formed collaboration with renowned British/Polish rock musician John Porter, Me & That Man reveals an entirely fresh and convincing side to Nergal’s musical endeavours. An exhilarating journey through sun-ravaged, dusty plains, soundtracked by low-slung acoustic guitars and steeped in the raw essence of old school folk and country music, but also drawing from the dark narratives of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, the duo’s debut album, ‘Songs Of Love & Death’ will doubtless prove a revelatory affair for Behemoth’s huge global fan base while simultaneously luring many more people into Nergal’s artistic world.
“I’ve always been a sucker for the more stripped down, mellow, guitar music,” he explains. “I don’t know exactly when the starting point was, but I thought that maybe I could start playing this kind of music because it was within me, somewhere. I just didn’t know whether I couldsing this stuff! But about five years ago, I was jogging and this idea came into my MIND to do a Polish version of ‘The Highwaymen’ with four Polish voices, which were myself, another Polish artist called Maciej Malenczuk, another great artist, Gienek Loska, and John Porter, who is the other half of Me & That Man. It was just four local dudes singing a classic song in Polish… check it out on YouTube! So that was the first time me and John were on the same track. Years later, I got back in touch with John and called him up, just to catch up and chat a bit. Eventually we talked about maybe doing something together. He was cool with that and it just started rolling from there.”
Erupting into glowering, doom-laden life with the rousing, malevolent hymn of ‘My Church Is Black’, ‘Songs Of Love & Death’ is an album of simple but timeless ideas, all filtered through Nergal’s pitch-black poetic prism. Fans of everything from Johnny Cash’s American Recordings through to the grim, frontier polemic of Wovenhand will find countless mesmerising moments within these songs: from the sing-along macabre of ‘Shaman Blues’ and the hellish Bo Diddley stomp of ‘On The Road’ to the bleak balladry of ‘Ain’t Much Lovin’’ and ‘Cross My Heart And Hope To Die’’s woozy necro-spiritual, these are songs that may echo the adversarial attitude of Nergal’s work with Behemoth, but this is a far less complex beast and one that demands an instinctive gut reaction.
“This album is not meant to turn Me & That Man fans into Behemoth fans,” Nergal notes. “If one day they follow, I’m cool with that of course and something like ‘My Church Is Black’… well, it’s a song that naturally invites people from the extreme metal world and hopefully they’ll want to enter this world too. They might even like it. That’s why we decided not to start the album with a straight happy country song! (laughs) ‘My Church Is Black’ is a strong declaration and a great opener. With Me & That Man, I’m telling simple stories in the simple way…not overloaded with metaphors and hidden meanings. It’s just got to be as natural, organic and stripped down as it can be.”
With its stark, brutal title – a purposeful nod towards Leonard Cohen’s classic 1971 album ‘Songs Of Love & Hate’ – and its core of gritty, swaggering sonic rawness, Me & That Man’s debut album may seem a million miles away from what Nergal is best known for, but as far as he is concerned, this is just another necessary and vital part of his creative life: a new way to express the same ideas of individualism, defiance and darkness, but in an entirely unfamiliar context, all underpinned by a thrilling sense of musical freedom.
“Of course, this is totally different from Behemoth. With Me And That Man the songs just come out in a very organic way,” Nergal states. “I just go with the mood, to get the flow. The songs just kept coming. One would be bluesy, one would be more ballad-ish… but put together they all made sense. I realised that I’ve got blues in my blood! I need Me & That Man to keep the balance, so I don’t go insane with Behemoth, which is an ever-expanding balloon! The potential of my mother band seems to be limitless. It gets bigger and bigger and more advanced and more sophisticated… and darker …and blacker… If it blows up one day, it’s gonna eclipse the sun I swear! (laughs) But Me & That Man is at the opposite pole, artistically speaking. But with all the art, once you have it in you, you have to release it and give it away to people, otherwise it may become intoxicating and dangerous to your own system. This is how I deal with my emotions and my dark feelings and shadows. This is not happy music, but it’s liberating. I’m opening up to new dimensions and new angles and exploring the unknown is just thrilling.”
With tentative plans to tour Europe and the US in 2017, Me & That Man is plainly much more than just a fun side-project to kill a few hours between day job commitments. Instead, this is the exhilarating sound of one of metal’s most fascinating and charismatic artists flexing a few new artistic muscles and tugging aggressively at heavy music’s dark, primitive and epoch-defining roots.
“Okay, this is a side-project, but I don’t really know what it’s going to grow into,” Nergal concludes. “Maybe it will explode one day or maybe it will stay in its underground niche. I’m happy with either option! The idea was just to get this music out to people. There’s no hidden agenda. It is what it is, and if you buy it, it’s cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. This is the battle we have already won.”