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ME AND THAT MAN // Music For The Apocalypse

To say that Adam Nergal Darski has had an interesting life would be nothing short of grand understatement.

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Best known by his adopted middle name, the multi-instrumentalist composer and singer has established himself as the creative core of Polish extreme metal band Behemoth, but that ever-evolving musical entity is merely one side of this multi-faceted personality: musician, writer, journalist, reality TV judge, night-club owner, cancer survivor, religious iconoclast. It was exactly this chimeric personality that led to his 2017 project with John Porter, Me and That Man, an adventure into darkness by way of loose folk and blues that amazed and perplexed those who knew him only from his work with his main band.

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“You can choose to do something you are always comfortable with,” he says, “or you can choose to take a different path. I will always choose to go the different path.”

Three years on from Songs of Love and Death, Nergal has stepped into his Me and That Man persona once more, this time without Porter but instead a laundry list of guests, to create New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1. While drawing from the same pool of influences—dark muses like Nick Cave and Johnny Cashthis is very much a different album from the first outing.

“It’s very different,” Nergal emphasises. “It’s way more diverse. There are 10 guest vocalists on the record and that naturally makes it very diverse because every song has a different arrangement and different timbre. But I really wanted that. I really wanted a record that sounds all over the place, but also coherent, and different styles of music also.”

In the worst case, you don’t like the record, don’t buy it. It’s not the end of the world. Coronavirus is the end of the world, not that!
[ Nergal ]

Nergal cast his dark net widely, gathering in a group of artists from across the heavy metal sphere as diverse as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Matt Heafy from Trivium and Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds to underground extremists like Ihsahn from Emperor, Niklas Kvarforth of Norway’s Shining, Nicke Andersson of the Hellacopters, Grave Pleasures’ Mat McNerney and Luxembourger neofolk industrialist Jérôme Reuter, among others. It is the combination of these elements, Nergal admits, that makes this second album so special.

I must honestly admit that if you listen to just the instrumental parts of the different songs, it sounds very generic and not very exciting,” he says with a chuckle. “But that’s the alchemy of rock and roll, to see the potential of something even though it’s still not completed. You’ve got to look ahead and combine all the various aspects together. A lot of the music that is the foundations [of the songs] is very cliched rock and roll. I can honestly say it’s nothing very special! But that’s where I start from. That’s the formula, to get all these underground and mainstream, mostly metal and extreme metal people singing Americana, singing blues, singing outlaw country and spaghetti Western ballads [to] make this album absolutely unprecedented!”

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While he certainly had some performers in mind, others came on board almost accidentally.

“I would say it happened very organically, continuously. Like with Niklas, the moment he asked me I said to him, ‘I have a ballad with Me and That Man, do you want to sing?’ ‘Yes!’ OK, that was it. I didn’t really think of him, but I knew that he’s not only a great screamer, he’s a good vocalist. I had this ballad I wrote three years ago, and I had it finished with me singing the whole song. When I connected with him I knew that he was the perfect guy to sing that kind of song.”

Me and That Man’s first release introduced a lot of extreme metal fans to more traditional rootsy acoustic based music. Having drawn a fanbase from that direction, Nergal hopes that those who get into this latest offering because of its style might delve into the more extreme music from his many collaborators.

“Many people who bought [the first album] were into extreme metal and got into the music because I did it,” Nergal explains. “I hope that this time people will discover who Niklas is, and ask who is this Shining band? And then they will go there and there are two options: they will either be converted, or it will kill them! Both of those options are very much appealing to me. Let’s put it this way, coronavirus is not going to kill everyone, so let Shining kill the rest!”

His dark sense of humour comes out in the material on New Man, New Songs, particularly in tracks like the demented, rambunctious sea shanty Burning Churches with McNerney on vocals. That blackly comic tone runs throughout, instilling the album with a dark sense of fun. It may not be to everyone’s taste, musically or aesthetically, but that’s not the point. For Nergal it was an important experiment, an essential release, and as evidenced by the title, this is just the first chapter of a new story for Me and That Man.

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“I went on a mission with Me and That Man. We started off out of pure need to play this type of music. On a daily basis I would listen to Månegarm and Nick Cave and Iggy Pop, bla, blah, blah … the list never ends, and I just wanted to be part of the movement, and I thought, ‘What can I do?’ I really look up to those guys. I wanted to make something remarkable. And I’m happy to announce that I’m already working on the continuation of the album, and there’s going to be a lot of surprises that are coming. It’s very uplifting to be working on this music again already.”

Nergal has enormous faith in this creation, but he doesn’t expect everyone to like it or understand it. He’s not into giving detailed explanations either. He would much prefer leaving that up to the listener.

“In the worst case, you don’t like the record, don’t buy it. It’s not the end of the world. Coronavirus is the end of the world, not that! This album is all over the place. It’s really anything you want it to be.”

Purchase/Stream Me and That Man’s new album New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.! here.

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