Pagan – Black Wash 2018 press photo_credit Andrew Basso
Photo Credit: Andrew Basso

Pagan talk recording process and the Evil Eye

Melbourne’s Pagan are forging plans of world domination. Having just dropped their downtuned debut record, Black Wash, they’re beginning to draw attention from the metal community at home and abroad, and have a national tour lined up for August.

We sat with bassist Dan Bonnici to discuss the hype and the album’s beginnings. After listening to Black Wash, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the album Pagan had spent their entire career working towards, with a refined, consistent sound and theme throughout the album. But surprisingly, as Bonnici explains, it was nowhere near as planned as it sounds.

“About 12 months ago we had no plans to do anything, but a lot of our peers were really pushing us to do it. It was really nice to know that people outside of the band believed in it enough.

“The original idea of Pagan was that we were going to release 13 songs as singles and then just break up, but then a record label got in touch and we thought ‘We should probably do this instead’…”

It’s a good thing Pagan’s friends pushed them to continue, because the result is fantastic. Black Wash sounds fierce, commanding your attention at every turn. It flows between melodic metal and incredibly intense, hardcore moments, but all feels consistent and considered.

High Tension’s Mike Delandes was summoned as the producer, and it sounds like he was the only real choice for the band.

“When we thought about who to record with, we immediately thought of Mike. He worked at the rehearsal studio we played at, and we formed a friendship through that.

“From the first time recording with him we felt like he was part of the family. We’ve formed a friendship with him that’s transcended past just being a producer/engineer.”

In Italian folklore, the idea of the ‘the evil eye’ is a curse that’s brought about when you’re jealous of someone. If you’re feeling jealous towards someone, you can ultimately curse them

And what tricks did he use to get Pagan to sound like Pagan?

“He’s a very ‘Play the song, get the take and go, go, go’ sort of guy. And that’s how we like it. He’s not a guy who spends time getting four to five takes to get the perfect one, he’s a guy who will say ‘That performance was sick, let’s use that’.

“There are four people in Pagan, but five people are definitely on that record”

For a first album, Pagan deliver a very sophisticated arrangement of songs, which all connect to an underlying theme that threads through the whole album.

“There’s definitely a theme on the album, through NIkki’s lyrics, about escaping a toxic relationship. We linked that to the metaphor of when people get involved with religion or cults and find it very hard to escape. Sort of a ‘Church of the Black Wash’ concept.

“Musically, we wanted to write an album. We didn’t go ‘These are our best 11 songs, let’s just record them’.”

This approach to making the album pays off in droves, and is best captured by the opening and closing tracks, ‘Il Malocchio Si Apre’ and ‘Il Malocchio Si Chiude’, Italian for ‘The Evil Eye Opens’ and ‘The Evil Eye Closes’, respectively.

“In Italian folklore, the idea of the ‘the evil eye’ is a curse that’s brought about when you’re jealous of someone. If you’re feeling jealous towards someone, you can ultimately curse them.

“The last song, Il Malocchio Si Chiude, is made of parts from other songs. It’s a big summary to the whole record. We wanted to bring them back to life for one last time, almost as a send-off.”

Despite such quick success, and a relentless touring schedule, Pagan are showing no signs of slowing down, and are planning to get to Europe in the near future.

“It’s looking pretty promising that we get to tour Europe later this year, so hopefully that works out. The album will be out on Hassle records in UK and Europe, so it will be good to push with that. Maybe we might start working on some new stuff. But for now just predominantly touring.”

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