1914: Metal and the Horror of War

Ukraine has always had a strong metal scene. Some of the bigger names are well known, but also sort of ignored in the west. That’s mainly in the more black metal side of things, but politics (usually a reason for censorship) are almost unavoidable for bands. The same goes for 1914, even though their main theme is the Great War of a 100 years ago!

The band 1914 has a fascination with history, particularly the great war, which heralded an era of darkness for there part of Europe. The idea of a Ukrainian nation was crushed for years during this period of turmoil by the Soviet Union. The world saw huge changes and took the shape it still largely has.

So I got in touch with Dmytro Kumar, frontman of the band, who is fascinated with the Great War. Not only does he find it a historic time that he wishes to explore, he sees a continuation of sorts in our current history. That and more in this interview.

1914: Eschatology of War

Hey 1914! Can we start by introducing 1914? Who are the band members and how did you guys get together as a band?

We started 3 years ago, on the anniversary of the Great War, in summer 2014. And as it usually happens, first year was spent for rehearsals, grinding in, crew changes. Actually crew changes finished just this summer. So 3 years ago (when we split up with my hardcore punk band) I just wrote to a few good guys in Lviv with proposal – let`s play some kind of black metal and sludge, what do you think?
They said – hmm.. good idea))
So guys, what do you think about WW1 theme, soldiers fate, despair and a lot of history?
They said – ok, man, don’t fuck our brains with all of this, it`s up to you))
And we started.

Did you play in other bands before? And where did the need come from to form this band?

Yeah, all band members had a huge musical experience in another bands and styles – hardcore-punk, grindcore, brutal death, black metal, stoner, noise, industrial, nu-metal, MDM. As for me – my music story was started 20 years ago with my first punk band. So very different experience, but when we started together we liked the result. I define our style as trench core
There a few past band of our members: Disentrail, Ambivalence, Ratbite, John B Gut, and ForceOut.

Your theme is mainly World War I and surrounding themes. What made this theme so compelling to you? Is it the drama of it or maybe its idealism?

I think this type of questions always will be at our interview and will follow us everywhere)) So about Great War:
Over 10 years ago I went into war archaeology, actually WW1 archeology. I love this war, this history, uniforms, weapons, armament, stories about battles, the fate of soldiers. I am a really big fan of Great War. Here in Ukraine, there were many battles of Great War – Brusilov`s offensive, Carpathian winter operation, Galician battle. All kind of troops was there – Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, ottoman, Belgian, Romanian soldiers…they all here.
So I dig up dead soldiers – skeleton, with uniform, weapon, ammo, with all the stuff and wrote songs about their fate, silent death, their feelings, and fear.

I have always been inspired by this theme. I love films, books, stories, artifacts of this war. And no, it`s not about idealism. You cannot idealize any war – because war is always about shitty politics and bullshit propaganda, death, mud, mass graves, suffering, broken lives, despair. I just love history and this strange feeling – when you dig up a soldier, who died here 100 years ago, you sit down near these bones which once were human, with all human’s stuff – love, feelings, hope, some hobbies, maybe he was a beer lover, traveler, good musician, painter, maybe just good father or son, whose parents were waiting at home, you think – why and for what did he die? Why this fucking homo sapiens always killing each other? I don’t know, I just don’t have an answer.

Your music has a sort of grandeur to it, while not shying away from the dark and grim reality. In many ways World War I was a transition from one world to another. Is there a sense of melancholy or nostalgia to that for you?

Hmm…nostalgia. Yeah, maybe nostalgia is a right word. The Great War – this is the time when I would like to live, the strangest war, the last war of gentlemen and knights, the death of all empires, a time when the whole world was changed. I think my irrational love to this war and actually, this period of history was rooted in this word – nostalgia.
Fuck, typing this passage and understood what a boring old fart I am…

How did you find the sound of 1914? What sort of choices do you feel make you guys sound the unique way you do?

To be honest – I don’t know. A lot of rehearsals, good guys and a few bottles of moonshine. We`re just creating our songs the way we consider correct, with passion and every song some kind of a story about soldiers, how they died, their feats, about battles, gas, machine guns and tanks, about all of this deadly stuff of Great War, with all these emotions about nonsense and senseless war.

Are there any bands that inspire you and in what way?

As you can understand there are different musical tastes in band, so I’ll talk about mine
Music that I listen to and about influence – it will be a long list from Japanese noise to grindcore, from true BM to old school rap, from hardcore punk to industrial, electronic, death, doom, sludge, stoner.

Actually, I am a big fan of Misfits, Exploited, Anti-Nowhere League, New Model Army, UK Subs, Bolt thrower, Lake of tears, GBH, Paradise lost, Bathory, Grave, Obituary, Asphyx, Merzbow, Einstürzende Neubauten, Black flag, Mork Gryning, Aube, Mayhem, Bad religion, Darkthrone, Social distortion, Unleashed, Atrax Morgue and tones of old-school hardcore punk, death, true black metal from early 90`s and noise\industrial from 70-80`s. I fucking love Japan noise and some British and Scandinavian bands like Nordvargr, Dead Voices On Air, Cremation Lily, In Slaughter Natives. I`m a big fan and collecting releases of noise\industrial\ambient labels like Cold Meat Industry, Slaughter production, Cold Spring, Old Europa Café, Drone records, Ant-Zen etc. A lot of awesome new music we can have today and it`s great. If we talk about just one band what give`s me an inspiration I think it would be Lake of tears.

You’ve recently released the single ‘Stormtrupp 1917’. Can you tell a bit about that? Maybe what its about and what it signifies to you? (and is it related to the 1934 movie?)

This a first single from our upcoming album. About this song, we received different feedbacks, but mostly positive. The song is about German assault troops, and it’s neither about their glorifications, nor about propaganda or ode to Stormtrupp. No, it’s just a story from the first person, German’s soldier who loved to kill peoples and war. Because at the Western front this Stormtrupp were the most horrible and successful assault brigades. The same we have about Italian, British, Ottoman, Ukrainian troops. And yes, I wrote this song with a strong influence of this propagandist movie and book Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger, he was a German’s assault trooper, he was fought on the Western Front during the Great War. I even receive a letter with words like this – song about German soldiers with iron crosses, why? Are you a nazi band?

What could I say? Just no, it`s about human nature, homo sapiens behavior, history, and war. And – fuck nazis and all kind of totalitarian shitheads.

When I saw you live, I was quite impressed by the stage presentation and the outfits. It was quite powerful. How did you come up with this look and do you think it helps you to get into the state of mind your music requires?

Remember Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

– Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can –

If you know what I mean. If you get locked into a serious WW1 theme you cannot stop. So we use a some artifacts from WW1, some of this stuff I dig up by myself (all buttons, grenades, trench axes, helmets, etc) we use a real working Mosin–Nagant rifle as custom microphone stand, we use a lot of things to create an atmosphere of Great war – sounds of war, hymn samples, sounds of machineguns, speeches between songs about this part of history, old and rare video footage from WW1. Now we are planning to buy a copy of uniform from WW1 period (British, French, Russian, Austrian) and use it on the stage, so we becoming a real re-enactment. But all this stuff costs a lot of money, and I hope that some WW1 re-enactment clubs and teams will help us with this.

What role do politics play in the music of 1914? Dealing with themes of the World War automatically brings up connotations with the world we live in now. Do you put any of that in the music or does it play a part in themes you chose?

We’re 100% non-political band and we don’t want to have any relation to all that shit. To all that teenage ideology games within system boundaries. Yeah, we against all this bullshit like racism, nazis, commies, religions, all kind of discrimination and totalitarianism or any dictators shit. My only policy is to live, to love and to let others do the same. All the ideologies, politics, subcultures, games of movements that allegedly change the world can go fuck themselves.
War ended a hundred years ago, but still, we’re facing its consequences. Second world war, this monster – it’s an ugly child of Great War. All the geopolitics and Balkan conflict are the heritage of Great War. The Communist regime and the iron curtain, concentration camps and Third Reich, mustached dictators – this all started in the times of Great War. Arms races and conventions, tanks, aviation, chemical weapons – all stems from that time. Great War is way deeper and stronger in our life as you used to think.

I imagine being a band from Ukraine politics are impossible to keep out, seeing what the country is dealing with. At Kilkim Zaibu you paid homage to the Ottoman army who fought against the Russians You also drew a parallel with the modern world. Could you elaborate a bit on that?

As you know (or don’t) Russia invaded the neighboring country as usual. It’s their way of life – shit under every fence around, capture other’s land, and after all, that keep whining that nobody likes Russians. In fact, they invaded us again, as they did during last 100 years. Just the same way they invaded Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and so on, just like they once in the middle of Europe boldly captured Eastern Prussia and Konigsberg. This is what’s happening here right now – military intervention and seizure of territories. Of course, we’re all affected, I have many friends on the frontline now, my fellow musicians. It’s really hard to realize that in 2017 when Tesla rolls over the world and drives out fuel engines, water is found on Mars, Elon Musk plans private space journeys – our young guys are dying just because some insane post-soviet dictators imagined themselves to be masters of the world and invaded a foreign country. And Europe still feels deeply concerned with their tongue stuck deep in the ass. Such a position of frightened impotent. Or do you think these fuckers gonna stop on us?

How does 1914 create its music? Is it a band-effort or are there separate roles and one person in the lead?

I write all lyrics, concept and all this stuff. 90% of the music created by our guitar player Oleksa (Liam Fessen from 37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73). He just brings to rehearsal some parts and ideas, let`s play this way this and this. After that I often just have a picture in my head – oh… this new piece totally about Somma or about panzer A7V or about a British soldier in the shell hole.

I imagine you draw inspiration from history material. Are there specific books or films that you would recommend as required reading for people who get inspired to dig into this part of history through your music?

There are thousands of great books about WW1, tones of documentary films and photos. Of course books of Gerard De Groot, David Stevenson, John Keegan, Alistair Horne, Erich Maria Remarque and Ernst Junger, Martin Gilbert, Irving Root, Christopher Clark, Barbara Tuchman, Pat Barker, Paul Fussell, Siegfried Sassoon, Dalton Trumbo….i can type and type a thousand names. There are great publishing houses like Pen & Sword, Schiffer Books, and Casemate Publishers, they published a lot of great stuff about WW1. Very recommended their books. About films – there is not too much good films about Great War, some like 100 I think. So if you started right now watch it all, one per day – you will be finished around early spring And of course BBC and History documentary films.

In what way should we look at history? Should we make it a guide for our future or should we see it on its own?

Just a simple phrase – Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

What future plans does 1914 have?

Tell about the Great War to the whole world, to all metalheads, to all military fans. Told this part of history to all who can hear it. Record a new fucking awesome album, make a video clip, collaborate w a th big label (first of all find one), playing tours and gigs in EU as much as we can, and of course – creating a good music and stories about Great War. Sounds like plan?

If you’d have to describe 1914 as a kind of food, a dish, what would it be and why?

Bottle of Carpathian moonshine with marinated cucumbers and homemade salo. Why? Have you ever tasted it? Because it`s fucking good!

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