Iron Fist Magazine

WAGNER ANTICHRIST INTERVIEW: “SARCÓFAGO REFUSES TO DIE”

Heavy metal’s collective canon boasts a sizeable handful of bands whose influence and importance are indisputable; names like Iron Maiden, Death, Motörhead, Venom, Bathory and Black Sabbath loom larger than life (or death) and always will. However, few of metal’s legendary figures cut quite as stark and ugly a figure as these masters of primitive death; a band that requires no introduction, took no prisoners, brought forth the primal roots of black metal from the fetid bowels of Brazil and spread their poison across the globe: Sarcó fuckin’ Fago. To say that it’s an honour to have been granted a rare interview with founding member Wagner Antichrist is putting it lightly.

“The honour is mine,” he counters. “I think it’s strange because I don’t believe in the idolatry of men. But I do believe in the idolatry of ideas. Men fail, but ideas persist. I think we’ve done our bit to change the history of misery and alienation of our youth in relation to religion and politics, but there’s still a lot to be done.

“However, I don’t see many bands thinking about that nowadays,” Wagner complains. “Regarding the worship of Sarcófago, I’m not surprised at all because people who are into metal are the most loyal around when it comes to music appreciation. In other genres fads come and go and no one remembers, but metal is different. I for one listen to metal every day and I think I will do that until the end. In the same way that our fans dig what I did, I love what Iommi and Ozzy did, and they, in turn, love what the Beatles did and so on and so forth. This type of music is a vicious cycle.”

Sarcófago’s cycle began decades ago, in 1985, when vocalist Wagner and his comrades, Butcher (guitars), DD Crazy (drums) and Pussy Fucker (bass), were still too young to buy beer (not that it ever stopped them from pursuing that unholy trinity of sex, booze and metal). Now, over a quarter of a century later and after years of silence, Sarcófago have stirred. The band is finally sanctioning a series of reissues of their legendary albums and lost classics, and a newly-minted partnership between lauded Brazilian metal peddlers Cogumelo Records and Florida’s Greyhaze Records has resulted in the just-released expanded edition of 1995’s seminal ‘Decades Of Decay’ compilation (on CD and double LP). Not only that, but Wagner hints that there is more to come. “Die Hard Sarcófago fans will get some real bad news in the months and years ahead! This shit thing called Sarcófago refuses to die!”

However, when asked about the possibility of new Sarcofago material or an official reunion, all Iron Fist got was a shrugged “Who knows?’. While the band’s future is hazy, Wagner is much more forthcoming when it comes to the band’s past.

“Here’s the real story no one knows. The real Sarcófago to me was the band that recorded ‘I.N.R.I.’ [1987, with Incubus now on bass duties]. We were really young when we recorded that album – I was 16 or 17 years old at that time. We were so crazy and wild that our parents had to separate us and send us to different cities in Brazil, apart from each other by more than 550 kilometres! My mother took me to a city called Uberlandia to keep me away from the metal scene because I was totally into alcohol, fights and all kind of adolescent confusions at that time. DD was also sent by his parents to a far away city called Juiz de Fora .Visits to jail, hospitals and lawyers were not so interesting to our parents and was not the future that they expected for their sons. They wanted us to become engineers, doctors or economists and we were going the opposite way – right straight to hell and graveyards and it wasn’t to just take pictures” Wagner laughs. “Well, when I moved to the other city I continued to drink but not as much. In that new city nobody really knew what black or death metal was. The only ones who knew about it were me, my cousin and two or three friends. By the way, that was the time when I started my studies in Economic Science. So, that is how Sarcófago continued to exist: between classes of Microeconomic Theory and Econometrics [laughs]. I started to try to learn how the fuck to play the guitar [because] the truth is that Sarcofago was something done in the raw, for real! I never really had any guitar lessons, but you should know that by listening to me playing!”

“After the ‘Rotting’ EP [1989] I asked a friend who was a good guitar player [Fábio Jhasko] to join the band as well as a new drummer [Lucio Olliver]. That is how we did our most technical LP, ‘The Laws Of Scourge’ [1991],”Wagner continues. “It’s a nice LP, but it lacks a bit of the real Sarcófago essence, which is the pure and disgusting noise, fast and brutal vomits and all the raw shit that marked our first LPs. After we were done with ‘Laws…’ I became again the only guitar player and programmed the fucking drums to play faster than any human being could do. I don’t regret that at all and say a big ‘fuck off’ to the ones that criticise our approach to using drum machines. So that is how ‘Hate’ [1994] came about. We just wanted it to be disgusting and disturbing fast and sick! After that we did ‘The Worst’ [1997] and we added some more heavy riffs and stuff on it, because heavy parts are very important for Sarcófago noise too. And finally came ‘Crust’ [2000], which was the opus of our disgusting noise and sick kind of music. That was at the same time that I was getting my PHD in Economics and started working on a real job. I think some people might find it amusing that someone like me could earn a PHD and front a band like Sarcófago at the same time. The truth of the matter is that this kind of music cannot put bread on the table and back then I was not really interested in starving to death, so I needed to work. And as you can imagine, there is no way to be a good researcher and professor in academia and keep Sarcófago alive at the same time, so the band was put in some kind of limbo; buried in a real sarcophagus in Egypt.”

Wagner’s work as a professor of Economic Science and Applied Statistics at Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais brings to mind other heavy metal academics like Slough Feg’s literary lecturer Mike Scalzi or Sigh’s physics maven Dr Mikannibal and adds a colourful footnote to the Sarcófago legend. One imagines that his mother, at least, is quite proud (and pleased to see that her earlier disciplinary tactics paid off).

“Economics is my profession but metal music is what I will always do for my pleasure,” Wagner says. “One day a boy came with a ‘I.N.R.I.’ T-shirt to class and I asked why he had such bad taste in music [laughs]. It’s really strange; the two worlds don’t mix very well. The world of economists is darker and sadder than the one of metal.”

Let’s step outside the classroom. Sarcofago’s metallic innovations (like the aforementioned blastbeats, for one), brutally Satanic lyrics and grim aesthetic (black leather, chains, spikes, oh my!) helped to cement their standing as a major influence on the development of black metal and extreme metal as a whole. Without records like ‘I.N.R.I.’, ‘The Laws Of Scourge’, ‘Hate’ and ‘The Worst’ black metal as we know it would not exist. Wagner agrees vehemently.

“It’s sad that some people think that extreme black metal, not Venom or Mercyful Fate, was created in Norway and nowadays is deemed as ‘True Norwegian Black Metal’! The Scandinavian kids tried to copy what Sarcófago was doing here in South America in 1984 and 1985. Cemetery pictures, blastbeats, corpsepaint, spikes, chains, inverted crosses, blasphemies and the profanation of Christ and religious images and churches was our way of life and expressed our revolt against Catholic and other religious and political oppression and exploitation of the poor that was and is killing our people here.

“I myself sent a lot of Sarcófago stuff to the guys in Mayhem, Beherit, Morbid and many others. I think that they learned well, but to say that this kind of music is originally from Norway is really a joke. I think it’s probably what idiots that don’t know metal history say. These are the same kind of idiots that think that crap like ‘Cradle Of Shit’ is black metal! Fuck off melodic black metal! Black metal in my view was meant to be the most depraved and disgusting kind of sick music around. It’s a total shame to see that some assholes are making a lot of money on it by putting on some bitchy make-up, adding fluffy keyboards and making some music videos showing some rich whores. Don’t buy this kind of shit if you really care for what brutal music means! Black metal should not be a capitalist merchandise item – it’s meant for sick people only!”

“The influences that inspired us were mainly Finnish and British hardcore bands like Rattus, Kaaos, Discharge, Tervett Kadett and Crude SS,” Wagner continues. “For the vocals parts I must admit that my main inspiration as a vocalist was Wendy O Williams from the Plasmatics’ ‘Coup d’Etat’ era! That woman really had guts and balls and knew how to growl! For the drums I don’t know what was going through DD Crazy’s head when he created blastbeats – yes, he created that sick kind of drumming beat! When he created that, he used to call that beat ‘Bateria Metralhadora’, which is Portuguese for ‘Machine Gun Beat’, not ‘Blastbeat’ as people say nowadays. I think that he took the drums from Sodom’s ‘Sepulchral Voice’ and played that at 45 RPM or faster, and that beat was born! Witchunter was a real cool drummer, RIP. That was the time when Sodom was a really good and noisy band, not the weak and idiot thrash metal of later albums. I never liked thrash too much; only the first Exodus or the first Living Death albums. Let’s take Metallica for instance: I think they were 30 percent good and 70 percent boring at the time of ‘Kill ‘Em All’. We can also mention Megadeth as one of the most boring bands that I have ever heard. It’s a shame that they put them instead of Exodus or Destruction in the so-called ‘Big Four’ of thrash. ‘Bonded By Blood’ is the best thrash album of all time!”

While their relationship with thrash metal seems a bit fraught to say the least, Sarcófago’s soft spot for punk rock was always apparent, and their progeny have expounded upon those three chords in a multitude of ways. Despite their shared genealogies and history of inbreeding, though, metal and punk often make uneasy bedfellows, and in Wagner’s opinion, it comes down to more than the classic longhair versus mohawk debate.

“I think that the worlds of metal and punk don’t mix together because metalheads are a bit alienated from the real world! The punks are always more grounded on earth and know the real world problems and fight against them. Metal guys are more into the ‘spiritual’ problems and maybe are a bit more outside of the real problems that we face on this stupid planet. So I think that the problem is the focus on the enemies that each genres elected to fight against. We have had some good relationships and respect with the punk and hardcore movement because we have some common flags to fight against, like religion and political manipulation of the people by the government and preachers.

“As far as the [extreme metal] scene, I think it is neither better nor worse; it’s only bigger in the number of bands. Also the equipment and the sound quality is way better nowadays, at least here in Brazil. During the time of ‘I.N.R.I.’, it was almost impossible to find equipment such as a Marshall amp or a Gibson, Jackson or Fender. We only had these shitty guitars, basses and amplifiers which were made in Brazil. A Boss Heavy Metal pedal, for instance, was the Holy Grail! Bad and poor times…”

Don’t for one second think that Wagner Antichrist is only looking to the past. “I listen to metal every day and buy a lot of stuff, mainly vinyl LPs on eBay,” he admits. “I think almost everything that is out today is way overworked and extremely technical, but to me it’s really too technical, which makes it too boring! When I listen to some bands like Nile, Necrophagist or even the Brazilian guys from Krisiun I think ‘Okay, you play well and fast, but please give me the new Autopsy LP now’. I’m not a stupid guy that will go and say that only the old is good and fuck the new, but I really don’t care if you can play well or fast. I think that music must have feeling and that is exactly what is lacking in most of the new death or black metal bands. Is originality asking too much? But really, 90 percent of black metal I see today is not very interesting or original. To be honest with you, the only black metal music I really like from new bands are the LPs from Inquisition and some things from Immortal. The rest are just love songs for suckers. I’m very interested in some of the new slower, doomier and darker bands like Acid Witch, Abysmal Grief, Lord Druid and Hooded Menace. This is really what I listen to nowadays: just fucking creepy dark and good horror noise. Also I like some stoner bands like Las Cruces and Electric Wizard, of course. There is only one new and lightning-fast death metal band that I have been listening to quite a bit these days: Fleshgod Apocalypse from Italy.”

Maybe with all this new music onslaught, Sarcófago could have a renewed, forward-looking aspect to their career. But looking back upon Sarcófago’s career, and as a final note, one has to wonder: is there anything Wagner Antichrist would have done differently?

“Yes, I would have fucked more sluts in our gigs and shows,” he laughs. “Nowadays, girls in the black and death metal shows are a lot better and prettier than in our days. Maybe this is the only thing I should thank Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir and their melodic and romantic black metal for! Back in our times the girls looked way uglier, smelled way worse, and were as fat as pigs! But we were not like Bon Jovi or Sebastian Bach too, so, no problem!”