If an American Dream still exists that doesn’t involve the slow and steady race towards fascist totalitarianism, unchecked corporate welfare, the 99 percent getting fucked like a first-day porn star by the powers that be, police state heavy-handedness, mass ignorance veiled as exceptionalism and widening political and societal divisiveness, then Vladislav Bârladeanu is living that example. Originally hailing from Târgu Mureş, Romania, the man affectionately known to friends, family and illicit substance peddlers the world over as Vlad the Inhaler, kicked his Persekutor black metal project into life back in the mid-‘00s with the help of a local guitarist, a drum machine and an unhealthy obsession with drug abuse and cold weather. Those (pill) salad days bequeathed the impossible-to-find, hardly-heard classic Angels of Meth in 2005. A move to Los Angeles about ten years ago allowed Vlad to not only dive head-first into the sand, sun and culture of Venice Beach and whatever debauchery remained on the Sunset Strip, but also direct time and energy to Persekutor in an environment that was less-than-primitive and supportive.
After a series of limited-edition EPs released in the middle of last decade, Vlad has cobbled together a lineup to make Persekutor a full band and help him in his quest for world domination, free beer and discounted drugs. The next step, the band’s second full-length, Permanent Winter which sees the addition of liberal amounts of NWOBHM-style riffing and melody to the punked-up black metal that started this whole mess some fifteen years ago.
Set for release on Svart Records on September 4th, Permanent Winter is the latest chapter in the rags to less-than-rags story of this starry-eyed Transylvanian and sees Vlad well on his way to becoming a hundredaire as he and his new charges line themselves up as a force to be reckoned with in the field of scathing melodic metal. We caught up with Vlad for his thoughts on his new life, his new band, their new album and his new home.
How has life been treating you since moving from Romania to California? What have been the biggest culture shocks and how do you feel you have adjusted?
Vladislav Bârladeanu: “I am of course enjoying warm weather, high fructose corn syrup and bikini girls at (the) beach, but having much surprise about politics climate. We are of course much accustomed to many styles of dictatorshipping in Romania, but no one is excited about (the) dictator himself, you know what I am saying? In US and A, people are cheering for dictator with genuine enthusiasms, so it puzzles for me. Also many US and A peoples are seemingly proud to be (a) dummy. Of course Romania is having plenty of dummies also, everywhere is having fair share of this, but no one is excited to be a dummy like dummies of US and A. How am I doing (with the) adjustment? Much bigger selection of alcohols here.”
Do you still feel a strong connection to your roots and heritage or do you feel it being white-washed by American culture? Is Persekutor a deliberate way to keep those ties alive?
“Persekutor is existing no matter where I am living, but I am feeling that Persekutor only existing like this here in US and A with these guys in the lineup. (The) band is not having many opportunities for good equipment and professional concerts in Romania. For Persekutor to be a proper live band playing killer show all the time, I am coming here. And then the pandemic is happening but this is of course affecting everyone, not just we.”
On a related unrelated note, tell us what happened when you made your live debut opening for Power From Hell.
“On one hand, we are having a fantastic Los Angeles debut concert. The performance of band was top notch. I was even remembering most of lyrics. Later, we are finding exotic powders backstage — bonus! But as night is continuing, the crowd is getting rowdy, many fights, this kind of thing. Soon, female companions are feeling not so safe, so I am escorting them to an apartment around (the) corner. When I am returning like fifteen minute later, (the) venue is surrounded by police, like eight cop cars plus two fire trucks and LAPD is saying I cannot go in because someone is stabbed. I am hearing later that this person is surviving wounds, but cannot confirm.”
Tell us about Persekutor’s new members. What happened to Iron Slasher and Doktor Impossible?
“Doktor Impossible is (a) machine. Literally, is drum machine. Broken one too, so is not making (the) trip to Los Angeles. Iron Slasher is (a) much (more) complicated story involving drug binge, surprise pregnancy and angry relations of famous Romanian celebrity. I am not in contact with him for couple of years, but I am hearing he is in (the) Romanian Navy these days. If they are not throwing him overboard yet. New band guys is awesome, of course. On lead guitar we are having Inverted Chris Velez from Lightning Swords of Death band. On lead drums we are having Scott Batiste from Saviours and Ides of Gemini band. On lead bass we are having Adam Murray from Deth Crux and Ides of Gemini band. They are taking Persekutor to (the) next level, yes.”
The music on the new album seems to be more inspired by the NWOBHM in terms of riffing style and tempo. Was this a result of the new members’ contributions or a deliberate creative move?
“Well, all music on (the) album is written by me. I am making demos on cassette machine and guys are learning songs, solos, etc. But they are playing these things with much more skill than I am having with sausage fingers and caveman brain. And we are all loving NWOBHM musics, of course. Venom and Maiden (are) staples of Persekutor lifestyle, and also Diamond Head, Def Leppard and Angel Witch. Too many classic from this genre for listing.”
How long did it take to write Permanent Winter? Was there anything different about how this album was written?
“It’s taking many years for writing of album, but mostly because (the) move to Los Angeles is taking much time to prepare, plus getting adjusted to new culture and (a new) climate (not snow), etc. Six songs (were) written in Romania years ago, one more recent and then two after move to California. But (our) writing pace is much faster now, most of (the) next album is written already. Motivation for songs? To be masters of ice metal, which we are doing of course.”
Was there anything that was done differently in terms of the way the album was recorded compared to what you had done in the past? Was this the first time you worked with an actual producer?
“Yes, first time with producer. First time not recording on (a) shitty four-track in Târgu Mureş barn. (Producer) Phil Vera is the Rick Rubin of powerviolence so we are knowing he can capture the Persekutor style. We (recorded the) album in two session at Veracuda Studios in El Sereno, March and October last year. Five songs each session, nine songs on album. (The) final song is (a) special cover version we are saving for future release.”
What are some of the themes and topics being tackled on this record’s lyrics? Historically, Persekutor has had an obsession with cold and winter. Why? Is your love and admiration of the cold thawing as you’ve spent more time in the California sunshine?
“Eight out of the nine song on album end in freezings to death. Two inspired by many battles of Peter the Great, but also freezings to death. One inspired by (the) 1984 film Iceman, where guy is freezing, but not to death. Last song ‘Black Death Punk Skins’ has no freezings whatsoever. There will be more songs about cold and winter on next album, but also songs that have nothings to do with this. We are ‘expanding palette’ as artist who is not we might say.”
Does Permanent Winter have any special story behind why you chose it as a title?
“Well, more likely scenario for planet is ‘Permanent Summer,’ but that is sounding like (a) shitty Beach Boys album so we go in (the) opposite direction. But there is science theory that Earth is freezings a couple times already, and might be freezings again. Time is telling.”
What’s going on on the cover of the new album? What is the significance of the image and what is the drawing supposed to represent?
“Album cover artwork is very much inspired by scenes in (our) favourite films. We are sharing this idea with Jef Whitehead and he is of course master of this domain so is doing (a) magnificence job. (It) was his idea to add ‘blood cascade’ in background and obviously this is working.”
How did you get hooked up with Svart Records? Given that the label is more known for its focus on bands from Finland, how much sweet talking did you have to do?
“It is actually Albert (Mudrian) from Decibel who (suggested) we send music to Svart after we are doing first session with Phil Vera in March. Tomi at Svart was very much liking and agreed to releasing of album. He is not even asking if we are from Finland, probably because it is obvious.”
Are there talks with Svart about re-issuing Angels of Meth on a broader scale with proper distribution, or any distribution for that matter?
“Album master (was) destroyed many years ago, so this is not happening. Fenriz (Darkthrone) is allegedly having only copy that is existing, but cannot confirm. As US and A president is saying, ‘Sad!’”
If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic and you didn’t live in a country that has abysmally blundered its response to that pandemic, what were you planning on doing in support of the album after its release?
“If no pandemic, we would be of course punching Euro festival circuit directly in tits. Hellfest, Wacken, Roadburn, Copenhell, Inferno, Extreme Obscene, etc. They are all wanting Persekutor, of course.”
Do you have hope that you will ever return to Romania whether to visit or on tour? Are you, like the rest of us, waiting for the country to start again from scratch after President Plump is voted out of office?
“We are hoping to make concert in Romania and all countries of Europe at earliest opportunities, yes. But who is knowing what will happen to US and A? This place is so much crazy. I was thinking Romania is maybe a little bit crazy, but is nothing compared to place like Florida or White House.”