Well, the reunion itself probably took place the moment I decided to resurrect IMPERATOR in December 2017. So since that moment I collected the line-up, practiced like hell throughout 2018 and had 3 gigs in December 2018. The rehearsals were really intense cause I practically had to learn to play the guitar again. Between 1995 and 2017 I picked the guitar only on a couple of occasions so it was a real challenge to agree to perform alongside Behemoth at Merry Christless’18. Some people don’t believe I didn’t use the guitar for more than two decades. Well, it’s true, hahaha…But, as I say it involved almost 200 rehearsals in 2018 to regain what was lost! This year we have been rehearsing the rest of the material and 2 weeks ago played a pretty good gig with the Hungarian Tormentor, Nun Slaughter and Iron Angel. Twas a very good hang out as well, you might imagine…
2.Your material had a sound that was in between early black and death metal, do you feel you have had an influence on both of the genres with the later bands that came out after the first album?
Never gave it much thought, but heard in those 20 plus years such comments. Couple extreme metal scene people remarked that we must have had some influence on a number of bands judging by their music or even album cover artwork. I also got a lot of letters and then mails between 1995 and 2017 from different bands worldwide saying that we were their inspiration. Nice as it may seem it does not especially make me be ready to boast about it. Am simply grateful for such an energy flow. And wish all those bands all the best!
3.I have read that the band at one time was going to release an album on Deathlike Silence before being released on a different label, can you tell us a little bit more about what happened during that time?
It’s been commonly known that I had a pretty good contact with Euronymous and Dead from MAYHEM. And there were some really advanced plans to issue IMPERATOR as Anti-Mosh 002 by Euro’s ‘Deathlike Silence’, but we finally didn’t do it. We were back then in Poland still deeply rooted in the communist reality and it was so fuckin’ hard to swiftly prepare everything on time. Plus the problem of sending the money from the label onto the Polish bank accounts (cause it was not easy in Poland, sometimes impossible), the circus with finding a proper recording studio, getting contact with any appropriate sound engineer and so on and so forth. I remember talking to Euronymous on the phone a lot and trying to find a solution, but it wasn’t easy back then behind the fuckin’ Iron Curtain. So all those factors badly delayed the album’s release and finally I didn’t want to wait forever and decided to jump at a local chance in Poland and recorded it in 1990. Then we released it in 1991.
4.Your lyrics had a good amount of references to the 'Necronomicon' 'Ancient Grimoires' and the writings of Agrippa and Crowley, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in the occult?
I was really fond of those topics while writing the lyrics. In the mid and late 80’s (those were the years when the material for the demos and ‘The Time Before Time’ was written) you couldn’t find in Poland anything about the occult. Or almost anything. There were a few people I had contact with who were part of a pretty hermetic circle and I used to gain inspiration from our rare yet regular meetings. This is as much as I can tell you, I guess…
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Imperator'?
I remember sitting at a history class in the late 1983 or early 1984 and that history teacher was saying something about Saint Petersburg and the way it was built. In the middle of the lesson I got instantly awoken by what I heard. Namely; Peter the Great (tsar and later emperor of Russia) captured the Swedish fortress on May 12th 1703 (and May 12 is my birthday, hahaha), which later turned into a big city; Saint Petersburg. What I found morbid and stunning was the fact that tens of thousands of people died while building the city! And emperor in Polish means IMPERATOR, so I guess I had a perfect name for the band which literally didn’t even exist. I came up with the name of the band first, then there was a first logo and only then did I start even thinking who to play with. I knew that I wanted to play the guitar and that I wanted to play metal. At first sth more like AC/DC. I remember I even wrote a song called ‘Petersburg’, which had some lyrics like; ‘People are building and people are dying’. Then I heard ‘Show No Mercy’ and I no longer wanted to play like AC/DC, neither like SLAYER though hahaha…
6.Between 1991 and 1999 there was only one demo released after the first album, can you tell us a little bit more about what was going on during that time frame?
This demo was recorded by a bunch of guys who simply stole the name of the band from me! Period. I do not consider it an IMPERATOR demo and has already settled the case with the guys. Unfortunately in some sources you can still find it as an official IMPERATOR release, which IT IS NOT!
7.The band was broken up for 18 years, what was the cause of the split and also the decision to reform?
John, the band was practically broken for 24 years (not counting the summer of 1995 when I tried to resurrect it with some musicians, one of whom – Chris – is currently the band member). I decided to hibernate IMPERATOR at the end of 1993 cause we were playing too slow and not the way I wanted. It coincided with my moving to London for half a year, after which I didn’t want to play the tracks that we composed throughout 1993. We played them live and so on, but I guess deep in me I never accepted this slow IMPERATOR. And I was getting gradually fed up with the style of our music. In 1993 all around us the bands were playing fuckin’ faster and faster and we were heading towards different horizons and I hated that! Some songs which were written in 1993 were to some extent the whole band’s ideas, not only mine as with the demos and TTBT album, and I simply had another artistic vision. I couldn’t work this way any longer. In December 2017 Nergal and Orion invited me to play with BEHEMOTH during Merry Christless 2018 gigs. They suggested I resurrect IMPERATOR and be a special guest at the following year’s concerts. It was the spark that made me pluck up the courage, think and analyze. It was a fuckin’ hard decision to make. I risked a lot, probably the whole image of IMPERATOR that in some circles had by then become cult. But I felt I had to do it and I started to look around for musicians and the things rolled on…
8.Out of all of the shows the band had played in the past, which one stands out the most?
Many. We used to have a really wild reception during the shows. Some people say we (maybe along with the Hungarian TORMENTOR) opened the Eastern European extreme metal scene to the world, and I guess there’s much truth in it. So in the second half of the 80s we gained some recognition and those gigs were really memorable. Hard to name them all. I can only say that we were also pretty rough after the gigs so the hotels suffered and the bookers were often afraid of what we might leave behind, hahaha…twas madness!
9.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
We’re playing a pretty big 3 day festival in September and an exclusive gig with PROTECTOR in October. We were invited to headline one of the days at Destroying Texas metal festival this year, but the US is probably the last country we still need to have visas to, and we didn’t manage to arrange the visas for all the band members in time. I am in touch with the organizers and they are still interested in flying us into US in 2020, so I hope it’ll work out. Am also negotiating the terms of some European festivals in 2020…
10.Recently Nuclear War Now! Productions re-issued your 1991 album, how would you compare working with this label to your older label 'Nameless'?
I guess Yosuke is a pro! So far there hasn’t been any problem in communication and I hope it’ll be distributed the proper way. By the way, ’Nameless Productions’ was the name I came up with. The guy who paid for the studio and pressing of the vinyls back then had no idea whatsoever about music releasing and promotion. And he didn’t even have any such thing like a record company, label or whatever. That’s why my improvised name “Nameless Productions’…
11.On a worldwide level how has the reaction to your music back in the days by fans of underground metal?
As I already mentioned there was a lot of good energy flowing from fans all around the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s…Once I counted, back then, and it turned out I got letters from around 80 countries!
12.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
Novock and his band DEVILPRIEST are active and play some shows this year, the same with Richter and his band TRUCHLO STRZYGI. I don’t know their exact plans and they don’t interfere with IMPERATOR’s itineraries. So everything’s just fine!
13.Is there going to be a new album released in the future?
The process of my putting the riffs together isn’t too rapid and it has to take some time, but ideally I would like the world to hear some new tracks from IMPERATOR next year! Guess it’s more than possible…
14.Back in the day what where some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also do you still keep up with current metal releases?
It’s a tough question cause as honest as I can be with you I always discarded any similar riffs, sequences of tunes etc that I realized might have sounded like something already existing. And that used to be my strict code of ethics while composing any material. Of course we never knew what was simultaneously going on in the West cause, we couldn’t instantly catch up with the novelties. For the majority of our existence we were trapped behind the Iron Curtain and it pretty effectively isolated us from the rest of the world. Ask anybody that really knew/knows me and they will probably confirm that I didn’t accept anything that sounded like any other band. So if there are some analogous associations you might think off they must have been woven into IMPERATOR by chance, without my awareness of the other thing being already in existence. Then again I can say what I used to listen to, and if there were links that you could follow and find some resemblance it was purely coincidental. And there were dozens of bands I enjoyed and still enjoy listening to. In random order: VENOM, BATHORY, MERCYFUL FATE, CELTIC FROST (from ‘MT’ to ‘ITP’), SODOM (only ‘In The Sign Of Evil’, oh and ‘Expurse of Sodomy’), POSSESSED (only ‘Seven Churches’ – a masterpiece), ASSASSIN (only demos), MORBID ANGEL (demos and the gem, which is ‘Altars of Madness’), IRON ANGEL (only demos), AC/DC (mostly with Scott), INFERNAL MAJESTY, DESTRUCTION (EP and the first LP), SLAYER (from ‘SNM’ to ‘SITA’ – excluding ‘RIB’, which I don’t find overexciting), SEPULTURA (EP and the first LP), SCHIZO (demos), PROTECTOR (demo), KREATOR (from ‘EP’ to ‘FOH’ EP, with the mighty ‘PTK’ album ‘fcourse), VOIVOD (‘War And Pain’), TERRORIZER (assorted tracks), NAPALM DEATH (assorted tracks), EXTREME NOISE TERROR (assorted tracks), AGNOSTIC FRONT (assorted tracks), PANTERA (‘Vulgar Display Of Power’), THE RAMONES (assorted tracks), ATHEIST (the mighty ‘Piece Of Time’) and many, many more. I know once I send it to you I’ll realize I’ve just forgotten some big things… ;) And as for the second part of your question, I suppose, I am not a keen follower of the current metal releases, but I guess I’ll have to take a little closer look at the things now that we’re again part of the scene…
15.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Thanx for your interest in IMPERATOR John and keep up the good job! I have this strong feeling that we will strike forcefully in 2020. So I hope we’ll see some of you who are just reading it during one of our future shows! God lack to you all, Bariel.