Famous Firsts: Benighted

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As the band are about to tour the UK next month, Benighted’s vocalist reveals how all this started with a laugh and why corpsepaint is now thankfully a thing of the past for him…

What was the first album you ever bought?

“That must be Cannibal Corpse’s Butchered At Birth. That was actually the very first tape I bought, period. The thing is that until then, I just wasn’t into music, at all. I wasn’t even listening to the radio! It turned out I was really into horror movies so when totally by random I came across it with that shocking artwork, I knew I had to get this, even if I had no clue what I was spending my cash on. Obviously, having not experienced any form of extreme music before, my initial reaction was bewilderment to say the least ha ha. It actually became some kind of ongoing joke in between me and my friends: we were playing Butchered At Birth at the loudest volume possible to whoever hung out with us, just for laugh. Still, I kept playing it over and over again until I realised at some point that although I first found it absolutely absurd, I had come to like what I was hearing. That’s when Oliver and I (Gabriel, Benighted founding guitarist) decided to start doing music so we could emulate that racket. So as a musician, I went from nothing to brutal death metal right away.”

What was the first single you ever bought?

“Well, I’m sorry for all the hardcore music fans out there but I simply never bought any! As I told you, I wasn’t interested at all in music until Cannibal Corpse. And back then, CDs were already dominating the market – I still enjoy that format as a matter of fact and I never use Spotify, Deezer etc. Ironically, I do have some vinyls at home because I like the design and the object itself but I don’t have any turntable to play them with, I actually have to go to my mom’s to use hers.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“That should be Artefacts in 1998 – an outdoor festival in Strasbourg, France with Moonspell, Therion and Cradle Of Filth on the bill. Since I wasn’t into music previously, I wasn’t interested either in live shows. And it’s only after we had formed Benighted and started rehearsing that I realised maybe I should go to at least one concert, just in case we were asked at some point to do one ha ha! I ended up going to Artefacts because I was living in a part of France where very little was happening so I really wanted to see as much as I could in one go. And I was then heavily into Cradle Of Filth so this prompted to choose this one.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“It was with Benighted since I had no musical experience prior and I think it was in October 1998, I don’t remember exactly. We set it up ourselves in a local bar in St-Etienne that doesn’t exist anymore and really worked hard on promoting it the old-school way, using flyers and good old word-of-mouth. Eventually, we managed to attract about one hundred people, mostly friends and relatives, but still. And even though we didn’t have a demo out then, we were quite proud of playing a set of only originals – no covers. We did something like nine songs, only half of them we would later record for our self-titled debut. We had a great time but if there’s one thing that makes me cringe nowadays, it’s that we wore corpsepaint on stage because we were much more into black metal. Thankfully, only a few pictures have survived from the event ha ha.”

How was the first Benighted tour?

“It was a 15 date French tour in October and November 2007 with our buddies of Recueil Morbide and Kronos for the Terrorize The Sick tour to promote the Icon album. We were a bit anxious because there was no day off and I was personally a bit afraid that my vocal chords would make it through so many gigs in a row. But everything went smoothly in the end and I think we partied for like three weeks! After this, we did Europe the following year opening for Aborted for 12 shows. But if you’re talking about our first full-scale, one month long European tour, it would have to be the one we did with Morbid Angel in 2011. We’ve had never been away from home so long and on tour, our drummer Kevin Foley was helping out Nervecell, a great deat -metal band from United Arab Emirates who were also on the bill, meaning that he had to play two sets a night! Plus there were all those guys who had warned us about Morbid Angel, saying they were acting like rockstars and that we had to get ready to have a rough time but none of it proved to be true. Still, the fact that we were touring for the first time in a proper tour bus surely helped. I have to admit that we barely spoke with Trey Azagthoth who was in a world of his own, but we really got along with David Vincent for instance. Most people don’t know but he’s got a great sense of humour and we’re still in touch. On that tour, he used to make fun of my pig squeals on stage, asking the crowd to ‘make some noise for our friends in Beniiiiiiiighted’ ah!”

Benighted are touring the UK with Cancerous Womb and Abhorrent Decimation next month:

1104: Croydon, Scream Lounge 1204: Bristol, The Exchange 1304: Liverpool, Magnet 1404: Edinburgh, Bannermans 1504: Leeds, Temple of Boom 1604: Birmingham, The Flapper 1704: London, The Face Bar