Interview: Bob of Rebel Wizard.
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
Bob Nekrasov is an Australian multi-instrumentalist who is the force behind the unique sound of Rebel Wizard, the black/heavy metal outfit. Rebel Wizard have not long released the latest album, ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’. Paul caught up with Bob at his home in Lismore, Northern New South Wales
The Razor's Edge: Can we get the virus conversation sorted first. How are things with you?
Bob: I live a self-isolationist existence anyway, so it suits me! People must keep their distance which is fine by me. I’m a bit of a hermit anyway. We are lucky to have moved to a pretty rural area so I’m not near a city and haven’t lived in a city for about 20 years.
The Razor's Edge: You are an interesting character because you do all your stuff yourself. Give me a bit of background about how you got into heavy music and learnt to play music.
Bob: I started playing guitar young, about four or five and found a guitar in my mom’s cupboard. Then I saw KISS on TV for the first time. I grew up in the 80s so things were just around. Where I am from, where I grew up, it was never cool to be into metal, but it was always somehow there. A good memory for me is when I was in grade 3 or 4, and I had a friend who had gone to Bali and you could get bootleg tapes cheap. We couldn’t afford to go to Bali, but he went and would get tapes. He had Seventh ‘Son of A Seventh Son’ and I’d heard Maiden before but the cover and the album were mind blowing. I was into stuff like’ Ride the Lightning’ and ‘Rust In Peace’. In Australia, the metal scene is very jockey and meat headed. It never resonated with me and that is why this Rebel Wizard thing is what it is. It’s just me, a lifelong love of music philosophy. It’s everything that I love, and which has made such an impact on me, along with life experiences really. As a kid I wanted to be a heavy metal wizard, so I’m just living out what I wanted to do.
The Razor's Edge: Growing up in the 1980s, kids today can’t understand about not accessing music on tap. But having to rely on a mate to pick stuff up in Bali whilst on holiday is pretty tough.
Bob: That’s the thing. To some degree that’s what the feeling of Rebel Wizard is because I do miss that feeling. It is a magical and mystical and sacred practice discovering these gems. I always had guides along the way, there was always a synchronicity, it didn’t happen to anyone else, but I was lucky. I used to hang out at the local video store when I was a kid and I’d meet a girl who was older and her boyfriend would give me tapes of things like Morbid Angel’s ‘Altars of Madness’ on one side and Napalm Death’s ‘Scum’ on the other. Those are life changing moments. We used to have a metal show on the radio in the middle of the night called Three Hours of Power and I remember waking up one night at about 2am and hearing Darkthrone’s ‘Natassja In Eternal Sleep’. And the feeling of that at that time was otherworldly. Truly mystical experiences.
The Razor's Edge: I can appreciate that completely because I was growing up in the same era and had tapes that cut out before the end of the song. I think I was in my thirties before I finally heard the ending of ‘Evil’ by Mercyful Fate! Do you think there is something that having been brought up in that era gives an emotional attachment that maybe those who have everything at their streaming fingertips may not have?
Bob: I find it unfair to comment on what people are going through today as hopefully they will have their own passions but for me, it is fundamental. That is what Rebel Wizard is to me. People say, “it’s such a mix of things and it all works really well”, but all I am doing is creating that feeling again for me. Not replicating or living off nostalgia but having a nod to it.
The Razor's Edge: You started playing guitar early and you now play all the instruments. Was there a natural progression? Have you always been musical?
Bob: Yes, I’ve always had that. I have another project called Nekrasov which is very ambient black metal noise type thing and even with that I used to mess around with stuff at an early age, with keyboards and things , so I was always playing something. Guitar is the main thing, but I have piano accordions and harmoniums and stuff. I’ve always loved music. I wish I was a plumber; I’d be making more money!
The Razor's Edge: How has your set up evolved because you’ve been doing this for a long time. Have you added more pieces of kit?
Bob: No, it’s been stripped back. I use less, less is more. I’ve never been able to afford gear, to this day. I use a guitar given to me 20 years ago. I’ve not had funds to have good amps and guitars, so I’ve used what I have and I know how to use them. I know what I like. I have good stuff that I know how to work. I’ve tried to strip it back to make things easier to work with. For years, I had so much stuff to play with, and your productivity to play with. I feel comfortable with how I work and being older I really enjoy creating stuff and I don’t care about gear or pedals or any of that shite, I’m just getting and enjoying creating stuff.
The Razor's Edge: Looking at the Rebel Wizard catalogue, you hit a creative peak in 2015 with four EPs in one year. But you’ve put at least one piece from rebel Wizard every year. Is that purely how it comes out?
Bob: Yeah, I’ve always worked on stuff, or I’m working on things, and there is always opportunity to release music. My formative years were in the punk/hardcore scene in Melbourne, so my synapses come out of that, there was always a seven inch or split seven inch being issued and I liked that approach. So, in my head with the EPs I really wanted them to be on seven inch and I did them for me, not thinking anyone would be interested. I think in 2015 I had a better recording set up and it just happened. I found an opening where I had the window to do more Rebel Wizard stuff.
The Razor's Edge: Let’s talk about the latest release ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’. It’s a mighty sound and an amalgam of styles. Tell me how it came together.
Bob: It all just comes out as it comes out. Initially the idea was not to do any albums but after ‘Triumph of Gloom’, which just happened and came together and got onto Prosthetic [Records]. So, I thought, maybe I’m onto something! I guess with this one there is probably more of an understanding that I’m doing more albums. It’s always the same though, I let it do its thing. For me it is a holistic endeavour to do this thing, it’s not like doing a death metal band, I’m channelling every bit of me into that and see where it takes me.
The Razor's Edge: What about the writing for this album?
Bob: Some songs are quick, some I’ll sit on for ages, some riffs will wait a couple of years, it’s everything and I have no structural formula, it just comes out. Sometimes you can do a song quickly, some take time and some take years! There’s a song on the new album called ‘The Mind is Not Your Friend’ which wasn’t even planned to be on there and I was going to delete it and I’ve done that with other songs; I do overthink it. I can spend months and months listening and working on them and then I have to hate them and I’m in this gruelling period where you want to give up. It’s painful. It is fun but I torture myself about it. I’ve come to accept that music is what I do because it was never encouraged in me as a kid. It wasn’t a cool thing. I grew up in a sporty area where it wasn’t cool to be a musician. Now, if you are a guitarist in a metal band it’s a cool thing but it wasn’t back then. It was hard for me to do. The Nekrasov stuff is torture for me to do but I have to do it. The Rebel Wizard stuff is about easing up and having fun.
The Razor's Edge: Tell me a bit about the song titles. They are all interesting and long and raise eyebrows! Is it kind of your trademark?
Bob: For sure. Totally. It’s the whole thing coming together, the Rebel Wizard project is holistic, as opposed to having lyrics that are coercive in their ideas and concepts to the listener. We have titles that will hopefully cause one to think or investigate a bit. If they catch on to the feel of the music and how it is put together and connect it to the title of the song, which is pointing towards rather than giving you the concept as we are inundated with in this day and age. This music, and what it does for me, is creates a realm where you can disconnect from your usual situation.
The Razor's Edge: Do you have anyone else you bounce ideas off?
Bob: No. Normally I do but Rebel Wizard moved to something from the depths of my heart and being and fully being let loose.
The Razor's Edge: You obviously rely on streaming sites. How much of a challenge is that?
Bob: I still find it hard. I like Bandcamp, it’s a good platform. When you are in Australia trying to press records is so expensive. I used to run a punk label in the 1990s and it was easier. I stepped out of that and I don’t have the intention, not to force it. I just put it on and gave it to friends and out of interest sent stuff to some places that had reviewed Nekrasov which had a bit of a cult following for a while. I thought that they would find Wizard stupid, but the reviews were really good. Bandcamp is the best place to put music on to, we don’t all have people paying for everything. It also gives bands some money. I was able to buy some two-minute noodles a couple of times!
The Razor's Edge: Is social media is a necessity now?
Bob: Yeah, I didn’t have a Facebook page for a while, but I needed to do it as Prosthetic were prompting the music. This time round I wasn’t doing interviews or anything and it wasn’t to be like an edgy black metal dude, I didn’t want to ruin the mystique, but it was exclusive that no one knew anything about it! So, this time around I have been doing a bit more and I have been enjoying connecting with others about it because I didn’t think it would be something that many would enjoy. People are resonating and you connect on a different level. People want to find out more about the songs.
The Razor's Edge: Are you getting connections from around the globe?
Bob: Yeah, I had a dude from Iran, who messaged me and said you have some fans in Iran which was mind blowing!
The Razor's Edge: That is the real advantage of getting music out these days
Bob: I remember bracing for the internet when it started, because you and I are from that era where humanity has completely shifted for us, and especially this year. I was reading about Umberto Eco stuff and he was saying it is a really good medium to connect with the right people and of course, initially the point of the world wide web was as a form of anarchy and connection; a voice for those oppressed who could reach out for help. I like that connection and that is the benefit with restrictions and social isolation. Forcing the connection.
The Razor's Edge: What are your plans? Do you play it live?
Bob: I’ve done live shows. The first was a nightmare and I spent years perfecting it. I want to do it live. It’s my retirement plan to be this heavy metal wizard vagabond who tours around with his suitcase playing triumphant metal! Some dude with a wizard hat who comes on stage with an assault of majestic riffs!! I wanted to be free to have not much gear so getting it compact and go to weird places to play. That freedom to jump on a plane. The last gig the sound was awesome and it worked and I had a couple of buddies who showed up and one of my friends who did the latest video clip will be doing some visuals to complement the music. It should be good fun. In small pubs it should be so much fun. I’m using this time to get stuff ready. I didn’t expect the album to do so well so I’ll have to go back and relearn the songs!
The Razor's Edge: You probably have a bit of time!
Bob: Well, that’s the other thing I like about the pandemic. I was going to go to the States this year and Europe. I’d been talking to the Killtown booking crew and I really wasn’t bothered this year because we’d moved State and everything, so I was glad that I didn’t have to go!
The Razor's Edge: I’m reviewing much more widespread bands from Australia these days. How is the scene there and I appreciate it is a huge country?
Bob: Ah man, you are asking the wrong dude. I’ve been out of the scene since about 1997! With what I do, I tend to send it overseas, to the States and stuff. The nineties were a cool time but everything now factions out into subscenes. But Australia has loads of good areas with lots bands. Brisbane is a weird place but there are good bands like Portal; Melbourne is always busy. Adelaide is probably one of my favourites with a lot of good old school death stuff; you have Mournful Congregation down there, and Matia and Dark Lord.
Our line began to wobble a bit at this point, so I finished the interview with my grateful thanks to Bob for his time. Do check out ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’. It’s a blast of an album.