Kult ov Azazel is a long-running, much respected American underground act. I have been extremely fond of their malevolent, crushing brand of blackdeath since their inception, and can happily say that they’re still going strong and show no signs of slowing down. Frontman Xaphan blessed me with the opportunity to ask a dozen questions about The State of the Kult ov Azazel Union.

I’m looking at an old cassette from about 100 years ago called “Order of the Fly” by a band known simply as “Azazel”, what’s the story behind this?

In short it was our first actual recording as a band before we changed the name to Kult ov Azazel. Four songs were originally from the Enter Erebus demo that Xul had done before we hooked up along with “Forever Heaven Gone” and “Garden Of Shadows” which were songs we wrote together. We recorded all the music at a friend’s warehouse using a Yamaha MD8 digital recorder and recorded the vocals and mixed it in some office in the slums of Oakland Park. We then self released it on a CD and the rest, as they say, is history.

And here’s the same EP/demo with a whopping 18 tracks just released by Forbidden Records (of which I have a stake in. Shameless plug? Duh!). What made you decide to capitalize on this opportunity?

I had actually been kicking the idea around to reissue it with bonus material since it never really saw a proper release but hadn’t really approached any labels because I don’t want to give up the copyright or publishing since we have always maintained these. So all it really took was you contacting me about the interest Forbidden had in doing it. It was a no-brainer from there.

It’s been almost three years since the last album, Destroying the Sacred. I’m sick of waiting around for something new. What’s next in line?

We are definitely slated to do two more albums since just a few months ago we signed a two album deal with Negativity Records. Currently I have 4 songs that I was working on around the time right before and right after we did the recording of Destroying The Sacred. I still need to get with the others for arrangements being that I am old school when it comes to writing. I like to go into a room with a couple of riffs that work together and jam them out with drums and build from there. So I am hoping we can do that when Hammer comes in town next week to start rehearsing for the show we are doing on January 22 with Cannibal Corpse. Then Armanen has a few songs so ideally I hope we can work on new material next week in the midst of preparing for the show.

What drives this diabolical music? What primal emotions get conjured up when you step into Kult mode?

My passion for creating extreme Satanic music is what drives me. I like to destroy things through creativity. There’s also my lifelong interest/involvement in the occult and Left Hand Path. As for the emotions conjured it really depends on which song we are talking about. But overall the emotions are those of utter hate and Satanic pride.

Who are some of your influences on your art?

Venom, Venom, Venom, Venom. I can’t express that enough! They are the single biggest influence for me. The biggest! There’s actually a shitload of things that influence me from music, art, philosophy, everyday scenarios and so forth when it comes to the lyrics. There are really too many of these to single out individual influences.

You also contribute to other projects outside of The Kult. Tell us a little bit more about these.

From 2001-2003 I toured Europe with Hate Plow playing bass. In 2009 I did some live session guitar work for Tenebrous. Then there’s Heavy Bastard that I started with a friend back in 2010 which for the most part of our existence we have been doing local shows playing covers of old hardcore punk, crossover and metal tunes. Kind of like a tribute band but more so to a genre than any one band. We do stuff by Black Flag, Dr. Know, Suicidal Tendencies, GG Allin, The Accused, D.R.I., S.O.D., Gang Green, C.O.C., Descendents, Naked Raygun, Dead Kennedys and so on and even throw in some Motorhead and old Twisted Sister. Anyhow, I am sure you get the idea. Nothing past 1989. However we just recently wrote an original called “You Can’t Call It Rock-n-Roll” which we posted a rehearsal version on the internet. Check it out if you are so inclined by searching for Heavy Bastard on YouTube. There are tons of live videos too.

You’ve toured fairly extensively. Where is the best, greatest place to play and why?

With Kult ov Azazel it was Puerto Rico. The crowd was insane, the organizers completely pro and we were the first international black metal band to ever play the island. As for touring on a bigger scale definitely Europe. South America is sick too but not exactly the safest. But Europe and South America are the best metal-wise to tour and absolutely killer to travel. I must also give an honorable mention to Singapore as well! The worse county to tour is Indonesia. I got arrested, detained and finally deported along with Malevolent Creation when we were there in 2009. Won’t go back there again.

Arctic Music Group is a small, very specialized label that has put out the majority of your releases. How has your experience with them been throughout the years?

The experience with Arctic has always been a good working relationship. Now that we are no longer on the label my only main gripe is they didn’t really promote the last album nor properly print the according amount so it made it much harder to find than the original pressing of Order of the Fly. But on the grand scale they were great to us and I am very appreciative they allowed us to really make a footprint by giving us that four album contract. They helped open many doors for us.

The Kult has appeared on a good number of split albums. I’ve albums been very fond of these as they give the listener a chance to experience some killer bands with less effort. What is your rationale for so many of these?

I think splits help expose otherwise unknown or lesser known bands to a cross-section of listeners. At times it has helped to expose us to an audience that may have never taken the time to listen to us and more recently I have done it to help support and give bands I like a broader audience.

What does the demon Azazel represent to you?

The Lord of Hell and the seducer of mankind.

Given the nature of the music, the scene, the lifestyle and all that it entails, do you welcome controversy and “bad publicity”, so to speak?

Any publicity is good publicity. Positive or negative. That’s how I see it.

So where do you go from here?

From here I go on to answer more interviews. Now that this reissue has emerged there’s been a renewed interest in the band again. This is the first interview I have done in over a year. It’s been pretty silent the past year as I focused on Heavy Bastard so it’s good to get back on track again with Kult ov Azazel. We also have a split 7” inch coming out soon on Negativity Records with Teratism. It’s a tribute to Venom titled “In League With Satan”. Other than that I hope to get a new album out this year and get the band back out on tour and doing shows again.

Thanks brother Xaphan for staying true and maintaining your integrity for all these years. It’s always been a pleasure being your comrade and assisting your craft in any way I can! Stay strong, and may you live forever!