Profile: Michal Kusak of Tech-Death Metallers Supreme Conception

Supreme Conception, from the Czech Republic, have been around since 2006 and with their impending EP, Empires of the Mind, will have two EP’s under their belt. You may be thinking the band is lingering in rookie status, but you’d be dead wrong. The dizzying maelstrom of technical precision and speed combined with brutal death metal swagger makes for a damn excellent listen. And, even better that this thing sounds AMAZING. Crystal clear and vicious to its core. I’d go on and on about the band and EP, but vocalist Michal Kusak was extremely gracious in his reply to our Profile set of questions and went into tons of details on the band, creation of, the whys and hows, and their collective passion for this music. Head inside to read all about them and be sure to hit the links to secure your own copy of the EP.

How did you first get into playing music, and how did your band get its start?

For me personally, it was a natural journey. I have always been a devoted metal fan, looking for new bands and records, and attending shows. And I knew I wanted to be on the stage too. My first steps in that direction happened when I was at the university, but the real stuff started happening when I got more involved in the local metal scene here in Prague (Czechia) and through that scene and the friends there I ended up in brutal death metal bands Depsise and Imperial Foeticide.

Supreme Conception was initially a studio-only side-project, in parallel to the mentioned bands. I absolutely loved what we were doing with Despise and Imperial Foeticide at the time, but I was so much into brutal death metal – the kind played by Disgorge, Deeds of Flesh or Decrepit Birth. So I asked Frank Serak (guitars, ex Intervalle Bizzare, ex Garbage Disposal) and Jirka Zajic (the busiest and the most essential death / grind / thrash drummer in the Czech metal scene) if they were open to doing something like that together, and so we came up with “Liturgy Of Spiritual Disturbance” back in 2019. There was a long hiatus after that, as we all got busy with other projects, most notably Heaving Earth. A few years back I got introduced to Marty Meyer, who is an absolutely phenomenal talent when it comes to guitar shredding, and we ended up doing new material for Supreme Conception. We asked Aaron Stechauner (ex Rings of Saturn) for help with drums, and this is how “Empires Of The Mind” came into existence.

Have you ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If no, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story band related.)

Not really, one of the reasons being that we did not play any shows in the early years, and live shows for “Empires Of The Mind” are yet to come. And when it comes to getting media coverage, getting on the radar is not easy due to everyone wanting to be there at the same time. But luckily, we’re working with professionals when it comes to band promotion, and they do their magic. We push the band into more underground media space as well, which often takes a lot of follow up, but that’s a part of the game. Our guitar demo recording session was quite a story though. We needed to give proper guitar tracks to Aaron so that he could work on the drums. But both Marty and I were in different parts of the US at the time and did not have access to proper home recording equipment. So we decided to find a local studio to go to. But the area in Utah where Marty was did not have much going on in terms of metal music. And since I was in the NY area, I contacted Chris Basile from Pyrexia to see if he was open to helping us out – and he was. Marty then made a road trip with a few friends and his guitar all the way from Utah to NY, which I think took him close to 3 weeks. By the time he got to NY, he was quite tired. And it was cold as hell, which was not so good for guitar shredding either. So we had a bit of a slow start at the studio, but with Chris’s help we nailed it and ended up having a good time.

What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene (your particular scene or metal as a whole) right now?

The great thing is that metal as a music genre is still thriving, that there are many new bands who are pushing the envelope in terms of song-writing or technical proficiency. The past 18 months have not been easy for bands, fans and anyone else involved in the music industry, or for many people in general. But it’s been amazing to see a lot of fan loyalty and creativity on the side of bands and promoters. For me, one of the great examples of how to deal with the current situation was the virtual edition of the Roadburn festival (the Roadburn Redux) this year. The organizers had prepared a working platform and the bands came up with very creative ways to make the streams as captivating as possible. I had never believed I would ever watch streamed shows, yet I ended up spending 3 days doing exactly that. So let’s see what happens next.

As for the worst things… I don’t quite like how even the metal scene got so political lately. I get it that sometimes it is difficult to separate the views of the musicians from their music, but metal is music in the first place. So I do not like how some people make politics out of it, just for the sake of it. We should be spending more time listening to the music itself than over-analyzing and looking for things that are often not there.

Everyone has a passion for some cause and those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?

As I said previously, I do not like when things get too political, especially in social media, but I respect when bands or other people choose to do so. But it needs to be genuine and consistent, not just jumping on a bandwagon or the latest fad, at least in my view. To me, good examples of bands doing something in genuine and consistent fashion would include Gojira and their environmental activity, or how Dream Theater have been helping young talented musicians, how Ivar from Enslaved and Einar from Wardruna consistently popularize Norway’s history and old culture, or how Behemoth’s Nergal continuously fights authoritarian tendencies of the Catholic Church in Poland. But all these are big names who have some good impact. It’s definitely important to speak about things that matter to us, but it’s often the actions that matter much more, especially if they have tangible outcomes. For me, the questions I focus on in Supreme Conception’s lyrics are more philosophical. Where are we heading as a civilization? Are we going to survive as a species, or will we be the cause of yet another extinction? What kind of “madness gene” turned our species into who we are? Is it something that is going to help us exist outside this planet? What are the things we do not know yet?

I had done a lot of reading and research before writing the lyrics for “Empires Of The Mind” and one of the most intriguing stories I came across was the story of Hypatia who was the last leader of the Great Library of Alexandria, more than 1,600 years ago. She was a prominent thinker, with interests in mathematics, astronomy or philosophy, and the Library itself was a place where some of the smartest and most educated and progressive people gathered and worked, in a city that was very cosmopolitan even by today’s standards. Yet all of that was a problem for religious zealots (Catholics in this case). And the Bishop of Alexandria (named Cyril) did not like the idea of a smart and powerful woman in his neighborhood. So his fanatics ended up killing Hypatia in a brutal way and destroying the Library. The Church later canonized Cyril as a saint, while Hypatia went mostly forgotten. Isn’t this story quite telling, even today? And I hope it’s clear which side of the story I find more appealing.

What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family/those close to you take the news?

I started listening to metal when I was 10 years old, mainly due to my school mates who had older brothers already listening to metal. While many of my friends went away from the music after a while, I stayed and followed all the new developments and got into more extreme music as it evolved. And now I cannot imagine my life without metal, or music in general. I guess this is the food that my soul really needs.

I had very little support in my family – my mother was a church goer and obviously did not like all the satanic stuff, but at least she learned to accept this was an important part of my life once I became active in bands. I had a father who was into hard rock, but he would absolutely refuse to accept the music I was listening to and did his best to bash anything and everything that I was into. And I pledged at the time not to become that kind of jerk when I grew older.

Everyone who gets close to me knows that the music has been with me for years now and will always be there and a priority, so I have not had any issue with support since then. As a matter of fact, I do not need the people who are close to me to support me. All I want is that they respect what I do.

What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?

I do not think I am in the position to lecture anyone and the fact that we are talking now means that you guys are ready to help young bands by giving them exposure, which is really great. But I will share a few thoughts based on my experiences as a musician now and in the past, as well as from the perspective of a journalist (since I wrote for a metal mag for about four years). The first thing that comes to my mind is the word “honesty.” I have seen some journalists who would promote bands just because they were their friends, irrespective of the quality of the music or presentation. Nothing against featuring bands that do get coverage because of having good connections (and every band should work on that!) but I really think a critic should remain more or less objective. Of course, there is always an element of subjectivity based on personal taste of the person, but the music should not be overrated because of that. It does not do any justice for the bands either – it’s hard to grow if you don’t get honest feedback here and there. We may not like it, but it’s important to see what others really think. And the other thing I’d mention is “openness” to new things. With the number of promos coming in on a daily basis, it’s not easy to spot new things and literally impossible to keep up with everything, especially as bigger record labels also weigh in (and rightly so, as some gate-keeping is needed). I personally follow a few journalists and if they recommend a new band or record, I often listen to it, because I know they recommend good stuff. And it’s really helpful that they continue bringing new bands into the spotlight, rather than just assessing whatever new records of established acts get to them.

What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.

None of the above, I am afraid. But we do want to stand out from the crowd. We want to build a solid international reputation and get to the level of the bands that inspired us in the past. Also, this may sound a bit provocative, but I personally struggle with the fact that not enough Czech bands “made it” outside the country. There is some great potential here, but somehow it’s not materializing. So we want to see if we can crack the code here. Both Marty and I have day jobs. He is a branch manager at a music instrument store, and clearly lives music 24 / 7. My job is a corporate one which gave me some independence and enabled me to live in different parts of the world, but it’s a time-intensive one as well. So over time I will most probably get out of it to free up more time for the bands I am in and do something music related instead. Because that is what matters and there is no time to do things half-baked.

When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)

I have been quite excited to see At The Gates releasing a new record and been listening to “The Nightmare Of Being” quite a bit since the release, because Tompa is one of my favorite vocalists. I also quite like the new Alustrium album (“A Monument To Silence”) or Luna’s Call (“Void”). I have been listening to Nero Di Marte a lot recently too, both to “Derivae” and “Inmoto” – they are amazing musicians and the albums are just stunning. In the more obscure space, the new Portal albums really got under my skin – both the more “traditional” Portal record (“Avow”), as well as the death industrial one (“Hagbulbia”). I do listen to prog stuff quite a bit as well – Pain Of Salvation are one of my all-time fave bands. The new Vola sounds great, and I also like the various projects of Daniel Tompkins (though not Tesseract really). And when I need to go for something calmer, I choose Riverside, Lunatic Soul or Leprous. Or older prog rock bands. But the list could go on, because I just can’t stop listening to music!

What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?

The plan for the 12 months ahead is very clear. First, we want to make sure that we promote “Empires Of The Mind” as much as possible and get the name out there in front of the right audience, because we really believe in this record. In parallel, we’ve started working on new material and we definitely want to release something new not too long after “Empires Of The Mind.” Then we’ll look to expand the line up and turn Supreme Conception into a live act as well, because I think the music really deserves to be played live – and I personally can’t wait for that. That all should bring us closer to a full-length album, which we already have some ideas for. So please check out “Empires Of The Mind” to see for yourselves what the music is all about. And then watch out for our new stuff as well.

Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)

Transcending.

Many thanks to Michal and Supreme Conception for their time!


Empires of the Mind will be available August 6 on the band’s Bandcamp page. For more information on Supreme Conception, visit their Facebook page.

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