While 2022 has seen the start of a lot of promising metal careers, it also comes with the end of one. Root, the legendary black metal band from the Czech Republic, announced this year that they would be retiring from live performance and studio recordings after the release of their 11th and final LP due to frontman Big Boss’ health. It’s a bittersweet end as fans can expect nothing less than a fitting end when the band’s final record, The Legend Nizostratio, drops. Unfortunately, that album will mark the end of one of black metal’s most enduring forces.
Since forming in 1987, the band took inspiration from bands like Venom and Bathory to craft their own black metal legacy. Over their ten current full-length albums, fans were treated to one of the most varied and exciting discographies in extreme metal. With so much history behind them, the story of Root is sure to make an exciting full-length book of its own someday. For now, I had the pleasure of talking with vocalist Big Boss, guitarist Alesh A.D., and bassist Igor Hubík about the group’s otherworldly run.
First off, ROOT has been going strong now for more than 30 years. Is it wild to you that the band has lasted this long? Reflecting back on more than three decades of the band, how does it feel to have been at it for so long?
Big Boss: It’s not wild for us, I know more bands which were or still are together so long. And how does it feel? That’s nothing that I’m dealing with…
What keeps you guys with this band over the years and what has made you want to dedicate such a large part of your lives to this particular group? Where do you guys still find inspiration for the band?
Big Boss: Two words: The love for music. We don’t need to look for an inspiration. It is in us!
What got you guys into metal in the first place and who were some of the bands that were a big influence on you guys starting out? Was it difficult to get tapes early on when you were getting into metal and how did you get access to new music at the time?
AD: I got into metal music thanks to my older brother. It was in 1986 and I was nine years old. I was completely captivated by the bands like Iron Maiden, King Diamond, and Mercyful Fate. These bands were, and still are, uncompromisingly the most beloved and fundamental ones that have influenced my musical life. Cassettes with metal bands and actually anything related to the metal genre were spread in our country at that time only in the form of sales via illegal trades. Just eighties in the socialist Czechoslovakia. At the time, someone from a close circle of friends bought the cassette, and dozens of copies were then made of it. It really wasn’t easy at all to come up with new products which were published on the foreign market at that time.
What is the music writing process like for the band and has that changed at all as time has gone along?
AD: I’ve been composing music for almost thirty-five years and my style of composing itself hasn’t changed much over the years. Since I cannot read or write notes, I always record all musical ideas and motives straight away. The creating of music is my favorite activity that fulfills me very much.
I grew up in a very religious household, which gave anything Satanic a huge appeal to me and is part of what drew me to heavy metal and Satanic imagery and philosophy. I was wondering what your guys’ experience with religion is and what appeals to you guys specifically about Satan?
Igor: Everybody is searching for new ideas, thoughts, and answers of unanswered questions during life. If there exists any too big effort, represented by any kind of an elite, people will ask for some alternative one day. When you grew up in a very religious household, so it seems like you did the same, right? And yes, the Satanic imagery works perfect because it is often much more closer to ordinary people thanks to its natural thing. Also, nobody is stressing you out as regards to the Satanism. There’s no obligatory organization which you must be connected with. It’s just your free will. If you feel that your life can be connected with the Satanic philosophy, just make it happen. We have some bad experiences with local pastors who prohibited our live appearances or pushed on mayors of cities to cancel ROOT shows – that´s our experience with that “only and right” religion…
What is your lyric writing process like? Has that changed at all over the years and what do you like to use for inspiration?
Big Boss: We are the inspiration.
Going back to the early days of the band, how much censorship and pressure did you face in your home country for your music? Was there ever a point where it felt dangerous to be making the music you were making at that time and place? Was there a point when you started to feel like censorship and negative repercussions from people with power became less of a concern or less of an active issue?
Big Boss: The censorship and pressure on us as the band were really big, it was dangerous and uncomfortable, but we never backed down and we always went by our way.
What was the writing/recording process like for Zjevení? Were there a lot of growing pains with the creation process of that one? What did you learn through making that album that you took to future recordings?
Big Boss: I don’t remember what happened yesterday so thirty-five years ago… I’m seventy years old dude. No way, we record differently every time.
You guys do a really great job of mixing different styles and influences into your music, I’m thinking particularly about some of the more rock-oriented songs on Heritage of Satan. How important is it to you to let the music go where it needs to and not try to fit yourself into one particular category or box? As a fan, it makes it more exciting to me because I really don’t know what exactly to expect when I put on a Root album that I haven’t heard before.
Igor: That’s definitely the most important part of ROOT – the music itself. Each single album is totally different from the previous one. There exist ten full-length albums from ROOT and if you think that you don’t know what to expect from an album which you [have] never heard, it’s very exciting information for us, as well as for you. We create new riffs after reading the lyrics, it’s quite [an] original process, although some other artists do it this way too. You can hear raw black metal songs, acoustic guitar non-metal stuff, or very slow and sad compositions on ROOT albums. It’s always about that lyrical concept related to this or that album. Not all ROOT’s albums were recorded with the same lineup. That’s why the result is always different too.
I also wanted to ask about the most recent album, Kärgeräs – Return from Oblivion. What was the writing/recording process like for that one? It’s one of my favorites from Root and a damn great album in general. What was your inspiration for the lyrical themes on that one and how did you feel about the final product once it was done?
AD: The creative process of this and previous ROOT albums is always the same. Big Boss writes the lyrics in advance, and sometimes also the rough basis of his musical ideas recorded on keyboards, which we transpose into guitar riffs for songs. He always divided the lyrics between the band members who record demo versions. Mostly, these versions are full-fledged pre-production of the current album which is then realized in the recording studio. It’s true that on the album you mentioned, the band members met again at the studio and the chemistry is simply recognizable. Maestro Big Boss praised this very much.
Being that you’ve got so many albums under your belt, is it harder or easier now to make new records? I imagine that it has to be tougher to not repeat yourselves but the experience of decades making music has to make some things in the process simpler.
Igor: I participated on several ROOT albums and I remember the only thing: we always enjoyed the whole process around the album. The creating of the new riffs, listening to demo versions of songs altogether and then, of course, the recording of the full album altogether as the band again. It was never so called hard work and I can’t remember any stressful moments regarding the deadline or something like that. Maybe that is what makes ROOT a really special and original band which recorded ten interesting and totally different albums and even some cool cover versions.
Just like any scene, I imagine the Czech scene has changed quite a bit over the years. How different is the scene in your home country now than when you started? Do you feel it’s in a stronger place at the moment? What do you feel Root’s place within the Czech metal scene is?
Igor: It is probably similar to other countries. There are still active the old, classic metal bands which played back in the nineties and eighties. ROOT belongs to these legendary hordes too. We did some shows lately at venues in which ROOT played out their very first gigs at the beginning of the career.
Otherwise, not so many things changed. We still have some metal magazines and fanzines, rock TV channels but the main change is the presence of the bands online, of course. Some Czech bands release their albums and play shows around the world, so the scene itself is a bit more known worldwide. ROOT became a real legend after many years. Even people who don’t listen to metal music know ROOT, whether from the mainstream press or multi-genre festivals where we performed in front of them.
It feels like there are more bands than ever thanks to the ease of home recording and self-distribution methods like Bandcamp but that can also be a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to bands getting people to pay attention to them over all the other ones out there. What advice do you have to younger bands starting out about making something that connects with the fans and that lasts?
AD: The music market worldwide is saturated with bands. Music fans are becoming more and more confused, demanding, and very critical. There is no recipe for success. The band has to be exceptional in order to be interesting. Needless to say about talent itself.
Since black metal is such an extreme genre of music to both be a fan of and play, I’m always curious what people involved in the scene listen to outside of black metal. Who are some of your big non-black metal inspirations and is there anything (artist or album) that you guys are fans of that might surprise listeners?
AD: I love Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Death, Slayer or Bathory for several decades. These are really my matters of the heart to which I return very often. I enjoy listening to Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails or The Cure from time to time.
Big Boss: I listen to classical music only: Beethoven, Bach…
Igor: I listen to almost all kinds of music. Metal, movie soundtracks, acoustic guitarists…depends on a current mood. Listening to ROOT´s music sometimes too 😉
Lastly, what’s next for Root? Are there any future plans at the moment?
AD: Due to the age and health condition of the frontman Big Boss, the end of ROOT´s activities was getting closer and closer and we just awaited his decision. However, no one knew exactly when it could happen. It’s sad for the band members and the fans and, of course, for Big Boss himself. He loves music, shows, studio, and above all ROOT with all his big black heart. The music and everything connected with it was the meaning of his life. However, neither age and health cannot be dictated or planned in advance. Over the past few years, his body has been telling him more and more often that it might be time to… retire from the music scene. Life must be taken as it is. Nothing lasts forever. Something always ends and something begins again. Big Boss with the band ROOT made a big mark on the metal music scene around the world. Over the next few months, the vocal parts will be recorded at the Shaark Studio. I can perhaps reveal that for the first time in the history of the band, three singers will appear on the album: me, Igor, and Big Boss himself. ROOT will complete this last eleventh consecutive album, The Legend Nizostratio; and with this we will say goodbye to our beloved fans for good. The wonderful and unforgettable memories of the dark legend ROOT will forever remain in my heart.
Big Boss: ROOT does not exist for half a year. We have finished. Forever. Bye, bye, baby 🙂
Igor: We have released the reissue of the Black Seal album on CD now and there’s the plan to release a double vinyl version next year. ROOT became an inactive live band but never left the scene…