Photos accompanying this interview by Christian Martin Weiss
(Andy Synn had the chance to interview the Dutch artist Morean about the three bands in which he is currently involved — Dark Fortress, Noneuclid, and Alkaloid. We’ve divided the interview into three parts, which will appear on three successive days. Today’s focus is Alkaloid. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)
All jokes aside, all three of the bands discussed in this interview have a certain “Progressive” edge to them (though I’m trying not to over-use that word if at all possible) – Dark Fortress are a Black Metal band, and Noneuclid tend (at least in my mind) towards the Thrash-y end of the Metal spectrum. However your latest band, Alkaloid, is probably the most Progressive AND the most Death Metal focussed group of the lot. Was this something you were always aiming for?
M: You put your finger right on it. Not everyone in Dark Fortress and Noneuclid is equally into Death Metal and shred orgies. And despite all the artistic freedom we take in those bands, there were quite some things Alkaloid wanted to do that would never have fit with the other bands, and I think the same is true for Obscura. So we wanted to give it one last shot to start something fresh from the beginning, where we have complete freedom to do what we want without having to fit our ideas into 10 or 20 year old band concepts – even if they’re our own. In my own artistic development, I feel that with Alkaloid many things that have been growing in the other bands finally are falling into place. And the personnel in Alkaloid [Linus Klausenitzer, Danny Tunker, Hannes Grossmann, Christian Münzner] are very inspiring, there are very few limits to how far the composers in the band can go. It’ll be exciting to see where this band will end up going in the future.
Alkaloid is also the only band where you aren’t working with any of your other Dark Fortress band-mates, although your Noneuclid collaborator Linus is in the band, and Hannes himself has recently filled in on drums for DF. How did you come to hook up with Hannes, Christian, and Danny?
M: Hannes and I had talked before about doing something together, as early as 2010 or 2011 actually. It didn’t happen back then, but in 2012 Hannes decided to go for it, and proposed today’s line-up to me. Of course I had to say yes! We all knew each other quite well before, which always helps.
There’s clearly a strong chemistry between the five of you, and you’ve stated before that the aim of this band was “to explore the interconnections between sub-genres” – would you say that Alkaloid exists to give you all the freedom to do things that you can’t do in any of your other bands?
M: In a certain sense, yes – see above. I’m sure that a few years down the road, ideas will emerge that even the Alkaloid concept is too tight for, and the cycle will repeat itself. But for now, we can go all guns blazing with Alkaloid — certainly in a creative sense.
With some of the vocal melodies there seems to be a strong Pink Floyd influence, while the heavier side of things seems to be influenced by the more complex and progressive side of Morbid Angel… would you say that’s accurate at all?
M: Again – right on the money! This has exactly been my aim for a while now – to try and find a connection between the worlds of exactly those two bands. In this, we all agree in the band, because we share a vast range of influences, also beyond metal. If I can manage to find a way to connect these two genres in a good way, I’ll die a happy man.
How hard/easy is it to meld all your different influences together?
M: It might be tempting to picture us sitting there like a gnarly witches’ coven when we write, our cave filled with outlandish ingredients — musical frog legs, unicorn tears, and rotten virgin blood from Lemuria, so to speak — cackling madly how to make as crazy a stew as possible. But in reality, all that happens is that we follow the ideas that our mangled subconscious spits out, and spend the remainder of the time trying to make sense of it.
I think the basic skill of combining two or more genres or styles is to become enough of a master in each of them that you start seeing their connectedness in their respective essences. A Flamenco dancer’s footwork and metal drumming for example, or Morbid Angel riffing and Arabic melodies. The goal always has to be to come up with something that is more than the sum of its parts, something fresh coming from the genetic make-up of diverse influences. That’s a much more interesting, but also much harder and more time-consuming. process than just putting different things next to each other.
You also share the writing duties across the band in Alkaloid, both lyrically and musically, with different songs written by different members – chiefly Hannes, Christian, and yourself. How do you go about making sure that these different songs all fit together with the band’s overall sound?
M: Each of our bands has its own creative “CEO” who watches over the total when an album is being conceived. In Dark Fortress it’s V Santura, in Noneuclid it’s me, and in Alkaloid it’s been Hannes so far, since he wrote the most songs and had a ton more to choose from when Alkaloid went into the studio. So he was in the best position to make sense of it all, and I greatly admire what he came up with. Choosing what song goes on the album alone must have been a huge challenge, and I’ve never worked with anyone so ready to pull back an idea of his when he thinks someone else’s might work better.
Hannes also wanted to consciously give Chris and me a chance to be heard as composers on the album, and we might all contribute material for the next one, also Danny and Linus. Plus, this album was just our opening statement, so not even we knew how it’d all play out when it’s done. Luckily, this time, it seems to have worked out nicely; the quality of playing on the album, and the large amount of time and effort that went into the production, helped to tie all these rather diverse things together.
Similarly how do you balance having three incredibly skilled guitarists in the band?
M: Chris and Danny are close friends, and both like a challenge — which means, there’s great harmony between them, and I get to create my own guitar parts woven through my vocal lines in a way that allows me to do both, because I don’t have to automatically take over the hardest guitar parts as well. Despite all the solos I’ve done, I’m a rhythm guitarist at heart, and happily leave the crazier shredding to the other two in this band so I can focus on the vocals better.
When it comes to your lyrics, what are some of the key themes you’ve chosen to focus on in Alkaloid?
M: This would be one of the main differences with the other bands, even though especially in Noneuclid there have never been lyrical limitations for me. I realized I’ve been turning to the more extreme ends of science for inspiration for years, and chose to take the point where science and magic meet as a departure point for Alkaloid. Which means the concepts can be as wild, abstract or hallucinatory as they want to be, but they always have their roots in what is at least conceivable in the eyes of science. That’s the advantage of working with a completely subjective medium as an artist – it’s your imagination which counts, and I have an incredible amount of fun letting my mind fantasize about discoveries in nature and try and connect the dots in new ways that produce original subjects and stories.
The lyrics for several of the album’s tracks were also written by other members of the band — what is it like having to perform lyrics written by someone else?
M: If you can relate to them, it’s not harder than playing someone else’s guitar part. You interpret someone else’s vision like an actor or classical violinist does, so you try to make them your own and find yourself in them as you perform them. In the case of Hannes‘ lyrics on The Malkuth Grimoire, I think he stuck to the aforementioned lyrical concept closely enough that there’s no unbridgeable gap between his lyrical world and mine, and neither in our styles of writing. Where it becomes difficult is when you can’t relate to the words, because then you start to wonder, “what am I doing here?” But the same happens to me when I have to play music on guitar I can’t relate to – it renders the concept of doing music for pleasure absurd then, and nothing good comes from working without pleasure, especially in art.
Do you ever find yourself questioning someone else’s lyrics, or suggesting changes in order to alter or improve the vocal delivery?
M: Only in very small details usually – like a syllable here and there for rhythm questions. Hannes knows very well what he’s doing, so there’s no need to question his lyrics or music usually. In Dark Fortress, I find some Stab Wounds songs more difficult to interpret, since their concept is Azagthoth’s extremely personal view on life and death, which I don’t necessarily share, so in those I’m purely a performing musician then and don’t think too much about what the words mean. With the Séance songs however, I have no problem at all to relate to the words; I love their style and meaning and don’t feel like I’m reciting someone else’s vision when I’m on stage.
What led to the decision to crowd-fund the recording of The Malkuth Grimoire?
M: Once again, the fact that no label was interested in releasing the album.
The campaign was a massive success of course, and I believe you have plans to use some of the money raised to produce a video (or two) to promote the band/album?
M: Yes, we are considering options for a video. I don’t want to say more because we haven’t managed to get final confirmation for our ideas, and as everything, it’s a complex thing to set up. Sorry to have to ask everyone to be patient about this!
Have you selected a song yet?
M: Yes, but it might change according to what we can realize with our limited means. Most of our ideas would mean doing a huge movie if we were to do them properly, and obviously that’s not gonna be possible.
Beyond this, what are the band’s plans for the future?
M: We will have our first live shows in September in Ireland, and we’re busy with more shows in the months to come. As everything, it takes a while always because of the much-mentioned time issues, but it’s starting to happen gradually. And a next album is planned for the not-too-far-future; we might even start working on it this year still. I know Hannes and Danny have been writing new stuff for a while, and I have a pretty clear idea what I want to contribute for the next album as well. I just have to find the time to sit and write it down.
To end the interview, I’d like to just give you an open forum to say a few words, about any of the bands (or any other projects), in case there’s anything you want to talk about that I haven’t covered here?
M: We’ve covered a lot of ground, so I just want to thank No Clean Singing for the continued support and interest in us, and I hope to see you guys on the road soon! Thanks for checking us out!