Interview with Clemens (Keyboards)
Interview conducted by Barbara Williams (Crowley)
Date online: January 22, 2003
Hails from El Paso, Texas!!! How are you guys doing and what have you been up to?
Everything is fine with us, thanks. (Don't understand that last phrase…to be up to - what does it mean?!?)
First of all, congratulations on your latest CD, Gift of Tongues. I have read about your frustrations about the release date since this past September. Have you had your album come out by now or is there still a waiting period?
We are still in the wait loop. Our new label "Blackend Records" (UK) has not been giving us an official release-date so far although they had already planned to release it in early 2002! It's quite frustrating to see that nothing is happening and you can't change a thing about that. Furthermore people keep on asking us for the new album and all I can do is feed them with hopes again and again. Well, that's not understandable label policy.
When you guys began writing for Gift of Tongues, what did you hope to achieve? Do you believe you've accomplished that?
When we began writing on the album we just wanted to make a step further from our debut album Summoned by Astral Fires in order to establish the band within the Austrian scene. But due to line-up changes, better technical skills and more engagement, the material turned out to be more powerful than we (or at least I) had ever expected. So, actually, I hope Gift of Tongues" to leave some big impressions within the Austrian Black Metal genre, 'cause the album is somehow "modern" and "different".
Could you tell us a little about the lyrical concept for this album?
After our former singer Chris had left the band, we missed to look for a new one. So I started making up a serial-killer-concept since I had been reading some really good books at that time. The lyrics are all based on fictional characters from various literatures and shall be seen as a neutral intent to describe trains of thought of mentally deranged human-beings. Although all my stories are written from the killer's point of view, and therefore also contain "explicit" scenes, the last chapter questions all the previous stories and asks for the reason why people may decide to hurt or kill others. It's not meant to be glorification of violence and/or murder.
Clemens, you are involved with a second band, Shadowcast, which plays industrial, pop metal. Is it a challenge to switch gears going between a black metal band and a completely different style? Do you consciously have to think about staying in the Amortis style or music?
Well, that's a lot easier than you think. As I have never been the main songwriter for AMORTIS, I just contributed some of my riffs to the tracks which fit into the sound. But most of my work was based on finished riffs/songs--that's why the BLACK METAL sound of AMORTIS was already there. AMORTIS is an extreme metal band, so it's important to at least write most of the material on guitars and not on keys, so there's no basics from my side. For Gift of Tongues, for example, I did some really orchestral parts where I used piano, strings, oboe, brass, etc. parallel. But if I had written such a wall of sound not based on a guitar riffs, AMORTIS would have turned into a dark wave or whatever act.
So that's the point where SHADOWCAST started. The main intent was to prove myself that I can write songs on my own. After a lot of experimenting I created SC and put in every idea I have, limited only by my own boundaries.
Seeing that Roman and Lukas had also been actively involved with Shadowcast, could this band possibly become a side-project for Amortis?
Actually, how the situation is developing at the moment is that it might become far more than a project since the material for the follow-up of my debut album Desperate Accuse Dimension is going to be recorded in February already. With an "upgrade" in the line-up, we also plan to do some live shows, but nothing's for sure yet. AMORTIS is a combination of five individuals who must be willing to push the band in order to progress. With SHADOWCAST I am almost fully in charge on my own, so I decide what happens with this project/band.
Why Amortis? What does it mean and who came up with the name?
Hard to say because the guys who made up the name already left the band. The main idea, I suppose, was to contain the Latin word "mortus (=death)" somehow. I can't tell you anything more about that and if I got the chance I would have perhaps changed the name, but now it's too late :-(
It looks as though you have certain responsibilities for the band clearly divided between each other. How do you write your music? I'm just listening to "Dark Visions by Candlelight" and love the heavy darkness the keyboards and the blend of vocals and drums adds. Do you write together or separately?
Probably it's less philosophy than you think. Simon has been the main songwriter since our debut CD. Roman and I, however, also contributed riffs. So once a while we sat together and worked out a new track. We then started rehearsing with the rest of the band and everybody brought in his ideas. But apart from that I usually made the rest of my arrangements at home where I had time to think about it.
Actually, we never had a main idea behind the band or any formula to work. With Summoned by Astral Fires we tried to do intense "sympho" black metal. With Gift of Tongues we then decided to make our sound heavier with death metal and industrial passages. The only thing important for us was to sound heavy enough…
How do you get the inspiration for your writing?
Well, I don't know where Simon or Roman take their inspirations from. For me it's either spontaneous that ideas come to my mind or in stressful situations when I need some time off; those are the best brain-storming starts. And when I am "bound" by an idea, I often compose the whole song around it within some hours. But in general, I do not have real inspirations; I just let my mind flow.
You are using some pretty good equipment. How do you pick your instruments? Do you have endorsements?
It's not that good, believe me *g* I think it was just an idea from the others to show off and put these things on our homepage ;-) Everybody within the band is just owning one instrument and most of them are quite old as we don't have that much money to invest in new equipment. Only well-known European bands are endorsed. We are just a fluke compared to them… But I find it interesting that American interviewers always ask about endorsements. By the way, my new drummer for SHADOWCAST is having an endorsement deal for his sticks and might get one for his cymbals.
When I started listening to Amortis I noticed quite a death metal influence on drums and learned that Lukas comes from a heavy death metal background. One of the elements of your heaviness derives from the drumming. Is meter the more important component for you or do you just get into the music itself and play what you feel?
It's right that Lukas has a "hyberblast death metal" background. That's why he is able to give the songs more drive. In general he follows our ideas, but as we know that he is capable of playing some insane blast beats, we took advantage of that to make our sound more brutal. We do play what we feel, but it must not lose the heaviness. Although Gift of Tongues contains some acoustic passages, minimal clean vocals, etc., the base is extreme metal.
All of you are very young and very talented musicians and you started playing at an early age. Have your parents always been supportive of your musical endeavours?
Only partially. Of course, my parents loved the idea that their son was playing in a band. However they soon discovered that it had nothing to do with what they had expected. They would have died for seeing me performing in an Elvis- or Beatles-like outfit, but not METAL! Nevertheless, they realised that the "Rock" genre is my passion and they are proud of what I have achieved so far although they would not "sponsor" me in any way. Furthermore, they appreciate that I am answering interviews from various countries, improve my English with e-mails to girls from, for example, the USA ;-)
What advice would you give to young bands and musicians?
I'd say the best advice is to stay patient and to keep on the ground of things. It's not enough just to record a demo and wait for a contract being offered. And don't overrate your skills - there are far too many bands believing to be more than just an average act, but right at the beginning they are nothing more.
You are from Austria and most of you attend the University of Vienna. Your fields of study are quite interesting and I was impressed by the educational emphasis you included in your bios. Clemens and Roman have chosen to pursue the medical field. What are your specialized interests in medicine?
As for me, I wanted to study but did not know exactly what direction to go. Eventually, after excluding all the things I was not interested in, it all came down to medicine. Until now there is no really specialized interest for me in the medical field since I have just finished the basic studies (we have a quite different system compared to the USA, for instance). But I just explored the field of pharmacology and it's fascinating how drugs can control your body or how a drug can turn into poison. I think the main idea behind medicine is to try to help people. Of course, you can also earn a lot of money, but if this were the main reason, I would have chosen business or so for my studies. And by the way - doctors are the best musicians *g*
How do you see yourself as a role model (or idol) to many young people who listen to and who get into your music?
I'm not sure if I am in the position of being a role model. People who listening to AMORTIS are surely listening to bigger bands that have more importance for them. I do not like the idea that people identify themselves with my lyrics, for example, so I try to keep everything either neutral or cryptic in order to avoid explicit messages.
Love your vocals. How would you describe your style? Who have been your role models?
As I don't know if you have also heard material from Gift of Tongues, it's quite hard to give you a simple answer. Our former singer, Chris, performed vocals on the last album while I maltreat my vocal chords on the new record. Chris' "Metal-God" was Chris Barnes; by the way, he also looks a little bit like him. As for me, I do not really have an idol regarding the Black Metal screaming, but I love what Devin Townsend is doing from album to album.
How are you on touring? Are you actively out there or is it more difficult seeing that you are also involved in your studies?
Although we have been performing around 40 shows already with AMORTIS, we are pausing at the moment 'cause without our new CD out, or any merchandise available, it simply does not pay off. I also doubt that we will ever play a real tour, simply because half of the band would not like to go abroad for ten days or more. As I already mentioned, I am just trying to complete a live line-up for SHADOWCAST in order to play some shows around Austria or Germany, but don't think that there might be a bigger tour or anything.
Your band is taking off, but where do you see yourself in your career five to ten years from now?
Can't really tell. As I don't know how life will change after I have finished my studies and I will start 60-hour weeks at a hospital, it's hard to make a forecast. As for the remaining three years from now, I'll try to stay busy and write some more music.
I understand Germany has a killer metal scene. Is the popularity of metal in Austria similar or do you find that there is a difference?
I am pleased with the Austrian scene and don't know how to compare it with the German one. Nothing more to say.
Do you feel that Death and Black Metal bands have it more difficult to gain recognition compared to those who play other types of metal?
I think it's hard in every genre to get your reputation, etc., and it depends a lot on the label behind. Actually, I often wonder about what sort of bands have a massive reputation even though they don't deserve it, and then again, I wonder why much better ones always keep on being a some sort of "insider-tip". In general, I'd say you simply need a big portion of skill, luck and endurance as well as a rich label.
Black metal has been getting a bad rap (or good rap, depending on who views it), for there has been a rise in pagan/satanic metal over the past few years. What's your opinion about that?
I don't care about things like that and I have never felt this so-called BM-"spirit" in me. If someone feels to write about religious attempts, then he should do. I don't.
What do you think about the Internet and the way bands can promote themselves these days?
I especially appreciate that you can contact everybody via e-mail and do not have to use snail mail any more. As for the mp3-thing - yes, I like it and don't think that burning CDs makes the music-business go down the drain. However, what I dislike is the problem that albums often circulate in the net already two months before they are being released. Some friends of mine, for example, own a copy of the new material, and I don't know what I would do to them if suddenly the songs appeared in the net.
I had been introduced to you by Mp3.com and noticed that you have about nine songs available. This is a bit unusual (great, but unusual). What motivated you to select such a high number of songs? Do you feel that it has helped in promoting your music?
I suppose you mix it up with any other band. We only have got one song "Dark Visions by Candlelight" available on mp3.com and two excepts from Gift of Tongues on our website. And I don't think we would ever put in more than two songs of each album for free download.
Where do you see your band going in the near future?
The only thing important for me at the moment is to have the new album eventually released and I don't want to wait for another three months or so. I don't know if our record label will do a good promotion, but a major deal would come in handy, of course, haha.
Any good books you would like to mention?
Philip Kerr - A Philosophical Investigation; Irvine Welsh - Filth Pig; and the Austrian ones: Christoph Ransmayr - The Last World; Robert Schneider - Brother of Sleep
And anything else you would like to mention?
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