MARKUS STOCK (EMPYRIUM, TVB, NOEKK,...)
Pt. 1: Der Knabe Im Moor
Story online since: 27.12.2007 / 11:09:06
To the reader: while preparing for this interview I kept in mind the fact I minded most about other interviews- sometimes they were to plastic and emphasized only some lines of ones personality or rather repeated some facts all over again. I decided to execute the interview in a more natural form, closer to a real dialogue, rather than following the question-answer-question-answer cliché. It seems that it went down that road, but it's for you to judge.
Thank you for understanding my attempt.
Markus Stock, a figure known for a number of bands linked to nature and Prophecy Productions, somehow ended up, while touring with his band THE VISION BLEAK as a backup for Therion, in my country's capital Zagreb. The day was quite rainy, the grey clouds were hanging low in the sky, not letting the dusk penetrate them and grant us one of the last colored sunsets before the "wintry grey". As my train, a great accomplishment of civilization, was rolling towards the capital, I was looking at the overgrown flatland, flooded with water and wrapped into a slight veil of mist that usually covers the area at dusk. The crows were sitting on their branches not minding the "civilized" noise of the train. I received a message on my cell-phone: "It seems that we will be having dinner from 17-18. So could we do the interview after the performance?". It was from Markus. Everything would have been fine if I didn't have some exams the next day. We managed to compromise around the subject, so the interview was due to at 18 o' clock. In order to apologize for disturbing the man's plans, I bought him a black wine, frankly I don't remember which.
We met a few minutes before 6 at the venue. We decided to do the interview there instead of the bus, I don't like "small" spaces. We sat down and I offered him the wine, which he thankfully accepted. Instead of the "god nectar" we cracked open two beers, Slovenian beers and started.
"So, I've seen you on Wacken this year", I started, "and it was quite weird for me, because you really or never preformed with EMPYRIUM...
"Never actually", he interrupted.
"Ok, so it was a "surprise" to see you on tour now. Is it just because EMPYRIUM's music is more individual, and THE VISION BLEAK is more "moving" or...", I continued.
"Exactly", he went on, "THE VISION BLEAK's music works on stage and it works with a normal band, as with EMPYRIUM you have to get the music properly, and you need a lot of musicians to perform it properly. I've always thought of doing an EMPYRIUM gig, but the thing is I wanted to have all the things right, real string, real mellotron, all the things we've used for the record, but it has always been an issue of time and the right setting, because we couldn't afford investing like 15 000 € for one gig...", "It's too much, it wouldn't pay off", "Yeah that's right, haha!".
"How Old were you anyway when you started EMPYRIUM? I mean, you seem quite young in the "Wintersunset" booklet."
"Yeah, I was 17 then, I guess when we recorded the demo I was just 16. I'm 29 now."
"And have you had any bands before you started with EMPYRIUM?"
"Yeah, but it was the usual in the garage stuff..."
"The highschool thing ;)..."
"Well, we actually played black metal, or some sort of BM, like a mixture of Samael and slower Darkthrone...no one was able to play drums so fast."
"Yeah, the blasts....and have you learned to play drums yourself, or?"
"No, no, drums are the only instrument I was taught, the only one I took lessons in...but it was more in the orchestral style, only snare drums, and then I quit because I wanted to play Iron Maiden and stuff like that."
"Haha, now that you've mentioned Iron Maiden, what do you listen usually?!"
Most people seem to think that musicians like Markus adore exclusively melancholic music, wouldn't it be a surprise for some to see what music actually formed this artist, where do all THE VISION BLEAK's thrashy riffs come from?!
"Well among a lot of stuff I like Iron Maiden, they're one of my favorite bands, and Metallica and Slayer, because that's the stuff I've grown up with. I also really enjoy the Norwegian black metal stuff, the early stuff..and yeah, speaking of avant-garde metal, stuff like Arcturus and Ulver, one of my all time favs. as well....", I was waiting for the last one.
"Yeah, because somehow I've got the idea that you've got a bit of influence..."
"Definitely...", "...especially on "Where at night...", "Definitely, I was a very big fan of Ulver back then, because I admired the thing that they did everything in full consequence; you know; first they did the "Kvledssanger" album, only acoustic which was very unusual at that time, and then they did "Nattens Madrigal which was very ferocious and raw, and that was what I really admired about them. That's what I wanted to do with Empyrium too. If you really want to be consequent in doing atmospherical music and if you really want to do it right, if you don't want it to suffer from electric guitars - I thought it was a really good idea."
"And speaking about your influences, I remember SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS, a great band of yours. You did a Burzum cover (Dunkelheit) and a reinterpretation of Darkthrone's "En As i Dype Skogen"..."
"Yes, yes right, thoe were probably my two favorite BM-bands, a big inspiration, especially "Transylvanian Hunger". It's still one of my favorite albums. I mean I really listen to it, because it's not an album for every day, but once in a while I really get in the mood for listening to it. It has such a unique atmosphere, no other black metal album has ever captured such an atmosphere like Dark did on that album...."
"But, what would you like to listen to on a day like this; rainy, cloudy...does the day influence what you listen to, because it sometimes works for me..."
"Yeah, well, usually for days like this, and when I'm away from home (I'm always a little homesick), and my wife is pregnant"..."Congratulations", I interrupted him. Here is another good reason for my wine, I thought, "...so on days like this I listen to music like Dead can Dance, calming and beautiful music...",
"And you covered them (with Noekk)", I remembered, "Yeah, also one of my favorite bands", he concluded.
"Anyway, when you reinterpreted Darkthrone, you used a drum machine, I mean, an electronic beat, quite an unusual idea for covering DT...", I started
"Well, it was actually a beat I played myself, then I slowed it down so I got that strange sound with a lot of reverb on it and then looped it..."
"Yeah", I was starting to get a bit enthusiastic, " because, almost all of the beats I've listened to tend to be moving, and this one is...", I was trying to find the word, "moody?"
"Yeah, yeah, precisely, when I started doing the cover version, I really wanted to totally concentrate on the atmosphere of that particular song. I started with that beat and I thought it really works well. Because, as you said, it was very atmospheric, it was a good foundation for that track..."
"And "Spring 99"...why that title?!", it could be obvious, but I had to inquire.
"Because..ha-ha... I didn't have a title for the song, and I composed in spring of '99, very obvious one!", he laughed.
"Yeah...", really obvious, "well, I remember that year as one of the last normal ones, with a normal spring, summer, winter, not this global warming shit...and concerning TVB, how did you come to the idea to start with that?"
"Well it was because I know EMPYRIUM was pretty much...not dead, but I wanted to quit with it after doing the "Weiland" album...and I always wanted to come back to playing guitars, electric guitars, getting a bit more energy..."
"The new TVB album seems a bit thrashy..."
"Yeah, definitely, you know that's what we've been listening to in our youth, the oldschool thrash...like everybody used to listen to Testament, Slayer, Metallica and so on. In a certain period of my life, when I was around thirteen 'till sixteen I listened a lot to such music, I never did music myself that wasn't at least a little bit like that and sooner or later it wants to get out of you. That's how TVB started although it wasn't so thrashy from the beginning. The horror thing I planned to even do with SOTS back den, I even had the idea of doing a maybe a more trip-hop based stuff."
"That's a great idea, because I personally like the trip-hop stuff you did for SOTS, like "Neunter November" for example..."
"That thing..", he started enthusiastically, "...is one of the best things I have ever done for Sun of the Sleepless. But most people don't care about it. I think that song is pitch dark, maybe it's too simple for some, I don't know..."
"Did you record the "by gods will, let churches burn" sample yourself or?!"
"No, it's actually from Transylvanian Hunger. On the second last song there is a backwards thing going on at the end, so I took that and turned it back- there it was...and a funny thing about that song is...well the song speaks of terror, because the ninth of November is the Kristallnacht in Germany. And I've always been terribly frightened of terror of any form..so the funny thing is that I first wanted to name the song 9.11. (9/11), that's almost prophetic, isn't it?!"
"9/11 (the ninth of September) is actually my birth date...", I had to add this, I always do! Now came the time to ask the question that interested me the most. "Is SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS dead, or...?". I grew a great fascination towards that band, I was even a bit unwilling to know the real answer at that moment....
"I've always had at the back of my mind", he uses his right arm to gesture the location, ".... that I would like to do it again one day sooner or later. But you know now for me TVB is the top priority. I want to put all the ideas in that band now. But if we say we'd have a break for a year or two then I would maybe have time to do a new SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS record."
He lights up a cigarette...Maybe I was surprised by the action, but suddenly I remembered a photo of him from the mid nineties holding a cigarette...it wasn't a real surprise, but again some people keep forgetting that the persons behind all the godlike music are just like us, so does it mater if the man smokes, or does it matter if Therion are eating somewhere behind my back?! You people should get rid of your illusions...
A funny thing is that SOTS did a split with NACHTMAHR, another band of yours...", this was interrupted by laughs, "...only with Helm this time, right?"
"Yes, Helm is writing all the music and I'm just playing on it and making arrangements, so it's not really like it's the same band you know."
"I like both bands, in my eyes they're quite similar, only that SUNOF THE SLEEPLESS has a more hmmm....blurry sound, and NACHTMAHR is more intense and raw..."
"I think NACHTMAHR is a lot more...yeah, raw than SOTS, but also not as obviously atmospheric...", "yeah never mind the clean guitar parts", I
Quite a lot of similarities with Markus' projects I found in the poetry of Georg Trakl, when I first discovered his writings a year ago. I managed to get my hands on a collection of his works in German. So I had the best possible basis to compare the lyrics and the poetry, as the expressionist motives of fear and being lost are quite often in Markus' poetry as well. Although not copying his texts or even his style certain poetic images evoke similar atmosphere and pictures, for example "the blue mist of the night" and Trakl's nocturnal poetry. Lyrics are one of the important elements for music like the one Markus creates. So I felt this topic around which thousands artists bled and devoted their life's to achieve pure perfection, must not be discarded. Imagine the world without decent poets: no one is there to intensify your feelings during a sunset, or a tempest, no one to describe your anger, your fears....except you are a poet yourself. But...what does it mean...being a poet?
"And I see you like Georg Trakl", this was the first time I managed to start a conversation with someone about Trakl (save our webmaster Chrystof). I knew Markus liked Trakl, but I wanted to know more about his connection with him...
"Oh, yes! One of the most talented German writers ever, but very underrated..."
"I like him...when I was in Vienna this summer I bought a collection of his writings. So when I started to read I noticed a lot of similarities...even a thing that may be a coincidence...", I really don't think Markus wouldn't go copying poets as some artist shamelessly tend to do"... a line in his poem "Die Sonne", begins with "Schoen ist der Wald"..."
"Yeah well, sometimes it's funny because I read a lot of poetry when I want to relax. So it's sometimes hidden in the back of your mind, so you don't even recognize it. Then two years after you read it again and think "shit, I used it in my lyric"..."
"Well yeah, German is a language in which some things and constructions may sound very similar, I know it from my school writings...", and really the 4 words have nothing to do with "Die Sonne", as the images and the atmosphere are completely different, like day and night!
"And you "covered", let say, Trakl's "Romanze zur Nacht"... for SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS..."
"Yes, yes, that's one of my favorite poems by Trakl, ever. Do you understand every word written..("no..").. because he uses a very unusual German. There is one line that is so brilliant in that poem. For me that poem has focus on the bad things of humanity and how he was disappointed, because it's praise for the pureness of the child, against all the wrong with man..."
"And what is the line you like so much in that poem?"
Sehr friedlich schaut zur Nacht das Kind
Mit Augen, die ganz wahrhaft sind ..."
"Yeah, I think you even sang it twice! I just asked myself the question today why did you sing it twice, now I know. I've always thought you might be influenced by such poets, like maybe Rilke and..."
"Well, not him very much. He has also great stuff, but I've always really enjoyed, it's obvious, Goethe. I mean, he could write a poem with, I don't know, four lines and it would be much better than the ones whose writing goes on for ages."
"While talking about poets, you used the poem "Der Knabe im Moor" in the "Songs of Moors.." booklet...". It's another very picturesque poem, a ballad, I recommend you to read it, especially if you know German.
"It's another funny thing, because in the region I've been born in and raised we have this landscape district called the black moor, up in the highlands, and when I was there for the first time I was blown away by the beauty of it. There were signs explaining how the wildlife in the moor functions, and on one of them there was this poem written on it. I read it there for the first time and it was just brilliant."
"It's a strong impression to read something like that on the very place..."
"Yeah because it totally brings the mood of the moorland: the boy getting lost, it's like a nightmare, and if you still perceive things like a child it's a very strong impression."
"And concerning getting lost, "Waldpoesie" is also about it..."
"Yes, and "heimwaerts" too, I seem to be very afraid of getting lost."
"What happened to me once is that I was in a forest at night, and I suddenly saw this creature from Slavic mythology (a Lesnik) I read about a few weeks before. I had been laughing then, how could people be afraid of such a small treelike creature...", I lifted my hand a meter, above the floor, gesturing the word "such" to show the height of that creature "...but when you find yourself in that forest it's all different, and frightening...I mean...he was following me!"
"I had a very similar experience once...half a year ago I had drunk a little bit and decided to go into the forest. It's directly there where I live, and I went some five hundred meters in, and suddenly something was in front of me. It had some eyes, it could have been a boar or a deer or whatever. But I was so scared, and then I noticed, because it was so dark, that your mind is playing tricks on you...and that is maybe one of the strongest emotions that you can experience."
It is now known that not only the beautiful and slender, but also the ugly is a great inspiration to arts. The fear of getting lost and being overwhelmed by nature is one of man's ancient, primal fears. Some have lost that notion, thus it leads us to ruin nature, and by ruining nature one runs himself. How can someone not feel fear and respect towards nature when he experiences such a failure of human senses and instincts in a forest at night....o pity man, go crawl into a hole!
The second part of this talk with Markus Stock can be read HERE.