Date: 9 May 2013
MG - 'Okkult' has been stated as being very dark, epic and furious, where do the band draw their ideas and inspirations from, after all these years?
Alex - Thank you, indeed on 'Okkult' epic darkness and the brutality of metal find an unholy union (laughs)! I have always been fascinated by dark art, especially music, impressive and extreme music. Since I was a 6 year kid, actually, when I became a fan of Deep Purple (laughs).
Regarding the very long time doing this band it was always exciting that we came up with new musical challenges! Tosso and me have been a very good working team for many, many years and long time friends, too! I guess we have been through a lot of challenging musical adventures through time. Tosso is a very reliable person, a man you can trust! That is very important for such a great and long term cooperation, especially in the music scene! We've gathered a lot of experience through a great number of cooperations, connections and friendships. And of course Sander and Joris a great and creative band mates, too! We all have different inspirations, which leads to a great synergy within the band! When we were recording 'Okkult' we certainly had a blast and the atmosphere was fantastic to create this monster of an album (laughs).
MG - What can we expect from the new trilogy?
Alex - In fact, with the 'Okkult' trilogy we begin a new era of Atrocity. The combination of three albums with the occult theme as a red line may be the one side, the other side is our goal to create something new: We want to create the image of an occult world with our music, in which you can immerse yourself. At the same time you also can just rock and headband to the songs of the album, it's literally like a slap in the face! The origin of the 'Okkult' trilogy features some very obscure stories actually. I've always been very much into history, legends, myths and the dark backgrounds and secrets of mankind and researching them on behalf of different sources. The idea to introduce the 'Okkult' trilogy came up after the release of the 'Atlantis' record (2004). The research of the 'Atlantis' secrets had been very inspiring so the next step was to make an epic trilogy about the mysteries of the world. An even bigger challenge and concept, this is why we decided to make an album trilogy.
Tosso - On 'Okkult' there are some elements in which can also be found on the first two Atrocity albums. But all in all the intention was to make lyrics, artwork and music fit together very well...to obtain this kind of "okkult sound". Moreover, it is a question about a basic band concept. There are bands being very happy doing the same music for decades. I don't think that's the concept of ATROCITY. Nevertheless, the OKKULT trilogy will have a clear line in all three parts. So 'Okkult II' and 'Okkult III' will certainly follow the paths of the first 'Okkult' album.
Alex - We digged out some very obscure stories like the one of the super sinister lady 'La Voisine' (we use this pronunciation of the name). This song tells a dark chapter in the history of mankind, and actually was discovered in connection with the 'Affaire des poisons' in France. It’s set in Paris of the 17th Century and the song is about Catherine Monvoisin, which was known as "La Voisin" as witch and poisoner. She told the the fortune for money, selling poisons and love potions, magic plant and broke off unwanted pregnancies. She and the former priest Abbé de Guibourg celebrated black masses where also infants were sacrificed which she had previously bought from the poor people. The blood of the children they used as ingredients in potions, too. She was booked by many members of the nobility, among others, the mistress of King Louis XIV, Madame de Montespan, who wanted to get through the black masses more power and influence in society. Madame de Montespan used the potions in order to get the love of King Ludwig upright, and she mixed the potions in his food and drink.
There were rumors members of the nobility were killed by poison, and so research was driven. One day a young woman from the aristocratic circle close to King Ludwig died. Then investigations were intensified to find the poisoners' source and to smash the conspiracy. La Voisine and other witches of the Paris witch circle were arrested. Due to the good contacts with the mistress remained La Voisine long spared from torture. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to death at the end in the 'Affaire des Poisins'. La Voisine was executed. Later, they found the remains of 2.500 infants in her backyard of her house, and so after La Voisine's death, the entire extent of her cruel deeds obvious. The paradox of the story: It turned out that the young woman died of natural causes and she was not poisoned as many other nobles. This shows how the so called “magic world” is part of the “real world” and this crime story turns occult. And hey, what a sick story, what a turn just like in the movie 'From Dusk Til Dawn' but in the real world. Agatha Christie couldn't write a better crime thriller!
MG - Are their plans to have a film to correspond with the trilogy at a later stage?
Tosso - That would be superb if we could gather financial support from our record label or sponsors to realize such an interesting idea! The music of 'Okkult' is very versatile, rough, dark, symphonic and "okkult". During the composing process of the album I listened to a lot of old horror film music for inspiration. So the music suits perfectly with movie ideas, I guess.
Alex - Yeah, to visualize 'Okkult' would be fantastic! We had the idea as well and we already spoke to some people from the film industry. Lets start crossing our fingers! Interestingly, the cooperation with the Canadian sound designer Katie Halliday (SAW movies) was supercool, she made some really dark atmospheric sound effects! 'Todesstimmen' would be already a perfect match for a Horror Movie Trailer hehe. Well, if anybody from the film biz reads this…
Tosso - We wanted to have a very dark atmosphere on the album, just like in the great old horror movies. You find these elements in the orchestra and choirs on OKKULT. If you just listen to the opening track of the album 'Pandæmonium' you'll get an idea of what I'm trying to describe. It leaves a hell of impression on the listeners!
Alex - By the way our new video clip for 'Pandæmonium' is just released.
MG - Do you have a personal favourite track on the new album and why?
Alex: If I were to choose a track that represents the complete core and idea behind 'Okkult', the song 'Pandaemonium' stands out for me due to its epic but at the same time brutal character. It is viciously aesthetic in every aspect. Atrocity is a band who stand for revelation of mysteries, surprises, extremes and contrasts. But actually you could also mention 'March of the Undying', 'Necromancy Divine' or 'La voisine' (laughs).
I love the song 'Haunted by Demons' very much, it's a fantastic Metal song. 'Haunted By Demons' was inspired by the legends of the old Scottish Castle Fyvie which is supposed to be haunted for a very long time. According to the legend, the castle was built from sacred stones and therefore cursed by a Christian prophet. The curse will not be lifted until they found three specific sacred stones. Of course, that have been not found to this day (laughs). There is a "forbidden room", who enters it is doomed. It has been repeatedly spotted the "Green Lady". It is believed that it was one chatelaine who was forced to starve to death by her own husband. And it is shrouded in more unexplained phenomena at Fyvie, like blood stains in the castle, you can not remove, and a weeping stone that is constantly moist. There was even a reality show, which aired in the UK (laughs).
Old castles are indeed taken very often in connection with spooky places. This reminds me all of our video shoot for 'BLUT' on the Corvin Castle in Transylvania. When did research for the location of the video shoot and arrived there one night, it was an eerie atmosphere in the castle and we had the feeling of not being alone. Well, the video shoot months later was very strange, too, let’s say. It is said every room has its own history with its own soul. Some things can not always be explained scientifically. I am a so called atheist and still believe that there is definitely more things to this world, we can’t easily detect with our senses completely. Later, there was also a reality show called '48 Hours of Fear' on German TV, like the one about Fyvie, in which they did an interview with myself and included footage of our video shoot. And OF COURSE don't forget about the song 'DEATH BY METAL!'
MG - My favourite moment on the DVD stars you and Ralph Scheepers from Primal Fear at Wacken, do you have a personal favourite moment on the whole DVD, as you obviously had to trawl through a lot of amazing memories and then decide what to put on and not. Atrocity have been in existence for nearly 30 years! What would you say has been the biggest highlight in those years?
Alex - Oh yes, I had to shoot Ralph in the short movie (laughs). Well, that's a pretty hard question! Of course there are some highlights like our special and big anniversary performances at Wacken in 1999 and 2010! We formed Atrocity already in 1985 and became forerunners of the German Death Metal scene. I remember dirty rehearsal rooms, shitty equipment, fantastic shows in small rotten clubs haha. We were a big part of the Underground movement. Atrocity and I was there myself when it all started! We have been in personal contact with most of the bands from Morbid Angel, Pungent Stench, Immortal to Entombed.
By the way I organized the first Euro Death Metal Festivals and our first Atrocity Euro tour together with UK legends Carcass in 1990. Great times! When we did the work for great retrospect on our 'Die gottlosen Jahre (The godless years)' last year, a lot of the memories came back. The golden Underground times, us being tape trades but also very passioned musicians at the same time! Back then we wanted to support each other, all the bands we were friends of, from Napalm Death to Entombed! Many of them were guests in my house. Nobody else wanted that kind of extreme music. A lot of musicians from these times give us great respect and great statements on that DVD, which is a great honor! These are some of the most unforgettable and special memories of our career. Many others involved in the project share the opinion. And over 80 interviewees from the global Metal and Gothic scene contributed to the documentary!
Some of the interviewees were truly touched. It was so honest and authentic. Nobody didn’t put lipstick on the pig. The anecdotes featured are the true-to-life stories of a metal band and about our crazy career. It was a big effort to get all the interviews set up and filmed. Several teams were filming all those interviews with different people from all over the world. It is a very special feeling, knowing that after devoting such a huge part of your life to a band, the hard work is immortalized on film and even gets such a feedback from all these musicians, journalists, fans and music biz people. To be honest, who would have thought that a German underground band would one day tour the world and even enter the charts!
Tosso - Yes, it’s really crazy! Just think about all the people we’ve met and played with on the road... We have toured together in almost 40 countries and played with tons of bands, for example Judas Priest, Slayer, Motörhead, Morbid Angel, Carcass, Entombed, Sodom, Deicide, Obituary, Cradle Of Filth. We also did a lot of festival shows in the whole world and were supported by bands that later got pretty known, like In Flames, Theatre of Tragedy, Haggard or Crematory.
MG - The artwork on the Atrocity albums is always stunning, do you have a favourite cover from the bands catalogue?
Alex - Our cover artwork for the debut album 'Hallucinations' was done by HR Giger, it still kills!!! A stunner was certainly 'Werk 80' for sure, the combination of latex and classic (laughs). For the new artwork Stefan Heilemann did an amazing job visualizing our conceptual ideas of 'Okkult'. I had a pretty clear idea about the artwork by picking one song of 'Okkult' as the main theme. However, I saw it as a necessity to use real images, i.e. living "creatures" and not imaginary, fictional ones. It was just superb that we discovered the female snake-artist Cara. Moreover, some friends made it possible to do the photo session in a historical vault.
The cover artwork is dedicated to the story behind the song 'Necromancy Divine' which tells the cruel tale about the ancient witch Erictho. She was a necromancer and lived in the times of the Roman civil war between Caesar and Pompeius around 50 AD. She took dead bodies into her tomb and brought them back to life with painful rituals, filling boiled blood into the corpses and whipping them with snakes. By bringing back the dead to life, she forced them to forecast the future. We actually used the original Latin lyrics of the rituals in the song 'Necromancy Divine'. By the way this is a real photograph, we took the picture in an old vault. It was quite an experience for me to put the snakes around the neck of our witch "Erictho"!
MG - What influences your music today and what do you listen to when you have a moment to yourself?
Alex - I like various artists and music, let's say from extreme metal to Dead Can Dance (laughs), but also modern classics like cool soundtracks. I judge music first if its good or bad and not which genre it comes from. Regarding the band you could say, it's musical and artistic freedom that thrives us, or very simple, we love to make our music without limitations. To fulfill our visions within the metal genre isn't always easy because some people just don't get the origin idea of Atrocity and Metal in general: Break down the boundaries! We are like painters. If a picture shall be horrifying and brutal we use different colors than on a dark but beautiful painting. Well, the pictures of 'Okkult' are the most obscure paintings we ever did!
MG - If I had never listened to Atrocity which album would you point me towards?
Tosso - That's not so easy to pick only one album I guess (laughs), due to the fact we made a big variety of music in the band's history. Maybe 'Atlantis' and 'Okkult' are a very good choice! For the experimental side of the band I would recommend 'Werk 80' or 'After the Storm'.
MG - Germany has always produced amazing Metal bands, why do you think this is?
Alex - First of all thank you for your compliment, I always thought it's pretty tough for a German metal band to establish international (laughs). Well, in Germany we have a big and strong metal scene, I guess. There are many metal fans, concerts and festivals. And don't forget about the record labels like Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Massacre Records etc which are based in Germany, too. Altogether, this might be a good foundation to have good bands coming from good old Germany, too.
MG - Feelings on the current metal scene worldwide?
Alex - The good side is, the metal scene was probably never before as strong and full of variety! The bad side is, how will the future look like if labels and bands have no money anymore to finance the album productions. Think about it...
MG - If you could share a stage with any three bands alive or dead who would they be?
Alex - It would be a great idea to make a re-issue of one of the “Support the Underground” festivals I did back in the day, together with our mates of Carcass, Entombed, Pungent Stench and Disharmonic Orchestra haha. Another cool idea would be to perform together with Laibach 'Die Liebe' or to bring Diamanda Galas on stage with Atrocity.
MG - Three words to describe Atrocity.
Tosso - Three words are maybe a bit difficult (laughs). We have a Mexican fan called Arturo who created this amazing statement once: one German is a philosopher, two Germans are a beer pub, three Germans are major industry, four Germans are world war and five Germans are ATROCITY. Unfortunately we are now four people in the band .. two Germans and two Dutch guys ... so we are in need of a new band slogan .... haha!
MG - Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and our readers?
Alex - We hope to come back and play for you again soon, and thank you for being such exceptional metal fans!
Tosso - Join our treasure hunt and find the 24 Karat golden CD! More info at www.atrocity.de!
Interview by: Seb Di Gatto