Long before the success of the Lord of the Rings saga, you wrote tales on music inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. What did you feel when this item suddenly became so popular?
Silenius: First I must say that the books of Tolkien have been very popular a long time before the movies have been released. I think the first big wave of popularity Tolkien got in the sixties and seventies, when his book 'Lord of the Rings' was published in USA as a soft book edition, and got a kind of cult release by the American students, but it is sure since the movies have been done even more people got introduced to Middle Earth and we as big fans of Tolkien of course see it in a very positive way. But after all, the movies had no direct consequence in our sales, but that is of course not the point, everyone who is interested in this subject and read the books afterwards is of course very wellcome to take a try and listen to our musical translations to this fantasy world.
Summoning has grown to an established name by means of eight releases already. Can you go back in your memories and tell us what were the intentions when you started with Summoning? (and some words about the evolution towards more orchestral and epic music)
Protector: I remember very clearly the first days of Summoning. Those days we did not think about a label deal at all. We just had one day the idea to make some black metal sessions, and as I could play guitar a bit and also already understood the principle of black metal vocals, I took part in it. Although the first session was totally chaotic (or better said BECAUSE it was chaotic) we liked the first recording very much. This time we did not think much while making music, and often did not even have any text to sing and anyway just screamed a bit around without any concept. Although this was surely far away from any serious music and has nothing to do with the music we make now, I think it was important that we had this period. After our debut CD which was also just pure black metal we finally threw out our drummer, who was always a pseudo progressive disturbing element in the band and he did not even like the music. Finally we felt so free and when we first played our guitars and basses to a tape with a drum and keyboard track which we recorded at home we felt immediately that a great new epoch has begun for Summoning. We felt all the power and might in our music we did not feel before. The slow and deep drums from the keyboard gave us so much more power than the hectic real drums of the ex drummer. So after the release of 'Minas Morgul' our new style was born. On 'Dol Guldur' we followed this style, and did not really bring any new elements to it. Although it is now clear that this album turned out to be the eternal cult album of Summoning for all fans of the beginning, we never considered it as our greatest. We preferred 'Minas Morgul' always more. Anyway. After 'Dol Guldur' we made a mini CD called 'Nightshade Forest'. This time we wanted to create a better sound and recorded in a much more expensive studio in Liechtenstein, but although the studio there was very fine, the guitars tuned out to be so silent. So this album became the less guitar orientated album Summoning ever made. On 'Stronghold' we wanted to repair this "damage", and brought the guitars more to the front. We even did not really care so much about the complex polyphonic structure of our orchestra on this album just to focus more on the metal sides of Summoning. This album then divided the fans into two parts. The old and new fans. For the new fans 'Stronghold' was the greatest album for the old fans it was 'Dol Guldur'. But because we later realised that we simply gave up too many of our typical Summoning elements on 'Stronghold' and rather turned the music more into a mainstream metal direction, we wanted to bring all those elements back and so we released 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame'. Again the drum level was increased and played less rock as before, the keyboards became again much more dominant and all the polyphonic structures came back what made the album again as epic as Summoning should be. With our new album we wanted to combine the complete orchestra of 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame' with the more dominant guitars on 'Stronghold'. Now you can hear a full orchestra but on the same time much louder guitars. So even some old fans could be regained with it, but as each light also produces shadows, we again (like on all releases) disappointed some others who hoped that we might get more into the 'Stronghold' direction again.
Nowadays Summoning is the creation of two members: Silenius and Protector. Do you sometimes work with other musicians to get the full sound or not?
Protector: No, we are satisfied with Summoning as duo. There is nothing we could not achieve with our synthesisers, guitars and vocals. Sure in the past we had a female vocal tune on one song, but this was rather an experiment, and we never planned to integrate any singer to our music generally.
I was also wondering: did you ever play live or do you intend to do so?
Protector: No, actually we never ever felt such a temptation. We are generally not that live fans and never really got total crazy about any live concert. For us a live concert of a band we like is in most cases rather disappointing cause the sound is never so good as on the CD and also just looking at a couple of musicians banging their head also does not really bring us any new visuals for the music the band creates. We simply are the composer types that prefer to create tunes instead of playing already existing ones. We only take an instrument in our hands when we are "forced" to in order to finish an album. After that we never play the tune again and create new tunes instead. On a live stage we would only have to deal with this annoying aspect of our music, and this would definitely not bring us any satisfaction; we only would be bored and all fans would soon notice that, and in the end all would only be disappointed. Apart from that our music should create mind worlds of wide fantasy landscapes, but seeing two normal sweating mortal humans on stage would total destroy all those images we created in the head of the listener with our albums.
Maybe a few words about the choice to name the album 'Oath Bound'?
Silenius: We had no album title until the production process was nearly finished. I just had a lot of different words written down on a piece of paper. I read all my brainstorming ideas to Protector and in the end we decided to choose 'Oath Bound' simply because it fits best to the Silmarillion topic, just imagine Feanors curse against Morgoth, not to rest until he would get back the Silmarils or the oath of Morgoth not to rest until Middle Earth lays beaten before him and so on. The topic of making an oath is very strong in this saga of the first ages of Middle Earth .
Can you tell us as much as possible about the themes and concept this time (because the works of Tolkien are extensive and huge)?
Silenius: As I said most of the lyrical concept is taken directly from poems of the Silmarillion. For example Morgoth's preparation for war against the elves, Feanor's curse, and the end of the legend of the Silmarils with Beren and Luthien fading into the land of the dead. We have descriptions of landscapes and kingdoms like Beleriand, King Thingol of Menegroth, one lyric is taken from a war poetry from an unknown author and the lyrics to 'Mirdautas Vras' have been written by a friend of us who tried to write a poem in the black language of the Orks. This was of course very difficult because this language is very incomplete, but I think he made a good job out of it. Some lyrics like the choirs have been written by me, and have been combined with the original lyrics of Tolkien.
Tell us about the song 'Mirdautas Vras' itself (what is that primeval animalistic scream in it?)
Silenius: it was sure right from the beginning that this song had to be filled with lyrics in the black language because the song has the most marching-like and aggressive atmosphere; in contrast to the others. In the beginning we had guitar lines over the song but in the end we decided to remove them because they simply destroyed the feeling which is maybe the strongest one concerning to a kind of soundtrack-like mood. In the beginning I did not know how to sing the song and I was trying to make experiments with different voice styles, and even tried to use backward recording, but all this did not fit so in the end I used my normal black metal voice and tried to sing this speech as rhythmic as possible and this fits the best in the end beside that we had some ork scream samples included which makes the topic more aggressive and archaic.
What about the recording process? I think in your case the knowledge and upgrading of studio material is important, isn't it? What it very different from earlier recordings (as technology evolves faster and faster in this hectic world) Was it recorded in the home studio of you, Protector again or somewhere else?
Protector: Indeed, again we recorded and mixed everything in my studio. Actually the word studio is a bit exaggerated as it is only a 2x3 meter room, but as Summoning has no real drums we don't need much for recording and mixing. For me it is very fine that we are able to create the complete album from the composing to the mastering totally by our own. I think mixing belongs to the music production like anything else. For the new album I used newer software, and especially for the guitars a new guitar amp simulation software helped me very much. Unlike on 'Stronghold' and 'Let Mortal Heroes', where I used amps and hardware devices to create a real guitar sound, this time I recorded the guitars clean and added the distortion and amp simulation later during the mixing process and therefore was much more flexible as ever before. Also the simulated sound of a huge fat amplifier is surely much better and even sounding more "realistic" than the old amplifiers we used in the past.
Mmm, hectic world, I said. That is exactly what Summoning's music is for me: a way to escape this foolish fast society and go on a journey of intense scenery. Can you find yourself a bit in this feeling?
Silenius: I think the concept of Summoning is very clear and I repeat it in each interview that our main aim is not only to make a musical translation of the Middle Earth concept, but to give the listener a perfect piece of musical escapism of modern world's stress and insecurity. Of course our music is
entertainment but not this kind of party entertainment for the metal disco. I think our music is a very personal piece of art which is best to consume while being alone reading a book or to hear on walkman during extended walks through mountains, huge forests or nature in general. I think the combination between ancient mythology and a kind of brace to pure and wild nature was a big essence of Tolkien's work and so it is a big essence of within our music too.
I guess you live in Vienna. A town that makes me think of grandeur and (classical) art. Can you tell more about your environment, maybe the metal scene there and if there is an influence of it on your music? (or a protest against some things)
Protector: Vienna has surely a great musical history and many of the total famous composers lived there or were born there, but it is an illusion that this fact still makes Vienna a very classical city. Quite the opposite I think, the music scene of Vienna is not very big, there are some old people watching operas, and thinking that any music not connected to classical music is shit, and there are a huge number of people only listening to some stupid pseudo Austrian folk music etc. Generally I think that there are surely many other cities that are better for a musician than Vienna.
Can nature be seen as a source of inspiration?
Protector: For me it is not a source of inspiration. I grew up in Vienna and simply am used to a big city. I like to have internet ,and all technology for my music. Sure I can enjoy beautiful landscapes as well, but I never really see them in connection to any inspiration. For me the main inspiration comes form just playing around on the keyboard.
Silenius: In contrary to Protector's technocratic way of thinking, for me the silence of pure nature is a big source of inspiration. Whenever I have spare time I flee from Vienna to the countryside of my hometown to get new sources by wandering through the wild landscapes of my home district. This gives me a new input in the way of composing. In contrary to Protector I would get mad to spend all my time in a big city and that is the big difference between our way of thinking.
In the biography they talk about the Fourth Age of the band, now that guitars have found their way in the forefront again. What about these “ages”?
Silenius: First of all I must say that in our way of thinking we don't feel our music has changed so much since 'Minas Morgul', principally I think that we are doing the same all the time, just focusing on different aspects from record to record. That means on one record the drums are louder, on the other the guitars are more silent and so on. But we realised that our fans made big differences, whether if our album was for example produced in another studio or done by ourselves etc, and so we made this kind of separations in our history of how we think our fans have judged our releases. In this case the new album 'Oath Bound' definitely represents the beginning of a new age, but we can not say how this progression will be in the future. Maybe we will focus the priorities on the next mini CD to something total different.
One of the magical elements is the marvellous use of the bombastic choirs. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Protector: We sung the choir by ourselves. In order to make it sound more full and not only like two people, we sung the tune many times in different sounds. High, then deep, then high and more rough, then almost whispered etc. In the end we had sixteen vocal tracks which we then mixed as a choir and just added some chorus and reverb effects to it. We had the tune we sung already a long time before, but as we liked the choir on the last album we wanted to do that again on the new album and then at the end decided where to use the choir again, and so we decided for the songs 'Land Of The Dead' and 'Might And Glory'.
And, because it is my favourite track on the album at the moment: can you tell a bit more about the occluding epic 'Land Of The Dead'?
Protector: This track was the one where I first used the new guitar style on a song. I tried to play in the old way, but then I realised that I was already too bored with it and so I tried it in another way and was satisfied. The piano tune is composed by Silenius, and I added the flute tune of both parts (which later became the choir tune). The text of the choir part was written by Silenius (normally we just take the text from Tolkien).
The name of Summoning has been linked to Napalm Records for such a long time. Can it be seen as an earnest alliance of “together growing bigger” or do I see that wrong? (it can be that it is just a coincidence because both Austrian based)
Protector: Silenius knows Max already since the beginning of Napalm Records, and soon became a friend of him and meets him also apart from musical business. At the beginning when Napalm Records was a true black metal label we suited quite well to this label with our debut CD. Then after many years Napalm's taste turned quite much to gothic metal, that really is not a style we would like to be connected with, so we often get asked why we are still on Napalm Records. But as long as we can do what we want and have our musical freedom we see no reason to change this label. Napalm does good promotion work, and that is the main thing about a label. What benefits do we get from a total true un-commercial label that has lots of epic bombastic fantasy metal bands, that finally breaks up and cannot support their labels.
Do you know 'Lugburz' is a Belgian company of volunteers to support underground death/black metal? What do you think of that?
Silenius: To be honest I do not know this label, but it is not a big surprise that bands, labels, etc take over cool sounding words taken directly from Tolkien's dictionary. We did it and a lot of other people do also so I don't care about this and cannot say if this is good or bad. In the end everything is just advertisement for the books of Tolkien.
Important item to focus on is your exceptional use of percussion/drums. You must be able to tell more about this…
Protector: Sure, drums are important for Summoning, they are not just meant as rhythm support as in normal metal bands, they should bring new ideas to the music and also influence the atmosphere. Therefore we integrate different drum sounds and also let them play more varied rhythms than this standard normal hi hat - double bass - snare rhythm all the time. We integrate deep tom toms, with mighty kettle drums and marching drums. Most Summoning songs would be even recognizable if you just hear the drums.
Another thing is the artwork, extremely beautiful. Right today I got someone who started to get interested in Summoning by the advertising of Napalm Records with all the covers hehe. Who is involved with it and can you tell a bit more about the artwork of 'Oath Bound'?
Protector: Always Silenius is the one that searches in local book stores for some books with suitable paintings inside. After some time he brings them to me and we decide what could be used for a cover and layout and what not. Then we also have to search separately for a picture that contains a nice frame (cause we normally use frames for our covers). Then my job starts. I combine the different elements on the pictures and put them together; adjust the colours to make them suit better etc. This time we used a painting by the English painter Albert Bierstadt from the times of the romantic epoch. We did not use his paintings only for the cover but also for some paintings inside the booklet.
Well, I guess even though I truly admire your works, I am conscious about the fact that it is not music for the masses and that you turn yourself to a rather selected audience. Are you aware of that or maybe you do not agree? Speak freely!
Protector: Sure we know that, and it was never our intention to make music for the masses. I mean I would not have problems with it if suddenly millions of people would start to listen to our music, but we simply will never change our music just for the purpose to make it more accepted. Actually it would be not very difficult for us to change the music to make it more popular. For example if we would use real drums, most metal heads would accept us much more. Then we could replace our keyboards with real orchestra, and would get more accepted by the gothic crowds and all people who hate electronics (who are very many these days). Then we could make our songs much shorter, so that they suit on all compilations and also would be broadcasted in radio shows etc. Finally we would have to present us to the audience, show our real face so that people could imagine better the persons behind the music. And if we would give live converts this would increase our popularity surely many times. But all this would not be Summoning anymore. And as we fortunately both have our regular jobs we are not dependant on musical success, so we never get the temptation to change our music just to get the
money we need for living.
Silenius, in the early days you played in Abigor too (and both of you in many other projects/bands). Are some of you involved in other projects these days or is Summoning taking all of your time?
Silenius: I am not in Abigor anymore, since many years by now, the reason for this drop out is that I did not like the musical progression of this band. As the music became more and more complex, disharmonic and stressful and my musical favours went into a completely other direction this split was obvious. After all I heard that there will be a reunion of Abigor soon but I think without me and I even don't know if TT will join again, maybe in the end PK will do it alone with new members just as on the releases he did in the end before he finished the band. Besides Summoning the only band I am still active with is Kreuzweg Ost, a mixture between military industrial and neoclassical arrangements. The latest CD 'Edelrost' was released on the English military industrial label "Cold Spring Records" some month ago. And we have a licence deal with the Russian "Irond" label for this market. There is also an exclusive track on the label sampler 'Swarm' and I definitely will continue with this project this year with my two new members after Martin of Pungent Stench has quit company some years ago.
Protector: I am still working for my other projects "Die Verbannten Kinder Evas" and "Ice Ages", and all of them are of the same importance for me and take the same time. Just because Summoning is the best selling project does not mean that it has a higher priority than the others. Actually all songs of "Die Verbannten Kinder Evas" where already finished two years ago, but due to some bad luck I had with the female singers I could not record the album till now, but fortunately some weeks ago the new singer came from Greece to Vienna, so we recorded all songs in only two days and now after the huge amount of Summoning interviews will pass, I will mix the new songs and finally release the new CD. It will be called 'Dusk And Void Became Alive' and will contain more female voices tunes as before. I also work on my dark futuristic project "Ice Ages". I already made the basic structures for all new songs, with all vocal tunes, but still need to create the drums. This time I will have more control over the sounds than ever as I deal with computer synthesiser which are more mighty than my current hardware ones. So the new songs will be darker, slower and with a more rough and dirty sound as before.
Two past bands you were involved in I would like to know a bit more about. The albums 'Das Nachtvolk' from Weltenbrand and 'Awaken The Dragon' from Pazuzu are in my collection. Please tell some things about these creations…
Protector: Oliver from Weltenbrand was a Die Verbannten Kinder Evas fan before he started with Weltenbrand. So after his debut he asked me if I would not like to sing for his second release and I agreed. I visited him a couple of times for recordings in Liechtenstein, but than after his label MOS totally collapsed and I did not want to release any more albums on his label he started to threaten me with a lawyer and so I broke all contact with him.
Silenius: The first Pazuzu album 'And All Was Silent' was the first CD release we ever made even before Summoning and Abigor. It was released on the Norwegian independent cult label "Head Not Found" and we of course have been very exited about this in those times and have been of course very proud of this, and for sure it helped us to get deals for Summoning and Abigor but meanwhile I have no contact with Pazuzu. He immigrated to Canada many years by now and I don't think that he is still active in the musical scene. As far as I have heard he is working for General Motors somewhere.
What are the things you have in mind to do this year?
Protector: Well as mentioned, definitely the release of the new Die Verbannten Kinder Evas. After two years delay this is really very urgent for me.
Silenius: I definitely will make new material for Kreuzweg Ost and of course I try to make new songs for the next Summoning mini CD. Only one song is ready, this song did not have any space on 'Oath Bound', but I think it is strong enough to be used on a future release.
Well, as Summoning music is quite unique, last words are for you, to try to describe the essence of your music…
Silenius: The essence of our music is to create songs that are totally connected to the archaic and mythological concept of Middle Earth. In contrary to many other bands who use lyrics and inspirations of Tolkien we want to achieve that people who listen to our music directly think of this world even by not knowing the lyrics. I always have the feeling that many other bands with the same aim are not able to create hymn like and epic and even marching music that would fit to this world and I hope we make a good job and hope that people are satisfied and inspired to drown into this fantastic mind-world.