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Corvus Corax

Hoe zou metal geklonken hebben in de middeleeuwen? Dikke kans dat het geklonken zou hebben zoals het Berlijnse gezelschap Corvus Corax. De gitaar bestond toen nog niet, laat staat dat elektriciteit een algemeen goed was, maar met een flinke stapel hout waar je met houten stokken op kan beuken en de nodige blaasapparaten kan je toch leuk kabaal maken dat een passend equivalent is voor de moderne heavy metal. Corvus Corax laat de 12de eeuw herleven met een kruistocht van archaïsche melodieën in een maliënkolder van opzwepende ritmes en Teutonische adrenaline. Ze doen dit al dik vijftien jaar en staan op het punt hun zoveelste album ''Venus Vina Musica' op de allengs aanzwellende groep gretig geïnteresseerden los te laten. Hoogte tijd voor Lords Of Metal om met de band eens een duik te nemen in wat zij eigenlijk allemaal doen. Slagwerker Norri was zo vriendelijk om op de waslijst met vragen te reageren.

Door: Evil Dr. Smith | Archiveer onder gothic metal

Congratulations with your new album! Let's start with the unavoidable question, because I think that a lot of our, mostly metal orientated readers still doesn't really know you. How would you describe your band and your music to a random metalhead within 50 words, without using the words mediaeval, folk, party and peacock feathers?
Corvus Corax is probably the loudest unplugged band on the world. Three drummers are playing incredible hypnotic beats that are really useful to bang your head and the five bagpipe-players are the archaic version of the modern e-guitarists.

I only know the band since 'Mille Anni Passi Sunt' from 2000. But the band already exists since 1988. Was I an ostrich that's putting its head in the sand, or were you in the first years only active on a local level in Berlin? (Since when did Corvus Corax spread his wings to other regions?)
We didn't have a label/distribution outside of Germany. Maybe this is one reason you didn't noticed us before. Another point is, that the “normal” rock-business didn't gave us a chance to play on festivals and we got no reviews or airplay, cause our music was too “strange”. We were very active since the beginning of Corvus Corax. We've played in Japan and Mexico and have released now sixteen albums!

I didn't expect a new album this soon. Quite recently we received your interpretation from the 'Carmina Burana', the 'Cantus Buranus': first the studio version and a little later the live version. Some of you are also busy with Tanzwut. How and where did you find the time to write and record this new album? Or… was this album a rush job?
I don´t now how we are doing all that stuff so quick. We are all a kind of workaholics. Maybe we have to contact a doctor [smiles].

The album starts impressively with 'Venus Vina Musica', where the vocals sound like a Tibetan monk choir with sore throats. Who does all the vocals on your CD's: do you get any help from professional singers and/or modern technologicy?
We are musicians and not a bundle of creeps. We love to play instruments and to use our voices. We need no “professional” help for singing and dancing.

The album title means 'Lust, Wine and Music'. I don't think that needs a lot of explanation. I do think that this album sounds less dark and less mysterious than the two previous albums. Do you agree and what was the idea behind the atmosphere of this album?
Sorry, but I'll never give an answer what I think about my own music. The idea was to play the incidental music for a medieval minstrel from the13th century that is traveling through the land to find the most beautiful women of the world.

I have only eight songs of the album on my promo copy; the album itself contains twelve songs. Do those four missing tracks contain any vocals or choirs, because I got the feeling I was missing “something” – some vibe, some vocal atmosphere - during the second part of the promo version and I think the integration of more vocal songs could give the full-length album more balance.
Yes, there will be more “vocal”-songs and a little bit more power. Also the finished album contains a different running order for a better balance.

The song 'Tuska' reminds me a lot of 'Saltarello', an Italian tune from the 13th Century that was also played by Dead Can Dance. Is that coincidental? And there are more melodies that made me think: “Where did I heard this before?” Nevertheless, the credits tell me that the band composes all the songs. Really? All the songs? No borrowing, cribbing, stealing, pilfering or whatsoever? Come on, you can't fool me! (We in Holland say: “Maak dat de kat wijs!”) So here's a little space for your confession that you were “heavenly influenced” by the following artists and songs…
We are playing medieval music. For that we have to look for musical fragments in the medieval literature. Unfortunately these fragments are written in an old notation called “neumes”, which only give us information about the melody (most times without fixed notes – only an up or down direction). There is no information about the groove or the arrangement. So, the basic of our music is an original but we've to interpretate the arrangements and the beats for our own.

When we started 1988, there was no band like us. If you have the feeling you heard some of our melodies before, it could be possible that another band had used the same literature like us. 'Saltarello' for example is well-known by Dead Can Dance but you'll find the 'Saltarello' on our first record 'Ante Casu Peccati' from 1989 too, without any connection to Dead Can Dance.
It's also that the bagpipes don't have a lot of possibilities. Many of the old melodies are really similar.
And you're asking for influences? Cause no one played our powerful style of medieval music before us, we traveled through Europe and North Africa to listen to the still existing traditional music.

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I've understood that I have the privilege to mail these questions with one of the percussionists. Are your tools genuine antique and heavily expensive, or is it already expensive enough to buy that shitload of instruments at the “grocery for music instruments”. And how's that with the other instruments? I think it must cost a small fortune to buy all that equipment. Or do you rent?
The medieval ages end at the 15th century. Believe me – there are no original antique instruments alive. You can't buy our stuff in a store. Most of our instruments are built by our own and sometimes we are working with some instruments builders to create new drums. Of course it's expensive and it takes a lot of time to realize it.

I've seen you a couple of times on stage and you really can tear the house down with unbridled mediaeval energy and party-feasting adrenaline. I think your live shows generate another atmosphere than your albums. Your albums breath an atmosphere like it's a journey with Sean Connery through the monastery in 'The Name Of The Rose', but your live shows are more like those dancing knights of Camelot in Monty Python and The Holy Grail where they sing: “We're knights of the Round Table, we dance whene'er we're able.” Can you understand what I'm trying to say and if you do: why this different approach, because there's also Tanzwut for mediaeval dance party's sake.
I know what you mean, but I love this difference. When we are recording in the studio we can use a lot of more atmospheric instruments that are definitely not loud enough to use it on stage.
When we're playing live, we want to have a great party with a dancing, headbanging and air guitar playing crowd.

It's time for the time traveling machine. Where and in which century would you like to be put in The Dark Ages for a year? And don't you think the Dark Ages were a really rotten period in the history of mankind? Your music sounds like you are romanticizing that era, but I'm glad I'm not living in that God-fearing period.
I don't really want to live in old times, but the 11th or 12th century could be ok for some weeks.
The word “dark ages” is nonsense. We're talking about 1,000 years! I'm never romanticizing these time or other periods like the antique roman. The bad times begun with the Black Death but the really worse period was the renaissance, when the church started to burn people and spreading lies like the earth is a plate.

How fanatic are you in your fascination for the Dark Ages? Does it also affect your private life, which will, without doubt, cause great clashes with the wife?
I love to recreate the medieval music in a modern way. That´s it.

Is Corvus Corax (and Tanzwut) a fulltime profession or do you need to have a regular job for bread and mortgage? If so: do these jobs have any connection with history and/or music?
Music is my fulltime profession. Some years ago I've worked in bars but now we're earning enough to live. Not more, not less.

The last couple of albums are made in your own Corvus Corax/Tanzwut studio. Do you built that yourself or “just” bought an old studio? I can imagine the advantages of having your own studio, but what are the disadvantages?
We've built it ourselves. It was a lot of work but now we can record what and when we want.
There are no disadvantages. We only have to keep it clean [smiles].

Speaking about Tanzwut. On the album 'Ihr Wolltet Spass' (2003) there are a couple of songs, which lyrics originate from the Carmina Burana. Because these song titles differ from the songs on 'Cantus Buranus' I may assume you didn't use elements of those Tanzwut songs in the 'Cantus Buranus'?
We've used it for 'Fatue' and 'Caupona', but there are more than 300 lyrics in the Carmina Burana. So we've no reason to take the same part twice.

Unfortunately I haven't seen 'Cantus Buranus' on stage (yet). I do like the album very much, but I also read that your performance at Wacken Open Air wasn't fully appreciated over here by several Dutch metalzine reviewers. One even mentioned that it would make Carl Orff turn in his grave. So why did you chose the hard way by NOT using the musical arrangements of Carl Orff for these mediaeval lyrics, because I think that most people only know these songs by Orff's arrangement.
The reaction of the crowd at Wacken was amazing and a big success. I don't know the problems of the reviewers you are talking about.

When Carl Orff started with his version he had the same problems like us today. If an artist makes something new and unexpected, you will see all the time the same behavior. In Germany we've a word for it: “Was der Bauer nicht kennt das ißt er nicht” (“a farmer would never eat what he don't know”).
I believe most of the people have no idea what the “Carmina Burana” is. They think it is an invention of Carl Orff.

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Our idea was to make a complete new version of the original Carmina Burana with our medieval background, cause the well-known music of Carl Orff is nice but without medieval reputation.
Why we should record the idea of another musician. We've enough ideas for ourselves and it would be a really poor story to cover Carl Orff to be successful. And I believe Carl Orff would dance in his grave for sure [smiles].

I read in another interview that you were mentioning 'Carmina Buranus 2 and 3'. Is that serious or were you just joking around?
It´s no joke. We'll start at the end of the year with the recordings for the Cantus Buranus part 2!

Speaking about classical music. I live in Utrecht and we have here a festival for old music every year: “Holland Festival Oude Muziek”. It's mostly classical music; there are hardly any crossovers or artists from popular music. Do you know what the interest from the classical music world is in Corvus Corax? Does this world even know the band and/or do they think that you are “not serious enough”?
Some people of the “Classical music” scene are open minded and some not. What is “serious”? If you read books about the life of the “old masters” of classical music you'll find a lot of sad stories. What should I say about a scene that is all the time against new ideas?

You also played in Pennsylvania in the United States! What was it like to play over there? Did the people really enjoy it, or were they treating you like an odd gimmick?
It was a huge success and we'll play this year again at Pen Renfaire.

The band line up is pretty consistent. There are only a few ex-members, and they are playing in a band called Cultus Ferox. The name implies big similarities with Corvus Corax. Is that true and do you still have contact with your ex-members?
They are not within our bands but they are still in our life.

You also composed music for the game 'Gothic 3'. What was it like to compose mediaeval music for this modern technology game and are there any differences in composing when you compose it for a studio album?
Kai Rosenkranz from Gothic 3 has composed the music. We've made additional recordings with our medieval instruments to give more atmosphere to the soundtrack. It was a great experience and the result is wonderful.

Besides Tanzwut there's also the band K.D.A., which consists three Corvus Corax members. What kind of band is that and do we have to take that band as seriously as Corvus?
K.D.A. is my solo-project since 1992. It's completely different to the other projects. A kind of electro punk/industrial which is very extreme and where I am the singer! There are two releases: 'Jesusatan' (1997) and 'Gift' (1998). The third record 'Youareprayingtothewronggod' is finished and I will release it when the additional DVD is complete. And of course all the music I do is seriously, hey!
Take a look at

You played three years ago at the Lowlands Festival in Holland. A girlfriend of mine didn't know you, but happen to see you coincidentally while she was walking across the field. She instantly became in love with your music and your show. What can you remember of that show and what are you expectations for your next visit at Lowlands, next August?
The concert was unbelievable and one of the best I can remember. There was no space left for more people to see us. They stood on trashcans to see us and everyone was dancing and jumping.
I hope this year will be a success too.

What kind of music do you like to listen to what people would NEVER expect from a band member of Corvus Corax?
All the music that is for me special and catching. Diamanda Galas, Godflesh, BoltThrower, Laibach, Underworld, The Taymen, Alien Sex Fiend, Fear Factory, Dead Can Dance, Slayer, Schostakowitsch, Krafwerk, SPK, Pitchschifter, Killing Joke, Impaled Nazarene, Test Departement, Prodigy, Deadbolt, Belladonna Killz, Seven Seconds, Tangerine Dream, Ministry, Napalm Death, The God Machine, Mad Sin, Cypress Hill, the list goes on and on…

To conclude some silly questions about the band name:
Who are Hugin and Munin and do they have any influence in the reason why the band is called Corvus Corax.

We had a raven called 'Tippel' who was living and traveling with us for some years. Ravens have the same behavior like us and that's the reason we took the Latin word for the raven “corvus corax” as our band name.

Are you aware of the US band Corvus Corax on the record label Dark Symphonies that played so-called “Pagan Symphonic Black Metal” a couple of years ago? And if so: did you sue their asses off for using the same band name?
We heard about this band but why we should have problems? Live and let live!

What's your favorite bird and do any of you keep any pet birds?
Of course the raven, ha! But my real favorite bird is the swift (apus apus), which is living, sleeping, eating and fucking the whole life in the air like a fish in the water.
No we don't have locked animals.

The most important question to conclude:
Berlin, July 9th 2006, the FIFA world cup finale: which countries are they and who'll score the winning goal for Germany in the last minute?

Germany against Argentina. Klose will make the winning goal… I hope, haha!

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