It has been a while since we talked. I know that Black Messiah mainly tours in Germany as their main territory for success, but what are the most important happenings you look back on with pleasure from the latest years?
One of the biggest events was playing at Wacken this year (2013) without any doubt. Finally we could play there, that was a dream come true. We played at the Headbangers Stage with a capacity about eight thousand people. The tent was full and all the people sang along and had a great party with us. That was incredible. We will be on the next Wacken DVD with three songs, that’s a milestone and I will surely buy that DVD to show it at my son when he grows up (smiles). Ik am a metal fan since the age of sixteen, now I am forty-one. Playing on the biggest metal festival in the world has always been my dream, now it became true. We played at Rock Hard, that is an amazing festival as well. I saw Overkill and although I never liked them on CD, there live shows are ace, tight as hell. We have played for the first time in the UK in the meantime. That was a positive experience as well. And a bit longer ago we had the opportunity to go to Russia. That was a bit strange. We felt like rock stars for a few days. They picked us up at the airport with bags full of booze and we were brought to the backstage area, escorted with bodybuilders as guards. It was a bit decadent, for kicking for a change.
Few time ago you had to face another line-up change. Why did Meldric leave the band?
We are still good friends, but we do not earn much money with the band. We all have daytime jobs and families, while everybody has tasks within the band. We feel comfortable with that. It gives us a kind of freedom. We do not have to follow rules or have to respond to certain business laws. But of course there comes a time in life that some people cannot invest that much time in the band anymore, because they have other commitments. That’s why we loose some members from time to time. We openly discuss all this with the whole band and that is very important. Since we do not live from the band, it is very important that we have fun while doing this. We are a very open band, also towards the fans. We are always open to their suggestions and criticism. We do not hide in the backstage after a show, we go out and meet the people.
What can you tell about the lyrical contents of ‘Heimweh’?
Our first bigger success was the concept album ‘First War Of The World’ (2009). The next one was partly filled with the Naglfar story, spread over four songs. But this time there is no concept at all. Most of the lyrics deal with Vikings and mythology, but there is no story. We have a party song again ‘Wildsau’ and this time it is not at the end of the record, but already the fourth song. We did it before with ‘Söldnerschwein’, but that was a kind of bonus track at the end. Some fans think it will destroy the natural flow of the album, a break of the vibe, but well, we like those party songs and it is fun playing them live. This is one of the freedom issues we can do. Some people are even disappointed because there is no concept, but hey, it is the music that counts, not the concept only.
One of the songs that leap to the eye is the title track ‘Heimweh’. It even has classical influences and a choir. What is the story behind that song?
That’s a very funny story. The initial idea came from my wife, suggesting me to use those huge floor toms. She told me about a seamen song and Vikings on a ship in the vein of ‘Drunken Sailor’, something to sing along. I told Zagan about it and he seemed to like the idea. In the end it turned into a completely different song, full of melancholy and a bit sad. So many songs develop in the long run into something different and that is one of them. We also like to use the solemn clean vocals of our more or less permanent guest singer Markus ‘Mönch’ Wahlers and that brings another characteristic in our music. The choir is coincidence. Zagan was talking with the guy from the studio and he told him that a choir would come over the next day. Zagan asked if they could sing some lines on that song and that’s what happened. Those are brilliant ideas that suddenly cross Zagan’s mind from time to time. We are lucky to have someone with a classical training. So he will always add some layers and orchestration to the songs and that makes it more bombastic, another feature in our music.
You have shot a hilarious video for the party song ‘Wildsau’. Was it fun making the video?
Sure it was. We gathered in a house for a weekend with thirty people and the crew from our former video for ‘Windloni’. We had two days to make the video clip. Instead of my usual drums, I have a kind of helmets on sticks to bang on and it had a kind of Monty Python feel. ‘Wildsau’ is used in German when someone gets furious and all systems go, but it is a true party song. Well, we cannot make any clip without humour. Everybody in the band has the same sense of humour and it is important taking not everything so serious from time to time.
Usually Black Messiah writes songs partly in English, partly in German, but on ‘Heimweh’ there seems to be a proper choice for German. Was it done on purpose?
It is always Zagan who writes the lyrics and I think it is always him who decides which language would sound better for the song. It was no intention to end up with only one song in English, but coincidentally Zagan decided that most of the songs sounded best in German. The German fans are very pleased of course, but we have no interest in it whether it is German or English. It can be that the next album will be completely in English and only have one German lyric.
These days that should not be a problem, surely not in Viking metal. We have Manegarm in Swedish, Korpiklaani in Finnish.
Indeed, some years ago we toured in Europe with Tyr and they sing in their native language from the Faeroe Islands. That is interesting. I like the sound of Tyr a lot, because it is a little bit special and one of these nuances it that they sing in their own language. It can be a help. I think it is a good thing that Zagan just decides on how he is feeling about a song, the natural expression. During live gigs it is fine to play a mixture from all the albums, enough songs in both languages.
One of the things that instantly struck me is the difference in cover artwork. Usually you have exuberant drawings from Vikings and battle, now it is just black.
(laughs) That is a thing that came up with the title. We thought about the title and we had the song ‘Heimweh’ already. Everybody of the band had put a part in that song, for me it was the idea from my wife for the drum beat, another one came up with the guitar sound in it, so we decided to chose it as title track. What is ‘Heimweh’? Well, nothing else than homesickness, a feeling the Vikings had when they went abroad the sea and did not see their wives and children for a month or years. We thought it would be the best way to express the album. Melancholy is a dark feeling. We wanted to go to the essence.
The former album ‘The Final Journey’ included an ode to Candlemass with the instrumental song ‘Into The Unfathomed Tower’. That was pretty surprising for me. How did you come to that idea?
That was another idea from Zagan, being a fanatic Candlemass fan, but only with Messiah as singer. Several years ago a book came out here in Germany about patches and Zagan was in it with a photo with Messiah. It was in a bar in Essen back in the days and I think that bar is the melting pot of bands like Sodom, Kreator… There you can meet the guys, because they are drinking their beers over there. Zagan came up with that cool instrumental where he could do the lead guitar parts on his violin instead of a guitar. He transformed the arrangements a bit. It is a straight metal song with a bombastic tinge. We played it live a few times and it was a success.
What are the plans for the near future?
World peace (laughs)
Yeah, if that could be possible.
Unfortunately we also have a new band member, our guitarist and you can see him in the video for the first time. We had a guitarist Ymir in Meldric’s place, but he had to leave us a few months after he joined us because he now is sound engineer on a ship which does world travels. So he is never at home, so we had to activate an old friend of Zagan who also played in the old black metal band Ninnghizhidda, Pete. Formerly we had René (Bogdanski – Vera) as session guitarist live to help us out, but he also plays in The Very End. That is his baby, he was a founding member and he is also doing well, so he cannot be a full band member. We understand this, so we had to find another one. Pete is also a friend of our session guitarist René and so all comes together. We did the release party with him and everything went well. For the future, we hope we can play some big festivals, of course also in the Netherlands and Belgium if possible. It is always hard for a small band to come over. We already have two festivals for this summer and hopefully there will be more.