Интервю с Morean oт ALKALOID и DARK FORTRESS

ENGLISH VERSION:
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We’re stuck exactly between animal and genius now, struggling to transform from one to the other

MH18: What we, listeners, know about alkaloids is that they are a class of chemical compounds. Would you tell us how the band was formed and why did you choose that name?

Morean (v/g): The roots of this band lie in a talk I had with Hannes, V Santura and Steffen Kummerer already in 2010, when we were considering maybe starting something new together. That never happened obviously, but, inspired by that conversation, Hannes called me two years later with his plan for this band, already with today’s line-up in mind. Finding the name was a lot more difficult. I was collecting cool words and names for 2 years, I found pages full of potential names. The problem was that every single name you can think of is already taken. Initially, my favorite name for this band would have been “Monolith”, in reference to Arthur C. Clarke and what we wanted the music to sound like, but also that one was taken. At the end, we had to choose between “Metatheosis” and “Alkaloid”; “Metatheosis” is the title of the second NONEUCLID album, and the word is mine, but we didn’t like the very obvious NONEUCLID reference. “Alkaloid” initially also comes from there, from the NONEUCLID song “Paranoid Alkaloid”, but the connection was a little more obscure. I really like the meaning of the word when I found out that many psychotropic substances we are familiar with are classified as alkaloids, and the idea was to transfer the effects of for example LSD to music, and to conceptual ideas rooted in science, but “perverted” by artistic minds. Alkaloids can also be the cause of mutation, and that’s another concept that we applied to our music since the beginning. Breaking rigid genre cages and liberating ourselves is caked into the DNA of this band, you could say.

MH18: ALKALOID can be referred to as scientifically- fictional transmission in music because of the rich background story and the solid research process. Where does the science end and the fiction begin?

Morean: Simple: as soon as those concepts and speculations from the natural sciences enter our subjective songwriter brains. We’re always trying our best to understand the science “ingredients” we use as well as we can, but then it’s our fantasy taking over, and only proper science people will know if the visions we paint are probable, imaginable or at least theoretically possible. The fact that we take most of those things from the most speculative fringes of science helps to have some freedom in interpreting them. I think that art and science can strengthen and inspire each other at times, that they’re not necessarily doomed to always be opposites, even though the scientific world of course has to be unambiguous and objective to be scientific. But occasionally, an irrational thought jump from a totally subjective, probably quite ignorant artist’s mind might spur an idea that can have value to science eventually. This is how it happened for example with the Dyson Sphere idea, which Freeman Dyson got inspired for by a science fiction novel. I’m not expecting to actually contribute anything of value to scientists – I’m not that pretentious – , but by now I prefer the solid, magnificent, complex and mind-bogglingly real world of science over pure fiction as my source of inspiration. It’s a lot of fun to build worlds in your mind. Getting to share them with others, even if it’s “just” songs, is a great privilege.

MH18: The band’s style is sustained indeed by precise music composing and writing process. How do you approach it – do you compose music in parallel with writing its lyrical content?

Morean: Me, I do. At least in this band. I have written so much music that I’ve learned to channel and direct my musical creativity, and subject it to serving the story behind the song. So I make the musical material the story or song asks for, instead of first randomly collecting riffs and then try to braid them together. The Dyson songs were written like this. But it’s not a formula either – nothing is. Trying to break down the complexities of life into simple formulaic mechanisms is the death of ideas, creativity, and relevance very often. I guess we embrace the open flow of ideas in the head, because we have nothing to prove anymore to the metal world, we have the tools we need, and so we can permit ourselves to do whatever the hell we want. It’s awesome.When I get an instrumental track by one of my band mates, it’s a little different because the music is already set usually. But also there, I always try to find a way to tell my own story with my part of the song, which then is usually lyrics and vocals. You have to tread a bit more carefully then, because you have to leave the composer’s idea of the music intact, but since I get very inspired by those demos as well, I usually have no trouble finding a story and vocal concept that fits to my band mates’ songs. At least, they have never complained so far.

MH18: Talking about the brilliant “Liquid Anatomy”, the music sounds more aggressive and dynamic, but at the same time more alternative- oriented than in its predecessor “ The Malkuth Grimoire”, and strangely, the emphasis lays on the synchronized inter-liaison between the clean vocals of Danny Tunker and your rough growls . This contributes to the transcendent atmosphere of the album, would you share some details about all of you working together? Was that result intended?

Morean: First of all, this is not how it is. I did ALL the vocals, clean and brutal, just like on the first album. It seems to be a novelty still that a metal singer has more than one single sound in his throat, even though some really good singers in metal have proven that there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to do both clean and harsh vocals, and everything in between. Of course, I’m still somewhat new to clean singing, and I’ve never done so much of it on any other album I was part of. But I’m happy to try what I can, and apparently, the band also likes it, and that’s good enough for me then. I find it so important to end the boring one-dimensionality of metal vocals – something also true for all the other instruments in my opinion. I like bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE, don’t get me wrong, I love them even. But as a musician, I’d kill myself if all I got to do was the exact same thing over and over and over again, especially if it’s a single bloody sound. I mean, come on… that can’t be the full extent of what metal vocals are capable of! Every band has to decide for themselves how they like it, and if that one note is awesome like in this example, why not keep using it. It’s just totally the opposite of how I tick as a creative person. I’d die of boredom from my own stuff very quickly. Danny of course did contribute some vocals as well at the end of the recording process by the way. But except for two very clear lines in“ As Decreed by Laws Unwritten“ (just before the last solo, he does the high voice in “May they fall never to rise again / Withering in the shade of their non-existent gods”), his vocal tracks were just used to thicken some choir parts and some gang shouts in the choruses. So on this album, it was an addition for sound reasons, to have more of a choir feel because I had stacked my own voice so many times already and you hear when it’s all the same voice. This, however, doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t combine our voices more obviously in new material. He sounded really good in both cleans and growls, and it was the first time he tried that out. So who knows what will still happen. But don’t steal my credit for all those endless days of recording clean vocals! I’m very proud of them

MH18: OBSCURA has always had the complexity of a classical masterpiece which can be found in ALKALOID’s sound as well, furthermore, you’ve been recently working with Rotterdam Philharmonic. How do such different musical dimensions enmesh and become one?

Morean: Excellent question, and to answer it in detail, I’d have to write a book. But the short version is that I’ve been busy with those style amalgamations for many years, and I have since come to understand that as a composer, you never have an excuse not to be yourself. You can always do your thing, and the question to which little drawer it belongs shouldn’t play any role when you’re creating. It’s for the press and fans to decide where your stuff belongs, but that becomes a completely irrelevant question once you realize that the difference between genres is often more one of orchestration and instruments used, than actual incompatibility in the DNA of the music. In the case of this band, the instrumentation and the technical possibilities of every musician are clear, and we know what music we all like, or at least support when it comes from others. The only way to achieve real alchemy between hitherto totally incompatible elements is to get to the core of each of them, and then find connections between them – not just on the surface, but in their very essence. From this common ground, you can then create anything. It’s sometimes a bit of a stretch of course, and the process always requires a lot of trial and error. But after so many experiences and experiments in our respective pasts, it’s a little easier now to attempt things that seem absurd at first glance, like combining the 80-prog-pop / hard rock of „Kernel Panic“ with its death metal sections, or the disco and reggae elements in the Dyson songs with the blast beat infernos of exploding supernovae.

MH18: As an artist what do you consider to be the biggest achievement in your personal life and career?

Morean: Impossible to single out only one. Creatively, I must say I don’t remember ever having as much fun writing music as with ALKALOID, and that says a lot. But there have been many landmarks. Getting accepted to the Conservatory in Rotterdam was probably the most important thing that ever happened to me, because that fact started my music career in earnest. In 2014, 20 years and countless shows and pieces later, I got to write for and play in one of the most prestigious concert series in the Netherlands, the NTR Zaterdagmatinee in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the holiest classical music temple in the country. Me, with my electric guitar! And they even made a TV documentary about this show and piece, called „Schattenspiel“ (you can find it on youtube under “Morean – Metal Dude in Concert Hall”). Other highlights were being invited to Tanglewood, the summer camp of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, three times in a row, and every score I wrote for large orchestra was always a highlight as well. You think of something on your couch in the middle of the night, and a while (and many notes) later, 100 people walk into a room to play your idea back to you – it’s a mind-bogglingly intense experience. Working together with my choreographer wife on modern dance pieces has always been a delight as well, and setting up my own ensembles like NONEUCLID or THE HUNGRY GODS have been absolute mile stones in my musical development. Playing on festivals like Hellfest or the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig are also memories I’ll never forget. But in general, I don’t linger too much on my past achievements – that path leads to Choronzon “eating his children”. Always look forwards, and always aim to go further than last time!

MH18: Humans perceive best audio-visual experiences, concerts for instance. If it was possible, what would be the perfect scenery for ALKALOID ‘s live performance?

Morean: On a heated PINK FLOYD-like stage, well rehearsed, with great lights and sound, set up in the Antarctic Dry Valleys off Ross Island. If possible, a Las Vegas-like arrangement for the whole season. But if that can’t happen (…uhm…), any good stage and proper show conditions will do. If there was budget to have stage design and costumes and stuff, it would for sure help the presentation of the music. And I’d love to be able to bring one or two background singers to gigs, since we have so many parts with clean vocal harmonies in between the violence now. But you can’t make yourself too dependent on conditions, because as a musician, you often see some super fancy music temple one day, and play in some abominable shithole the day after. It’s bizarre how you can’t predict how a gig will be just from the status of a venue, festival or anything. It happened to me often that the biggest, most prestigious concerts were actually problematic and disappointing, like the first orchestral collaboration with NONEUCLID for example. Seven months of preparations, one single show, and everything went wrong. Likewise, sometimes you arrive to a club with your gear and only want to run away from it as fast as you can, and then the gig turns out fantastic, for reasons that don’t always make sense. Bottom line is, you always have to deliver, and you can turn almost any show into something enjoyable if you choose to approach it that way.

MH18: Both OBSCURA and ALKALOID are highly influenced by cosmology and astronomy. What is your personal view on extraterrestrial life?

Мorean: I like the panspermia idea, something I hinted at in the „Cthulhu“ lyric on the first album. I can very well imagine that the building blocks of life can travel interstellar distances to seed new worlds upon arrival, and the theory that this is how it happened on this planet finds more and more acceptance among scientists. Anyway, in the long run, space migration will be the only possible way of life on earth to survive, because the destruction of earth is going to be a fact one day sooner or later, and any planet-based intelligent life form elsewhere would have to face the same problem eventually. But we are in no position to really judge if there’s other life out there, because we are still so limited in what we can see. Personally, I’d find it more logical that there’s life everywhere in the universe, than that we’re the only ones. How would that even work? Why here then, and nowhere else? And since we’re finding life in the most unexpected places on earth, in the earth’s crust, even little critters that can survive the vacuum of space, I expect before long that we find at least microorganisms, stuff like stromatolites, or fossilized remains of past life in space.

MH18: What is the place of human species in the bigger picture? What is your own “conspiracy” about the universe?

Morean: We’re stuck exactly between animal and genius now, struggling to transform from one to the other. It’s a bit of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation, and at the moment, it’s anyone’s guess which side will win in the end. But if we can manage to apply the intelligence we have to all of humanity, we might just make it as a species. Artificial intelligence will play a big role as well. In a way, it already does. My hope is that we will get to some sort of symbiotic arrangement with our robotic superiors when the time comes, so we don’t end up as mere exhibits in a biology zoo in robotland. But as for conspiracies, the only one I’m really sure about is the abominable international construction worker conspiracy: gather all your machines and make as much unnecessary noise as humanly possible as early as possible, until you’ve woken up the entire district. Then, at 8am, with everyone successfully terrorized, don’t do anything any more for the rest of the day. This is happening everywhere I ever go. I’m not making this up.

MH18: H.Lovecraft ‘s ideas and vivid imagination evidently have great impact on ALKALOID. Why him? Are there any other sci-fi or horror authors, or scientists that inspired or impressed you in a way?

Morean:What I always loved about HPL is how different his cosmos is compared to other sci-fi / horror writers. He wasn’t the best writer, but in terms of world-building, his pantheon is second to none, that’s why his work is still so relevant in our time, and the reason why the bizarre creations of an obscure hermit in New England a century ago managed to become part of contemporary 21st century folklore. His worlds and creatures are so remote from human reality that they will probably always serve as a great, abstract playground for the imagination. As for other writers, my main inspiration has been Stephen Baxter in the last couple of years. He came from a science background, and manages to turn the most advanced concepts of science and cosmology into compelling, universe-spanning stories that leave me flabbergasted every few pages in most of his books. It’s impressive how he can create a race of mini-humans living in the magnetic field inside a neutron star, and still convey a sense of realism that convinces you that a world like this would not only be possible, but if it existed, this is exactly how it would be. He has no limits in the scope of his tales. This inspired me incredibly for how far you can take an idea. We make our own stories in our songs, but his general approach to storytelling was something that fit very well with how we approach our music: go as far as you possibly can.

MH18: Some retrospection, what is your story with music – how did you take up playing and how did all of this change you?

Morean: When I was 9, I heard YES’ Owner of a Lonely Heart for the first time, and that riff made me want to play guitar. Music was everything to me since then; if I wasn’t playing, I was consuming it, and music pretty much saw me through a difficult puberty. It was my alternate universe, a safe space from the everyday bullshit. Other landmark discoveries then were SLAYER,METALLICA, and later Flamenco and other world music, and composers like Stravinsky, Ligeti or Shostakovich. After a short stint playing on the streets of Granada after my high school, I was accepted into the conservatory of Rotterdam. There, my career started in earnest, and the last 20 years, I’ve lived off my own music exclusively, something that makes me very proud. But in recent years, I must admit I started developing other interests besides music as well – mainly nature, science and traveling. After decades of music music, music all day long, I really needed some fresh input for my brain, to keep the fire of inspiration burning.

MH18: If you could change something about the course of humanity, what would it be?

Morean: 1. Redesign the human ears so we could properly close them. 2. Find a way to develop flight. 3. Extend the symbiotic relationships of microorganisms in our bodies… for example incorporating algae under our skin so we could photosynthesize. 4. Develop and promote space migration, so we can become an interstellar civilization. 5. Reduce matters like race, color and creed to a style question, not one of terrestrial superiority. All these are still quite pointless fantasies though, I’m afraid.

MH18: The video for ALKALOID ‘s “Cthulhu” was shot in Egypt, in a type of environment, entirely different than Europe – after all it is referred to as the birthplace of humanity. How did you find that experience and did you get on with the indigenous people people?

Morean: The fact that we shot the video there was purely circumstantial, since Nader Sadek invited us there to play, and offered to do the clip at the same time. It was an awesome experience, and one of the only metal shows with bands from abroad that seemed to work out in that country. Before and after that, it’s been a disaster, as we experienced with Dark Fortress shortly after, and recent political developments don’t give me much hope that things will get better for metal and other subcultures there any time soon. It was a very emotional experience for me to meet the Egyptian metalheads – they were so enthusiastic and appreciative that we actually came there, it humbles you as a spoiled Western metalhead. You realize how well off we are here in our part of the world, where the worst that can happen to you is getting a stupid comment here and there about your music. In Egypt and other countries in the region, you actually risk prison if you happen to listen to the “wrong” kind of music or wear the wrong color t-shirt. It just confirms the theory that metalheads around the world are in fact one people, a people without a country, but with a strongly developed global culture and identity. It was so obvious that those guys there are pretty much the same like we are, they just wanna be left in piece and enjoy their lives, and they mean no harm to anyone. To be called a terrorist or a psychopath just because you like electric guitars and don’t believe in a bullshit state religion is something straight out of the dark ages, and you despair at the idea that elsewhere, they’re fighting crap that we managed to leave behind hundreds of years ago over here. We are so lucky to have been accidentally born in places where we can freely pursue our happiness, free from corrupt and dictatorial mindfuck regimes keeping people stupid and subdued.

MH18: Is “The Malkuth Grimoire “ thematically connected in terms of plot and core ideas with “Liquid Anatomy”?

Morean: Yes. When the songs on „The Malkuth Grimoire“ were finished, I felt I wasn’t done at all with some of the story threads and subjects we started there. Both albums are sort of “open” concept albums, where there is a thematic connection between most songs, but where every song still has all freedom to develop its own world, its own bubble. This works well for me because when I started for example the Dyson Sphere saga, I didn’t know it wanted to grow into something much larger than initially planned. The same happened with the Antarctica story of Funeral for a Continent, which is continued in „Rise of the Cephalopods“ on the new album. The Lovecraft songs of course form another sub-thread, as do the genetics-, biology- and particle physics-themed songs like for example the two title tracks, „Orgonism„, or „Kernel Panic“. So I expect to continue these threads in the future as well, until some kind of end is reached in each of them. I’ll also try and connect some of those threads between each other in the future. The whole band and lyric concept is still developing in an organic way, and since I don’t know where it’s going to lead us in the future, I’m just as curious to find out as our fans. It’s only when I sit down to write the next chapters that I find out myself, and that’s a very interesting and rewarding process. You get to feel like an adventurer on your couch this way.

MH18: ALKALOID consists of members of OBSCURA and DARK FORTRESS and perhaps initially started as a side project. Are there any other musicians you would like to collaborate with?

Morean: There are so many amazing people out there, doing all kinds of things in many different styles, and in my “day job” as a composer, I have been very spoiled to work with mostly extremely good musicians on a daily basis. But my number one dream collaboration would be with Carl McCoy from the FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM. His work has been a massive influence on my young mind, and his voice is second to none. Another musician I respect enormously is Ron Jarzombek of BLOTTED SCIENCE. In my view, he’s pretty much the only composer who managed to write strict but delightful 12-tone music that actually works, and doesn’t just sound like Brahms with random pitches. I’m not so sure what I’d have to offer to someone so advanced in their vision though, but who knows… And as a band, it would be our dream to support acts like OPETH, MESHUGGAH, IHSAHN or AMORPHIS on a tour, because they managed to take their music way beyond genre boundaries and become hugely successful while staying completely themselves at all times.

MH18: Your music explores the sonic side of the Universe, what else would you like to experiment musically with?

Morean:Hard to answer, since got to do so many things already in my career – symphonic music, chamber music, electronic music, movie soundtracks, music theater, dance productions, opera, even music for a church service (“Dzehennem”, which turned out to be one of my darkest chamber pieces ever actually) or a score controlling a real flight simulator, not to mention the countless crossovers I have done between everything and everything else. What fascinates me most these days is the beauty of nature in all its complexity. The shapes and colors of glaciers, mountains, the rainbow colors and ultra-gothic shapes of volcanic rock, the incredible trees of the Valdivian rain forests in Chile, or the magnificent display of sun, clouds and stars in the sky, not to speak of the mind-boggling images that the Hubble telescope sends back from space or the yet quite unknown cosmoses of the microscopic worlds or the deep sea, all make me wonder if man and his art can ever rival the amazing esthetics that thermodynamics and biology have created without any human involvement. I’d like to spend some years studying the mechanics that created these complex patterns and shapes, and if I could somehow translate my findings there into a kind of music that taps into the same emotional, spiritual well in my listeners as what I experience when I drown in puddles of my own drool in an ice cave somewhere, I’d consider that my greatest achievement.

MH18: DARK FORTRESS weren’t so active in the last few years, but actually were part of the line-up of Dark Easter Metal Meeting 2018 . Can we expect more shows performed and more new material released in near future?

Morean:Certainly! Recently, V Santura sent his demos for the next album, which isn’t finished yet, but nevertheless at a quite advanced stage already. So you can expect a new album hopefully not too far from now. And of course we’ll keep playing live, even though we realize we can’t ever become a band that spends half its time on tour. But we’re definitely not done, even if the band’s already ancient by now.

MH18: This week OBSCURA officially announced a forthcoming song release. Would you share some information about the upcoming “Diluvium “?

Linus Klausenitzer (b): „Diluvium“ is the last album of our 4 album concept that started with our album „Cosmogenesis“. The production for this album started right after my bass recordings for ALKALOID. I think both bands made a big step forward with the new albums so I am more than happy that this intense time was worth it. The new OBSCURA album is less atmospheric and in general faster than the previous one. I enjoy that both bands are very individual and even more different than before although half of ALKALOID has played in OBSCURA. „Diluvium“ will be released at the 13th of July.

MH18: Apart from music,are there any other forms of art you express yourself through?

Morean:Not so much, although I have to admit that writing those Alkaloid lyrics has become the part I enjoy the most, even more than writing the music. It’s become a bit of a new passion for me in this band, though I’d never pretend to call myself a writer or even a poet. Another thing I’m carefully getting into is accompanying my concert pieces with video here and there. I made one film about my 3-month trip through the Andes all the way down to Antarctica a few years ago, which accompanies the live score, and I plan to do the same for the following trips I did to polar and subpolar regions. Mind you, I know jack shit about photography and film making, but the fact that the nature there is so amazing, it’s not too hard to collect very good footage with a simple point-and-shoot camera these days, even for a complete amateur like me. I often wish I was a film maker or video artist, because then I could try and put my inner worlds into visuals, something that otherwise is always doomed to fail with no budget. But I’d need at least one more life time to learn that trade I guess, so for now, I’m condemned to stick to music and lyrics. But hey, that’s fine by me, because I’ve been blessed to get to do pretty much everything I ever wanted with music, so no complaints from my side!

MH18: Last question, Is Alkaloid going on tour, and is there any possibility of you visiting Eastern Europe?

Morean: We definitely want to! We have nothing concrete in the agenda yet, but we’re working on it. We definitely want to put Alkaloid out there as a serious live band, instead of just yet another studio project. It may take some time to find the right way to do that. But we’re expecting to be able to announce something more or less soon, hopefully. First, let’s release this album finally! Believe me, we can’t wait till people get to hear it last. So thanks for listening, and enjoy!

Alkaloid

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