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zondag 20 december 2015
SECRETS OF THE MOON: An inventive and adventurous experience

Interview with guitarist Ar from Secrets Of The Moon by Vera in October 2015

Secrets Of The Moon has always given us an ultimate exclusive interpretation of the blackened metal genre. On the new album ‘Sun’, this evolution even goes one step beyond expectations, with only clean vocals and ravishing, intensive music you cannot put in one pigeonhole. Since the previous album ’Seven Bells’, many things happened in the German band. We have the honour to illustrate this new beginning with a debonair conversation with guitarist Ar, now co-writer and producer of the four-piece.

In March 2012, the previous album ‘Seven Bells’ came out, but during those years a lot of things happened in the band. Of course we know that you lost bassist LSK… but there seem to be more changes…
Three years is a long time. We had some delays. Indeed, a lot of things happened in the band and we are very happy that the album is finally done. We took the time we needed. As everybody knows, we lost LSK (female bassist who committed suicide in 2013 – Vera) and that has been a very painful experience for each of us. This record is dedicated to her. Every note we play is for her, every word refers to her. When you follow the band, you know that our drummer Thrawn Thelemnar quitted as well. At a certain moment, only sG and I were left. We already played with a new bassist Naamah Ash at that time – more precisely two tours – so she was already a bit familiar with the band when the recording process started. Our current drummer Erebor is an old friend of mine. When Thelemnar left, it was obvious that he would take his place. Now we are very satisfied with this line-up. However, in the beginning it was an experiment, since everybody joined us about three months before the recordings of the new record would start. I think that it was jumping into deep water, surely for Erebor, because this album is so different than our others works at many levels. It must have been a challenge for him, but we are very pleased with the things he contributed to this album and the band in general. Now we once again feel like a strong unit, raised from the ashes, so to speak.

For the band ‘Sun’ means a fresh and new start, while other things came to an end right before that. That’s exactly the theme of the album, isn’t it?
That is one of the aspects, indeed, but it is tenable for more aspects. The initial spark for this album was a new start, but it is transformed into a sort of power, a force coming from all those negative experiences we had to go through. That’s why we can speak of a spiritual catharsis. Our ideas were rather vague when starting with this album. Therefore we were not sure that we could bring this to a good end. A lot of the material has been written when we were in the studio, we re-wrote things, tried different arrangements and so on. This time it was a very intense writing process. But in the end all pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

’Sun’ is indeed quite different from what we are used from Secrets Of The Moon. It signifies a giant leap in the musical development of the band, although you were always innovative. Vocals are mostly clean and the black metal influences are as good as gone…
That is mainly an evolution which came into being during the whole process of writing and recording. We knew that we would mainly use clean vocals, but when we were about halfway song writing and arranging, we realized that this album could never sound as previous albums. Neither vocal-wise nor production-wise. We have learned a lot while making this album.

With a title like ‘Sun’, you think of light and warmth, but looking at the pitch-black artwork you would not say that…
(chuckles) Yeah that is a symbol, running through the album like a red thread. It might sound like a contradiction, except when realizing what the sun actually is. It is our reason of living. There would be no life on this planet as we know it without the sun, yet in a sense it is a very dark place. In the end the sun will swallow us, together with everything we ever built. We will be catapulted into the void, into nothingness again. The sun is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end from our existence. Thus the sun will bring devastation after giving us the chance to live. This goes beyond our comprehension as futile mankind, just as art. That is also bigger than humans. We have to obey art, we cannot make it obey us. You cannot treat inspiration and art, you cannot predict it. That would feel wrong.

Did you work with producer Markus Stock again in the studio?
No, actually Markus was not involved in this record. It is recorded in my studio and I am the producer. That was one of the changes we planned. The band has worked for fifteen years with Markus Stock, now it was time for some changes in the production too. But he did a remix for the bonus CD of the special edition. That turned out nice. It is an alternative version for ‘Man Behind The Sun’. As guest singer one can find Thomas Helm – also of Empyrium fame – on the album. He did not only do some guest vocals, but he has been our vocal coach during the recordings, because he is an extremely professional and accomplished singer. He has helped us a lot. You can hear him in the vocal harmonies of the chorus in ‘Hole’ and ‘Man Behind The Sun’. His contributions are everywhere on the album. It was an amazing recording process. We did not hire him as guest vocalist, but in the studio we felt such a magical chemistry between us that he suggested to sing some parts. We were very happy with his contributions. I was truly impressed. For him it is peanuts to sing. He is used to sing without microphones in his work for the opera and now everything was electrified. That was funny.

I have the feeling that the album is more accessible, even catchier if I can say that, than I expected…
You are allowed to say that (laughs). It is not a dirty word. I think everybody likes catchy music, whether if they will admit it or not. There is catchy music with depth. That is not a contradiction.

Another amazing feature on ‘Sun’ is the beauty of the guitar leads and solos…
That was really laborious work. We have worked three months on the guitar sound, before we were pleased. Fortunately all this work led to a result that we wanted. Working hard and doing things again and again have turned into the result that we wanted to achieve. Before we started, our main purpose was making the best possible album at this moment in our lives. In that respect we have succeeded and I think the fans will agree with us. I hope so.

Now you are an important musician in the band, writing songs with sG and doing the production. But you once started as their session musician and stayed it quite a long time… what about this development?
In 2007 I started to play in Secrets Of The Moon, two years as session guitarist, then they asked me to join permanently. This is my second album with the band, I also played on ‘Seven Bells’.

But the list of bands you have played in is quite impressive. What are actually your roots?
I started in the band Odem Arcarum. They have released two albums on the Osmose label. I have been playing in Negura Bunget for quite some time and in Dordeduh.

Yes, that Romanian connection, how did that start?
That was very interesting. We have done a show with them long ago. I got to know Edmond and the guys better, a friendship came out of that. I have been their sound engineer for some time. Long ago I have recorded a DVD with them. Right after that show the bassist quit. Then they asked if I could manage to play the material in two days, since a tour was planned. Fortunately I knew their material quite well by being their sound engineer. So I said yes and toured with them for some time. I have played on the last album with original line-up ‘Măiestrit’. At that time they were a very good live band. I have spent a lot of time in Romania with them. They played a lot. Every day they did rehearsals. They were so motivated! Incredible. It is a pity that it did not paid off after the split between Negru and the others.

But now you are living in Germany again. There is some confusion when looking for your home base. In the past it was mentioned Osnabrück, but I also find Munich and Hamburg. Although all cities are located in Germany, there’s quite some distance between them… what is the right home base of the band?
At the moment two members are living in Hamburg and two in Munich. I admit that is quite a distance to arrange practical things, but i is not so easy to find the right persons. You have to compromise at certain levels. We prefer to have completely fitting persons in the band with long distance connection, rather than go ahead with people from the neighbourhood with who the click is not so good. Of course we cannot rehearse that frequently, but when we schedule a rehearsal it is very intense. We come together for the whole weekend with the focus on rehearsing only. It has more results than gathering few evenings in the week after working and having some beers and play. We feel very comfortable with our approach.

You have created a video clip for ‘Nyx’ with Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets) from the previous album. Are there plans to give the new material any visual support?
Sure. We are working on that at the moment, but the realization is too vague to give more details now. There will be at least one video clip, maybe more. We want to make something special of it. We are talking with the director as we speak, but concrete plans will follow in the near future.

What can you tell about the live activities of the band?
I want to mention that we have played at Incubate Festival in the Netherlands and I only have good memories on that one. The show and the location were marvellous. It was the first time we played two new songs. The reaction of the crowd was very good. We felt very comfortable at that stage. I had a very busy day over there, because I also play guitar in The Ruins Of Beverast, so I had to hit the stage twice. For next year we are booked for the Maryland Deathfest in the US and we are working on a European tour in the Spring of 2016.

Geplaatst door Vera op zondag 20 december 2015 - 20:15:39
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