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zondag 21 juni 2009
Geïst: We are not only into keeping traditions, but into developments of music

Interview with composer/bassist Alboin of Geist by Vera in June 2009

Sometimes amazing music just comes out of nowhere. Geist releases its third album, but the first one with a proper distribution. ‘Galeere’ is one of the main discoveries of this month. Atmospheric eerie parts pass into harsh heaviness, while the marine theme evokes images of bleak oceans and eternal nature forces. Once rooted in pure black metal, this German band moves beyond boundaries, without caring of stylistic issues. A masterpiece like this needs some further investigation. That’s why I decided to put up some questions and learn more about this Geist, a ghost wandering over vast oceans and moor-like fields. Moving spirit and main composer Alboin – also in charge for bass parts – found the time to lead us through the Geist Empire.

Geïst came into being in 2005, but most of the band members have experience which goes back in time to other outfits. Can you tell a bit more about this pre-history of Geïst?
Geïst actually has a direct predecessor called Eismalsott, which has been founded around 1998 by a guy named Aínvar and used to be a solo project. I got to know him accidentally around 2001 or 2002 and we talked about his project and that he intended to record a demo some day. I offered some help recording it, and promised to ask two guys from the band I played in back then, Enid. These guys have been drummer Marlek and bass player/vocalist Thalos. We met up and started rehearsing for the demo called “Skogtaken”. After a while we decided that “Skogtaken” should be an album, but before recording an album, we aimed for an EP release upfront. We had signed a deal with a German label called Black Attakk, which some people would call a rip-off label. Eismalsott entered a studio to record this EP “Best Before: Spring”, which got released later on Northern Silence Productions. We never started to record “Skogtaken”, but played a couple of gigs with material from it. Instead, we wrote songs for another album, with the intention to postpone the whole “Skogtaken” thing and to get rid of the deal with Black Attakk. This was what later turned into “Patina”, the debut album of Geïst.
Eismalsott broke up directly after the recordings for “Patina”. Aínvar and the rest of the band took different roads – he stayed with Eismalsott, we founded the new band Geïst with another guitar player and released “Patina” under that name.
From the current line up, Cypher probably has the biggest experience when it comes to playing in black metal bands. He started out with a band called Armageddon around 1995, which is probably the oldest black metal band in our region. Also he, Larva and Hedrykk play in a thrash metal outfit called Lost World Order, which is a band being active even longer than Armageddon. But, actually, at least LWO has no pre-history connection to Geïst.

Well… digging into the past once more… You released two albums before on smaller labels, ‘Patina’ (2005) and ‘Kainsmal’ (2006). Can you describe the music on these ones and compare it with current work?
“Patina” was very obscure, raw and dark compared to the stuff we played later on. We had not found our typical way of composing and arranging songs, which resulted in an album varying in styles from slow doom influenced black metal, melancholic, even romantic influences, pure ambience and harsh up-tempo songs. Altogether, “Patina” surely is something I would call a sin of our youth, even if I still deeply love the album. The time we recorded it was full of changes; we didn’t know a fuck about recording, made so many mistakes, had no experience in anything. 2004 was a challenging year, and that can be heard on that album.
“Kainsmal” followed pretty quickly, only a year later, and it pretty much dealt with my thoughts about the Eismalsott split. That’s something I still think a lot about; it’s a sad happening giving me melancholic feelings each time I remember it. “Kainsmal” sounds like that, more melancholic, but also angry. Compared to “Patina” it’s a straight, compact album with great songs, but also with some mistakes we made, unfortunately.
Compared to “Galeere”, both albums, for me, have the flair of being not complete, being imperfect, but perfect mirrors of their time. I tried to give “Galeere” a colder, professional, but also deep and brutal feeling. For the first time in our band history, we succeeded in aiming the goal I had, giving 100% to record the album we could record in that moment. I think “Galeere” is superior to its predecessors in most points.

What are your thoughts on the choice of the name Geïst?
A good and memorable band name, expressing what we are about… spirit and ghosts, that’s what our music actually deals with. The name says a lot about the atmosphere we try to build up. To me, it’s a good choice.

Now you are signed by Lupus Lounge, subdivision of Prophecy Productions and in good company of bands like Farsot and Secrets Of The Moon. Can you explain to our readers that there are significant differences with older blackish stuff coming from Germany (and also: this has nothing to do with old school Scandinavian black art)
Ehm well, I’m not sure if I got the question right… you say there are differences between the current state of German black metal and what it was a couple of years ago, mainly musically? And that it’s not comparable to the old school Scandinavian black metal? I don’t think so. A lot of bands are still influenced by what some Norwegian bands did 15 years ago. Geïst is as well, not directly, but Norwegian bands having their heights around 1994-1997 are what I musically grow up with. That’s the same with other band members. I even notice regularly that a lot of German black metal bands and solo projects practically play cover versions of these old songs. Actually, in my eyes there are only few bands having developed a really own and remarkable style, and some of them are signed to Lupus Lounge, that’s true. I guess working with influences from other musical genres helps a lot to enrich the black metal core, resulting in more atmosphere, more aggression, more general depth of musical feeling. Ten or fifteen years back, without general access to the internet, that was different. Influences have changed with the media revolution giving you the opportunity to listen to all kinds of music instantly. Also, the great development in home recording may have influenced what modern black metal bands do. If you’re not only into keeping traditions, but into developments of music, you end up as a band like Geïst, I suppose.

The album ‘Galeere’ has a kind of marine topic, a bleak ambience running through the atmospheric yet harsh music. Can you give some more thoughts on this?
The whole concept started when our vocalist asked me if we could strengthen the marine vocabulary I used on “Kainsmal” here and there. I thought about a whole album with themes around the sea, I collected influences and ideas… and pretty quickly decided to start out with plans for “Galeere”. To me, this is a threatening theme that is absolutely underrated in black metal – there are few topics being comparably dark and brutal. No idea why so few bands work with it.

In this respect, can you go deeper into the lyrical contents of ‘Galeere’?
Hm, that’s hard to explain. All songs are connected by their common theme, telling something about different aspects of the sea – at least on the surface. Below this surface, there are a lot of metaphors and personal thoughts, about black metal in general, about the human kind, about our band. It’s not my intention to fully explain it, maybe that’s even impossible. Just that: our lyrics are extremely metaphoric, and you can only understand by reading, no other way to deal with it.

Quite some line-up changes occurred in 2007. Can we say that this has strengthened the band?
Strangely enough, it has. We have a much stronger and more reliable line-up today, with musicians and characters fitting together in a band, with a common goal we all work on. The new members are fabulous musicians, enriching our general skills and performance a lot. Back in 2007 and before, we had a strong line-up as well, at least fitting to the time being – but Geïst developed, and the line-up developed with the band.

The writing process for ‘Galeere’ started after that in 2008. I know you can be seen as main composer, or can we speak of a real band effort, also including the new guys this time?
The complete material has been written by me this time, including music and lyrics. I also had a basic arrangement when we started rehearsing the songs, but during the process of playing the stuff again and again, we worked in some variations, changed details and so on. That wouldn’t have been possible without a complete band, giving all effort they have to push the songs to their absolute top limit. For example, we added some guitar solos I’d never be able to write… our drummer plays some beats I wasn’t able to program… the same with our keyboarder. I can only suggest basic ideas, and we work on it together. That may change with the next album.

What were remarkable gigs in the history of Geïst?
We haven’t had so many to be honest, maybe around 25 or 30 gigs if I’m right. Some of them have been really horrible, both our performance and the surroundings, some have been the absolute opposite. You can’t plan a remarkable gig, if it becomes legendary seems to be accidental. So far, really great shows have been a gig with Helrunar in Mülheim, our two release parties for “Kainsmal” and “Galeere” and probably a few more I can’t remember.

Are there plans to play gigs to support the album or even a tour?
We have played a couple of shows lately and will do so in autumn again. Due to job obligations and similar stuff, we’re unable to just play a tour as a support for the album. There have been some plans, but we couldn’t organise it so far. Another try will be to start a mini tour in coming spring. We’re also ready to support a bigger band, in case we’ll get the opportunity – and in case we all have the time to do it.

Is there a certain reason to hold on to German lyrics?
A really simple one: my English is not good enough to write English lyrics, not to speak of any other languages. It’s okay to answer interviews and have a talk, but I have highest demands for my own lyrics, in terms of metaphors, poetry, form… and I can’t fulfil these in a foreign language. I love the German language for its sound and the possibilities it offers when it comes to beautiful expressions, and I don’t like to miss it. I’m even sure that has become a kind of trademark for the band.

The songs have a wide range of moods and tempi, yet always dark and grim. Your influences do not only focus on blackened art as I understand. Can you tell us more about that?
Of course – quite simple, I listen to a lot of music varying from old Norwegian black metal to doom metal, sixties and seventies rock music, Latin folk, some more ambient influenced stuff, some blues, soul and jazz music. What I have learned when it comes to composing music: it’s not about writing a black metal song, it’s about writing a GOOD song, with haunting atmospheres, touching tunes, it should carry you away with all its emotion and sound. Influences from, for example, ambient music can give a song the final kick to become moving and abysmal, and I see no reason not to use influences helping me to write more in-depth music.

The artwork fits pretty well the musical atmosphere. Whose work is it and if you like to give some details or thoughts about it, I wouldn’t mind…
The cover artwork has been done by Lukasz Jaszak, the graphics specialist of Prophecy Productions. We had some basic ideas about it, and he had full creative freedom to put it into practice. I think it’s moving, absolutely fantastic – dark, gloomy, but also full of beauty. I’m pretty sure that can’t be done in a better way.

The production of ‘Galeere’ is top notch quality. Was it the first time you worked with Markus Stock (of Empyrium fame), famous producer in that area? Can you tell a bit more about the recording experience?
It has been the first time we recorded in a professional studio with Geïst, yes. That has been one of my main aims for the new record. The reason is that I’m sure it’s not to the advantage of a band when you have to keep with both musical and engineering/production duties. As a band, you should be able to concentrate on playing your music, and you need objective and clear criticism from a third person while recording it. That’s the mistake, if you can call it like that, we did on the two previous albums. Working with Markus was absolutely professional, we had a lot of fun, a generally creative and relaxed atmosphere, and we recorded the album in a very short period of time. Markus gets the intended sound of an album very quickly and with intuition, also because we have a generally similar taste and character. Even if I feared recording “Galeere” would be too challenging, it was an absolutely great experience.

I think a significant feature in Geïst’s music is that Cypher does not use typical blackish screams but a kind of epic, narrative rough vocals. That makes a difference, do you agree on that?
Absolutely. Cypher aims on vocals that are harsh and understandable at the same time. There’s no sense in investing a lot of time in writing good lyrics, and afterwards performing them with the sound of a hysteric chicken. At least not for us. Additionally, Cypher’s voice is pretty remarkable, and it gives our whole sound a very own touch.

What are the plans for the near future?
We’ll try to re-record some guitars for the re-releases of the two previous albums. Both will be overworked in Studio E, hopefully at the end of the year, and we intend to enhance their whole sound quality a lot. Afterwards, we’ll start rehearsing for some gigs in autumn, and I guess we’ll be writing new material by the end of the year. A year is short when you’ve to manage jobs and a band at the same time.

That’s true, but let us hope that ‘Galeere’ will be received in a proper way by the crowds and Geïst can find the recognition they deserve. Anyone of you with a heart for genuine boundless music, check out ‘Galeere’!

Geplaatst door Vera op zondag 21 juni 2009 - 20:25:52
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