The German Death Metal underground brought us some real jewels over the last 25 years and Berlin based GOLEM is one of them. 25 band years and three full lengths later, F.D.A. Records is re-releasing the first two albums “Eternity – The Weeping Horizons” and “The 2nd Moon” of these fine technical underground Grinders to allow also a younger generation and some of the older fans to get those albums in a proper, remastered format and for the first time also on vinyl. Their status in the underground and the re-release was reason enough for us to hook up with main force and only remaining founding member Andreas to examine the bands history with several ups and downs…
Hi Andreas, hope you are doing well and thank you for the opportunity to bring some light in the history of GOLEM, especially while your first 2 full lengths will be re-released now and you celebrate 25 years of GOLEM this year.
"Thanx, I’m fine and yes – indeed a good point in time ; -) "
GOLEM was founded already in 1989. As far as I know, you started as a three piece together with Michael and Max. Can you tell us a bit about how you three guys got together, who had the idea to start up a Death Metal Band, who came up with the band’s name and what your influences have been back then?
"We went to school together and were fans of extreme Metal from the first time we learned about it. Being in a band seemed to be the icing on the cake so we took the first opportunity to actually build one. We did not even play our assigned instruments in the beginning but started to undergo some heavy practicing soon. When PROTECTOR’s “Golem” album came out we also found a proper name even before we really started playing together. The influences reached from Thrash Metal like KREATOR, SODOM and SLAYER to the early NAPALM DEATH who immediately became our big heroes."
Then in 1991 you recorded your first demo “Visceral Scab” which was re-released in 1992 as 7" by Cannibalised Serial Killer, leaving out two tracks. Can you tell us a bit more about the recording session, how many demos you sold back then and how you got in touch with Cannibalized Serial Killer to sign for the 7"?
"The recording was a pretty funny experience. Still underage we had to be brought by an older friend to the studio just beyond the former wall in Berlin. Those guys there had no idea what kind of music we were trying to bring on tape but in the end it was a pretty relaxed session spread on two afternoons. Of course we also had no experience at all, no internet to read about everything and no descent pocket multitrack recorder. But back then also good intentions counted. In fact I have no idea if we sold many copies but with the help of Pluto (Peter Neuber) we got that thing with Cannibalised Serial Killer. Max did all the organizational stuff then and I was only concerned with the music. He went together with Pluto to meet Michael Trengert who worked for Nuclear Blast at that time (I just read that he died last year – R.I.P.) and somehow we found us signed to that 7” release. Unfortunately Max could not see it anymore."
1992 was a tragic year for GOLEM, as young Max died in an accident together with 2 friends. Apart from losing a close friend, which is tragic, you decided to keep GOLEM alive and continue the band history. Did this change your style in any way and how huge was the musical impact of Max?
"I’d say the musical impact was rather marginal. We wanted to keep the spirit and so we continued doing what Max also would have loved to do. The lyrics changed a lot though since the whole former cliché did just not give us anything anymore."
Then you found Jens as second guitarist but Michael decided to leave, so finally you have been the only founding member. Rico Spiller of FERMENTING INNARDS, where you have also been involved in, offered to help out on bass and you found a stand in drummer to help out. A lot of changes. Your musical skills seemed to grow. How do you see your musical development at that time and have you been the only one writing all the material or have Jens and Rico delivered ideas as well?
"GOLEM is more or less solely my baby in any artistic aspect. There were a few contributions by the others but just their advice and differences in taste guided my musical explorations a bit. I do not like compromising too much though. So it became my challenge to come up with stuff good enough that nobody could decline ; -) In that sense frequent line-up-changes can make you grow more as an artist. For instance playing in FERMENTING INNARDS introduced a yet for me unknown musical value system and every other new band member had its influences later too."
Do you think your time in FERMENTING INNARDS has changed your way of songwriting in any way?
"FERMENTING INNARDS focused a lot on “dancability” which I wasn’t aiming for at all. I saw the point though and being able to play complete gigs without being too sober was something that had its merits. I would on the other hand not overestimate the influence on GOLEM’s songwriting. That has always been done with much greater ambition in explorability. But it definitely streamlined the process a bit and some monstrous riff collections got a bit in shape. The Swedish influences and a lot of underground input also came from Rico who was a passionate tape trader and scene fanatic. Without him we’d most likely missed meeting Dan Swanö and OXIPLEGATZ would probably be still unknown to me. And I mention that because I count that as really important facts for our development. Even early AT THE GATES I learned of primarily because of him. So let’s say that FERMENTING INNARDS played an important role in broadening our musical horizon – more by personal reasons probably than just by their music."
1993 had some significant developments and changes for GOLEM. Your fine Demo “Recall The Day Of Incarnation” was released and marked a significant step forward in your history. How were the reactions back then? Did you have a lot of offers for record deals back then? Has the tragic accident of Jens interrupted you then in signing any deals for the band?
"Musically it was definitely a big step from “Visceral Scab”. I mean there are just 2 years between the recording sessions and not all the time was just happy music-making – but back then that meant ages in personal and artistic development. You can imagine not all the reactions were positive about the changes though. Nonetheless it brought us some new audience with a lot of admiration as well. Of course Jens’ death threw us back once more and heavily doing organizational stuff like label search is not the first best thing you do then. On the other hand the experience with Max did show us that we were somehow bound to make music and that this specific genre is more for us than just expressing some unspent teenage anger. So we tried to get back to Nuclear Blast because through Michael Trengert but they weren’t that much interested. So we spent a lot of time just sending tapes around the globe and feeding the underground playing as many gigs as possible. And contrary to some youngsters today we had next to no budget, neither personally nor as a band. In fact we were missing some experienced manager."
Invasion Records seemed to be a good choice back then as the taste of music and the contacts in the scene of Maja seemed to be very well. How did the co-operation work out and was he the one who hooked you up with Dan Swanö to record there? Luckily Michael had returned in the meantime so you were stronger again as band.
"As a band we were much stronger. With Rico we had a lot of new power and positive thinking in the band and Michael was musically much more at home with us than Ruben who had his own completely different musical vision all the time. As said before Rico had massive underground connections and already contacted Invasion quite early for FERMENTING INNARDS to be signed. In the beginning I knew the owner (Maja Majewski) only as the more silent drummer of LUNATIC INVASION with whom we had played a serious number of gigs before. Around that time Rico also made the first contact with Dan Swanö because he absolutely wanted him to record the upcoming FERMENTING INNARDS debut and when that took some form he pushed also the Invasion cooperation. When the whole thing started to incorporate GOLEM I wasn’t that convinced at first. I wasn’t even that excited about recording with Dan Swanö because I thought it would brand us sonically in a far too Swedish way. But then came the FERMENTING INNARDS session and I really liked the guy and his approach. And since there were budget restrictions we had more or less no other choice – but not to forget – it was a lot of fun too!"
Have you any special memories about your time at Unisound and have you been involved in the layout of “Eternity – The Weeping Horizons” or was it in the hands of Invasion?
"When we went to Sweden to record with FERMENTING INNARDS we stayed at a summer house that belonged to the parents of one of the DEFLESHED guys. Long story short – on a personal level some things did not turn out that well with them. So we just did not want to ask again for the GOLEM session. The great thing then was that Dan Swanö (who knew us already) made an exception and let us stay in the studio. It wasn’t that comfortable but we loved it nonetheless. Dan also invited us to his home to take showers and watch some movies. The other nights we browsed his huge DAT tape collection of his recordings. Rico was quite eager to find out where he was personally involved. When he was singing it wasn’t that difficult to figure out but otherwise it was an interesting game to play. The work itself could become a bit tiresome though. We had only 9 days (strictly 10 to 6) for everything including the final mix. You can imagine how much pressure that means because coming back for a remix is not really an option. I also had some problems with hoarseness and I can still hear it on the record. That made us split the vocal recordings along with the mix and until the last day it was unclear if we can finish everything. Back home then we called Dan to tell him that everything sounds great and that he just should take out a tiny portion of low end. In my opinion the mastering studio overdid that a bit. The cover artwork: there is really not that big a story to tell. That Maja was a difficult person became quite clear a lot earlier already. I’d say latest as him showing up in Sweden during the FERMENTING INNARDS sessions, acting like the CEO of Universal. In that year’s summer I visited Norway and spoke with Øystein of BORKNAGAR, successfully convincing them not to sign with Invasion mainly because of all the lying that just became too obvious then. With the GOLEM cover we had an idea and convinced a friend to draw a painting out of it. We did like it but Maja obviously did not or he did not see the commercial potential so much ; -) He just presented us then with his solution of the problem when the printing was already done – that was pretty fucked up! We got his promise for a different next edition but that never made it. I mean – come on – who puts that kind of naked hairdressers from the eighties on a serious Death Metal album? Sex sells? Still unbelievable!!!"
At that time, around 1997 Invasion disappeared quickly, did this interrupt you in any way in your progress as band?
"When Maja finally lost his mind (literally! he had to go to a mental institution) there already wasn’t that big a connection anymore. We had sued him for some of the money he owed us already since we did not see him doing anything for us at all. We thought that there is nothing else coming anyway and we can also just go full confrontational. Of course the whole Invasion episode did hold us back a bit in our progress since we did not quite know what to expect in any different context. Did we just fail as musicians, as artists or is it mainly the lack of support – all these questions obviously arose. More challenging though was that Rico completely changed his musical and personal focus and had to leave the band (partially because of Invasion but I think some personal stuff had more weight ). I mean – it was also obvious that he could not stay as a real guitarist in the band since he just could not keep up anymore with the instrument’s challenges I wanted to be there. That again left some not optimally used time looking for a complete band that could also present all the new ideas that did show up at the horizon."
It wasn’t a fail of the musicians for sure. You concentrated on writing new material as a 2 piece then and found 2 new perfect fitting musicians in Carsten Mai and Rainer Humeniuk. Can you recall their influences on the material of "The 2nd Moon" or was all already written by you when they joined GOLEM? For me it seemed that you continued with what you started on "Eternity…" but also included influences of technical Death Metal which fitted very well into your sound.
"Again much of their influence came by feeding me with a broader variety of music I would not just have found by myself. Also both their musical history was a bit less Grindcore or Black Metal focused and had some classical Heavy Metal in reserve as well. Not that I ever grew too fond of it but at least it enabled me to have a bit more respect for it. But in the case of Carsten that would shoot far too short. For the first time a really skilled guitarist and devoted musician became part of the journey. It was while I recorded a demo for their back-then band PROGERIA when I got really excited about his abilities. In that time next to no one was available in our area that could actually contribute something profound on the guitar for that specific kind of music. So I asked him first to play some solos on our next record – hoping for it to become a bit more than that with time. And as can be seen easily in the history it became a long and fruitful friendship where he not only contributed to our work by providing fascinating solos and other guitar work but also taught me a lot about the instrument and playing with feeling in general. Rainer on the other hand has to be most acknowledged for his social skills that more than once provided the solid foundation that kept us going together and for always balancing our occasionally difficult personalities. That said it’s also a fact that most of the music was already written when they fully became part of the band. Michael and I kept it going alongside more “Heartwork” and “The Jester Race” influences this time. I wouldn’t call it that technical though. When I recorded some MENHIR material earlier I also learned that you didn’t need to limit your guitar work to SLAYER-style harmony regulations only. And since I was alone first I heavily started incorporating more harmonic techniques within a single guitar then. Just imagine some AT THE GATES riffs (typically split between 2 guitars) that you want to reproduce with the full feeling but have only one guitar available. That might sound challenging a bit but I would definitely not call it technical in the modern sense (NECROPHAGIST). The other big step on “The 2nd Moon” is the solo work which definitely – thanks to Carsten – showed a huge improvement. He played a lot of more advanced stuff on that record – but again – not for the sake of it. I’d say he put a lot of feeling into it while simply being a lot less limited technically."
How did you get in touch with Ars Metalli and have you been satisfied with their label work and the artwork?
"During the mid nineties I recorded a number of bands for Ars Metalli, first in the Blue Art Studio (in our old hometown) and later also in the Soundforge Studio. Over time this became a friendly relationship with the owner – also because he seemed to care a lot more about the artists and in fact he did first. Strict Death Metal wasn’t necessarily his favorite but nonetheless one thing led to another and we joined the label alongside with long-term partners HARMONY DIES. At first everything did work out fine and we also got all the artistic control over the product. Of course we were satisfied. Later Ars Metalli got into a lot of financial trouble by hiring way too many bands without being able to keep all the promises. The owner started hiding then from the problems and the bands. You can imagine how that rang a bell then."
In 1999 "The 2nd Moon" saw the light of day, how were the reactions in the scene and have you been doing any touring for the album?
"We had some more promotional support and we played way more shows then. Some weekend touring you might say – a real tour was not on the menu. The reactions were mainly very positive. The ones that stuck though were criticizing the overall “niceness” of the album and from today’s view they were the most helpful for us to shape what we did later. With the decline of Ars Metalli we were then again pretty much left alone and also Michael lost his interest in the whole scene and its music. So we again had to miss a lot of opportunities but it also left a lot of room for other activities and personal development."
After Michael left, you found a new drummer in Eric Krebs who fits perfect into GOLEM and since then the line-up is stable. You recorded “Dreamweaver” in 2003 and it finally got released by Nuclear Blast in 2004. How did you end up with Nuclear Blast as you hooked up with Grind Syndicate before?
"By sharing a rare love for OXIPLEGATZ I came in contact with DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER through Ars Metalli that eventually led to a still ongoing friendship. After sharing also the downfall of Ars Metalli they later introduced us to Andy Siry (Nuclear Blast A&R, Grind Syndicate) in order to help us to release the new material. Back then we started to pre-produce everything on computer and already had something to show off which made it much easier to get their attention. In the end that made “Dreamweaver” possible as it is."
Musicwise “Dreamweaver” seemed to be the next logical step forward in your musical development and showed your fine abilities in writing technical Death Metal. How was the label support of Nuclear Blast?
"I would not call it overly logical but of course in the end it’s more or less the musical universe of one individual. I could also analyze it to death and from time to time I tend to do that because I honestly think that it finally is something really special but I’d rather leave that for another time now. “Dreamweaver” is something only we could have done and that is cherished by some and definitely appreciated by us. That does not mean that it is easy to consume at all. That said everyone can imagine that a big company like Nuclear Blast has other things to do than to nurture an exotic plant that will never bring much commercial success anyway. It got us some international attention which also led to some very interesting friendships around the globe – being realistic that is rather something! In the end we are also not at all unhappy about the fact that we do not need to sell our music in all possible ways in order to survive. Only teenagers could dream of that without belly aches. It would not even serve as a platform for ideas because I think the whole scene is rather conservative and even partially ignorant. I don’t mean that in a bad way – things are as they are."
What happened since then? I can imagine that you collected ideas for at least one more album? Any chance to get new material released, maybe by F.D.A. Records?
"First we were looking how far “Dreamweaver” could bring us. We played a number of really cool shows and were just bathing in the moment for a while. We also gave us some time to think about where we would go in order not to repeat old recipes. That in the end took a lot longer than we expected. Also the fact that “Dreamweaver” wasn’t that successful did not really speed up the process. “What would we like to say and add musically?” became the big question. Nonetheless I can present some facts: there is a collection of recorded musical ideas – it is roughly about 40 minutes long, without any repetition. From that we could so far extract four fully functioning songs that have been – except for one – presented live already. These are great songs that we’d love to see the light of day and most of the ideas deserve an audience in our opinion. We’ll see what will happen. Eric has left the drums for good already. He will not be replaced easily and it depends on us to overcome the boundaries of long grown habits and amenities which could turn out to be rather difficult. The artistic process itself more and more comes in waves where the peaks again become more and more the exception… they are still there though and maybe there will be something completely different in the end. Who knows ; -)"
F.D.A. is now re-releasing the first 2 albums on CD and vinyl. Are you confident with the co-operation and the re-release, especially when it comes to the artwork? I ordered the strictly limited green vinyl myself and can’t wait to get it. Also I saw, that you have remastered the albums yourself. Tell us a bit about the work on this project.
"I’ve been working with Rico for a long time already since I recorded all the GOREGAST releases. I’m pretty confident that he knows what he is doing. And in the end it’s not a big risk for us since there are no strings attached. We know what people think about the music already. Maybe the younger generation will have difficulties but I hold no grudge against that – it’s just natural. That leaves us with the pleasure to give something especially to collectors. And for them we also not go with any semi pleasing artwork. We liked it from the moment Rico did reveal the offer. From my perspective the renovation of the sound is still more important since I’m more interested in acoustics than in visuals. In 2009 there was a limited re-release of “Dreamweaver”. For that one I had all the sources and I forced myself through a full remix and re-master. For “Eternity…” and “The 2nd Moon” all the original multi-tracks are long gone or could not be properly recovered. Nonetheless I spent a decent amount of time to get the best out of the old masters. The aim was to create something that sounds modern enough to compete with today’s standards but at the same time keeps the memories of that past time alive. So I did stay away from full “Death Magnetic” as far as possible while still pushing the wide and interesting and damping the narrow and annoying stuff a bit. That I’m still satisfied with the result could either be a good sign (I did a good job ; -) or a bad one (I just do not care enough anymore ; -). Let’s just say – I still do care ; -)"
Last but not least I want to thank you for your patience in answering our questions. Any last words you want to address to the Voices readers??
"Well – thank you too for the opportunity to talk about all of this. And thanks also to whoever is taking the time to read all this. I wonder if anyone can see the waves produced by the wine that was part of all 3 sessions (always starting pretty sober ; -)… And yeah – don’t forget – that was a different time… no internet on my side at all back then… try being without it today… – simply impossible – for me as well. It gives us all the insight, all the talent, all the creativity all around the world… not getting lost in it might be today’s challenge. But don’t dare to think that I do not welcome that… it pretty much brought me all the music I was looking for my entire life… maybe that’s where some of the laziness comes from ; -) So… embrace the opportunities! And still… never take anything for granted!!! I’m totally convinced that the history of music is still far away from having a final chapter – discover it! It’s not necessarily our task though ; -) But Death Metal is in general better today than it was 20 years ago and that’s something I’d like to say in 20 years from now also… keep on rotting!!!"