If you’re into that old school CELTIC FROST and HELLHAMMER sound, I think that you should give a chance to a young band from Switzerland called MATTERHORN. A very interesting trio that has just released its first full length album and has started a pretty intense tour around Central Europe this last summer. But, let me be clear, this isn’t a copycat band nor a temporary name that will soon be forgotten; I’m pretty sure that these guys have what it takes to make their way in the underground. Well, thanks to Morbid (vocals / guitars) for answering our questions: keep on reading!
First of all, let us know something more about the choice of naming your band MATTERHORN. Probably those unfamiliar with the Alps don’t know that it’s the name of a mountain straddling between Switzerland and Italy. Why did you choose this name?
"First of all, thanks thousand for having us here, we feel honestly very glad for having this… It’s a steep name, isn’t it? Haha, well! There’s need for explanation to everyone we meet. But honestly, we don’t want to explain our decisions. Though, some aspects on our choice can be found in older interviews. Let me say at least that it came subconsciously and that we needed an artificial container, a proxy word for having all our inner beliefs and line of thoughts named, because there was not just one single term to fit all this perfectly."
The band was born in 2012, right? Then you recorded your first album in 2017, entitled “Crass Cleansing” and released in 2018. How long did it take you the phase of composing? And how do you use to work during your rehearsal sessions? Is there a main composer that comes in the studio with a whole song from A to Z or do you work on various ideas, building a song out a little at a time?
"Fragments of the songs on “Crass Cleansing” surely arose partially from when we learned to play and met each other musically for the first time, but the songs were mostly composed in 2017. The idea of the band like it persists today had to emerge and harden first, even when we already named our band MATTERHORN, we still discarded complete setlists of songs because they weren’t mature enough. We sucked even more than nowadays, not to imagine. We state often that our first real show was when opening for BÖLZER and URFAUST in 2017 in Switzerland in occasion of the release party for BÖLZER’s "Hero". Our songs age during a long period of try-outs, there are fragments and ideas from all of us. We mostly jam on a riff and refine the song with a narrative, vocal-orientated structure."
MATTERHORN is a power trio: Morbid (vocals and guitars), Nekroking (bass and backing vocals) and Tim Tot (drums). Have you ever thought of adding a fourth member? If yes, in which role?
"We currently think about having a Didgeridoo player as session musician… No, I mean we see the skills other bands reach with having a second guitarist on stage – but we can’t imagine that it would work to share our chemistry with some foreign member that didn’t went through our common history. Furthermore, for us is nothing as wishful as the magical constellation of a trio."
“Crass Cleansing” was originally self-released in digital format (March 2018) and in a limited vinyl edition (500 copies in early June 2018). Then in late June 2018 a proper CD release, limited to 500 copies, through the German label Iron Bonehead Productions. How did you get this deal? Did you get any other interesting offer in the meantime?
"Yes… But despite the circumstances given by the band we’re as happy with Patrick’s (from Iron Bonehead Productions) work as we could possibly be. We sent him our test pressing and he eventually did see something in it. He’s very efficient, and that’s what we are looking for."
Are you into trading? Although it is not very popular as it was before, I think that trading is still one of the best ways to have a worldwide dimension in the underground. Do you used to trade your releases with other bands and distros around the world?
"Actually yes, if we get to it, we use to maintain our relationships to other bands and friends. On tour we often trade our merch with bands we find brutal. But it’s rather a private and friends thing than promotion. As much as we would love to bring our music to as many as possible, we don’t see it efficient to send our music to a trip into the blue."
I really love the sound of “Crass Cleansing”. It’s able to be original and to incarnate the feel of HELLHAMMER and early CELTIC FROST, all at the same time. Can you explain to our readers your approach during the recording sessions and how did you get this killer sound? Did you enter the studio with any particular classic album as a reference point? I’m also very curious about the gear you used, because your album has one of the best distortion I’ve listened to in recent years, as well as a deep and powerful drum sound.
"We’re not particularly interested in getting a sound like this or that. But thanks for your kind words, despite your compliment, I can only think of how inexperienced and alone we were with our work in the studio. I would have done many things completely different, but it is also interesting as it is now, it marks a certain time in our lives and a certain naivety we can’t go back to ever. Nekro and I both play Carvin, the model V220 and V440, both standard equipped and we play on E standard. He’s got a Marshall Super Bass and I have a Marshall JCM 800. We recorded super loud; we built up our full stacks in the cellar of the studio and played in the big hall right in front of the drums. We recorded live and with superb analogue gear, but I’m not very into tech stuff, so I can’t give any further details! We had specific aspects that were clear of how it should sound and how it should get recorded, for example the live and organic tape sound, and for the mixing we took our favorite LPs with us. As we were completely involved during the mixing process, we had the opportunity to drive the sound into the direction we were heading for. It was a tremendous pleasure to get it mastered by Mika Jussila, who did a great job."
Besides the two Swiss legends cited above, which are your main influences?
"We’re happy for all the music in the world, and as it sounds like an empty phrase, as true is it. The list is very long and presumably we would forget about the most important ones. I think despite of bands that we look up to, it’s very important for us that we just do what we like and want, no matter if it hits the pulse of time or trends or that we’re alone with it. I am very much into Black Metal and always claim as one of my most important musical influences Andreas Vollenweider’s “Caverna Magica”. Nekro is into avant-garde material and ambient, and Tim even likes Cumbia or Acid Techno stuff. And so could be said about each one of us, we all share the very same taste, from newer heavy music like FEINDFLUG or ANGERFIST to some “cool” actual stuff like MACINTOSH PLUS or MARTIAL CANTEREL. When it comes to Metal we mostly listen to older bands. One of the most important bands for us is TYPE O NEGATIVE. We always like to enjoy the live performances of Nik Bärtsch’s “Ronin” on Mondays in our hometown."
Who does write the lyrics and where do you take inspiration from?
"The lyrics are all a reflection of our inner self, as we perceive the things and humans around us, like everyone else does. One would understand the text as socio-critical, but without any specific political focus. Our inspiration comes from what we talk and think about all the time when we are on the way to work for our shitty occasional jobs. As we are – that crude – highly interested in death and the things it involves, some songs deal with our way of thinking about it."
Both your band logo and the cover artwork have a very old school and minimalist vibe: great stuff! Who did draw the logo and do you follow the iconic imagery from the 80s (face painting, spikes, leather etc.)?
"It’s fun to hear “minimalist vibe” as we were approaching a maximal output of our pictorial world, haha. We used to follow some imagery from the past, but since we became adults meanwhile, we’re no longer interested in costumes and theatre. The unvarnished truth is our trend now, as we want to reflect reality as close as possible."
So far it has been a pretty intense year in terms of live shows for MATTERHORN with a good number of gigs through Central Europe. Any good memories? How was the fans’ reaction to your shows? Can you describe to us what we should expect from one of your gigs? Do you play any cover song too?
"Which fans? We have made some beautiful experiences on tour and won a lot of new friends. As we don’t go to festivals, we absolutely enjoyed to be part of killer events like the Morbid Catacombs Fest in Berlin or the Steel City Sorcery in Linz. It was a blast to see all these other great bands. It was for sure also an extremely positive learning process for us. On our next tour, we’ll present a few new songs, and maybe complete our show with a cover."
Despite being a pretty small country, Switzerland can be rightfully described as an important hothouse in the history of Heavy Metal, since some of the most influential bands ever were born there (CELTIC FROST, HELLHAMMER, MESSIAH, CORONER, SAMAEL etc.). How is the Swiss scene nowadays and how do you feel about following the footsteps of such big names from the past?
"I think despite two or three bands, us excluded, the Swiss scene nowadays became much less influential. Things changed, the Metal is centered somewhere else today. A German guy lately told us that he thinks Swiss bands have a better overview or a different view on what’s going on in Europe and especially in Germany, and so because of that we would act more outside of the present Metal trend, like an island. That was interesting to hear. Concerning following the footsteps, well, we’re that lucky that we aren’t’ from the UK or USA, haha!"
I think that Switzerland marked the history of Heavy Metal even in terms of visual arts with the visionary work of H.R. Giger that echoes in eternity. I had the chance to visit his museum in Gruyéres last year and it was a great experience. Are you into this artist and has his work influenced your music somehow?
"You’re the first to ask this. And it’s quite difficult to answer. See, as often as we get compared to CELTIC FROST, whose musical output we of course deeply enjoy, as less we want to show our similarities to people. And Giger is a very special life content for me and a detached experience, as I had the privilege to get brought to his art as a young boy of 7 or so by my aunt. It’s an immediate inner understanding. I don’t feel to speak too much about it for it is so close, and I don’t want to let others have a distorted view or a wrong access to Giger just because I wanted to be part of it and interfered… With 18 I visited a course on how to forge metal at the vocational school, so I made a small tribute sculpture, which I always thought to show and give to him one day, sadly it never came to it, as I was too shy and did not want impose till it was too late… I can send you a picture of it later, if you like. Fun fact is that Metal never applied to his art for me personally, I think it would be something more like Jazz. Maybe some of Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects material, but since I knew Giger’s art before Metal, it has a very different vibe or function to me. Maybe I can’t bring it together with music at all… Thanks for the good questions, much love and stay well! All the best, Morbid."
Photos: Fiona Good
Interview: Rick Peart