It’s kinda strange… the older I get, the more I appreciate bands that are playing Crust. Ok, I always liked classic DISCHARGE of course, but in general this genre wasn’t really up my alley since I definitely prefered pure Metal stuff or Hardcore / Punk / Crossover acts like G.B.H., DEAD KENNEDYS, S.O.D., RAW POWER, D.R.I., MISFITS, THE EXPLOITED and the likes. You can probably blame it on the fact that more and more Death Metal bands incorporate the typical Crust d-beat in their songwriting these days or that I also got into some Grindcore stuff as well over the years. And Crust definitely fits in there pretty well, I guess. So, most recently I was very impressed by new releases from DRÅP, PARASIT or Germany’s PHANTOM CORPORATION! The latter just put out a fantastic debut demo / EP entitled "First Commandment" that everyone into Crust influenced Death Metal definitely should give a listen! We wanted to find out more about those guys and hooked up with Philipp (guitar), Arne (guitar), Marc (drums) and Leif (vocals) for the very first PHANTOM CORPORATION interview ever in the band’s still rather young career! So enjoy the ride and always remember where you read it first!
Who of you guys actually started PHANTOM CORPORATION and how did everyone else get on board after the idea was born?
Philipp: "I remember that Leif and I had a discussion about doing a Crust band together. That must have been sometime in early 2015. A bit before or after our talk, Leif also mentioned the idea to Marc, our drummer. So I cannot really say who got the ball rolling. On Party.San Open Air in August 2015, Leif introduced me to our guitar player Arne. I remember that incident pretty well. I didn’t know Arne at that time. When we met him, Leif just told him “Hey, please meet Philipp. He is playing in your new band”. That’s actually all behind it. Four dudes with the same musical taste and vision coming together."
Marc: "Leif stayed at my house the night before DEW-SCENTED played as support of TESTAMENT in Bremen in 2013. We had a few beers and later went to a Crust show. As far as I remember that night the idea of forming a Crust band was born."
Arne: "We were all pretty much drunk like there was no tomorrow so it took me a minute to realize what Leif had said, only to understand that I had no idea what was going on. It was a very funny situation and the best possible way to join a band."
Leif: "Yeah, I think the initial idea and wish to form such a band is older already. It only needed the right people and some good timing. It all came together smoothly when and how it was meant to be, I guess?!"
Is this the only line-up so far or have other members been trying out before the four of you got together?
Philipp: "It has been the four of us from the very beginning: Leif, Arne, Marc and me. Now Basti has joined on bass, so PHANTOM CORPORATION is a 5-headed crew by now."
Marc: "I didn’t know a lot of musicians who like to play Crust and have profound playing abilities. As said before, Leif came up with Philipp. I’ve known Arne for 23 years and besides the two full time bands PAIN FOR PLEASURE and BK49 we played in together, we jammed Crust songs with two friends in 1999 for one or two times. So I knew that Arne is a killer guitar player and is into Crust like me. It was a no-brainer to bring his name to the table. As Philipp said, it was Leif, Philipp, Arne and me right from the start and later Basti joined."
Leif: "Yeah, pretty much Marc and Philipp, then Arne when we started. Arne played bass in the studio and we needed someone for live-shows, so we looked around for little while and found the missing piece of the PHANTOM puzzle with Basti, just in time for the debut gigs."
Please introduce each member of PHANTOM CORPORATION to our readers in a few words…
Leif: "Ok, so now I need to handle this one?! Let me see…Marc (also in WEAK ASIDE) is a beast on drums and an old buddie from Northern Germany since the later 90s. We first played together when he helped out as live-drummer for DEW-SCENTED in the early 2000’s for the “Impact” album, I think. He then joined as steady member some years later and we did the “Invocation” album together in 2009 / 2010, but that temporary DEW-SCENTED line-up collapsed again. Yet, we were always in touch and spoke about jamming together one day in some other shape, so here we go. Marc is a human Metal library and likes everything, which is an insider running-joke, haha. Arne is an old friend of Marc, who I originally met through him in their old band. I knew he was a rhythm machine and he hasn’t played in a band for a while, so it seemed natural to ask him. He’s one of the nicest dudes around and a true riff-maestro. Philipp is also an old buddie of mine, for what, over 12 years or so?! We never played together before, but he has a flawless taste of music and we share a lot of the same approach for things related to music. He’s the musical and spiritual leader of the group, I would say. Without him and his first ideas for material, we would not be around. His riff ideas are spot on… crude and fuckin’ heavy! Basti is also an old buddie of mine, originally from Siegen, but who now even happens to live around the corner here in Dortmund too. We checked if he was into the songs and had enough time to hang out with us, so that was that. Oh actually, we also had to ask if he would be into playing bass, as he’s normally a guitarist. Luckily he was and even managed to come up with a bass guitar, which sealed the deal, haha. Looking at all that, I suppose I happen to be the “middle-man” here with all these guys. What’s new?! Hahaha! We have an interesting mix of characters and a pretty relaxed vibe between us, which makes PHANTOM CORPORATION so much fun right now. I totally believe that one can easily hear in the music of a group, why they are doing what they do and how much they enjoy themselves. So, let’s see where we take it… It definitely went a lot more “serious” than I was expecting at first?!"
Was the band formed first and foremost to play Crust or did this style materialize later on because of the individual influences of the four of you?
Philipp: "The intention was to play brutal Crust. When writing the first song for the band (‘Capitulation’) I wanted to capture the feeling of WOLFPACK’s “A New Dawn Fades”, which is my personal favourite album of that style. But as all four of us are coming from the Metal scene (the Death Metal scene in particular, I think), the overall stylistic range of the six songs of “First Commandment” is pretty Death and Thrash Metal influenced. But why not? It works pretty well, I think. A cool Thrash riff or a nice Swedish Death Metal melody always works well. So although I still consider PHANTOM CORPORATION a Crust band, it surely is deeply rooted in the Metal scene as well."
Marc: "It was clear from the start that PHANTOM CORPORATION will be a Crust band. I think, during the writing process more and more Metal elements were included into the songs. We can’t hide that we’re Metal guys who play Punk. So to say, we don’t pretend to be something we’re not."
Arne: "The first talk we had (with a sober head) at Party.San ’15, Leif and Philipp mentioned a couple of Crust bands plus POWER TRIP, which I hadn’t heard of before, as a basic musical direction or a reference. We also talked about adding a slice of Black Metal here and there. So, when songwriting started I took it from there. I see PHANTOM CORPORATION as a very Metal-rooted / influenced old school Crust thing."
Leif: "Yes, it was meant to be dirty, gritty and all-out violent. I am a lot into bands like AMEBIX, DISCHARGE, POISON IDEA, WOLFPACK / WOLFBRIGADE, ABC DIABOLO, TRAGEDY, DISFEAR or MARTYRDÖD, so that’s part of the influence on my end. Things actually ended up being a bit more metallic than I was first considering, but that’s fine. Whatever we liked in ideas, we simply kept working on and I feel it makes a cool crossover mix of elements. But yes, the original idea was to make things crusty and rather Punk – influenced in regards to simplicity. Obviously we are all Metalheads, so it will naturally always have a certain Metal edge. However, we try to stick to the d-beat more than a standard Thrash-beat or even blast-beats. And I definitely would wanna avoid cheesy Happy Metal riffs. I have heard one or two already in the rehearsal room, so we better be careful, haha."
Everyone of you is (or has been) involved in other bands besides PHANTOM CORPORATION, so why starting up another band anyway? Don’t you think that the market is already way too flooded with bands and releases already?
Philipp: "My first and only band was ERODED, a small Death Metal band that we started in 2005 before the “old school Death Metal” boom happened. ERODED is on hiatus for years and I don’t think I’ll wake the band up again in the next years, as there are so many bands right now that are playing that kind of Death Metal. So that’s all of my musical activities. I agree that the market is flooded with way too many releases and that it’s hard to keep track on what’s worth your precious time and what is not. Still, I am convinced that the material we have released is of good quality and a bit aside the usual paths of the Crust and Death Metal scene. So I hope the band will find its listeners. And if not, it was still a lot of fun writing, rehearsing, recording and performing those songs."
Marc: "I always wanted to play Crust but I never really got the chance to do so in a band. So I was excited when Leif and I had the idea to form a project to play that kind of music. In general, I agree that the market is way too flooded with bands and releases. But I think it’s not so much the case in Crustcore, more in other genres."
Arne: "I haven’t played in a band since BK49 disbanded in ’04 or so. Actually, I had hardly played guitar at all since back then. It wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 that I de-dusted and de-rusted my gear. Apart from that I very much enjoy the ridiculous amount of bands around, I think it’s awesome!"
Leif: "It’s simply too much fun not to do so! We started this out mainly for ourselves… everyone is welcome to join the ride and dig it, but I’m personally happy enough if the members in the band like it, haha! I have wanted to play in this type / style of band for many years, so I’m extremely grateful to finally have the opportunity to do this, and with the right peeps!"
Who came up with the band’s name PHANTOM CORPORATION and was it inspired by anything in particular?
Philipp: "I think Leif came up with the idea of the band name PHANTOM COMMANDO, which is the title of the German version of the old Schwarzenegger movie “Commando”. It’s a cool and fitting band name, but as there was already a band of that name (some kind of electronic band, I think), we decided to rather go for a different name. There have been quite some discussions what works best, but in the end all four of us agreed on PHANTOM CORPORATION."
Leif: "Yeah, it was gonna be PHANTOM COMMANDO, but then we looked for something similar. I actually like the meaning and its twist a lot better as PHANTOM CORPORATION. It could be tweaked to “Scheingesellschaft” in German, which I really dig. As long as we keep the initials P.C. all is good in my books, haha!"
Your first release, the 6 song demo / EP "First Commandment", was recorded at Beatpoint Studio in Krefeld, Germany… What made you go there instead of any other German studio and how long did it take you to record the whole material?
Marc: "I met Klaus (the owner of Beatpoint Studios) ten years ago as he started to be the soundman of DEW-SCENTED. Later I joined the band. So we did a lot of shows together and I knew what he was capable of at the mixing desk. But Leif finally came up with the idea to record the EP with him, because he did some studio work for the last one or two DEW-SCENTED albums and that worked really well. It took us four days to record the drums, guitars and bass plus two days to record the vocals."
Leif: "Well, Klaus is a great guy and we could both rehearse there for one session and then track with him, which was killer. He helped a LOT to make this as good as it became, so we consider him a part of the band. He even came along to do our live-sound on the first weekend of shows we played. We will return to his studio next time around, as we are already scheduling dates to lay down a few more songs early 2017."
Dan Swanö mastered the recordings in his Unisound Studios… How difficult was it to get him on board for that, since he probably is always booked already months and months ahead?
Leif: "Not difficult at all, to be honest. Dan is great to work with and a good buddy as well, so he was a logical choice. Additionally, he also works on a lot of the fine-tuning for recordings Klaus does in his studio and is super effective with his speed of work. I mean, we made sure to let him know well in advance about this recording session and he turned his part around to our full satisfaction in a matter of a few days. Not only do I go back to the early 90s with Dan and also DEW-SCENTED supported his old band EDGE OF SANITY in 1996, but Dan was also involved with mixing both the second DEW-SCENTED album “Innoscent” in 1998, but also our latest, 10th album “Intermination” in 2015. Some people might not know that next to Metal in all shapes, Dan has also done great Crust / Hardcore / Punk / Grind studio jobs back in the day, like NO FUN AT ALL, MILLENCOLIN, 59 TIMES THE PAIN, NASUM or UNCURBED. He definitely knows what he’s doing and added the little bit of spice and punch we were after. Dan’s the man, as they all say!"
Jason Netherton of MISERY INDEX contributed guest vocals to the track ‘Shock Wave’… Please tell us a little bit about this co-operation, like how you got him involved and stuff like that…
Marc: "We talked about having someone doing guest vocals on our EP. So we discussed some names and finally Leif came up with the idea to ask Jason Netherton. Everybody in the band was excited about that. So I think Leif can tell you more on that subject."
Leif: "Next to Klaus and Dan, this was a next logical choice. We were after someone to guest who has a stand-out or trademark-type voice and who is a rad dude. MISERY INDEX are an all-time fave band of mine and I go back with them for almost their entire history, in various line-ups and with different tour journeys we had together with DEW-SCENTED. On one of those tours I remember I joined MISERY INDEX on stage somewhere in Denmark to do vocals for a TERRORIZER cover, which I thought sounded cool in the mix of vocal styles. I simply asked Jason and even though he was out on the road, he agreed to do his bits quickly, actually just in right time to have it added into the mix. It was actually another buddie, Jensen of THE HAUNTED / WITCHERY, who tracked down Jason’s contribution. Small world and definitely something that somehow came full circle in the end. Jason sounds totally awesome for PHANTOM CORPORATION!"
The songwriting on "First Commandment" was split 50/50 between Philipp and Arne… was that a coincidence or did you plan to have a completely balanced result? Would you say there’s a difference in their writing styles in some way?
Philipp: "There was no intention to split the songwriting equally between Arne and me. It just happened. Although both of us like the same kind of music, the songwriting approach differs quite a lot. Arne can say how he is writing songs, but I myself have my very own style. I am probably the only guitar player worldwide who doesn’t own an amp or any effect tools. I just have a guitar, a cable, some plectrums and some kind of recording device for my phone, which I can hardly handle. That’s it. I simply sit down and… well… write some riffs. If I like them, I record them. If two riffs fit together, I combine them. When I have finished a song, I send it to Arne and he puts some drums on it and helps with the arrangement here and there. Done. It might appear strange to do it that way, but it works. I am still very satisfied with the songs. Arne is by far the better guitar player. I am pretty sloppy and cannot play solos and all that shit. So Arne’s songs turned out more complex and they are definitely way harder to play. Well, at least for me, haha. There is one riff in ‘Liberty In Death’ that drove me crazy during the recording. I simply wasn’t able to play it properly. But I have practised quite a lot lately, so I am slowly getting better. That said, my way of writing songs is pretty limited. Some power chords, some simple melodies here and there and a lot of crust downstrokes. That’s all I can deliver. That’s all it needs!"
Arne: "Yes, pretty much what Philipp said. I need to warm up thoroughly to not play sloppy as all hell, that’s for sure. We both have the same 80s / 90s background. His roots in Crust are much more solid than mine, though. Some of the crusty stuff he comes up with is completely out of control, in the best possible way. When it comes to writing a song, I like to add a good portion of Thrash here and there because that’s where I come from musically. I usually work with my old Tascam 4-track and a drum-machine. I’ve tried to do it digitally but that doesn’t work for me. To me, making music is all about feeling in the first place. Technique is important too but it’s a clear second. Where I disagree with Philipp though: what he humbly describes as ‘simple melodies here and there’ is the stuff he writes that makes me clench my fist and praise heavy music in the first place! When he came up with the riff in the middle section (at 01:43) of ‘Pushed Too Far’ I couldn’t believe my ears, and he wasn’t even too excited about it. He was over at my place, we were working on that song and he said something like: "Oh, and I have this one." To me, that one is up there with the classic timeless Swedish stuff from the late 80s / early 90s, it’s a masterpiece of a riff – period! Another thing I like about his style is the kind of ‘epic’ stuff he comes up with, like the final melody part in ‘Days Gone By’ (03:38) – it’s giving me goosebumps! I envy him for that! Anyone who comes up with stuff like that is a kick ass guitar player in my book, and if you don’t hear that, you must be suffering from fuckin’ chronic sand in your ears."
Leif, when you worked on the lyrics and vocals, did you want them to differ in any way from what you normally do in DEW-SCENTED or was the main goal just to deliver everything with the necessary aggression that this style of music requires?
Leif: "Yes, a bit. I wanted them to be rougher and more carefree, in a way. Like, “just fucking go for it, due… t doesn’t matter!”, haha. I think this approach helps the performance and also fits the style well. I definitely had a great time working on the vocal lines and lyrics. Some of the ideas pretty much wrote themselves, like almost real time listening to the rough demo recordings. I tried to write more straight forward and also add a more social / personal edge to things, but all in all, the inspirations and things that disturb / drive / inspire me are the same as with DEW-SCENTED. I mean, I am the same guy with the same attitude and it’s not a completely different world here. I’m not even sure I could be the type to seriously play in a fantasy Metal band and write about unicorns and rainbows, or in a Gothic Metal band and sing about deep lakes and velvet blouses. It doesn’t personally grab or affect me too much… Not even if it pays good enough, haha! So yeah, I guess the power of the music brought some good stuff out of me for 5 of the songs and ‘Pushed Too Far’ is actually all vocal ideas and lyrics by Philipp, so that was a cool new experience for me too. I would most definitely be open to see the other guys write lyrics in the future as well, as long as the content and the flow are cool!"
The cover artwork was created by VOIVOD drummer Michel "Away" Langevin. How did you manage to get him involved and did he create the cover piece exclusively for you or did you choose an already finished work of his?
Leif: "Well, we just asked! Seriously, I have known Away for a long time already and simply love his art. When we were discussing options for a front cover design, I just thought it could be a cool result. He’s got a very individual style, which is easily recognizable. He also doesn’t draw a lot for different bands, so knowing all the other guys in PHANTOM CORPORATION are big VOIVOD fans as well, I assumed this could be a nice match. I remember Marc thinking it was a joke (“…unrealistic choice…”) when I suggested it and then he was blown away by the outcome, haha. Away actually did our piece following VOIVOD’s August European tour after I sent him the music (which he liked, so…) and this was the last missing part for the “First Commandment” release. We actually gave him a few hints for the concept and as to which elements (preacher with the tablet of commandments, nuclear explosion, etc.) to feature. I like the apocalyptic feel that the drawing has and it matched out hoped and expectations just perfectly. I actually met Away again the other day when VOIVOD were in town and gave him copies of the release. He was telling me he actually drew this piece from scratch while listening to our music, so that was awesome to hear! Away totally rules!!!"
The PHANTOM CORPORATION logo, which was created by Benjamin Heins, perfectly fits your style of music… his name somehow sounds familiar to me, but I can’t recall at the moment why… so, please tell us a bit about him and what he’s previously done already…
Leif: "You might remember him indeed, Frank. He’s one of my oldest friends in Germany and a great artist. I’ve known him since the early 90s when we both lived in the Hannover area. I originally met him in the ‘zine world, as he used to run Nausea ‘zine (at least I think that was the name…), which only released one issue and then he was involved with Heretic ‘zine, for which I first got to meet him. I must also give him credit for being one of the main reasons I turned vegetarian in the beginning of the 90s, haha. He runs a tattoo shop in Münster these days and we still see each other every now and then, which is not always easy to achieve due to different schedules and life being so busy. But we went to a show by UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS the other day together and I gave him copies of “First Commandment” that night. He actually also did a few of the artwork pieces of the interior of the release. As I mentioned before, I wanted as many friends involved with PHANTOM CORPORATION as ever possible…"
You already played 2 live shows (in Cologne, Germany and Eindhoven, Holland) in the meantime… considering that the band is still more or less unknown, how did those shows turn out for you? Did you just play the 6 songs off "First Commandment" or did you throw in a couple of cover songs or previously unrecorded songs as well?
Marc: "The shows went really well. Especially the second show at Bloodshed Fest in Eindhoven was a lot of fun. More and more people showed up during our set and they really seemed to like it without knowing our songs. We just played the songs of our EP. The only cover song was ‘March Of The S.O.D.’ as intro."
Arne: "We’re confirmed for two more shows we’re really excited about: January 5th with SADISTIC INTENT in Hamburg (Bambi Galore) and we’ll be playing at 2017’s Metal Bash festival too, May 13th."
Leif: "It was a lot of fun. By the second show, and despite the last minute emergency line-up, it felt like we already knew what we were doing, haha."
Philipp unfortunately wasn’t able to play those shows with you, so please tell us the reason for that and who replaced him…
Philipp: "Two weeks prior to our first show I have had a mountain bike accident and broke my left upper arm twice. Got the bone screwed together in hospital, but it was out of question for me to recover in time. Besides the fact that such an injury is absolutely annoying, the biggest letdown was not being able to play the shows. I really do regret that. Luckily our good friend Marc (known from playing with German Thrash Metal legends EXUMER) jumped in. He did an outstanding job! It just took him some few days to learn all six songs. Impressive! We rehearsed just once, one day before the first show and it really worked out very well."
Marc: "You forgot to mention, that you did backing vocals at the two shows with your heavily broken arm instead of staying at home. A true soldier of Crust, hahaha."
By the way, have you found a steady bass player in the meantime, since Arne played that part on the recordings as well?
Leif: "Yes, Basti Brühl is playing bass with us now. We only invited him in shortly before the first show/s, so it was just one evening of rehearsals and “Baaam…it’s history!”, haha."
I’m really surprised that you’re selling the EP for only 5 Euros (+ postage)… Is that because you’re deeply rooted in the underground and therefore you don’t wanna charge anyone more than necessary? Will such a low price ever cover your own expenses in any way if the EP will sell out some day? By the way: how many copies have you printed of it and would you go for a repress if there’s going to be more demand afterwards or is it a strictly limited release for you?
Philipp: "This is a Crust release. It has to be cheap. Manufacturing a CD doesn’t cost a fortune. No one of us has the intention to earn money with PHANTOM CORPORATION. We all have our regular jobs for that. We rather offer the CD for a low price and sell a good bunch of them than offering it for more money and people are hesitant about spending the money for it. I think 5 Euros is a pretty good deal. You get 24 minutes of straight forward music for it. A good investment, isn’t it? It’s just a jewelcase version with a 4-page booklet. There is no need to charge more money for it. As long as our expenses are covered, we’re fine."
What will the future bring for PHANTOM CORPORATION? Was the EP just a one off thing for you or are you also aiming for a full length release through an established label? Has any label shown interest in the band already in the meantime or do you prefer to work completely independently anyway?
Leif: "It’s definitely not a one-off project! There might indeed be a “Second Commandment”, haha. We are discussing going back into the studio early 2017 to record a couple of new songs and possibly a couple of cover versions too. We would most likely use these for some next EP and / or split 7” release/s. We are in no hurry with a full album and feel we can use the time to develop as well as spread the word organically some more at first. I mean, we just started out really, and “First Commandment” is our demo basically. Not sure about the label thing. Of course it could help to spread the word a bit better and to add promotion to the project, especially internationally. But we feel good about just moving forwards on our own for now and use do it yourself channels. We are discussing a 12” vinyl release for “First Commandment” with an underground label from Northern Germany right now, so yeah, let’s see. We take things step by step!"
Ok, that’s about it… I hope we covered everything of importance now. If not, feel free to add any additional PHANTOM CORPORATION information here… Thanks a lot for taking the time and all the best!
Leif: "Cheers, Frank! This is PHANTOM CORPORATION’s first interview ever, so we figured we might as well be part of it with various members?! Needless to say, it’s an honour to be featured in the mighty pages of VFTD and we appreciate your support! If anyone wants to check out PHANTOM CORPORATION some more, go here: www.facebook.com/pc2016official and also look here for our release and shirts (up soon!): https://phantomcorporation.bandcamp.com. See you guys around, somewhere in this cold world we live in!"