Germany’s SECRETS OF THE MOON have been around long enough by now to be considered a steady force in the Black Metal worldwide scene. These guys worked really hard in order to achieve their current status and never kissed any asses to get there! Musically the band has matured quite impressively (without denying the roots completely) and are about to release their best work so far these days – an impressive and pretty unique sounding album entitled "Carved In Stigmata Wounds"! We hooked up with guitarist / vocalist S.G. again, for another long overdue interview in our unholy pages… Read on to find out more!
Greetings S.G. and congratulations to your fantastic new album "Carved In Stigmata Wounds"! Did you seriously expect such an overwhelming response on it from my side?
"Not at all! I assume that you’re more into the traditional kind of Metal, so this was a surprise indeed."
Is it true that you personally already can’t listen to the material anymore? Why’s that?
"Well, the reason is that the album is more than a year old now. We had serious problems with the recordings because the harddisk broke and we had to wait several months until it was repaired. So, it’s definetely not the label’s fault that it took so long. I personally think that “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” has become a very good album but it took some time until I could turn away from it. I need a certain distance to our music to judge it at the end. Especially this album was a hard experience for me because I nearly became one with its concept and I started to “breathe” the album. It may sound strange but the album really devoured me when it got too near."
If I got it right you started a lyrical concept on "Stronghold Of The Inviolabels", that is dealing with breaking down religious, dictatorship type of barriers by starting up something new instead… This lyrical concept was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy, so does that mean that "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" coninues on where you left off at the time?
"Yes! “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” deals with the main topic evolution and the significance of men in this neverending process. It is the abatement of fear that let me write the lyrics. Lyrically “Stronghold Of The Inviolables” represented a new born world. “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” denies / destroys this world and reflects the disease mankins in a quite weird way."
The new album is separated in three main parts, namely "Prophecy", "Destiny" and "Extinction"… What is the intention behind this, what are the main lyrical messages of each part that lead to this separation?
"This is quite a hard answer but let me answer it like that: the part “Prophecy” reflects the world in a view of an outstanding, unearthly individuum, “destiny” reveals the fate of mankind and its chear unimportance and “extinction” describes the comprehension of mankind and the acquiese."
Almost all of the songs on "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" come up with a very long playing time each… Did that happen on purpose or was it pure coincidence? Was it difficult for you to get the song’s message across in a shorter, more compact way of writing?
"It is not about the lyrical message (the album features words only which were needful to be spoken out) but about the musical message. It wasn’t our intention to write long songs. The reason for that is mainly that we need to pass a zenith with each song. If we haven’t reached it, the song is not over but continues and grows to its zenith and then suddenly falling to its end. That’s our way of writing. If we would reach the top after 30 seconds, the song would end after one minute maybe."
How’s the reaction on those pretty lengthy songs when you play them live? I could imagine that some people probably prefer the shorter, more direct tunes in order to freak out on, don’t they?
"Maybe. I think the songs on “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” are very different to each other and they have lots of tempo changes which amazes the listener and keeps him interested. I think this is the same with playing them live. The most important thing for us is to release aggressions and to fall into a certain state of mind. If the audience wants to join us, we are honoured!"
Unlike most Black Metal acts these days who prefer to stick to the wellknown songwriting formular when creating their material, SECRETS OF THE MOON are obviously more interested in finding a unique way of expression for themselves… Does this search for individuality cause you any problems in any way? I mean, it must be really difficult to write music that has not been done in one way or another before already…
"I think the thing is that we develop as musicians, we hate stagnation! Actually we are not interested in finding our unique way of expression. We let music flow and evolve, that’s the main reason why we sound like that. Also we listen to very different styles of music, that’s why we learn and get influenced. We exactly know how SECRETS OF THE MOON should sound like!"
Do you come up with very detailed ideas before you actually start jamming your songs or is it more the opposite around? You rehearse and collect ideas from a simple jam session and build new songs upon such a foundation?
"Well, it’s both. On “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” I wrote most of the stuff at home. Still I compose parts of the song at home but I think we become better and better in jamming and I think you will figure that out on the next album (working title: "Exhibitions In The Grey Zone"). The various tracks will sound more like real “songs” I think. We try to understand how a good song is functioning."
Black Metal fans are mostly very narrow minded, lacking any form of acceptance when it comes to progression or innovation within their beloved musical genre… Did you ever have to face any problems with those kinda people because SECRETS OF THE MOON is not really the ordinary "Hail Satan / Bathory / Darkthrone" kinda act?
"Sure, sometimes we get to read nice statements about us “being not true” which is very funny. But it doesn’t happen too often (which will change with the release I hope). I think many people out there cannot stand us because we are different and don’t fit in their world. We don’t want to. The interesting thing is that I am searching for expression to hail my personal satan. That’s why I am doing this kind of music. I don’t want their satan!"
It’s kinda weird though, that the songs you chose to cover came from exactly those rather basic, straight forward acts such as DARKTHRONE, BEHERIT or BLASPHEMY? Why’s that?
"Because these acts influenced us in a massive way. We were and still are great fans of Darkthrone for example and we also like their new albums. I personally adore the old Black Metal releases but am not too found about most stuff which is released today."
Would you agree that apart from the obvious Black Metal elements there’s quite a big influence from the 80s Thrash Metal movement in your music? Any particular bands that you admire from those days?
"Not really. We’ve never been fans of Thrash bands actually. Our old drummer was though but that’s years ago. I actually began to like Kreator when they changed their sound haha…"
You have been labeled Surreal-, Black- and Occult-Metal already… but I doubt that you really feel 100% comfortable with any of those descriptions, do you? But as people usually tend to need those type of descriptions, I was wondering which one you consider the most fitting for what you’re doing?
"I don’t really give a shit about that. If there’s one word that might describe our sound then it would be “occult” because occultism is our main influence still, musically and lyrically. The new album was often labeled as “avantgarde”. I think the listener should decide because he gives music further to people and people need a description to become attentive."
When and how did you exactly get together with Lupus Lounge Records and what made you sign with them in the end? Wasn’t it Troll Music at first?
"Yeah Prophecy Productions had this name in mind first but I neither them was enthusiased about it because “Troll Music” limited music too much. Then they had the idea to name it Lupus Lounge which fits much better I think. We got in touch with Prophecy Productions through Thor Wanzek. I sent him a promo copy of the album and he sent it over to Martin Koller (the chief of Prophecy) who was very surprised and amazed about the result. The cooperation works really well so far."
Tell us a bit about Patrick Damiani, who was the engineer on the "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" album… As far as I know you have never worked with him before, so wasn’t it a bit risky to record a full length album with him right away? What actually made you work with him?
"No, we never worked with him before. We got the tip from Vratyas of Falkenbach who used to record there as well as most of the bands on his label. I think the decision to work with him was absolutely right. He’s an excellent producer because he’s very much into Metal music but also works with many different rock and classic artists which makes him very independent and open minded. He’s learned a lot from different kinds of styles while producing them. I am sure we will work together with him again in one way or another…"
There’s also talk about four additional bonus tracks that are about to appear on a double CD version of the new album… Could you tell us more about that, like which songs they are and why you decided to save them for this special edition exclusively?
"We recorded the tracks in Thelema Abbey, our “old-school studio” and they sound surprisingly grim. There will be one new song which has been unreleased so far and two instrumental songs which we released previously but they sound much different nowadays. I don’t want to talk too much about it. I see the three songs as a whole. It’s a very atmospheric musical approach. Ah yeah, I forgot to add a cover version which will also be part of the bonus disc…"
How about the video for the song ‘Miasma’?! Have you really shot that and will it also appear on the double CD? Tell us a bit more about its origin…
"Seems like the video will appear on the double CD but I am not sure about it as it’s not finished yet. The origin of the video is that we try to express natural and elemental forces. I don’t wanna talk too much about it. Every interested person might be able to check it out soon."
When SECRETS OF THE MOON started out way back in 1995, you haven’t even been part of the band yet… What have you been doing previously and what made you join them in the end? Was it their debut demo "Unearthed Arcana" that somehow impressed you, or more the way they came across on stage – or something completely different?
"Well, I heard of the band right after the first demo was released and I ordered it from them so we got in touch. I received it and was kinda surprised by it as it sounded different than most other stuff that I ordered in these days. We met at a Death Metal concert in late 1996 and they told me that they were searching for a replacement on guitar. I offered to take care of the guitars from now on. The rest is history! I played in several bands before but no band really became any bigger as I was the only one having quite a clear vision in mind. I finally provoked this vision through SECRETS OF THE MOON."
What actually happened to the original guitar player Schizo when you joined them? Was he kicked out or was he about to leave anyway?
"He was kicked out before I joined them. Personal reasons led to this decision. I am not the right man to talk nor judge about it. I remember our second rehearsal together when he went in to get his stuff out of the room. It was kind a strange meeting as I played his songs not really correct which seemed to be quite “amusing” to him."
At which point of time did you start singing? And was it planned to become a band with two vocalists as soon as you found out that it worked or have you ever considered that you would take over Daevas’ duties completely?
"When we wrote the songs for “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” I came up with all the lyrics and improved them. It was natural development. About the future: we didn’t rehearse the new songs with vocals yet so I don’t know about things to come. We wanted to try out sick female vocals as well. Maybe we will hire a female singer. Don’t know. We will try to concentrate on the vocals much more this time and will work them out when the songs are finished. We already have lots of strange ideas."
What happened to the guy that originally played keyboards for the band shortly before the recordings of your 1997 "Vanitas" tape? How did you hook up with him and why didn’t it work out in the end?
"Because he was a fuckin alcoholic and involved in very strange kinds of commercial transactions. We have always been unsure to get him in the band as permanent member. We rehearsed one day with him up. He got into their car. This was the last time we saw and heard from him. We don’t know what happened to him. Actually alcoholism has destroyed very much in the histoy of the band."
What I never really understood about SECRETS OF THE MOON is the fact that all of your releases always seemed to be limited to very small numbers… Why did you do that, apart from the factor of becoming something very special to the die hards one day? I mean, was the interest in the band in the early days not big enough, where you unsatisfied with those releases rather quickly or simply too lazy to spread more of ’em?
"Haha, many people ask about it but this happened just natural. First of all the first two demos were not limited. We spread them but numbered each of them. We sold and traded as much as possible. But when we released more and more vinyls we stopped re-producing the demos so they got sold out. We spreaded about 1000 demos all in all which ain’t less at all. Our vinyls have always been limited because the labels wanted to have them limited. We never cared about how much they were doing. That’s the fuckin’ reason!"
When and why did you seperate with your longtime drummer Frazer and how did you hook up with Thrawn? Was it difficult to find a replacement that was able to play your newer, more challenging material in your area? What has Thrawn been up to previously to joining SECRETS OF THE MOON?
"We kicked him out in September 2001 because we were tired of his being. Actually we should have done this years before but we were not able to. Thrawn was the one and only man able to replace him. He was a good friend of us for years so we didn’t spend one second thinking. He is the right man for this job a very dedicated musician. Daevas and me, we are very proud of having him at the drums as he’s probably the best Black Metal drummer in Germany without sounding stucked up here now. He used to play in many bands before and still plays drums in the German Death Metal machine Embedded."
As far as I know you’ve also had a second guitar player by the name of Ohtar for a while… for how long was he part of the band and why didn’t he work out in the end?
"He was a very dedicated musician as well but he lived too far from us that’s why we ultimately had to kick him too. Moreover SECRETS OF THE MOON is working best as a three-piece. I hope we will remain friends with him!"
Would you mind to comment each of your releases thus far with a few words?
"Unearthed Arcana" (1995):
"First demotape. Very strange sound. No special feelings about this one!"
"Interesting thing is that many people still consider this demo the best stuff we ever recorded. I don’t have the demotape myself anymore but I remember that the sound was very messy. The songs are still killers although we don’t play them live anymore."
"Promotape 98" (1998):
"Our first better sound. Still like the recordings a lot. Haven’t listened to it for years though. Don’t have a copy anymore!"
"Split 7" /w Lunar Aurora" (1999):
"Great layout but the production of the song sucks! We went into a very big studio but the producer had no clue about Metal! The actual song has some really good moments though."
"Stronghold Of The Inviolables" (2001):
"I am very proud of the original LP version as the cover looks really great. I started shivering when I held it in my hands for the first time. Unfortunately the production turned out to be very “exotic” but I still like it! Surprisingly I still have the LP at home?!"
"Live in Bitterfeld" (2002):
"Brilliant tape in good soundquality! Again no more copy myself!"
"De Musica Mundana" (2002):
"Promotape 98 on vinyl with some bonus live trax fuck-ups! We chose the live versions to put it on the record because there are some really bad playing mistakes on it. We were in the mood… don’t know why! Anyone has a copy of it left?"
"Split 7" /w Averse Sefira" (2003):
"Best vinyl release so far. Killer quality and layout!"
"Carved In Stigmata Wounds" (2004):
"Actually this is our first real album because “Stronghold Of The Inviolables” is more a ritual than an album and was supposed to be released as a mini-lp. Our best recordings so far."
You also recorded a track for an upcoming DEAD CAN DANCE tribute album recently… Tell us more about that and what made you go for it? Are you all fans of DEAD CAN DANCE?
"Thrawn and me, we are great fans of Dead Can Dance! I’ve been in contact with Andreas of Black Lotus Records and we were asked to join! We agreed immediately. The song turned out to be a cooperation between us and legendary ambient band Nostalgia. Though time was short and the sound didn’t turn out to be that good we are kinda satisfied with the result! We chose ‘The Protagonist’ which is actually the darkest Dead Can Dance song ever. It has a very monotous approach."
How did you end up playing guitar on the Sagittarius LP "Die Grosse Marina" and what can you tell us about this project in general?
"Nothing! I don’t want to speak about this project as it is not mine. Even if many strange happenings happen in comparance with Sagittarius I will still contribute my parts to this interesting project."
Even though SECRETS OF THE MOON never really had a bigger label with the possibility to financially back you up, you still played quite a few tours / shows over the last couple of years… How did you get all those possibilities and what kind of memories do you have on certain ones in particular (good or bad)?
"Yes, we did about 50 shows so far and two tours. The second one with Watain (SWE) and Averse Sefira (USA) was our greatest experience as a band so far. We’ve been on the road for more than two weeks and played in 8 or 9 different countries. I’ve been organizing this tour myself with the help of a few people. It was hell but worth the work! Yeah we never needed labels in the back to spread our word but it’s nice to have a company in the background now!"
I guess I’m running out of questions now, so I’ll leave it up to you to close this interview in any way you like? All the best.
"Thanks for the interview! It was a very enjoyable one again! I would also like to thank Steven Wilson for “The Sound Of Muzak”. I heard the song many times while answering this interview!"
For all further info check out the band’s official website at www.secretsofthemoon.org or the label website at www.lupuslounge.com
Interview: Frank Stöver
Live Pics: NöktrymM