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Ralph Hubert (Mekong Delta)

Interview with Ralph Hubert from Mekong Delta
by Kostya Aronberg at 06 May 2012, 6:35 PM

MEKONG DELTA from Germany have been one of those bands that survived the test of time while still have something to prove when it comes to complex Metal music under a sort of twisted Thrash Metal flag. Kostya had a chance to talk with Ralph Hubert, the founder and bass player of that well done enterprise, about the band’s history, his perception of music and the new album “Intersections”, which is a display of the band’s new lineup playing older tracks.

Hi, Ralf! Welcome to Metal-Temple. Before we start I must say it's a big honor to interview a musician like you! 

You are welcome.

You formed the MEKONG DELTA band in 85' when you worked as a sound-engineer for WARLOCK, LIVING DEATH and STEELER. Could you please tell us about those days? How it was to work for them, and what made you to create your own band? 

This was an real interresting experience as I came out of a different musicworld, classic and the 70s Prog stuff like E,L & P, YES and so on. Furthermore this kind of music was not well known if it was played by german musicians. A lot off problems had to be solved, how to record a distorted guitar? How to tape drummers which are not real good? How to handle bassplayers who where even not able to play? Remember a lot of funny stories out of that time. Imagine you go to a cutting studio to get the laquers for vinyl done (at that time – yes – no CDs!) and the cutting engineer asked you why you have not taken more care of the guitars while recordind as they are distorted -  cost a litlle time to clear that the guitars should sound like this. But anyhow, the whole time was a great challenge and one person must be mentioned without whom the whole Metal scene in Germany would not have become such popular, Axel Thubeuville. He was the driving force behind all this. The 3 groups you mentioned for example where all discoeverd by him.

The way MEKONG DELTA was founded, that’s a totally different story. I got to know Jörg Michael in the course of this recording process, and I noticed that he’s got a lot of talent. I started arranging various occasions for him to play drums and got him involved in various projects that I was working on, so we were often together, and we talked a lot about music. The thing is that he was deeply into Rock music, and I was into classical things and stuff like YES. We came up to discussing this, he taught me something about Rock, and I taught him something about classic. One funny evening, I think it was late 1984 or early 1985; he came in with a demo by the band that nobody knew at that time, the METALLICA demo. He played me the first song from the tape, it was called “Fight Fire With Fire”, and there was a rhythmical anomaly in it that’s not so common. He was deeply impressed by that, and I also found it interesting – this combination between Punk and very fast Rock. I said, “Of course, it sounds good, but you can do it much more complicated and better.” He looked at me and said, “OK, do it!”. My reaction was “Why not?”  So I took my bass and composed four songs within a week. Of course, they were not real finished songs, more like ideas and riffs, but I played them to Jörg, and he was so enthusiastic that he said, “Let’s go to the rehearsal room, I have to play that”. That was the rehearsal room of AVENGER, where Peavey Wagner also was at that moment, and we asked him to play the guitar to get a better sound. We tried it together, and for them it was a bit strange, because I put in some more abnormal rhythms than METALLICA. But Jörg was a really big talent, so he got it very fast. We played these songs, and Jörg was again amazed by that, so he said, “You must make a whole album of such stuff!”. His heat list that is responsible for the birth of MEKONG DELTA.


In every interview I'm asking the musician what bands most influenced their style, and of course I can’t miss this question with you http://static.ak.fbcdn.net/images/blank.gif

I wouldn’t say that I am influenced by bands that much, even if I listen to the above mentioned groups at that time. My influences, or better to say roots are more to find in classical stuff, and there specially the ex- and impressionism and modern music. This for sure depends on the reason that I started real early with concert guitar which soon confrontated me with compositions of William Walton, Alan Rawshtorn and Benjamin Britten (to name only a few) as I feel boared playing Fernando Sor and all those other straight harmonic guys. Beside this – or maybe of this –my interrest in 19century orchestral music grows strongly, what at least brings me to composers like Schostakowich, Prokoview, Bartok and so on.

The band has been creating a perfect Thrash Metal style for more than 27 years, but in all this time many musicians left the band. Why do you think it has been happening for so long time? 

It is the old reason of time, the course of MEKONG DELTA. Most of the real good musicians work on different projects and so it’s hard to get everyone together at the same time on the same place. For that reason playing live is mostly a great logistical adventure for the band. To give an example: we needed about 2 years to find a time window where all of the musicians got the time for the “Kaleidoscope tour” in the past. It’s even harder if everyone lives in different countries. That the reason for the line up changes it is not possible to wait all the time until the musicians find the time for recording. To get finally rid of this problem I tried to find some young musician out of Germany.

In 2008 Martin LeMar joined as the vocalist of the band, and since then you released "Wanderer on the Edge of Time" - amazing Progressive / Thrash album. How have you met the guy, and how did he came forward to the band?

The contact to Martin was made by Alex, the drummer. He suggested That I should check him out as both worked together on several projects. After the first rehearsals it was clear that Martin is the the right man for the job.

What can you tell us about the working process with Martin? 

The way of working is the same as with the other singers. The big difference is that Martin is a tenor whiles the older singers where more like falsett. For this reason I can no use other vocal line ideas as in the past.  I discuss these ideas with Martin, we check different variations and if we agree on a basic structure he worked the line out that way it fits best to his voice.

20th of April, the band will release a compilation album with re-recorded tracks with the current line-up. Many bands have never used their current line-up for the compilation albums. How did you come to this decision to release this album? 

At least it was the idea of the fans. On nearly all concerts we played the last years we where asked “Why don’t you record the old songs again with this line up and better sound”. First we where quite sceptical and discussed it over and over again. The point that convinced me came up in a discussion about 8 – 9 month ago. If you listen to an interpretation of a classical piece, it will sound different depending on the orchstra and the conductor. So if you see it this way, MEKONG DELTA 2012 is a different orchestra, but the compositions are still the same. After the decision to record those songs was felt, we agreed on 3 points which have to be worked out. First one is better sound, second played more perfect as in the past as nowadays technical standard is higher and the last one was to keep the mood of a song but fill it with the spirt of the the actual line up. Goals 1 and 2 have been reached in my opinion; the third must be decided by the fans.

You are a one of the great bass players I know. Could you please tell us about your favourite bass players? What could you recommend to your fans playing the same role? 

My favorite bass players? There are only a few from older groups. Ok, there is Percy Jones (BRAND X), Jeff Berlin (different groups, worked together with drummer Bill Bruford for example) and not to forget Jaco Pastorious (WHETHERREPORT) which invented a total new way of playing bass.

To become a good bass player is quite difficult, as bass is the glue between guitars and drums. So what to do beside daily scales and other tortures? First of all, take every time you get to rehears with your drummer ALONE! You need to know every accent he is playing to follow those with your bass lines. Learn to play the riffs of the guitar on a guitar, you need to know which harmonies are going on to have different melodic choices for your line (it is more than boaring for you and the listener to play the basic note all the time). And last, learn an instrument where you can study chord and harmony structures, for example piano or guitar, that is more than a need if you like to play sensefull structures on your bass. If you have done all this on a standard four string bass you can change to a five or six string one, not earlier as there are already to much players which use a five or six string only for optical effects or just to play the basic note an octave lower, this could be done cheaper with a modern hamonizer.

Have you any plans for a supporting tour for “Intersections” with some particular bands in 2012?  

We got several offers for playing, but there will be no special support tour for “Intersections” as the material on the CD belongs to our (from fans wanted) normal Live set.

John Schaffer of ICED EARTH recently said that “The music industry has changed and everything is different”, I’d like to know your opinion as a musician, bass player and producer.
Live is change. 


There are so many things in music industry which are different as in the past that it is nearly impossible to dicuss them in a few words while an interview, so let me just say some words to the thing what changed most of all, computer and internet. From the point of recording it is like heaven. You are no longer limited to - for example - one track for bass, instead you can record as much interpretations of a line as you like and do not have to erase one of them, indeed, you can take a beer after you are done and decide which of the tracks you like to be on the record -  and not enough, if you want to combine interpretation of bar 3 of track 10 with bar 12 of track 20, simple cut it together so that you finally got a track that contents the line how you like to sound it which you can use for rehearsing the final track, impossible at the time when the band recorded the first albums. On the other hand all this programms where also used by people which have no plan in music which results in a lot of crap which fill the content needers like YouTube. For a young group with talent it becomes quite different to use this companies to get the attention needed (even if a lot of people say that this is the best way to become well known). Another result of the digitalisation is that – especially the result of illegal downloads – independent labels, the finders of new interresting music, more and more do not risk to sign umknown groups. Where this will end we will see. Ahh, really to much to discuss it here………… a while ago I was asked to write articles concerning the changes in music industry, there are longer and got a lot of informations concerning this theme, you can find them here in english :
To Write, Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth - Der Musiker-Blog bei Musikreviews.de

Are there any young Rock or Metal bands that impressed you recently?  

Indeed, there is one band. While a break in one of our rehearsals I got the pleasure to listen to a CD which one of the members put into the player, the group is called INSOMNIA, if I remember right.

Thanks so much for the interview! Any last words that you want to say to our readers and your fans? 

I would like to thank the fans for supporting and holding up the spirit of MEKONG DELTAover the years.



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Edited 24 January 2022
 

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