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Requiem's Ralf W. Garcia: "History has shown that musical trends are sometimes only short-lived. We just don’t care about what’s going on or what’s pushed into the media mainstream by big budget marketing campaigns"

Interview with Ralf W. Garcia from Requiem
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 May 2021, 12:18 PM

It is about where all of this is going, what and what is coming next. Apparently, the next thing in line is bound to happen, however, it is hard to answer when it will. There are expectations for a change, something that will stir the boat to a different direction, an analogy to the course of the human social order. Too many ideas, too many predictions, a whole lot of turmoil of the mind. The Swiss Death Metal veterans, Requiem, display themselves as the constant thinkers, presenting their listeners with a sort of a bulletin of their version of the news, based on a strong brainstorming process. This time around they come in with “Collapse Into Chaos”, released by Massacre Records, and the future looks grim. Steinmetal had a talk with Ralf W. Garcia about the philosophy, history and present, musical ties to the past and more…

Hello Ralf, it is awesome to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been?

Hello Lior, it’s Ralf (Bass & Lyrics) from Requiem. I’m fine so far. Can’t complain to be honest. We’re looking forward to the release date of our new album of course.

Even though the dystopia pictured through Requiem’s records have its fair share of intensity, our current reality is not that far from disturbing portrayals that you have been delivering with each album. How have you been coping with the situation of lockdowns, the fact that there is an actual pandemic out there that no matter what, it was proven to be real and not a hoax?

Well it’s been very interesting to say the least - to observe all these developments across the planet in the past 14 months or so. But in fairness there never was real stability in the world anyway. Historically I mean. So the lyrical content of our albums that you’re referring to was always depicting certain situations that could be put into the dystopian genre. For us these topics aren’t really new obviously.

Personally I was coping with the situation quite alright I’d say. My wife and I relocated to another country at the end of last year so we witnessed different versions of these restrictions and/or lockdown situations first hand. From quite light restrictions to a very severe and constant lockdown for almost four months. Since we live very rural now it wasn’t really that bad luckily as it would have been in the middle of the city before we moved.

About the global situation itself I think most of us thought for a longtime that it felt almost like a bad sci-fi movie or something. It just didn’t feel real at first and of course obviously after 6 or 9 months a harsh reality check kicked in. Well look it is what it is. We’re quite pragmatic and adapt quite fast to changing situations. But of course it is still very strange in a way and naturally it wasn’t always very easy from day to day. In general, I’d say we managed ok given these circumstances. The music and our creative efforts didn’t suffer at all for example and that’s a good sign I’d say.

Requiem has never been a stranger to life on the road, especially when performing across Europe. At the moment, even though there has been some progress with the vaccinations, there is no culture to perform for, neither places to actually put on a show. How long did it take you guys to realize that the future of the live scene is bleak?

That’s indeed true that we always were a very active band in relation to touring and playing gigs in general. Naturally since the situation began we talked about what was going on. How could we not talk about it as musicians. It’s a no brainer of course that you’d have your personal and collective thoughts about the situation as a musician and a band. I think around autumn or let’s say at the end of last year it became quite obvious that there won’t be any live shows any time soon. Well at least not in the way that we’re used to it for nearly 25 years as a band and again we were quite pragmatic and redirected all our time and efforts unto creative things. One of the perks of being a musician or being just creative people I guess.

One of the things that I admire about bands such as yourselves is that no matter if there is a pandemic, the motivation is strong enough to work on a new album, continue the journey no matter what. I guess that this time around you were actually energized by the pandemic as it kept the band’s mentality in check?

Thanks for the compliment. We appreciate feedback like that very much of course. Look we just do our thing and that’s absolutely independent from what’s going on around the world. It was always like that. Requiem as a band is a creative vehicle that keeps going because we are all on the same page and we all contribute to it and last but not least because we are still big fans of the Death Metal genre in general. So for us it’s a very positive part of our lives.

But regarding the pandemic. It didn’t really play a big role in the origin and development of the new album. The decision to work on a new album was made at the end of 2019 into early 2020 when the first instrumental ideas were created by Reto (Drums) and Phil (Guitars). However due to no live shows and subsequently more time on our hands the situation helped us to really focus on the new album. So that was an advantage definitely. Certainly it was quite obvious for us that we should use the downtime to polish down a lot of these intricate details and arrangements that were always hidden within our songs.

You titled your new album, your no. 8, “Collapse Into Chaos”, as much as it sounds like Death Metal, and it sure is when you pronounce it, the closeness to the actual truth is surreal. In fact, at least for me, it created strong ties to what happened last year when all of this mess began. How do you relate to that concept against what is going on between the lines of the album?

“Collapse Into Chaos” is another reflection of the state of our world. Like I mentioned before the world never was stable, reliable and quiet place. There was always something going since the beginning of mankind. The album title and song titles for the new album are derived from observations, philosophical studies, personal views and thoughts about life and the planet we live on. The same applies for most of our past albums as well. The topics are all out there in the real world for everyone to see and a lot of it is very obvious.

Now personally I’m very much into the field of history and there are a lot of lessons to be learned from past events that reflect on today too. It’s not at all that we’re predicting how things will turn out or how things will develop. But it’s just common sense if you’d add certain figures or facts together you come to some sort of obvious conclusion. Now some of the content of our lyrics may come close to actual events but that’s just proof that fact based thoughts actually count for something.

You also focused your attention on hypotheses of mankind’s timeline, whether down the road or onwards towards a form of a future. It appears that you have a lot to say, stating your anguish, measure of alert and perhaps even fear for the worst. Therefore, I ask, what do you fear from? Where do you see all of this going?

I agree that we sometimes had theories and/or some sort of “end of the world” scenarios in our lyrics. But that applies for a lot of Metal bands too of course. Nevertheless, it’s just a part of these real life themed lyrics. There’s a lot to say about what living nowadays actually means for a lot of people who weren’t born with a silver spoon.

Our lyrical content was always more a depiction, a sort of news report or a philosophical essay about certain topics that’d happen in the world. Especially from a stylistic point of view. It’s not about fear or anguish. It’s often about a vent of frustration. Creative work or therefore music as a form of art to vent frustrations with certain situations and causes.

So I can’t really relate to the word “fear” in relation to that. When you ask me where this is all going. Well obviously we don’t have a crystal ball to foresee the future but there’s definitely something coming. Like I said before the facts and figures regarding a lot of stuff is out there and it’s quite clear that all of it will lead to some sort of bigger change. The question that remains is when will it happen or when will mankind begin to really feel some sort of life-altering consequences. Will it be our generation or the next or the one after that? Who knows. But it’s not a question anymore IF a big change will come for our world. By now the only question is when. So you know there are these situations that shape your life forever. Maybe this is one of them. Who knows. We’ll see.

It has been stated by many that mankind’s nature is evil, although there are in fact good people out there, but our foundation is based on pure evil. Do you believe that statement? Do you believe in people as personalities that could change in time, whether for better or for worse, or our fate is identical?

So regarding your first question. No I don’t. Not entirely though. Look that’s a very complex topic and there are so many reports, studies and centuries of philosophical and psychological work about it that it wouldn’t make sense to deal with it in just a tiny paragraph here. However, I think that human beings are capable of change and are capable of anything. What sort of change that actually is would be very individual and always influenced by countless different factors. Mankind’s nature is just what it is. For centuries we tried to make sense of our own being. Analyzing it, trying to understand why we are who we are and why we act the way we act as individuals and as a collective group sometimes. Fact is that we’re capable of everything and anything. There are no limitations and just the way that’s perceived by us as humans or labelled for example is a matter of the values that are put into place to judge and decide whether it’s good or bad or anything at all. As we all know these systems of value are depending on another wide array of so many factors like culture and region and so on. So you see like I said it’s a very big topic.

You asked if our fate is identical. In relation to the prospect of death and that all organic life will decay and end one day I’d say that that’s our common denominator as human beings for sure.

Even though “Collapse Into Chaos” is a mere continuance of your dedication towards old school driven Death Metal music, it shares yet another stepping stone, part of your legacy and experience. While sticking to your guns, how do you still find the band’s going forward with its abilities of songwriting along with musical performance?

One of the main goals always was to write good and interesting songs for ourselves in the first place and then obviously for likeminded Death Metal fans of course. Naturally if you’re around for as long as we have now our personal abilities as musicians have developed and changed over the course of the past 25+ years or so. Or in other words the more you practice and the more you are in these creative processes the more you gain experiences with songwriting, creating interesting hooks and fills and arrangements etc. I personally think that all of us became better musicians and writers during the course of the bands’ existence and that’s something which naturally enhances the sound, the songs and the overall instrumental and lyrical concept of the band. We just keep on doing our own thing as you said but we are still exploring ways and possibilities within our genre and style of music. Anyway. We just keep it interesting in a creative sense and of course regarding our instrumental skills as well of course.

With your past experience, and looking towards the present songwriting of “Collapse Into Chaos”, what have you learned that you implemented on this record? Perhaps averting past mistakes or rather closer attention to detail than earlier on?

There’s one thing that we always consider and that is the fact that we never have a masterplan before we start writing a new album or let me rephrase. Everything that happens during the development of the album happens in a very natural and organic way. The new album is no exception. We just focused on a few details even more this time than we might have in the past. But overall I’d say it just happened because Phil (Guitars) and Reto (Drums) who both always write the instrumental parts of the songs are meanwhile very experienced in writing stuff that absolutely fits our profile as Requiem. Since a few years now we pursue an approach that would be best described as a “less is more” kind of thing. So that’d be to get everything on point and stay very tight and brutal all the time. By listening to the new songs I personally believe we absolutely managed to pull it off again. Mission accomplished I’d say.

Since it has been a Covid-19 year, how would you say that the songwriting process of “Collapse Into Chaos” affected the chemistry within the band?

I couldn’t really say if there was an affect to us as a band that’d be specifically related to all these months of the pandemic. The only thing that affected us in a way was that we had more time on our hands both personally and as a band. Just because there were no gigs and no real social or cultural events going on. Just the usual things which you’d normally would spent more time with. So with that out of the picture you automatically have more time to use for other stuff which we in our case dedicated to the creation of a new album.

Overall the fact that we’re together for a very long time now has affected us by far more than the current situation. We know each other very well and we’re all able to use all our individual abilities and skills for the benefit of the band. It’s a kind of family feeling of sorts and I think it’s even more audible now in the new songs.

What forms of challenges engulfed you while working on the record? How were you able to tackle those hardships and make use of the situation to your advantage?

We made use of the extra time we had individually and as a band collective. You see if you’ve more time as a musician it’s only natural that you’d be able to focus more on the small details without distractions. In the past for example - now I’m talking about the 60s, 70s and partly the 80s of course. When you’d have bigger budgets as a band and you could have spent weeks on weeks or sometimes months inside the practice room and in the studio bands were sometimes able to try out several different arrangements before finishing a particular song for example. These times are long gone of course. But being in a situation with extra time and enough time therefore is always a real gift and sometimes even a game changer as a musician and as a band. So we made sure that we used that to our advantage and benefit.

How would you say that you were able to channel your anguish of the lyrics to keep it in line with the music to create a cohesion between the two?

The music always comes first meaning that Reto (Drums) and Phil (Guitars) always write the basic instrumental songs in a more or less finished version. After that Matze (Guitars) is creating his additional guitar arrangements and solos, I’d create and lay out all the bass tracks plus all the lyrical concept and all single lyrics for each new song. Usually I’ve a mix of a lot of topics and working titles to start with. After all the lyrics are written Michi (Vocals) starts to develop his individual vocal tracks for each song and he decides which lyric is used for which song. So that’s usually the process how we work.

In the course of that sort of process it’s almost similar to the assembling of a machine. There are parts that just need to be in a designated spot. It’s not possible that some parts are placed somewhere else. So that’s similar to our lyrics as well. There are just songs that need a specific title and a specific kind of lyrical content added to it. That’s just how we work and it always worked out very well so far.

Since you are heavily against trends, mainly keeping honesty as one of the chief traits of your music, would you say that it is nearly impossible to escape those trends? Concerning “Collapse Into Chaos”, how do you think that it has a chance of winning the hearts of Metalheads, which some are bound by those trends that you distaste so much?

First of all, we never said something like that. I mean by all means not with these exact words. It’s not that we’d wage war against trends at all. Look it’s just like I mentioned before. We just do our own thing completely independent from current trends or high gloss music magazines. That’s all we’re saying. We just write and play music that we like to listen ourselves. We are not a band that is interested in trends or hip new stuff to look out for. History has shown that musical trends are sometimes only short-lived. We just don’t care about what’s going on or what’s pushed into the media mainstream by big budget marketing campaigns. That’s not us. We all are listening to different sorts of music too. We’re quite open-minded towards musical styles and genres anyway. Music is a wonderful thing. One of the (if not even THE best) best inventions of mankind for sure.

In general, I think that music is just a matter of taste. Like food or spices. A very individual thing so it’d be up to everyone for themselves what they like to listen to or not. Naturally we are all influenced by other music, bands and artists. Music that we listened to while growing up for example. So even as musicians you’re always influenced by something which is a good thing. It’s a start to make the music your own after a while of playing and creating yourself.

I think the key word in relation to our own music is honesty and authenticity. That’s just who we are and we believe that there are a lot of people out there that recognize that kind of genuine way of music. We are an underground Death Metal band with a very authentic and honest approach and I think some people could surely identify with that.

The mania of “Progress To Collapse” is quite a word game, yet it also harbors a strong message. Musically, it has that old school Floridian touch but to immense groove and brutal effect. What is your take on this track?

Interesting that you picked that particular song to talk about. Well the lyrics are somewhat special because I based them on all our past album titles. It’s a sort of dedication to our past work so to say and it picks up on all these topics that we wrote about throughout the past nearly 25 years or so. The conclusion is that all these topics still hold true to today. Nothing has really changed. From an instrumental and musical point of view it’s a nice mixture of our main ingredients. Old school Death Metal with a strong groove, old school hardcore/crust punk influences and relentless blast beats. In a way it is even so a musical homage to our own longtime style of Death Metal. It’s one of these very catchy tracks that we might play live once that’d be possible again.

As a kind of catchy note on this album, I found the whirlwind that is “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind”, an energetic, high octane piece of Death Metal that is a bleeding mosher. How do you find the intensity of the song’s message? What can you tell about its creation?

Again “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” is another classic Requiem styled track. For this particular song Reto (Drums) and Phil (Guitars) chose a rather Grind-Death approach in the creation of the song paired with a slight blackened touch during the sections with these twin guitar harmonies. The middle section with these rhythmic double bass patterns is typical Requiem too. It’s probably one of these rhythmic articulations that we used before. Now obviously the patterns are always different of course but they work just fine in the mix with all these other ingredients I just mentioned. Lyrically it’s about the fact that the attention span of first world societies towards the suffering masses on this globe is very short. We all see it almost every day on so many different media portals but it’s just like the song title says. It’s out of sight out of mind most of the time.

What do you miss most about cultural life? What are your expectations for its return? Would you be confident to get out there and perform or rather wait a bit to be safe?

Since cultural events are my way of making a living it’s probably the fact that I miss seeing and meeting a lot of friends and colleagues with whom I worked with over the years. For me personally cultural events were more or less my sort of social life too. So there’s that.

My expectations. It’s not easy to say because there’s so much talk out there already about how it’ll look like and so on. The dreaded term “the new reality” and all that stuff. Anyway I don’t really know. I think at some stage we’ll have club shows, festivals, tours and all of that again. It’s just a matter of time and/or how these will look like at first until all the additional so-called safety measures will be abandoned. We’ll see. Basically we’re keen on performing, playing gigs, tours and festivals of course. But we’d prefer it the way we are used to. That means without restrictions and safety measures and all that. We’d be confident enough to go out there and play for people that’d like to see us play. Absolutely. But we’d not like it so much if we’d have to wear masks or play to a crowd of masked Death Metal fans or to only play a gig with several tests beforehand and all of that. We hope that we’ll soon see the old school way of Metal shows again. That’d be all what can be said about this topic at this point I guess.

Ralf, I wish to thank you for this interview and for your time. Death Metal music is to be made with love and dedication, or not made at all. I think that you guys made it happen with “Collapsed Into Chaos”. All the best, Cheers.

Ralf W. Garcia: Thanks a million Lior. We appreciate your feedback very much indeed. It’s always good to hear that our music might be a small contribution to people’s listening pleasures. Thanks for the interview and thanks for having us. All the best. Take care. Mind yourself. Cheers. Ralf & REQUIEM


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