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Sabiendas' Jan Edel: "The main-question for me while I was writing the lyrics was why people are going crazy about one crime while other crimes or criminal became part of the pop-culture."

Interview with Alexandra Rutkowski & Jan Edel from Sabiendas
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 April 2020, 9:35 PM

It has been said that man's nature is evil from his early youth. When challenging that saying, it could be argued that not all people are evil, and provided with evidence of good deeds, it appears to be a done discussion. However, what happens in times of utter despair, craziness and obsession. Those already proved to conquer spirits and therefore, brutality is shaped in varied facets. With Death Metal being the right subgenre to explore the world of brutality, even in a spiritual kind of way, the German Sabiendas ascertain to discuss taboo, the things that should not be, in their new record, “Repulsive Transgression”. Steinmetal had a talk with veteran members, Alexandra Rutkowski & Jan Edel, about the new album, taboo, musical development, Covid-19 and more…  

Hello Alexandra, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing, especially with Covid-19 pandemic spreading around?

Alex: Hey Lior thanks for the interview. Thank you for asking, we are all doing well and healthy. We try to stay home these days and we hope this situation will end soon

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the world, with Germany as no exception. From what it seems in the media, it appears that Germany is handling what is going on. Though a question that is outside music, how are you processing this ordeal with the virus?

Alex: Yeah I hope Germany is handling it well. We saw what happened in Italy, maybe the German authorities just started earlier to take action. So hopefully we are spared of the worst. Most of our days are quite normal. We all have our regular jobs and for most Band-Members these measures do not affect their daily lives that much. Two of us, me included, have jobs in hospitals while others can work from home. We just try to stay home, answering E-Mails, doing our Web-Shop and stay in touch with our friends and fans via social media.

Of course, while the pandemic affects nearly every aspect of life, music is also influenced, whether through cancellation of shows, and also the Summer Festivals are in danger. What are the major effects that you see in the local German Metal scene?

Alex: So for us it’s the fact that the release-date for “Repulsive Transgression” had to be postponed from 24th of April to 22th of May and we had to postpone our release-party because of this. It’s a very difficult situation for bands, clubs and promoters and it is also very bad for festival organizers, who spend a lot of time and energy over the year to form a great billing and a few of them don’t really know if the events would be taking place. It can be even a financial disaster for small festivals. We hope the situation will be clearer in May and we can schedule a new date for our release show and a few other shows

Finding ways to promote one’s band and albums through sales can only be online, yet sales aren’t the only thing. One has to find ways to keep on promoting while being at home. What can you tell of Sabiendas’ methods to continue promoting your music strongly? Perhaps live stream shows, rehearsals etc.?

Alex: Fortunately, we can release our new video on 4th of May. We finished the production just one week before everything was shut down and we are very happy that we could hire Maurice Swinkels, the singer of Legion of the Damned to film and produce the video. This gives us the opportunity to promote the album over social-media-channels and YouTube. There are a few befriended bands, who released their new records this month and as I noticed over several platforms that there is a very supportive scene out there. People know about the situation and are buying more records, CDs or t-shirts online as they would normally do, to support the bands that cannot play shows. Hopefully the restrictions will be lowered till end of April so we can rehearse again so we can stream or make some short videos.

Among the happenings going on, Sabiendas is releasing its third album, “Repulsive Transgression”, via your new label, Massacre Records. I can only guess that signing with Massacre Records is yet another step in the ladder for the band to go forward in terms of recognition, while also finding a bigger home to host its music.

Alex: Time will tell. For now, we are very happy with the deal with Massacre Records. We released our first two albums on Bret Hard Records which was a small Label and is unfortunately out of business, so we had no record-deal when we finished the recordings for the third album. As you mentioned, yeah our goal was to get a step forward or “climb up the ladder” if you want to call it that way. It’s the first time that we have professional international distribution and promotion, so it is a great chance for us. Massacre Records is very supportive and we they treat us on eye-level and gave us all the freedom we need

The first thing that captured my attention was the interesting artwork featured for “Repulsive Transgression”. Looks like dinner is done with human remains. What can you tell regarding the symbolic nature of cannibalism in the artwork? Isn’t it stating the obvious that it is a repulsive transgression?

Jan: Of course it seems obvious. At first, it is a Death Metal Album and it should have a graphic artwork. On the other hand, there are elements of Gothic Horror, when you look at the table and the room. Everything seems very cultivated with fine tableware and furniture. On the table, you see the remains of a feast; anything else is left to the imagination. Of course, it is a human body as a special delicacy.  I think the real transgression in the artwork is this act of death and violence in a cultivated distinguished surrounding

Within the album’s deadly lyrical concepts, you drew influence from the brutal crimes of the American serial killer and cannibal, Albert Fish, and the Austrian rapist / murderer Josef Fritzl. These are quite harsh characters to deal with, and I assume that it wasn’t that easy. What made you choose these two in particular? In your perception, what is the fine line between sexual crime and cannibalism, which to me appear more like to parts of a circle of human disgust?

Jan: Both of them committed crimes which were extremely against the morals and values of our society. Both were very different. Albert Fish was obsessed with torture, pain and extreme experiences and he was a cannibal who tortured his victims to make their meat tender. He wrote letters to his victim’s parents where he describes his deeds. He was a child-molester and paedophile. He even saw his own execution as a special thrill and his extreme experience.

In the norms and values of “normal people” that it the worst, and it is. What Josef Fritz did is even seen as “the worst” crime. Raping and murdering his own child and grandchildren and keeping them in a bunker under his house for 24 years. These two are seen as something “special” by the view society. A Taboo. Both never became part of modern pop-culture like other serial killers. There are movies about Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Damer or Charles Manson. These two are nearly untouched by the entertainment-industry. So they are seen as worse. As a Taboo as I said.

To your second question, I think there is no “fine” line between cannibalism and sexual crime. The other can motivate one. The difference in comparison to other serial-killers or murderers is how society sees them. There is no problem wearing a Ted Bundy or Charles Manson T-Shirt on a Metal Festival. Don’t know why. It is interesting.

Where do you find yourself in all this bloody mess of such grotesqueness? Is “Repulsive Transgression” mainly a side of humanity that we have been trying to hide and you simply unveil it like most Death Metal bands or there is something more to it?

Jan: The lyrics are dealing with different kinds of transgression, mostly cannibalism in its various known forms. Eating human flesh is a taboo but in some cases acceptable. In cases of survival or threatened by starvation. There are two songs about eating people just for survival, “The Siege” a song about the Siege of Leningrad were more than 500 cases of cannibalism were registered. “Savagery and Bloodthirst” is a song about the classic story about four sailors lost in a lifeboat and they have to decide whom to kill that the others can survive. Both were acceptable or at least understandable acts. Other Songs are about ritual cannibalism. The main-question for me while I was writing the lyrics was why people are going crazy about one crime while other crimes or criminal became part of the pop-culture. In the end, it is just “true crime themed Death Metal lyrics”. There are a few exceptions but mostly, Death Metal is the music part of the extreme horror genre from gothic ghost stories to brutal splatter-stuff.

Usually I come in, flanking the music, yet there is an exception. “Repulsive Transgression” gripped me first due to its studio work of mixing and mastering. Your drummer, Toni Merkel, also the new drummer of Sodom, made it happen for you and from what I could listen, did quite a great job, making the record sound clear, and not overly polished. What is your appreciation of Merkel’s work? What is your input regarding the band’s sound on this record?

Alex: This quote by Michael Angelo is far over the top but I think it fits very well in this case: “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” Just my personal view in this regard. From day one of recording, I think Toni had exactly in mind how the album should sound as a finished product. Even while writing and working on the songs during rehearsals, he was full of ideas what we can do on the record, how it sounds and what kind of effects he can put in the production. In our case, it was a big advantage that Toni as a producer is a band member too. He knew all the songs and was involved in the songwriting.

I think that “Repulsive Transgression” displays various versions of Death Metal, whether aspects of your local scene, along with stuff that I listened to from the Floridian Metal scene in the US. It is like taking the early 90s, and maintaining the spirit nowadays. How do you see Sabiendas going forward musically on this album?

Alex: "It is like taking the early 90s, and maintaining the spirit nowadays” you just put it straight to the point. You can hear the influences of the music, which we grew up with, especially the early 90s, were a very important time and most of best Death Metal Records came from that era. All bands who invented the typical “Florida-Style” had a huge impact on us, and the music we love and play. So we keep doing, what we do best. Giving a damn about modern influences and just play Death Metal the way we like. The main difference from our first two albums may be the fact that we grew together as a band. We did not change the line-up for a decade now. I wrote all the songs on the first album and the band went through several changes in the line-up. On the second album, we started to work and wrote songs as a real band for the first time where ideas of all band-members came together. We did not write any new songs for nearly two years, so we came together and started with completely fresh and new ideas

Among the aspects of your music that I missed a bit, such an aspect which actually could be heard more in the earlier material of Death Metal band, is the lack of solos. To be honest, there are sections among the record that just screamed for those. There are several melodic features, presented by mournful lead guitar licks, yet those power moments were absent. What is your opinion on this point?

Alex: If you listen to the first two record, you will notice that playing a lot of solos, was never our style. I thin "Repulsive Transgression" has more than “Column of Skulls” I don’t know why, but our songs just feel natural the way they are

Other than what was missed, which elements in the album’s music were given better attention than your previous work? How do you believe that those elements helped the record to become rather special, especially with the market being swarmed by a vast margin of Death Metal albums?

Alex: We tried to keep the song structures simple. We did not try to put to many riffs in one song and we just worked more with different variations. We also tried to keep a classical maybe conservative verse and chorus structure. The best and greatest Death Metal Songs of all times are held very simple with just one or two very distinctive riffs. We want to make the songs hard and fast but always recognizable

Putting aside the work with a metronome is quite a dramatic decision, and one might argue that is kind of risky. In your viewpoint, what are the advantages of this taken path? How do you deal with the shortcomings due to that decision?

Alex: It might be a dramatic decision nowadays. In the early day until the late 90th a lot of records were produced without a metronome. I just saw an old interview this Morbid Angel on YouTube a few weeks ago and the mentioned that “Domination” was their first album with use of a metronome. Maybe it is true or not but we think that it puts a lot more dynamics into the music and that these very small imperfections bring the spirit of a live show to the record. We wanted to prevent at any cost, that the album sound overproduced or unnatural by “over-perfection”. Recording without a metronome was not a big deal for us. Toni is a natural metronome as it was like playing on stage

What can you tell about the songwriting process of “Repulsive Transgression”? Would you say that you learned various lessons from the previous album and came with a better understanding to work on this album?

Alex: I think the most important point while writing the song was, that we took the time we need and we did not try to finish song at all cost. When you meet with the band, some time you have day where two songs came very easy and you are on a creative high. The riffs and ideas are flowing from your mind. There are others day when you spend hours in the rehearsal room and you cannot get one step forward. We learned that it makes no sense to continue on these days. It is better to stop, have a drink and come back next time. You cannot force creativity

The track “Zombified” rapidly became my album’s favourite. Other than its memorable nature, it has simply everything that I would like to listen to from Sabiendas, laying down a strong Death Metal foundation. What can you tell about this song’s creative process? How do you find this tune yourself?

Alex: Zombified was the first song, we wrote for the new album. There was no masterplan, someone just came up with the first riff and the rest is history. But yes, it was the first song where we just limited the number of riffs and really tried to keep it recognizable in the first place

Though the pandemic pretty much ruined any plan to support the record, have you started planning shows perhaps for the end of the year in order to provide a proper support for the release?

Alex: We still hope that Czech Death Fest can take place in June and hopefully we can play a few more shows until end of 2020

What do you think are the main challenges for Sabiendas in the coming years, in particular related to the ever flowing, and changing, Metal market?

Alex: I think the most important thing is to be present in the scene and play good shows. Every band out there is facing the same challenges. Just be there, always be nice and close to your fans and never give up. We have seen many bands that gave up or split up by different reasons. We have the strong will to continue. This continuity might be our key to succeed. Having an unchanged line-up for nearly ten years is rare nowadays. To have the new album out this year is very important and it will not take another five years to the next one ..we promise!

Guys, I wish to deeply thank you for this interview, also many thanks for coming up with such a blasting record, you have something here to be proud of no doubt. Be safe and healthy. Cheers.

Thank you very much! Stay healthy too. Best regards, Alex and Jan for the questions about the lyrics



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