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Tension's Maik Huber: "It is a journey through everyday life and how to deal with it. From inner-self to outer-space, everything has its own form of Decay"

Interview with Maik Huber from Tension
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 11 February 2022, 11:52 AM

An insight in regards to what is our role in the universe, or let's say in the planet. We, as people, have a lot of wish to bloom, to develop, to reach for the stars, and in the future even to build ourselves in them. With a lot of aspirations, there is also that reality check, and that is what are we doing now, or what have we been doing. Is there a care for ourselves, and our surroundings? Tension's Maik Huber appears worried about the decay process, and his band just released their new album "Decay". Steinmetal had a good talk with Maik about the album, and its Heavy Metal exploration

Hello Maik, it is awesome to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hello Lior, thank you for the interview. I’m quite good so far, thanks.

With the numbers rising on a daily basis due to this damn Omicron variant, it all over again, yet with us being more protected against the repercussions. Nevertheless, this new wave of Omicron brings with it social restrictions that might result in another shutdown of culture, and our closer to normal lives. Would you say that we simply have to let it be and live with it, or rather continue fiercely to protect the public?

Good question. First to say is, that our region in Leipzig and Saxony is in a lockdown situation since November 2021 (I think!?) again, so we don’t have any concerts and also the bars are closed. That hurts a hard rockin’ man, you know?

“To let it be and to live with it” is no opportunity. It has to go back to normal sooner or later. I studied Sociology and also a bit Psychology and you can see, how sick and also crazy and dangerous these lockdowns can make society and subjects. Sure, for me everyone has to be vaccinated and we must have and need a solidary thinking, because everyone is of equal value, but in my opinion it has to go in a different direction this year. How? Good question. But equality and safety is an important point.

Throughout the pandemic there were leeways, gaps, where culture did actually make a comeback. Did Tension have the chance to perform live, just for that feeling of actually being alive and delivering the music to the people?

I wish we had. But no. There were a few concerts and even a Heavy Metal Festival close to Leipzig, but we could not play it, because we haven`t been in a live line-up anymore. Clemens left the band after the recordings and we couldn´t find a new lead guitarist by then. But nevertheless I saw a few good concerts in that period of time, e.g. a concert of our friends in Sintage or Acid Blade (Greetings!). It was good time and a little bit of “back to normality”.

Gradually, you have been preparing yourselves for the unveiling of your debut record, “Decay”, set to be released via your local label, Dying Victims Productions. Probably it would sound like a cliché question, yet every artist experiences this differently, how did you know that it was the right time to record a full-length? How do you find the full-length album format in a market that has been also driven by streaming technology, where everything is available?

We knew it was the right time, because we had a tour together with our friends in Angel Sword from Finland (also Greetings!) and had the feeling we played our asses off, so that the songs are solid enough to record them. It felt right and it had to be done, also because our EP “Tension” from 2017 was released a long way back and we had tons of new songs we played live for quite some times.

Streaming technology makes it easier to listen as quick as possible to the tracks you want to, but to hold a physical release in your hand (like vinyl) gives you a different feeling. Big cover arts, the sound, everything is special. I always prefer physical formats. It also reminds me of the good old times, where internet wasn`t available in every household. I grew up without internet and love the old way to experience music through physical releases and magazines/fanzines.

What can you tell about the chosen title for the album, “Decay”? Is it as it sounds, pure and simply? To whom it actually refers, maybe mankind in general, or happenings in our reality that contributed to the phenomenon?

This is more than one metaphysical level. First of all: Look at the world. It’s getting darker in many aspects each and every year. Secondary: metaphysically the world has to struggle with decay since the origin of mankind. This is affecting humanity and leading towards a mental decay of many people.

Going through the tracklist of “Decay”, I believe that it might appear as fantasy based, but I have the feeling that it is part of a larger packet of messages and morals that you wished to channel to your listeners. If that is the case, what are those morals that you wanted to share? If not, what can you tell of the main narratives that lead the album?

It is not fantasy based. It is a bunch of morals and a mirror for self-reflection of the listener. See for instance “Black Knights”. There are few morals in the lyrics, which are expressions of my take on how to view the world. Equality as one big field. Everyone is equal, no matter where you are from, what gender or sex you have, or what skin colour. Or “Age Of The Stars”: it’s a mixture of mankind trying to colonize space as soon as possible, while at the same time causing wars on earth. We don`t have another planet… There are more morals to find in the lyrics as well. Otherwise the lyrics are influenced by my biography and also the Left Hand Path. Both of them have been important influences for the last few years.

After a close look at the artwork, I could grasp the process going on of actual decay, between the built and the ruined. What was the vision that led this artwork to end up as the final product suggests? What does the winged fiend represent?

The winged fiend isn’t a fiend; it is more or maybe a well-known “friend”. It is the demon in each and every one of us. A structure which in depth leads to a decay of us and our surroundings. Hate, love, anger and fear builds around our inter-human relations. This demonic figure is also seen in our EP cover as the shadow of the “Midnight Traveller” walking to this bright mountain (which is a symbol of walking to a brighter future). Both covers were drawn by Dascha who did a really great job doing the artworks and connecting them both. The surroundings are ruins built and left by humans, which says everything, I think.

There have been a variety of Metal albums revealing the fears of their creators, therefore I ask directly, what do you fear from? How does it come to pass through “Decay”?

This question goes deep. I don’t know if I can get it in that manner and shortness you want it, but I’ll try. I have a lot of fears. The fear of loss of friends and beloved ones. But also the end of the world, because the situation for mankind is getting out of hands in many aspects. It’s like fear and “Weltschmerz” mixed together. That’s why “Decay” has such lyrics and this overall sound.

Listening to “Decay” and it is back to the roots of the late 70s, right at the time when Metal, and Hard Rock, music started lifting their head, increasing their popularity, yet with Punk still there as a dominant figure in the streets. This musical manner turned “Decay” to be quite an eclectic experience, for various listeners to find their whole by its influence. How do you find the band’s steps forward in its music to make this record happen?

It should sound exactly like that. We all have a lot of influences and are all into Proto Metal and 70’s Hard Rock (which for me is The Sweet, Deep Purple, Puhdys and Scorpions). Also the NWOBHM and old Swedish scene comes to my mind like Satan, Ritual, Tank, Heavy Load, Gotham City, Zone Zero and Limelight for instance. For me personally old Punk and Hardcore is very important as well like Misfits, Black Flag or Discharge. We are also influenced by the Eastern European Hard Rock / Metal. So in the end it’s an opportunity to express ourselves and we are all maniacs in the variety of the Rock genre.

When it comes down to influence, which direction of the band, across this mixture we mentioned, do you find yourself related to more than any other?

All of those influences are important to me. But if I had to pick one it’s definitely the NWOBHM sound. The raw and unpolished sound mixed with twin guitars and the way most of the vocalists sounded is something very special for me.

If there is a challenge that any artist faces are to find that pure cohesion between the lyrical end of the material and the written music. How would you say that you found that edge while making “Decay”? What can you tell of possible deliberations that you had of how to fit everything right in between these two major aspects?

We didn’t have any problems with that issue, because we always wrote the songs together in the rehearsal room. Mostly someone came up with a riff and we were jamming and step by step creating the songs. During that process I also wrote the lyrics while listening to what the others were doing. So in the end there was never a conflict between the lyrical and musical aspects.

The melodic features of the record might be expected, since in overall this is NWOBHM oriented, however, there is an angle. What can you tell about the melodic guitar work that has been engulfing the album and the band’s perception of melodies?

The melodies were written mainly by Phil, who is also heavily into NWOBHM. So he had a very good feeling for those kind of melodies. This whole atmosphere is driven by them and the structures around it. This was a perfect foundation for my lyrics/vocals. Also our love of old (Melodic) Black Metal and some Swedish bands have influenced those melodies.

As an old school band, being one of many that have been indulging upon the spiritual beast of the past, what other elements do you find uncanny in your efforts in light of the record, and in general?

I think elements, which influenced the album besides the given musical aspects come from a huge amount of different sources. Everyday happenings, which developed a variety of emotions and thoughts over life and the things going on this planet are a huge impact. For me personally I am a big fan of old 70’s and 80’s horror and science fiction movies and old philosophical, psychological and sociological books and texts. So all those elements are also transferred into the music and therefore in the record itself.

At times, I found your vocals as an antithesis to the music, yet while closely listening to “Decay”, I noticed that your vocal style varys over additional voice patterns, whether generated by Punk, Rock or Metal (Of the British kind). Would you say that this sort of antithesis, when put into work actually did better for Tension in overall, and for “Decay” in particular?

I am influenced by a lot of bands and their singers. For instance: Greg Sage (Wipers), Fred Cole (Dead Moon), Norbert Schmidt (Formel 1), Brian Ross (Satan, Blitzkrieg) and Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Danzig). All these singers had a vocal style which you could consider as an “antithesis” to their music. For us this worked pretty well and we are happy with the outcome on the album. So I´d say that it definitely added its own twist to the music.

Songs such as “Black Knights” and “Earth Crisis” are in my book the best examples of how you employed that vintage Metal vibe along with that spunk of Punk. Both tubes are catchy, and a driving force of the album musically, the former straightforward, and the latter taking its time to explore. What is your appreciation of these tracks? How do you find their impact on the course of the album?

It's funny that you’re making the connection between Punk and “Vintage metal vibe”, because that`s exactly what these tracks are supposed to be – Heavy Metal with political lyrics.
I personally think, tracks like this belong to Tension and also have to be on that record. Old Heavy Metal is also full of songs like this. This is nothing new. The impact? I don’t know, but for me I can tell that these songs are necessary to be expressed and I appreciate those songs a lot.

Listening to the entire record, from top to bottom, and I am sure that did, and still do, that quite a lot. To where the album takes you as you listen to it without interruptions?

From the burning streets of your neighbourhood, to the bothers of life, into the widths of our solar system and beyond. From all-day struggling, to unborn thoughts, to everlasting emotions. It is a journey through everyday life and how to deal with it. From inner-self to outer-space, everything has its own form of Decay.

Looking forward to a bright future in 2022, is there a plan, or at least an intent, to support the record in Europe, or maybe only locally in Germany?

A tough question. Covid-19 has its own plans and we will see.

Maik, thank you for your time provided for this interview, I am glad we could do this. Thank you also for a great record, and good start to something with a great potential. All the best,

Thank you very much for the interview and the interesting questions. I hope that everything will go back to normal as soon as possible, especially when it comes to concerts and festivals!
Keep on rocking!


 



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