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Trance's Markus Berger: "My intention is, to bring back these powerful positive vibes and strong feeling of the Heavy Metal pioneer days to the people of 2021 because they need it more than ever"

Interview with Markus Berger from Trance
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 July 2021, 9:53 PM

It would appear that something was of a miss, apparently the magic of old, for some people, was virtually lost in translation, lost in a phase in time, probably never to return. There have been those who set it as a purpose to recreate the old vibes, yet haven't touched the rainbow. There are the veterans of course that wish to pursue the old days of their youth, some of them made it happen. Trance, a rather important name in the German Metal scene, returned a few years ago, and now, with a nearly brand new lineup, are back with "Metal Forces", simply put old school frenzy. Steinmetal had a talk with Markus Berger, the band's founder, on the new record, the old spirit and more…

Hello Markus, it is a fine pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, I trust that things are going well on your end?

Thanks for your request, Lior! And yes, I am doing well, because Metal Music is a very powerful thing and it definitely helps to overcome times of oppressions and restrictions. Up from the start in the late 70ies Heavy Metal is a defiance movement fighting for an individual freedom mind and humanity.

A lot has happened in the past year or so, no doubt one of the toughest worldwide crises, and in particular, cultural life. How has this period of time been affecting you on a personal level?

On a personal level this hasn't affected me so much, because my inner spirit is healthy and telling me what's wrong or right, no matter what I hear or see in the media.

If there is something that people lost, in a way, is motivation. Speaking about musicians, there are those who simply left everything, went dark. Nonetheless, there are those that found this time as rewarding, constantly working on new things, hot from the stove, only ready to be out. Where have you been in all this? Had there been a lack of motivation at several points?

It's always depending on how you're looking at the things. If you think time has been stolen, then you're going into negative vibes and losing motivation. In my area a well-known musician committed suicide, because he had seen no future for himself during the crisis. I'm looking at the situation differently: Time is a relative thing and that's the reason why I never feel rushed to push things forward. When I'm hearing the audience singing our songs after more than 40 years, then I realize that our music is completely timeless. And I feel that right now is exactly the moment that again the things fall into place for TRANCE.

Within all this mess, you are set to release “Metal Forces”, the grandstand for Trance after making a comeback a few years ago. Furthermore, you also signed locally once again with Metalapolis Records for the release of the album. How do you find this new home label for Trance?

When the people of Metalapolis listened for the first time to our album their reactions had been overwhelming, because they enjoyed the songs as Metal fans, people like you and me. The good thing is, that they are smart business people on the other hand, too. For us and especially for our manager Mike Moeller of Breakout Promotion a more than perfect combination to go ahead with a really strong output.

Prior to the execution of the songwriting process for “Metal Forces”, what were your goals for this album? I mean, other than the obvious things such as high rating and success, what did you wish to let out from you?

Meanwhile the high ratings just are starting… haha.

In August of 2018, when I just had started the songwriting for this album, I had been searching the same time for some bonus material for planned re-releases of the early TRANCE albums. Lucky, I've found a handful of forgotten dusty tapes at my 70ies schoolmate Hans-Peter Jantzer's place. He is a founding member from the early TRANCE school band days and he had collected rehearsal room demos from 1976 - 1980. By listening to this historical stuff, I discovered a cassette tape with an awesome TRANCE song written in 1977 by Hans-Peter, called "Ballad for a Group". Nick Holleman and Neudi, both completely on fire, begged me to record this jewel new for the forthcoming album in the original arrangement, because this song includes all trademarks of some years later upcoming NWOBHM. It's a time document of the beginning of this strong movement, written and recorded even before the Heavy Metal was born.

Jamming with Hans-Peter I've felt like on a time travel back to the schoolboy days. So we've started a common songwriting in the conqueror spirit of our youth. The song "Believers" found its way to the album and Hans-Peter played the second lead guitar as a guest musician. Inspired by the great results of that, the album goals became clear. My intention is, to bring back these powerful positive vibes and strong feeling of the Heavy Metal pioneer days to the people of 2021 because they need it more than ever - and I'm quite sure that we've succeeded.

I thought to myself a bit, as the album’s title is pretty common, is it just like that, a signature that things are about to get straightforward as soon as those headphones or speakers are at 11 or there is more than meets the eye?

There's a deeper sense behind the song and also the artwork called "Metal Forces". It's about the creation and also abuse of the iron and electric tools for the good and also bad of the mankind. All lives controlled by machines and computers, it is against the divine creation and dangerous. In the end the machine is acting instead of human and the humanity has turned into machines without any sensibility of an individual mind.

From what I can conjure, there isn’t a unifying theme to this album, but a collection of subjects that might take the listener through a process of twist and turns. In your opinion, what kind of message does “Metal Forces” reflect? What is it trying to say? Perhaps simply, people we are in business with?

The "Metal Forces" is a picture or metaphor of a "modern slavery". More and more people are forced and pressured into an inhuman system. This album is a time document of the worldwide situation now and tells the people loud and clearly to follow only their own inspirations.

The artwork got me thinking a bit, as a sort of a prediction of the future, where mankind might succumb to the technological advancements and become their slave. Quite horrid but the 80s reflected that oh so well. Is there a connection to the title or simply was it a vision that felt and seen right?

It makes me really happy that I've found in you a music journalist looking behind the things and catching 100% of my intentions, Lior! Well put, this something that we talked about earlier on the previous questions.

The fact that you guys have been maintaining both your composure and your style throughout the years is a cause for salutation. “Metal Forces” displays quite a variety within the old school, mixing the 70s and 80s with a fine quality. Furthermore, it is hard to shake off the influences of the created harmonies. Let’s put it on the table, in such a world of modernization, even in Metal, what motivates you to continue hammering the old ways?

Seriously Lior, I cannot do anything else. I'm honestly not able to write modern stuff - so I'm simply doing what I can… hahaha! Also the feeling of modern metal is quite different to the old school tunes and my heart and soul loves this true old metal riffs and chord combinations and the furious full-power-drum-beats. This pure feeling is for me so much more honest than many other metal styles often turning out to be a theatre with costumes and masks.

In your opinion, other than being constant, how did the band develop while “Metal Forces” was in the making?

My writing process has been continuously recorded on demo and combined with an interaction with the whole band. Especially Neudi is responsible for these catching beats. In the studio he has been unleashed and had no limits for his well-known wilderness on the drums. To let singer Nick Holleman get a bit closer to the TRANCE idea, I had to travel to his place in Breda / Netherlands to record with him my written vocal lines as a pilot track. Later we both worked out together with producer Kalli Coldsmith the final lines. This step was important to make the vocals completely outstanding, because Nick is working in some different projects. Finally, the band entered good prepared the Kalliphonia Studio in Germany.

The question now goes to you personally, how do you feel that enhanced your songwriting skills, and I know that you are quite the veteran, while writing the material for “Metal Forces”?

Truly, I think that my song writing skills never enhanced since the first time I've ever written a song and this was I think at the age of eleven… hahaha. The best is to listen to your inner soul and tape it down. Then one day you realize clearly that people are getting exactly the same feeling you've felt when composing the song. The best feeling ever! It is really easy… but never be driven by money or by the idea to show the rest of the world how good you are or even try to invent the wheel new.

We talked about that fine mix of 70s and 80s, yet I would like to know from you, what is the chief element that in your view makes “Metal Forces” a winning chip?

The most important element is, don't try be something different, realize who you are and just do it. That freshness you're feeling, when you're listening to the album songs and sound, is the result of risking a workflow that allows mistakes and harsh and rough sound settings, without using samples and editing. In the end you have not a smooth and modern good sounding result, it is far away from being mainstream taste or perfect - but fully packed with dynamics, raw power and vibrancy. And this is what makes the listeners feel happy in a world where humans from the birth on are pressured and forced to be perfect. Metal Forces is a maximum "human" album!

Talking about the traditional side of Metal, have you been tracing what has been going on when it comes to newcomer bands playing material that is driven from what you have been playing all along?

Yes, I see that today many newcomers are continuing the legacy of the True Metal. They are feeling the difference of the dynamics to the equality of modern high compression metal sounds and they are falling in love with the powerful and positive vibes. It makes me very proud to be a part of the originators of the Heavy Metal.

Trance of 2021 presents a more or less overall in its lineup, new vocalist, guitarist and drummer, even though I think that Neudi has been with you guys for some time now. Anyways, there is no doubt that the recruitment of Nick Holleman, who has been able to be on some important platforms at a young age, is a major event. Would you say that he found himself as the frontman of Trance?

Nick Holleman is something very special. Not many people know that he is so much more than a brilliant singer. He is a composer, playing masterly guitars and piano, actor in musicals, dubber of cartoon characters in Disney Movies and so on… He was #1 national champion in mathematics of the Netherlands, too. I can't look into his heart, but I know what he likes and that's obviously our music and the easy-going musicians in TRANCE. I'm also happy that he is involved as songwriter in 3 songs on the "Metal Forces" album.

Is Holleman’s role on a permanent basis? I noticed that the guy has been busy with various projects throughout the last couple of years.

I don't think that he has in mind to leave us in the coming future, because we have great fun together. He is performing in TRANCE with no limits or restrictions and he can explode on stage and in studio, by doing whatever he likes. We have big plans together and I'm really happy to have with Nick an extraordinary musician, a brilliant artist and an all-time positive person around us.

The album’s sound is mostly a picture of an 80s album, somewhere between the early to mid-80s, quite impressive I might add. Who engineered the album? How do you find the Trance sound?

It's like drawing a picture. I have in mind how it should look like in the end, but during the process many influences coming from outside. So in that recent special case we'd started with the producer of our former album "The Loser Strikes Back". We had to stop the cooperation, because the mix was totally the opposite of my intentions. Random cuttings and editings destroyed my compositions and turned the songs upside down. We started completely new with the recordings with the producer Kalli Coldsmith, a recommendation of Neudi. During the recordings and mix he came automatically in touch with the spell of our music. He was recording and mixing in a quite different way and I love that sound so much. You can't deny, it's now a really perfect match for the songs. But before this result was on the table I went through hell with the former producer.

I can feel it in my bones that “Ballad For A Group” bestows a story that you are part of or at least someone close that you know. Musically it is just as the doctor ordered for an old school feverish fiend. What is this song all about? What is your take on it?

You know, that the song is written by Hans-Peter Jantzer in the very early days of TRANCE. It describes the special feeling of a rock musician after the show when the sudden silence is affecting you. The sound is still humming in your ears, the crew is packing the equipment and the wheels of the tour bus keep on turning till you arrive at the next venue. It's a song about the life on the road. It's also a fact, that in this special mood I've written most of the famous earlier TRANCE songs, in the bus on the road by using a small tape recorder.

Now, “Deep Dance” is the album’s oddity, at least for me. It has that strong 70s vibe, an entanglement with Led Zeppelin that is heavily strong. Is this perhaps an old relic rehashed or simply you felt the moment and went with it?

Deep Dance is the most extraordinary song of TRANCE ever. This happened because in the beginning the track was planned as an instrumental to describe the drama of the ocean liner Titanic, like a movie soundtrack. I've used guitar pedalboard sound collages to increase the dynamics of the arrangements. After listening to my demo Nick Holleman was impressed and inspired to write these awesome lyrics about a sinking cruise ship, drowning people who minutes before the catastrophe happened had enjoyed their party… and about a ghost couple dancing on the dark ground of the endless sea. This vocal lines and choirs are also composed by Nick. Here you can hear his genius, I've mentioned before.

But you are here right, too: While composing “Deep Dance” I had always that special kind of magnetic sound of a 70ies Rock Disco with some spacy freaky people on the dancefloor in my head…

Next year will be the 40th anniversary for your debut album, “Break Out”. Are there plans to perform special shows playing the entire album?

There is a plan to release a TRANCE box with the whole song material of 40 Years of True Metal, including unreleased material, a 90min live recording of a 1984 TRANCE show in the Netherlands, etc. We have a very special show in our head with guests of former line-ups and a special anniversary set.

Markus, I wish to thank you deeply for your time and effort, I know that I asked a lot. Many thanks as well for a great album. Cheers and best.

It's my pleasure, Lior! For me it's really great to know that the songs I've written in my small hometown place in Germany are now reaching the Metal Hearts of Israel. TRANCE is ready to play shows in your beautiful country, whenever an opportunity will be appearing. At least I want to greet all the followers of METAL TEMPLE in Israel.  In the “True Heavy Metal Spirit” we are all united! Cheers and best regards, Markus Berger



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