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Progression Tour @ Backstage, Munich, Germany - CALIBAN Interview

CALIBAN / The Ghost Inside / The Devil Wears Prada / I Killed The Prom Queen / Breakdown Of Sanity
in Sunday, 18 May 2014 at Backstage
by Erika Kuenstler

May sees the Progression Tour on a slew of shows across Europe. With CALIBAN headlining this tour, and THE GHOST INSIDE, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN, and BREAKDOWN OF SANITY as supports, this was definitely a rare and tasty little morsel for Metalcore fans to sink their teeth into.

Arriving at the venue, there was a sea of fans already waiting before the venue. Opening up was BREAKDOWN OF SANITY, a relatively new Swiss Metalcore band. With their vocalist leaping onto the barrier, by their second last song of the night, BREAKDOWN OF SANITY managed to get the circle pit going, and by their final song, they enticed the entire crowd to jump up and down with them, making the entire venue reverberate as hundreds of people jumped in time to the music. They definitely made a lasting impression, and set the tone for the rest of the night.

1. Exordium
2. Crumble
3. The Gift
4. The Writer
5. Infest
6. Blind
7. Hero

Next up on stage was I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing that night. Interspersing their breakdowns with slower and more melodic passages provided a much needed opportunity for a quick breather between the heavier songs. Saying that they were a long way from their home, Australia, I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN thanked the audience for having made them feel welcome, and fittingly dedicated their last song of the night, “Say Goodbye”, to the audience. I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN overall did an excellent job of getting the crowd going, leaving them eagerly anticipating the next bands.

1. To The Wolves
2. Sharks in Your Mouth
3. Thirty One & Sevens
4. Calvert Street
5. Brevity
6. Say Goodbye

Following on from I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN was THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Clearly one of the highlights of the night, the crowd was already wildly cheering as soon as the intro track started, and long before this American Melodic Metalcore band even had time to set foot on stage. With a more synth-driven sound than the previous two bands, these guys nevertheless delivered a heavy set peppered with chuggy breakdowns that had the crowd going absolutely mad. Incorporating slower songs off of their latest album “War” and “Gloom” released last September, THE DEVILL WEARS PRADA put on a thunderous set that had the crowd screaming for more at the end.

1. Gloom
2. Escape
3. Assistant to the Regional Manager
4. War
5. Born to Lose
6. Danger: Wildman
7. Mammoth

With THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA having cranked up the heat a notch, it was time for the penultimate band of the evening, THE GHOST INSIDE. So excited was the crowd that the hall reverberated with wild cheers and whistling even as the band did their sound check. Unfortunately, the band seemed to have a bit of trouble with their sound at the beginning of the set, with feedback and one guitar dropping out completely, but this nevertheless had very little impact on the crowd’s sheer delight at the music. The sheer wall of sound emanating from the crowd as they sang along to each song was phenomenal: despite standing right in front of the speakers, the crowd’s singing was almost as loud as the anthems flowing through the amps. And the good news for all THE GHOST INSIDE fans in Europe who couldn’t make it to the tour: the band announced that they will be back in Europe again later this year.

1. Engine 45
2. Unspoken
3. Chrono
4. The Great Unknown
5. Between the Lines
6. This Is What I Know About Sacrifice
7. Outlive
8. Dark Horse
9. Thirty Three

At this point in time, the atmosphere inside Theaterfabrik was almost electric, with a buzz of excitement being so strong it was almost palpable. And finally, just as the anticipation was reaching an almost feverish pitch, it was time for the headliners of the night CALIBAN. With an elaborate setup of stage props, including a crucified and shrouded body wearing a gas mask, an absolutely enormous drum rise, various skulls strewn across the various surfaces of the stage, and a massive sign that read “Welcome to Ghost Empire”, the stage looked like the set of an old Western film involving an abandoned ghost-town. All that was missing was the tumble-weed forlornly rolling across the stage.

Bringing in a guest vocalist for “We Are the Many”, CALIBAN launched straight into a blistering set that soon whipped the crowd to a frenzy. Wave upon wave of crowd surfers came lapping up against the stage, putting the security though an immense stress test. Fans at the front had the opportunity to sing into Andi’s mic or to watch Marc play his guitar up close and personal as Andi and Marc took turns standing on the barrier, supported by the security team on the one side, and their adoring fans on the other.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but neither pictures nor words can describe the indescribable feeling that overwhelmed the crowd towards the end of CALIBAN’s set. The night finally came to an end with CALIBAN having poured everything into the crowd, and the crowd having reciprocated with every last iota of their energy.

1. King
2. We Are the Many
3. Nowhere to Run, No Place to Hide
4. Devil's Night
5. The Bogeyman
6. nebeL
7. I Will Never Let You Down
8. I am Ghost
9. My Vertigo
10. Davy Jones
11. Memorial
12. Chaos - Creation
13. yOUR Song

Interview – Marc Gortz (Caliban)

I got the chance to speak to Marc Görtz, longstanding guitarist of German Metalcore masters CALIBAN, and found out all about their new album “Ghost Empire”.

You’re now on one of the final dates of the tour, right?

Well, the day after tomorrow there’s Amsterdam in Holland, and after that there are three more UK shows, and then there are three additional festivals in the UK, but these aren’t part of the tour.

How has the tour been so far?

Very good. It’s been fun: all the bands get along really well, the turnouts have been great, the shows have been very intense, the people have so much fun at the shows. We didn’t expect that it would go so well.

Have there been any highlights or places you haven’t visited before?

Actually, all the places we have been we have visited before, and in most clubs, we’ve played there before. But for example yesterday was a highlight, because the first time we played in a bigger venue than we usually do, and there were almost double as many people as usually come to a show. That was in Zurich, which was pretty great. Also, the venue was more audience friendly. They could do more moving, and there was more space. In general, there’s no highlight in specific; in general, a lot of shows have been very very good. It wouldn’t be fair to name just one city.

Your new album “Ghost Empire” was released in January. How has the reception to it been?

Also very good! It has been our most successful album. We took a different direction with the “I am Nemesis” record and the newer one “Ghost Empire” is a bit more consequent in this direction. The record label called us a week or two after the release and said that it was selling much better than anything they had released before, so that was nice to hear that people liked the new album.

What can fans expect of the new album? Say in comparison to “I am Nemesis”?

The new direction we took in “I am Nemesis” is more consequent in this album; there are more experimental influences. We wanted it to sound big, and we didn’t want heaviness in the way of being fast. For me, heaviness is not shown by how fast a band is playing. When I listen to very fast music, I get totally bored because it’s just like “whoosh”. Maybe it’s different for other people, but personally some riffs that are heavy and slow build a lot of pressure. This is something that is expressed on the new album a lot; it’s not as fast, although there are many fast parts. It’s not like we’ve become a slow mid-tempo band, but in general “Ghost Empire” is more rhythm based and there are more big melodies and more guitar effects and synthesisers to make it sound big. Another influence was MUSE: how the guy from MUSE creates guitar effects inspired me to experiment a lot. There’s also a small underlying influence of old Western movies; if you listen through the whole album, you might notice the red thread through. Movies like “Once Upon a Time” have been an influence, or “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”. These influences were going into the album.

Ya, I did notice some unusual parts when I listened through the album; elements you don’t usually find in a Metalcore album. Was it intentional to take the album in this direction, or is it something that happened naturally?

It came naturally, but with these big melodies we also wanted to create an open, wide, empty space, like a desert, or in like the album artwork, like after an apocalypse for example. This is also why these movies were the logical influence for this. We just thought “What could we put in the music that gives this image of this open, wide spaces?” and we thought of these old Western movies.

I heard the recording process was also quite unusual on this album. How did that all work out?

In general, the main difference is that we recorded everything backwards. We recorded the vocals first, then we recorded the guitars, then the bass, then the drums. Of course Andi had music to record. We first produced demos or pre-productions so that he could sing on top of those. We did it this way so that we could change everything in the vocals to how we wanted it, and then say “Hmmm, the rhythm here is not so good for the pattern that Andi wants to scream, but maybe the screaming pattern is better than the instrument pattern. So we could just change it because the demos were all programmed mostly. So we could just play the guitar part again, cut it in, or for the melodies, there were so many times where we said “If the guitar would have played a B instead of a C, then you could sing so much nicer as a transition to the next part, but now it’s recorded…” You can’t change that anymore, so you have to find a solution and compromise. This time we didn’t want any compromise, so we tried different melodies so we could say “Ok, this is the melody for the vocals, so just change this chord and this chord” and then it was done. Then I had my studio next door so I took lots of my gear there, and then when the vocals were ready, I added the vocals to my desk, and then I recorded the guitars on top, and then Marco did the bass afterwards. Then it was forwarded to the next studio where the drummer could play to the final guitar, bass and vocal recordings, so he had a nice sound to play the drums to. So in a way, everything was backwards.

Wow, that must have been fairly complicated!

Well, actually it was a bit of a coincidence, because last time we had to change the vocal line again because it didn’t fit to the music, someone said “Actually, if you think about it, we should record the album backwards. Why don’t we do it next time?” So we actually tried it, and it worked out so much smoother and easier because there were no limitations on anything because you could change everything in the demos still. It was very easy that way.

I hear there was a guest appearance from Basti from CALLEJON and Matt Heafy from TRIVIUM. How did that come about?

First of all, I really like his band, and we’re good friends with them. And when we wrote this song, we had German lyrics in mind, so we thought we’d do that. Last time we had a song that was partly in German, so now we thought we’d do a full German song, because we thought Andi’s voice sounds cool in German too. And then we thought why not ask Basti, who lives next door, to do the chorus or something cool? We like doing cooperations with friends, so he came around. He actually lives like five minutes away from the recording studio, and he came up with some ideas for it. So that’s how and why that happened. It’s the same with the guy from TRIVIUM who did the guest vocals on the bonus track. When we were together on tour, they were just writing their album, and we were about to start. Then we met in the summer again, and I played a couple of tunes of our stuff to him, and he said he really liked it, and said “Ah, I have straight away great melody ideas when I hear this!” so I asked him “Why don’t you sing something?” and he was like “ok”. So that was very easy. He was really really into it, he was working so much on it. We sent him a couple of the tracks, and he decided straight away for two of them, and he tried some things out. When he finally decided for one, he came up with so many things; he actually recorded the whole song! Actually, Andi and Denis wouldn’t have been needed on the song because he did the screams, he did the transitions, the chorus, the prechorus, he did everything! And we were like “Uh, Matt, somehow at least Andi has to find a way into the song, so we have to cut some of your stuff out”. Otherwise it’s just me writing the instrumental part and Matt writing all the rest of the vocal parts and the lyrics. That was of course cool for him, so they worked out a way that they can do that together. It was very professional of him; he came up with so many harmonies, he recorded tonnes of vocal tracks… It was very cool!

I was surprised you chose this track as a bonus, so that it’s not immediately available to all fans, regardless of which medium they buy.

Well, the digipak is not completely limited, so everyone can get it, but there’s only one version which has the bonus song. We don’t do guest vocals for the purpose of selling more records; that’s not our goal, because then it becomes unnatural. We just like to work with other artists to create something. We had the feeling that this song is different from the other 12 because it has this electronic verse. Even the instrumental parts immediately felt like a bonus track, so it was already the intention before to have that as a bonus track, but Matt picked that one because he really liked it. He wasn’t like “I’m just a bonus track?”; for him it didn’t matter. And, like I said, it’s not limited to a few thousand copies: everyone can get it. If it had been limited, we would have chosen another song.

Speaking about choosing things, what made you decide to choose the title “Ghost Empire” for the album?

That came mostly because the main topic of the lyrics. There is the feeling these days that so many people don’t care for their neighbours anymore or for other people. They just focus on themselves and they don’t look out for each other. So it’s more like walking among ghosts. Everything is so impersonal; everybody’s just on their computers chatting on facebook, and they talk to so many people, even on whatsapp or whatever, but when they see that person in real life, they don’t even care. Everybody’s just looking out for their own goals and their own success, yet they don’t even know their neighbour’s name. Or when someone dies two floors up, they don’t know.  That is the main reason why.

My final question: the band has had 17 years of experience. Based on that, what advice would you give to young musicians who look up to you?

In terms of being successful as a young band, the main thing is probably play as much as you can. That’s what we were doing. When we started, we probably played in every youth centre all over Europe. We even drove for 100 German Marks, which is about 50 Euros now, to Italy to play a show. It was moneywise a disaster, and we covered the gas money with t-shirt sales and stuff, but we wanted to get our name around and get better as musicians, get some live experience, and play everywhere possible. I think that’s the one thing that helps the band to grow a lot as musicians, improve their live performance, and get their name around. That’s the main advice I would give.

Great advice! Well, thank you for your time, and for answering all my questions.

Thank you!

Promoter: Impericon PR
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Edited 23 March 2023

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