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Apophis's Roger Kirchner: "We cherish the old school elements like riffing and choruses, with tons of emotions (not only hate and violence) yet shrouded in a modern sound far away from ProTools and modelling amps"

Interview with Roger Kirchner & Erik Stegmaier from Apophis
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 22 July 2021, 9:28 PM

There was that season of Dexter with that preacher, the character of Jordan Chase, plainly the guy sewn his belief into people to take what they want when they see it. It is a kind of empowerment that could only lead eventually to death of others as people have to take it, even when it is life. Under the influence of Excess, to be seduced to have everything, now that is sounds sensational at first, but not quite. The returning Death Metallers, Apophis, took advantage to carry their own form of how people are being manipulated with their new album "Excess". Steinmetal had to find out more about their return to action and of course, how exceed "Excess".

Hello Roger and Erik, it is awesome to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing, sirs?

Hi Lior, thanks, man. We’ve been very busy getting things ready for the video and the album release in September.

Wow, I can’t really believe that you guys are back after a decade and a half with new material. “I Am Your Blindness” was, and still is, a great record. It had me thinking of how this sort of success wasn’t continued further on. So what really happened? Merely life treaded your doorstep?

Kind of. We still love it, too, and we still love playing those tracks live. But we weren’t lucky enough to find a new record label although we had received great reviews for “I am your Blindness”. And then I (Roger) came to a point where I grabbed an opportunity and moved to London while the other guys in the band were busy with their private lives. As a consequence, the work within the band was reduced drastically. But we continued playing shows every once in a while.

Over the years, the lineup changes sickness hasn’t passed over Apophis as you recovered with pretty much a new lineup, gathering around new twin axes and brutally fresh, fronting vocals. Would you say that it is an era of a new kind of stability for Apophis? Was there a thought at one point of simply letting the band fade or it was head on continuance?

Sure, everybody has thoughts like that to be honest. And for a few years we really didn’t do anything. But here we are again, and we really believe that this line-up means stability for the band as Fabian (our other guitarist) has been with the band since 2011. Bernd (our vocalist) already joined the band in 2004. Only our bassist Guntram is rather new with the band.

You made an outstanding step by signing with your local Massacre Records. To be honest, I believe that it should have been already earlier on, back in the days of the previous record. How do you perceive this signing with such a label? What are your expectations for the promotion of your new record?

That’s right. We should have had a contract with a great label like Massacre Records twenty years ago. But f**k the “what ifs” and “would likes” everything happens for a reason. We are really pleased to be able to work with such a great company and so far they are doing a fantastic job.

Speaking of the new record, you are set to deliver “Excess”, your fifth album. Overall, what can you tell that it is about? I tried to decipher the artwork against the title, yet it was pretty tricky. Is it bound by human kind’s lack of restraint or something deeper?

The artwork is based on the title track and this is about living life to the fullest. In every possible way. This could also mean greed, boundlessness or what not. We love to leave room for the listener's own interpretations.

Talking about the artwork, a worship driven theme, I gather it to be a sort of a blind faith situation. What can you tell about the vision behind this well-made painting? What am I looking at here?

This is the God of Excess. You are looking at seduction. Try the apple and you want more. Forget about moderation! Don’t think about tomorrow! Live now! No regrets! And it’s cool to hear you like our artwork.

Since we are living in a world that is either harsh, or simply always finding a way to amaze us and take us off balance, how do you see “Excess” playing part in it? What mixed messages are relayed from the record to the listener in relation to the world he or she is living in?

Creating music produces an intense link to your music. Every composer, lyricist, author and of course mother knows what I mean. So, we are taken off balance almost all the time. And we hope that our fans let “Excess” play a part in their lives.

The title track is about being true to yourself. It doesn’t help you or the people around you, if you pretend being someone else. As Kurt Cobain put it: “Come as you are”. “Forgive Yourself” has a similar stance, seemingly from a more religious point of view, but it’s not. It is the big question at the end of one’s life: “Am I a good or a bad guy?”. “The End of the Path” on the other hand is about someone who likes to keep to him-/herself, someone who has gone harsh from the world around him and who can’t get excited about things anymore.

In light of the themes presented on the record, how does it relate to your belief system or rather your values as a person?

We believe in our inner strength which we can intensify by positive energy like music or happiness. Our values are simple: “Treat everyone as you would like to be treated.” and “Give respect to the people around you, to nature and to yourself.”

Apophis has always been part of the old school driven element of Death Metal, nonetheless, while embracing the early 90s direction, there is a scene and feel of a new spirit within “Excess”, which I believe is a newly made display of how old school Death Metal should sound nowadays. How do you find this development in the band’s music? Was it a natural process or did you actually want to find a new angle for your music?

Exactly, this is our approach of how old school Death Metal should sound nowadays. We cherish the old school elements like riffing and choruses, with tons of emotions (not only hate and violence) yet shrouded in a modern sound far away from ProTools and modelling amps. But this all came naturally since we are old school dinosaurs living in the here and now and new developments of course find their way into our music.

Speaking of development, what forms of lessons of the past did you employ while the songwriting process was underway for “Excess”?

There was not really any form of development here as not much has changed since the beginning of our band. Generally, I (Roger) or the other guitarist present a raw version of a song or riffs and a general structure of the new song and then the band continues the songwriting process. Around the same time lyrics are added and there we go. This process may take a while, of course.

As a songwriter, who has been around, gathered around lots of experience, would you say that the songwriting on this record challenged you, taught you new things or made you come up with innovative ways to express your musical path?

Sure, it did. Writing a song is always like creating a world full of possibilities and responsibilities. And each song reflects the peak of our mental and creative constitution at the moment of composing and we strive to make an even better song than the last one. In that respect we are always open to new ideas, from whatever musical style.

One of the things, and I am taking it as a single quality out of this discussion, is your ability to write catchy riffs and in general, catchy songs that aren’t really Death Metal’s forte’. Sure that Melodic Death Metal has that form of catchiness, yet Apophis is heavier, brutal, but able to find that edge. What is your take on that?

Damn right! Ha ha ha. Thank you! At the end of each creative phase there is only one question: “Do we like the new song?” And there can be only one answer: “Yes!” If not, we’ll continue refining and improving it. If the result triggers compliments such as yours, we know we are not at the end of the path yet! Ha ha ha.

A surprise for me was how your vocalist, Bernd Kombrink, employed clean vocals, and these sound high quality, alongside his low end gutturals, which are also clear enough to distinguish. Would you say that the usage of clean vocals is how Apophis will implement vocals on its future releases?

We are pretty sure, we will employ and refine clean vocals in the future as Bernd really did and does a great job there. Although we are an old school outfit we have never shied away from trying out or inserting other musical influences into our music (though clean vocals aren’t that unusual within Death Metal anymore).

I believe that one of the toughest tasks is to link the music and lyrics, in order to create sense and the listener’s relation with each of the songs. How was it done in “Excess”?

I (Erik) have a general idea of a topic for the lyrics when I get to hear the new riffs. Finding a fitting topic is not that hard, really, since the general emotion we convey in our music is rather somewhat dark and melancholic. After that we work on the subtleties of the song bearing in mind which overall feel it should have.

In regards to the album’s sound, even though the album’s sound pattern is clear, it sounds refreshing and utterly powerful. As if mixing the old and the new, making a downright amazing fusion, I believe that you scored one hell of a goal. How do you find the new Apophis sound? Would you say that is a trademark that is now part of your legacy?

We liked the idea of merging old school Death Metal using old amplifiers and other traditional equipment with up-to-date recording equipment producing a sound which doesn’t copy the Death Metal “standard” sound. If we can do so, we’ll surely make this sound a trademark of ours, but it’s always a question of how big the budget is, too.

Frankly, it was hard for me to pick up a title and talk about it, therefore, I ask you, since this album is one of your babies, please select a track that elaborate about it, mainly a track that is closer to you on a personal note

We don’t think we can do this, we’re afraid, as each song has its own story to tell and it’s a matter of your emotional state at this very moment which suits you best. Sometimes it’s only because we remember the moment writing a special line for one of the songs or coming up with a new idea for a riff. But we certainly do not want to influence the listener’s attitude towards the emotion. Let the music do the talking.

Since the pandemic is still relevant, even though there is a decline due to the public’s awareness and also vaccinations, do you think that performing in 2021 is still risky to a certain extent?

Of course, it is. The pandemic will keep us busy for quite some time more. Take care, guys! But we are trying to return to the stages as soon as possible.

What are Apophis’ plans for 2022, is there a comeback towards touring or any other means to support “Excess”?

Sure, we hope there will be locations and slots to play when all the bands return from the social restrictions all at once.

Roger and Erik, I would like to thank you for your time and effort for this interview, you really made my day with this record, keep it up. All the best

Thank you, Lior! It was a pleasure and all the best to you!


 



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