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Septagon's Markus Becker: "Make the most of your time, carpe diem, don’t give a damn about what others say or what problems or doubts other people might raise. Be confident, trust in your capabilities…"

Interview with Markus Becker from Septagon
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 February 2021, 11:10 PM

A bright view into one's present and future, a motivational effort to let the person, and the public, know that one persona is hard to be broken, the terminology of "never back down" implies and it can work marvelously other than pictured as cliché. Each human being has the chance, sometime throughout his life, the ability to rise to the challenge, to become better at he or she does and strive for a personal glory. Therefore, live your lives, enjoy yourselves, when possible. The German Thrash / Speed Metal band, Spetagon, has been on the rise, a beast of fury, yet also filled with melodic scents and intelligence. With the release of their brand new, “We Only Die Once”, Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk once again with vocalist Markus Becker, about the new album, its meaning, its purpose, the musical export and a lot of interesting stuff.  

Hi Markus, it is a pleasure to have you once again for an interview on Metal Temple online Magazine, last time it was the Summer of 2019 that we last spoke, due to the Atlantean Kodex latest album. How have you been doing sir?

Hi, great talking to you again. Yeah, it hasn’t been that long ago since we last spoke, but if you think of everything that happened since then, it seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? So, I guess, I have been doing like everyone else, trying to cope with the situation and to keep the spirits up. For example, by producing a new Septagon record. Making music really helps!

Quite a change of scenery we have been having this last wretched year with a pandemic that is now tightly marked on the pages of history. Similar to a lot of places around Europe, Germany has been in and out of lockdowns with the rapid changes of the infected cases. How have you been taking in all of this?

Well, I’m simply trying to stay calm and patient and do my best to steer myself and my family through this. Mainly by trying to find positive aspects in all of it, like being able to spend more time with the kids, or trying out new things that I probably would not have without the “stay-at-home” situation, like learning to play guitar or finding distraction in things like playing “The Witcher” for hours on end.

The future is yet to be certain when it comes to the day that we will be returning to some form of normality.  Do you see any end to it? Do you trust the vaccinations that have been spreading?

I honestly don’t know. There are so many opinions and scenarios out there, some of which are really dark. Do I trust the vaccinations? Well, I can’t say that I’m not a bit skeptical, but I also don’t really see any other solution or anyone with truly better ideas. I would rather get my vaccination sooner than later, but the way they are progressing with it is really poor, which is frustrating. Also, I do not believe that the world will ever be the same as before, even after we got through this.

Out of the pandemic we go and into the main reason we are here once again, but this time around for one of your featured personalities, as the lead vocalist of Septagon. Honestly sir, it escaped me that you are their vocalist, as I have been infested by Atlantean Kodex to date. I have to ask, and you probably were in the past but what the heck. These two bands are totally different worlds; how do you manage these two realities as a matter of concept?

Haha, good question. I don’t think I really have a concept there, other than I’m really into many different kinds of Metal and Hard Rock, and I just enjoy playing different kinds of music. The two bands really are two completely different animals. AK is a special kind of band in many aspects, and I love being in it. But just as much I enjoy singing in Septagon, and I’m proud of what we have done thus far. It’s really just that, I want to have different creative outlets, and I simply like the fun aspect of playing music, as music is my one true passion.

You guys titled the album, “We Only Die Once”, a kind of word game that I liked its direction. The first thing that went through my head was if it is actually the same meaning as the original sentence altogether. Do you have other theories regarding our demise? Do you believe in the afterlife? Or perhaps this title is a symbol of something that might be greater?

When the idea for the title came up, it was really just that, a word play. I suggested it and the others instantly liked it, probably because it very much represents our attitude towards achieving things in life (no matter if you put “live” or “die” in the phrase, “die” is just more metal J). Make the most of your time, carpe diem, don’t give a damn about what others say or what problems or doubts other people might raise. Be confident, trust in your capabilities, and just do what you want to do, instead of debating about it forever, if you ever really want to achieve anything. This is basically the motto of the title track, it’s like an inspirational anthem. Just ignore the doubters, the haters the people who know everything better, yet never really achieve anything themselves. Do your thing, and even if you fail: having tried is better than giving in before you even tried.

Just like when Ulle and I started the band: we had a very drunken conversation about starting a thrash band at the Keep It True Festival some years ago. He said, “Wanna be the singer?” I went “Sure, but just know I’m not Araya, if anything I’m more the Belladonna-kind of thrash singer”. And he went “Yeah, whatever, let’s do it”. It was a joke, or so I thought. But in typical Ulle-manner, a few days later he sent me the first demos and we hit this thing off.

Since you were so welcoming in the previous interview in regards to philosophy, it is open season for me. “We Only Die Once” is where you guys unleash your anger on what is going on in our society, other than the manic trickster and boogieman’ related songs of course. What has been pissing you off mostly?

If I may, I would like to put this a bit into perspective. Out of the ten songs on the album, there are really only two or three that should be seen as statements of sorts. There’s an anti-war song, which is very generic in its content. There’s “Strange Times”, our Covid-song (which actually really does not have any message other than “what the fuck is this?!? What is going on, where is my life?!?!”), and there is The Rant, which – and I want to be clear about this – is NOT a Corona-influenced song, as the lyrics are more than two years old. At the time it was written, it was simply an expression of frustration about the uselessness of many of our modern-day leaders around the world, and the fact that appearance and gaining power seems way more important to them than content and substance. And that goes across the board. Some other songs are actually meant to be positive (like “We Only Die Once” or “Head Held High”), or they really just deal with fiction or stories like the biblical Nebukadnezar in “Gardens of Madness” or a Northern German version of the Rumpelstiltskin saga in “Ekke Nekkepenn”

From where you are standing, is there a way to do things different when it comes to the social order going downhill? Are you providing any solutions through “We Only Die Once” or merely stating the issues?

No, I don’t think it’s our place to provide solutions, nor is it our mission in any way. We are not a political band, but our musical genre has a long tradition of pointing things out, which we also do from time to time, simply because – like you said - letting out some of our anger about what is going on around us is much more fitting to this kind of music than love songs or beautiful fantasy anthems. But we don’t have an agenda or claim to have the right answers to anything. I guess I would consider it enough activism to simply make a statement like “war is a bad and ugly, not a glorious thing” or “we really don’t agree with some of the stuff that is going on these days”. But by any means, the main focus of this band is making the kind of music we like and having fun with it.

Septagon has been circling itself at the borderlines between Thrash Metal, which has that fine American flavor other than the extreme German kind, along with features of Speed and Traditional Metal, in a kind of old schoolish sort, yet also with a kind of atmosphere that shows something different. With the emergence of “We Only Die Once”, and the constant brainstorming, how do you feel that you developed yourselves as songwriters?

I honestly believe we developed quite a bit. We tried to reduce the complexity on this album as compared to the first two. We wanted to be straighter and more accessible, while featuring heavy and fast but interesting and intelligent riffing and songwriting and most importantly creating memorable hooks. And while you can certainly still detect many of our influences, and we are certainly not the most innovative band on the planet (which we definitely don’t WANT to be), I’d say we have found our own style with this record.

What can you tell about the musicianship on the album? I wouldn’t say it went technical, yet I have to admit that there is a variety of riffs and approaches towards multiple rhythm styles. Is this where Septagon pushed it to the limit?

I guess I can proudly say about my bandmates that they really know what they’re doing on their instruments. And I am certain they could have pushed the technical factor even more. But like I said, we wanted the opposite of being a tech thrash band. Yet, Ulle and Stef can’t really help themselves anyway, I don’t think that standard thrash riffing is in their repertoire at all, so we won’t be able to completely shake off the variety and technical aspects in our songwriting haha.

As I mentioned, there are differences between common Thrash Metal bands and what you have been showcasing on “We Only Die Once”. You strike hard, however, I believe that your vocals, along with a few exits that are uncanny musically, and that is quite interesting and it turned out to be good. How do you relate to these fine elements as an impact on the end result of the record?

Of course, we are aware that there a heavier, darker, faster and more brutal bands in thrash metal than us. As you correctly stated, we are not a pure thrash outfit, but more a mix between thrash, speed and power metal with a bit of a proggy note here and there. Although, as I said, the latter has been gradually reduced since the debut and we have become much straighter, which was definitely by design. And of course, my vocal style isn’t that of your typical thrash shouter, as my approach is much more melodic. But so is Ulle’s and Stef’s guitar work and songwriting, we all prefer melodies and catchy hooks over sheer brutality. If you want to draw comparisons, we are more like Heathen, Megadeth or Flotsam mixed with German Speed and Power Metal influences than like Sodom or Dark Angel.

Adding the ferocity of the skins, you recruited a new drummer, Daniel Buld, to bring down havoc. It is evident that his skills are amazing, as if he has always been part of this unit. In your view, other than his skills on the drumset, how did Buld contribute to “We Only Die Once”?

Yes, it’s great to have Daniel in the band, both for him being an amazing drummer and also just being a cool dude. It was sad for all of us when Jürgen left the band, but he’s still part of the family and there are absolutely no hard feelings there, we still love the man! We’re glad that Daniel could fill his shoes, both musically and on a personal level. From a songwriting point, Daniel definitely added his own interpretations to what Ulle and Stef presented to him on the demos, and he also did a fantastic job in the studio, an absolute pro.

One of the aspects that made it happen for the record is its sound, Danny Seith and Alexander Krull developed to be quite the engineers through what has been banging my head on the record. I agree with the dossier, it sounds modern alright, yet the vibe it generates is both of an old school massacre, but also quite intelligent. What is your appreciation of the work done soundwise?

I could not agree more to your summary, this is exactly how we feel about it and what we were trying to achieve. Danny and Alex have done a great job with the production. We wanted the sound crushing and heavy and a bit more up-to-date this time, but still distinct from the uniformity of many other modern thrash productions and with a certain old-school rooting. There will still be people complaining about the sound, some might find it too modern, others not modern enough. All I can say is, we are really happy with the result and even more so if we get confirmation like yours.

Thinking about mafia movies while listening to this, “Vendetta” rose to power. Surely one of your hard hitting songs in terms of musical brutality, it is quite the assault. That “Vendetta” scream sounded very much like Tom Angelripper’s vocal style for a moment there. What is your appreciation of this destructive tune?

Yeah, it’s certainly one of the most in-your-face tracks we ever wrote. So, for this kind of musically “brutal” stuff, we needed a fitting lyrical theme. But the exact idea was actually a coincidence and came from a musical discovery: Are you familiar with the German Speed/Thrash outfit Vendetta from the 80s? Well, there’s one small part in the song (and I won’t say which one), that strongly reminded me of them, so I was like “Hm, Vendetta, that’s a good title and theme, and also a great word to be shouted in a chorus”. And that was that.

Talking about destructive, a contender to one of the album’s heaviest, and quite diverse, tunes is “Decision Day”. Such a powerful buildup to a song that it was hard to stop headbanging to. I guess this where you wanted your voice heard about war in general? What can you tell about the creation of this track?

It’s one of Stef’s songs, and in fact the last one we completed for the album. I did not have any lyrics to it for a long time and at first did not really know what to do with it. We had to re-arrange it a few times until it really made sense structurally, but I’m glad to hear you like it, as I also like it very much the way it turned out. And you are quite right, the lyrics are simply a very common theme in thrash, a classic anti-war statement, such as “For whom the bell tolls”.

Perhaps a track that is related to the pandemic, yet its lyrics pretty much talk the talk and walk the walk, is “Strange Times”, which musically it is one of your few exits out of what is considered Thrash Metal and into a modernized version of Metal in progression, quite articulate I might add. How do you view this track in reference to the band’s Thrash Metal heritage? How does it stand hand in hand with the other songs?

Yes, this is indeed our Corona-Song, I wrote the lyrics around May 2020, when we were all still adjusting to this completely new and strange situation. And yes, this one is quite different from the rest of the album. We always like to throw in some unexpected or unusual stuff which still makes sense in the context of Septagon, such as “Secret Silver Panorama Machine” or “Henchman of Darkness” from our first album. I find these things refreshing, they make an album much more interesting and vivid than just putting 10 similar songs on a record. Which to me is key to a truly good and memorable album.

Where do you see you guys going in terms of promoting the album with the inability to perform live? Do you have any creative plans to launch it forward? 

Well, I wouldn’t call them creative in the sense of groundbreaking innovations. With the new album we switched record labels, which offers us more possibilities in terms of releasing promo videos and maybe using a few more promo channels. And hopefully, interviews like this one can also contribute. Admittedly, it is very hard these days to attract real attention. I guess the best you can do is to record a strong album, that is hopefully being recognized as such by the press and fans alike. That should always be the basis.

I trust that you are also working on a new Atlantean Kodex release or perhaps even yet another Septagon album?

The Question “will there been another Kodex-Album?” is probably the one which I have been asked the most since the first album in 2010! And it is as difficult to answer as ever. The pandemic has certainly thrown us off our track quite a bit. There is nothing concrete to report right now as we are currently not even able to rehearse. We’ve been exchanging some ideas, a riff here and there, but nothing serious at this point. But the band is alive and well, no worries. In contrast to our epic style (and time frames) in AK, Septagon’s “speed metal” label also applies to our songwriting. Ulle is already full of new ideas, and I am certain you’ll hear more from us in the foreseeable future. I’m also working on another, very different project right now, some fun stuff with very old friends, yet it’s too early to reveal anything. So stay tuned J

Markus, once again, it was a sheer pleasure having you sir, you guys at Septagon had me busting my neck, almost anyway, thank you for the amazing record. Cheers sir.

It has been my pleasure, thank you very much for having me again in this different context. Cheers and stay safe!
 



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