Wicked Messenger Interview

When I first heard Germany's Wicked Messenger,one word came to mind...gravitas.This guy's music had WEIGHT.It was huge,and it was damn sinister too.Layers upon layers of movement creating a new sound that is neither ambient or drone,but so much more.The latest full-length,"Vision Rites and Techniques of Ecstasy" is an absolute tour-de-force of mass substance and feeling. Wicked Messenger mainman Martin Kranzel was nice enough to explain the process behind the HEAVY.

HAMMER SMASHED JAZZ:Wicked Messenger....I'm guessing this is probably not a Bob Dylan reference?

WICKED MESSENGER:No, not really even if it's somehow linked to Dylan. I always liked the word "messenger", its sound and also what it signifies: a harbinger, a herald, someone who announces the happening or the coming of something new and extraordinary. When I was looking for a name and played around with words like "cryptic" and others as a second term, a friend whom I told about my plans asked me whether I knew the Dylan song "Wicked Messenger". I didn't but right at that moment I had found my name. What I like about the word "wicked" is that its meanings range from "evil" and "mischievous" to "cunning" and "alluring" to "great" and "cool" in today's slang.

HSJ:It is remarkable to me that even the very early releases,such as Phoenix,sounded very full and mature.How long did it take from the time you started Wicked Messenger until you were comforable putting out your music?

WM:I started Wicked Messenger in October 2006. The "Phoenix" EP was recorded in May 2007 and released by Bone Structure the following month. So it didn't take very long. "Phoenix" was the first official Wicked Messenger release though I had put out a little demo/promo CDr in January 2007, entitled "A Three-Eyed Fox Lurking In The Serpent's Throat". But only something like 25 copies were made and sent out to labels and other artists. When "Phoenix" was released the demo-versions of "The River Disappeared Sidewards" and "Black Tourmaline" were already finished and at that point I also had found the label that then released all Wicked Messenger albums, Plague Recordings, based in Belgium.

HSJ:It seemed to me that Black Tourmaline was a real turning point for you,to a heavier,more evil,and darker sound.

WM:I would say it rather was a further step in developing my own sound and style than a "turning point". "Black Tourmaline" is indeed a heavy, dark and unfriendly album but that's not the main point. It's a session record, recorded in 7 or 8 days during the week of Easter 2007. It's almost exclusively made with the electric guitar so maybe this gives you the impression of a "heavier sound". The idea was to create dense and Industrial-like sounds and noises with the guitar and the result of that experimentation can be heard on that album.

I try to add new sounds and new instruments to my music in order to extend my possibilities of musical expression and to keep it interesting for myself. The early tracks that appeared on the demo were made with just a simple MIDI-keyboard and my own voice. I knew from the beginning that I would never be satisfied by only using synthetic, computer-based sounds but that I wanted to use real and live recorded instruments such as the electric guitar, being the first instrument that I used for Wicked Messenger. Later I added a flute and today I also use a violin.

HSJ:Your music has an immense sense of weight and gravity to it,without sounding too "noisy".Is this something that can't really be taught?I hear plenty of drone and ambient that is loud,but not HEAVY.

WM:I know what you mean and I definitely take this as a compliment. I guess the reason why so many Drone and Dark Ambient tracks sound rather thin, shallow and sterile, even if they are loud (and it seems they are loud because the artists try to compensate for the lack of depth and weight with loudness), is that they are made just with synths, samples or computer-generated sounds. I like music to be raw and heavy and alive. That's why I think using real and live recorded instruments is so important in order to create full and deep music since a real, live recorded instrument adds more to the music than just the sound you hear. It adds space and vitality and with that creates something unpredictable, something more complex and multi-layered, something that is more organic than binary.

HSJ:Your latest release Vision Rites seems to really sum up what you do best.It's like the synethesis of all the best parts of your sound.Almost like the completion of a cycle.Are you happy with how it turned out?And do you see yourself continually trying to push the sound further,or maybe veer off into a different direction with it?

WM:Yes, I am very happy with "Vision Rites And Techniques Of Ecstasy". It's my most complex and elaborated work so far, not only in terms of composition and structure but also in terms of the atmosphere and the whole concept. With due modesty I would say I have developed my own unique sound. "Vision Rites" is less droney and noisy, it is warmer, deeper, even more (spi-)ritual, unreal and unearthly than previous recordings. So yes, I would agree, it is the temporary completion of a cycle or a process of developing my own sound. I don't know yet what will come next.

Sure, I will keep on trying to push the sound further just to avoid becoming bored with making music. I can't say whether this will be in a different direction or not. So far for me it was always about trying out and adding new instruments and sounds to my music. I'm much interested in using horns for instance. Maybe my music will become more "orchestral"; maybe it will become simpler and more minimalist. We'll see.

HSJ:Your sound is often described as "dark ambient",which is a genre I've not cared for much these last few years,and I kind of hear you as a drone project too.Do you think that the drone scene and the ambient scene could benefit from a bit of mingling together,and keeping things fresh?

WM:Personally I rarely use the term "Dark Ambient" but it's not important how music is named or described as. To answer your question: Sure, I think both genres could learn and benefit from each other. To tell the truth I don't listen to Dark Ambient or to Drone a lot. In both genres or "scenes" the number of bands/artists/releases is too high and the variation is too little. Apparently it's pretty easy to fulfill the basics in both "styles" but it seems to be rather difficult to go beyond that and to create something fresh and unique. A lot of Drone music lacks atmosphere and mood because it just focusses on heaviness and loudness and a lot of Ambient music lacks vitality and drive and sounds shallow and sterile.

HSJ:Blade Runner,Alien,2001:A Space Odyssey,even Tron...70's and especially 80's sci-fi had a big impact on me as a kid (videogame music too),and I later realized that this was probably why I loved ambient and drone so much now.Did any of these have an impact on you?

WM:Hmm, I'm not sure. I guess if so it was more the intensity of these films, their atmosphere, their beauty, that had an impact on me but not their soundtracks, if this is what you are suggesting. I never was into soundtracks and I'm not very well versed where Ambient/Electronic music is concerned. I grew up with Metal and Punk, Indie, some Industrial and Avant-garde music and except for being a DJ for some years I never was too much into Electronic music. It's funny because from time to time people tell me my music reminds them of this or that classic Electronic/Ambient-artist and while I hardly know the names they are mentioning, I know even less about the music.

HSJ:Favorite Sabbath song?


HSJ:So you just released Vision Rites.Any more stuff coming this year?I know you have strict quality control,and I totally respect that about WM.

WM:Yes, there is another release planned for this year, a compilation of older tracks taken from the demo, the "Phoenix" EP, the "Faces Trilogy Part II" Split EP plus two previously unreleased tracks. All the tracks were not just remixed but also reworked: new sounds and layers were added and I tried to get the most out of these early pieces. I'm very satisfied with the result and I'm glad to have the opportunity to present for a second time some tracks that I still like and that are not available anymore, in better versions and with better sound quality and properly mastered.

Still in the works is a collaborative release with J Dread of Kanibal Hymn (formerly Kaniba/Terrorgoat). The major part of it is finished and I hope we will get the rest done soon. But that's it for the time being. I don't feel like recording/releasing another full-length soon. Creating music shouldn't be sort of a bulk production.

1 comment:

nabukdnezar said...

I've been listening to Digitally Imported ambient section radio for a while, and suddenly there's something in the air I couldn't focus, due to a specific depth and mood I've never heard before. It was a track from "Black Tourmaline". I was simply flabbergasted; and the cover artwork that popped out, completed my satisfaction. - since then I follow the work of WM with intense interest. When I bought the "Vision Rites", it was like a revelation. Mr. Kranzel is a rare true artist in this time of mediocrity and lack of values. As a visual artist myself, I am continuously drawn by this sound to express visions that are evolving from it - thou it couldn't be harder to visually express the nature of such sublime and deep sound.