An interview with Wicked Messenger
Interview by J.Dread originally published on Plague Haus Webzine
(Saturday,06 December 2008)
J Dread: Hello. First of all, would you briefly introduce Wicked Messenger to those still unfamiliar with the project?
Martin: WICKED MESSENGER was started in October 2006. At that point certain things I'd been involved with for almost ten years had reached completion somehow and I was looking for a new way of being creative. This "new way" was actually a quite old one cause I'd made music in different forms and styles before that 10-years-time-out.
If I should describe or classify my music I would just call it "Dark Ambient". That doesn't throw much light on it but at least it isn't wrong. Recently, I was thinking about inventing a new term for my music: "Grand Ambient" would be my favourite.
J Dread: Would you shed some light upon these previous musical endeavours?
Martin: The first more serious thing was a Grindcore band, POLLUTED MINDS, I played guitar in (actually I didn't "play" but rather "mangle" it). That was in 1988 and I was 15. Before that, me and a friend had recorded some pretty hilarious tapes with undefinable music: in the beginning it was just a Commodore C64 playing ultra-fast and highly primitive drum patterns and we two shouting at the top of our lungs, later on we got our hands on a guitar as well. You see, growing up in a small village there was not much else to do than jamming around and so we founded a new band every second or third weekend depending on what kind of music we were just listening to the most at that time. So we had several Metal-, Punk- and Hardcore-, Garage- and Rock-bands. Most of these bands were just crap, they rarely had more than one or two songs and didn't last longer than two or three afternoons of rehearsing and jamming. The Grindcore band was, as already mentioned, the first (and only) more serious thing: we recorded a single-sided demo cassette (and sold some copies!) and even had a concert. Shortly thereafter the band split up but was reunited later. Then I played guitar in a rather funny Death-Metal-parody-band. In 1992 I moved to Hamburg and played bass in an "arty" and quite pathetic Industrial/Avantgarde duo named SÄUBRENNER. We played several shows and even recorded an album in a studio but fortunately it was never released. From 1993 to 1995 I was into underground Hardcore-Techno: I deejayed and had a label together with Christoph de Babalon. But in 1996 I lost all my interest in that kind of music and then in music in general. Don't know why - maybe it was the time to explore some other things!
J Dread: Was there some specific event or thing that made you once again interested in music and led to Wicked Messenger?
Martin: Hm, not really a specific event. I guess it was more a "completion of a circle"-thing. I spent most of my time and energy on studies during that 10 years and these studies (or how you like to name it) resulted in a book on which I was working during the years 2004-2006. The same time, from 2003 or 2004 on, I felt a reawakened and rising interest in music, I started to buy records again and to check out what I'd missed in these 10 years. And I found some fascinating artists and "genres" and directions which appealed to me quite a lot. With the growing interest and fascination for music the idea and then the wish to create music myself again arose in me. And after writing the book, which was a very intellectual and also a quite arduous thing, I was glad that I'd found a more intuitive, a more "playful" way of being creative again in making music.
J Dread: What does the name “Wicked Messenger” signify, and where does the name originate from?
Martin: Even before I recorded the first track, I knew I wanted to use the word "messenger" ‘cause I really liked the sound of the word and also considered its meaning quite appropriate to the music, the idea of what I wanted to create: a messenger, someone coming from distant and foreign regions or even dimensions, delivering... well, something. I always regarded the messenger as a harbinger, a herald, someone who announces the happening and the coming of something new and extraordinary. For exactly this reason the message itself is incomprehensible and a mystery to those the messenger is coming to. This is the dilemma or you could say the irony of this figure: knowing about and in a sense being part of something new and different he and what he brings cannot be understood by others. Because I wanted to give this a more specific direction and because it would sound better I was looking for a second term and played around with words like "cryptic" and others. At that point a friend of mine whom I told about my plans and thoughts asked me whether I would know the Dylan-song "Wicked Messenger". I didn't but at that moment I'd found my name. Later I heard about the Bible verse: "A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health." (Proverbs 13:17). But since I found out about that later and since my music doesn't deal with that sort of religious and particularly Christian implications it isn't of much importance. 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. Apart from all that "Wicked Messenger" just sounds great together.
J Dread: You have rather obscure yet in a sense evocative names for both your releases and the individual tracks; from where do these names come from? Do they harbour a deeper meaning, or are they intended more to sort of “paint a picture” in the listeners’ mind?
Martin: The latter. I don't have any "esoteric concepts" or a "private mythology" in which these names signify certain meanings or powers or whatever. As an artist I use names and words as titles that should evoke images and ideas and so help to create an atmosphere. The title of a track or a record isn't the main thing and its purpose is just to support a certain mood and feeling. I'm a musician and therefore the essential and the "deeper meaning" is harboured in the music.
Some of my titles have sort of a "history", others just crossed my mind. The title of the first recording "A Three-Eyed Fox Lurking In The Serpent's Throat" comes from a vision I had in a dream. And the title of the album, "The River Disappeared Sidewards", I found in a Bulgakov's novel "Master and Margarita": it was nothing special, just a subordinate clause, part of a description, but it evoked this mighty picture of a streaming river before my inner eye. I was touched by that and decided to use it as title for the album. "Black Tourmaline" is an expression of my fascination with this mineral, a fascination that has a variety of reasons which to explain would go too far. So yes indeed, some of the titles have meanings but in a very personal way: as images and ideas, memories and dreams they're part of my inner world.
I've always been fascinated by the mysterious and the obscure; by the beauty and the depth of nature and its beings such as animals, plants, minerals, water, fire etc., a beauty and depth that contains life and death, lust, violence, horror, grandeur, transition and transformation. These natural things, simple, silent and in a way "eternal" as they are, are somehow closer to the "source" or the "heart" of it all. I don't have to tell you that many of these were sacred once, some were even regarded as Gods. So I make use of the "aura", the imagery these things have.
J Dread: What is the purpose of Wicked Messenger? Is it purely musical, or is there some conceptual/ideologic/spiritual aspect to it as well?
Martin: I'm neither a follower of an ideology, a cult or religion, nor an agent of any doctrine. I see myself as an artist and the only thing I want to create, I try to achieve through my work is beauty. So the purpose of WICKED MESSENGER is purely musical. It's funny but it seems that some musicians believe that creating "just" music isn't enough and that they have to give something "extra", a message, a concept, either political or spiritual. I might respect that and personally I might even sympathise with one or the other but as a musician your purpose should be music and everything you are, feel, think, want should be expressed in your music as sound. If you're incapable of that you should better write a book or found your own religion. Whenever I think about this issue Nietzsche's reply to Wagner's statement that his music would stand for more than just music occurs to me. According to Nietzsche no musician would say that!
How do you see these things? I mean you're a musician as well.
J Dread: I think “musicians” who say that the main thing about their creations is the message and not the music (you run into these every now and then), are full of shit. If the music is secondary, even insignificant, why waste any time on it? Like you said, write a book! And, also, if you’re incapable of seamlessly incorporating whatever message you want to propagate into your music, better leave it be.
But on the other hand, I think music (an album) is a great medium for conveying a message because it works on so many levels. The cover art, the booklet, the lyrics and of course the music itself. It can’t be as in-depth as a book or as visually engorging as a full-size work of art, but it appeals to more senses at the same time, creating a unique experience. If you can do it well, music can be a very effective tool.
Most of my works have some message and a spiritual/ideological (less often the latter) concept that I think is quite important to the whole. I don’t know if I can merge message with music well, but I think that at least it has never been on the expense of the musical merits of a work.
Not that “just” music wouldn’t be enough in itself for me. I think music is one of the most powerful things in this world; it’s ability to stir up a wide variety of emotions, it’s ability to bring people together and tear them apart. In a way, music is almost something divine to me. Music is spiritual and magical. Even a two-minute & three-chord Punk Rock song.
Martin: Damn right! That's exactly my point and that's why I'm speaking of beauty. Beauty of course isn't what many people think it is: it isn't a harmless thing, it has nothing to do with something being "nice", "pretty" or "pleasing". Beauty is presence, intensity, pathos, transcendence, it is highest joy and deepest pain, it is the illusion, the lie that is higher and - to plagiarise Nietzsche once more - more worthy than the truth. Beauty can be a pretty ugly thing! And maybe the highest, most alluring manifestation of beauty is music. This being said, that music itself is magic, is beyond descriptions and words, it must appear paradoxical if musicians think they have to have a message, a description and an explaination of what their music is about: they failed to capture and release the magic, the beauty and now fob off the listener with words and statements where they should have given music. That's just ridiculous, to say the least; it's an abasement or even a desecration of what is divine, to paraphrase your words. That's why I'm always suspicious of artists with "messages", of artists who admit that they only use and therefore abuse music for some pretty miserable purposes and that's why I'm not so happy with your word "tool".
That of course doesn't mean that the artist's beliefs, feelings and opinions couldn't or shouldn't be expressed in or be part of his music. For sure, they are in it but as you've already said: incorporated, transformed, transposed into music. And of course, I don't deny that having a concept could be a very good thing. But in my opinion it has to be a musical, an artistic concept, not some insignificant opinion (and compared with music all opinions are more or less insignificant) pasted onto some boring and uninspired "music".
But now that you've mentioned that most of your works have a spiritual/ideological concept - and what I have just said about boring and uninspired music doesn't apply to your work of course - I like to know more about these concepts, in particular cause you've said they are quite important to the whole. Could you tell me a bit about these concepts, beliefs or how you like to name it?
J Dread: You’re right about the word “tool”, definitely a wrong word in this context – although undeniably, music can be a really effective tool if you want to propagate some message. Some years ago I was listening to Bound For Glory and realized just how powerful a tool music can be when used by those who know how to embed a message into the music. But, yes, “medium” would have been a more appropriate word for what I meant, I think. It’s not about abusing music to force propaganda on people, which “tool” sort of implies.
Ha, now you touched on a really, really big topic and I’m afraid if I even attempt to cover it all it’d take dozens of pages and probably end up confusing everyone… maybe even myself. But to explain the relationship between Kaniba and my spirituality in a nutshell, you could say that Kaniba is the vessel in which I channel my thoughts, emotions and experiences regarding these matters; there is no medium better suited for it because like the spiritual experience, music retains that abstract, subjective and intangible element to it. And it allows me to convey these messages to the listener without preaching or limiting the way the audience experiences my message too much. If I put it down in writing, it would be very limiting, and I just don’t feel my skills in visual arts are sufficient to convey these things most of the time. The cover to “Aira Csum Atin Ama” is an exception to this… I think the cover art for it perfectly embodies much of my perception of spirituality. And to let you in on a small “secret”, the name Kaniba comes from the name of my spirit companion, so the link is very strong.
This being said, I trust the music to be strong enough to convey whatever ‘message’ I might have; the lyrics, the cover art, the titles of the tracks and the title of the release are there to sort of “prepare the scene” or set the canvas and provide the palette for the painting, but I leave it to the listener to construct the meaning and message of each work. The importance of the concept is not so much in the relationship between the ready music and the listener, but for me and the creative process; without a concept to act as a backbone and guiding light, I don’t think I would be able to create.
Martin: So, if I understood you correctly, having a specific spiritual/ideological concept is of the highest importance to you in order to create and compose your music but it's not your major concern to convey a specific message and meaning to the listener since you leave it up to him to construct this message and meaning? This implies the possibility that he constructs a message and a meaning quite dissimliar to what you have in mind - or that he doesn't construct anything at all. Maybe you're happy about hearing this, maybe you are not but I don't construct any specific message or meaning when I listen to your work and nevertheless I would say it speaks deeply to me. I hope that doesn't disqualify me as a listener of your music.
For me creating music is a highly intuitive act and too much conceptuality, theory, worrying about the "image" etc. would just interfere with this intuititivity. This doesn't mean that WICKED MESSENGER is without idea or thought. We talked about the name and the titles and of course the artwork is important to me as well. All this is part of the "aesthetics" of WICKED MESSENGER which is an expression of my inner self, of my feelings, visions, dreams etc. But there's no "system", no ideology behind it.
Speaking of music and meaning I would say that any music, at least any REAL music, holds and creates and "aura" of meaning and significance. You've mentioned it before: it has the ability to stir up a wide variety of emotions, it can lead the listener to meditation, transcendence, it can alter your perception of reality, maybe it can even "alter your destiny" (SUN RA). I would describe music and the power of music as the power to create an own reality, a presence, a place you enter to gain new and strong experiences, a dream-like state. I like to understand your term "medium" in this sense.
You have talked about the spiritual concepts behind KANIBA quite vaguely and in general. I reckon - and you've mentioned it already - that explaining these things is pretty difficult. Nevertheless, I like to ask you to be a bit more specific about your thoughts and experiences regarding these matters.
J Dread: Yes, you understood it pretty much the way I meant it. For me, the concept (whether it be spiritual or purely musical) is the guideline I need to keep focused when speaking of individual tracks. When it comes to releases, the concept is important as the uniting element between the tracks, and as the connection between the music, the lyrics and the cover art. But the necessity of the concept does not extend beyond me... when it reaches the hands of the listener, the importance of the concept depends both on how important he thinks it and how he interprets the music, the lyrics and the art. All I really wish for is that the listener gets something from the music. Furthermore, I do want to point out that the concept doesn’t necessarily have to be spiritual (or ideological) in nature, although it often is. Sometimes it is purely musical and sometimes it can be something as vague as “the feeling of Violent Femmes’ Country Death Song in a Kaniba-track”.
I am a bit hesitant of going too much into the topic of spirituality because it might derail the discussion, but briefly: I suppose one could call my ‘brand’ of spirituality a somewhat synchronistic form of pantheistic/panentheistic heathen mysticism with strong influences from (neo) shamanism. Okay, that was a lot of fancy words put one after another, so to simplify: my spirituality has its roots in heathen beliefs... no one belief system is dominant in influence. However, I reject the concepts of “personified” divinities and gods; rather, I believe in a sort of universally present force, “universal soul” or simply put, presence. Not a god sitting in his high heaven or in Valhalla, playing with this world... not a conscious, sentient entity.
But I’ll explain the relationship between Kaniba and my spiritual aspect a bit more. Like I said, Kaniba comes from the name of my spirit companion, Videovora Kaniba. To me, Kaniba is also a meditation process, a form of reaching a state of altered consciousness and perception and a way of shifting my thoughts away from the rational human thinking. When I record and in general work with Kaniba, I find that my way of thinking is altered quite a lot. It is ritualwork, a way of uniting my mind with all of existence. And in a very real sense, magical working, altering reality and affecting a change. And indeed, change is one of the most common themes on the Kaniba-releases. On “Transition”, it’s pretty self-evident: a change from the old (Terrorgoat) to the new (Kaniba). Initially the change was intended to be just a change of name, but as it turns out, the change in the musical approach has been quite vast as well. Which, in retrospect, is scarcely surprising. Terrorgoat was born out of the morals and ethical code of the society surrounding us/me, and hence was spawned to be “evil” and “dark” on their scale, whereas Kaniba was born separate from such trappings. Not “good”, not “evil”, Kaniba merely is. The thematic of change and renewal returns in “Transcendant”... “To a new sun's dawn, a new moon's eve, to a rain under a virgin sky. The mysteries are herein. Open your eyes, and you may see. Open your heart, and you may be”; “Transcendant” has a two-fold concept. On one hand it represent the beginning and the end of a vision quest: ascending from the body and descending back to it, but on the other hand the Ascendant-part represents the ascendant realm of spirits whereas Descendant represents the realm under, the abodes of the dead. Both are places of learning, trials and renewal, from which no human ever returns unchanged. “Aira Csum Atin Ama” is also themed around vision quests and the quest for wisdom, of learning from your guardian spirits. “The Serpent” continues with the same thematic, now through death as a transitory state. “The Serpent”, which is both musically and conceptually the most complex Kaniba-release to date, was inspired by the movie The Serpent And The Rainbow and by the book of the same name the movie is (loosely) based on, and hence Haitian Voodoo and Zombification are integral to the album. I am really fascinated by the odd coupling of catholicism and African paganism in Voodoo, and the real-life phenomenon of Zombification described by Wade Davis in The Serpent And The Rainbow was very inspiring... where the casket is a womb through which the human passes and is changed. A sort of perverse comparison of the grave and the womb serving a similar function of bringing us into a world and/or metamorphosing us into something different. But “The Serpent” is more... it is creation through destruction, that whenever anything is created or changed, something else must be destroyed or eradicated, both on a personal and universal plane. And “The Serpent” is the existence after death; even though what we are disintegrates and vanishes, even the laws of physics tell us that the energy bound in our corporeal shell continues existing.
So, as you can see, change is the most important concept in Kaniba. Being very much a reflection of myself and of my thoughts, I think this is only natural. We are always undergoing changes, and a state of complete stagnation is something I detest. If one were to discern one message that I would like to get through to everybody who listens to Kaniba, it would be the importance of positive change and the courage to affect a positive change both in one self and the world around. Or as Frank N. Furter put it in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: “Don’t dream it. Be it.” I can’t put it any better than that.
And as you see, this can be interpreted in a rather spiritual and direct, non-symbolic context if one wishes to, but the underlying thematic works perfectly well with either more symbolic interpretations of spirituality or a a completely non-spiritual and materialistic viewpoint. And I am not one to say which one is correct or which one I adher to. And even if somebody discerns a completely different message (or no message at all) from Kaniba’s releases, then... well, their interpretation is just as correct as anyone else’s.
Martin: I definitely can relate to all that and some aspects of it would apply to my perception of WICKED MESSENGER as well. Particularly what you said about the "meditation process" even if I won't call it "ritualwork" since what I do isn't based on specific spiritual needs and acts and doesn't happen within a spiritual context. But "reaching a state of altered consciousness and perception" is important to me as well and I had something like that in mind when I spoke about music as a place one could enter to gain new and strong experiences. The difference is that I for my part wouldn't describe it in terms of spirituality but in terms of art and beauty. Or let me put it this way: music and the effect of music always appeared to me as something oneiric.
J Dread: In the context of Wicked Messenger, what are the things that give you inspiration?
Martin: First of all: music. I don't mean just music from other artists but music "itself", the magic presence of sound. Then of course all that is on my mind, images, thoughts, memories. Things I see, hear, feel. The usual I guess. Dreams are definitely a source of inspiration. Other artist's music of course, maybe a film or a book. But it is never the concept, the idea, the "story", that affects me but the small and simple, the concrete things and details that evoke something: a mood, a presence...
Not entirely sure whether I answered your question properly. Could you be a bit more specific? What inspires you for instance?
J Dread: You’re right, I did word it very vaguely... but inspiration is a very vague and abstract thing, isn’t it? I know it is for me; sometimes I am inspired by some song, by a record, by a painting, a movie or a scene in one... sometimes it’s a dream, a random thought, a drawing I make... and on yet other occasions, something much smaller; a line in a drawing I make, a single word, a second in life.
But to be a bit more specific, what would you say are the things that have been most inspirational to you so far, speaking now in terms of paintings, music, movies, books etc.?
Martin: Movies are a source of inspiration, yes, mainly the dark and disturbing, the intense and visionary ones, movies with meaning and atmosphere and a powerful imagery like "Apocalypse Now", "2001: A Space Odyssee", Tarkovsky's "Stalker", the films of David Lynch and David Cronenberg (from the latter in particular "Dead Ringers" and "Crash"). Books are a very important thing in my life and I read plenty of them but since words, abstract thought, theories, all these intellectual things, in my opinion don't have much to do with music and composing music. I wouldn't say that books have been a big inspiration for WICKED MESSENGER. And the names I could mention wouldn't mean much to you and the readers cause I don't think the books and writers that I would consider inspirational yet have been translated into English. Music, well, that's a broad subject. I listened to many different styles of music in my life and still like and hear a lot of different music. Just the fact that there is something like "music" is sort of an inspiration to me. But you like to hear some names, I guess. Definitely inspirational have been bands and artists such as early SWANS, COIL, CURRENT 93 ("Nature Unveiled"), the first two GODFLESH albums, some early THE MOVER/MESCALINUM UNITED stuff, Black Metal of course but also some Jazz and Classical music. SUNN O))) have impressed me pretty much but only very few Ambient artists. It's odd cause now that the album is out people tell me my music would remind them of this and that "legendary" Ambient/Electronic artist/record. It is meant as a compliment but the funny thing is that I hardly know any of the artists/records they name.
I only mentioned what has been and still is inspirational to me for doing WICKED MESSENGER. Besides that, there are of course plenty of other things that I like and am interested in, that have affected and influenced me in different ways. As already mentioned I've always been fascinated by nature and its beings. It's hard to put into words what's so intriguing about a horse or a centipede for instance - but to me it's a mighty and moving something: simple and earthly but at the same time highly mysterious and unearthly. Guess that proves somehow what you've just said: that inspiration is a very vague thing.
J Dread: Would you give a little insight into the composing and recording process of Wicked Messenger. How do you start working on a new track, what is the “assembling” process like and how do you record it all?
Martin: I start with absolutely nothing, no plan or concept, and I don't have any idea how the track shall or will sound when it's finished. Normally, I start with the guitar: I try out some effects and when it sounds nice I record it. Mostly this first guitar-track becomes the low and heavy texture of the track. Then I record a second layer and maybe even a third and see whether these two go with the first. If not there exist certain options to make it fitting like adding effects, pitching, changing speed, reversing it etc. If nothing helps I have to record a new one. When I have two or three layers that fit together pretty well I maybe try some vocals or percussion or noises to give the whole some details. As you've noticed already, in the beginning it's pretty much playing around and trying out. It's more or less all improvisation. Though with every new layer or sound added the whole thing is obtaining more form and direction and with work's progression it gains more and more "character" that defines what the track is about, what it needs and what not, how long it has to be etc. Then at some point I just notice that the track is finished, that it has all it needs. It's hard to explain: it just feels right. This is of course a pretty rough description of how I create and record my music. Each track is different; I have to trust my ears, my feeling. That's why I'm spending rarely more than an hour a day, two hours at most, on recording: I've found out that it's better to get back to it the next day, with "fresh ears", so to speak.
Since Ambient music is in its nature rather monotonous and minimalistic (compared with the variation even a simple Rock song offers) a rich texture is a very important thing in my opinion. Furthermore, an Ambient track needs a good "drive" and "tension". Would you agree on that? Or what do you think a Dark Ambient track needs (apart from atmosphere and mood)? I like to hear how you record your tracks. And what I’d also like to know is, do you "sample" the sounds you use or do you create them all yourself?
J Dread: I think you’re right in that Dark Ambient, and minimalistic music in general, needs “tension”; I think one of the most important things is to create a juxtaposition between the layers, sort of play them off against each other. It needn’t be a stark contrast or a violent clash of conflicting layers, but I find that often a certain degree of disharmony and contrast make a composition much more interesting. That, or something more tangible for the mind to fixate upon. I think Seeker’s debut is a prime example of the latter: the main audio is very minimalistic and monotonous, but the rhythmic bells and such are something more “material” and something the listener can fix his attention upon, and it works well. I think what a good track needs, no matter how minimalistic, is something for the listener to fix his attention upon, pure and simple.
Perhaps the two biggest errors in the Dark Ambient-recordings I’ve reviewed are exaggerated minimalism or its opposite, and an inability to create this tension and create interesting relationships between layers. Either of these can easily cripple a potentially good recording.
My recording process is actually quite similar to yours, although I don’t use guitars. I usually start out with some vague idea, which may be a mental image or an idea of the atmosphere I want for the song, and start to experiment either with the music software I have on my computer or with some of the makeshift instruments I have; I create a few layers with almost complete improvisation and start to analyze the track more closely, adding new elements that fit the mood and concept of the track. Sometimes it’s a fast process that can take just days or hours, and sometimes it’s a long process. The tracks on The Serpent, for example, were under work for up to six months each whereas the tracks from the upcoming second album Death Songs were finished in one sitting, each taking just a few hours to complete.
I sample very little; I’ve used samples with both Saaamaaa and Krigsmarsch in the past although not to a great extent, bt the first time I used samples with Kaniba was a few speech samples on The Serpent. What about you? Have you used samples at all, and do you think you might consider using them in the future?
Martin: No, not really. I have recorded a silly little track lately and used some speech samples for it but that was nothering serious. I tried using samples seriously once but it didn't work, it just sounded "wrong". Every tone of my music is in its source material live recorded, is "made" by myself, and I never use the same sound or layer a second time. Don't know but in my eyes it would devalue what I do. You've said music is almost something divine to you. That's why I think the composer should show respect and reverence for the material, for each single aspect of what he's doing. Creating music can't be, shouldn't be a bulk production where prefabricated parts are pieced together the same way over and over again.
Don't get me wrong, I don't say that sample-based music is crap. Certainly you can create powerful music by using samples and I know some artists who are really geniuses in that: some stuff from ROTO VISAGE for instance sounds very sample-based, almost like a collage to me and is pretty nice. But I guess I'm not that type of artist. So I'm quite unsure whether I'll use samples in the future. But I don't want to limit myself as an artist. Maybe at one point it is just the right thing to use a special sample and if so I'll use it.
You're right with the juxtaposition. It's a good tool to create contrast and by that tension. I worked with a pretty stark contrast in the track "Dealing With Ghosts" for instance: you hear a very heavy, loud and earthquake-like texture in the background and a "bittersweet", almost "sentimental" main layer above it. But I admit that even more than on contrast I bank on good textures. I often record two or three layers just to have a good texture with lot of details, sounds that interact with each other and so create an impression of something alive, organic and "many-voiced". My purpose is to create Ambient music that works on several levels and hence doesn't become boring after listening a couple of times to it. A rich texture in the background provides the listener the opportunity to shift the attention from the main layers, upon which it is primarily fixed, to the texture in the background and then back to the main layers and to discover something "new" each time he's listening to the track, something he might missed before. Of course it needs listeners who have the ears for it.
Besides a rich texture a good Ambient track needs "drive", a build-up, a climax, something the track is heading to, something that pours out light over the whole. Far too many Ambient recordings are "crippled", to use your words: even if they start off nice with some good sounds and layers they pretty soon stop to evolve and become repetitive and boring. It seems that not just few artists have no feeling for what I call "drive and tension". And that doesn't apply to Ambient music alone but also to Industrial, Noise, Electronics etc.
So if you sample very little and don't use a guitar how do you create your sounds and layers? Do you use other instruments? You mentioned "makeshift instruments". I'm curious what you mean with that.
J Dread: I agree with sampling. Especially when you rely too much on samples it’s not really creating something unique in the true sense of the word, but “re-creating” or re-assembling something. But well-used samples can be most effective.
I also never use the same layer twice; I did than on a few of the early Terrorgoat-recordings, but it just didn’t work. There are times when I think “damn, that layer from song X would really fit in here”, but I won’t go down that path. I did, however, include a whole song from the third Terrorgoat-demo on the first track of “The Serpent”; I just re-mixed it a little and put it relatively low in the mix. I don’t know if anybody’s noticed it yet… at least nobody’s said anything so far. But that was as much a conceptual choice as a musical one, integrating something from the very beginning of Terrorgoat/Kaniba into the culmination of that phase of Kaniba.
The live instruments I use are rather varied. I have a small assortment of various pipes, whistles and flutes that I’ve received from friends or bought for cheap, along with tambourines, home-made rattles and stuff like this. As makeshift instruments and sound sources I’ve used stuff like vacuum cleaners, electric toothbrushes, feedback sounds, the disturbance generated by a mobile phone, cat toys… rattling a teaspoon in a coffee cup, banging kettles and pans, breaking a CD jewelcase with my hands and recording the sound, beating the shit out of a cardboard box with an iron stick, hitting a table with my fist as hard as I can… all are things I’ve recorded and used in various songs. I’m always looking for unusual things that make interesting sounds that can be used for Kaniba. The less conventional, the more interesting I find it. What about you, what do you use to create your sounds? You mentioned guitar, but apart from that?
Martin: Well, the guitar is without a doubt the main instrument. "Black Tourmaline" for instance was created almost exclusively with guitar. Apart from that I use a small and simple MIDI-keyboard to trigger several synths to create some of the basslines and layers. A pretty important instrument is my own voice: it's not just speaking, whispering, howling and chanting but also wheezing, whistling and creating all kinds of sounds and noises with my mouth. I sometimes use sound sources similiar to the ones you've mentioned like dropping things on the table etc., although I've never used something like a vacuum cleaner. I got my hands on a flute recently and will definitely use it in the future.
J Dread: We already talked about the titles for your compositions. In what stage of the composition process do you start thinking about these? Is there some specific stage, or are you similar to me in that it varies very much?
Martin: The track normally remains untitled till I prepare a release cause the title has to be not only in line with the atmosphere, the "essence" of the track itself, it also has to be in line with the other tracks and the titles of these tracks and the title of the record. It's part of the whole and has to work as such. Lately, I was thinking of maybe trying the other way round: having the titles and with the titles some images and moods already and then trying to record some tracks that transform these images and moods into music. Well, that would mean having and working on the basis of a concept....
J Dread: You talked about your musical past in the beginning. How would you say your colourful and varied musical background and history has affected Wicked Messenger? Would you say it’s discernible in any direct way or is it more subtle?
Martin: That's an interesting question! Never thought about that before. Thinking about it now, it appears to be a pretty difficult question. Honestly I'm afraid I can't tell. The only thing I could say for sure is that knowing a lot of different kinds and styles of music from experience - from making it and not only from listening to it - is in general a great benefit when it comes to creating your own but that's not a very clever statement. It's odd but somehow I feel that these ten years without composing and recording music, these ten years in which music hasn't been the main thing in my life, were quite helpful for what I'm doing now as a period of concentration and maybe "unconscious clarification".
J Dread: To me it seems you’ve come pretty far in just a year; from the first self-released CD-r demo to having releases on a number of labels coming out on both CD-r and CD. So… what’s your secret?
Martin: Sometimes I'm surprised myself, yes. Well, don't know - guess I was lucky. I met some great people who apparently liked me and my music, who helped and supported me in different ways. First of all Fré from Plague Recordings, who believed in me and my work and who gave me the opportunity to present it with two album releases. I'm very grateful for all the kindness and support I recieved from him and others, artists and music-lovers, this first year. And I'm pretty enthusiastic about what I do and since I don't do much else I'm able to put much of my time and energy into WICKED MESSENGER. And last but not least: my music isn't that bad.
J Dread: I guess it’s safe to say that even in underground music, good music alone won’t cut it, you need to know the right people. Do you reserve a lot of time networking?
Martin: I did but I don't have the time anymore. You see, I'm not only an enthusiast about my own music but about music in general and when I find something I like, something that's interesting and engages my sympathy somehow, I might try to contact the artist just to let him know that someone's out there who appreciates what he's doing. So I met some people who are as passionate about music and creating music as I am. Some of them helped me and I tried and try to do something for them too. I'm pretty communicative about what I'm doing and I guess I like the idea of "networking". It's not about knowing the "right" people, trying to be part of something, a "scene", a "movement" or whatever. I don't give a fuck about that! To me it means sharing my music, my thoughts, my passion with like-minded people and trying to help and support each other. And that's a very good thing! But as already mentioned: at one point it just became too much and so I had to cut it down a bit.
J Dread: What you just described sounds like how a “scene” should ideally be like in my opinion; a loosely-united group of people who help each other out, have an interest in each others’ music and in general respect each other. I find it funny how in some circles the scene seems to be more important than the people involved in it, sort of like some independent entity that exists beyond the people who make. But like Paul Roman of The Quakes sang, “you are the scene”... there is no scene without the fans, the musicians, the zines and the labels. But, tell me, how has the reception from “the scene”, or the already somewhat establishes artists, labels and zines been? Have you experienced any condescending attitudes towards “that newcomer project”, or has the reception been welcoming and friendly?
Martin: No, I haven't experienced any disrespect or arrogant behaviour. But I haven't worried about my "reception" very much. Anyhow, now in retrospect I'm a bit surprised as well. Most people have really been friendly to me and even some "already established" and "known" artists have shown interest in my work. Of course, I can't look in people's hearts and maybe the one or the other had and has his own thoughts about my "newcomer project". I can imagine that some might be a bit irritated by the fact that I started it just a few months ago and already have a "deal" for two album releases where they are maybe "in the business" for years. But even if some had or have feelings like that no one has shown any enviousness so far.
J Dread: One small question before we start to wrap this up: are you a “one project man“, or can you see yourself releasing stuff (solo or in collaboration with someone else) through a side-project in the future? I’ve done that a few times in the past, but I found out it’s nigh on impossible for me to separate what I do, so nowadays pretty much everything I do is done as Kaniba.
Martin: Definitely a "one project man"! There's no need for me to start side-projects: everything I like to do I'm doing already as WICKED MESSENGER. And WICKED MESSENGER isn't bound to any specific style or genre. Apart from that I'm not a very "prolific" artist. Since I demand 100% from my music my output is small and with my growing aspirations it's getting even smaller. Creating my tracks takes quite a while by now and I don't produce and I can't produce one track after another in sort of a bulk production! Or in other words: my inspiration, my creative powers are limited. And so are my time and my energy and I don't have enough of it for other projects. Moreover, WICKED MESSENGER is something very important to me and I want to keep it all together. I don't like to split and scatter my work. For the same reason I'm not interested in contributing to compilations, splits or in doing remixes etc. I can imagine a collaboration with another artist but first it would be a collaboration as WICKED MESSENGER and second I only would do such a project with an artist who I deeply respect and whose work I really love (in fact, such a collaboration is planned but it's far too early for details). True, I'm featured on a triple-split that was released on Bone Structure recently, but the reason for doing this was primarily that I know and like the two other artists, HAHN KULT and OV KORPSE. And honestly, I'm not fully pleased with the release. That has nothing to do with any of the participants but alone with my aforementioned reservation against such minor releases.
J Dread: And lastly, would you tell a bit about your future plans for Wicked Messenger? And in general, what do you think the future has in store for Wicked Messenger? Can you see yourself still working with the project in 2018?
Martin: Well, the next album, "Black Tourmaline", will be out in a few weeks (or is already out when this interview is published), again on Plague Recordings. This recording is the result of sound experiments and researches and was recorded in a pretty short time during the Easter week 2007. The album is a oneness, darker and unfriendlier than "The River Disappeared Sidewards", black, sticky and nasty like tar. I've mentioned already that a collaboration is planned - we will see how this will work out. At the moment I'm working on the material for the third album. Future plans? Getting better, maybe playing live one day...
Can I see myself still working with the project in 2018? Ha, good question. I might be already dead then! You've said to me once, KANIBA, even if it slumbers from time to time, would never die since it is an inseperable part of your inner self (not sure whether I quote you correctly here). I doubt that I could say the same about me and WICKED MESSENGER. I have absolutely no idea whether I will work with WICKED MESSENGER in 5 or 10 years. Honestly, the idea to record and release one album after another during the coming years has something uninviting for me. But I guess, it will result in that anyway! But one is for sure: I don't want to repeat and copy myself. If I should have the feeling one day that WICKED MESSENGER has come to an end in its creative and aesthetic possibilities, that all I could do as artist and musician has been done, that continuing with the project would mean nothing else than copying what I've done before already, I would quit WICKED MESSENGER. Don't get me wrong: I don't say that I want to do something completely different and new with each record, that I want to reinvent and redefine WICKED MESSENGER constantly - I'm not that kind of artist. But when I discover the horse I'm riding is dead, I will dismount.
J Dread: Okay, that was it I think. Thank you for this interview and the best of luck with Wicked Messenger. If there’s anything left unsaid, I leave the final words to you...
Martin: Thank you too for your interest and for this interview. I enjoyed it. Wish you and KANIBA all the best.