Interview with Matthias Minor (Bass/Lyrics) | By Eric May
Spheron are an incredible technical metal act that combines death and black metal together in order to tell an extremely intriguing series of tales about the concept of gods and religion in general. It’s a very deep subject, so Matthias went into further detail, explaining both the pros and cons of gods and religion. He also talked a bit about the recording and the band’s decision to include black metal elements into their technical style, really changing up the game of technical death metal. He also talked about the magnificent album cover art (which is truly monolithic) as well as some worthwhile books and a film to check out if you’re interested in more of the lyrical concepts that the record is based on.
Tell me a little about yourselves. How did you guys come together and what was your goal for the band? What are your influences for this type of music?
I don’t think there is anything all that special about the way we came together. Mark and Tobias A. began to meet at home just to play the songs they liked. And of course there is always someone who knows someone else whose third cousin’s boyfriend is playing football with a guy who is still looking for a death metal band – and that’s more or less how Tobias B., Daniel and I were asked to join the fun. It was all pretty natural and we didn’t really have any big goals. We just moved from step to step, from cover songs to our own songs, from tiny gigs to bigger concerts, from demos to professional records, but we never really decided where to go. And I think there is still some kind of growing-up mentality behind our music, even though we’ve become quite successful in the course of time.
What was the recording process like for Ecstasy Of God? Where did you record it, and were there any difficulties?
The album was mixed, mastered and recorded with Christoph Brandes from Iguana Studios. The biggest difficulty was probably the pressure of time, which was something we had already expected before but had gotten much worse during the whole recording process. We didn’t really have any firm agreement with any label at that time, so we had to make sure that we could actually pay for the extra hours we needed to make our album sound perfect. After our EP To Dissect Paper we learned not to get fully distracted by the euphoria that comes up when everything is still new and exciting and to keep a self-critical look on our own material. This time we tried to avoid mistakes that we didn’t even hear yet, so that they wouldn’t get on our nerves later when listening to the final product. Looking back it was definitely worth the time. Only when your purse feels light and slim in your pocket, do you really know that you’ve done your job properly.
What is the concept, if any; behind Ecstasy Of God? There are several interesting song titles like “The Beheaded Coachman” and “Tragedy Of The Clerics.” I’m also curious to the meaning behind “Saturnian Satellites.”
Pretty early during the whole songwriting process we realized that our lyrics were already taking a clear direction. Everything was aiming to deconstruct the “gods” in people’s minds, their motivations, attitudes, goals, hopes, wishes, perceptions and of course, their religions. We thought that gods would be a perfect metaphor for the human need to hide behind a rigid wall of unchangeable beliefs and opinions. A “god” can give you warmth and shelter, but he’ll always take a bit of your sanity, too. Such an “ecstasy of god” is the loose concept for our album and every song on it gives you one example for this state of mind. “The Beheaded Coachman” is about the human wish to be part of a higher universal plan, while “Tragedy Of The Clerics” makes a little fun of the poverty based aesthetics in Christian religion; and finally “Saturnian Satellites” is about the god and planet Saturn representing the perishable beauty of the universe.
Since we’re on the concept of God, at least as far in the album’s title; what are your thoughts on the subject of religion and spirituality? Do you think that these things are truly valid and exist from person to person, or do you see them as mere constructs, created by society to achieve some type of order?
To some extent it’s both. People use religion to satisfy their own needs, which makes every spiritual thought also an inter-subjective thought. Human needs are always the same and that’s why most religions look so similar, if you blind out the details: They pass on all the responsibility to higher powers and punish you for what is seen as wrong and reward you for what is seen as right. They explain your existence, giving some sense and content to your life and what is most important and they tell you what happens after your death. We don’t want to solve the question, whether one of these constructs is true or not. Maybe they’re all pretty close to the truth, maybe none of them are. The only thing that seems wrong to us is this stubborn resistance against different interpretations of the world. People are not only ignorant fundamentalists in questions of religion, but in all the questions of their lives.
What equipment did you use to record the album?
We used an ESP, Jackson and DBZ guitars and a Pearl drum set. For our guitar sound we are using Engl amps. Personally I use a 6-string bass guitar from the Ibanez BTB-series.
I’ve actually noticed a few black metal portions on this album, which is something unheard of in the technical metal scene. While we’re all familiar with technical death metal, black metal has seldom seen an arc of technicality. Why did you feel the need to incorporate black metal on the disc?
The fact that we call ourselves death metal is not meant as a declaration of belief or as a “self-restriction” to our own music. It’s just a word that labels Spheron most precisely. Of course we want to make aggressive and evil music with rhythmic, pulsating and frantic song structures; so naturally death metal is the genre of choice for us, but as we are also trying to express atmosphere and emotion that really freezes your spine, black metal riffing has so much to give to us. Maybe a really fast line of notes can make you clench your fists and bite your tongue, but a long wall of cold minor chords can really wring out your heart.
What bands are you guys currently into right now? What’s been crowding your playlists? Are there any acts that you want to recognize?
Well, I can only speak for myself, because we’re not constantly listening to the same music as you can imagine. Right now I am totally stunned by the music of Exivious. I haven’t heard such a creative and many-sided band for months. If you like metal experiments apart from pure aggressiveness, you should definitely give them a try. And for those of you who still can’t get enough of death metal that gets straight in your face, I can only recommend the new Blood Red Throne album. For me it’s just the prototype of well-produced powerful brutality.
What are some of the best tour experiences that you guys have had thus far? Have you had any interesting band or fan interactions that you want to tell us about?
Unfortunately we didn’t take part in anything that could be considered a real tour yet.
The gigs that we have played so far were mostly medium-sized, but all of them were really fun, as we could always gain a few more fans on every show. Our appearance on the first “Sultans of Death” festival was probably our most powerful stage act with an astonishingly big and energetic crowd in front of us, but just like every other band we’re already dreaming of a gig that’s even bigger.
Who designed the artwork for this album? It’s absolutely brilliant. What’s the concept of the piece?
Yes, we also love this masterpiece. It was made by Eliran Kantor, famous for his cover artwork for bands like Testament or Atheist, and we’re so happy that we’ve finally found an artist who is able to create an atmosphere that really matches our music. He is not only a very gifted painter, but also a genius in finding creative art concepts. When we asked him to make our cover artwork, he immediately came up with a whole bunch of interpretations of our songs and figured out a complete scenario that could fit into the way he read our lyrics. We didn’t even have to say a word about it. He took up our metaphor of religious ecstasy and combined it with the myth of the golden calf, also mixing in his interpretation of a post-apocalyptic quote from Albert Einstein. We were so impressed how his ideas just went hand in hand with our thoughts about human behavior.
What do you guys do when you’re not playing music? Are there any good books that you’ve read, or perhaps films that you might recommend to us?
I guess our hobbies aren’t that exciting, if you see it from an external position. At least we don’t have any other products to show except our music. But just like all the other consume-addicted guys in our age bracket, we always have some books and movies to share. Daniel and I really like the novels of Frank Schätzing. Most of them should also be available in English, so maybe you’d like to give a German writer a chance. And If you would rather like to read your mother tongue, David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is probably the most entertaining and intelligent book that I’ve ever read in English. If you like the lyrics about religion on our album, that book will definitely raise you to the next level. From all the movies that I have seen in the last years, I liked The God of Carnage most (maybe because of the cool death metal title). The book that the movie is based on is priceless, and all the actors I find very talented; especially Christoph Waltz.
Finally, what is your outlook on society in general? Do you think that man needs a sort of overhaul and that we’re in danger of extinction? Or do you think that we might be able to press on through it?
Now that we have talked so bad about human nature, we shouldn’t forget that society in general isn’t so bad at all. Quite the opposite, really. Society is actually the only thing that we have to make our stand in this world. And the best thing about it is that it can always be improved. Don’t feel attacked by all those scientists, politicians, artists and philosophers criticizing your lifestyle. They are just trying to find the best way to live. Yes, mankind is stupid, ignorant, narcisstic, intolerant and scared of change; but you don’t want to know what things might have looked like a few thousand years ago. And if you feel death metal is getting too fucking deep-minded these days, then you’d better go out and try to change society.
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