March 2003 - BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE
BOHREN are a unique German band, which combines the merciless heaviness from bands as Winter or Saint Vitus without using heavy distorted downtuned guitars, with the melancholy of early Miles Davis stuff. The result of this crossing is very intense and not recommandable for impatient people, because you need time for the long-winding and dark tracks of BOHREN. Two moths ago, Morten Gass (piano / bass) visited me and we talked about, what's going on with BOHREN. While doing this interview, we watched a legendary live video of Death Row/Pentagram and so the atmosphere was nearly perfect.
How was the last year for the band? You've played a tour through Germany and have received a lot of positive feedback for your new album "Black Earth". What's your personal point of view about it
Hm, it was good and I can't complain.
Were you satisfied with the tour?
It's was hard for us...14 days, and when you aren't that kind of touring guy. I think, we won't ever tour 14 days again...maybe only 5 days. We done this for the second time. We thought, hm not bad, because it was for the first time but at the second time we realized after the fifth show how nerve-wrecking it can be. We've always done a lot of booze ...hahaha..and after the fifth time, it isn't funny anymore.
So, it's more a hangover-problem ..?
Yes, hahaha... but we are doing everything by ourselves. We drive the bus, carry our equipment and that's hard and there's not really enough time for it. The next morning we leave and when you've got luck you reach the next city in time, than you put up the shit and you can be lucky, too, when there's still enough time for a proper meal before the gig and than we start again with the booze..hahaha
Hahaha! Have you ever thought about some helping hands?
There's not enough space in the bus. With four people in it, you can still travel in a comfortable way, but with five it will become very hard and with six people, you can forget it.
Have you been surprised about all the feedback in the magazines, like Rock Hard, Coolibri (local city mag)etc.
The thing with the mags is, that it's only the result of our record label promotion. When they are sending out enough material, it's obvious to see that there will some reviews. And magazines as Coolibri or Prinz are very superficial...I think, you have read it for yourself. They write about everything and it doesn't mean anything. But I am glad about the interview with the Rock Hard, but that was the only one.
You are a fellow reader of it...
Yes, that's right!
This year you're are going again on a very short tour, that will be only about five dates and you will play one show together with Sunn O))). How did you get this show together?
Stephen O'Malley has written to me several times and they are on tour, too and so he suggested to play one show together. Normally, it didn't happen because everyone of the band is doing his shift work. But by chance, it happens because we wanted to start in the same time where Sunn O))) started their tour, and so we altered our dates. It was a bit complicated. At first we wanted to play in Switzerland, but it didn't work. But we will play now in Augsburg, although it still could change in the last minute. But it's sure, that we will play one show together.
I think, that a very small dream comes true for Stephen and Greg to play a show together with you!
And that's the same for us. I buy every Southern Lord record! I really dig that stuff and it's great to meet them.
To compare your last album "Black Earth" to the predecessor, it is your darkest album until now. Was it an intentional planned step or did it emerge out of a feeling?
During the recordings of "Sunset Mission" we were sure, that our next album will be a step into our usual direction. "Sunset Mission" was our mainstream album and so with "Black Earth", we have fallen back into our Doom patterns.Yes, it was planned!
How do you write your songs?
At first, there's the bassline.
And then, you're building everything around this bassline?
Is there some kind of jamming in your practice room?
No! Everything is planned direct from the start. Only when Christoph is playing the sax, we try out different melodies. But everything else is just pure rhythm and there's no room for a bass solo or if Thorsten would play a fuss on the drums it simply wouldn't fit.
I was very surprised, when I saw you last year at the KKC, that Christoph is playing the second bass and sax...
No, no, no...I was playing the second bass!!!
Oh, you've played it!? I haven't senn it, because of the darkness on stage, while you were playing.
Yes, I've played bass and piano. But he played piano and saxophon, too. We take turns with the piano.
Another thing, which attracts my attention is the cover-artwork of the new album. In opposite to your other records, you've totally changed the cover subject. It's far away from the so-called local urban theme, that's in your case the city of Mülheim/Ruhr. What was the reason for it?
After the "Sunset Mission" cover, it was nervy,for me, that especially some of the magazines, we have done interviews with, wanted to label us as a Ruhrgebiet band as if it only is possible to play that kind of music in this area, you know ...things as the local things, worker shit and stuff like that. I mean, I'm not against it but to be honest , you can play this music everywhere else...in Munich or Norway or Spain.
I think it's a very urban sound and it fits into a every city like Paris, New York or London and so on. It's the same, as if one says you can only play the Blues in the south of the USA.
And this time we arranged the artwork into another direction.
Who's is responsible for it?
I've done the actual and all the other cover-artworks! I've send the my photos to the layouter, so that they can cut it into the needed size.
Although I'm no fan of guns, I liked the idea of the photo of the gunshop on the back of the "Sunset Mission" cover.
Yes, and we really wondered that the record label agreed with this photo.They've got the idea of putting it on the back-cover...hahaha.
When I take a look at all your covers, I think that you only wanted to capture a special atmosphere and if you were a NY-based band, than there would be pics of New York on all your covers.
At night, a lonely city is a lonely city and it doesn't matter if it is "Oberschwammel-Tupfingen"....or Oberhausen, although it's the Ruhrgebiet, too. But it's also an extinct city..hahaha. I remember that I've shot several photos of the shopping street.
Why did you name the album "Black Earth"? Did it just fit perfect to the sound?
Originally, the title was "Midnight Black Earth", but we can't use that because in the past we had "Midnight Radio", released on another label we got some trouble with.That's the reason.
Before, you were on Epistrophy...the Hardcore label. They don't want the album title?
Hmm, not really. We got trouble with them and our actual label wasn't happy with the idea of "Midnight Black Earth", because they don't want any mistake with "Midnight Radio". due to reason that maybe some stores would order the wrong album. After a time we've shown us reasonable, and so we named it "Black Earth".
It's always very funny, when I see in big record stores how BOHREN hikes through different music sub-divisions. Here at HMV some of your albums are sorted under Rock/Pop, while you find the new album under Wave/Gothic..hahaha..
In former times you've used a guitar in the sound , of course no heavy rock-guitar. Why have you decided to left this period behind?
Back in this days, I've played the guitar, but than I've lost interest in it. In older times we've played Hardcore and Metal and when we started with BOHREN, we still have got our instruments at this time. We wanted to do something different, but didn't know all about. Nobody can't play saxophon at this time, although we were really interested in it. So we bought us a cheap organ and we still had to manage with the guitar. Later we don't care, and so we saved some money and bought the instruments we wanted to have, because there was no other way to achieve the sound we have on the last two records.
But there were no changes in the line-up!?
Yes! Reiner H. left the band after "Midnight Radio", because he got a top-job and moved to another city. But it was a longer process. When we started under the name BOHREN, he moved to another town, and we slightly losed contact. He only took part at our rehearsels at times but it was no big dispute, and we still see him sometimes but in the end, it was a little bit strange. At this time BOHREN was more a three-piece, and Reiner only appeared temporarly.
How often do you rehearse?
We never rehearse! Every Thursday, we met for lunch and than we talk about everything and that's our rehearsel. We never do a real rehearsel. Only before a gig. And than we record the albums and that's the way it should be played again and again....hehehe.
You've installed your second video clip on your website, again directed by Mark Sikora. In how far were the band involved into the production?
Absolutly not! We know Mark since '87, back from the old Metal days and so he was free in his work.
Maybe none of the readers are knowing, that he has done a top cover for an old 80's Spex issue, which was about Death Metal, Crust and Grindcore.
And he has done the second Napalm Death cover! It's his head on the front, too.
He's been around for a long time...
We know each other for a very very long time and we like the same movies and so on. So we only said it should be horror-like and that's the way he done it.
I think, it's a very good clip, that totally underlines the vibe of the music! How important is the visual aspect in your sound? Ok, you don't use light-shows but do you want to transport something, as inner visuals?
That's up to everybody....I don't know. It's varying by myself. Sometimes I see zombies, which are crawling out of their graves..hahaha, or I see someone who's walking late at night through a town. Or I remember an old movie.
For me personal it seems, as if depressive emotions are one of the influences of your sound? Can you agree?
No! Nobody in the band is feeling so bad, that he's really depressive. Ok, I was unemployed, but ...
You don't sit at home with a razorblade..hahaha....
Oh no! I know people, who are really depressive but no one in our band!
I know, it's a typical cliche-question! Is it important for you to let out any feelings, comparable with a carthasis?
We don't let out anything. You can't let out aggresions with this sound. I've ever liked to listen to a record that sounds like the ones we have recorded.One one side, I would love to play a lot of different musical styles, but I'm to lazy and I can buy it somewhere on CD.
And that's the point. I think, that BOHREN is playing a very unique sound. Of course, there's a dark sounding 50's soundtrack of Miles Davis for a classic b/w French crime movie and there are elements I can find in your sound, too but due to the musical Doom influnce it's very outstanding for this times.
And this was our main thought behind the band. We have copied enough bands, soundwise, in the past and we get bored with it. So we stopped...hahaha..and decided:let's do something individual.
You use very strong songtitles. Do you write the music at first, and than comes the songtitle or exsists a short story behind every song. I remember, as Christoph introduced "Maximum Black" with the words: it's about being buried alive or is it just accidental?
There's always a thought spinning around to those song. In the end, the new album is again about murder and crime. You can exchange nearly every title on the records. I own a book, where I write down good titles and when we are looking for new titles, we have a source...hahaha.
Have you ever thought about doing a soundtrack?
Yesterday, I switched on the TV and to my surprise I saw "The Dealer", where you can listen to our music. We haven't written it excactly for this movie, they've just taken the music. And that's the way it will stay in the future. To be honest, I'm not interesting in doing a soundtrack because it's a lot of work and there's someone who wants to control your work. I can't understand, who one can be interested in doing a soundtrack, because it's an ungrateful work.
As you've said before, you would prefer it, if a film director comes to you and wants to take songs like "Midnight Prowler" or "Maximum Black" , comparable to the way in "The Dealer"...
I've got nothing against it, as long as if isn't a worse movie...
BOHREN will always be used in the connection with David Lynch. I guess, you've got nothing against a co-operation?
Yes, of course...if it's a good movie it's ok with me. He has done some good movies, but I'm not really a huge fan of him.
I think, he's a little bit to overrated.
Well, film directors...in the end every director has done some worse flicks. There's a greater commons sense when you talk with others about movies, than about directors. Ok, David Lynch is one of the few who has produced more than one good film. Ridley Scott has done the legendary "Alien" and "Blade Runner" but after this...nothing more exciting happened. Ah, David Cronenberg is one of the few, who had done a lot of good movies.
Or when I think about John Carpenter. There are a few good films, but a lot of shit.
I'm totally into Fulci, although he had only shot three or four good films and a lot of crap. And I prefer Fulci more than David Lynch. I don't know why, ...
It's the "Gore Motel"...hahaha...
Yes, ...hahaha. That's true.
Or another example is George A.Romero.
Oh yes! He started brilliant....
....and in the end. A few days ago, I've seen a newer movie from him but I've forgotten the name of it..
You mean the one were the Misfits appeared, but it wasn't that bad. The story is nice, so give it a try. Ok, it's not a top movie, but still better than every stupid teenager horror flick.
To switch back once again to the "Black Earth". How much time have you needed for the album? I guess, there are three or four years between "Black Earth" and "Sunset Mission"?
No, it wasn't so long. Only two and a half year, but I'm not really sure. "Sunset Mission" has been released in the beginning of 2000.
And have you any plans about the follow-up of "Black Earth"?
Yes, of course but it's to early to talk about it. But we won't make any big changes. We won't get faster ..hehehe. I guess, that the songs will be longer.
Yes, on the last albums were a lot of short tracks...hahaha..I'm kidding..
Hahaha...yes, but the tracks were really short. We comprimized them a lot!
"The Art Of Coffins" is the longest track on "Black Earth" with 10+ minutes...
But it got only this length, due to the long outro. Actually, is only about six minutes.
Is the outro a tribute to Sabbath or did simply fit to the whole vibe of the album? I ask for it, because whenever there's rain and a rolling thunder on an album it's connected with Sabbath...hahaha..
Hahaha..yes, of course! I could finish every album with rain and thunder. And there's also a bell on the last album, meant as a tribute to Sabbath, but we decided to mix it up very quiet because it was to to noticeable and kitschy. It's at the end of "Art Of Coffins" where you can hear the bell for four or five times. Like a funeral bell.
Have you planned any other releases in the future like compilation tracks or 7"?
No, we're very lazy . And for me personal, I'm mostly interested in working on an complete album, because you have to think about the whole thing. But we were on the last Spex compilation.
You've mentioned the Southern Lord label a few questions earlier. Would like to do something for it?
Yes, of course, that's a question of honor! But there's no time for plans like this. And I'm not interested in simply doing something, just to be part of it. All in all, it's difficult.
I think, you've got a pretty relaxed way of working.
Yes, definitly! And we need two years for a new album. One year for the ideas and the other year to start with a few rehearsels to be ready to record the album.
Apart from BOHREN, is anyone of the line-up involved into other musical bands or projects?
Christoph is a professional musician and he can make a living out of the different jobs. If there's a pop singer, who needs a saxophone he will do this job.
But you are only playing with BOHREN?
Yes! I would love to do different musical things. In the past, Robin, Thorsten and I played a lot of Metal, but as I've said it before, there's no time for it left. We have our regular work and at the moment we only make some noise once in a year in our rehearsel room. But it's nothing serious. We play one Black Metal song, a Doom song and stuff like this. It's just for fun! There isn't enough time.
Ok, Morten, thanks a lot for your time and interest in answering the questions. Anything you like to add?
No, not really. I like to thank you for interview and hope to see you on tour.