On a warm Saturday evening in July in Tampere, Finland we had a chance to witness a German demonic assault in musical form, as Ketzer played at a local pub Dog’s Home. Before the gig I sat down with those Teutonic metalheads and asked what they were up to.
The band has just finished making their sound check for the night and the actual gig is still a few hours ahead. We sit down at a kebab/fast food restaurant near the pub. The interviewees answer to my questions while they are waiting for their orders, and after a while, in the middle of enjoying their meals.
The whole band is present: the guitarists Marius and Chris, bass player David, vocalist Gerrit and drummer Søren. On the albums, they are named with their stage names: Necroculto, Sinner, Executor and so on. At this moment, however, they want to use their real names.
– Yeah, we use those names on the booklets but if you’re asking my name, I’m not going to say “I’m Necroculto”, the bass player points out.
Last night Ketzer was playing in the Finnish capital Helsinki. The guys seem quite satisfied with the event.
– We hadn’t been to Finland before, so we didn’t know what to expect, but we drew quite a nice crowd. I guess we can be really satisfied and happy, says Gerrit.
They didn’t face significant technical problems, but Marius adds:
– It’s always a problem, when you have to fly to your gigs and can’t have your usual equipment. I, for example, use a certain effect board and here I can’t use that. Still, the technique yesterday was ok, and the sound also.
And after last night, you guys have rested well, I guess?
– Not really! Because these bastards kept me awake, and now I have kind of a hangover – and I’m the oldest in the band! They decided to have a party at my hotel room. So, I had maybe half an hour of sleep. So thank you guys, chuckles Søren.
It has been over two years since the second album Endzeit Metropolis came out. So it’s not right-out-of-the-oven fresh any more, but the band themselves are not bored of it at all.
– If we were bored with the songs, we would have made a wrong album. The songs from that album feel very good to play live, though they are not “new” any more, says Gerrit.
– Maybe it’s a little bit boring to practise those songs, but it’s a necessity. Still, playing them live is an opposite of boring, Marius defines, and Søren continues:
– When we play in a country we’ve never played before, we see the different reactionsto those songs and it makes them still interesting for us to play.
Over the boundaries
Before this summer I personally hadn’t heard much about Ketzer, maybe I had seen the band’s name somewhere. You seem to be getting a good amount of recognition in some other parts of European metal underground, though.
– That’s why we are here now. Of the Scandinavian countries we have played only in Denmark so far, and now in Finland. So we have never been to Sweden and Norway. I my opinion there are so many bands in this area. For example in Sweden, it’s not very easy to get your feet to the underground there. I guess it’s a little hard to take a place in the scene here for a band outside Scandinavia. Of course, if you’re a good band, you should make it anyhow. But compared for example to southern Europe, it’s much more difficult, Søren says.
The guys recall the southern European countries they have already played in: Spain, Italy, Portugal, and state that the reaction there has been very good.
Looking back to the first album, Satan’s Boundaries Unchained, I ask do the band members still feel proud of it. Marius tells:
– Yeah, we do. I think we picked up so much the energy of our youth for that album. It’s our first album and the title says it right.
At this point the band members talk shortly in German, trying to find the right way to describe their feelings in English.
– To make long story short: Yes, we still feel proud of it. It was our first step into the world of making rock’n roll music, adds Søren.
– Some of the songs on that album we wrote, when we were sixteen or seventeen years old, so it’s like the best of our days of youth as a band. And I think you can hear that, continues Chris.
Then they tell about the times after the debut album:
– We were lucky to play some really cool shows after it, for example some festival shows in Germany, like Party San and Rock Hard festival. Those were good experiences. We did a small tour back then with an Italian band Baphomet’s Blood. And the writing process of Endzeit Metropolis began right after we had done the shows. We had written a little music while doing the shows, but after those we really put our energy into making new songs. I guess many experiences we had on different stages came into Endzeit Metropolis, recalls Søren.
Let’s talk about the song writing then. Who of you guys actually make the songs musically?
– I’m composing it on a harp… No, I’m kidding! I just play drums, laughs Søren. Marius can tell more about the issue:
– We are doing it together. Previously I made the riffs with the guitar and then we as a band worked on them to create a certain feeling. But now, for the songs to come, we are working more together in a rehearsal room. So instead of making some riffs and after that building on them, we jam together and try to find a right atmosphere, for example just a single tone or a drum beat. In that way the riffs come out of the jamming. Compared to previous albums, we are freer in the process.
Ketzer’s lyrics have also changed quite a lot since the coarse and brazen hubris of the first album. David, who now writes all Ketzer’s lyrics, tells:
– On Satan’s Boundaries Unchained the lyrics were really raw and sort on intuitive. They could maybe be classified more as traditional heavy metal lyrics. On the second album I started to write the lyrics, and now they are based more on a research and my own experiences.
On the musical side, the guys again point out that nowadays the music flows more freely, as in the early days they just wanted to record evil, fast songs with sharp riffs.
– It’s hard to describe the song making process, because it’s quite intimate atmosphere where it happens. We talk a lot when we are rehearsing, but we also feel a lot, Søren describes.
An organic process?
– Yes, it’s an organic process! Those are the right words.
The band is originated from the city of Bergisch Gladbach, and all the guys are from there, except the drummer. They laugh a little bit and say that there’s not much to tell about that place: it’s small (about 100 000 people living there) and boring, but on the other hand, Heidi Klum is from there.
– Me and the other guitar player went to kindergarten together, so we’ve known each other over twenty years. We’re basically like a small family, says David.
– But now we are based in Cologne, which is much cooler city, adds Søren and is accompanied with positive laughter.
Because we already got aside from musical issues, it’s good time to talk about football. At the time of the interview, the soccer world championship is going to end in the final game between Germany and Argentina the next evening.
– We were asked the same question also yesterday, Søren laughs.
The guys say that they know Germany is going to win once again. And as I admit that I’d like to see Argentina win, they point out that today’s Argentina is not as fabulous as it used to be in the old days, and now Germany has so tight and diverse team that they are the winners. Well, as you all surely know by now, the interviewees were right!
No doctrine to follow
The band was put together over ten years ago. Their musical direction was not clear-cut and a closed deal back then. Actually they started playing together at a very young age:
– When we began playing, we were eleven or twelve years old. We started to make cover songs of Black Sabbath and Sex Pistols. Then we found out that we are good in making this kind of “heavy music”, and began to be more interested in metal bands. So it was natural for us to begin making this kind of music. But we never chose some special genre to play. We don’t care about these genres, that you should now play thrash metal or black metal and so on, tells Marius. He continues on the subject:
– Often we like to call us just a hard rock band. We don’t like these expectations, when you say for example “black metal”, people are expecting something certain sound, and we don’t like that kind of limitations.
– And some expect superficial things like bullet belts and superficial lyrics. We don’t just identify with those things, Chris adds.
– But of course bullet belts are cool… And certainly we have these metal influences, Søren points out. He and Chris agree that they have influences from black and thrash metal but also quite a lot from 70’s heavy metal.
After these two shows in Finland, Ketzer are heading to U.S. The guys say they are quite excited about it and they have twelve gigs to do there.
– I find it amazing that people manage to play twelve shows in a row, because now after one night I feel so tired and still there are so many shows to go, Chris admits.
On the other hand, in my opinion the guys look quite sharp now – they haven’t been zombified at least at this point.
Both Ketzer albums have quite stylish and powerful painted covers. Gerrit tells:
– It was Andrei Bouzikov. I think it started when we saw the cover picture of Nocturnal Graves album Satan’s Cross. We really liked his work and contacted him. After that he made both our album covers. We don’t know yet if we are going to use his art again for next album. We’ll see.
There are quite many blackish thrash metal bands in Europe nowadays, so I ask the interviewees to define, which things make Ketzer stand out above average bands of that style.
– Maybe it’s the fact that we didn’t just try to found the band to sound like some earlier black or thrash metal bands that we think are cool. The special thing about Ketzer is that we’ve known each other since we were eleven, twelve, thirteen years old. Together we have grown and the music has developed during the years also. There’s no plan behind it, this just works, Chris depicts. Marius confirms:
– A lot of bands split up after one or two albums. But we are very good friends and we benefit from that. If some of us would be replaced by some totally new guy, it wouldn’t work.
– Maybe it would have been possible years ago, but now it’s too late, adds Chris.
Someday the world will see the third Ketzer album. There are some songs made for that record already.
– One idea behind the new songs was to get some special sound for every instrument. For example, to hear only the drum sound in some point should be interesting. And we’ll use the time to get a very special feeling for a song. The feeling should build up towards the end of the song and there should be room to wait for the guitar to come in…I guess dynamics is what we are after now, Marius describes.
– I think there will be more diversity in the new songs compared to Endzeit Metropolis. That album was quite a big step from the debut, and I think the next album will be even bigger step, tells Søren.
– We’re going to play a new song tonight, just like we did last night, reveals Gerrit.
Ketzer means heretic in German. So I let the men tell, do they discuss religious or anti-religious topics together a lot. Søren says:
– We discuss all the time. A lot of topics…Religion is just one small topic among others.
– It was more interesting at the beginning, at the time we chose the band name. Because when you grow up, you have to think about what you believe in. It was really hot topic back then. We talked about it a lot. We didn’t like the church and wanted to distance us from it and from religion. Of course it’s still an important topic but not that big anymore, Chris formulates.
– But it’s a good thing that we are named Ketzer, because religion will always be big part of themes of the band and for the next album it will be explored even more, adds David. Søren continues:
– And if you look at it from historical perspective, heretics were, for example in the medieval times, the people who didn’t believe the way that was thought to be the “right” way by others. Maybe that’s us: we don’t want to follow any trend or mainstream or some doctrine.
As the interview comes closer to its end, it’s time to talk about beer. These fellows say they really like beer and Søren suggests wheat beers of southern Germany. Chris says a brewery in the area of Cologne produces really good beer called Mühlenkölsch. Well, have to remember that!
At the end of discussion the guys want to thank Tomi [who also is a member of a Finnish band Ominous], for organising these two gigs and inviting them to Finland. They seem to be very pleased to be in Finland for the first time, so let’s hope they come back some time soon.
A few hours later: the Ketzer’s show is energetic and to my ears it has some more rocking, old school heavy metal edge to it, when compared to the music on their studio records. Maybe there’s more Hell Awaits -era Slayer and less Watain-styled modern black metal? Anyway, songs from the first and the second album fit together for an intense set. Maybe some of their songs sound a little like average drafts of some Deströyer 666 tracks, but at their best they come up with some really interesting glow and aggressive hooks. Good example of this is the set closing He, Who Stands Behind the Rows. Also the new song sounds meaty with its powerful bass line and mid-tempo rocking grasp.
Text: Seppo Rautio