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Totengeflüster - Interview

Interview with: Narbengrund, Totleben
Conducted by: T.V.

I remember writing the next words when I reviewed Totengeflüster's debut album Vom Seelensterben: "This is high class, believe me,..., they stick to the legacy of some old, lets say it "kvlt" Norwegian black metal, but adding the perfection of the most intricate, yet valuable atmospheric symphonic passages...". Yes, this German combo, founded in 2007 when guitarist/songwriter Totleben began writing his first songs, is one hell of a fresh air in the genre which hardly has anything left to offer - symphonic black metal, yet Totengeflüster are not afraid to go out of the border with some tiny experiments in classical music, instrumental dark ambient or even electro/industrial genre. But still, they are remaining devoted to the darkest and most comprehensive path that metal as the genre can possibily give. Now, the band is in front of a next step on their path - their debut live gig, which will take place on 23rd August 2014 at Beermageddon Festival in England. The band which was until now working as a trio became a solid five piece band with a plan to continue making a coherent and sophisticated piece of art. I did an interview with Totengeflüster's main force, vocalist Narbengrund and guitarist Totleben who kindly gave us an insight into the bands concept, future plans and other peripheral things.

T.V.: First of all I would like that you introduce Totengeflüster to all those who still haven't heard of the band.
Narbengrund: Totengeflüster is a five-headed monstrosity, consisting of Totleben, Rorschach, Frevelsaat, Schattendorn and my humble self, Narbengrund. Well, I guess we play a kind of symphonic blackened metal but (at least until now) in a very “traditional” way, some say our sound is in the vein of the mid-90s symphonic Black Metal Bands (old Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, and so on). We aim to combine the beauty and the bombast of classical or cinematic music with the cold harshness of traditional Black Metal, for sure nothing new, but since the music roots in the bottom of our pitch black hearts, something god damn honest.
T.V.: It's more than one year since you debuted with Vom Seelensterben, I must ask you if you are already working on a new album?
Narbengrund: Yes, we are. I’ll spare you all the hollow phrases such as “uh we’ve developed soooo much but we didn’t forget our creepy evil devilish cold frostbitten roots oh did I forgot to mention grim?”. Unfortunately I actually can’t tell precisely when new stuff will be released, but if things go well, Totengeflüster will swallow the summer sun in 2015.
T.V.: And are you taking the same musical direction as on Vom Seelensterben or will be there some surprises?
Narbengrund: Wouldn’t it be boring if we would release a second Vom Seelensterben? Vom Seelensterben, our dear fosterling, our beloved child, crawled through beaten paths, through the stench of so many rotten “Symphonic Black Metal” corpses and surely it devoured more attention we could even think about, but I don’t think that it caught the essence of Totengeflüster. We are five completely different characters and we won’t be the true Totengeflüster unless we combined those five visages of ours into one fucking grotesque face. Don’t get me wrong, our second album won’t be that different from our first, since it’ll be a long process till we’ll achieve our final form, but the pupation has definitely begun.
T.V.: Now when you look back at this first release of yours, how are you satisfied with it and would you do anything different now?
Narbengrund: We would lie if we’d say that everything concerning Vom Seelensterben is absolutely perfect but it’s still an important part of us and in regard to our possibilities at that time, it may be the best result we were able to record. To put it in short words: we are very satisfied with our first release but we would do lot of things different now.
T.V.: You were even experimenting with some dark ambient on the track "Im Tau der toten Morgensonne" and with some twisted sounds on alternative remix of "Der Pakt". Can we expect more of this in the future?
Totleben: I really like instrumental parts on an album, some people may say it slows down an album, yes maybe in case of "sport". We are surely a band with high tempo songs but its all about balance. I prefer to build up an atmosphere that is going through the whole album, so, there will be definetly some interludes in an orchestral/ambient way, it has to fit in context thats all.
T.V.: And Totleben... you came up with a very good artwork on your debut. I know that you are also an artist and you’ve made a lot of album covers for many different bands. Can you tell us with which bands and artists you already worked with and where do you get the ideas and inspiration for the art you create?
Totleben: First of all, thank you for the compliment to the done artwork on Vom Seelensterben. There are quite a lot of bands I have worked for so far. The “big” names are the Canadian death/black metallers Necronomicon – which are on tour with Septicflesh now, Imperium Dekadenz which have a big name in the German and I would risk to say in the European black metal scene now, Unlight which just recently released their new album The Katalyst Of The Katharsis, which I recommend very much to everyone. The artworks I created for those bands were created together with the bands. I prefer to get the album title or the lyrics from the title track for the artwork that I have to create. Then start to think of some artwork ideas. The whole development and the process to the finish artwork is always in close contact between me and the band. So – I do scetches and develop them with the band till we get the final result. The inspiration - sources are very different – from band to band actually I would say. All those bands are different, sure they are all metal bands but they all have their own imaginery and artwork “stlye” – I could never use an artwork I created for Necronomicon for Imperium Dekadenz 'cause they are just too different. So, for Necronomicon I had quite much inspirations from “epic” artworks like Alan Lee or John Howe which are the conceptual designers for Peter Jacksons “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy – I pretty like their detailed way of drawing and the sense for a working environment – even when its fantasy, everything could exist physically. For Imperium Dekadenz I took inspiration from quite simple album artworks which are more photography – art – based. Not the photoshop “overkills” I did for Necronmicon, Imperium Dekadenz preferred a much more simple but still very effective way of artwork. I try to develop an own stlye of artwork with every band that requests an artwork.
T.V.: And of which artwork you ever did you are most proud and why?
Totleben: It’s actually not that simple to answer this question because I do so much different styles of artworks. Every artwork I did so far is unique; I like every artwork I created very much. Often the people that are behind a band make a release I am involved with makes it special or important to me. The latest artwork I am very proud of is The Katalyst Of The Katharsis by Unlight. I had a lot of creative freedom to make this release a very special one. Luckily their label decided to release the album also on vinyl – which looks seriously badass!!! The band was very sophisticated with the artwork I created so they also decided to let me create their whole stage – decoration in case of two sidedrops and one huge backdrop. I also benefited from bands that challenged me in my artistic past. Bands like Necronomicon from Canada requested very epic – huge artworks. Working with Necronomicon was always an adventure for me because I really had to improve my own skills and abilities. The last artwork The Rise Of The Elder Ones was very difficult to create because a huge amount of details were requested. On the other hand – bands like Imperium Dekadenz and their latest album Meadows Of Nostalgia was very photography based but is also one of my top 5 favorites. Please – take your time and check out the artwork from Meadows Of Nostalgia of Imperium Dekadenz and Necronomicon The Rise Of The Elder Ones – they are so different but at the same time perfectly fitting for each band. From a “poetic” way of looking at my top artworks I would say Meadows Of Nostalgia by Imperium Dekadenz is having a place on top. From a technical / skill way of looking I would say Necronomicons The Rise Of The Elder Ones is my favorite. I also want to mention that I'm more than proud of every artwork I created for Totengeflüster so far.
T.V.: If I'm not mistaken Totengeflüster are not the typical black metal band when it comes to lyrics, as they are not about worshiping satan and stuff like that. Tell me, what are the things that you talk about?
Narbengrund: When it comes to the lyrical aspect, we or in this case I, focus on themes like death, darkness and desolation as well as insanity and in case of our first album, also about paranormal phenomenons. Since I do not believe in god or satan, it would be total bullshit to write lyrics about this topic. In my opinion lyrics are something very important for a band, they are the bands statement to this fucked up world and therefore they should be honest and one should stand totally behind them. I may take my “job” too seriously but I think of vocalists as a kind of prophets, spreading their beliefs into the eyeless masses. The poetic form of my lyrics adorns here my “hideous” thoughts, but as always, the “hideousness” lies in the eye of the beholder.
T.V.: Why did you choose to release the album as a self-release. Was there no interest from any label to release it?
Narbengrund: Well, there were a few offers but the conditions were unworthy of discussing. Most of the metal scene is totally tainted by capitalism and we were not willing to salvage Totengeflüster for the sake of some overrated “bands” nor did we think about feeding this diseased system.

T.V.: Still, what kind of offer would be an acceptable one for you?
Totleben: An offer that truly supports us and wants that we will grow in our artistic way. Totengeflüster is art and not just a product that makes a lot of money in the business way. Sure – business is a part of a band and contracts. I’m not against doing contracts or deals with labels. We have to take care not to run into a sharpen blade that let us bleed and takes away our artistic decisions.
T.V.: Totengeflüster started as a trio, now I see that there are five members... Who are the new ones who joined the band?
Narbengrund: I’m honoured to introduce our two new arms of devastation! These two listen to the names Rorschach and Frevelsaat, both of them were close friends of mine and since they’re quite skilled on using their instruments and we needed new members to be able to play live. So it was obvious to ask them for their assistance.  Rorschach is looking forward to torture your ears with his bass, while Frevelsaat will spread his six stringed diseases upon you all, hehe.
T.V.: Soon you’ll have your debut live show. What do you expect from that and what can the audience expect from you? Will you perform also some new songs?
Narbengrund: It’ll be a great pleasure for us to perform Totengeflüster live on stage. I’m longing for this moment since a long long time and I can’t wait to scream out all the shit which is eating me up from inside. What can be expected from such a concert? It’s hard to say. Perhaps it can fill the void inside my chest? I don’t know. I guess the audience can expect 45 minutes of eerie and intense symphonic black metal and who knows? Maybe even a little surprise.
T.V.: So, do you plan to play more gigs in the near future, or perhaps to go on a real tour?
Narbengrund: Yes, there will be a few more gigs than just Beermageddon but Beermageddon is the only one we’ve planned so far, which leads us out of Germany.
T.V.: And if you’ll have a chance to choose, with which band would you like to tour?
Narbengrund: Well I guess since we all have a different taste of music, it would be hard to decide which one it should be. Furthermore it has to be said, that the fact, that someone creates formidable music does not necessarily mean, that touring with him or her will be a great enjoyment.
T.V.: Beside the obvious influences from Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, which are other names that had any kind of effect on you and Totengeflüster?
Narbengrund: Since we all are inhaling all kind of arts since a long time, it’ll be an almost eternal procedure to name all of our influences. The most obvious ones might be apart from various (black) metal acts. Also Totleben is interested in music besides metal – he is very interested in atmospherical music and cinematic scores written by danny elfman and howard shore. Often it’s the passion that lays within a musical project that is really inspiring. Sure we are all metal fans but there is more out in this world that deals with Death, Desolation and Darkness wich is deeply inspiring for us all. When it comes to lyrics, I’d like to name bands like Dornenreich, Nocte Obducta and Dark Fortress.
T.V.: Totengeflüster cultivates a very strong public image. Who’s responsible for that and how much important do you think is the proper image for bands such is yours?
Narbengrund: The very most of our “public work” is done by Totleben. He’s responsible for all the posts on our Facebook-page and pages alike this one. He’s also answering all the mails we get. I’m a bit ashamed of doing this little, but I fear the only thing which this Narbengrund is doing is answering interviews and vomiting out all of our propaganda shit, but not even this is done completely all by myself. I think a proper image is something very important especially for black metal bands but I’m not interested in playing the true guy from Norway. Don’t get me wrong, I do adore “true” black metal bands for both, their musical style and their image, I also do agree with most of the... let’s call it “black metal ideology” as you could read in many of our interviews, but I’m not the one who’s wearing corpse paint all day and despising each and every human being which contaminates this world. I’m not religious but of course I can’t prove my opinion, so I do not hate religious people for their faith, but yet some of them for their way of living. I think the most important thing concerning an image is being authentic and in our case it means, to break out of this predetermined path.
T.V.: And the nicknames you guys have… What’s the purpose and meaning of them?
Narbengrund: Yes, here it goes:
Frevelsaat –  He considers himself as a seducer of souls, as a seeder of sacrilege. Always longing for driving innocent minds onto sinister paths.
Schattendorn – As long something exists, light and shadow are two sides of the same coin… Schattendorn is an aspect of the shadow – the black fury, the thorn which rips your flesh apart - fast and brutal. 
Totleben - A dead heart in a dead world but to live amongst those, who insist that they are alive, he’s wearing a nice warm human’s clothing but when it comes to Totengeflüster, you’ll look into the depths of his dirty dark core.
Rorschach - ...a blue and red feathered chickadee who loves plowing lion’s-tooth – sounds more like an answer to an” Rohrschach” - test than a real explanation… but I guess you’ll have to deal with this one. He’s the twisted mirror image of a mentally unstable obscurity. 
Narbengrund - As some of you may have noticed: Life is pain. Throughout the years Mister Narbengrund cheerfully collected the gifts life donated him and whenever life was especially generous, he harvested some pretty little scars and decorated his innocent human soul till the point was reached, that nothing was left from the tiny fleshling, which was once thrown into this ugly life. So he decided that his true face deserved an other name that the one he got at his birth and which one would fit better than Narbengrund?
T.V.: You achived quite a lot of success and gained a lot of fans already with your debut album, despite the fact that you did almost everything on your own. Can you explain the recipe to achive that to many newcomers who can’t make it?
Narbengrund: I fear this answer might be a disgusting one. Nowadays it’s not longer enough to play just good music and even if artwork and music harmonize pretty well, it won’t be enough to become “successful”. There is such an unimaginable mass of bands that you have to promote your art extremely well, if you wish to get some attention otherwise you need an enormous amount of luck. It’s a pity that things are going on like this, but music is not longer just art, it is business.
T.V.: In one conversation we had you told me that you would like one day to record an album with a real orchestra. Are you now somehow closer to this wish of yours?
Totleben: No, the songs that are in my mind for the next album are still too epic to realize this with a real orchestra. Maybe on the third album we can think about this when we can be sure of a bigger budget. It is also depending on the written material, I think if we will use a real orchestra one day the songwriting has to keep this in mind that all tracks of orchestra are possible to be played and recorded for real. I am coming from a very musical rooted family so it would not be a huge problem to find proper musicians that are able to play this and a talented conductor. I am quite trustful about this but the time is not right for this right now. We still write and compose and improve on the new material and it still needs a lot of time to get in the final shape.
T.V.: Ok, one musical non related question. Beside beign involved in Totengeflüster what are yours preoccupations in life?
Narbengrund: Three of us are working in social jobs, which is kind of funny since our lyrics are a bit misanthropic (and I guess I must admit that I’m guilty of working in such a section). I don’t know if it’s a happenstance but it doesn’t seem to be that uncommon or at least I do know a lot of “misanthropic” guys(/and girls!) which do work in social jobs. Perhaps our misanthropic vein is about to hate the inhumanity of humanity? Haha! Humanity is a disease after all – we all are, but even those who call their selves soooo evil and misanthropic do live, aren’t they? We have to work if we like to live on and since I’m all thumbs and couldn’t hack studying for several reasons I’m damned to work in this section but honestly... it isn’t that bad (except the payment and the working conditions…). Rohrschach is currently working at retail and Schattendorn’s work is about stock and transport logistics or something like that.
T.V.: Which album released lately had any kind of a bigger impact on you?
Totleben: Vredehammer - Vinteroffer, Finntroll - Nifelvind, Schattenvald - IV, UnlightThe Katalyst Of The Katharsis.
Narbengrund: Uhh... I think the only album fitting into this description would be Behemoth’s Satanist, but even this one hasn’t been released that lately. The last albums I’ve bought haven’t even been metal albums at all. One of them was HocicoTiempos De Furia, the other two are Combichrist's Everybody Hates You and Moonspell’s Sin–Pecado (ok this one’s “metallish”). At the moment I love to listen to bands like Psychonaut 4 and older In Flames (– how on earth do those two fit together?!).
T.V.: I think that would be all for now. Thank you for taking your time and the last words are yours.
Narbengrund: As always it was a great pleasure being interviewed by Terra Relicta. We are very grateful, that there’s still that much interest concerning Totengeflüster ...and hopefully we'll see some of you out there inhaling our darkness – preferably live.

Totengeflüster links: Official website, Facebook