Interview with Manuel Trummer (Guitar)
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: September 12, 2010
In just a few short years Atlantean Kodex have burst from complete unknowns to a legendary band spoken of in hushed whispers, even before the release of a full album. Now, with the release of The Golden Bough and the support of a fine label in Cruz Del Sur, they stand poised to show the whole world what Epic Metal is supposed to be. Main songwriter/lyricist Manuel Trummer was cool enough to take the time and answer some of my questions about this mysterious band.
Sargon: Atlantean Kodex has always been a deliberately enigmatic and underground band. I have never seen a band history or a bio, and you have put out a lot of famously hard-to-find and limited releases. Can you tell us why all the mystery?
Manuel: Hm, there's not really a secret plan behind that "mystery" as you call it. We're just not too interested in "making it big" as other bands are. Atlantean Kodex was originally formed to play the music we love for ourselves. If other people like our music as well - awesome! But in the end we're totally independent from sales figures or the usual business stuff. We would still play this kind of metal if nobody cared at all, simply because we love it ourselves. That's probably why we never cared much about the typical methods of promotion and advertisement. In fact we still don't care much. All these business necessities only distract you from the music and can get quite frustrating. That's why we'd rather focus on writing songs and rehearsing.
Sargon: The CD release of The Pnakotic Demos got a lot of reverential press. How did you feel about that? Did it surprise you?
Manuel: Yes, absolutely! Like I said, originally the band was formed only for ourselves. A fun thing, you know, jamming on old Manowar riffs and Bathory tunes and getting lost in the nostalgia for the good old times. Just another excuse for getting drunk and making noise. But when I uploaded two of our songs on my Myspace site things got out of control. I never thought anyone would care at all. I've been playing in bands since the early nineties and nobody ever cared, so why should they care now, you know? But obviously we hit a nerve with our songs. It almost seemed like people had been waiting for music like ours and suddenly we were "demo of the month" in Germany's biggest metal magazine and people from all over the world were writing us to buy our music. Insane...
Actually it still seems totally surreal to me and I've got a feeling that it will get even weirder now with all the buzz about the new album. I still consider myself more a fan than a musician, that's why it's still a pretty funny feeling to see my own face in a magazine.
Sargon: Late-period Bathory is obviously a big songwriting influence, what other artists inspire you?
Manuel: Besides Bathory our main influence are Manowar's first four albums, some underground US bands like Warlord, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, epic doom bands like Solstice (UK) and a couple of epic NWOBHM-bands like Elixir, Traitor's Gate or Pagan Altar. You can also find some local Bavarian folk music in our acoustic parts.
Sargon: Besides Frazer, Tolkien and Graves, what other writers have influenced your ethos and lyrical direction?
Manuel: I think H.P. Lovecraft, R.E. Howard and Arthur Machen are the three most important influences on our lyrics. It totally fascinates me how they created a mythology of their own, which interlaces with the real world up to a point, when you can't tell anymore what is fact and what is fiction. In a way that's the same thing we are doing with Atlantean Kodex. Adding a little bit of the great unknown to our modern rationalistic world.
Other than the said writers, we also draw a lot of inspiration from local folklore and folktales, for example in "Pilgrim".
Sargon: Let's talk specifically about The Golden Bough. Some of the songs, like "A Prophet in the Forest" have been around for years, while others are new. Did it just take this long to write a full album?
Manuel: Yes and no. I think the writing process wasn't the big problem. The thing is that we all have pretty time-consuming jobs, families and other dedications. It was a little difficult to organize ourselves before we were able to lay down the tracks for The Golden Bough. As soon as we entered the studio everything went pretty smooth and efficient.
Sargon: You credit Tolkien on a lot of the lyrics, and obviously draw heavily on his epic poetic style. How much would you say is derived from his work?
Manuel: Yes, that's correct. It's hard to tell of course, maybe 50/50. The important part is that we're actually not interested in The Lord of the Rings or his other works, but rather in the way he expressed the longing for a lost world in incredibly beautiful and atmospheric poems. There is so much sadness and melancholy in his words, but also hope, beauty and triumph - everything Atlantean Kodex stands for.
Sargon: Your lyrics seem to promote a Pan-European Renaissance and revival. While obviously not specific, this theme does have a lot of resonance today, when many people feel European culture is threatened by immigration and cultural diffusion. Do you agree with that sentiment?
Manuel: No, I don't. The history of Europe is a history of immigration. Starting with the stone-age tribes, the peoples of the bronze-age, the indo-european peoples like the Celts and later the Slavs and Teutons, the Romans of course - Europe has always been a melting pot of different peoples. So where do you draw the line? Immigration is nothing new, but something quite natural. Europe will only profit from immigration as its culture will become even more diverse, rich and plentiful. But: people may lose orientation in this new plurality. That's why we need to look to our roots. We need traditions to stabilize our lives in these fast-moving times, something to cling to when all around you is on the move. And we need education, we need to teach the younger generation where there roots are. If we forget who we are and where we came from, we will have serious problems pretty soon. It's not about which nation or which ethnic group is "superior". It's about accepting the differences between the various cultures living in Europe and learning how to live with them in a peaceful, civilized and tolerant manner. By heeding these classic virtues of Europe originating in the ancient Greek democracies, we can also make sure that there's no space for religious fanaticism, stonings of young girls, discrimination or war-mongering like in other regions of the world.
Sargon: I want to specifically ask about "Temple of Katholic Magick", as it invokes some Christian iconography, which is unexpected. Does Atlantean Kodex have a defined religious orientation?
Manuel: No, we don't. In this song we use a certain religious imagery to create a very special sacral, mysterious and magical atmosphere. A main theme on The Golden Bough is the relationship between magic and religion. "Temple of Katholic Magick" delves into that theme by exploring certain medieval catholic rites. In fact there are still so many catholic rites which are basically "magical" in nature. Just think the springtime processions here in Europe with the priest blessing the fertility of the fields. It's so ...well, ancient. That's what fascinated us most.
It was also quite intriguing to sing a song from a fanatical Christian perspective. Everything in metal is about Satan, the Devil, Lucifer - it's so worn out by now. All these black metal bands, who are they trying to provoke with their devilish charades? It was funny and original when Venom did it, but why should anyone still be frightened by a band singing how they pray to Satan in 2010? The most hideous form of evil might lurk in places you haven't even thought of yet.
Sargon: The recording sounds very organic and alive, what was the process you used to get that kind of sound?
Manuel: Thanks! I guess the most important part was to use real analog drums, without triggering, without quantization. It was a helluva work to get that drum sound, but in the end the time we spent adjusting the mics, the EQs, the compressors, etc. was worth it. The small leads and lags in the timing make the album sound like a live recording. It's not static, you can always hear that it was played by humans not by some kind of machine. Other than that we were relying on standard studio methods. Two guitars on the left, two on the right, bass in the middle, distortion and volume both up to 11, beer for the singer, that's it.
Sargon: How long did the recording sessions last? Can you tell us about Boar Cult Studios?
Manuel: Yes, Boar Cult Studios is the place where we rehearse and where we record. Basically we own the place and all the equipment. This of course, gives us the freedom to record, whenever we want to. For The Golden Bough, the recording sessions started in February, if I remember correctly. Usually we met once per week to record, starting with the drums and guitars, until we were finished in June when we laid down the last vocal lines and lead guitars.
Sargon: What comes now? Will you be touring for the album?
Manuel: No, touring is almost impossible around here. There are hardly any club owners left who are doing metal shows. The big festivals with 50+ bands ruined the club scene. People rather go there, instead of visiting a wild, sweaty club gig during the week. This of course makes it very hard for a band of our size to find venues, which are willing to take the risk of setting up a show and maybe losing money. But we will play at a couple of smaller underground festivals, for example Hammer of Doom V in April.
Sargon: If you had to sum up what Atlantean Kodex is about, what would you say?
Manuel: Passion, Power and Metal. Not selling out, never changing your style. The fist in the face of corporate metal.
|Other information about Atlantean Kodex on this site|
|Review: The Pnakotic Demos|
|Review: The Golden Bough|
|Review: The Golden Bough|
|Review: The White Goddess|
|Review: The White Goddess|
|Review: The Course of Empire|
|Interview with Manuel Trummer (Guitars) on September 8, 2013 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)|
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