Right before the release of their second longplayer Realm Of The Feathered Serpent we sat down with Hexer guitarist Marvin and asked him some questions about the upcoming album, but also several other things. But have a look for yourself what the Dortmund Doom Band 2020 is all about.
Hey Marvin, I’m really glad that you found the time to answer a few questions about your band HEXER. You are currently in the process of promoting your new album Realm Of The Feathered Serpent. Concerning this, my first and inevitable question – how are you doing in times of worldwide crisis?
Hey mate, first of all, thanks for your interest. I guess the whole pandemic wasn’t that much of a deal for us as a band but had some impact on everyone’s life individually. It’s quite a bummer not to play shows, especially concerning our mini-tour with AHAB this year, but I luckily had the chance to play with Imha Tarikat at Hell over Hammaburg one week before the lockdown hit us.
I know you’ve been planning and working on your album for quite some time before the pandemic hit. Did the recording process during Corona work out without any problems at all or did the circumstances fall on your feet to get everything done in time?
After realising the dimension of Covid-19, we instantly adapted by recording demos instead of rehearsing. I must say, this situation led to the opportunity to work on our material in a very different way, which we learned to appreciate very early in our recording process. Yes, it was weird to finalize the album this way, but since the whole musical concept was created before it wasn’t such a big deal. We spent some money on recording gear and did a lot in a DIY-manner, we all prefer for this project anyway.
After a line-up change you decimated your line up and are now “only” on stage as a three piece. The quality of the sound has not suffered in my opinion. Can you tell us how it came about and what led to the decision to approach the new longplayer with a different line-up?
First of all, even there was no drama with the two other founding-members leaving the band, it came quite surprisingly and in mid 2019 we weren’t sure about the future of HEXER, to be honest. We immediately started to search for a new bassist, got a lot of requests, but in the end decided to change our songwriting and my style of playing the guitar instead. Regarding a new drummer, we went with Melvin Cieslar of Mighty Papal Dome Shape.
Was Melvin your first choice, or did you search a long time to find someone who could serve your philosophy and musical needs equally well?
We met Melvin in 2018 at a show with my former band and his doom outfit. We instantly fell in love with his odd style and performance and when he told us, he would join HEXER instantly whenever there is the need for a new drummer, our choice was quite obvious. After showing him the new concept we have worked on in 2019 we immediately started rehearsing and things worked out perfectly. His participation and skill were the final ingredient we needed to reach the next level.
Although Realm Of The Feathered Serpent has a lot more influences than Cosmic Doom Ritual, the parallels in sound are obvious. Where do you see your biggest progress in songwriting compared to your last longplayer?
Being a three-piece holds great opportunities when it comes to songwriting, even this means everyone of us is on double-duty. It’s a weird combination of limiting ourselves and creating these extensive layers of sound at the same time. There is no opportunity to settle back when every member plays an essential role. I always liked the uncompromising and special style of power-trios like High On Fire, Motörhead, Russian Circles. This was our approach with Realm Of The Feathered Serpent. We all threw some new influences and styles into this cosmic cauldron known as HEXER and we’re very pleased with the outcome.
As you can read, it’s again a full concept album, does the story follow on from Cosmic Doom Ritual, or is the HEXER going into completely new directions this time? Please give us an insight into what the listener can expect here.
We never planned on telling the story of a single character. The protagonist of the EP and 2017s Cosmic Doom Ritual now is a spectator of the events on ROTFS which are heavily based on the events that have taken place during the so called discovery of the new world, leading to the downfall of the Aztec empire. A lot of ancient cultures have been engaged in astrology and astronomy, so I came up with the idea of telling that story in a more mystical and cosmic setting. Since the lyrics are again in a very metaphorical style, it’s up to everyone individually to interprete our concept. Again the vocals are very reduced because a lot of our story unfolds in the instrumental work.
Where do you get your inspiration for your concepts?
I was interested in ancient cultures for quite some time and always had different elements of our concept in mind from time to time. The final decision to tell this story was made, after I saw the movie „Aguirre – Wrath of God“ by Werner Herzog. Both Aguirre and Coppola’s „Apocalypse Now“ are based on the novel „Heart of Darkness“ by Joseph Conrad, all telling stories about imperialism and colonialism and the alienation from nature, which fascinated me the most. It was a coincidence, when I discovered our cover artwork ‚Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria‘ by Mariusz Lewandowski, which fit perfectly into our story of a cosmic miasma, cloaking the whole cosmos.
Are you a real Sci-Fi nerd yourself?
Yes, but very oldschool. Recent stuff doesn’t play a role in my understanding of good science-fiction. I’d prefer reading Solaris a hundred times before seeing another Hollywood blockbuster ripping off the same classics over and over. Even though it’s not real sci-fi, Star Wars played a huge role in my childhood so I always have some Star Wars related stuff on my guitars, pedalboards or somewhere with me I guess. There is a Boba Fett wobble-head you might spot on stage from time to time, too.
And who influences you in this direction on a purely musical level?
We all have different musical backgrounds and preferences, but recently really appreciate bands such as Blasphemy, Revenge and other war metal acts, psychedelic like Hawkwind, Yes and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard or some different tunes like Arvo Pärt or Popol Vuh. My personal influences as a guitarist come from a variety of artists, mainly Matt Pike of High On Fire, Michael Sullivan of Russian Circles and – despite the fact that he is a piece of shit- Dagon from Inquisition.
Since you have a very impressive and powerful sound that you don’t get to hear too often in this form, I would be interested to know what equipment you are using to put your ideas into practice. You must have a lot of speakers and amps for this, right?
Actually, we used less cabinets and equipment than on Cosmic Doom Ritual. We focused on songwriting and know our strengths. Even we now use two synthesizers, one for ultra low bass and one mainly for lead and ambient parts and an additional bass amp to fatten up my guitar sound, there is no wall of amps and cabinets and no shoegaze-like pedalboards in our setup. Since I am the only one with a stringed instrument, I adapted my style to make every riff sound like a whole band is playing.
The sound quality of the album has become really strong and is also different from the previous one. Where did you record and master?
There is definitely a big improvement in the overall quality, even though we recorded all vocals, guitars and synthesizer on our own. The drums were recorded live in our new headquarter in Essen, with Leon of Arcane Spell Sound. Mixing and Mastering was done by Jan Oberg at Hidden Planet Studio in Berlin.
Will your stage show change as soon as it’s possible to perform live again, or will you continue with your usual setting, which has already been very distinctive and individual?
Before the pandemic hit us, we were able to play a first live show as a three-piece earlier this year. HEXER feels like a very different project now and since our musical approach changed, we felt there is no more need for the visual components. Other things haven’t changed, so we still are very enthusiastic about incense, special herbs and liquor.
Something else that has changed for you is the label in your back. The album will now be released via The Crawling Chaos and will be available there first as CD, but later also as vinyl. How did it come to the cooperation with Holger, did the first initiative come from him, or did you search until something suitable came along?
We met Holger some years ago at a show he set up in Cologne and I liked his direct and sincere nature. When Ernie of Krachmucker TV told me at Hell over Hammaburg, that The Crawling Chaos could be the right label for us, I reached out to Holger, we left our current label before releasing anything at all and signed a deal with him right away.
What are your expectations as a band directly from this cooperation?
Our latest experiences have made us way more cautious when it comes to such cooperations. One thing Holger and I agreed on very early was the necessity to get to know each other, before doing business. I really look forward to see Crawling Chaos grow as a label and to be part of it.
Will the album also be released on the currently popular cassette?
We’re planning on at least a limited batch of tapes, since we really liked the sound of the last album as a tape version. Without any shows and restricted shipping it’s not that easy to plan such things, but if the demand is high enough, preorders might be a good option. The same goes for vinyls, too.
How does it look now with concerts and potentially upcoming tours, do you rather rely on Diy and your own initiative to keep the project in your own hands, or will a booking agency be involved with the release through The Crawling Chaos, which will help you and take some work off your shoulders?
Before the pandemic, we hooked up with a booking team from Germany. Hopefully in 2021 there will be opportunities to talk terms again.
I’m sure you want to put Realm Of The Feathered Serpent on stage and present it live as soon as possible. Are there already confirmed gigs in the making, or are you still not sure about the concrete planning of gigs during the Corona time?
All appearances of 2020 got postponed to 2021. We will play at HELLSEATIC in Bremen and be support for AHAB on their mini-tour in October 2021. We’re still more of a live band, so there have to be more shows in 2021 for sure!
Musically, HEXER would be perfect for an audio-visual streamset, is that even a possibility for you to present your album?
A lot of bands did and it felt a bit too mainstream to me. Seeing bands like Behemoth going Disney+ and doing a pay-per-view show is the opposite of what I appreciate about rock music, but there are other examples like Blood Incantation, who provided a really great compensation for the lack of shows over the last months. I think as long as it’s real fan service, such streams are the best, we as musicians can share with everyone who misses the feeling of live shows as much as we do.
Who would you like to go on tour with, if you had the choice?
That’s a hard one for sure. The first bands coming to my mind are Bölzer, Blood Incantation and High On Fire. If I go with all-time favorites, probably Metallica or even Queens Of The Stone Age.
As we all know, after the album is one step before the album, are you already working busy on the next concept, or will you start with it after the new album has been released and has received its first reviews?
Yes, we started writing new songs and riffs while finalizing the upcoming album. There is an EP in the making which could be released sooner than you might expect.
Finally, I would be interested to know which metal albums have played an important role for you personally in 2020. Tell me about your 3 AOTY candidates and tell me for a few lines what you liked most about the releases.
Even this album came out some days ago the new album of Isengard is one of my top three of 2020. I love the sound, the songwriting and the feeling this raw production produces. It is another evidence why Fenriz is such an important person in underground music since more than 30 years now. Another album we all worship is „Profane Death Exodus“ by Diabolic Oath, probably because our latest preference for gnarly war metal. My personal number one is „Sternenberster“ by Imha Tarikat. I would not be involved with this project as a live musician, if I wasn‘t totally convinced about its high quality and uniqueness.
German underground bands that you would currently recommend?
One band several folks of our underground circle always come up with are Ch’ahom, playing a ferocious and ritualistic kind of black/death metal. Seems they are rehearsing in the same catacombs as we do, so I might need to finally meet them. Another band surely to bring up is Temple Koludra, a very ambitious black metal project which released the masterpiece „Seven! Sirens! To a lost Archetype“ in 2019. There are so many great bands who will eventually become very influental in the future such as The Night Eternal, Pulsar, Neànder, Grabunhold, just to name a few.
Thank you for your time, do you still have final words on your mind?
Stay safe, don’t be stupid in these troubling times and join us on our cosmic ride on the 9th of October, when the passage to the „Realm Of The Feathered Serpent“ finally opens!
I wish you a successful release and of course good health for the future!