Mekong Delta - 30/05/2014

The line-up and the history of the German band MEKONG DELTA was to be the best kept secret in the world. At the end of 1985 an idea was born to start a studio project with German metal musicians. It was supposed to outshine all independent releases musically. The fear that German musicians may not be accepted, led to the decision to keep everything about the band a secret. The name Zardoz was rejected, followed by the acceptance of the name “Mekong Delta”, named after a riverbed in Vietnam. The entire project was started by Ralf Hubert, sound-engineer of Warlock, Steeler and Living Death, and owner of the recordlabel “Aaarrg”.

 

In the mid-nineties, the band ceases to exist and some ten years later, the musicians re-unite. In 2007 the album ‘Lurking Fear’ is released and it appears, followed by the album ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ in 2010. Only recently, the album ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ was recorded and so we decided to put a number of questions to Alexander, Martin and Erik.

 

 

It’s been a couple of years since you reformed, so can you give us a little update about what’s been happening since then?

 

Alex: To me, it’s been a great experience with Mekong Delta ever since I joined the band. We did 3 records, played festivals and shows in Russia, Greece, Norway, Denmark, France, Lithuania and many more countries. And what I’m probably most proud of is the fact, that we had the longest running stable line-up in the band’s history.

 

How did you launch into writing material for your album  ‘In A Mirror Darkly’,  could you tell us about the process?

 

Alex: Usually Ralf writes all the music minus the drum parts before we get involved.

It’s a cool and very special way of composing. Rather than thinking in terms of guitar or bass parts, he approaches the compositions like a classical composer. It’s all different voices, like in an orchestra. Then later, we work out fitting drum parts and the voices are distributed among guitar and bass.

 

Martin: and when all this is done, I lay down my own vocal lines over the madness. Then usually Ralf and I share the lyrical duties, et voila.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘In A Mirror Darkly’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

Erik: The first goal we had ended in an accident. Ralf started composing the material to another story “Into the Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. He had some ideas and we tried some different guitar playing technics. As more melodies and themes were done we recognized that the main theme didn't fit anymore. So we had to put the idea on the shelf and started again with a new feeling for it. Soon we thought about our protagonist of the “Wanderer...” album, the 'violin player', who hadn't finished his story yet. Ralf sent me a lot of scores of themes and melodies an we chose those which sounded best after I recorded them with the guitar. For Ralf and me the Ouverture-, Janus- and Inside the Outside of the Inside-themes were the elements we definitely would like to hear on the album.

 

What is the part that satisfies you most in comparison to the older albums?

 

Alex: I think that on “In A Mirror Darkly” we managed to walk that thin line of playing a lot, but never playing  too much. Every note has to be there. I’m proud of that.

 

Martin: For me it's the dynamics that I really love on that album. It's really an into the face album but on some points it also has its beautiful and deep moments, where you tend to get carried away with the melodies, just to be dragged down to the riffing pit in the next moment.

 

Erik: Since the making of the “Lurking Fear” album I believe that Ralf has found some kind of essence for his art of composing. The “Wanderer...” album and “In A Mirror Darkly” are much more complex than the older albums. But it's much easier to listen to. The songs follow a straight line.

 

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘In A Mirror Darkly’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

 

Martin: It's meant like a multiversal mirror. It's like looking into a crystal ball to see what would have happened if some things in history would have gone in different directions, only that the “darkly” implies that it's even worse than reality. So it's a dark vision of an even darker history. In “Mutant Messiah” for example the Messiah doesn't die for the sins of his followers, he lets them swallow and suffocate on their sins. Just to get the picture...

 

 

 

Where do you get your inspiration from, can you tell me a little more about the songs?

 

Erik: As I mentioned before there was the idea of continuing the story of the “Wanderer”. He approached first on the “Principle of Doubt” album in the track Shades of doom and still inspires Ralf when he thinks about new ideas for songs. But the main influence is still the normal way of life and its failures and some tragic matters of a personal nature.

 

If someone was only going to read the lyrics and not listen to the music, what would you hope they would take from them?

 

Martin: Reflection. Not even the most absurd lyrics on this or any Mekong Delta album are in any way arbitrary. Ralf usually has very deep thoughts about things and tries to share them. What you get out of the lyrics can be different from what they mean, but you should think about them. I remember a time, when I was young and we kids were listening to songs of Metal bands, we discussed the meanings and tried to expand our horizons, to understand what the bands wanted to say. And I am not talking about “Schools out for summer” :-D 

But sometimes I feel that most people don't care about lyrics anymore.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?

 

Alex: Obviously the rhythm…..hahaha. But seriously, it is very important. Especially the right tempo. Mekong Delta is very different from other bands….in our case, I would say the “flow” is the most important element. How we go from one part to another.

 

Martin: A red line. This is what I try on the Mekong stuff. To take the listener and guide him through the song. I think for a lot of Ralf compositions, the vocal lines ease the first listen a bit.

 

Erik:  The guitars... the guitars... they're so important... the melodies, the riffings, my Fred-soli... the guitars – please... :-)

 

How would you describe this album to someone that has never listened to the band before?

 

Alex: Imagine a very technical Metal band interpreting 70’s Prog mixed with some heavy classical music.

 

Erik:  … and guitars...

 

What do you think are the most typical differences between Mekong Delta anno 2014 and Mekong Delta back in the day?

 

Alex: I think Ralf has - for lack of a better word - “matured” as a composer. On the first albums all the ingredients were already there, but now they are more “round”. I personally also think that Martin is the best singer the band has ever had. But that’s a matter of personal taste. The musicians and the playing in general has always been great with Mekong Delta, so I hope we are keeping up that level regarding this.

 

Is there anything looking back that you would have liked to have done differently, or are you satisfied with the way in which your albums turned out even all these years later?

 

Erik: I think I can speak for all of us, that we all think that we do know what we could have done different or better... After all we're satisfied with the albums we did. But: An artist should never be satisfied with his work. That would cause a stop in his progress.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?

What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?

 

Alex: All my highlights personally have to do with the musical side of my career and my few low points had to do with the business side of it. Regarding Mekong Delta, one of my best memories will always be our first “real” show together. After a few days of intense rehearsing we flew to Athens and brought the band back to life. That was a magical night.

 

Erik: I can say that my  family is the biggest inspiration for me. The most important step I took was to follow Ralf in 1993 and be a professional musician. Of course Mekong Delta is responsible for the highlights in my musical career and I agree with Alex that the business side results in the low points. But in my whole life, the highs and the lows are the best motivations which I use to write my songs and lyrics.

 

What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What do you think of the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Alex: There is a lot of bands and also a lot of great bands, at least regarding their abilities. But what I’m missing a bit is originality. A lot of bands sound pretty much alike. And I guess that’s one of the main things about Mekong Delta. No other band on this planet sounds like us. Also, at least to my taste, most productions nowadays are too “plastic”. I’m tired of hearing the same drum samples everywhere and how everything is protooled beyond belief.

 

Do you regard Mekong Delta as a progressive or thrash band - musically and/or performance-wise?

 

Alex: To me Mekong Delta is a Progressive band in the original sense of the word. But if you want to stick to those two terms I would say on the record we are a Progressive band with a lot of Thrash influences and live we are a Thrash band with a lot of Prog. Live, the energy just takes over.

 

Erik:  Jep, so right...

 

What makes Mekong Delta different from the other metal bands out there?

 

Alex: Just about everything, from the way Ralf composes to the arrangements to the lyrics etc. It’s so unique and that’s what I love about it most.

 

What can we expect from Mekong Delta in the near future? Any touring plans?

 

Erik: No real plans but we're looking forward to fill some slots on festivals in Europe. It'll start with a festival in the Czech Republic in summer. But more safe is the fact that we've already started to work on the next album. A classical instrumental composition...

 

Anything you want to say to our readers, here is your chance?

 

Alex: Thank you Netherlands for being a bastion for Metal in general but especially for Progressive Metal. The Dutch audience is intelligent and thoughtful and I always love playing there.

 

Erik:  Thank you for your time. Please have a look at our homepage because our webmaster Devoraz is a Dutch man, too.

 

Martin: Thanks a lot and see you on the road..

 

Thanks for your time,

Eugene Straver

 

 

Current Members:

Martin LeMar - Vocals

Ralph Hubert - Bass

Erik Adam H. Grösch - Guitars

Benedikt Zimniak - Guitars

Alex Landenburg – Drums

 

 

Former Members:

Wolfgang Borgmann - Vocals

Douglas Lee - Vocals

Leszek "Leo" Szpigiel - Vocals

Jochen Schröder - Guitars

Reiner Kelch - Guitars

Frank Fricke - Guitars

Georg Syrmbos - Guitars

Uwe Baltrusch - Guitars

Peter Lake - Guitars

Peavy Wagner - Bass

Jörg Michael - Drums

Uli Kusch - Drums

Peter Haas - Drums

 

Albums:

1987 - Mekong Delta

1988 - The Music of Erich Zann

1989 - The Principle of Doubt

1990 - Dances of Death (and other walking shadows)

1992 - Kaleidoscope

1994 - Visions Fugitives

1996 - Pictures at an Exhibition

2007 - Lurking Fear

2010 - Wanderer on the Edge of Time

2014 - In A Mirror Darkly