Interview: GOAT OF MENDES

Interview: GOAT OF MENDES

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Goat Of Mendes is a heavy/folk/pagan metal band, formed around 1994 in Germany. Since then, six albums released, the latest one Hagzussa-Ridding The Fence came out last year via Witches Brew records. The band calls themselves as Wiccan metal, and to find out why the band calls themselves so, I had an interview with 2 of the members, vocalist Heiner and guitarist Marco, who have explained the “wiccan metal“ in their music, also they have talked about the new album sound, the elements and the old releases, band reasons not being so much active live and others.

Hi guys, my pleasure having you here, how are things going?
Heiner: Cheers Carla, pleasure is duly shared! Thanks a lot for giving us the opportunity for this interview!

Well then, you are a band bit older than me, hehe, 6 albums till now, Hagzussa-Riding The Fence is your latest album, but let’s take things in order: in my opinion, Hagzussa is the heaviest album, can you agree with this?
Heiner: Partially. I think, the latest album is the most straight forward of all our releases. Additionally it is the one, on which the traditional heavy metal element is featured the strongest, mainly concerning riffs and general song structures. On the other hand it features far less death or black metal elements than our previous ones, so I don’t think it’s heavier, but all in all more consistent than the older releases.
Marco: It’s heavier than its predecessor Consort.. and it was done intentionally. We wanted to return to some kind of rawness and direct in the face production showing our affiliation to the underground metal scene. Additionally we would not like to record a second Consort album, where we took everything to its limits. The idea was to go straight into a different direction, rather a primal metal way of interpreting our sound.

You are combining a lot of elements in your music: folk, epic, pagan, death, thrash, heavy metal, all these in your music. Why all these elements and not focusing on just 1 or 2 elements?
Heiner: Because we like all of them, pretty simple. All of us have a slightly different taste when it comes to heavy music. I for example am the oldest of all band members and grew up with the NWOBHM, so my main influences come from traditional heavy metal and doom. Marco also likes traditional stuff, but was far more influenced by thrash or death metal in his youth than I was. Daniel loves black metal and so on. It soon became clear, that some of our personal tastes also reflected in our compositions and the mixture of all those elements became our very unique style. I’d like to mention the folk elements separately, because one special band was crucial for the founding of GOM. I speak of the early Skyclad, and to some extent, their predecessors Sabbat (UK). Those bands were favourites of Marco and myself (and still are) and their music and lyrics (and usage of folky elements) influenced us a lot when we founded GOM back in ’94.
Marco: As Heiner said, we like different kinds of real metal and I started the band for the reason I had been limited to “just” death/thrash metal riffs by my former band Obnoxious. GOM started out as a solo-project with lyrical and artistical help of Heiner and became a real band later on with the second release. It was like a brainchild growing up. There is no reason to exclude anything, but non original metal styles.

Then why the “wiccan metal“ of your genre?
Heiner: Wicca, or the Cult of the New Witches is a form of Paganism, based on the Old Faith in ancient Europe. Wiccans view nature and the universe in general as sacred and try to maintain the balance between the positive and negative forces (or energies) of nature. Our earth is seen as the female priciple, the Great Mother who gave us birth, cares for us, but is also able to punish or destroy us, if we do not care for her. The sun who gives its warmth and strength, so the earth can bear fruit and life, is the male principle, personified in the Horned God. The Goat of Mendes, after whom our band is named, is but one of the many representations of this Horned Pagan God, which were worhipped by many ancient cultures all over the globe. My main inspiration to becoming a Pagan goes way back to my father, who passed away far too early in 1988. He was a Pagan and practised as a traditional healer, but kept the former as a secret until his death. In these days, you were in danger to face serious consequences (financially and socially) if you openly denied the established religions. We found out the real truth about him, after we sorted out his belongings after his departure. Instead he claimed to be an Atheist and struggled hard to “educate” my mother, who was a strong believer in the catholic church these times (he finally succeeded by the way). It would have frightened her seriously if she had known the truth in these days, as Paganism was closely connected to Satanism, Witchcraft and Black Magic in the eyes of the public. But, even without openly revealing his Pagan belief, my father succeeded to implant his views on living, nature and spirituality in myself and my two siblings. We were able to question the concept of the Christian god without being punished and were able to discover our own view on things spiritual and religious. I owe my father a lot for this and I am eternally thankful that he opened my eyes for the beauty of nature and the strength of my own will. So when I founded GOM with Marco back in 1994, it was very clear from the beginning, that my belief (or rather my philosophy) would also be the main inspiration for the band’s concept and lyrics. We called our style “Pagan Metal” back in these days, as this description fit best to our lyrics and there was no connection towards a certain musical style yet. Around 2005 though, a movement under the same name grew in strength and plagued the whole scene from this day on. Bands like Finntroll or Korpiklaani with their northern folk and Humppa-elements established the “musical background” for what was henceforth considered “Pagan Metal”, whilst their lyrics (and those of hundreds of copycats that followed) featured Vikings, ancient German or Celtic tribes, battles and booze instead of real Pagan lore and philosophy. This was not what we considered to be Pagan and musically we had only a few elements in common with those bands. Instead the music industry jumped happily on this new trend and established what was to be considered “Pagan Metal” in the future, without even knowing what the term “pagan” was really all about and that there shouldn’t be any stylistic fixation to mark or describe a band as such. This should concern the lyrical content only. So it came to the curious situation, that we, as one of the first real Pagan bands in Germany and abroad, were considered by the press and fans to be “not the real stuff”. To finally set us apart from this appalling trend, we just decided to call our style “Wiccan Metal” from then on and thus created our own, smug niche.

When I’ve mentioned that in my opinion the last album sounds more heavier, it is because, listening to your previous albums, I can see differences, more folk elements, female vocalist…I don’t say the previous ones are not heavy at all, but the music is more in the folk/epic area, to say so….
Heiner: Yes, definitely. Back then it was quite unique and only a couple of bands used violins and/or clean and grim female vocals as we did. But as I mentioned in your last question, those elements were overly abused and ridiculized by this „Party-Pagan”-Scene. So we decided for the new album, that we needed to set us further apart from that scene with which we were always connected still. Therefore we wouldn’t use them anymore, but rather concentrate on what metal is all about: guitars, bass, drums and vox. There were always split opinions concerning our past use of female vocals and guest instruments (such as the violin), some liked it, some hated it. Consequently our decision was firmly rooted to record a very old school, straight in-your-face metal album, without any “superficial frippery” this time.

Then “Crow Of War“ is my favorite song of the album; I like those growls parts in this song and those heavy riffs, indeed!
Heiner: I love this song as well, in fact it was one of my favourites when it was still in its early stages. I fought hard in the rehearsal room to keep it simple and basic and as heavy as possible. I also proposed to integrate this Sabbath-like riff in the refrain into the song, which was originally in our collection of riff ideas, but was more or less discarded as it didn’t seem to fit to any of our original ideas. In the past there was always still a bit of „fighting” involved, to talk Marco into composing more simple, epic or even doomy stuff. He still cringes a bit at first at the proposition, but you need to gently insist and things are going the right way (or rather down the left hand path), hehe. I really like the dark and sinister mood the song transports and I’d love to do something like this again in the future.

What determined you not having a female vocalist anymore?
Marco: As explained earlier, we straightened our sound and dropped all guest musicians and also female vocals on behalf of getting a heavier, more primal album. It was the first time for us not to have any kind of guest instruments / musicians on an album.
Heiner: Maia (our former female singer) is my ex-wife and we have a son together. We parted as friends and we still are, but after we ended our marriage, obviously life changed a lot for both of us. Our son was still a child of six years back then, and as he stayed with Maia, she needed the time to care for him. Also she began a new and quite challenging job at this time , she now works as a psychologist in a hospital specialized on children with brain cancer. As you can imagine, this also means a lot of psychological stress on herself, she has to cope with. So there wasn’t any more time left for her to join our regular rehearsals or to play live gigs with us. In the end she decided to leave the band, but still inspires me regarding our concept and lyrics from “behind the scenes”. For the previous album, Consort Of The Dying God, she still agreed to partake in the recordings, as it did fit into the overall concept (which was co-written by her anyway), but decided to quit altogether, after the recordings were done. After she left, we experimented with some other female singers, but soon found out that her unique voice and singing style (especially her grim voice) can’t be properly replaced. So we decided to stop searching and do it all alone, going back to the roots in some way.

Are 6 years between Consort Of The Dying God and Hagzussa being released. Why took you so long with the release of the new material?
Heiner: The six years that have passed between Consort…and the new album have been quite turbulent. At first we started quite early to compose new stuff, as we wanted to release a follow-up as soon as possible. But then the usual fuck-ups started to occur, personal and/or financial problems, sudden line-up changes (which always lead to a delay, as any new member needs to learn the songs and has to integrate his personal style into the bands sound) and many other annoying things, causing further and further delays. But that’s over now, we’ve got the album out and so far the overall reactions are awesome. We couldn’t feel any better as a band right now!

By now I think we won’t wait for a new release so much time. Did you start writing new music?
Marco: We already have a song in the pipeline which originally was intended to be published on Hagzussa. But we weren’t satisified with the song in the end. We reworked it meanwhile, changed some riffs and just kept the original drumming. Additionally we have composed another new track, but this one is still under construction. As well, on my behalf, every time I’ll take my guitar some riffs are spilled out. Therefore I have a riff collection built up over the time the production of Hagzussa took. The ones fitting best will be included in future songs. But the arrangements will be made as a band. I am proud of the other musicians and their contribution towards our music. Therefore their input is highly welcome. Just if it’s not sounding GOM, Heiner and I will intervene, but there is no reason to not include their ideas since they make GOM even better and more versatile.
Heiner: Especially Seeb grew to be a new and important additional composing factor in GOM and his influence is very present on the new album. Quite a lot of the great riffs and melodylines on Hagzussa are based on his ideas.

Mention me a few of your influences.
Marco: Definitely Sabbat (UK) as a musical and lyrical input, but all kinds of NWOBHM, 80’s speed and thrash metal outfits as well as early black and death metal bands had an influential impact on us. There are too many names to mention.
Heiner: My faves and main influences (musically and/or lyrically) are as follows: Root, Cradle Of Filth, Sabbat (UK), early Skyclad, My Dying Bride, Black Sabbath, Cirith Ungol, Christian Death (with Rozz Williams), Primordial, Master’s Hammer, (old) Demon, Angel Witch, John Arch, Fields Of The Nephilim and the NWOBHM, in general.

Even though you are a band with active albums and still moving on, you are not that active live. What are the reasons?
Marco: I live 600 km apart from the band. We all have family and jobs and so we just rehearse once a month. Additionally, three out of five members have further bands and comittments to follow. It’s a kind of organisational / logistical problem getting all of us agreed upon a certain date. Be it for rehearsals or a gig. Still we try to apply for getting more gigs and I think our gig rate is increasing since 2015, where we have played a mini-tour with Waylander.

Most underground bands nowadays are struggling to do music and tour a lot, some of them are giving up in the end, you’re in the metal scene since the middle of `90 and still moving on. What do you consider to be the main factor(s) of a band still being active, no matter what?
Marco: It’s the same driving force as it has been back in the days. Speaking for myself, I MUST create music. I cannot live without it. It’s like forbidding me to breathe stopping that urge. We all grew up with the Metal of the 80ies and the ideology and rebellion it contained back then. We are old farts by now, but the original spirit is just there. It never went away, regardless of all disappointments and setbacks.
Heiner: It’s the fun being creative and having the opportunity to express oneself. Speaking of myself, it’s not only the singing itself, but also the writing of lyrics or drawing/painting the artwork which still satisfies me. And even though any major success or even financial gain was denied to us (and very probably will still be denied in the future), it is the positive reaction of fans (like you) or even fellow musicians from abroad that keeps us going. There’s nothing more satisfying to hear from a (probably) completely unknown person, that our music and/or lyrics were an inspiration for him/her, a source of motivation or even a soothing balm after a personal tragedy.

Describe the band in your early days vs today.
Marco: We became more mature and got better as musicians. Therefore we progressed and this is what a band should do in our opinion.

I hope you see you live one day! Thank you so much for this interview, it was my pleasure. Horns up guys!
Heiner: Thank you for the long and interesting interview! We appreciate the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a couple of metalheads who have probably never heard of us before and we’d also like to meet you all live on stage in the future and have a beer with all of you! Blessed be!

https://www.facebook.com/goatofmendes/

 

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