Insanity put into paper and atmospheres. Atmosphere created by wicked songs and structures that do not give you relaxation, but rather keeps you wide awake afraid to loose a single detail. Details are everywhere. You just have to patient and search. And you will find. Imhotep's Roy Kristensen found Christof Niederwieser, who has done it all on the band's amazing journey "PhantasmaChronica".
The idea of making one track, one long journey through different soundscapes, is a daring idea and it demands a full vision to make it come through. How did this idea evolve from its initial spark to the final result and what was the most difficult aspect of making "PhantasmaChronica"?
"It started with enigmatic pictures that came into my head, first only as short fluctuations at the very edge of consciousness. Over time these pictures became sharper, clearer. And one day they started a life of their own. So I began to investigate them, to explore the secrets behind them. But I only found new secrets and riddles. It nearly drove me insane. And I knew that I could only get rid of this possession if I reconstruct these riddles in an album. Now I am redeemed, at least from the “PhantasmaChronica” pictures…
The most difficult aspect of making “PhantasmaChronica” was time. When you are besieged by countless people who want something from you seven days a week from 8h00 to 20h00, then it’s nearly impossible to keep up any creative flow. It only was possible with a massive lack of sleep, standing up every morning at 4h00 and with special hypnotic techniques."
Personally I only listen to the one-track version instead of the 14-tracker (which is of course the same music, but it's easier to stop after track 5 than during the one track). How did you work with the different sections to make it one long journey instead of making a few tracks? I mean, there had to be some challenges where you probably didn't make things float the way you intended, and you had to work your way around it...?
"The challenge wasn’t the 1-tracker. It was the 14-tracker. Making one whole song in the length of 47 minutes was natural. It has just flown out like a river from a well. But then dismembering this song into 14 parts has been the difficult thing. The cuts could have been anywhere. And I struggled with myself for a long time if this dismemberment should take place at all. But in the end I decided that the listener’s comfort needs a kind of dismemberment into tracks. So these 14 tracks are just for you, the listener. And I didn’t spend much time in defining or naming them. The subdivisions are most of all a “technical” thing."
The booklet is also something that makes me raise an eyebrow, or even two. It seems well thought, it's filled with images and somehow I think that there're connections between the lyrics and the image on each separate page. Is this more like an "you should buy the physical product instead of downloading the shit"-trickery? I, for one, is sold, he he... But seriously, how do you melt everything together, keeping the balance between making this understandable and at the same time challenging?
"The lyrics, the whole story of “PhantasmaChronica” is very visual. It doesn’t talk about feelings, opinions or abstract things like philosophies or politics. It builds a world of language pictures. Working with pictures has a huge advantage: you can construct a story on several parallel planes. You have the literal plane that may seem like an ordinary fantasy or science fiction story on the surface. But you also have several symbolic planes underneath the surface. This is the plane of hidden truths, the unconscious plane of archetypes.
The artwork reflects the story by filling the landscape with certain pictures out of the storyline in a chronological way. It’s kept very abstract, simple and elementary as it shouldn’t influence too much your own pictures in your head when floating through the album. “PhantasmaChronica” is not a solution. It’s a riddle. So it challenges you by understanding it in your own, personal way.
Ah, the music. The vocals. The insanity. You never really know what comes next. When you listen to the whole piece yourself, is there any section that means more to you, anything that is the definite highlight?
"Thanks, man! Producing everything in my own studio had the huge advantage that I could spend hundreds of hours with the recording and production of the vocals. Sometimes there are more than 50 different vocal tracks at the same time. This is what I really adored and enjoyed most - singing huge choirs of insanity with myself. And nobody was able to observe me! Recording vocals in complete solitude is the ultimate experience, a whole new dimension.
I don’t have any personal highlights or sections that I prefer more. But if I had to choose one 5 minutes segment, e.g. for samplers or teasers, I probably would take “10 - The Drill-Tower”, as many different facets of the album are in there at the same time: the heaviness, the weird harmonies, the orchestral bombast, the growls and screams, the clean choirs etc. This also is one of the oldest parts of “PhantasmaChronica”, still from the very beginnings in 2006."
When you do this effect where the music increases wildly in tempo only to decrease and increase and decrease..., is it something to make it even wilder or is this and other effects there due to the story/concept? You probably know that this said part is annoying...
"Story, music and lyrics are an entity. In this part the man in the room starts to turn the arrows of his clock. And as he turns the arrows slow and fast also the speed of time becomes slow and fast. As he manipulates the arrows on his clock he also manipulates time. This is not only a part of the lyrics, but also a part of the music. So also the music starts to speed up and down. So not only the man in the story falls out of the net of time. Also the listener loses his habitual perspective of time – which might be annoying for some...
And a couple of minutes later the whole world in the story turns upside down. So also the lyrics in the booklet turn upside town and you have to rotate the booklet 180 degrees to read the lyrics.
I like such elements, when the story jumps out of its words and spreads onto other planes of perception.
There are some parts that are insanely great, such as in the one-song version, mark 36.12 minutes. Lasting only 23 seconds. So, when do you know which parts that must be used for quite some time, and where to just have such a short pieces as the already mentioned one?
"This was one of those parts that just flew out spontaneously, nearly automatically. It has been composed, arranged and recorded in only one evening. It takes place in a part of the story where many things happen in a very short time. So there are also several different riffs and parts in the music in a very short time.
The part before is quite long and repetitive. Out of the universe singularity slowly grows a cell that becomes an embryo and finally a child. It’s a very slow and fragile process, so also the music is slow and fragile and seems to take forever. At 36:12 minutes the child rapidly grows. The pace of life is speeding up and he collects many different experiences in a short time. So this part is only short and changes very soon into other musical parts. So structure always follows content."
In today's scene, where fast food music is basically what survives the steadily decreasing consuming of albums and all that is left are singles and songs..., where does Chryst fit in? I mean, "Phantasmachronica" is one long song and cannot be easily sold...
"Sales are not the major focus of Chryst. If my target was to earn good money with music, I’d play cover-versions of oldies and chart-hits at weddings. The target is to explore new dimensions of music, to build new worlds of words, sounds and pictures. The mainstream won’t care about it. But there is also a scene of weirdos out there in search of mental challenges. And for these brothers and sisters we record our albums.
When we started in the early 1990ies it has been extremely difficult to find these brothers and sisters. There only were the mainstream distribution and promotion channels like print magazines to reach anybody. Now it has become very easy. Via internet we can have direct contact to anybody interested, even if (s)he lives in the last corner of this world. We have 20.000 visitors each month with avant-garde-metal.com. At omniversal.net we sell Chryst albums to countries all around the globe. This is paradise compared to the situation we had in our early days.
There's a lot going on, speaking of genres. What inspires you musically speaking, and how do you think the average listener will approach such a chaotic journey as the Chryst album really is?
"The first influence is 80ies synthie pop music, for this is the music I grew up and started with. I still like the cold, clinical and sad atmosphere of this era. The second important influence is the extreme metal that I remember from the 1990ies. Not specific bands, but the overall atmosphere of Black/Death/Avantgarde metal. I still like this style of music very much, but had to minimize listening to it 10 years ago when having problems with my ears. So I am not really up to date here.
Another crucial influence are the Prog/Psychedelic/Kraut bands from the 1960ies/1970ies. Such a huge wealth of experimentation and new ideas has never appeared again afterwards in youth culture. I see “PhantasmaChronica” a lot in this tradition, especially when it comes to epic, long songs, innovative structures and arrangements and surreal, otherworldly story concepts. And then there’s the avant-garde and expressionistic vein of classical music that left some footprints in my music.
Apart from that there’s also a considerable influence from surreal, symbolic and existentialistic movie makers like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman or early Lars von Trier or painters like Salvatore Dalí, Ernst Fuchs, Max Ernst or Paul Delvaux."
Composed by Roy Kristensen