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Mystigma - Interview

Interview with: Torsten Bäumer
Conducted by: Ines

Dark and melodic, Mystigma has been present on the scene for almost two decades and with their latest release, Unzerbrechlich, the band opened a new chapter. Musically familiar to its predecessor, Andagony, the new style broke through many boundaries and showed even greater variety, combining classical Goth ambient with a touch of metal and electronic music. With the use of German language in their lyrics, Mystigma laid new and solid foundations in their sound and also covered a famous hit "Rebel Yell", originally by Billy Idol, in their own manner. In case you were ever familiar with a band Tears Of Mystigma, you are still in the right place, because the band changed its name in 2005. Why so, why "Rebel Yell", why the five year silence in between Universal Surrender and Andagony and much more, you will find out after reading a conversation I had with the band's charismatic and very kind vocalist and frontman, Torsten Bäumer.

Ines: Hello Torsten, how are you these days and what have you been up to?
Torsten: Hi Ines! Thank you for starting the interview with us and of course for supporting Mystigma! These days I am really fine. We released a new video and single in the beginning of April, called "Gottlos" and now we’ll continue our concert season and we will play some club gigs and festivals all over this year.
Ines: That sounds great! Looking forward to it?
Torsten: Hm, always a bit nervous. But of course at the same time I’m really looking forward to live shows. I always hope that everything works out, as I imagine it would.
Ines: I imagine in years of Mystigma's existence you had your fair share of live shows. Could you point out a particular show in Mystigma's history that you would say you remembered the most?
Torsten: Hm, I think the show at the Wave Gothik Treffen in Leipzig a few years ago was amazing! But there are so many great shows that I still remember. For example all the concerts we played last year.
Ines: Have you ever been to Slovenia?
Torsten: No, unfortunately never. But it would be great to play there. Maybe, someday.
Ines: You mentioned you released a new single and video and if I remember correctly we also had “Gotloss” featured as video of the week on Terra Relicta! Does “Gotloss” mean you have new material in process?
Torsten: Yes, you featured "Gottlos" as Video of the week, that was a really great experience for us and it was for the second time. Our clip "Bloodline" was featured as Video of the week, too. And yes, we have some new material in progress. I think 7-8 songs are written and we’re still in the process.

Ines: Can we expect a new Mystigma release soon?
Torsten: Well, not this year, but definitely in 2015.
Ines: Are you headed in the same direction with the new material as the previous two releases or can we expect something new?
Torsten: At the moment I would say you can expect something new. But as I said, we’re still in the process.
Ines: Who is the main creative force in Mystigma? How does the song writing process go in your band?
Torsten: Mainly my brother Jörg composes the music and I write the lyrics and the vocal lines.
Ines: Do you and your brother come from a musical family?
Torsten: Not really. I would say we come from a “music – interested” family.
Ines: What inspires you the most in writing lyrics?
Torsten: Life, sometimes movies I watch.
Ines: What kind of movies do you prefer?
Torsten: Darker movies, with atmosphere. I don’t like comedies.
Ines: Lyric-wise you also transitioned from using English language to German, what was the reason for that?
Torsten: I think there are many things I can simply describe better in German language. The meaning becomes more straight-forwards and I think my voice is expressed in a more emotional manner than in English.
Ines: Well, I agree to that because I always loved the use of German language in music. But that wasn't the only change in your band; you also changed your name from Tears Of Mystigma to simply Mystigma some years ago. What's the meaning behind those two names and why did you decide for a change?
Torsten: Mystigma simply sounds catchier and it’s easier to remember. Also I’d say too many bands use the word "Tears" in their name already. Mystigma describes everything we want to tell and what our music stands for.
Ines: You said before that life experiences and movies inspire you lyrics-wise. But which bands would you expose as an overall influence on Mystigma's music?
Torsten: Mystigma’s sound is influenced by different kinds and genres of music. Gothic, classic, electronic, metal and rock. It’s difficult to name all the bands, but without Paradise Lost, Mystigma wouldn’t exist in this form.
Ines: Which Paradise Lost album would you state as your favourite then?
Torsten: I think One Second, because it’s more experimental, but still shows the trademark sound of the band. That album has great songs, but at the same time they are quite different from what we’ve been used from Paradise Lost.
Ines: Well, we'd agree to that, I also am a big fan of One Second. Speaking of favourite albums, what about Mystigma - which of your albums would you choose as your personal favourite?
Torsten: The last one - Unzerbrechlich!
Ines: Why?
Torsten: It has the best songs and the best production!
Ines: I’m on the same page with you, it is a great album. But if we go back to the early days could you tell to our readers the story of how Mystigma was born was back in the days?
Torsten: Oh, hm. We were all friends who shared the love for great and dark music. So we decided to do it as our favourite bands do. We bought the instruments and formed Tears Of Mystigma and began to create –well - noise, ha ha.
Ines: So you started out of nothing or did any of you had any experience with playing the in-struments and such?
Torsten: We started out of nothing!
Ines: Wow, impressive. Are your vocals pure talent?
Torsten: Oh, no! The first years I only screamed and growled. Then I started to practise singing.
Ines: Did you or your band-mates collaborate on any other projects outside Mystigma?
Torsten: No, we didn’t, nor we do now. Our first and second drummers have new projects however.
Ines: Now we talked before what and who inspires you, what about vice-versa: do you recall being named as an influence by any other band/musician?
Torsten: I don't know. Maybe. But I haven't heard about that.
Ines: Well, I'm pretty sure that your unique and rich sound influenced some musicians. Now what about your fans? I see on your Facebook profile you call them "Mystigmaniacs", what kind of audience do you appeal the most? Goth, rock, industrial?
Torsten: Thank you. It's interesting, but I think we appeal to the gothic rock and gothic metal listeners the most. Our fans, yes we call them “Mystigmaniacs” - a mix between Mystigma and maniacs. We have a fan group which is called so as well.
Ines: Now with your latest album, Unzerbrechlich, you changed the direction of the sound a bit. Was that in order to appeal to a broader audience or did it occur naturally to you while processing the album?
Torsten: Well, most people said the new album sounds softer and I guess some also mean that it’s more commercial. The sound and the songs are the result of a natural process and the progress of the band.
Ines: Did you intend to go more commercial?
Torsten: No, not really. But it’s our intention to write catchy and melodic songs, which will stay in your ears for a long time and spread the atmosphere we want to create.
Ines: As you mentioned creating atmosphere, your vocals are - in my opinion - a great part of that. Very expressive and emotional and do bring a lot of atmosphere to your songs. Do you have any special recipe for that?
Torsten: Thank you very much for your kind words. I always try to do what I believe will fit to our sound the most and I'll do so in the future and aim to progress more and more. If people like it, it's great and of course important to me and the band.
Ines: I simply cannot go by without mentioning, that for your closing act on your latest album you chose to cover Billy Idol's “Rebel Yell”. I am a big fan of Idol and “Rebel Yell” definitely is one of the songs everyone knows, so you can't go wrong with it. Your interpretation, however, is incredibly good and it left a specific “Mystigma” seal on it. What was the reason you decided to cover this particular song, especially since so many other bands have covered it already?
Torsten: Believe it or not, but we didn’t know that so many bands covered the song already. Our producer said to keep our fingers away from it, but we didn’t listen to him at all. We all simply love this song too and when we perform it live, it’s a killer and always one of the most wanted!
Ines: Well, I'm glad you didn't listen to the producer this time. But how does it work with covers, do you need to get permission before releasing it? Does Billy Idol know about your cover?
Torsten: No, I think he doesn’t know our version. With covers, it’s no problem at all; you only have to put the song writing credits to the inlay. Only if we’d do a video for it, we’d need to get per-missions and it would be a lot more complicated. But that was never in our interest.
Ines: Thank you for clearing that for me, I always wondered. Do you consider doing any more cover songs in the future?
Torsten: Do you have any ideas? We thought about it, but in a few days of contemplating, nothing came out of it.
Ines: Perhaps something totally out of the box, like Michael Jackson's “Thriller”?
Torsten: Ha, ha, well, that’s a great idea, but I think I’d have to sacrifice one of my important body parts in order to do the vocals for it.
Ines: Heh, well not necessarily. The beauty of a good cover to do it in your own manner, I believe. But then again, there's no point in rushing. Just like “Rebel Yell” occurred naturally to you, maybe some other song will. Do you play any cover songs on your live gigs, that you never recorded, just for the fun or because you love it?
Torsten: Yes, we play Paradise Lost’s “Say Just Words” from time to time. Always a great experience.
Ines: Ok, so, you said earlier that your latest album is your favourite and you did change your approach to music over the years, so what do you think about your first works nowadays: spe-cifically your first two demos The Oriole Speaks and Caressing Mystigma and the EP The Vanishing Sun?
Torsten: I think that these releases were our first steps in the underground scene. I look upon those two album as experiences, which all bands have to make to progress with their music and a foundation to go further and to find their own style. In that time the releases were okay, but of course I can’t listen to them nowadays without laughing.
Ines: Let's say I would try to introduce your music to someone who has no idea of you; would you recommend starting from the beginning or from your latest two full length albums?
Torsten: Definitely from our latest two full length albums!
Ines: Do Mystigmaniacs that were there for you in the years of Tears Of Mystigma still follow you? Would you say you appealed to new fan-base with your latest two full lengths?
Torsten: I think we definitely appealed a new fan base with the latest two releases. Another for that: there are 5 years between the release of Universal Surrender and Andagony. We had problems with the line-up and had to find ourselves in that time between 2005 and 2010.

Ines: Interestingly you mentioned that, as I was about to ask you what was the reason for a 5 year gap between Universal Surrender and Andagony. Was the departure of drummer the only reason for that?
Torsten: Yes, I think so. We recruited another drummer in that time, but only had problems with him. In the end, the drummer who was on Universal Surrender came back, but left us again in 2011. In 2012 our current drummer Malte joined the band.
Ines: So the current line-up is working well now?
Torsten: Yes. We're really satisfied.
Ines: That's great and I really hope you'll be continuing on this path for some more time. Now we've talked a wee bit about your live shows before, but a question I got to ask: which band or bands would you like to tour with, if anything was possible?
Torsten: Paradise Lost, Rammstein or Oomph.
Ines: Great choices indeed. Generally, do you do more solo gigs or with other bands?
Torsten: More with other bands. That’s okay for us and of course for the audience; because they see more bands live in one night. 
Ines: When and where can we see you in future? 
Torsten: This year we’ll play some summer festivals and some club-shows too, later in autumn.
Ines: And how about you personally as a viewer and listener, what was the best show you ever went to?
Torsten: Oh, Rammstein’s live performances, without any doubt! And shows of Paradise Lost and Tiamat back in the 90s.
Ines: Torsten, thank you so much for your time and for sharing the story of Mystigma with us and of course, wishing you all the best music-wise as well as in personal life. Got any famous last words for our readers?
Torsten: I would like to thank to all the readers of Terra Relicta for being interested in Mystigma and in this interview. Also, you’re most welcome to visit our Facebook profile and follow us and what we’re doing. And thank you Ines and Terra Relicta for supporting us so much! That’s really great!

Mystigma links: Official website, Facebook