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Kreuzweg Ost - Interview

Interview with: Michael "Silenius" Gregor

Conducted by: T.V.

Austrian Kreuzweg Ost are one of those rare bands in todays musical world that still bring something unique, fresh and interesting into somehow stagnating scene, yet, without losing that special component which makes them approachable to listeners of many different genres. Formed in 1998 by Michael "Silenius" Gregor (Summoning, Abigor, Amestigon, ...) and Martin Schirenc (Hollenthon, Pungent Stench, ...) who after their debut album left the band. Their current line-up consists of Michael, Ronald Albrecht and Oliver Stummer.   They released three albums: Iron Avantgarde, Edelrost and in the beginning of this year magnificient Gott Mit Uns. In this occasion we did an interview with their leader Michael "Silenius" Gregor who revealed us quite a lot of interesting things about Kreuzweg Ost and also about upcoming Summoning album, plus more what you can read below.

T.R.: Can you explain me the meaning of the band name Kreuzweg Ost and what did you want to express with it?
Silenius: As far as i can remember I had the initial idea for the name when I was walking over a mountain near my hometown and I saw this directional sign entitled Kreuzberg Ost. I changed it to Kreuzweg Ost and that was the birth of the band name. The basic english translation is "crosspath east". As the first release of Kreuzweg Ost was closely connected with World War 2 the band name could be suggested as a kind of crusade from west to east or as another suggestion a kind of expansion from the east against the world, may it be spiritual, warlike, in religious ways or cultural like. After all the band name can be indicated in different personal ways.
T.R.: The musical approach of Kreuzweg Ost is very original, where this idea of creating music in such a way came from?
Silenius: After I was a huge metal fan for a long time, beginning from my childhood until the midst of my twenties, I changed my musical interests more and more to the industrial scene with all its playgrounds of noise dark ambient, folk, martial and soundscapes. I think the influences from these fields are obvious. But in contrary to many bands and projects from this genre I was used from the metalscene to compose melodies and  make concrete song structures and most important of all to make arrangements for several melodies woven together. I think that differs alot from others from this genre who concentrate more on sound finding and modulation.
T.R.: That must be also the reason that quite a lot of ambiances in Gott Mit Uns are in a way similar to those in your band Summoning...
Silenius: Well, yes of course. The way of composing is at least similar to Summonning. In the beginning it was more different. I wanted the music to be more noise like, and so the melody lines on Iron avantgarde have been very simple as a kind of bass line to connect the different noises. But since Edelrost the melodies have become more complex and melodic and most of all arranged for several voices. That's very rare within the industrial scene but of course a kind od trademark for Summoning. As the new album Gott Mit Uns is the most melodic release of Kreuzweg Ost so far, the similarities to Summoning are of course obvious. But I don't think of this to be something bad.
T.R.: I can see that Gott Mit Uns and also previous album Edelrost are much more listener friendly than debut Iron Avantgarde...
Silenius: In the beginning it was not so clear in which direction I wanted to go with Kreuzweg Ost. It was very influenced by powernoise in those times, and it was very important that this project differs completley to Summoning and everything I have done before. In those times Martin from Pungent Stench was still in the band, and this of course influenced the sound in terms of different experimentations. Later, together with the two new members the sound and the presentation of Kreuzweg Ost more and more went to the classical fields of martial industrial as we know it today and as this young subgenre has develloped in general.
T.R.: Why Martin left Kreuzweg Ost and how Oliver and Ronald fit into the band?
Silenius: Martins heart always belonged to metal music and so it was clear right from the beginning, that Kreuzweg Ost was just a sidekick and interludium for him. Later Pungent Stench was reformed and he was busy with Hollenthon and produced different bands in his studio. He simply had no time any more, and I guess somehow lost his interest. To find new members finally was not so difficult as it could have been. I remembered Ronald because he had given me some demos of him with a sound similar to the projects of the label Cold Meat Industry. From this point he was responsible for several rhytmics and sounds within the Kreuzweg Ost family. Oliver was the last one to join us. He worked at the same Cd store, made strange and minimal electronic music, and was a kind of allrounder in producing music of all different styles. So the line up was completed.
T.R.: Still, how are you satisfied with Gott Mit Uns?
Silenius: I think it is far to early to make a final conclusion to the general response of the fans, but we are optimistic and think that this release could be something very special for the development of the genre. We will see....
T.R.: The movie samples used in the songs... how long does it takes to find the right ones and what's the main system behind all this?
Silenius: I have to buy tons of DVDs to find interesting sound and spoken word samples. Each taken sample is getting stored, and in the end we have several archives with a lot of different material. When all the music is composed and recorded we add them as a puzzle, which of course is a long and often difficult part of work. After all we avoid to use samples from big hollywood movies and search for less known arthouse movies and other hidden treasures.
T.R.: Do you take any note of how much movies does it take to watch and then find the right ones for one Kreuzweg Ost release?
Silenius: To find the right samples for Edelrost and Gott Mit Uns I have bought and explored around hundred movies. So you can see, it takes pretty much time to find a fitting lyrical conception beside the musical realisation.
T.R.: Can you reveal us from which movies were the samples taken for Gott Mit Uns?                  Silenius: "Stammen" for examplel includes samples from an Ingmar Bergman film. Other movies are Becket, the Louis Malle film Black Moon, The Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn, Eisensteins Iwan and some bible movies like The Passion Of Christ and others.
T.R.: You must be a real movie expert after seing so much of them. Please tell me few movie titles that made the biggest impression on you?
Silenius: No, I would not call myself an expert in movies, but I am an interested person who always searches for new and old less known movies, that can be explored for Kreuzweg Ost. Concerning arthouse films I defenitely prefer the Ingmar Bergman collection because of the cold and desperate atmosphere. But I also like total trash movies, especially the totally cheap barbarian and wannabe Conan movies from Italy in the early eighties. In general I prefer films from the genres war, sword & sorcery, politics and different independent movies and of course old black and white films of all genres.
T.R.: Is there any special message in those words on your albums?
Silenius: Well the concept on this record is obvious, it proclaims a kind of fit for military service christianity based on European culture and tradition. We even started this topic on our Edelrost cd, but there the concept was less uniform and had a more military approach. What is very important for us, is not to lead the listener in any pro or contra direction, but to let the lyrical propaganda speak for its own. Most of the lyrics have a very simple sometimes even silly approach but together with the music they reveal their dismayed powers of strong propaganda. Thats the essence of Kreuzweg Ost.
T.R.: Was the initial idea or inspiration to start Kreuzweg Ost musical or movie world?
Silenius: The process of starting Kreuzweg Ost was a creeping one. In the midst of the 90s my musical taste changed more and more to sounds and styles like industrial, noise, martial, ambient and folk. Metal music became more and more boring, and labels like Cold Meat Industry, Steinklang, Tesco Organisation or Cold Spring far more interesting. To explore new forms of extreme music was very refreshing in those times. This new dedication was the initial push to make something on my own and Kreuzweg Ost was given birth.
T.R.: Long seven years have passed since Edelrost till Gott Mit Uns. What was the reason?
Silenius: There is no special reason. After all making music is not the center of my life anymore as it was in the nineties. And the flow of creativity is of course less strong as it was in the beginning. So it needs a lot more time to hold the level as it was in our "storm and stress" time. Meanwhile I concentrate on the works for a new Summoning output. The last output is also six or seven years ago.
T.R.: Your first record was released on Napalm records, but latter you signed with Cold Spring. What was the reason and how are you satisfied with your current label?
Silenius: The first release on Napalm was the result of an alliance between Martin and me. Our main bands Hollenthon and Summoning were signed to Napalm and so it was obvious to sign there. For Napalm this release turned out to be a flop because it was no metal at all and too different and disturbing for most of the fans of our main bands. On the other side we did not reach the industrial audience as we were signed on a metal label. With Cold Spring we now reach exactly the right people, and as the label has signed several projects from musicians coming from the metal scene more and more fans from this genre get interested to explore some new musical fields.
T.R.: I sense some Laibach influences in Kreuzweg Ost music, am I right?
Silenius: No, not at all. Although I have a cd collection of more than 1000 items there is no single Laibach cd amongst them. Many years ago I borrowed several outputs of the band and of course I liked some of the songs, but I was never that impressed to buy them, and they did not influence me at all. But as far as I know Oliver likes them very much.
T.R.: Before you mentioned that you are concentrated on a new Summoning output. Can you already reveal something about that? Will it follow the lines of Oath Bound or will be there some surprises?
Silenius:  It's far too early to talk about directions of sound and lyrical themes. What I can say is, that this time we will have in the end far more songs that we need for an album. So maybe we will release some of them especially on vinyl. And after a long time there will be a song again in the vain of "Passing Of The Grey Company" and "Khazad Dum". And the guitar melodies will be close to the old Burzum style: catchy and melancholic. Everything else must mature. I can say more in the end of the year.
T.R.: It's there any provisional date when this album (new from Summoning) should be released?
Silenius: We hope that we could finish the work for the new album until the end of this year, so that it could be released in the first part of 2013. But of course we take all time we need to get a satisfying result.
T.R.: You said that you lost a lot of interest for metal music, but still, a part of your heart must  be there as you are beside Summoning also a member of Amestigon?
Silenius:  I am not a member of Amestigon, but a session singer for one or two songs since the last three releases. Although I see them very seldom nowadays they are of course all good friends of mine since a long time, and I like their rough black metal style. So they are a kind of fountain of youth for me as their music remembers me on my beginnings in the early nineties with Abigor and Summoning. As far as I know they work on a new album and hopefully I will sing one song again.
T.R.: If we look at your biographies, you and also other members from Kreuzweg Ost and Summoning were involved in many side bands and projects, but (as far as I know) none of those bands had live appearances, why it's this so?
Silenius: Kreuzweg Ost, Summoning and Abigor are just studio bands/projects, at least they turned out to be so after all the years. On the other hand Richard of Summoning did live concerts with Ice Ages or Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, as well as Oliver from Kreuzweg Ost did some gigs with his own projects. Amestigon again is a pure studio band again but the half of the band plays live with their folk band Graumahd. All in all there is no special reason for this situation, it just happend as it is.
T.R.: What will be the next steps for Kreuzweg Ost and is there anything else that you'll like to add at the end of this interview?
Silenius: It will take some years again to release another album but we definitely will continue with it. I don't know in which direction Kreuzweg Ost will go in the future by now, maybe we also do some more noisy songs again, who knows? In the moment I concentrate on Summoning. That's the plan for the near future.