Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Ripple Conversation With Cities Of Mars


Swedish doom cosmonauts Cities Of Mars are hard at work putting the finishing touches to their debut ep “Celestial Mistress” coming in November on Suicide Records and are also preparing to record new material in Beserk Audio studio under the supervision of Monolords drummer and sound wizard Esben Willems early next year. We hooked up an interstellar radio link to Danne Palm (bass & vocals), Johan Kuchler (drums & vocals), and Christoffer Norén (guitar & vocals) to interrogate them Ripple style.  

What have been your musical epiphany moments?
C: It’s kind of hard to specify one or a couple of moments I guess. But the first time Lateralus by Tool was played my mind was pretty much blown away and I’m still trying to recover from that…
The same thing happened during the first listening to Crack the Skye (Mastodon), Sgt Peppers (The Beatles) and Far Beyond Driven (Pantera). So I guess my mind is pretty much shredded to pieces by now.
One time I remember as a real out of body experience is when Muse played at the Roskilde Festival back in ’07. The rain was pouring down during the entire festival and it was literally a flood in the camping area. But when Muse went on stage, the weather cleared and they did that kind of show where you are left absolutely speechless and with a sense of inner calm. Bellamy was all over the place and the crowd was ecstatic. I think it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
J: I have had a whole lot of musical revelations coming from live shows or hearing new music for the first time. But lately the biggest musical epiphany for me has been coming from inside our own rehearsal space. Not just for myself, where I feel the constant happy thrill of growing as a musician, taking new steps exploring my instrument. But also the way we (the band) are focused as a group, pushing each other and ultimately and hopefully creates a story that people wants to hear.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
C: For the most part we start off with a groove that evolves to the main core of a track. The idea is what comes next. We decide which part of the story that is ready to be explored. And then create the sound and atmosphere of the mood in that part of the story.
The lyrics and the sound of the track is written pretty much at the same time in order to get as much off an ambience as possible and get the listener to truly feel and understand the story they’re listening to.
D: It's good for us to have the general idea for sound and lyrics, since our theme is such a fundamental thing in our band. We know we won't be doing a concept album about World War 2 or just write some random angry lyrics that might sound cool to a riff. The music and lyrics really push one another and makes us think not only about the song itself but also how it fits into the larger picture of the main Cities of Mars story? 

Who has influenced you the most?
C: Led Zeppelin, Tool, Burst and Cult of Luna probably. And with a nice touch of the Beatles to mix it up a bit.
D: Back in the day it was AC/DC and 70's/80's hard rock. These days I get more inspiration from active bands doing their top game, like Elder, We Hunt Buffalo, High on Fire, Boss Keloid and many many others, releasing amazing new music.
J: Pantera, Alice in chains, Black Sabbath, Mastodon, RATM for example, are some of the bands that have shaped the musical path i have taken. Then there is also a core influence and inspiration deep down, taken from music i grew up with. Mostly 70s rock.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
C: I believe we’re taking in inspiration and influence from everything around us. As much from the shitty songs on the radio as from the favorite record that you listen to everyday. I think it has a lot to do with the context of the moment your listening to the different songs. You can hear the same song a hundred times and the hundred and first time you listen to it you get the inspiration you need to create that perfect riff.
The latest source of inspiration I think is Elders masterpiece Lore and We Hunt Buffalos brilliant album Living Ghosts.
D: The bands above and many more, releasing great music. But also sci-fi games, RPGs, Lovecraftian fiction, comics... I was over 40 when Cities of Mars become a reality and for my own part I get both inspiration and motivation from the fact that our current music is the best I've ever been a part of. Our process together really exceeded my every expectation, and that pushes me to work even harder all the time.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
D: I'm a countryside guy myself but moved to Gothenburg 20 years ago and found all the musical excitement there that I never knew in my little home town. Local metal bands were going places, the "Gothenburg Sound" melodic death metal was evolving, and the city has decades of musical heritage. So for me, it was an endless exploration for a couple of years. Today, the city has tons of talented musicians and bands, ranging from extreme metal to, hip hop, reggae, folk and the whole spectrum. I guess that creative energy rubs off on us in some way. Today, clubs and venues are appearing out of the underground more and more, small places in the outskirts of town, where people who are passionate about live music are gathering. Those places provide gigs for the bands that we love, because the established clubs are having an ever harder time setting up those gigs, tied up in tons of laws and regulations. 
Inspiration-wise though, I don't feel that our location has any major impact on our music. We all listen to music from all over the world on a daily basis, we try to go see the underground bands that we love when they play here but I believe that these days we could live basically anywhere and still get inspiration over the internet.  

Where'd the band name come from?
D: The concept is the backbone of the band, we decided from the start that we didn't want to jam around and eventually find a direction, but to rather have a very clear idea about sound, lyrical themes, artwork and everything. Cities of Mars was a good title for this, hopefully evoking ideas from the hundreds of years of humanity where we have made legends and speculations about the red planet. We eventually decided some major plot lines in the story that spans from around 7000 BC until today, and all those stories revolve, in some way, around the hidden Cities of Mars and its citizens.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
C: Mad Max. It’s right kind of environment and has a nice “everything’s gone to shit” attitude.
D: The sequel to Blade Runner perhaps? It will probably suck big time, so it might as well have a good soundtrack?
J: I really like zombie flicks, so maybe an upcoming horror/action/adventure zombie-movie set on a distant planet with a real absence of dialog. Just to make the songs punch through.

What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
C: We’re exploring the expanse of Mars and the story that goes along with it. As far as the know World knows the Soviet Union didn’t make it to Mars during the space race in the '50s and '60s. We are of different opinion and we have the necessary equipment to communicate what actually happened with the Soviet space program.
While the story evolves further we also get an understanding about what happened to Mars in the early days and why it has become such a desolate place.
D: And for those that aren't that much into sci-fi storytelling, we hope that crushing riffs, grooves and a few vocal hooks will provide decent entertainment too?

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
D: We work very hard in writing songs that are suited for us three on a stage, all our songs are recorded live in a room with all our gear in a live setup and we want to push ourselves in playing better and singing shared leads better. I believe that audiences of heavy music aren't used to three singers in a band. This sets us apart from many other bands, allowing us to have a broader sonic palette than most three-piece bands? It will be awesome getting on tour in November, to really hone our live skills together! 

What makes a great song?
D: A hook, for me personally. Regardless of genre, a great song needs to stay in your head in some way, be it a riff, a melody line or a lyric phrase. Walls of random heavy riffs won't be included in the history of rock.
J: I also think that a great song mostly has some kind of relevance at the time of its making, a message that just defines the way the bands/artists are trying to communicate with their audience 
C: Coming from a background of progressive music and jazz I kind of think that something that keeps the interest up and the listener focused is vital. For me it doesn’t matter if that is an awesome riff or a sweet melody, as long as it is creative and interesting.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
D: My first song ever, was probably a total rip-off from a Breeders song, back in the early 90's. Horrible. But for Cities of Mars, the song The Third Eye was written very shortly after the band idea came to life. The beginning phrases "Thunder rolling on the plains of the red sand/storm is howling across these dead lands/mountain of the gods rise into the dark sky/spires of Bahb-Elon loom in eternal night" is still a very good introduction to our musical world?

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
D: I would say that our first two-track single with The Third Eye and Cyclopean Ritual has a certain place in my heart. Johan had only been in the band for six weeks, we had borrowed a water mill workshop in the woods, set up our gear in a room full of old machinery and recorded those two songs in complete live takes. That impressed the hell out of me, a newly formed band performing like that.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
D: Good songwriters are abundant, in every genre, I think. But right now I would say that We Hunt Buffalo really stood out on their Living Ghosts album. The instrumental opening track Ragnarök sets the mood, and is followed by the incredible riff and twin lead vocals of Back to The River and then it all kicks into the overdriven juggernaut of Prairie Oyster. That is a devastating opening of an album, with heaviness, melody, groove and hooks! 
C: What Daniel said. That is sweet album with a lot of finesse.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
D: Vinyl for its sound and beauty. I'm no collector or anything, but I usually buy LPs from bands that I like to support them. Sorry to say, most LPs in my home are mainly decoration, so services like Bandcamp is my main source of actual musical entertainment. CDs seem like a rather obsolete format to me.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice.
J: Beer, any day.
D: Beer or weed, depending on company and location. Whisky is a highly overrated beverage.
C: Whiskey every time you really want to indulge in something and just embrace the moment. But you can never say no to a nice, cold beer.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
D: In Gothenburg you need to check out Andra Långgatans Skivhandel and Bengans at Stigbergstorget.

What's next for the band?
D: We are currently busy writing songs and planning the last few dates for the November tour. It will be a 14-date run in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, ten of those dates will be with Swiss heavy psychers Echolot, starting Nov 4th in Jönköping. Six new songs are being written for the album recording, once again with Esben Willems producing, in early February. And the EP Celestial Mistress is coming on a beautiful 12" gatefold record in November!

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
D: Thanks for your interest and support!


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