Friday, March 1, 2019

Interview with BEN BLUTZUKKER by Dave Wolff

Ben Blutzukker and Liv Kristine
Interview with BEN BLUTZUKKER

What are your goals as a musician? Did you have other aspirations before pursuing music as a career?
I am a software developer by day and a musician by night. My goal is always to compose and record songs I like to listen to. After that, I hope others like it.

In the 2000s you worked with the German death metal band Jormundgard. Did you appear on their demos from 2003 and 2007?
I played bass guitar for them from 2000 to 2004, so I wasn't involved in their last demo. But the demo from 2003 [Ragna Rock] was a full-length album we produced ourselves. We were lucky enough to use the equipment from a local music foundation. It was a great experience for me to record, edit and mix on my own. In that time we played many concerts in our home region, also as support for bands like Belphegor and Suidakra.

Who lent equipment for Jormundgard to record Ragna Rock? Was this the first demo you independently recorded, edited and mixed?
The KMI (Krefelder Musiker Initiative) had a little demo studio we could use free of charge. That was great as we had no given schedule. It was a perfect situation to learn about working with knobs and faders. Before that I only had a Tracker program on my computer with little possibilities to produce.

Were you satisfied with your production work for Jormundgard? Did the finished product convince you to continue mixing and producing?
By that time, I was satisfied, sure. But when I hear it now, I know what mistakes I made at that time. But for a self-produced demo from 2003 it still sounds good.

How many shows did you and Jormundgard play? Are any performances uploaded to Youtube?
I guess we played around fifteen gigs in that period. We have nothing available on YouTube. That was the time before mobile internet and cell phones with video cameras.

What were your experiences opening for Belphegor and Suidakra like? At what locations did you perform with those bands?
Both concerts were in our hometown Krefeld (near Düsseldorf). But I never met the musicians of the big acts so there was no direct experience I made because of our support slots.

Did Jormundgard appear at local clubs or did they also make fest appearances?
We only had local concerts in clubs, maybe 50 kilometers around Krefeld.

Why did you eventually part company with Jormundgard? Is this band still active and are you still in touch with them? Do you know if they are working on new material?
I had the feeling that I wasn’t progressing anymore. My new founded Dark Electro project was more fun - and received all my attention. They never said it was over but they defined the band to be "on ice" many years ago. So I don't think we can expect something new from them. I think none of the members are living in the same town anymore.

Did you work in any other bands after leaving Jormundgard?
I had a Dark Electro project called Blutzukker for twelve years. But it came to an end some years ago. I enjoyed that style of music at the time, so I decided to make it. But in recent years my appetite for metal came back, I bought a guitar (as I was a bass player before) and started the current solo project.

Was Blutzukker solely your project or did other musicians join you? How much material did you release?
It was also a solo project in the beginning, but the songstress "Pale Violett" joined later and live we had a keyboarder and sometimes a guitarist. We brought it to one Single, one EP as a collaboration with "My Consequence" and three Albums.

Who is Pale Violett and how did she become Blutzukker’s vocalist? Who did you have playing guitar and keyboards at Blutzukker shows?
She is a long-termin friend of mine. And it came up that I wrote some lyrics for Blutzukker that cannot be sung by a guy. So I asked Pale to join for those songs. Nihil (from PaPerCuts & Ibyss) played the guitars on several live shows. The main man on the keyboard was Chris Crag.

On February 13 you released a new single, “Queen of the Nite”, which has a guest appearance by Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes). Talk about how this came to be.
I wrote the song several years ago. At that time I played in a band with a female singer and I had the duet of "Theatre Of Tragedy - Der Tanz der Schatten" in mind. So I decide to write a song with a similar style of singing. But we never recorded the song back in the days. In the last years I reworked on the song and recorded it step by step. And one day I thought "maybe I simply should ask Liv Kristine if she would sing the song". So I contacted her and received a positive answer, because the song also reminded her of her early "Theatre Of Tragedy" times.

Is “Queen of the Nite” your first collaboration? Were you acquainted with Liv Kristine before cutting it? Would you collaborate with her again?
"Queen of the Nite" was the first and Liv did not know me before. I have been a fan of Liv since 1996, when "Velvet Darkness They Fear" was released. If this is to be the last collaboration I cannot tell. Let us see what the inspiration will bring.

What convinced you Liv’s vocal style would fit the piece? How was she able to handle your lyrics? What was "Queen of the Nite" written about?
As I had her voice in my ears while writing the song, I had no doubt that she could fit. The song is about vampires! Like in 66.6% of all my songs. And it worked as I intended.

Explain the vampire mythos in “Queen of the Nite”. Is it a film or literary reference?
I joined vampire pop culture mainly with the books "Dracula" and "Dracula's Guest", and the movie "The Lost Boys". I think both influences found their way into the lyrics. In the music video there are references to "Dracula", "The Lost Boys" (more than one time) and "Vampirella".

Describe your experience recording with Liv. Was it cut in a professional studio or with your own equipment?
Liv's voice was recorded in a professional studio in South Germany, but the rest was recorded and mixed in my home studio.

A promotional video for “Queen of the Nite” is streaming on Youtube. How much of a response has it received since it was uploaded?
I am happy that it was big up to today. The video has gotten more than 1000 views on Youtube within the first week and still rising. I am always surprised how many people use Youtube to listen to music.

A shorter orchestral version of “Queen of the Nite” was recently added to your playlist. Why did you record and release this version?
At first this version was not planned to be released. It is the backing orchestration of the full version of the song. But when I finished it I really fell in love with it. So I thought it would be nice to have those tracks as a bonus to the single.

I’m not familiar with “Dracula’s Guest” but “Dracula” is a timeless story of anguish, loss, immortality and revenge. What is the storyline of “Dracula’s Guest”?
The story of "Dracula's Guest" is a prequel to the story of Dracula. Sometimes it is mentioned as "the first chapter that did not make it into the book". "Dracula's Guest" is also the title for a book with short stories by Bram Stoker. I liked "The Squaw" the most, therefore the lyrics of my song "Stab By Stab" are referencing to that story.

What was Stoker’s short story “The Squaw” about? How do you retell it in "Stab By Stab"?
Revenge! There are two story lines in it, in both someone is going for revenge for a killed child. In the first verse I sing about the first story line, in the other two about the second. And in the chorus I sing about the commonalities of both story lines.

“The Lost Boys” reintroduced the vampire mythos to the 1990s. What aspects of that movie are borrowed for the promotional video?
I was a teenager in the 1990s, so that was when I discovered it. In my video you can see the four main vampires of "The Lost Boys" in the last scene. When you search the Internet for "The Lost Boys" you will see the reference directly. In the reprise of the song you can see my Alter-Lego with a saxophone and bare chest. I guess you will remember the corresponding scene of the movie.

You have several other videos posted to Youtube, including the tracks from your 2015 EP “Analog Blood” and a promotional video of “Riptide” from your 2017 EP of the same title. Are those getting as much attention as “Queen of the Nite”?
The "Riptide" video also received much attention. Of course, I hope all the songs will get a second chance after people discover "Queen of The Nite."

Are you saying your other videos didn’t get as much recognition at first? How has this changed for the better after the release of “Queen of the Nite”?
I think, you will always grow from release to release. So I guess it is normal, that the first releases had less attention than the new one. Let's see what happens when I release the upcoming Single in April.

Describe the lyrics and storyline of “Riptide”. How does the video represent the lyrics?
The video represents the obvious story of the lyrics. Something with a ship on the open sea and why it is going to sink. But the real story of the lyrics is about dissatisfaction at the workplace. Now listen to it again...

Were both of your EPs recorded at your home studio? How long has this studio existed and what equipment do you have there?
All my songs are recorded in my home studio. As I am a software guy, you cannot find much hardware here. One guitar, one mic, two basses (four and five strings), an audio interface and a handy Ultrabook is all I need.

What sort of hardware do you work with in your studio? What brand name guitar, basses, microphone and audio interfaces do you have?
I like Ibanez much, so my basses and my guitar are from Ibanez. The mic is a simple standard: Rode NT1-A. My audio interface is also standard I think: a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. (1st Generation). The one luxury I have is a 34 inch widescreen monitor. Very helpful to have a big overview.

Is your home studio strictly for working on your projects or have you produced material for other bands?
It’s mostly for my own. But every now and then I work on material for other bands. But I have not much time for that. My own stuff always has priority.

Name some of the bands whose material you produced in your studio. Do they recommend you to other bands?
PaPerCuts (a Goth-Rock-Band where Pale Violett was also involved), Ibyss (an Industrial-Metal-Band where the Blutzukker-Live-guitarist is involved), Readjust (EBM, I mastered some of their albums). I have no idea if they are talking to other bands about me and my studio works.

Do you plan to work on another EP or another full length at some point? Are any new songs written or being written?
I am working on about 6 songs now, all in different progress. For this year it is planned to release just several singles. So there is no concrete plan for an EP or album. Maybe when the year is over, I put all singles together to an album. Just like it was when Elvis released his music.

How do you intend to grow musically and aesthetically on future songs and videos?
By simply creating what comes up to my mind.

-Dave Wolff

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