OD – Carach Angren are due to release their sixth album, ‘Franckensteina Strataemontanus‘ on June 26th. The initial release was due for May 29th – why was it pushed back?
CLEMENS – It has to do with the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty. We had a little meeting with the label and management. There was a delay with the physical product so there was the uncertainty that it would be at the record label on time, so we decided “let’s push it back”.
As you see lately a lot of bands have postponed indefinitely – we were already promoting our album and we’re excited to release it. Music can be a great comfort and it is a great album so we decided to go ahead, there’s no time to wait.
OD – The new album touches on the concept of occultist Johann Conrad Dippel who earned a questionable reputation by experimenting on dead bodies.
As with previous Carach Angren albums, extra elements and overlapping layers were added to make the story more interesting – including German necrophiliac Kuno Hofmann. Can you elaborate on the album’s concept?
CLEMENS – When we started writing about this album, we didn’t have a clear idea yet of what it would be. I had a nightmare, I was in a classical house. It was really creepy. I heard distant piano tones being played and I saw classical ornaments in the building. Suddenly I was pulled towards an open space and there was a portrait of a man; I saw his fierce eyes and then I woke up. I was fascinated by it so I wrote it down and made a little drawing and tried to copy the piano notes that were being played.
I left it at that for a little bit. The topic of Frankenstein came up and Seregor (Carach Angren vocalist) had connected to the concept and the movie as a child. I never had that connection but I was fascinated by the idea. For the album, we decided that we needed an original idea because Frankenstein has been done so much already in pop culture – so if you come out with ‘Carach Angren/Frankenstein‘ it’s a bit “eh”.
I wanted to find some kind of way to make the album original, so I dug a little deeper and read Mary Shelley’s novel – I was blown away by how it was written and how much depth of the book was lost in the movies and modern adaptation. In 2018 it was exactly 200 years since the book was written so there was a museum exhibition that was held for it, I went there, talked to a scientist… Through that, I found out about Johann Conrad Dippel.
There is a theory that Mary Shelley was inspired by him – he was a real person and worked at Castle Frankenstein. I thought “huh, not many people know about this guy”. I Googled him and he reminded me almost exactly of the man I had seen in the dream, so I got excited and thought maybe this is a sign. It pulled me in – I think if you want a topic for an album you need to be excited about it. I told Seregor about it and that got the whole thing going.
OD – So you had to fully immerse yourself in research to make sure everything was factual?
CLEMENS – Yes, I spent a couple of months going around this subject. I read more books from the gothic novel era and a few scientific research books. If you’re just going to call the album “Dippel” it’s not very sexy.
I needed to see if the album was going to be about him or if we needed to make a connection with other topics. This is something that you can not really force – sometimes an idea can come quickly but for us, it took a year to a year and a half for it to really come together. When I was reading the novel, I wrote most of the song “Sewn For Solitude” because it’s very emotional – it’s about the complaints of the monster for having to hide.
From this I found a story about ‘Dippels Oil‘ (Ed: oil made from distilled bones, used to contaminate drinking water and other uses) which was used for warfare in World War II – I thought this was fascinating and thought “we need to put that in too”. In the end, it became some kind of big puzzle.
OD – Namtar (drummer) recently left the band after being a member since the beginning. While you are the main composer of Carach Angrens sound, do you think his departure will affect the musical dynamic?
CLEMENS – Of course. He was a part of the band, the three of us. While I was the main composer he would say “make this part a bit longer” or he would come up with original drums. I would programme blast beats and he would come up with something else.
In that sense it is lost; he had an addition to it. The main thing is I would usually start the compositions with Seregor on board, but I’m very confident that we can continue and maintain this level of quality that people are used to from us.
During the writing of the last album, he was already kind of stepping aside a little bit. We have a live drummer (Michiel van der Plicht) and guitar player (Bastiaan Boh) to help us out and we’re very fortunate to have those guys on board so that we can continue.
OD – While you do have a live drummer selected, will you and Seregor remain as the only two official members, or will you introduce an official drummer down the line?
CLEMENS – We talked about it. This line up has been going for 17 years. We decided because of that we would keep the band basically just the both of us, but of course, to play live you need musicians, even to record an album.
Having a new official member may change the dynamic because everyone involved has an opinion which can be great, but right now it’s not what we’re looking for. We’ll just continue like this.
OD – Namtar also works in engineering and created all of the moving stage props, like the haunted keyboard and rising stage platform. Will he still contribute with electrical engineering for the live shows?
CLEMENS – No, we discussed it a little bit but he made clear from a Facebook update that he’s a little bit done with everything. It’s best to just go separate ways. You never know what the future will bring, but right now, no.
OD – The bands live shows are very visual and include audience interaction, for example, a bloody mannequin, frontman Seregor spitting blood into an audience members mouth, masks, bloody tongues, and a haunted keyboard. Have there been any new plans brainstormed for live shows?
CLEMENS – There are always ideas and there’s also pressure like “We have to do something new now”! The idea with the tongues came one afternoon when we made a promo video. We were just messing around and this idea came up. Sometimes these ideas are planned where they seem like they’d been planned for months but they just come up spontaneously.
We are in uncertain times and we don’t know when touring will happen again, so right now we are only focused on the release. We will always come up with crazy stuff again though, definitely.
OD – Previously, there was a commotion in The Netherlands where Christian groups had a witch hunt against your shows. Do you think the outrage was because the show was scheduled around a major Christian holiday, or do you receive backlash from religious groups often?
CLEMENS – Not at all, and honestly it was the best promotion we’ve ever had! We were touring everywhere that year and we had just come back from South America, and suddenly I had calls from national radio and TV. I was like “What’s happening?”.
Apparently this local Christian party had complained about us – they had advertised us as “Carach Angren are unleashing the demons on Christmas Eve in Amstelveen”. The media picked it up so it blew up – the gig was happening and people were trying to stop it and it ended up becoming political.
Thankfully none of that went through and we had a great gig. I was never worried that there was anything serious going to happen – they were just offended because it was Christmas and there was a ‘demonic’ band coming to their town. The Christian groups’ spokesman was on TV saying “This bands music is affecting people and if you look at them they’re not coming from a church choir!”. The funny part is I have been in a church choir and it’s where I learned how to play keyboards! A reporter came and interviewed us for TV – I gave them a CD and a lollipop to pass on to the spokesperson and they declined us! I heard back from the reporter that they didn’t want it.
OD – They wouldn’t accept the lollipop?!
CLEMENS – No! It was too neutralising. They wanted to defy, they have made up their minds and we are the enemy.
OD – As well as working within the band, Seregor creates custom masks for sale. You have a self-titled solo music project with multiple releases, as well as compositions for other acts including Lindemann and Ex-Deo. Do you work any other jobs to stay afloat, or does working life revolve around music?
CLEMENS – For now it’s just music, yes. I’m working on some other projects. I’m working with a friend of mine called Patrick Damiani who actually recorded most of the guitars on our album and is our long time friend and a great producer. Both of us and Niko Madrivis (who contributed violins for Carach Angren albums) are working together for a gothic project called L’Âme Immortelle – I can not reveal more details but we’re working on something.
OD – In regards to creating music, on your Instagram page you posted a video where you were creating sound by using a plectrum against a microscope clip. Do you create sounds with unpredictable everyday objects often?
CLEMENS – I try to. My life is usually just sitting here behind the computer composing. That’s great but sometimes you get a little bit bored and uninspired. I was recently working on tension music as I sometimes make stock music. Sometimes it’s cool to put a microphone up and take an object, like a metal object. Sometimes I’ll use a guitar with a violin bow or a little percussion instrument, or use different voices. It’s great because it gives authenticity to your work and triggers new ideas, so I’m always messing around.
OD – You’ve worked musically for your band and for soundtracks – which one do you prefer to do?
CLEMENS – I like the variation. When you tour a lot and then have to write Carach Angren music it can sometimes be a little too much. What I liked about the last album is I took the freedom to experiment with synthesizers. I got a little bit tired with the orchestral stuff because sometimes it can get repetitive and sometimes you need to step away a little bit.
You’ll hear on the album some industrial sounds and I spent a lot of time tweaking things and that lights the fire again. Sometimes I make kids music or music for commercials. I like that too, to go out and do something completely outrageous or completely the opposite. It’s like a fresh shower.
OD – Are there any other musical artists you’d like to work with, or a show or movie you would like to write the music for?
CLEMENS -I can’t think of anything in particular but I usually like every project that has a good story to it, that can be a commercial or a movie or game. People can contact me for anything!
OD – We touched on it a little bit earlier, but what is Carach Angrens plan as a band for the next few months? Since we’re in lockdown, is it to just promote the album as much as possible?
CLEMENS – That’s basically it. We’re talking closely with the label and management and booking agents to see how our situation is developing and try to get ideas out there. I think it’s doing great and we’re happy to offer something to people to listen to while this lockdown happens. I’m excited about it and can’t wait to put it out.
Pre-Orders for ‘Franckensteina Strataemontanous’ via Seasons of the Mist – link here.