Wir Leben Noch!
It’s been less than a year since our webzine talked to guitarist Christian “X-Ti” Bystron about the latest developments in Megaherz. But over this period of time so many things happened to the band, that we felt that another interview is definitely a must. First, four of the five Megaherz studio CDs were released in Russia, then singer Mathias Elsholz abruptly quit the band after recording just one album with it, then the band came to Moscow with a new singer, and finally we had the chance to talk to Christian again. What came out was maybe one the most open and honest interviews with Christian ever!
Christian, what were your impressions about Moscow? How did you like the people?
I personally travel a lot, I’ve been all over Europe, I visited the United States several times. I’ve seen all the nice places, and I know how all these countries feel, how the people feel. But when I came to Moscow, I realized that I don’t know anything about the Russian guys. I have met so many good and interesting people in this city, it is unbelievable! It makes me very curious about you guys and your culture and I am sure, it wasn't the last time to see you guys in Moscow!
You played in Moscow with a new singer, Alexander “Lex” Wohnhaus. Will he be a permanent singer in Megaherz?
We are not sure about it, because, unfortunately for us, but fortunately for Lex, he has his own project going on. He’s been working on this project with a producer for three years, they have already had a hit record in Germany, they did a title song for a German reality show which was pretty successful, and now they’re about to finish their album. We have to be very understanding about it, because if you were in his situation and you had been working on a project for three years, you just can’t throw it away.
Can you share more light on the departure of your previous singer Mathias Elsholz? He said he wants to be with his wife who is expecting a baby, but we guess that this circumstance didn’t appear as a surprise for you. Was there no way to find a solution, postpone the tour for several months maybe?
A very good question, because it’s exactly what I asked him. Basically there was no way to talk to him anymore. Mathias refused every attempt to find a good solution for this situation. From one minute to the other, he simply didn't want to talk about it anymore! The day before he quit – and he quit by e-mail – he and Wenz (bass player) were at a club partying and having a good time. There was nothing that could be seen, no signs, nothing at all. And from one second to the other – bad weather. The band didn’t have any fights, any struggles, any stress, the whole project was like an express train, it was going. We had a lot of good gigs, we had a tour coming on, and the record company was supporting us in this tour, so we didn’t have a money problem or something. Everything was set, everything was fine. I’m one million percent sure that if Matze would have been willing to find a good solution for the band and for the fans, the band and the management could have found some solution for the situation. If Mathias had said, “Alright guys, I’ve got a problem, it’s about this and that,” – no matter what, we could have found a solution. Maybe play less shows or postpone the tour and make it possible for him to stay with his wife. But he simply turned his back and walked away. I have this picture in my mind - of a guy who sets a house on fire and walks away whistling. It’s very very strange.
It’s a very tough issue, because nobody has ever disappointed me so much as this guy. I believed very much in him, I always had maximal respect in him, and he has always been my favorite singer. I really don’t know a singer all over the German rock scene, no matter how successful he is, that for me is as good as Mathias.
I’ve never said it so clearly in any interviews, but I want the people to understand it. We were very happy for him that he was going to be a dad, it was no problem. If he wants to leave the band, it’s his decision, it’s sad, but it’s a problem that can be treated in a better way! When you’re adult, you can handle the situation somehow. But we and all the people who know all the circumstances have the problem in the WAY it happened. We don’t know why he did it, he was totally freaking out. In Megaherz we are involved in a lot of business, so what are you doing when some guy who is freaking out just says, “OK, that’s it! I’m out!” And the rest of the band is like, “Oh God, we have these contracts!! What are we gonna do???” This is a really big problem. I think, you can’t do anything you want, you have to be responsible for the situation that you have created and have at least try to find a solution!
This is basically what happened. There are many details that I’m not going to talk about, because they are very private. We had to conceal the situation until September, which was a very bad thing, because nobody dared to tell the truth. There is a lot of trouble going on behind the scenes, and I don’t know why Mathias doesn’t see it, because it’s clear for everyone. But now I want the people to know what’s going on, because I don’t wanna be called “a bad guy”, which he did in the forums. I was trying to fix the situation, but he called us “bad guys.” He said, “Just think why singers leave this band, think what kind of guys are those.” And it was said while I was talking to lawyers, trying to rescue not only our ass, but his ass. We have taken enough of this. I have gone very far to prevent each and every member of the band, including Mathias, from harm, and I can do nothing anymore. Now he’s just going his way, and that’s it.
You cancelled the entire European tour after the singer’s departure. But how did the Moscow show survive? Was it something that special for you that you were ready to do it at any cost?
We were trying to play the tour, but Lex didn’t have time, because he’s in the studio doing his album. We were very lucky to find Lex, because it’s so hard to find a singer for a band like Megaherz. It’s such a special kind of music, a special way of music. And we were very lucky that he had time for the Moscow show, this was point one. Point two was that every one of us said, “It’s a sad thing to cancel the German tour, but we don’t have a singer, so we are fucked. But if we can find a singer for the Moscow show, we will have to do it, because the fans have been waiting for us for years. There were two times when we were announced to be playing in Moscow, and it didn’t happen. So we didn’t want to disappoint the people this time again. It was a very special experience for us because of the lack of time. We only had four rehearsals, and Lex learned the whole set in four rehearsals, which is unbelievable. It was a very emotional moment for the band, we were playing so much from the heart, because we knew we were standing on the edge. We are so glad that this guy does it so good, he didn’t only sing the songs, he kind of lived them. This is what we like very much.
How did you like the Russian audience? Is there any difference between the fans in Moscow and the rest of the world?
Yeah, they are totally nuts! A really very intense crowd, we loved it very much. This is why we have to find a singer very quickly, because we want to come back. (laughs) Our tour manager is also our booking agent, and when we left Moscow, the whole band said, “OK, Alan, we only wanna play in Russia, make it happen, man!” (everybody laughs)
In our previous interview our last question was about your expectations from your latest CD “Megaherz 5” (2004). It’s been nearly a year since its release, so how much has it lived up to your expectations?
We are very happy that this record happened, because Megaherz has found much more fans. There are more people listening to our music now, and much more very young people. This is a very good sign for every band that has been as long in the music business as Megaherz. It means that you are getting new crowds, not only the fans that are growing with the band, but new ones, too.
In Russia all of your albums have been released, except “Herzwerk II” (2002). Why isn’t this album coming out here? Do you have no rights to it or is there another reason?
It’s not up to the band, because, of course, we would like to release every album and every thing we have here. It’s a matter of the record company. If they don’t wanna release it here, don’t ask me why. They have the rights to the recordings, not to the songs, and they have to decide where to put them out. Maybe some day it will happen.
More about line-up changes – who is the drummer in the band nowadays? We heard that Jurgen Zink is leaving on account of a professional situation…
The drummer is the original Megaherz guy, Frank, who played in the band from “Wer Bist Du” (1997) until “Himmelfaht” (2000). To me he’s our drummer. As to Jurgen – it’s always a problem, I don’t know, kids are always involved. Jurgen married and got kids too, then he got personal problems and split up with his wife, so everything was a mess. It’s a strange story, too… When shit like this happens, there are always two things behind it – either it’s personal problems of guys, or it’s money. We don’t fill arenas of 10,000 people. If we were, none of us would have any financial problems, no problems at all. It’s a problem of all bands of the size of Megaherz in Germany – if you’re not Rammstein, if you don’t have a hit record on the radio or MTV, if you don’t wanna sell yourself and do music because it comes from the heart – then you cannot rely only on the band. If you do, you won’t have money to pay for your flat, for your car, for I don’t know what. But the people who are in the band now are able to manage it, and that’s a very important point.
How do you personally manage to cope with this situation? As you said, you have to have a different job in addition to the band, and we guess you also have a family. How does your family react to you spending so much time on the road and in the studio?
You know, when you’re a woman, and you wanna be with this man, you have to be confident and aware of what this guy is. And you have to think about it before you get together with him. When you’re a musician, you have no choice, you have to do this, because if you don’t do it so hard, you will never make it. Our wives are very understanding, they love what we do, maybe they love us because we’re doing this, I don’t know… This is a very important point for us – to have a stable relationship. Or maybe being single is another option.
On “Herzwerk II” you had second guitarist Olli, but you are the only guitarist in Megaherz again. Are you comfortable in this position, or will you search for a second guitarist again?
We have always had a second guitar player live. It’s like Oomph! are three people, and live they always have guest musicians with them. That’s what we are doing, too.
Apart from Russia, your old albums are now coming out in the U.S. You also have a very informative website in English, and you have a fanpage based in Mexico. In general, how popular are you outside Germany?
We have a pretty big fan community in the United States. Let me use this interview to say thanks to Betsy Koenigsberg and Jeremy Williams, who run this stuff – Jeremy does the website and Betsy is doing a lot of fan work, including the megaherz.com shop. She is all over the Internet and all over the forums and talking to people. If there’s a problem, she’s always there, like an angel watching over this. She is a very nice, caring and helpful lady. Actually we sell more merchandising in the United States than in Germany, so there must be a lot of people. When you’re a musician and you’re coming to a foreign country, you’re not really sure what’s going to happen. You’re not sure if there are enough people at the concert, whether they will like you or not, and it’s always nice when you sit there and realize how much response you get to your music, which is a great thing.
What do you need to become as famous worldwide as Rammstein? A big label, a lot of money for the stageshow, or anything else?
All of it. It always has to do with money, first of all. It’s all about promotion, and it’s about the show. Rammstein have this huge show that is for a lot of people as important as the music. And the music is good, you know, so they have two cards that are so good. I like Rammstein, they deserve each and every cent, because they’re doing a really nice outstanding job, nobody has seen stuff like this before. Maybe their fame has a lot to do with their idea to bring fire on stage, too, which is very dangerous, by the way. They’re crazy! (everybody laughs)
Your latest album has been made available for downloading at the Finetunes Music Shop, where people can pay 10 euros and download the whole record. What made you do it?
It’s the record company that does it, it’s some kind of marketing tool. They make their records available to Finetunes, and they get profit out of it. It’s just business, and it’s catching up with modern times. Everything is going over the Internet, everyone uses e-mail, and maybe none of us could live without e-mail anymore. (everybody laughs) That’s why you have to catch up with the modern times. The music industry is going down so much, nobody sells CDs anymore, everybody’s listening to mp3s on his iPod or on the computer, so it’s natural to sell mp3s to the people.
How much do Megaherz as a band suffer from illegal downloading? On the one hand, some people won’t buy CDs because of that, but on the other hand, it’s an efficient way to promote the band…
Yeah, you’re right, it’s two sides of the coin. We would have never got so many fans in the United States if there wouldn’t have been Napster, Kazaa or whatever. At that time our albums weren’t available there, so people downloaded them, because a friend said, “Hey, there’s another band that sound like…” I don’t know what. So they downloaded it and they liked it, and the same thing happens in Germany. Nowadays it works like this – your friend tells you about a cool band, and you don’t run to a record store to check this band out, because you sometimes spend 15 or 17 euros on the record, you listen to it and suddenly you realize that it sucks, that you don’t like it. What most people do is they download one or two songs, and decide then what to do if they like the band. We have learned that a lot of people get to know us over this Kazaa stuff, they download mp3s and after that they come to your live show, which is great. If it works this way, for me as a musician it’s OK. But for the record company it’s a very bad thing, because they spend a lot of money of the recordings, promotion, etc., and they don’t get the profits back.
Do you think the CD as a medium will soon die out, and only downloads will remain?
I don’t think it will completely die out, because vinyl records didn’t die out. There’s a lot of the fans who wanna hold your product in their hands, they wanna have the booklet, they wanna have the real thing, not just click on it. It’s very hard to say how much the CD sales in general decrease, nobody can say that. Nobody knows if we have reached the lowest point or not. But I think a good thing is to make mp3s available for the people in a legal way, through iTunes or Finetunes or something.
You see, for many musicians mp3 is their biggest enemy…
But you have to understand them. Those people are giving their lives, maybe they don’t have a dayjob no more, they’re just trying to make music, to play live for the fans, but they don’t get any profit from it. Music loses its value, and these bands start to think, “Hey, I’m working all fucking day, and nobody pays me for that!” This brings you to a point where mp3s can do much harm to the bands that are not big. It’s no problem for Metallica, but smaller bands can simply be killed.
Speaking about the real product, on a lot of your early albums and singles there was a clown on the cover. Who came up with this image and what did it represent? And why did you change the style of cover artwork after “Himmelfahrt”?
The clown for us was the symbol of life, good and evil combined in one person, and a lot of our lyrics are about this. They are coming from life, they are not abstract, and are usually very close to the people. The lyrics are just a reflection of what you are going through in your life, or what you have seen. The song “Gottlich” – the lyrics to that song just came out of Mathias. The night before we recorded the demo of this song he was in a special club, saw this beautiful lady on a dance floor and said, “She’s like a goddess!” And this is what “Gottlich” means in English.
What other German-speaking rock bands do you personally like in terms of lyrics?
People never understand it, and I can’t tell you why, but I’m not listening to German-speaking music. Maybe I listen to some Rammstein and some Oomph! stuff, they are cool. I don’t know… Maybe a good reason for making a new album and trying to make it as good as you can is that you can’t find anything out there that pleases you. So you sit down with a guitar and write your own stuff. It’s so funny - sometimes when I listen to something and go, “Wow, this is a great intro, a great riff!” And then another part comes and I go, “How can this guys do it this way??? It has to be different!” This is a good motivation for trying to make it right yourself... No, I'm just kidding!!!! (laughs)
You did a very interesting cover of “Flesh For Fantasy” by Billy Idol. Why did you sing it in German? Does it mean that you will never sing in English, under any conditions?
I wouldn’t say that. We thought that it would fit us. “Ich bin das Fleisch deiner Fantasie” – it’s a kind of nice expression in German, it’s like a wordplay. For us it was OK. Maybe we will mix English and German lyrics in one song, like Falco did.
Yeah, like in “Rock Me Amadeus”, that you covered on “Kopfschuss”…
Maybe we’re gonna do it as well, I don’t know. You often don’t plan the stuff so much, it happens because it’s here, it’s in the room and you catch it up. It’s so funny – different bands at the same time have the same idea. I can give you so many examples of this. The original title for the “Kopfschuss” album (1998) should have been “Blender”, and two or three days before the design for the album was to go in print, we read in the German press that another German-speaking band is using this name. Why? There are thousands of words out there, thousands of names, so why “Blender”? They just caught it somewhere.
As long as we mentioned Falco, what do you think about the version of “Rock Me Amadeus” by Umbra et Imago? Their record came out about a year after you covered this song…
I haven’t heard it, sorry. I’m not so much into Umbra Et Imago, because this sex thing for me is too cheesy. For me it should be more about music. A few years ago, in the “Himmelfaht” area, we had a tour to support a movie called “The Final Destination”, and we were playing in five cinemas one after the other. We played, then we left the stage, and there was the film. This movie is about a plane crash, and for this purpose we had two go-go dancers dressed like stewardesses. We saw this on tape and we thought, “Oh no, that’s not us! Let’s not do this again! Two very beautiful girls, very sexy and stuff? Oh, forget it!” We thought it should be more about the music, and the band should be the most important thing, not the things around it.
You said you re-recorded “Gott sein” for “Megaherz 5” because you were never satisfied with the sound of the original version. Are there any other songs that you would like to re-record?
Maybe. “Gott sein” was for me always a song that has never been finished yet. For me it’s some kind of theatrical piece, and it now makes sense to have this middle part with this beautiful gothic voice. It was a coincidence, it wasn’t planned. Our vocal coach went with us in the studio and she wanted to do overdubs over this part, when choirs come in. She made an improvisation to warm her voice up, and I was sitting at the computer and said, “Wait a minute! What are you doing? It’s beautiful! Can you do this again, please?” So we recorded it, and I added the prayer by a little boy and his priest at the same time. We didn’t want it to be clear, we wanted the voices to sound apart and a bit chaotic. For me it completely makes sense, now the song is at home.
How did you personally join Megaherz? You were not a founding member, as far as we understand…
I was in the music scene having my own band and I found that this may not be the right place for me. I talked to friends and they said, “Yeah, there is this band, it’s kind of strange, but I think they’re looking for a guitar player now.” They gave Alexx (Wesselsky, the band’s founder and original singer – ed.) my number, and he called me. The first time I saw them, it was really bad. It was totally chaotic, it was some kind of fun punk band…
(surprised) Fun punk?!!!
Yeah! They played these songs from their first demo CD “Herzwerk” (1995)in a very “open” version! These guys were lying and stumbling on stage, a guy was lying on his back and playing bass, very strange, very strange! (everybody laughs) But Alexx gave me the CD, it was after the concert, I came back home at 2 o’clock in the night, and I was very curious, because I had seen Alexx on stage and I knew that this is this guy. So I turned on the CD and quickly thought, “THIS is the band!” (laughs) From this moment on, I went to each concert to check what’s going on. The music was very strange, a lot of the guys couldn’t play right, they mixed up major and minor chords, so I was totally confused. Then I joined them, we had a couple of rehearsals, and then the bass player quit… Let’s say Alexx threw the bass player out, that’s the right way. (laughs) He asked me if I knew a guy, and I said, “Of course, I know a very good bass player!” So Wenz came in. At that time I already had my own recording studio, just a small one, but big enough to re-record their songs only to see what was going on, only to see where the mistakes are, where this chord is and the other one is. We did that, and it worked out pretty fine. Then a lot of line-up changes happened… and here we go!
“Herzwerk I” came out in 1995, but the first real album (“Wer bist du?”) was only released two years later. Why did it take you so long to put it out?
It’s because it took the band so long to grow. “Herzwerk I” was only a demo CD, for me it never was the start. It’s a very important record for me, it showed me the way to this band, I realized that this is the band that I want to be in, but for me the start of Megaherz as the people know it today is “Wer bist du?”. It’s a real record, it’s a real release, and it’s closer to the real thing. It is the thing we always wanted.
Back in 1995-1997 this mix of metal and electronics was not very common. What inspired you in the very beginning to create the music that you play in Megaherz?
Clawfinger! We were totally nuts for Clawfinger, they were our all-time favorite heroes. Maybe it was the same for Rammstein, because they’re working with Jacob Hellner, the producer of Clawfinger. He knows how to make the guitars sound like that, which is a very important color of their music.
The music of Megaherz is often classified as “neue Deutsche Haerte”. Do you think this definition suits you?
It’s just a definition that people use. People tend to give names, they need to have names to classify music. For me it doesn’t matter how they call it, because whoever likes our music, listens to it.
And in general, do you think that “neue Deutsche Haerte” as a movement indeed exists, or the bands like yourself, Rammstein and Boehse Onkelz” have nothing in common?
For me, “neue Deutsche Haerte” is based on the phrase “neue Deutsche Welle”, which was a very interesting and very new thing at that time. And it was a very big thing, too, because it was not only in the underground, but all over the place, at radio stations, etc. Maybe people were trying to find a catchy phrase to label a different kind of bands as well. I don’t think it’s an important expression.
Prior to joining Megaherz you played with Darkseed. What memories do you have about the early days of that band? And what is your opinion about their later works?
I have a very good relationship to Stefan Hertrich, he’s one of the most talented musicians I know, and he’s living in a town very close to mine. I think I recorded the first two demos for them and probably the first 2 records, I don’t even remember. Most of their guitar players were my students. Stefan and me always try to work together when it is possible, because it’s fun, it is very productive. We did the Betray My Secrets project together, which we are very proud of. It was so special for us combining ethnic samples and voices and poems or whatever with the death metal voice and heavy guitars.
I’m very glad to tell you that right now I’m playing guitars for Stefan’s new project. In July or August he asked me about making a new Betray My Secrets album, and I couldn’t do it, because I was to busy with Megaherz. So he decided to make a new project called Spi-Ritual, which is basically the same style as “Betray My Secrets” Two weeks ago sent me an mp3 of the final production. I said, “Wow, what is this? This is so great! Is this the final production?” He said, “No, you still can play your solos if you want!” I said, “Yes! Yeees!!! Send me all the stuff!” So I played on four out of six songs. It’s very unusual stuff, a lot of very fast solos, which I enjoyed doing again. In one fragment I played a riff – I don’t know if it’s gonna make it to the record, because there’s already so much stuff on it – and it’s the first time my guitar sounds like Iron Maiden. I played this riff and I said, “OK, let’s try a second voice.” I had to laugh about myself, because I never thought I would be doing something like this.
Stefan is very much interested in world music, Arabian folklore and things like that. Do you share this interest?
Very much, very much. The Betray My Secrets project was basically three people – the speaker, the singer, and me as the guitar player or basically as the producer. We had one or two songs, and we thought, “There’s something missing.” I was going through my sample-library and looking for really strange and special stuff, and suddenly I found the samples of these beautiful Indian or Arabian female singers. We played it, and everybody in the room, “Yeeeeaaah, got it!” From this point on, none of us could understand why not everybody is doing it, because for us it sounded so natural. This mystic feeling of these ethnic vocals is dark too, and the sheer power of the guitar and drum beats is a perfect combination. I think the Spi-Ritual album is gonna be very nice, it’s gonna be a mini-CD, five songs and one instrumental. I’m very much looking forward for what’s next, maybe a Betray My Secrets album, maybe a long-player for Spi-Ritual, let’s see.
OK, to round up this interview, please tell us what the future will bring for Megaherz and the fans of the band.
The European tour is definitely cancelled. The first thing to happen is to find a new singer. We will have to find a new face to represent the band, and that’s the major point. We have been in contact with many people in Germany, and it’s the best thing we can do. We don’t want to put an ad in metal magazines or on our website saying, “Megaherz looking for a new singer,” because we have already done it. Of course, you get a lot of tapes, but most of them you can’t use. It’s not an easy thing to find a suitable singer for a band like Megaherz, but that’s what we are doing now!
Interview by Roman “Maniac” Patrashov, Natalie “Lynx” Khorina, Ksenia “Wolfin” Khorina
Photos by MajorTom (www.germanrock.ru)
November 13, 2005
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