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Marc Gortz Caliban - Interview
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German metalcore act Caliban have a new album coming out on March 25th called "Gravity", their latest in a long line of albums that go back to the late 90's when the band first came onto the scene. We talk to guitarist Marc Gortz on the whole process of putting the new songs together as well as their ambition to return to Australia following unfortunate cancellations in recent times.



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Steve: So are you guys currently on tour?

Marc: No we are waiting for the new album to be released at the end of March, then we play a couple of shows and festivals and then we go on tour a bit later. Until then we have a little break but we don't play before the new album is out so I'm just doing some stuff in my studio.

Steve: So could you describe [the new album] "Gravity" in your own words?

Marc: I would definitely say it's more rough, more heavy then previous albums. I wanted to capture the heaviness of the albums "I Am Nemesis" and "Shadow Hearts" for example and still have the big melody from "Ghost Empire" but "Ghost Empire" has a more polished kind of sound, very clean so the heavy parts don't come out as heavy as they really are. So I try to experiment with the sound so it comes across more heavy and more dirty so that was the main goal, to get it pretty rough and I think the songs are a bit more heavier in my opinion and I guess it's for people like you to decide if that is really the case.

Steve: Sure, I had a listen this afternoon and you can definitely see that you guys have taken the polished edge off your sound in comparison to say an album like "The Opposite From Within" where I first got into the band. It's certainly evolved I would say so how was the writing and recording process this time around given that you guys have been around for such a long time?

Marc: The writing process has been the same as it was for the last 2 albums, "I Am Nemesis" and "Ghost Empire". I was sitting down in my studio and recorded rough song ideas, I usually collect a lot more than we need so I write 4, 5, 6 song ideas and then I meet up with our producer and we decide which songs are worth taking to the next level which would be produced and be the final songs and the rest we throw away. Out of these 5 songs, 2 are left and then I write 5 more and so on and so in the end I might write 40 songs ideas, I don't really know. Could be 38 or could be 47 or something like that. Then we pick out the set of songs and then we started recording the vocals first in our producers studio, the last 2 albums we started recording vocals in the pre-production so we have more options to maybe change the music afterwards if we get cool ideas for the vocals while we are recording and then we can still change it in the instrumental part. Then after the vocals are recorded, then we take it to my studio and we started recording everything else. It's pretty much mixed in my studio and I did a pre-mix of this and then I met up with a friend who I'm sometimes working with who was somehow like my teacher in mixing because I wanted to have a fresh set of ears because I was so involved in writing, recording producing and editing. Then I went to his studio for 3 or 4 days to get a fresh set of ears over the songs and then I went back home with it and finished mixing in my studio for another week and that's the process pretty much.

Steve: So it sounds like you have it fairly nailed down?

Marc: I felt this was best, this is the first album that is mixed in my studio. With "The Ghost Empire" I recorded in my studio but I didn't mix it in my studio, I mixed together with the guy I mentioned in Berlin in his studio. But the new one it's the first one that is also mixed in my studio because I had a pretty clear idea what I wanted for the sound like I described before, the rougher, edgy sound and also really focused on the guitar sound to come across really heavy. I thought it easier when I have this vision to finalize it myself rather than to try and explain what I want and go from there so it was logical to do that.

Steve: Yeah sure understood. So is there anyone in the industry that you'd really like to work with or do you feel like you've worked with pretty much worked with everyone you've ever wanted to work with so far?

Marc: You mean like work like a producer or band wise?

Steve: I'd say recording wise.

Marc: Not really, not that I can think of. Of course there are great people to work with, like Terry Date would be someone interesting to record with but it's not really something we've really thought about like, 'Oh this is something we have to try and work with'. This is someone that I'm more interested to use as a mixing or recording engineer but I don't think the band thought 'Ah this is the guy we have to work with' or something. I mean in the past it was like that where we wanted to record in Fretland Studios (sic) and we did that and we wanted to mix with Andy Sneap since you mentioned "The Opposite From Within" and the album after that we mixed with Andy Sneap. That was before in the band we wanted to have certain people to record and mix with and two albums are also produced by Anders Friden from In Flames but after that we took it more and more in our own hands. so not really.

Steve: So the second track ("Mein Schwarzes Herz") off the album has a German title, would you mind translating that to english?

Marc: So if I just translate the title, it's "My Black Heart". It's pretty simple, it's pretty personal lyrics. With the basic meaning behind this, you'd have to ask our singer because he writes most of the lyrics. I just know that it's personal stuff coming out of a bad relationship and everything in his heart turns black, this is the very short explanation of this.

Steve: This happens to be my favourite track so far on the album so I was interested to get your input and i guess a little more understanding of what the track meant.

Marc: We like to have one of these German songs on our latest album because we figured out that Andy (Andreas Dorner, vocalist) sounds pretty cool in German since we did the Rammstein cover track because Andy never wanted to use German and Andy had to when we did the Rammstein cover, then we were like, 'Hey that actually that sounds pretty cool so why don't we do this on a song on the album'. So it's become some kind of a tradition.

Steve: So what was the Rammstein cover just out of interest?

Marc: "Sonne". The english word is Son.

Steve: Excellent! So in your own experiences, what are the best and worst parts about touring besides the obvious like missing your family and that kind of thing?

Marc: One of the worst was when 9/11 happened and we were touring America at the time. That wasn't so nice of course because the whole country stopped with everything. Obviously the tour got cancelled and we were stuck there for quite a while, it was really a strange situation to be there not as an American. Stuck being there and not able to get home so because of this it was very weird and of course very tragic. One of the best experiences was also one of the first longest experiences was a tour with Machine Head just after "The Opposite From Within" came out, that was a 10 week tour. of course it had moments that sucked because we had many off days which was new to us and we had a bus breaking down and all that kind of stuff but in general, it was a very good experience for the band. It got the band going forward and gotten known better because it was our first big tour with a band like this, we got our name into this scene like this because before with the "Shadow Heart" album, we just played hardcore and stuff like that and this was the first time - I don't want to say mainstream metal - but definitely a different crowd with Machine Head than when you play with a band like "Earth Crisis" or something like that so that was really different. That was really cool for us.

Steve: Awesome! Rob Flynn is one of my personal heroes so it must of been quite an experience.

Marc: Yep for sure.

Steve: So what albums are you most looking forward to hearing in 2016 so far?

Marc: 2016 is still pretty young so I haven't listened to very much music this year yet because from new year onwards, we had a little trouble with the artwork because we had someone else doing the artwork and it came down that we had to fire this guy and look for some else. Someone from Australia did the artwork now.

Steve: Who was that out of interest?

Marc: That is the singer of "Dream On Dreamer", Marcel Gadacz. He and Zac (Zachery Britt) from Dream On Dreamer are singing on the chorus on the track "Inferno" and the mid-section. This is the album I'm probably actually listening to the most, I said I haven't listened to too much this year but I listened to their album "Sounds Of Solitude" and I also listened to the new Bring Me The Horizon album. I know came out last year but I haven't listened to much music this year yet.

Steve: It's interesting to hear what everyone is listening to and what they're looking forward to and it's great that you're also backing something that is Australian from our side of things.

Marc: Yeah I listen to a lot of different styles of music, there is a lot of Australian bands which are cool. I like "Northlane" "In Hearts Wake" and stuff like that. I listen to metal, I listen to rock, all kinds but these two albums I mentioned just happen to be the ones that I've listened to so far and the rest I've been working in my studio.

Steve: And I guess it comes back to the old saying, you keep it diverse to keep it interesting.

Marc: Yeah it's why I listen to different stuff like Muse for example and I think Muse has a big influence on our music as well. The way we write the melodies and build the layers of guitars and how we experiment with our sound and stuff like that.

Steve: Sure they are a great band and it's great to hear of the diversity . So this leads me into my next question and you must get asked one thousand times a a day but I'll ask it anyway. But do you have any plans to tour Australia in 2016?

Marc: Yeah we are definitely trying to make it over there. Unfortunately we were talking to Soundwave which is not happening anymore.

Steve: Yeah that's a pity.

Marc: Yeah we were talking to the guys and I don't know how far the discussions were but it all came to an end anyway so I don't know yet. We also talked with Dream On Dreamer because they toured with us here so we are trying to tour with them over there so it's definitely planned for this year.

Steve: That would be awesome, I'm sure the Caliban fans of Australia will be happy to hear that.

Marc: Yeah it's been a long time since we've been over so we are really trying to come back soon.

Steve: Awesome well we look forward to seeing you guys sometime. Do you have a message for the fans of Australia?

Marc: Yeah we are sorry that we haven't been there in so long because the shows and tours we've done there are very cool and a lot of fun. We love the countryside there and so we can't wait to come back. So sorry that we haven't been there in a while as we get so many people asking when are we finally coming back. But it doesn't always work out the way you think, for example Soundwave getting cancelled, then there was a tour before that we were supposed to do and that got cancelled too so very unfortunate.

Steve: Definitely look forward to seeing you guys sometime in 2016. It was great to talk to you today, thanks so much for your time!

Marc: Thanks for the interview, take care and we hope to see you at a show someday.

Interview by Steve Monaghan on February 3rd 2016