The members of Rostock, Germany’s doomed-out sludge merchants CONFUSION MASTER continue to spread their tentacled, sucking madness with new album Haunted, available via Exile On Mainstream.
HAUNTED BY THE HUNTER
Interview with Stephan Kurth [Vocals/Guitars]
Interview By: Lord Randall
Rebel Extravaganza: Germany is really turning into a key point for doom in the past few years, Ahab, Emerit, you guys. Is there much of a metal/extreme music scene around where you are based?
Stephan Kurth: We are Baltic Sea, coastal based. Rostock, Hamburg, Kiel and Copenhagen got quite substantial scenes and amounts of growing bands of all kinds of Metal. I‘d mention these currently: Funeral Fukk, Bone Man, Earthbong, ZqkmgdZ, The Convent. Also, the Polish Doom scene grows quick. Metal is quite an accepted mainstream culture over here what opens doors for niche cultures as well.
RX: When CONFUSION MASTER started to form, did you already have a good idea of the sound you wanted, or did it form more organically over time?
SK: We started in 2015. I had a clear vision in mind with regards to how we wanted to sound. Rehearsing once a week sharpened and even changed our sound constantly. It develops from mutual corresponding aspects constantly, as it should be within an organic band!
RX: Black metal, death metal, so on and so forth seem to be – a lot of times – definable by a sound of their geographic location. You know, Chilean black metal, Norwegian black metal, Swedish death (Gothenburg or Stockholm), and New York Death Metal, etc. Aside from a few outliers, though, doom is just DOOM, writ large, and doesn’t really focus on where the band is from as much as is it Real? Does it hit hard? Does it make you feel a soul connection, you could almost say? Of course Candlemass sounds nothing like Trouble who sounds nothing like Worm, but there’s a thread of sorts running through, would you agree?
SK: Taking it further from what I wrote above, in societies or local micro scenes where rock music as culture is accepted there is freedom to take it further – into the extremes. It’s basically following a formula and twisting, rewriting, re-focusing it. There are some older people in our local scene, including family members who were raised on Zappa and Led Zeppelin, and they listen and appreciate what we do. That shows how universal that formula is, and it is all embodied in our chords and tone.
RX: Any lessons learned from Awaken that you carried into Haunted? Obviously you’re more familiar with each other as musicians, have done tours, so you’re comfortable. Was there anything new, any sort of sound or element you wanted to try on Haunted, or just let the music take you where it will?
SK: We never do any sort of pre-production, although our songs are getting shaped and proven to test sometimes in years of playing live before we record them. The band and our individual characters are quite moody, and we individually follow different approaches dealing with that to continue and bring the project to life.
RX: Was the album done old-school, live or were you kinda stuck where you were due to restrictions?
SK: Old-school live and loud amps, set up in our rehearsal space. One song per day in six sessions during the cold winter 2020. The sessions had to be rescheduled twice due to COVID-19 restrictions back then. We added a few overdubs, mostly on lead guitar and vocals. The need for re-arranging recording times and getting into the mood for recording was basically impossible. In the end it all took us almost a year. [Laughter] You can smell the paranoia in these recordings.
RX: What was your guitar setup like for the recording? I’m almost strictly Epiphone/Les Paul myself, through Blackstar amps, but I’m curious as I’m now playing alongside another guitarist. How important is it that the two guitarists complement each other sonically?
SK: Complementing the tone and sounds of other is very important for us and helps eliminate egocentric tendencies [Laughter]! I was running my pedalboard (Fuzz section EAE Model FeT into Megalith Fuzz into 18v powered EQ for headroom) into clean Petersburg P 100 head and further into a Sunn0)) 4×12 cab. The same signal went as split into a Sovtek Mig 100H head and a 4×12 Laney cab. This setup supplies the high sonic ringtone while the bass mid-body comes from our other guitar player Gunnar [Arndt]: Les Paul into Orange OR 100 using the internal gain and a 6×12 Celestion Greenback-equipped custom cab that he built himself.
We both play ESP Ltds and Gibson Les Pauls.
RX: One thing that stands out about CONFUSION MASTER is the rhythm section. Where a lot of doom style bands keep things basic, Stephan [Gottwald, drums] and Mathias [Klein, bass] are…I won’t say scattered, because you can’t be in doom, but they for sure make some unexpected turns, and it makes the band stand out.
SK: I guess that is part of our rather unorthodox approach in composition. We take things slow but also with a bit of a rather short attention span and we are getting bored quite easily.
Stephan’s drumming always incorporates something he hasn’t done before a thousand times. No rythmic loops to be found in here. He‘ll be devastated (and we too!) for a drum fill for months to come out right.
Mathias simplifies this madness back again into something audible or Gunnar and I follow and lay some harmonies on it.
RX: ‘Under The Sign Of The Reptile Master’ is the perfect ending to Haunted. How did the tune come together?
SK: Oh, well that initially had been two songs we crammed into one with a bridge in between. The story is a funny one: We once had a very fun night with Bongzilla in Hamburg back in 2018 and joked on it on a rehearsal. So I came up with some kind of a tribute riff and we quickly built up on that. Lyrically it’s about an Evangelic priest getting eaten by a crocodile. That in fact is an authentic story!
RX: Plans for the coming year? Tours seem to be a thing now, again, at least to a degree.
SK: Oh well, we hope to remain healthy and sane first and foremost. Plans are to do another run of Haunted release shows this upcoming spring mainly in Germany and maybe some in the Czech Republic. We hope to be able to tour later in the year and have already set up a run of shows throughout western Canada with our friends of Hoopsnake in August / September. For October 2022 we will be hitting the road in Northern Spain (Basque), Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg.