Human existence today is bleak, drab and cheerless. The misery of urban life is to walk through eternally repeating blocks of grey cement, no colour, no happiness to be found. While this may sound exaggerated to some at first, depression and mental unwellness increase evermore in modern society. German Black Sludge project ZEIT capture this concept of existential dread masterfully on their latest release “Drangsal”! I spoke to Win and Fur of ZEIT about time, Menschmaschinen and extremes of the metal spectrum. Enjoy!
– Hi guys and welcome to Blessed Altar Zine, thanks for taking the time!
– Fur: Thanks for having us.
– Okay, basics first: Tell us a bit about yourselves, if you want something outside of the music, and also how your musical journey led into metal!
– Win: Same old story. You start with something totally different, get to hear a bit of metal, get introduced to something else of that genre that suits you even more and you’re sucked into it. Like for most metalheads it just developed naturally, I’d say.
– Fur: We are not that good with talking about ourselves, so let’s talk music instead.
– Sure! So, ZEIT formed in 2010, can you tell us how the project came to be?
– Win: Fur and I met while studying at the same university. We found a common interest in making music and have been too lazy to look for anyone better. Luckily Fur knew this great bassist Flakman who willingly joined us shortly after. So we ended where we’re now.
– For our non-german readers, “Zeit” is german for “time”. How did you end up choosing the name and what does it mean to you personally?
– Fur: Time is the great equalizer, the final boss. Nothing is more relentless or gruesome. I wanted a band name, that stood out between the masses of evil bands, something simple with enough scope to have room for interpretation. And now we are almost always the last band in every list, at least if ZZ Top are not included. I like that too.
– What is time for you? Would you say it is something to be scared of?
– Win: It makes no sense to be scared of something that’s unavoidable. It’s more of a fascination than a fear. Just think about what time means in perspective of the whole existence of the universe – it’s nearly endless, unimaginable. But compared to that, the history of humans is only a blink of an eye, yet it shaped such different eras and events.
– Fur: You can see that people are scared of it. They are maximizing their days to be as efficient as they can be. They don’t want to miss anything and they are always chasing themselves, trying to make the most of their days. Nobody has time anymore to stop and just stay in the moment. We are all victims of this process, but for me time is not something to be scared of but to embrace and to cherish, either by taking time for yourself or together with good people.
– While time is ticking away constantly, it is among the few constants in life. Does this compose a philosophy about everything coming to an end, a kind of depressive or terminal view on life?
– Win: Everything is terminal – that’s the joke about time in the first place. The major part of the human kind simply tries to overcome that terminal aspect by trying to create something that maybe exists after their own time has passed. Wouldn’t say that this as a depressive aspect, yet I can understand the weird feeling of having the knowledge that you will cease to exist. Sometimes it’s even more depressing that time goes by so slowly.
– How would you describe the sound and philosophy behind ZEIT?
– Win: It’s an amalgam of the stuff we hear. We like to experiment with different genres and musical elements and try not to limit our music to any borders. On the other hand we also don’t force us to be as experimental as possible. We simply play what we like. To that extend it becomes that kind of sound. But even that varies from release to release. Fur writes all the lyrics, so he better explains the philosophy behind it.
– Fur: So it is a little bit of nihilism, a little bit of love, not a lot of hope and a lot of urban misery. All mixed together into one delicious cocktail that tastes like dry piss and dust.
– Your new Album “Drangsal” (tribulation / distress) is out since August 30th, how does it progress the bands sound and what are the themes that the album brings to the table?
– Fur: It is not that easy to translate, because it means a lot of things, at least in german. Of course it translates to some kind of distress, but also to compulsive behaviour. To force yourself into doing something even if it is maybe not good for you. The songs are more or less about that, but I don’t want to give away too much, people should make up their own mind.
– The cover artwork for the new album is simple, yet effective. How does it in your opinion capture the feeling of the record?
– Fur: The Skull with the Skyline-Crown wandered in my head for quite some time. It has the city on its mind if you will. I didn’t want it to be like a polished dime-a-dozen metal cover. It is supposed to look like a sketch, a graffiti, something grinning at you with all it’s ugly imperfections.
– Which are your favourite tracks from “Drangsal” and why?
– Fur: This is like asking, which is your favourite child, and the answer is obvious: I hate them all the same!
– Talking tracks: What is a “Menschmaschine” (human-machine)?
– Win: We all are. Most of us are simply functioning. Eat, Work, Consume, Sleep. Everyday, over and over again. We all have a task, important or not, that most of us fulfill blindly without asking why. The whole world economy is one big machine and we are all only a small part of it to keep it running. Money is the oil to smoothen it.
– Fur: You look at all the perils in the world that you can do nothing about because you have no power or no time to react. You are occupied with trying to hold your little life together.
– You released two singles with accompanying videos. How do you come up with video concepts and how do these videos specifically fit in with the album?
– Fur: We are not really the guys to pose with our unplugged instruments in a storage hall or trying to tell a story with actors etc. No money for that. So it’s mostly video material from our trips to lost and abandoned places. But we have one more video planned for “Drangsal” and it is gonna be a little different. Maybe.
– What would you say are the biggest musical inspirations for ZEITs sound?
– Win: Difficult to say because we normally don’t really push ourselves into writing new music. Thus, it’s nearly everything around us – music, people, our recent state of mind. But of course as someone who makes music, you’re inspired by other bands. Tom Waits, Darkthrone, Illdisposed, Death, Die Antwoord, Sabaton or Maiden? We do hear a lot and that always reflects on the own creations.
– Fur: I never really covered any of the bands I listened to over the years. Maybe one or two Metallica- and Immortal-Riffs I can’t remember anymore. The one artist I’m always coming back to is Tom Waits, so that is probably the biggest inspiration for me: “I like my music with the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in.”
– What inspires you to make music and especially dark music? Any non-music inspirations?
– Fur: Well the lyrical inspirations are definitely non-music. For “Drangsal” it was a lot of Heiner Müller. Other from that I need not much inspiration. A normal day at the office suffices. “Dark music” evokes a feeling in me and that is why I choose to play it. But if you listen carefully you will find some bright moments and a little tongue-in-cheek-humour on “Drangsal”. You can’t have the dark without the light.
– You call yourself a “Black Sludge” band. What do you find most appealing in black metal and sludge? Also, how do you combine the two genres into something cohesive?
– Fur: Well it is just a label so that music journalists can try to put us in their neat little boxes. At least we can piss of Black Metal and Sludge Purists that way. Black Metal and Sludge are more or less the both extremes you can find in our music. But you will find a lot more influences in our music. For me those two genres are two sides of the same coin: raw, emotional, ugly. I don’t know, how cohesive our efforts in combining them are, but the method is simple: Everything is allowed and three people have to like it.
– You are an independent band. Is releasing music without a label challenging?
– Fur: Releasing music is not that challenging anymore: 1. Record music 2. Publish on Bandcamp 3. Profit. The Gatekeepers are mostly gone, everyone can become the next big thing. A label can help but normally only comes into the picture, when a band is already “big” enough or the next best hype.
The challenging part is to stand out of the masses of new releases, to even become interesting for labels. If that is your goal…
– Would you say that being independent from labels makes the music more independent and true to the artists vision in the process?
– I don’t really know, how and if bands have to surrender some of their vision, if they are on a label. There are a lot of labels, that want their artists to be real, visionary and bold. Maybe not the bigger labels, that need a clean, safe piece of music to sell. When an independent band meets an independent, underground label, magic can happen. But I can imagine an artist limiting himself to stay on a trend or play it safe for profit.
– Thanks a lot for your answers! Is there anything else you would like the share with our readers?
– Win: Drink more Sternburg!
– It was nice having you! Thanks again for taking the time. Best of luck for the release of “Drangsal” and future ZEIT releases, looking forward to hearing more from you!
– Win: Thanks for your interest and support! Keep up the good work.
Interview by the trve Medvson
I also wrote a review for ZEIT’s new album “Drangsal”. You can check it out right here!
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