Hanna Tsepesh: Hello Max! Welcome to THE GATES OF METAL and thanks so much for accepting our invitation for this interview! For the first questions I would like that you start to tell us a little bit about HELFAHRT history and introduce yourself and the other members?
Max: Helfahrt are: Sebastian Ludwig: Guitars & 2nd vocals, his brother Tobbs Ludwig: Bass, Andreas Mecker: Drums, Markus Klüpfel: 2nd guitar and myself, Max Marquardt: Lyrics, Vocals, Flutes Mouthharps. We are all involved in the process of composition due to the simple fact that we all have nearly the same taste of music and art. Concerning Helfahrts history, I first have to tell you that I Žve always been involved in many bands and projects but could never find suitable musicians for my own view and taste of music. Honestly thatŽs the only reason why Helfahrt was a "solo-project" in the beginning. The early beginning was very weird - you have to imagine that especially Pagan Metal basically did not exist back in 1999. I started with some pure acoustic songs, mainly played on acoustic guitars and mouthharps which was very innovative and courageous as well. Later the songs evolved into more harsh compositions and I began using an electric guitar and screams. Ha, when I think back to the times when people jeered at me, as I said to them IŽd play some sort of "nature-associated-pagan-black-metal", I really have to laugh. At this time I also gave up looking for musicians because I had the intention to find proper people who feel and think like I do - then the time wasnŽt ripe. Look how the whole scene has changed nowadays. ItŽs really unbelievable. Pagan Metal has become a trend with thousands of fans, artists and magazines. If you would told this fact somebody 8 years ago, they would never believed you! In early 2005, during my stay in Finland, I spontaneously phoned an old friend of mine, Andreas Mecker, and asked him if he would be interested in playing the drums at my new "project" He surprisingly said yes and told me that he knew two guys that would totally fit into my new band. Well, BIG LUCK! I could find the best line-up for this band I ever could get. The time that past by was worth it! And those 4 people still form the recent line-up! Helfahrt stands and falls with those great guys - I would kill for them - and I am very proud about this!
Hanna Tsepesh: Markus is a new live member, right? What is your opinion about Markus work so far?
Max: Markus joined us 1 1/2 years ago as a pure session-guitarist for our live-shows. He got introduced to us by our former live-guitarist Steffen from the US-Death Metal Band OBSCURA. When we realized that his personal views and his outstanding behavior really fitted into the band, we took a heart and gave him the chance to become a full member of Helfahrt. So far without regret. He is also a rough drinker - thats one of the most important things by the way,haha!
Hanna Tsepesh: What are your inspirations to create the lyrics for HELFAHRT?
Max: OH, there many things where you can take your inspiration from. Mainly, for me, it´s just nature, the sun, our mighty mountains. Stuff like that. In the summertime I very often go hiking and I think that I get most of the inspiration from moments like this. The lyrics are written mostly be me and our guitarist Basti.and are basically about the dark essence of nature spirits as well as a metaphorical view upon the old ancient Germanic and norse mythology. I can say that all our lyrics have deeper meanings hidden inside and are full of feeling and emotion. We are not interested in yet another Odin-Worshipping-Mead-Drinking-Warrior-based lyrical theme, as that is just…well…stupid, boring and mainly incorrect.. We wanted to do something that we can stand behind 100%. We use exclusively the German language, using powerful yet very unusual images as well as old German and Bavarian dialects. That’s part of why all the lyrics are in German, I believe. We just couldn’t quite create the atmosphere we need using a foreign language. But we are thinking about a translation for our foreign fans.
Hanna Tsepesh: Very interesting! I read a little bit about you and I am very interested in the fact that you also play flutes, whistles and harps! That is very difficult instruments right? From what age did you start to play that kind of instruments and why?
Max: I always loved the sound of flutes, especially in Metal! I´ve always been influenced by Irish-Folk-Artists and bands as well as the old, mighty Jethro Tull! Ian Anderson is still some sort of archetype for me, so it has just been a matter of fact that I tried to embed these instruments also into my compositions. It is pure passion! I started playing the Irish-flute at the age of 20 and other folk-instruments like the mandola some years later. These instruments seem quite simple to play on the fist glance - but believe me, they are much more harder to learn than most of the people think. Apart from that, I never gave anything on the typical "metal-cliché" so had also never a pang of conscience concerning the usage of metal-foreign instruments... I did it my way!
Hanna Tsepesh: Do you have any singing lessons or any kind of help in your voice or do you practice your voice with time? In my opinion, you have an excellent voice for this kind of style! My congratulations for your work!
Max: Oh, thanks a lot for your kind words. Hum, I think I improved my voice from time to time more and more. I started with the extreme metal vocals 9 years ago - it is now really a long time and I suppose that even now I am still learning on how to use my vocals best. I never had any help or something. I dare to say having the luck that my voice is given me by birth…
Hanna Tsepesh: What do you like to do in your free time?
Max: Ha, alright - you may wonder where I take the time for it - but I have really a lot of hobbies which I do in my rare spare time. Beneath Helfahrt, which is taking 98% of my time, I am playing the Mandola at the bulgarian Folk-projekt "Svarrogh". Apart from that I love to go hiking and climbing and in summer you´ll find me on nearly every mountain of Bavaria, Austria, Italy or Switzerland. And shouldn´t that be enough - I am collecting military equipment of the Vietnam-war as well as stuff from the 60ies-era. I recently started to turn up my cellar into a little museum. Quite uncommon - but very interesting though!
Hanna Tsepesh: What are your favourite bands so far? Any of those bands you admire the most? If yes can you tell us why?
Max: My favorite bands? You will be surprised - I warned you. So let´s go into the deep and hidden secrets of my personality: I am a big fan of "The Doors" and also "Jimi Hendrix" as well "Jethro Tull" and Ian Anderson. I recently rediscoverd their amazing and awesome songs - it is timeless music I dare to say! Apart from that, concerning Metal, I like bands like Kampfar, Helheim and all those late 90ies BM Bands such Fleurety as I grew up with this style of Black Metal. Right now I am listening to the new "Solstafir"-output KÖLD! Very good! Also "Loits" from Estonia are very good band. I often thought about inviting them for a gig here in Bavaria...we´ll see what time brings.
Hanna Tsepesh: Good taste on music! About your album “Wiedergang”, I have to congratulate the entire band for this excellent pagan metal album and I really don’t have anything bad to say! I like a lot the voices and all the instruments as well! The only thing is sad is that I don’t understand the lyrics, but I think that makes the album more genuine! I really recommend this album to our readers that like this kind of metal style! But for the people who don’t listen yet can you tell us about this album and what the band want to accomplish with “Wiedergang”?
Max: Wiedergang" is an old German expression and means translated revenant. Literally I´d say "undead person" in a "revenge"context. In ancient times, people where very aware and frightend of so called "Draugr" - persons who died a couple of days ago and came back undead to hunt down somebody who was maybe responsible for his death. To seek revenge I´d say. It is a very interesting topic and just hundred years ago, people (especially in Bavaria and Austria) still thought about this old and ancient cult some years ago. We have a lot of stories and tales about this custom in Bavaria.It is very mysterious and some people in Bavaria (especially the older generations) still believe in those stories. The songs are surrounded by a very dark aura - as the lyrics and title are very dark to create a haunting atmosphere. Just imagine you would walk through a dark forest in an autumn night, silence surrounds you. Cold wind comes up and breaks the dead leaves from the trees - every step you do crakes as loud as thunder - you are full of fear, your nerves hang loose. Beyond old trees and scrub Draugr is waiting for you - to take you with him, into too dark depths of Helheim.
Hanna Tsepesh: It was difficult to record this album? Can you tell us about the recording studio process? The band is proud with the final result?
Max: No, it wasn´t very difficult to record it. We are all quite professionals concerning work in the studio as we could collect a lot of experience with the bands and projects we were involved before we decided to sell our souls to Helfahrt. We recorded "Wiedergang" as well as our first album "Sturmgewalt" in Munichs "Helion-Studios Media". A very modern and big studio with a nice team. Recording just took us about 4 days, mixing and mastering 5 days. Quite a quick job if you ask me. Well, what is there to say:.hmm...we are not as satisfied with the output as we should be. We think that the sound on "Wiedergang" is a little bit too "modern" and not catchy enough to create a grim and frostbidden atmosphere. But that is just my personal view upon this. The others think different in this manner. For our next album, we will change the studio and try to go "back to the roots" and record in a real oldschool BlackMetal-Studio (laughs)!
Hanna Tsepesh: How has the response been so far to the album by the media and fans?
Max: Very good indeed! Not that good we had hoped, but it was still alright for us. In Germany it is very difficult to achieve a high status concerning reputation and fame, because the market is very saturated by tons of releases of other German bands. It seems that often the exotic status of a band counts more that the music itself. That´s really a pity but on the other side I can understand this problem. It is hard to get a good survey of all releases on the music market if you know what I mean.
Hanna Tsepesh: The cover album is very cool too! Can you talk about the person behind it? What did the band wants to transmit to your fans and listeners out there with the album cover?
Max: The artist is an old friend of mine. I did with him several trips to Norway and a few years ago we were also playing in the same band. So we konw each other now a long time. He is a very talented painter and really painted the album cover on oil! This is very seldom in a world full of technology and graphic-programs. We just want transmit the background of "Wiedergänger" with the picture.
Hanna Tsepesh: Wow so cool! If anyone wants to buy your new album what do they have to do?
Max: Well - just go into the record-store and buy it. If you like to order it directly, just type in www.Trollzorn.de/shop - there you will find everything concerning Helfahrt.
Hanna Tsepesh: Do you guys have TROLLHORN label! What was the feeling to have this label? You are happy withTROLLHORN work so far?
Max: Yeah - we cannot complain so far and we never regret cooperation with this label. The only problem so far is the matter of fact that we do not fit into their band-rooster. They mainly sign those typical Viking and Folk-Metal bands and I can really say that Helfahrt is the hardest and most extreme band under their wings. But we don´t really care about this - they pay our dues and they give us the possibility to record new stuff. Also the promotion is very good. Nothing bad to say.
Hanna Tsepesh: What is your personal view about Pagan metal in our days?Do you think that is getting better or poor? What is your advice for the bands out there that are starting Pagan metal bands?
Max: Of course Pagan Metal has become a huge trend - there are so many bands and projects out there. Most of them are pure crap, just trying to ride the trend and to become famous in a very short period of time. It seems that nearly everybody wants to have his own piece of cake. Ridicoulus! But you should never ignore that there are also many good and profound bands out there who don´t care about the trend. I´ve seen so many bands rising and falling within this trend - but today I can say that only the ones who did not expect to become a "big star" really created something outstanding and are still worth listening. Why? Because they never cared about a trend or concentrated mainly on PR and gigs and all that. They just wrote their music - how it should be!! Any advice for young musicians? Be true to yourself and do not expect anything!!! If you take a look to the really serious bands out there, like Kampfar, Nordafrost, Helheim or Solstafir, you will also realise that those bands partially started with their art 10 years ago - long before pagan metal became a trendy thing. They still exist, they still write very good music and - thats the most important fact: they are still with one leg in the underground. It´s really strange that all the good, extravagant and outstanding artists are not that famous than they should be. Sad but true. I think that the Viking/Pagan Metal-Trend won´t exist very long anymore. I give this movement approx. 2 years - not more. Pagan metal will experience the same downfall that the black metal trend experienced in the end of the 90ies. It is not the thing that I don´t like the trend - I just don´t care about it. We do not set ourself boundaries just to be "pagan" or "black metal"! I will write my own definition of pagan metal still when the trend is over and maybe Helfahrt plays gigs in front of 10 people. But that is not important. Art should always be self-fulfiment - no matter if you are famous or not and no matter if you play in front of 10 or in front of 10.000 people...
Hanna Tsepesh: Great answer! I understand a lot what you are telling us and I agree with you! About concerts, can you tell us some dates/places? There’s any chance in the future that we can see HELFAHRT at Portugal?
Max: We just returned from our second European-Tour - which lasted 16 gigs and went through Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britian, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Right now we are composing on our new album and there is really much work to do. So we don´t have many gigs this year. In summer we will attend some nice festivals in Germany and the Chech Republic. Next year we will do a third tour and I am sure that Portugal could be a very interesting tour stop. I will ask our management if they could arrange something. We would really enjoy playing in Portugal sometime. So, if there is anybody interested in booking us or just wants to share a couple of beers with me - do not hesitate and write us! We are not that expensive!
Hanna Tsepesh: Want are the future plans for the band? You are thinking in another album or something?
Max: As stated before we will record our third album this year in late summer. The release will be in March 2010!
Hanna Tsepesh: cool! Thanks a lot for that information! Do you want to send any message for your fans out there?
Max: Alright: Next time when you are in the record store - and you are unsecure wether taking the new Manowar or a Donovan-Cd, beat your forehead, buy our new album and be proud to listen to the right music!
Hanna Tsepesh: Thanks so much for your answers and time Max!THE GATES OF METAL wishes to all the band lots of success with this fantastic album and hope to see HELFAHRT here very soon…
Max: Thanks Hanna, for giving us the possibility of being interviewed in you Webzine! We hope to come over to Portugal next year! Maybe we can meet then - I am looking forward to this! Talk the talk - or walk the walk! R´n´R is Lord!
Hanna Tsepesh: You are very welcome and we hope the same! All the best...
By: Hanna Tsepesh
To listen some HELFAHRT music’s and for future information go at: