What is the history of Markradonn, and what gave you the idea to start it?
First, Mr Luther, let me thank you for and Pest Webzine for setting up this interview. It is our first official interview, and we appreciate you taking the time to learn more about us.
The history of Markradonn goes back at least 15 years, to 1997 when I was doing vocals and writing lyrics for a technical black metal band I had formed with some friends in the local New York metal scene. I was going through some serious personal/spiritual stuff at the time and the music was a sort of catharsis for me. The band broke up, but I still had the drive and the need for music.
So instead of just finding new musicians, I decided to study guitar with Dr Joe Lodes (Formerly of Spooge and currently of Maelstrom) for about two years. And I just kept writing material and practicing like a madman. I always had in interest in classical music, jazz, and in soundtracks, and as I began to learn more about music, and about the strange stuff going on in my head, I realized that I needed to expand my musical horizons to include some of my non-metal influences. So over the next 10-12 years I focused on just playing and writing, until one day it all evolved into a single, interconnected concept that allowed me to express my own musical, and spiritual, ideas. And it wasn't until I moved to Florida that I was able to find the right people to work with who simply wanted to try something different.
The idea for Markradonn came from the need and desire to do music, specifically metal, in as uncompromising and aggressive manner as possible, but still make it "musical". Markradonn is an experimental death metal band, but not "experimental" in the conventional sense; we are using different types of song structures, concert instrumentation, such as timpani, French horn, and a full brass section; I use a guitar synthesizer and other things that are not exactly considered nomenclature to death metal to create a unique mood and sound. We use the timpani and horns not to "soften" the music, but to make it more war like and visceral, and the guitar synth allows me to explore different textures and moods, as well as use classical instrument and synth sounds without a keyboardist.
This all led me to create a concept that would allow the freedom to express these experimental ideas in Death Metal, and Ceremonial Abnegation was born.
Tell us about Ceremonial Abnegation; how did you get the idea for the concept and what is it about? What can we expect to hear in Ceremonial Abnegation?
Ceremonial Abnegation is a 3 album, 22 song epic about a man who becomes so enraged with contempt and hatred that he renounces his life, his beliefs, and his very identity in a ritual that results in the end of his life. He literally "abnegates" is life in the same way a king would "abnegate" his throne; he simply discards it in the most contemptuous and resentful way possible, cursing everything and everyone on his way out. The lyrics are rather descriptive and graphic, and I try to create an "imagery" of what he is experiencing throughout his decent into self-hating insanity. The music is written to evoke the feeling that the lyrics are describing, so much of the musical experimentation is in attempting to do that.
I got the idea from this: Have you ever felt like you were just so sick and freaking tired of someone else's crap, and how they are such miserable and pointless life forms that you’d rather disembowel yourself with a butcher knife than deal with them for one more second? Or how about being so frustrated with your own existence that your mind feels like an icy blizzard that you can't escape from? Or what about an inner conflict that just tears you to shreds each and every day?
I can guess that many people feel this way, or something similar and in varying degrees of intensity, at some point in their lives. SoCeremonial Abnegation: Part 1 is a sort of a "soundtrack" to that kind of madness; a madness that one may have total cognitive awareness of, but no control over, while part 2 and 3 both deal with other deeper aspects of the trilogy, which will be revealed when the albums come out.
Eventually, in Part 1, our protagonist dies in a violent, blood drenched ceremony, and the last three songs are about his final breath of air and his revelations. Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 2 is about what happens to him after he is dead…
What you can expect to hear, first and foremost, in Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 1 Ad Ex Carne Excoriation, is solid musicianship, and a different approach to aggressive, extreme music. You can count on the music being uncompromising, unrelenting, and dynamic. There may be a few twists and turns in there that may surprise you, and each song will have its own personality and mood. The horns and concert percussion bring another dimension to the songs that many metal heads may not have heard yet in this style of music. Expect the vocals to be the sound of someone getting torn limb from limb by a pack of wild dogs.
I am financing and producing the entire project, because I did not want corporate entanglements to interfere with the musical expression or to create any unneeded bureaucratic stress on the creative process. So, you can expect that the music is being made by the musicians, not some suit who's only concern is his bottom line… I signed a straight up distribution deal to market the music worldwide.
How did you form the line-up and current members of the band?
The current lineup came about when I had found a flyer that Tim had put out looking to play drums with a serious project. So we jammed a few times and it worked out, and we started working together every week, just rehearsing and arranging the guitars and drums. Tim has a great work ethic and is a big part of the foundation of the music.
I had already known Matt because he is the Manager of the music school I bring my guitars for service, Garden Music School. We got to talking one day and decided to jam out on some French horn and guitar, and it was really wacky and cool. We actually recorded a guitar/horn duet that has been re-written and arranged for the second album. Matt then laid down some horns for a few demo songs, and it sounded great, so he became a full-time member and brought in Jon on concert percussion and Chris on trumpet. This is the recording line-up for Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 1 Ad Ex Carne Excoriation.
Allen, my long time best friend and metal brother from NY, played rhythm guitar on the two song EP that is set to come out in April of 2012 as a session player just for the EP. If not for the distance he'd most likely be a full time member on rhythm guitar. He may play with us for some live gigs in the future.
These guys have been great. I could not have asked for a better group of musicians to work with, and who have made me a better guitarist in the process.
What made you decide to play this style of music? What are your influences?
I don't think we "chose" this style; it sort of chose us. It just naturally worked out this way. Just by keeping an open mind and trying new and different things eventually led to this "experimental" style of death metal. Working with Matt really helped me open up to new ideas about composition, and how to incorporate these concert instruments in a way that worked. So the style just sort of evolved out of a collaboration between myself and the rest of the guys. I always loved big, powerful soundtracks by composers like Basil Poledorus, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and John Barry, so it wound up working out when Matt and I decided to start jamming out because he digs those guys too.
As far as my influences, I guess I'd start with my guitar teacher Joe and his band Maelstrom (whom my brother-in law Gary also plays in). Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, Paul Gilbert, are all guys I try to emulate my lead playing after. Metal bands I am really into are Winds (Norway), Arcturus, the first Kovenant album (basically anything with HellHammer on drums), Cynic, Moonsorrow, Immortal, Internal Bleeding, and of course, Nocturnus. I think there is not a single band that has had more of an influence on my guitar playing than Nocturnus; At The Gates and Alf Svenson, Grief Of Emerald, Therion, and the whole Gothenburg scene. The rest of the guys are into a lot of Non-metal; composers like Danny Elfman, John Williams, Jazz, classical, etc…; I know Tim loves Job For A Cowboy and classic rock.
What do you feel when you play the music?
I feel alive, focused, and like time stops and nothing else in the world matters. One of the most surreal experiences was when we first jammed out with the drums, timpani, and Matt playing additional concert percussion. I am so used to hearing the standard guitar/bass/drum fixtures and when I heard Jon banging down on those timpani I felt like we were going to war.
There is nothing I would rather be doing than playing guitar and doing vox in Markradonn. It is catharsis for me, but also a ton of fun to play music that I love with guys that are just the best to work with. It's like Markradonn allows me to be my "true" self, to take off the mask I am forced to wear each day when I interact in "regular" society. In this band and with this music, I can just let loose and be "me".
What have you released so far and how were your releases received by the public/media?
Dude, the response has been amazing! Just a week ago, I put up on Reverbnation an advance mix of the song Final Dying Breath, which is one of two upcoming EP songs, and we got 290 fans in less than 6 days. So far, everyone who we played the song for loves it, and we are even getting compliments from people who don’t even like Death Metal. It is truly a humbling experience to have people appreciate what we are doing.
When I released a demo in 2011 with Matt and a session drummer, we received offers from labels and production companies, and within two weeks I had an offer on the table. So the response has been great and beyond what I could have imagined at this stage of the game.
But the bottom line is that even if everyone hated this stuff, the important thing is that we like what we are doing, and ultimately that is the reason why we all got into music: we do it because we love music.
What are you guys up to now and what plans do you have for the future of Markradonn?
The immediate plans for Markradonn include releasing the advance EP to the album, which will be a split with Maelstrom in NY. It will have two songs from the album, Final Dying Breath (which you heard) and an EP edit of Frenzied Winter Sorrow. Both of these songs will feature Allen Raia on Guest Rhythm Guitar (who has a project called Return From Within, to be released in early 2013) who helped out for the EP.
In June of 2012, look for Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 1 Ad Ex Carne Excoriation, the first album in the three part Ceremonial Abnegation saga, which will have 9 songs with several instrumentals, full concert/brass ensemble instrumentation, and will include the two EP songs as well as all-new material. We are currently in pre-production and will hit the studio in a few weeks to track drums.
This summer, 2012, we have a video release planned and live performances, some of which will include the full ensemble.
In 2013, we are planning the release of Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 2 and in 2014, Ceremonial Abnegation: Part 3. All of the music and lyrics are written, so the only thing that needs to be done is to arrange it all with the other instruments.
We plan to be a top band worldwide, but doing so without compromising our musical integrity.
Where can we listen to your band and where can we buy your stuff?
We are currently signed to JMD distribution, so check the Reverb Nation page for samples and updates on when the EP and album are released.
Interview by Lex Luther
Answers by Haniel