Interview with ‘Murphy Lange and Eric Tobian (Guitarists)
Interview by Luke Hayhurst
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Hey and thank you for your time!
Hey Luke! Thanks a lot for this interview. This is Eric (Guitars, since 2012) and Murphy (Guitars, since 2016), thanks for having us!
It’s been 7 long years since your last album, ‘Death From Above’. What have you all been doing in the intervening years?
Eric: We had a great time releasing ‘Death From Above’ in 2013. Unfortunately, we started struggling with many line up changes from 2015 to 2018. Those years were challenging. Getting a line up together and writing new songs at the same time was exhausting, we almost decided to split up. Still, we fought on, reassembled a stable line up and finished the songs for our new album ‘Holdout’.
What factors instigated your return to the studio to lay down a new album?
Murphy: I think there were no specific factors. It’s what we always wanted. It was totally clear that after the DEATH FROM ABOVE circle there just has to be new material. The goal to re-enter the studio was a stable motivation to get through the troubles of changing line-ups and strokes of fate. It was the other way around: the will to return to the studio instigated a lot of other things.
Looking at the names of your three albums to date there appears to be more than just a theme running through them. Clearly war is the main inspiration but going from ‘Call to War’, to ‘Death from Above’ and now ‘Holdout’, it feels like you are telling the story of war stage by stage. Am I reading too much into things or are you attempting a concept discography?
Eric: It is true that war is one of the main topics of our lyrics. Telling the horrors of war in a neutral position just works well with our kind of music. But we don’t follow any kind of concept, so it’s just a coincidence that the title tracks of each album are set in a historic chronological order. For example, many other tracks don’t follow this rule: ‘The Massacre of Nanking’ is set in 1937 and was released on our first album, and ‘Kill & Become’ is a song from our new record which tells the story of the german peasants’ war in 1525.
What is it about war that inspires you in your work? Are you all history buffs at heart who’ve read about past battles, or visit historic sites to glean inspiration?
Eric: Haha, not all of us, but our singer TZ is. Besides reading a lot of books, he also has a side-job in a museum, so history seems like an obvious inspiration. Anyway, we also deal with other topics than war, for example in ‘Infernal Death’ (Call to War), ‘Don’t Care’ (Death from Above) or ‘Agony’ (Holdout).
Thrash metal and themes of war do seem to go hand in hand. Why do you think that Thrash is so conducive to speaking about war, death, bloodshed etc?
Murphy: Thrash is just raw uncontrollable energy and chaos. The songs are so fast that most listeners have difficulties to recognize every little detail. This is how I imagine participating at war; A wave of all emotions aggression, fear, love and sorrow mixed with rushing events and noise. An overwhelming overstimulation. Thrash and war – it’s just a match. There is no other music that can picture the tragedy of war like Thrash does. The good thing is though – Thrash doesn’t hurt anybody!
What are the origins of Pessimist? How did the band come together, who chose the name and how did your style and lyrical themes develop?
Eric: Pessimist was founded in 2006 in a small pub in southern Germany. Our singer TZ and former guitarists Peppi and Robin had a bit too much Jägermeister and that’s how it all started. Soon, they started rehearsing and writing songs. The band name was chosen by TZ. The name ‘Pessimist’ stands for every topic we deal with in our lyrics, so it was natural for us writing lyrics about war, suicide or the end of the world.
Getting back to more practical matters, you recorded ‘Holdout’ at Iguana Studios. How was the experience there and how did you organise your time there for an optimum recording experience?
Murphy: Working with Christoph Brandes, the legend who produced two of the most anticipated Tech Death albums (Necrophagist) is always a real pleasure. When you record an album with a pro like him you do not have to care much about organisation or optimizing. He does that for you, he brings you in a good mood, in which we as guitarists were able to deliver!
You have decided to once again put your album out through MDD Records. How would you describe your relationship with the label?
Eric: We got in touch with MDD Records back in 2013 when we were looking for a label to release our album ‘Death from Above’. We really enjoy the ‘fan to fan’ relationship with MDD, it’s a great feeling to know that your label promotes your album because they are fans of your work.
We are in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden we have new things to contend with such as lockdowns, social distancing and face masks. How are the band and the label going about promoting the album in these stricter conditions?
Murphy: Yeah mate, promoting ourselves through gigs is the most important pillar for us. Our music shoot that should have been a key factor for the album release got cancelled aswell. But you can’t just sit there and let shit get you. So we found new ways like focusing on growing our social media appearance especially on Instagram, social media ads and Google ads. But I think the most important factor is that we found a way to get in touch with a lot of fans individually and tried to create many little win-win-situations so that our truest fans spread the word.
How does the live experience fit into your vision of being in a band? Under the current restrictions have you considered doing E-gigs as some bands have done? How do you feel about performing without fans in attendance?
Murphy: Not at all! There was not a single thought wasted on us playing E-gigs or in front of tooting cars. This might fit for other bands but not for us. Our show stands and falls with the exchange of energy. Without feedback from the crowd, you will never see a good PESSIMIST live show. This is why we’ll always give everything to engage the crowd.
Are you missing life on the road right now? How are you all filling your time at present?
Murphy: Hell yeah, I started podcasting to detain myself from drinking haha!
Eric: For me, it’s nice having a break from all the stressful time recording and preparing the new album. But still, I can’t wait for the day when we can finally play the new album live!
Who designed the artwork for ‘Holdout’? Do you give the artist strict parameters or do you give them a general theme and leave it open to their interpretation?
Murphy: The artwork is from a guy called Vini from Brasil. We had a clear vision for the artwork and definitely gave him strict parameters. But that doesn’t mean Vini had no freedom for interpretation. He fulfilled our specifications but likewise created a piece of art that turned out completely different than we had imagined. We are very happy with the result and it was a harmonising process.
How would you describe the music scene in Germany in 2020? Are there any bands or labels you would like to recommend?
Murphy: Alive and flourishing with big players like Nuclear Blast and Century Media, an indie-label scene and awesome huge festivals like the Summer Breeze Open Air, Party.San or the Rock Hard Festival. Can’t wait to dive back in when this pandemic is finally over.
Who would you say are your main musical influences? What music do you listen to that maybe doesn’t influence pessimist?
Murphy: I have to admit that with Pop Music and Metalcore/Hardcore I enjoy two “natural genre enemies” of Thrash Metal but I wouldn’t say that this music doesn’t influence PESSIMIST (please don’t tell the others haha). Eric and I also share a passion for rap. But when it comes to the main influences we’re all having the same basis with bands like Maiden, Exhorder, Overkill, Kreator, Exodus and Slayer.
Eric: My favourite Thrash Metal bands probably are Sepultura, ExHorder and Dew-Scented, so I’m sure that there is some influence of those bands in our songs. But sometimes I also enjoy listening to Techno music or a bit of rap, like Murphy said before. But of course: Death to all but metal.
Let’s cause an international incident. Who has the better thrash? Germany or the US and why?
Murphy: Easy one, I’m all in for team Bay Area Thrash!
Eric: Somehow I’m way more into US Thrash. I prefer the groove and the overall sound. German Thrash always sounded too straightforward to me.
With the boom in population so has come a boom in metal bands. How do you feel that oversaturation effects today’s current musical climate?
Murphy: Although it’s a little overwhelming I’m not the guy that’s always complaining about musical developments. We never had so much high-quality music at call and this is a good thing in my opinion.
Do you let current world events influence your work, or is your work exclusively an escape into history to forget the current situations?
Eric: We also deal with current topics. For example, ‘Don’t Care’ (Death from Above, 2013) is about the environmental crisis. WHO knows? Maybe there will be a Corona song one day, haha.
What do you all do outside of the band? Do you have jobs within music or are your personal lives completely separate from the band?
Eric: I’m studying mathematics and I also play in two other metal bands. But music is more of a passion and less of a job in my life.
Murphy: I’m working as a tour manager, coach and manager for metal and punk bands but currently also have a job as a teacher.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything to say to our readers to finish things off?
Eric: These are challenging times, but we are in this together. Stay true to yourself, support the music you love and we will see us soon again in the pit.