Interview with Michael Connors (vocalist, guitarist, songwriter)
Interview by Kira Levine
Hi, hope that you are keeping safe and well. Please state your name and position in Unendlich for our readers.
Hi Kira, this is Mike from Unendlich, I am the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter.
You are now a multi-instrumentalist, but what did you learn to play first?
I started by teaching myself guitar. I took a few lessons on guitar and bass but found that teaching my myself by playing the music I loved was more motivating than any formal lessons. I’ve played drums off and on throughout and informally learned piano/keyboard more just out of efficiency to get things done myself. In general, I use instruments more as tool to create songs than being overly analytical about theory or virtuosity. I feel it is beneficial for a musician to take on another instrument if they are interested in song writing to hopefully get a better understanding how instruments work together to benefit a song and potentially invoke different ideas and approaches.
Are there any words of advice you would give your younger self, looking back?
Avoid wasting time playing with people without drive or discipline or who don’t challenge you to be better. I’d also force my younger self to learn guitar right-handed as I am a lefty and went with it but now I find it frustrating how being left-handed limits instrument options.
Unendlich was founded in 2010. What is the story behind the project’s name?
Unendlich is the German word for infinite. It is essentially my observation that death itself is infinite. I was drawn to the concept of the endlessness of death through dealing with loss in my own life and throughout human history. Though themes within most of my songs are dark, there are empowering songs as well, such as the song “Thanataphobia” on the previous album which is about using impending death as motivation to not waste your life on meaningless distractions (“memento mori”). There is enough elusive nature to the name that if I choose to, I wouldn’t potentially feel locked to a theme.
How would you describe the current metal scene in Baltimore, MD? Would you say it has changed for the better over the past decade or so?
I can’t say I keep a finger on the pulse of the Baltimore Metal scene. I would say Maryland Deathfest (MDF) is the biggest metal event that occurs in Baltimore that draws more known international bands with a couple more underground/local openers. From my experience though, and this could probably apply to just the general state of the world, the music scene is becoming less about metal and music and more about what one’s political leanings are. I personally don’t look to musicians’ political affiliation or opinions to form my own thoughts on a subject and probably listen to a lot of bands and artist who on a personal level I don’t agree with. I want musicians to make great music and the less I know them as a person the better. I understand someone not wanting to “support” extremist views but a band should not need to make a proclamation of intent just to play metal. As for Baltimore, it is probably more known for Death Metal vs. Black Metal, though there seems to be a growing number of bands from the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) area and PA.
What are the pros and cons of handling all the written material, performing the vocals and most of the instruments yourself?
Pros are that I only answer to myself, so there are no creative or personal conflicts.
Being that I only answer to myself, and con is that I end up living in my head a lot with the material vs. fleshing it out more with other band members or musicians. It is just a lot of work handling multiple roles. By the end of writing and recording an album, I’m pretty burnt.
Who are the one-man bands Unendlich is inspired by, and why these in particular?
All of them really. Essentially any driven person that can execute their creative vision without relying on or caring about external opinions and input. The sooner a person can block out the deluge of unsolicited opinions and follow their artistic drive without interference the better. This tends to be easier to achieve as an individual than a group.
Working alone is empowering. You are your own boss and answer to no one. It is even easier now with how accessible things are with technology and the amount of information available on the internet. If you have the drive to learn a skill you are deficient in, it is out there to learn usually for free. You just need to put the work in.
Paradox Of A Broken World is described as juxtaposing “the impending doom of a world coming undone at its seams with the consistent need for humans to deny their own reality”. Was the album influenced by the current pandemic?
No. Every civilization has eventually destroyed itself. This has been the trajectory of humanity for the last several decades. The destruction it is now on hyperdrive due to the exponential advancements made in technology. As with any advancement there are pros and cons, but industry tends not to question the value of advancement to existence and instead just moves to the next iteration of advancement for advancement’s sake, regardless of resource exploitation. Instead of looking at how we got to a bad situation and fixing the origin, humanity often looks to technology for a solution to a problem it created (The Paradox). We see it manifesting in agriculture, climate, heath, etc. As a common saying goes, “Progress in the wrong direction isn’t progress”.
Lawrence Mackrory mixed and mastered Paradox Of A Broken World. Where was it recorded?
My home studio. I’ve engineered and recorded all my albums and a few for other bands. I avoid mixing and mastering my music though, since after writing and tracking everything I tend to be too attached and feel I lose objectivity to the sound after so many repeated listens.
There are a couple of songs (“Inner Kill” and “No Hope”) that contain lead guitars by Tyler McCarthy. How did this collaboration come about?
He is Unendlich’s lead guitarist and plays live with Unendlich. Though I write leads here and there I felt those songs could benefit from his playing style and he did a great job. He also has his own band as well called So Be It.
What gear did you and Tyler use on Paradox Of A Broken World?
Guitar – Jericho Edge Premium 6, ESP II Arrow, Epiphone SG.
Bass – Ibanez SR505L
Drums – Tama set for framework than edit post with Superior Drummer
Vocals/Acoustic Guitar – Blue Mics – Baby Bottle
Tyler – Guitar – Jackson Roads Pro
Signal Chain –
Guitar > Friedman BE-OD > Mesa PowerAmp > Marshall Cab
Bass Ibanez SR505L > DI> Comp> Darkglass
Do you think you will bring other guest musicians on board in the future?
Perhaps. I doubt I’ll attempt writing another album anytime soon but might do an EP with some of the current lineup. I would like to get my current drummer on a recording and have a couple tracks that I’d like to see what he could do with. If that is with Unendlich or something else is still to be determined.
Would you ever consider playing live outside of the US?
I’d play anywhere there was a demand for Black Metal. I’d just need logistics worked out as I unfortunately still must contend with my full-time day job.
Who created the cover of Paradox Of A Broken World?
Taxpayers of the USA. It is a NASA image that I modified for the album cover. I just chose to spend money elsewhere rather than on new album art since, being realistic, few people buy physical CDs anymore. Diehards buy LPs but those cost a ton to make and the turnaround is very long currently. For what little demand Unendlich has at this point I wouldn’t want the unnecessary inventory.
I’ve worked with Misanthropic-Art and Vertebrae33 in the past and both did great work on previous albums and merch. Misanthropic-Art did a shirt design for this release. I will probably work with artists in the future for more merch designs when the time comes.
The band logo has been updated, who designed the new one?
The Lord of the Logos, Christophe Szpajdel.
He did a great job and really nailed the cleaner look I wanted, with a creative approach to the death’s scythe and the infiniteness of space.
You have chosen to release Paradox Of A Broken World independently – was that the case with prior Unendlich records?
No, the last two albums came out via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. My first album and “Paradox of a Broken World” are both independent releases. I also released the EPs “Misanthropic Sedition” and “Stoppenberg Sessions” myself.
What are the advantages of self-releasing, and would you recommend this to bands just starting out?
Well, a larger label (Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast, etc.) has infrastructure already setup to help bands but ultimately the label at least would want to break even or preferably turn a profit (which isn’t easy these days). To garner any interest from a larger label you’re going to need to have material out there and have some degree of a draw. It is important to understand what one’s goals are and why they might be driven to release music. So in short, yes, you don’t need a label to release music. Just get your music out there play shows if that is what you want. Make yourself happy with your music and effort as there is no life-sustaining career in extreme music in a place like the United States.
Unless someone is extremely inexperienced with how digital distribution works (DistroKid, Bandcamp, etc) you can just release your material yourself. The smaller labels are mostly labors of love for anyone that runs them and probably work at a loss much like myself. Hire some PR if you want though it is all burning cash especially in the more extreme genres of metal. If you want to grow your band organically the best bet is shows but given the last year that didn’t go well for most bands.
Are there any other bands or projects you are currently in that you would like to speak about?
I am not currently in the band but last year I worked with some dudes out of PA and put a lot of work into their first release. I don’t believe there was much promotion around it but am still proud of the material I worked on with those guys. The band is called Treading on Divine.
When you are not creating music, what do you enjoy doing?
Me and my wife are starting to get into amateur homesteading, so we do gardening and got to help some farmers we know slaughter pigs which was a great learning experience. I also enjoy hiking, archery, and going to breweries. Perhaps one day I’ll join the likes of Satyricon and 1349 and make my own beer or wine. It would probably sell better than CDs!
If you could create your dream band line-up, which famous musicians would you choose and why?
Depends on the project though just good metal/rock song writing I’d like to be a member of Danzig 88-95 era.
Sticking to Black Metal, I’d go with Marduk or Dark Funeral as my backing band and Blake Judd from Nachtmystium to sell my merch, hah!
Are there any new or underground metal bands from Maryland that you admire and would like to mention?
I am sure there are other black metal bands in Maryland but am not personally aware of them. I’d have to expanding the scope a bit to the DMV and PA
VA – Skaldr
For fans of bands like – Dawn (Sweden)
D.C. – Wythersake
For fans of bands like – Rotting Christ / Septicflesh
PA – Veilburner
Trippy black/death metal. For fans of bands like Akercocke mixed with newer Mayhem vibes and their own thing. Also the other band the singer is in, Torture Ascendancy 1307, is pretty crushing and Unendlich shared the stage with them in the past.
In your opinion, what is the best non-metal album to date?
There are a ton so it’s really hard to encapsulate that without picking potentially something cliché that appreciating its greatness has been lost just out of sheer repetition in our zeitgeist. So here are a couple non-metal bands/albums that may have had a influenced me.
The Cure – Pornography
The Doors – s/t
Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
The Smiths – Meat Is Murder
Morrissey – Vauxhall and I
Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always
VNV Nation – Empires
Covenant – Sequencer
Aphex Twin – I Care Because You Do
How does the rest of 2021 and beyond look for Unendlich?
We are playing Shadow Woods Metal Fest 8/28 then J.B. Lovedraft on 9/11. After that I am unsure. MDF in 2022 would be cool but looks booked at this point. Beyond that, perhaps I’ll work on an EP in the near future but have no plans for a full album anytime soon. Will probably put my creative efforts into other areas of life/projects/bands for the time being until the coffers of creativity fill again for another proper Unendlich release.
Thanks so much for your time! Is there anything else that you want to share with us?
Thanks for the interview and thanks to everyone that listens to “Paradox of a Broken World”!
Paradox Of A Broken World is out now! Get your copy from Unendlich’s Bandcamp here: unendlichband.bandcamp.com/album/paradox-of-a-broken-world/