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Hannes Grossmann (Obscura/Blotted Science)

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Conor Fynes View Drop Down
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    Posted: December 17 2011 at 18:52
Obscura is one of the few modern death metal acts that have caught my attention. With a dedicated fanbase and a mission to constantly move their sound forward, they are an incredible act to see live. Barring drummer Hannes Grossmann's work with Obscura- who would go on to play a great set an hour after the interview- Hannes has also played in Necrophagist, and more recently, Ron Jarzombek's tech supergroup Blotted Science.

Conor: So, how have Obscura's travels been so far?

Hannes: So-so i would say, some of the shows have been really, really good. Like, in Montreal and New York... The other night in Edmonton was awesome. We had some good shows. We had them on mondays usually, not the best day. I think that the tour has been promoted and announced too late; it's definitely not the band's fault, I don't know who to blame! (Laughs) Regardless, the fans always show up, they're really into it. We always manage to draw a number, I mean, our Toronto show was announced very late, but somehow, we still managed to make seven hundred dollars in merch. Ten dollars per person, so this means that our hardcore fans are always aware of the tours, and what we're doing, always, and this kickstarted a project to fundraise a demo collection we were doing. We raised it within six days; three thousand dollars. Actually, numberwise, it's pretty good so far. It's just a little stressful, because it's our first headlining tour in the US, and we've done some headlining shows before, and they went pretty good. But it's taken us a while to adapt to this, having to travel long distances, and play a seventy minute set, then five hours sleep, then go again. It tires you out, but besides from that, it's been pretty positive so far.

Conor: I was gonna ask about the headlining thing, because two or three years ago, Obscura came here with Cannibal Corpse as the opening act, and it was incidentally one of my first extreme metal shows. It's been quite a jump for you since then.

Hannes: Yeah, I mean, we were pretty lucky, getting the CC support, then we played with the Black Dahlia Murder, then Children Of Bodom; which are pretty much the best slots you can get. Now, with the new album, it's really doing good. I mean, really good! (Laugh) I don't have exact numbers, but it's doing incredibly well commercially. We thought the opposite was going to be true. But as for a headlining, we had played with Children of Bodom, and decided that it was time to make the leap to headliner.

Conor: Yeah, Obscura and Omnivium (the new album) are receiving alot of attention in the metal community this past year, I was wondering what you guys thought of the reception, but I guess you already answered that! (Laughs) Besides Opeth and The Faceless, I can't really think of a progressive death metal band that has acheived this sort of popularity.

Hannes: Well thank you! That is a huge compliment. I personally think everybody in the band didn't really think that it would become a popular thing, or work out like this. We did well with Cosmogenesis, and this album- as  good as it can get really, for a second album. Well, technically it's the third, but we had this first album called Retribution, but it was just death metal and different musicians, it's been rereleased. The real first album- with this lineup and that sounds like us- is Cosmogenesis, and this one did really well, we supported it with tours and got alot of attention for it. We thought Cosmogenesis was very hard to play, so after that, we were thinking that we might take a little step back, and make it a little more groove oriented, accessible and laid back, but we actually took the opposite approach to that with Omnivium. The songs are way longer, way more complex, technically way more difficult to play, there doesn't have to be that old school 90's death metal vibe like Cosmogenesis had... With Cosmogenesis, we were very influenced by early Death records, but on Omnivium, I thought it was very important not to do this 'retro' thing. It's fun to have a guitar sound or write a song like 'Incarnated' that really sounds like a Death tribute song- which it is- but people defined us being some sort of Death cover band, which is not we want at all. For us now, it must be modern. I see it now more from the perspective of progressing heavy metal, not necessarily fusing it with other styles. You have The Faceless, a successful death metal band, but they bring it sounds of jazz, and hardcore. Alot of American death metal bands have alot of deathcore, hardcore influences, and we don't have that in our sound. We don't have any Meshuggah riffs, either! Not because we don't like Meshuggah, it's just not fitting for us. Anything you do with a rhythm oriented bass drum, it will always sound like Meshuggah! We want to do our own thing; taking metal and mixing it in with progressive stuff, hopefully create a sound of our own. On Omnivium, we thought that it might be too much, especially for the critics, who would think it was sh*t. I was thinking; 'I really like this album, but it is not going to do well at all.' But I find out that it gets 10 out of 10 in RockHard, in Germany. It was a big surprise! We never went into the studio and tried to write songs that some people would like, because we don't know what people like. We wrote what we felt like. Next time, it should be a little more melody oriented; maybe it will, maybe it won't! (Laughs)

Conor: Well, as far as your approach to metal goes, you remind me of one of my favourite heavy metal bands from Germany; Mekong Delta...

Hannes: Yes!! Great band.

Conor: They're thrash, but they progress their sound forward by working the metal with classical music and prog. So, I was wondering; what sounds and styles influence you as a musician, both metal and non-metal, as well?

Hannes: Everybody in the band brings in his own flavour and ideas, so that's probably one big advantage, because we can have songs that sound very different from each other, most of the time when one guy composes, the album has one identity, but the songs all sound very similar. We try to make each song have its own unique thing going for it on the album. The bands we all can agree on- the four of us- are Death, Atheist, Cynic, we love Dissection. Emperor, I guess? Iron Maiden, I would say. Steffen doesn't really like the singer, but the rest of us love the band. That's what we can agree on as a band, and you can hear it on Cosmogenesis. Then we have our individual preferences. There's a difference between me liking something and taking an element into my music. For example, I am a very big Tori Amos fan, but it would be very difficult to incorporate that sound into Obscura. (Laughs) I'm a huge Rush fan. There's a few things going on in Omnivium that are Rush influenced, especially in terms of structure. Morbid Angel, of course. 

Conor: What do you think of the new Morbid Angel album? (Laughs)

Hannes: Uhhhhhhh. The new Morbid Angel album... Yeah! (Laughs) Let's put it this way; I was really into three or four songs, and the rest not so much, so I don't listen to those ones. I think it is pretty cool that they tried something new, incorporating electro stuff into their sound, but it didn't work out too well, maybe next time, right? I know they're doing some remix thing with it. I think if they had done another throwback, old school death metal album like Covenant, it would have been highly rated. I think the metal scene nowadays has become something of an oldies show, so it's cool they tried something unique. They could have done something much better; '10 More Dead' is a really good song though, I think. They have always been a band where you never know what you're going to get.

Conor: On Omnivium, I am noticing a much darker vibe to it. With Cosmogenesis, it is very good, but the sound is still fairly straightforward, melodic tech death metal. Omnivium is a much darker realm. Was this reflected in the songwriting?

Hannes: Well, maybe! Hard to tell, because the lyrics will come that have been put together at the same time as the music. Some of the songs have been apparently composed before the lyrics. As for Cosmogenesis, I think it has a very positive vibe, and I think that the negative atmosphere, or 'so-called negative atmosphere' is more what we wanted to express on this album. I think we're more of that kind of a band, who has a darker sound, and it didn't come out so easily on Cosmogenesis. We were having a very positive time back then, we were a relatively new band, we just got a record deal, we didn't put much thought into it really; it was very spontaneous. I think especially for me, I had just left Necrophagist, and it was so much fun playing in this new band, so much new fun. We played for a few days in the studio, two days playing drums, one take. It was just fun. On the contrary, we've put so much thought into the new album, this is more logical. This is much more what we sound like, maybe black metal influenced.

Conor: How would you compare playing in Obscura to playing in Necrophagist?

Hannes: Personally, it's way more fun, because I can be myself now. Necrophagist was one guy writing all of the stuff, including all of the drum lines. It's very respectable I think, but it's not what I wanted to go on with, playing stuff that is written for a drum machine. It was a challenge at first, but it is not very interesting from a musical perspective, because I am always wanting to use different sounds and styles of music into death metal drumming, and Necrophagist is a very limited thing; very limited. It wasn't what I wanted to do; here, it's alot more fun, I can't say if one or the other thing is more demanding. For me of course, Obscura is great because it's my own band. Obscura may be more of a test of skill because here, I am not just playing death metal, but using fusion drumming, jazzy fills. On the other hand, there is the extreme metal drumming, which most rock or jazz drummers couldn't do, so it's a strange balance, doing what I want to do. It's been 100% more positive, to answer your question!

Conor: This year, you performed on the new Blotted Science EP, The Animation Of Entomology. How did Ron get in touch with you, or vice versa?

Hannes: He contacted me when I was still a drummer in Necrophagist. I've known Ron for a while now; he played a great solo on the title track of Cosmogenesis. And of course, Obscura has toured with Cannibal Corpse, so I remember saying to Alex Webster (bassist of CC and Blotted Science), 'if you ever need a drummer, let me know!'

Conor: Working with Ron Jarzombek (of Blotted Science/Watchtower/Spastic Ink) must have been a great fit, then. He's told me he's not much of a death metal guy, but Blotted Science has nonetheless become a highly regarded tech death supergroup. How was it, working with him?

Hannes: It was awesome! I've loved his early band Watchtower for years...

Conor: Control & Resistance is a fantastic album.

Hannes: It's one of my favourite albums of all time. I also like his solo material, and the Spastic stuff as well. It was a great honour to be invited to play with him, because he is a real world-class musician. How can I say, he has a very distinct vision of what he wants to hear, and where he wants to go with the music. All I had to do is compose drums, I only focused on playing drums. When we did that, we were syncing up movies, I was playing drums, learning ideas. It took forever to record drum parts, but I wrote them by programming them on a computer, then sending them to Ron, to see what he thought. His feedback was always very clear. He would write an email saying; 'make measure 90 to 108 busier' or 'play that part on the high hat.' Very specific instruction. I thought it was very helpful, learning and recording under those boundaries he had set. He kinda wanted me to be permanently overplaying. The first attempt of me writing drums for him, he told me to 'make it more busy', my first attempt was too straightforward! (Laughs) 

Conor: It's funny, because the first time I heard The Animation Of Entomology, the first thing I noticed was that the drums had been fuelled on steroids! (Laughs) When I was talking to Ron, he said that you were overplaying the whole thing, and that was just the way he wanted it!

Hannes: Haha! Well, I like working with people who know what they want. I don't really see music from a drummer's perspective that much. I don't want to play a beat for it's own sake, and not change it if it's going against the tide of the music. It has to go with the dynamics of the song, and if it's right, than it's right! And sometimes it's right to play a fill where one wouldn't usually fit. With Blotted, I had to think differently, some things I'm used to won't work anymore. Ron had a good idea of what he wanted in the project, and to me, that's very interesting as a songwriter. How he approaches the dynamics, it's very different than I would go for it. It's not about scoring points for drummer fills, that's not what it's about at all. I found it very easy to work with him on a personal level, maybe because we both liked Rush very much, so we have a very similar influence when it comes to music.

Conor: Cool! I have one last question; do you like cheeseburgers?

Hannes: Oh yes. I've been eating alot of them lately.

Conor: Where's your favourite place to get a cheeseburger?

Hannes: (Laughs) Waffle House!

Conor: Cheers!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrEdu3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 13 2015 at 23:12
Great interview!
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