Torsten, der Unhold, mastermind of German Progressive/Post-Black Metal band Agrypnie answered my questions for the release of Metamorphosis, the band’s sixth full-length.
Hello and first of all, thanks a lot for your time! Would you mind introducing the band Agrypnie with your own words please?
Torsten, der Unhold (vocals/guitar/composition): Well, I found Agrypnie in the beginning of 2004 as a solo/studio-project. Three years later I decided to start searching for musicians to be able to play concerts. Metamorphosis is the ninth release of Agrypnie and the current lineup includes Flo (Drums), Chris (live guitar), Marc (studio bass, live guitar) and Andreas (live bass). On stage I am doing vocals and play guitar (we play some of the tracks with three guitars), aside the stage I am doing everything except playing the drums and bass in the studio (bass actually only because until a few weeks ago I didn’t own a proper bass for recordings).
What does Agrypnie mean to you?
Torsten: Everything. Agrypnie is the center of my life, my therapy, my self-realization, the thing I am proud of the most and my legacy. I can’t imagine a life without Agrypnie/my music. I am pretty sure I will continue in one or another way doing music as long as I can, even when I am (very very unlikely) probably one day fed up with liveshows and/or Black Metal.
Metamorphosis, the band’s sixth full-length, will be released at the end of july. Are you satisfied with what you’ve done? What is the story behind this album?
Torsten: I am extremely satisfied with the album. I am not one of those musicians telling with every new album “This is the fucking best album we released so far” but I really need to say for the first time, in my opinion the sound we created on Metamorphosis is the most brute one we had so far on an album.
Actually I don’t really talk about the story/the concept/the lyrics of an Agrypnie album. It is important for me that the listeners draw their own conclusions, rather than getting everything told without the possibility to do their own interpretations. And well… The more selfish reason for not talking about my lyrics: Some stories/experiences behind them are very private and nothing to speak about in public.
How does the composition process happen for this new album? Is it different from the previous records?
Torsten: Well… Yes and No. The composition process of the “Metal Tracks” had been pretty much the same as every album. I do need some certain vibe (which I can’t explain) to work on new songs. Sometimes I don’t touch my guitars for weeks and from one day to the other I start recording new material like an fucking maniac during days and nights. That’s just my way and it feels like it has to be like this. Though this time I wrote two tracks which are arranged with orchestral instruments only and this was a new experience for me.
I always wanted to write soundtracks because I am a huge fan of movie and game soundtracks. During the pandemic I finally decided after many years to invest money into proper orchestral software to arrange suitable songs. The very first tracks I wrote are the opening and the ending tracks of Metamorphosis. I had a lot of fun as well as I learned a lot of things arranging these tracks (for example the positioning of the instrument sections in the orchestra, how to program them so that they sound as “natural” as possible) though It seriously took me ages to arrange and to finally mix them. There is a huge difference between writing a Metal song and writing a full orchestral track with many (different) strings, choirs, piano and so on.
And to make things even worse… My very old Mac Mini was unable to handle this complex arrangements in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, I am using Cubase) and I had to use several workarounds to make things work “somehow”. I bought a proper new computer a few months ago and then I was finally able to finish both tracks without getting mad all the time because of the lack of cpu-power. So in next life, I definitely go for a less cost-intensive passion (probably I should collect stamps then) 😀
Where does your inspiration come from to create such a raw and seizing whirlwind of intense blackness and emotions?
Torsten: That’s very easy to answer… Simply my life. The experiences I made, the things moving me, emotional moments I had been through, my thoughts, my intellectual world and last but not least my own demons I am dealing and fighting with for many years.
On the album, we have four guest vocalists: C.S.R. from Schammasch, Steffen Bettenheimer from The Cold Room, Travos from Thormesis and Nachtgarm from Daeth Daemon/ex-Negator. How did you reach them, and how does the collaboration happen?
Torsten: I know all of them personally, some of them since many years. I value the creative work of them as well as I respect the persons who they are. I think I actually wouldn’t go for a guest musician on one of my records who I never met in my life / I never had contact before because the personal component is pretty important for me.
The album begins and ends with a song called Wir Ertrunkenen, why did you choose the same name for the intro and outro? What is the link between all those three parts?
Torsten: Wir Ertrunkenen is one long track divided into three parts and the theme is repeating in all three tracks (clean guitar in the Metal track, piano in the orchestral ones). The concept of the three tracks / the link between them was some sort of evolution. After I wrote the track Wir Ertrunkenen I felt the need of some sort of “beginning” as well as an “ending” and not only to stick to the song itself. In terms of the atmosphere and related to the finality of the lyrics, there was more to tell then I was able to with this one track. Moreover, as mentioned before, Prolog and Epilog are the first proper orchestral pieces I wrote and the orchestra was just the perfect way to tell the “before” and the “after”.
What is the idea behind the two tracks called Am Ende der Welt?
Torsten: In a conceptional way as well as related to the lyrics, both songs are connected to each other. Though in opposition to Wir Ertrunkenen the two songs are not connected within the music. Actually I don’t talk about my lyrics though it is not a secret that I was living a year in Australia many years ago. These two tracks are linked to my time in down under.
Maybe you have a “favorite song”, or one which is more important to you, on this album?
Torsten: All songs are very important for me though Wir Ertrunkenen and Verwüstung are probably a little little bit more constraining to me then the other tracks.
You recently signed with AOP Records, what can you tell us about your collaboration with them?
Torsten: I know him since many years and we always had good contact to each other. When I took the decision that I need a change of scene for Agrypnie I asked him straight away if he would be interested in signing us. The answer came straight away and here we are. I am very lucky about this collaboration because AOP Records is a really outstanding record company.
Since last year, the Covid crisis fucked a lot of things up, did it have any effect on the band or the album?
Torsten: Yes, of course. We didn’t played a single show since over 1,5 years now and this sucks a lot. We also didn’t had any rehearsal of course which basically means we haven’t played a single minute of music with this new lineup.
But to mention some good things… I recorded the vocals for the new album for the very first time on my own and I think this was a really good choice. Although it was very stressful to simultaneously do the vocals and the recordings (the recordings tooks place in our Nocte Obducta rehearsal room), I had way more time rather than recording them in the studio with time pressure. Also I already wrote the next Agrypnie album… No idea if this is related to the crisis or not but who cares.
Even if the future is still full of doubts, do you have some plans for the band’s future you can tell us?
Torsten: We definitely want to return to the stage as soon as possible and work on new shows. Also just one week after the release of Metamorphosis we will enter once again the SU-2 Studio to record the drums of the following album. All guitars are (obviously) written. Lyrics, keys, concept etc. is still work in progress though.
Beside Agrypnie, you also sing for Nocte Obducta and you have a solo project called The Wreckage of Erebus. How do you draw a distinction between all the projects you’re involved in?
Torsten: Well that’s pretty easy: I don’t write any music or lyrics for Nocte Obducta and The Wreckage of Erebus is a studio soundtrack/ambient project. So nothing really enmeshes each other.
You come from Germany, which is a land of Metal, but what can you tell us about the Metal scene from your point of view? Mainly about the underground scene.
Torsten: I totally don’t care about scenes. Of course I am connected to the Metal scene and I know many different people, artists and musicians all over the countries. But thinking about “the scene” was never really my thing or important for me.
What was your first Metal album? Bought by yourself or offered by someone. What made you discover the Black Metal universe in general?
Torsten: The first Metal album I (got?) bought was The Black Album from Metallica.
Well back in the old days there was no Youtube or Spotify and you were not able to check out an artist just within a few seconds. So I often bought albums because of the artwork and/or the reviews/recommendations from magazines. I think the first Black Metal album I was listening to was In the Nightside Eclipse from Emperor. This album was a revelation for me and this kind of music was so intensive, pure, cold and emotional… it was incomparable to everything else I have listened before. I was simply captivated.
Do you remember the very first time you tried to play an instrument? When and how was it?
Torsten: I started playing electric guitar when I was around 15 years old. Although there is a picture of me posing with an acoustic guitar (and sunglasses… pretty rockstar like) when I was a child but I really don’t think this was the first proper try of playing an instrument 😀
What about vocals? Do you have a special training routine to have such a deep voice?
Torsten: Well I do warm up training shorty before I sing and I always use my “secret weapon” (gelorevoice, some sort of throat pill) to relieve a little bit my throat. But that’s just general stuff. My voice got deeper more or less automatically during the last years and honestly I would be able to sing way more deeper than the voice I am using for Agrypnie.
Do you have hobbies aside from music? Do you also have a job, or does your music income allow you to live?
Torsten: Hahaha, fuck no. To quote a good friend, also a musician: ”Money is not the reason to do music but money would be a good reason to quit doing music”. Translated: The income I get from my music from time to time is mostly too low and also unforeseeable to pay any bills with it, whereas the money I invest into new gear and any other context to my music is not even close in any proportion to this “income”.
Long story short… I do have a regular job, though I have reduced working hours to have enough time for my music. My hobbies aside from music are pretty ordinary… Reading, watching movies/series, sports, catching up with friends… And well (probably not that ordinary anymore) buying cheap guitars and rebuilding them with different pickups, hardware etc.
What is your best and your worst experience as a musician ever?
Torsten: I can’t pick either the best nor the worst experience. There had been many many great experiences during all these years, starting from being able to record and release albums in general over being on tour and playing concerts to get to know and being friends with some of my childhood heroes. All these experiences during all these years exceeded my wildest dreams when I was 15 years old and started playing guitar.
And the bad ones… Well, from time to time it’s very exhausting being the Mastermind of a band and doing almost everything on your own. So there had been moments I seriously asked myself “Why the fuck am I still doing this?!?”. Though these moments had been rare and a few seconds later my consciousness returned again 😀
Maybe you already heard about the french Metal scene? Which french bands do you know?
Torsten: Ah men, this question always feels like some sort of test in interviews 😀 “Name three bands from country XYZ” 😀 I am a big fan of Alcest, I love the Les blessures de l’âme album from Seth, Blut aus Nord is of course a great band… Did I passed? 😀
Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Agrypnie and three other bands!
Torsten: That’s a really good question I have never been asked before… and a really hard one. So all bands I have been on tour so far aside (in terms of “being again on tour with friends”) I would choose Wardruna (I just love this band and it would be pretty interesting to have a chat with Einar Selvik), Ulver (while we are already dreaming, they only play songs from the first three albums) and… damn… (sitting probably around for about half an hour now on this question…)… and well, let’s say Akhlys (very atmospheric, very cold, very hypnotic).
That was the last question for me! Thanks a lot for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Torsten: Thank you very much for the interview!