Interview with Centaurus-A

After blowing people away last month with their amazing release "Side Effects Expected" we have a moment to catch up with the band via email, and here is what they have to say:

Infernal Masquerade: First of all, thanks for the interview and let’s get started with the questions:

I.M: Can you tell us more about how the band came to be (what made you decide that you wanted to make a band), how did you define your musical style? And what is the concept behind the name Centaurus A (is anybody in the band an astrophysics student)?

Hi Metalheads and Infernal Masquerade readers, we’re CENTAURUS-A from Cologne/Germany and we recently released our debut album SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED. But our band history goes back into the year 2000 when CENTAURUS-A was formed by Maik Matanovic (guitar), Patrick Schroeder (drums) and Michael Ahlgrimm (bass/backing vocals). All three of us had already some experiences from earlier bands or projects, but we came together to start a new ambitious band. Inspired by various metal genres like Death, Thrash, Melodic, Progressive, Grindcore and other music we are listening to, the bands’ mission was to combine different elements and influences in our music and from the beginning we tried to stretch the limits of extreme metal music. We were looking for an appropriate band name and came up with the peculiar radio galaxy Centaurus A with its supermassive black hole at the center. But don’t worry, we are neither hobby astronomers starring at the stars every night nor astrophysics students, we just liked the characteristics of the galaxy and thought it would be a cool and fitting band name.

In April 2000, only a few months after CENTAURUS-A’s formation, the demo "Last step Line" containing the band's first songs, was recorded. With the same line-up, CENTAURUS-A went on to write new songs and recorded its second demo entitled "Nimbus" in 2002, as well as started playing the first live shows supported by a session singer. In 2003, the band's line-up was completed with guitarist Hernan Martinez and permanent vocalist Johannes "Jojo" Henke. This was a great leap forward and CENTAURUS-A continued to develop its unique and advanced mix of technical Death/Thrash Metal. A lot of time and effort was put in writing new songs which were released on the first studio-recorded demo "Narcotic" and got positive feedback and reviews from fans and the metal press. In the following years, we played numerous gigs all over Germany. The time was ripe for the next step and CENTAURUS A entered the Hansen Studios (Denmark) in April 2007 to start the recordings of the debut album "Side Effects Expected". After several recording sessions and loads of work, the mastering was finished in the beginning of 2008. The result is an album containing 10 unique and outstanding songs of technical but catchy Death Metal.

I.M: What is the inspiration behind the song lyrics?

The lyrics of the album deal with the dilemmas and necessities of our everyday life as well as with global nuisance. Some lyrics are very personal while others are kept more abstract but the album title SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED is kind of conclusion and can be understood as a warning: don’t believe and accept everything which is going on our planet and rethink your own daily routine and habits.

I.M: I must admit that I was pretty impressed by the quality of your music. After digging up more information about the band, I saw that it has been around for a while, only releasing several demos. Do you think this process helped the band in creating a killer debut album? Instead of just releasing an o.k. album and improve latter? What is your take on this?

Right, we recorded three demos before we started to work on our debut album. Looking back, our sound definitely evolved from demo to demo and recording them definitely helped us to get forward and our music matured. We see our third demo “Narcotic” as real starting point for what is our music about. Over the years, we were not only improving our individual abilities, but thanks to a stable line-up also to work and compose as a band was getting better and better. CENTAURUS-A is a fruitful collaboration and our sound benefits from the various and diverse influences, ideas and musical skills everybody’s bringing in and we succeed to develop our own style of Tech Death Metal. Finally, we’re really happy and satisfied with the way our debut turned out and time was ripe for SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED.

I.M: The recording of “Side Effects Expected” was finished at the beginning of 2008. Did you used it to shop around for a label? Or why is it being released just now, in 2009?

Yes! After finishing the recording process of SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED in early 2008 we were spreading our promotional CD’s to a bunch of record labels in order to find the right partner. Beside some interested labels, LISTENABLE RECORDS got in touch with us last summer. We were thrilled when LISTENABLE REC contacted us and are glad to have teamed up with them because we highly appreciate their work and their intuition for promising and unique bands.

I.M: Are you satisfied with the quality of the release? Do you think Listenable records is doing a good job in promoting the album?

Yes, we are. SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED contains 10 coherent songs that balance technical brutality, weird and sick themes/rhythms with catchy and comprehensible grooves and melody - Everything CENTAURUS-A stands for! The album surprises the listener with some unpredictable tunes and each song has its own character. Even after several times listening to the album you can still find some details. But also with the production we are more than happy. We recorded SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED in the HANSEN STUDIOS (Denmark) with Jacob Hansen which has been a great experience. Jacob works absolutely professional and knows what is best for the production at any time and we are more than satisfied with the result.

Finally, as mentioned, we are glad to have teamed up with LISTENABLE RECORDS because we really feel well taken care of and LISTENABLE has done a great job so far and support and promote us as much as they can.

I.M: In the recent years there has been an explosive growth in the number of melodic death/trash metal bands, what do you think sets you apart from other bands?

I would not categorize CENTAURUS-A as a typical melodic death/thrash band. We’re much more influenced by various metal genres like Death, Thrash, Melodic, Progressive, Metal and Grindcore and also non-metal music we are listening to...but we developed our own sound by balancing technical brutality, weird and sick themes/rhythms with catchy and comprehensible grooves and melody.

I.M: What bands have influenced you through the years?

Hard to say...we all listen to different music in both metal music and nonmetal genres. So everybody brings in his own influences. But we all grew up in the 1990’s and love the big Thrash and Death Metal Bands like Sepultura, Pantera, Morbid Angel and Death. Anyway, CENTAURUS-A is influenced by various metal genres like Death, Thrash, Melodic, Progressive, Metal and Grindcore and other music we are listening to...but without a doubt, we can’t deny the affinity for technical death metal. Today, they are a couple of bands such as NECROPHAGIST or CAPHARNAUM which we all listen to.

I.M: For all the musicians reading this interview, can you please let them know: what guitars, fx pedals, and effects you use in you music? Also what drum setup do you have?

For the recording of SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED, Patrick played a Yamaha Definitive Custom shell set with a punchy 20" Bassdrum. But he recently signed an endorsement contract with Drumsound and Turkish Cymbals and you can watch his new killer set in our new video for the song THE PRAYING MANTIS on our website and myspace-profile

Maik is currently playing an ESP Standard SV, ENGL Powerball amp and several effect pedals, while Hernan tortures an Ibanez RG and Crate BV300H head. I am currently playing a custom-made Marleaux Consat Straight bass guitar, using EBS Fafner head + box.

I.M: How do you think all the screamo and metalcore have impacted the melodic death/trash metal scene?  Do you think this is a positive or a negative thing?

That’s a tough question…honestly we don’t care about trends and are not really into all the new screamo/emo/metalcore stuff. On the one hand there are more and more different and various genres, subgenres, sounds and (life-)styles in metal music, on the other hand the limits between all these genres become less straight and clear. Generally, I think that new influences and styles are positive to keep the independent music scene vital and alive, and in the end only the authentic, best and most creative bands will survive all trends and hypes.

I.M: Do you pursue any other professional careers, besides music-related ones?

Yes, beside all music and band-related activities we’re all working or studying in different fields.

CENTAURUS-A The Praying Mantis

I.M: What has been the worst situation the band has been in (weird touring story, crazy audience, etc)?

The most shocking moment in CENTAURUS-A’s history was when Maik and Hernan had a really seriously car accident just on their way back from the last recording day of our third demo “Narcotic”. Their car was overturning several times and was completely damaged, but as if by a miracle they both were not wounded and injured. And…while answering this question, we notice that today is the anniversery of this accident. That’s a bit crazy!

I.M: Do you feel pressured after releasing a brilliant debut album? Do you think you will be able to improve on it? What are your thoughts on this?

We just feel happy, proud, curious and excited to have finally released our debut album. All the feedback and reviews are really positive and the main priority is to promote SIDE EFFECTS EXPECTED and to play as much shows as possible the next months. But we don’t feel any pressure concerning the next album. There are already some new ideas, riffs that are sounding really promising and we know that we’re able to take the sound one step further with the next recording. But it is definitely too early to report what the next album will sound like. Anyway, you can expect us to go onwards with the typical CENTAURUS-A sound and keeping our trademarks.  

I.M: What do you see yourself (as a band) doing in 10 years?

It’s hard to predict the future, but when everything’s going fine, CENTAURUS-A will be still active and we will probably release our 5th or 6th studio album and tour the whole world…maybe all of us with long ZZ Top beard J

I.M: What do you guys think about guitar hero? Some people (that don’t play guitar) believe it is just like playing guitar (I’ve heard people say this!), what is your professional opinion about this?

Actually, I never played guitar hero so far, but I just can assume that it might be fun to play. Anyway, I want to see the guy who’s able to play real guitar on stage after practicing with guitar hero…

I.M: If you can have any props on stage for a live performance, what would you pick?  And why?

I think some video installations could strengthen and fit our live performance in order to support the various atmosphere and mood within our music. All those pyro effects might be way too cheesy for CENTAURUS-A. But let me think, I also could imagine catapulting the band on stage, like Michael Jackson did once

I.M: Any recommendations, tips, or whatever for young bands trying to get a contract with a label?

I think the most crucial point for a young band is to play live as much as they can in order to spread their name and to learn and improve. Furthermore, young bands should try to create their own style instead of just copying and looking around what is hip and trendy. Finally, you have to be persistent and patient.

I.M: Well I think I’m all out of questions, anything you want to say to our readers?

Thanks for the interview and giving us the opportunity to introduce CENTAURUS-A to your readers. Please visit our websites and check out our album and video!




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