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Interview: Moghul

mit James Neuenhaus vom 14. Januar 2013
Da draußen gibt und gab es im Verlauf der Rockgeschichte sehr viele Bands, die durch ganz besondere Cover, Artworks oder sonstige graphische Spielereien auf sich aufmerksam machen wollten. Ob durchweg minimalistisch, fast schon asketisch, oder pompös überladen wie in einem nie ausgelebten Drogenrausch - einige gewisse Auswahl dieser Bilder konnten sich fest im kollektiven Gedächtnis einbrennen. Dabei ist es wichtig den Betrachter nicht nur irgendwie blutrünstig zu schockieren, sondern eine bestimmte Message ans Volk zu bringen.
Unvergessen sind dabei zum Beispiel Panteras Album Vulger Display of Power, welches mit seinem Straight-In-Your-Face-Cover im Jahr 1992 die wohl deutlichste Botschaft überhaupt vermittelte, oder oder Metallicas Verzierung der Scheibe One aus dem Jahre 1988. Gar nicht zu sprechen von Judas Priests British Steel von 1980, an der man sich schon vom bloßen Ansehen geschnitten hat. Auch die gerade durchstartende aus Birmingham stammende Band Moghul legt in Zeiten schlecht am Computer gebastelter Bildchen viel Wert auf eine gute Visualisierung ihres Schaffens.
Das Stoner-Doom-Kollektiv hatte mit seiner im Jahr 2012 erschienenen EP ein wirklich herausragendes Stück Doom-Musik geschaffen. Langsam dahin-wabbernde Gitarrenwände bilden den Grundstock dieses grandiosen Silberlings, der sogar als Vinyl zu haben ist, und darin wird allerhand herumexperimentiert und mit sphärischen Melodien aufgefüllt (Die Rezension zu Moghuls Ep findet ihr hier.). James Neuenhaus, der Kopf des Quartetts, hat sich mit uns über die neue, ziemlich spacige EP unterhalten, ihre Ideologie verraten und erklärt, warum Vinyl noch immer so wichtig ist. Mehr dazu im folgenden Interview!
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The Interview:

Michael: Thank you for taking the time for this interview! First of all: Happy New Year!
James: Happy New Year! I’m pleased to be able to answer a few questions for you.
Michael: Can you introduce yourself to our audience and roughly describe your role in the band?
James: My name is James Neuenhaus, I grew up and still live in Birmingham, UK about two miles from Aston of Black Sabbath fame. I play guitar and am the main vocalist for Moghul.
Michael: What's the Story behind your band’s name?
James: The four of us decided to change our band name after we recruited drummer Tom. We had begun to transition away from the style of our previous band into the Moghul you hear now. I remember the name popped into my head out of nowhere when visiting Adam’s house. We loved the imagery of the conquering Mongol hordes in India and the ancient Mogul empire. We also loved the modern definition as a controlling and influential figurehead. Definitely felt it fits with some of the themes we wanted to write about.
Michael: What's the reason you started with music? What makes it so special for you?
James: I started to play music when I was very young. I played Cello for several years in orchestras and still enjoy the dynamics and emotive power of classical music. Very often overlooked today. I definitely think this had an influence on how I view my guitar and why I love Earth and other drone music. When I picked up my first guitar I felt empowered to be able to write my own music for the first time and never looked back! Music is something universal amongst people, it has the power to convey feelings, places, and times without words. Music is the one form of art above others that is able to challenge, entertain and inspire me. I’ve always aimed to pass those ideas through my music to the listener.
Michael: You have a new Stoner Doom EP out. Can you tell us something about the background of the album and especially about the two songs "Dead Empires" & "Hidden Hand" which seem to complement each other?
James: The two songs were written pretty much simultaneously and really captured a moment in time for us as a band. It was the beginning of a new musical chapter for us, something different but for the first time an expression of the four of us and our influences. We put down our guitars after they were written knowing we had finished our best material to date.
Michael: How did you guys do the songwriting? Did you come with finish songs or was it more like having rough ideas and working them out in a jamming session?
James: A typical songwriting session revolves around a riff or two getting jammed out by the four of us until something with depth, feeling and groove emerges. We tend to bounce ideas around for a while until we are completely happy with the whole. We make many subtle changes along the way but it ensures we get the best results.
Michael: What is the most difficult part of the songwriting process?
James: The hardest part is not being too critical of what we have written. It’s really easy to pick holes in things as you are writing but we tend to leave serious critique until we’ve done pre production recording. We are always trying to improve song by song and lot’s of ideas are brought in and thrown out as part of that process. I’m not sure whether it’s a strength or a weakness but it works for us.
Michael: How do you know when you are finished? Today, you have so many possibilities to put more and more into a song and rework it over and over again until it's literally “produced to death”. Is there a point where you lose objectivity?
James: The key for us is rehearsing material. We want our songs to tell stories and as we practice we realize what’s important to the song and what isn’t. There seems to be a collective silence and nod when we know it’s finished.
Michael: Can you tell us something about the production of the EP? Do you use a studio or do you work it out at home? Maybe on an old 4-Track? Sounds a bit like that!
James: We recorded at Carbon Studios with Elliot Vaughan, a friend of the band and a great local producer, too. We wanted to record with someone who was unfamiliar with our influences to get a more original sound. The EP was recorded digitally but very little was done in terms of production as we wanted to sound as close to reality as possible. The guitars were recorded with a 70’s White Matamp and a 60’s Laney Supergroup as we love those big old amps! We wanted to keep that vintage sound and this was retained through production and mastering. I’d love to do a project in an all vintage studio one day, I love the warmth of older equipment. There’s something a bit more special about handmade and hand wired gear.
Michael: There are a lot reminiscences to the band "Nebula" and the early "Monster Magnet", any tribute to Dave Wyndorf?
James: Nebula are a great band and Monster Magnet are required listening for all metal fans. I love the more psychedelic side of stoner rock, definitely one of many influences for me growing up.
Michael: How came that you guys also sell it on vinyl? Do you have a special connection to vinyl?
James: Surely it's very rare that bands sell them these days; not the cheapest way to release music. We always wanted to release on Vinyl and Devizes Records approached us with an fantastic offer for a limited run vinyl release. A dream come true for me. We can’t thank Devizes enough for their support so far! I have a collection of vinyl records that are important to me. You are right in that it is not cheap to release on Vinyl format. MP3 and CD just don’t have the same impact as a 12” record. Nothing beats holding a record in your hands, gazing at the artwork to decipher it’s meaning and tipping out the goodies inside the sleeve! We have embraced digital distribution as it allows many people to easily connect with out music but as music lovers ourselves recognize the joy in owning a physical copy of music you love.
Michael: The cover of the EP has a kind of psychedelic touch, especially the Mushroom. What do you think? Have you ever read any authors like Terence McKenna or Tim Leary?
James: The front cover is a photo of Chûn Quoit, a megalithic structure in the south of England. It was taken by a friend of mine on holiday. I think the photo is very evocative. As soon as i saw it I thought it matched our music perfectly. The mushroom shape is just one aspect. It’s such an ageless monument and hasn’t changed in Millennia. I studied some Archaeology at University so I love ancient places like that. Strangely I also did a presentation at University on the role of psychedelic drugs within religious experience. I read much about Tim Leary and his experimentation!
Michael: Did you ever visited or played at Amsterdam? They now have this quite unsteady politics and I think this kind of ruins the complete liberal attitude they had before. What’s your opinion? And do you think weed is that dangerous?
James: I have never visited Amsterdam but have always wanted to play there. I have always admired their liberal attitude towards policing the city. I think visitors probably have something to do with changes to their attitude as many people go there just to sample the local produce. Maybe a bit too much! I also don’t think that a plant is dangerous. The danger comes from people who abuse it. Enjoyment for everyone is all about moderation and I think thats the issue that’s faced by the world’s authorities.
Michael: Did you have any remarkable, special or funny Moments with 'Moghul' that you will never forget and maybe want to share with your fans?
James: We often hang out as a band as we are all old friends, one time we took our drummer to see Sunn 0))) in Manchester after a day long pub crawl. Seeing his mind blown out by 130 decibels of guitar noise was brilliant. It changed him and his perspective of experimental music and hasn’t looked back since. We all had a similar epiphany watching the Melvins together too.
Michael: What's your favourite Moghul-Song on stage and why?
James: I am definitely enjoying Dead Empires as it casts such an eerie atmosphere across the venues. I love seeing mixed reactions from fans, some headbanging, some lost in thought, some nodding and smiling, some raising beers. It’s the best thing to see from the stage.
Michael: What do you think about the rock cliché "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll"? Jaded or still alive?
James: I think it’s a fantasy. We all want to party hard but the truth of the matter is we all work 40 hour day jobs. Our music is our release from day to day life. The great thing about the heavy rock scene at large is it’s full of hard working and passionate people who are dedicated to what they do. Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll is not a sustainable lifestyle for us regular folk.
Michael: Do you think Mick Jagger's formula for women is still up to date (actual Age/2+7)?
James: Jagger is a legend in his own right. I read he’d slept with over 4000 women! I am lucky enough to have a supportive partner and family behind me. That’s my winning formula!
Michael: What would you say are your influences and personal favorite bands?
James: Black Sabbath, The Melvins, Earth, Sunn 0))), Sleep, Electric Wizard, OM, Iron Monkey and Conan. I love a wide range of music and am always trying to hear new things. That definitely affects my writing processes.
Michael: What do you think, how has the music changed over the last 40 years and especially in the last years?
James: I think that popular music has changed greatly over the years. It used to be that only the most successful artists could record and release music due to the costs involved. Technology has allowed more and more people to produce their own music and get it heard. I think that the calibre of popular music has decreased but has given so much more potential to underground and independent artists out there. I think that there has been a revival of 70’s prog and rock music at the moment thats feeding much of the stoner and doom scene here in Great Britain over the last few years.
Michael: Do you think that music will, in the future, become more significant for our everyday lives again? Like in the 70s, where it literally changed people’s lives?
James: I think that for people like myself this still happens. In my free time I’m always listening to new material and pushing myself forward. I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration and my life is changed for the better when I find it. I believe thats all part of being a true music fan and even more so of musicians themselves.
Michael: The last years it seemed to be trendy to play covers on Stage. You too?
James: We’ve never been fond of performing cover songs as we’ve always preferred to write our own music. When we play a 30 minute set we want to give our fans 30 minutes of Moghul. We’ve never been concerned with whats trendy. There’s a time and a place for cover songs.
Michael: Has there ever been a fan who went too far? Who did something strange or dangerous?
James: I’m glad to say there hasn’t been so far. I do feel that our fans can be overly kind to us though. They offer to help load gear, man merch stalls, round up people from outside venues. Very much above and beyond the call of duty. We are always humbled by their kindness.
Michael: Is there a favorite movie you wanted to bring in a song or compose the whole score?
James: It’s not something i’ve ever thought about to be honest. I’d love to work on some sort of dystopian short film though with some experimental sounds. I love classic sci-fi movie sound tracks. The best ones are very dynamic with long subtle phrases and short bombastic highlights. Maybe one day.
Michael: Will the European fans ever have the chance to see you outside the UK on stage? Maybe at a Festival?
James: It’s definitely on our to do list for the next two years. If the success of our first release continues and our fans continue to spread awareness online I’m sure it will be possible. I would love to play some festivals in Europe. They have a good reputation over here for being very welcoming and well organized. We would gladly welcome any contact from bands or promoters at home and abroad who could help make it possible for us to play abroad.
Michael: What was the last concert you have visited?
James: I went to watch Boris on tour in December. They were one of the loudest and craziest things I’ve ever seen. Really nice people, too. They have such a range of material you never know what you are going to hear next. I am also going to see High on Fire in February which i can’t wait for. Matt Pike is one of my guitar idols.
Michael: What are you listening to at the moment?
James: Right now I’m listening to a band called Enos. I have two albums by them, one of them has an accompanying comic which is really cool.
Michael: Do you have any tips on new bands the people should hear?
James: In no particular order please check these bands out: Conan, Slomatics, Limb, Gurt, Grimpen Mire, Throne, Undersmile, Alunah, Meadows, and Widows.
Michael: What's planned for the near Future?
James: We are working on a second release now. We are writing material and hope to release in the summer this year. If all goes well hopefully another Vinyl release. We are booking in dates for 2013 now from April onwards. There’s a few big things in the pipeline I can’t talk about yet...
Michael: What do you expect from your fans?
James: I never expect anything from our fans to be honest. I’m constantly amazed by how much people enjoy and appreciate our music. When people come to our shows I love to have a chat and hang out with them. What we do wouldn’t be possible without people choosing to buy our music and merchandise or more importantly come to shows. It’s how we can afford to play to new cities and continue making music. Thank you to all of our fans to date and to anyone that helps us out in the future. I truly appreciate everything you do to support me and the band.
Michael: Thanks again for your time. Now it's up to you to leave some final greetings for the fans!
Thank you for some great questions and for reading this far! I hope you’ve all had a great start to 2013. Support your local artists, magazines and venues by going to gigs, be open minded to new things and talk about great music with your friends. We all survived doomsday 2012 so go have some fun!
Moderation: Michael Voit

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