Recent Music Reviews
LOCK UP (Anton Reisenegger) INTERVIEW
Anton Reisenegger is one of the most pleasant people you can ever wish to meet in the music industry. When not recording albums with either Criminal or Pentagram (Chile), his ‘own’ musical projects, Anton handles guitar duties for the Grind legends Lock Up who earlier in 2011 released their latest full length effort “Necropolis Transparent”. Being quite thrilled by the fact that I would finally get to see this legendary band live, something that I was led to believe would simply never happen, I arranged to meet up with Anton a couple of hours prior to the band invading the stage of the London Underworld and in the time provided I managed to have a very enjoyable conversation relating to all things Lock Up and also Anton’s additional activities.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
• Well Anton, in a more formal setting; it’s a great to see you again after such a long time.
Anton: Same here, man.
• 2011 has been quite a busy year for you as, apart for working with the Lock Up guys you have also released a new Criminal record (note: “Akelarre”) whose recordings I am sure kept you busy for a significant amount of time. Are you getting any rest at all, matey?
Anton: (laughs) Well yeah, I mean there have been some quiet periods, periods of three weeks or so when I am at home enjoying what you would call a regular normal life so yeah – I am pretty happy with the way that things are going. I feel very lucky to be able to do these things, playing with several different bands. I had the chance, for example, to go to Japan with Lock Up some time ago which was a great experience that I would otherwise not have had the chance to do, you know? The new Criminal album also came out; we spent like the first half of this year recording it and it came out just in time for the festivals that we played at like Summer Breeze and Bloodstock and yeah, we are keeping fairly busy – always trying to do things and play live as much as possible!
• Well the fans of Lock Up are a pretty well informed community of people so they should know that you have been a member of the band for quite a while now but for the rest of the world it might come as a surprise the fact that you have been a member of this band since 2006 which is a good five years.
Anton: As a member of Lock Up? My first show with them was at the Damnation Festival which took place in October of 2009 and I think that it was a year earlier that we started jamming together but it was a funny situation as we were apparently jamming new songs but no one really knew what was going to happen. I think that they were sort of testing the ground and seeing how it felt playing with someone else that was not Jesse (note: Pintado – ex guitarist RIP), you know? So we were working on new songs when the offer came to do Damnation which for some reason was advertised as the last ever Lock Up show (laughs).
• Now that is important news. So this was not promoted as such by the members of the band but from alternative sources!
Anton: Well, I am not sure exactly who came up with the concept, you know…maybe it was even the guys in the band who had the intention of ending things there on a high note or maybe, as I said, they were testing the ground and see if it worked or if it was a fun thing to do, you know? It was great fun, it was a great show and, yeah, we then started getting other offers for other festivals to which we replied “why not”. We did those shows and we picked up the material that we have been working on and made it into an album.
• When the decision to continue as a band was finally made and you knew that a new album was up for grabs did you feel at all intimidated by the fact that you had to replace Jesse, knowing full well how much loved he was by the fans of the band?
Anton: Not really, man, because, first of all, the other guys made me feel really welcome and they have always said that if there is one person that Jesse would have wanted to replace him then that person would have probably be me, you know? I was a friend of Jesse’s; I considered him to be a friend and I hope that he considered me to be a friend as well. It was very comfortable for me all the way and then when we started to play together the fans showed nothing but respect and, you know, a good vibe saying things to me like “you did a great job” after a show and also the same when the new album (note: “Necropolis Transparent”) came out. Yeah man – that’s a great feeling indeed.
• From the point of view of a fan I have to say that “Necropolis Transparent” comes across as a very strong album and sounds like the product of a band that has been together for a long period of time. There is this sense of oneness that is prevalent – quite an interesting thing indeed as every single member of this band is involved in various projects and also that some people still consider Lock Up to be a side project rather than a full time band.
Anton: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean and it kind of surprises me as well because…I kind of wrote half of the album riffs-wise and Shane (note: Embury - bass) did the other half and I kind of cannot tell who did what; it is not blatantly obvious that one did this and the other did that. I think that the actual reason for that is that we all have the same influences. When we get together we all listen to Possessed and Dark Angel – all the old school stuff as we are all very old guys, you know (laughs)? In a way, as well, we share that thing that we were all pioneers of the scenes of our respective countries, you know – Tom of Sweden, I of South America and Chile and Shane and Nicholas of the UK. We share a lot of things, you know? It’s like family! Even though I only first met Shane for the first time back in 1997, the whole Napalm Death family and the people that are around them have always made me feel very welcome. I don’t know; it sounds like I am digressing but it all felt right – it all just felt right. When we first got together it was not like “oh, I’ve got to get used to this”. I know that Shane has a certain way of writing and I kind of try to adjust a little bit to it; I kind of know what it is that they are after but, by the end of the day, these are my riffs, you know, and it is up to them to either like them or not.
• Actually while preparing myself for this interview I made an interesting experiment in the sense that I was playing the new Criminal album and the new Lock Up album pretty much at the same time and one thing that I realised almost instantly is that there are many similarities between the two. In the case of Lock Up, it is very interesting to see how well all the different influences that every member of the band brings from their own main outfits have ‘infiltrated’ this album! It is, of course, quite inevitable as it is the result of year of shaping one’s musical style but this ‘infiltration’ is so refined that it stands out as a result.
Anton: I really appreciate you saying that! It is really a result of the way that we work. I tend to come up with certain riffs that I then give to Shane to put his own ideas on. What was really funny was that when we did the pre-production we did not use any Pro Tools at all! We were just sitting there using this very old fu*king tape player, recording all our ideas there (laughs). Then we would take these ideas back to the mixing desk in the evening, having a few beers and listen to what can be described as a very noisy product! It was really old-school, you know; you could almost trade the tape “rehearsal October 2009” (laughs). It’s the way that things were done back in the day so it kind of gave the whole project a certain vibe, you know? Nick (note: Barker – drums) doesn’t actually write any riffs but he is very good at hearing things and making them sound better by getting involved in the arrangement process. So, even though the riffs on offer came from Shane and me, he was the one who ensured that everything jelled well together.
• With regards those riffs that you prepared for the album, do you remember consciously thinking things like “I should be careful not to write stuff that sounds like Criminal” or was this such a natural process that you didn’t have to worry yourself with such thoughts?
Anton: I don’t know. When I write a riff I…normally I know instantly what riff will be good for the project. I do specific riffs for Pentagram (Chile), as I still play with Pentagram, I do different things for Lock Up but in their case, when they first approached me informally saying things like “maybe this could happen” I purposely wrote down stuff for them. I owned their first two albums already, you know, so I listened to them consciously in order to get the right vibe, but in the end it’s what I said before! It’s the stuff we all love like Terrorizer and the old Thrash and Death Metal bands like Possessed, Dark Angel and old Slayer – it’s that stuff pushed to the limit in terms of blasting and overall intensity, you know?
• Another great accolade for “Necropolis Transparent” is that it kind of adheres to the old rule that songs don’t have to be necessarily very long and that the main focus was to find that basic riffs or melody and work around it, which is something I really like – straight to the point stuff.
Anton: It’s a matter of adding the necessary intensity. Sometimes you can take those same riffs, slow them down a little bit and make the parts a little bit longer with a slower drum beat and they will still work. Having said that, our songs are so intense that you cannot blast through them for seven minutes as that would be a problem (laughs). The material is very concentrated and for me as a guitarist, it’s very…I need to be very focused all the way as the playing is so busy all the time and there are constant changes that you need to be constantly locked onto the drums to keep up with what is happening, you know?
• It is actually very refreshing to see people that are as important to the scene as you guys coming up with an album that is aggressive, it is fast, but it doesn’t go overboard in terms of both these aspects! There are many young bands out there who seem to fall into the trap of thinking that speed equals aggression and that results in their music sounding both mono-dimensional and predictable – something that doesn’t apply to you guys.
Anton: And that is precisely because we have that old-school vibe, you know? It maybe sounds modern as a result of a good production and the arrangements may be quite busy and everything but, at the end of the day, it’s all about having a good feel of proper riffs and vocal lines.
• Choosing a favourite song from this album is indeed quite a difficult task but “Accelerated Mutation” is one track that attracted my attention from the start, however, if you ask me again in ten minutes to name the best track of the album I will most likely end up naming another. From your point, was there any specific song that you prefer and which you perhaps found to be more challenging when writing or recording it?
Anton: “Accelerated Mutation” was indeed one of them and the same applies to “The Embodiment Of Paradox And Chaos”, however there are other songs that have a similar vibe to them. There are songs that are clearly influenced by bands like Discharge and which seem easier to record on paper but which you will still have to phrase right and you have to work towards performing right – songs that have a groove to them but also fast aggressive parts that you have to capture as well. There were a few riffs, some stuff that just fu*king Shane comes up with and which are pretty crazy (laughs) and which when I listen to I need to tell him “hang on, you need to explain this to me”. There were some songs that I did four guitar tracks for and that is quite a difficult job…I believe that for some I recorded five or even more guitar tracks in total (laughs). I was working all day towards that, you know, starting at ten in the morning and finishing around six or seven in the evening.
• Well, the end result is pretty impressive so it was definitely worth it.
Anton: Well, we had the luck to have Andy Sneap mixing the album as well, you know, because we recorded the album at HVR studios, Danny (Biggin: bass) from Criminal but Shane and Nick have known Sneap since forever, you know, so we decided to work with him and I am really happy for that. I am really happy with the way he made the sound modern but not as ridiculous as that of most modern sounding bands. You know how most drummers nowadays are all sampled and they all end up sounding the same, right? I mean, nobody sounds like that live so why would you try to do that in the studio?
• That is a very interesting point to make; I cannot see why anyone chooses to record things that they cannot recreate in a live environment. I mean, the ultimate test for every band is the stage and that is the one place that you simply cannot hide!
Anton: This is the thing! Especially with Criminal we are on a crusade to bring back the ‘real’ sound into music because you can lie so much in the studio, you know? You can make a sh*t drummer become a good drummer just by moving his fu*king hits backwards and forwards and making them fit to the grid, you know, and it is ridiculous! At the beginning I suppose that the idea behind this was correct as every drummer makes minor mistakes and minor adjustments need to be made in order to make things flow better even though I do believe that certain imperfections are needed as they give things the human touch, you know? Having said that, there is this sh*t like the ‘beat detective’ where you push a button and you can adjust everything to perfection, you know, and it is ridiculous!
• Technology is here to assist us and it is very important to have it around, however there will always be people that will abuse it to serve their own purposes…
Anton: Totally, totally and obviously you can now play a guitar riff once and then just copy and paste it everywhere, you know? You can do a whole album like that (laughs)! I want to see those people on stage and make them try to compete with someone like Nicholas Barker, you know (laughs)?
• Now, that is a challenge if there ever was one! I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally see Lock Up live, especially seeing as there was a time where I thought that this was simply never going to happen ever again. As we are now approaching the festive season, you guys will have plenty of time to relax and reflect on what happens next. Are there any ideas as yet?
Anton: There are quite a few things in the pipeline! There is a short string of Scandinavian dates in January, starting right after New Year ’s Eve, we’ve got a US tour coming up in February…it’s always short dates that we do – we never go for month long tours at the moment as we cannot get everyone to commit to that. So we will do that US tour and then we will do a South American tour, so we will be relatively busy!
• Well, Anton, I realise that you also need to rest a bit prior to the show so I will let you off. Thank you for this very enjoyable chat and good luck with everything!
Anton: Thank you – I hope that you will enjoy tonight’s show!