Sunday, February 05, 2006

5 Questions To Covenant

As most of you reading this website on regular basis will already know that Covenant's new album "Skyshaper", which has been reviewed in this space a few weeks ago, is to be released in about four weeks. Due to this I contacted Joakim Montelius, who is one part of the trio, via email for a little interview... As my musical background is not exactly based in EBM / Wave / Industrial I discovered Covenant in 2002 due to the remix work of Ellen Allien on your track "Bullet". What was your reason to choose her as remixer and did you get response from the Techno / House-scene on that remix which was also featured on her remix collection?

Covenant: Our music is influenced from all forms of music, but looking back there were 3 distinct steps of evolution that led to the formation of Covenant: we first discovered electronic music with Kraftwerk, The Human League and the first synth pop/New Romantic wave; then we took our first steps influenced by EBM such as DAF, Portion Control, Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb; and when the underground rave culture reached Sweden around 1989-90 we found the third important ingredient. Since then we have always kept a keen ear on the latest developments in the dance scene. Even if it can be said to have slowed down lately, underground dance music has undergone amazingly diverse and rapid changes for almost 20 years, always coming up with new and fascinating ideas. No other music scene that I know of has managed to keep such a pace of evolution. If you listen to our debut album from 1994 (Dreams of a Cryotank) you will clearly hear the Gabber influences that we mixed with dark EBM. Since then we have incorporated elements of contemporary dance music in various degrees on all of our albums.
When we recorded „Northern Light“, the album where „Bullet“ came from, we were partly influenced by Ellen Allien’s „Stadtkind“ album. So we proposed our label to ask her for a remix which she was kind enough to agree to do. Listening closely to your album the track "20 Hz" caught my attention for the use of shuffled beats which were quite popular in german Techno - especially provided by a label named Kompakt - a while ago and some tones reminding me of my early rave days. Are you influenced by the Techno/Dance-scene in any way and do you see a potential of a crossover success of your music in these days where acts like Terrence Fixmer and Douglas MacCarthy - which you have actually remixed - do impact as well in two scenes which seem to be fairly seperated from each other although they have the same roots?

Covenant: I got the Kompakt compilation „Shaffelfieber“ around 2001 and I really enjoyed what was then a very fresh take on dance music. We had just finished „Northern Light“ and I immediately started making shuffled beats. What you hear in „20 Hz“ is one of those early loops. Speaking of Fixmer/McCarthy we made a shuffled mix for their 12“ „Freefall“ in 2004. We pick what we like from all areas of electronic music, throw it all in our Covenantifier and end up with a unique mixture of most everything. And we are not alone in doing this. Terence Fixmer, Andreas Kremer, Thomas P Heckmann, Sven Väth, DJ Hell and whole host of others do the same but from the opposite perspective. The mix of EBM and techno is a growing trend, they even call it „TBM“ these days. A lot of artists from „our“ scene do it too. There is definitely common ground here, where something new and interesting can grow.
But we try to stay clear of letting ourselves get pigeon-holed in a trend. We had ideas of going more electroclash when we started writing songs for „Northern Light“ in 2001, but we realized that it would be suicide to jump on a train like that and used that sound only as a minor influence for some of the songs. We don’t make dance music per se, or EBM or darkwave for that matter. We make pop music with a certain darkness and strong elements of past and present dance culture. That way we hope to make music that survives current trends and have more longevity. What's the story behind "Happy Man"? The track, which is my personal favorite btw, seems to be kind of two-faced as the lyrics and strings are filled with melancholia and sadness while those 8bit bleeps are, well, not exactly positive but funny at last. This is kinda tricky as the track triggers opposite emotions at the same time and causes a kind of puzzling feel.

Covenant: That’s the idea. People are often filled with conflicting emotions. And sometimes we wear an aura or mask of being content towards the outside world even if we are on the verge of despair on the inside. So the contrast is quite deliberate and it’s meant to be puzzling. To each of you - what's your personal fav taken out of the albums tracklist and why?

Covenant: Unfortunately the others are busy preparing the tech stuff for the tour, but I’m sure they’ll agree with me when I say that we don’t have favourites. We don’t release anything that we don’t like. The reason for the variety of the music we make is that we want an album to suit several moods. We try to make a soundtrack for life and to do that you have to make songs in different styles. The result will hopefully be an album where you can pick your current favourite according to how you feel at the moment. Talking piracy - I've been quite surprised to find the vocal announcement "This is a promotional copy..." on each and every track of the album. Is this your or the labels decision and did you ever experience problems with people ripping upfront copies to mp3-formats and spreading them via p2p-platforms? According to this - do you regard promotional copies as a risk and do you ever have considered other ways of promotion like exclusive listening sessions or similar?

Covenant: We did exclusive listening sessions for our last album „Northern Light“ but who can possibly get all the nuances of a full album in one or two listens? Naturally we don’t want our work to get spread before the actual release. If we wanted that we’d post it for free download on our website. But we believe in the idea of getting a new record, unwrap it, take out the booklet and look at it while you walk over to the CD-player, put the record in, pour a cup of tea or a glass of wine, shut off your telephone, press play and get that amazing experience that only a great album can give. Read the lyrics, think about what they mean, replay that break part with the weird sounds, get into the groove, fly away to another world. Some music is best at a club, with friends and loud volume and some music is best in your sofa or in your bed. We try to do all of that. And to get it all we think it’s best to have the whole package that we’ve produced.
A download is only a part of the experience. That’s why we try to keep people from downloading our work before the „real“ thing has been made available as an alternative. And to be honest, promo copies are the only way for unreleased albums to spread like wildfire over p2p’s and torrent sites, It only takes one, you know. That’s why the nagging voice is there, even if we tried hard to make it as unobtrusive as we could. Thanks for the interview...


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