Thursday 24 March 2016

Interview with CITIES OF MARS and Exclusive Song Premier of Beneath A Burning Sun

One of the EP's I'm looking forward to hearing this year has to be from Swedish Cosmic/Doom/Space Rockers – Cities Of Mars. Their debut EP – Celestial Mistress – has quite the pedigree behind. Not just the hugely talented band members. You have got to check out a sneak peak at the awesome cover listed further below.

Plus the EP is produced by MONOLORD member – Esben Williams. No stranger himself to all things DOOM AND HEAVY. I had To find out more about these riff loving cosmic doomsters. They explain how the band got together, the trippy as hell story that forms the EP and what the future holds for Cities Of Mars.

So lets get started....

Hi guys. How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this interview.

Danne Palm, bass & vocals
Christoffer Norén, guitar & vocals
Johan Küchler, drums & vocals

Well, thank you for having us on your site!

So why did you choose the name CITIES OF MARS for your band.

D: The seed was planted in 2014, I had been tinkering with forming a band that would not only have conceptual pieces for songs and albums, but a band that would have a core idea that would be reflected throughout every aspect of it. So, on a star-filled countryside night, the idea came along - what if the stories about life on Mars were actually true, and part of a secret Soviet KGB cover-up? From that idea, the musical inspiration from bands like Mastodon and The Obsessed, fit right in and from there it’s been pretty much a concept that evolves on its own.

How did the band get together. Did you all know each other before forming the band.

D: Me and Christoffer have known each other for years but never played together. I had been jamming with some people, trying out the rough sketches that would eventually evolve into songs like The Third Eye and Gaze of Leviathan, when I got word that Christoffer was interested in trying out something new. We found that we had very different approaches musically, but when those perspectives collided, those tunes began to take shape in an interesting way. When Johan turned up at a birthday party for a mutual friend, the three of us realized that we had the common spirit and working ethos needed to make Cities of Mars a reality.

How would you describe your music.

Sci-fi doom perhaps? Doom-ish space rock?

How important of a role is Science Fiction in your music. Are you all sci-fi and fantasy geeks at heart. Or do you just like to include something different with your music.

A small disclaimer first - just for the record. At our core, we are a heavy rock band, and THE most important thing is to write the heaviest and best kick-ass tunes possible, melting faces in rock clubs regardless of whether people are into sci-fi or not.

D: However, I am, at least a fantasy and sci-fi geek. I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons and all those tabletop RPG:s, and I’ve written tons of campaigns including vampires, zombies, monsters and other dimensions. I would say those experiences are a major influence on our music, lyric- and concept-wise. Space, being the last true frontier of humankind, is really a limitless inspiration for dark tales…

J: I can only agree that the music is what comes first, although we feel that the conceptual part of the band should be done well and honest. Instead of just some boring gimmick.
For those out there that might want to dig deeper into the story and uncover the truth at some point, there should be plenty to find.

Your about to release your new EP – Celestial Mistress very soon. What can people expect from the EP.

It’s more of everything really. The doom-ish parts are heavier, while the title track is a three-pieced song with quite a lot going on, a few really quiet and melodic parts. The EP contains three songs in all, with a total playing time of about 27 minutes.

From numerous conversations that we had, it has a very complex and very original story behind it. Can you tell our readers what the story is about.

Every song is basically a chapter in a story that spans ca 9000 years, back to the civilization of Atlantis here on Earth and how it connects to the hidden cities of Mars. Each song also has a year included in it. On our first EP, the song Cyclopean Ritual depicts a cult devoted to the massive Eye in the holy mountain on Mars, several thousand years back. The other song The Third Eye, is dealing with the experience when our heroine Nadia, a KGB agent/cosmonaut, lands on Mars on a secret mission in 1971 and gazes upon the ancient city of Bahb-Elon and the mountain eye.

The three new EP songs continue and expand the story. The opening song Beneath a burning sun tells of a shot-down fighter pilot struggling to survive in a war on Mars millenia ago. The second song Gaze of Leviathan is a Nadia song, taking place right after the events of The Third Eye, where she delves deep into the dark caverns under the surface of Mars and finds that all is not silent. The title track is yet another Nadia-in-1971 song, where she meets an ancient Lord of Mars and what eventually takes place when an old enemy lurks in the shadows. On our homepage there is a handy timeline with each song placed on it for reference.

Is it hard to create music around that story?

J: I would say it´s helpful. Sometimes a piece of the story fits into an already awesome musical idea. But sometimes it's the opposite as well, where you have the music being created alongside the events that are unfolding in the story. It can truly effect the creative choices you are taking in the process of making a song.

D: For me, it's good to have the basic lyric concepts made out early in the process. When a riff comes along, there is always a piece of the story that can fit into it.

C: It also gives us a lot of freedom to work with environmental sounds. If we know the “scene” and know what kind of ambiance we want, we can strive to create sounds on our instruments that bring the right mood and gives the listener another dimension in the experience.
What influenced you when writing the EP.

Apart from the constantly evolving story itself, there is incredibly many awesome bands out there doing music - it's bound to rub off on us!

You have managed to get Esben Williams from MONOLORD to produce the EP. How did you get Esben involved.

D: Me and Esben go way back from the years playing together in Marulk. Eventually we started to jam on doomier tunes that eventually evolved into Monolord. I felt I was going in a different direction then, but we always remained the best of friends. Seeing how his producing skills built the both Monolord albums into the sonic monsters they are, obviously we asked him to be a part of our new band’s development.

What was that experience like and did he provide any words of advice or encouragement when recording the EP.

D: Esben has incredibly high standards when it comes to getting the right vibe but always remains calm and gentle about it. We decided early on that we wanted to record live takes with drums, bass and lead guitar simultaneously. So all of our songs have been recorded that way, with a few overdubs. Vocal-wise, he has helped us to develop even better singing, to develop our three voices, harmonies and shared lead vocals in ways we didn’t try before. And in general whipping us into even better shape than we were before!

J: It´s very important sometimes to have an outside voice to tell you when your are maybe focusing on the wrong things, or drifting away from the task at hand. Esben did that in the most honest and respectful way, which just made the experience so much more effective.

What does Esben bring to the Cities Of Mars sound.

C: Esben has helped us to merge our sound into something that is a mix of our previous different influences to what today is the sound of Cities of Mars.

D: A strong sense that the vibe is more important than technical perfection, most of all I think? But everything is a bit better this time, our guitar tone is more organic and massive, and the vocals are more elaborate and mean. His mixing and mastering is certainly adding the next level of sonic mayhem to the production too!

We have to talk about the killer artwork for Celestial Mistress. Who came up with that design. And how much input did you have into the final design of the EP.

Our graphic designer Axel Widén in Gothenburg is a RPG fan, and we got in touch with him from the beginning, designing our band logo. This time around, we wanted to take the artwork to another level. We as the band gave Axel the general ideas about the three songs, and from that the idea of a movie-poster-inspired design grew on us all. So it’s been countless emails back and forth, changing, adding, replacing, trying out different ideas… But Axel really got into the concept and these last days the finalizing touches on the artwork really shot it into space.

Who is releasing the vinyl.

Actually, a vinyl release is still not decided. We’d love to, obviously, but things have moved so fast that nothing more than a digital release via Gothenburg-based Suicide Records is planned and set into stone. But if we find the right circumstances we’d love to make it a 10” gatefold later this year.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or is it down to one individual.

It is becoming more of a collective thing we believe? Usually we have a lyric concept early on, and often we talk about songs as “scenes” - what is the drama involved, what kind of mood are we looking for etc?

Will you be touring the EP heavily in the near future. Or will it be select dates.

We are hoping to tour as much as possible, with half a dozen gigs planned for early 2016. But the story needs to be told and new songs need to be written too! Touring and gig suggestions are welcome though.

Are there plans to release a full length record in the future. Or is that to early to tell at this moment in time.

We certainly would hope so! Let’s see what the future holds...

How hard is it being a band in today's world. What are the most difficult aspects in being in a band.

D: Personally, being a husband and a father of two, tends to make the band life a bit more difficult… Making music is easier than ever, technically, and reaching out to people is also easy via the internet. But since there are so many great bands out there, being heard through all that is hard.

C: It's really up to how much time and effort you put into it. As it's always been, I guess. If you want to make something happen then you really have work hard as hell and realise that nothing comes for free.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

D: Thanks for all kind comments and encouragement! See you soon in a club near you I hope.

J: Yes, thank your for the feedback and thank you to the guys who have been excited and supportive since the beginning!

C: Keep searching for the truth about Mars!

Well guys, thanks for doing this. All the best with the new EP. I can't wait to hear it.

Words by Steve Howe and Cities Of Mars

Cities Of Mars have allowed ourselves to premier a new song – Beneath A Burning Sun – from Celestial Mistress which is available to pre-order now.