Friday, March 8, 2013

Interview with Martin "Marsen" Fischer of Long Distance Calling

"Post rock", "atmospheric rock", "prog rock/metal" are terms often come up when describing Muenster, Germany's Long Distance Calling.  It appears there is no general concensus on what they are so far, which, for many bands, is an awkwardly welcome position to be in.

If I had to describe them, the band could quite possibly be a metallic, more guitar-driven modern Pink Floyd.  In some ways, closer to Pink Floyd than many bands in the past have come, but at the same time, forging their own direction.

Much like Pink Floyd, Long Distance Calling's music feels conceptually driven, despite being mostly instrumental.  A "cohesion" in concept certainly exists that needs no words to convey.  However, with the recent inclusion of Martin "Marsen" Fischer (Fear My Thoughts, Pigeon Toe, Frankestoner Grafix) as vocalist, lyricist, and keyboard player, Long Distance Calling is seeking to expand the ways in which they express their concepts to the audience- currently to sold out crowds across Europe.

Martin "Marsen" Fischer, on stage, Sputnikhalle, Muenster, Germany

You’re not from Muenster, correct?

Southwest, Germany.

So then let me ask: LDC being from Muenster, how did you get in touch with them or them with you?

We knew each other for a while, since Jan works for Century Media records, the label Fear My Thoughts, my previous band, was on.  Janosh and Florian played in Misery Speaks, so we just crossed paths.  We played a Slovenian metal festival, got real drunk together, and got to know one another (laughs).

It’s always the alcohol that brings people together! (laughs)

That was a while ago, actually.  Fear My Thoughts had split up and I came over and they had advice for me such as how to get a record deal and what else to do.  Business shit, more or less.  They also came up with a graphic design job for me for an old record. 

So we were phoning each other once in a while and then they said “hey, we’re doing this new record and we need a singer”.  I guess they tried out a couple of singers before and then they realized that we had been on tour together, so they knew what I was doing from my Fear My Thoughts past. They just didn’t think of me before.  I liked their music, so I thought we’d give it a try.  I was not sure whether it was a permanent thing or just like guest vocals for about three tracks. 

Later on, they spoke about going live on stage, then it became more permanent from there.

So you are the permanent singer of LDC?

I guess so (laughs).

How far in the writing and recordings did you come into it?

Very late, unfortunately.  The songs were all written and had preproduction and they had all the structures totally written, so there was none of my influence coming into the songwriting.  So we just had those tracks and I just did my thing and sent them back to them and then we met and talked about it and tried new stuff.  I live 600km away, so we were sending things via the internet, but we then met and talked out the details and did the final stuff in the studio in September.

So did you participate in any writing?

I had some keyboard parts that were written according to the songs [that were already written].

(note: the album was released that day and I secured my copy after the show and interview and it reveals that “Inside the Flood”, “Tell the End”, and “The Man Within” feature lyrics written by Martin)

It’s been estimated by the band that only about 50% of The Flood Inside contains vocals.  How do you deal with the [stage] “downtime”, not only with the guitars, but also the vocals?

Well, the missing guitars are really a strange…  I see myself more as a guitarist and a musician than a singer, but I have a lot of electronic keyboard parts and there’s really a lot to do throughout the songs.  On each song, we have a keyboard section and a Hammond organ and we try to make it a bit more “analog”, but we still have samplers and I still have a lot of stuff to play.  So it’s a very challenging thing, actually, because I played keyboards in a band for a long time, but not on stage.  It’s very exciting.

You had a couple of warm up shows already.  How did they go? 

Absolutely great!  Everything just went perfect (laughs).

So it’s not as much of a challenge as you’re making it out to be (laughs)!

Yeah, it’s exciting because I have to deal with these new “instruments”.  It’s more exciting to me because I still don’t know how to move (laughs).  

To me, it seems like a larger gap to bridge between the instrument-based history of Long Distance Calling and bringing in a singer on a more permanent basis.  What was the process like in getting the vocal and musical concepts to work?

I think because I knew the guys already, it wasn’t so far away.  It’s not that far from Pigeon Toe, either, nor from the music I listen to.  I think I kind of dug what they wanted and the concepts and the fact that we didn’t need to talk about it too much was a sign we really connected.  Another positive thing might be that they haven’t worked with a singer before, so they don’t have a comparison. 

And they’re very open to it (laughs).

Yeah (laughs), and they say “this guy sings?  Great!”

Plus you’re actually there, in front of them, not on another continent or in another country.

Exactly (laughs).  The perfect singer!

Typically in fusion and jazz fusion (the background of Martin's band Pigeon Toe), there’s a lot of room for improvisation in live settings.  In a live setting, do you have creative freedom here?

Absolutely.  The room for it might be small right now because I’m checking out my space and how far I can go.  The plan is to eventually be able to jam and expand a song to have a two more minutes of a jam session in between.  It will be possible if we put all the sample stuff together and play it with the synthesizer or keyboard or whatever.

Right now…I try to come up with little stuff and exchange things.  I think it’s a long way until I get to where I want to be, but I think each show I don’t really know what I’m going to do and I don’t have a plan (laughs).

Sounds scary (laughs).

Yeah (laughs).  I have my certain parts where I know what I’m doing and I can always rely on them, but then there’s so much space in their songs because Long Distance Calling is actually a guitar band and the electronic stuff is in the background. It doesn’t really take up a lot of space to go here and there and stretch out a bit.  And those guys really seem to appreciate it.

What is the conceptual basis of the music of the new album?

It has more or less a definitive concept of “The Flood Inside”, which is a journey through human emotions.  It’s very personal in one way and very abstract in another so everyone can identify with the music.  When you listen to the music, you have all sorts of pictures and images going on.

To me, the concept is that of a journey.  It wants to take you to the top of a mountain, but to each person, we didn’t want to draw the concept and say “here it is”.  We give little hints to allow each person to go their own way.

Album cover, "The Flood Inside" (2013)

For those who like categories, what is Long Distance Calling?

I’m not really a guy that categorizes.  We’re not really progressive because some might say that we’re not progressive enough and there’s some metal influences.  Some people want to describe it because it helps them identify.  To me, it’s just great rock music.  “Atmospheric” is a great word.  It’s really hard to tell.

Have you seen metal fans in the audiences so far?

Diverse, actually.  We’ve done two shows and we’ve been together during festivals [in the past].  I think we might be for metalheads that are a bit more open-minded, as well as people who had Pink Floyd in their backgrounds.  I don’t think the young people are really into us.  The songs are really long.

We all have ADHD right now.

Absolutely (laughs).  When a great riff comes up, they might wait two minutes before it starts rising. 

So what to expect in 2013 and beyond from Long Distance Calling?

This tour and I hope we can start songwriting during it, actually.  Some festivals, probably more than before because having a singer might make us more interesting for them.  Another tour, maybe in Sept/Oct.  A lot is going on for this album and we have to get out there.

If you don’t like what’s on the record, that’s fine, but to see us live is something different.  To me, Long Distance Calling was always a band that you needed to see live.  The energy and the fun they have on stage is really what this band is about.

Are you primarily a music writer or a lyricist?


So we’ll see influences from you in both ways in the future. 

Yeah.  I’m really happy that I’ll be there from the beginning for the next record and probably because I’m a keyboardist and I like the analog style, like the Hammond organ.  Probably that will somehow be influenced. 

What challenges have you had coming into the band and working on old and new material?

The challenge with any band is to get up on stage and be as good as you possibly can.

LDC has had a few internationally-renowned guest singers. For instance, John Bush.


Have you already tried out “Middleville”, the song John appears on?

We wanted it.  It was an option, but I have to say that I’m not as good as John Bush.  This guy is just an awesome singer and I don’t think I want to hear a song that is so special with his voice.  I don’t think if I don’t want to hear the song with a different vocalist…

More songs with lyrics in the future?

I’m not sure, we might stay with that “50%”.  I think we’re going to start writing the songs first and see if they need lyrics, then decide if they are better with or without lyrics.  I don’t think we’re going to be a 100% vocal band because, to me, I love the instrumental stuff.

In that way, you fit, as you’re an instrumentalist and a music writer, so you seem to understand their methodology.

Absolutely.  I also see myself most as a keyboardist than a vocalist.  Then there’s those three songs that I actually sing on.

What can we expect from your other band Pigeon Toe (fusion/prog band featuring Norman Lonhard of Triptykon)?

Pigeon Toe is writing the next record.  We hope to release it this year, but it’s not certain.  We’ve already booked the studio, which will be with V. Santura (Dark Fortress, Triptykon) at Woodshed Studio.

Then possibly a tour.

Everyone seems to go to Woodshed Studio these days

Absolutely (laughs). 

What can we expect to be the musical direction?

Well, it’s hard to say…

Do you guys even have a musical direction (laughs)?

Right now (laughs) we have a couple of ideas and we have 3-4 songs that we are working on and I showed it to a couple of guys I know because it’s always hard for me to explain and they said “this is absolutely Pigeon Toe” (laughs).

Pigeon Toe, featuring Martin "Marsen" Fischer

So basically what to expect from Pigeon Toe is that we won’t know what to expect?

Yes (laughs).

Where do you expect the music industry to be in 5-10 years?

5-10 years?  I hope that there will still be a place for bands like Long Distance Calling and Pigeon Toe and others because these are bands that have an audience that appreciates music that still comes out in a physical format.  Things have changed.  Everything is getting faster with the internet…

I don’t know a lot of people anymore that have records.  A good friend of mine was the guitarist in Fear My Thoughts and he sold all of his records-maybe 800.  He said that he just didn’t need the physical record.  You can just buy the music, which is a weird thing for artists.  Like me, I like the cover art.  Pop and chart music will be even more superficial than now, but this music that is so intense will still exist.

The music will always exist, but the format…no one knows…
Right, no one knows.  In a way the live shows will be the same.

What’s your equipment list?
(indicates visually it’s very large)

Ok, so what’s your favorite guitar?

Gibson Les Paul Custom because it’s very expensive!  When I bought it, I was really happy to buy one that didn’t cost as much as a new one because it’s 30 years old and it’s very heavy…

There’s this one scene in Jurassic Park when a guy picks up binoculars and another guy asks if they’re heavy and he replies “yeah, and expensive!”.  So heavy things, to me, are always associated with “expensive”.

The guitar sounds great and it’s never been out of tune and looks great. 

That’s the guitar we see you with in the Pigeon Toe pictures, right?

Mostly, yes.

And will we see you on stage here with it, or will you purely handle the electronics?

Mostly the electronics, but the idea is if in the future there’s room for more guitar sounds, then why not?

Related: (artwork of Martin "Marsen" Fischer)

Swallow The Sun live here
Amorphis live here 
Orange Goblin live here
Attic live here
Victor Griffin's In Graved live here 
Kadavar live here
Valient Thorr here
Krakow live here 
Valborg live here
Solstafir live here
Audrey Horne live/interview here
Bison (Bison BC) here
Kalmah live here
Triptykon live here
Long Distance Calling live/interview here
Nachtgarm (Negator) here
sG (Secrets Of The Moon) here 

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