UNDERTOW – Markus Brand (Interview)

Undertow have been around as a band since 1993; 25 years and eight albums of rocking heaviness from the super talented German outfit.  The current lineup is Andreas Hund (bass), Joachim “Joschi” Baschin (vocals/guitars), Oliver Rieger (drums) and Markus “Brandy” Brand (lead guitars).

I was not aware of their existence until The Meister asked if I could check them out.  I listened to their latest record Reap The Storm and I have now fallen in love with the band’s songs.  They are a potent  mixture of hardcore and more traditional Metal, allied to a whiff of prime Fear Factory.

I was therefore excited to get the chance to speak to guitarist Markus Brand, who was a great interviewee.


INTERVIEW

I began by thanking him for agreeing to take time to discuss all things Undertow with Decibel Geek.  Futhermore, I told him that Reap The Storm was excellent and that it would likely be in my Top Ten for 2018.

Hello Adam, you’re welcome – nice to have the chance to talk to you. Thank you for the compliment, that’s nice to hear.

After 25 years of being together, I asked Markus what the highlights have been for Undertow.

There have been a lot.  For us, as musicians, playing with some of our heroes as a support act and on festivals were highlights, as was getting to know some of those musicians personally.”

Joschi (Joachim “Joschi” Baschin, vocalist/guitarist) for example is a friend of Kirk Windstein from Crowbar, which means a lot to him. Pro-Pain‘s Gary Maskil  joined us in the studio on our last Album In Deepest Silence and did the vocals on “These Boots Are Made For Stalking”  as his band were on tour near our studio at that time.”

“We also played a lot of shows with great bands and musicians in the last 25 years.  There’s a long list, which includes Volbeat, Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Kreator, Crowbar, Pro-Pain, Heaven Shall Burn, Prong, Alice Cooper, The Haunted, Danzig, Caliban, End Of Green, Any Given Day and many more.

Reap The Storm is their eighth record.   I was therefore curious about the evolution of the band’s sound and what influences have given rise to such an evolution.  I wondered if the band’s musical tastes had changed over the years.

I believe the biggest change was in the songwriting process, or in the riff generating process in general.  Joschi and I had the chance to arrange the songs for two guitars.  I joined the band seven years ago. Up to that point, Joschi did all the riff writing on his own, bearing in mind that all the material recorded in the studio had to be played live.”

“So, on Reap The Storm, we had a lot of opportunities to generate a varied album.  Riffs were written by two brains, bringing more ideas.  It was great having the chance to play harmonic melody parts and to implement those live.  In addition, not forgetting guitar solos, which were by exception in Undertow songs.  Oliver our drummer had the inspiration to try some things within that framework too.”

“And, yes, I brought my own taste in music to the riffs and songs. Also, our new bass player Andreas had some good input in the studio, although the drums and guitars were completely recorded when he joined the band. He did a great job!”

I then asked whether Undertow had any specific issues that they were interested in that they brought to their songs.  Did any of them it make Reap The Storm?

No, not in general, if you’re thinking of politics or something similar. What influenced me a lot in that time was the separation with my wife after 20 years of marriage. That was a huge cut in my life and in my feeling as a person. During that time, I wrote “Crown of Scars”. My former name of the song was “Teeth On Edge”, but at the end I thought “C.o.S” is the better choice. But, I guess all the other riffs written by me on RTS were influenced by this also, due to the fact that this was a tough time for me.

Musically there were more things like solos, fills or details I wanted to add to the songs in general to make the album sound more interesting, even after hearing it a couple of times. And I guess that’s one of the advantages of the album, it doesn’t get boring.

I wondered what they had planned for Undertow in the next year and whether they had set any specific goals.

Yes for sure. We will be doing some club gigs and check the opportunities for touring. Right now, we are looking for a professional booker which hopefully will support us in this matter. Furthermore, we have to write new stuff. We don’t want to stretch the next album into the year 2023… the common 4 or 5 year Undertow circle. We have to shorten that period a LOT!!!!

I was curious as to whether Markus had a favored choice of touring partners.

Uhhh, I think you don’t have the space on the website for all of my wishes…hahaha. No, there are a lot and the biggest ones doesn’t make sense to list it here. Personally for me a dream would come true if we could play some gigs with Sevendust, they are one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately they are very ascetic playing gigs in Germany. But I love the voice of Lajon and the guitars of Clint. Also Tremonti – he is my idol when it comes to guitar playing – he is absolutely fabulous, and on top of that he’s got the reputation of being a very nice guy.”

I asked Markus about how the change in the Music Business has affected Undertow.  Was there any advice he could give to aspiring artists just starting out?

The business is hard man and it is getting tougher in the upcoming years I believe. For us being a comparatively litte band the impact is pretty small I guess. We are still making the music we like without the pressure of having to deliver another TOP ten album and getting our families fed.

The main advice for starters will be:  being true about what you do, make compromises within your defensible borders, having fun and believe in what you do and at least work, work, work – you need to stay on the ball!”

I wondered whether Markus had a favorite album, other than the current release.

“You mean an Undertow album right? No, not when I have to choose a album as a whole. For me, some great Undertow songs are on the Milgram album – there are some real catchy songs on it. One of the best UDT songs in general for me is “34ce” – this is a real masterpiece ! Worth checking it out, dear readers ;-)”

Away from the band, I was curious at any artists Markus listened to and whether he had any guilty pleasures?

Yes for sure, like I mentioned before: Sevendust. Apart from them, I love Anthrax, especially the older stuff.  I am a big Prong fan – Rude Awakening is their best album, for me. Furthermore, I like Architects. They did an incredible job on the last two albums, sound wise. And as a secret European hint, Port Noire – they are gorgeous!!!!!

“The old Maiden, Slayer, Metallica, Soundgarden. Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill, Dark Angel, Killswitch Engage, Creed …oh man, I could stretch this section into the eternity….. hahahaha

Finally, I asked Markus whether he had any interesting stories from his musical career that he could share with Decibel Geek readers.

Oh, there are a lot, but I think I am not allowed to tell that to the public – hahaha. No,  I will try to be serious.  Some years ago we played a big festival show in Germany called Summer–Breeze.  I guess that this was in 2014. Joschi and I were standing backstage drinking beer and coffee and talking, when suddenly a guy put his arms around us and screamed: “whats up guys!”… it was Phil Anselmo!  He was on the way to the stage to playi a slot with Down at the festival.”

“We were pretty surprised and without words for a couple of seconds, because Pantera was always one of the best bands ever for us both. So we were fooling around, joking and stuff like that. He had a bottle of white wine.  Joschi and me got us some beers to celebrate with him and, by accident, I poured my beer all over his pants!  Man, I thought he would kill me immediately, but Thank God he didn’t care at all.  Pepper and the rest of Down were standing behind him, laughing about it. So Phil went, with his wet pants, on stage. That is a real nice memory!

There you have it.  The very personable Markus was a pleasure to interview.  We wish them all the best for the future.

Buy: Undertow – Reap The Storm

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