Ralph "Ralf" Hubert, Martin LeMar, Alex Landenburg

Mekong Delta

MEKONG DELTA has been an inspiration, positively for plenty of Metal artists for years, since the mid 80's actually. When it comes to the mixture of Thrash along with comprehensive proceedings of Progressive Metal, the Germans gradually became the masters of complexion yet without leaving the shade of aggression behind. Steinmetal had the chance to talk to three of the band's finest Ralph "Ralf" Hubert, Martin LeMar, Alex Landenburg and found out plenty of things regarding the band, and of course the new album  lurking the streets nowadays. 
June 3, 2014
Interview - Ralph "Ralf" Hubert
Greetings guys, thank you for your time for this interview for Metal Temple. What have you been up to lately?

Ralf: Giving a lot of interviews, program some new stuff and preparing myself for group rehearsing.

Coming out with your eleventh release, "In a Mirror Darkly", via SPV / Steamhammer Records, this is quite an occasion as you guys, under the veteran moniker of Mekong Delta, are like an oiled machine stepping up to every challenge. Where do you find that inner fire to keep going strong? What has been motivating you to keep on perfecting yourself?

Ralf: Searching for the ultimate composition. See, for me music is not something what starts at point A and stops at B. For me music is an on going process, which, idealy, starts , never stops and cultivates itself. This in mind and than looking for example at "Inside te Outside of the Inside", you will notice that the song starts somewhere, presents some themes and than starts morphing itself using changes in harmony, rhythm etc. to find finally elements of the starttheme cloaked at the end in a seemingly different theme, what indeed is not the case. The end rested on the starting themes.

After taking a few sessions with the new release, I must say that though your music has been reaching heights of progression within the realms of Thrash, more like on the verge of insanity. On the other hand, I perceived your inputs remained rather constant on this album in comparison to your near previous discography. Actually it felt like a single flowing stream. Do you believe that what is displayed on "In a Mirror Darkly" is Mekong Delta's ultimate evolutionary stage without moving forward?

Ralf: Evolution never stops, just have a look at the nature (although I got my doubts if I look at mankind, see the actual political idioty).

Martin: I think since we all are constantly going through changes, also the music evolves in a constant manner. You can see this in almost any band out there. Some of them also depart from what made them good or special at times, but I have good trust in Ralf, that he will always be faithful to his visions and music. So the ultimate evolutionary stage cannot be reached, because it doesn't exist.

What does the title of the new album states? Frankly, I tried thinking about it as an enigma within the music, something so difficult to decipher. Is that what it is or something else entirely?

Ralf: This is quite hard to explain, especially for me in a foreign language (difficult enough in german). Lets try it this way. "A Mirror Darkly" is the exact opposite of that what you are normally doing, for example, if you never hurt someone as a principal of your way of living, your reflection in a mirror darkly would be that ypu start beating people. Or if you are living in a Democracy, the dark mirror could be e.g. Facism. "In A Mirror Darkly" points to the negative aspects of that what you think is positive.

While the writing process of the album was underway, what piece within the tracklist do you distinguish as most challenging? A track that you consider as groundbreaking when it comes to Mekong Delta's earlier works.

Martin: I think I can speak for all of us, that when Ralf writes his music, everything is challenging for everybody in the band. There is no single song to point out, that is making someone crazy. Like someone said, it's always a challenge. And that is good.
As musician you can either rest in what you did for ages and never grew, or you can search for your boundaries to break them. Constantly fighting against constraints, is what makes you evolving and hungry for more. And Ralf is very talented to show you your limits and also helps to take a leap over them.

Alex: That's a very tough one to answer. Since Mekong Delta's music has always been technically challenging, I guess that the most challenging song - if there even is one that stands out - isn't automatically groundbreaking in terms of musicality. To me groundbreaking in a way is "The Sliver in God's eye" because of the arrangement which is something that MD has never done before in that way.

In terms of appreciation, which of the songs can you most relate to? Which of the tracklist truly made a difference for you due to its magnitude?

Martin: I can only say which songs I like to hear most. A difference made no song to me, and speaking of magnitude in our own music would sound a bit arrogant. So the one I really like to hear over and over again is "Inside the outside of the Inside", because of it's drive and cool melodies. And Mutant Messiah I like a lot, because it evolved for my perception due to the recording process.

Let's go back in time a bit, as you are the sole remaining member from the band's older days, what are the things that you mostly miss of the band's earlier periods?

Ralf: To tell the truth, nothing. A part of my personality is that I did not mourn the past, I prefer to look into the future and that what I wish to achieve there. That might be based on the fact that - if I make an decision - I make them in my best knowldge at that time - or, as some indians say : you have make your decision facing your dead. So I do not regret anything which implies that I do not miss anything.

I can't really tell if it is fact or just a rumor, but playing in Mekong Delta wasn't your first intent right, with you being the owner of Aaarrg Records? If you can shed some light on this issue.

Ralf: Oh, for that we have to dive quite deep into the past. I got to know Jorg Michael in the course of this recording process with "Avenger( later => Rage)", and I noticed that he's got a lot of talent. I started arranging various occasions for him to play drums, got him involved in various projects that I was working on, so we were often together, and we talked about music  a lot. The thing is, that he was deeply into rock music, and I was into classical things and stuff like Yes, E,L&P, Genesis etc. We came up to discussing this, he taught me something about rock, and I taught him something about classic. One funny evening, I think it was late 1984 or early 1985, he came in with a demo by the band that nobody knew at that time, Metallica He played me the first song from the tape, it was called "Fight Fire With Fire", and there was a rhythmical anomaly in it that's not so common. He was deeply impressed by that, and I also found it interesting – this combination between punk and very fast rock. I said, "Of course, it sounds good, but you can do it much more complicated and better." He looked at me and said, "OK, do it!" So, why not ? I took my bass and in the following evenings I composed four songs within a week. Of course, they were not real finished songs, more like ideas and riffs, but I played them to Jorg, and again he was so enthusiastic that he said, "Let's go to the rehearsal room, I have to play that." That was the rehearsal room of Avenger, where Peavy Wagner also was at that moment, and we asked him to play the guitar to get a better sound. We tried it together, and for them it was a bit strange, because I put in some more abnormal rhythms than Metallica. But Jorg is a really big talent, so he got it very fast. We played these songs, and Jorg was so amazed by that, that he said, "You must make a whole album of such stuff!" This is the birth of Mekong Delta.

Making a small comparison on the local scene that you are a part of, how Mekong Delta, which was once rather a Thrash entity in the late 80's along with other big Thrash names in Germany, what do you think of the band's status nowadays in a scene where there bred so many options?

Alex: Well, I think because Ralf stayed true to his musical vision, Mekong Delta sort of created their own niche. So I guess, we aren't really so much of a part of the typical Thrash scene.

Ralf: Yep. I agree with that.

This is something general, but no less important. Some have been contemplation on the notion that the music industry is going down the drain due the change of business perspectives regarding the digital world, illegal downloading, media promotion and sorts. When it comes to Metal, there has been certainty, but for one thing, bands are constantly promoting themselves through various channels. What do you feel about this entire process that this industry has been going through? What is your general opinion regarding music downloading, does it promote or damages your efforts?

Martin: Well, I met so many musicians in the past years of bands you would consider so big in business, that are merely making a living out of it. In earlier days with the status of their bands, they wouldn't have to worry, but nowadays, they struggle with low royalties, bad ticket-sales and so on. It's hurtful to think back to the days, where a musician could do what he is supposed to, play music and live from that. Most people have no idea what sacrifices this live is demanding.
Leaving your family behind for months to play tours, have no securities for the future and so on.
It's not only the industry, it's how we all live with the way we appreciate the work of artists. This has changed and must be retought.

Alex: Illegal downloading is a crime. It's stealing. But a lot of people are still buying the stuff they downloaded if it turns out they really like it. With the sheer mass of releases, this is something I can understand to a certain degree, but still there lots of legal ways to check out a record before you buy it. Even if it's just one minute samples on Amazon or Itunes. So yes, it does promote your music in a way as well. But the fans need to understand that they should support bands by buying records.

Ralf: Yep. Couldn't say this any better.

Back to the new release, how will Mekong Delta support it? What is scheduled?

Martin: Playing live. A lot hopefully.

Alex: We are scheduling selected shows now in Europe. I would love to tour with Mekong Delta….let's see what happens there.

Guys I wish to thank you for this interview, Mekong Delta has been one of the most interesting bands in Metal music throughout the years and I hope that it will continue for you guys. Any last words for the readers?

Ralf: You are welcome. I like to thank all the fans who supported us over the years and hope to see the them when  we play live.

Martin: Thank you for the interview, thanks to the readers who did read the interview to this point. Take care and stay metal! See you soon!

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