Heathen Harvest: Please begin by explaining how Hekate began as a band?
Axel Menz: Hekate started as an experimental atonal project in the early 90ies. We first played at universities and art schools on exhibitions.
HH: Who were the founding members? Who are the current members of Hekate?
AM: Hekate started with five members. From those five members are still two left today the others have changed. The founders are Ingo Müller, guitar and percussion and myself. There were many changes during the years. Today there are Achim Weiler, medieval instruments and keyboards, Dirk
Diederich, drums , Jörg Schwikerat, percussion and drums and Simone Gütig, female voice.
HH: Are the members of Hekate engaged in other artistic or musical pursuits beyond Hekate?
Achim Weiler: I am engaged at a castle as an musican. We accomplish companies and children meetings in addition of medievally music and poems. Further I produce musical contributions for regional theatre plays in my little studio.
AM: I´m supporting several bands live on stage. This year I´m playing the drums, e.g. for Gae Bolg and Sturmpercht. Dirk plays for Staubkind and Ingo also for Gae Bolg.
HH: What musical training or experience did each member of Hekate have before joining the band?
AW: I enjoyed a classical piano instruction many years ago. After that I played in different jazz and rockbands and for myself. In the last years I learned historic instruments like key violin, hurdy-gurdy, clarinet, flute and bagpipe. In the last year I built a dulcimer and actually I´m building an harpsichord. So that is the next instrument which I want to learn.
AM: I learned all instruments by myself and it´ s the same with Ingo. Dirk had drum lessons for many years and Simone has a classical singing education.
HH: Can you discuss how the band came about choosing “Hekate” for a band name?
AM: Manu Baumann, our fist keyboard player, was reading Shakespeare's “Macbeth” and she told us from the witches from the beginning and the one named Hekate. The goddess Hekate connects various characteristics, which we work out over the years. But the most important aspect is that Hekate belonged to many cultures, like the Romans, the Greek, Asia Minor…
HH: What personal significance does the bands name have for its members?
AM: For me as a pagan the name is very important. It symbolises the power of an archaic culture and stands for the old way.
HH: How has the identity of Hekate changed or evolved since it was originally formulated?
AM: First we were an experimental group. We were influenced by industrial bands from the 80ies, like Einstürzende Neubauten and SPK, but also dark wave bands, like Joy Division. During the last years we become interested in european history, old songs and legends. Furthermore we became more selfconfident and found our own style.
HH: The music of Hekate has grown more tribal and rhythmic since the bands inception. Can you explain what has drawn the music of Hekate towards incorporating more bombastic and primal percussion elements?
AW: We always wanted to do bombastic music, without losing the Hekate style. The main thing of the music are the percussions, connected with old melody lines and actually with modern cliches like electronically sounds and sometimes with commercially ranges. After ten years of producing, we arrange the songs more professionally. The organization of a song gets more meaning.
HH: The music of Hekate is also distinctly infused with influences derived from European folk music traditions. Can you please discuss how folk influences became prominent in Hekate’s music?
AM: It was in 1997, we worked for the Hambach “1848” LP. We had a critical look at our own german history and at our traditions. Besides we were starting using old historic instruments like harp, guitares, hurdy – gurdy.
HH: Can you discuss what particular folk traditions have inspired the music of Hekate?
AM: We take most of our influences from European traditions - that’s true. We approach all the traditions in our own subjective way, that means that our songs arouse from ideas we get from reading books, visiting European landscapes or by telling myths from friends. We choose most themes for songs by our instinct not for special reasons. For example we have a song about a german king, called Barbarossa. He had a long red beard, that’s `how he got that name. The legend says that he is still sleeping deep in his mountain, the Kyffhaeuser in Saxony, and that he is waiting to come back to rule over Germany again one day. The song is about a time long ago and about our fascination about that time. The time of knights. The legend plays in a fantastic part of Germany where time stands still. Other themes are the Lady of the lake in Britain, the Minos cult in Greek, the legend about the holy grail, which some people presume in Montségure, an old castle in France.
HH: What other musical influences does the band attempt to draw upon?
AM: One influence is certainly a movement of the young people in germany from the 20ies, called „Wandervogel“ which means something like „walking birds“. We are inspired by painters like Fidus, Franz Stassen and Hermann Hendrich. Furthermore we are interested in classical music e. g. Edward Grieg and Schubert.
HH: The songs of Hekate are often inspired by a wide array of themes and influences. On the most recent album “Goddess” there are a number of songs that focus upon ancient customs or forgotten deities. Can you explain Hekate’s artistic and personal interest in ancient cultures?
AM: The world lost its magic. Now you can explain nearly everything through science. In former times a moon-darkness was a great wonder but today you know the scientific backgrounds. Where is space left for imagination and phantasy? Ancient men recived a lot of joys from nature. We can learn from ancient cultures about their power and forgotten rituals.
HH: Can you discuss how the band came about choosing “Goddess” as the latest album title?
AM: The title symbolises our connection to mother earth as an all enclosing divinity. The CD is dedicated to her.
HH: Can you discuss what type of research Hekate conducts when you decide to incorporate a specific historical reference into your music?
AM: I´m reading a lot of old books and it´s important for me to get inspiration by the landscape of every story. But it´s always a very personal experience because making music is very emotional for me. We don´t want to reseach to much so that the myths don´t loose their power.
HH: How do you come about choosing such obscure themes such as “The Dance of Taurus” which appears on “Goddess” and narrates the tale of the ancient and sacred practice of sacrificial bull dancing?
AM: “Dance of Taurus” reflects an old initiation rite. It deals with the fascination of maturity and courage. I noticed the old paintings in the temples of the Minoes on Crete. They are showing the dance of the taurus. I couldn´ t forget them and for me they are symbols of a past epoch.
HH: The majority of references to ancient cultures, religions, and customs seem predominately focused on pre-Christian or non Christian civilizations. Can you discuss why Hekate has chosen to focus on these more obscure and specifically pagan historical periods?
AM: It` s again and again the search for the own descent and identity in a world without magic.
HH: Has Hekate ever drawn inspiration from any specific political or philosophical writings or events?
AM: Yes, we are interested in the German revolution in 1848, especially with their heros like Friedrich Hecker and Ludwig Birne. This event was so important for Germany and unfortunatelly it falls into oblivion more and more. Friedrich Hecker emigrated to America in 1851 and took part in the American Revolution . They were the first fighters for democracy in Germany. It´s not comparable to the "democracy" today.
HH: Does Hekate ever draw inspiration from any particular individual or fellow artist?
AM: When we recorded “Sonnentanz” we were influenced by the German painter Fidus.
He was a romantic and conjured up the mind of a new time with his paintings. Fidus was vegetarian, nudist and sun woreshipper.
HH: Hekate composes lyrics in a number of languages including German, English, French, and other tongues such as Latin, Yiddish. What has influenced Hekate to branch out into so many different languages?
AM: On the one hand the languages make it possible to use themes from various cultures in their original language, so the connection to another culture becomes closer. On the other hand we use the language as an instrument to make sounds and rhythms.
HH: Do you find that each language offers something unique to the musical experience for the listener?
AM: That´s absolutely correct, I can´t add anything more.
HH: The music of Hekate is layered in multi instrumentalism and percussion. How does the band go about composing the music of Hekate? Is composition a group effort?
AW: All group members are responsibly for the compositions. Most of the songs develop in the training room. But Axel is the text writer and I am mainly the composer. That means I am mainly responsibly for the musical parts. Mostly for the fine tuning. Ingo is the guitarist and Dirk is a more marvelously drummer who can arrange the drum parts at best. To arrange and produce a song together is the main thing.
HH: Who is responsible for the lyrical content of Hekate?
AM: I do the lyrics for Hekate and I think about the way of the melodie.
HH: How does the band determine the focus of each album?
AM: It ´s my determine and it comes from the lyrics. We are thinking of a live album next.
HH: Being that the music of Hekate is very thematic has each album had an overall encompassing theme? If so can you discuss these individual themes?
AM: “The seventh sign”, our first CD dealed with Christian faith, especially with the Johannes` revelation, this was in 1996. 1998 followed “Hambach 1848”, an album about the German revolution in 1848. In 2000 the theme of „Sonnentanz“ was a youth movement, called „Bündische Jugend“. The CD “Tempeltänze” tells about the origin of pagan power and “Mithras garden” as a place of silence and force. This album was published in 2001. The next album “Ten years of endurance” was a compilation about all our CDs and our previous works (2003). And finally „Goddess“ which deals with European myths and legends.
HH: Hekate exudes a very heathen or pagan identity through songs that reference ancient gods and customs. Do these references reflect a shared spiritual interest of the band?
AM: Yes, that´s right. We are living on the countryside in a cultural very important area. Besides the ancient places of whoreship of the Celts and Germans there are also sanctuarys from the roman conquerors. We are connected very close to nature and it is important for us to research and experience old rites and cultures.
HH: Is Hekate attempting to give voice or assist in a revival or remembrance of these ancient religions and practices?
AM: We are pagans of conviction. I think it´s time to remember our ancestors that we keep the contact to our culture, our environment and ourself. Hekate has not only a musical meaning but also a cultural.
HH: The music of Hekate is interestingly distanced from some of the darker and more nihilistic musicians in the neofolk scene whose music often ponders upon the destruction of humanity or the crumbling of the human spirit. In comparison the music of Hekate seems more celebratory. What has steered the music of Hekate clear of nihilistic references?
AM: First we are also very interested in the darker folk projects.I know that there is a development to an other atmosphere at the moment than we show. But I think that we can impart paganism, legends and myths the best in our own way.
HH: The visual presentation of each Hekate release has been as detailed and in depth as the music. How important is it to Hekate that the CD be accompanied by equally artistic and representative packaging?
AM: That is very important for us. From the beginnin we are working with our friend Hagen of Zimmerit. Together we work out all details for the desing. All our work develops from an entire concept: design – music – stage performance.
HH: On the new album”Goddess” Hekate has gone to great length to briefly explain the theme or origin of inspiration for each song. How important is it to the band that your artistic message be fully understood?
AM: In our booklet we mostly quote poems which go with the text or which express something similar, we thought in our texts. To some songs we explain the divinity but not the texts. We just give ideas to the interested listeners but there is still place for their own interpretations.
HH: Can you please share with us the meaning or personal message of the following songs from the “Goddess” album Morituri te Salutant, Europa and Lord of Heaven?
AM: We also have some more, like Morituri te salutant. It´s more than a traditional theme. It deals about the Gladiators in Romes Circus Maximus. We like to show how much life of men is worth, you can transport it to our times and the soldiers, who gave their lifes, easily. Europa: This song shows the great variety of our continent. “Open your eyes” means that we have to open inner to become conscious to the variety of our culture. Lord of Heaven: The inspiration of this song is the opera of Philip Glass “Echnatons Rising”. It deals with the European mystic view of the Egyptian sunking Echnaton.
HH: Morituri te Salutant shows a side of Hekate that feels fiercer and slightly martial. What influenced the band to attempt such new musical territory?
AM: Morituri te Salutant arised in a powerfull rehearsal. It takes of live the song “Die Sonne im Geiste”, which we played live in a similar powerfull way. It´s also important for us to work out more those archaic themes in future.
HH: On the Hekate website the band describes its members as individual libertarians. What is the band attempting to communicate through the title of libertarian?
AM: That´s an interesting question. As a dark folk band in Germany you are under a strict observation. Man people try to find out what you are thinking and how is your political statement. We make it easy and clear for those people. We are interested in many directions and open to many trends. We don´t want be stipulated in our opinions. We show these ideas through our liberality and that we admit these ideas to all others.
HH: Can you share a few of the difficulties Hekate has faced and overcome in the past ten years?
- The financing of expensive instruments in the beginning.
- The exploitation through a label during the production of “The seventh sign”.
- The reproach to have a right way of thinking of the university in Koblenz when we published
- *Hambach 1848”.
- The breakdown of “Hammerhard Records”, our label, after the publishing “Sonnentanz” and Tempeltänze”.
- The seperation of Susi and Mario from the band in December 2004 after our work for “Goddess”
HH: Can you please discuss a few of the accomplishments the band is proud of in their musical career?
AM: I can ´t answer that question now. Perhaps when we come to an end and look back...
HH: Hekate seems to be very active when in the neofolk concert circuit in Europe. Can you discuss what draws the band to live performance?
AM: To play live is the best event for us. It is the fulfilment of all our work and creativity. In a live performance we see if a song can pass to the audience. To play live is really the best for our band.
HH: How does the music of Hekate translate from studio to stage?
AW: That can be very difficult. Some of the songs sound themselves better on stage and others better on CD. We try to translate the tendency from CD to the stage and turn around. On stage we are supported by a sequenzer and in the studio we use multilayer drums and sounds to get the music more powerful.
HH: On the Hekate website it mentions that the band strives to deliver a live performance rich with stage adornments and rituals that begin the performance and end the performance as well as ritualistic practices being incorporated into the actual music performance. Can you please discuss what role ritual plays in your live performance?
AM: Rituals are very important for us before a live performance. We haven´t talked about that yet. A concert of Hekate has a spiritual level as it is dedicated to our ancestor and gods. “Du siehst mein Sohn, zum Raum wird hier die Zeit” (Richard Wagner, Parsifal 1882) A ritual helps to experience a cosmic principle and to use it on your way through life.
HH: Do these rituals have a personal spiritual significance to the band members or is it just performance art for the sake of the audience?
AM: No, the rituals are not to entertain the audience. These rituals are shamanistic actings with a clear conception.
HH: Does the band use self created rituals or are you drawing from a definitive spiritual or shamanistic tradition?
AM: Many years ago we dealed with shamanistic traditions and rites. We found some ways to get power and energy. Here the pagan European traditions and the connections to other pagans have a big importance. This all leads to a big knowledge. At the moment we are using German smoke rituals at live performances. The smoke is a sign to the gods. The scent is their food. As we use mostly the taditional smokes we wake memories of holy times. We use herbs from our native country. There is a different smoke ritual for every season. I´m collecting the herbs in our forests as the shamanes of our ancestors did it.
HH: Hekate has had the privilege of working with a great number of other neofolk artists across a broad spectrum of venues. What is your opinion of the neofolk scene today as compared to when you entered it?
AM: As we started as “greenhorns” over teens years ago, it was very easy as there were less German dark folk bands. Today it is more difficult. Many bands seem just to copie the “old” bands and their models. The scene is changing and the audience and organizers are changing too. Unfortunately it becomes more elite and so it gets closed to many people. You often get the feeling to belong to a secret and exclusive association.
HH: Do you find that the music and artists are staying true to themselves as the popularity of the music and the audience grows?
HH: Is the music of Hekate embraced or widely known outside of Europe?
AM: We have some fans in the north and south of America and some in Asia, especially in Russia. I think it depends on the marketing strategy of our label, who is very active in Europe. I will become more active ourselves soon.
HH: Have the members of Hekate been able to support themselves through the music of Hekate or are you burdened with day jobs in addition to your artistic pursuits?
AW: The time to make money with special saved music is past. My main profession is social worker with culpable young persons and besides some artistically jobs in the middle ages scene, like the castle.
AM: I ´m working as a teacher on the country. I like the job. I´m teaching music and I´m helping the the pupils to choose a work. Jörg is drum teacher, Ingo is a trader, Dirk is making advertisings and designs and Simone is a professional singer.
HH: Have you established a fan base in the USA?
AM: Unfortunately not. Perhaps we make it together...
HH: Could we ever hope to see Hekate perform in the USA?
AM: We hope so. We always need the costs for the flights and quarters for all of us and we come directly to your beautiful country. We hope that some organizers will read the interview...
HH: Hekate released “Goddess” through Auerbach Records in Germany. What brought Hekate to Auerbach?
AM: The label is next to our home and we found that convenient to realize our ideas. Martin and Christoph are really doing a good job.
HH: Do you ever find it difficult finding a label interested in releasing neofolk music or have you in the past?
AM: No, it was never difficult to find a label. But ist was difficult to find one who suits to us and who looks after our interests.
HH: Can you tell us if there will be ten more years of music from Hekate to look forward to?
AW: I hope so. Because the band is my personal reconciliation apart from my occupation and you can have a lot of fun on tours. I would not like to give that up.
AM: Hekate is part of my life, it´s no question to stop it!
HH: Lastly, do you have any last words?
AM: Thank you for our fist big interesting interview for the USA. We hope to see you soon there. My grandfather of my mother came from South Carolina and I hope to see his land one day. Love and light from Germany sends Hekate.