Heathen Harvest: Greetings Markus and thank you for accepting this interview. Firstly, can you give us the history of the Metalmessage 'zine and what your mission statement is? What you strive to be as an important underground metal 'zine.
Markus Eck: Greetings Sage, it’s great to have got the possibility by your hand for this interview at Heathen Harvest! When I became in contact with metal the first time at the age of 12, it took my heart by storm. I’ve heard the "Killers" LP of Iron Maiden which I’ve pulled on tape immediately. I still own that tape even today, and it runs yet always grandly. Strongly stamped of a probably "classic" Hardrock- and Metal course, I began however anyway as early as possible enthused to listen totally the early heroes of various styles. And the development of my own taste has only just begun. So thousands of bands and a steadily increased enthusiasm came over the years for hard and sometimes less hard music into my life, which became straight through Metal – and music itself of course – a very aware. Delighted I observed the permanent own musical further development at and in me what concerned styles and contents of my favourite music. Today I actually listen to all, what positively touches me and I´ve already stopped a long time ago, to not letting approach bands my interest in proper manner only because they act in a genre, which doesn’t call me on the plan that much. Simultaneously to this passion I registered – with permanently growing displeasure – the ignorance frightening in places in some parts of the Metal press as well as a sometimes sheer frightening seeming dilettantism with which many articles or also just criticisms became and are composed over "my" bands. Also the truth content of the reports often passes not approximately at reality up to and also their lyrical approach fulfils only very rarely my aesthetic perceiving. Sometime I therefore began to write myself my enthusiasm right out off the soul; first only for me and for friends, then in increasing wise more professionally. I strive to make it always somewhat different as the large part of the guild; therefore primarily somewhat more enthusiasm and emotion into my articles to transform because the reader is to be moved at according to my opinion so to more interest. This culminated some time ago in the presentation of my own Web magazine: www.metalmessage.de – many times I experienced surprises as a heavy metal fan in any case already, that proved me, that the most valuable pearls must be fished often out of very large depths.
HH: Your interests obviously lie in folk and pagan (black) metal. Can you tell us about these primary interests and why they shape the framework of Metalmessage?
ME: From time to time I also write reviews, interviews etc. for troops out of other styles. And I’m still an eternal fan of most of the old school styles in Metal - Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Doom Metal etc. I grew up with these bands, and I’ve had the best times in my life at all with their music. But, yes, mainly my heathen heart pounds for the intelligent and talented kind of all the Pagan-, Viking- & Folk metal hordes. The most authentic ones of them understand the important close connection of praising Mother Nature’s marvellous miracles with appreciation of timeless heathen ideals and noble epic compositions. Modern Metal acts long more and more for more blood, cruelty, anti-humanism etc. Just take a look at most of the newer front-covers in most of the subcategories – totally horrible! I see myself as a heathen in the purest meaning of the term. I’m worshipping Mother Nature with extremely devotion. I disgust the modern day’s nearly completely rotten minded global society – which became a fearful lousy mass of sheep-minded creatures since the new world order has begun to fulfil the plans of the government behind all the governments more than 2.000 years ago. All the mass media’s cruel and mainly negative contents of the present hurt my heathen heart in an immense manner. So it has become nearly unbearably for me to be a full part of those foolish mankind. I avoid TV, radio and all the newspapers as good as I can. So now I’m on the best way to become a health minded hillbilly – what a great imagination! Within nowadays soulless and sick times many folks, especially the younger ones unto them, feel more and more discomfort in their minds and hearts. Too many of completely sick and cruel “news” day by day hammering into their heads, beside that there is too much nonsense all around them. Clever mass media spreads more and more fear – to take over complete control of the eerie inhabitants of mother earth one day. So many ones of mankind are therefor longing for real values in their inner mind, and for real beauty. But where do we find them? Answer: in our still marvellous nature-places on this planet. We all weren’t born to sit in front of a modern TV-set day by day. We were born to live in absolute common with mother earth. All other wise of life will definitely lead into self-destruction one day. The evolution of all known species in life until today is the perfect proof, to where lacks of accommodation lead. There’s nothing more to say about, I guess.
HH: You've stated that you're not interested in either left nor right winged political material, but much pagan metal has this kind of political atmosphere about it, perhaps not in the sense of left or right winged, but rather of the interests of the projects themselves. How do you feel about the pagan theme in a political nature? Do you feel the genre is sometimes unfairly labels as a right-winged endeavour?
ME: That’s really a sad part of the story. As far as I´m concerned I take high care about to avoid such bad contacts at anytime. Concerning the contributions on Metalmessage compilations: first of all a band must address me the complete musical as well as optical attitude and a non-material general view in a 100% way. After the first starting in the mutual communication the bands must then also explain me unconditionally positive characteristics such as to mediate for example seriousness, correctness, sincerity, sovereignty and reliability. Yes, and they should stand intensively passionated behind their art. Many groups do not write or answer only every few weeks once, I really can’t cooperate with such half-hearted profession participants. Over the years of my previous compilation releases, I’ve certainly learned a lot on this sector. And as said, yet from the beginning I was fortunately highly careful, whom I got me into the sampler boat, which saved me much annoyance and disappointments. Concerning the mentioned right-winged minds: certain extreme circles with entirely conscience attention-deficits aiming already for some time in the heathen oriented Metal genres. The main problem at itself lies in the use of old heathen or old Nordic symbolisms and the rune writings or -signs how you know as an informed. These were criminally abused in the darkest chapter until now of German history for might-greedy purposes on perfidiously manner. Therefore it was only a matter of time until right winged groups and its nebular rear-men in the Pagan Metal-area wanted to use a new activity field or recruitment potential of recognized and as expected correspondingly for its dangerous goals and views. This led, as you know, in addition that some provocateurs in the rows of the Metal scene make use also quickly of this new possibility to attain very much popularity in spite of lacking talent. A sad logic.
HH: If a band crosses that line into becoming political, does it ruin the music for you?
ME: We know, it was earlier "Satan", with which people were able to produce themselves wide and lucratively in the extreme Metal, but "Satan" in picture, meaning and last of all word is presented nowadays meanwhile already on coffee cups, umbrellas, plastic swimming shoes, underpants, baseball caps, car stickers etc. etc. Therewith no one can frighten become therefore more, let alone provided become for any sensation at the multitudes of the Metal fans. Today just forbidden or unwelcome symbolism, signs and song texts are it therefore out of the right warehouse. I myself being an absolute reasonable person and therefore keep away at all from extreme thoughts of any type, for that makes the person always to a hate-clump, which does not respect or accept differently thinking. In that way horrible wars emerge.
HH: The Metalmessage website crosses a few borders and includes a number of sections that give your 'zine more of a personal feel in relation to yourself including a "Trade / Wants List". Do you feel this is appropriate for your 'zine and why do you include it there?
ME: Mainly Metalmessage is still my own project, all articles etc. are written by me. I guess truly, Metalmessage is the greatest one-man-metal-page in the world. So I still include my own interests completely, which is very important for me, as for example the "Trade / Wants List".
HH: Tell us about the "Honour" page. Is this simply for bands that you enjoy personally or is there a deeper meaning to their inclusion there?
ME: It’s mainly simply for bands which I enjoy personally. But these hordes rule! Especially German horde Finsterforst made an album of immense class recently. But, there is so many of them that happily make me again and again lucky and unusually enrich my existence. As timeless pearls I consider the respective noble works of high-class representatives such as for example Rivendell, Ensiferum, Manegarm, early Thyrfing, Pagan Reign, Horn, Gernotshagen, Yggdrasil, Riger, Thurisaz, Vrani Volosa, Nest, Primordial, Windir, SorgSvart, Nomans Land, Alkonost, Moonsorrow, Irminsul and Agalloch. My ultimate favourite pagan metal band right now is Finsterforst. On my magazine side, I arranged extra for such high carats a category site, that names itself "Honour". There my personal favourites are listed after countries. After all these years I’ve decided, to praise the timeless majestic creations of Windir of the very best at all which was ever released in Viking Metal – also the amazing compositions of SorgSvart should be named here as real gems.
HH: The "Nature" portion of your website includes pictures of the obvious from whom I can only assume is yourself. Tell us about the meaning and important of this section. Many seem to be located around where you personally live.
ME: Yes, all of them are done by me. Mainly I shoot my pictures here in my really gorgeous environment or in the endless marvellous Bavarian and Austrian Alps respectively. From time to time I travel a bit to visit bands or friends, where I also take my camera with me of course. I hope, that I’ll be able to visit the autumnal Rocky Mountains in USA and Yosemite National Park the next years – one of the most beautiful places in the world ever in my opinion.
HH: Many of these images are remarkable. I'm assuming you do a great deal of hiking. Do you sell any of these images as prints? How has the nature in your region been affected over the past years by pollution and other human-related damages?
ME: Thank you for your praise. I hike as much I can, that’s correct. I never thought about selling of prints of my images, but if anyone wants to have some, I’ll be willingly to arrange it. The nature into my region have had good luck, we don’t have so much industry here so far. But when I drive to Munich sometimes, it’s a totally different case there – urban as hell. Not my cup of tea. Every time I’m glad to be back into my forests and woods then.
HH: Tell us about your village in Germany and the impact its had on you, your traditions, and the music that you love.
ME: My village is strongly embossed by Christian religion – anywhere outside here this is the case, too. The only real impact which this had on me and my mind was my immense disgust against all the shabby and fearful sheep headed mentalities into my area. So I got my own view of this world not by any school lessons or other brain-modulating-systems – I’ve red lots of important books, which were never recommended to me by anyone here! To see the things on this world with a clear view, one has to search for his own truth.
HH: What do you do for a dayjob? You seem to live in an isolated part of the world somewhere in the Alps.
ME: I make my living as an A&R and through my freelancer jobs. I luckily don’t focus the whole view of my life on money – I rather prefer to stay alive not so bad and having enough time to appreciate Mother Nature. Because the deep meaning of Pagan culture for me is enormously, as I said. Pagan rules and values were good for people on this planet from the beginning of all human existences. To destroy all the strong bounds of the historic heathen tribes, bad minded circles destroyed their values. In the past people worshipped the sun and Mother Earth, nowadays they worship in egoistic manner themselves or the new god money. I myself live here in a pretty small village, 60 kilometres to Munich and 60 kilometres to the marvellous Bavarian Alps.
HH: The world of metal typically has a low respect for its compilations, generally thrown about in low quality packaging and always swallowed by the path of time. You seem to put a great deal more passion into your releases than the typical compilation guru. Tell us about this love for the compilation and why you put such effort into it.
ME: Beside the music I´ve always been truly fascinated of that often grandly and detailed painted front covers or graphic illustrations of the publications out of the Metal area. Not rare I’ve bought disks only because of the front cover although the music didn´t pleased me on that even not at all so well. Crazy. But so they are, the large collectors as me – with devotion at the work. So it disturbed me also already always very much that so many really brilliant cover draftsman got in contrast almost nothing to the respective bands of all the renown, which became so many Metal releases overall. One day I had the constructive and productive idea to create samplers by myself, which should offer both bands and the involved cover painters a proven support possibility. So also a talented brush artist is involved in every Metalmessage compilation, which forms the front covers after my ideas. And I send always pile-wise review copies at many pertinent Metal medias whereby I become not tiredly to refer the reviewers beforehand again and again thereon, to write please also something about the front cover etc.
HH: Why has Metalmessage not expanded into a full-blown label, other than financial reasons?
ME: Believe me, Sage, more than many times I thought about it. But the modern days global music biz – even in Metal – is so immensely rotten and filled with silliness meanwhile, none of the outsiders would believe the whole truth. So I’ve decided to stay so far with Metalmessage as I did until now. The reasons therefore are much more than money. I’m a true passion-man, and in the biz world there’s less place for passion.
HH: The art of your compilations are perhaps as alluring to buyers as the music within. What lies behind your decision to use Ed Repka for the artwork on the latest version of Metal Message? His work obviously seems more cartoonish than your previous efforts with the exception of the debut volume, painted by Mike Schindler.
ME: Usually it’s pretty difficult to get a fine brushed frontcover by Ed Repka, I guess, because he’s so busy all the time. Who doesn´t know "Peace Sells…" or "Rust In Peace" of Megadeth for example or "Spiritual Healing" of Death? Timeless graphical masterpieces. I am a absolute fan of these works since the first contact with them. So I wrote good Ed over the years again and again my gigantic enthusiasm about these really wonderful works, therefore we already know us for a longer time. Ed’s admirable style is absolutely inimitable, nobody knows to set up the presences of gorgeous illuminating shimmering colours as good as he does. With the front cover of "V" I am more than satisfied. Ed has especially transferred the both cave trolls exactly after my presentations. I always want to have front covers for my Sampler, which I will look at in 20, 30 years damned gladly. This time I wanted to move quite away from all the formation clichés, which are established meanwhile so firmly in the cover scene in pagan metal. All the Vikings or the scenarios around look always more similarly for some time. Gloomy it must be predominantly unconditional there, and coloured it has to be if possible as wretchedly as possible. That is however not so very much my thing. So I thought to myself, "why not even a typical Heavy Metal front cover?" As said, this time I wanted, away from all the usual graphic stereotypes or the annoying uniform Pagan- and Viking Metal, similarities.
HH: You've worked with notable metal art figures Kris Verwimp and Jean-Pascal Fournier in the past. How did these partnerships comes about and how did the process go for you? Kris Verwimp especially has become a regular monster in the black metal realm.
ME: All in all it was the same as it was with Ed Repka. I wrote them all pretty quickly after I’ve discovered their arts and names enthusiastic emails – so really good and close contacts were build up with the time. So I appreciate their arts and they appreciate my dedication and love for their arts, simple to say. And, yes, the Belgian noble-soul Kris Verwimp is one of the most dedicated working figures at all these days.
HH: You put your money where your mouth is by sending out a massive amount of promo editions of the compilations to 'zines across the world. Do you stand by the fact that press helps accelerate the sale of these items? Do you feel its really helped MetalMessage become a well-known name in metal?
ME: Yes, and this took and take really a lot of money. Especially the oversea-letters are very expensive always – in case of “V” with the DVD-cases it’s even more expensive. Yes, of course, international music press helped and still helps me a lot to bring my releases and the included hordes unto the fitting people. I have to say a big thanx to them all here!
HH: Tell us about the Rip-offs section of your various compilations. Do you typically do this after several attempts after getting the album reviewed? Have any of these "black listings" ever contributed to any situations that you're aware of, such as their firing?
ME: I really don’t know by the minute if anyone of them so far has got fired due to my “rip-off-alerts”, but it’s fair to list the names of persons, which got a review copy after a extra before done agreement about it. I always make special requests for reviews for my compilations via email with a bit communication, to get sure to have a high-quality article in the end. Sometimes some black sheeps are acting still very tricky, but for that cases I’ve installed my lists.
HH: Literally all of the music these days featured on your Metalmessage compilations are of the folk / pagan realm, whereas the first edition featured tracks from bands like Bloodfeast and Daemonlord whom seem unrelated to the pagan mindset in general. Can you explain the evolution of the Metalmessage compilations and the reason you've found to go strictly folk / pagan-oriented?
ME: That’s correct, in the earlier times I were not so much focussed on Pagan Metal as today. But the more books I’ve red, the stronger my interests and belief tends into heathen topics and pagan themes. Therefore I’ve decided to open more possibilities for honest pagan bands.
HH: Do you find any hypocrisy behind the fact that you consider yourself a pure heathen but run your 'zine via a technological means such as the internet? I admit, though, that it is healthier for the earth as no trees have to be destroyed to create physical copies. (Plus, we are in the same boat, claiming heathenism / paganism and dedicating our passions to an online basis.)
ME: If I would be so immense hard and non-compromising to myself, I have to live in the woods deep into an earth-hole. Despite all my immense love and devotion to timeless heathen spiritual themes, all in all I’m a realistic thinking mind. I do live in 2009, and my goal is anytime, to make the best out of every situation in my living – therefore I stand also proud behind my activities in the internet. I’ve reached a lot of international folks so far with my metal messages, so I’m very satisfied with all by now.
HH: Do you consider yourself a misanthropist? You've been quoted in another interview as stating your disgust for the modern world and the people that inhabit it.
ME: Yes, I do. Because not rarely I deeply experience misanthropic feelings – especially, when I can’t avoid daily TV-news etc. from time to time. I guess I haven’t to go deeper here with these topic. All the societies have become so immensely sick in mind. Mankind truly seems to hate herself.
HH: Do you consider any pagan / folk projects "fake"? In other words, do you ever find some projects to use meaningful lyrics and imagery in the heathen tradition but in regular life turn their backs on what they claim to believe?
ME: In the predominant part most of the bands in the Pagan Metal scene aiming an entirely certain image. Glorious exceptions confirm this rule luckily. I will tell no names here of course, none of both sides. Passioned and enthusiastic as I am I already wrote to many of the groups for this subject matter, but the reactions were already all too often very sobering, to be true. Most of them just rather sit before their game consoles or drinking in the tavern instead of embracing trees, could express one it impish. Yet I must say that those bands pricking positively out of the mass, know to revere nature in very honest and passionate manner. And about that I am really very happy.
HH: 2009 has been fairly quiet on the Pagan / folk metal front. Have there been any releases crossing your door that have really grabbed your attention lately?
ME: Here we go: