Phillip Otte (Guitar), Christian Pobaschnig (Keyboards/ Synth), Claudio Katholnig (Bass) and Dominic Raunigg (Drums) from Mountain
Ah, the beautiful landscape of Kärnten in Austria. Luscious, green meadows, clear water and of course the majestic Alps! Which Christian ”Chrishino” Pobaschnig, keyboarder and synthesizer-virtuoso of MOUNTAIN, doesn't hesitate to show me by carrying the laptop to the window. It’s a Thursday evening, already a little dark, but the silhouettes of the mountains are still very impressive. It’s like being there live and in person! Well… almost.
The release of their first album ‘Evolve’ on 9th September 2016 is right around the corner, a tour in February already announced - MOUNTAIN don’t do things by halves. The four creative minds around founder Philipp Otte are about to leave their musical traces in the post-rock genre, and because it’s better to be early than to be late, I’ve talked to them about the band, the album and cabbages and kings.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: MOUNTAIN. Why the name? What does it represent, what is the concept?
Philipp Otte [PO]: That’s pretty simple actually! Back then when I started the whole project, I’ve always seen the mountains in the background… and I thought to myself, I want to set to music what it’s like to look at mountains all the time! (laughs)
Christian Pobaschnig [CP]: Should I show the mountains to you? You can see them through the window!
RoD: Yeah, sure!
CP: (showing the mountains to me) There, can you see them? Those are the mountains of Villach! So you can envision how it looks like.
RoD: Pretty rad!
PO: So, once again, that’s the whole thought behind. How it feels like to see the mountains, to stand on top of them. That’s the main concept! (laughs)
RoD: How did you guys find each other? Did anyone know the other before or was it completely new?
PO: It was pretty new and through a friend of mine who told me to find someone to join my music project. I was like ”But try finding a drummer around here!”, but she said ”I know someone from FALLEN UTOPIA, ask him.” - and I asked him, and that was him (points to Dominic ”Täm” Raunigg), and he is pretty much the best drummer you could imagine! (everyone laughs) Then there is of course Chrishino who we met while on the bike… and she said ”Hey look, that’s the one, the keyboarder, he can play too!” He had played in an instrumental band before as well which was pretty cool too. Then I asked him as well and of course he was hooked immediately, that’s just how Poby is, he started planning our world tour after two months. (laughs)
CP: And then I said yes. (laughs)
PO: And Mister Kathe - the bass player - I got to know when I still owned my own video store, he had been a client of mine. He often came to lend movies and we had quickly realized that we get along very well. So when our old bass player dropped out because of a tinnitus, a hearing damage, we rang Mister Kathe and asked ”Hey Mister Kathe, are you up for playing bass?”, and he said yes right away. The rest is history!
CP: We also had another guitarist…
PO: Yeah, of course we also had another guitarist who’s also starring on the album, the Italian, Francesco. But he quit because he preferred going to Baywatch.
CP: He is now a lifeguard somewhere on the beach in Tuscany.
PO: That was no joke.
CP: That’s his job now. Easier to get girls like that.
PO: He gave up music to become David Hasselhoff. He already had the chest hair for that.
CP: And the alcoholism.
PO: Especially the alcoholism!
RoD: About the music of MOUNTAIN: which occasions would you say does it fit best, generally spoken?
PO: I’d like to give this one to my teammates.
CP: (after a short pause) President’s receptions. (everyone laughs)
CP: No more, no less. The only occasion I can imagine it at.
Dominic Raunigg [DR]: Elevator music.
PO: (still laughing) In the elevator to hell!
DR: Long car rides through nowhere.
CP: Generally when being in the vøid.
PO: When you enter the vøid, MOUNTAIN’s the soundtrack. Personally for me it’s great to ride my bike, and actually for climbing mountains. Poby keeps talking, I don’t know…
CP: I just told a story about doing parcours over balconies in Graz.
PO: Maybe you should tell that to her then since she asked?
CP: No, it’s a story of its own. (laughs)
PO: That’s pretty rude isn’t it, we’re doing an interview and you’re talking about something entirely different. You’re a wanker.
CP: That’s going to be the title. ”Poby is a wanker”.
PO: Poby is a cunt.
CP: A bloody cunt.
PO: Is there even an answer you can use now? (laughs)
RoD: How did you get the record deal?
PO: Good question. I got a message - after having MOUNTAIN as a solo-project for four to five years already - that Shunu Records was looking for artists to hire. It was never an issue for me, I never wanted MOUNTAIN to be a band; I imagined how it would sound, but I didn’t have any motivation to do anything like that. Thanks to aforementioned friend, Shunu Records heard of me and wanted to contract MOUNTAIN the band, but my answer was ”Well friends, MOUNTAIN isn’t a band, that’s just me.” They said ”Oh shit. Try finding other people, make a band and then we can get something going.” That was the moment when the voice of reason started raising. (laughs)
Claudio Katholnig [CK]: Or the voice of unreason.
PO: Yeah, or that one!
RoD: Since your music is exclusively instrumental, would there be any song that you could imagine having lyrics and vocals?
CP: (to PO) We recorded that, didn’t we? We set one to music, with lyrics from Helge Schneider!
PO: Indeed. There is a version of ‘Hawking’ with vocals by Poby, Chrishino. He also comes from a solo-band-background, THE LIGHTSLEEPER, very cool, electro-pop…
CP: Indie-electro-pop. (laughs)
PO: Indie-electro-pop, and Chrishino has added vocals to the song ‘Hawking’.
CP: With lyrics from Helge Schneider.
DR: Which song?
PO: ‘Es gibt Reis, Baby!’, of course.
CP: The one that always fits.
PO: Es gibt Reis!
CP: That’s the only text we could imagine. But it’s important to think about your own lyrics, that’s what it is about. It’s like a colouring book, you have to do it yourself.
DR: Very intellectual.
CP: I am very intellectual!
PO: (singing) Imagine your own lyrics!
RoD: Demos and final album version are often very different. The story told by ‘Evolve’, was it decided upon from the beginning or did you, while recording, realize that song A would fit better after song B and so on?
PO: Second one, definitely! The order of the songs actually got decided upon when thinking about playing them live, and when thinking about that you always want to build up suspense as well, not playing all the nice songs in the beginning and the hard ones afterwards or the other way round. There should be a good balance.
CP: Hard can be nice as well.
PO: Hard can be nice as well, sure. But yeah, the whole story - there is a story in every single song as well - became manifest when thinking about playing live.
RoD: While doing the album review I’ve thought about the titles a lot as well. It’s a, let’s say, odd mixture of languages: Swedish, Arabic… where do those titles come from, why this mixture?
DR, PO: Stugor! (MOUNTAIN & RoD laugh)
CP: Ah, stugor is plural, right!
PO: Thanks, now we know that too! (laughs)
CP: Stugorna, the cabins!
PO: (laughs) Well, no idea, the titles… I don’t know. The name ‘Stugor’ was very old because of the image with the cabin in the woods. I don’t even know why it was ‘Stugor’ and not ‘Hütte im Wald’. Artistic license. (laughs) ‘Mondo Kane’ doesn’t need an explanation, everyone being a movie fan like me knows the Mondo-genre of Italian zombie movies, and ”Kane” like Suther Kane…
CK: Michael Kane…
PO: Michael Kane… (laughs) No. But for the language mixture of the songs, that’s pretty random. Somehow. There wasn’t any ulterior motive like ”Woah, stugor, it’s such a dark song, it has to sound like Swedish winter!”
DR: You explained that one to me. It’s about a guy who’s somewhere in the woods between illusion and reality.
PO: Sure I could say something about each song and its background, and what the title means, but that’s not the question I think?
RoD: No, the question was more like, why the mixture of languages.
PO: Because Swedish is the best language in the world!
RoD: True. (laughs)
PO: We agree on that one. (laughs)
CP: But what is Arabic? We have Russian, but…?
PO: We have nothing Arabic.
RoD: Well, maybe it’s a misconception, but ‘Ahram’ is technically Arabic.
PO: ‘Ahram’ is actually an anagram. But I won’t say what it means. It’s a secret. (laughs)
RoD: While recording in the studio, was there something that went terribly wrong? Like technically? Täm is laughing already.
DR: (nodding and laughing) The ghost tracks of the guitars. They were very out of time. (laughs)
PO: (laughing) You’re a wanker. They were perfect.
DR: They were extremely shitty.
CP: The biggest problem was that Philipp’s feet were freezing cold all the time. I solved that problem by buying pink slippers for him.
PO: Those were the main problems. Cold feet and bad ghost tracks.
CP: Everything else was cool. Zwanzger Tom, the studio guy, is the best studio guy you could imagine.
CK: And Christoph Binder.
PO: Yes, Tom Zwanzger and Christoph Binder, who recorded the drums, both very cool guys, extremely pro in what they are doing. I wouldn't say we are amateurs because each of us has had bands before MOUNTAIN and has experience, but in this combination it was something new and everything went very well. Considering that we were a pretty chaotic bunch back then as well. But something I’d maybe name: not enough alcohol.
CP: Is there ever enough?
PO: It was really not much alcohol.
CP: Another one, I lost a bet. You called me from the studio, saying I couldn’t record my parts in one take, and I couldn’t.
PO: One-take-Poby. (laughs) In the studio diaries we have this short scene where we call him and ask him if he’s sure that he can record his part in one take, and he’s like ”Yeah, one take, sure!”. In the end we had to cheer Poby on the most.
PO: He was done quickly but it wasn’t in one take, never.
CP: They bet for a bottle of whisky that I brought immediately. (laughs)
PO: Maybe something else, Mister Kathe was very dissatisfied with the pizza in Graz. We recorded the album in Graz and all the pizzas we ordered were bad.
CK: Yeah. That was the worst.
RoD: Relating to that, are there anecdotes from the studio that are not in the studio diaries?
MOUNTAIN: (looking at each other) No.
PO: Everything racist, inhuman, mean…
CP: Which was never serious anyway!
PO: Of course not! We are against any inhumanity, but in the course of making fun there might have been scenes that we had to cut.
DR: It’s mostly against Italians.
PO: It was always against Italians! That’s still in the studio diaries anyway.
DR: In every episode of the studio diaries there’s a scene in which I say anything mean to Francesco.
PO: He deserves it. Fuck you, Franny!
DR: It makes me appear in bad light.
PO: You’re a horrible person anyway! But we didn’t do a lot of filming. Still it’s the bitter truth!
RoD: How do you prepare for a gig and what would be your perfect gig?
CK: We had the perfect gig already.
PO: Yeah, we actually had that one with GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT. Our perfect gig. We have been treated like kings, our organization as well as theirs was perfect… we even got people to carry our instruments up stage. We are used to carry our own instruments, even instruments of others! Our backstage room was the stage that three or four months before RUSSIAN CIRCLES had played on.
CP: That was our backstage room.
PO: And now, a week ago, we have been to a great concert of MONARCH! and YEAR OF NO LIGHT in our ex-backstage room. What the fuck! Apart from that, preparing for a gig for us consists of extremely strict rehearsal. Forget drinking ten beers and playing something.
CK: Five beers.
PO: Five beers is the minimum, uh, maximum. (everyone laughs)
PO: Strict rehearsal, strict preparation, then going on stage and having fun.
RoD: To what extent is music art and/or craft to you? And what is your opinion on music theory? Do you think it’s important to know music theory to create music?
CK: Art and craft is the same in the end, isn’t it? It’s handicraft.
PO: For answering that you’d have to separate it first. What is a craft? What is art? A craft is something you can decidedly determine, art is not. You can’t determine art. Art can be a two-year-old smearing poop on the wall or an eighty-year-old artist painting a portrait. Everything is art if you want to construe it as art. That’s why every craft is art in one way or another.
CP: Just yesterday a friend of mine said ”Humanity understands art but art doesn’t understand humanity”. Everything can be art.
PO: About music theory… music theory is at least as subjective as music itself. If you know what you want to do with music then it surely isn’t bad to know the theory, but when you want to let yourself be guided my music, you don’t and will never need it. I am positive that someone picking up an instrument that he has never played before but that he is committed to play can be just as good as Schubert, Mozart or Michael Jackson. That’s my opinion about that.
CP: The important thing in music is that it does not follow any rules. You can put five jazz musicians up on a stage, they'll talk to each other for a few minutes and play a perfectly coordinated concert. But that’s kind of boring, I think. In music you have to respond to each other, it’s the feeling that counts.
PO: Beautifully said. Really.
RoD: For some reason you have to record one of your songs with completely different instruments. Who is playing which instrument and which song would you choose?
DR: (to PO) You’re playing drums, right?
CP: Who thinks of questions like that, you are torturers of media economics! (laughs)
RoD: (laughs) I am very sorry!
PO: I think I would like to make a new version of ‘Ahram’, especially the beginning, and it would be Gameboy-Polka. I’d like Mister Kathe to play Gameboy because he doesn’t like that at all, …
PO: Then I want Poby to play tuba…
CP: That’s so hard!
PO: Täm has to do beatbox and I would whistle. And that would be my new version of ‘Ahram’, especially the beginning!
CP: That’s so strange, can we please do that? We have to organize a tuba but then we’ll do that!
PO: I have a tuba.
CP: Genius, let’s do it! (turns to CK) Do you have a Gameboy?
CP: Then I’ll get you one! That would be so funny, let us please do that!
PO: Yeah! Thanks for giving us ideas!
RoD: But I’d like to have a maxi-CD of that!
PO: A maxi-CD!
PO: Maxi-vinyl! And we should put lyrics from Helge Schneider to ‘Ahram’ as well. (PO & CP start singing Helge Schneider songs)
CP: Okay, next question!
RoD: Which song of your album would you assign to yourself and to your bandmates? Because when I listen to the songs I have a pretty clear picture and connect specific songs with you guys.
PO: I’ll start. Mister Kathe is ‘Ahram’ because he adores it and plays it marvellously. Poby is ‘Verminest’ for me…
CP: I knew you would say that.
PO: Yeah, because it’s this completely insane piano-thing and in the end he plays the Darbo (editor's note: Austrian jam producer) soundtrack, ”In Darbo Naturrein kommt nur Natur rein”! (laughs) Täm is ‘Hawking’ because his hair flies so nicely when he plays it (everyone laughs) and I think I am ‘Mondo Kane’.
CP: We’re totally d’accord, that fits.
CK: But you said that you think of us when you hear the album. Which songs do you assign to us?
RoD: Kathe is definitely ‘Savage Landor’ for me.
RoD: Chrishino is ‘Verminest’, Täm is ‘Deeds, Grammar And What You Make Of It’, just because it’s rather heavy and I imagine a lot of hair flying around. And you, Philipp, are ‘Stugor’.
CP: Yeah, fits very well!
RoD: Use three words to describe each other!
PO: Three words! That are so many words! But I think I can do it, wait.
CP: I think you want to drive a wedge between us. (laughs)
PO: Yeah, you’re out of our band! (laughs) Okay, I’ll say the truth now. Mister Kathe is smart, exact and loving. Poby is dedicated, a family man…
CP: (laughs) What?
PO: Yeah, you’re the family man of the band! You’re the band mom!
PO: And the third word, Gönnung, absolutely Gönnung. Täm, of course vøid, true… trve kvlt… (DR laughs) and Sättigung. And now everyone is saying something about me!
CK: Creative. He is the most creative one.
PO: (snorts) You should tell that to my mom!
CK: Okay, we grazed the band-breakup by a hair's breadth. (laughs) But it was very honest!
PO: Another one about him, he’s unabashed. Talk to him on the phone, when he hangs up you get nothing like ”Alright see you, have a nice day,” it’s always like ”Ok cool bye”.
CP: Because I’m always stressed!
PO: But he’s only like that on the phone. (laughs)
RoD: What are your special talents and what do you have no talent for?
DR: I’m a good cook.
CP: And a good eater.
CK: I can draw.
CP: He’s awesome, he’s a tattoo artist!
PO: Yeah, he’s a great artist. And Poby is a brilliant organizer. And I can lie in bed extremely well. (everyone laughs)
DR: That’s nicely put, you could interpret that in more than one way.
PO: Yeah, you can understand it either way. (grins) But what do we have no talent for?
CP: Getting up early isn’t quite a talent of ours.
PO: Yeah, getting up early is hell.
CP: I don’t get people that get up at seven in the morning and are able to function. That’s impossible!
PO: I can’t hold babies very well. It’s a tumour, it’s a tumour! No, it’s not a tumour.
CP: (laughs) And we often don’t know when it’s enough.
PO: We treat ourselves too much… we still have schnapps from Tanzania, maybe that’s something we have no talent for as well, drinking that. (laughs)
RoD: Woman for a day - what is your day like?
DR: You don’t want to know that. (everyone laughs)
CK: That’s a very ordinary one.
CP: Yeah, but in fact one has something sexual in mind just because it’s the biggest difference.
CK: Yes, I’d like to know how it is.
PO: Nah, I wouldn’t want to know how sex for a woman is.
DR: But that’s not band stuff anyway!
PO: Yeah, that’s going too far! (laughs) No, I don’t think so much about stuff like that. Women are very complex creatures and I’m happy not to be one.
CP: It would surely be funny but also very hard.
RoD: What are the plans for MOUNTAIN in the future? What’s your vision for the band?
CP: A rehearsal room just for us. More space… that’s all.
CK: We’ve achieved everything already. (CK, CP & DR laugh)
PO: For me, right now, writing music. I’m not a big fan of playing live. I like it, but for me the best thing is working on a song and playing it for the first time, not being entirely sure about it yet but it’s the knowledge that you did it. With us in this constellation as MOUNTAIN it was the best for me, from all bands I’ve played with so far. Seeing where we can go as a band. What we did so far was kind of working up things, getting used to each other, playing together and so on, but from now on it’ll become good.
DR: I’m looking forward to playing live.
PO: He is, because he’s an egomaniac. He loves it when he can let his hair fly. (DR laughs)
CK: Playing live is always great.
CP: It’s creates a good balance and it’s a lot of fun. But about the question, every band will tell you that they want to become the next big thing and live off their music, but we’re in this business for a long time now and we know about these kind of things. We don’t even plan that, we’re just happy when we can meet up, make music and have fun together. And of course make others happy.
CK: Seeing people react to our music, that’s great.
CP: Even the most die-hard death-metallers said ”Not my kind of music! But it’s nice.” (laughs) That’s what it’s about.
RoD: And we’re at the end already! Do you have any final words for our readers, something to say, especially now that we’re expecting a tour in February in Germany?
PO: Why is this always the last question? I gave an interview not too long ago and it was the last question there too, and I said ”I would like to give you a jausn (editor's note: Austrian word for snack), a cola and so on, but that’s not possible, so I’ll just tell you to stay clean, stay alive and stay healthy, stay cool and stay in the vøid. Every time you go outside you’ll be in the sun and get a tan and that’s shit.
DR: Yeah, it’s bad for the skin.
CP: Always apply lots of sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
CK: Especially when you’re tattooed.
PO: Yeah, especially then, it’s very important, many people make that mistake.
CP: You have art costing thousands of Euros on your body and then… that’s the reason why there are no open-air museums.
PO: Open-air museums are out!
CP: There are none! There will never be any! The Mona Lisa will never be hung up outside!
PO: Those were the 90s, man! But honestly, final words to the readers. If I were a reader and, theoretically, would read this interview now…
DR: I would have stopped after half of it!
PO: Yeah! I would’ve thought, what’s the matter with these guys, and I’d have listened to the music and if I didn’t know it I would think, what the fuck! What the fuck, when is anybody singing?! Why is nobody singing?! Why is anyone strumming on a piano?
CP: He has no business here.
PO: He has no business here, yeah! So, what should we tell the readers? Well, wait, okay. What I’d tell a reader of an interview like this: Thank you for looking and reading something like this because it’s not the standard these days… it probably never was, but today’s dominated by reading the headline, watching a video, treat yourself, a bikini, rad. But when someone is really reading all these words said - respect. Respect. If you like us, buy the CD, if you like it, great, if you don’t, send it back, we’ll give you your money back. (DR laughs) No problem! Take drugs, stay in school, double the fun. And worship Cthulhu for life!
Photos by Sandra Bentz & Mountain