INTERVIEW: Florian Engelke of Ingurgitating Oblivion

April 4, 2017


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Ingurgitating Oblivion is a technical, progressive death metal project from the mind of Florian Engelke.  With the help of a number of talented musicians, IO is set this month to release an album likely to turn a number of heads this year; and also top out our own Musicianship scale.  I had the great pleasure of corresponding with Florian and hearing his very insightful thoughts regarding the new album, songwriting tips, making a living as a musician, and much more.   By far one of the most interesting set of responses I have read to date

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MT: First and foremost, one can’t discuss Ingurgitating Oblivion without addressing the technical level of the musicianship. How long have you each been playing and what early influences led you to play this type of music over the years?

Florian Engelke: Hi there everybody. Thanks for the interview. Even though we are grumpy Germans, we appreciate it, haha. Also, thanks for the compliment regarding complexity and musicianship. Indeed, I love complexity in all kinds of contexts, really. Be it literature, fine arts, carpentry, sculpting, nature, the humanities or whatever. So complexity clearly can be a motive I pursue in music. Personally I have peen composing music for almost exactly 20 years now. Same thing goes for Lille of Defeated Sanity who is our session drummer on Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light. The others have been active musicians for roughly the same time …

Any advice to the young musicians in the audience hoping to reach a similar level of mastery?

Practice, master your instruments. Be able to play crazy technical stuff, but don't necessarily use it constantly when composing. Be curious and maintain an open mind towards beauty itself. Beauty can be found in all aspects of life and must not be sought in one category or genre only. I concern myself with society, philosophy, poetry, music, architecture … all sorts of things. And I am absolutely positive this keeps me curious, experimental, non-prejudiced and creative. Don't limit yourself, but try things out. Be radical and fair at the same time. When others stand in the way of your vision, confront them and possibly part ways. I could go on forever, I reckon … but that's it for the time being, haha ...

Was there a catalyst that ultimately brought you all together? I’m always curious how a statistically niche group of people wind up in a band together so serendipitously.

Basically I have been leading IO for all these years and have always been in touch and befriended interesting individuals such as Lille (drums), Adrian (bass guitar), Jan (session solos / vibraphone), Maren (vibraphone), Céline (pianos), Norbert (session solos) over the years. Lille and I both live in Berlin / Germany and we are virtually neighbours … it takes me about 2 minutes to get to his place. It goes without saying I try to hang out at their concerts when they play in Berlin. Adrian and I got in touch when I was looking for a bassist after the split with my former band mates back in 2015/2016. I think he responded to an announcement of mine which I communicated on our website or something. He is a good friend of mine, really. Norbert and I got in touch as Adrian pointed him out to me at some point. For a very short period Norbert was in charge of rhythm guitars in IO, but quit due to professional reasons which he could not accomodate with regular rehearsals and such. Jan has been a close friend of mine for more than 10 years and I know him from my time at the university. Same with Maren. She is a percussionist and violinist and we used to share the same flat ages ago. I remember getting cross with her as she was practicing the violin next room back in those days. Céline, the pianist, is a friend who lives in Berlin too. She is a professional musician and focuses more on new music, classical composition, avant-garde etc. However, she's always appreciated IO's approach and was super interested in participating as were the others when I asked them. All friends, really ...

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Turning to the new album, is there a particular concept behind Vision wallows in Symphonies of Light?

I am sure there is, haha. Well, I wrote the tracks and coordinated the recording and stuff. As all of this sprung from one mind, I guess there must be some stringency. What did not happen is that I sat down prior to starting off with the composition and lay out some sort of overarching concept. I simply start and become some sort of medium of expression which tries to sublimize his inner states into lyrics and music. Why that is I cannot fathom at all. I bear this romanticism, love of nature, a sense for aesthetics, despair and hatred, sheer force, abysses and fragility inside of me. All this needs to be encapsulated somehow … this happens when I write music. Subjects I ponder upon in my lyrics have always been nothingness (also in the spiritual sense), death, becoming, linguistic beauty, love, perception, virtue and benevolence, sincere liking for learning, beginning and end, mind and traces, actual manifestations of immaterial visions, will, frugality, inner mastery, a life of freedom, heart-to-heart communication, penetrating obstruction by reason, making choices, talent and capacity, polyvalence of all, wolves in sheeps' clothing.

Any changes to the recording process this time around compared to your previous releases? Notable stories from the studio?

Oh yeah! We recorded the previous album, Continuum of Absence, at Pivo Studios. Ulf did a great job and it was extremely tough for him to clean up the mess my former band mates had caused. That is why I would refer to the predecessor to Vision ... as a big compromise. I love the album and it's basically all good. However, the process to actually finalize it as an album was a nightmare. When it comes to working with Norbert - „Norbi“ - it's just absolutely wonderful working with him. Norbert is, first and foremost, a very close friend of mine. He is a friendly, non-competitive, down-to-earth and absolutyl reliable kind of guy. It always amazed me how minute and accurate he proceeds when working. As mentioned above, Norbi used to be a musician who joined IO for a very short while in 2016 but quit due to professional reaonsons 6 months later or so. He has contributed two amazing solos on the new IO record and he is the one in charge of audio engineering and recording. If possible I'd like to work with him again on the next album.

Basically we are super focused when working in the studio. Usually Norbi and I would meet up every fortnight for a session of 3-4 hours. This is what we have done for almost 2 years and the result is Vision wallows in Symphonies of Light. The drums have been recorded at Studio Erde / Berlin … that's a facility based in the famous ORWOHaus in Berlin. It's located in Frank Zappa Straße (man, the name couldn't be more fitting … remember the Mothers of Invention?!) and is one of Berlin's most original and perseverant alternative cultural centers if you ask me. Adrian recorded all bass tracks at his private studio. The vibraphones were recorded in two different private living rooms and so was the piano. Quite a logistical challenge!!! The vocals we recorded at two different studios here in Berlin. So it is a bit of a jigsaw recording, haha. The most memorable thing for me were the ten (or so) cats living at Norbi's studio where I recorded 80% of the solos and all the rhythm guitars. One tomcat would always lie down on Norbi's keyboard and boycott the recording process. Crazy animals and yeah … a very harmonious and laid-back atmosphere!!!

You seem to be drawn to longer compositions, which is something I’ve found many attempt, but few pull off successfully. Is there a driving force that leads you to write a 20 minute song?

It's me being a complicated personality, I guess, haha. I have always loved extensive albums such as Frank Zappa's epiphanies or bands such as My Dying Bride, Porcupine Tree, old Opeth, Led Zeppelin, Abruptum, Melvins, Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Lift your skinng Fists (...)), Sleep, William Basinski (El Camino Real) or Coil (Queens of the circulating Library). Basically I love story telling and the feeling of delving deep into an atmosphere which can develop over time and is not fragemented into 12 different tracks. Don't get me wrong, I love short tracks … but when it comes to writing my own music, I prefer to tell stories both lyrically and musically. I will most certainly dwell on this even more strongly in the future. Rest assured :-)

I’m all about constructive feedback, so once more do you have any advice to those out there interested in creating songs that actually justify their lengths?

Be relevant. If somebody gives a speech and does not care about the way to convey it, it does not matter. Lyrics as well as music need to be relevant … and this concerns musicianship, precision, intricacy, subtlety, moments of silence and gentleness, moments of dynamics and harshness, colourful chords, interesting rhythmic arrangements, if you use melodies, create motives which matter and cannot be predicted right away. If the assumed listener expects a certain twist in the song and you know it, do something different. Be curious as a musician and make sure to keep things natural when it comes to the production! There is nothing worse than bands which perfect everything and the result sounds like Nintendo's Super Mario Bros! Hate such approaches … mind you though, Super Mario Bros rule. My point is if you use recording software to make your album sound like some midi-infested maelstrom of generic plug-in-generated triviality, I quit!

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Which track is your favorite off the new album? Overall?

Difficult! I am equally proud of them to be honest. My favourite track, I guess, is „Vision wallows in Symphonies of Light“. This one is directly followed by „A Devourer of flitting Shades who dwells in Rays of Light“. By the way, it is atually „flitting“ not „fitting“, haha … „flitting“ as in „quickly passing by“. That's my second favourite, I reckon … as this track clearly is the most daring and forward-thinking epiphany on our new album. It's got a beautiful overall atmosphere („Devourer (...)“, that is), an amazing bass line, interesting chord progressions (as far as I am concerned) and a somewhat surprising ending.

Any plans upcoming to play this music live?

Working on it, brother. I'll announce everything once plans have matured, haha ...

If you could tour with any band, who would it be?

Interesting question. Maybe I'd go for the obvious and choose Gorguts. Maybe Deathspell Omega or Ephel Duath? Possibly Dordeduh, Defeated Sanity or Immolation? One of these, haha. I'd also love to do something exclusive where it is just us performing. We'll see ...

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I’m always interested in hearing from bands less in the limelight regarding what it takes to sell albums and merch since so many people have a platform to do it now. The entire landscape has changed. How do you get by?

Difficult to answer. We all pursue regular jobs and it has NEVER been an option to make a living with my music. I think I'd have to accept too many compromises both in my music as well as in my life. Personally I get by wonderfully. My girlfriend and I live in lovely Berlin and travel if we can. When it comes to promoting IO and selling records, that's where you'd have to ask Willowtip, our record label. I am afraid, however, that IO's releases are as affected by the fact that you can basially download any album any time. I just really hope Willowtip, who do an amazing job for us, sell as many albums as it takes to compensate for their investment in IO which they provided when we entered the studio two years ago.

Anything to say to those who just torrent everything? Thoughts on physical vs. digital? I’ve heard a lot of varying opinions.

Torrent away, guys! But do note forget that the music you are listening to had to be created using a lot of money, time, energy and love. I think it is a question of principle, honour and sincerity to pay for tracks you download, really. And yes, I am still totally into listening to vinyl and CDs and it just feels great to order a bunch of records, unwrap them and listen to music in this most direct way. Personally I think this is a more profound experience than streaming stuff on a PC. That's what I prefer as I love music and I appreciate this more direct approach which clearly is also more sustainable as you support musicians and enable them to then record another album in the future. It's a positive vicious circle so to speak. That's what I think.

What’s the future of Ingurgitating Oblivion in an ideal world? Other closing comments?

Happy times. Creating beautiful music with the best of friends. Great musicianship and maturing compositional skills. Some live shows on a yearly basis. Loads of progressive and forwardthinking albums in the future. Beautiful artworks and releant lyrics. Most certainly encountering lovers of sincere, abysmal, progressive, particular and twisted music and hanging out, haha ...

One last question: shout out an underground metal group that you think deserves more attention and why people should check them out.

Hmmm … Defeated Sanity? Defeated Sanity!!!

Vision wallows in Symphonies of Light releases April 21st.  Hear the first track below and check back for our full review closer to the release date.