Hails Morgengrau! Tell us about your debut full-length, ‘Extrinsic Pathway’!

Erika: Hails Forbidden Mag! The album was released on April 2,
2013 and is off to a great start. It’s eight tracks of steamrolling, old
school death metal. Any fans of old Immolation, Morbid Angel, Asphyx or
Pestilence should pick it up. Someone with an excellent sense of humor has
already hailed it the “best Morbid Angel album in 20 years.”

How long has the material on ‘Extrinsic…’ been in the works? This being
your debut album, was there no demo etc.?

Erika: Riff-writing began in 2010, and during that summer, the song
“Extrinsic Pathway” was born. I am the world’s slowest songwriter. We
churned out a new song every couple months until April 2012, when we
completed “Polymorphic Communion.” At that point, I was in album mode –
just get it fucking done – so any thoughts of a demo went right out the
window.

Give us a history of Morgengrau! Where, when, how and why did the band form?

Erika: Reba and I have always known we needed to be in a band. For a long
time we were pursuing very different metal genres – I was in my classic
metal band, Ignitor, and she was in her technical death metal band,
Manifestation. In 2009, I hit Reba up and we started jamming cover tunes.
It didn’t take long for the first original riffs to start happening. We
brought in Jake during summer of 2010, tried out a few guitarists, with
Nick joining in 2011. The band has a great dynamic, despite the huge age
differences between us. We’re multigenerational… When they were 19 and 20
respectively I kind of felt like I was breaking the law taking them into
bars to play! We’re a case study around why metal is the great leveler –
even though we’re 20 years apart in age, we appreciate the same things:
old school metal, military history, bizarre medical trivia, 80s horror
movies. We like to sit around and talk about dumb shit, tease each other
and ponder what’s to happen with the world. Our worldviews are in
complete alignment. Perfect situation.

What is the meaning of the band name? How does it relate to your music?

Erika: The word means “Gray Morning.” I love the sound of the word. The
sound is more important than the meaning. I needed something simple that
had a good dark feel around which to create an icon.

I have always found that Texas is a violent mosh-pit, overflowing with
some of the best bands in extreme music. Has Morgengrau found a home on
the local scene, etc.? Why or why not?

Erika: Absolutely! The Texas scene has been and continues to be
wonderfully supportive. When I lived up in Massachusetts, I never had such
a sense of community. We can go to any city in Texas and get a great
reception. The intensity of the reactions to our music is consistently
satisfying. People go crazy. The last few shows have been madness. I’ve
played a lot of shows in my career, and the ones with Morgengrau have
been, by far, the most energizing. Each one is better than the last. It’s
hard to explain how supremely enjoyable it is to see people who’ve never
heard your music getting into it and pitting up a storm. This is the band
I was meant to play in.

Your bassist is also active in Plutonian Shore, a San Antonio cult I was
fortunate enough to share a split release with. What other projects are
members of Morgengrau involved with, if any?

Erika: Plutonian Shore is fantastic – everyone who likes classic black
metal should check them out. They do it right. Jake’s always writing
little things here and there. I’m sure he’ll end up doing a solo project
of some sort. I sing in an Iron Maiden cover band called Drifter – been
doing that since 2006. We’re a bit lazy and don’t play out all that much,
but when we do, it’s a lot of fun. When the opportunity presents itself,
I’ll do some session work. Recently, I sang on Vesperian Sorrow’s
“Stormwinds of the Ages,” which was a great experience. Aside from that,
we’re all extremely busy with regular life: Nick is still in college, Reba
is building her career as a medical lab tech, and I manage a technical
team at a major corporation. Making room for music is a bit of an effort
in bending the space-time continuum.

I was surprised to find the lyrics in your liner notes to all the songs;
tell us in your words what influences your material, lyrically. Why?
Influences: darkness, pain, horror, the mystery of death, of the otherErika: I’m surprised you’re surprised. Are lyric-less booklets that common
these days? I would never release a CD without the lyrics. Buying a disc
then realizing it contains only a 2-page insert is terribly disappointing
to me. Metal fans want something to hold in their hands and ponder over.
When I worked with Dark Symphonies, we prided ourselves on completely
ridiculous CD productions. We’d do 20-page booklets with vellum inserts,
die cuts, parchment paper, varnish, slip covers – it was insane. The
releases were beautiful. Works of art. People treasured them. While
Morgengrau can’t afford that kind of over-the-top production, it was still
very important for me to release a nice booklet with good design and
photos. If you’re going to pay $10 for the CD, I want you to feel like you
got your money’s worth. Anyway… I digress.

side. I’m continually conscious of death being just around the corner.
It’s everywhere, in everything. I find the exploration of it, both on a
literal and metaphysical level, intensely fascinating. It’s life’s last
great adventure. It’s the surprise that can never be ruined. What’s not to
like?

What about musical influences? I enjoyed the version of ‘Inner Self’ on
the album, would you say Sepultura is a big influence on Morgengrau? Why
or why not? What are some of the albums that, to you, are timeless?

Erika: Sepultura wasn’t an influence at all. I like them but until the
others started jamming “Inner Self” at the end of practice, I hadn’t
listened to “Beneath the Remains” in nigh 15 years. It took Nick three
months of goading to get me to learn the track. As it was, I’m glad we
covered it, for the song is important to Jake.

Musically, influences are obvious: Asphyx, Pestilence, Immolation, Morbid
Angel and Deicide. If I were trapped on a desert island, I’d want
“Consuming Impulse,” “Altars of Madness” and “Deicide” with me. When I’m
old and enfeebled, I’ll always have enough strength to hit play (or think
play, or look at the play icon – however we control things in the future)
on those albums. Old age is going to be very strange.

I do have to say, a lot of people are commenting they hear the influence
of “The Sound of Perseverance”-era Death in our songs. I’d like to be very
clear and say I hadn’t heard a note of that album until the other day when
I saw the fourth mention of it in the press and finally went to Youtube to
see what the fuck everyone was on about. Admittedly, I do hear the
similarity but it’s a total coincidence. I wrote Death off after
“Leprosy.”

How did your relationship with Blind God Records come about? Is this a
label formed by a member of Morgengrau to facilitate the band’s releases?

Erika: You’ve nailed it – the label is mine. I wanted to get the CD into
the pipeline as fast as possible. Recording took way longer than I
expected. The last thing we needed was to spend another 9 months shopping
it. For subsequent releases, I will look for label support as that will
give us more flexibility to distribute the album, produce merch and
travel. I have realistic expectations. Long ago, I realized there was very
little money to be made in music. It was a bit of a sad lesson. Having
grown up in the 80s, when I started playing in bands I had a tiny flame of
belief that somewhere out there “hitting it big” still existed. Once I
started meeting people in bands I perceived as successful, the reality was
unavoidable. Those who didn’t have day jobs were poor to semi-homeless.
That’s not for me. I’m totally fine to work my corporate job and invest my
earnings in this endeavor. If it breaks even, I’ll be immensely pleased.
If not, no problem. While the rest of the world saves for their kids’
college funds, I’ll be getting Morgengrau in front of fans. We’ll make
some great music, play great shows and have some grand adventures. That’s
what matters.

I really appreciated receiving a physical promo CD in the mail even though
I had a digital promo in my email. How do you feel technology has
empowered or hindered Morgengrau in particular, regardless or everyone
else? Why?

Erika: I work in tech, so I’m surrounded by technological marvels every
day. For us, technology has been a huge benefit. Recording is so much
easier now than back in the tape days. Autumn Tears (my old neoclassical
project) recorded their first three albums on tape. Fucking torment. Synch
problems, running out of tracks, bouncing, losing your place, plus the
tapes were ridiculously expensive and then you had to deal with storing
them somewhere safe. Digital is so much more immediate and easy.

I will say, one disadvantage of tech is the overwhelming number of outlets
in which to seed your information: Facebook, Reverbnation, CDBaby, iTunes,
LastFM, Spotify… it’s too much. Every site has a different, labyrinthine
interface that reduces you to a screaming, hair-pulling primate after 30
minutes of trying to upload a photo. Maybe that’s just me being 41, but I
tend to think not. We’ve gotten spoiled having a million choices and we
insist on maintaining that level of choice… if you try to go simple and
ignore half those choices, you’re walking away from potential exposure.

And then there’s the downloading… what are you going to do? It’s going to
end up out there on blogspot somewhere. I can’t worry about it. At least
it’s getting heard. Then go to a show and buy a shirt and a patch… after I
make some, of course!

What message, vision or image do you try to invoke in listeners when
writing or performing? Why?

Erika: I want listeners to feel nothing but ferocious, dark energy that
holds an element of mystery. I want this to reach into their deep hidden
places and bring out that rage or aggression. When that happens, I feel
like the band and the crowd are truly one. It’s spiritual in a way, like a
sabbat. Our energies are unifying and multiplying in power. We give and we
receive. Everyone leaves exhausted and replenished, at the same time.
Experiences like that go straight to the addiction centers of the brain,
making you come back for more.

What is a songwriting session like for Morgengrau? Does the band write as
a whole, individually or…?

Erika: Extrinsic Pathway was primarily written in the vacuum of my home
studio. Most of the riffs still come from at-home writing sessions, but
the construction is happening more during practice. We’ve got a good
synchronicity now as a group and are much more able to come up with
something decent on the fly than we were a year ago.

What about the recording session for ‘Extrinsic Pathway’? I noticed Devo
mastered the album at Endarker but how was the band’s experience when
tracking and mixing?

Erika: I’m not going to lie. It sucked. HARD. We were hating it by day
three. I am very grateful for our very patient engineer Kristoph at
Amplitude Media here in Austin – he kept us all from freaking the fuck out
when things were rough. The experience helped us learn a lot, especially
about drum tracking. None of us had much experience with tracking drums,
so that was where the big time sink happened. Once we got past the drums,
it was just arduous in a “death by 1000 papercuts” kind of way – I’d track
guitars after work, but being physically and mentally exhausted after 9
hours interfacing with stressed-out humans, I’d get only 90 minutes of
good tracking before the fretboard ceased to make sense. Every track had 5
guitar tracks, minimum. While tracking Antithetical, I remember just
wanting to scream and scream and scream because I did not want to play
that song again. Once we got to vocals, it sped along quickly and was fun.
By then, I was 200% overbudget so I took on premixing the entire album in
preparation for Devo. That required learning Logic Pro from the ground up
– not a fast process. I’m completely OCD so I had to clean up everything
perfectly, get all the effects exactly as I imagined, do all this panning
automation, et cetera. I had terrible stress dreams over the whole thing.
Tuesday March 26, when I got the CDs back from the manufacturer, stuck one
in the stereo and heard it play just fine, was the best day of the last 8
months of my life.

What is the best way to experience Morgengrau, on the stage or on the
stereo? Why? I ask this question a lot but it always seems to conjure a
good answer…

Erika: Either way works. You’ll get something slightly different depending
on the method. Via stereo, you can appreciate the subtle complexities of
the performances that are impossible to reproduce live. You can take your
time with it. Live, you ride the wave. You get my amp frying the skin off
your face and a whirlwind of hair. Our set is relentless. You get screams
and sweat and thrashing necks. You get to go throw up after “Grave of Lies”
because the pit was so furious and the club so hot and claustrophobic –
true story.

What does the future hold for Morgengrau? Upcoming shows, releases, etc.?

Erika: We’re playing one show a month at select cities in Texas, then
heading up to NYC for Martyrdoom in June. Vinny and Signature Riff have
been absolute champs working with us – we’re thrilled to be part of their
excellent festival. Merch is coming soon. New songs are underway and very
promising. We’ll be working hard to throw the net more widely to get in
front of fans in more distant markets. The momentum is high and we intend
to keep it that way.

The last words are yours!

Erika: Please check out Morgengrau at http://www.reverbnation.com/morgengrau.

Like our Facebook page! Fan support is what keeps the MGrau tank rolling so please support the band by purchasing
a CD at http://morgengrau.bandcamp.com/album/extrinsic-pathway. Thank you
for your enthusiasm about our work. Hail Metal, Hail Death!