An Interview With : Marc Gortz (Caliban)
7th April 2016, 17:00
Posted by Tristan

Music itself can sometimes be a confusing affair, simultaneously forcing bands to remain steadfast to their values whilst sometimes forcing a band to adapt in order to survive. Having released their brand new album Gravity, Caliban have opted to return with a definitive statement of intent. Forgoing the likes of sing song choruses to release some of the bands heaviest material in years the band have in a way gone against the grain. Speaking to guitarist and now producer Marc Gortz we were able to see what life is like in the newly invigorated incarnation of Caliban. Discovering answers behind the new album and its process along with discussing the current Metalcore climate in Europe and even Shakespeare…

Listen to the full unedited interview on our Soundcloud widget below or read the transcript underneath!

Hello today Marc!


How are you?

I’m good! How are you?

Excellent very, very well. Today we have with us Marc from Caliban, how has your year been so far Marc?

Pretty busy because we just finished towards the end of the year we finished mixing and recording and everything. This year was like all taken over by artwork stuff, planning the shows, rehearsals and interviews and all that kind of stuff. Not too bad so pretty some free time at least! The last year was extremely busy so it’s good to not have every day planned out from very early to very late.

Let’s talk Gravity! The new album is definitely a heavier approach was that something that you actively wanted to go for?

Yes, I mean I don’t plan exactly what I’m going g to write for the new album when I start writing but what I wanted is that I wanted to transport the live feeling, the live energy to the album. I thought that that Ghost Empire was pretty clean from the sound so the songs didn’t come across as heavy as they actually were somehow? We noticed that live, that the songs would drive live. I wanted to transfer this to the album to capture this and automatically when I was writing the songs. I was fiddling around with the sounds, somehow it came across naturally that the songs turned out to be more heavy too. It came automatically.

Do you use eight strings on the album?



Mostly six actually but there is a seven, both! We use some transpose programs to pitch down the turnings without actually tuning the guitar down so we don’t need eight strings.

Oh wow that’s cool! I didn’t even know technology like that existed!

We play Kemper amps and you can just turn it up and down, full notes, double, plus one, two, three,for five just if you go too extreme it sounds weird. If you take a standard E tuning and drop it down to drop G that would sound a bit weird. Two or three notes is not a problem at all!

You produced the album yourself as well is that correct?

Producing the songs I do together with a friend of ours, Benny, we produce the songs. I mean I write the songs and then meet up with him. Finalise, do the fine tunings for this we like to have someone outside of the band to give it  fresh ear stuff like that but it was recorded in my studio and mixed in my studio as well.

It wasn’t necessarily you that was the producer behind it?

No I was doing it together with my friend yeah,

What has made you want to make you want to do it with you friend, from the production side of things?

It turned out to be quite a good team. He has been doing it since a couple of albums already, how it became during all these years it just fits perfectly. He understands exactlly, when I have a rough idea from a song he understands where I want to go with that! He is like helping me to get into the final stage somehow, I usually write much more songs than necessary. I usually write between forty, fifty for an album, something like that. At least basic song ideas and then I take that with me to him and says these are the five that I have written out, what do you think? Then he understands what I am going for then we pick the two or three that we think fits best or are worth producing really! We take it from there and he has his input and then we finish the songs. Thats how we do that.

Has it been like that for pretty much each of the albums for the last couple?

Yeah, since the Say Hello To Tragedy so I think its three, four now.

What was the process itself like recording the album as well as writing it?

We have a pretty unusual approach to this I would say. We record everything backwards and I don’t mean the music backwards but we start actually with the vocals, then we go for the guitars, then bass and then drums so completely backwards. The vocals are normally recorded on the pre production and that gives us the freedom to change something to make the vocals fit even better. If we had some idea of what maybe fits afterwards better when we record the final vocals. We record the vocals and then in the final stages we say “hmmm if the guitars were maybe a bit different here, then the melody could be with Alex singing it but now its too late we have recorded already!” We just did it this way since three albums. We record the vocals and the change sometimes just roughly stuff in the preproduction and now we know that the vocals are done. They will stay like that and now we can record the final guitar riffs. Then bass and then the drummer gets the whole music to record the drums to so I think its comfortable to have the drummer have the nicely recorded, guitars, bass and the vocals I think its better than just playing to a clean click track, you know? It has a better feeling maybe? That just turned out for us to work best.

I think your drummer is very lucky!

If you ask him I don’t think he will agree haha! I create some rhythms and he hates me for that sometimes haha!

That was going to be one of my other questions, does that force the drums to follow the guitar?

I mean it doesn’t matter how we record it but thats just the way that the songs are written. If there is some breakdown part that has a pretty weird rhythm to it with the kick drums. Its sometimes not so easy, there were a couple of tracks where we were like “hey these are the next four songs, have fun. Bye!” He is kind of overwhelmed somehow, he is listening and he likes it but then is like “man…I have to play this!? How am I ever going to rememeber these beats!” Thats what I mean, doesn’t matter if he gets the final recording or just the preproductions, he has to play that way anyway! He’s not too happy sometimes but that goes away after the recording!

I can imagine, its probably just the stress of recording it. Were there any new tricks that you tried, new techniques that you implemented on Gravity?

I think the biggest change was that the guy who is our main singer, the guy who screams Andy is now responsible for most of the melodic vocals too! We skipped a lot of the really clean vocals, Denis our second guitar player he is usually doing all the cleans on the past albums and now he is still singing but together with Andy. Andy is singing it more rough somehow, he is more like screaming the melodies in a way? I mean of course there are some parts where it is completely clean but its definitely not as much as it was on previous albums.

Its got a bit of a rougher edge to it?

Yeah thats maybe also why it comes across as more heavy because it doesn’t fall, its not so melodic with the cleans, its not so abruptly from like heavy to very soft. It stays on some high, some level of heaviness you know?

A particular track that I thought was “Walk Alone”. It starts of really heavy and then it goes into this huge uplifting chorus and its very similar to what you’ve just mentioned! Could you explain to us what the album’s title refers to?

Gravity means like its more like a personal meaning. It has nothing to do with space or something like that if thats what some people think. Its more about what can pull apart or drag on you as a person. Bad relationships, society, all kinds of stuff. Friendship or drugs all these kind of things that can drag a person down this is what we call Gravity. These are what most of the lyrics are about.

So its like a metaphorical gravity?

Yes, somehow yes.

What do you believe personally is the current state of Metalcore in the Metal world?

Some people say its dead but if it would be dead then there wouldn’t be many bands which are actually extremely huge at the moment. Somehow bigger than it ever was but I think its just not so many bands are on the same level of popularity, I would say. The past there was like tons of bands a lot of them were on a pretty similar level, of course there were always some smaller ones and some bigger ones but now the differences are bigger but I think that the kind of Metalcore scene, at least here in Germany what I can talk most about is pretty strong. We have bands here which play close to my home town which is 4,000 people, 5,000 people so I don’t think that it is so bad!

Thats great, thats really cool! You’ve got Heaven Shall Burn as well kind of from Germany, they’re sort of flying the Metalcore flag as well…

I just think for German bands like Heaven Shall Burn and also us its not so easy to break the UK markets for some reason. I have no idea why that is but for example we play very close to England and then somehow go over to England and have two hundred. It was just an example, I mean we have done tours in the UK which have been great! We have also played shows in London which were pretty full but I think this problem is even bigger for Heaven Shall Burn for example because they have never really toured the UK. It seems to be more difficult but I thin you in the UK seem to have a pretty strong scene too right?

Yeah, the UK is going pretty well! I mean I remember seeing you guys, this was couple of years ago now. I think it was with All That Remains, Soilwork in London and that was a great show! I think you did “Sonne” and I think Andy had a problem with his vocals but it was a great show! Moving on, does the name Caliban actually have any reference to do with the Shakespeare play The Tempest.

Yes. Yes because we always wanted some kind of name. Not some kind of word that you translate and the character what it stands for, we thought fits pretty well to the type of music we do. Its like, I don’t know if I should explain everything because it would take pretty long. The character wants to do something good but he is using bad stuff to get there, roughly explained with my English haha! I don’t know how to say, its lots of opposites in his character. I think we have a lot of opposites in our music, heavy, soft, fast, slow all these kind of things and its pretty matched to the music that we do and we thought it was a cool name. It fits well so thats how we came up with that, if that makes any sense to you!

Yeah, yeah! I can understand what you mean, its sort of like paradoxes kind of thing…

Exactly the character attributes somehow, if you describe the character of this Caliban they also can describe the character of our music. Thats maybe easier to explain what I mean.

After the album is released what are your plans for 2016?

At the moment we are just planning our festival season. I don’t know how many are confirmed yet, I think ten or more. There are going to be more and then pretty much straight after summer we start touring. We plan a European tour, we also plan to definitely come back to the UK and we do a Russian tour after summer and then thats pretty much it. I think the year is already pretty full.

Are there any uncharted territories that you would want to go to?

I don’t know if we would do this in 2016 but there are a couple of places that we haven’t been and we are definitely going to try and go there. Mexico we have never been, we have never been to India and also Columbia we have never been to South America. We have been close to some of these places but exactly these countries, I would also like to do tours in these kind of places where we would also like to go vacation wise or tourist wise to see the country and the culture. For example for me it was amazing to see Thailand and Indonesia and stuff like that. Now a visit to India and the places I said before but I don’t know if we can really do that this year.

More concentrating on Europe and things like that.

Yeah we just wrapp up our first European tour and then plan the Russian tour and then when this is ll settled and we now what time frames we are exactly booked, then we look into where else we could go.

As you mentioned you don’t do the production entirely on your own. Do you find it hard to distance yourself from being in the band and then just separately a producer?

Yeah that is one of the reasons why I always use my friend Benny for fresh ears then I am not doing everything alone and also for the mixing process. I mixed like ten days by myself and then I met up with basically my teacher in the past. He has a fresh easrs for the mix for a couple of days and then I went back home and finished it in a week but also wanted someone outside of the band to give it a listen because like you say to not lose perspective. Also the producing, the recording, the editing and then also the mixing so that was a bit like, is it really good what I am doing here anymore? So I definitely wanted someone else to be involved somehow.

I can imagine it can get quite stressful! You’ve got to record yourself and then you have got to record everyone else.

Yeah, exactly. Its definitely a very different feeling from when I am recording other bands and mixing other bands in my studio. Its a lot different and on the other hand it is also very comfortable too because I have all the time I want and I need. Its not that you have only three days left for the guitar recordings. I just continue as long as I need so that really helps.

What about the elusive logo that is on the album cover, could you tell us about that?

We wanted something more straightforward for this artwork. Not so detailed like the Ghost Empire which I still really like. The artwork is done by Chris Lovell from the UK actually! We wanted something more clean, more symbolic for this album somehow and I was talking to a friend of mine who works in designs and artworks and stuff and we talked about possiblities about what he had and then we just googled images for gravity and there are definitely some symbols for gravity. In physics somehow there are symbols for that so we took one of them and transformed it somehow on top of some kind of G that stands for gravity and thats how it came together and we thought it looks cool, its kind of easy to remember its kind of a trademark and we’re going to put that on our backdrop. I actually have a guitar painted with this already and we have a t shirt… We thought it was a really cool symbol and it was easy to remember too and it has a dark feel to it. What the album also has and thats why we thought it was really fitting. In the beginning there was a dark forest in the back then we thought Ok thats maybe too Black Metal, we take that ou.

And you went for a simple minimalist approach. Excellent! Also just out of curiosity why don’t you do anymore songs in German?

We never plan how many songs we have in German or how many we have in English. We just think in general that the English language sounds somehow better also we have an international, fans you know? It started as an English singing band, then suddenly switching the German would also be somehow a bit weird I think and we just like this as an add on. For some songs we think it fits really well! Some songs we sing this German track on this album but in general especially for melodic singing in choruses we prefer the English language and also we have a message. What we think needs to be heard, somehow critical we think that everyone should understand without getting a dictionary first! English is just the most spoken language, I know Chinese is the most spoken language but you know what I mean! Everyone can understand, this is important for us.

Oh right ok, its like a unifying principle. Finally what has been an album that you have been listening to over the last six months to maybe a year?

Well to be honest during the last year I wasn’t listening to too many bands because when I am writing an album I try to not listen to too much stuff to not get influenced too much. You write something and then that riff is already on another record a couple of years ago? Oh dammit. You don’t even notice because unconsiously you play something like it, then later you record it and then you find out that you maybe heard it somewhere. I actually try to listen to other kinds of music when I write an album. For example I listen a lot to Muse, they are one of my favourite bands and also I get inspired by how in Muse he uses guitar effects and uses these kind of pedals and somehow this is for me to use some guitar effects. The record was written at least, I like the new Architects album! The Lost Forever // Lost Together is extremely good I think, one of the best which came out last year I would say and I like the latest Dream On Dreamer album. Arch Enemy, that album is also great! And Heart of A Coward is also one of my favourite bands.

Oh cool!

This is why we have also the people singing on our album.

When I was listening to it I thought I could hear Jamie Graham, is he on it?

Yeah, he’s on “Crystal Skies”, Alyssa from Arch Enemy is on “The Ocean’s Heart”, when she screams she is not too far from Andy it sounds pretty similar. So they actually sing 50/50 I would say! Then she is adding in the clean vocals and the guys from Dream On Dreamer do some vocals on “Inferno”. These are also some of my favourite bands and this is also what I was listening to as well.

A nice Metalcore community!

I also like, this is going to be very odd probably for people but I like to listen to Lana Del Rey for example, just not the latest albums I like the feel the songs of her have also somehow and I am trying to get some of this Western feel that comes across into her songs I try and add into ours but also on the Ghost Empire already.

Excellent! Thank you ever so much for speaking with us today Marc!

Thank you too!

Caliban’s brand new album Gravity is out now.