How many Austrian metal bands do you know? I bet that most people name Pungent Stench. Well, this band is now history, but their front man Martin Schirenc has already created another remarkable project: Hollenthon. Already their 1999 debut “Domus Mundi” had me freak out, and the second CD “With Vilest Of Worms To Dwell” 2001 was even more exciting – now the third Hollenthon masterpiece “Opus Magnum” is available. Sure, I just had to contact Hollenthon-mastermind Martin in order to find out details…
Why did you put Hollenthon on ice for 7 years? Was it too much being with Pungent Stench – despite the parallels in the line-ups?
I toured a lot with Pungent Stench, which is the only way to earn some money with music, therefore I postponed the new Hollenthon CD over and over again. When Mario left Pungent Stench, I also knew that I had to look for a new Hollenthon bass player. Well, and thus the years went by, but it won´t happen again – the next CD will be out sooner.
Was it difficult to find a regular line-up?
Not really, Gregor has been the bass player for Pungent Stench since 2006, therefore it was clear I´d ask if he wants to join Hollenthon. He immediately agreed and suggested Martin Arzberger, with whom he had played in the band Defender KFS, as second guitarist. We rehearsed a couple of times, it worked out fine, so the line up was complete.
Where does the idea for the project Hollenthon come from?
The foundations were already laid in 1994, but back then it was really just a one-man project and not supposed to be published. I just wanted to experiment, to combine different musical influences with metal, and this is how Hollenthon was born.
How did Hollenthon evolve, from your point of view? In my opinion it became more complex and progressive…
Yes, it became more complex, especially in terms of drumming and guitar work. And our new album is so much more heavy than the previous two. But I think basically we kept the basic direction, and old fans should have no problems to enjoy “Opus Magnum”. You might have to listen to it several times but this is no disadvantage in my opinion.
Now style cross over (Black/Death Metal, Industrial, Sampling etc) is much more “in style” than back when you released “Domus Mundi”. Do you think that this is an advantage for the band?
I hope, of course, that we can profit from the open-mindedness in the metal scene but in the end of the day the only thing that counts is, whether the album is good. And it is even more important, that you can also pull it off live. This is why we rehearse intensively and we want to play as many concerts as possible.
What are the lyrics about?
Basically it is about mankind and this urge to destroy ourselves and our own planet. The lyrics deal with social issues and tackle topics like the environment, war, hunger in the world and greed, but we use biblical symbolism and poetic language.
Where does your inspiration (for lyrics and music) come from, and how do you get those samples?
The lyrics are the job of Elena (Hollenthon-vocalist and Martin´s ex-wife, the ed.), and she is inspired by classic literature, history and also politics. My musical inspiration comes from anywhere, and I own a lot of sample-libraries with instruments and vocals from all over the world.
How do you create a Hollenthon song?
It depends, but for „Opus Magnum“ I often jammed with our drummer Mike to collect some basic ideas and riffs. After that I put together all those fragments in the studio, expand or delete ideas and put it into a classic arrangement. Sometimes a song is based on a sample, like this one flute loop, and sort of develops from there. There is no formula for my songwriting.
Bands from Austria seem to have huge difficulties to achieve some fame outside their home country, especially if they are NOT from Vienna… what do you think is the reason?
Unfortunately I must say that sometimes it´s the fault of the bands. Some are not full-heartedly into music and do not invest the time and the devotion – which is necessary just to stick out of the masses. Another problem is the lack of original ideas, or the guts to create something new, instead of following other footsteps or the most recent trend. And I don´t think that Vienna sticks out, there are many bands from other areas in Austria that are well-known abroad.
In comparison with Finland the Austrian metal scene seems a big sparse, e.g. concerning clubs or media. And everything that seems to change is to the worse; the active people in the scene have been there for 20 years, and also the sh-ituation for the bands themselves- what do you think about that?
Naturally the media situation is very poor, and many cannot even achieve local fame, but we live in the EU, and you are free to go to another country if you think it´s better there. I would do that if I was convinced that I could not make it in Austria.
And it seems Austria is still the nation of Death / Grind and extreme images and lyrics, judging from some new bands – is this observation correct?
I don´t know if this is really the case. I go to concerts a lot and I have seen a lot of melodic bands, but it seems that they don´t have so much audience and therefore not so much support. Austrians love grindcore and black metal, or whatever is the latest trend.
Apropos extreme – compared with Pungent Stench, Hollenthon´s image and lyrics are sort of “harmless” – with full intention, or was that a natural development?
Although it might sound funny, but for me this extreme image of Pungent Stench wasn´t that important. I found that it fits to the music, but not mandatorily. Hollenthon is more serious in this aspect, but therefore also more personal.
What has changed for you personally in the Metal scene – positively, negatively?
I think that the increasing number of festivals has harmed the club scene. People hardly ever go to gigs where there are “only” three bands, and for promoters and bands it´s so much more difficult to get a proper tour done. Sure, I enjoy playing at festivals, but the quality of a show is sometimes better in a club. Especially concerning the sound and light situation. Positive is for me the growth of the scene and that much more people listen to heavy music.
What is the advantage of a “local” label, Austrian Napalm Records – compared e.g. with Pungent Stench?
The telephone bills are not that high.
Do you find the internet or a phenomenon like Myspace rather a bliss or a curse?
I am a 100% internet junkie! Access to so much information and nonsense just by punching a button, you have to love that! Myspace is inevitable for a band as many people rather go there than to the official band page.
Looking back onto your long career, what would you do differently, or have undone ?
I would do most things exactly the same again, but I´d wished I had been more cautious in trust issues. I was sometimes way too trusty, and this is inappropriate and can cost you a lot of money, just like in any other industry. But still the good times prevail, and I am grateful for every day of my life as a musician.
What do you do besides making music? Can you live on being a musician?
Nowadays I cannot live from that as with the end of Pungent Stench also my source of income ebbed away. Regular concerts are necessary to earn some money, and that doesn´t work out at the moment. But I hope that will change as soon as the new record is out. In my experience this business is unsteady, and therefore I always save some money for hard times.
The most bizarre incident in your career?
Cannot tell that one, else I´d go to jail.
Do you have to pay royalties to the Austrian town of Hollenthon? Or, have you received special honours from them, for example having a street named “Martin Schirenc Street”? In Rovaniemi, for example, they have now a “Lordi plaza”…
None of those, but they should name one of their 2 streets “Martin Schirenc Street”.
Some time ago, but still – is there any chance that a pure metal band, e.g. Hollenthon, would play for Austria at the Eurovision Contest? Would you do that?
I don´t see any chance for that. And I am glad about it. Therefore I don´t even get tempted to participate in this nonsense. There would not be a problem to write a song for somebody else, but I don´t want to see Hollenthon there.
You have seen and achieved a lot – but is there still something you crave, you want to achieve with Hollenthon?
I would like to play in countries we have not been with Pungent Stench, like Latin America and Japan. And a bit more money would be nice, too.
And finally, do you come to Finland soon (EU Tour)????
In our schedule for October there are no shows in Finland, but perhaps we could combine it with Russia – Helsinki is not so far away from St. Petersburg. I would really enjoy playing in Finland again.