Artist: Mnemic: Mircea Eftemie (guitars)
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Interviewed By: Ken Pierce
Interview Date: 12/10/2006
Mnemic is one of the harder working Metal bands and you can tell this by the amount of touring and drive that they display during a performance. The group has appeared on a number of successful tour efforts, and most notably ones with Meshuggah and Arch Enemy and while this is an incredible achievement for any band, it did not come without some level of dramatics. In just over the course of a year, the band has replaced their lead singer not once but three times. I was assigned an interview with one of the bands founders, Mircea Eftemie, by Metal Edge magazine and this appears in the ďApril 2007Ē edition. We discussed the bands beginnings, the trials faced by their lead singer changes and some news about their latest release ďPassengerĒ which is available on Nuclear Blast Records. Since this issue of the magazine is now off the stands, we have been permitted to present you with the unedited and completely uncensored conversation. Read on legions.
PiercingMetal: Let us talk about beginnings. What led to the formation of Mnemic? Who inspired you to get the ball rolling so to speak?
Mircea: Well, it all started with Rune, Brian and Me. We all came from different Death Metal bands, and been playing that style of music since the early 90s. In around the late 90ís (97 or 98) the whole Death Metal scene unfortunately kind of faded away back in Denmark, and everyone started to play either Progressive (which is really gay) or Nu-Metal (which is even gayer), and I guess it was sort of a transition for everyone in the scene back in Denmark. When everybody was doing that, for me, because I cannot really speak for the others, but I know it was almost the same, a band like Meshuggah pretty much opened my eyes to a completely new level of musicianship, new techniques and a new level of brutality. When we all heard the Destroy Erase Improve album we pretty much entered a new world. It was more the way Meshuggah's thinking and originality was, and thatís what truly inspired us - to think different - then bands like SYL (City), Crimney (Peat) etc. came into the picture and we started our band as a 3 piece, and here we are now.
PiercingMetal: What are some of the things that you wanted to do differently with this band as opposed to others you had seen come up in the business.
Mircea: Well, as mentioned, Meshuggahís DEI, pretty much did it for us - it was the starting point. Everything from the rhythms, the lyrics and the whole atmosphere from the first song, Future Breed Machine, to the end, captured how much ahead of their time Meshuggah was, when they released the Destroy Erase Improve album. I guess we wanted to do something in the same vein. We really got inspired by them, we wanted to think differently than all the other bands out there, and we wanted to sound like no one else, we did not want to compare our selves with any other bands, and we didnít want to get labeled. Still we didnít want to end up plagiarizing, and did our best to make our music, image and concept original. While everyone else was either getting into the progressive scene, or into the more Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal (which later on became Metal core), we where trying to go into a completely new direction, mixing grooves with techniques, and blending them with different sounding melodies. We where trying to move away from the death metal scene which we came from as much as possible, and thatís pretty much how we created the style we play, which we defined and probably still do, as Fusion Future Metal.
PiercingMetal: How on earth did you come up with Mnemic as a title, and what does it mean to the world at large.
Mircea: "Mnemic" stands for "regarding the memory" and itís from Greek Mythology. We liked the fact that no one could pronounce our name, and the person who came up with it was actually our first singer, who later on left the band in order to pursue a career as a priest, which later on not really happened. Its funny to see when you are on tour, in the past when we first started to tour the US, most venues would spell the name "NEMENIC" or "MEMIC" or even "NETIC". I mean how hard can it be you dumb rednecks...Just forget about the M, and pronounce it ďNEMIKĒ.
PiercingMetal: In a very short matter of time, just over a year it seems by my guess, the band has switched singers three times. Were you surprised about Michaelís decision to leave the group when it was on the rise in the Metal community?
PiercingMetal: Actually 4 times, there was a singer before Michael during our demo days, but thatís another story. Surprised is the least I can say, we where all more shocked. I remember we just played one of those shitty German festivals in the middle of nowhere, and had a long ride home in our bus that we where sharing with Hatesphere, and everything seemed awesome. We all had a great time, laughter and beers everywhere and everyone really enjoyed them selves. When we got home, the next day, we all in the band received an email from Michael stating he was done being in a band. We werenít making any money, we where super broke, and he had a baby on his way, and his mom and dad offered him to take over their business. That was a perfect opportunity for him, wife, kids and a regular job. So we where all very shocked and sad by his decision, because it felt like a family member and an awesome musician left our circle, but there was nothing we could do about it.
PiercingMetal: you then had Tony Jelencovich, who seemed to offer a new anger to the material when you played that for the Meshuggah tour. I felt the Mnemic I was watching was a heavier effort as a result. While he is also gone from the band, do you feel he had some sway on the way you were doing things?
Mircea: I must disagree, Tony J, was not the guy we where looking for. He has a lot of energy vocal wise, but on the stage, and this is my personal opinion, he lacks a lot of things. Tony was only in the band for a very short period of time. I mean when Michael left the band, we just got offered to do the Meshuggah US tour, which we absolutely couldnít say no to. I mean our source of inspiration and godfathers in Metal, wanted to take us out on tour, and we couldnít do it? We had to make it happen. Instantly we got in touch with Tony whom we've known for a long time, and asked him to join the band, without further thinking about it. I mean, we where so stoked to do the tour, that it didnít really matter who fronted our band. During the Meshuggah tour we got offered the Arch Enemy tour, and thatís when thing started to crack a bit. I mean, Tony wasnít really prepared for the heavy touring cycle, and he was pushing 40, and had other priorities in life. In the end it didnít work out for any of us, we decided to let Tony go, he was cool with it, and we are still friends to this day, so everything is peachy.
PiercingMetal: Now you have Guilliame in the group, and I observed him as being a blend of the styles of Michael and Tony. What are your thoughts on his contributions, and how he helps the band move forward into the future?
Mircea: Guillaume simply lifted the band to the next level. This is the missing piece of the puzzle and this was the singer we should have had in the band, since day one - not to sound cynical or anything like that. I think we found our own little Devin Townsend. He really did a phenomenal job on recording the vocals for the Passenger album, and he nails every old song that Michael did with perfection when we perform live. I think a lot of people have been surprised by him, especially all the naysayerís back in Denmark in our hometown. We all proved them wrong, and Guillaume is the big middle finger for everyone who thought and hoped that Mnemic where going downhill. We are definitely more than happy with him, and it couldnít have worked out better for us.
PiercingMetal: Did the constant rotating effect of that part of the band get in the way of the creative process?
Mircea: Never, because it was all a matter of timing and a little bit of faith I think. Basically we where touring while all of this happened, and we kind of switched signers while being in transit. When we where done with the Meshuggah tour, we had to go back home and start writing our third album, and thatís when things started to change. I mean - when we parted ways with Tony, I wouldnít say we where the happiest band on earth because the whole mentality of the band was about to hit rock bottom. We had some meetings, talked to the record label, talked to our management, and we agreed to suck it up, and give it one last chance in finding a singer. We started writing the songs, and it was just a natural progression I guess. We wrote a bunch of songs and started auditioning singers, to see who would fit the songs, and who would fit the band on the personal and musical level. It was a long process for sure, but when Guillaume stepped in, we didnít have one single doubt, who the man for the job was.
PiercingMetal: Letís talk about the new album ďPassengerĒ, how does this album differ from your last releases.
Mircea: This time we really took the time that we needed to write some songs we could be happy with. On the last album, we where really rushed, and my personal opinion is that I really think some of the songs lacked a lot of structure and consistency, overall the album was a bit weak. This time around, we demoed the songs, we chopped them up, put them back together and basically thought of what we wrote, and didnít just use the first and the best riff - we analyzed the songs and became really happy with the outcome, instead of saying, "man, I would really wish we could have done that different" and so on. This is more of resurrection album for the band. We are a completely new band these days. I think the melodic became more melodic and the brutal became more brutal and we succeeded in finding the complete Mnemic sound.
PiercingMetal: You have done some pretty interesting touring by my recollection. I have seen you as opener for Soilwork a couple of times, and then Arch Enemy. What has been some of your favorite groups to perform with and why.
Mircea: All the tours we have done have been awesome, but I would say the highlight was touring with Meshuggah, and our first tour we did with Soilwork. First tour was the first time we set foot on American soil, and on top of that it was our second tour with Soilwork, so we where among friends in a new territory and they took good care of us, and that tour was an amazing experience, also because we played with Hypocrisy and Dark Tranquility - it was a full on Scandinavian metal tour, and everyone had an awesome time! Second and probably the best tour we have done in our career has been with Meshuggah, The Haunted and God Forbid. We shared a bus with the crazy dudes from God Forbid and became really good friends, and on top of that we where touring with the main band, that inspired us to start our own band - I donít think I have the words to describe the feeling. We where watching Meshuggah every single night, and every single night they blew us away. Usually when you are on tour, you are pretty much fed up with watching the headliner, but Meshuggah was a completely different experience and we will never forget that as a band - we are eternally grateful for them taking us out on tour.
PiercingMetal: As an opening band, it is sometimes tricky, but have you found a developing interest into what Mnemic is doing from the reaction to the fans you are getting to play for.
Mircea: It doesnít really matter weather you open or close the show, its all about if the fans are there to support you while you are giving it 110% while being on stage. If the fans scream on top of their lungs, (usually for songs we never play live), the whole show becomes more intense, and the pleasure becomes bigger and bigger, itís just a big energetic release. I mean the more and more we are touring, the more we see people screaming for our songs, and sing along, and that feels wonderful. With more and more touring, we will gather more and more Mnemic troops, and thatís our main goal, to get as many people into our band, and to build an army of fans, cause without them, we wouldnít be doing what we are doing today.
PiercingMetal: What is the target Metal audience for the group, who should listen to Mnemic?
Mircea: I think mainstream would be a good start. I would love for people to call me a sell out - cause by then ill know that I would be making a good living, and you'll see me like every other ignorant and stupid artist on MTV Cribs.
PiercingMetal: What are some of your hopes with the release of the new CD.?
Mircea: I hope this release will finally put Mnemic on the map. I want to come above the surface, because I am afraid that we will just drown in the ocean of all other releases, bands and labels that are out there in todayís metal. I am freaking tiered of not being able to find good music these days, the metal scene is just so over populated with all sorts of bands, weather they are good or bad, I donít really stumble upon any original ones without coming across bad hybrids and crossover bands. The least they can do is make some good songs instead of plagiarizing different genres.
PiercingMetal: Tell me briefly about the rest of the guys in the band so everyone else has a better understanding of them.
Mircea: Brian is an amazing drummer, and I have always looked up to him as a musician. He is the biggest geek of the band, when it comes to music, and he always talks in numbers. Rune, the other guitar player, is the tightest guitarist in the band, and always has cryptic and cool ideas for songs, but always over analyzes too much. He also used to front a death metal band called Sudden Death, and he would probably also kick my ass for making this public. Tomas or Obeast as some people call him is the big-hearted softy of the band. Amazing bass player and one hell of a stage performer, and crazy motherfucker when he drinks (ask Soilwork). Guillaume, well, he is just French... do I have to say more? Great personality and an amazing musician.
PiercingMetal: Would you say that Mnemic is once again putting Denmark on the Heavy Metal map? Are there some other up and comers the world should be watching out for in your opinion.
Mircea: To be honest with you, I am not really sure if we are doing that. Maybe we are from Denmark, but for quite a while I have felt really alienated from that country. Why? Because every since Michael left us, we started touring other places in the world, especially the States, which became sort of a priority for the band. Somehow we've managed to stay out of Denmark for a long time. It feels that we've been hibernating while writing our new album and being gone from home all the time. Without sounding arrogant or anything like that, we actually did a hell lot more than all the other Danish bands have done, who have been constantly touring Germany and Europe. We where the only Danish metal band who played one of Denmarkís, maybe even Europeís biggest festival, the Roskilde Festival, in front of 40-50.000 people. I think at that point all bands where envying us, either they thought it was good, or they really hated us. We toured Japan, and I am not saying we where the first, but in fact no other band from Denmark did that, at that time. We have been touring the US constantly, had one of our songs in a blockbuster movie, not a great movie but enough to say "cool" which was Alone in the Dark with Christian Slater, and we have done 4 videos with a very famous video director who's worked with non other than In Flames and Dimmu Borgir, who everyone speaks of him in the Metal community, that is of course Patric Ullaeus from Revolver Films. I mean, no other Danish band has seen all the stuff we have, or have experienced everything we have. Saying that we've put Denmark on the Heavy Metal map, I have no clue. It doesnít feel like it, to be honest with you, but I really hope someone can make me feel different about it in the future... but you know, its all about the hype, who is hot and who is not - for me its most important that our ship keeps going and explores as much as possible out there.
PiercingMetal: Is there anything else the world should know about Mnemic?
Mircea: We are five simple nice dudes; we donít need to satisfy our egos by becoming someone else for the press, for the fans or anyone in the world, what you see is what you get. We hope YOU will check out the ďPassengerĒ album, come out to the shows and have a good time. Thanks for the interview!
Mnemic is a band that you will find always delivers on stage and should you run into them in the club or backstage be prepared to kick back a few beers with them as well. Just make sure that you can handle it since they take their fun time as seriously as they do their Metal music.
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Official Web Site: www.mnemic.com
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