Eternity’s End – Hotter Than FireSunday, 7th April 2019
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between playing progressive, technical-oriented death metal and your efforts in the power/progressive metal band Eternity’s End?
Münzner: It’s not as different as many people would think. Obscura may be viewed as more technical and challenging to play, which is sometimes not the case. The Eternity’s End material can be considered some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever had to record. It’s equally busy for the most part- one of the differences of course is writing the material with the vocalist in mind, you have to arrange the guitar parts so that they leave room for the vocals. If you cluster everything with notes all the time, there’s no room for the vocalist and the melody. There’s a lot more arrangement work going on when you develop a power metal record- you have the choirs, everything has to be audible. In a death metal situation with a vocalist – it’s a rhythmic element, and you don’t have to pay as much attention. The challenge is to make a power metal song seem fluent and not as choppy. People think it’s easier, I think it’s harder to arrange things like choir vocals.
On the other end, the Eternity’s End stuff is more straightforward, but this is on purpose. Personally, I like music with a little bit more drive, instead of a super tech-death thing with all this chopped up stuff, the Necrophagist thing with odd meters everywhere. I want something that has a little bit more punch to it and comes from a straightforward drive. It’s not that different, both use very similar melodies at times with the neoclassical melodies that I like to use in my compositions. Nowadays a vocal melody for me is something that belongs in a musical composition, I like writing with vocal melodies instead of the rhythmic element. With the rhythmic element of course, there are things you can do in a death metal context that you can’t do in a power metal context. Power metal can be more conservative and restrictive for certain elements. The technicality of the planning for Eternity’s End is at least on par with the tech-death stuff, especially in terms of the Racer X-type guitar harmonies.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also been involved in live guitar duties with Serious Black since 2017 – how did you get the chance to join these gentlemen, and do you still have to be careful to not be too excessive with your guitar playing because of your focal dystonia?
Münzener: Yes. The Serious Black tour, that was a session job back then because Bob, the guy who plays keyboards on my first solo record, he left them on short notice so he’s a friend of mine and he recommended me. They contacted me in July 2017 I think and asked me to do the tour. I knew the band name, knew who they were, so I said cool. Right now, I don’t know who is playing guitar for them, it should be decided in the next couple of weeks if I will join them on guitar full-time or not. I still have to be careful not to overdo things on the guitar – I can’t do those extreme tours anymore like we did with Obscura, 150-200 shows a year. I have to take therapy classes for my hand and I certainly don’t want to aggravate my dystonia. All of these bands, they aren’t doing things on a full-time scale, a tour here and there. I can’t see at this moment, even with all the activity, that I would be playing 100-150 shows a year. Even with three or four bands simultaneously, none of the bands I’m involved with do touring to that extent. It would become harmful to me. Alkaloid and Eternity’s End work best with two guitar players, so that takes a little bit of the pressure off myself of course. And the Serious Black stuff is not as hard to play, or my solo stuff.
It’s good for the brain from a practicing perspective to give off different impulses than the one thing over and over again. Working on different projects at the same time can be healthy when you do it to a realistic degree. I really look forward to playing more shows, and I may join more bands for that aspect to be more active in the live sector again.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your late 30’s, has your outlook and philosophy when it comes to music changed since the early years of your career?
Münzner: That’s a very good question. I think I have the same drive and the same passion – maybe even more so because I’ve become a better writer, I can do more than what I could do in my teens and early twenties. I have the same kind of enthusiasm, but when you do this on a professional level for over 15 years, you become more realistic about how the business works. Those big dreams of fame and glory are long gone, because you get a more realistic mindset.
I knew I would have to teach to make a living through music, but then I have my bands where I do what comes from the heart. It comes from a child-like, youthful excitement that I had in my teens- only that I have the tools to do it much better than I could back then, because I have the experience and became a better musician. I know I can’t go full-time with a band for a couple of years and make it- I have to balance out with my teaching, with my session work, the other things I do to make a living. Nowadays I wouldn’t pay money just to open for a tour that I like, to realize a dream. I think I was a little bit lucky, I got into the scene with bands that were successful, people remember my name from this so I have a fanbase that will always be there. I can do the things I want to do. It’s not going to be like Dream Theater, Megadeth, or Metallica – that’s hard to depend on a band today to make a living. I sit at home and have new song ideas, I still feel the same way that I felt when I was a teenager. You grow and get responsibilities, so you have to balance things out.
I know realistically, people that have toured with Dream Theater as an example, and nothing ever really happened. I was talking to the drummer from Into Eternity, and he said that didn’t really help them at all. It was just a waste of time. I wouldn’t just leave everything behind just to tour with a bigger band, I have been more careful from a business point of view. When it comes to the writing, the recording, and the production angles, I have the same excitement that I had in my twenties.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it fascinate you to see/hear your compositions over the years transformed and transposed across other instruments and in other styles all over the web (I’m thinking of “Universe Momentum” on piano as one example) – and what have been some of your favorites that you’ve checked out?
Münzner: Yes, that one guy who played on the piano what I wrote in Obscura – this was amazing. He plays the exact guitar parts- and it sounds like it was written for (piano)- which it wasn’t. I showed this to my parents, and they could pick up for the first time what was really going on. Because before that it sounded like noise to them. And I saw that someone played my solos on the Epitaph album on a clarinet I think. People covering the stuff on guitar, I think this is a big honor. The biggest reward is when you leave a positive impact on someone else – and someone goes through the trouble of learning your music, even if it’s a cover for their own pleasure, it’s a big compliment. It’s fascinating to me- I never thought anyone would play “Universe Momentum” on two pianos or play the solo of “Epitaph” on the clarinet.
Dead Rhetoric: You are working on a new instrumental record that you’ve discussed online as ‘a direct tribute to my guitar influences during my formative years’. How is work going on this, and discuss the impact guitarists in the 80’s and 90’s had on your skills and playing abilities?
Münzner: I think this entire Shrapnel Records catalog, when Mike Varney discovered all these guitar players, those records are my bible. I have most of the originals from the 80’s and 90’s as I collect them. This is the kind of music that impacted me the most- Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Joey Tafolla, Greg Howe- each of those guys brought something unique to the table. Very interesting compositions, and there’s a certain flair to it compared to some of the mindless noodling you hear nowadays. It’s really something that impacted me on an emotional level. It goes beyond the execution on the guitar.
My first two solo records, they had a little bit of that – some songs like “The Talisman” were a direct tribute to Tony MacAlpine, the band name Eternity’s End came from a Joey Tafolla song. On this record, it’s much simpler what the drums are doing – it’s kept more in the tradition of those records. This week I finished the songwriting for it, and now I’m going into the demos and pre-production stage. I hope to have the entire thing recorded this summer. Some of the songs have a neoclassical influence, and then a couple of tunes have more of this funk, fusion/Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen kind of thing. My original idea was to put them all on the same record, but I’m still thinking and debating instead of doing that to do two separate EP’s which separate those influences. I see some players do that, yesterday I wanted to go for the album format, today I woke up and thought the two EP idea may be better.
Dead Rhetoric: What frustrates you most about the current model of the music industry – and do you sense any changes in the pipeline that will make things better?
Münzner: What frustrates me is probably what frustrates every musician who releases music commercially. With all the streaming services, you have people listening but you don’t really make any money from that. That’s very frustrating – we did a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the production for Unyielding and we got a small advance from the Japanese label, so we were able to break even without losing any money for it. There is more work to send out the pre-orders, pull together all the packages – it becomes a full-time job for a couple of weeks that you do next to your regular job, but you only do it not to lose money on the production process.
We get live show offers, and people say that you need to play live more. But the expenses and logistics you have, flying everyone in, stays for everyone, the costs you have to cover, you are in a few thousand Euro range, before you make any money. It becomes harder and harder to finance a show, or even a tour. This is what frustrates me. I am very thankful for the fanbase, because people always buy the stuff, they do it because they know otherwise the band couldn’t release any new music, that’s why they do it. In metal there are still people who have that mindset. The fans understand you have to support the product to make it work. To be in a band nowadays, it’s like you are a merchandising outlet. Shirts, books, etc. that you sell on your own to create some money in the band account. That’s how the industry has changed- you create your own shop and the more income you generate, this is what you can use later on to finance your music. I don’t see a long-term change coming up.
People ask us to do new videos, give us a video lesson, they are looking at more content for free – and you still have to make a living. All of the stuff consumes time, and if the fun stuff doesn’t pay my bills, it’s probably going to take (some time) to come up with the next video, or lessons. Yes, it builds up your online presence, but some people aren’t really aware of this anymore. You still have to find ways to finance your music.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for you over the next twelve months when it comes to other recording projects, guest situations, possible live gigs/festival appearances, and so forth? Are you hopeful to get some Eternity’s End live shows going, even if they are in shorter, one-off bursts?
Münzner: Yes, this is definitely our big goal. It’s going to be challenging a bit, especially logistically. We want to make this statement that this is a real band and not an online project. Once we’ve played a few gigs, then people will realize we are real band. We want to make something in Japan, Canada, and my manager is trying to find some European tours that may work as select gigs to appear on. I am working on the solo record, we have a couple of summer festival gigs with Alkaloid going, and the thing is still open for me to join Serious Black as a full-time member, I can’t tell at this point. I rejoined another band that I can’t really say anything publicly about just yet, it will be announced soon. At the moment I’m recording session guitars for an album for a guy, working on a few guest solos that I sold through a crowdfunding campaign, so I have a very busy year ahead. We are collecting material as well for the next Eternity’s End record.
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