[quote]I don’t want to be a fucking big rockstar. If I can continue on the level I’m doing now for the rest of my life, I’m perfectly happy. I don’t need more than that.[/quote]
If you attended Summer Darkness or, for that matter, any of the festivals in which Nachtmahr was playing, you might have encountered some uniformed fans. The sight is, undoubtedly, odd. In a sea of people wearing colored garden hoses in their hair as a fashion statement (I’m sure they have a different name but… whatever) seeing teenagers, guys in their 20s, and even some middle aged couples, dressed in white shirts and black ties (together with Air Force caps and armbands) is, to say the least, strange.
Nachtmahr is a band that, especially in the last year, has been the focus of some controversy, as Thomas Rainier (the only member) has been accused of, at the very least, using fascist imagery for shock value or, at the worst, having Nazi or fascist sympathies; while both are accusations that he dismisses as unfounded, I’d dare to say that the fans that showed up in brown shirts and SS Uniforms (sans the insignias, which are illegal in the Netherlands) didn’t get that memo.
Thomas and I had a long conversation (the audio of which can be found at the bottom of this page, with a little Easter egg at the end) and I can honestly say that I don’t see him as a Nazi sympathizer or as a fascist. Having said that, however, it is undeniable that fascist imagery is used by the band. While Thomas has stated that the look is militaristic and not fascist, this doesn’t seem quite honest, as the armbands used by his “troops” are akin to those used by the NSDAP and its members, but not by the army (in the Third Reich, for instance, Keitel and Dönitz, did not wear them in their, respectively, Army and Navy uniforms, while they were used by the members of the SS, SA and NSDAP). The reluctance to admit that fascist imagery is indeed used, probably comes from the fact that in some parts of Europe, unlike what happens in the US, this kind of stuff can actually get you arrested (something that, in my opinion, is a blow against freedom of speech).
The above brief history lesson, however, is not meant to be an accusation against Nachtmahr. If anything, the “horror” and “shock” that some people have shown at the band seems misplaced; why, when it comes to fascist imagery (as opposed to insignias and the like) we immediately assume that the person displaying it must have a secret agenda? While nobody thinks that bands that openly use Marxist imagery are planning to start a genocide a la Khmer Rouge (even in the case of those that openly pay homage to murderers such as Che Guevara) why are we to assume that someone that uses not the symbols but the style of the fascists must be a genocidal maniac or, at least, a racist? Have we become such a PC society that admitting that someone was a sharp dresser puts you in risk of being accused of sympathizing with him? (hell, I dated a girl who had a weird uniform fetish and who was really into Nazi uniforms, without holding any antisemitic, racist or fascist thoughts).
If, deep down, Thomas has fascist sympathies (and he might) it’s not something that we will learn from this or any interview, unless he openly admits it or does “something fascist” (a beer hall putsch in Vienna might do the trick). While the imagery has an obvious fascist smell to it (particularly the look in “Can you feel the Beat?”) it seems to be that it’s nothing more than, as he has said himself, a way to satisfy his fetish… and he’s not the first one to have it.
MB: When I first contacted you, I was surprised to see that you needed to double check that I meant “your” Nachtmahr; is this a normal thing for you?
Thomas: The reason why I was asking you this question is because there are two old black metal bands, which are now defunct, which have the same name. Nachtmahr means “nightmare”, “succubus” or “night demon” in German, which is, I think, a very good name for a band which tries to focus on darkness and aggressiveness. Two black metal bands, that are not working anymore, had the same name, so I thought that if I metal magazine contacted me… because I’ve had this happen before, that people contacted me with “hey, wanna do an interview?” but were actually talking about the wrong Nachtmahr… that’s why I thought “I’ll just ask twice”.
MB: Really? I mean, if you’re going to do an interview at least make sure..
T: Man, you don’t wanna know what kind of interviews I get.
MB: Well, what’s your worst experience?
T: Fans that have a radio station and your press office will set you up with some interviews and they will be like “can you explain your band history?”, and then you have to scroll down through 5 years of band history, like “we did this album, we did this, blah, blah, blah”. Badly researched interviews are really bad for you, because they put some people in front of you who don’t know shit about the band, come up with random questions and where you basically have to do the whole interview. They have their 5 or 10 standard questions, which you could use for every band, and then you basically have to come up with everything.
I really enjoy interviews but I also think that it’s really good if you see that the interviewer puts some effort into research.
The interviews I enjoy the most are the critical ones, where people say “hey.. what you did there… third song, second chorus… why did you do that?!”, where you see that the interviewer actually did some research and made up his mind. Those are the ones I enjoy the most.
MB: I heard you’re working on a new album, so tell me about that?
T: We’re working on a new album now; after the “Can You Feel the Beat?” EP we were very busy with live shows all over the world, not focusing in Europe only. Nachtmahr has a very international theme, so we’re focusing on the whole world, and we toured a lot of times in America. We did one tour in Australia, we’re going back there in November, we played in Asia and all over the world; the live part is a very big thing for us.
It took a while for us to get back into the studio to record a new album and now we have the songs together to basically get back in the studio and record a kickass album. It’s gonna be out at the end of the year, I can’t say the definite release date yet, but we’re going to start recording very soon and it’ll be out at the end of the year.
MB: Earlier this year you also released a new album with L’ame Immortelle; how have you perceived the fans’ reaction?
T: I was very happy with the fans’ reaction. L’ame Immortelle is more a dark-wave gothic stuff, more emotional; I’ve always thought that to comprehend me, Thomas Rainier, as a person, you have to listen to both bands. L’ame Immortelle is the more introvert, melancholic, and let’s call it female, side of my personality, [while] Nachtmahr is the more male, aggressive, extrovert part of my personality, so I really appreciated that a lot of the people who listen to Nachtmahr also listen to L’Ame Immortelle, so they can get this ying-yang thing, to know what I’m all about. It’s not all about the aggressive industrial music that I do with Nachtmahr, but also about the more mellow organic stuff I’m doing with L’Ame Immortelle.
MB: Looking back, how do you feel about what happened with Ad-Ver-Sary at the Kinetik festival?
T: Honestly, the funny thing about all of this is that I feel much less offended, or anything like that, than most people in the public do. The guy, Jairus, he made a point, it’s his private point, but I was drinking with him before he did that stuff (we were drinking in a bar next to the venue) and at the afterparty, after that “incident” we were drinking again so…
Jairus made his point, I made my point; what I did was that I set up an interview with IdieYoudie, the guys that covered the whole controversy; and I just told my side of the story. So, he made his point, I made my point, and we’re good. People are just making much more of a fuzz out of it than it actually is; it’s two people, two opinions; personally, we still get along.
MB: There’s one thing from you interview that I thought was, well, inaccurate, because you say -and, to a certain extent I agree- that your image is militaristic and not fascist, but the truth is that there are the armbands and the whole Hitler’s Bunker feeling in the video for “Can You Feel the Beat?”
T: Not really, I think… it’s just a uniform.
It reminds me of a good friend of mine… long story short, a friend of mine who’s a fetish promoter from Barcelona, he wrote on facebook two weeks ago that he wanted to go to a fetish club and he wore a full Soviet uniform, and they threw him out of the club because they said he’s a Nazi. Because he wore a uniform, and uniforms are automatically associated with right-wing, although his uniform had red stars, a hammer and sickle on it, it was an old Second World War Soviet uniform, but people automatically associate uniforms with right-wing, and it’s just wrong.
I’m a uniform fetishist, uniforms turn me on, they make my cock hard, and girls in uniform make me even harder.
This is my point and I’m not willing to compromise on that just because some douchebags think I’m a Nazi because of my fetish.
MB: Faderhead said, in no uncertain terms, that you are a Nazi. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this quote1
T: I know everything about it. The point is, the Ad-Ver-Sary guy, Jairus, started with it and, like I said before, I’m totally fine with what he said… because there’s very important quote, I don’t know if I can translate it correctly into English, it’s “Freedom is always the freedom of the people who think differently” (“Freiheit ist immer die Freiheit des Andersdenkenden“) . If you want freedom for yourself, you have to accept the freedom of somebody else. So, I also accept the freedom of opinion of other people.2
MB: Ok, but in the case of Faderhead it wasn’t a matter of opinion. He said–
T: I know exactly what happened, and I don’t wanna go into details. I’m not the kind of person who wants to wash dirty laundry [in public]. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but if this opinion comes two years late, I have to voice the suspicious that it’s not an opinion but that it comes from the heart, out of jealousy; because if something happened two years ago, either voice it when it happened, or fucking forget about it; don’t voice it when the band concerning it gets bigger and you might get a promo push for your own band for dissing it.
If you oppose something somebody says, voice it when it happens, don’t voice it two fucking years later. This is just lame and this just leads to the suspicion that you’re doing it to grab some extra publicity. That’s all I’m saying to that. I don’t really want wars with anybody; I’m a guy who wants to get along with people, because I think that this scene is much too small for beefs, for wars between bands, because I think we should all stick together and make this scene better for everybody. That’s my opinion; if other bands disagree with that, it’s their piece of cake, but I’m not gonna oppose or answer to that. Let them have their say, and say whatever they want. I said what I needed to say in the interview with IdieYouDie, which was long enough and I think in depth enough to cover all the topics that were there.
I can honestly say, and that’s my true belief, that I’m an Austrian patriot, and Nazis, National Socialists, believe that Austria is a part of Germany; they do not believe in an independent Austria. And that’s why those two things automatically clash; me as an Austrian patriot can never be a Nazi, because I believe in my country, I love my country as it is now; we Austrians are not friends with Germans, we don’t like the Germans; it’s a bit like the Dutch and the Belgians probably, this kind of love/hate relationship. I am Austrian, I’m not German, I don’t wanna be German, and National Socialists want the Austrians to be a part of Germany, and I don’t fucking think so.
We have our own culture, much different from the Germans. I mean, we’re a bit similar to the Bavarians, but Germany as a whole… it’s two different cultures. It’s a bit like Holland and Belgium; it’s a similar language, like Flemish and Dutch, but it’s different cultures, different beliefs… the whole society is different, so I oppose this idea very, very strongly, that we should be associated with Germany in any way, except in like a free-trade European union way, like it is now.
And I think this is the strongest argument I can always give against me being a Nazi, because I’m an Austrian patriot, and I put my Austrian patriotism out there; it’s in my albums, I waive the Austrian flag on stage, and Austrian patriotism is strong in my artwork, this is what I believe in, so that’s why I oppose National Socialism, because it’s against my country.
MB: Do you think that it’s hard for Austrians to be patriots now?
T: It’s easier than in Germany, but it’s still hard. I mean, the French have a society for the cleanliness of the French language; just imagine what would happen if there was something like that in Germany… everybody would scream “NAZI!”, right?
In Austria we have a different culture, especially in Vienna. In Vienna we have a culture of taking life more easy, more like the Mediterranean way; for example, if there’s a big catastrophe happening, like an atomic bomb or something, in the world, people in Austria would cope with it with jokes; they would make jokes about it, and everything would be good. We have a more easy approach than the Germans, we’re less tied up, we’re trying to cope with it in a different way. We’re culturally totally different, and that’s why I don’t want to be associated with Germany, and that’s why I could never be even slightly interested in National Socialism.
MB: I think that in Europe there is a certain frustration about how if a European says that he’s proud of his country or heritage then he or she is immediately labeled as Nazi or racist, even if they haven’t said anything about anybody else; so of course, it is frustrating, and not very cool, that you are equated with a bigot.
T: And that’s just wrong. I think tradition is a very important part of our lives. There’s this quote, I don’t know who it is from, “Tradition is not worshiping the ashes but carrying on the flame”.3. I have kids myself, and I want to give them the traditions of Christian[ity]… because Austria is a Christian country, so the Christian and the old Pagan traditions, because in Austria we have a lot of Pagan traditions as well.
It’s a Christian society, but there’s still a lot of Pagan rituals and stuff like that; like, in Easter, there are fires everywhere, so when you drive through northern Austria on the hills you have big bonfires and stuff like that.
This is our culture, our old culture, and there’s nothing wrong with it. This culture has been here hundreds of years before any right-wing idea was born, so why not stick to it an celebrate it?
MB: Do you want to convey a certain message with your music?
T: No; like I said, this is my private opinion. I don’t like politics in my music; I think that my music should totally stick clean of politics because [otherwise] is very dangerous; if you put politics in your music then people, who might not like message will adopt it just because they’re fans of your music and not because they like the idea, and that’s why I totally wanna stay clear of that. If I would say something, then they would say, “Oh that’s great!”, but not because they like the idea but because they like my music, so that’s why I stay clear of that and let people make up their own minds.
MB: Do you think that Nachtmahr’s music has changed a lot?
T: I think so. The beginnings were more rough, and now I try to introduce like more song structure into it, and make it more less of a dance-only attitude, and make it into more “real” songs and, well, different messages (but not political, like I said before). Also, I write more meaningful lyrics… I think there’s enough space on the dance floor to think as well, so more song-oriented.
Also, in the new album we’re trying to get more influences from everywhere; also, a bit more down-tempo songs and trying to put more variety into the music… that’s the basic idea.
MB: Will you continue in the vein of “Can you feel the beat?”?
T: It’s gonna use a lot of the traditional elements that Nachtmahr is made of, but a bit more down-tempo, it’ll be more song-oriented. I’m more of a sync-geek and production-geek and stuff like that but in the first place I’m a songwriter. I learned my craft from the very, very basics, so I think a good song is a good song when you can play it on the guitar and it still works; so, your voice and an acoustic guitar and the song still works, that’s what distinguishes a good song from a bad song.
And on the new Nachtmahr album we’ll have more of these ideas; if you strip down those songs from the new album into acoustic guitar versions, they would still work.
MB: Would you like to make that kind of music?
T: Maybe there is a track on the new album… maybe, I’m not giving anything away.
MB: A ballad?!
T: Maybe, I don’t wanna talk too much about the new album already, because that’s still a bit far out, but more song-oriented songwriting, instead of just concentrating on sounds and synths sound design, more concentrating on songwriting; this was a very, very important part for the songs. When doing proper orchestration and stuff like that with L’Ame Immortelle, we work with orchestras, so I have the abilities to do that, so with Nachtmahr I’m trying to bring this more song-oriented songwriting into the music.
MB: You say that L’Amme Immortelle is the femenine side, while Nachtmahr is the more masculine side. Are there still more sides you’d like to show?
T: With these two projects my musical spectrum is pretty much filled out; with these two projects I can totally satisfy my needs to make music and to make different kinds of music, so I’m totally happy with that…. plus there is absolutely no fucking time, honestly speaking.
MB: You have the productions and the bands
T: It’s my only job; I’ve been a pro musician for 13 years now, I’m not doing anything else. Those two bands, especially because there are a lot of shows, they keep me busy.
MB: So the production company is only devoted to L’Ame Imortelle and Nachtmahr?
T: I’m doing 95% of the stuff myself, like internet promotion, management; I do most of the booking myself, except for Germany, and all that kind of stuff, so I’m trying to keep everything in my own hands.
MB: Has it been hard for you to continue as a pro musician, to actually live off of this?
T: I think you shouldn’t whine, you should adapt. I think every crisis leads to new chances, and I’ve found my ways of using these crisis for myself and use them to make my business as profitable as possible. Don’t complain, just use the new possibilities that are created by a change in consumer habits, just use it to your advantage, adapt to it; you can’t oppose it, adapt to it. Adapt or die, that’s basically the Darwinian attitude… it’s not survival of the fittest, it’s the survival of the most adaptable; that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to see what is happening, I’m trying to adapt to it in the best way to keep, my artistic integrity but still be able to live off of it, because only if I can do that I can still fund and live my dream and make the music I want to instead of the music I have to do.
I have no tour manager, I have no crew other than my musicians, because in times like these you need to pull down on a lot of things, which makes more work for you.. but you need to do it because without that you’d be stuck with no money, so basically what I’m trying to do is to work more.
My job as a musician is 30-35% in the studio; the rest is administration, office work and all that kind of stuff; because only if I do everything myself I can make sure that the result is 100% me.
I’m just one of those musicians who tries to do what he wants to do; I’m happy with the success I have, I don’t want to be a fucking big rockstar. If I can continue on the level I’m doing now for the rest of my life, I’m perfectly happy. I don’t need more than that.
MB: And finally; Gene Simmons, bass player and singer of Kiss, said that musicians never started for “the music”, but because they wanted to get laid. What do you think?
T: When I was in puberty, I saw Guns N’ Roses, and I said “I wanna be Axl Rose!”. That’s the truth, I just said, “That’s life! Making music for a living!”. Axl Rose was the guy who, basically, brought me into music.
- “Listen to him when he gets drunk. I’ve personally heard him spout racist “Untermensch”-stuff on one occasion (Amphi 2010 backstage) and I know a bunch of others who have too. So I don’t buy his “it’s all provocation in the name of art!”-shtick. If I had known this in 2009 (when I met Thomas at Mera Luna) I would have never done the “Mädchen In Uniform”-remix. But hey, if you play in a band, dressed up as a Hitler-lookalike, you’ll have to live with the fact that people call you out on your shit.” You can see his post here [↩]
- The quote comes from Roxa Luxemburg, a German Marxist who participated in the 1919 communist revolution in Germany [↩]
- Gustav Mahler [↩]