Not only is Germany's Markus Teske the acclaimed producer of such acts as Vanden Plas, Symphony X, Saga, Neal Morse, and Ian Parry's Consortium Project, but Markus is also an established keyboard player and songwriter, as evidenced on the new album from his project Red Circuit titled Trance State. Combining elements of prog and melodic metal, Trance State is turning out to be one of the year's hottest releases. Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz got to the bottom of all the great music on this CD by speaking to the man himself, Markus Teske.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: You've released an amazing album. How did the idea of putting Red Circuit together come to you?
Markus Teske: After I left my former band in 2002, it was pretty clear that I had to found a new band. Just doing studiowork was not enough. You know, I love to record and produce bands, but I can´t live without playing.
SoT: Being a noted producer, you've had the chance to work with some of the finest prog bands in the world. Has your collaboration with them affected your songwriting on Trance State?
Markus: No, not really. I consider Red Circuit not as a typical prog metal band, it has new metal influences and a lot of electronic sounds, combined with metal riffs. So in fact is it different.
SoT: Let's talk a bit more about Red Circuit. How did you decide to bring in all those amazing guitar players into the project?
Markus: The basic idea was to color up the album, that´s all. Patrick Rondat, Stephan Lill and Stephan Forte are muscians I worked with in the past, so I had a friendly relationship with them and it was easy for me to get in touch with them. They are all different personalities and brought other influences into the songs. Oliver, our regular guitar player, could have done it too, no question. Just listen to his solo performances, they are really great. But I had the option to involve the guest guitarists, so I did it. It was funny to send , for example, Stephan Forte a MP-3 of ´Is it gold`, and get an uncompressed solofile a few days later back over the internet. I imported it into the song and it worked ! I love technical things which are working. With Patrick it was the same, but I sent him a CD, and he sended me a CD back. Just Stephan Lill was at my place. We did some guitar parts for Ian Parry´s solo album, when I asked him if he wanted to try the solopart of ´The veil`. He just played a few takes within 10 minutes, that was it.
SoT: You asked Vanden Plas singer Andy Kuntz to co-produce the album. How much
has he influenced the overall sound of the record?
Markus: He had a certain influence on the overall sound, but he had although some
great ideas for additional parts, medlodies and hooklines. That´s why he´s mentioned as composer too. I wanted the whole thing to sound a bit more electronicly, he´s the one who advised me to produce it a bit more natural.
SoT: Generally, how long does it take for you to record, mix and produce an album? You've recently done the amazing Christ 0 album of Vanden Plas which is my contender for melodic prog album of year.
Markus: Like always, it depends. A state of the art production takes normally about
two month to produce.
SoT: Do you consider Red Circuit more of a melodic metal or progressive project? The songs seem relatively shorter compared to some other bands', but I seem to hear a good dose of proggy sounds.
Markus: In my opinion it is low tuned melodic metal with progressive influences.
SoT: Would it be safe to say Trance State would appeal to fans of Threshold,
Vanden Plas and Conception quite a bit?
Markus: Yes, of course. In a way we´re all on the same ship.
SoT: Is Red Circuit a full-time band or just a studio project? Are you guys planning to do any touring?
Markus: It is planned as a band. Concerning live shows: actually we´re working on
some things, but nothing´s confirmed yet. You know how it is, if the album is doing good you are, more or less, forced to play to promote it. In this case I would love to be forced. You should check regularly the tour dates on our website www.redcircuit.de .
SoT: How did you hook up with Chity Somapala? Is this the first time you're working with him? His performance on the album is among the best of the year so far.
Markus: It was the first time we did something together, and I have to say that you´re right. Chity did some world class performances and I love him for that. I met him 2000 in Paris/Elysee Montmatre, when I recorded a ´Symphony-X ` show. He played as support with his former band ´Avalon ` . I saw him on stage and I was really impressed. We kept the contact over two years before I sent him the first Red Circuit demos. He called me up and said "Hey Markus, this is really cool stuff, let´s get this thing started"
SoT: There are plenty of exotic soundscapes on your album as well as a multitude of experimental synth textures. Was combining the classic symphonic sounds with modern elements a pre-thought thing or did it all evolve that way during the writing and recording stages of the album?
Markus: Yes, absolutly. Consider it as my personal style, this combination between
classic symphonic or epic sounds on one side and the electronic elements on the other side. Because of the Sri Lanka background of Chity (he´s born in Columbo) I used some oriental elements too, when it suited the song.
SoT: Besides being a great keyboard player, you're also an acclaimed producer. Do
you consider yourself more of a producer or musician? You've played in a hard rock band before, didn't you? Could you talk about it a bit?
Markus: I guess I´m a musician, who produces bands. I actually like both sides.
Concerning my former band Sheela, I founded Sheela with my former guitar player Chris Moser in 1991. We did 3 CD´s, toured, among others, with Saga, Fates Warning and Nazareth. We supported the Scorpions, played the Sturgis Festival (Sturgis SD, USA) together with Steppenwolf, played the german bike week with Gotthard and so on. I left the band in 2002 for personal reasons.
SoT: How did you get into the production side of music?
Markus: I had my first band at the age of 17, a short time later we needed a demotape and I borrowed my brother´s 8-track tascam machine. A few demos later I was asked by other musicians to produce their demos. The next step was a solid wall with a window in my rehearsing room. That was my first studio and that´s how it started.
SoT: Could you talk about how you prefer to work with bands in the studio? Do you expect them to come down to your studio or will you also work with them in their place?
Markus: Most bands are coming to my place, because they don´t have any facilities to do a proper recording. At least a good sound depends on a nice recording room. But sometimes I´m travelling to record a band. The latest example is the new production of Mob Rules I´m actually working on. I recorded drums, gtr´s, bass, keys and vocals in a studio close to their homebase, when this is finished I´ll take the recordings with me and mix it in my studio.
SoT: What were the first bands you produced and what's your favourite type of music you like to mix and produce in the studio?
Markus: The first band I ever produced was a traditional heavy rock band called
"T.N. Trouble" from Wiesbaden/Germany. This is the city I was born too. They had an american singer and it was real fun. I produced a three piece demo within two days with them.
There is a difference between consuming and producing music. Basicly I´m into rock and heavy metal, but when it comes to producing I´m far more open minded. As long as I´m within the creative process I have fun in producing other music styles. From time to I take the chance to something different. I can be lucky for the fact, that I´m able to think in other musical dimensions. When I get the chance to produce something outside my main business, I take it. For example I´m working actually on a production
with spanish musicians in the "Gypsy kings" style. The most important thing for me is, that the musicians I´m working with are good. As long as this is the case, I have fun.
SoT: From a producer's point of view, what do you think are the main differences between US and European prog acts?
Markus: Hard to answer, I think american productions are sounding a bit more
garage type like.
SoT: . One thing that seems to catch my attention is that Euro bands such as Pain of Salvation, Threshold, Spiral Architect and also your project Red Circuit really emphasize the bass sounds whilst in most US acts the bass is further back in the mix. Do you think this is a conscious effort on the bands' part?
Markus: I like the lo end of productions of bands like Linkin park,Marylin Manson or
Nickelback, so one aim is to have a fat sound like this in the end mix. Although it is a big challenge to create a clear sound concerning the low end. But, as you can see with productions like Red Circuit or Vanden Plas, it is not impossible. Somehow I feel that the whole thing rocks more, when I have a great bottom. It has to sound fat, not thin.
SoT: Who in your opinion are some of the best producers in the prog genre, like Neil Kernon, Dino Alden, Tommy Newton and Jacob Hansen?
Markus: Sorry, I don´t know enough producers to give a proper answer. I know some
productions of Sascha Paeth, and I think what this guy is doing, is really great.
(Click here to read our review of the CD Trance State)