Mindfield was formed in a city called Hamm in 1994. A demo called Field Of Vision was issued in 1996. Another demo called The Final Piece appeared in 1997. Singer Thomas Bleckmann left in 1998. Keyboardist Danny replaced him. Be-low was recorded independently and before Lifeforce signed the band. Drummer Felix left – due to conflicts with Rainer - and returned but missed recording the second album.
Philip Akoto’s father was from Ghana.
MINDFIELD - BE-LOW - LIFEFORCE
Be-low is the band's second album, but our first encounter with the enterprising Germans. For a change, the band's moniker agrees with the band's sound - not that the band is ultra-technical if that is what you just read. In fact, the band is a cross between Tiamat, Anacrusis and Sundown.
Be-low begins with the sound of a vinyl record, but there is nothing vintage about this band and its be-low album! In fact variety, fun, catchiness and heaviness, loudness and fast heavy metal are the phrases that come to mind. Made To Measure is a great opener and ends with a sample Destination 666 is the band's best song here. It is catchy with great guitar breaks, varied vocals (spoken, soaring, wild, etc.) and packs some intriguing lyrics. Desperate (Death Parade) introduces the keyboards and staccato guitars. The song has haunting vocals which are commercial in sensibility - except the mainstream will never pick up on this. The guitars are just too bruising for the average Dirk. The dream-like vocals will help the band's appeal though. The rest of the album is quite a trip with many ups and downs. At every turn the guitarists try something different. An original rhythm here, an offbeat riff there, the German band is steadily incorporating catchy arrangements and an ear-warming sound. The vocalist stretches his voice throughout and is occasionally reminiscent of Slaughter (US) or Faith No More. The drum sound is solid and right on. In short, Mindfield is both dream-like and heavy at different times, attributes which evidently work here. Can you say 'spielfreude?' - Ali "The Metallian"
Mindfield might have been formed in 1994, but how many people can claim to have heard of them? More importantly, how many metal fans can claim to have heard them? Not that Ali "The Metallian" is complaining about the promotional prowess of the Germans' former label Gutter Records. He simply contacted the band's bassist Philip Akoto to find out more on the occasion of the release of Be-low which is the band's second full-length and the first for Lifeforce Records. The band is rounded out by Danny Carbus (vocals and keyboards), Rainer Sicker and Marc Zirnsak (guitars) and drummer Felix. - 20.07.2003
METALLIAN: Philip, thank you for making yourself available at this time of the evening.
PHILIP: It is not a problem. I am looking forward to the interview. I am here and ready to face your questions. I have gotten myself a beer and I am relaxing
METALLIAN: Which brand of beer are you drinking?
PHILIP: At the moment it's a Radeberger Pilsener. One of
Germany's finest brews that I know of (laughs).
METALLIAN: Ever considered Canadian beer like Moosehead or Molson?
PHILIP: No, but I should. How is Canadian beer? All I know is American stuff like Michelob!
METALLIAN: In the meanwhile, here is a question that has to be asked given Mindfield's low profile. Will you fill us in on your background?
PHILIP: Well, we have been doing the rounds of the German underground since
1994. In 1996 we did our first demo-CD Fields Of Vision. It was followed by
the second demo which was called The Final Piece. We played melodic doom/death metal back then. Our music was somewhere between Entombed, Edge Of Sanity and My
Then our former vocalist Thomas left in 1998. Danny, who had just joined as a keyboardist, took over the job as vocalist after some wasted time searching for a new singer. I then took over backing vocals in order to keep the death metal alive within our sound. Thomas had actually taught me to do so, for live performances, before he had left. In 1999 we got in touch with Gutter Records, who released our first album Deviant in 2000. We broke up with them only one year later because they had lost interest in us.
At that time we had already booked the studio for the recording of the follow-up album Be-low. We decided to go ahead and record it all alone. Eventually and after some time we managed to get a new deal with Lifeforce Records. That's it so far!
METALLIAN: What happened with Gutter Records precisely?
PHILIP: They released Deviant. The reviews were excellent, but there were few of them. They tried hard, but in the end they said "we can't help you any further. Leave if you want." We felt that leaving them was the right move because we had Be-low on our minds. We knew that the album would be too strong and Gutter Records would not do it justice. They were cool, but unfortunately a little too small for us.
METALLIAN: Are you saying that a heavy metal band is more evolved than a death metal band?
PHILIP: No. Any kind of metal is cool. We all are still into death metal, but a vocalist like Danny offered us new opportunities. It just felt right having him on vocals and the new record really proves it in my eyes. I decided not to contribute any 'death metal' vocals either this time because we all felt that we did not need them on Be-low.
METALLIAN: So how did Mindfield meet Lifeforce, who are better known
as a hardcore label?
PHILIP: We were searching a long time for a label and in the end it was really easy because they simply loved our material and wanted us to be on their roster. To us, it was not important how they managed to make their name. The most important thing about their offer was that they really stand behind Be-low. Their hard work for us proves it every day.
METALLIAN: For how many albums have you signed to the label?
PHILIP: We hopefully will do one more record for them if things go as they should. We don't have exact expectations from them. It's just great to learn what it means to have a label that really does care and at the same time is able to spread the band's name properly.
METALLIAN: Before we go on, what were the circumstances behind the departure of Thomas?
PHILIP: He was a great death metal vocalist, but his 'clean' voice was not that good. He had started to feel uncomfortable with our newer songs. Then he decided to stop doing music period. Regardless, we are still good friends.
METALLIAN: What were you looking for in a new vocalist which you could not find outside the band?
PHILIP: Well, at first we were still thinking that it would be good to have a death metal vocalist, but there was no one suited to replace him. We were searching pretty hard and in the meantime we started to experiment with Danny's voice. That was it! Everything worked out like hell. We knew that he is our new man for the job!
METALLIAN: Your answer infers your style changed because of the type of singer
PHILIP: Yes, exactly! On the one hand we had the standard kind of musical evolution which follows the fact that we became better musicians. On the other hand our sound had radically changed because of our new vocalist. The musical leap we were capable of was already there for all to somehow see on The Final Piece release for example.
METALLIAN: Let us take a closer look at Be-low…
PHILIP: I have read your review. I like your comparison of us to Anacrusis. I really love their albums, especially the second one. I never thought that one would compare our new album to them. Their music was a lot harder than Be-low.
METALLIAN: How do you feel regarding being compared to Tiamat and Sundown? What about the vocal comparison
to Slaughter and Faith No More?
PHILIP: Correct, as for Sundown, I guess you were referring to the Design
19 album, right? Great album! There may be some similarities between the bands when it comes to the structure of the choruses. Faith No More is far more technical than us,
but The Real Thing really deserves that title (laughs). Tiamat influenced us a bit more in the early days, but I don't think they are relevant to us today. You definitely mentioned a bunch of bands which all of us do really like. Therefore you can't be that wrong (laughs again).
METALLIAN: Let me ask you regarding the drumming situation. The album was played by a guest.
PHILIP: Well, our former Drummer Felix, who had played on everything we released before Be-Low, unfortunately left shortly before the recordings. He did rejoin the band a mere two months ago though. We are working hard to get back on stage together right now.
METALLIAN: Why did Felix leave in the first place and who was this Sascha Schiller who played on Be-low?
PHILIP: Sascha was supposed to join the band, due to the fact that he helped us out in a serious situation, but he decided to follow a different path from us. He never really identified with our style of music.
METALLIAN: Why did Felix leave in the first place?
PHILIP: He had some personal problems with Rainer. At the same time he had lost his job and had decided to focus on that because he is the father of a little daughter. Rainer and Felix got together again a while ago and talked about all that had happened between them. That and a new job helped Felix come back.
METALLIAN: Was Sascha in any other bands?
PHILIP: He's a good drummer, but he never made it into any bands that ever released anything as far as I know. He always jammed around with some friends. They did progressive rock. He never really could stand to stay in a serious band for a long period of time. That was also one big reason why he's not with us right now!
METALLIAN: Getting closer to the album, why does it start with the scratching sound of a record? Was it to mimic Accept?
PHILIP: No. It was a spontaneous idea from Rainer actually. We all grew up with vinyl more or less. It is still an unfulfilled dream to have a vinyl edition of a Mindfield record. We wanted to express our love for vinyl by using that sound. That's all!
METALLIAN: Was the production of the album everything you expected?
PHILIP: Yes! All in all we used around forty-tracks. The work was very intense for a couple of weeks. We managed to take our time for the important ingredients like vocals and the mix. That is one of the most important steps for us. With this album we took a step forward in comparison to the previous album's production. We are truly and
completely satisfied with how things turned out - that's for sure. We could not have done any better.
METALLIAN: Is the band equally satisfied with the lyrics? I believe there is a theme running through the songs which is directly related to the title, namely Be-low. The lyrics are quite interesting to read.
PHILIP: I did the lyrics and it's always great to hear one enjoys them. There is no real main theme going through all the songs. The lyrics on Be-low can be divided into two sections. On the one hand, there are songs like Made To Measure or
Be-Low that deal with my personal attitude towards personal freedom and
respect towards human individuality. On the other hand, songs like The
Sobering, Desperate (Death Parade) or Gallery 1 and 2 are intended to draw some
kind of emotional pictures of pretty dark personal moments. The only
completely different song is Destination 666. That song simply expresses our passion
for being ordinary, deviant and fucking evil metalheads (laughs).
The title is as double-edged as the lyrics. On the one hand, the protagonist of the lyrics sees him self as a person below average making mistakes. On the other hand, the title is to be seen as an advice or at least a warning for the listeners, which is be low! That is, listen and you will feel low somehow!
Life always has a certain kind of a bad surprise no matter how good one feels at that moment. Life will bring you back down to the ground. Perhaps you know how many lies and hoaxes are going around. As soon as you start asking unsuitable questions, you will see who your friends are, whether anyone ever was a true friend and how true the
reality you believed in really was. That makes, at least me, feel low from time to time.
Made To Measure is a very personal view of mine. I really want everyone to go his or her own way according to his wishes. That's at least my goal. I won't follow! I prefer to go my own way and I want the world to accept that for I accept all others as well. It's not about
tolerating stuff; it's about accepting it. It's important to me, man.
METALLIAN: Let us take a look at your musical ways. Tell me about the song Made To Measure. It begins with vocals alternating from two channels. Are they both Danny's vocals?
PHILIP: Danny performs all the vocals except the samples between the songs. It was simply an idea he wanted to realize when it was time to do the vocals. There wasn't a special intention behind it.
METALLIAN: How about the song Desperate - incidentally another glum title - which is musically the closest Mindfield's gotten to Faith No More.
PHILIP: Well, I always thought of Samael when listening to the song. Especially, if you listen to the section just before the chorus. However, you may be right given the chorus. It is really close to the catchiness of Faith No More. It's one of my favourite songs, but
I personally never really thought of Faith No More when I heard it. It is a great honour being compared to a brilliant band like them. They really made musical history.
METALLIAN: The album is cut in two by an intriguing acoustic piece called Mucher No Illores.
PHILIP: Marc wanted to do that one. He is very much into fast guitar solos and the Spanish guitar style. All he knew was that he wanted it to stand right before Dead End Love. We did not know what to call it, but we wanted it to be integrated into the album. Finally, due to its more or less Spanish charm I decided to give it a Spanish title. Mucher No Illores means 'Woman, Don't Cry' in English. That title was the perfect intro to Dead End Love.
METALLIAN: Is anyone in the band Spanish?
PHILIP: No. Definitely not! I am half from Ghana, Africa. My father came to Germany in the early '60s. My name is pretty common down there.
METALLIAN: This reminds me. Rock Hard magazine's review of Be-low opined that the band sounds Finnish.
PHILIP: It is not a particularly Finnish attitude to combine nice melodies with nice vocals. The Finnish bands are simply the ones which made it big. Buffo from Rock Hard asked if our idols come from up there, but the answer was no. If I could choose I would prefer your definition of what our influences are.
METALLIAN: Tell me about the spoken intro to the title track.
PHILIP: That is the voice of Rupert Everett. He says, 'then you 'll be free. Free to see what the rest of the world looks like.' Be-low is about realizing your own kind of slavery in your daily life. The sample talks about what happens when you realize your state of being. It is taken from an early zombie movie Everett played in called La Muerte Dellamorte. It's about him as an insane serial killer living in his own reality. It is a great motion picture by the way.
METALLIAN: What about the poetry that ends the album?
PHILIP: It is also taken from the same movie. It is at the very end of it where Rupert realizes that his world has no connection to reality. Taking all that stuff, rearranging it and putting it between our songs was great. I love samples like that. The idea to use all that was Rainer's. He really is into splatter and blood movies.
METALLIAN: Thank you for your time and chatting with Metallian until this late hour. Can you please fill in the readers on your latest news?
PHILIP: It is a pleasure speaking with you for Metallian. As far as news, there will be a couple of shows over here in Germany and Europe, hopefully, in September and October, but a bigger tour unfortunately is not planed yet. We'll keep checking the possibilities. It
would be really awesome to see Canada and the USA. There are no plans so far though.
METALLIAN: You are also involved in a side-project. Can you provide the readers with some detail?
PHILIP: My side-project is called Exposed Guts. It's really minor and normally I do not mention it. It's a brutal death metal Band in the vein Of Brutality, early Death and Pestilence. None of the others members of Mindfield are involved with it. It's just friendly violent fun (laughter).
METALLIAN: Thank you again for the chance to speak with you, Philip. It is now four in the morning in Germany so we should cut this short.
PHILIP: It was my pleasure. Please check out our website at www.mindfield-webhq.de to get all the latest news about Mindfield. Thanks a lot for the interview! Have a nice evening!
There you have it. Philip and company are doing something different and are worth the investment of some time. Check their album out either at better record stores or order it directly from www.lifeforcerecords.de by clicking on the 'Shop' link.