It's meanwhile 2001, and time to complete the band history somewhat...
I believe very few bands can remember the exact date of their foundation, often the beginnings are too confused and the paths from the first idea to the first trial and (God allowing) to the first concert often to rocky and meandering. I reckon most projects have premature births or forceps deliveries anyway, and therefore don't even make it to their first birthday.
It wasn't any different for us and IN EXTREMO also shows signs of a long and confused prehistory:
The ideas - on the one hand to play medieval music and to connect at some time with rock music - actually appears simultaneously on the plan. Sometime in 1994 Thomas and Michael's then rock band, NOAH, gave a concert in the former Berlin "Franzklub", to which they invited some musicians from CORVUS CORAX as guests for a joint session. Michael was as always on the hunt for new ideas and consorts, in addition Reiner and I had left the band half a year before to practice uneven beats, double bass and increased volume with TAUSEND TONNEN OBST. The combination between NOAH and CORVUS CORAX could, in retrospect, be described as a success, however, it was on extremely shaky legs, was also from the beginning only planned as a session and thus not repeated. The idea itself was, however, considered good and that, as can be heard today with the examples of TANZWUT and IN EXTREMO, is evident from both sides.
Hopefully it is now clear for good who was there first: the chicken or the egg!? Shortly after Teufel and Michael, who in the meantime gained (as a result of a popular T-Shirt motif with a picture of Klaus Kinski) the pseudonym "Das letzte Einhorn", formed a duo by the name of PULLARIUS FORZILLO and also played the medieval markets like CORVUS CORAX. Since Reiner and I still had good contact with Einhorn and the idea of a connection between medieval music and rock wasn't letting him sleep, we met sometime in 1995 in our OBST rehearsal room in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg and made a decision on the whole thing - washed down with a few drinks.
The line-up? Einhorn, Teufel, Reiner, Thomas, Detlef Mahler and yours truly. Somehow this action didn't give rise to anything worth considering - at least nothing that sounded more promising than our other projects, nothing that would have animated us to continue. Only "Ai Vis Lo Lop" survived then in a wonderful way as a vague idea and short casette track and then appeared later on our debut album "Weckt die Toten!" with new prestige.
Shortly after, Teufel left PULLARIUS FORZILLO for CORVUS CORAX and in Conny, the red fox (today FILIA IRATA) and two other musicians, Einhorn found new members for a new medieval band. After several changes to the line-up, Flex der Biegsame and Dr. Pymonte finally joined the band. NOAH also sometimes showed signs of life, meanwhile it was changing more and more into a side project for all involved, but then back together with Thomas, Reiner, Einhorn and myself - and there you have it, the IN EXTREMO line up at that time.
In spring 1996 studio recordings of medieval music for a democasette were taking place and Thomas, Reiner and myself were also invited for a short time to maybe try after all again with "Ai Vis Lo Lop". And this time the plan wasn't to stop at the recording of a rock piece, band formation was also planned. A few days later somewhere deep in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, the name IN EXTREMO was born and we concocted the most adventurous plans for a rock programme. They were, however, for the time being to develop secretly alongside the main projects of the medieval band IN EXTREMO and the different bands of the rock musicians; Thomas (NOAH, HEART OF STONE), Reiner (IFOR, NOAH) and myself (CHURCH OF CONFIDENCE, NOAH). After we adventurously rented a rehearsal room in a youth centre in the Berlin district of Wedding and had started the rehearsals, the third bag pipe player, Senn Pusterbalg, joined IN EXTREMO. Senn was raised in the Northern part of Germany. He had lots of plans on his mind but our cooperation seemed to be doomed in advance due to the local distance and thus associated time stress. Despite this, we made more progress with the work than expected, so that in spring 1997, parallel to the recordings of our first acoustic CD "In Extremo", we were able to record the maxi "Der Galgen" in a Berlin studio.
Through my work at the Berlin fanzine "Undersound" a few good contacts to record companies had meanwhile accumulated, to whom we then, in complete euphoria, immediately sent freshly cut copies. However, as with other bands we either received no letter at all or a letter with the following content: " ...unfortunately we cannot use the material..." (Brainstorm); " ... are no longer interested in mainstream ... eastwest cannot be persuaded about this music..." (Nucleus). Why should we experience things any differently to other bands, particularly since few record companies are known for not taking risks? And so we tried it again by means of constant live presence.
Parallel to my rather discouraging work, Einhorn was able to get a few rock concerts on medieval markets and in former NOAH strongholds, in contrast to the record companies at live events our maxi was met with open arms.
In short: the first IN EXTREMO rock concert (in our silver cosmonaut suits and still with long hair) took place on 29 March 1997 in front of 1000 people at the Leipzig town hall market. If that isn't a good omen...
Soon after, on 4 June 97, KNORKATOR singer, Stumpen, invited us to a performance in his series of concerts in the Berlin "Franzklub", where he liked to presented unusual bands and projects. Since Stumpen appeared to be extremely nice and the "Franz" had always brough us good luck, we agreed. Shortly after the concert we signed a publisher contract (we also we had to first of all pay the usual "apprentice money"), the contact to the booking agency "Extratours" came about, and Wolf- Rüdiger Mühlmann from "Rock Hard" let himself get carried away with a euphorical record review which was extremely helpful for us.
So after the first 8 rock concerts Senn Pusterbalg left our band to set out for the more lucrative medieval fairs. Certainly he was not the only coeval striving the prophecy of a non successful future with this rock project. So that's the reason why quaintly enough you see only the six of us on our first band photos and stickers. However, our new member Boris was in the audience of the "Franzklub", who then started with us in September 1997 - his yellow attire caused us to immediately rename him "Yellow Pfeiffer". On the subject of artist names: apparently it was important in the Middle Ages to have such a name, and thus cristalised after several clangers "Der Morgenstern" (it was appropriate), "Thomas der Münzer" (Thomas had managed the band finances for centuries) and "Die Lutter" (I hope due to fact that his hair was still long then).
1997 ended with a sampler contribution to "Miroque II", the first Extratours concert (among others with a festival in Freyburg, concerts in Leipzig, Duderstadt and other places) as well as many, many positive articles in the press, which apparently encouraged Doro from Vielklang to take a closer look at this band playing in the "Moritzbastei" in Leipzig, (later she said she hadn't in fact understood a word but seen the good will!!!). That's how our contact to the Berlin label Vielklang came about.
1998 began with the thought that the rock project and the medieval band could be better presented together: the varient to find completely different name for one of these bands was for us somehow never on the cards, due to the danger of confusing the followers of one or the other with different concerts programmes. Thus it resulted in Reiner and I suddenly finding ourselves armed with acoustic instruments back on the medieval stages of the country. Thomas der Münzer left to take up to his former teacher existence and thus the premiere of the "six vagrants, who found their happiness in hell" began on 11 April 1998 in the Rabenstein Castle in Brandenburg. Here at Easter our second acoustic CD, "Hameln", arrived for the first time on the medieval record stall counters. However, Vielklang also demanded their right and wanted to to finally put an end to the rock band. Thus in spring 1998 - shortly before the beginning of the medieval market season - we found ourselves back in the studio, to record our debut album "Weckt die Toten!" in almost 14 days.
I don't think anyone knows anymore exactly how we managed to organise all the appointments: 1998 was definitely the year with our largest amount of most medieval markets and rock concerts, "Hameln" was produced, days later the studio work began on "Weckt die Toten!", in summer the live cut for "Die Verrückten sind in der Stadt" took place in Runneburg in Thüringen (this album was already supposed to be in the shops in October of the same year), a promo tour for the rock CD was started, there were unrelentless press appointments and photo appointments in Tagebaurestlöchern in the Lausitz, our first appointments abroad in Denmark were pending and then we started our first (and apparently longest) tour at all.
The management, producers and booking agency were at this time at the end of their nerves and in view of the crammed tour plans the band was almost on its last legs. Saying "no" also has to be learnt. Of course "trivialities" were also inserted into our crammed appointment plan such as the long overdue move to a larger rehearsal room (and its conversion), the draft and the building of a set, endless negotiations with record companies (after all for new output new songs had to be created) ...and finally not to forget: attention to the now non existent private life. Last of all, for reasons of space and age we had to send our loved orange Ford Transit to a home in Romania.
1999 was then supposed to be very different, this time we weren't so pushed for time, and so we allowed ourselves three months to work on the in the meantime accumulated song ideas and to write new songs and to finally cut them on CD. Parallel to the recordings for the new CD, there were diverse conversations with various record companies, nothing was actually clear about with which company the record was going to be released. Many companies showed interest in Vielklang and this of course included some who had ignored us 1 ½ years ago.
However time was running out again, but - probably it is only a rumour - there are supposedly bands who leave themselves time with all these things. Unfortunately, Einhorn, with his famous fire accident on 28 March 99 in Mannheim, put himself out of the running. At this point it looked as if our tent was going to fall down completely and - if at all - we would have to release the album later. Not only the idea to leave time for the recordings in order to have a relaxed approach resulted in nothing, now there was also the fear of stopping altogether!
At least we had learnt not to underestimate the power of fire and to adopt a more professional approach to pyrotechnics, the use of which had so far only got us into trouble! However Einhorn's will, diverse magic creams and the many good wishes seemed to help somewhat and even after a few weeks he was able to leave the hospital and we could continue to produce the CD with him.
Shortly later Mercury got the acceptance of the bid and Doro Peters, meanwhile our manager, friend, tour escort etc. (doesn't that means "dogsbody"?) also formed her sublabel Megalux. After that we were also able to sign with Metalblade as a record company for abroad and also IBD from Munich for international booking, because we of course had the plan to gain a foothold there.
The first large festival at which we were first able to play abroad came along. On 23 May 99 we were off to the famous "Dynamo" festival in Mierlo/ Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that MONSTERMAGNET were performing on the main stage at the same time, we played to almost 10,000 people - the success there was almost too incredible to name, and it intensified the anticipation of the imminent open air season. Alongside all the hall concerts, club gigs and one or two medieval markets in summer 1999 we played, among others, in Oberwart/ Österreich at the "Mind Over Matter" festival, at "With Full Force" and at "Highfield", at Biesenthal for the "9th Harley Davidson Motorcycle Jamboree", at the "Festival auf die Burg Wandersleben", at the "Altonaer Burgrock", at the "Wacken Open Air" and at the "Zillo Open Air" in Hildesheim, before then at the end of August it was onto Holland, Denmark and the Czech Republic for a few concerts.
That wasn't all for 99 by a long shot of course, at the end of September we started the first part of the 99 autumn tour. Shortly before the beginning of our tour, we found out about the sensational chart entry with "Verehrt und Angespien" and let the champagnge flow in Doro's "Cafe Swing" to celebrate. It didn't really sink in until later however!
Nonetheless, this tour was to change everything... Was it because everything had been upward for far for IN EXTREMO? Was it because of our mammoth tours and the connected personal stress? - we still don't know the answer. Thomas der Münzer fell ill and as later transpired even very ill. We were at first still hoping to be able to play the second part of our autumn tour and the concluding "Dark Storm Tour" with THEATRE OF TRAGEDY and GOETHES ERBEN with him, however, Thomas had to cancel. We didn't realize until later that this was a final farewell.
So we searched for a "replacement ", at least until everything sorted itself out. We found this after several attempts in vain, finally in Sebastian (DIE VISION, 3 MINUTES HATE), who only had 3 weeks to acquaint himself with our complete concert programme (and the accompanying stage wardrobe). Respect! Since Sebastian had already had something to do with all IN EXTREMO musicians in one way or another, the big "getting to know each other" phase didn't apply and we were able to start immediately with the music - which was necessary for he didn't evenknow what type of music we would be doing. But perhaps it was exactly that which in the end made everything so exciting.
2000 started immediately with a lot of work. After a short period of time off we began the preproduction for the single "Vollmond", which was released in summer. At the beginning of February we were already back on tour, this time over almost 6000 kilometres in a nightliner across northern Europe (Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Denmark, Norway, Finnland).
For the benefit concert for Christoph Zimmermann, which we played on 8 March in the Berliner Casino among others with INCHTABOKATABLES, DREADFUL SHADOWS and the BLIND PASSENGERS, Thomas der Münzer visited us after a long illness and informed us of his final farewell. For health reasons for the time being he is retiring from music making to return to his former profession.
On 11 March we were off again, this time by plane to the USA and finally to Mexico. Just prior to that Sebastian was made an "extremist" and ceremoniously received his new code name "St. Sebastian" (all in the same boat!). Before it was on to play in warm Los Angeles, however, we played at a very extreme festival in north USA - the March Metal Meltdown in Pennsauken/ New Jersey. I only want to say this much: For the European concert visitor the organisation of this event was very unusual. But perhaps that was why we managed to get the audience's support so quickly.
If someone had predicted a few years ago that we would play in L.A.'s famous Whisky a GoGo then we would probably have declared him/her of unsound mind. The rock fraction of IN EXTREMO, at least, entered the sacred concert halls with great reverence (although " concert hall" sounds very exaggerated, the memory of the past makes everything bigger than it actually was in reality). However, the feeling of being on the stage upon which JIM MORRISON stood somehow doesn't leave you with cold shivers. The SXSW fair in Austin/ Texas, at which we were guests a few days later couldn't compare. The following brief five days in Mexico eclipsed all events up to then. You can read more about that in the tour reports.
Only just landed and unpacked our bags and we were back on the road to Paris (directly into the sink of iniquity), where we gave our France premiere in front of 600 concert visitors. 14 days later - short break for air - IN EXTREMO then started the spring tour through Austria and Germany.
In June the long-awaited festival summer began. 2000 was really an excessively good year and we able to play at Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, at the Southside Festival, Woodstage in Glauchau, Rock For People in Cesky Brod, the Dour Festival in Belgium, the Taubertalfestival and Doomsday in Dresden, among others. And at this point I would like to say that it's still very exciting to see your favourites from the stage at their concerts. This really action-packed summer we played with TITO & TARANTULA, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, HENRY ROLLINS, SKUNK ANANSIE, NEBULA, NINA HAGEN, OOMPH, CLAWFINGER, THERAPY?, SISTERS OF MERCY and the list goes on ...
The absolute highlight, however, was our performance at the largest European Festival, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. How often have we been there in past years as visitors (and have jokingly talked of even doing our own concert!) Unfortunately Roskilde 2000 also attracted attention this year because of the tragic accident at the PEARL JAM concert, we had the ungrateful task of having to appear two hours later. Those who have been to Roskilde know that precisely this festival is actually one of the best organised rock festivals around... Let's hope for the organisers that it continues nonetheless and that, above all, nothing like that is ever repeated anywhere else ever again.
We ended the summer with two medieval markets in Hamburg and Stadthagen as well as a festival on the Kufstein fortress, together with SCHANDMAUL, DER LETZTEN INSTANZ and HAGGARD.
2000 was to end with lots of real work, however, because the last three months were used to prepare IN EXTREMO's 3rd rock CD. After our obligatory Christmas tour (this year with SUBSTYLE again) we planned to block the Vielklang Studio for a long time again at the beginning of 2001. And this time we would take the time that we needed ...
After the first 3 studio months in 2001 the focus was on already on clearing our heads a bit and taking some distance, on a short tour this time with SCHOCK as support. Afterwards we could continue work on the CD with a good conscience.
At the end of April 2001 we were invited by the INCHTABOKATABLES as guests to their Berlin concert in the Columbiahalle, at the end of May we did an usually short spring tour - because time started to run out again! So we had to keep a low profile concert wise this summer, but of course "relaxation" was not the right word. On the contrary, in the end we had the feeling we were rather burnt out but we were also certain to be at the start of a good CD.
Among the few concert high points of summer 01, the WGT in Leipzig, the Mind Over Matter festival in Wiesen/ Austria (with MOONSPELL, BIOHAZARD and SOULFLY), the Ulm Zeltfestival as well as Woodstage in Glauchau above all remain fond memories. And not to forget our meanwhile traditional acoustic concert at the Wäscherschloss and the medieval market at the Runneburg in Weißensee. This year for the first time we have electrified the acoustic variant somewhat. It looks as if we are having a lot of fun again and are also planning to give the acoustic part some more attention again in the future. You'll have to wait and see.
On 3.9.01 our new CD "Sünder ohne Zügel" was finally out in record shops. It is like a birth every time: you don't really want to be there, but the curiosity to know if all the work was really worth it wins in the end. Number 10 in the charts exceeded our expectations! Thank you to you all!