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Interview with Centaurus-A's Maik Matanovic

“We all grew up in the 1990s and love the big thrash and death metal bands like Sepultura, Pantera, Morbid Angel and Death. This, I would say, was the common denominator when we started the band nine years ago,” says guitarist Maik Matanovic, from German quintet Centarus-A.

“Nevertheless, we all listen to different music – both metal and non-metal genres – and today everybody has his own inspirations and brings in his own influences,” he added. “We love metal music, but we all have bit different tastes and diverse musical backgrounds, like alternative, indie, rock, ska, jazz, classical music, just to name a few.”

Pamela Porosky: Ever argue about what to listen to when traveling from show to show? 

Maik Matanovic: Not so far; although, I sometimes wish I had my ear protectors within reach.

Porosky: When the band first started to take form in 2000, there was only one guitarist and you didn't add a second guitarist until 2003. What promoted this decision, and what did the addition of a second guitarist do for the band's overall sound?

Maik Matanovic: We always wanted a two-guitar line-up from the beginning. First, in 2003, we found a capable guitarist who was on the same wavelength, and not only musically. Since then, we were able to realize the music we always had in mind.

Porosky: What did the addition of Hernan Martinez on guitar do for the band's overall sound?

Matanovic: We got a much thicker sound and could write stuff that didn't work with only one guitar. Furthermore, we have many more options to work out basic melodies and several possibilities to choose what sounds best for a part.

Porosky: When you went in to record your debut, “Side Effects Expected,” how much material did you have to work with, or did you write songs specifically with the album in mind? 

Matanovic: We took our time to write the songs for the album. It was very important for us to compose coherent songs that balances technical brutality, weird and sick themes/rhythms with catchy and comprehensible grooves and melody. We had two or three songs that didn't make it on the album, so one absolutely can say that we wrote the songs specifically for “Side Effects Expected.”

Porosky: How do you guys typically approach songwriting?

Matanovic: We have two different ways to compose new songs. Either Hernan or myself will bring a new song that we arrange, or we put together different ideas and parts to a new song. Most of the songs on the album were composed within the last three years and were influenced by various metal genres and music we are listening to.

Porosky: How much touring are you planning on doing to promote the album? 

Matanovic: We are planning to tour as much as possible to promote the album. At the moment, we are planning a European tour for later this year and, if everything goes right, we might be touring in the U.S. some time in 2010.

Porosky: You had the interest of a few different labels. What is it you thought Listenable Records could bring to your music the other guys couldn't? 

Matanovic: After finishing the recording process of “Side Effects Expected” in early 2008, we were spreading our promotional CDs to a bunch of record labels in order to find the right partner. Beside some interested labels, Listenable Records got in touch with us last summer. We were thrilled when Listenable contacted us and are glad to have teamed up with them because we highly appreciate their work and their intuition for promising and unique bands. We really feel well taken care of, and Listenable has done a great job so far and support and promote us as much as they can.

Porosky: There is a lot of choice out there nowadays on how to distribute music and who to go through. Now that you have that decision-making process behind you, what kind of advice would you give another band that might just be starting to gain the attention of labels and maybe feels a little overwhelmed? 

Matanovic: On the one hand, you have to see who has the better deal. Which label can offer your band what fits best into your future plans. On the other hand, you just have to follow your gut feeling and hope it goes the way you wished for. In our case, it was absolutely the right decision.

Porosky: In retrospect, what, if anything, would you do differently?  

Matanovic: One always finds things that could have been better, but even if you would change them, there will be new things you will want to change. We are more than satisfied with the result of “Side Effects Expected,” so I doubt that we would do things differently.

Porosky: How about in recording the album itself – what did you learn about the recording process that you can take with you for your next album that might speed up the process, or at least make it go more smoothly?

Matanovic: I think we chose the right way to record in several sessions. We were able to prepare each session the best way. Probably we can record a bit faster next time because we exactly know how to do it and don’t have to think about it. We know the work flow and are proficient with the hard- and software we need to prepare everything.

Porosky: What kind of crash course type things did you learn about recording in a fully functional studio after recording some of your demos in your jam space on an 8-track and some in a small local studio? What were the biggest hurdles to overcome? 

Matanovic: We now know more possibilities to work fast and efficient, and also gained more knowledge of recording in general, but more important was the musically way. To compare your pre-produced songs with the final result is a very important experience, especially regarding the flow of your music and breaks, etc. The biggest hurdle… to get our slots in the fully booked Hansen-Studios.

Porosky: Why did you choose to record at Hansen Studios? 

Matanovic: In the writing process of “Side Effects Expected,” we were already thinking a lot about the sound and the appropriate studio to record. Finally, we decided quite fast to go to Denmark into the Hansen Studios, and recording with Jacob Hansen was a great experience. Jacob's references and experience are huge, he works absolutely professional and knows what is best for the production at any time, and we trusted him from the beginning. So in the end, we are more than satisfied with the result, and our debut album “Side Effects Expected” got the powerful, clear sound that is still alive.

Porosky: How long did the recording process take from start to finish – from pre-planning to the final mastering? 

Matanovic: We started with recording the drums in April 2007, the guitar, bass and vocal tracks were laid down in September, and the entire album, including mixing and mastering, was then finalized in early 2008. The main reason for the different recording sessions was the fully booked Hansen Studios at that time. Looking back, it was advantageous for us because we were able to prepare each recording session carefully, and you work more efficient, focused and concentrated for few days, rather than over two-three weeks.

Porosky: Can you explain how the guitars were captured?

Matanovic: We recorded the clean guitars by ourselves. The clean signal was re-amped in the studio and recorded as usual. We used two different amps and mixed this to one guitar signal for each track.

Porosky: Was it difficult to get through each track in a reasonable amount of time – and have them clean enough to use on the album – when you're playing such technical riffs? Did you have the luxury of punching in at specific sections? 

Matanovic: Because we recorded the guitars and bass by ourselves, we were not pressed by time and could recorded this stuff very comfortably. But of course we use everything to get recordings the easiest and fastest way.

Porosky: How do you think you would have to adapt if you went back in time to record those guitar lines pre-digital recording?

Matanovic: We'd have to make more effort on the recordings and probably need more time, although we all play our instruments very well. You can just save much time nowadays by working digital, so really it’s just a question of time and money.

Porosky: Are the guitar tones on the record fairly similar to their live sounds?

Matanovic: Our live sound is indeed comparable to the sound on the album. We try to keep it as close as possible so the audience can enjoy also the more tricky sounds like on “The Ease.”

Porosky: Our North American readers might not have a chance to catch you guys in action in the immediate future, so perhaps you can indulge us a little and tell us what people expect to see and hear at a Centaurus-A concert? 

Matanovic: Centaurus-A stands for an energetic live show, and the most important thing for us is to have fun with the audience. Our live shows are very intensive and vivid and we are driven by the energy.

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