Steffen, Markus (Sieges Even) (September 2005)

Navigating The Stars With Seiges Even's Markus Steffen

Sieges EvenBeing able to rediscover the old magic of the times gone by, thanks to an unexpected e-mail and the incredible performance of an hard-core fan of the band. It's not a fantasy cinema story, but the real comeback of the marvellous Sieges Even. Guitarist Markus Steffen tells us the details.

Igor Italiani: Hello Markus, how are you doin'?

Markus Steffen: Doing fine, man. Thank you very much for asking.

Sieges Even - The Art Of Navigating By The StarsII: So it was about time to come back and give us a new masterpiece like the one I'm listening to is it going with the first media feedbacks?

MS: Yes, it was about time. Well, the media feedback has been amazing and you know what? We weren't expecting it, even if we were conscious of the good music we produced. You know, it was a long time from our last release, and the music of The Art Of Navigating By The Stars was so different that we didn't know how people would react at first. But fortunately everything is going smoothly, and we are overwhelmed by the reactions so far.

II: You know, in my humble opinion this is truly a great album. It recalls somewhat the melancholic melodies of Steps and the softness of A Sense of Change, but it is something you have never done either. Am I right?

Sieges Even - StepsMS: Yes, you are absolutely right. In fact we began to write new music with the intention to not repeat a Steps or a Sophisticated or any of the other albums done so far. But obviously something of our trademark sound has been left in the new tracks. And as you said, some parallels can be made with the abovementioned Steps ... and with A Sense Of Change as well.

II: I was really stunned with the incredible vocal lines that Arno [Menses], the new singer, has put inside the album. It almost seems that he was the missing element coming at the right time. I read that he is a good drummer too, right?

MS: Yes, you are absolutely right once again. You know, for me, but for Oliver [Holzwarth, bass] and Alex [Holzwarth, drums] as well, this is the first time that we feel Sieges Even as a "real" band. I tell you this because in the past we always had troubles with singers, so it was a stroke of luck to find Arno two years ago. Add to this that Arno is an incredibly gifted singer and he is also a hard-core fan of the band. In fact he knows every single note of the past Sieges Even albums, so it's a lot easier to study tracklists for the shows as well ... and, as you said, he is also a drummer, so this is another great advantage in the live environment, because he knows what is going on in the background, when we play.

II: Markus, the album starts with a mystical and recurring phrase, "The view from here is frightening," can you please tell me if the album is a concept or not?

MS: Well, to tell you the truth the album is not a real concept album like in the vein of Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime. It's a lot like a collection of episodes taken from a person's life. In fact, as you can see from the front cover of the album, there's a baby who goes out somewhere. Now I suppose you still have the promo, so you can't see the back cover, but I guarantee you that there's a grown up man on it.

II: Markus, Sieges Even left the music world about eight years ago and now they come back. I know that in the meantime you weren't standing still, but what are the differences in the music landscape now, if there are any?

MS: I don't know if there are any differences from where we left off eight years ago. I mean, there are still a lot of good bands and a lot of bad bands. Maybe the quality is a little bit lower, 'cause you see a lot of bands on MTV or other crappy TV channels that produce one hit and then they disappear, but who knows. You have to consider that it's a fortune to listen to such great up and coming acts like Tool, which I consider a real progressive band!

II: Is it possible that I sense something like the Police going progressive on the beautiful "The Lonely Views Of Condors"?

MS: [chuckes]... Yes, there's something going on in that precise song. But you have to consider that The Police has always been a great influence of mine, they are a great band. So it's no coincidence at all that the guitar track in "The Lonely Views Of Condors" recalls this famous combo. But, as I said before, we really wanted to perform something different from the past, so it's no coincidence you hear new comparisons in our music.

II: Markus, now that you are under one of the best independent labels, Inside Out, do you think you'll be able to spread the Sieges Even word more quickly?

MS: I hope so! Inside Out is probably the best progressive label out there. They have a real high standard of quality, and I mean it not only based on musical terms, but also with the overall package, like the cover artistry and all the rest. They are very supportive and really into our music as well, so I think it's the perfect marriage for us.

II: Are there any talks about re-issuing your past records with Inside Out?

Sieges Even - SophisticatedMS: Yes there are. In the coming months I think there will be re-issues of both the Sophisticated and Uneven records, which were very hard to find in the past. Then I don't know. You have to consider that here in Germany, Inside Out goes along with SPV, and I think that a viable option shall be the re-mastering and re-issuing of the earlier albums as well. Let's see what happens.

II: OK, let's start talking tour now. Where are you going to play Italy for sure?

MS: [laughs] I don't know at the moment but let me say that we really would love to come there and play. For example ten years ago I went to Firenze [Florence - II] and I was stunned to see all the Sieges Even albums inside a CD shop. The vendor knew our music as well, so I believe that there are a lot of Sieges Even fans in your country. However we are planning the tour right now, so maybe we will come real soon. Consider that it should start around December/January, so all you have to do is check our website and see when the dates are published.

II: But do you think that there will be some time to play a couple songs from the distant past?

MS: Yes, absolutely. The tour we are going to do is a co-headlining one [with another Inside Out act], so one show we will be the headliners and the other one we will be the support band. When we'll be the headliners you can expect at least a couple tracks from every album we made, I think. At the Headway festival in Amsterdam, for example, we were able to perform A Sense Of Change almost in its entirety, so it only depends on the time we are allowed to play.

II: OK Markus, last question. For a brief moment you were considering a new name, Valparaiso. What about that?

MS: Well, as you know I wasn't in the band for a while. In the meantime I know that Oliver and Alex had troubles with the guitarists that filled the ranks of the band, so when we met once again there was this idea to maybe start completely anew with another name. But as the music went on we rapidly discovered that a lot of the Sieges Even trademark sound was resurfacing, so we opted to maintain the old name. Talking about the possible choice of Valparaiso it was suggested by Oliver, who played in the city [of Chile] a long time ago while he was on tour with Blind Guardian. He has a girlfriend who hails from Chile, too, so that's why he put out this name. However it seems that this city is very beautiful, with a crystalline sky and sea all around. In fact, once you'll get the album with the complete lyrics, you will easily spot a verse talking about this beautiful place on the "Blue Wide Open" track.

II: OK, Markus. I think that's all. Thank you very much for your time and I hope to see the band as soon as possible in Italy.

MS: Thank you, Igor. We hope to come as well. Have a nice day and take care.

As of this writing, Sieges Even will be playing their first show of the season at B2 in Moscow, Russia on December 11, 2005.

[In 2008, the band ended their siege... Markus Steffen and Arno Menses left the battlefield to form Subsignal. Oliver and Alex Holzwarth took up arms for Rhapsody of Fire -ed.]

Life Cycle (1988)
Steps (1990)
A Sense Of Change (1991)
Sophisticated (1995)
Uneven (1997)
The Art Of Navigating By The Stars (2005)
Paramount (2007)
Playgrounds (2008)

Added: September 26th 2005
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Hits: 763
Language: english

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