In 1992, I first came across the stylings of X Marks The Pedwalk and ever since it has been a wild and unpredictable ride. With the release of the band’s new album ‘The House Of Rain’ it seemed long overdue to ask a few questions of Sevren Ni-Arb, the brains behind it all. Bonus points if you can work out why I referred to him as such…
[Interview by Peter Marks]
XMTP have now been with us 25 years, any thoughts or recollections about that?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Maybe we should meet in a bar for a couple of hours, but you need abundance of patience to listen 😉 Sure there are a lot of vivid recollections about that time: my first synthesizer, the first record deal, live shows, people, founding and selling of my T.G.I.F. recording studio, the comeback… so many pictures in my mind, a lot of thoughts and feelings. 25 years is a long period where many things happened and life changed. When I´ve started with my first synthesizer I was age 16, today I´m 45 and I´m entrepreneur (founder and managing partner of an advertising agency group and founder and partner of an online publishing company). My family is the most important part of my life… So the meaning of making music today is understandably different.
Your latest is without doubt the most personal yet released, could you shed some light as to why?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Basically THE HOUSE OF RAIN is like a kind of continuation to INNER ZONE JOURNEY and THE SUN, THE COLD AND MY UNDERWATER FEAR. Imagine the albums are a mosaic. Step-by-step the picture will be completed.
On our new album THE HOUSE OF RAIN dichotomy, relationship, inner conflicts and identity are main aspects and we are orchestrating snapshots and ephemeral moments full of yearning and melancholy. Brokenness and self-doubt are barriers of life and fateful decisions are made. We are moving on a very emotional path and the rich atmospheric compositions and arrangements are essential to keep that emotion. As you mentioned in your review “each and every song on THE HOUSE OF RAIN is an individual”. That gives THE HOUSE OF RAIN a highly intensive touch! So I can understand to see THE HOUSE OF RAIN the most personal album yet released.
If you ask me INNER ZONE JOURNEY is the most personal album for simple reasons. It was a restart after a long time with a lot of new experiences in life. But it was also a new and completely different encounter with myself – not only in terms of producing music and writing new songs. The song title INNER ZONE JOURNEY marks the concept of this album and a new path of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK. Watch the booklet pictures of INNER ZONE JOURNEY – showing me naked and sharing very intimate introverted moments. But you’re a just a visitor, outside of my mind. Only with listening to the songs you can get into my mind and start to experience the emotional side. I clearly remember that exceptional shooting.
But with every album this encounter with myself became more and more intensive. It´s like a dive into the depth of another world and you recognize that there is enough air, power and energy to go deeper and deeper. You want to know more, experience more details, watching around corners, opening doors and entering rooms and places you´ve never been before. Finally you recognize and feel that each snapshot and every moment is a part of you! I hope that I will never get lost in the deep sometimes…
Of all your many side projects, which one stands the test of time best? Which proved most satisfying to be part of.
Sevren Ni-Arb: I remember all my side-projects very well. But PAX was an exceptional experience with my friend Heiko Daniel of ECO. Today for sure my new project SN-A has a special meaning to me.
People’s view of the world can shift so much with the passing of time, what do you still hold as truth at this point?
Sevren Ni-Arb: The world around us is moving fast, things change sometimes rapidly and you don´t know what the future will bring next. But I am curious about life. So I don´t want to stand still and I don´t want to freeze in the past. But that means that you are on the run day by day, often without experiences for every new aspect of your life. So I don´t forget my basis: My family and myself. I am a man who is often reflecting about himself. I want to keep in touch with my mind, to stay true to myself.
I am happy to live in Germany, in a nice town, in a nice house. I am happy with my business and I´m proud of my wonderful family. Making music is my hobby. To wake up in the morning and to recognize it´s a new day and you can go on is really a big fortune. So you can find me walking through life with degree of humility.
How long until we get more SN-A or was it just a one-off?
Sevren Ni-Arb: No, it wasn´t just a one-off. There is a working title and a concept for a new album. I rebuilt my studio in the last weeks and I´m currently working on first new ideas, sound-designs and the artwork. But there are no plans for the release, yet.
Evolution in both sound and mind have always played a major role in the releases you’ve put out, why do you think that is more the exception rather than rule to so many others out there?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Well, everything depends on personality, character and talent for sure. Basically it´s easier to keep going the way you’re a moving on and to work on a familiar program – especially when you find people around you who like it. No risk that your audience can´t follow your new path and will turn away in anger. No need to enter virgin territory without any compass or map. No fear to simply recognize that your creativity and talent could be limited…
Keep in mind that imitating sounds of other artists, starting a digital workstation with some typical sounds, programming a simple bass- and drumline isn´t a real challenge… But take a look on a lot of artists out there and you will see that all of them changed things constantly – searching for the challenge. I think this separates the advanced from the beginners.
Are you remixing or producing anyone else out there or do you focus strictly on your own work nowadays?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Beside my family and my business there is understandably spare time to focus on music. That´s the reason why I prefer to work on my projects than remixing other artists. But sometimes there are inquiries exciting me and drawing my interest.
So I´ve produced a remix for “Delight” by SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS. You can find that remix on their new 3 CD/DVD-Set “Memorandum” (to be released in may this year). It was fun to make this remix and to give that song a new emotional depth and dramaturgy.
Note: http://www.outoflineshop.de/memorandum.html (CD 2 / track 2)
Do you still get that same rush from creating? Feel free to pull the curtain back for us with regard to your latest.
Sevren Ni-Arb: Creating music is a complex process and a trip through different emotions for me. There are no rules and there is no step-by-step manual for the perfect song! When I start creating a new song I don´t know exactly the result. Yes, there is sometimes a real rush, when you are completely in the feeling of the song. I love to wander from the path of a current song and to come back with completely new impressions or learnings. Sometimes I stay at the new place the path leaded to and I don´t want to come back but to start a new trip from this new point. But creating music also means discipline and strength. It´s not easy to explain but I am exactly analyzing all of my songs, the structure of sequences, the layer of sounds and noises, the DNA of a song. That means I have total control of each moment of a song.
Obviously with a band who have been around this long, expectations from the fans run high. Does it ever get to be too much?
Sevren Ni-Arb: The pressure isn´t made by the expectations from the fans but by my personal expectations – and they really run higher with every release. But even if it takes more and more strength it´s moving me! I´m sure if our fans had the chance to listen to songs in an early production stage they would say “hey, that´s great. Next song!” and I could save a lot of time and energy. It is a long way until I´m happy with a song, because each of the songs have a special meaning – especially in the context of an album.
With your upcoming archival video project is it safe to say that XMTP will be with us for the foreseeable future?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, you are right – as far as we have the world wide web and google / youtube 😉 I love the visual side of music and so I´m happy that I can now publish a lot of videos. There are four videos of tracks from THE HOUSE OF RAIN: “Amplified Dichotomy”, “Drowned Words”, “Go Down” and “Asynchronous”. Maybe we will see video number five later this year.
September last year I´ve started a new video-project: “LOST FILES – A Retro Video Collection” shows 15 music videos directed by Dustin Ferguson with songs from the early years (1990 – 1995) of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK. With videos for “Cenotaph”, “Paranoid Illusions”, “Conversion”, “Desolation”, “Maximum Pace” and many more you can find a brand new visual side of real X-MARKS THE PEDWALK classics.
Finally, is there any one message you’d like to send in 2015?
Sevren Ni-Arb: I would just like to take the chance again and to say a big thank you to all our fans out there! There are so many who followed every new path we´ve taken. There are so many new who have dived into the depth of our electronic world. Stay connected!
Thanks a million for answering these and for continuing to carry on.
Sevren Ni-Arb: Thanks for the interview!