Fireworks Magazine Online 61 - Interview with 21 Octayne

21 OCTAYNE

Interview by Julia Braun

On 21st Of September 2013 I had the chance to talk to guitarist Marco Wriedt (Axxis) - on his birthday - about his extraordinary and profound new band named 21OCTAYNE. But Marco, Hagen Grohe (The Joe Perry Project), Alexander Landenburg (Rhapsody) and Andrew “The Bullet” Lauer (Juno17, Paul Gilbert) didn't just get together to form a new band; the four young men are intending to faithfully represent their perception of rock music, making music in general and passion and now try to make a change within this tough business. This interview was absolutely impressive since I have rarely ever confronted so much passion and belief. It was a strong and almost drastic message that should definitely be heard and be spread like a wildfire ...

21 OCTAYNE is now entering the spotlight as a muiscal highly innovative and in terms of the cast simply marvellous new band. Tell us a bit about how you actually formed up and how you got to know each other, especially because I know that this is quite some time ago already ...

When I met Alex for the first time in 2008 when AXXIS were searching for a new drummer it felt like we've known each other for 20 years already. We had the same taste and the same idea of muscial aesthetics – which I actually never experienced with somebody of my age before. Working with AXXIS bonded us even more together and we became best friends. Before all the work and touring for the album Utopia had even started and Alex didn't even know if AXXIS would hire him he already mentioned something like, “We should definitely start our own band one day”. In 2010 we had enough time to really initiate this idea. So we thought about appropriate members to bring in and Alex suggested an awesome Californian bass player – who was none other than Andrew Lauer. So we met him for a jam and it was amazing! We jammed like one used to do in earlier times...I'm talking about real rock bands like LED ZEPPELIN, CREAM, bands that went to the rehearsal room and really wrote their music together and not just by sending each other mp3 files. That's how we want to be like as well. For a while I even played with the thought of doing an instrumental fusion project without a vocalist since this is something I would have loved to do as well. Furthermore, authentic singers at my age who can speak proper English, who identify themselves with the same kind of music as we do and who are really able to deliver the message and feeling I wanted to be delivered are rare to find these days. But as we definitely want to reach a wide listenership – which is probably a lot more possible with music that includes vocals - we went to search for a singer, which took quite some time. Andrew told us that he knew a singer who was just touring the UK with JOE PERRY's solo project sharing the stage at the Wembley Arena with Bad Company – Hagen Grohe – and we just laughed at him because we didn't believe this was true. We really thought it was a joke. After we had realised it was really true and Hagen had finished touring we invited him over and again it was some kind of “love at first sight“. Despite our different DNA mixtures we all felt a mutual respect and understanding. It appeared to be just perfect – musical and attitude-wise.

Sad but true is – at least from the market's and fan's point of view – that you actually wanted to release your debut album about two years ago already. What had brought you to or what had happened that you didn't do so until today and how do you consider this delay from today's point of view?


Well, there were some serious problems with the business going on. By end of 2011 we were actually done with recording and mixing the album. Unbelievable that this is two years ago already. The album should have been released and everything was sorted out, or so we thought. So we received a contract which was just impossible to sign for us. I just can't go into details here since this is nothing I should talk about in public, but let's say it like this: there were a lot of things going on from the side of the party responsible that were just “not right“. We simply got involved with the wrong people who wanted to cook their own weird kind of soup with the band. After all I'm just glad we didn't sign the contract back then...for several reasons! This is all I can say about this, sorry.

Wasn't it quite tough for you to stick to your guns though and not get demoralised?

Oh my, yes! It was a bad hit in the head for all of us. We all were really down and upset. Each of us was dealing with this in a different way. I was suffering from a bad stomach pain for two weeks due to that incredible disappointment I felt towards the people from that label whom I had trusted in. I just realised how unbelievable mean this business can be. I have to admit that this had really worked me over and surely left some kind of bitter smack behind – to say it nicely. Alex felt pretty much the same as I did, Hagen was just angry and upset and actually it was Andrew who turned out to be a real fighter and who said: “Well, f*** this! Let's just do it again, let's record the whole album once again and do it better, more awesome and with all the freedom and possibilities we didn't have last time!“ So we decided to think and work with a “now more than ever“ attitude and just recorded the whole thing AGAIN.

Wow, what an incredible story. I'm really impressed how you managed to get over this, and in the end it really seems like things have happened for a good reason in this case. But let's get back to nowadays and concentrate on the band's hopefully more positive future: 21 OCTAYNE is a rather unusual name, where did that arise from and what's its meaning?

Originally we wanted to name the band Mothership - based on the LED ZEPPELIN album. But since there are a million bands with that name already Alex suggested the name “Octane“ referring to one of his favourite albums. So I thought it was nice but surely not quite innovative and used a 18,000,000 times by others as well. So I suggested to add and extra letter to make the word sound the same but totally kill its meaning... while still sounding cool. So OCTA Y NE – with an additional Y – was created. Then we wanted to make sure that that name wasn't taken already as well we decided to add a number to this. Plus that's cool as well (laughs). So... we live in the 21st century and this band would love to become or symbolise a new representative, an implementation for the energy of rock'n'roll. That's how the name 21 OCTAYNE was invented and now we are ready to throw down the gauntlet to society.

Now that's a pretty cool meaning! By knowing this one might even understand the idea of this whole band a bit better – this again is something we'll talk about a bit later. Today I'm talking to you within the framework of one of your press-release events and all the people attending this today have just heard about your concept for the very first time. So... there's no material on the market yet and the band is completely unknown. So what's your plan to strive for notoriety and to get established?

Pretty simple. On our facebook page we already have about 1,200 likes (*note at this point: since I did the interview with Marco on 21st of September the number has increased to over 1,900 likes) – albeit none of them has even heard a single note so far which is pretty impressive. This again, of course, is as well a result – a benefit - from our engagements in our main bands. Those who are interested in any of us personally were also interested in what else we're doing and have followed us to like the page.
Of course we're sorry we have to let them wait and always have to tell them, “Soon.. soon.. soon“ and ask for their loyality and patience. This can't go on like that for much longer, we know that. And of course we would love to release something, we would love to show you But unfortunately releasing something also means to blow our material song somehow and become less interesting for the labels. Why should they release an album or songs that are just not new anymore?
That's why we decided to do those listeing sessions. People can hear what we're doing without us being forced to upload our songs on youtube etc. Nevertheless we decided to release our first single The Heart ourselves by end of November. We don't want all those fantastic people who were so loyal and patient for such a long time already to wait any longer and finally show them something. This will be highly interesting for me and us and I'm so curious about the reactions.
In the meantime we will go on doing this is a pretty new way to do listeing sessions – without even having a release date for the album. Actually I'm a bit proud to be a part of this pioneer-project we have initiated with this. We want to do something big and different – without wanting to create an arrogant image. We just want to do something extraordinary and “glorious“ that differentiates from that Indie Rock culture we have these days. We want to try to enter the scenery in grand style and surely leave a mark as a new, real rock band like they used to be back in the 70s and 80s. And we invite people to come to those listeing sessions from all over the world: London, Barcelona, L.A., San Francisco, Munich, Berlin etc to experience this with us. The longer we do these events the more songs we can present since we're just in the middle of the mixing and mastering process. Furthermore it's awesome for us to finally get some feedback. I had to wait for three years now and it's just tough to be patient.

Besides wanting to present this new band all the members of 21 OCTAYNE are engagend in several top-class bands as well. So how does it work that you can actually find the time to start a new project and your readiness to invest? Do you even have enough time and how do you manage all this?

When you really want to make something like this happen then you can do it. It's just a matter of how much to want it. You just have to organise meetings, rehearsals and so on very well. We met up for longer weekends to write our songs and record and didn't get together once a week. That indeed would be impossible. Nowadays bands are writing songs by using the easy and common way to just send each other MP3 files, but for me this means a total lack of passion for music, and it's surely not a good way only because it's easier. I do believe that meeting in a rehearsal room and writing music TOGETHER made it possible for several time-honored masterpieces to be created in the first place. By doing it this way you just won't say, “Oh, I have to take my child to the kindergarden first... do the washing up...then I'll write a song...“ You can just sit down, let it happen, try out if it works.

So, that's really a back-to-the-roots-attitude!

In matters of songwriting? Absolutely, yes!

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


I'm asking you rather perkily: do you think that the degree of popularity of the bands you're engaged in might provide you with something like benefits in reaching for 21O's popularity?

Oh God yeah! Totally, no doubt about that. That's an excellent luxury we're benefitted with. But that's nothing bad I think. It's like in the movies... Julia Roberts is an equally stupid but great example to prove this phenomenon. Nobody knew her before Pretty Woman was released. Ever since that movie turned out to be so unexpectedly but insanely successful Julia Roberts was a star. Henceforth every other movie she took part in was a success too. So the movies were benefitting from her name and face. That's just how it goes. In fact this is nothing we were caluclating with though. This band got together very naturally and was not cast just for tending to success. It's pretty amazing that four musicians originated in totally different kinds of music like Soul, Funk, AOR, Heavy Metal or Progressive Rock got together to form 21 OCTAYNE. But it's not the popularity or success of the bands we are hired in that shall represent us – even though it helps in the beginning. None of us is a no-name. But this about the songs, the music. If that was crap the people would definitely realise it. It's that new combination of the four of us that could appear interesting to the people I guess.

You've been an active musician since you were a kid and you've always known that making music is what you'd love to do for a living. You've made a very good deal of achievements so far even though you're so young. However the vision for this project has accompanied you for many years already. How did that arise in you and when did it become more specified to, again, become more palpably and realisable? Tell us about the story of your vision!

Okay, I'll try to keep this short since I could talk about this for hours (laughs). It actually all started when I got got in touch with QUEEN for the very first time when I was about 10 years old – that was also the time when I started to play guitar by the way. QUEEN, BEE GEES, MEGADEATH and AEROSMITH... my first big influences.

Well, that's quite a weird and extraordinary mixture ...

Exactly. And there we go! Those bands are just so completely different and I could equally love Stayin Alive, Symphony of Destruction or My Melancholy Blues. All of that was just unbelievably good music for me and I never cared about stereotyped thinking. Never! Being a kid I had no idea of how that music business was really working of course, but back then I already thought how amazing it would be to have a band including and uniting all types of music or genres and not sound exactly the same on every record. That just wasn't desirable for me at all! Luckily I then got engaged in a band like AXXIS since that band is anything but stereotypical or one-sided. Listening to the different albums is a bit like listeing to different bands. I just love that... and I'm pretty sure it was destiny that I became a member of AXXIS. I just love Berny's and Harry's philosophy even though a lot of people just don't understand how songs like Touch the Rainbow or Doom of Destiny could both perfectly represent one single band. Both songs are music... but have different colors or facets...
Doing something like this has always been my goal. As a teen I was either surrounded by pop, rock OR metal fans. Especially nu-metal like LIMP BIZKIT or PAPA ROACH were extremely famous back then. But I could never take pleasure in that kind of music. I was into bands like STRATOVARIOUS, RHAPSODY and PINK CREAM 69, ICED EARTH, QUEEN of course, WHITESNAKE or WINGER. The last I love a lot because they've always managed to unite great musicality with awesome song-writing. And then I got in touch with DREAM THEATER and through these, again, with all that classical and typical progressive-like rock band such as GENESIS, YES, ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT, PINK FLOYD, RUSH and I just totally fell in love with that. No stereotypes, a great mixture of different kinds of music and feelings, always trying to create something new and unique. It might appear like a mystery to some people how you could put Jazz elements into a metal song, but thank God I had the enormous stroke of luck to find Hagen, Alex and Andrew who are able to understand this and live that philosophy through their music. Even though I have to admit that at the beginning we were rather US-rock-oriented. Especially Hagen's influences of classical AOR made a pretty big impact on our style initially until we started to mix this up with Alex', Andrew's and my personal taste. So in the end our characteristic and musical diversity made it possible for that vision to grow and now become reality.

Let's finally talk about the topic that makes this band become so special: your musical uniqueness and diversity. Those who asked me about you so far I could only tell that 21 OCTAYNE is impossible to be compared with anything yet existing. It's a mixture of rock, AOR, metal, progressive and alternative. All this was mixed up well, flavoured with intuition and a pinch of “impossible to describe“. None of your songs sounds like another but not any less coherent. Where does that musical complexity come from and how would you describe it yourself after all?

Phew, that's a tough question. We tried to figure out how we could describe what we're doing as well through these listening sessions by asking the attendants. Some said it was typical prog-rock, others labelled it “Melodic Alternative Progressive Metal“. I think it's as well a matter of the listener's generation and origin. The generation that knows bands like JOURNEY and similar stuff very well they would listen to a song like our Turn The World - which was once called Bon Jovi 2.0 by one of our guests (laughs) - in a different way than a kid only knowing bands like KINGS OF LEON would do... probably. 
In the end there's no actual conclusion. I would say it's some kind of very complex rock music with a touch of metal. But we're NOT a metal band though (laughs). I think Alex put this in a nutshell by saying it was “Progressive Alternative AOR Pop Rock Metal“ (laughs again). Okay, now that sounded interesting ...

Indeed! I really think one just has to hear it to understand what you mean. Isn't it actually a bit risky in these days, especially since music isn't quite a value but a consumer good for the young generation, to put something so very new and different on this slightly tired and supersaturated market?

Not at all in this case. We founded this band to set an example. If we would have wanted to become the next BON JOVI we would have written 10 similar songs like our AOR-like Turn The World, but our intention is another one! We would like to combine memorable songwriting with catchy choruses and a high musical sense. To be honest I think this is rather rare these days... and we definitely want to make a statement here and point a way. We really want to reach a lot of people, a wide range of taste with what we're doing and simply make them aware that there's a lot more out there than just COLDPLAY, KINGS OF LEON, MANDO DIAO and so on. That kind of music only concentrates on the chorus. However we would like to show that we DO HAVE an awesome drummer and we DO HAVE an amazing bass player... and surely a world-class singer! We would like to make the musical sense play a major role again. MUSE is a good example here. These guys are amazing musicians and if you listen to their complete albums and not just to what is played on the radio you will undertand how incredible and complex they are. So that combination and that statement is not risky, no.

Are you scared that it could happen to 21 OCTAYNE to get reduced to one certain song that is played on the radio?

Well, this could happen just like it had happened to EXTREME or MR. BIG. Of course it could. But I just don't know where the whole thing will be going to anyway. It depends a lot on our future label and their marketing, which songs will become popular and which ones will be sent out to the radio stations. We definitely want to produce several very different videos as well which shall just emphasise our diversity in a visual way.

So, there's nothing like a golden thread running through your concept and music?

Our golden thread is that there IS just no golden thread. You surely wouldn't like to eat pizza every day, and we're a meal you could eat seven days a week and still would discover something new every day. In our case it's a meal that's laid-out for 12 days though ...

So it's like a well assorted menu without being exessive or imprudent. That's a nice metaphor. What had entered my ears so far is a thrilling mixture from the widest varietey of previously mentioned genres. The songs neither appear flamboyant – like a lot of progressive songs do to untutored ears – nor banal or predictable, like it's often found in the AOR genre. Your songs do appear coherent, yet perfect. All those subtle nuances and incredible dynamics of all the instruments paired with powerful riffs, catchy beats and last but not least the tremendous vocal abilities of Hagen. It's sophiticated and intoxicating in an equal measure. So there's actually only one question. How the hell is that possible?!

Oh, that's a good question. I have an answer to that. I was thinking about the same thing already. In fact we tried to keep our songs – regardless of their diversity – short! None of them is longer than 6 minutes. The longest one is Dear Friend and this is mainly because of the guitar intro. So there's a lot of different elements and details in every song but they're just not so very long. Again, an example: Bohemian Rhapsody includes just SO many little details and SO much diversity but only takes 5:55 minutes. One could easily think it would take about 10 or 12 minutes because of all this but it just doesn't blow your head off because they kept it short while including so many different elements and genres. In our case the shortness and the non-existent keyboards may be the two main reasons why the songs just don't sound flamboyant. Despite the fact that we love to oppose the missing keyboards with tons of guitars and surely some kind of “grandiloquence“... but especially me and Alex need that from time to time (smiles).

Well, we've now managed to transfer a picture to our readers of who and what you are and like to represent. Alex, Andrew, Hagen and you're aiming high goals. Are there any precise plans for the next months and how would you like to work on those? Furthermore the question now arises when the newly evoked curiosity will be satisfied – apart from the single The Heart which you have now released independently via Youtube, Amazon and ITunes?

I think the actual album – our debut Into the Open – will be released by spring 2014. We will take our time to find a good and fitting label that wants to support us. A label we can work with properly since I really appreciate teamwork with these guys a lot. I definitely want to give this band a good direction right from the beginning and this debut the chance it actually deserves. If we can't find a label to make this happen we might do it independently but I'm sure we'll find a good way anyway. Our goal to spread 21 OCTAYNE's music and message worldwide and make it become viral appears totally achievable due to our great contacts via Hagen – amongst others of course. We would love to find a good label doing a great contribution. Another goal is being able to play some shows next year. We've partly managed to reach this already since we got engaged as a support for Pink Cream 69 for three shows in Europe in Dec 2013 and Jan 2014. This makes it possible for us to present our music even better. Hopefully we can play some more shows or festivals after that and maybe even do a club-tour by end of 2014.

So what's your very personal wish for this band's future and what will you do to make it happen?

My very personal wish is that we'll manage to save rock'n'roll (laughs).

Wow, that's a BIG wish!

Well, big but surely accomplishable! By doing all this promotion and by putting all our effort into making this band become established - if not viral - right now we don't start at point zero. And I think I'm speaking for all of us if I say that it's definitely about time that a newly rising ROCK BAND enters and remains within the awareness of the people. And not just become part of a small niche market. We would like to make a change within the perception of this world concerning music. It's a shame that nowadays so many awesome bands – I could name SO many at this point! - have to play in front of very small crowds whereas all those indie-alternative-bands experience a huge support by radio stations and easily fill an arena. To be honest: It's ENOUGH! I kept on observing this development for a couple of years now and NOW it's definitely time for a change, if not for a CHALLENGE! It's a personal challenge – even though this is not a matter of competition like in sports – to finally make all this monotony with the 50,000 U2-sound-alikes come to an end. It's time for a change! Enough already with indie-rock!

Is there anything you would like to mention or say to our readers and hopefully future fans at this point?

I would like to ask you to stay open-minded. Be open for different types and genres of music and remain faithfully to what it's worth it... like rock'n'roll is for me. But what kind of music that might be for you doesn't matter, just remain faithful! Be tolerant, open and hell, BUY CDs! Just don't – DON'T! - download the music somewhere. Support the music you love!
Just like in this life there are good and bad days but you can't cherish the good moments until you haven't been through the bad ones. We've just experienced this with 21 OCTAYNE – that's for sure – but now we can cherish what we've achieved so far.
What I was saying about monotony before is again adapted to your personal taste of course. But it's just too much black and white these days. Good/not good. No tolerance or candidness towards new things, new bands. It's all about mainstream... yet again: monotony. Don't close your eyes, you might miss a lot of great bands, a lot of great music in fact. I would love this world to give music a chance that is written with a high musical sense – while being catchy though.

So... 21 OCTAYNE should symbolize a wake-up call?

Yes. Oh God, yes! Perfect! 21 OCTAYNE is a wake-up call. Another journalist wrote that we wanted to go through the roof... that's right. But's that's not the only point. That'd be commercial. Of course we're tending to some kind of success but moreover we want to wake this world up. Jeez, that sounds almost political (laughs). But I'd be really thankful – we all would be – if some of those people out there could open their minds again.






21-Octayne-Interview

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