Metal Mofos‘ Isaac Sauers struck up a conversation with sensational new Swiss technical death metal band Virvum’s guitarist Nic Gruhn to talk about their new full length debut album Illuminance.
Metal Mofos: How did Virvum first start?
Nic Gruhn: I started this band together with Bryan Berger (Vocals) in 2007, when we were16/17 years old. A lot of members were involved in the process until in 2013, when we ultimately called our band Virvum, and the line up became solid. Bryan originally started as a drummer and changed to the mic in around 2011. In 2013, I got the opportunity to fill in as a touring guitarrist for the US Band Fallujah. This tour opened my eyes, and ever since I got back from this tour, Virvum was taken much more seriously.
MM: How were you first introduced to heavy metal? Who inspired your guitar playing the most? What artists inspired Virvum to play the type of music you play? What type of gear do you use?
NG: I’ve been into metal since primary school, when bands such as System Of A Down (Toxicity) or even Slayer got my attention for the “heavy” music. I took it from there, and with the years, you get deeper into the material and into the subgenres etc.
As far as my personal taste, I’d say my guitar playing is most inspired by bands such as At The Gates or Necrophagist. As I wrote most parts of our new album, that’s also kind of what I’d say it was inspired by the most.
Though, if there was one band to name that we all share the same amount of love for, It would be Chimaira – Rob Arnold’s songwriting is phenomenal. He doesn’t get too technical with his leads, but they are so memorable, they stay in your head for years – exactly what Virvum is striving to do, even though we’re still technical (laughs). My current gear includes a custom Dean RC7 with EMG7 pickups. We both use powered Kemper Profilers as amps, and I additionally use a Strymon Bigsky Reverb pedal with mine.
MM: The guitar work on Illuminance is very complex. Do you and Groftoby share lead duties or do one of you play rhythm parts and the other leads?
NG: We both have solos throughout the album (I wrote all of them except for his solo in the song “Earthwork”).
MM: Do the two of you partner on song writing duties?
NG: I wrote the majority of the album myself. Being in a death metal band for many years, it just works out as the most efficient way like this.
MM: What inspires the lyrics on the Illuminance album?
NG: Abstract things – “Illuminance”, all in all, is a concept album about natural existence of things that go beyond the human senses. What if there are colours that are not visible to the human eyes? What if, next to solid, liquid, gas, there was a state which we don’t know about? Also, could light eventually transform its state and become liquid?
MM: Can you tell me about the metal scene in Switzerland? The only other Swiss band I can think of off the top of my head is Celtic Frost.
NG: Although it’s more complicated for a touring band to get over the border (tolls, customs, etc), we still can’t complain. We have plenty international acts playing some city every week. But you are totally right, the other way around, there are not many Swiss bands who can leave their mark on international grounds. Bands that would come to my mind would be Samael, Coroner, Tritpykon, or Eluveitie. But there are many talented underground bands from our area, totally worth checking out – Mycelia, Oral Fistfuck, Carnal Decay, Female Nose Breaker, to name just a few!
MM: Do you have any upcoming tour dates planned?
NG: We just got a show confirmed in Iceland, which is very special to us! But apart from that, we are constantly looking for more shows, and trying to get on a tour line up as soon as possible. Some people have recently mistaken us for a studio project or similar – Which is definitely not the case! We are a fully functional band and currently on the lookout to play shows in Europe, or all sorts of tours.
MM: I see you are currently not signed to a record label. Could you please tell me about how Virvum self released Illuminance? The album sounds fantastic and has high production value for not having the backing of a record label. Do you think record labels still add value in the music industry?
NG: We knew the product was good on a musical level, and we wanted the quality of that product to be as good as possible, so we prepared and invested the necessary funds.
It’s not a coincidence that the album’s overall sound is brilliant; It’s because we paid a very talented guy (C. Brandes at Iguana Studios Germany) his part for doing an awesome job with the material we’ve been working on for so long. The production (not only the mixing and mastering) was not cheap, but it was totally worth it, for we can have this album in our hands now, and be 100% satisfied with it.
We sent out a lot of applications for labels – and also got some positive responses. The offers we got were not satisfying though, so we prepared the self-release as well as possible, including an international merch store.
In my eyes, labels DO still add value in the music industry, especially in fields like distribution and promotion. Those are fields which you, as an independent band, can never handle as efficiently as a well-experienced label. Also, getting on a tour in order to promote our album seems much harder to us than it probably would have been if we signed with one. In the end – It’s always a matter of knowing and be in possession of the email addresses of the “right” people, who have been working in the field for years, and are able to help you out.
MM: Illuminance was released September 16th. What has the listener response been so far?
NG: Overwhelming. We knew it was a good product, but you can never know that 100% before people from all over the world contact you, just to say how awesome they think it is.
MM: What is your favorite song on the album?
NG: Tough question! I could definitely tell you my least favourite – But for the top favorites, I think everyone in the band would agree on either the title track, Ad Rigorem, or the two closing tracks (which actually form one 12 minute song).
MM: If you could share a bill with any band in the world who would it be?
NG: Just because we’re fanboys… Chimaira
MM: Where do you prefer people get your music? Order a CD? Bandcamp? iTunes?
NG: We appreciate fans buying the album anywhere they like! I think Amazon is the cheapest. Bandcamp (physical or digital) offers the best deal for us though. As an independent band, we get close to 85% of what the fan pays for an album/merch (there’s bandcamp’s commission, plus paypal fees).
Well, there you have it. It like oks like Bandcamp has a great institution set up for us, fans of music, to really support artists.
Make sure you check out Virvum’s full length debut album Illuminance out now. If you’re a fan of death metal or just stellar musicianship you’re sure to enjoy this excellent album.
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