Interview with Chris Marrok (Anomalie, Harakiri for the Sky)

In anticipation of Anomalie's first ever show in Romania, we had the chance to talk with Chris about the gig, Anomalie, Trascending Visions fest and more....

Anomalie will play their first ever show in Romania on the 14th of January 2023 in Quantic club, Bucharest, when they will share the stage with the legendary Taake – you can check out the event page here.

In anticipation of this show, we had the chance to have a talk with Chris Marrok. Apart from being the mastermind behind Anomalie, a project where he quite literaly pours his heart and soul in, Chris can also be seen on stage doing guitar duty for Harakiri for the Sky and bass duty for Schammasch. His contribution to underground music does not stop here: behind the scene, he is also a tour manager and sound engineer, as well as the organizer of Transcending Visions Fest, a unique gathering from Austria about which we will also talk below.

Hi Chris! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I hope Romania has been kind with you so far!

Hi! Well, I really can’t complain at all, it feels good to connect with the culture that was part of my mother’s family history since generations. To be in Romania feels like the stars aligned and invited me to close an old cycle after all.

On January 14th, Anomalie will play its first ever show in Romania. What can fans expect from this exclusive show?

As already mentioned, I have a special connection to Romania since my childhood days and I always had a very unique feeling whenever I had the pleasure to play your country with several other bands I do or I have played in. But to finally enter the stage to perform my very own songs in here asks for some kind of additional effort and we definitely won’t play a show like others. The set will be longer and I am working on some little details that will only happen at this particular gig.

It also feels great to perform at Quantic again. The last time I played this venue was in 2019 with Harakiri. Back then, I came as a total stranger and simply enjoyed the great stage and club atmosphere but in the meantime I live in this city and during the year 2022 this place and the people who are working there became a dear part of my private life. I even started to work here [in Quantic] as a sound engineer myself every now and then, so to get back on this stage will feel very different and a lot more intimate this time!

Nature-inspired themes and symbols are present throughout your work in Anomalie: from the stunning Visions album cover to the artwork of the debut album Between the Light, or the chant from the latest track from Tranceformation, Eternal Burden. Can you tell us a bit more about where you draw your inspiration from? Is it a specific place or a personal philosophy? The concept of the folly of man vs mother-nature form the above-mentioned track Eternal Burden really got to me, for example.

It never really felt like I am consciously choosing the lyrical content of Anomalie. Each album displays my artistic self at a certain timeframe in which the music has been written. As an example, a lot of the changes that happened in my personal life around 2015 and my directly-connected growth of spiritual awareness, as well as my development away from spending too much time in a big city is definitely visible and audible on the records that followed this intense period of my life. While I usually simply try to reflect and put in words what I feel, what moves me emotionally and what I observe around me. The album Visions, though, was directly inspired by a specific place high up in the Austrian mountains where I spent a lot of time back then and I even wrote parts of the music at the cottage over there.

Yet in general I can’t tell you in which direction Anomalie will evolve next and what things will influence those next steps, so maybe I’d give you a very different answer to the same question in a few years from now. I’ll simply continue to follow my gut feeling no matter what.

Not long ago, Anomalie’s album Tranceformation just had its one year anniversary. Do you have any plans for new material?

Of course there will be another album after Tranceformation and I am currently working on some song structures that most probably will build the fundament for the following record. Unfortunately, I went through very turbulent times since the studio sessions for Tranceformation and for most of that time I was not in the state of mind to create music that transmits what I want to express with Anomalie. This year a lot of things on the private side of life has turned to the better and I started to feel a strong urge to write music again, finally, but I will take the time it needs to do things the right and patient way, so it is too early to say anything about when a new album is to be expected.

After all the Covid cancellations, we have so far only played 5 shows with the current album, so there is still a lot of work ahead to properly present Tranceformation to our supporters across Europe. We’ll be definitely, clearly more active on stage in 2023 before I’ll hit the studio again!

This upcoming gig also marks the very first show you organized on Romanian shores, under the Transcending Visions banner. Do you have any plans for other such events in the future?

Honestly, I can’t tell yet. I love the venue and I love the passion of the people who attend the shows here in Bucharest, so I see a lot of potential to bring some rare-to-see quality acts to Romania every now and then! I have quite a long list of really strong acts in my head that partly never played here before and it would be a lot of fun to fly some of them over soon. But my decision about future events will definitely depend on my first impression as a promoter after completing this first show production with Taake. It is not about perfect numbers at the first attempt, but I need to see the clear future potential to run such shows without ruining myself. It is hard enough to make a living out of being a professional musician and sound guy, so after some big financial losses through self-organized events I got very careful to not endanger my private life quality by taking too high risks like I did in my over-motivated idealistic past.

I’m not doing these kind of shows here, or my festival in Austria, with the aim to earn any money and I’m already very happy if we have satisfied people in front, on and behind the stage and if we sell enough tickets to more or less cover our production costs, but that’s absolutely not for granted nowadays, so let’s see…

Talking about Transcending Visions Fest, how did this year’s edition go?

I had very big ambitions for the 2022 edition and I loved the originally announced lineup as well as the concept of a more intimate show in a smaller club on Friday, and a main day at a quite impressive Opera house venue that we already worked with at the very successful Transcending Visions Fest in 2021. Unfortunately, I highly underestimated the recent developments in post-pandemic times when it comes to logistical expenses, venue production expenses and the change of behavior of ticket customers. At some point I had to accept that I had to pull the plug and cancel the main event to save my ass from going bankrupt for no real reason. I have no sponsors, no partners who share the risks with me, so I decided to reduce the event to the announced venue and lineup of the Friday Pre-Event. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the curse and we had to deal with some short-notice band cancellations as well.

But in the end I have to bow my head in gratitude to everybody who showed up and turned this super chaotic and doomed festival edition into a very uplifting and empowering event full of smiling faces, four fantastic remaining bands and a truly impressing and intense atmosphere during every single performance. All those people who showed up and supported the hell out of this festival project had a direct and significant impact in my decision of continuing in 2023, so a huge thanks goes out to all of them!

This year proved incredibly difficult for bands, event organizers, and for everyone trying to celebrate underground music. Do you think the issues you faced this year will trickle down to 2023 as well?

It will take a few years to get back on track if you look at the overall picture of our industry. A lot of positions within the business are heavily out of balance, both financially and unfortunately also when it comes to work-mentality. But it is the mental part that we have in our own hands. To take care of your mental strength to overcome such times marks the essential first step into the right direction and we all have to make that step ourselves. I’m not a fan of complaining, even though I already went clearly over my standards of complaining about those things earlier in this interview.

I see the current difficulties as a temporary snapshot in time, the last three years created a lot of new challenges within the music business but those challenges are also chances to improve, to grow to learn and to get out of this times stronger than before. I won’t waste my time by focusing on the things I can’t change anyway, so it is all about pushing forward and finding solutions for the current circumstances, which luckily pays off already and I’m looking into the future with confidence, at least when it is about my own small universe, at least that.

Transcending Visions Fest 2023 is shaping up to have a killer line-up, with band such as Panzerfaust and Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. Can you give us any insights into what people can expect from Transcending Visions Fest 2023?

I have learned my lesson this year, so from now on both days of Transcending Visions Fest will take place at Explosiv in Graz where also the reduced 2022 edition took place. I love the stage in there and the boss of the venue is one of our biggest supporters, which makes a lot of things easier.

By only being able to sell a total of 300 festival passes at this club, people will have to make sure to plan their travels early and make sure to buy tickets soon as unfortunately I’m pretty sure that we won’t be able to offer enough tickets to host spontaneous guests this time.

A smaller capacity of the place of course also means that my overall budget decreased significantly, so I had to change my booking approach to make sure I keep within the new financial limits, while still offering some very unique and rarely playing national and international acts.

I’m really happy with the lineup that will gather in 2023 and I hope that we can once again motivate a lot of people from many different countries to join us and maintain the international flair that we managed to build already in the first years!

The last part of this interview belongs to you, if you would like to send a message to our readers.
Thanks for taking your time, hope to see many of you at our show with Taake at Quantic on 14th January and maybe some of you will even make it to Transcending Visions Fest again, it is always a pleasure to welcome a bunch of Romanian guests at our gates!

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