Whilst not afforded the international profile of some of the contemporaries they’ve shared the stage and studio with, Swiss mavericks Kruger have nonetheless carved an impressive niche in the densely populated heavy music scene .
With a mission that’s as earnest as simply making the music they enjoy and letting the spores of their art spread organically to fertile minds that seek such sounds, they possess no huge marketing campaigns, no hunger for riches or rewards, just a winning combination hard graft and sincerity. It is an integrity impossible to fake and easy to spot, and is a welcome trait in an industry saturated with falsities and hubris.
Kruger are not only purveyors of genre-bending heavy sounds they are also grounded, content and were generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us.
Can you give us a brief history of how Kruger were formed?
Raph : Kruger formed in December 2001 on the ashes of different local bands. We liked Breach, Entombed and Neurosis a lot and wanted to play some heavy rocking music. At the beginning we had no permanent bassist so Makro from Samael/Sludge handled the four strings before Blaise joined the band some month later. The first album was written and recorded very quickly, we basically just needed it as a mean to play live and we had the luck to support Isis on a few shows soon after its release, which really motivated us to go on on that musical and human journey.
You guys have achieved longevity and international notoriety whilst making music with inherently limited commercial appeal. Do you have any advice for people starting out regarding how they can achieve similar success?
Renaud (vocals) : “International notoriety” ? Wow. We are indeed aware of the limited commercial appeal, but are not sure about notoriety ! We still are a confidential band, except in a couple European countries where we have a slightly better profile… but will take the compliment ! It’s actually – in my opinion- a matter of longevity, of being demanding in our musical production, and of course a large part of luck, with labels such as Listenable (Gojira) and Pelagic (The Ocean) behind us. And, even if this might be “anti-advice”, also because we never had any real objectives with this band, other than creating good songs and play them on stage anytime possible.
Which of the following best describes your creative process and why – Socialism, democracy, dictatorship, or anarchy?
Raph : I was a bit of a dictator in the early days. The typical “control freak”. But with time you learn to let loose and leave more space for the others. Kruger is pretty much a democracy right now, with some tense moments when it comes to writing but the conflicts never aggravate further than a few mean intended private jokes.
As for the creative process itself, it’s close to “controlled anarchy”. Nobody writes stuff at home and then brings it to the rehearsal room except a few times. So everything pretty much happens when we’re gathered and it often takes ages of messy trial and error and endless jamming before we get somewhere musically. It’s a tiring process but really rewarding when you finally reach that point where the puzzle starts to take shape.
I have seen such bands as Tool, Neurosis and Breach acknowledged as musical influences on you guys, can you name any non-musical influences – such as artists, authors or people?
Raph : Hard to answer for the other guys in the band. As for me, I can’t consciously tell if I’m influenced by that book or movie or whatever that would then be regurgitated through Kruger. Anyway, some of my favorite non-musical artists would be David Lynch, Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, many surrealist painters from the 20th century and cloudy weather in general.
A couple of the better internationally known and influential musical exports from Switzerland include Knut & Celtic Frost. Is there any Swiss band or bands that you feel didn’t get the recognition they deserved?
Renaud : Plenty of Swiss bands are great, and most of the time have better echoes abroad than in our country. We could quote Zatokrev, Coilguns, Abraham, The Ocean (75% swiss) and plenty others. We’ve had the luck that The Young Gods, Celtic Frost and Samael helped setting some kind of “Swiss quality label” in extreme music at the time.
How did it come about that you got Kurt Ballou from Converge to mix your album ‘Redemption Through Looseness ?
Raph : We did a meeting with the band some months before entering the studio and listened to a lot of records we liked. We all agreed on the fact that the “Christmas” album by Old Man Gloom sounded amazing. Kurt mixed it so we decided to sent him some demos and asked him if he would be OK to work on our album. He said yes, gave us some advices for the recording sessions and then handled the mix in less than a week. We did the same thing with the following album “For Death, Glory And The End Of The World” (recording at home and mixing at Godcity) and the result came out even better cause we were more prepared and knew how to record things in a way Kurt could more easily push to some massive wall of sound.
You guys must have spent hours in close quarters with each other on the road. Which band member has the most annoying habits and what are they ?
Renaud : Everyone’s really OK (except a farter here and a drunk there), and that’s a chance, and the reason we’re still doing it : I mean, driving hundreds of miles for ridiculous money would be silly if you were doing it with a bunch of assholes, wouldn’t it ?
Among the many, many shows you have played do any stand out for any reasons good or bad ?
Renaud : personnally I like extremes : the Hellfest shows (3x) in front of 3000 people, and a few terrific, undescribable shows in gloomy caves in front of (I mean in front, they were at 20 cm from me!) 15 people ! Playing for a tiny audience might not be good for ego (we don’t have that much anyway), but it’s always something totally peculiar : it creates a very strong relationship with the people around. I ended up a couple shows knowing the name of everyone in the (poor) audience, that was great !
Which act past or present would be your dream tour partners ?
Raph : That’s a tough one. We had the chance to share the stage with great bands such as Isis, Unsane, Meshuggah, Gojira (and even legendary thrashers Destruction !) and it was already more than we ever hoped for when we started the band. Converge would be great though and Chris Isaak maybe (especially for our singer).
What does the future hold for Kruger ?
Renaud : some tracks to be recorded for an EP next year, and as many shows our full personal agendas allow in 2014.
My final question is an unusual one I ask all the bands I interview – If you could choose how you were to die, what would you choose?
Renaud : That’d be in my bed at the age of 85, I’d hate dying before enjoying my retirement ! Not sexy, is it ?
Raph : Hopefully in a state of inner peace and clarity. I don’t care much about how old I would be. You can never know exactly what tomorrow brings…
2013’s “333” EP and heaps more available on Kruger’s Bandcamp.