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As you start reading this, you'll be thinking exactly as I did when my good friend Max Waibel told me to check out Panzerballet at this year's MusikMesse in Germany - I've never heard of them. Well all I can say is i'm certainly glad I took his advice - so I really urge you to read on an maybe discover your new favorite band. To quote another good friend Panzerballett do what any great band should "leave me confused, nauseous and with an urge to buy merchandise"

There really is no band out there quite like Panzerballett, combining the complete mind melting polyrhythmic grind of bands like Meshuggah with the smooth sophisticated sort of Jazz you may expect to find in an elevator. There are solos Michael Brecker would be proud of and compositions Zappa would be jeleous of. From covers to originals - metal vocals to crazy atonal female singing (on a Rammstein cover that needs to be heard to be believed). There will be Cynic style cleans, and free improvisations all around. What's not to love? Check out their website and pick up their music now! http://www.panzerballett.de/

You'll probably notice something a little different in this article - There will be fewer pictures than normal and much more for you to listen to - I cant stress this enough - you need to hear this band.

I recently caught up with Jan to pick his brains on all things Jazz Metal - so read on to find out how a true musical pervert creates the music he does, but first check out a Panzerballett cover.

 

The most tragic thing I can say is that I've only recently been put onto your music by a German friend of mine - It wouldnt surprise me at all if many of our readers are unfamiliar with you and your music, so lets start with you and your background:
 
You seem equally proficient in a jazz setting as you are in rock and metal, so whats your background in jazz? Lessons, self taught, school? etc
 
I studied jazz guitar in Graz, Helsinki, Munich and Los Angeles. All of the other band members also studied jazz on their instruments. As for myself, my journey into the wide jazz world started soon after picking up the electric guitar at the age of 16. I soon realized jazz is a huge source to draw musical information and inspiration from.
 
Who and what are your influences in the jazz idiom?
 
There are tons of influences, but especially the artists considered as the "jazz giants" came later than others, not having the same legend-kind-of reputation. It started with a history teacher at grammar school who was very committed to recommending jazz concert visits to his students. I happened to be among his primary "victims" -- he took us to concerts that intrinsic motivation would never have led us to. So my first jazz concert attendances included Billy Cobham, "The Munich Big Band feat. Philip Catherine", "The Brecker Brothers" and "Tribal Tech". It was only after me becoming more serious about jazz and music in general that I stumbled across Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Paul Desmond or Oscar Peterson. The first jazz guitarists I listened seriously to were Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Scott Henderson and Ulf Wakenius. Later on, during my jazz guitar studies, I concentrated on Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jim Hall and John Scofield, but also horn players like Cannonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Freddie Hubbard or Michael Brecker.
 
Obviously you're a serious progressive metal aficionado with an obvious passion for complex polyrhythms and extended range - could you tell us a little more about who your influences are here, and how you've managed to gain such a thorough understanding of the subject.
 
It started all with Meshuggah's "Chaosphere". Since I took up the guitar I was into metal, but this group was especially mind-blowing and so unique -- something I never had heard before. These guys were way ahead of their time, consistently mixing Indian rhythmic concepts into metal. It was the combination of aggression with deliberateness, perfection and an exotic groove appealing to me in a special way. I was so thrilled that I started transcribing their riffs until I recognized a concept behind their rhythmic patterns. This revelation was responsible for my choice of a topic for my diploma thesis: "Analysis and Description of Meshuggah's Stylistic Development" I got very deep into the subject. The Panzerballett concept was born, with Meshuggah as "dad", jazz in
general as "mom", Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects as "big brother", Planet X as "uncle" and Mats/Morgan, John Zorn's Naked City, as well as Tribel Tech as "aunts".
 
Before we start talking about PanzerBallett the music, lets talk about PanzerBallett the fashion! Whats the story behind the headgear??
 
I stumbled across it in a hat store in Berkeley, California. Our former bass player, Flo Schmidt, was already experimenting with crazy outfits on stage, so this was my answer to Flo's blue latex fetish suit. It turned out to be very practical for easy-going but effective headbanging without having long hair, so I'm still using it.
 
 
Could you give us a quick rundown of your current gear and why you're using it?
 
My guitar is an Ibanez RG1527Z 7-string. The amp is a Fractal Audio Axe-FX run through an ART SLA-2 linear  transistor amplifier with an Engl E 412VS cabinet, controlled by a Behringer FCB-1010 midi footboard. I always liked the idea of just having to push one button to get to very different sound setups. In former times this just meant having to drag around way too much heavy equipment. The Axe is an all-in-one solution coming close enough to my former setup soundwise, but preserving my hurting back.
 
Onto the music - for me, the self titled album is by far the most played as the high ratio of original material contained - as the albums come you seem to be doing more and more "covers" (well.... perverted interpretations haha) - do you enjoy playing "covers" more? Or can we expect more of your own material in future?
 
We enjoy both playing "covers" and originals in the same way. The "covers" are just there to facilitate new listeners the process of falling in love with the weirdness by giving them something to hold on to -- like handing out armbands for swimming in a wild sea of sophistication. 
 
Well I'm certainly keen to hear more originals - for the uninitiated, which of your originals do you consider to be your finest?
 
As for me personally, I think "Friede, Freude, Fussball" and "Mustafari likes di Carnival" are successful compositions.
 
I'm more interested in Jan the musical visionary than Jan the guitar hero - so lets talk about just how you go about making the music you do. How do you go about picking a song to rearrange? and once you have one in your sights, what sort of thought process do you go through to come up with the final product?
 
For my style of rearranging I like to use the term "crassification" or "crassifying". Not every song possesses the same "working surface" for crassifying. One of the main criteria for my choice was how known a particular song is, especially in relation to either the jazz (Pink Panther, Take Five) or the hard rock and metal (Smoke On The  Water, Paranoid) genre. A secondary reason was if the song has been composed by an artist that people related us to, like Zappa or Rammstein. Third, if a song came to my mind that was both already complex and well-known -- at least in specific circles (Some Skunk Funk, Zappa-Medley, Giant Steps) -- I was seeking the challenge in making it  even more "crass" than it already is. Last, but not least, I chose songs that no one could even imagine being  performed with heavily distorted guitars, but still in a coherent way (Ein bisschen Frieden, Time Of My Life). As a conclusion, I'm trying to emphasize the birth of a new concept by converting songs from highly diverse styles into one single, advanced and unique style. The crassification process is taking bigger or smaller, but still recognizable pieces out of the song and developing  them into another, more sophisticated direction by using advanced compositional techniques. These are most of the time rhythm-based, but there's also a lot of reharmonization and melodic development going on. Also a very important aspect is that I added parts open for improvisation, which is always taking place on top of the developed harmonic and rhythmic ideas. I guess this is the most significant commonality of our music and what's commonly considered as "playing jazz", but also the main difference between Panzerballett and as good as any band from any kind of the metal genre.
 
 
Perhaps you could talk us through just how you took the Brecker Brothers tune "Some Skunk Funk" - when I saw you at the MusikMesse you talked briefly about the arrangement and I got all the information as a secondary translation a few hours later - I'd love to know just how you treated it.
 
The initial musical idea behind this crassification was to do a tune exceptionally based on quintuplets. This is something nobody usually does. It's a new kind of rhythmic feel, since the whole rhythmic grid of a tune is usually dissected in 2, 3, 4 or 6 notes per beat. "5" has not really been explored, so that's what I did to this tune: Rearrange the whole melody and riffing from 4-notes-per-beat into 5-notes-per-beat -- not the easiest quest, especially when it comes to rehearsing it! This took us at least half a year.
 
Do you work alone the present the ideas to the band? Or do you do most of the work with everyone in the same room at a rehearsal?
 
Basically I am composing and arranging everything at home, doing a pre-production and writing out the parts. Each member can listen to, read and practice his part at home. The only thing we are doing together at the rehearsal is some fine-tuning work, particularly regarding the improvisational parts.
 
I picked that tune in particular because it's not on any of your current releases, I hear there is a new album in the pipeline - can you tell us more? Some originals? Some covers? Any idea of which songs you'll be re-imagining?
 
This was going to be a surprise ... but I already spilled most of those beans earlier in this interview.
 
You're just finishing up a US tour (with none other than the king of perverted guitar - Mattais Eklundh and Freak Kitchen!) how has it been out on the road?
 
The tour was great. We played two shows with Freak Kitchen. Mattias, Björn and Chris are great guys. We
totally enjoyed their shows and it was cool getting to know them.
 
 
Are there any plans to take the band anywhere else? We'd certainly love to have you here in the UK!
 
Tons of plans, we'd like to play everywhere -- all we need is enough money to travel to you.
 
Thanks so much for your time dude! Any closing comments for the community?
 
Gecheckt gebangt ist doppelt gekrasst!