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Ophis hit hard with their latest album and third release, ’Withered Shades’, a radical Death Doom offering that showed the Germans’ ability to write vast, dark and uncompromising songs while still very much connected to the early 90’s scene. Doom-metal had an interview with singer and guitarist Philipp Kruppa.

Interview with Ophis.
1. Your debut was released via the small label Imperium and your sophomore via "power player" Solitude Productions. Both have garnered pretty good reviews and everyone agrees that Withered Shades is even better than was Stream of Misery. So what's the next step besides obviously taking the Doom world over and what difference did you see between being signed on Imperium and now on Solitude (if any difference at all)?

It would be a bit unfair to compare Imperium with Solitude, who are, as you said, much bigger. Solitude are a rather huge independent label with several people working there fulltime, while Imperium is a very small project label which focuses mainly on vinyl re-releases, so of course Solitude has much more possibilities. Regarding the quality of the releases themselves, there is for sure no difference between the labels, as both offer high quality. The main difference is the much broader promotion that Solitude does, as well as a bigger distribution. They are generally quicker than Imperium with what they do, and a lot more active. But that doesn’t mean Imperium did not a good job, they are very dedicated to their acts, too.
Our next step will be most likely a split mini-album on a different label, but for our next album, I can very well imagine to stick with Solitude. We already talked about this option with them, but the contract is fulfilled, and we have not yet discussed a new one.

2. How does it feel like to be one of the very few Doom Death bands out there in Germany? Last time I checked there was a shitload of stoner/sludge minor bands but it seems you're quite on your own when it comes to Doom Death. Does it actually help you secure gigs with foreign similar bands or are you just bound to play with bands that are not Doom per se?

We are indeed rather isolated in our sub-genre here in our country. It surely doesn’t help us to secure gigs with foreign bands at all. The fact that we played with many foreign Death Doom acts is solely based on hard work building up a network and putting a lot of energy into booking. Being rather alone in this style is both a minus and a plus. The minus is, that it is very difficult for us to get gigs on Doom festivals over here, as these are overflooded with Sludge, Stoner and Trad. Doom. Also, finding promoters for good club-gigs is often very difficult. The plus is, that it is not that hard to be remembered among Death Doom fans, and there is no competition.
In our earlier days, we were almost exclusively bound to play with non-Doom bands, but this changed during the last years, these days we mostly perform with Doom acts. We are still sometimes playing with Death Metal or even Black Metal acts, but honestly I don’t see this as a problem at all. It works most of the time, because most of these bands are old-school, and in a way we are too. And we’re also big Death Metal-fans, so that’s not a flaw.

3. We won't go again through the bio and early history of the band, people that are still ignorant on the subject may check the various infos availableon the net (including Doom-metal.com, haha) but still, I wanted to ask about the meaning, if any meaning at all, behind the choice of the band's name. Unlike other Doom bands which only concentrate on despair, bleakness and other "accepted" lyrical themes within the genre, you seem to also wander in some esoteric, occult pathways; I even read one guy half-joking you could well be the first NS Doom Death band with your moniker. What's your take on this?

NS-Doom, now THAT’S something new, haha. Our name is the greek word for “serpent”, how could this possibly relate to anything NS-themed?!
Whatever, there are enough bands with despair-oriented band names, don’t you think? When I formed Ophis, there was a very strong influence by occultism and general anti-religious attitude in my life. The name was taken from the Ophites, a gnostic cult that worshipped the snake as symbol of catharsis and emancipation from dogmatic deities and their teachings. While I was (and still am) indeed dealing with typical Doom-topics of despair and bleakness in my lyrics, I still wanted to put an emphasis on this anti-christian attitude, so I decided to take this name. Also, I’ve always been interested in snakes as animals, I always fancied them. Third, and finally, it is a name that is short and uncommon. Three good reasons to pick it, hehe. These days, I would probably choose a different name, but I’m acustomed to it, and I still can see sense in it, so a name-change is not in question, even though it may not be the greatest name of all times.

4. I read early interviews and I read early reviews and even reviewed your latest record and everyone, you included, seems to find a flurry of influences within Ophis' music some even contradicting each other. From dISEMBOWELMENT to Asphyx, from Winter to My Dying Bride, etc. I know that even the most personal music is a patchwork of various influences and yet despite all the more or less obvious influences in your music, Ophis also stand as a stand-alone musical expression. How do you feel about it or is it just us reviewers that just lost it in the end...?

I must admit I don’t really know what to say. To me there is no contradiction between being influenced by both Asphyx and My Dying Bride. Maybe you are a bit confused, because in different interviews, I sometimes mention different bands as influence. This is because there are so many of them, and I don’t want to blubber down the same long endless list of bands, so I mostly name a few, which are in my mind at said moment. We really don’t think that much about our influences, because if you do too much, you tend to follow the same formula as those certain bands, becoming too considerate instead of intuitive. We do not try to hide our influences, as long as we have still enough identity of our own and are no simple copycats, that’s ok to us. Our goal is not to re-invent music, and also not to sound as a mere copy. We just try to forge OUR version of what is there. During the writing, we do not consider our influences at all, only when a song is finished, we sometimes realise there seemed to be certain influence.

5. Not sure if you noticed, but Doom Metal, all subgenres included, is becoming the new Eldorado in Metal. Plenty of musicians from other genres are having their very own "Doom" side-project and it's now officially cool to listen to Doom Metal. What's your opinion on this? Do you see the genre taking benefit from this trend or a potential scourge for it or do you not care at all?

Actually, all of the above, haha. There is a benefit for the genre for sure, for example it is now possible for bands like us to tour or play some festivals, which was almost impossible 5 years ago. The scourge is always that a genre gets crowded with bands and fans who are in it to jump on the bandwagon. So far, I don’t see this happening currently, but it happened to Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal, that pagan stuff... so it may very well happen to Doom Metal, which would be very sad, because Doom Metal means a lot to us, just BECAUSE it has so far been free of plastic-culture, scene-police and boring mainstream. But what shall happen will happen. I can not say I don’t care at all, but I can not prevent it, we just can try to continue what we always did. At least, Ophis is around long enough, so no one can accuse us for being just another trend-follower. Wait and see. Also, I think there is a chance that it will never become as ridiculously huge as f.e. Black Metal did, simply because Doom is no music to get smashed on booze to, it’s no party music and it is very difficult to shock your parents with it. So it will never be as attractive to hipsters as Black Metal. So there is hope.
Finally, I beg to differ on “all subgenres”. You are right that Doom generelly got bigger, but to my perspective, only Sludge / Stoner, Drone and traditional Doom really boosted sky high, while Funeral Doom and Death Doom still are pretty much unnoticed. Look at the billings of all those new Doom festivals... you don’t see much Death Doom or Funeral Doom there.

6. Let's imagine you have the occasion to tour with any given band, active or not, Metal or not. Which one would be the obvious pick? Also are you one of those musicians that actually never listen to Metal but yet play Metal or do you actively follow the scene and what would be the best records you’ve heard recently?

We are definitely part of the scene, follow things that are going on. We listen to Metal a lot (also of course to different stuff), and I would consider us as classical Metalheads (except for our drummer maybe, who is more varied and deep into Crust). Those people you mentioned often – not always – seem somehow pseudo-distinguished to me, you know, being active in a scene, yet keeping a distance... I don’t really get this attitude, but what the fuck.. I am a classic metalhead, and I take pride of it.
As for the first question, I don’t really have a dream-band to tour with, as I am not a fanboy. There is a ton of bands that I think touring with would be awesome (at least musically), but no life-dream. All of them would be fine, haha. Maybe it’s because we already toured with both Skepticism and Evoken, you can’t have much more awesomeness than this, haha.
The best new records I heard recently were “Destroyers Of The Faith” by Procession, and especially the new Murkrat album “Drudging The Mire”. That surely is one hell of an album. When it comes to Death Metal, the new record from Dead Remains is also pretty awesome.

7. Some early Doom Death acts have turned mellow after a couple of albums (did I mention Anathema or Paradise Lost?) as if playing Doom Death was only a pretext to go to an entirely different direction... What's your take on this? Shall we expect Ophis to turn soft and proggy Prog in the near future? and what's your near future like anyway?

Having a future is definitely not Doom, haha. We’ve been playing Death Doom for 10 years now, so you may guess...we will not go mellow, or proggy prog or hippie hip. I have respect for what Anathema do these days, but this is not an op(his)tion for us. Don’t know what got into these bands, obviously they were too young when starting Death Doom, or whatever. It’s ok to do so, I don’t see it as a “betrayal” or something, but it’s not a path for us. There may be a development, in the sense that our last album also sounded different from our first EP for example. This is a natural progression, and since we don’t plan our development at all, it can not be predicted. But the musical mainframe will be the same. If we ever come to the point that we realize we evolved away from our sound as did Anathema, we will change the band’s name or start a new band. I think that’s more honest than to keep your old name just for popularity reasons. Our new songs for that planned split EP are a bit faster than the stuff on 'Withered Shades' and one has a rather different feeling, but it is still minimalistic, doomy and not one bit more mellow.

8. I think that's all, time to say goodbye, announce whatever you wish to announce, bash me and Doom-Metal.com (or not!). Well you get the picture: your last words!

Bring in the troyan whores!!
Nothing left to add really. Fred, thanks for your support, and thanks to the readers for... well, reading!

Visit the Ophis bandpage.

Interviewed on 2011-05-04 by Frédéric Cerfvol.
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