This article was originally published online in 2015, and was something of a follow up to an interview we conducted with Steffen Kummerer, the remaining founding member of Obscura – published in print issue #15. The story was fairly wide-spread, being shared on high traffic peers such as MetalSucks, Metal Injection and TeamRock.
We reached out to Thomas Geldschläger, AKA Fountainhead (Bandcamp) in about being kicked out from technical death metal band Obscura (Facebook / Twitter / Official Site), as well as how to identify a toxic band member: when multiple band-mates clearly don’t want to stick around them.
How would you describe your time with Obscura, the events that transpired, and your eventual departure?
“Exciting, but also disappointing to say the least. I wouldn’t want to view my time in the band as an all-negative experience, even though there was tension between me and Steffen. My departure, however, and everything that followed were (and are), a complete disgrace to everyone who worked so hard on the album and to the fans who support them.
“I never thought I’d see my name dragged through the mud like that, or have somebody publicly try to plagiarise my work. That´s not a great place to be in for sure, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt me as much as it hurts the band itself.”
How was your experience with the other band-mates whilst you were there, and when did you realise that others who had left the band had unvoiced opinions?
“Just fine. Linus [Klausenitzer] and Sebastian [Lanser] are great guys and working with them (and producer Victor Bullock) was a pleasure and a privilege, despite the immense pressure all of us had to deal with while making the album. There are plans for [us] working together again in the future. Linus also plays on my new solo album, and Seb and I talked about doing something as well.
“I’ve known former Obscura-members Hannes Grossmann and Chris Muenzner for a long time and we’ve been working together often over the last couple of years, so I’ve been in the loop about the issues within the band long before I joined. When the offer came to take Chris´ place in Obscura, we all kind of knew what would happen if the issues that had led to Chris´ and Hannes´ departure weren’t resolved in the new line-up. None of us expected them to get so much worse, and so quickly.
“However, it was too good an offer to pass on, even though I was aware that it would be quite a difficult position to be in. Fortunately for Steffen, both Chris and Hannes are pure professionals and would never badmouth or attack a former colleague in public like he´s doing now, regardless of what happened in the past.”
He stated that with Hannes and Christian, it was an amicable departure. Do you believe this is true?
“I´m not gonna comment on that, it would only cause more unnecessary drama, but let me say the following:
“Everyone who played on the last three Obscura albums collaborated and continue to collaborate with each other in some other project, always with the exception of Steffen. Why do you think that is?”
When asked about your departure, Steffen hesitates, suggesting that he “[didn’t] want to go into detail due to your “condition” immediately prior to voicing criticisms about your contributions.
What do you think he meant by “condition” and how much of what he went on to say (if any) is true?
“Apparently he´s trying to give his story credibility by using everything he can think of to discredit me.
“I think that´s just very sad, especially when you consider that he’s the one who got what he wanted: a new Obscura album that HE now gets to promote and tour and make money off. What kind of person would feel the need to then publicly badmouth somebody who played a big part in making that possible?
“The only thing I can imagine he´s referring to is the fact that during the making of ‘Akroasis’ [is that] I went through a tough break-up with the mother of my two kids. If he’s actually using that to hurt me, it’s definitely a new low. The irony is that this situation actually fuelled my creative fire for writing ‘Weltseele’, the 15-minute track off the album: trying to transform a bad place to be in, into positive energy through music.
“On top of that, very little of what he said in the rest of the interview is actually true. I contributed music and arrangements to every song except ‘Ode To The Sun’.
“I wrote 90% of ‘Weltseele’, and recorded ALL guitar tracks on that song… [as well as] the string-quartet’s parts, which my great friend Matthias Preisinger then masterfully orchestrated and the two of us recorded together here in Berlin. There’s also the track ‘Melos’ (which ended up as the bonus track on the vinyl edition), which is basically just me on fretless guitar and the string quartet.
“I did also play rhythm and lead guitar on the rest of the material, fretless AND fretted, on all tracks (except ‘Ode…’). Obviously it’s just ridiculous to claim that using fretless guitar didn’t work, and that he re-recorded my parts when he just released an album where the fretless guitar is clearly audible on at least 4 tracks, and he has never played or owned a fretless guitar in his whole life.
“As for the rest: everybody’s free to check out the dozens of albums I’ve worked on during the last couple of years and make up their own mind about whether I can call myself an engineer (and what has that even to do with ‘Akroasis’?)
“… and that line about Chris apologising for having recommended me? Well, the fact that him and I will continue to collaborate and play together in the future should speak for itself.
“Steffen’s right about one thing though. During the writing process it became apparent that things weren’t working out between me and him, and that’s why in January 2015 I offered him to record the album as a permanent session-member (like Sebastian is). [As] somebody who’s recording and touring with the band but doesn’t contribute much to the writing and musical direction, and is not a member of the band’s company (which I was at that point).
“I had been getting the impression that, more than anything else, his real priority was to establish himself as the “mastermind” behind Obscura with this album, and the way the sessions were going seemed to be at odds with his self-image and ego.
“So I told him that I got where he was coming from and that it was fine if I “just” play guitar on the album since it would’ve still brought me more exposure and the opportunity to tour. Not having enough material on his own (and having already promised the fans a 15-minute track with strings, which was my idea and responsibility from the start), he replied that he wanted things to stay the way they were and encouraged me to continue bringing my input and expertise to the album.
“For some reason he ended up being the only one who ended up not demoing all his parts during pre-production, forcing us to go into the studio with an instrumental album. Then during the recording sessions he repeatedly ignored decisions and plans the band had made as a democratic entity, and changed already-made plans at will without prior discussion.
“After I was vocal about that behaviour being a problem, he fired me over the phone on the last day of mixing the album (which was not even legal, since the company’s contract directly requires a full company meeting and proof that a member is doing harm to the company in order for such decisions to be made). [This was] AFTER I found out that he had hired a session guitarist for the ‘Summer Slaughter Tour’ (again, with no prior discussion), which was about to start a couple of days later.
“He then went on to have all my Obscura videos blocked on Youtube and dictate that the final mixes of the album be kept from me.”
Would you say that it was still a valuable experience?
“Well, I like to think so.
“Despite Steffen’s attempts to cut me out of any promotional activity (and sending the album out to reviewers with a bio that claims that their new guitar player joined the band after Chris´ departure instead of me), more people than ever are discovering my work through ‘Akroasis’.
“Working with Linus and Seb was a blast and I´m getting amazing feedback from people who say they´ve been moved and inspired by ‘Weltseele’ or even starting to pick up the fretless guitar because of my work on the album.That’s seriously amazing and encouraging.”
What are you up to now, creatively? Are there any projects you would like to plug?
“I’m busy as ever. I just finished co-writing, recording and mixing an album of instrumental music with Marco Minnemann (drummer for Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, and The Aristocrats) and keyboard player Jimmy Pitts (The Fractured Dimension, Eternity’s End, Spastic Ink). It’s called ‘The Psychic Planetarium’ and will be out on March 11th 2016 [Pitts Minnemann Project (Facebook / Bandcamp)].
“Then I have my second solo album as ‘Fountainhead’ coming out right after that, which I think is my best work yet and features lots of great guest players like Linus on bass, Derek Roddy on drums, Ray from [Rob] Halford´s band on bass, and many more.
“Apart from that I’m still playing shows around the world with Nader Sadek and am busy teaching, doing session-work, guest solos, and producing / mixing other people’s albums.”