Interview with: Noise of Kanonenfieber, Leiþa and Non Est Deus

One gloomy evening in early April, I sat down for a Zoom call with German black metal machine, Noise, the mysterious creative mind behind Kanonenfieber, Leiþa and Non Est Deus. As something of a fanboy—Kanonenfieber’s outstanding Menschenmühle was my 2021 Album of the Year and this year’s Leiþa scored ROTM for January—it would be fair to say I was excited.

And what, you ask, did I learn from an hour or so chatting with Noise? Well, certainly not his real name. I did confirm that he is, indeed, German and originally from Bamberg, though no longer lives there. Where he lives now … no idea. I still don’t know what he looks like as I was, of course, greeted on Zoom by a black screen that stayed resolutely blank throughout our chat. I know he used to have a day job (as what, I couldn’t tell you) but now he doesn’t and makes music full time. When he plays live as Kanonenfieber, he has a band, obviously, and he has known some of them a long time, some for a shorter time but I don’t know who they are. I learned that he in fact released at least five albums before he adopted the “Noise” moniker for Non Est Deus’ 2018 debut, The Last Supper, but I can’t tell you anything about those earlier records (other than Noise’s summary, that they’re “not that bad”), nor where you might be able to listen to them. Seriously, this guy really—I mean, really—values his privacy.

But he has his reasons, which we discussed. We also talked about the pressure Noise feels writing the next Kanonenfieber, coming off the success of the incredible Menschenmühle, as well his collaboration with the late, great Trevor Strnad. We talked about Nazis, sexual abuse committed by the Church, as well as the new Non Est DeusLegacy is out on May 12th on Noisebringer Records—and what would have happened if you stripped the Holy Spirit out of the Old Testament. I learned that we can expect a new Kanonenfieber EP and live album this year but will have to wait until 2024 for the next LP. We also talked about the recent Noisebringer Fest and whether we’ll see other bands on Noisebringer Records any time soon, as well as about producing your own records and whether Noise gives a shit about reviews. Oh, and I got a few record recs.

So, here is my conversation with Noise.

“The Nameless Soldier”

Greeted by that unflinchingly black Zoom screen, I start by asking why Noise places such a high value on his anonymity. For him, it’s the “nameless soldier thing, you know? I want to create that because I don’t want to give the music a face. It’s like Cannibal Corpse, you listen to Cannibal Corpse and you always have in mind an image of Corpsegrinder screaming into his mic.” Noise wants people to see the music, not have a mental image of his face as they hear him scream.

Hailing from the small Bavarian town of Bamberg—much better known as the home of the delicious smoked beer Schlenkerla1 than as a hotbed of metal—Noise was 11 or so when he set out on the path to becoming, well, Noise. An older friend, who he “was a little scared of at first,” introduced him to the likes of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Finntroll, and the rest, as they say, is history. For Baby Noise, it was “straight into black metal, the underground brutal shit from the local scene”.

As for actually playing metal, although his mother offered him the chance for piano lessons when he was about 4, Noise points first to his uncle, who bought him a drum kit aged 14 or so. “That was when it all started,” he says, “I built the kit in my room and played drums all day, dawn till dusk”. When a band at school needed a bassist, adolescent Noise bought himself a bass and learned to play that too. Scroll forward another six months, and it was time to buy a guitar, “a flying-V, Alexi Laiho-style, cheap metal guitar”. After that, all he did “for the next three or four years was play drums, bass and guitar every freaking day … for hours, that was all I did outside of school.”

And that first band, was it a precursor to his projects today, I ask. “No, it was Rammstein covers band,” he says wryly. A guilty pleasure for me, as I have disclosed in my AMG bio, Noise agrees: “come on, everyone likes Rammstein in some way, just no one wants to say it out loud.”

So how did we go from Rammstein covers to where we are today? I had been laboring under the impression that 2018’s The Last Supper by Non Est Deus was the first album Noise released, so I am surprised to learn that The Last Supper was simply the first LP he released anonymously, as Noise. There were five albums that he put out in the years before that. When I ask if anyone can actually get hold of those earlier albums, Noise replies rather cryptically, “well, I mean, they are out there.” I expect him to tell me he wants to keep it that way because they were not up to his current standards but instead he says, “they’re not that bad to be honest. I mean, I don’t like listening to my own music but my first real output a few years back, when I released like three albums, it was OK … if they were anonymous, I would put them out on Noisebringer because I’m still kinda proud of them.” That said, “recording those records today, it would be a totally different approach to writing them but they’re a part of me, right?”

“The trenches just terrified me”

Turning to his current projects, I want to understand what inspired Noise to write about the Great War for Kanonenfieber: “Living in Germany, World War II is everywhere and the Great War is totally forgotten. History class at school doesn’t talk about it” but, for Noise, “the idea of World War I is way more terrifying. Being trapped in the trenches, living in the mud, the sickness and … you know, World War II was awful for the mass murder but the trenches just terrified me.” Originally, in 2016, he envisaged it sounding something like Dying Fetus but the idea was soon forgotten amid his other projects and only resurfaced years later, sitting with a friend called Dani B., who’s written about the Great War and was into old school death metal, the likes of Kreator, Morbid Angel and Hail of Bullets. Together, they plotted what would become Kanonenfieber because, when it comes to the topics those other bands write about, Noise says, “we always felt they somehow glorified this stuff, you know? You look at, like, Marduk, Endstille or even Sabaton, war is presented as something majestic and glorious … almost celebrating the topic.”

As Noise and Dani sat there, they envisaged something different, “something authentic, showing the horrific side of war, teaching about the terror and sadness of real war.” So they drew on original source materials for the lyrics, using “letters from the front, those deep, sad letters back home from men crying and yearning for their children and their families, their homes, as they died in the mud.”

This all makes perfect sense to me and was how I understood Menschenmühle from the first but then, I have read a lot about 20th-century history, particularly 1910 to 1990 or so, and I am also a German speaker. I wonder though, given all the associations of black metal with fascism—that vein of NSBM in black metal that most of us try our absolute hardest to avoid—did Noise worry about the potential for blowback as a German, releasing a German-language record about war? There’s a long pause, then Noise says he needs to “take a step back. Initially, no, that never bothered me because I didn’t really think anyone would even listen to the music. I thought I’d make, like, 300 CDs and sell them over five years, like usual, and that would be that. Fine. OK.”

But it quickly became apparent that Kanonenfieber was different and it hit Noise “like a hammer to the face” because almost overnight “everyone was saying ‘this guy’s a Nazi, he’s singing about defending the Fatherland’, even though I’ve said over and over, in interviews, wherever, there is nothing right-wing about this. It’s just historically accurate, authentic and correct lyrics set to blackened death metal. Most of the time people get this.” Noise sighs deeply, “I mean, if you’re a little bit aware of your history, you know that fascism started with Mussolini in the 1920s, there was no national socialism during the Great War, you just can’t relate that to NSBM.” Noise isn’t trying to deny the obvious historical path from World War I to II but “how far back do you want to take it, dude? Bismarck, Napoleon … ?”

“This guy’s a fucking legend”

Leaving one difficult topic for another, I turn to Noise’s collaboration with the late Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder) on “The Yankee Division March”. I don’t know what I was hoping for here but Noise tells me “it was pretty simple actually … Trevor was just strolling about on my social media and posted some skulls under a picture of mine, and I messaged him back, you know, saying he’d made my day because I’d been a fucking huge fan since I was like 14 or whatever. He told me he’d already ordered a CD and a shirt … I was like, ‘what the hell?’ but there it was on my Bandcamp: Trevor Strnad, New York, his address, we’d already shipped it … I was just amazed!” A few months later Noise was toying with an idea for a song, half in English and half in German, taking two opposing reports from a battle at Saint-Mihiel in 1918. Then Noise’s friend, Dani suggested asking Strnad to sing the American part and “I was like, ‘no way, this guy’s a fucking legend, how can I just ask him to do this?!’” But Noise was talked into it and, after sending the message, got a reply from Strnad within about 20 seconds just saying “I’m in.” That was it. Noise sent him the music and the lyrics, and about two weeks later, Strnad sent him the vocals.

“For my part,” says Noise, “I’m pretty sure it was the last thing Trevor recorded. There was another LP that came out later2 but it was recorded way earlier … I released “The Yankee Division March” like two weeks after I got the vocals back and very soon after, he sadly, sadly passed away.”

“I’ve written the album four times over”

As for when we’ll get the next full-length Kanonenfieber, well, Noise says he is “having some struggles with it. I’ve written like 50 songs for it, guitars parts, structures but no lyrics and … I don’t know, I’ve written the album four times over now but somehow, I just don’t like any of it.” It’s clear this is a first for Noise, someone who usually writes albums very fast. It’s also clear that he is feeling “a lot of pressure on this next album, there’s a lot of expectations. Then Der Füsilier also did very well, and that hasn’t helped!” Noise doesn’t think that he’s going to finish that record this year but he expects to be out on the road some more (even hinting he might make it to the soggy, failed state of an island, just off the coast of France, that I live on) and also has another EP and a live album (coming pretty soon!) in the works.

By contrast, when Noise writes for Non Est Deus, there’s no pressure and “no expectations. I just write it, I don’t overthink it. There it is, take it or leave it.” Although Leiþa is a very different project again, it’s the same story when it comes to writing those albums. That shows, says Noise, “if you compare the two Leiþa records, Sisyphus and Reue, they are like two different bands, you know? I just write it, let it out. It’s cathartic. But I just can’t do that with Kanonenfieber because people now have expectations for the sound, what’s happening.” Clearly more conscious of this than he’d like to be, Noise goes on that now, in trying to satisfy people’s expectations, he’s got inside his own head in a different way and “now I’m scared that I’m just going to repeat myself and write “Grabenlieder 2.0”, “Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg 2.0”, you know?”

While I can think of plenty of things worse than getting “Grabenlieder 2.0,” I see where he’s coming from. Whenever an album hits me like Menschenmühle did, I’m always torn on what I want from the follow up, more of the same, incredible quality, or for the band to take some risks, avoid repeating itself and see what happens.

“Fighting inner demons”

A very different project from Kanonenfieber, for Noise, Leiþa is about “fighting inner demons, you know? It’s a cathartic project to me. That second album, Reue, was a lot more direct, a lot more honest and open than the last album.” Of that first record, Sisyphus, Noise draws the surprising comparison to everyone’s favorite guilty German pleasure: “that was more the Rammstein approach, you know, writing lyrics that people maybe don’t understand but you yourself know what it means. Reue is a lot more personal.” It sees Noise dealing with, and drawing on, not only his own past but also that of his friends and family, where he slips “into character sometimes because someone I know had these feelings or these experiences and I try to speak for them, give them a voice.” As for what that first track on Reue, “1.9.2015,” is about, Noise doesn’t want to be drawn: “It was a really deep and sad subject for me and … yeah, I’ve said my piece on the album, let’s leave it there.”

And Noise certainly did say his piece on the album. Looking back at my review of Reue, which I gave a 3.5/5.0—or a ‘very good’, if you prefer our word scale—I am pretty sure I underrated it. In fact, Angry Metal Guy, in awarding Reue Record of the Month for January 2023, was clear that I’d underrated it (not an accusation he’s ever leveled at my reviews before), saying Leiþa had “wrought a masterful platter of great (4.0)—potentially even excellent (4.5)—black metal that deftly balances the genre’s past and present.”

While he says he was honored by this, I wonder does Noise really care? Does he take note of reviews, critiques, fan responses? “I would love to say I don’t follow it all but, honestly, I read every review, I’m interested in every comment on the videos and what people think … I read everything. I try not to then think about it when I’m writing the music, you know, but that’s the problem of social media, you kind of get dumped into the middle of everything.”

“I guess you can call it disgust”

If the Great War inspired in Noise the horror to make Kanonenfieber, what is it about religion that drives him to write Non Est Deus – maybe hate, I wonder? “I guess you can call it disgust,” says Noise. “I’m a fan of history, mainly modern history but also going back to the Middle Ages and the Church over that period has had such value, such power in society and they did so much …” There’s pause as Noise searches for the right words: “cruel bullshit,” he almost spits. And even with all the scandals about pedophilia, sexual abuse and rape of children by Catholic priests, “the Church still continues to have that power … no company on the planet could have done what the Church has done and still have a voice, still talk to people, still influence society as it does.”

Although Noise has his camera off, I picture him shaking his head at this point, as his tone softens slightly and he says, “so, yeah, I guess that’s where all the disgust built up because there’s so much fucking wrong on this planet and most of the problems are caused by religion.” Noise is clear that he’s an atheist and Non Est Deus is an expression of his fear of the pure power that organized religion wields: “It’s not anti-Christ, nor is it satanism, it’s anti-fucking-religion”, a phrase he emphasizes every word of, giving each a very hard edge. “All these inverted crosses and all this stuff that happened back in Norway or whatever, that was just a stage act.”

The new Non Est Deus, Legacy, which is out on May 12th (on Noisebringer, of course), offers a re-imagining of various tales from the Old Testament. “Basically,” says Noise, “I took some of those stories and turned them around. You know, you have all these problematic topics, like in the tale of Lot, where two angels arrive in Sodom and Lot takes them in. Then, when an angry mob arrives demanding Lot turn over his guests, instead he offers them his two daughters but the angels stop the mob from taking them … well, in my version, I take out the holy spirit or whatever, and imagine what would really have happened, so Lot’s daughters are raped and then murdered by the mob.” So, basically, on Legacy, “everything goes to shit … it’s the story of our legacy, our religion and what came with it.”

“That would be my dream”

Even allowing for the speed at which Noise often works, this guy puts out a lot of music. By my count, since 2018, he has put out six full-length records, plus a handful of EPs, with the new Non Est Deus about to drop and the second Kanonenfieber in the works, plus another EP and a live album. Where does he find the time, alongside holding down a day job? “Well,” says Noise, sounding slightly gleeful, “I used to have a day job but since summer last year, finally, finally … I’m a full-time musician and that’s just what I do now.” What did he use to do, then? “That’s something I’d rather keep for myself,” he says.

Alongside turning out a lot of very high-quality black metal, Noise also manages his label, Noisebringer Records. Thus far, it’s been a vehicle for his projects alone. “At the moment, we don’t have the capacity to do more than that, there’s only three people working at the label doing everything from shipping, marketing, management, website and stuff,” he says. “As everything’s progressing though and my projects get a little bigger, there will come a time where I won’t keep saying ‘no’ to other bands.” So other bands have shown an interest in joining Noisebringer then? “Oh yeah,” says Noise, “some good friends of mine from pretty well-known bands asked about it, mainly because I’m very open about how much things cost and how much money I’m making, you know, complete transparency.” A lot of labels, Noise suggests, just aren’t that honest with their bands and he would “love to set up Noisebringer as an artist-friendly, very honest label that pays musicians in the right way. That would be my dream but it’s probably still a way off.”

Although perhaps organizing events like Noisebringer Fest, which took place in Bamberg over two days in March, suggests that the dream isn’t as far off as Noise believes. The line-up for that two-day festival, featuring the likes of Belphegor, Grima, Hideous Divinity and Kampfar (as well as Noise himself, in his Kanonenfieber guise), shows he already has a fair amount of influence. “It was really crazy actually, both days of the festival sold out completely and suddenly I had these bands I’ve admired for years sitting in my backstage, drinking my local beer, you know, that’s a pretty amazing experience.”

For anyone who’s not been to the north Bavarian town of Bamberg, it’s not the first place you would look for a black metal festival but “everyone was amazed how kind all these dark metalheads were, as well as how much they could drink … the venue had to keep hauling in more and more barrels of beer because they drank the place dry. The owners of the venue had no idea what was about to happen to them and they were terrified as people started to arrive but by the end everyone was super happy! It was all just perfect.”

Although writing and making the music is a solo pursuit for Noise, going on the road as Kanonenfieber, as he did for 15 straight nights in March, Noise has to draft in support: “Otherwise, what, it’s just like me with a guitar in hand, drums on my back, a monkey on my shoulder and a pig running around behind me, or what?” Having clearly amused himself, Noise giggles for a moment before turning serious again. His live band is made up of really close friends, some going back a very long way. The rhythm guitarist he’s known since they were kids and together they started Noise’s first extreme band. The Kanonenfieber bassist played in that band too, while the lead guitarist is one of his best friends. Even the drummer, a more recent addition whom Noise has only known a few years, has fitted in well and “the chemistry is perfect, it feels like just friends hanging out, having fun.”

“I just pay for the electricity”

One of the things that sets apart Noise’s projects from many other black metal outfits is the production, which is pretty much flawless. Handling both this and the mastering himself, Noise is, I discover, completely self-taught in this field too. During an illness a few years ago that left Noise bedridden for six months, he just had his laptop for company. “So,” he says, “for a half a year straight, I just tried to figure out how to make music sound good and after that, I still sucked at it but got less and less shitty from LP to LP.” Because Noise does everything himself, from writing and recording to producing, and all on his own label, he doesn’t face some of the pressures other bands do. “Nikita Kamprad from Der Weg Einer Freiheit,” he says, “you know he’s a great, great producer and he’s mastered some of my work before but that guy mixes a song in like two days! As I’m an amateur, it takes like four weeks for me. I am very slow, as I look at every detail, take a lot of references from bands or albums that I like, and try to match it in places. I might mix an album 20 times or something before I am satisfied enough to release it.” As a fully-DIY musician, “I just pay for the electricity … everything else is just my time. But I invest a lot of that. Otherwise, I would just sit around and watch Netflix, and my wife would kill me.”

I wrap up the interview on a selfish note by fishing for recommendations of recent releases that I should check out. Noise reaches for his phone—at least he tells me does, obviously I cannot see him—“I’m terrible with names,” he says. I am not disappointed as he reels off a number of records for me to check out, some I know already, many I don’t, including Antrisch’s EXPEDITION II: Die Passage, Dust by Thron and Hunter by End, which are the picks of the bunch for me (plus the likes of the excellent Afsky, which is already well-known to the denizens that lurk on this blog).

I spent an hour and change chatting to Noise, and although, in one sense, I don’t know much more about him than before—at least not in terms of hard facts—I do have more of a sense of him as a person. He is a thoughtful and relaxed guy, with a wry sense of humor, who is just loving the fact that he can now focus exclusively on doing what he loves: making music. That, in turn, makes me even more excited to see where he goes next and I won’t have to wait long because, as soon as I finish writing up this interview, I need to turn to reviewing Non Est DeusLegacy.

Noise is on the road across Europe with Kanonenfieber from May to August this year, with further dates to be announced. For more information and tickets, visit Noisebringer Records.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Tastes liked smoked ham and campfires.
  2. I think this must be a reference to Baest’s “Gargoyles“.
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