INTERVIEW CLEMENS ENGERT (ALIEN HAND SYNDROME)
Discovering Alien Hand Syndrome was a complete, twitterish accident for me… and I’ve been enchanted ever since! One click and I was thrown into a trance that made me unlock the otherwise untouched corners of my mind and if you try it out, I promise you that you will feel the same.
Getting to know Clemens Engert, ‘’the man behind the mask ‘’, I realised how much of a versatile and enticing character he is…. yet the secrets keep on coming. Throughout this entire interview exclusively done for the Emerald Gore Society, I got the meet an artist in the fullest sense one could ever encounter…a musician, a lover of literature and cinematography and, most of all, a writer that penetrates the personal in order of touching the public and relating to their deepest, darkest unanswered questions.
Feeling tempted yet? Here it is, the complexity of the main presence behind Alien Hand Syndrome.
1. How was Alien Hand Syndrome born? What ideas stood behind it in the beginning and did something change?
I started Alien Hand Syndrome as a solo project in late 2007 after I had come back from a six-week-long alcohol rehab program. I took the band name from the neurological disorder named “Alien Hand Syndrome” – it sometimes occurs after strokes – where the patient loses control over one or both of his hands or legs. I chose the name because I´m trying to transfer it to a mental level. Everybody knows a part of his mind (fears, dark thoughts, depressions etc.) that one is unable to control – I for myself can say that there is a lot of stuff buried in my mind that I don´t comprehend or can´t control. I use my music as a tool to get rid of those things that scare me or drag me down; my music helps me to find a way out of my own, personal Alien Hand Syndrome so to say. The first two EP´s were both released in 2009, the first LP “The Sincere And The Cryptic” came out in 2011. Last year my second album “Slumber” followed. I experiment with a lot of different styles in my music. “Slumber” is a rather quiet, balladic album compared to the earlier stuff. But I guess all of my songs have a quite dark, emotional atmosphere. That´s probably the central theme.
2. Most influential book/song/ movie that marked/ inspired you as you were growing up?
Wow, now that´s hard – let me think. It´s difficult to choose a single song, but for example “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead is a track that is still giving me the creeps after all these years, because of its sheer beauty. Especially the end part, where Thom Yorke sings “Rain down on me, from a great height” is simply out of this world. When it comes to literature, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka has always been a story, which totally captured me. It´s simply a perfect tale of alienation and alienation is one of the main themes in my music too. And movies? I´d definitely have to pick “The Exorcist” and “A Clockwork Orange”, because those were the films that inspired me the most, when I was an adolescent.
3. You hinted at the fact that you are quite a Cinephile. Can you tell me if you have a favourite movie or documentary?
Well, I wish I was more of a cineaste than I actually am. I love all kinds of movies (from Disney classics to comedies to European art house), but I´m lazy and I only very rarely go to cinemas. I like to brag about being a cinephile anyway and I do know a lot about horror movies and true crime documentaries. I often ask myself, if I actually do have a favourite movie but it´s hard to tell, so I´ll just pick a few for different categories. When it comes to fantasy films for example I really adore the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Wizard of Oz” and all Tim Burton movies of course. In the “Thriller” genre still nothing compares to “The Silence of The Lambs” and if I want to have a good laugh, I really love the “Austin Powers” movies or “This is Spinal Tap”, just to name a few. Among my other favourites are such diverse movies like “A Beautiful Mind”, “The Sixth Sense”, “Pan´s Labyrinth”, “Amélie”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “The Celebration”, “Edward Scissorhands” and many David Lynch movies. Those are the not-only-horror-related ones.
4. When picking a movie from the horror genre, do you choose a certain style of movie that you always choose over others?
Yes, definitely. I´m not too much into the typical, gory type of horror movies. I prefer psychological or religious twists to cheap thrills. It might sound like a cliché already, but often the real horror indeed does not lie in the things that you are actually shown, but in the things that build up in your head, while you´re watching a movie. That´s why I find movies like “The Exorcist”, “The Sixth Sense” or “The Silence of The Lambs” far more disturbing than something like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Hellraiser”. I do enjoy some splatter classics like “Cannibal Holocaust” or “Hostel”, but I especially love well-made horror movies with a religious context like “The Omen” trilogy – probably because the Christian religion and some of its concepts like “Satan” or “Hell” already really scared me as a child. I was never afraid of Zombies, Werevolves or creatures like that.
5. Favorite actor/ actress/ scream queen.
I really love Johnny Depp and Edward Norton, although they seem to be quite everybody´s favourite actors. Depp mainly because he is so incredibly versatile and has made so many great movies with Tim Burton - and Edward Norton is just fantastic in each of his roles. When it comes to actresses, I really adore Charlotte Gainsbourg. She´s obviously not afraid of exploring extremes in her work, which is always something truly admirable.
6. Favorite monster/ villain.
Well, “The Child Catcher” in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is definitely a character that always scared the shit out of me. I remember watching that movie as a child and it almost traumatized me. Later I found out that many people went through the same experience when they first saw that movie. It´s interesting how many of those horror-related issues are connected with your childhood – well, no, I mean, it actually makes perfect sense in a psychological way. Robert Helpmann, who played the “The Child Catcher”, may have traumatized 2 or 3 generations of children. He´s the very reason, why we´re all so fragile and anxious and constantly struggling with life ;).
7. Favorite director/writer.
Directors: Tim Burton and David Lynch. I also love Tarantino though, but who doesn´t? And regarding horror writers: I was a huge Stephen King fan until I was 15 or something, but I grew out of it. Nowadays I prefer the classic stuff like Poe or Lovecraft, but I´m not an avid horror literature reader to be honest. Well, I´ve also read “The 120 Days of Sodom” by De Sade, which is not really a horror book, but probably the most extreme and graphic novel ever written.
8. If you would be offered a role in a horror movie, which one would it be?
I don´t know. Do you think, I would make a good, younger version of “Pennywise”? Just picture me with all that clown make-up. You can be honest :).
9. Last horror movie/ book.
The last horror movie I saw was “The Orphanage”. It´s a Spanish production and 95 % of it are really great, only the ending is quite disappointing. I still would recommend it though – just turn it off ten minutes before the end and you´ll love it! And I recently started to read “The Divine Comedy” by Dante – I´m not sure if you could call it a “horror book”, but it certainly is a book about horror scenarios. Especially the first part, “Inferno”, where he describes his idea of hell, is a whole journey of suffering.
10. Do you have any favorite music/ band inspired by horror culture? (songs or bands)
Well, yes, if Marilyn Manson falls into this category, it would definitely be him. I remember well, when I first listened to “Antichrist Superstar” – it almost revealed a new musical universe to me. Before that I mostly listened to straight Alternative Rock or Grunge and with Manson I somehow started to discover a darker side of music that I always had been looking for. That´s how my whole interest in the Gothic and Industrial scene began growing. Soon after that I started to listen to other horror inspired bands like Bauhaus or Cradle of Filth.
11. What character (from either books or movies) inspires you as an artist in present days?
Well, there is one song with a title, which is a quote by a movie character: “Leave Now And Never Come Back”. Sméagol says that in the second “Lord of the Rings” part, as he is struggling with his evil alter ego Gollum. I just thought it´s a suitable title, because – as I told you before – many of my songs are about fighting my inner demons and I thought it was a nice hint.
12. Do you have a cult/ classic movie that you recommend to everybody?
Well, yes, “The Exorcist” has always been and probably always will be the ultimate horror movie. Period. There´s simply nothing, that ever came close to it. I often wonder how that movie was shot, because its atmosphere and effects are so unique. Everybody should watch “The Exorcist”, at least once in life. But it might be more interesting to talk about my second favourite horror movie of all time, as it´s much lesser known and it´s really a film I would recommend to every horror fan out there. It´s called “Martyrs” and it´s a French production. The great thing about that movie is that it works on so many different levels. There are intense shock moments and splatter elements, that you´ve never seen before, but there is also a big psychological, religious and almost philosophical side to the whole film. It simply gives you no time to breathe and leaves you completely exhausted and empty after the end. It´s really an extraordinary masterpiece, but it´s definitely not easy to watch.
13. Does horror go with the ideology behind the Alien Hand Syndrome music?
Oh, definitely. But it´s usually not about the monsters under my bed that I write about – the much scarier ones are the ones in my head. I´m quite an expert when it comes to creating my own personal monsters - I´ve always been really good at that ever since I was a little child. I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old and I was totally desperate because there were so many things in my head that I couldn´t comprehend. I would crawl into my parent´s bedroom and my mom would ask me what was wrong and I would say something like “I don´t know. I have ´issues´”, cause I couldn´t find a better word for it. Years later, when I went to a psycho therapist, I found out that it had been exactly the same thoughts back then that would later cause anxiety attacks when I was a grown-up. Fortunately the anxiety attacks have become less and less frequent through the years, but when it does happen, I still have no words to express what I´m going through. I think people with similar experiences might know what I mean. It´s like you´re stuck in a state of unspeakable, inner terror with no connection to the world outside. It´s so hard to explain, because everybody thinks that you are afraid OF something – it actually couldn´t be further away from the truth: psychotic panic attacks are not about being afraid OF something, it´s literally about BECOMING fear. Wow, now that´s a quite dramatic finale for an interview about horror issues, isn´t it?
I would like to thank Clemens Engert for doing this interview for us and please check all the links below for a taste of his wonderful music:
And how else would we end this for you guys…than leaving you with one of my favorite songs signed Alien Hand Syndrome.
Bye my ghoulies!