Guido Henning may not be an immediately recognizable name in the industrial music scene but his music project will certainly ring a few bells for the more seasoned rivet heads. E-Craft is a project Guido started in the mid nineties and, with various members, the project is surviving the test of time.
Electrocution is the album most people will connect with the E-craft name from 1999. It was their third studio album release and it was the album that got them noticed in the industrial music scene in North America. It also gave them the opportunity to tour North America for the first time.
That album was the hard work of Guido working alone. Electrocution was the new direction Guido wanted to take E-Craft.
“I was tired and bored of the old-schoolish and synth-popish EBM style that the former E-Craft had. It was dusty with broken English.” Guido told me.
After the second E-craft album Forge the Steel, Guido dismissed his previous band members and dropped the label he was on. He wanted to clear the air so he could move forward with the new vision of what E-Craft had become for him. It was a tough decision though and, in retrospect, the decision to restructure would be pivotal to the band’s future.
Earlier this year at Kinetik5 another band member told him “Guido, you know that it’s your fault that I make electro-industrial music? I bought your DOS_Unit album many years ago and I thought to myself; that’s my music I love so much!”
For Guido this is confirmation of a successful band restructuring and that the right choices were made along the way. To know that other artists got start in their craft because of his music must be an even stronger reaffirmation that his music is making an impact.
After the album Electrocution was released Guido knew then and there that to continue the project he would need help. It was too much for one person.
Jan Abraham is second band member of E-Craft. He and Guido are the main force behind E-Craft today.
They had known each other since early youth. They lived in the same city, visited the same festivals and nightclubs, and they both had similar tastes in music. Growing up Guido recalls listening to Die Krupps, Depeche Mode, Propaganda, Kraftwerk, Skinny Puppy and later 242, FLA, Leather Strip and Zoth Ommog stuff.
In the early 1990’s, Guido and Jan collaborated musically for the first time. Jan played guitar and Guido was using a friend’s old drum set and they recorded themselves as they experimented with different sounds. Though it wasn’t until the Electrocution album that the two started collaborating together on the E-Craft project in 2000.
“He is my best friend. A part of my family, like a true brother” Guido told me “He is an outstanding songwriter and has a wealth of ideas.”
When talking to Guido it’s evident that there’s a bond between him and Jan that’s deeper than just band members.
They share the same work ethics (coming from very similar backgrounds) and philosophies, which allows them to work together very efficiently. The 2001 Release DOS Unit was their first joint project. Since then they’ve collaborated on the album Unsocial Times and the single Unit 371. Earlier this year E-Craft released The Roots, a compilation album of their earlier works from the pre-Electrocution days.
“Tell me about what sparks ideas for a new track with you guys” I ask Guido.
“We’ve got different approaches. One of us may have a cool idea for a hot hook, or sometimes a spark is generated during programming of drum grooves and bass lines. Sometimes it’s just a buzzword that builds up to a song, or a cool groove which permeates the entire song. The great thing about working with Jan in this kind of work is that we understand each other without saying a word. In the last few years we developed an almost symbiotic relationship between us.” He explains.
“What about vocal tracks?” I ask
“When we record vocals we make sure that everyone’s voice at first is completely dry, and record it several times. Then in the mixing stage we add dynamics, reverbs or effects, vocoders…. whatever…” Guido replies.
“Are the lyrics originally written in English or German?” I ask.
“Mainly I write the lyrics in German. German is a very tough-sounding language. Here we make sure that we can accurately translate this character of the language. We use exclusively imperative sentences. Some bands like KMFDM, Eisbrecher or Rammstein do this to perfection and it still sounds very poetic.” Guido replies.
Every element of the music Guido and Jan put together is very carefully and deliberately crafted down to the smallest detail.
Guido and Jan grew up in East Germany. Guido’s home town was Eisenhüttenstadt (which literally translates to ‘iron-works city’). A city which was built in the 50’s to house the workers of then Europe’s largest steel processing plant. This socialist and manual labor driven environment promots a strong work ethic. Along with the schooling which to Guido was often reminiscent of military drills, these elements have molded him and Jan into tough and uncompromising individuals. Boys of the socialist working class.
These qualities are reflected in the music of E-Craft and it’s those same qualities that drive them forward in their musical endeavors.
“We are East German guys! Our mentality is sometimes a little rough. The East Germans make the better hard music.” A smile broke on his face. ”They like drinking, partying and fighting.“ Guido continued.
“We are not about political correctness. We tell you directly what we think of you. All this in a loud and exact German.”
A good summary of Guido’s personality.
Outside of E-Craft, Guido and Jan are partners in running a music studio in Germany, called SOL51. Amongst producing their own music for the E-Craft project, SOL51 also produces and compose music for other bands, advertising jingles and soundtracks for TV shows. The studio began at the end of 1999 when Jan and Guido decided to set up a music studio in Guido’s basement. This move was a huge financial risk to them both, as a lot of money was invested at the time. Today, SOL 51 has been a great success for them. It is what they do when they are not working on producing E-Craft material and it is what they call their day jobs. It’s great to see that Guido and Jan managed to turn their passion for music into a way to make a living out of it. A huge accomplishment by any measuring standard.
“Being the East Germans that you are that are” I remark, “not politically correct, like to drink, party and fight, you must have gotten you into some sort of trouble on your tours over the years. Any stories you want to share?”
“First, I must say, there is an unwritten law: ‘The code of the road’! It says: ‘see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing’ Hence, there are some stories which have not happened in the backstage.” Guido said smiling.
We both have a good laugh.
“But there are some stories of things that have affected us on stage. One of them is regarding E-Craft kicking bottles off the edge of the stage.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Due to fluids on the stage, we got an electric shock during a show in Denver a while ago. From the monitor power cable, through the puddle and into the mic stand. That was not funny. So we want to let the crowds know: take your fucking drink from the stage!”
“For the longest time there’s been a wonder if there a story behind the E-Craft name, or any significance to it?” I asked.
“Well, in the former East Germany there were top-quality products that were sold exclusively only in the West. For example, transformers, diodes, digital circuits. These products were sold under the label ‘Voltcraft’. Mixing consoles, microphones, headphones were sold under the label ‘Soundcraft’.” Guido recalls.
“We wanted a band name aimed at our former old fatherland. The German word Kraft means force or power. E stands for Electro or the name of our hometown Eisenhüttenstadt. Anyway the name suggests it must be progressive music.” He further explains.
To Guido, progressive refers to their alternative style of music. Different and innovative. Beyond the mainstream and commercial.
“You guys were great at Kinetik this year, and I was so excited to see you perform live. How was your experience at the festival? “ I ask.
“Ahhh Kinetik… Great event! We were very happy to come to the festival.” responds Guido.
Enthusiastically he continues “And we were very surprised that people were still around for our performance given that it was so late in the evening. Some could even sing the lyrics!”
It is clear that it means a lot to Guido to see that there are many fans on this side of the pond.
“We could not show the people how E-Craft puts on a show as we do in Europe. The cost of the entire live setup is too high. We could not fly in things like laser beamers and video screens for our multimedia show, guitarists and our own big drum set.” he said.
The shows they put on in Europe are quite elaborate and highly visual. Well worth seeing them on their home continent if the chance arises (planting a seed). With the planned released of the new album later this year, North America will see a tour and with that we should get a chance to experience a true E-Craft performance.
“It was still an amazing show you guys put on.” I tell Guido.
“Thank you” he replies “I would like to express a massive thank you to Dan Platt! He helps us out on stage for the guitar tracks. He drove all the way from New Jersey to Montreal to do the show with us! Massive THX Dan!”
When touring in Europe, E-Craft also enlist Joerg “Mr. Electroctutioner” Slupecki to play keyboards and Arno Buchholz or Wito Krueger to play the drums. They have also contribute material on the new album.
“ There is a new album that you are currently working on. Tell me some more about it” I ask Guido.
“Oh yes! We are currently working on a new release. We have already played some tracks at our concerts. The album titled Re-Arrested will be released in the second half of this year.” Guido replies.
The new album has been in the works for a long time. It was originally planned as an EP but now there are enough tracks for a full album. It will be released on Infacted Recordings out of Germany. Recent studio work and samples of the songs on the new album can also be found on the E-Craft facebook page.
“Re-arrested will of course be a typical E-Craft album, and on the whole I would describe it as rock-heavy: amplified acoustic instruments, guitar and acoustic drums. There are also songs that will serve the dance clubs.” Guido continues.
“Having heard some of the tracks you’re working on, I am really excited. Can’t wait for the album to come out.” I tell him. Based on the few tracks I have heard, the energy and the sound is amazing. A natural progression of the E-Craft sound. As this album is anticipated by many, I do not believe it will disappoint.
Interview by: Adrian Onsen
Photobraphy by: Onsendesigns Photography