X-MARKS THE PEDWALK for some of us was the music on the dance floor in the early 90s, that was so very attention grabbing. The band has come a long way since then, with their sound changing and maturing, going through future pop, becoming the synthpop power house we have today and with that talent and touch for electronic music, has culminated in the album, New / End. This husband and wife team of SEVREN NI-ARB and the lovely ESTEFANIA, so very graciously gave us a chance to talk to them about family, the music industry and of course the latest album.
Welcome to the dark side of our world, here at Onyx, dear ESTEFANIA and SEVREN NI-ARB of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK.
Estefanía: Hello Adele, thank you for inviting us to Onyx.
The band has in essence been around since around 1987 and seen changes in personnel, style and even been on hiatus. Did you ever think you would still be so well received and still going well over 30 years later?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Until the longer hiatus we had released 5 albums with XMTP. Since the comeback in 2009, 6 more have been added to date. I released another album of my side project (SN-A) and created the soundtrack series “MUSIC.FOR.BOOKS”. I also founded my own label meshwork music and in addition to a few remixes I also produced the two albums of my son Luis Maximilian (LMX). Another one is in preparation. To be honest, no – I didn’t think it would be that extensive. But what we are overwhelmed that we still have such a great fan base and that so many new fans have joined XMTP over the last few years. This is a huge motivating factor.
Your last album, “Transformation”, was released in 2020 and now you have followed it up with the fabulous “New / End”. What has it been like creating and releasing albums during a pandemic?
Estefanía: Especially in the times of lockdown, music was of course a wonderful energy booster and a welcome “refuge”.
Sevren Ni-Arb: Otherwise the production processes have remained the same. With “NEW / END” I was extremely disciplined and efficient with my resources this time.
What is behind the title “New / End”?
Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” closes the conceptual framework of our last three albums. While “Secrets” is primarily a look inside, something closed and reserved, “Transformation” deals with barriers, people and behaviors that constrict us emotionally. It´s about recognizing one’s own weaknesses in order to convert them into new energy. In “NEW / END” this energy is the core. It´s about determination and personal strength, to make conscious decisions, to shape your life differently. “NEW / END” marks the end of a process of change, to take new directions.
It has been stated that the themes are determination and strength through hardship and loss but would you say, that the common theme throughout this latest album is having faith, whether that is in one’s self or in others?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, above all trust in yourself and your own feelings. Expressing and acknowledging these feelings clearly. This allows you to realign yourself emotionally. Accordingly, there are also melancholic moments of pain and loss on the album.
“Firestorm” is definitely a standout track but I also really like “Sacred Ground” for its sweetness and a slightly magical quality. Are there any standout tracks that you particularly love?
Estefanía: I’m glad you like “SACRED GROUND”. Next to “Yesterdays” and “I’m on your side” it’s a song that’s very personal and touches me deeply. It’s about the death of my father, who passed away last year. When Sevren finished the composition and lyrics, I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to confront my feelings in this way. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to freely sing the song in the studio. But in a way, it’s also part of my grief.
What would be the major influence in writing this album?
Sevren Ni-Arb: I’ve been making music for so long now, I don’t have much time to listen extensively to other artists. So I always go my own way. But sure, we are unconsciously influenced by many things that touch us, move us or leave a mark in some way that is also reflected in the music.
On Facebook, I was reading a thread, where they were talking about how people are still saying that they are surprised your sound is now electro synthpop. Why do you think this is?
Sevren Ni-Arb: We were very successful as an EBM industrial band. We were one of the first bands with this style on Zoth Ommog, the then still young, but later extremely groundbreaking label in Germany. “Abattoir” from 1992 is still extremely popular in clubs. And it’s not the only hit from the past that’s still being played a lot today. We also did provocative live shows that fit the image of a “hard” and “aggressive” band. But I’ve always changed the sound of XMTP. Change is part of XMTP’s DNA. I implemented that in my music sometimes more radically, sometimes more nuanced. If you look at our discography, you will see that from album no. 4 (“Meshwork”) onwards the sound was already extremely different from the Industrial/EBM of the early days. With the releases “Facer” and “Meshwork” I’m considered the founder of so-called future pop – that was back in 1994/1995. That was almost 30 years ago. At that time there were already different reactions. Some were excited, others disappointed. And so the disappointed fans “wake up” every time we release a new album. And that’s fine with me. Luckily, taste in music vary and are allowed to change. I understand that fans would rather hear the early works and wish we would come back to that style again. We’ve definitely lost some fans that way. But on the other hand, we gained a lot of new fans and there are so many that have stayed with us over the years. So many have also gotten carried away by all these changes, by the always new and surprising changes in the sound. It’s the very unique spirit of X MARKS THE PEDWALK.
X-MARKS THE PEDWALK is on Meshwork Music, which is your own label, catering to electronic musicians. Before Meshwork Music, you were also signed to some huge labels such as the now defunct Zoth Ommog, Cleopatra, Metropolis and Infacted Recordings that rose from the ashes of Zoth Ommog. What did you learn along the way that inspired you to create a record label?
Sevren Ni-Arb: When founding Meshwork Music, the main motivation was to work completely independently – not only musically – also to make your own organizational and financial decisions, when and how to invest in production and marketing. It is now my personal money that is used. But I am still in regular contact with Torben from Infacted Recordings in particular. He still has our back catalogue in the program. The time with him was really great! He’s one of those people in the music business that’s really on the artist side. Just a great guy!
Do you do much live touring now and would this be something you would like to do with the new album?
Sevren Ni-Arb: We played our last concert at the Wave Gothic Treffen in Leipzig – 2009. We invested a lot back then and produced very complex stage projections for this show, because we produced a live DVD. Since then there have always been thoughts about a tour or individual shows. We are often asked when we’ll be back on stage. But it is an enormous challenge for us – especially in terms of time. We’re not full-time musicians. I am the managing partner of a digital communications agency, and I have also founded another company in which Estefania is the managing director. I also have my label meshwork music. We have to plan the remaining time very carefully.
Estefanía: There’s our family, our dog, friends… Sometimes we just have to recharge our batteries and we want to spend and enjoy our time as a couple. Not to mention my fear of flying…
Sevren Ni-Arb: … so, there are no plans yet. But there are thoughts again…
I am in awe of your relationship. You are a couple whom have created music together, had a family, chosen to put music on the back-burner to raise that family and then come back to it. What is it like having that other person in your life and not just music plus are you each other’s best friend?
Estefanía: We both known each other for so long – we’ve been together for nearly 35 years now. Before we got together, Sevren was already making music and it quickly became his profession. So I took part in and accompanied all these developments, we made decisions together on how we would like to shape our lives. My involvement in XMTP has grown over time. After so many years we are lovers and best friends at the same time. We have so much in common and are still making new plans for our future together. It’s great and a wonderful feeling that the music has now also become a common part. Even if Sevren can be quite strict in the studio sometimes 😉
Sevren Ni-Arb: But only a little 😉 We have a lot of fun in the studio and when a song is finished and we hear the result together, it’s a great feeling to share this moment with the most important person in life.
I always like to ask about people’s influences, so what do you guys into the industrial/electronic scene?
Sevren Ni-Arb: In the beginning, before I finally launched my first own EBM project (“Scarecrow”) in 1988, there were a few bands and artists who absolutely moved me and played a major role in my wish to make electronic music myself. For example: FAD GADGET – especially “Back to Nature”, KRAFTWERK – especially “Computerwelt”, DEPECHE MODE – “Some Great Reward” – still my absolute favorite album by DM, THE KLINIK (“Memories”), FRONT 242 (“Geography”) , CLICK CLICK (“She´s chewing them”), TWICE A MAN, GARY NUMAN, ALIEN SEX FIEND (“Ignore the Machine”) and of course SKINNY PUPPY.
What or whom do you enjoy listening to these days?
Estefanía: Today we mostly listen to music on the side, while cooking (Sevren’s passion), at dinner, with family and friends… We listen to so many different kinds of music: pop, jazz, classical, swing, electro, dance, soundtracks…
Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, the soundtrack to “Interstellar” by Hans Zimmer is outstanding! In general, we like to discover music in films.
If you both had to write a lyric or two, for a love song, dedicated to the other, what would be in those lyrics? (It can be anything from you make my day, to you keep my feet warm in bed)
Sevren Ni-Arb: Oh there are love songs on our new album – not that obvious. But “Yesterdays” is dedicated to my sons and my wife. When you listen to the second verse you have the lyrics 😉
Estefanía: … and these could also have come from me. That’s why I was touched from two perspectives when I heard the song and lyrics for the first time.
What is coming up next for X-MARKS THE PEDWALK?
Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” is on the market for a short time now. The reviews are great. We’re really glad. I’ll think about how to proceed with XMTP later. Now it’s time for my son’s third album. We’re soon in my studio to produce it. But I can tell you this: It’s going to be a great album!
Thank you for giving us your time and the new album is exquisite!
Estefanía: Thank you for the interview.