How the "wall of sound" is created - ETA LUX in tech talk

ETA LUX on stages that are too clean and the right energy during recording

The rehearsal room of ETA LUX in Bremen-Hastedt is in a multi-storey building. There used to be an Indian temple in here, says Tobi, the bass player, on the way up. Then we come into a long, small room, maybe 20 square metres in size. It smells of hot equipment and long nights. In front of the window hangs an air bed and lots of material – to protect the neighbours. The stoner doom band ETA LUX consists of Torsten (guitar), Poschi (drums), Christoph (vocals) and Tobi (bass) – and they all love to talk about good music and juicy sound. The result was a wonderfully honest and somewhat chaotic conversation with the Bremen fuzz mice.

Hello ETA LUX – you make music that doesn't really fit into a drawer between stoner rock, 70s and doom metal. How would you describe your sound without(!) mentioning genres or musical role models?


Torsten: We've always had heavily distorted string instruments. We started rather metallic a long time ago. The drums were always very, very loud. And then other instruments had to step up to compete against the drums.

Christoph: Yes, the drums drive the sound very strongly.

Poschi: I use marching sticks, which aren't really for drum kits. I saw them in the store where the sign said "Not for drum kits!" Then I thought, why not? I'll try it out. And I like the sound. I don't use so much "whiplash" now. One result of this is that I break fewer cymbals despite the thick sticks. I use the Moeller technique, which also benefits from the marching sticks. Apart from that, I also use nylon tips instead of wooden tips. But such thick sticks also make for high volume.

Torsten: Although we have now moved away from just getting louder and louder.

The Moeller technique is a special percussion technique for drums. It is named after Sanford A. Moeller and was developed for efficient and fast playing with limited effort even in long and intense pieces. It consists of four main movements:

  1. Downstroke: Here, the stick hits the drum hard and remains on the surface. This produces a strong, loud sound.

  2. Upstroke: This is where the stick bounces off the drum to prepare for the next stroke. The resulting sound is quieter.

  3. Tap: This is a gentle motion where the stick touches the drum and quickly bounces back up. This produces an even quieter sound.

  4. Full stroke: In this movement, the stick hits the drum with full force and springs back to the starting position, producing a powerful, loud sound.

Moeller's technique enables the drummer to play a wide range of dynamics, while still being able to incorporate rapid beats with relative ease. This makes this technique very valuable for drummers who can play long and complex pieces without tiring quickly.

But your loudness is not a stylistic device, but rather a symptom?

Poschi: Exactly. We are very loud, but not because it's cool or anything like that. I just play the drums very loud. That's what sound engineers often say: hey, turn it down - that's feedback no. 1 at the sound check.

Torsten: But that's just the way it is: the drums have no volume control and we don't play with ChiChi drums, not with triggers, but with real shells.

Poschi: No plug-ins, no direct-in, no digital amps, no click on stage, we need direct energy between us, no matter where. We also work with feedback directly from our amplifiers. You also need volume for that.

If we only consider the string instruments, how does the ETA-LUX sound come about?

Tobi: A big part of our sound comes from playing very low. All strings are tuned four semitones lower and the first string a further two semitones lower. "Drop A#" is what you would call that.

Torsten: The guitar and bass are both very bassy and work with fuzz to create a fat wall of sound.

Tobi: I even use two fuzz effects at the same time, which sometimes work together in such a way that the sound does not necessarily get fuzzier. Two fuzz pedals on top of each other can also tame one another.

Christoph: The wall of sound describes it quite well. I joined the band later and ...



... whenever I joined the guys in the rehearsal room, there was a sound wall in the room. It goes straight to your stomach.


How does the wall of sound come about? You're bassy and loud, but what makes that into a wall?

Poschi: It's the very deep tones, the bass drum is also very strong and deep, nice and "mushy", not so kicky. But also the playing together of the band, a certain equality of the instruments.

Christoph: Yes. We have no classic lead guitar that somehow floats melodically above the others, but Torsten is part of the wall of bass, drums and vocals. As a singer, I don't sing hook lines over the music either, as if it were some kind of addition that is sprinkled over it, but I'm actually "in" the song. This all results in one big sound wave.

Poschi: It is of course the case that the Orange boxes are part of the wall. They really push the sound forward.

Tobi: We all use comparatively few effects. In addition to the two fuzz pedals, I use a flanger, a wah-wah and a booster for the overall signal increase. A clean starting signal is important. The Orange boxes have a wooden body, which makes a big difference in the low-frequency range. So nothing rattles in the bass tones. The metal boxes of many manufacturers start to rattle in the low-frequency tones. This is all part of the sound wall that we produce.

Can that be easily transferred to the stage? The locations are very different and your low-frequency sound reacts differently to a hall and to a corner pub, doesn't it?

Torsten: It's possible. Actually, we're a band that's technically oriented towards the 1970s and one that doesn't have to be picked up by a PA system in the case of many small clubs. However, we are often picked up in order to better control the stage and the sound in general. I also have a sort of limiter-equaliser effect that tames my sound slightly down to the mid-ranges when it gets too unmanageable on stage. I really don't like it, but if there's no other way, it saves the sound. So we can also play at the smallest locations. Our stage volume is a challenge for mixers because they're not used to it.

Christoph: A lot of bands play with a DI output directly into the mixer and there is nothing on stage except the laptop.

Torsten: Many metal bands have a very clean, quiet stage with perfect digital pickup.

You say that like it's a bad thing ...

Torsten: I think it is. There is hardly any sound on the stage. If I used to like a band, I would go to right in front of the stage, because the sound was always best there. Today, the sound is not best on stage or directly in front of it, but at the bar or where the mixer is located.

Back to the wall of sound and loud stages: how do you get this sound into the studio?

Christoph: We record our albums with Timo Hollmann in the studio. He simply understands our sound very well. This is of course a great advantage for working with a mixer in the studio.

Poschi: The way we do it is of course that we send test recordings from the rehearsal room to the studio for reference. And Timo also came to the rehearsal to listen to the new songs live beforehand. This makes it easier to transfer from the rehearsal room to the studio.

Torsten: In principle, we record all instruments live in one room in the studio at the same time and thus create a lot of rehearsal room atmosphere. We use as little digital equipment as possible. We do all the effects ourselves. We're lucky with Timo because he likes to experiment as we do. The megaphone you hear in one song is a real megaphone in front of the microphone, not a digital effect. And when he says, "unzip and zip up your jacket in front of the microphone" or "scratch the fan with the microphone", we try it out. In the end, an interesting effect comes out of it.

Christoph: With our music, the mixer has to have a good idea of what he/she is doing. Many frequencies are combined that have to be picked apart. That's hard work for the equaliser.

Poschi: We couldn't record in such a way that all of us record individually and then go to mixing. That's not possible. We have to create this energy of interaction in the studio and for that, we have to be in a room.

Have you also performed mastering with Timo? There is a truism that says the mastering has to be done by someone other than the person performing the mix beforehand.

Tobi: Funny story – we had five masters made from our current album. Timo then let us hear all five as "blind tests" for the first time. Well-known producers were there who had also mixed Mantar for example. We blindly chose a master that sounded best to us – it was Timo's own version.

Header graphic and images courtesy of ETA LUX / Ole Janssen

Thank you for these honest and clear insights into the world of ETA LUX!

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