The deep-dive interview with Formalin

Formalin Press Photo 2021

Formalin on coffee, art, love and nihilism

While writ­ing my review on 'Love And Nihilism', the latest record by Formalin, there were so many ques­tions in my head I just needed to ask. What became of it is prob­ably the most in-depth inter­view in the his­tory of Electrozombies! Tom, Gabor and Cosmo really took a lot of time to allow us all a real and very per­son­al insight not only on their cre­at­ive pro­cess but also on their rela­tion­ship inside the band and what core val­ues it stands for. Grab a good cup of cof­fee (of tea), sit down in your favour­ite easy-chair and enjoy a little time with our friends from Formalin!

1. You just released your 4th album and it is quite different to the ones before and I really enjoyed that change. You're turning to a more metal-oriented target group. How and why did this happen?

Tom: Formalin has always been a very per­son­al way to express ourselves since the very begin­nings. And styl­ist­ic­ally, we nev­er made sure to fit into any genre or didn't care to please a spe­cial audi­ence. Rather, we always did what triggered us music­ally – ulti­mately the music that we ourselves would have liked to hear from oth­er bands or that we would have danced to in the clubs or wanted to hear at max­im­um volume in the car.

Quite often I say to Gabor that I would be angry if we hadn't made this or that song ourselves, because I've nev­er heard it in this form any­where else. The addi­tion of gui­tars was there­fore not really new to us, just in this con­sist­ency and clar­ity. One can say that Formalin has always been very cros­sov­er and has brought togeth­er a wide vari­ety of styles. But we don't force that, it comes from our broad listen­ing habits and pref­er­ences, which of course flow into our sound.

Gabor: We're happy to hear that you like the sound of our new album. We're not cre­at­ing music for a spe­cif­ic tar­get group. We just write music in the way we would like to hear music from oth­er bands. We're not only listen­ing to elec­tron­ic music, we also love a lot of met­al music ran­ging from black met­al, doom and new­er stuff like djent. I've star­tet play­ing gui­tar when I was a kid, at the same time I star­ted work­ing with samples and elec­tron­ic music pro­duc­tion on an Amiga 500. So both worlds are con­nec­ted and some­times I'm a bit con­fused when people need a decision if the music has synths or gui­tars. I say it's nice to have both.

2. Tom and Gabor, you acquired a new band member, Cosmo, your new drummer. Tell us the story behind this and how did this change your band aside from the obvious already discussed?

Gabor: Back in the years 2009 to 2011 I've played some live drums. But with 'Wasteland Manifesto' our music star­ted to get more com­plex in terms of har­mon­ies and rhythms. So I switched from drums to key­boards on stage. And over the last years our music developed even more towards more nat­ur­al based rhythms – almost like you know it from rock songs. We always wanted to have a drum­mer who plays with us on live con­certs, but it wasn't easy to find the right one. In 2019 everything went very fast. We rehearsed the first time togeth­er with Cosmo one week before our show on Mera Luna Festival 2019. Time was short but we knew that he was a geni­us on drums so one week after that rehears­al we had a great first show with him.

Tom: Of course com­mu­nic­a­tion has become more com­plex now. Gabor and I are best friends. We under­stand each oth­er blindly, so to speak. You notice that when work­ing togeth­er in the stu­dio. I think at the begin­ning it wasn't easy for our new drum­mer to get used to our very well-rehearsed duo struc­ture, but he made it very fast.

3. Cosmo, you're the „new kid in town“. Tell us a bit about joining Formalin from your point of view. What did you do before and what is it like to work with the guys?

Formalin - Cosmo
Cosmo (Formalin) – © Christoph Köstlin

Cosmo: We got in con­tact through a com­mon friend who, know­ing that Formalin were look­ing for a drum­mer, intro­duced me to them. And coin­cid­ent­ally at that time, 2019 bc (before Corona), after hav­ing par­ted ways with my pre­vi­ous band, it was the right time. It happened kind of fast indeed: we met, we talked, we clicked and soon enough I was rehears­ing the songs for a Mera Luna we played shortly after!

Unfortunately we haven’t had much time to play more live gigs because well… Corona! The new album was already writ­ten pri­or to my arrival but it was the same excite­ment non­ethe­less to ven­ture into new and unex­plored ter­rit­or­ies for me. I find the eth­ics and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of Tom & Gabor inspir­ing to keep learn­ing about the band and the genre; and look­ing for­ward to the live shows again!

4. Let's get back to your newest release 'Love And Nihilism': how long did you work on it and in how far did working on the songs change compared to the albums before?

Gabor: We've nev­er worked that long on an album. After our third album 'Supercluster' we had to find a way how to go the next step. 'Supercluster' was a big mile­stone for us and it wasn't easy to move on after such a release. With 'Love and Nihilism' we wanted to give the songs the time they need to grow and to devel­op. There are oth­er bands who are going into a 'song­writ­ing camp' for two weeks with the clear goal to write 12 songs for an album. We always hated the idea of insti­tu­tion­al­ising cre­at­ive processes.

In the time after 'Supercluster' we wrote about 30 songs, and just a few of them grew to be on the album. Some of them landed as B‑Sides on our four singles 'Tear Down My Prison', 'Faded', 'Devil' and 'Warzone Music Video'. And some of the songs will nev­er reach the ear of someone out­side the band. This kind of pro­duc­tion takes more time, but it guar­an­tees that every song, every note and every sound came from our heart in exact that way we wanted it to be.

Tom: From a song­writer per­spect­ive we didn't change any­thing com­pared to the pre­vi­ous albums. There is an idea and then we start work­ing or shap­ing it with sounds and lyr­ics. We always do it that way. The instru­ments are ini­tially sec­ond­ary. We always focus on the idea or the feel­ing first. As Gabor rightly said, we are always look­ing for a sound iden­tity or a sound that is usu­ally typ­ic­al for the respect­ive album. But that always needs some time and needs to evolve. The music grows and changes with us.

In the end we always cre­ate kind of concept albums and after the mon­ster called 'Supercluster' we lit­er­ally had to ground ourselves first to find out that the next album might be much closer, less future, but more grippier.

5. What is the focus of your creative process: Music or lyrics first?

Formalin - Gabor
Gabor (Formalin) – © Christoph Köstlin

Gabor: Both can hap­pen. Sometimes I have a music­al idea that inspires Tom to write lyr­ics, some­times Tom writes some lyr­ic­al ideas were I have sounds com­ing to my mind. The most excit­ing part is not from where a song starts, but how the songs devel­op. It's fas­cin­at­ing how simple ideas behind com­plex songs are. For 'Love and Nihilism' we worked par­al­lel on dif­fer­ent songs. Whenever someone felt some­thing for a song, he added it to the actu­al state of pro­duc­tion. We both have our own music stu­dio were we can record vocals, synths and oth­er stuff. So the album grew bit by bit.

Tom: Intuitive work is very import­ant for our cre­at­ive pro­cess. When we have an idea, it is cru­cial to be able to cap­ture it in an uncom­plic­ated way. Sometimes it is this one night in which you have a very spe­cif­ic feel­ing. If you don't take advant­age of this moment and fix this idea, then it will fly by very quickly and you will no longer be able to repro­duce this magic moment.

I always have to remem­ber that you don't actu­ally do any­thing else with organ­ic struc­tures and Formalin. So the band name is always the pro­gram. In every­day life this means that I write down every song or lyr­ic idea imme­di­ately or when I'm in stu­dio, sketch it and record it. The pro­duc­tion then fol­lows in the next steps where we make it sound fat and typ­ic­ally Formalin. But the ini­tial idea is a fra­gile thing and can hap­pen anywhere.

6. Tell us a bit about the artwork you created for this album and the accompanying singles. I already spoke my mind from the professional point of view in my review, but what does it mean to you personally? Was it a thing that was right inside your head or did it evolve strongly during the process of creation?

Tom: Firstly, thanks for the nice words about the design in your album review. We were pleased to read that this con­text was dis­cussed in such detail in a review. I’m a big fan of catchy and over­arch­ing con­cepts that make you feel the music when you look at the art­work without hav­ing heard any­thing. When design and music are inter­twined, a power­ful audio-visu­al work of art is cre­ated. For me it was always inseparable.

Music cre­ates pic­tures in your head and pic­tures can cre­ate music. Due to my work as cre­at­ive dir­ect­or, it was always only logic­al that we also do all the art­work and typedesign ourselves. We see this as the exten­ded form of expres­sion to music, so to speak, which also makes every album 100% our own cre­ation. The actu­al cov­er art­work for 'Love and Nihilism' came about very nat­ur­ally. We have always found the idea of ​​a col­lec­tion inter­est­ing, in which a single can be assigned very clearly to the big album and the whole thing func­tions con­sist­ently in itself as a series. After the album title was bur­ied in our head, we searched for the one sym­bol that could embody it. It was the skull that best reflec­ted the two aspects of being human – Love and Nihilism. But we didn't want to depict the skull in a mor­bid way, rather like a work of art, a sculpture.

We also liked the idea of ​​old memento mori still lifes and the self-reflec­tion of human beings when look­ing at their own mor­tal­ity. All of these aspects flowed into the cov­er design and the out­come is what we now see in front of us. The rest is the finest craft ;) By the way, the skulls are not ren­der­ings, I pho­to­graphed them myself.

7. The lyrics on the album are actually quite dark and seem very personal in many places. Would you like to tell us something about how they came to life like they did? Did the pandemic take influence on the lyrics in any way?

Formalin - Tom
Tom (Formalin) – © Christoph Köstlin

Tom: The pan­dem­ic had little influ­ence on the lyr­ics. The beha­viour of most humans as seen dur­ing the pan­dem­ic actu­ally rather con­firmed my words and thoughts in the songs and under­lined the social cri­ti­cism and nihil­ism that I feel. To be hon­est and this is not a secret, my view of human­kind is not a very pos­it­ive one. That is the reas­on why our lyr­ics are usu­ally very dark and dysto­pi­an, (e.g. 'Faded').

On the last album we dealt a lot with the ques­tions of the future, transhuman­ism and self-optim­iz­a­tion. The new album was shaped a lot more by my per­son­al exper­i­ences dur­ing the cre­ation phase. Separation, the end and decay of rela­tion­ships, look­ing inwards and out­wards… How does my daily world work? What drives human­ity today and why do we feel so dis­con­nec­ted from ourselves?

I wanted to write all this down very openly because that's what con­cerns me every day. One look at Instagram is enough and you know what I'm describ­ing in 'Psychocandy'. Much of it is not a gen­er­al cri­ti­cism, it is rather my obser­va­tion of our exhausted selves, the state of mod­ern man. I am curi­ous how we will look at what is import­ant to us now in a few decades.

8. How did you come up with the quite contradictory title? It depicts the concept of the whole album pretty well.

Tom: We are always fans of simple ideas that have a clear core, but then also leave room for inter­pret­a­tion. This title clearly ful­filled exactly that for us. We came up with the idea very nat­ur­ally par­al­lel to the album with the title track. And we quickly noticed that there are not just two poles that are being described, much more you could even assign each song on the album either to the side of love, the side of nihil­ism or even both.

We have already explained that we regard both as con­nec­ted. Ultimately, it's like any­thing you name. You just know in that moment that that is the name. I think when you listen to the album, you get exactly what the title gives you. Even the col­or of the cov­er some­how res­on­ates. We love these psy­choacous­tic con­nec­tions. In its sim­pli­city, it is the per­fect title for us. And let's be hon­est: who wouldn't want to read a book with that title?

9. What’s your personal creative hotspot or the place that offers you the most ideas?

Gabor: I watch a lot of movies and some­how these are very inspir­ing. There's not a spe­cial phys­ic­al place which gives me inspir­a­tion. But often when I shower music­al vis­ions a com­ing into my head and then I have to pro­duce them as fast as possible.

Tom: Gabor is right. It's 80 per­cent the shower. Quite often in the morn­ing, when you're half asleep in the shower and don't force any­thing, then the cre­at­ive or the stu­pid ideas hap­pen. Actually, whenev­er you don't expect it. Another reas­on why we don't believe in push­ing this pro­cess. I would def­in­itely men­tion films and dark clubs as an abso­lute source of inspiration.

10. What are your personal favourite tracks each on this album and why?

Tom: This is dif­fi­cult. But the title track 'Love and Nihilism Lyric Video' with its pulsat­ing build-up of an emo­tion­al wave, that being very close to my singing and the sub­sequent release through the gui­tars – that is so intense for me that it is def­in­itely one of my favour­ites. This song also has such an atti­tude towards life, mel­an­choly and hope that I really love it. You can say it's unusu­al for us, but hey let's get out of the com­fort zone. Another favour­ite is 'Rush' because it just deliv­ers rough and des­troys everything.

Gabor: My vote is for 'Devil'. A: I always wanted to make a song with a 'Mick Jagger'-style cow­bell. B: I always wanted to make a song with a gui­tar solo.

Cosmo: 'Love and Nihilism' for its cine­mat­ic begin­ning and the progression/evolution it gets towards the end. It’s just a very well writ­ten song. Every time I listen to it I close my eyes and ima­gine what an impact this track could have as an intro track for our future shows. Also due to my met­al back­ground, Faded is some­thing I res­on­ated to imme­di­ately, mid tempo, heavy gui­tar riffs, love it.

11. Please tell our readers in short why they should definitely get 'Love And Nihilism'?

Tom: Because in my opin­ion it is one of the rare albums that com­bines syn­thes­isers and gui­tars equally on such a high level and thus brings togeth­er two genres that do not neces­sar­ily have to exist sep­ar­ately or side by side. Sure, it is a total cros­sov­er and requires get­ting out of any pigeon­hole think­ing, but what more can music do than bring people and minds togeth­er. Besides, it's a bunch of just damn good songs ;)

Gabor: It's maybe one of the most per­son­al and most emo­tion­al indus­tri­al rock albums they've ever listened to. At least it's our most emo­tion­al work.

12. What can we expect from Formalin in the near and also far future? Will you be sticking to the heavier tones (please say yes :) ) or do you plan to experiment in different musical fields? Is there a tour in planning when the Big C is over?

Gabor: We will def­in­itely pro­duce heavy tones. I think we're try­ing to make it heav­ier than every­one expects. We will squeeze out the most extreme sounds out of synths, drums and gui­tars and we will try to gen­er­ate some­thing new again.

Tom: Gabor and I agreed that in the future we will be a lot more badass again and the timbre will be a lot harder. Not that we have nev­er been uncom­prom­ising, but the new songs will punch you in the face I’m sure ;)

13. What is an average Formalin day like? When does it actually start and how do you structure your day when you're working on songs? What do you do when you don't work on songs?

Gabor: We try to work on music as often we can. There's no real struc­ture. Of course there are days when noth­ing seems to work, and then there are days everything just flows. As an elec­tron­ic music pro­du­cer you have to know your­self very good when it's the best time to start work­ing on songs and, even more import­ant, when to stop work­ing on it. With syn­thes­isers, samplers and drum machines you have the pos­sib­il­ity to build every sound you can imagine.

But that also means that you can fuck up everything in a glimpse of a second. Before that hap­pens you have to stop, or show the song to a band mem­ber to get a dif­fer­ent point of view. If we're not doing music we go out to parties, con­certs doing bar­be­cue or we play co-op games on the Playstation. So on top of our pro­ject „Formalin“ we are our best friends talk­ing about everything import­ant and everything irrelevant.

Tom: We don't have a straight plan how we write the songs. As already said, a lot arises from an inspir­a­tion and a mood. However, if we do struc­tured stu­dio ses­sions in pro­duc­tion phases, then cof­fee has to be made first. Without cof­fee, noth­ing works and no day starts in the stu­dio. And we usu­ally already know in the morn­ing wheth­er it is a day for cre­at­ive work or a day on which we tend to do more final­ising pro­duc­tions. Even if it is a day when noth­ing works, we have learned to stop at the right moment. Because we've often broken songs too. But over the years, as a pro­du­cer, you learn to recog­nise these moments and then get to work on a bet­ter day with fresh ears.

14. What are your favourite, latest band/artist discoveries that you also would recommend to Electrozombies and our readers?

Gabor: If not already happened, you should give Carpenter Brut a try. It's basic­ally the aes­thet­ics of early 80s John Carpenter hor­ror movie music put through a dis­tor­tion with faster tempo and very heavy drums. I love the energy and the humor and winks behind it. I totally under­stand his sat­is­fied smile on stage, when he was behind some nice ana­log synths and in front of him hun­dreds of black met­al guys are singing along 'She's a mani­ac, mani­ac on the floor…' – it's so funny and so good.

Tom: They are any­thing but an insider tip, but per­haps not so well known to many in this coun­try: HEALTH. I like the really great mix of melod­ies and heavy noises with lofi synths that come togeth­er here. The latest col­lab­or­a­tions with Perturbator and Nine Inch Nails show that HEALTH is at the fore­front and that indus­tri­al music can sound com­pletely different.

15. We know you worked with Lord Of The Lost on 'Raining Stars' which is one of my absolute favourite tracks of all times by the way (sends goosebumps all over my skin everytime I hear it). With which artist/musician would you like to work together one day?

Gabor: I would like to work with Hans Zimmer, but I fear that I would be intim­id­ated by his geni­us. And I would have loved to work with Jóhann Jóhannsson but sadly he's not with us anymore.

Tom: I think a col­lab­or­a­tion with a game stu­dio like Naughty Dog or Bethesda would be super inter­est­ing for us. As far as artists are con­cerned, I would like to accom­pany an exhib­i­tion by Gottfried Helnwein with music or even per­form for a label like Alexander McQueen at a fash­ion show.

16. What important life wisdom would you have given yourself 20 years ago?

Gabor: Try to be sat­is­fied with 99%.

Tom: Same! Perfection is the killer.

17. Now let’s do the quick island scenario: You plan a vacation on an island – would it be a tropical or a northern island?

Gabor: Normally I'm more the north­ern guy – I do like winter more than sum­mer. But I fear a trop­cial island is the bet­ter choice here?!

Tom: I would always choose the Nordic Islands because I am a Northman who comes from the rough Baltic Sea and prefers rough weather. ;)

Cosmo: I’d choose trop­ic­al here, I can’t stand the cold for too long.

On the way your ship is destroyed by a storm and you get stranded on a deserted little island. Not much is left, but your music player survives. Which tracks are definitely on it? Please name 10 each one of you.


  • Strapping Young Lad – Detox
  • Fields of the Nephilim – Last Exit for the Lost
  • Mick Gordon – BFG Division (DOOM Soundtrack)
  • Hecq – Shutter
  • Public Image Ltd. – The Order Of Death
  • Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch – Sea Wall
  • Pink Floyd – Welcome to the Machine
  • Devin Townsend – Regulator
  • Wumpscut – Die in Winter
  • Turbonegro – Fuck the World


  • Ghostemane – Lazaretto
  • Kanye West – I’m In It
  • Marilyn Manson – Don’t Chase The Dead
  • Satyricon – The Wolfpack
  • Immortal – Tyrants
  • Lorn – Anvil
  • Nils Frahm – Says
  • Alva Noto – Uni Blue
  • Nero – Dreams
  • Ben Frost – Theory Of Machines


  • Meshuggah – Bleed
  • Pantera – I’m broken
  • Deftones – Digital Bath
  • Sepultura – Roots Bloody Roots
  • Death – Suicide Machine
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Bring it on
  • Architects – Black Lungs
  • Periphery – Blood Eagle
  • Bring me the Horizon – Can you feel my Heart
  • Gojira – Stranded

What’s the food you’d be missing most?

Gabor: Salmon Inside Outs with a lot of wasabi

Tom: The good old pota­toes, eggs and spinach.

Cosmo: Peruvian fish ceviche

Hey – you got rescued! Who’s the first person you’d call and what would you tell him/her?

Gabor: I think I would call my moth­er and say 'Well, the vaca­tion was okay, but I think next year I will go to Mecklenburger Seenplatte'

Tom: I call my mom and tell her that for my return­al she can pre­pare pota­toes, eggs and spinach.

Cosmo: I'd call my broth­er most prob­ably and tell him not to tell any­thing to my par­ents cause would stress out too much :)

18. Do you have some kind words to Electrozombies for our testimonials section 'People who spread love'?

Gabor: Electrozombies really under­stand music. Their reviews are in their own class.

Tom: There is sel­dom an edit­or­i­al team that deals with an album as intens­ively as the people from Electrozombies. From an artists per­spect­ive, we feel very understood.

19. Your last words to our audience?

Tom: Listen to our last album or buy it at our Bandcamp. If you leave all listen­ing habits aside and free your­self from genre think­ing, you might exper­i­ence that synths and gui­tars make up a very tasty mixture.

Very big thanks to Formalin for being so open on all our ques­tions and for giv­ing us the oppor­tun­ity to learn much more on your work, your views and yourselves! I really enjoyed this and I'm already look­ing for­ward to your future records as well as your next con­certs – I'll def­in­itely join and rock the moshpit!

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