The line-up and the history of german band Mekong Delta was to be the best kept secret in the world. At the end of ’85 an idea was born to start a studio project with german metal musicians. It was suppost to outshine all independent releases musically. The thought that german musicians would not be accepted, made the people of the project decide to keep everything about the band a secret. The name Zardoz was rejected followed by the acceptance of the name “Mekong Delta”, named after a riverbed in Vietnam. The entire project was started by Ralf Hubert, sound-engineer of Warlock, Steeler and Living Death, and owner of the recordlabel “Aaarrg”. The first demo’s are recorded with the following line-up:
Jochen Schr?der (ex-Rage) on guitar
Peavy Wagner (Rage) on bass
J?rg Michael (ex-Rage and Paganini) on drums
Wolfgang Borgmann on vocals
Jochen Schr?der did not fit in and was soon replaced by both ‘Living Death’ guitarists Reiner Kelch and Frank Fricke. When Peavy leaves the project, Ralf takes the bassguitar himself (on the albums he’s better known as Bj?rn Eklund, and by that name he does all the telephone interviews in the name of Mekong Delta) Also he replaces the rest of the band, so the line-up looks like this:
Bj?rn Eklund (Ralph Hubert) on Bass/Acoustic guitar
Gordon Perkins (J?rg Michael) on Drums/Percussion
Rolf Stein (Frank Fricke) on Guitar/Backing vocals
Vincent St. Johns (Reiner Kelch) on Guitar/Backing vocals
Keil (Wolfgang Borgmann) on Vocals/Stick
Because of all the nick names used, the first real mystery line-up is born.
Bj?rn Eklund, Gordon Perkins, Rolf Stein, Vincent St. Johns and Keil are the five men to record the self-titled album ‘Mekong Delta’, produced by Ralf Hubert himself. For the shortly thereafter following Picture Disc “The Gnome”, J?rg Michael was replaced by Patrick Duval (Uli Kusch) because he was touring with his current band. After a year of complete silence, Ralf and his men return to the studio around newyear ’87/’88, and record the concept album ‘The Music Of Erich Zann’, with the same line-up and again produced by Ralf. After finishing the album, Reiner Kelch leaves the group because of differences with the other members. Due to, or because of, the mystery (there are no pictures of the band at that time, everyone is using a false name, and there have been no live performances), the band’s big breakthrough stays out. Many people think that “The Music Of Erich Zann” could well be the last Mekong Delta album ever made.
How wrong can those people be. Reiner was replaced by Mark Kaye (Uwe Baltrusch) and at the end of 1988, Mekong Delta releases the 12″ ‘Toccata’ and in the spring of 1989, “The Principle Of Doubt” hits the stores. Frank Fricke then leaves the band to concentrate himself on other musical styles, and the band decided not to replace him as Uwe was able to play all guitars alone. Another long period of silence followed, and again people believed it was over with. This period was used to compose a “Rondo for Rockgroup” (now, better known as Dances of Death).
While recording the album, Wolfgang leaves the band because he couldn’t identify himself with the material of this album. He was replaced by the american Doug Lee, former singer of Siren. Doug has known Ralf for several years and when Ralf asked him to join Mekong Delta, Doug accepted. These men finished recording the album “Dances of death (and other walking shadows)”. After recording this album, they played their first ever live concert on the 24th of November 1990 in Vienna, Austria. Not much later, J?rg Michael leaves the band and was replaced by swiss drummer Peter Haas. They resumed touring through europe, and on the 12th of October 1991 they played their first gig in holland. The CD ‘Live at an exhibition’ was recorded a day later in Germany. The release of “Kaleidoscope” could be seen as one of their best efforts to reach new fans. The band itself about this album:
“For me, Kaleidoscope is the best done combination between complexity and the possibility to listen to music without going deep into technical structure of the composition until now. You can listen to the record while doing something, but you can also sit down with a headphone and listen to the path of the instruments which play the song together, but all walk on own ways, which actually are own songs…”
“After Ralf showed me the riffs for the new album I was totally amazed, ’cause they were a big new task for me. Riffs which were so groovy and also full of complexity we haven’t had before. I am sure – and Ralf knows this – that this is the best album we have done so far.”
“While touring I noticed that the work for the new album, on which the first time I could work together with the guys, would become incredible cool. The first time I would be able to play strange things on drums without the other musicians getting out of time or asking me endless questions about the rhythm because they did not understand what I play.”
“For me as singer the new record is a big step forward ’cause this is the first time that Ralf takes care of the vocals while composing, so I could put in my voice the way I thought of.”
Kaleidoscope” also contains a coverversion of genesis’s ‘Dance on a vulcano’. The release of ‘Classics’ in 1993 shows what the band has been up to since their first album. Only the tracks on this album are a collection of all classical pieces Ralf has ever arranged for the band. The only classical track missing on this album is ‘Sabre Dance’, which can be found on the “Kaleidoscope” album. In 1994 Mekong Delta still has not given up hope and continue their work with the release of ‘Visions fugitives’, with yet another classical masterpiece arranged by Ralf. The rumors that Peter Haas would have left the band are false. Ralf stated: “Peter didn’t leave us, he is just a professional and works in different groups to survive.”
Then came a silence of 2 years in which we heard nothing of Mekong Delta. Not even a 12″ or CD-Maxi was released. In januari 1997 the release of “Pictures At An Exhibition” was a fact. On this album Doug is not mentioned, and he’s not even singing on this album (because it’s completely instrumental). Later that year the group released their CD-ROM, containing a complete discography of the band as well as a biography about Modest Mussorgski (the original composer of ‘Pictures at an exhibition’). The CD-ROM also contains a virtual tour along different ‘pictures’ from different artists, which have been made for the group’s cd-booklet of ‘pictures…’. Finally, the CD-ROM also contains some never before published photo’s from the band and some ‘live’-clips (in .MOV format).
In november of 1997, Mekong Delta had finished remixing and remastering the first of their albums. ‘The principle of doubt’ is now available in a new Re-mixed/Re-mastered version. Continuing through the first half of 1998, Ralf has been remixing all other Mekong Delta albums so they would sound much better than the originals and they would be available again and much easier to find and to buy. ‘Dances of death’ was the second album to be remixed.
As I write this piece of history, it’s the year 2000 and all Mekong Delta albums are remixed/remastered. Some sound much better and different in some parts. Others have hardly changed, only the quality has improved.
October 2005 I received word from Ralf. He explains that all the speculation around him is very funny. He never released anything because the stuff he composed over the years was not worth it (in his opinion). As soon as he has something, he will release it. “As long as I’m alive, Mekong Delta is not dead”, Ralf said!
January 2006 I contacted Peter Lake from Theory In Practice because Ralf was interested in good, technical guitar players. Since Peter Lake is a big Mekong Delta fan himself he was honored to audition for the position of guitarist. After a short period of time both men started practicing the compositions Ralf came up with. Peter Haas was also contacted and was willing to join the project once more. The working title of the new album is announced to be ‘Into the Heart of Darkness’.
March 2006 it became clear that Peter Haas was too busy to involve himself with the project. Everyone decided it would be best to let someone else take care of the drumparts and a replacement was found in the person of Uli Kusch. He’s no stranger to Mekong Delta, since he played on the 12″ ‘The Gnom’ back in the early days (using the name Patrick Duval). Uli is known for his drumming in bands like Holy Moses, Helloween, Gamma Ray, and currently playing in Masterplan. Uli is also involved with the project ‘Beautiful Sin’.
June 2006 Ralf came with the idea to create a diary about one particular song from the upcoming album. No titles whatsoever are known, the only thing is the place of the the song within the story. It’s suppost to be track 4, but even that can change. Also the band is still looking for a singer…
October 2006 the song diary was completed. At this moment 1 of the new songs (there are going to be 11) is presented to the fans. The song is a pre-arranged version without vocals, but it gives a pretty good idea what Mekong Delta is up to.
November 2006 Uli Kusch has left his band Masterplan. He’s still involved with Mekong Delta and his other band, called: ‘Beautyful Sin’.
December 2006 Mekong Delta is still working on the album. It has been decided that the title ‘Into the Heart of Darkness’ was to be used for a later album, because the idea’s of this album did not reflect upon the story Ralf had in mind. There’s no news of a singer at this date, and that’s the only thing the new album needs to finish it completely.
February 2007 the new working title of the new album has been announced as ‘Lurking Fear’. After completing the vocal melodies with a friend, Ralf starts his search for a singer again.
March 2007 they started working with Leszek “Leo” Szpigiel as vocalist.
April 2007 Ralf released the first Mekong Delta DVD. It’s a registration of the concert given back in 1991 in the Batschkapp in Frankfurt. Also he made the new songtitles public for the upcoming album.
June 2007 marks the completion of ‘Lurking Fear’ (recording technically that is). A deal needs to be made with a company willing to press and distribute the new album. Also the artwork needs to be completed.
July 2007 a record deal was made with AFM records to release the new album. The release date was set for August 24th. The promo of the new album was distributed to many different magazines and radio stations and already received very positive reactions. ‘Immortal hate’ was placed on the website for members to listen to.
August 2007 marks the highlight of the year. First a second track was placed on the website (Symphony of Agony) and the first track was made public. Ralf was doing loads and loads of interviews all over europe. Finally at the end of this month (31st to be exact) the album ‘Lurking fear’ was released.
August 2008 and almost a year has past since the release of ‘Lurking Fear’. Mekong Delta has enough ideas for a new release, but first they want to start doing a small tour. Dates are not confirmed yet! To perform live, Alex Landenburg was introduced as the new drummer and Martin LeMar took on the role of the new vocalist.
October 2008 marks the start of a small tour, but due to miss communication and incorrect assumptions the first 2 dates (both in Romania) were canceled. Just 2 days before Mekong Delta would make their appearance in Thessaloniki, Greece, the local government there had made a decision which involved the closure of the club they would play, so Athens (being actually the 4th show) would become the first show they played live. Also this month, Mekong Delta announced their new guitarists. They are Benedikt Zimniak and Erik Adam H.
November 2008 it became clear that the current line-up is working perfectly and all members enjoy every minute of playing live. The Danish performance during Progpower Scandinavia on the 1st and the russian show on the 22nd were big successes. Also Mekong Delta had a jacket made available for sale.
May 2009 Mekong Delta’s Ralf Hubert announced he and the band were rehearsing new stuff. No song or album titles were given (or even known), but it was to be a ‘Rondo’ like Dances of Death, but now a complete album of approx. 50 minutes. There were suppose to be about 14 tracks in all, but even that could vary.
July 2009 the new album title was announced. The new album is going to be called ‘Wanderer on the edge of time’. Recording of the album is well on its way. Bass is ready, guitars are progressing and Ralf is focusing himself on the classical guitar parts.
January 2010 Mekong Delta finished recording the new album. Now the tough job of mixing it will commence. By the end of the month a discission will be made which track will be placed on the website as a preview.
March 2010 the track list of the new album has been revealed.
April 2010 Mekong Delta is now searching for a distributor for the new album. Once the decision has been made, a release date will be set, artwork will be revealed and three weeks before the release date some tracks will be made available for listening through the website.
June 2010 marks the release of ‘Wanderer on the Edge of Time’, Mekong Delta’s ninth studio album (not counting compilation albums). The music seems a little more progressive metal than thrash, but the complexity and creativity you are used to with Mekong Delta remains. Mekong Delta even comes up with things they have never done before and yet… it still sounds familiar. Also a video is being made of the track ‘King with broken crown’.
October 2010 the video is placed on the website. Members of the website have the premiere of Mekong Delta’s first real video clip.
2011 marks the re-release of yet another version of the ‘Classics’ album. It contains almost all classical oriented tracks up to date.
In 2012 the line-up who recorded the “Wanderer…” -album returned with a compilation of older songs, completely re-recorded. The album is titled “Intersections”
After keeping it pretty quiet, Mekong Delta struck again in April 2014 when they released “In A Mirror Darkly”. It’s their 10th full length album (not counting compilation and live albums). Many consider this one of their best albums yet. Benedikt Zimniak is no longer a member of the band.
In March 2016 Ralf informed me he was working on the re-issue of Suite for Group and Orchestra (Visions Fugitives) complemented with Five Fragments for Group and Orchestra (two of those can be found on Lurking Fear). Also the first four albums will be re-released as limited editions on vinyl.