Sengir Interview

25/08/2003 § Leave a comment

Sengir Interview
By: Sam Grant
With: Ellen Schutyser of Sengir

Sam: Sengir have been together since 1996. How did the band first get together?

Ellen: Actually, we met in high school.

Sam: How old were you when you first met?

Ellen: I was 15.

Sam: And that’s when you first started singing?

Ellen: Yeah, and the rest were 18.

Sam: Was that when you first realized you could sing? How old were you when you started singing?

Ellen: Yeah…. I was singing since I was a little kid!

Sam: What, like five or six years old?

Ellen: I really liked the pop music from the 80s!

Sam: Really?! What kind of stuff were you singing?

Ellen: You really want me to tell you?! Uh….. Kylie Minogue….

Sam: There’s nothing wrong with Kylie…

Ellen: I didn’t realize there was Gothic Metal at that moment.

Sam: Well nor did I, I didn’t realize it till I was about fifteen years old. But that’s what age you start, isn’t it. It’s that age you start finding a musical direction and before that you don’t really know where you’re going.

Ellen: Before I was 15 I didn’t know about the Metal scene.

Sam: It’s not something you generally find by yourself. You always need someone to introduce you to it. So what got you into the Metal scene in the first place?

Ellen: Well, I wanted to sing and there were a couple of bands in our school and Sengir was looking for female vocals so I offered myself as a candidate and I auditioned and they chose me.

Sam: How many people did they audition for it?

Ellen: Uh, three I think.

Sam: And you flew through did you?

Ellen: I did, yeah. I missed The Gathering audition[!]

Sam: Well, I’ve been reading a lot of your interviews and a lot of people have been making comparisons with The Gathering, which annoys me personally, because your music is not like The Gathering’s and it seems to me that when any Metal group with a female singer comes along, they are always compared to The Gathering, Lacuna Coil…

Ellen: ….Within Temptation….

Sam: Are you getting tired of comparisons like that?

Ellen: Yeah, but it is an honor when you’re being compared with those bands because those bands are good, but you know, in reviews we are compared with those bands and if you’re honest our music is different. It is softer, there are no sopranos, for example, our music is not so technical and it’s not so difficult…

Sam: Well, the stuff that The Gathering were producing early on wasn’t very technical, it was actually quite basic. At the moment they’re doing some quite ridiculous stuff – have you heard any of their new material?

Ellen: I thought Mandylion was their best album!

Sam: It so is, though. Have you heard Souvenirs?

Ellen: Um…..yeah…. but….

Sam: You don’t like it very much?

Ellen: No, but it sells…

Sam: It’s a good album and it’s very different, but I do think Mandylion is the best thing they’ve come up with. How would you describe the sound that Sengir produce?

Ellen: Well, in the first place it’s not Metal, it is Gothic Rock. There are some influences of Metal, of course.

Sam: Some of it’s very heavy though, some of it’s blurring the line between rock and Metal. How would you define Gothic Rock?

Ellen: um… keyboards??

Sam: I’m asking you because I don’t know! No-one seems to be able to pin down what Gothic Metal is, what Gothic Rock is. As a result, do you think people try too hard to define music rather than just get on and listen to it and enjoy it for what it is?

Ellen: I think it’s hopeless to describe what is Metal, what is Gothic. There are a lot of styles, Death Metal, Black Metal, and they always draw the line between styles…

Sam: Do you like bands like After Forever?

Ellen: Yes, but I like other bands too.

Sam: Of course, I’m not pinning you down to one style. What other bands are you into at the moment?

Ellen: I’m a very big fan of Tori Amos.

Sam: You all are, aren’t you? I haven’t heard any of her stuff since Under The Pink. What her newer stuff like?

Ellen: Uh…yeah…well… I have all her CDs!

Sam: Who else do you like?

Ellen: Um, Madonna?!

Sam: This is wonderful because I expected you to come out with these ridiculously harsh and intense bands and you come out with stuff like Madonna and Tori Amos.

Ellen: I like to sing that style of music because you can put the experience of singing that kind of way into Gothic Metal and into Sengir, so if I would only listen to Within Temptation and The Gathering I would not be singing the way I am singing now.

Sam: So how would you describe how you’re singing at the moment?

Ellen: Sometimes I sing very strong, sometimes I sing very soft and I would like to put a mysterious accent into it.

Sam: Are we talking an operatic thing?

Ellen: No.

Sam: So you’re not into that at all.

Ellen: No.

Sam: So you don’t like stuff like Nightwish?

Ellen: Yes, I like them…

Sam: You’re not crazy about them, are you.

Ellen: No… Not that I want to sing that way. I like the music, I like the style, but I don’t want to sing that way.

Sam: Are you happy with your voice as it is at the moment?

Ellen: I had some troubles a couple of years ago. I was not breathing the right way, so I was easily out of tune.

Sam: Have you had coaching since then?

Ellen: I took some singing lessons when we recorded our first demo, Autumn Tears, and I learned to breathe the right way. I haven’t had a problem anymore.

Sam: So you’ve been together since 96. A lot of people have left the band and a lot of people have joined. What’s kept the core of the band together? What’s driven you since then?

Ellen: The special thing about Sengir is the members that recorded the album, Guilty Water, we all like a different style. I like everything, I like pop music, I like Gothic, our guitars players are more into Metal and our drummer is more hardcore and our former keyboard player liked techno.

Sam: The band started in 1996 and 2003 sees the release of your first full album so a lot of work has happened between then and now. There must have been times when it was quite difficult, when you had other commitments. Was it as simple as this was what you really loved doing and you weren’t going to let anything get in the way of that?

Ellen: In the beginning you are friends at school, you know, and you just want to play in a band, doing some gigs etc and we really loved doing it because we were different from the other bands.

Sam: In what way were you different?

Ellen: It was with more keyboards, more mysterious and with more atmosphere.

Sam: What happened to them? They just flitted away?

Ellen: Yeah!

Sam: Why is that? Why do you think you carried on and became successful, was it because you were far more serious then and they were just experimenting?

Ellen: You know, we are from the city Aalst – and there are a lot of bands in that city and we’ve always had the reputation of being different and people didn’t like us very much in that city.

Sam: Because the sound wasn’t what they were used to.

Ellen: Yeah, there were a lot of critics, but we didn’t give a damn, you know, and we continued playing and the other bands, they just gave it up.

Sam: So what kind of places were you playing in when you just started? Just pubs and things?

Ellen: Yeah, pubs, and how do you say….concours…you play with a couple of bands and who wins gets money!

Sam: Oh, is it like Battle of the Bands!

Ellen: We won a couple of times in the city, Aalst.

Sam: That must have given you quite a lot of confidence.

Ellen: Yeah, but the more we won, the more critics we got and at that time we were the only bands in that city who played a little bit further than the city. We went to the French parts of Belgium and the other bands were like, “whoa!”

Sam: What kind of music were the other bands doing?

Ellen: Mostly rock, pure simple rock, There were some metal bands, but that was harder stuff than we do.

Sam: This is the thing, because I was reading that the Gothic scene isn’t that big in Belgium.

Ellen: No, not really.

Sam: Is what sells just normal stuff and people don’t like anything that goes against the grain?

Ellen: Here what sells in Belgium is songs for children! Bands who sing the most ridiculous stuff…

Sam: Like what?!

Ellen: Do you know K3?

Sam: No…

Ellen: Well write that down and look for their website or something! It’s pop music for children…

Sam: What do they sing about?!

Ellen: The world and about friendship and grandma….

Sam: Well, that’s happy music…

Ellen: Yeah, and then you’ve got the Flemish singers.

Sam: What are they like?

Ellen: Awful!

Sam: What do you mean Flemish??

Ellen: Um…music like it was fifty years ago. Things are standing still around here, you know.

Sam: So if you’re producing this kind of music when you’re 15-18 years old and also you’ve got that kind of music going on in Belgium, are you playing your music as a subtle rebellion because you’re thinking, ‘this is all very boring and tame and it doesn’t move me in any way’. Did you want to play something different and break out of the mould?

Ellen: You know, at the moment there are not a lot of bands here in Flandre that are successful. I think we are the only Gothic Metal band at the moment.

Sam: That’s quite an accolade, though. Does that make you feel isolated or proud?

Ellen: Proud because we survived!

Sam: Does that mean you’re the first? Have you ever heard of any other Gothic Rock/Metal bands before you in Belgium?

Ellen: Well, they compare us to Within Temptation, they had a hit single here a couple of months ago, and when we play they see as the new Within Temptation – the Belgian Within Temptation.

Sam: Now, what does the title of your album Guilty Water refer to?

Ellen: We wanted to give the album another title but the label decided that the title of the album had to be a song, you know.

Sam: What was it before it was Guilty Water?

Ellen: Um, Binoctium.

Sam: What does that mean?

Ellen: That’s a period of two nights. We liked that very much because our music isn’t really dark and it isn’t really heavy so when you have a period of two nights you have a dawn and then dark…

Sam: So then you went to the label…

Ellen: …and they wanted a title of a song so we chose Guilty Water.

Sam: Did that decision annoy you? How much freedom do you get to speak against the label that’s signed you?

Ellen: Well, it’s a very small label and we get a lot of freedom.

Sam: How did they find you in the first place?

Ellen: It all began with our former manager. He had contacts with Buzzville and there were certain moments when things were not going very well between us and our manager. He just left and we lost all the contacts.

Sam: What went wrong between you and your manager?

Ellen: Are you writing for a magazine or a newspaper?!

Sam: Is it a difficult thing that you’d rather not speak about?

Ellen: He was not really looking for a label. He told us he had contacts with four or five labels and all that stuff. He said he always had contacts but they didn’t alter him, you know. It wasn’t his fault. So we lost all our contacts and we went searching for them again and then there were three of four labels interested, also a major…

Sam: Which one was that?

Ellen: Um… the label for After Forever.

Sam: Transmission?

Ellen: Transmission, yeah.

Sam: So what made you choose…

Ellen: They had high demands.

Sam: What did they want?

Ellen: We were told to rewrite our music.

Sam: Did they want tiny changes or big structural changes?

Ellen: Yeah, the last one. We had contact with those bands, After Forever and Within Temptation, so we knew how things were working.

Sam: So bands like Epica and Within Temptation ‘submit’ their songs and then the label alters this, that and the other to make it more sellable?

Ellen: Yeah, they tell you what to wear and all that stuff.

Sam: And if you’re on a label like Century Media then presumably you get even less freedom.

Ellen: Yeah, so now we have all the freedom we want.

Sam: So the smaller the label, the more freedom you get to do what you want.

Ellen: Yeah, but they’re small so their impact is not so big.

Sam: Now, you were searching for a new keyboard player, weren’t you. Did you find a permanent replacement?

Ellen: Yep, in the city of Aalst, we found someone who lives nearby, it was amazing.

Sam: How did you find him, he wasn’t busking or something, was he?

Ellen: Actually, we met him at a bakery.

Sam: What was he doing? Was he serving buns?

Ellen: There was a shop where they sell sandwiches and all that stuff, you know, and someone who works there is very interested in our music and she knows a lot of people who play in other bands and I said to her, ‘if you find another keyboard player, tell me!’ and our keyboard player went….eating a sandwich…

Sam: How does he fit in with the rest of the band?

Ellen: Very good, because he was still in another band at that moment, but he wanted out. Because he couldn’t do his own thing in the band and he thought it was too rough.

Sam: Apart from your studies, what other interests do you have apart from Madonna and Kylie Minogue?

Ellen: What normal people do…

Sam: Going out and drinking…

Ellen: And chatting…well, I’m interested in a lot of things….like predicting someone’s future.

Sam: As in tarot or astrology? What particular medium?

Ellen: Tarot, and I’m not sure whether you’ve heard about I Ching.

Sam: What’s that?

Ellen: That’s a Chinese…

Sam: Can you predict my future?!

Ellen: Not by phone, no!

Sam: Aw. What’s the Chinese one?

Ellen: There’s a Chinese oracle and you have three coins and on one side you have Yin and on the other Yang, and when you throw the coins you get Yin or Yang.

Sam: Are you into astrology at all?

Ellen: Not really, I’ve read about it.

Sam: It’s not one of your big things.

Ellen: No, not really.

Sam: Do you think it’s a little flimsy?

Ellen: Um, yeah, it’s always fun when it becomes reality, you know, but most of the time it’s just coincidence.

Sam: Now what are you going to do for the future? Are you working on any more material?

Ellen: For the moment we are working on new songs.

Sam: Do you know Guilty Water’s at the top of the Sonic bestseller’s list at the moment?

Ellen: Hmm, yeah, I heard! In September the album will be released in France.

Sam: It must have come out in Belgium, surely.

Ellen: Yes, in February, in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Sam: After the album was finished did you take a break before working on new material?

Ellen: At that time we were looking for a new keyboard player.

Sam: How much time do you spend on music generally?

Ellen: You mean just Sengir?

Sam: Well, creating, writing and producing music.

Ellen: We rehearse two times a week and mostly we have a gig at the weekend.

Sam: Where do you rehearse?

Ellen: We have a basement, one of the band members’. The guitar player.

Sam: What are you doing for the rest of the year?

Ellen: In the Autumn we have a lot of gigs, especially in the Netherlands.

Sam: Is that like a tour?

Ellen: No, not really.

Sam: Did the label organize that for you or do you have to do some of the work yourself?

Ellen: No, we do it ourselves.

Sam: Well, very good luck with it, it’s been lovely talking to you and hopefully I’ll get a chance to speak to you again sometime in the future.

Ellen: Thank you!

Delight Interview

11/08/2003 § Leave a comment

By: Sam Grant
With: Paulina Maślanka – Lead Singer of Delight

Sam: For someone who’s only recently got into Delight, can you give me some background? What got you where you are today?

Paula: Our adventure with gothic-metal music started about five years ago. We formed a band and recorded a demo tape. Then we fortunately signed a contract with one of the biggest polish metal labels- Metal Mind Records. By now three Delight’s albums appeared: “Last Temptation” (2000); “The Fading Tale” (2001) and “Eternity” (2002). Current depot is:

Paula – vocals, lyrics

Jarosław Baran – guitar, drums, samplers and keyboards

Piotr Szymański – bass guitar

Cube – keyboards

Piotr Wójcik – drums

The Delight’s story in details can be found on our official website:

http://www.delight.art.pl

Sam: I’ve heard Delight mentioned alongside bands such as Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation. Do think that’s a good comparison?

Paula: One thing is the same – female as a singer. Maybe for some people we are “between” these bands and that’s nice but there is one difference: we come from Poland. We live in a different reality – it’s not easy here to play music, especially alternative. We are young people, students and music is rather our hobby. We aren’t full time musicians.

Sam: Why do you think Eternity was such a successful album?

Paula: This album is the most mature thing we’ve ever done. Good melodies and nice atmosphere? Lot’s of work and passion to the music? Or it’s a matter of luck?

Sam: Eternity is the only Delight album that does not have a title track. Why did you choose the name Eternity? What does it represent to you?

Paula: We chose this title because the label denied assent of our first proposition to this album “The Sunrise”. It wasn’t “gothic” enough :), so we took the most universal name we knew. Seriously, in some way it’s connected with the title of the last song, which is in Polish (“Wieczny final” which means in English “ The Eternal Final”).

Sam: One of my favourite songs on the album is Whale’s Lungs, but I’ve always wanted someone to explain to me what it’s about. You’re the best person – care to do the honours?

Paula: Oh, it’s my favourite song too. For this song there is a simple story: a man and a woman- a short romance – he leaves her, but there is a child conceived – so she makes a decision to have this baby – even though it’s hard to live that lonely life. She is strong and she believes it’s the proper way. By this song I’ve wanted to thank all women who made such decisions… Life is often hard, sometimes the sky is like a big dying whale but as I say in the song “I’m living my life”, so the devil of hope at the end of the sad song 🙂

Sam: Could you pin down any particular event which inspired you to write a song on Eternity?

Paula: When I write lyrics I try to imagine the atmosphere of the song – the words come to me naturally. In “Whale’s lungs” I saw a big blue sky – then I just found a true story for that “blue” feeling. I just concentrate on emotions, which sleep in the music.

Sam: There are some nice electronic parts to the album. Any plans to make these a bigger feature of Delight’s music in the future, or do you feel that would spoil the formula?

Paula: We’ve just started to work on next album and we are going to change the formula of the band in some way. First of all – we will do more electronic parts, less of power metal elements in guitars – even we want to end the power metal epic in Delight’s music. One thing won’t be changed – it will be still female singing, guitar band but with more modern, electronic elements.

Sam: I see the artwork’s a little different to that on the previous albums. Who’s responsible for it? How do you feel it represents your music?

Paula: The author of the artwork is Khaal. We worked with him for the first time. Before we worked with someone else and we weren’t fully satisfied. We’ve made a few mistakes before and this time we were stubborn and the front cover is a piece of the thought contained in the music. There is a stained glass on it – a collage. The photos inside the book are taken by Maja Konarska, who is our friend in private and a singer in Moonlight – one of the main gothic metal Polish scene bands.

Sam: Do you or any of the other band members have time to indulge in some side-projects? If not, what directions would you like to explore if you could?

Paula: I don’t have time to do anything more than Delight now. Sometimes i think about something by side, maybe a solo album, something more mature than metal but I’m still too young to start another band. Delight is now the most important part of my music life. Who knows what the future brings? My friends from my band have some side projects; they play even in other bands like Cube who is also in black-death metal formation Thy Disease. They generally play a metal in their other bands. Jarosław is also a producer; he does many metal and other albums in his studio.

Sam: A lot of metal bands choose to do out-of-genre covers. What was the idea behind doing a cover of Careless Whisper on The Fading Tale? Did you get a lot of stick for that?

Paula: We wanted to do a nice pop song. It was a real funny experience and still it is when we play it on concerts. It was a good idea to take a song out-of-genre. This is our song in some way now, our own interpretation.

Sam: Are there any future covers in the pipeline you can shed some light on?

Paula: We’ve done three covers by now: “Careless whisper” Wham’s song; also Type o Negative song for “Tribute to TON” album which appeared in Germany some time ago, we took “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” and we’ve done “Wasting love” of Iron Maiden as a bonus track for Japanese edition of “Last Temptation”.

We are not going to do any covers on next album. Maybe we will change mind but now we don’t plan covers at all.

Sam: Your lyrics can be quite unusual. How do you come up with them?

Paula: Unusual? I try to be as honest as I can and I use casual words to talk about my “unusual” emotions – it’s my recipe. Every man is the Universe in one and the part of Universe on the other side – lyrics are a trial to put it in words and to connect it with the music. Is there anything more interesting than a man?

Sam: How far would you say Delight’s sound has evolved from The Last Temptation to Eternity? How happy are you with the sound you’ve found at the moment?

Paula: The sound is evolving with us all the time. we record our albums at home studio – more we learn, the sound is better – so the albums are the diary of our searching for music maturity. The means are the limits for a fancy production but we do our best. So we are happy that this development is audible. Actually we are working on new Delight’s sound, the current state is never enough. Recording a better album is a must in every way.

Sam: On listening to Delight’s songs, it’s clear that the music is very fluid. It’s smooth and seems such a natural sound for the band. Is the song-writing process very natural for you or are there times where you find yourself struggling?

Paula: Sometimes we work on song for months, sometimes for a few days; it depends on the mood, the ideas and our student life. From the beginning the process of composing is connected with the production in the studio, where we spend a lot’s of time. Composing is not a simple thing but every song is an experience that makes you better. It’s our favourite part of the work.

Sam: Is there any other genre you could see yourself in if you weren’t working in Metal?

Paula: We could be a pop-rock band, very good and very famous 🙂

Sam: What bands are you listening to the most at the moment?

Paula: Nowadays I listen Placebo “Sleeping with ghosts”.

Sam: Who or what inspired you to get involved in the Metal scene?

Paula: It was the only option to do a metal band in our small town. We were to rebelious to play rock, to young to play punk. Playing metal was “trendy” that times… truly we’ve always listened to metal, even in primary school. We wanted to play music in high school and that was the only natural option.

Sam: Personally I’m listening to a lot of Fading Colours at the moment. What bands on the Polish Metal scene do you respect?

Paula: Fading Colours is trance music. I don’t listen to Polish metal at home, I don’t have time. We have many good metal bands known worldwide here in Poland for example Vader or Behemoth. There are good bands like Sweet Noise and many female singing bands as Moonlight, Artrosis, Desdemona, Closterkeller and many more. Moonlight is my favourite.

Sam: There is a definite difference between the sounds of bands such as Delight, Artrosis and Desdemona and bands such as Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil and Nightwish. The Polish sound is rawer and more punchy. Would you agree? Why do you think that that’s the tone of Polish metal?

Paula: We love to play extreme here:) I have to agree, we have a rawer sound because we don’t have the same financial possibilities than western bands. Metal here is more underground, more alternative kind of music. We do albums without big budgets – the sound is not as worldwide as we wish…But without complaining – we have ideas to do music – it’s out treasure. Pure music is more honest. People listen metal to here pure, strong emotions.

Sam: The Polish metal bands never seem to play too far from home. How difficult is it for a band like Delight to get gigs in the rest of Europe?

Paula: We went on small tour to Germany in May but as an unknown band we played for empty clubs… If we were touring with known band as a support we‘d had a chance to show what we can… The promotion abroad is not good, so people don’t come to see bands like Delight, even we could play for free. I believe that it will change when we join European Union. As Delight we don’t complain, we are still waiting for interesting invitations.

Sam: What are you doing when you’re not writing or performing music?

Paula: I study pharmacy. I prefer to say that I perform while I’m not studying pharmacy. Being a full time musician here is almost without future, you have to be well educated to think about future brightly. We have two professions. I’m not the exception, friends from my band do the same, and they are students and musicians in one.

Sam: I’m getting a little bored of the same food at the moment, you see. Can you cook? What’s your favourite food?

Paula: I can’t cook, my mother also can’t and my grandmother wasn’t a great cooker at all…But we are pretty and intelligent girls 🙂 I think men do better in this matter. I don’t have favourite food. I can eat almost everything 🙂

Sam: I read somewhere that you’re a big fan of the Internet. Do you think that the Internet is overall a good or bad thing for bands with the growing increase of file-sharing?

Paula: Because of file-sharing we still don’t know how many people listen to our music at home…If we don’t earn money on our music (musician is a profession that works for free – a dark, pessimistic future is coming soon), our label won’t invest in concerts and we will work only at home studios with the level of music professionalism falling down with every record… It will go worse; the control over Internet is impossible. Some people from the top must find a new way to earn on music- they will do it, not for the art, just for the money… The Internet is the only way for the world by now, is out of discussion.

Sam: Where does Delight go from here?

Paula: To a better future, we hope!

Sam: Do you have any messages for the dedicated Sonic Cathedral clientele?

Paula: Dear friend, I wish you spending a good time listening to Delight, lot’s of kisssseeeessss and thank you for your attention!

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