Closterkeller Interview

13/11/2004 § Leave a comment

Saturday, 13 November 2004

Closterkeller Interview
By: Sam Grant
With: Anja Orthodox

Interview Info
By: Sam Grant
With: Anja Orthodox of Closterkeller
Paulina Maslanka of Delight (translator)
Also present:
Charlie Farrell – Promoter & Fan & Joanna Szyra – Metal Mind

Sam: The Dark Stars Tour has been going on for just over a week at the moment.

Anja: This is the 12th show.

Sam: Right. How has it been going for you so far?

Anja: For me it’s an excellent experience and an excellent adventure. I love it. On a tour like this I feel like a fish in the sea. I love it. For a long time I was nervous before a concert, but now I have forgotten that. For me, singing and playing in a concert is something very pleasurable. I’ve been doing it a very long time and this is the 16th year, and for many years it’s been only pleasure. I forget nervousness, I forget battles with instruments and with my voice.

Sam: You say this is your 16th year, so you’ve been together since what, 1988?

Anja: Yes.

Sam: So the main centre of Closterkeller has been around since 1988?

Anja: No, it is only me that has been around in Closterkeller since 1988.

Sam: I’ve read a lot of your interviews and in the past you’ve said that Closterkeller’s music doesn’t find it’s way out of Poland very often. Are there any experiences you’ve had that had prevented your music from going to other countries? Why do you think that Closterkeller’s music stays in Poland?

Anja: Because we have no connections. We know people in other bands who play often in Germany, in England and in Europe, but every time, the reason is they have a friend. If we have not, we can’t play.

Sam: I find that quite surprising. Have you played outside of Poland?

Anja: Yes, the most important was our gig in Wave Gotik Treffen last year. It was a very good concert, many people came to us and told us that we are excellent and that I’m a good singer. And after that, nothing. I sung in English. I can, I have English versions of the CDs.

Sam: You’ve also said that you feel your music would be better received outside of Poland.

Anja: Sometimes I think so, because in Poland right now there is no time for music like atmospheric rock. There’s no time for dark music. People in showbusiness, in commercial media, want to push only hip-hop and something I call ‘plastic rock’. Rock bands, you know, they find members, they give them music, lyrics. We have problems in radio, they don’t want to play our songs because when they look at a CD of Closterkeller they say, “Ah, it’s not possible to play this because we know this is hard Gothic Satanism” or something like this. Now we have a new CD. It is only an EP, but we have a cover of Michael Jackson/Earth Song. Many people, they don’t want to look on the cover, because it is not possible to play Closterkeller with normal music.

Sam: Why did you choose to cover Earth Song?

Anja: The only criterion for us when we choose songs for covers is art. It must be a song that is beautiful which takes us [motions] on the clouds… Michael Jackson was never my favourite, you understand why, it’s not my music. But this song is beautiful.

Sam: Is there something in the message behind that song that you connect with?

Anja: If I was to be honest I must tell you that the first thing was the music. About the text, I became interested in that afterwards. Before I sung it I wanted to know what it was about. It’s true that the lyrics are a little bit naïve, a little bit too simple.

Sam: They are very simple, but a lot of these very poppy songs have very simplistic lyrics. They have to, because a lot of people need the message to be simple and direct.

Anja: But the message is very big and important. It is an important problem and I can sing about it.

Sam: But is it something that you in particular have an interest in?

Anja: I’m not a fanatical ecologist, but for me this message is important because I am a thinking woman! I had other songs for covers, there was a song by Icehouse – Trojan Blue, beautiful text.

Sam: What’s that one about?

Anja: It’s very poetic. He’s singing about Helen Of Troy, about what she felt when she saw her town when it was ruined.

Sam: You said that now isn’t the right time for your kind of music to be accepted by a large commercial radio audience in Poland. Has there ever been a time for your band over the past 16 years where it’s been possible for that to happen, or has it always been the same way?

Anja: Yes, there was, there was. In the early 90s it was an excellent time for rock music in Poland. And at the time we released our third CD and we had big hits on the radio.

Sam: So what has changed? Why is that not the case anymore?

Anja: Showbusiness changed.

Sam: So it was something in the sound that Closterkeller were making?

Anja: No, it was a problem in showbusiness, social and political changes, after which came changes in the economy and then changes in musical showbusiness too. They didn’t want to have rock music, they thought that people want to buy pop music. Maybe there is something clever in this, but they made a mistake inasmuch as they didn’t make interesting pop music for people. They make rock music, which was good, but they didn’t make interesting pop music. What you hear on the radio is awful.

Sam: Do you see that changing any time soon?

Anja: I don’t know, I don’t want to think about it. I make music, it’s my thing to do. I have internet. When I want to I can find many internet radio [stations] with Gothic music. I hear it and I can say to our radios ‘fuck off’.

Sam: Since Graphite you’ve been doing English versions of your albums. Do you find singing in English to be an easy thing to do?

Anja: No! For me it’s something quite awful because Polish is my language. I can’t do something like many vocalists do – they sing in English – it’s awful English – and they don’t think about it. For me, I hear my mistakes and it hurts my ears!

Sam: Is that because you’re concentrating too much on the fact that you’re singing in English?

Anja: Yes, but my English is getting better and better and better when I sing. I feel it. I hear it. We have an English version of our second album, Blue, and third album, Violet. The third album was so awful that only I have the versions of the songs. It’s a big shame. But today when you hear me sing Earth Song, I am quite good! Because I learned it good.

Sam: Do you feel that the translation of your lyrics from Polish to English is accurate? Do you feel that it’s a good representation of your lyrics?

Anja: I understand the translations of the lyrics and sometimes I think they are better than my Polish!

Paulina: It’s not true! The Polish lyrics are better. Anja is a poet.

Anja: I found Christian, who is my translator, he is her [to Paulina] translator too.

Paulina: He did Anew, and he did Graphite…

Anja: And Nero, and he will translate the next CDs. He is a student of English in Krakow.

Paulina: He’s a young man, he’s 24, he is a big fan of Anja and when he does the translations he is so tired because she is so good – her lyrics are poetry – that he tried to –

Anja: Push mountains!

Paulina: Anja is a Polish rock poet. Her lyrics are wonderful.

Anja: But he is big too. He loves what he does, he loves to learn English. He’s crazy about English and now he’s learning Spanish. He knows French too.

Sam: How did you manage to get in contact with him?

Anja: How? By internet I think.

Paulina: He’s a fan of Anja’s.

Anja: He was a fan. I think through our discussion forum on our website, but I’m not sure.

Paulina: I know that he did some translations for you [to Anja] and that he sent them to you and you said ‘I want to take you because you are good’.

Sam: It’s a shame what you’re saying [to Paulina] about Anja’s lyrics being in Polish because it means that a lot of English people will never be able to appreciate them because we don’t understand Polish.

Anja: They must learn Polish! I think that the Polish language is the best language in the world. It’s very simple, very nice. I feel that it’s extremely simple.

Sam: From what you’ve seen of your Polish lyrics and the translation to the English lyrics, is the English a good reflection of the Polish that you’re writing?

Anja: I think so, I think so, because I look very deeply into the English versions. Christian has sat near me and translated from the Polish. He [explained] the translation from the Polish. They are very close to my text. Sometimes I read it and I see that they are so close and that they have rhymes. He’s really genial.

Sam: Now, all of your albums have colours as their names.

Anja: It’s my idea!

Sam: Why do they?

Anja: Because it’s nice.. and [speaks to Joanna in Polish]

Joanna: Because it’s a good metaphor between albums that are made in the studio..

Anja: For example, The Best Of or concerts or EPs, they are not colours. Maybe I am a poet, but I have a logical mind. I have a mathematical mind. I like it when things are logical and clever.

Sam: Which are your favourite songs and which are the ones you enjoy most performing?

Anja: There are many, but my favourites are the Gothic, hard, big, blackest. Those are my favourites. Silence In Her Home – I don’t know which songs you know –

Sam: I mostly know from Cyan onwards.

Anja: Silence In Her Home on Cyan, on Graphite The Piano, Marble-Enchanted, all Nero, because Nero is our CD which is the most mine.

Sam: Do you mean that you put the most writing into it or that the songs are the most personal?

Anja: No no, because every time my songs are personal. But Nero has this black climate, which I like. After Graphite I stayed alone because our main composers, Krzys and Paweł, left the band. I found Freddie and Pucek, but I was alone with the problem of the music. For me it was excellent because I could be the main person in Closterkeller who decides about the music. All at once I made the black CD, Nero, and on Nero my favourites are Nero, Watching As You Drown, Queen and Have You Seen. And I love our Cover on Reghina of A-Ha, Minor Earth, Major Sky. I love it. We will play it today. Do you know this song in original?
Sam: No. I know A-Ha as a band because I know The Living Daylights and Take On Me, They’re an 80s band aren’t they? They’re from Norway.

Anja: Yes, but about three or four years ago they came back with a new CD, Minor Earth, Major Sky. And the title song is so excellent, so beautiful, that we wanted to play it.

Sam: Over your 16 years in Closterkeller, what has been the most enjoyable thing about being in Closterkeller and what has been the most difficult thing?

Anja: The most enjoyable is that so many people love us and they feel us, they feel our music and my lyrics very truly. They drink us. They feel us forever. For me as an artist, as a creator, this is the most thing. I am extremely satisfied, like an artist, and the most difficult thing…[talks to Joanna in Polish]

Joanna: Show business doesn’t understand.

Anja: Because if it was another way, we could have money. All the people must have money to live. In this 16th year, I’m afraid that one day all this will break and [talks to Joanna]

Joanna: They will have to find another job.

Anja: This is a very expensive hobby. And we are major… adult people – you understand this problem! This is the most difficult problem, and connections in showbusiness. Art is third place. In first place is money, in second connections, you understand. This is much frustrating, but for our fans, we want to play.

Charlie: Who were your inspirations, which artists?

Anja: When I started to sing, I think that you can hear it, I learned on Siouxie. When we had a concert with Paradise Lost, the guitar man came to me and he asked me, “You like Siouxie, eh?” Siouxie was my first vocalist, and my second was Anja Huwe from X-Mal Deutschland.

Sam: I don’t know them.

Anja: You don’t know it?! It was an excellent group. From the mid 80s. When you hear it, you will understand that I learned on her because she had the same voice like me and when I wanted to start singing, I thought that the most comfortable way would be to sing like a girl who is similar to me. Anja Huwe and Siouxie. I love this coldwave from the 80s. This is my kind of music which I loved. I was punk, but after I was post-punk and coldwave. The Stranglers – I loved them. When I was a young girl I had all their CDs – analogue – LPs – and I would translate the lyrics. For me they are a very big thing in my life. I liked the Sex Pistols too. I love music which is beautiful, poetic and has, I don’t know.

Sam: Some bite to it.

Anja: Some bite to it. Not too much calm.

Sam: I think that the problem with chart music is that there is no bite to it. A lot of pop music, a lot of rock music.

Anja: People in radio stations are afraid that normal people, a woman who will cook and clean, will change the station [otherwise].

Sam: I don’t know if you know Brian Adams, he did a song called Everything I Do, I Do It For You. In the UK, that song was No. 1 for 16 weeks. The reason being, just as you’re saying, a lot of housewives, a lot of people confined to being at home all the time, they connected with it because the message was so simple. That’s the kind of stuff that’s popular and that’s the kind of stuff that sells because there’s a message there that everyone can relate to.

Anja: I know, but I want to make music like I make. I understand that 10 million people didn’t buy my CDs.

Sam: I’m not supporting the fact that music which is so basic in its lyrical content is so popular, but unfortunately that’s the way that things are.

Anja: Most of the people want only music for fun, they don’t want to find music which shakes them. Maybe it’s normal, but – my group and me – we make music for other people, for people more sensitive, who want to find something in music what makes their life more rich, that takes them up. I want to find music like this too. I make music for people like me.

Sam: The kind of people who Closterkeller are making music for are unfortunately in the minority. There are fewer of them. Are you working on a new album, and if so, what colour is it going to be?

Anja: Now we have a tour, after, I don’t know. I think that I will start will my musical project – my solo project. Maybe Closterkeller will make a CD with covers, but we must try.. [talks to Joanna]

Joanna: They will have to find out how they feel about covers.

Anja: If we think it is the right thing for us, we will make a big CD with covers. If not, we will make new songs and a new album. Which colour? I don’t know, but this is not the most important thing in this subject. For today, I wanted our next material to be beautiful. You understand?

Sam: Yes, but there are different forms of beauty.

Anja: Pure beautiful. For example, in Nero, I wanted the music to be black and Satanic. I have accents in my lyrics from that philosophy. In Graphite I wanted to make sad material. In Cyan I wanted to make poison. Our next CD, I want it to be beauty. But we have time. Maybe something will change in my life. We will see.

Charlie: I wondered whether you’d ever been invited to sing on somebody else’s album as a guest.

Anja: Sometimes, sometimes I do it.

Charlie: Polish artists?

Anja: Polish artists, because nobody knows me abroad.

Charlie: I say that because in the metal world there are a lot of these project albums where they use this guitarist from this band, and this singer, it’s a way to do something other than a solo project and it’s a good way of reaching an audience that wouldn’t normally listen to your music.

Anja: When somebody will propose me, and it is interesting, I will be very happy. In Poland, two years ago, I recorded a very interesting album with another group other than Closterkeller – Fun. They are rather progressive.

Sam: If you had the chance of working with another band or other musicians who you musically respect a great deal, who would they be?

Anja: Some years ago I thought about it and I thought about Manuella Rickers, she is the guitarist in X-Mal Deutschland. When I hear her, I thought she must have big balls! But now, I don’t know, I have never talked about it. I must think about it and I will tell you. Oh yeah! I have one band, but they are so perfect – Dimmu Borgir! I love Dimmu Borgir! They are perfect. I don’t see me there because they are perfect. Also Killing Joke. For me, the album of the century is Pandemonium. I am a fan of Paradise Lost/Symbol of Life, but better than this is One Second. I love [all their albums], well, not all, but most. And Dimmu Borgir. I like black music. Gothic too, for instance I love Arcana.

Sam: Really?

Anja: You know them?

Sam: I do!

Anja: They’re excellent.

Sam: I don’t imagine they’re the sort of band that would come across very well live.

Anja: Yeah, because this is music, er…

Sam: Atmospheric?

Anja: Yeah.

Charlie: Talking about atmospheric bands, do you like Anathema?

Anja: Anathema? Not very much. I know them, I heard some CDs of theirs, but for me they are too calm. I like some ‘devil’ in the music. Arcana I like because there is very much a Gothic climate.

Sam: This is going to be a difficult question for you to answer, but why would you say there is a Gothic Climate in that music and what exactly do you mean by that? What is a Gothic Climate?

Anja: Yes, what is Gothic?

Sam: This is a question that very few people can actually answer.

Anja: Yes, I have an excellent definition of Gothic, but first I must translate it. Gothic is a state of the human soul. You understand?

Sam: I do understand, but I’m trying to work out why it’s a state of the human soul.

Anja: Gothic is poetry. When you can find all the world around you and this works, it is inside you. Not everybody can feel it, not everybody can find it, but this is Gothic. Normal people think that Gothic is black hair, black hard boots. Not true.

Sam: Yeah, I understand, and that the general feeling about what Gothic is, is that it’s very dark and sometimes even perhaps a negative thing. The accepted, classical, definition of Gothic is that it is something lyrically and visually artistic and extravagant.

Anja: Which is good.

Sam: Which I think is good definitely. But that kind of puts a lot of people off.

Anja: That’s their problem. People who feel the Gothic Atmosphere are Goths. There is nothing to explain. You can either feel it or not. It’s the same like, for example, with the Metal climate/atmosphere – it’s the same – or punk too. Maybe hip-hop. Maybe, why not? Each man has his soul and if you [feel] the Gothic atmosphere, you are lucky, you are a winner. Because Goths are an elite.

Sonic Cathedral appreciates the opportunity to interview Closterkeller. Thanks to the band and all the hard working folks who made this interview possible.

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Flowing Tears Interview

11/11/2004 § Leave a comment

Interview Info
By: Sam Grant
With: Benjamin Buss & Helen Vogt of Flowing Tears
Female Voices Metal Fest II
Present – Sam Grant, Charlie Farrell, Benjamin Buss, Helen Vogt [to join]

Our interview with Flowing Tears took place in the early evening. Given our hectic interview schedule over the course of the Festival, we were only able to catch the final two songs of what appeared to have been a storming set by the band from Saarbrücken, Germany. The Hall at the Ancienne Belgique was packed and the crowd of over two thousand seemed thrilled with the band’s performance. They seemed a far more confident outfit than the one last seen on stage at the London Astoria in support of British Doom masters My Dying Bride and it was thrilling to hear the band sound so powerful and for them to receive such a rapturous reception from the crowd.

Backstage we caught up with Benjamin Buss who handles guitars and programming for the band. Lovely vocalist Helen Vogt also joined us for part of the interview.

Charlie: Is this the first date of your tour?

Ben: No, we’re already on tour for two weeks and we are almost in the middle of the tour right now. Today is a day off from the Samael tour and we’re playing this festival.

Charlie: Was this date organized first?

Ben: Actually yes, we had the date for the festival, then we got the proposal to play the Samael tour and we said that we would play the tour but on November 7th we will play this festival because –

Charlie: It’s a great opportunity to play to a new audience.

Ben: Definitely.

Charlie: Could you give me a quite history of the band?

Ben: I will make it very short, so as not to bore you.

Charlie: No, that’s fine, that’s just what I want.

Ben: Well we started in 96. Our first album was released yeah, in ’96 and is called Swansongs, which was very different.

Charlie: And which no one can find these days.

Ben: Yeah, but nobody should find it. It’s not because I feel ashamed by that. I still like it, but it’s very different. We didn’t have a female singer then, it was male grunt vocals, it was doomy stuff with 13-minute songs and stuff. I still like it but I always tell people ‘Don’t try to get it on Ebay or wherever and pay a lot of money for it because you will probably be disappointed’, because people who know the band from nowadays pay a lot of money for this album and its just like … something completely different, so I tell people not to try and get the album.

Sam: These are the real die-hard fans I suppose.

Ben: Yeah. It is some collectors item, but I always tell people who send me an email asking about this album, if you find this for 2 Euros then yeah, maybe buy it, but don’t go and pay something like 30/40 euros for it because its very different.

Sam: There are plenty of people who would be willing to pay that, I imagine.

Ben: Yeah.

Charlie: You wouldn’t consider re-releasing it or something?

Ben: No, this one not. I mean the second one ‘Joy Parade’ we may re-release some day, if we find a possibility but the first one is like ‘early history’.

Charlie: Pre-history.

Ben: Pre-history is a good word.

At this point Charlie mentioned the news of tragic death of two of the band’s earliest members, which had happened in a car accident a few weeks earlier.

(From the band’s website)

On October 20th two founding members of Flowing tears, Björn Lorson and Christian Zimmer died in a tragic car accident. Even though they already left the band in ´95 and ´96 (Björn after the first demo tape “Bijou” and Christian after “Swansongs” ), Flowing Tears may never have existed, if they hadn’t been. We will keep you in our minds and hearts. These days we take a breath to listen to the tunes of songs such as “Flowing tears & withered Flowers” or “Waterbride” – while mourning about two young people who had to die much too early.” Rest in Peace guys – we will never forget you!

Ben: Yeah, just 1 week before the tour started. It was very hard, I mean they were founding members and they left the band even before the first album but in the very beginning they were very important. For me personally it wasn’t that hard because I was not in contact with them anymore since a lot of years but for our bass player, they were his two best friends so it was really … he still is … in quite a bad mood because of this but these things happen and life goes on. When he came off the stage he said he was playing for both of them.

Charlie: So we’re up to Joy Parade, history-wise.

Ben: OK. First album with female vocals, so it’s the first album for me that officially counts because it’s the style of music that we play today. After Joy Parade we left our former label and joined Century Media, so since then we made 3 albums for Century Media including Razorbliss, the current one.

Sam: How are you finding Century Media as a label.

Ben: Well, it’s always good to have a record label, to have someone to give the blame for everything. No generally we’re happy. Sometimes there are, you know, some small or larger problems but I guess that you have that with any label. We have good cooperation, so it works quite good and we’re happy to be with them.

Charlie: With Helen joining quite recently, did the changeover work quite smoothly?

Ben: Ummhh, no not really, I mean. But the hardest time of the changeover of the vocalist was the time before our former vocalist Stephanie actually really left, because it was not really a disagreement or whatever about the music or personal reasons, but there was a development after we came back from touring for Serpentine, we realized that she wanted to spend more time at home. She wanted to spend less time with the band because she never really liked being on tour and the rest of the band wanted to do more and we really liked being on tour and so we tried to find a compromise for half a year, and then we realized that there were really different opinions about how to run the band in the future and so we said either it means the slow and certain end of the band or … It was a painful decision because I think that she is a very talented singer but we had to take this decision to go on with the band in the style that we wanted.

Charlie: Did it take a while to find a singer?

Ben: Well yes. We rehearsed with a lot of really good singers but with most of them we felt like a cover band because there were really talented singers around but they never really clicked.

Charlie: Did they have a different style?

Ben: Yeah, we rehearsed with some singers who sang in a different style but the point is that those deep female vocals have become something of a trademark for Flowing Tears over the years because there are so many bands around today who have those high soprano vocals but we just don’t want to be band number 962 doing this, so we really wanted to keep this style. We were not looking for a Stephanie copycat but we wanted to keep that style. By coincidence she sounds quite similar.

Sam: Did the change over work well personally. Did [Helen] integrate with the rest of the band very well on a personal level?

Ben: The thing was when we decided to take a new singer I was quite sure that even if we were to find a very good singer for us, that it would take us a while until we felt like a real band again, so I thought OK we will need half a year until we can really start working on songs and everything but the funny thing that was in the first rehearsal she came in the room, it was just like .. Yeah, thanks.. It felt like we had never rehearsed with anyone else, it was very funny.

Sam: Had she heard of the band before?

Ben: She was a huge fan of the band. Maybe that’s the fact that made it even easier compared to somebody very new to the band who didn’t know about the history of the band. She knew everything; she saw the band growing so she was really into it. It was very funny, at the first rehearsal she came into the room and said ‘hey let’s play this and this song from that and that album’ and we went ‘whoa. What song? We don’t remember it’. She actually knew the songs much better than we did, but it made it very easy, you know, to accept her and not being the new one. So yeah …

Sam: So it has been a kind of a continuation, really, hasn’t it?

Ben: Yeah, more than we expected ourselves.

Sam: Yeah, she does sound exceptionally similar to Stephanie.

Ben: Yes, but that wasn’t the plan. Maybe it’s another kind of coincidence. Maybe she sounds very similar because the very literal influence in starting to sing was actually Stephanie.

Sam: Oh?

Ben: Yes, I was checking the website of her former band and there was a questionnaire ‘My influence in starting to sing was Stephanie from Flowing Tears’ and I thought ‘oh’

Sam: It’s highly complimentary, isn’t it?

Ben: Yeah, yeah, and another coincidence was that she just lives next door. We had a lot of singers coming from really far away and the first singer that we rehearsed with from really next-door was Helen.

Sam: I’d like to just say very quickly about Razorbliss – I think that this year has been a pretty stagnant year for Gothic Metal. It’s been a disappointment for Gothic Metal, overall. There are a lot of albums which were expected to be very good which fell short of expectations. Razorbliss surprised me because it was far…far better than I expected it to be and it was definitely one of my best albums of the year.

Ben: Thank you very much.

Sam: It’s a very impressive work. How long did it take to write the album and what was your idea behind writing it? Were you thinking ‘this is the kind of sound we want to create and we want these perfect little explanations of what Gothic Metal is’?

Ben: Actually it was an album that we wrote in a very, very short time. The point is that we spent almost half a year looking for a new singer and we couldn’t do anything creative in this time because I can’t write songs when I don’t know for whom I write the songs. So I spent half a year almost doing nothing, except rehearsing with singers and I was really dying to start getting started again.

Sam: That must have been very frustrating.

Ben: Yeah, yeah, because when she was in the band it was like ‘Hey, lets start now’ and it was just flowing. Normally we are a band who spends a lot of time thinking about can we do this, can we do that, ‘no we probably can’t but let’s try’ but this time it was like ‘Yeah. Why not? Let’s just do it’. Maybe there was the influence of Helen as well, because before she joined us, she played 5 shows with a local band and that’s it, so she’s not really into the scene, she didn’t really know anything about the business and everything, so she had a certain kind of childish approach to everything. She didn’t care about anything because she didn’t know about it, so it was just like if we played something and said ‘No we can’t play this, it sounds too much like them’, she’d say ‘Yeah, but why not?’ and we’d say ‘Yeah, you’re right, why not? Let’s do it’, so we was just like a new start for the band, which is good.

Sam: People are always going to make comparisons, aren’t they? I’ll say it again – the likes of Evanescence. What other bands have you been compared to? Do people compare you to Lacuna Coil etc.?

Ben: Yeah…yeah, I mean sometimes we even get compared to Nightwish and whatever. I can’t understand it because I don’t see any similarities. But I’m not the kind of musician who doesn’t want to be compared to anybody. Journalists need to describe music – If you say to somebody ‘If you maybe like Evanescence then you will probably like this as well’ – as long as I myself, don’t have in my head ‘this sounds like that’, then it’s fine of course. But at least one thing that I got a little pissed of was, there were some reviews in some magazines, writing that ‘Now that Evanescence is getting big, there are a lot of young bands that try to play the same way’. I mean, we play this stuff since 1997.

Sam: You can look at what they have done positively, though.

Ben: Yeah they opened a lot of doors. I see it positively. Its good if we can look at Nightwish’s success on the mainstream level, it can only be good for a band like Flowing Tears, I mean, but if not, I don’t care. I know that this metal stuff is quite big in the mainstream but in two years nobody will talk about that. It is scarier. We make this since a lot of years and we will continue to make this for a lot of years, as well. So its actually nice to have such a wave, you know, probably you sell some more records because of that, but if not, then that’s alright as well.

Sam: So it is partially interest?

Ben: Probably yes, I mean because the mainstream music business works like that. I mean its partially bands like Nightwish and all this symphonic stuff, which for nearly 2 years has been something different.

Charlie: What is the German (club) Scene like – in terms of the sorts of places where you play? Are you very reliant upon the big festivals like Mera Luna etc?

Ben: With Razorbliss we didn’t play so many club shows, I mean we played 3 tours now. This is the third tour that we are doing for the album, so we played a few headlining club shows in Germany. Actually I think that there is quite an audience for this kind of music actually and it is a really young audience. If you look at the audience today there are a lot of 15 and 16 year old people, its quite nice.

Charlie: Have the tours that you have done before, been mainly concentrated upon Germany?

Ben: Basically the first tour that we did was Germany only, it was a semi-acoustic tour with The Gathering. Then we did a Germany/Benelux tour with After Forever, and well, now we’re on tour with Samael, which touches 13 or 14 European countries and which is not only Germany. For us being a German band, its actually a little bit boring playing in Germany. It’s everyday business and German audiences, you know, and its always a little bit .. its OK, you know before the show that people will like it, but they won’t show it. Plus it’s exciting playing in new countries, I mean, some days ago we went to Croatia for the very first time and it was just like we were blown away, there were so many people singing along with the lyrics and it was just like coming home, some how. Yet we had never been there before and there were so many really dedicated fans, it was like … Amazing!

Sam: So many of these countries don’t get the opportunity to see these bands play. The UK is one of them. I know that you have played the UK recently.

Charlie: Yeah I saw you play with My Dying Bride.

Ben: Oh that was not one of our best gigs.

Sam: Was it badly received?

Ben: Which was Ok, I mean they came for My Dying Bride. We didn’t really fit, which was OK, but no, we didn’t really play that good. I mean we were in the studio recording Razorbliss when we got the phone call ‘do you want to play that show’ and I said ‘No, we can’t, we are in the studio’, but then of course people said “It’s a very good show’ and I’m a big fan of My Dying Bride as well’, so I said ‘OK, I’ll do that basically to see My Dying Bride’, but we hadn’t rehearsed any live set since half a year as we had really focused on doing the album and we had two shows together with Helen before we came to London to play this show and both these shows were half a year before, so she wasn’t on stage for half a year and then suddenly she was thrown on to the big Astoria stage. I feel really nervous playing in front of the English audience, because being a German band trying to sing in English we feel a bit ashamed playing in front of native speakers.

Sam: I was just wondering what the interest in Gothic Metal was because the music that My Dying Bride make and the music that Flowing Tears make are very different.

Ben: Definitely yeah, but the funny thing is that I am a huge fan of My Dying Bride and Aaron from My Dying Bride is actually quite a huge Flowing Tears fan, which is one of the biggest compliments that I ever got in all my career was when he wrote me an email saying that he really likes our albums.

Sam: Are you getting more and more popular at the moment and more and more well received?

Ben: Yes.

Sam: Does that mean that you have the luxury of being able to spend 100% of your time on the band or are you still having to do day jobs?

Ben: Er no. We all do things besides playing music, that’s why actually on this tour we’re playing with a replacement drummer and replacement bass-player. But today we play with the original line-up just for this Festival, but they will drive back home today. It is because they have to be at University and at work, but the point for us is that I would never give up doing something very different besides music because I don’t want to end up being really dependant upon how much records I sell. And the point is of course we could now take the step and say ‘OK we will focus on doing music only because its running quite good and we start selling more’. I am quite sure that we would regret that in five years because there are just very few bands who are allowed to be on stage at the age of 40 or something. I don’t think that I would really like to be on stage then.

Sam: It just doesn’t work for a lot of bands.

Ben: I mean I am quite sure that I will play music until the end of my life, but probably not being a touring musician, so its very important for me to have something else besides the band. Which is as well is a kind of inspiration for me. I wouldn’t like the typical musician’s life of getting up at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, playing a little bit of guitar etc, you know – it would be horrible for me, it wouldn’t suit my style of living. I wouldn’t get any inspiration from that lifestyle. I mean being on tour is very good, but I’m already very happy when I’m back home again and can do different things besides ‘when is the sound check’, ‘when is show time’ and everything. So yeah, but it works quite good, but sometime you have to arrange things, you have to plan very good, when do we have time to be on tour, when do we have time to work with replacement musicians. Obviously we couldn’t go on a half a year US tour, but actually we don’t want to, so we’re just fine with the way it’s going right now

Charlie: So you don’t want to follow in the steps of Lacuna Coil? They’re spending so much time over in the states.

Ben: It’s good for them. I know them. They enjoy this very much, but I don’t think that we would really enjoy it. The tour we’re playing right now is 5 ½ weeks, which is a great time but then again it’s a very uncreative time because you just hang around and play shows. Its good to be back home doing some things. I don’t know if I would really like to spend 1 year being on tour constantly. We’ve played 3 tours for this album, which is already quite a lot for us and that’s fine.

Charlie: Going back to the album, to Razorbliss, did you choose to work with the same producer again or was it the label’s decision?

Ben: No, it was our decision to do that. I mean Waldymar did a great job on both of the previous albums, so there was no reason not to work with him again and then the other thing was that he was not just producing because in the meantime he was something like a good friend of the band and something like an additional band member when it comes to production and so he was also quite involved in the process of finding a new singer, so for me it was clear that we would record the album with him. Actually maybe on the next one it will be time for a change, not because I don’t like the work he did. I think he did an excellent job, but you know, if you like the color red, you don’t sit in a red room all your life. So maybe it can be inspiring to work with somebody else. But we will see, we haven’t even started figuring out some new ideas but the plan is to maybe change a little bit, to get some new inspirations

Sam: Will the music change then or will you still be writing the same kind of material?

Ben: There’s a certain kind of songwriting that won’t change because I can’t get out of my skin but I guess that we will experiment much more than what we did on Razorbliss. On Razorbliss, we starting integrating more modern stuff and more dynamic elements, but still maybe in the back, we had the idea in mind we had to show people, that even though we have a new singer, we are still flowing tears so we can’t do really strange stuff and I think that on the next album we will actually start experimenting more. I mean if you saw the show tonight, Helen started experimenting with doing grunt vocals.

Sam: Yeah? Really? It’s a shame that I missed that.

Ben: It sounds really impressive. So hopefully there will be a few grunts on the new album.

Sam: You had elements of that on Razorbliss.

Ben: Yeah, but it was only something like a small hint that we could maybe do this.

Sam: Well it work’s pretty well, I thought.

Ben: Yeah, thank you. I think on our next album we will, you know, allow ourselves to do some more steps in this direction. Whatever, we will try to be more extreme. This point of this is, that the Razorbliss songs are very balanced. A lot of mid-tempo stuff that’s quite good but that (probably) actually, if I would start song-writing tomorrow, I would take much more of the extremes – really silent ambient parts whatever and a little bit more atmospheric and then really heavy grooving parts so we will double it and see what happens.

Sam: I think that would work very well.

Charlie: How do you compose? Is it something that you do on computers?

Ben: Actually Razorbliss was the first album that I wrote without the guitar. It was very strange for me because I’m a guitar player. For Razorbliss, I always started programming some loops or short sounds or whatever and they made me, you know, get a certain atmosphere from a keyboard. Actually the guitar (parts) is what I wrote at the very end, but it was the first time that we wrote songs like that and I don’t know that we will do that again. But writing a song is not something that I can plan. The only thing that I know about song writing is that whenever you really try to write a song you fail. So if I sit there and say ‘Oh, I have some spare time, I will sit down and write a song’ you can forget it. It just happens so you can’t plan it.

Charlie: Do you carry a mini-disk player with you?

Ben: I actually bought on of these, yes. The funny thing is that most of the ideas that I have, I have when I am stuck in a traffic jam in my car or something, where I can’t record it, so I bought one of these, so I can record the melody or whatever.

Helen Vogt joins at this point.

Sam: Welcome Back. Are you going to see Nightwish later? Do you like them?

Helen: I like parts of their music, but I’m not really a big fan of soprano vocal stuff, I like more heavy music. I don’t really like that many bands with female vocals.

Sam: But Flowing Tears was your main inspiration.

Helen: Yeah, definitely it was. I knew them since 1998 and since then I began to sing along with Stephanie.

Sam: This must be quite a dream for you.

Helen: It is, and since you saw onstage tonight, I love to be on stage doing this and its great.

Sam: If you’re following in the footsteps of one of your idols, isn’t it a little difficult because it’s a tough act to follow?

Helen: Yeah, at first I felt a little nervous because I sung for a little-known local Gothic Metal band, and the first concert I had with Flowing Tears was the Wave Gothik Treffen. There were 3000 people of something like that … I was really excited.

Sam: Were you nervous the first few proper performances you did with Flowing Tears?

Helen: Oh yeah, sure. But I love being on stage so it was OK.

Sam: So you slipped into in pretty easily. So you like heavy music, what kind of stuff?

Helen: I really like female rock bands like The Gathering and Lacuna Coil, then I like much more hard stuff like Kreator and Slayer and Megadeth and stuff like that.

Sam: Hasn’t your life completely changed since you’ve been in Flowing Tears? What were you doing before hand?

Helen: I was studying medicine.

Sam: Wow! A bit of a gear-change!

Helen: Now I spend a lot of time with the band recording and all the organizations but I’m still studying because I have 1 year more to go.

Charlie: Are you studying to be a Doctor?

Helen: Yes.

Sam: But is it a track that you want to stay on? You have this fantastic set-up at the moment, you are in probably the band that you’d most want to be in. It’s many people’s dream, and never realized by many people, and then you have this medical career waiting in the wings. Which side are you going to pick up?

Helen: I can be a Doctor when I’m 40 years old, but for now I can be a musician, so music has the first priority at the moment. I’m studying as long as it works beside [music], but when I am too busy with the music then I will just do music.

Charlie: Once you have qualified as a Doctor, then you can be a doctor at any time of your life.

Helen: Yeah, sure.

Sam: It’s probably not the way round that you’d think of doing things necessarily, I mean, you can become a qualified doctor and then become a musician.

Helen: Why not? I could become a tour doctor or open a sanitarium for insane musicians – I’m sure that there would be a lot of clients for this.

Sam: But you’ll probably forget much of what you’ve learned, because you spend years touring around Europe and then when you get back you’ll have forgotten most of it.

Helen: No, not really. You know that every human uses just a little bit of his brain, so .. he can use just a little bit more.

Ben: You know we’ve been on tour since 2 weeks and we left our brains at home. We can’t use it all at the moment. (Laughs)

Sam: Well thank you very much both of you, I wish I’d got chance to see you downstairs, but unfortunately I was up here all of the time … so Next time! Keep up the good work, its all going very well for you.

Charlie: Sorry, 1 more question. When are you next going to be on tour? Presumably you are now going to write and record a new album.

Helen: We are on tour now.

Ben: If there is a master plan right now, then the plan is to write the album in spring, record it in the summer and be on tour in the autumn.

Darkwell Interview

11/11/2004 § Leave a comment

Darkwell Interview
By: Sam Grant
With: Raphael Lepuschitz & Roland Wurze

Interview Info
Female Voices Metal Fest 2, Belgium
By: Sam Grant
With: Raphael Lepuschitz & Roland Wurzer – of Darkwell
Also present: Charlie Farrell-Promoter & Fan

Sam: I’ve only started listening to Darkwell very recently, so you’re going to have to explain a few basic things to me. Why the name Darkwell?

Roland: That’s really very basic.

Sam: It’s about as basic as I could start with. So what does it mean?

Roland: A lot of people ask me whether the name is based on the book written by Douglas Niles about Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s true – I read this novel, it’s not very good, its OK, it’s just a fantasy story. But as we started in 1999 we were a band already, but we changed names at that time and I really liked the name because a well is like a water source or something like that. It’s not commonly used in English, certainly not in Central Europe. So it was the dark source of an ocean, that was the basic idea. I had a lot of fun with the name because a lot of German people thought of ‘well’ as ‘good’ so they thought it meant ‘Darkgood’. So I explained and had a lot of fun with that, but originally it was a source of dark emotions manifested in music.

Sam: You’re all from Austria. Is there a Gothic scene in Austria?

Roland: There is, it’s a small scene, actually in Vienna. Maybe you know of bands like L’Âme Immortelle, those are the backbone of the Austrian Gothic scene, there’s also some industrial stuff. But where we are from, we are more connected to the dark scene around Munich, but on the other side there is a good established metal scene. From the beginning all our members were into this fusion of dark metal and heavy metal stuff, so that was the basic idea. We have a good Gothic scene in the Eastern parts of Austria.

Sam: So what were you all respectively doing before you were in Darkwell?

Roland: OK, that’s a long story, I’ll try to cut it short. I started making music at the end of the 80s and in the early 90s we founded a band called Sarcasm Syndrome, where we started in 1992 having female vocals in a metal band which at that time was really new and the name Gothic Metal did not even exist. The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy were around, but we called it ‘metal with female vocals’ because we didn’t have a better name, so that was the band I started with. And we did a lot of stuff until ’97, and then we split up. It didn’t work anymore, our singer went to another band in Austria. It simply didn’t work anymore. So Maurice and I knew each other, we’d been in a few cover bands, we also played in an Italian dark Gothic Metal band called Evenfall, if you remember them.

Sam: You were in Evenfall?

Roland: I was. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Sam: They were a fantastic band.

Roland: It was something really special. The kind if music, it was really different. But I think at that time, at the end of the 90s, it was too different.

Sam: The only band that I heard that was similar to Evenfall were Ram-Zet. Do you know them?

Roalnd & Raphael: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sam: Cumbersome is one of my favourite albums.

Raphael: We were in Evenfall until Still In The Great Dying, but we left Evenfall after that. Cumbersome was a new line-up.

Sam: Alexandra’s not in your band anymore.

Roland: Unfortunately not.

Sam: If that something that you’re comfortable with talking about?

Roland: I have to be, because a lot of people ask me. It simply didn’t work anymore. There were a couple of personal problems, a couple of musical problems and based on the different orientation of different styles of life. She was younger than us, she was finishing her studies and started to go to other countries to do additional studies. Altogether it just didn’t work anymore. It was a real problem for us. And that’s the reason why Metatron is out now rather than earlier.

Raphael: It was a very hard decision for us, because me and the new guitar player got used to the band with Alex, so it was very hard for us to split from her, but when we realised that we could have worked better with another singer, we did some auditions. But Stephanie we knew from another band. And to answer your former question, me and Mathias used to play in the mid 90s in a death metal band, even Gothic bands and so on, and then in 2000/2001 we went to Darkwell and Stephanie we knew from a concert we did with Darkwell. We were very impressed with her. She was drinking Jägermeister with us and we were very happy about that, so she was very quickly engaged with the band!

Roland: The first Darkwell CD really focused on Alexandra’s vocals. We did some auditions, but none of the vocalists could capture the emotions that Alexandra transmitted and Stephanie was the first one who could. She transmitted that same emotions that we wanted her to and that really worked excellently, so we realised that there are even more possibilities, which is really good for us because with Alexandra we were a bit limited, but now it’s easier with Stephanie.

Sam: So before were you confined by Alexandra’s vocal ability, or not, as the case may be.

Roland: I didn’t want to say that!

Sam: So now you’re writing different stuff because you have a more versatile singer?

Roland: I didn’t say we’re writing different stuff, but we know we can. We can also bring more rock music into it. She’s also going in to the front more – before, only the music was speaking to us, which is also OK – Alexandra was a very calm person, she stood on the stage, she did her job, not bad. We were also really pleased with Alexandra. Now it’s different. [Stephanie] starts to interact with the audience, which is more of a rock thing and it’s really important for us. But it wasn’t like that before, but it just simply happened.

Sam: Is the state of the band now an improvement?

Raphael: I think yes.

Roland: Especially the line-up we had in 99-2000 when we recorded Suspiria, we were really limited, we had problems with our guitar player, so we changed, and in 2000 I think Ralf joined and in 2001 Mathias, and then it started to go perfectly, we started to record Conflict of Interest. The new line-up and everything was cool and things really started to work. And things started to happen with Alexandra. So [Metatron] is finally finished now. We’re so happy. On the 29th November we will have existed for five years and it’s the second full-length which is quite strange, we don’t feel good with that. We’ve played a lot of concerts in a lot of countries and we’ve got a lot of good responses.

Raphael: We plan to do a newer, full-length record next year to hit the average – one every two years! So in six years we’ll have had three full-lengths.

Roland: So tell all the people we won’t wait another four years!

Sam: The only question about Conflict Of Interest I’ve got is about Twist In My Sobriety. I was really surprised when I saw you’d covered that. Bands have Covered some unusual songs – Type O Negative have covered Baby One More Time, Delight have covered Careless Whisper, and you decide to cover that which is a very unusual choice. It’s an 80s song by Tanita Tikaram. Why did you decide to cover it?

Roland: That’s a very funny story. You won’t believe me, but that’s OK. I was very young. I was buying vinyl records still and these things called CDs came out and I was like, ‘what the hell is that?!’ So I buy one of those shitty players, you know. And the gift of the shop was they were giving away one of those Hits Of The Year albums for free with it. And I listened to that and I hated it. Like hell. But there was one song which moved some kind of emotions in me. Directly after David Hasselhoff was Tanita Tikaram/Twist In My Sobriety! Naturally it was a sample, there were no lyrics included and the Internet didn’t exist at that time so I really started to search around for the lyrics, also the album wasn’t really available in Austria. They had good distribution is Germany but not in Austria. So finally I catch this record and I made a photocopy of the lyrics. I really liked the song. And then I forgot it. Years passed and years passed and years passed and at the end of the 90s before we finished with Sarcasm Syndrome we thought ‘let’s do a cover tune!’ and all the people didn’t know what to do, so I said, “Let’s do Twist In My Sobriety!”

Sam: And they were all like, ‘what?!’

Roland: Yeah! And no one wanted to do it, so Sarcasm Syndrome pissed off. So we did this f**king EP and I said we’d try it again. I suggested Twist In My Sobriety and no-one liked it expect me, but now there were fresh guys in the band so I could force them!

Raphael: We also did Don’t You by Simple Minds which will also be a cover version on the next record as a digipak. But there’s a link with Twist In My Sobriety with the new record because we used a boer when we did the cover the first time and our keyboardist was like yeah, the boer is a cool instrument, so the song started to influence us on the new record.

Roland: But before, when we were in the studio, my guitarist said, “no, I won’t do that song”, my keyboardist said, “no, I won’t do that song” “ok”, I said, “you bastards!” The drums were already done, so I said, “I’ll do it on my own”. I started to play it – the keyboards and the guitars – and the guys heard it and they didn’t like it, so they started to play the keyboards and guitars on their own until it was finished! But I think we could have done more with that song. But I’m very glad that we did it, that was important for me. Because it was really a tune out of my youth that I wanted to play in a different style. If you tell me that it’s not a good cover, I’ll have to confess that there are more things that we could have done with it, but I think that it’s very important that we did that. And after that there’s a label in Germany called Sumitra who heard it and they really liked it and they put it on a sample compilation. We really got some good feedback from that and last year when we were playing, a lot of people started crying, “play Twist In My Sobriety!” We never played it in the rehearsal room, just in the studio, we were never able to do that. But to finish the question, it was really important for me to do that.

Sam: So what’s the difference, musically, between Suspiria and Metatron?

Roland: OK, there are two approaches to that. The first approach is the complete architecture of the band and Suspiria was completely written by me, but now we started being a band. There are a couple of songs that were composed by Raphael and Mathias and a couple of songs composed by us all, and only one song left that I composed alone, and in the rehearsal room, the drummer, the vocalist and me added our stuff and it started being a band from the composing approach. That’s the first thing. On the other hand, Suspiria, at that time, was a real experiment. Because, if you remember at that time we had Tristania, we had Theatre of Tragedy, but, I don’t mean this in a bad way, for me they were black, death metal bands that added female vocals to be more attractive. We came from a different approach. We were still metalheads on the one hand, but on the other hand we were into Type O Negative, Fields Of The Nephilim, different harmonies and everything, and it was important for me to integrate that into Darkwell musically. We did Suspiria and it was something very strange at that time. We really liked it, having only female vocals, nobody could handle that at the beginning. It was successful and we were pleased with that. We will still stick to this scheme, but now we are a whole bunch of people working on their own music. All the time, when we read the reviews, we were compared to Tristania and all that shit, I like those bands.

Sam: But you don’t feel that they’re a reflection of your sound.

Roland: They’re something completely different. We could do the same, but we would do it in a very bad way, it’s different. And now we are a complete band doing complete music. We know, in the rehearsal room, that if we change this chord it will be a completely commercial song, but we don’t do that.

Sam: There seems to be a more comfortable feeling in the band now.

Raphael: Yeah, I think so. For me, for example, I was working on the Conflict of Interest CD also, the songs were written by Roland and the whole band changed the songs so they were happy about it. In the new album the basic lines were done by me and the new guitar player. And afterwards we did the composing and they changed their parts, but I happened not in a fixed way, but more in a simultaneous way. We could compose and bring it to the other guys and they would say, “yeah, let’s do it that way” so we changed it while composing, not afterwards, like it was before. So the new record is really the first one where it is part of the whole band, where the whole band was involved, whereas the old ones were mainly based on Roland’s ideas.

Sam: So is Darkwell now where you wanted it to be?

Roland: Interesting question. I started it alone and I was some kind of dictator, telling people what to do. But then I bought those crazy guys in and I saw it’s not good that way because they were all creative and they had to play my shit, you know. So now they know what Darkwell is all about. So yes, as the collective we are now, it’s at the place where I wanted it to be. But now, five people are wanting something. Years ago it was just one. So that’s the difference and it’s very good and very important.

Sam: That’s going to create more harmony as well.

Roland: Yes, we’re really pleased about the new record. Our label sometimes says that it’s not commercial enough but we don’t give a shit about that. We’re really pleased with it. Darkwell is where it should be at the moment, that’s true.

Sam: The name Metatron. What is it?

Roland: Haha. That’s difficult. It’s the name of the title song and it’s about Metatron, mentioned in the Book of Enoch in the Holy Bible up to the fourth century till it was passed out of the Bible. It’s ancient Kabala mysticism on the one hand, on the other hand it’s based on Egyptian mythology, the counterpart to the Catholic Metatron, which is similar to the Egyptian lord Thoth, but what is interesting about it is that in Christian mythology, prophets started saying that this guy who wrote the book Enoch, who contributed this part to the Holy Bible, was a magician and that he was raised by God himself to the rank of archangel as a human being which would be completely revolutionary for all Christian beliefs of one God, mankind, angels. Ancient religions are influencing the Catholic way of life and way of believing, so it’s a question of morals. Telling the one thing and believing the other thing. Double morals.

Sam: That’s quite a common theme with you. I’ve noticed in Armageddon there’s a theme about the flipside. Is that something that you’re quite interested in?

Roland: Yes. In Austria they call it the ‘holy anti-role’. We have the highest amount of Catholic people in our hometown, still people are going to Church – strange – and I’m not into any religion.

Sam: You seem to have quite a wide berth of knowledge about it though.

Roland: I started to get interested in why these Catholics were going to Church, what are they getting from that, what are the basics, where are they coming from, why the hell do we have celebrations at Christmas with trees?! So I saw that and I started to read about that, and I saw that it was an ancient European fest, the so-called Yule fest which had been put on the same date. Why? Because there are tons of people living in the same area so instead of giving them a new religion you give them fests. So I started to see so many connections between new religions and mythology and altogether I got completely frustrated about that, I was about 16 at the time and I really started to read about that and become interested in it. But what religion is really good for is a mirror of our society. In any time, religion is a mirror of our society and if the American people have a new President called George Bush, that happened because religious people moved American people to that. 30 billion people voted for this man, OK, so religion changed again. A free country like the States is now limited. There are people who think that Europe is doomed because they are not Evangelists. If one European says, ‘I am also Christian’ they would say ‘no!’. It’s really a story about that. So I’m starting to get interested in religion because I think that religion is a mirror of our society and I think that it’s something we all have to deal with because we’re all part of it. So I wanted to write about it. So Armageddon happened as a final clash for all religions, for all beliefs, to say that there’s nothing behind that. That’s what Armageddon is about. The song Metatron is about angels going to the Earth, raping mankind, being completely against what Christian mythology is telling you about and changing this world again with cruelty, which shouldn’t be done by angels. It’s about the double morals of the holy beliefs and the whole society made by us at the moment.

Sam: I heard that you said something different about Armageddon.

Roland: Did I? Oh!

Sam: No, that’s fine, because there’s obviously as lot of material there for you to work from. You said that every power has a counter-power.

Roland: Yes, the equilibrium which is part of what Suspiria is about.

Sam: Right, and the fact that every evil situation does have something positive in it. I just find that very hard to believe because evil is a very strong word to use.

Roland: Evil is a strong word, you’re right.

Sam: I’m all for understanding that from every really bad situation you can draw something positive from it. If you really try. But I’m sure there are many with no positivity at all.

Raphael: There might be no positive sense behind it, but the positive result could still be.

Roland: You know, last week I met a friend who is a teacher and he teaches Catholic religion. He’s interested in the whole of society and everything, we were just drinking beer and talking about everything and after we’d had a couple of beers he asked me when will it end, what we have at the moment, the whole Iraq war, everything. Where will it end? Are our ideas of a regular society perpetuam? Will it work forever? No, it won’t. That was his conclusion. So we have about fifty years till the next World War. Because without destruction we won’t have any evolution again. It’s really a dangerous idea he has about that but the problem is, the problem of the perpetuam, is that it works, but not forever. It has to be destroyed to make way for something new. That’s what I meant when I said an evil thing has a good counterpart. It was a really bad example at that moment, but the basic idea is, if there is some evil existing, is the word ‘evil’ really correct? The problem is that ‘evil’ is a very bad word. So that’s why I wrote the lyrics to Suspiria. I saw the solutions to a lot of problems I had at that time. Neutrality, equilibrium. Those metaphors of good, those metaphors of evil – for me it was very important that there was something in between. Society, when considering evil thinks that there has to be a cause for it. But you’re right, it’s really hard to see in every case.

Sam: I could bring up September 11th but I won’t…

Roland: I’d find it very hard to say something good about that!

Sam: If it is possible to draw positive influences from things that have negative effects can you think of something very bad, something negative that’s happened to you, that you’ve been able to draw something positive from?

Roland: Sometimes, sometimes. If I try to I can. But I can’t do it all the time. Still, 9/11 was f**ked up. It’s time that all mankind realises the position of the States, of their role. It was some kind of wake-up call. Unfortunately 3000 men died. Unfortunately it caused two wars. But still, I believe it was necessary but it couldn’t have kept on happening for a very long time. For example, a couple of bad things have happened to me in my life. But still, they gave me the power to open my mind to new ideas and to walk forward, which perhaps I wouldn’t have done without them. I know what you’re focussing on, but the equilibrium, the neutrality is quite an important part of my personal religion. It’s difficult to explain, but if I were to explain it, it would be a very hard explanation.

Sam: My ex used to say that every experience was a good experience, which really used to annoy me. If you lose a limb or something, it might make you stronger, but that’s it really. Tragedies that happen to you might have some semblance of positivity to them, but that, on its own, isn’t worth it. It’s not worth gaining that kind of strength for that kind of loss.

Roland: But if you look at it on the other hand, if you want something to happen to you, you cause it. The things that happen to you, you cause. You have to deal with them.

Sam: You’re not talking about karma, are you.

Roland: Somehow. I believe in the freedom of man, of his decisions and in his way of life limited by society. That’s my belief in karma, but the problem is, when you’re talking about getting something good out of a negative action, from the beginning, it’s really difficult. But this negative action has been caused to you. Not by faith, or someone, but by something else. And sometimes you can call it faith if you don’t have another explanation for it, that’s OK, but I don’t see a solution in trying to get something good out of everything. I only believe that it is like that, but you don’t have to search for it and I don’t think that every experience you make in your life is a good experience. There are very bad experiences also, but we’re really now in a time of philosophy when there are beliefs beyond explanation, you can confront me with something, but I don’t want to play that, it doesn’t make sense to me.

Sam: We haven’t talked about your music enough. So you’ve finished recording Metatron, what will you be doing now insofar as gigging and touring?

Roland: We’re doing Atrocity, Leaves’ Eyes, Austria, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy in two and a half weeks. A lot of km to drive. After that our guitarist becomes a dad, he’s having a baby, so after that we’ll write some new material and try to do some festivals next year. We would really like to release a record in Autumn of next year. We’ll give some respect to his new life situation, do a few gigs and festivals because you can reach quite a few people through festivals and after the new record we’ll focus on touring again. You know, touring is very difficult for us. We have our daytime jobs and we have to manage them. All the time the label ask me, ‘why does it take so long to write a new record?’ and I say, ‘we want to write a good record, it takes time’. And then they calm down.

Sam: What do you think of Evanescence?

Roland: They’re a cool band, I’ll tell you why. Because I heard the first release, it’s the same album, but before it was ‘produced’…

Sam: You’re talking about Origin?

Roland: Yeah, I heard a couple of tunes. It was obviously the kind of music they wanted to do, but after that it’s over-produced, but I think it’s good that they’ve infiltrated modern America with this modern rock/heavy metal style with the female vocals which I consider very important, which have to be in the music. They haven’t been until the 90s. I think Evanescence is an integral part of this music. The only pity about it is that they’re really commercially exploited. It won’t be possible for us to ever play a tour with them because there’s really big business behind that. If there are bands that tour with them they have to be good and if they’re not they’re dropped from the tour, but that’s the music business. But I like them.

Sam: I think they’ve opened a lot of doors. People are getting into that kind of music who normally wouldn’t.

Roland: That’s also true.

Sam: Well, we’ll let you go now, thank you very much…

Roland: Everything asked?

Sam: I just want to say that the impression of your band that I had is very different now that I’ve spoken to you. You’ve only had one and a half releases in four years, but the future looks very good, you seem very positive and very happy. You seem to be – to an extent – in control of your label, which is a rare thing,

Roland: As a band we’re stronger than ever. I hope you like the new record.

Sonic Cathedral appreciate the opportunity to interview Darkwell and would like to thank the band, and our Sonic Interviewers, and the event planners at Metal Organisation for making this great event possible.

Epica Interview

11/11/2004 § Leave a comment

Epica Interview 2004
By: Sam Grant
With: Yves Huts and Mark Jansen – of Epica

Interview Info
Female Voices Metal Fest 2, Belgium
By: Sam Grant
With: Yves Huts and Mark Jansen – of Epica
Also present: Charlie Farrell-Promoter & Fan

Sam: Epica are getting better and better received, aren’t they?

Yves: Yeah, we are getting better known and we’re doing a lot of shows, so the audience really gets to know us better, specifically in Holland and Belgium, and France is also very good, but the German-speaking countries are a little hard to convince. We’re on tour right now and we did some gigs in Switzerland and Germany and at first I don’t think they really knew us. So we did our show and at first they were like, ok, we’ll wait and see, and by the end they were very enthusiastic. I don’t know why, but we always have that in Germany.

Sam: Flowing Tears were saying exactly the same thing. The German metal scene doesn’t seem to be very active at the moment, which is a shame.

Yves: Well, they seem to have seen it all or something, or maybe we’re not so well known in Germany, I don’t know. But the people who are there at the end of a gig, I have the impression that we have convinced them of our music.

[Mark arrives roundabout now, having been at merchandising]

Sam: The last time we met was in London six months ago. What have you been doing in the last six months?

Yves: We’ve been in the studio recording our new album; we’ve done some European shows like in Turkey. We’ve been to Poland, actually that may have been before London, done some major festivals in Germany, but the main thing we concentrated on was preparing for the album, rehearsing the songs and making the songs, recording the songs in the studio, and after that we went on tour.

Sam: How were you received in Poland because the Polish gothic metal sound is very different?

Mark: We didn’t know what to expect, but we were astonished by the very good response, it was overwhelming, the crowd didn’t know us at all, and we sold lots of t-shirts and CDs, so it was quite a surprise for us.

Yves: I think it was our longest signing session. There was a whole row of people who wanted our autographs.

Sam: I think Epica is a kind of music that it’s hard not to be drawn in by, that’s probably what it was. Epica is a sound that you can’t really ignore, you’re forced to appreciate it 100% of the time.

Mark: That is a good sign. When everyone feels like this we will be huge!

Sam: What other countries would you like to play in that you haven’t played in already?

Mark: Which countries? Everywhere.

Sam: Everywhere? You want your music to be ubiquitous?

Mark: We really want to play everywhere, even South Africa. If we get an offer to play in South Africa, we’ll fly to South Africa, but the country I really want to play is Brazil, it’s been a wish of mine from my youth. Also Chile. It seems that people really go crazy over there. Already they go crazy in Brazil, but in Chile it’s amazing.

Sam: What about America? Have you any interest in playing over there?

Mark: America itself?

Yves: The United States!

Sam: Sorry, I should say the United States of America. I have a friend who’s Mexican and apparently over there you have to specify the United States because you insult people who are from South America. So yes, the United States.

Mark: Well, if we got an offer from the United States then we would want to play there. But the United States, politically, I don’t want to get involved.

Sam: This is something that we’re going to go into later because there is quite a strong political message behind some of your songs, but I will talk to you about that because it’s quite interesting. So what stage is the new album at at the moment?

Mark: We only have to record the strings and the harp arrangements – but that’s almost finished – so the strings have to be recorded and that’s all.

Sam: So when can we expect to hear it? Any ideas?

Mark: The release will be in March, it will be finished earlier probably, but the office release in the Netherlands will be in March.

Sam: Are Transmission treating you well?

Mark: Yes.

Yves: They really believe in us and they invest a lot of money in us…

Sam: That really shows in the strength of the music, the production, the marketing and the packaging. They’ve really put a lot into that.

Mark: They understand that you really have to have a good product in order for the people to buy it, otherwise they just download it and nowadays you have to have really good artwork and something extra – a material thing that can give something extra to the music. They’re really indulgent in that way. They even put an advertisement on MSN Messenger.

Sam: What?

Mark: It was there for two weeks, it was very expensive.

Sam: Whereabouts, in the main Messenger window?

Mark: Yes, when you start MSN Messenger you see the advertisement for Epica.

Sam: That’s incredible isn’t it. I can’t think of many other labels who would do that.

Mark: No, but this guy is crazy, but in a positive way, though sometimes you also see negative sides to this craziness, but most of the time he’s just crazy and we can only enjoy it.

Sam: I suppose the best kinds of ‘artists’ are the crazy ones. Now, the DVD, it’s an interesting time to put it out, why did you choose it release it at this stage?

Mark: We were asked to record a Two Meter Session, which in Holland is a very famous TV Show and it went so well that they decided to put it on the DVD with a lot of extra material. Sometimes with things like that we think no, we really don’t want it, but this time we thought yes, they can do something really nice with it, and they did. So, I don’t know it’s the time for a DVD, but for the die-hard fans it’s a really nice extra thing.

Yves: Between the two albums, maybe there’s a lot of time, we had released some singles, but if it wasn’t for the DVD there would be a lot of time between the two releases. That’s why the DVD is so well placed.

Sam: It sort of bridges the gap.

Yves: It fills the gap.

Mark: And it worked, because before the DVD the number of visitors on our homepage was like this [motions] and after the DVD it was like this [motions higher] and from the reactions in our guestbook people really loved the DVD. That’s why we think it worked. If people said it was worth shit then I would regret it and think it was not necessary.

Sam: Is it quite an honour to be asked to do the Two Meter Sessions?

Mark: Of course, all the big stars all over the world did the Two Meter Sessions, REM, Radiohead, Sepultura.

Sam: It’s quite amazing what’s happening to you, really…

Mark: Yes, it really is.

Sam: After Forever, well, they’re still a very popular band, but Epica’s popularity seems to be a little further up.

Mark: Well, with After Forever for the first few years it was like this [motions] and then it was like this [motions higher again], but now I don’t know where it stops!

Sam: It’s getting better and better.

Mark: And the band is playing better and better. In the beginning we didn’t play bad, but now the band plays tight and it’s a good professional show and it gets better and we are still very willing to improve and we watch videos of each other and say, ‘what kind of things can we improve?’ it very important that a band doesn’t become lazy, sits down and thinks everything is normal.

Sam: Yes, you really have to watch your own performances, don’t you. Now, I heard that quite an inspiration of yours is film music. Is that true?

Mark: Absolutely! For everyone in the band.

Sam: That’s similar to The Gathering. They’re very inspired by film music and would love to write some if given the opportunity. What are your favourite films? I’m sure you can pick something out of your head straight away.

Yves: Batman!

Sam: What? The one with Michael Keaton?

Yves: Batman! Yes, for the atmosphere, but especially for the soundtrack.

Sam: Well, the soundtrack for Batman Returns is fantastic.

Yves: Yes, for Batman and Batman Returns it’s Danny Elfman…

Sam: He also wrote the theme tune to The Simpsons, didn’t he?

Yves: Yeah, he also did Tales From The Crypt and Gremlins and stuff like that, I really like the dark atmosphere and he really knows how to express in a musical way the atmosphere of Tim Burton. They’re really partners, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, he’s really a Hans Zimmer fan [points at Mark]…

Mark: I adore Hans Zimmer!

Yves: I like the darker music, he likes the… Hans Zimmer music.

Mark: Hans Zimmer can also be dark.

Yves: Not.

Sam: [to Mark]: So give me a couple of your favourite films.

Mark: Gladiator…

Sam: Very good film, yes…

Mark: Braveheart…

Sam: It’s kind of that big, rousing orchestral feeling isn’t it? Which is also reflected in your music.

Mark: Indeed, which I why I love Gladiator so much, it’s so amazing, the orchestral stuff, its perfect, it’s the Hand of God!

Sam: Classical music is a huge element in Epica’s sound. A lot of people who are into metal are also into classical music. They’re two ends of the scale. Why do you think that people who are into one extreme are also into another?

Yves: I don’t think that they’re into classical music per se like Mozart and Beethoven, but the film music is more contemporary than you think, but the link, I don’t know…

Mark: But when you have things like… duh-duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh [starts singing In The Hall Of The Mountain King] – it’s metal! So think of guitars with it – chug-chug-chug – it’s metal!

Sam: You write some of the classical elements to the songs, don’t you.

Mark: Yeah, also Coen and Yves contribute to those elements.

Sam: But some of those classical passages are fantastic. Did you have some kind of education is classical music?

Mark: Er, Coen did – the keyboard player – and sometimes we come up with something and he says, ‘well.. this note has to be changed’ and it’s correct, but most of the time it fits immediately.

Sam: I’m really impressed with the classical passages in your songs, I think my favourite is the one at the beginning of Façade Of Reality. I’d love to know what the chord sequence does in that because I can’t work it out, it changes mode or key or something. Have you ever considered making just a classical album? Because it might work.

Mark: It might work, but at the moment we are already busy composing film music?

Sam: You’re already doing that? What for?

Mark: It’s for a Dutch movie. You have to start somewhere! But it’s a good movie, a good start, about three girls who go to the South of France to be models, but it really gets a dark touch in the second half of the movie. We can really do what we love to do with Epica. It’s really close, it’s a fantastic experience. We have to start after this tour with it, I really can’t wait. [NB the film is called Joyride and is set for a 2005 release].

Sam: You must be very excited about it.

Mark: Yeah, I am!

Sam: Now, one of my favourite lines from any song is, “I’m not afraid to die, I’m just afraid to be alive without being aware of it.” What does that mean?

Mark: That’s based on my grandfather. He had the illness of Parkinson’s, and sometimes he wouldn’t even recognise me anymore and didn’t recognise my grandmother and it seems to me to be so…. cruel… to be alive, but without being aware of what you’re doing anymore. You are born, you develop yourself and in the end you go down again.

[the phone rings at this point and we resume the conversation after I’ve answered it]

Mark: Another film that I like is….. it’s not Fawlty Towers but… Monty Python.

Sam: Agh! Well this was actually going to be my final question to you, but I may as well ask you now. Holy Grail or Life of Brian?

Mark: Life of Brian.

Sam: Really? I think the Holy Grail is fantastic…

Mark: They’re both are fantastic, but the case is that I saw Life of Brian first and when you see it in your youth, your childhood, you keep loving this movie because you saw it first. Later on I saw the other movie and it is also fantastic, but Life of Brian is great!

Sam: The only problem is I’ve seen it like, ten times now, so I know all the jokes, But Holy Grail makes me laugh every time.

Mark: But Life of Brian makes such a joke of Christianity, I keep laughing every time I see it, it’s done in such a great way.

Sam: I know what you mean because I had a friend, who was an Evangelical, and she thought that anyone who wasn’t a Christian wouldn’t get into Heaven and Jesus wouldn’t recognise any other religion, which is a very blinkered way of looking at things because all the other religions are thinking the same things.

Yves: Yeah, you can think what you want as long as it’s not violent.

Mark: You have to respect what they think, although I don’t believe a shit of it! It’s time to make a Life of Brian about Islam. They’re too serious. You make a joke and they’re like agghhhh!! In the past I made a joke about Islam to a friend of mine, and Islam guy, and he was really angry about it…

Sam: Well, they’re very sensitive to it…

Mark: Yes, they’re very sensitive about it, but they have to laugh about it!

[Charlie arrives at this point, having been taking photographs of the Nightwish set]

Sam: I just want to go back to that song line once more. The way I interpreted it is that so many people are caught in a cycle of mundanity from day to day. There are so many people who will wake up at age 65 and think, ‘oh shit, I was going to be an artist’ or ‘I was going to be musician’ and there are so many people who don’t believe that they can have what they want.

Mark: You have to believe that you can get what you desire. I always did that, that’s why, when I was thrown down, I climbed back up. You have to always think positive. You have to think that you’re going to reach what you really desire and then in the end, most of the time, you will reach it. But they think ‘oh, I can’t do it’ and these people can do it. And they have to get up at 8am in the morning. I sleep till 1300 hours! Maybe they should do that!

Sam: It’s a shame that a lot of people believe that they can’t have what they want. And a lot of Epica’s songs concentrate on this – the ability to attain what you want.

Mark: A lot of people, when I meet them, they think they can’t do anything. But they have talents. They don’t know from themselves that they have these talents, but they have to search for these talents.

Yves: In our cases I think we’re very lucky that we have the support of our family, but in some cases they don’t have the support of their family, and if you want to do stuff, like begin a music band, in the beginning you really need support because first you have to get famous and then you can go on your own, but in the beginning you really need support.

Sam: Bearing that in mind, if you weren’t musicians, what else would you be doing?

Mark: Erm, I study Psychology, but I’ve almost finished, but now… no.

Sam: No, it’s not for you, being a psychologist now, I know.

Charlie: I think it’s like that with a lot of degrees, you don’t actually know, until you’ve studied, what you’re going to do after.

Mark: I studied Psychology because of the girls…

Sam: That’s the reason why anyone does a degree!

Mark: I couldn’t understand the guys who did mathematics! Only guys did mathematics!

Yves: I went into a band to get girls!

Mark: Economics, only guys, But Psychology, only girls…

Sam: Now, there are a lot of good ideas and philosophical ideas in Epica songs. If you could pick a particular song which has a philosophy which is particularly apt to you, which would it be?

Mark: There are a couple of songs which deal with fundamentalism, because that’s really the topic that needs to have most interest. I don’t know if you heard about the murder of Theo Van Gogh, he was also writing about fundamentalism, making jokes about them, and they killed him. He always thought they won’t do anything, because he was a crazy guy, but he was also serious and that’s why he was killed. I think that even now we can’t tolerate that. We have to go on saying that this is not possible and finish it. I feel the most for these lyrics because it’s really a threat and we don’t want to feel violence in our country, we want to live together with all cultures. I’m not particularly a Dutch guy, but I want to live everywhere and with a lot of cultures, but it’s impossible.

Sam: It’s getting more difficult now because the divisions are more rigid. Talking of which, what do you think about Mr Bush getting a second term?

Mark: [pause] Yeah. I already thought it was going to happen. I was watching the TV all night and thought, ‘yeah, here we go again’.

Yves: It’s like a bigger version of what happened in California. Personally I’m a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the fact that we won the election. It was already a freak show with dwarves and porn stars. I think this is just a bigger version. It has nothing to do anymore with what happens in the world. It’s about how you manage to convince people.

Mark: When you look at this guy, Bush, you look him in the eyes and you see a fool. You see someone who’s a marionette. I can’t stand this. When he went to two or three countries, to make a speech, he made exactly the same speech everywhere, with exactly the same mistakes, the same jokes, and he was –‘hahaha’ – exactly the same. Crazy.

Yves: I think the problem in America is that there are only two choices. You can only choose between the lesser of two evils. Maybe there should be more choices.

Mark: And the Kyoto I’m also very angry about, that they still don’t want to sign it just because of money. We can’t go on like this. All everyone sees in it is money.

Charlie: You played two new songs tonight. The first was called The Last Crusade. What was that about[?]

Mark: That one deals with –

Yves: Indiana Jones.

Mark: Heh. People who come to your house, ring, you open the door and they tell a story about Jehovah, you say you’re not interested and they keep on going, keep on going, keep on going. With respect, I don’t want to hear the story. One time I was discussing it – I’ll feel bad after this discussion – they think they have an answer for everything, but they just come up with something really stupid. They said ‘people don’t have to die’, I said, ‘where do they have to live, more and more people come – where do they have to live?’ they said ‘we’ll make the desert into a nice place to live’. And after 50 years the desert will also be full.

Charlie: You must never invite them into your house because you can never get rid of them!

Mark: And for weeks they put something in my post…

Sam: My dad had the same problem, but that was because he used to invite them in all the time. You can’t convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced.

Mark: And they are so sure that they are right. Everything you say, they’re like, “this guy doesn’t know the truth”. When you talk with a really fundamentalist anti-Semitic guy they say “this guy doesn’t know the truth”. I also receive emails from Turkey from guys who are into religion, they say, “man, what are you writing about, you don’t know the truth, you don’t know what you’re talking about. When you meet Allah then you will see”. But it’s only the extreme guys. A lot of guys respect you and I respect them.

Sam: A lot of people have problems with differentiating between the people who are into their religion and the fundamentalists. Unfortunately we only hear from the fundamentalists.

Charlie: I think that’s because partly through television you’ve got a small, short amount of time to get your message over so you have to be very clear and very direct. You don’t have the opportunity to sit down and have a long discussion and explore the points. It has to be simple and easy to understand. And what was the second new song?

Mark: Quietest. But everyone pronounces it in a different way. So we might change the name.

Sam: What’s it about, dare I ask?

Mark: Simone wrote the lyrics, so I have no clue!

Yves: Female stuff.

Sam: Yeah, handbags, shopping, lipstick, that kind of stuff. That’ll go down well with the female contingent of the Gothic crowd.

Yves: ‘Does he still love me?’

Sam: ‘He hasn’t called for another three hours, he hasn’t come home yet’

Yves: That’s actually a verse!

Sam: So where does Epica go from here? Up and up, it seems.

Yves: At the moment we’re actually concentrating on foreign countries. We did a lot of gigs in the Netherlands and we established a firm fan base there. For us this isn’t enough and we want to expand. We’re concentrating on the whole of Europe.

Mark: And Mexico.

Sam: What?

Mark: Ten gigs in Mexico.

Sam: To come?

Mark: Yes, to come. We played there before with After Forever and it is like a drug playing there. I want to feel this ten times!

Sam: Like tonight, that was an amazing reaction. So, what do you think of Invisible Circles, do you like it?

Yves: No.

Charlie: I don’t like it at all.

Mark: I am politically correct! No, but I have to say that I like it but it’s not totally my cup of tea. Otherwise I would be still in that band. But I expected a less good album, to be honest.

Sam: It seemed to me that in After Forever, up to and including Decipher, After Forever had many poignant messages to get across which were carried over into Epica. But Invisible Circles came along and it seems to me they’ve gone ‘ok, we need to talk about poignant things now, what are we going to talk about?’, so they’ve come up with this concept album. What do you think of the idea behind the album?

Mark: I like the idea of the concept album, but it’s really difficult for me to say.

Yves: I didn’t like the soap elements.

Mark: I can’t believe that they did that. You can’t play that live.

Sam: As well as that, it’s interesting when you first hear the songs, but we don’t hear songs once, we hear songs over and over and you just skip through those sections all the time. It’s really an antisocial thing to do with a song.

Charlie: I think it’s very difficult anywhere to use any spoken parts anyway.

Mark: We have Tony Blair!

Charlie: But its only short – ten seconds.

Yves: It’s integrated into the music. Yes, After Forever really progressed in a musical way there, they’re all really tight live and they’re really great musicians, but in a way they were very brave to break with the tradition of their original music. That’s a brave thing to do. But also a very dangerous thing to do.

Sam: I think it’s worked in their favour.

Mark: They also told me that they were not able to do it the same way anymore because I laid down all the basics for the songs and then Sander did great guitar riffs. I really liked Decipher a lot, it was really good cooperation between Sander and me. But now they have to write music the other way round. He had to start with the music.

Sam: With Epica and old After Forever there’s an emphasis on the technical mastery behind the music, it sounds quite difficult to play, it’s very exact, I think that After Forever have done that a lot of that in Invisible Circles. There are a lot of passages that seem to say, ‘look, aren’t we clever, we can play this’.

Yves: Yeah, a little bit over the top.

Sam: I think it was very much a ‘look, we’re fine, we can still make good music’ kind of album.

Mark: Yeah, they can still make good music, but let’s see what they come up with in the next record. That’s the crucial record, the next record. Also with Sepultura after Max Cavalera had left, with the first album after Marx, Sepultura was still a popular band. But after that record it was going down. But if they make a very strong album then their position will be stabilised.

Yves: I don’t think we see After Forever as rivals, but more like colleagues because if one does good then it’s good for the whole scene so we should support each other.

Sam: Absolutely, people view After Forever and Epica as very similar, so if the promotional engine for After Forever works well and they do well then you can help each other in that way.

Charlie: But they’re still with the same record label as well…

Mark: But they er, want to leave.

Charlie: Everyone’s leaving Transmission at the moment.

Mark: No, we’ll stay, we have two more albums to do after the new record.

Charlie: Ayreon left, didn’t they.

Mark: That was a pity. I adore his music. I bought The Final Experiment because they got a very good review. The first time I listened to it I thought, ‘I’m going to like this’. It’s a pearl. It really is so amazing. From then on I’m a big Ayreon fan.

Sam: Do you have any – this is a very awkward question – I don’t know if you’ve heard An Elixir For Existence. The new Sirenia album?

Mark: Sirenia? I know Sirenia, but I haven’t heard this record.

Sam: Morten Veland has been writing stuff for ages because he did Tristania before Sirenia. Things with Sirenia have gone a little awry.

Charlie: He’s lost his focus, I think.

Sam: I think that’s quite an easy thing to do. Do you have any creative lapses? Do you sometimes find it hard to write things or take time off from writing?

Mark: I sometimes have problems with writer block, but when I sit down and I watch a good movie I get a lot of inspiration. I get a writer block when I have too much inspiration! I think, ‘oh no, too many good ideas, f**uck!’ But I have never had a problem with ‘agh no, I don’t know anything anymore’.

Charlie: Is the new material more of a group-written effort?

Mark: We composed a lot of stuff together. I came up with a lot of basics still, but without yours [to Yves] it wouldn’t have been such a fantastic album. But I really like this album now.

Sam: Is there anything else you can tell us about it?

Charlie: Is it recorded now?

Yves: Yes, there are more choirs, our guitars are lower, lower tuned. It’s like death metal tunes now, it’s in B!

Mark: It’s really fat!

Yves: I hope the guitars will be more prominent. Because the guitars are tuned lower there’s more tunes for the rest. There’s more choir so it will be more bombastic. We have another arranger to add more uh..

Charlie: Flavour?

Yves: Yes, flavour. The guitars are tuned lower…

Mark: You’ve said that three times now –

Yves: Basically there are no spectacular changes.

Mark: And we have Roy Kharn.

Charlie: Does he just sing on one song? Is it going to be a bonus track?

Mark: No, it’s a real song on the record and he sang a duet with Simone. It’s a funny story how he said yes to it because already I had in mind that this song needs to be sung by Roy Kharn and no-one else. Roy Kharn sings it or no-one sings it. We were playing together in Spain at a festival, and a friend was going to meet him and I asked what was the chance that he would do a song with us. He came back and said ‘the chance is zero!’. So I emailed him and asked him the same question and he emailed back and said, ‘no no, I’m not interested, I never do guest appearances’. I emailed him back and said, ‘I never give up. Either you sing this song or nobody sings this song!’ I think he was impressed by that because they asked Simone to do a song because they needed a female singer. They remembered that I wanted him that much so we made a trade and it’s so perfect. That’s also a story of never giving up. Believe in what you want!

Sam: I was watching the Two Meter Session video and your choir seems very enthusiastic. Are they all metal fans? Where have you found them from?

Yves: They’re not metal fans, they’re freelancers actually. They sing whatever they want.

Mark: They’re music whores!

Yves: Yeah, as long as they money’s good.

Mark: In ‘the making of’ they say “Why did you guys move to Germany?” And one of the guys in the choir says “The money was good and… the money was good”!

Sam: Some people are so easily driven, aren’t they.

Yves: But they’re very professional, they can do everything. And that’s necessary I think. If you’re a professional singer you have to be able to do everything, just everything. Every style.

Sam: Every style. What kinds of other music do you listen to?

Mark: I listen to a lot – apart from RnB and rap music!

Sam: That’s exactly the same with me. I like to think that I can connect with every form of music apart from that kind of thing.

Mark: Agh, it’s terrible.

Yves: I actually don’t listen to Gothic Metal all that much. I like Dimmu Borgir and…

Mark: He’s always asking me, “Write darker stuff, man!”

Yves: He never does it! I have to jump in! And the groovy stuff like Orphanage and Machine Head.

Mark: I also like Machine Head.

Sam: So you’re mostly metal-based?

Yves: I like the darker metal and the darker soundtracks like Danny Elfman. I really like it. He has a playful way of making dark music. In Beetlejuice and Tales From The Crypt it’s playful, but still dark. It’s like also the style of Tim Burton in the Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s playful but there’s a scary touch. The stereotype – how you can describe Tim Burton’s style – it’s like a scary clown. That’s Tim Burton, and that is Danny Elfman’s music too.

Mark: Ah, I have to load up the camera now…

Sam: OK, well hopefully we’ll see you in London again next year. You got a great reaction from everyone and next year it should be better.

Mark: Yeah, it was a great gig. A lot of people said ‘we enjoyed it a lot’. Amazing crowd.

Sam: Anyway, I think we’ll let you go and thank you so much for talking to us. See you next year.

Sonic Cathedral appreciate the opportunity to interview Epica and would like to thank the band, and our Sonic Interviewers, and the event planners at Metal Organisation for making this great event possible.

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