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Neaera interview (01/2006)

With: Tobias Buck, Benjamin Donath, Benjamin "Benny" Hilleke, Stefan Keller, Sebastian Heldt
Conducted by: Ivor
Published: 14.01.2006

Band profile:



Neaera are five cool guys from Germany playing metalcore. They started out as a side-project in Summer 2003 and grew to become a full band and managed to score a record deal with Metal Blade Records. Although Neaera plays music that I don't really find interesting on it's own, their performance on the Green Christmas festival was really good and enjoyable.

The energy and aggression they put into their performance on stage was enormous. I hadn't heard their first debut album "The Rising Tide of Oblivion" (I still haven't, shame on me!) but I did find myself enjoying their performance. Maybe it was due to the fact that I could observe it right in front of the stage, see how all of them played it flat out. The sole fact is already a big accomplishment. Keep on guys!

Recorded during the Green Christmas Press Conference, 16 December 2005, 19:00

Kadri Ratt (organizer)
Mati Palmet (Kuma Raadio)
Anniki Ellen aka Magic (Pläkk)
Ivor Lõõbas (Metal Storm)

Tobias Buck (TB)
Benjamin Donath (BD)
Benjamin Hilleke (BH)
Stefan Keller (SK)
Sebastian Heldt (SH)


Mati: We were told that you are playing a music style which has not been on stage in Estonia before. Can you describe your music?

SK: Well I don't know what kinds of music have been played in Estonia yet. This is the first time for us here and we're not that familiar with this country or the scene. So, I have no idea. But we play some kind of metal which is sometimes called metalcore or even death metalcore and it is a mixture of American hardcore and Swedish styled death metal, especially Gothenburg death metal bands like At The Gates, In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.

Mati: Are you unique in Germany or are in Germany different bands playing such music?

SK: Oh, there are a lot of bands in Germany that play this music. I think Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn are probably like the biggest bands who play this kind of music. And there are loads of others. It has been a trend in last years. More or less from these days bands like As I Lay Dying and Unearth and these bands started to play. And then it came over to Europe and especially in Germany it's a trend too at the moment, lot of new young bands.

Mati: Does the word Neaera have any meaning?

SK: Yeah! It's the name of a woman from Greek mythology. She was born into prostitution and she was some kind of a...
SH: Whore!
SK: ... a whore. She was born into sexual enslavement. But there's a happy end, later on she frees herself from this enslavement and could lead her life in freedom and happiness and stuff.

Mati: Why did you choose such a name? Was it just one or does this story you told have any meaning for you or the band? Any ideology?

SK: Well, first of all it's quite hard to find a good band name. (Laughs.) But I think there is a meaning for us. First of all it's like a global situation, on Earth, that women are born into a situation where they can't make their own decisions and don't have enough freedom. Especially in Arabian world or something. So this is like a metaphor for a global situation too. On the other hand we like the idea of a person who fought herself into freedom.

Magic: Are you feminists?

SK: Pardon?
Magic: Are you feminists?
BH: No!
SK: No!
BD: Not really feminists! The thing with the name is that it's just a metaphor for how people don't know of the women for discrimination, the oppression of the minorities. And we, being a band that has many political lyrics, thought we better find a name that has something to do with the content of our lyrics. And the story that's behind that name, with the figure from the Greek mythology, and this metaphor that it has behind it, it's just very easily relateable to the content of our lyrics. So that's why we chose it... Of course not meaning that in a negative way! I mean, of course we're not pro discrimination or pro oppression or whatever. Of course we are very much against it. Like Stefan said, the story, the fact that she fought herself into freedom is what fascinated us most about the name.

Magic: So, what do you think about women's position in the society, if you are not feminists.

Band: (Laughter.)
BH: It's difficult to explain.
SK: I think nothing special. We just think that women can do the same jobs as men do. Simple as that.
BD: Everybody's equal.

Magic: Feminists! (Laughs.) So, you told something that metalcore is a trend and that is one reason why you are doing this kind of music. What happens after 5 years when there are other trends? Do you plan to change your music style?

SK: Well, first of all, we have to say that it is the trend but we didn't do it because it is a trend. I mean there are no commercial reasons or whatever. I mean, we never ever expected us to get a record deal with Metal Blade Records. We never thought that. We started as a side-project and it just got bigger. But we didn't do it on purpose. I think we are little bit more into metal and more into death metal than a lot of other metalcore bands. So, we are not afraid when this trend stops or something. I think we don't need to have any fears that we have problems to survive as a band or something.
BD: I think it's not fully right to label it as a trend just because it's big at the moment. 'Cause it has grown over the past 20-30 years in the metal scene. You have a very stable fundament. The metalcore thing at the moment, in my opinion, is just a modern form of metal music. And I wouldn't go so far as to call it a trend because it doesn't treat it, in my opinion, as what it is.

Ivor: Do you think you will be big? Like in 5 years? Really big?

SK: Really big?
Press: Popular?
SK: No.
BD: No... I don't know, it's hard to say. Because I don't think that is really our aim or whatever. We make music. We started the band, as Stefan said, as a side-project just because we love to experiment with different styles of metal and mix them together and add something of our own. That's why we do it and that's what we love doing. And...
SH: That's enough.
BD: You know, that's enough for us. It's not like we're striving to get big or popular or have superstardom or whatever. Just five metalheads who love music. I don't know, fame and stuff just comes with it at some point. But it's not like we're striving for it or whatever.

Ivor: But would you like it?

Band: (Laughter.)
BD: Of course, I wouldn't be the person to say no if it did happen. Like I said...
BH: It's not that... Today it was our first time that somebody said "Don't forget, at seven o'clock it's your time for the press conference."
BD: It didn't feel bad!
BH: It didn't feel bad, no! Strange feeling.
BD: It's already very great for us and we wouldn't have believed it if anybody had told us, 2 years ago or whatever, that we are going to be traveling just so many different countries, other countries, meet so many new people. And make our music for those people. That's already such a huge gift. So, that's very big already for us, you know.

Press: But every band has their own dream or their goal or some artists, for example, whom they would like to step up with. Do you have such dream?

BH: It would be awesome if we could pay some bills.
Press: (Laughter.)
BH: No! That wouldn't be so bad. That is my dream.
BD: We just want some mountain bikes. (Laughs.) It's all we wanted.
BH: I don't want to be rich or something like that. Just that I can pay...
BD: That you could live up a bit. That would be a nice thing.
BH: That would be cool but I think that's the wrong music for it. (Laughs.)
SK: But that's not the aim.
BD: Besides, of course, having five houses and cars..
SH: ... and a horse
BD: ... diamonds and all that... (Laughs.) Besides that... We're a very decent guys.

Magic: You told that Neaera is your side-project. What is your main project?

SK: Oh, it was once.
BD: It was like, we started it when we were still with the other band, Malzan. But then, I don't know... I guess everybody figured out that whilst we played more brutal stuff with Malzan... The thing that was so great about Neaera as a side project was just having the freedom to come up with any riff and no one would say, you know, that it doesn't fit our style or whatever. We just tried to work it in. It was much more experimental. That was so nice about it. And that's why over the next months it just became bigger and bigger for us, became more important for us. And then eventually the other band that used to be our main project just got disbanded at some point because we just put more heart into this thing.

SK: But what you just said, the bands and stuff... I think we have it already. I know that Benny's favourite band is Heaven Shall Burn and he was a fan, and still is a fan, for years. Singing and dancing to their songs at local...
BH: No, that's right!
SK: And in September and October we had a chance to do our first tour, European tour with them and share the bus with them.
BH: It was cool!
SK: It was a strange feeling. Sharing your bus with your idols... Not mine personally, it was his favourite band and his too (refers to someone) at some stage.

Magic: You said something that your biggest dream is to pay your bills. At least to have enough money. But who pays for your smashed hotel rooms.

BH: For the smashed hotel rooms?! (Laughs.)
SH: We don't smash anything! Who told you that?
SK: That's a cliché!
BH: We go early to bed because we're always tired.
SH: He drinks tea every day and not whiskey.
BH: I drink tea, yeah.
SH: Takes care of his boys.
BH: That's really a cliché.
BD: We don't smash things...
BH: But perhaps... (Laughs.)

Magic: Could you describe your regular party if you are having one.

SK: Regular party?
BD: Regular party... Oh yeah!
SK: Silly jokes...
BD: Probably we all can't remember...
BH: Naked asses? (Laughs.)
SH: There are no such big parties we would be able to tell you about. It's more like we are five calm and polite guys and when we get the chance of drinking then we drink a lot and that's all. And we don't behave like animals and such things you would expect. We are just excited meeting other people and exchange and that's all, having fun, making jokes and not smashing any rooms. (Laughs.) And that stuff. Because we would have to pay if we smash and unfortunately we don't get the money yet.
BH: (Laughs.)
SK: But if that changes you never know!
SH: We'll smash everything.
BH: Maybe, one time, we'll come back and destroy!!
BD: When we get our mountain bikes. (Laughs.)
BH: (Laughs.) When we get our mountain bikes! (Laughs.)

Kadri: Are you planning to smash anything on stage tonight.

BD: Tonight?
BH: You want us to? Ok.
BD: Whatever you give us...

Kadri: What kind of music do you enjoy most yourselves. Do you have any favourite bands or influences?

SH: You mean us five together or...
Kadri: No, five separately.
SH: Five separately, all right. That differs a lot. I'm actually not that much into metal. I'm actually listening to Oceansize, Porcupine Tree, progressive rock stuff and Isis, Cult of Luna and that kind of depressive type of music. Of course when I'm listening to metal I could name Black Dahlia Murder, label mates of ours...
SK: The Haunted.
SH: The Haunted! Of course, the mighty Haunted and of course and Bolt Thrower.
Magic: What do you know about Katatonia?
SH: Excuse me?
Magic: Do you know Katatonia?
SH: Katatonia, yes, of course!
SK: We planned to do a cover song actually for the next record but we're short on time.
SH: Unfortunately we are not able to realize that but maybe next album...
BD: For me, when it comes to metal, it's basically the same as Sebas. But I think there's good music I listen to myself.
BH: Deutsch Punk.
BD: I like DJ Shadow, there's punk stuff... I don't know, I listen basically to everything except for chart music or popular music. It doesn't interest me that much.
SK: I think my favourite bands are Tool and Rammstein from Germany and apart from that I'm pretty much like the melodic Death metal scene from Gothenburg which is Dark Tranquillity and In Flames and At The Gates, also Nevermore from the States are awesome. But apart from that I also like Coldplay, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and some classical composers like Claude Debussy for example and Chopin and these things.
BH: Ok, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Heaven Shall Burn and so on. Metal stuff. (Laughs.)
TB: My favourite band is Bolt Thrower and melodic death metal bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates. But I also love Katatonia and the new Coldplay record. It's mixed.

Magic: What do you know about Estonian metal?

TB: Nothing!
SH: Too much! (Laughs.)
BH: I know Metal Storm, I've heard it before.

Magic: Do you know anything about Estonia?

BH: Tallinn!
Band: (Laughter.)
BH: It's our first time here and I... know... nothing! I have to say not much.

Magic: Your first impressions?

BH: Cold and cool.
Press: (Laughter.)
SK: He means the temperature, not the people. People are cool but not cold.
BH: Not cold.
BD: Very nice people. Jan collected us from the airport, Gunnar is great guy and the organizer. Very nice people.
BH: They take very good care of us. That's cool, that's also our first time.
BD: It's one of the first impressions that we got.
BH: And what else... It's a little more Christmas feeling here because of the snow. In Germany it's not hot but too warm for the snow. So, it's cool to have a Christmas feeling. (Laughs.)

Ivor: What kind of crowd do you expect to see today?

SK: I have no idea!
SH: That would depend on the bands that are going to play today. And what I have seen so far... I expect many long-haired people. (Laughs.)
SK: With black T-shirts.
SH: Many metalheads of course.
BD: Good guess!
BH: And that's a good sign. That's cool.
SK: Actually we don't know really because we don't know that many bands that are actually playing here. Like of course we know Anathema and Die Krupps but I think that was it.
BH: Sybreed, I know them.
BD: I feel that we are sticking out a bit from the rest of the lineup.
Magic: Don't you know Anathema?
Band: Of course!
SK: Anathema, Die Krupps.
BD: But they like have a very different style from ours. So, we don't have that much of an idea what we can expect from the crowd tonight.

Kadri: Ok, I'm sorry but our time is almost up. If someone wants to ask the last question then please go ahead because Neaera's going to have a signing session at 19:30.

BH: Us? Yeah, I forgot.

Ivor: Have you seen your favourite band live that was like a dream come true? For example it was for me like two years ago I saw Deep Purple, it was like one of my dreams. How about you? Do you have such band?

SH: Unfortunately I missed to see Genesis at one time because they separated and I was too young to see them live. But... One of my favourite, or two of my favourite bands, for example Isis and Mastodon, I saw them several times. Every time it was great and huger than the last time. Definitely experiences I would never have to... I'm so excited of having ever made this experience.
SK: I've never seen Rammstein for example. The ticket prices are...
BH: Too expensive!
SK: ... are like brutal. I think it's 75 Euros for one show in Germany. I just thought well I'll just stick to the CDs then.
BD: I can buy the DVD.
BH: Iron Maiden would be cool for me. I would like to see them live.
SK: That's also 75 Euros.
BH: Also? Ok... So...
BD: Forget it then.
SK: (Laughs.)
BH: So, it'll always be a dream.

Magic: One last question. The most embarrassing situation with your band?

BD: Oh, there would be many... It's hard to make out the most embarrassing one.
BH: 5 minutes ago?
All: (Laughter.)
BH: There's so many... embarrassing... moments.

Kadri: Ok, I'm sorry but I have to interrupt.

BH: Thank you! (Laughs.) And thank you!
SH: Thank you guys.
Kadri: Very big thanks to you, for your wonderful company.
SH: Pleasure.
BH: Hope to see you in front of the stage.
SK: And we hope to be back in Estonia.
BD: Cheers!
SH: Cheers!


Posted on 14.01.2006 by I shoot people.

Sometimes, I also write about it.

And one day I'm going to start a band. We're going to be playing pun-rock.

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