Hey Stefan! First of all thanks a lot for this interview.
Would you like to tell us something about yourself, your bands & projects?
Thanks to you, too, for your interest!
I am doing metal music since 1990, and released my first Mini-CD in 1994 with Darkseed, a gothic/metal band. Since that time, we released 6 albums with Darkseed on Nuclear Blast and Massacre Records, besides that I took part in a project called Sculpture, unfortunately only one CD was done (featuring members of Crematory and Tom Angelripper), and after that my side projects mainly focussed on combining ethnic music with dark music (1999 Betray My Secrets, ethnic metal, 2003 Shiva In Exile, ethnic soundtrack/gothic/electro) and finally I am here with my new project SpiRitual
So SpiRitual is your newest brainchild. Could you tell us more about what it's all about?
I thought it's time to dare an ethnic/metal adventure again (after 1999 with Betray My Secrets) and so in summer 2005 SpiRitual was born. I wrote 6 tracks, got huge support of many friendly musicians and finally recorded "Pulse" in autumn 2005. One motivation for starting a new project was the Russian video team Deviant Creations and the Russian designer Konstanin Viktorov who offered me their help for the case I decide to write a new album, so I definitely had to do this project! Besides that I am much interested in spiritual topics, and especially the positive influence alternative thinking and acting can have, and I thought it's time to write a gothic metal album BUT combining it with a positive and energetic message.
The music on your debut EP "Pulse" sounds rather positive despite of its "gothness". What is your message and what are the lyrics about?
Well, this was my intention, and it's nice that you mention it, hehe. I wanted to write an album that combines positive thinking AND gothic music (I also wrote a text about that in the multimedia section of the CD). The lyrics are about seeing defeats as possibility to grow, as sort of friend who shows us a new way and with that new possibilities etc. Defeats or changes are a painful thing, but they give us experience or even lead us to a better direction. Besides that, I try to explain that we shouldn't be afraid too much when going through life, because fear blocks possibilities. That's the main message.
[Stefan has also written a song by song, which can be viewed here.]
With all those different exotic instruments and everything you used on "Pulse", how was the recording process?
The pre-production in my home studio was exhausting, because adding all those instruments in a way it makes sense while being combined with metal music was a pain in the ass Yana Veva recorded her vocals in St. Petersburg, Gaby Koss in the Munich Helion Studios where I later also recorded the final product. The shamanic flutes and percussion elements were recorded in Columbia and brought to me by the German author and scientist Dr. Phil. Christian Raetsch. Thanks a lot, man! But the recording process of the metal components and mixing of the final songs in the Munich Helion Studios was done very quickly. All in all it was a pleasure to record "Pulse". A great experience, especially because of the full support in all concerns (recording studio, musicians, graphics artists etc.).
Stefan Hertrich & Dr. Phil. Christian Raetsch
Religion is something you apparently don't want your music to be associated with. But why do you feel the need to explicitly mention that your works aren't "religious?
Working with ethnic instruments and trying to spread a positive message often is associated with a religious movement or sect, and I am neither a religious person nor am I member of any esoteric group. That's the big difference between being religious and being spiritual. Being spiritual means, finding a way to your inner self without a community, without church and without ceremonies. And therefore I wanted to mention that I don't intend to convince others of "my way" etc. It's an individual way, and this way cannot be taught or indoctrinated by ANYBODY! I am just fighting my personal battle by trying to write lyrics about positive values etc., but of course without claiming that I am perfect in any way, hehe. I just think it's nice to show the audience that positive thinking and acting is an alternative in order to solve problems and become more happy - even in the rough and dark metal world.
Also, I was wondering why, in the SpiRitual forums, you chose an avatar representing Ned Flanders - the Christian neighbor from The Simpsons?
Haha, that's a funny question. First of all: I love Simpsons. The reason why I have chosen Flanders as forum avatar is that he is so damn funny in that series (besides Mr. Burns and Smithers, my two other favourites), but also because i want to show that "uncool", "positive" people might have some strong sides, too. Flanders would never cause a war, Flanders would never steal, lie or be selfish. Not, because he is Christian, but simply because he has values he fights for (no matter whether they are Christian or not). On the first glance, Homer Simpson of course is more simpatico and pleasant for the audience, but if you really compare both characters, I'd prefer having Flanders as neighbour and not weird Homer, who for example lends camping equipment from Flanders but never gives it back.
On your website, there's an ad saying you're looking for musicians with certain skills. Is it the first time you are doing so or have you already found some people this way in the past? Any interesting replies so far?
The first time I was actively looking for musicians was "Pulse", and luckily it worked, by getting Yana Veva (Russia, Theodor Bastard), Gaby Koss (Germany, former Haggard) and the Columbian Shaman Kayujali Tsamani (flutes, percussion), thanks to the help of the German author Dr. Ph Christian Raetsch. However, I still had to work with sampling material, which means that not all ethnic parts were done by "real musicians" but by special music libraries you can buy. For the future I want to increase the "real percentage" and decrease the "sampling percentage", therefore I am still looking for musicians, especially percussion (Djembe, Darbuka or other deep sounding percussion instruments) and flute (duduk, ney and others). Also female vocals are welcome! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have skills in that direction.
You've also made an outstanding video for the title song "Pulse", which is far from your stereotypical metal video. How was it created and what is the meaning behind it?
Thanks! The video was done by the Russian videoteam Deviant Creations, and I can't thank them enough for their selfless work. Even if Deviant Creations didn't write any music for SpiRitual, they are part of this project! I think they invested as much time as I did, and like me, they didn't gain any profit. I just can say thumbs up for this outstanding guys.
It was created in Russia (but don't ask me where exactly, I have no idea, haha, I only know that it was cold, rainy and windy and they hated me for wanting to do it in autumn, haha). The whole work and concept was done by Deviant Creations, except some nagging or whining from my site.
The rough message is: "God" (whatever it is, please don't understand it as man with white beard) can be found in everything, in a plant etc, and therefore we need to respect creation, even if it's weaker than we sometimes (animals for example). This is symbolized by Dasha (the main character) walking through nature, being happy while being one with it, and a spirit flying out of a flower, later being found in Dashas hand and she sending it out to the universe. Godly energy is everywhere, and we can work with it! It's just a dull explanation now, it would need pages to describe it in a scientific or philosophical way. The most important thing: the video shall provoke positive emotions, as well as the booklet and the website (both done by my good friend Konstantin Viktorov from Cradle of Art in Moscow, thanks for your kind help, too!).
Shots from the "Pulse" video
Now the expression "Ethno Metal" isn't new - six years ago you did something similar with Betray My Secrets. What's the difference between SpiRitual and Betray My Secrets? Couldn't you have just proceeded under the Betray monicker?
All in all there's not much difference between Betray My Secrets and SpiRitual. The sound quality is better, the music has more ethnic components and this time (unfortunately) Christian Bystron of Betray My Secrets and Megaherz didn't have enough time to 100% concentrate on SpiRitual, therefore he "just" played some great solos, but didn't have a direct impact on the songwriting (apart from his constructive hints while I wrote the rough versions). Therefore choosing a new name was better, also because so many other musicians took part in this album.
I still love the Betray My Secrets album, but 1999 simply was too early for such a weird music style, haha.
How did you get the idea of combining ethnic tunes with metal anyway?
This happened in 1999 at Christian's studio. I recorded some ordinary metal songs (I was preparing a demo for a new project) and we tried out an asian flute sample, just for fun, and it simply fit perfectly. It was like "whoa, that's a new music style!" and sooner or later this solo project demo turned out to be a full length album done by Christian and me, being named Betray My Secrets. Since that time I am fascinated by exotic musical influences and want to use them whenever possible.
Betray My Secrets cover
Do you often visit foreign countries? Which countries have you/do you wish to visit and what could be the influence of such trips on SpiRitual?
Unfortunately I never have time to travel around, but this year or in 2007 I definitely want to travel AND use this time for either recording interesting musicians or just get to know interesting persons. I'd either like to visit the near/middle east or the American rainforest.
You've released "Pulse" on your own label, Listen & Think Publishing. Can you tell us more about its purpose and creation, and also what exactly do you want people to think about? And do you plan to feature other artists as well?
"Pulse" was released by myself, as you mentioned, and by CD Maximum on the Russian territory. Listen & Think isn't a "real label", it's more a sort of network installed for creating CDs with idealistic artists. Guest musicians, video team, web design, recording studio etc. So I don't really focus on distribution (right now the CD is just available over the website, apart from Russia) and I am currently negotiating with labels for a worldwide release with good availibility in shops.
Listen & Think means that music can be more than just listening to music, but also to care about what the band has to say with their lyrics, their concept etc.
"Signing" other artists unfortunately doesn't make much sense since I have no distribution possibilities, but I am always willing to help if somebody needs contacts for CD production.
What are your plans for the future? A full-length album for SpiRitual? Perhaps something new from your successful project Shiva in Exile? And what's going on with Darkseed?
In 2006 I will definitely focus on my ethnic influenced projects (either Shiva In Exile or SpiRitual full length, or with some luck both). Maybe 2007 is a good year for Darkseed, but I don't know yet, it depends on my creative mood. I am not good in forcing songs out of my brain, just for the sake of writing an album in time. It wouldn't be honest and idealistic either... Luckily our fans are not angry about that, I am very thankful for their patience!
What about touring? Back then Betray My Secrets were offered a support act position for Rage, but you rejected due to schedule problems. Did you manage to do some live gigs in the end? And do you have any plans regarding live performances for SpiRitual?
Haha, in the first moment I thought "what the hell, there never was something planned with Rage!", but now, after trying to remember for some minutes, there indeed was something. I guess it was just an idea of a promoter to maybe do 1-2 shows with Rage, very early after Betray My Secrets was born, but without having any line-up. But I really don't remember and I really wonder how you can remember that, haha! Well done, you have a good brain
Also SpiRitual right now is just a studio project, mainly because playing live would be too expensive and all members live too far away from eachother (Columbia, Russia, Germany). Besides that, I am afraid of having a sort of "playing live limitation" while doing songwriting, which means "I must consider what instruments and vocals to use, in order to avoid non-idealistic playback stuff for the stage". So I better realize my songwriting vision without any compromises, but don't consider playing live. Which doesn't mean it never would happen. But it's a matter of money and sales. It's not easy to sell a freaky product like SpiRitual, haha.
To finish, I wanted to mention that you're also in the gaming industry, composing soundtracks for PC games. What are the main differences compared to composing albums, and is it a way to practice the ethnic side of your projects?
Composing game soundtracks has advantages and disadvantages, compared to album recordings. First of all, you get a defined amount of money, and there's no risk that the music doesn't sell, because it's just background music, and the focus lies on the game itself. Besides that, you don't have to write "concrete songs" with strophe, refrain etc., desperately trying to make it catchy etc.
The disadvantage: you cannot 100% make the music you like, because you have to take into account that the gamer doesn't want music being as dark as ordinary gothic or metal music.
Ethnic music isn't that popular in games (RPGs or shooters for instance usually have fantasy orchestra stuff or electronic music), the music for the last game with ethnic elements was composed by Tommy (my Darkseed bandmate and studio engineer of SpiRitual "Pulse").
For which game would you have liked to be given the opportunity to compose the soundtrack?
I love adventures and World War 2 strategy games, but my favourite would be an oriental adventure for which I could combine ethno and darkness. Nibiru is an adventure partly playing in the American rainforest, this also would have been nice for an ethno and darkness mix, unfortunately the game already is released, haha.
Thanks again for your time. Some last words?
Thanks to you for the interview, and thanks to the reader for reading it! Whatelse, well... Nobody wants my detailed "last words" blabla, so that's all haha. Have a nice day, dear reader, whoever you are Whatever you do, do it with patience and respect
Also a big thank you to wrathchild, who also wrote a review on "Pulse", for adding some interesting questions.
All pictures taken from the official website.
SpiRitual's official website
"Pulse" song by song
Posted on 04.02.2006 by
Daniel "Promonex" Pereira loves to enthuse people with stuff he's enthusiastic about; as writer, photographer, promoter and DJ. Metal Storm staff since 2005.