Zeraphine interview (06/2006)
|With:||Sven Friedrich [Vocals]|
|Conducted by:||DerRozzengarten (e-mail)|
-First of all Sven I'd like to let you know that you are my favorite artist alongside Rozz Williams and I'd like to thank you for the chance of this interview, it really is a dream that has come true.
Oh, what an honor! Thank you very much. Well, Rozz Williams is one of my favourite artists too.
-I remember the era when I had read that Dreadful Shadows were no more, it had saddened me a lot, I was waiting for the "To Be Continued…" writing on the last page of the booklet of "The Cycle" to come true, waiting and waiting, instead of that the news of your break-up arrived. I couldn't convince myself that I wouldn't listen to your voice and read more lyricsof yours in new compositions and then one day while searching in a music store I found "Kalte Sonne" and I thought "hell, could this guy on the cover be Sven?", I asked the owner but he didn't know, I left down the CD and then searched on the net about the band called Zeraphine and yes, it was your new band and I read about the release of "Trauma World", which was the first album to buy from Zeraphine and what an awesome release it was! But enough from me and my obsession, would you mind telling us a few words concerning the history of Zeraphine for the gothic rock/metal fans that haven't heard of you yet?
After my former band Dreadful Shadows have split up, I was always sure to go on making music. I just didn't know how. So I started writing songs and asked Thommy Hein (our producer) for support. Then I thought about asking Norman (ex- DS guitarist) whether he wants to join me in this new project. He wanted. We continued writing songs and we were thinking about other musicians we'd love to form a band with. The top 3 were Marcellus for drums, Michael for bass and Manuel for 2nd guitars. Well, they all loved the idea and it's still the current line up.
With our first demos we got a record deal with the German company Drakkar, in 2002 we released the first album 'Kalte Sonne', 2003 the 2nd album 'Traumaworld' an in 2005 the 3rd 'Blind Camera'. We played several big festivals in Germany (e.g 3 times M'Era Luna, 2 times WGT, Zillo Festival, Highfield, Amphi Festival etc.). In 2004 we were main support on HIMs Love Metal Odyssee Tour in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Last year a big dream came true for me as we were supporting the only THE CURE show in Germany 2005.
Well, and now there is the new album waiting to be released…
-Congratulations on your fourth full-length attempt, "Still", it was really rejoicing for me that it came out in a year's time after the really strong "Blind Camera" and I didn't have to wait longer. How do you feel about your new work? How it was welcomed from the music press so far? Which were the opinions and reactions of the audience in case you played some new songs at your live shows?
Everything is very positive until now. Most of the journalists seem to like it very much, some just didn't listen to it, because we are Zeraphine and make dark music… Anyway, I think it's definitely the very best album we've ever made, it sounds much fresher, more progressive and more powerful than everything we've done before. We actually played 2 songs live on a festival tour this April. And the audience really loved them. So I'm really very satisfied and I'm looking forward to get the reaction from our fans.
-The cover of your new album this time was more simplistic when the time comes to compare it to the covers of your previous releases, yet quite abstract if I may say, what's your point of view?
I agree completely. We wanted it to be different from the previous releases and more abstract, because we think even the music and especially the sound has taken a similar step. In the artwork you will find lots of little pieces from photographs by Tami Tree. Just like elements that come together when you see it complete.
-As I said above, your new album came out in a year's time since the release of your previous attempt, I guess you didn't have the time to rest since a successful tour for "Blind Camera" followed and then you sat down to prepare a new work…
Not really. My last free days were after releasing Blind Camera in January 2005. Then we've had one tour in March, one in October. In-between there were some festivals we played and we wrote songs. In January we went into the studio to start recording…
-The album flows in a similar way to "Blind Camera" and it is its natural continuation, it sounds more mature and it seems to me that you reached the peak of the sound you present with Zeraphine. What's your point of view?
I hope it is like you said. To me it is, but I think it differs from Blind camera. As I said, to me it sounds much more progressive and modern and the compositions seem to require this sound. I think we will follow this way, sound-wise, because we really love it like that.
-The production for one more time is crystal-clear once and it seems to me the best you ever had, it really makes the compositions sound even stronger or more fragile, each one to its emotions and groove. It's something rewarding for the listener (and for the band of course) to notice that all the instruments are present in the final product and not sadly find out that the bass guitar, the keyboards or something else are "missing" due to lack in the production. How much time did you spend in the studio?
About 3 months. I mean, this is real luxury to have so much time in a phantastic studio.
Yes, sometimes it's hard to leave things away, but in the end we wanted every instrument to be heard. I mean, we still have these funny little things inside that you notice after the 10th time listening to the album. But very subtile. With all major instruments we've been very strict. Not too many layered guitars, we used one or two for the powerchords plus the pickings and melodies. But this makes it harder and more powerful as if you'd take 6 guitars playing the same plus melodies which then have to fight to be heard…
-Since the beginning of Zeraphine you have been working with the same people in the line-up, one of them being Norman Selbig from the almighty Dreadful Shadows. I guess the fact that you didn't have line-up changes helped you in order to make your sound strong and mature with the years. Did you know Manuel, Michael and Marcellus before forming the band or you got to know each other while working hard for Zeraphine?
Well, I know them much better now. But this is normal. I knew them all before. with Marcellus i.e. I worked together for the Gitane DeMone Album 'stars of trash'. He was the drummer. And a friend of Thommy Hein. Just as Michael and Manuel. Manuel was the singer of Normans band before Norman joined DS. But you really know people only when you spend a lot of time with them and if you through good and bad times with them… they're really great.
-On the limited edition of "Still" there's going to be a bonus song and a video clip! Concerning the video clip, how is the aesthetic of it? Judging from some pictures I checked on your official site it's going to be some kind of twisted, atmospheric and artistic piece of art!
Yes. We didn't want to make this normal kind of commercial clip. We tried visualize the song in an artistic way. I mean, it's still a videoclip, no art ;-) but it's much more artistic than all the r'n'b, soul and hiphop clips. Luckily we don't depend on the Music TV stations. I mean, we don't sell records because they play our songs (even if they don't believe it *lol*), so we're quite free and can do what we want.
The story is about schizophrenia. So there are two different looking worlds. One is dark and obscure (which is the 'real' world, the other one is brighter (dream- world), looks like the normal world for normal people…) The location is an old hospital. We rented it for the videoshooting. Very atmospheric clip, I think. Not so very evil, but also a little abstract…
-Concerning the lyrics, for once more you keep the balance between the German and the English language. How important is it to you singing in your native language? I don't know German, but it seems to me while listening to you interpreting your German lyrics that no other language would fit better lending the lyrics the emotional and poetic sound they deserve while being sang. From where do all these deep, heart-felt and esoteric lyrics come from? For more than a decade now you keep on unleashing pure poetry through your releases without losing in quality and emotions…
Oh, thank you very much. Maybe it's because I didn't change very much in the last years. The lyrics are an important part of myself. It's me.
I use both languages, because they are quite different in handling. German is quite direct. There are not many meanings for each word and I usually use it to draw hard lines, to work with contrasts and oppositions. English is much more open and I use for a more metaphoric way of expression. It simply depends on what the song requires… But it's not very important to me to sing in my mother tongue. I can speak German and English and so I try to use both languages for my lyrics… I think 'Kalte Sonne' must have been quite hard for the fans to get familiar with, because with DS I always sung in English. But yes, German is really good for that sometimes. But not always…
-Your vocals for one more time are stunning, this familiar and utterly emotional voice of yours keeps on giving life in the most appropriate way to your lyrics, how much further can you go while interpreting? By the way, something I noticed was some more screaming vocals, like the ones on "The Cycle", did I listen well or I was just hallucinating?
Thank you again for the compliment. Well, you are right. I did these kind of screaming vocals this time again. I think the songs needed it much more than the previous Zeraphine songs. I don't know how much further I can go. Every new album is a challenge again, so I believe I can go further. I think I did from album to album.
-Something I really enjoy in Zeraphine is their modern approach on the gothic rock sound, something that blooms from both the strong production and the song structures that become more complex in sound with some electronic elements and stuff from album to album. Could someone say in a way (not completely) that Zeraphine are the continuation of Dreadful Shadows after "The Cycle"?
For me, yes. My part in Zeraphine is like continuing my musical life in another family. But it's really a different band, a different feeling. And, compared to the end of DS it's way better. I mean we are 2 Ex- DS in the band and 3 others who didn't have anything to do with DS. And we all together create this sound, create these songs. But for me personally it's continuing my musical life.
-I really like the fact that in the sound of Zeraphine the guitar distortion tends to sound quite heavy at times approaching metal-driven expression. Is your sound going to become heavier in the near or far future or you want to keep a balance between rock and metal sound in terms of heaviness?
I don't think, we'll ever make a metal- Album so far. For us the balance between Goth, Alternative and a glimpse of metal is good. Maybe that's simply 'our' sound. And we also love these balladesque Goth- / alternative Ballads…
-Zeraphine since the beginning were flirting slightly with electronics, making their sound more affected, is this element going to be more intense? I think that electronics in the dark scene of nowadays have become a necessary "evil" and by saying that I mean that more and more bands tend to use them. How do you find this, let's call it, tendency? Is electronic music the future of music?
In the 90s I was sure, that no guitar band would ever take place in this scene again. Luckily I was wrong. I like combining electronics with handmade music. I always did this in my music. But it's really hard to say. Sometimes I love electro- only music, sometimes I hate it… It depends on my mood…
But I don't use the electronics to make the music more evil. I use it as an instrument with infinite possibilities to support the atmosphere of a song. Or simply for melodies that can't be done by guitars… I think this instrument is very important for our sound. And this time we gave it more space in the arrangements.
-From hollow the skies became toxic on "Still", is there a connection between the two songs?
*lol* Not intentionally. I mean, most of our songs are connected in a way. But not intentionally. It's more a coincidence…
-So far you have covered U2's "New Year's Day" and Depeche Mode's "In Your Room", any plans on another cover song in the near or far future?
We always do cover versions in our live set. It has become a kind of tradition. On every tour we perform a new cover version. We don't have any plans to record one of them so far. But who knows. We like cover versions and to work on songs that were written by someone else…
-What should someone expect from Zeraphine on stage? I bet, judging from the parts of the "Blind Camera" DVD that give us a taste of how Zeraphine are on stage, you are a very energetic band offering a good show adorned with the intense emotions of your compositions. How do you feel while on stage?
It's absolutely great. A bit like a trance. It's always very intensive… undescibable. It's simply great to look into the eyes of people who really feel the music you are performing.
-What does it mean to you and do you like communicating with the audience after the gig?
This is usually fun. We do this after almost every concert. It's very nice. People give us little presents, tell us about their emotions at the show or generally, we sign cards and CDs… it's really nice and interesting.
-Also, are there any chances of seeing Zeraphine in Greece? It would be really awesome…
Well, we'd really love to. But we don't have any contacts I guess… so, if there is any concert promoter who wants to get us to Greece, feel free to contact us… *g*.
-Something I have noticed is that you like communicating with your fans in general, something that is a really good attitude from a band. Z-Radio and the Zeraphine chatroom which you visit sometimes as some people I met in there told me are some good ways to keep a touch with your fanbase. What do the Zeraphine fans mean to you?
They really means a lot to me and to the whole band. Not only because they buy the records… They really give us something back and that's extremely important.
-Is there a chance of incorporating strings somehow in the sound of Zeraphine once again and in a bigger climax like on "Wenn Du Gehst? Any ideas on what you could experiment more in order to take your sound some steps further?
Well, this always depends on the songs. I like real strings in a small ensemble, I don't like these pathetic big string orchestra arrangements so much. So if we'd have a song for that, we'd record strings again. But I think the step in improving our sound we took this time is really big for us and there was simply no need for strings, 'cos it's all more aggressive or progressive…
-I would love now to ask you some questions about Dreadful Shadows since you were a very important part of them since their beginning. What do you recall from these days and the gloomy music of Dreadful Shadows? What led one of the most important gothic rock/metal acts of the 90s to disband?
Oh I recall a lot, because it's been a very important part of my life. I like to remember the good days we've had and I've really learnt from the mistakes we've made. And I think there is still a little bit of DS within Zeraphine. At least my voice, the kind of writing lyrics and melodies etc.
DS have split up because we all wanted to go in different musical directions. One wanted DS to be more Metal, the other wanted it to be more Pop, the next one darker and so on. So we simply weren't able to write songs everybody was satisfied with. We watched other bands in the same situation who continued anyways and we were sure that we never want to end up like them. So we decided to stop DS at the climax and to remain as a good band in the peoples minds.
There were some personal problems as well and the step was definitely the best.
-How easy or difficult was it for Dreadful Shadows to achieve a personal sound whereas many gothic rock bands in the 90s were copying the sound of the legendary gothic rock acts of the 80s?
It was not too difficult, because we all listened to different styles of music. If e.g. 'sisters of mercy' would have been the favorite band of all of us, we surely would sound very similar to them. But we all had many and different favorites. It's the same with Zeraphine and that's good.
-To me "Beyond The Maze" has to be one of the best gothic rock/metal releases of the 90s, the atmosphere of this album is utterly esoteric, gloomy, desperate and "Figures Of Disguise" has some of the best vampiric lyrics ever! I'd like you to unfold your thoughts on this release, I consider it the most complete work on which you participated.
Well, it's been a very strange and exciting time. It was the first album with André and Norman on guitars after we've had these troubles with the former guitarists Frank and Stefan. We really worked together on the songs, the whole band. For the first time in this constellation. And that time we experimented quite a lot with Metal elements. And it was the first time we used real strings too. Very exciting… And we had a brilliant time in the studio, 'coz we went out for dinner every day at about 6 pm and then we always had lots of frozen Margheritas… so studio time ended at 6 pm … *g*.
-How did the participation of the legendary 80s female voice of the death rock scene, Gitane DeMone, turn to life on "The Cycle"? "The Cycle" was quite a huge step forward for Dreadful Shadows back then, a very modern approach on your sound, keeping your personal style, yet taking it a lot forward creating your most affected work in terms of song-structure and sound. How do you feel about this album?
This was also a great experience. We wanted a female voice on the album. Thommy, our producer, asked me what kind of voice I could imagine. I said "just like Gitane DeMone". Thommy: "Why don't you call her?" me: "Don't have any contact"… Thommy left the room… few minutes later he returned with a phone number. Again : "why don't you call her?". So I called Gitane. She was very interested and open-minded. I sent her the old albums and demos of the new songs. she liked it a lot, we booked a flight for her and within a few days she was in Berlin and sang on our album. We spent a wonderful time with her and recorded her album "Stars of trash" a few weeks later. During that time she stayed in my flat, which was really strange, because I was a big fan of the old Christian Death and was really something like a star for me. She also joined us for a video shoot in Kiew and on our "The Cycle Tour". It was a great time.
-Is it just me or you had a more rocking attitude on "Enstrangement"?
I think this was the influence of our guitarist Frank. He was really rocking. That was his part for DS as long as he was part of this band.
-After "Buried Again" there was a change in the line-up, some important additions in my opinion since they led the band to compose their two best and most quality releases, "Beyond The Maze" and "The Cycle", without wanting to underestimate your two previous releases since "Buried Again" paved really well the way for "Beyond The Maze" and "Enstrangement" was a strong beginning! Why did you have a line-up change back then?
As I mentioned before we've had problems with our guitarists. Especially during the recordings for 'Buried again'. Frank ended up on Heroine and he kind of collapsed these days. It's a real sad story, because he was my friend and you feel so disarmed and empty, because you can't really help. Stefan left the band a short time later, so we were out of guitarists while we were recording the album. It was me and a friend playing the guitars on the album. Stefan is still mentioned on the album, 'coz it was not really clear if he would return or not…
-"Paradize" was one of your best songs, at least to me, yet it was on "Homeless EP", something quite rare to find back then, now everyone can find it in the release which has both "Enstrangement" and "Homeless EP" or the re-release of "Buried Again" with bonus tracks. Why didn't it make it to one full-length album?
After the first album we haven't had enough new songs, but we wanted to record these songs as well. And our label haven't had the money to produce a complete album. So we had to change the label after Homeless E.P.
-"Twist In My Sobriety" is one of the rare covers that sounds better than the original version, you managed to lend it your very own personal approach, something I deeply appreciated it. Why did you choose that song? What's your opinion on cover songs? How do they have to be, just a remake or a blending with the sound of the band doing the cover?
As far as I remember we've had the idea for 'Twist in my sobriety' in the tour bus, 'coz we remembered that song. We liked it all and so we tried to cover it, but it should sound like DS. I think we've managed it that way … I like coverversions when they sound like the band who covers the song. But you can't always change what you want without a permission of the composer. That was the problem with 'New Year's Day' actually. We weren't allowed to change the structure and the arrangement, so we had to follow the original more than we wanted…
-What do you recall from the live of Dreadful Shadows here in Greece on your "The Cycle" tour? I was too young back then and not living in Athens, so it was non-sense trying to think I would see you live then, so the dream to see you live one day faded along with your break up…
Well, it was a great experience as well. Very friendly people, it was a great time we've spent in Athens. We stayed very close to Acropolis. We wanted to see all the historic places, but unfortunately we haven't had the time, so we could just see a bit. But that was great. During the concert I remember we've had a problem with our keyboards, because they were setup with a wrong samplerate in the first song. The result was, it was played a little faster and higher which must have been sounding terrible. But we fixed this by the 2nd song. Luckily. And on our flight back we had to change in Frankfurt. We had 30 minutes to get to the terminal for our flight to Berlin. But Frankfurt Airport is so huge that it was impossible. So we missed the flight…
-If I asked you if there could be a possible come back of the Dreadful Shadows in the future you'd reply negatively…?
Yes I would. Sorry. I don't think that DS will ever make an album again, because we all make different things now and I think we're quite far away from each other. Not geographically…
-And a final question, I read at the site of Zeraphine at your profile that you were at The Nuisance, I couldn't find any information abut this band, had you ever recorded anything? If so I'd die to listen to it! Any information on this band would be very much welcome!
The Nuisance was my first band, still in times of GDR when I was 13. First I was drummer, then guitarist. Then I left the band and played in other bands and thereafter I returned and they wanted me singing. I was 15 then. The line up changed continuously until we changed the name to "Dreadful Shadows". So the forming of DS was a process resulting from The Nuisance. Well, we've recorded some demos. I played some on Zeraphine Radio last year. But it's funny for me. Maybe I'll play something again in one of the next shows. But don't worry if you missed it, it's quite different from DS…
-That's all from me Sven, thanks a lot for your time and for making this dream of mine turn to reality, wish you all the best for Zeraphine and "Still"! End the interview in any way you wish including some lyrics you have written and you deeply adore…
I thank you very much and I hope we can meet some day.
…von hier bis zum Rand der Welt …
||Posted on 20.06.2006 by "It is myself I have never met, whose face is pasted on the underside of my mind."|
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