First start with some questions about the past. Subway To Sally was founded in 1992 in Potsdam, which lies in the east of Germany. Did it influence you as a band being brought up in the former DDR?
I definitely think so, yes. Subway sprung from other DDR-bands. I mean, one of my colleagues in the band, Simon, I went to school with. We know each other for almost twenty years now. And all of us started playing music in the DDR. The cool thing about the DDR was that there was a lot of appreciation for music and arts. We all went to special schools and stuff. And besides that we had the opportunity to play in a lot youth centres and clubs. And because of that we were kind of well prepared when we started Subway in the early nineties. We knew what we wanted to do. You know, we were right from the start a good live band. We had the experience and knew how to connect with the audience. When we founded Subway To Sally we wanted to break away from the traditional DDR- stuff we were doing before. So we started singing in English and incorporated Irish and Scottish influences in our music. And through that we kind of found our way back to a more traditional approach. We mixed all those influences. We started singing in German again. In the DDR there was a lot of appreciation for German lyrics and being poetic. And over the next couple of years we developed our music to what it is today.
So one could say that being from the DDR gave you a kind of advantage?
Yeah, I think you could say that. When we started Subway and met colleagues in our age who played in West German bands, we noticed that we were more matured. I mean, we were eager and totally dedicated to our band. Sure, they had the better equipment and instruments, but in some way they weren't as focused as we were. Something like that.
But now, about fouteen years later, you guys are huge in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Does it surprise you that there hasn't been a breakthrough in countries like The Netherlands yet?
You know, take Holland for example, we haven't played a lot of shows there. And over the years I noticed that Subway is the kind of band people connect to during the shows. You have to have that connection with our music and us. And the place to get that is our shows. It's almost like an inauguration ritual, hahaha. In Germany people came to one of our shows and stood in the back and saw that the people up in front had the time of their live. So next time, they would stand up front and probably have some friends tagging along. As I said, we haven't played that many shows in Holland, so that could be one of the reasons. I also think that you have to connect to the stories we tell in the lyrics, the world in which it all takes place.
I think you have a point there. I was at two of the Dutch shows you did for the last album and the last one of them in a small club called Bosuil, there were maybe 70 people in the audience, but we had a blast.
Yeah, but when we started in Germany, it was no different. You just have to start at those small clubs and play your ass off hoping that spark flies. But, to be honest, I don't loose any sleep over the fact that we're not big outside the Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Granted, Holland is right in front of our doorstep, so we would really like to do more shows there and I'm sure that's going to happen. Especially now we have this record deal with Nuclear Blast, which has a totally different policy about how to put a record out there. Much more direct than the major labels. Maybe a band comes along we can support in Holland and if so, we're coming your way.
When I'm informed correctly you have a new drummer (Simon Michael-red). What happened to the old one, David Pätsch?
Well… David wasn't with us from the start. He joined us back in 1996. So he was part of Subway for about eight years. But besides his work within the band, he also worked as solo musician. He gave workshops and stuff like that. And he could get a job with a show here in Berlin. And that was like the opportunity for him to go and do something different. After eight years he just wanted to get out of the “band-system”. It was kind of hard, because we knew this, but we still had to do a couple of shows. So we kept it quiet. We didn't want to disturb our fans and we were looking for a replacement. So there we found ourselves doing shows and we knew he was leaving. And when the word came out, it was kind of a shock for our fans, but to be clear: it wasn't a nasty split.
But you found a replacement.
Yeah, but it wasn't easy at all! We didn't find him in Berlin. Simon comes from Nurnberg….
That not exactly next door!
Oh well, when traffic isn't too bad, he can drive up here in about two hours and he can stay with one of us when he's here. We're one big family anyway, so.. But it turned out that he was what we were looking for, as a person as well as musician.
Ok, the new album is called 'Nord Nord Ost'. Maybe a stupid question, but where did the title come from?
Hahaha, that's not a stupid question at all. We wanted a title that left some room for interpretation and wasn't too obvious, but on the other hand caught the “story” of the album. The central themes are fire and ice. The album starts with song which takes you on a boat to the realms of the Ice Queen ('Schneekönigin') and the album ends with a sailor song ('Seemanslied'). So the title of the album hints at those central themes, the cold and the north and so on. The “Ost”-part of the title is a little hint to our background. We talked about it before, we come from eastern Germany. Besides that, it just felt right. It had that ring to it, we were looking for.
'Nord Nord Ost' takes Subway To Sally in another direction than the previous album 'Engelskrieger'. It's more bombastic, more melodic and less harsh. It almost seems as if you took elements from the long history of the band. Do you recognize that?
Yes. There are some objective arguments why one could say that. First off, we had a different producer. Also the whole process of recording was different from 'Engelskrieger'. Also the lyrics are different. 'Engelskrieger' was more direct with topics like borderline and stuff like that. So different lyrics, different music and sound. I think if you had to name an album connected to this new album, it would be 'Herzblut'. I don't think we took elements from our past, but it's more like we had those elements and we improved them. It's like this is Subway To Sally in all its glory and splendour. The way we've always wanted it to sound like.
You already said the fire and ice are the central themes of the album. What special meaning lies behind that?
Oh..well…all this stuff was happening around and with us. I mean, David's departure, Ingo divorced and stuff like that. It brought us closer together as a group. And we wanted to incorporate that into the album. So this album is more about how people feel. That was the basic idea of this album. It's not a concept album, but that was the main idea. We tried to put that into lyrics, which left room for different interpretations.
The first single of the album is 'Sieben', but I read somewhere that the second one is going to be 'Eisblumen'. I was surprised to hear that because I expected tracks as 'Feuerland' or 'S.O.S.' to be the single. Why did you choose 'Eisblumen'?
Hmm.. you know, everybody has a different opinion about the second single hahaha. Oh well, that's kind of a complement for the album I guess. But the idea behind 'Eisblumen' was that it is like some sort of scene hymn, you know? But to be honest with you, this album is so fresh for us now, that the final verdict isn't in yet. But as said, I think it's a major compliment for this album that there are more than one tracks on there, which could be singles.
To be honest, I think it's a damn' fine album.
Thanks. Nice from you to say that..
Talking about which, what are your expectations from this album?
Well, I don't measure my expectations in sales figures or chart rankings and stuff like that. You know, the first album we hit the album charts with was 'Foppt Den Dämon' in 1996. It entered the charts at 74. And I was so unbelievable happy with that. It was really special, it still is. I mean, 'Engelskrieger' entered at 9 and even went up to 5. Obviously, that's way better than 'Foppt Den Dämon', but it couldn't top the feeling I had that first time. So…
To be honest, you know our previous work and you just told me that you think that this new one is a good album that does a lot more for me than sales figures. I mean, when fans come up to me and say they like it, keep on supporting this band and come to the shows and sing these new songs with us, that's why I'm in this band. That's important to me. Now, don't get me wrong. I want to sell records, because that way we can keep on performing and living from our music. We're very fortuned that way. But you know what I mean.
Let's get back to the album. One of the absolute highlights is 'S.O.S.'. Can you tell a little more about that song?
Well, the lyrics of 'S.O.S.' are a general metaphor. It's about society and its problems. It deals with the western world and things that are going on around us, politically and spiritually. But I don't want to make it all heavy and stuff. You can also see it as a story, so..
Final question, we've already established that Subway To Sally is a great live band. What kind of new stuff can we expect for the new tour?
Well….we're still working on that. Hahahaha. The fire we've mastered and with the ice…we're still working on it! hahaha, we're thinking about letting it snow during the show, but we've to work it out.
Sounds great! Are there any shows planned in the Benelux?
No, not yet. First we're going to tour Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which are the countries where we've the biggest following. But if everybody over there in Holland starts buying our records, then we are bound to get offers to play there. So…it's up to you guys! Hahaha.
Any famous last words for our readers?
Oh…hmm…well….ok: Don't drink and drive, people! And listen to the new album!