First of all congratulations with the excellent new album 'Caledonia'. It'll get 89/100 in our next issue, on line around 1/11/06…
Wow, thanx a lot!!!! That's really great to hear!
'Caledonia' marks a return to the conversant Suidakra sound while predecessor 'Command To Charge' experimented with some slightly progressive elements. A decision on purpose?
A decision of course. We started to write new songs for the 'Command To Charge' album and we had the feeling to do something new after six releases. The riffs and melodies sounded not fresh enough and we didn't want to copy ourselves. When we wrote new songs for 'Caledonia' we realized that we had the necessary distance to have new inspirations and really fresh ideas. We didn't had a special plan in our mind how the new songs should sound like, it was a natural process that the new stuff turned into that kind of folk melodic death.
Marcel Schoenen, responsible for clean vocals and guitar, left the band in 2000, but now rejoined Suidakra. Can you tell the story of the (once) lost son?
Marcel stopped studying in 2000 and started a full time job and it was not possible for him to give 100% for Suidakra anymore, so he decided to quit the band, but during all this time he was still in the background writing songs and lyrics for Suidakra and sometimes jumped in when we needed him for a gig. This sounds like a good compromise, but we had a lot of trouble finding somebody who fits in all matters into the band - musically and personally. We had several guitar players who got trained and did some gigs but there always came a point at some time where we had to realize that this is not going to work - sometimes because of personal problems and sometimes these people turned out to be quite good guitar players but they simply doesn´t felt what our music was about or the way they were used to write songs didn´t fit together with our writing process. You know, our sound is a very special mixture of a lot of influences and it is very important for us to have an open mind for all these styles because only this makes it possible to be inspired to do the music like we do. So all this time Marcel was in the background and taught the songs to the new members and hoped to do it the last time and now he finally he got fed up and rejoined the band - haha... No, it was a lucky situation because when it turned out that Matthias has to leave the band I called Marcel explained everything to him and asked him if he would rejoin the band. To my surprise he said "all right"... I think there were several reasons for him to do so: first of all he was now in a better position in his company and was able to handle some time-problems more freely and I think also the fact that he wasn´t that much involved in the writing process of 'Command to Charge' gave him new fuel, new inspiration for this music. But I also allured him by saying that he will always be free to cancel a gig just for the reason that it´s too much for him... I can be very convincing - haha... But there are also good things to mention: during his break he started a new project, but without any ambitions for success, just for fun - it sounds like "Black Label Society" or "Clutch" and he did only the vocals. This turned out very positive for Suidakra, because he focused himself to improve his singing and surprised us all when we did the first recordings in the rehearsal room. This fresh breeze was also present when we sat together with our guitars and started to write the songs for 'Caledonia' it simply made "click" and everything worked fantastic - the melodies were fresh again, the parts suited like never before and we took part of this inspiration, that sometimes make you think that the music is already there and you are just the one who gives it a shape. I really think that 'Caledonia' is our most compact and best worked out album since ever.
What happened with his replacement musician Matthias Kupka? Did you part on good terms?
Yes we did. He decided to concentrate himself on his band, which he had before he joined SuidAkrA. We had funny times with Mathias and are still friends.
Do you agree when I tell you that Suidakra is the less German sounding band of Germany?
Yeah I agree, because we don't sound like the typical German band. Germany is known for music styles like thrash & power metal for which we do not stand for. There are also some medieval metal/rock bands like In Extremo or Subway To Sally for example but for many people here it's unique to sound like an Irish or Scottish metal band.
In the lyrics you display a great interest and knowledge of historical subjects, mythological items, completed with a sniff of fantasy sometimes. Where does this interest come from and who is responsible for lyrics?
Well this was part of our music since Marcel joined the band in 1996. He had, and still has, great interest in Celtic history and mythology and when we started to mix our music with folk elements it was just clear that our lyrical way also had to pick up this theme. We did with 'Lays from afar' our first concept album where we had a fantasy story that was much inspired by Celtic myths and on 'Emprise to Avalon' we had a story which has a real tradition that we mixed up with fantasy to get a good story. Just like the different styles that make our music, Marcel is very anxious to combine different lyrical aspects: there are Celtic myths which are flavoured with some historical facts and fantasy but on the other side he always tries to give it a deeper meaning in some political, social or philosophical way. The 'Caledonia' theme is a good example for this, because it has a historical background but it is also completely mixed with oral tradition and a lot of facts got lost during the time. This is a good base for inspiration and a good story... But when you focus the theme it is absolutely necessary to understand also the political situation to get an imagination of how they lived during this time. You can find this deeper meanings in most of our songs - there are only few exceptions where the lyrics just have to create a specific atmosphere or have to express a feeling.. I am in the opinion that when you haven´t got something to say you should not write lyrics! Do you know the song 'Penny Dreadful' of Skyclad? There is a very cool passage that says: "Stand your ground behind the times and refuse to follow fashion. Write your poetry with anger and then sing it with a passion".
Since 'Signs For The Fallen' (2003) all members had a hand in writing material. Was it the case this time too? Can you tell a bit more about the writing process of 'Caledonia'?
Yeah you're right. It's important for the SuidAkrA sound, that every member brings his own influences into it. The songwriting process this time was a bit different than on the previous releases. I moved about 300km away from the others so we had to change the way of writing. First of all we wrote some ideas on our own and recorded them in the home studios, before we traded it via internet. After that Marcel an I worked on the others parts. When we all came together in the rehearsal room we all worked on these parts and put them into a song. This type of song writing process was a new experience for us and we had a good possibility to work much more details on single parts or melodies. I think that's also the main reason why 'Caledonia' sounds so well balanced.
Another intriguing item is the concept of 'Caledonia'. Can you go a bit deeper into that subject?
In the beginning of the first century the Roman Empire nearly reached its maximum level of expansion and England was yet another country in the line of captured lands. So it makes sense that the empire also started at some time to get the whole island under its command. They started the invasion with success at first but the native tribes had a good assessment of their situation and decided to stop their own little conflicts to face this superior and powerful enemy with all united tribes. The Romans were not only high developed in terms of social structures and innovation, in terms of war, they had the most modern army in the world and proved their strength in countless battles and they thought to have a easy play with this few little tribes in the north which were really not quit good organized. But they underestimated the Picts. A warlord named "Calgatus" united the Pictish tribes and they decided after the first defeats to change their tactics because they understood that the Roman army was not to defeat in the open field, so they started a very long lasting guerrilla war.
For the second time you entered the Gerthart Records Studio with Martin Buchwalter (after recording four albums with Andy Classen in the past). So this is the moment to guide us through your recording adventures…
Yeah, I have to admit that we had this time more fun than in the past. We were good prepared for the recordings, so there were no problems. To tell you all the funny stuff would take too much timeconsuming, but you can read the whole studio report on our webpage: http://www.suidakra.com/index.php?page=studioreport
Have fun, hehehe.
I guess the recording process was less stressful than the time before, because I read that you broke up with Century Media at the time of the recording of the previous album 'Command To Charge'?
Yep we did. We finished the rehearsal recordings for the 'Command To Charge' album and sent them the pre-recordings. Century Media didn't like the new material and gave us the opportunity to write a new album that sounds more folk influences or could finish the cooperation. We as a band stand behind the music we make and there was no doubt for us to split with Century Media. We recorded and financed the album on our own and looked for a new label with the finished product.
The artwork and merchandise was in the hands of Kris Verwimp. Another return to former times because he did the artwork for the 2002 release 'Emprise To Avalon' too. Please tell a bit more about this renewed cooperation?
After working with some other artists on the two previous releases we thought about working with Kris again. We met him last year, when we played in Belgium for the first time. After the show we talked about the idea making a concept album and asked him if he would be interested to work with us again. Kris was our first choice, because in our opinion he is able to bring the concept idea to his artwork better than anyone else. We also like to work with him, because it's all really relax. Through all these years with Kris we have the feeling that he became a hidden fifth SuidAkrA member and I'm also sure that we are going to work with him again.
Not that many people will realize that the name Suidakra is your name in reverse. Does it mean that you are the man who rules the roast as founding member?
Hahaha, not really. I have to admit that it's all a coincidence. The only reason why we choose the name for the band was that it sounds like a metal band name. It had nothing to do with my person. So it also could be Lecram (Marcel backwards) but it sounds like garbage hahahaha.
I am still wondering why the success is not bigger after so many excellent albums of international level. Do you have any reason or thoughts about this?
I don't really know. Maybe it is the lack of support by bigger magazines here in Germany. I mean we didn't even had an interview with our last release in Rock Hard or Metal Hammer. We don't have a major label so I guess many people think that SuidAkrA is still an underground band, that's the reason why people still wonder when they hear that 'Caledonia' is our eighth release. But on the other hand the distribution is maybe another reason. Our first five albums were released only here in Germany and it's hard for fans in other countries to get the first releases! But let's see what 'Caledonia' will bring us.
In which countries are you most famous?
I would say in Germany, because we are playing here live for twelve years, so many people in Germany saw SuidAkrA live. About two years ago we started to play a lot of gigs outside Germany in countries like Russia, Spain, England, France etc. and we made some new friends and fans in these countries. We also noticed that we become more and more popular in the USA so we are planning to get over there and kick some asses!
Are there plans to support the album by touring?
Yes, we talked to our booking agency about some tour plans, and now we are planning to be part of the next Wacken Road Show in April 2007. We hope that we are going to have much more European gigs than on previous tours. Beside that we are going to play a tour in Russia in March and several single gigs in and outside Germany. So watch out for SuidAKrA live!
Who is playing the bagpipes?
Axel Römer, who is a professional piper is responsible for the bagpipes. We worked with him on 'Command To Charge' for the first time. It was something new for us and we involved the bagpipes after the songs were already written. This time we introduced them into the songwriting, so we wrote special melody lines for the bagpipes. Axel is also a good friend of the band, and it's always fun working with him together. We asked him to be part of the 'The IXth Legion' video and he accepted immediately.
Indeed, you just shot your first videoclip ever for 'The IX th Legion'. That must have been a special and new experience. Was it a positive one?
Yeah it was positive indeed. It was really something new for us to be in front of the camera and to play one song over and over again with a lot of changes on the set. I think the most difficult part was to made some action without have a crowd hahaha. But after a few tests we concentrate ourselves on the work. It was funny to do the forest filming because from time to time there were some joggers. We thought it looks strange to the normal people seeing four painted metal guys standing round in the forest and banging around. But they were cool and fascinated. All in all we had a lot of fun together and we are planning do to another video clip.
The clip is made by Sebastian Radtke. Can you tell a bit more about this man?
Sebastian is a long SuidAkrA fan, and we've been in touch for a couple of years. He made some underground movies like the horror psycho splatter movie Psychoticahttp://www.psychotica-film.de/which was also released on DVD. He asked me why we didn't released a video clip yet and if we were interested. I said ok let's do it. We are planning to work with him in the future again.
What are your plans for the near future?
First of all finishing the promotion and play as much live as we can! We are now preparing ourselves for the first SuidAkrA acoustic show in Kiel (Germany). After that we plan to do some more acoustic shows and to film another SuidAkrA video clip.
Final words are for you, guys…
Thank you for the interview and I want to say thanx to everybody who support us. Check out our new album 'Caledonia'. You can watch our first video clip on www.suidakra.com and another studio video on www.myspace.com/suidakra Keep on Metal !!