Hi Maik, first of all thanks for calling. And most of all: congrats on 'Invictus'. What a hammer of an album.
Thank you! I am glad you like it.
The album feels like a next step for Heaven Shall Burn (HSB). Next to maintaining the typical HSB sound, you have added some new elements into your songs, of which maybe the electronics in 'Combat' and 'The Lie You Bleed For' are the most remarkable ones.
A next step is exactly what we had in mind. We had the idea that when one hears the new album, you should realise after ten seconds that this is HSB but we also wanted to try something new and to bring it also onto the next level of aggression, so people can see we are not selling out, going commercial or whatever you like to call it. We wanted to improve the level of brutality on the record. I am writing most of the stuff for the band and I always liked bands which did some of the electronically stuff, like Ministry, Pitchshifter or Think About Mutation. I always loved bands that used electronic elements to create brutality. Not like having that stuff in the gothic way or techno way, but just to have that mechanical, pounding aggression. I was always impressed with that. We already had experiments with that in the past but it was hidden on the record a lot more. Maybe it was on song number eight in the end of the song, where you could not really tell about it because I think we found our perfect style to play aggressive, modern metal on the first Iconoclast album. And it was about time to have some evolution on that style of metal as well. So we just crossbred some of the electronic stuff and I think there will be more of it in the future as well.
The previous albums were a great success and were well received by everyone and everything. Was there during the making of 'Invictus' any doubts about adding the new elements, did you feel any kind of pressure when it is about writing new songs?
We did feel pressure. But not coming from the record company, but pressure we put on ourselves. You do not want to disappoint the friends and the fans of the band. A musician who says “I do not care about what people think and I do want I want” is just a fucking liar! They all do care about reviews and what fans think about it. The day we loaded up the first song on our MySpace I was sitting totally nervous in front of the computer waiting for the first comments to come in. I was curious if people liked it or not. We care what people think of our music. We feel a kind of responsibility for people who are into the band and who are expecting a certain thing from us, people that want to spend their money on the thing we do and who put their time and emotions into the band. That means so much to us and we do not want to disappoint those people. Like I said introducing these new elements started a few years ago already. Like on the first record there was already a techno beat on one song, people liked that so we felt free to take the next step. And it seems most of the people like it as well. We are introducing new stuff in small amounts so people can follow our train of thoughts.
Several of the new songs have some extras added to it. Who comes up with the ideas of adding all sorts of extra's, like the gun blast in 'Combat'?
It is actually me and our guitarist Alex(ander Dietz), we are producing the staff and after sitting in a studio for after three or four months, writing and producing the record, I really can't tell you who had that idea. It is from one of our two but I seriously can't tell you who. And Tue (Madsen) always comes up with some really cool ideas for mixing and stuff like that but for this record we actually had every position where some extras could be added filled out. Tue had some really cool ideas for some certain sounds and when we were looking for one he could provide them, but he did not had the chance to bring in totally new ideas because we already had so detailed visions of how things should sound.
Talking about recording… there are bands that are very spontaneous when it comes to recording songs and there are those who have to take there time and only will not start recording before they are totally satisfied with written songs. And then of course there are many bands who sit in between. Where do you position yourself in this?
We kind of work it out really well, but we don't work it out in the theoretical way. I just have to sit down and play the song and I have to have the feeling that I am on stage having fun playing that song. I like to have the feeling of being in the rehearsal room where it is fun to play that song, you should be able to bang or mosh to it. If I don't have that feeling there must be something wrong about the song. That is always the test for our songs; we do not record a song before we have that feeling from the beginning to the end of the song.
A remarkable song on the album is 'Given In Death', which has a surprising presence of Sabine Weniger (and Sebastian Reichl). The song is a cross between a track of Deadlock and HSB. How did the cooperation come together? Did Sabine and Sebastian both write on the track as well or is it fully written by you and were they asked after the song was composed?
The song was fully written ad we asked them afterwards. The plan of having a female voice on the song was actually something that came up quite early. It was pretty obvious to do something with Deadlock. We always wanted to do that because they are from the same area and they are a band which has developed tremendously during the past years. They grew into a band I really appreciated into a band I really love. They have made such a huge step forward during the past years. When I wrote the lyrics for the song, I realised pretty early that it was an emotional topic we were talking about with calmer moments as well. It would have been stupid to scream and grunt all the time throughout the whole song. So we were looking for a girl singing… and, well… what can I say Rhianna did not have time? So Sabine was our first choice and we are really happy that they were keen on working with us. And Sebastian is also a good producer; it would definitely be thrilling to do something with him in song writing in the future. But for this record he just played some of the guitar solo and did the recordings for Sabine's vocals.
'Invictus' is the third part of the Iconoclast series and also the last? And if so, did you had a trilogy in mind when you started on the first 'Iconoclast'?
I don't know if this will be the last one. After the first 'Iconoclast' I felt it would be too obvious to do a second and even a third. But then we did a second and a third one. SO I won't be telling anybody now that there won't be a fourth. I always say that Die Hard was also a trilogy but than the fourth part came out and that was pretty cool as well. I am not thinking of a fourth part right now, but you never know!
With many bands it are mainly the singers who write the lyrics because when the lyrics are personal they can put most of their emotion in it. But with HSB it is (mainly) you who writes the lyrics…
That is absolutely no problem for us as we are not musicians playing together but we are five friends playing together. We know each other for such a long time. Of course our singer comes up with certain topics; especially 'Given In Death'. Marcus is a nurse in hospital and he has a lot to do with the topic the song deals about. We talk about it so I know how he feels, what he likes and what he dislikes and we talk about the lyrics as well. So he can put a lot of emotions into it. When we started out the band I was the only one in the band who could speak proper English so I started to write the lyrics and we kept it that way. I am very interested in historical issues, I am reading a lot of books and stuff like that. I probably just have the most talent in the band to write the lyrics, where for example Marcus has the most talent of interpreting the lyrics. If you know each other so well, it is not a problem at all.
You have always been a band that is socially aware and proactive. On this album you find subjects for the texts in politics, history and literature. Are you not afraid that some historical subjects (Sevastopol, the killing of Liebknecht and Luxemburg) or subjects from literature (Lev Kopolev, Max-Hermann Neisse) are unknown to your fans and they therefore might not understand the lyrics?
In the beginning I thought there would not be many people caring for the lyrics, so I was pretty amazed how much response we got on them. Kids writing e-mails and asking after certain things, there are lot of kids who use our lyrics in school when they have to do a certain speech or for papers they have to hand in. I think HSB works on different levels. If you just want to enjoy the music, you still can listen to a real aggressive and melodic modern metal/metalcore/death metal record. You does not have to care for the lyrics at all. You can have fun with our music without the lyrics. But if you want to go deeper and want to do research after the lyrics and want to read and you want something to think about, than there is that other level, where you can dive into the lyrics and care about it. To understand the amount of aggression and brutality in our music it definitely helps to know what the songs are bout. We are aware that the special thing about HSB is our attitude. We are not playing music to be something special. We are not Meshuggah or Morbid Angel, creating art in our music. HSB is more about the political message we transport. But again, I think it works on both levels.
The release of an album is mostly being followed by a tour, to promote the album and the band. During the previous tour, you always appeared in red shirts on stage. What will it be this time? Releasing an album with the title 'Invictus' more or less asks for a traditional Roman outfit...
Ha-ha! We are not Ex Deo or something like that. We did a fun show though were we invited 300 people and played in traditional Greek warrior costumes.
You did? Ha-ha! I didn't know…
Ha-ha. It will be the bonus DVD for the limited edition. But we did that for fun. I think we will stick to the red shirts as people got used tot hat. Sometimes we also play in ordinary shirts, just like what we feel like doing that day. But we won't go out on stage and masks ourselves… that would be too much metal for us I guess. Ha-ha!
What can people expect from Heaven Shall Burn for the upcoming months when it comes to touring? You are to play in
The record will be out end of May, than the festivals start and people will not be in the mood for going to a sweaty club or don't have to money to spend on club shows as well. So we will be reaching a lot more people when we will be playing festivals. And then, in October, November, we will be doing a full European tour in the clubs. But for now we will first be focussing on the festivals.
This is your fourth release through Century Media. How important have they been for you? And what would you like to say to the people who criticized HSB for going commercial instead of being underground the moment you signed with Century Media?
When we signed with Century Media there were and still are working fans there, people who really love HSB and know what we are all about. Even if our A&R would drop out, we know there are still at least ten people loving the band. This was not like signing to Universal Music or whomever where you have maybe one guy or girl that loves you and does everything for you, but as soon as they leave you have nobody there anymore. It happened so often to bands in the past. So we signed with Century media as for us it was the perfect mixture of an underground music approach with professional structures. And it came out as being the right thing for us.
What is it with the members of Heaven Shall Burn and FC Carl Zeiss Jena?
Simple… that is our soccer club. We are from that area, may dad used to take me to the games when I was a kid and it used to be a huge traditional soccer club in the past. Nowadays they are playing in the third division and there are still many people going there! We all love the club, we all love soccer… it is just a passion we have! Carl Zeiss Jena is a pretty small club but with a long and old tradition. To us that is the perfect mixture. Something nice to know might be that there are a lot of Dutch people in the club: we have a Dutch coach (René van Eck) as well as several players (Quido Lanzaat, Orlando Smeekes & Melvin Holwijn). German soccer would be nothing without the Dutch!
Are there any other happenings or things going on with you which you would like to let the people know about? Do you have anything to say or add for closure?
I just want people to check out the record, listen to the new things on the album and do read the lyrics, as they mean a lot to us! And of course we hope to see you all on one of those festivals or at he club shows in October or November.