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Equilibrium hoort stilletjes aan ook bij de vaste waarden in de hedendaagse folk metal scène. Ze toerden al menigmaal met de Heidenfest of Paganfest karavaan en wisten met albums als ‘Sagas’ en ‘Rekreatur’ een sterke indruk na te laten. Vorig jaar brachten ze de EP ’Waldschrein’ uit, een voorbode voor het volledige nieuwe album ‘Erdentempel’ dat vanaf zes juni verkrijgbaar is. Maar hun queeste verloopt niet altijd zonder turbulentie. We hadden een openhartig gesprek met de stuwende kracht achter Equilibrium: René Berthiaume over het nieuwe album, het plotse vertrek van twee bandleden en zijn band met de natuur.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

We can finally look forward to the fourth Equilibrium album ‘Erdentempel’ early June, that’s fine! But I think Equilibrium is going through turbulent times at the moment, isn’t it?
Somehow yeah. I think you are talking about Andreas and Sandra who left the band. It might be turbulent times, but we take it as a challenge to find new members to be able to go on stage as fast as possible again. Sometimes things change suddenly. We are still friends with them. They have just changed their own priorities. They wanted to focus more on their own personal things. I can understand it, because the band takes of course a lot of time. I expected that Sandra would maybe leave the band or take a break in maybe one or two years, because I also know that she has a husband (Sebas, ex-Heidevolk – Vera) and maybe she thinks about children and so, but I did not expect that it would happen so fast. But well, now we have it like this and we take it as a challenge. We are looking at the future. Of course it is also exciting for us, because we have this new album coming out soon. It is turbulent, but in a positive way.

But fortunately they are still on the album I think and helped you recording ‘Erdentempel’, isn’t it?
You mean that you can hear them on the album? Not really. This time I recorded almost everything on my own, because since a few years we all moved a little bit away from each other. Andreas moved to the North of Germany, for instance. So we decided it would be the easiest and fastest way if I just record all the stuff on my own. Somehow it maybe even fit together hehe. Maybe it was already a small hint into the direction of Equilibrium that they might leave, I do not know.

Fortunately you are a multi-instrumentalist, so in the end it is a lot of work of course, but you are able to do it alone./
Yes, but it is also fun for me. I really like to play the stuff. Composing is a very demanding work for your mind and soul. Somehow it is exhausting. Playing and recording the instruments afterwards is fun and relaxing for me.

And in the end it is quite rewarding, if it is finished and you can hear the result.
For this time I really have to say: I was never that satisfied with the result as on this album. I do not know why, for me this album is really round off and finished. On all the other albums I always had things I would have liked to change or to add. This time I had the feeling: now it is finished and I can leave it like that and it is fine for me.

How long did you work on the album? These four years long with bits and pieces?
It is not that I worked four years in a row. I mean, especially in 2010 and 2011 we had a lot of tours and shows. Of course there came already some ideas to my mind that I wrote down, but I would say that the continuing working was the whole year 2013 and a little bit of 2012. I think if you sum up all the time I put into the album, it is not that much more than the time I put into ‘Rekreatur’ or ‘Sagas’.

band imageUnfortunately Equilibrium’s concert at PPM fest in April was cancelled.
It was cancelled exactly because of the reason that Sandra and Andreas left the band. It would be hard to get on stage with only three musicians. Of course we were sad that we had to cancel it, but somehow it was the same in 2010 when Helge and our drummer at that time Manuel left the band. We also had to cancel one or two shows. It is sad, but we do not want to go with unknown session musicians or so. I really want to go on stage with a band, not with job musicians. So, we cancelled the show and hope to come back next year.

Of course you recorded the album at your own Helion Studios, but I see that ‘Erdentempel’ was mastered at the Finnvox Studios. Is there a special reason for that?
Usually we did all the stuff, also mixing and mastering on our own, but this time I had the feeling it would be nice to give the mastering to another studio, just to someone who has a kind of distance to the music, someone who can listen to it with fresh ears. Then I just thought about the Finnvox Studios, because I like a lot of productions that were done there. I also thought that our music could really fit to that studio. I just sent one song to them to have a test mastering to see if it would fit. I really liked the work from the mastering engineer. He is called Mika Jussila and he already did a lot of other great jobs, like Nightwish and Wintersun. Yeah I was really happy that he still had the time to do it.

What about the lyrics? In the very beginning they were obviously written by Helge, for one album, ‘Rekreatur’, they were written by Andreas. Who had written the lyrics this time?
This time it was also me (laughs). It was already during the last album, on ‘Rekreatur’, that I already had ideas for lyrics and words and sentences when I wrote the music. All the time when I listened to the songs in the beginning when they were without words of course. This time it was even more. Then I thought, okay I have already these lines in my mind, then maybe I should write them down. I think I would not have been happy if someone else should write another lyric. Then I talked to Andreas and said: For the songs I have already lyrics and it was okay. So we decided to do it like this. That is maybe also the reason why I am so happy this time with the album, because I really see that music and lyrics fit better together than ever. Both express the same thing somehow and it goes in the same direction.

Can you give some more details about the subjects or theme of the lyrics?
In general every song stands on itself. It is not a concept album. You can say that these lyrics are a little more personal than on previous albums. On those albums we had a lot of influences from German mythology and this time I felt that we also wanted to express more own and personal things. If I would have to describe it in a few words I would say it is about friendship, about strength, about staying together. Of course I always put it in a context with nature, because for me it is important that the humanity stays in harmony with the nature. You can also find that in the lyrics. A lot of them have symbols and words of nature, but always in combination with personal experiences and typical human topics.

’Wirtshaus Gaudi’ seems a jolly song. What is it about?
Wirtshaus means a kind of tavern or a restaurant and ‘gaudi’ is ‘having fun’ in Bavaria. So this is one of the simpler happy songs to celebrate.

You are living in Munich, I remember.
Not anymore. I moved away almost two years ago. I lived in Munich with my girlfriend and we were a little bit not happy anymore with this city, with all the people. We did not like the feeling there anymore, so we decided to move away. Now we are in a very small village in Bavaria. This is much more relaxed. It was also very helpful to write the album. ‘Rekreatur’ was written directly in Munich and even when you are in a room on your own, you always feel that buzz from cars and trains and people, here is much more calm, only forests around. That is really helpful to get a free mind and focus on the music.

Are there special instruments that you used on the album?
Of course I work with a lot of keyboard sounds and orchestral sounds, but they are not real sounds. There are some flutes that I played and some special guitars, but a lot of the stuff is electric. I like real things like guitars and voices, but I also like to experiment with sounds. You will have noticed that Equilibrium has an orchestral feeling or sound somehow, but I really like to combine it with guitars. Combining real instruments with synthetic instruments to get a kind of wide sound wall is my purpose. I want great atmospheres in the songs and it is really fun for me to experiment with those things. I have a passion for soundtracks and I like to think that some of our songs have this cinematic flavour.

The lyrics are in German. Any special reason for that?
Up to now every album has been written in German. It just seems most natural. On this album we also have a song with English lyrics, ‘Heavy Chill’, but this will be only from time to time. I can imagine that we will have English lyrics sometimes, but most of the time it will be German, because this is the language where we can express ourselves best. It is also a nice language to write lyrics, because you have so many opportunities and words that you can use to write nice lyrics. For example the first real song on the album ‘Was Lange Währt’ is based upon a famous saying here. It means that when you put a lot of time and effort into something, then it is worth it and the result will be good. If you translate it in English, it would not be that cool anymore.

The last song ‘The Unknown Episode’ is one of the English tracks. Does it refer to the current band’s situation?
No, actually not really. Of course it would fit also, you are right (chuckles), but at that time we did not know that Sandra and Andreas would leave yet. It is more about a personal thing, about being together and step into new paths in life. Staying together and experience all kinds of things. About to be brave enough to step into new paths. This song was written in English, because in German it would have been a bit too cheesy, a bit too nice. In English it works quite well for us and on the other hand we now have also a song that people can understand who do not understand all the other songs (laughs).

Let us set our sights on the road now. Can you tell a little bit about the touring you did after the release of ‘Rekreatur’?
We had some typical Heidenfest touring. All these Pagan and Heidenfest tours when we always play with bands like Ensiferum and so. It is always nice. Another tour was with a death metal package. So we were on tour with Kataklysm and Legion Of The Damned. It was interesting, because there was a lot of different audience. I know that a lot of death metal fans are into their music, but not so fond of our stuff with keyboards and thus it was a challenge. It was interesting to see how they changed their minds and finally had a party with us and have a nice time. Last year and the year before and we did not have that much shows anymore, because we concentrated on the new album. Now I am really looking forward to the upcoming festivals and also to go on tour in autumn again, because it has been a while.

band image

Are there already any concrete plans for shows?
Well, we have some festivals of course, like Hellfest and Summer Breeze and some German festivals. We are also working on a tour right now; there are no shows announced yet, but I think it will happen in the next two or three weeks. The tour will be in October and will cover Germany and the countries around Germany. I hope also the Netherlands and Belgium will be included.

Talking about the artwork, it is done by Skadi van Terror. Any more details?
It is a girl. She also did the artwork for the EP ‘Waldschrein’, this was the first time she did artwork for us and I was really satisfied with it, because it was a little bit refreshing for our music. Some kind of different style than the styles we used before. So we also asked to do the work for the full album again and I have to say that I am really happy about it, because she uses that kind of symmetry in her works, but it is not completely symmetric, so you still have variations and I also like the combination of how she uses the background. What I also like is that she still draws on paper with pencil. A lot of artists directly use Photoshop and things like that… I really like it when things have an organic touch.

Yes, drawing is something manual, can’t image using a computer for it with all those gadgets and manipulation.
Well, that is technology. I also like it when you have new possibilities and technology developed, but I also like it when you still have the possibility or the skills to do it the old school way and then combine it.

What about your collection of flutes?
(laughs) I do not remember when I bought my last flute. The last years I did not expand my collection anymore, but instead I increased my collection of guitars. I think I focused a little bit more on guitars again, for next months I will focus a bit more on flutes again. Some years ago I met a guitar builder and he asked me if I would be interested in a guitar from him. He sent me one and I was so impressed by his work, I like individual and handmade stuff, so I asked him also to build two more guitars for me in different style and different tuning, so that I have some guitars for different songs, a guitar that really fits the sound of the song.

That is really personal stuff where you play on.
Yes exactly and that is what I like about those things, when people are involved in something, working all together for one purpose. Like Skaldi who did the artwork and this guy who made the guitars… everything comes together and I really like the result.

Are there plans for any video clips?
We want to do a video clip for ‘Karawane’, the single and we want to do another video clip, but that is not announced yet. It is still a secret. But I can tell you: it is for ‘Wirtshaus Gaudi’ which of course will be a little more fun video. But we want to be sure having shot the video before it will be announced properly.

If having free time, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
That is a hard question, because in the last months I did not listen that much to others. When you are working that intensively on your own stuff, sometimes you need time not listening to anything. I am just discovering again what will be out soon at the moment, to find out what new bands and records will come out. Usually when I am composing, recording and producing, most of the music that I listen to comes from when playing computer games (chuckles). I guess I might have listened a lot to computer games soundtracks. Nowadays this quality of these games and music that comes with computer games is so high that you really can compare it with movie soundtracks. For me it is also a way of relaxing at night. These are really good soundtracks. Sometimes I also listen to the music without playing games.

Do you like travelling or do you have favourite places to go for chilling out?
I really like to travel, but last years there was really no time to do some further travelling. Of course we had some shows in other countries, but it was not that far away. I really hope for this year or especially for the next one there will be time, or I would say I will take the time, to do some trips. For example I really want to go the US and Canada again, because I have a lot of family in Canada and I think I met them the last time more than ten years ago and for me it is high time to visit them again. Not my parents, but people like cousins and uncles are there. My parents live in Germany, but my father comes from Canada, so there is a lot of family over there. What is also on my mind as one of the aims is doing a Scandinavian tour. For example this was supposed to do now, because we would have played on the PPM festival and two weeks later we would have had a show in Norway. We had two weeks in between and these weeks we wanted to have a trip from Germany to Denmark and Sweden and Norway. Well, since we had to cancel the shows, it did not make any sense in this combination anymore. I regret it. Well, for travelling, sometimes you should not say: I do not have the time. You should say: now I take the time. You have to set priorities on your own.

Indeed, if you should let me do I just listen to music and write, but once a year my friend says: now we go on holidays and travelling.
Yeah you really have to, because then you really get new ideas of your own. It really can make your mind free and that is truly necessary from time to time. I should do it as well.

Tell me about your Helion Studios. What is going on there in addition to recording the Equilibrium albums, since I know you worked with other bands there as well.
Yes, actually we did. Helion Studios still exist and we are still working sometimes for other bands, but since I moved away from Munich, it is a bit less. My friend who is living in Munich is running the studio now and from time to time I help him with productions, but we do not do so much band productions anymore, because there is not so much time because I am really concentrated on my own band now and he is also concentrating on his own projects. But from time to time we still do productions.

What about the festival? I remember there has been a Helion festival some years ago.
Exactly. Two or three Helion festivals we had, but it also takes a lot of time to organize it. Sometimes it is not that easy with the location. Everything has to fit and you have to arrange a lot of things. In the end we did not have the time to put so much time in it, because when you organize such an event, you really have to take some risks that it also works. For me it was important to concentrate on the band right now again, because for me the band has most priority.

Is there a special reason why the album was called ‘Erdentempel’?
As I told you before, it is about staying in harmony with the nature and not losing the focus of nature, because when I lived in Munich as I said, I really had all the stress and people are cars around me and then you think you have problems about things that are not really problems. Every time when I went out into nature and into the mountains I realized that I got a different point of view on those things. I changed my mind. This always showed me how important it is not losing connection with nature in any way. Somehow this should describe that nature somehow is a temple where you can come and where you can get your energy and where you also should honour the nature and not destroy or waste it.

Thus it is a place to come at ease and free your mind.
Exactly. Of course it is in a physical way, when you go outside and things like that, but also in a spiritual way. It is also happening in your mind.

In 2013, why actually did you decide to release an EP (‘Waldschrein’) and not a full album at that time?
Because the full album was not finished yet, we thought that it would make sense after three years to give the audience already some taste of the new album. We have picked one song that was already written, ‘Waldschrein’, and put a really old song on it which I could not remember I released it already. We decided to put it also on the EP, together with some special stuff. In the end I think it was a really nice idea, because then we also had the opportunity to go on tour again last year. Unfortunately I was not on that tour, because I had some problems with my arm and I also had to work on the album. For the band it was quite good I think to go on the road.

I remember that. I thought: well, they tour, but the main person is not there.
Exactly yeah (smiles). It was Arkadius from Suidakra who was stand in with Equilibrium. He is a friend of mine and it felt kind of natural to replace me on those gigs. Since they played right before us, it was perfect. He just had to stay on the stage.

Are there already any prospects about reliable musicians who can take the place of Sandra and Andreas?
We got a lot of emails last weeks from musicians that we already knew or people that we do not know. We have already some persons that we want to take a closer look at. It is not that we can announce some new members yet, but we have some people that we can check out. I hope that we have a strong line-up again in a few days or weeks.

Until now the band has not performed outside Europe, with Hellfest (FR) and Bloodstock (UK) being the most far away locations to play, but René hopes it will change in future.

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