Hello Nikita! Congratulations with the excellent new album ‘Finisterre’ and this means time for an update of things since ‘Stellar’ in our next interview. How are you doing and are you satisfied with how ‘Finisterre’ turned out?
We're very satisfied how ‘Finisterre’ turned out and also stoked about all the positive feedback we've received from our fans, but also press and media. We just got home from our release tour past September/October with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber from France. This tour exceeded all our expectations with quite a few sold out shows, intense atmosphere and good company from our French brothers in crime. We really had a great time with the guys playing 23 shows all over Europe and presenting our new album live on stage. Plans for future tours are already in the making and to be announced soon!
The previous album ‘Stellar’ was very well received and I think the intensity of playing gigs, tours and festival appearances still increased in comparison with earlier achievements. How do you look back at the tour cycle for ‘Stellar’ and what were the highlights or important events?
The release of ‘Stellar’ was quite a big deal for us as it's been the first release on a big international label and allowed us to reach a broader, more international audience. It was definitely like a level up for us and a big step in our career. With its release we had our first extensive European tour with fellow countrymen Downfall Of Gaia. It's been 25 shows in a row without a day off, so quite an exhausting, though very successful run. After that we had some major festival appearances on Hellfest, Graspop and Resurrection Fest in Spain that had been huge experiences for us as a band. In March/April 2016 we finally played our very first own headlining tour through Europe followed by even more festivals like the infamous Wacken Open Air in Germany and another tour through Spain and France with Portugal's Moonspell in December 2016. All of these shows we've played in support of ‘Stellar’ have been important in one way or another to be where we are right now.
Which new territories did you embark to for bringing the music to the fans? And I think it included the first headline tours as well, isn’t it? What about this experience?
Right, like I mentioned before we had our very first headline tour last year and another one in support of the new album ‘Finisterre’ just a few weeks ago. Both tours have been great experiences that lead us to countries and cities we have never been before with the band. Our music even enabled us to play countries like Israel and Russia which was quite an adventure, though unforgettable experiences. With ‘Stellar’ and ‘Finisterre’ we have received a lot of feedback and show requests from all over the world. Of course, playing on the other side of the planet in the first place is quite an expensive venture and you probably won't get your expenses back. But if we feel a strong connection to the fans and the shows are being promoted properly there's always a way.
When did you start writing new songs for ‘Finisterre’ and can you tell a bit more about the writing process this time?
I've started writing songs for ‘Finisterre’ late 2015 I think. I met up with our drummer Tobias on new year’s eve 2015/2016 to record two new song demos. The rest of the songs emerged in 2016 and have been finished by the end of the year. Songwriting didn't really differ from the previous releases. In the first place it's me with the guitar demoing stuff at home, writing drum lines and send the tracks over to Tobias. He brings in his input, especially regarding the drums, and then we meet up to pre-produce the drums and rest of the instruments. There are no rehearsals or jamming in the songwriting process which always surprises people. But we work different to other bands, it's basically Tobias and me who take care of all the songwriting and after all tracks have been recorded we send them over to our guitarist and bassist, meet for rehearsals and prepare the songs for the stage. So generally each song we perform live is arranged for the live lineup which is two guitars, bass, drums, vocals and a few samples and may differ here and there from the studio version. I don't see it necessary to 100% reproduce the sound on an album live on stage, it's two different things.
Are there also older ideas incorporated in the new songs or did you start from scratch this time?
I have started from scratch, there are no ideas from older days. The only thing would be the spoken sample at the beginning of the album which was supposed to be incorporated in the intro of ‘Repulsion’ (first song on ‘Stellar’) which turned out unfitting in the end, though. So I held it back and found the perfect place in the intro of ‘Aufbruch’ on the new album.
Did the large experience in playing live gigs paid off when creating this next album?
For me the work in the studio is a totally different thing than playing live on stage. Writing and recording an album is a very long process, like putting a big puzzle together without having any image how it is supposed to look like in the end. Playing live is rather a very spontaneous and momentary experience where you also interact with people around you (your band and the audience). As I wrote earlier, I'm recording all DWEF material together with our drummer Tobias, so actually there are only two persons present in the recording sessions. When it came to guitars and bass for ‘Finisterre’ it was only me in the room. And I feel very comfortable with this, I kind of need it. I don't want to say I don't care about the input of others, but I can perfectly work on my own. It's been like this ten years ago and it was the same with the ‘Finisterre’ recordings. So yes, studio work and playing live is not comparable for me, it's two different things. But of course somehow they affect each other, for example after a tour or some really intense shows I'm full of inspiration for new songs and I immediately start writing stuff. It's the atmosphere, the people, the experience you get live through the songs, it's very special and I also need this as well as spending days alone in the studio working on new songs.
Why the title ‘Finisterre’ which can be interpret as ‘end of the world’? Cap Finisterre also reminds me of a place at the ocean out of nowhere in the Bay of Biscaya for instance…
Right, ‘Finisterre’ can be roughly translated to “the end of the world”. While ‘Stellar’ was rather based on a spiritual and “away from earth” concept, ‘Finisterre’ is bringing you back down to earth. It's quite a negative album in regards of the latest events and developments you see in world. ‘Finisterre’ is like our farewell to the world how we know it, cutting a line, improve and start over. It actually has not much to do with the “real” (Cap) Finisterre you find in Spain or France, it is rather to be seen from a metaphorical point of view. Besides I really like the sound of the word and it sums up the overall atmosphere and mood of the album pretty well.
Since our previous questions about the lyrical contents offered us interesting insights about your way of looking at the world, it would be nice to dig a bit deeper into the lyrics of the four songs this time… What did you inspire?
The lyrical content is mostly inspired by the "Steppenwolf" and other works by Hermann Hesse that often convey quite an oppressive/depressive but also kind of romantic mood. What fascinated me is the fact that even about hundred years ago (when Steppenwolf has emerged) people seemed to have kind of the same problems and anxiety like today and there was like a split within the society fueled by the media and public. People started to feel insecure, raised hate towards strangers, world economics crashed and it all blew up in a big event that turned out to be World War I and II. It is alarming that the world today seems to head into quite the same direction and just a few seem to care. The music mirrors this quite negative, pessimistic, oppressive vibe – in a more inapproachable way than its predecessors due to its more complex and progressive structures, also lyrically. One song, however, breaks this context, it's ‘Ein Letzter Tanz’ whose lyrics has been written by our former bassist Giuliano Barbieri. It's like his legacy he dedicated to the band when he left in summer 2016. The text is actually a poem, in its original shape even more extended, and fits the song and vibe perfectly in my opinion. First I just read the poem, because he sent it to me and I was blown away by the composition of words and atmosphere it creates. Later I asked Giuliano if it would be ok to have his piece of art put as the lyrics for the song and voila – it fits perfectly.
The beginning of the first track ‘Aufbruch’ intrigues me. What is that speech about?
This spoken passage is an excerpt from ‘Die Wand’, a very inspiring book/movie that instantly got me when I discovered it. It's about the inner instincts of man and what it needs to live a life that is worth living. Do we need all the shit that surrounds us every day or may it be better to let loose of all unnecessary things and live just with the very basics we really need? The album's lyrics mainly deal with the inner fight between the instinct-driven animal and the normal everyday human side of yourself and this spoken passage was just perfect to get you in the right mood for the album.
The album shows a still matured wide range of contrasts and twists and turns, going from introvert parts to harsh eruptions. In the first track even choral clean chants loom up. Is that something you want to infiltrate more in future? (very well done!)
For me music has always been a very personal thing. While creating music you get to know yourself better and you find out that a lot of your personality lies within your music. So when I wrote the first songs for this band, it was important for me that it reflects all my thoughts, moods and character and since I'm quite a moody guy with many ups and downs you find all of this within the music. It all came quite naturally, I haven't thought about any concept in the first place. I think what is important and keeps the music interesting is creating contrasts between things that in the first place seem to be incompatible with each other. We're trying to provide a medium where two or even more different extremes can co-exist musically, but also emotionally. We even heard the term “Bipolar Music” which would fit quite well to our music actually. So that's why we always try to incorporate new elements, like the choral voices in ‘Aufbruch’ which came quite as a challenge for me, but I'm very confident how it turned out.
In the last track ‘Finisterre’ we hear tasteful string arrangements. Is that an addition which is new to DWEF? Who is responsible for the string arrangements?
We already had some string arrangements on ‘Stellar’ in the song ‘Requiem’. Both sections have been performed by our friend Sebastian Schlecht who is a great violinist/cellist. While I took care about the arrangement and notation itself, he played it even without any practice from the sheet and we recorded it right away.
What can you tell about the recording process in comparison with earlier experiences?
‘Finisterre’ has been the first album that has been recorded and produced by ourselves in its entirety. It was quite an effort, but we're very proud of what we have achieved with this record and it's been a great experience. For me as a music producer it was like a milestone, the biggest and most extensive project I have worked on so far and I learned so much from it. Many things I now would do differently and even more things that opened my eyes and changed the way I look at things musically. Every production and every work with a band or artist brings you further and changes your point of view and this is what makes this job so interesting. So after having an external producer on most of our previous releases, this one record was like a revelation to me, also got me even closer to my musical self.
You had to face one line-up change after ‘Stellar’. Why did bassist Giuliano leave and can you introduce us to new bassist Nico Ziska? How did you find him?
There's nothing much to say than it was best for Giuliano and the band itself to part ways and concentrate on each business. We're very thankful for what he did for the band and we're happy to see him flourish in his new job. I have been knowing Nico for several years, he was a good friend and as he moved to the same town I live (Würzburg) we got together personally even closer. After Giuliano left the band we needed quite a time to get our things together and fill the void. We played the second half of 2016 as a three-piece on stage with the bass coming from a backing track. Which was certainly not a permanent solution, however, after all we didn't have to cancel any shows. So after finishing the tour with Moonspell in December 2016, we entered the studio to record ‘Finisterre’ and after that we met up with Nico for the first rehearsals. In the meantime he had plenty of time to learn the songs and when we played together for the first time we knew it was the perfect match. Not only musically but most of all personally. We're very happy to have him on board now and feel our line-up is stronger than ever before!
It is a pity and a shame you could not go on tour in the US due to visa problems. What happened exactly and are there plans to give it another try for that continent?
What happened exactly is very hard to reconstruct and if I'm honest I actually don't even want to, since it was a real pain in the ass and in the end we lost about 8000€, of course none of it refundable. It was a time when quite a few bands and artists got fucked over by a certain agency (or what we learned later actually just one person) who did all the immigration/visa stuff for foreign bands and later got his official job license taken away by the government which resulted in all money lost and no visas to get into the country. It's been one of the biggest drawbacks for the band, especially on financial terms. We played a lot of shows and tours in 2015 just to gather enough money for this US tour and in the end we got nothing but debts. Though there have always been plans to reschedule this tour since it's a big market and we're receiving a lot of feedback and requests from there, even more with the new album. So let's see if we can make it next year or at least 2019, we're on it. But first we must find 100% reliable agents and people who are willing to help us coming over. Which is not as easy as it seems.
The songs have a considerable length, so I guess plans for music videos are not possible? Or do you consider making one?
We know music videos are the best way to promote your music and labels always ask for it. But you're right, since our songs are considerably lengthy, it also needs an extensive and artistically sophisticated video. We don't want to release any boring and stupid “metal band plays in a warehouse” video, that wouldn't work and please us or the fans at all. So yes, it's quite a difficult endeavor to find the right idea and of course the right people to pull this through. Maybe for a future release we will have the chance, but I'm afraid not for this album anymore.
I see that you friend Max Löffler did the artwork again… Did he create an illustration for every song again in the booklet? Can you tell a bit more about the artwork?
He did for ‘Stellar’ and it turned out really good! Each image reflects the individual song perfectly and that was the plan. However, on ‘Finisterre’ we've been pursuing a different kind of concept. There was the idea to display a big image when you open up the gatefold illustrating this inner war between man and animal. I'm totally blown away by Max's capability to implement my musical and lyrical thoughts in just one picture and thus we're very happy with the result. I know normally the cover artwork is the first thing you see on a record and is supposed to be the most important image but on ‘Finisterre’ it's actually the big gatefold illustration which is only visible if you buy the record of course, haha! No really, we're very satisfied with the whole artwork, also the cover is exactly what we were aiming for. It captures the mood and atmosphere of the album very well and that is what's important for us!
What are the plans for the near future and for touring for ‘Finisterre’?
We will most likely be on tour again in April 2018, to be announced soon. Nothing more to tell, yet, but we're already working on another tour for fall next year and even early 2019. Trying to play a couple of festivals in between, the first confirmations already got in. We also want to play some different places than Europe since there's so much feedback coming from all over the world. Of course, it's not that easy, but we will see what's possible and where our music leads us!
If there is something you’d like to add, feel free to do it here…
Thanks for this extensive interview and your efforts in making this possible. We highly appreciate your support and glad to see you like this new album! Thanks to our listeners and fans all over the world and in particular from the Netherlands! We're trying to come back as soon as possible, the last shows in Rotterdam and Nijmegen have been outstanding, especially keeping in mind it was a Sunday and Monday night!