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Een tijdje geleden kreeg ik de debuut-plaat ‘Old World’ van de Duitse symfonische metal formatie Oknos in handen en ik was behoorlijk positief verrast met wat de band daarop liet horen. Op dit moment is men volop bezig met het schrijven van materiaal voor hun tweede album en daarom leek het me een goed idee om eens contact op nemen met zangeres Anna-Kristina Linnemann om onze lezers wat meer achtergrondinformatie te geven over deze talentvolle nieuwe band.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder gothic metal

band imageHi Anna, when did you start singing and when did you discover that you had a certain talent for it?
I started singing when I was a child and joined choir lessons in school. I started doing classical lessons when I was sixteen and kept on doing that for a number of years.

Which male and/or female singers have influenced you, especially in the early days?
Actually it were more opera and jazz singers which influenced me in the beginning, but the first metal singer that had a big impact on me was Tarja Turunen from Nightwish. I became part of the metal scene by coincidence really, because when I went to Finland to study I was introduced to metal music as a lot of great metal bands come from Finland. Because I both love classical music as well as metal music I got interested in the symphonic metal genre as within that genre you’re able to combines both styles.

Are there any specific bands that increased your interest in metal?
Well, of course Nightwish, but also bands like Delain, Amon Amarth, Epica have played a big role in that.

Have you been active in any other bands before joining Oknos? If so, which one(s)?
Before joining Oknos I was active in choirs and á cappella bands, but no real metal bands.
When did the band Oknos got formed and when did you join?
I joined in 2012, but the band was already in existence for a couple of years then. They used that period to find their own sound and when they were well on their way with that, I joined and we further developed our musical direction.

Did you encounter many line-up changes during the band’s existence?
Since I joined the band there has been only one line-up change and that has been the addition of our keyboard and flute player Philipp Schräder last year to expand our sound. I think that we have a great line-up now and we’re very much looking forward to work on our second album with the band.

Where does the band name Oknos come from?
Oknos is an old ancient Greek figure, who made some mistakes in his life and he is punished for that. He is always knitting on a rope but that’s continuously eaten away. We’re interested in history and stories, but not particularly in Greek history. The name Oknos however fitted the band very well, as it is a metaphor for trying and working at a never ending process which creating music really is.

Did you record any demos with Oknos or was the digital single ‘Keeper Of Time’ the first sign of life?
We didn’t record any demos and our digital single ‘Keeper Of Time’ was the very first song that we released. The intention of the single was to introduce ourselves to the market and to show the first song of our album.

For ‘Keeper Of Time’ also a video was made. Who was responsible for the production of the video and how important was that video for the band?
The video was very important for the band as it was able to get our name out. We developed the idea for the video, we wrote the story-line and with some friends we filmed and edited the raw material. We did everything ourselves with the help of some friends, but still we’re very happy with the actual end result.

The single and also you full-length demo album ‘Old World’ were released on the FemMeropa label. How did you get in touch with them?
We were quite active on social media like Facebook and as a result of that they contacted us and told us that they were interested in releasing our material.

How successful was the first single for you?
‘Keeper Of Time’ was quite successful, because it was able to reach quite a lot of people over Youtube and Facebook, which was in the first two years very difficult as a very new band. The video got a lot of views and it was really received very well. So it really helped Oknos to get some first recognition in the scene.

Why did you choose the song ‘Keeper Of Time’ for the first single?
We had more material available but this particular song was a good example of the Oknos sound as it combines lots of typical elements of our band. It’s a strong dynamic easy-listening song with both male and female vocals, and because it’s not too long it was a very appropriate choice for a single.

When did you start with the preparations for the first full-length album ‘Old World’?
The whole process took us around two or three years, because we actually started already when I joined the band with finding our style. We also spent many months on the writing and recording process to reach the quality level that we were looking for. The whole recording process itself took about one year, after which it still had to go through the mastering process. So from point zero to the actual release of the album was about two or three years.

How does the song writing process within Oknos look like? Who’s responsible for the music and who takes care of the lyrics?
Most of the song material is written by Johannes, our guitar player, but there’s a lot of input from the other band members as well. For the first album mainly Johannes did all the composing of the instrumentation and I joined for the lyrical part and the melodies. Benjamin, our other guitar player, also joined with some ideas and riffs and later on also Arne (bass) and Sebastian (drums) came up with some ideas for the rhythm section.

Your music combines a lot of elements from different genres. Is that something that comes natural to you or is it a deliberate thing to create variety in the song material?
This comes quite natural because we all have different musical backgrounds. Both Johannes and me have a strong classical background, while other band members are more into power metal for instance. When you combine all these different backgrounds, it’s quite natural that you get a lot of variety in your song material.

What are typical elements that need to be present in a great Oknos song before you decide to release it on an album?
The idea behind the song is important, as you have to have a strong theme in the song. That can be caused by the lyrics or by a very strong instrumental line, but the overall theme needs to fit.

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As you are responsible for the lyrics, what are typical subjects that you like to write about?
One of the ideas is that life is a circle and there’s always a possibility to deal with situations. Even if you’re not able to deal with it right now, there will come a time that you will be able to do this later on in life. Another idea is more a philosophical question that if you have the chance to change something in your past, should you really do that and would it actually change things in future.

The album contains fourteen songs, I guess you must have had quite some inspiration. Did you write and maybe also record more songs than these fourteen?
This is everything that we recorded which actually made it into a song. Of course we still have some raw material and ideas, but those didn’t progress into a real song. Maybe we will use those fragments for our second album, we’ll see…

Which song of the debut album is most representative for Oknos and why?
I think it’s ‘Keeper Of Time’ or ‘Fire’ as the first one is a very strong powerful short song, while the second one shows the other side of the band as it’s quite long and has a more gradual built-up from a ballad-like beginning to a dynamic heavy ending.

The cover artwork of the album was done by Kitty Wiegmann. Why did you choose for her and what was the assignment that you gave to her?
Kitty is a good friend of mine and she’s a very talented artist. We set together and discussed what the concept of the artwork should be. You see the rope of Oknos on the cover, while in the background you see the stars that represents the universe. There are a lot of different elements brought together in the cover artwork.

The album ‘Old World’ is out for a while now, so what were the reaction from the fans as well as the press?
We were very happy because the fans indicated that they’ve waited very long for the album and now it’s finally there. From the press the reactions were also quite positive as we’ve gotten a lot of nice reviews with sometimes some points of criticism that we’ll take with us for our second album.

Were you able to promote the album live as well and what can people expect from a typical Oknos show?
We did a couple of live shows to promote the album, both in Germany and in Belgium. An Oknos live-show is full of good spirit and great songs. We love to play live and we really want the people to have a good time with us.

The sound, the song material, the artwork, the website, everything looks very professional and indicates that you go for quality all the way. How important is a professional attitude and a keen eye for quality for Oknos?
The quality aspect is very important for us and therefore we spend a lot of time in reaching the quality level that we want to achieve. That’s also the reason why the first album took us so long, because we wanted to reach a professional level before we recorded the material.

Are you already writing new material for a possible second album? If so, do these songs differ from the material on the first album? If so, in what respect?
We are actually working on our second album right now and style-wise it will be a further development from the first album. As Philipp joined us recently, he’s now also involved in the song writing and the lyrics so with his influence and the song-writing development of both Johannes’ and me the new material still sounds typical Oknos-style, but more refined. At this moment six songs are ready while we have lots of ideas for the rest of the album. We want to go for about twelve songs and want to do the recording in 2018. We don’t know exactly when it will be released, but the aim is end of 2018 or beginning of 2019. We have to take the necessary time to obtain the quality level that we need before releasing the record.

Symphonic metal is very popular nowadays, so there are a lot of bands active in the genre. What makes Oknos stand out from the crowd? Why should people listen to your material?
Apart from the fact that we are a band which is working very hard and has a high level of quality, we have strong songs with great ideas that take you on a journey, which makes us special compared to other bands.

What are your plans for the year 2018? What can be expect from the band in the new year?
The year 2018 will mainly be used to work on the new album, but of course we want to play some shows as well as we still have our first album to play on stage. Maybe it’s then even possible to add some of the new songs to the set-list.

What is the ultimate ambition level that you have with Oknos? How big can you grow the band in your opinion
Let’s just see how big we can grow but it would be great to be able to release new good high-quality albums every couple of years on which we show further development of the band.

Okay Anna, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I would like to mention that our music and our album ‘Old World’ will take your readers on a very enjoyable journey and that they will be able to create their own ideas about the songs.

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