Brave recently released their debut full length album: Searching for the Sun. It was my pick of the month for July, and so far is one of my favorite cds from this year. This month, I interviewed Brave's lead guitarist Scott Loose to learn more about their work:
Eric: Inquiring minds are curious - why did you change the band's original name?
Scott: We changed the name of the band because our original name, "arise from thorns," caused people to think that we were a Christian band or a metal band, neither of which is accurate. We also felt like we had improved as musicians and as songwriters since the beginning of the project, so we also changed the name so that we'd have a strong start. The AFT material and recording were a bit immature, I think.
Eric: How does the average songwriting process go? How does each member goabout contributing their parts to the material?
Scott: The songs are generally written on guitar. I will have a basic idea and maybe some changes and then we just jam them out. Michelle then adds a vocal melody and we begin arranging the song. I do a lot of writing on my own before we get to rehearsal so that we have material to work on.
Eric: Where do you get your songwriting inspiration? (This answer can includeanything from musical influences to any personal influences you'd like toshare)
Scott: I am influenced by other bands and just by experiences. I play a lot of guitar and piano and my mood seems to come out in the music. As for the band, we are really a combination of a lot of different influences, from doom metal to jazz fusion to world music. I guess that is why it is hard for us to explain our music to people, it is really a fusion of a lot of styles.
Eric: The diversity in the songs on "Searching for the Sun" is amazing. Do setout to write separate memorable moments in each song? How do you decidewhere to fit standout riffs and solos? (examples: the awesome and odd electric guitar solo in "Trapped inside" or the exotic guitar and bass riffs in "Out of Focus")
Scott: Thank you. I wanted this album to be diverse, for one to display our range of influences or to display an array of emotions on one album. I didn't want the album to all sound the same or to have one particular mood. I think we were able to capture this but still keep it coherent. I wanted every song on the album to have it's own sound. I think we were for the most part successful in this.
Eric: Are the lyrics a group effort? Do you write the music before the lyrics, vice versa, or do they generally come about at the same time?
Scott: The lyrics are always written after the music. For this album, me and Michelle wrote the majority of the lyrics. The songs were basically done with vocal melodies and arrangements, so I wrote words to fit in with her melodies. It was actually difficult because I had to pay close attention to her phrasing and meter.
Eric: How satisfied are you with "Searching for the Sun" compared to your previous efforts?
Scott: Yes, it is our best work so far. I think the songs and production is better on "searching for the sun" than on our previous releases. We had a very limited budget and limited time to do this album, so considering that I am very happy with it. There are some things a may have done differently, but they will have to wait for the next one.
Eric: The improved production on your new release is quite good. That aspectalone makes it easier to listen to than the excellent "Before an Audience of Stars." Do you expect you're going to gather a larger fanbase this time?
Scott: I think this album is pretty accessible and could be enjoyed by people that are into different styles of music. I hope that more people will be turned on to our music with this release. It is a very song oriented album, but this may change in the future.
Eric: Does your newest release pretty much represent the direction the band is headed, or should we prepare for any drastic surprises in the future?
Scott: I am pushing for surprised in the future. I don't want to repeat ourselves, but most important is that we try and write good music that is honest. I don't want to be limited by anything, but sometimes there is a pressure to go in certain directions where we know we'll be more accepted. This is where it is hard to not really fit into a category or scene. We are kind of on our own, but as long as we are happy doing this than that is what is important.
Eric: Demanding fans want to know! Or at least, I want to know... what happened to guitarist Tom Phillips?
Scott: Tom was asked to leave the band because we had some personal issues with him. We are still very close and I am currently playing in his band called "while heaven wept." WHW is in the studio working on our second release entitled "Of empires forlorn." It is very good epic doom metal. Anyone interested in this project should contact tom at Plomerus@hotmail.com.
Eric: Any final thoughts you'd like to share with your fans?
Scott: Thank you for the interview. Anyone interested in our new album please check our website at www.bravemusic.com or write us at PO box 1077 Dale City, VA 22195 USA. We have the following Cd's for sale. Brave "searching for the sun" for $10, Brave "waist deep in dark waters" EP for $6, arise from thorns "before an audience of stars" for $10. Please add $2 for shipping. All checks can be made out to Brave, Inc.
Thanks for your time, and great job on the new album!
~interview by Eric Rasmussen
Tranquillity's newest CD Damage Done is everything a DT or metal
fan could hope for. You can read our review of the album in this issue,
but for those of you seeking some more in-depth information on the band,
there's nothing like going straight to the source. Dark Tranquillity guitarist
Niklas Sundin was nice enough to answer some questions for us, so read
Eric: Are you satisfied with how Damage Done turned out compared to your original ideas for it? Is there anything you wish you could have changed or handled differently?
Niklas: There always are things that could be done differently, but on the whole I'm very satisfied with the new album. It's still too early for me to be able to listen to it objectively; after having spent so much time with the songs during rehearsal and in the studio, the original relationship gets lost and it's impossible to tell wether the material is fantastic or total crap. In a year or so, there is enough distance from the album to judge its quality.
Eric: I really like the way Damage Done incorporates elements of your older sound but the music manages to have a very different atmosphere. How does a typical songwriting process go for you? Is the music written with everyone present?
Niklas: Exactly. All members contribute to the songwriting by providing ideas and riffs, and everything's arranged in our rehearsal room. It's a very time-consuming process, and every song usually exists in several completely different versions before we're satisfied. It's a very democratical process and everybody has to be pleased before a song is finished and accepted. We never set out to do a back to the roots-album with Damage Done, but it was clear that we all wanted to bring back some traces from our earlier material; mainly certain riffing techniques and arrangements.
Eric: The keyboards feel like they have a stronger presence in your new work, what was the motivation behind giving the keyboardist a more prominent role?
Niklas: We recruited Martin Brändström on keyboards in 1998, shortly after the recording of the Projector album, so since then the electronics have played a more prominent role in our music. Before that, we did incorporate some piano and keyboard work, but they were of the one-finger variety and played by our drummer. Having a classically trained keyboardist has opened up a world of new possibilities for us.
Eric: You've really got an endless supply of kick-ass metal riffs. What kind of music has influenced your guitar style and the band's sound as a whole?
Niklas: It's hard to say....when we started out, in 1989, we all listened to the same typical bands which were exclusively underground death metal, and thrash. As time went by, the tastes got wider and today we probably cover every possible musical genre inbetween the members. As for guitar influences, I've never been into the guitar hero school of playing and am pretty clueless when it comes to musical theory. I'd definately prefer bands like Sonic youth and Einsturzende neubauten to technical virtouso players.
Eric: As one of the innovators of the "Gothenburg sound," I'm always impressed that you're able to continue refining your sound without ever losing key Dark Tranquillity elements. How do you feel about the Swedish metal scene right now? It seems like quite a few bands are growing complacent.
I haven't followed the scene that closely for a couple of years now, so
I can't comment too much about it. There are lots of metal bands from Sweden
that I think are very good at what they're doing, even if their music doesn't
appeal to me as such. It all boils down to individual taste in the end,
and I'm personally pretty jaded when it comes to listening to new
bands. It takes something innovative and striking to capture my attention, and I haven't come across many such bands from Sweden in a while.
Eric: How would you rank Damage Done against the rest of your work?
Niklas: I really don't know. To be honest I rarely listen to our own albums, and when I do I'm pretty self critical, so I'm not able to rate them as such. Every album has its strong and weak points and I view them more as documentations of what we were about during the time of recording.
Eric: It's a bit early to ask, but do you have any idea what your next album will sound like? While I could believe Damage Done is representative of your current direction, I suspect you'll provide fans with another unique CD when the time comes.
I don't think we'll start working on the new album for quite some time.
Damage Done isn't even out everywhere yet, and there will be some
touring and other obligations to take care of, so it won't feel that motivating
to start writing new songs yet. My guess is that we'll put the first
pieces together early next year, but I have no clue regarding the general
direction or sound. Your guess is as good as mine.
Eric: Do you plan on playing mostly your new material for your North American tour? I'm really looking forward to that show if you make out here (San Francisco). And to clarify, this will be your first tour of North America?
As far as I know, nothing is 100% confirmed yet. We've had lots of tours
- US and European - cancelled in the very last minute, and the whole touring
business is very unpredictable, so before we're actually on stage I'm not
counting on anything. It does seem very likely that we'll play with Sentenced
and Lacuna coil in the US during September/October, but I
don't know anything about the actual dates yet...As for the set, I think we'll try to play a mixed selection of songs since it's our first US trek. It depends on how many minutes we're allowed to play.
Eric: I've continually been impressed with the cover art you've done for other bands. Though I'm surprised that some labels try to use your name as a selling point for their releases. When a label basically says, "Niklas Sundin created the cover of <x album>, so it must be good!", does that bother you at all?
Niklas: Not really; it's basic promotional technique for a label to list the studio or cover artist or anyone affiliated with the album that they feel can bring an aura of quality to the release. It's of course pretty silly, and sometimes you can really see that a label is trying so desperately hard to come up with far-fetched salling points for the promotional material in a feeble attempt to hide that the music sucks. Anyway, as a marketing strategy it probably works to some degree and since the competition is so fierce, I can see the reasons for it.
Eric: Do you have any final thoughts to share with your fans?
Niklas: Well, feel free to check our new album out and thanks for reading this!
Tranquillity - Official Site:
Century Media Records:http://www.centurymedia.com
Wine Intoxications: An Interview with Mikael Körner of FUNHOUSE
(photos provided courtesy of Mikael Körner)
Mick Mercer mentioned Funhouse in his book Hex Files years ago and they've been a steady presence in the European scene touring and rocking hardcore since their formation in the late 80's but somehow, the U.S. scene has managed to let these boys slip by, undetected and unappreciated. In my theoretical perfect world, they'd be today's gothic version of the Cult (and certainly the comparisons are there). Why they have alluded the U.S. scene I suppose is no great mystery though as the clubs and DJs were swept up in EBM trends for the last couple of years. But now, finally, I think good old fashioned rock and roll values are coming back around and if bands are smart, they'll take the opportunity and plunge ahead into this new market. Neue Asthetik took the first step and made Funhouse's CD Oceans of Tears their first release ever available in the U.S. (For a limited time it's available for a MERE $6.95 which is a STEAL - click here to go order it).
There's been hints and rumors and teases here and there that Funhouse might even come to the U.S. to play a few gigs. Excuse me while I salivate. You see, Funhouse is all gothic rock band should be in my opinion. Their sound is big -- driven by guitars and steady base lines -- and the vocals are deeply masculine, sexy and cool. The lyrics are bitter, painful and dark. Darkly romantic perhaps. On CD they sound deadly serious as the drums pound away, driving you to the dance floor. The production is seamless and there's a maturity in the presentation that lets you know this band has been at it for years and has it all figured out by now. They sound too serious you say? Far from it. Just check out their website and read a few comments from the boys and you'll begin to understand that the second best thing about Funhouse, besides their music, is their lighthearted and fun attitude. You may start to suspect, as you're typing in the URL http://www.cherryfields.nu/ that they have a strong like for cherry wine and other various intoxicants. (Obsession is more like it, but we'll get to that later.) The best line on the webpage is their self proclamation that "FUNHOUSE is the name and Blastorama Goth'n'Roll is the game." Previous reviews of their shows in the UK sound like nothing short of a huge party with jokes about every song being written about his ex and various drunken antics. With that in mind, I finally pinned Mikael down for an interview last month and made him tell me all the sordid details...
Blu: So there's been quite a few line up changes and last I read on your news page, you were still looking for a drummer? Who is officially in FUNHOUSE right now?
FUNHOUSE line-up right now is:
Mikael Körner - guitar / vocal
Måns "Rastamaan" Tomsby - bass / vocal
Dennis "Dee-Code" Berggren - keyboard / dirty grooves
Andreas - drums
Peter - guitar
Andreas and Peter play in the band Tenebre (www.tenebre.com)
Blu: There's no biography or history section on your website but I read somewhere Funhouse actually started around 1986?
Mike: FUNHOUSE was formed 1986 but that was a completely different band with a completely different sound, I'm the only one that is still in the band from that line-up, I was doing the guitar stuff and we had another singer. The band FUNHOUSE you know was formed in Malmö around the end of -92 just after my marriage with Kim crashed!!
We recorded the Friends EP and Girls album which was released on M&A Music Art, they also released our next album Never Again -96! After 2 years in a haze of gasoline, cherry wine, gin, and asian girls we decided to record some new stuff but we only managed to release an EP called The Second Coming -98. Second Coming is a nice limited edition [EP] in digi-pack and goldprint, there's also another edition in silver as well. After that we left M&A for the German Label Apollyon and their first FUNHOUSE release was the album Forever True -00 and the plan was to release a new album later the next year -01, but after another year on the road in the same haze as before we ended up in the studio with absolutely no songs at all...
Blu: You've planned to have the new CD done by August of 2002. Is that still the schedule? What will this CD be like in comparison to the last?
Mike: The new cd will be a bit different from the others, we use more samples and loops on the new songs and I get the feeling that the new sound is darker and more powerful! I might be wrong but hey you'll soon find out for yourselves.
Blu: You often get compared to The Cult. Does that link hinder or help you as a band? Are they an influence in anyway?
Mike: Yep There's always a lot of people at our shows [who] mention that but we don't care, it's the same with the Mission thing... It's OK as long as they say we sound like something we like. IF someone compared us to a dead serious German band then... can't find the word but I guess you the feeling what I'm trying to say...
Blu: How would you describe Funhouse's music to someone who's never heard it before? How would you describe the band itself?
Mike: FUNHOUSE play Goth n Roll, FUNHOUSE are Goth n Rollers on a mission from GOD! We've won all the drinking contests so far! I read a nice thing from a review of our latest London show: "If GOD was a rockstar he would be FUNHOUSE."
Blu: Does your location in Sweden make it easier for you to attend a variety of European events? I've noticed you're scheduled for a festival in Germany ("Herbstnächte Festival")?
Mike: It's very easy for us to play in Europe like Germany, Italy, Belgium etc. compared to those who live in Stockholm.
Blu: What's the environment like in Sweden for a goth rock band?
Mike: Hehehe I don't know!! People here in Malmoe doesn't see us as a goth band, I think we have too much fun on stage to be a goth band. We do have some bands here who actually call themselves goth...
Blu: You seem to have a huge European fan base with notes in your guest book from the UK, Spain, Germany, Austria, etc. How would you describe a typical Funhouse fan? You seem to have a very good relationship with them.
Mike: A typical FUNHOUSE female fan: Good looking asian girl dressed in a nice FUNHOUSE girlie shirt!!! What else? I like to have a good relationship to our fans. I recently got some nice bootlegs from one of our UK tours and I must say that it was pretty "interesting" to hear... only GOD knows what we were doing right before some of those shows but we sure had a great time and the audience was screaming from the intro 'til the end.
Blu: In the news section of your website you've asked your fans, "We're also talking about doing some gigs (yeah) and my question is: Where do you want us to play?" Do you always ask your fans for help in making those kinds of decisions?
Mike: Yeah why not! I never thought we should go on tour in Sweden again but I've got lots of requests so it looks like we're finally going to make some shows in our sweet little Sweden after all.
Blu: You also mention that one of the new song's "working title is 'I care for You' and it's not another love song about my ex-wife..." Now I know that's a bit of a Funhouse inside joke right? I read a concert review once where they stated you introduced every song you sang that night as "this is a song about my ex-wife" at which the crowd roared in delight increasingly every time you repeated it.
Mike: Next song is about... My Ex-Wife! guess I have said that a few times by now but to be honest I must say that most of the songs are about her. Sooner or later I guess I have to give her some credits due to the fact that most of the songs wouldn't been written if we never met.
Blu: Does Isa [Mike's current wife] ever get jealous 'cause all your songs are about your ex wife? (lovely wedding photo on the page by the way!)
Mike: No, because as long as the songs is not about her, she knows that our marriage is not over. She doesn't even get a bit jealous when some good looking japanese girls want to meet me backstage in London.
Blu: And, for the uneducated in the U.S. - what is this obsession with cherry wine all about?
Mike: Cherry wine. The holy FUNHOUSE drink number one "cherry-glue". Take a long drinkglass (we got our own FUNHOUSE glass with the logo on the side), fill half of the glass with cherry wine (the best is the Danish, Kirsh), fill up to the top with Gordon's Gin. If you manage to put some ice cubes in it go for it. Cheers and leave the rest behind.
The whole thing started one night at Jan's place, we had no tonic, the only thing we found was cherry wine.. Instead of a GIN&TONIC we made our first Cherry-glue!!! The rest of that night just faded away.
Blu: I think it's fair to say that Funhouse is a bit of a party band when on the road? Just a few snippets pulled from your webpage:
"...during the festival was: KIRSCH MIT INLÄNDER RUM straight from the bottle"Mike: We always wanted to have a good time on stage as well as on the road but some of us didn't manage to keep on having a good time, that's why the line-up has changed. We might play together again in the future but right now there's too much tension to make that happen.
"4 parts Southern Comfort, 2 parts Cranberry Classic fill up with Russian Water. Don't forget the ice"
"KB - the oasis where we consume our favourite beverages"
Blu: What was one of the most memorable show's you've played and why?
Mike: Like I mentioned earlier, we usually had too much of everything before and during the shows so I can hardly remember anything but I guess the last gig in London was pretty good...
Blu: Neue Astethic is releasing your CDs in the U.S. How'd you meet them?
Mike: Good question.... hmhmhm I think we met at a festival in Italy a long time ago and our old drummer met them in New York a few years later.
Blu: Are there any plans to come to the U.S.?
Mike: We'd love to play in the U.S but I guess it will be too expensive for anyone to bring us over but I'll do my best to find a way to make it possible. I've never been to the states but me and Isa will go to Las Vegas on our 5 year anniversary and maybe we'll get married again by Elvis...
Blu: Tell us a secret.
Mike: Me and Isa have a family of giraffe's in our flat
Blu: Tell us a lie.
Mike: I'll never do another song about my ex-wife.
Blu: If you could be any famous person - who would it be? (or would you?)
Mike in the Swedish band called FUNHOUSE. Why? 'cos he seems to have it
their latest CD in the US from Neue Asthetik
with Lapis (Bitter Grace) and
George Tabb (The Gynocologists/Furious George)
I got a chance to catch up with both Lapis and George Tabb after the Social Tees Animal Rescue Fund Benefit Concert at CBGBs, thinking it would be an interesting parallel to have the two very different but both very "New York" performers answer how they felt about the place we call home.
Kimberly: So, are we allowed to talk about the band's sudden change of name?
George: The Gynocologists ARE NOT Furious George. Infact, the GYNs have been around over ten years. It's sort of a side project I pull out every once in a while just to have fun. Furious George is a whole other project with albums out and everything! Punk Rock!
Kimberly: What do you think about the current state of New York? The country? The world?
George: Tough Question. I think NYC is in big trouble from the fall-out of the WTC. Mercury levels, lead levels, asbestos levels and PCB levels are extremely high all over the city and Brooklyn. Unless this is cleaned up right away, we are all gonna die. Seriously. As far as this country, as soon as that guy who is president is not anymore, the better. He wasn't even elected! I feel very bad for corporate people who are losing their jobs, but, then again, they are sheep and should know that their bosses LIE to them. Power corrupts. The world? Well.....we are now standing on the eve of WW III. I hate to sound paranoid...but all the facts point to it. Oh, today I heard Bush wants to use the military as domestic police. Sound like Germany circa 1931?
Kimberly: You have a long history of pissing people off- a lot of people have slagged you about your remarks about women on stage as well as a few other things. What do you have to say to the girls who have kicked your shins while you're on stage?
George: Thank you. It's all in fun, and all a joke. I piss off everyone. Women. Men. Blacks. Whites. Jews. Arabs. But mostly punk rockers. Because they are so dogmatic about their "belief system". The idea is to think for yourself - not listen to what everyone else is saying. Bad, bad, bad. The people who take me seriously are the people who are really dumb. Sorry to say that..but, hey!
Kimberly: What do you think about the "underground" scene today? Is there one?
George: I'm not sure there is one. It seems everything that is "new" becomes instantly commercialized as revolution and that's that. Sad, really. I think real social change may now come from other things besides rock. Although, I'm still hoping rock does the trick!
Kimberly: Bitter Grace has gone through a few incarnations. What inspired the band's movement from strictly Goth to have more of an electro beat?
Lapis: Evolution. The first album had to be a reflection of where we came from. I had spent too many years going through that to ignore it. This album ( ... A Deeper Kiss) revolves more around the club scene and it's perils. Therefore, the sound had to reflect the glory and the darkness of it.
Kimberly: What do you think about the current state of New York? The country? The world?
Lapis: New York City is putting itself back together again. It's going to be a slow, long process, but make no mistake we will come back. We're still going through that stage that as soon as we hear a siren - we tend to immediately think that it's something horrible. But this will pass, I'm sure of it.
As far as the country is concerned, I would like to think that we have received our wake up call. I just hope we did not hit the snooze button.
The world has become a much darker place. Everything has changed. As angry as I am about 9/11 It breaks my heart that so many more people had to die overseas. But we had to do something. We are not guilty by no means. the world has to understand that You cannot do something like that to NYC, and expect to walk away.
Kimberly: Tell me about the new album. Any more upcoming shows?
A Deeper Kiss. I think it's going to be an interesting study of the
human animal at play. Very heavy club influenced Goth rock. Synthpop
has gained Darwinistic edge over our sound, so it has become the new influence
in what we do.
I think we address a lot of what goes on in the club scene, on a social scale. It should be and moving.
As far as show - we are going up and down the East coast. Philly, DC, NYC, NJ, and so on. We are just booking like crazy every since we hit #1 on MP3.com. It's humbling, yet driving at the same time.
Kimberly: Where do you see the band going?
Lapis: Once the album is out, I see tours - maybe Europe. I think this album deserves a lot of exposure so we're going to do everything possible to see that it gets it.
Kimberly: What is your biggest inspiration as a songwriter?
Lapis: Life. Everything I write about I have experienced in one form or another. I could not write about it otherwise.