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Xandria Interview 2011

Xandria Interview
Performed by phone in March 2011

After an intense year-long search, German symphonic/gothic metal band, Xandria, finally revealed the identity of their new siren, Manuela "Manu" Kraller. One listen to her warm, velvety voice on "Bleeding Rose," (a track she recorded for her other band, Nagor Mar), and Xandria’s choice of seemed like destiny. Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker was honored to have the first phone interview with Manu about her new musical direction. Dive in to learn more about Manu, Xandria’s plans for 2011, and some tantalizing hints about their upcoming album!


Robin:  Manu, greetings from Sonic Cathedral webzine. Well, first of all, congratulations on being selected as the new vocalist for Xandria!

Manuela:  Thank you!


Robin:  For those of us who were reading Xandria’s blog posts in early 2011, about the band’s search for a new singer, the entire process is kind of a mystery. Would you share with us your experience in applying for the position and what happened next?

Manuela:  I already saw in February last year that Xandria has been searching for a new singer, but I didn’t apply, because at this time I have been already part of two other bands called “Haggard” and “Nagor Mar.” So, well, I thought: “Okay, I like Xandria very much. But what about my other bands, if they really choose me?” And so, I didn’t apply. Then, half a year later, in autumn 2011, I talked about Xandria with a friend and told him that they are still searching for a singer and he asked me: “Why don’t you apply?” I was like, “Yes, hmmmm, I’m still in Haggard, you know?” But he said: “Well, you are not in Haggard with your whole heart anymore, and Xandria is the band you have always been looking for musically. So why don’t you apply? They need you!” (laughs). I was like, “Okay, I’ll just try it, and let’s see what is happening.”

I think it was a kind of luck for me that, on the same day I applied, another singer called off, so they were really happy about my application and invited me. I had to go there two times, and they were asking me a lot of questions because they wanted to get sure that, this time, the new singer will stay in the band. (all laugh) From the first moment we understood each other really well and we were on the same wavelength. I felt like I belonged there somehow, and when we played for the first time together, it felt really great! I think everybody of us had a good feeling from the very beginning, and after a few days Marco [Heubaum, Xandria’s founder] called me and asked, “Well, Manu, what would you say if you are the new Xandria singer?” And I was like, “No, really?!?” And I was smiling all over my face and jumping around! From this moment on, I have been part of Xandria, and I have to say that I am VERY happy about that and about the chance that has been given to me.


Robin:  Reading between the lines of Xandria’s blog, it seems like that the band had already decided in October 2010 that you would be their new vocalist, but they didn’t announce it until late December. Is that right?

Manuela:  That’s right. It was a decision within the band in October. We talked a lot about the date of the announcement, and we agreed with our manager to make it official in December. There were different reasons for it, more concerning management stuff and so on. So yes, it took a bit of time until we came out with the announcement.

Robin:  You’ve got this great big secret that everybody is sooooo anxious to know, and you can’t tell anyone. Weren’t you dying to tell?

Manuela:  Yes‼! It was very difficult not to tell anybody and to hold it back, if you are so happy about something. (laughs) I guess it was also difficult for other band members not to tell anybody, but it was also somehow exciting. I just told my family about it and my best friend, but nobody else. It was important for me to share it at least with them. I knew, “Okay, in December there will be the big announcement.” For me, it was like a kind of Christmas present, so the date was okay for me.

Robin:  And a Christmas present for all of Xandria’s fans, too! Of course, the burning question that fans have is, “When is Xandria releasing a new album?”

Manuela:  Yes, that’s a question that I get very, very often also on Facebook. Of course, that’s a very important question, but I have to say that we don’t have a release date yet. We are REALLY working very, very hard on the new material every day. As you know, the material has already mostly been written, but there is still a lot to do: We are still working on some vocal lines, on the lyrics, and Marco and me are talking a lot about compositions, “How can we still do some things better and improve the songs?” Also the other band members are included in this work and are asked to give in their opinions on the compositions.

I am working from home at the moment and singing in the songs. But it’s still a kind of pre-production, so we are not in the studio yet. I hope we can go into the studio as soon as possible. But we’re not sure if the album will be released this year or in the beginning of next year. All I can say is that we are working hard on the material, and we are giving it our best. So, I hope it will be soon, but there is no date yet, I’m sorry.


Robin:  It seems like the new album was substantially written a year ago, but it would have been written with Kerstin Bischof’s voice in mind. Since everybody’s voice is unique, were some of the songs changed when you became Xandria’s vocalist?

Manuela:  The songs have been quite done, but as my voice is, of course, a bit different than from Kerstin, we sometimes have to change some vocal lines. But still Kerstin and me have a similar vocal range, so the changes that have to be made are quite small.

Robin:  I understand that you also have a role in writing the lyrics for Xandria’s new album. Are new songs being written, or are you changing vocal lines here and there?

Manuela:  Yes, as I said, some of the vocal lines of the existing songs are being matched with my voice, but there will be also at least one song on the album that has been written since I am in the band, so that Marco could fit my voice right into it. And although besides of the music he writes most of the lyrics, I have written lyrics for one complete song that still had no lyrics -- Marco liked my idea for the topic very much. It is a deeply heartfelt one, so I have a very strong personal relationship to this song now, it means very much to me. And Marco and me did the lyrics for another song together and, as this worked very well, I will most likely be involved in the writing process in the future, too.

Robin:  We’ve been waiting so impatiently since 2007, when Xandria’s last album, Salomé - The Seventh Veil, came out. Can you give us a hint of what the new album will be like?

Manuela:  Well, I can´t tell too much, because we don´t want to spoiler it of course, but as I love symphonic metal I can say I am really pleased and delighted by the way the new songs turned out!

There will of course be the epic atmosphere and melodies everybody knows from the “old” Xandria, but I think everything put on a really new level. It will be more metal, darker, more bombastic but at the same time much more natural. I know that the band wanted to leave behind some things they didn’t like anymore, like some too much “pop”, “modern” and synthetic elements. So everybody in the band was happy when Marco came up with his idea of the musical concept for the next album and the new songs.

And the new material will be more straight. On the last album Salomé it was a bit of a mixture of all, but there hasn’t been this red line through all. The new album will have more of this red line through all the songs and a strong idea behind it. Yes, I think that’s everything I can say at the moment. (laughs) It’s hard to describe, but you can expect A LOT from the new album. It will be really great!

Robin:  Well, we are looking forward to it. I was interested to read in your bio that you came to music relatively late … not until university. Many of your classmates at university probably began studying music when they were very small children. With you beginning your studies as an adult, what gave you the confidence to pursue music with your whole heart?

Manuela:  I have always loved singing, but I was like many people -- only singing in the shower (laughs) and only singing for me. I have never been singing in front of people because I considered myself, not anymore, but in further times, as a quite shy person. Well, in my family, music hasn’t played such a big role. Nobody has played any instrument, so I didn’t get in contact with that. It lasted 23 years, until I went to university to do pedagogic studies. And there, I went into choirs and recognized that I really like singing and people already said, “Hey Manu, you have a good voice!”, but I really didn’t believe them at first.

Then I went to Finland for an exchange, and there I have been in a choir where I heard for the very first time a song called “Kyrie Eleison.” (It’s a churchly song.) I heard a classical soprano, and I was really stunned by her voice! Then I thought, “Okay, I’ve GOT to learn that!” When I came back from that, I first joined a gospel choir because it was the first choir mentioned to me. It was near my hometown, and there I met my first teacher because I had to sing in front of her. She said, “Girl, you have to sing. You have to.” So I did and from this moment on, I’ve been singing classical. It felt very natural for me from the very beginning, even if I’ve never listened to classical music before in my life.

But there was still something missing: I missed my metal and rock music, the music I´ve grown up with! Then I heard Evanescence for the first time, I heard “Bring Me to Life.” And I was like, “Okay, what the hell is that?!? I LOVE that!” (laughs) Because when I was younger, when I was 16 or 17, I heard Nightwish for the first time. But I was like, “Hmmmm, that’s strange … opera singing combined with metal music. I’m not sure what I shall think about it.” And now, I’m doing the same music, and I’m totally loving it!!! (laughs) But it took a bit of time, I think, because I had to get used to classical music and get used to classical singing. Then somehow I had the strong desire to combine it. Finally, I can say that the point when I recognized “okay, this is it!” was when I joined Haggard. At the very first concert with them, I stood there on stage in front of thousands of people, and I was like, “YES!‼ That’s it, and nothing else.” Since then, I’ve followed this way with my whole heart and I can´t imagine a life without it anymore...


Robin:  Speaking of being up on stage, your debut was in January at the Classic Meets Pop event in Xandria’s hometown of Bielefeld, Germany, where you sang one song. What song did Xandria choose, and what was going through your mind right before you went on stage?

Manuela:  We made one song, our most famous one, called “Ravenheart.” I was very, very, very excited beforehand, not even because it was the first concert with Xandria. But I had a cold before, and I was really worried: “Okay, can my voice do this? Will my voice be on top?” When you have one song, you have no chance afterwards to improve your mistakes with other songs. So, this one song has to be very, very good because this is the first time that the fans outside will hear your voice. I was REALLY nervous, but the guys said: “Hey Manu, you will surely do a great job, and we will have very much fun together and rock the stage!”

We went on stage, and then I wasn’t nervous anymore, it just felt perfectly right. I just thought, “Okay, I want to sing this song for the fans.” So, I did, and we really rocked the stage, I can say that! And I really didn’t want to go off anymore. (laughs) Afterwards, I was like, “Oh no, I want to do MORE songs, not only ONE!” It was really good to be finally on stage with the guys and to have the feeling that: “Okay, now we really are a band. I’m not only the new singer anymore, somehow I am now part of the band.” It was a very great start for me, also because I had this chance to sing with an orchestra and with the band, which was a great combination for me. I will remember this concert very well. Afterwards, of course, we had a big big BIG party !! (laughs)

Robin:  Is Xandria planning a tour for 2011?

Manuela:  A tour is of course intended for the time of the album release, but as there is no release date yet, I can’t really tell you when. But there will be a few concerts in advance that are already in the planning. They will be announced on the band’s website as soon as they are confirmed.

Robin:  Manu, thank you so much for talking with me today! As always, the last words are yours. Do you have any final words for your friends and fans at Sonic Cathedral?

Manuela:  First, I wanna thank you Robin, I really liked the conversation! And I want to say to the fans that I am REALLY looking forward giving live concerts, being on stage with Xandria, and performing all the songs live, especially the new ones. Also I am looking forward getting to know the fans and speaking with them! Hopefully see you all very soon!

Photo Credits: Laurids Jensen /  LjPhotoart


Band Website
Manuela Kraller on Facebook