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Darkwell Interview

Darkwell Interview
By: Sam Grant
With: Raphael Lepuschitz & Roland Wurze

Interview Info
Female Voices Metal Fest 2, Belgium
By: Sam Grant
With: Raphael Lepuschitz & Roland Wurzer - of Darkwell
Also present: Charlie Farrell-Promoter & Fan

Sam: I’ve only started listening to Darkwell very recently, so you’re going to have to explain a few basic things to me. Why the name Darkwell?

Roland: That’s really very basic.

Sam: It’s about as basic as I could start with. So what does it mean?

Roland: A lot of people ask me whether the name is based on the book written by Douglas Niles about Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s true – I read this novel, it’s not very good, its OK, it’s just a fantasy story. But as we started in 1999 we were a band already, but we changed names at that time and I really liked the name because a well is like a water source or something like that. It’s not commonly used in English, certainly not in Central Europe. So it was the dark source of an ocean, that was the basic idea. I had a lot of fun with the name because a lot of German people thought of ‘well’ as ‘good’ so they thought it meant ‘Darkgood’. So I explained and had a lot of fun with that, but originally it was a source of dark emotions manifested in music.

Sam: You’re all from Austria. Is there a Gothic scene in Austria?

Roland: There is, it’s a small scene, actually in Vienna. Maybe you know of bands like L’Âme Immortelle, those are the backbone of the Austrian Gothic scene, there’s also some industrial stuff. But where we are from, we are more connected to the dark scene around Munich, but on the other side there is a good established metal scene. From the beginning all our members were into this fusion of dark metal and heavy metal stuff, so that was the basic idea. We have a good Gothic scene in the Eastern parts of Austria.

Sam: So what were you all respectively doing before you were in Darkwell?

Roland: OK, that’s a long story, I’ll try to cut it short. I started making music at the end of the 80s and in the early 90s we founded a band called Sarcasm Syndrome, where we started in 1992 having female vocals in a metal band which at that time was really new and the name Gothic Metal did not even exist. The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy were around, but we called it ‘metal with female vocals’ because we didn’t have a better name, so that was the band I started with. And we did a lot of stuff until ’97, and then we split up. It didn’t work anymore, our singer went to another band in Austria. It simply didn’t work anymore. So Maurice and I knew each other, we’d been in a few cover bands, we also played in an Italian dark Gothic Metal band called Evenfall, if you remember them.

Sam: You were in Evenfall?

Roland: I was. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Sam: They were a fantastic band.

Roland: It was something really special. The kind if music, it was really different. But I think at that time, at the end of the 90s, it was too different.

Sam: The only band that I heard that was similar to Evenfall were Ram-Zet. Do you know them?

Roalnd & Raphael: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sam: Cumbersome is one of my favourite albums.

Raphael: We were in Evenfall until Still In The Great Dying, but we left Evenfall after that. Cumbersome was a new line-up.

Sam: Alexandra’s not in your band anymore.

Roland: Unfortunately not.

Sam: If that something that you’re comfortable with talking about?

Roland: I have to be, because a lot of people ask me. It simply didn’t work anymore. There were a couple of personal problems, a couple of musical problems and based on the different orientation of different styles of life. She was younger than us, she was finishing her studies and started to go to other countries to do additional studies. Altogether it just didn’t work anymore. It was a real problem for us. And that’s the reason why Metatron is out now rather than earlier.

Raphael: It was a very hard decision for us, because me and the new guitar player got used to the band with Alex, so it was very hard for us to split from her, but when we realised that we could have worked better with another singer, we did some auditions. But Stephanie we knew from another band. And to answer your former question, me and Mathias used to play in the mid 90s in a death metal band, even Gothic bands and so on, and then in 2000/2001 we went to Darkwell and Stephanie we knew from a concert we did with Darkwell. We were very impressed with her. She was drinking Jägermeister with us and we were very happy about that, so she was very quickly engaged with the band!

Roland: The first Darkwell CD really focused on Alexandra’s vocals. We did some auditions, but none of the vocalists could capture the emotions that Alexandra transmitted and Stephanie was the first one who could. She transmitted that same emotions that we wanted her to and that really worked excellently, so we realised that there are even more possibilities, which is really good for us because with Alexandra we were a bit limited, but now it’s easier with Stephanie.

Sam: So before were you confined by Alexandra’s vocal ability, or not, as the case may be.

Roland: I didn’t want to say that!

Sam: So now you’re writing different stuff because you have a more versatile singer?

Roland: I didn’t say we’re writing different stuff, but we know we can. We can also bring more rock music into it. She’s also going in to the front more – before, only the music was speaking to us, which is also OK – Alexandra was a very calm person, she stood on the stage, she did her job, not bad. We were also really pleased with Alexandra. Now it’s different. [Stephanie] starts to interact with the audience, which is more of a rock thing and it’s really important for us. But it wasn’t like that before, but it just simply happened.

Sam: Is the state of the band now an improvement?

Raphael: I think yes.

Roland: Especially the line-up we had in 99-2000 when we recorded Suspiria, we were really limited, we had problems with our guitar player, so we changed, and in 2000 I think Ralf joined and in 2001 Mathias, and then it started to go perfectly, we started to record Conflict of Interest. The new line-up and everything was cool and things really started to work. And things started to happen with Alexandra. So [Metatron] is finally finished now. We’re so happy. On the 29th November we will have existed for five years and it’s the second full-length which is quite strange, we don’t feel good with that. We’ve played a lot of concerts in a lot of countries and we’ve got a lot of good responses.

Raphael: We plan to do a newer, full-length record next year to hit the average – one every two years! So in six years we’ll have had three full-lengths.

Roland: So tell all the people we won’t wait another four years!

Sam: The only question about Conflict Of Interest I’ve got is about Twist In My Sobriety. I was really surprised when I saw you’d covered that. Bands have Covered some unusual songs – Type O Negative have covered Baby One More Time, Delight have covered Careless Whisper, and you decide to cover that which is a very unusual choice. It’s an 80s song by Tanita Tikaram. Why did you decide to cover it?

Roland: That’s a very funny story. You won’t believe me, but that’s OK. I was very young. I was buying vinyl records still and these things called CDs came out and I was like, ‘what the hell is that?!’ So I buy one of those shitty players, you know. And the gift of the shop was they were giving away one of those Hits Of The Year albums for free with it. And I listened to that and I hated it. Like hell. But there was one song which moved some kind of emotions in me. Directly after David Hasselhoff was Tanita Tikaram/Twist In My Sobriety! Naturally it was a sample, there were no lyrics included and the Internet didn’t exist at that time so I really started to search around for the lyrics, also the album wasn’t really available in Austria. They had good distribution is Germany but not in Austria. So finally I catch this record and I made a photocopy of the lyrics. I really liked the song. And then I forgot it. Years passed and years passed and years passed and at the end of the 90s before we finished with Sarcasm Syndrome we thought ‘let’s do a cover tune!’ and all the people didn’t know what to do, so I said, "Let’s do Twist In My Sobriety!"

Sam: And they were all like, ‘what?!’

Roland: Yeah! And no one wanted to do it, so Sarcasm Syndrome pissed off. So we did this f**king EP and I said we’d try it again. I suggested Twist In My Sobriety and no-one liked it expect me, but now there were fresh guys in the band so I could force them!

Raphael: We also did Don’t You by Simple Minds which will also be a cover version on the next record as a digipak. But there’s a link with Twist In My Sobriety with the new record because we used a boer when we did the cover the first time and our keyboardist was like yeah, the boer is a cool instrument, so the song started to influence us on the new record.

Roland: But before, when we were in the studio, my guitarist said, "no, I won’t do that song", my keyboardist said, "no, I won’t do that song" "ok", I said, "you bastards!" The drums were already done, so I said, "I’ll do it on my own". I started to play it - the keyboards and the guitars - and the guys heard it and they didn’t like it, so they started to play the keyboards and guitars on their own until it was finished! But I think we could have done more with that song. But I’m very glad that we did it, that was important for me. Because it was really a tune out of my youth that I wanted to play in a different style. If you tell me that it’s not a good cover, I’ll have to confess that there are more things that we could have done with it, but I think that it’s very important that we did that. And after that there’s a label in Germany called Sumitra who heard it and they really liked it and they put it on a sample compilation. We really got some good feedback from that and last year when we were playing, a lot of people started crying, "play Twist In My Sobriety!" We never played it in the rehearsal room, just in the studio, we were never able to do that. But to finish the question, it was really important for me to do that.

Sam: So what’s the difference, musically, between Suspiria and Metatron?

Roland: OK, there are two approaches to that. The first approach is the complete architecture of the band and Suspiria was completely written by me, but now we started being a band. There are a couple of songs that were composed by Raphael and Mathias and a couple of songs composed by us all, and only one song left that I composed alone, and in the rehearsal room, the drummer, the vocalist and me added our stuff and it started being a band from the composing approach. That’s the first thing. On the other hand, Suspiria, at that time, was a real experiment. Because, if you remember at that time we had Tristania, we had Theatre of Tragedy, but, I don’t mean this in a bad way, for me they were black, death metal bands that added female vocals to be more attractive. We came from a different approach. We were still metalheads on the one hand, but on the other hand we were into Type O Negative, Fields Of The Nephilim, different harmonies and everything, and it was important for me to integrate that into Darkwell musically. We did Suspiria and it was something very strange at that time. We really liked it, having only female vocals, nobody could handle that at the beginning. It was successful and we were pleased with that. We will still stick to this scheme, but now we are a whole bunch of people working on their own music. All the time, when we read the reviews, we were compared to Tristania and all that shit, I like those bands.

Sam: But you don’t feel that they’re a reflection of your sound.

Roland: They’re something completely different. We could do the same, but we would do it in a very bad way, it’s different. And now we are a complete band doing complete music. We know, in the rehearsal room, that if we change this chord it will be a completely commercial song, but we don’t do that.

Sam: There seems to be a more comfortable feeling in the band now.

Raphael: Yeah, I think so. For me, for example, I was working on the Conflict of Interest CD also, the songs were written by Roland and the whole band changed the songs so they were happy about it. In the new album the basic lines were done by me and the new guitar player. And afterwards we did the composing and they changed their parts, but I happened not in a fixed way, but more in a simultaneous way. We could compose and bring it to the other guys and they would say, "yeah, let’s do it that way" so we changed it while composing, not afterwards, like it was before. So the new record is really the first one where it is part of the whole band, where the whole band was involved, whereas the old ones were mainly based on Roland’s ideas.

Sam: So is Darkwell now where you wanted it to be?

Roland: Interesting question. I started it alone and I was some kind of dictator, telling people what to do. But then I bought those crazy guys in and I saw it’s not good that way because they were all creative and they had to play my shit, you know. So now they know what Darkwell is all about. So yes, as the collective we are now, it’s at the place where I wanted it to be. But now, five people are wanting something. Years ago it was just one. So that’s the difference and it’s very good and very important.

Sam: That’s going to create more harmony as well.

Roland: Yes, we’re really pleased about the new record. Our label sometimes says that it’s not commercial enough but we don’t give a shit about that. We’re really pleased with it. Darkwell is where it should be at the moment, that’s true.

Sam: The name Metatron. What is it?

Roland: Haha. That’s difficult. It’s the name of the title song and it’s about Metatron, mentioned in the Book of Enoch in the Holy Bible up to the fourth century till it was passed out of the Bible. It’s ancient Kabala mysticism on the one hand, on the other hand it’s based on Egyptian mythology, the counterpart to the Catholic Metatron, which is similar to the Egyptian lord Thoth, but what is interesting about it is that in Christian mythology, prophets started saying that this guy who wrote the book Enoch, who contributed this part to the Holy Bible, was a magician and that he was raised by God himself to the rank of archangel as a human being which would be completely revolutionary for all Christian beliefs of one God, mankind, angels. Ancient religions are influencing the Catholic way of life and way of believing, so it’s a question of morals. Telling the one thing and believing the other thing. Double morals.

Sam: That’s quite a common theme with you. I’ve noticed in Armageddon there’s a theme about the flipside. Is that something that you’re quite interested in?

Roland: Yes. In Austria they call it the ‘holy anti-role’. We have the highest amount of Catholic people in our hometown, still people are going to Church – strange – and I’m not into any religion.

Sam: You seem to have quite a wide berth of knowledge about it though.

Roland: I started to get interested in why these Catholics were going to Church, what are they getting from that, what are the basics, where are they coming from, why the hell do we have celebrations at Christmas with trees?! So I saw that and I started to read about that, and I saw that it was an ancient European fest, the so-called Yule fest which had been put on the same date. Why? Because there are tons of people living in the same area so instead of giving them a new religion you give them fests. So I started to see so many connections between new religions and mythology and altogether I got completely frustrated about that, I was about 16 at the time and I really started to read about that and become interested in it. But what religion is really good for is a mirror of our society. In any time, religion is a mirror of our society and if the American people have a new President called George Bush, that happened because religious people moved American people to that. 30 billion people voted for this man, OK, so religion changed again. A free country like the States is now limited. There are people who think that Europe is doomed because they are not Evangelists. If one European says, ‘I am also Christian’ they would say ‘no!’. It’s really a story about that. So I’m starting to get interested in religion because I think that religion is a mirror of our society and I think that it’s something we all have to deal with because we’re all part of it. So I wanted to write about it. So Armageddon happened as a final clash for all religions, for all beliefs, to say that there’s nothing behind that. That’s what Armageddon is about. The song Metatron is about angels going to the Earth, raping mankind, being completely against what Christian mythology is telling you about and changing this world again with cruelty, which shouldn’t be done by angels. It’s about the double morals of the holy beliefs and the whole society made by us at the moment.

Sam: I heard that you said something different about Armageddon.

Roland: Did I? Oh!

Sam: No, that’s fine, because there’s obviously as lot of material there for you to work from. You said that every power has a counter-power.

Roland: Yes, the equilibrium which is part of what Suspiria is about.

Sam: Right, and the fact that every evil situation does have something positive in it. I just find that very hard to believe because evil is a very strong word to use.

Roland: Evil is a strong word, you’re right.

Sam: I’m all for understanding that from every really bad situation you can draw something positive from it. If you really try. But I’m sure there are many with no positivity at all.

Raphael: There might be no positive sense behind it, but the positive result could still be.

Roland: You know, last week I met a friend who is a teacher and he teaches Catholic religion. He’s interested in the whole of society and everything, we were just drinking beer and talking about everything and after we’d had a couple of beers he asked me when will it end, what we have at the moment, the whole Iraq war, everything. Where will it end? Are our ideas of a regular society perpetuam? Will it work forever? No, it won’t. That was his conclusion. So we have about fifty years till the next World War. Because without destruction we won’t have any evolution again. It’s really a dangerous idea he has about that but the problem is, the problem of the perpetuam, is that it works, but not forever. It has to be destroyed to make way for something new. That’s what I meant when I said an evil thing has a good counterpart. It was a really bad example at that moment, but the basic idea is, if there is some evil existing, is the word ‘evil’ really correct? The problem is that ‘evil’ is a very bad word. So that’s why I wrote the lyrics to Suspiria. I saw the solutions to a lot of problems I had at that time. Neutrality, equilibrium. Those metaphors of good, those metaphors of evil - for me it was very important that there was something in between. Society, when considering evil thinks that there has to be a cause for it. But you’re right, it’s really hard to see in every case.

Sam: I could bring up September 11th but I won’t…

Roland: I’d find it very hard to say something good about that!

Sam: If it is possible to draw positive influences from things that have negative effects can you think of something very bad, something negative that’s happened to you, that you’ve been able to draw something positive from?

Roland: Sometimes, sometimes. If I try to I can. But I can’t do it all the time. Still, 9/11 was f**ked up. It’s time that all mankind realises the position of the States, of their role. It was some kind of wake-up call. Unfortunately 3000 men died. Unfortunately it caused two wars. But still, I believe it was necessary but it couldn’t have kept on happening for a very long time. For example, a couple of bad things have happened to me in my life. But still, they gave me the power to open my mind to new ideas and to walk forward, which perhaps I wouldn’t have done without them. I know what you’re focussing on, but the equilibrium, the neutrality is quite an important part of my personal religion. It’s difficult to explain, but if I were to explain it, it would be a very hard explanation.

Sam: My ex used to say that every experience was a good experience, which really used to annoy me. If you lose a limb or something, it might make you stronger, but that’s it really. Tragedies that happen to you might have some semblance of positivity to them, but that, on its own, isn’t worth it. It’s not worth gaining that kind of strength for that kind of loss.

Roland: But if you look at it on the other hand, if you want something to happen to you, you cause it. The things that happen to you, you cause. You have to deal with them.

Sam: You’re not talking about karma, are you.

Roland: Somehow. I believe in the freedom of man, of his decisions and in his way of life limited by society. That’s my belief in karma, but the problem is, when you’re talking about getting something good out of a negative action, from the beginning, it’s really difficult. But this negative action has been caused to you. Not by faith, or someone, but by something else. And sometimes you can call it faith if you don’t have another explanation for it, that’s OK, but I don’t see a solution in trying to get something good out of everything. I only believe that it is like that, but you don’t have to search for it and I don’t think that every experience you make in your life is a good experience. There are very bad experiences also, but we’re really now in a time of philosophy when there are beliefs beyond explanation, you can confront me with something, but I don’t want to play that, it doesn’t make sense to me.

Sam: We haven’t talked about your music enough. So you’ve finished recording Metatron, what will you be doing now insofar as gigging and touring?

Roland: We’re doing Atrocity, Leaves’ Eyes, Austria, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy in two and a half weeks. A lot of km to drive. After that our guitarist becomes a dad, he’s having a baby, so after that we’ll write some new material and try to do some festivals next year. We would really like to release a record in Autumn of next year. We’ll give some respect to his new life situation, do a few gigs and festivals because you can reach quite a few people through festivals and after the new record we’ll focus on touring again. You know, touring is very difficult for us. We have our daytime jobs and we have to manage them. All the time the label ask me, ‘why does it take so long to write a new record?’ and I say, ‘we want to write a good record, it takes time’. And then they calm down.

Sam: What do you think of Evanescence?

Roland: They’re a cool band, I’ll tell you why. Because I heard the first release, it’s the same album, but before it was ‘produced’…

Sam: You’re talking about Origin?

Roland: Yeah, I heard a couple of tunes. It was obviously the kind of music they wanted to do, but after that it’s over-produced, but I think it’s good that they’ve infiltrated modern America with this modern rock/heavy metal style with the female vocals which I consider very important, which have to be in the music. They haven’t been until the 90s. I think Evanescence is an integral part of this music. The only pity about it is that they’re really commercially exploited. It won’t be possible for us to ever play a tour with them because there’s really big business behind that. If there are bands that tour with them they have to be good and if they’re not they’re dropped from the tour, but that’s the music business. But I like them.

Sam: I think they’ve opened a lot of doors. People are getting into that kind of music who normally wouldn’t.

Roland: That’s also true.

Sam: Well, we’ll let you go now, thank you very much…

Roland: Everything asked?

Sam: I just want to say that the impression of your band that I had is very different now that I’ve spoken to you. You’ve only had one and a half releases in four years, but the future looks very good, you seem very positive and very happy. You seem to be – to an extent – in control of your label, which is a rare thing,

Roland: As a band we’re stronger than ever. I hope you like the new record.

Sonic Cathedral appreciate the opportunity to interview Darkwell and would like to thank the band, and our Sonic Interviewers, and the event planners at Metal Organisation for making this great event possible.