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Kerstin Bischof - Lisa Middelhauve Interview

Kerstin Bischof - Lisa Middelhauve Interview
Performed on the phone in February 2011
Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

I could spend paragraphs writing a mini-biography of Kerstin Bischof and Lisa Middelhauve, the former frontwomen of Xandria, and their guitar-wielding comrade-in-arms, Guido Wehmeyer (ex-Axxis). But who am I kidding? You all want to know what their big secret is, and plan to skip past the introduction. Isn’t that right?

So, without further ado, Sonic Cathedral is proud to present *drumroll* the first official interview with Kerstin, Lisa and Guido regarding their secret project, or at least part one of the secret. The wait is finally over!

Robin:  Hail secret keepers! We are so excited that you chose Sonic Cathedral to unveil your big secret. How is everyone today?

Kerstin:  Great!

Guido:  Yeah, great.

Lisa:  I’m doing quite fine, but I had a little too few sleeping hours.

Robin:  I did see you on Facebook in the wee hours of this morning, Lisa.

Lisa:  Yes, that’s me. Facebook addict. (laughs)

Robin:  Shall we jump in with your announcement, or reveal it slowly like a striptease?

Lisa:  (laughs) This announcement is Kerstin’s one, so maybe she should tell us something about Secret: Part 1.

Kerstin:  Here we go! I am so EXCITED to tell you today that I am going to release a solo album this autumn, featuring Guido Wehmeyer as guitarist...

Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

Guido:  Hello!

Kerstin:  … And well, the name of the album is not set yet, or has not been fixed yet. We are currently working on the final mastering of the songs, and we also plan to feature further artists. But unfortunately, I cannot tell you any further names today. Basically, the songs are going to be songs that I always wanted to write for my fans. In the past, I did a couple of things, which I really enjoyed musically, but I felt were not the music I wanted to share with my friends and fans. So I decided to release a solo album incorporating songs that are really from the heart and that I’d really like to share on a personal level.

Robin:  We’ll be so excited to hear your new album! How does Lisa figure into your secret project?

Kerstin:  Yeeeeesss, so Lisa?

Lisa:  That’s quite easy because our secret is divided into three parts, and this is only the first part! Kerstin and I started planning the second part before the first one. (all laugh) Then, I found out quite late that Kerstin is nearly finished with her solo stuff, and I was like, “Whoa, and I did not even ask you!” So she let me hear some things. It’s not a secret (and never has been) that I’m a huge fan of Kerstin, and I soooo love these songs and I soooo love this artist -- this incredible artist -- that I BEGGED her to let me join, again and again. And finally she said: “Lisa, if you stop bothering me, I will allow you to go on stage with me.” Or something like that. (Lisa and Kerstin laugh)

Kerstin:  That’s not true!!! You didn’t have to beg. (still laughing)

Lisa:  Well yeah, we think it’s really really important, especially nowadays, to be friends in the music biz because many things have changed. It’s not easy to work with record labels and management and promoters anymore because it is much harder to earn money with all this stuff. And, so now, it’s a good a feeling to know Guido and Kerstin, who have the same ideas and sensations about the business as I have, and we just like to be friends … to do it very professionally, of course … but we SUPPORT each other. It’s the main idea, and this is what I love so much. I think it’s the best opportunity to stay real and to not sell yourself to anybody, but to just have the freedom to do what you want. This is what I adore so much about Kerstin and also Guido, and this is what makes me extremely proud to be allowed to be on stage with them. I know that we are going to have a lot of fun and am so CURIOUS about what will happen. (laughs)

Robin:  Speaking of friendship, I think a lot of people would be surprised that you (Lisa) and Kerstin became such dear friends, after you left Xandria and she stepped into that role. Many people would expect a fierce, and maybe nasty, competition to rise out of that.

Kerstin:  That’s true, a lot of people probably expected that. But this is so special! Lisa supported me from the very start with Xandria. I am so HAPPY that we became friends. I think it is so important -- as Lisa just said -- that you have people around you that support you, that believe in you. And we believe in each other. I love Lisa as a person …

Lisa:  Yay!

Kerstin:  … Us three working together, we really can rely on trusting each other, which is very very important. Even more important than ever, in this business, I think.

Lisa:  I must say that one more good thing is that we are totally honest with each other. So now Kerstin won’t be surprised, but I have to say honestly that there was one moment in which I hated Kerstin. (laughs) And it was when I saw her for the first time with Xandria on the stage … oh okay, it was TWO moments, sorry Kerstin. The first moment was when she said, “We are Xandria!” And I was like, “Biyatch, WE are Xandria!” And the second one was when she sang “Eversleeping” because this is so MY song and it means so much to me. But I think it’s hard to not like Kerstin, and it’s so much easier to love her from the start. This is one thing I’ve always said … and I think it’s really true … that I thought Kerstin would have been a much better singer for Xandria than I was. She has a better voice in my opinion, and I don’t have to mention that she is extremely beautiful and stylish. Aaaaaah, I must stop talking like this, because Robin will think we are having an affair or something.

Robin:  (laughs) I say nothing.

Lisa:  This is what makes me really a bit scared!

Guido:  Turn on the [Skype] camera!

Lisa:  Not for me; I’m in pajamas.

Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

Robin:  Guido, I understand that you and Kerstin are *cough cough* also quite good friends.

Guido:  (all laugh) Yes we are, kind of … since we’ve lived to together for five years, right now. Four to five years …

Kerstin:  Perhaps six years.

Guido:  … we should be, actually. Yes.

Robin:  Was Axxis the start of that?

Guido:  Yeah, of course it was. Axxis was kind of a hard time, but a wonderful time as well. I joined Axxis in 1998, and it was a nice time until, I guess, 2000-something. And then when Kerstin joined the band, it became great again. We fell in love, and I had to … (laughs) noooooo, that’s too personal … but well, we are happy now! So, thanks to Axxis for that.

Robin:  Back to your solo album, Kerstin. What can we expect? We’ve heard the absolutely gorgeous track “Storm” that you and Guido did. (Available as a free download here) Are your new songs in that vein?

Kerstin:  Well first of all, thank you very much! The songs are …

Guido:  Very diverse.

Kerstin:  … very diverse. Yes, that’s true. I think you will hear everything you ever wanted to hear from me. Every kind of facet, every side, everything a woman could do with her voice …

Guido:  I love your humble way. You know that? (all laugh)

Kerstin:  … I mean, I don’t just want to limit myself to classical singing, although that is what I started with. But I love to experiment with the voice, I love to express emotions. And emotions are not always nice, so I don’t always want to sing the nice way or the technically nice way. So I include, of course, a bit of grunts and distorted voices. Also, very smooth and soft voices … a bit of everything I hope.

Robin:  It sounds like all the songs are written. Are they recorded?

Kerstin:  Yeah.

Guido:  Not ALL of them are finished yet.

Kerstin:  Some guitar is missing, some bass playing. But my part is done! (laughs)

Guido:  It’s too many songs, actually. So we have to choose which will be put on the album.

Lisa:  I’ll be there! I’ll be there to choose.

Robin:  How does one even do that? You pour so much emotion into writing songs, and I assume you love every single one of them. How do you decide, “This song must die”?

Kerstin:  Well, first of all, even if I choose that a couple of songs don’t go on the album, they will not vanish or be abandoned. They may be extra gimmicks …

Guido:  A private CD maybe.

Kerstin:  … or free mp3s for the fans, also. So I’m not that sad when they don’t make it on the final track-list. And I think, while you’re finishing a production and during the course of the final writing, it becomes clearer which songs go together well and which ones don’t. You see that there is a kind of connection, and some songs suddenly don’t fit in anymore. This is rather a process of noticing that some songs don’t really belong there. So, I’m not that sad. (laughs)

Guido:  So it is only a HAPPY family of songs on the record.

Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

Kerstin:  And although I do love them all, some of them I love more.

Lisa:  (laughs) You’ll be a great mom!

Guido:  Well, we practice!!! (all laugh)

Robin:  (laughs) The Sonic Cathedral readers will be very interested to know that, Guido.

Guido:  Cheers!

Robin:  Kerstin, after being muzzled for so long by your former label, what did it feel like to finally be able to say what you want, to do what you, to sing what you want?

Kerstin:  Oh, it feels like SALVATION. It was very hard the last couple of years, particularly two years were very very hard. Although I was tangled up in this contract, I did a lot of classical stuff … I was allowed to do that … but I couldn’t publish anything. I did a lot of concerts, and I also didn’t stop teaching. So, I was musically active all the time. But for two years -- I think about three years ago -- the whole thing was such a burden. It grew so heavy on me that I couldn’t even teach anymore. I got sick, my voice got sick, and I really had to stop. I had to take a break, which was about the hardest thing for me the do. The hardest thing I ever had to do … to decide to take a break and not to go on singing. At that moment, I didn’t know for how long that would be. It lasted about one year, I think, maybe one-and-a-half. It was very very hard, but I continued writing. Of course I couldn’t publish the stuff. But a couple of ideas went into the album.

I think many artists and many female singers experience something similar. I’m not sure. Okay, I wasn’t able to release anything during that time. But many singers, having the role of the female-fronted voice of a band, also experience being laid in chains or not able to decide on their own, and having to follow what the managers think or some guys from the record label … in terms of clothing, in terms of makeup, in terms of performance. So I guess I’m not the only one.

Lisa:  No, you’re not!!!

Robin:  I was interested to read on the Eve’s Apple Facebook page what both Lisa and Kerstin said about what writing music means to them. I’d love for you to share that with Sonic Cathedral, and Guido, you also. What is it that you get from writing and composing music?

Kerstin:  Lisa, do you want to start?

Lisa:  So you can fetch a coffee and cook your dinner already, and when I’m finished it will be tomorrow! Wow, I don’t think I have a choice, I MUST make music. There is no other option. I started making music when I was three years old (my mom says even earlier). I always played the piano, I always sang my little tunes. Although I must say that I was a really really really bad singer until I was 14 or 15 years old. And I had to LEARN singing because, before, I could not sing even one melody properly. For me, music is more my mother-tongue than German. I don’t think it’s something I learned … I did not learn music, I was born with it. (laughs) Does that make any sense?

All:  Yes!

Lisa:  Music for me is like reality, and everything that others call reality is like a dream. Sometimes a good dream, sometimes a bad dream, but not as real as music is. Some things that I feel, or want to say, only function in music. Although I’m a VERY talkative person, I never found the words to say … in WORDS … something like that, but music can.

Guido:  Beautifully said.

Kerstin:  So, for me, it’s a bit similar. I’ve always composed. Even when I was about four or five years old, I had this little cassette or tape recorder, and I recorded songs about … I don’t know what, (laughs) but it would be interesting … whatever came to my mind. Since then, I never really stopped composing. With singing, it’s slightly different. I started singing fairly late, in terms of professional ambitions or something like that. I started with 16 years (I think). As much as I love singing, there are times when I hated it as well, because it made my life so difficult sometimes. At other moments, it was the most beautiful thing to do, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

When I was younger, I always wanted people to see in me the musician that I am. Later, there were times when I wished that people wouldn’t just see the musician in me. So, it has two sides for me. Although, as I wrote down in this little article, it’s always been a self-healing process and a means to mediate the world around me, to connect with my environment, and to understand this world around us.

Guido:  I never actually had a choice, I would say. The first time I played guitar, I was 12 years old and got addicted immediately. I never did anything else since then. Well, I went to university and studied as a teacher, but that was more a kind of an alibi to please my parents. As far as writing is concerned, I’ve never been such a good writer on my own …

Kerstin:  That’s not true!

Guido:  … I’ve always been kind of a team player …

Kerstin:  You know what, that part is true.

Guido:  … At least, I think I’m not as good as Kerstin and Lisa are, concerning the songs. But I think I really can contribute something to make it a good song in the end. Yeah, for me, there was never ever an alternative to music. So I can’t really tell you if it’s a choice that I’ve made. Or has there been a choice? I never questioned it, really. I questioned it when I was 28 one time because, at that point, I had made a lot of music, but I wasn’t really successful. There hadn’t been the big breakthrough until that point. So I thought, “Oh well, become a teacher, earn your money, and be happy with playing as a hobby.” The week I thought that, I got the job with Axxis and went off to Europe to tour and play the biggest festivals in Germany. And so, WHOA, my second gig was Wacken! I was at Wacken two months after I thought about that. So, yeah well, no choice.

Lisa:  Life is crazy!

Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

Robin:  Lisa, I loved your quote, “A public person is a naked person. Pretending to wear clothes.” Writing music is so intimate and personal. To get up and sing one’s deepest feelings, does it feel like being naked in front of a bunch of strangers?

Lisa:  Yes!!! (pause) I suffer stage panic. I don’t know if this is known by others, but …

Kerstin:  It is.

Lisa:  … it’s really hard to get me up on stage. (laughs) Once I’m on stage, everything is fine, and I don’t want to be anywhere else anymore. But I’m really afraid of showing myself to others. When I’m talking, I can pretend to be cool and a rockstar and everything. But when I sing, I can’t pretend, because singing and making music is … as I said before … this is reality, this is the REAL reality. So, it’s hard to not show my real self. This does not mean that I don’t act sometimes on stage, because some songs need that. To be performed with a little, hmmm, actress thing.

But yes, sometimes I find the thought scary, that there are people in the audience ... in the best case, all of the people in the audience … who came to hear me singing and to see me and to get to know me. And, since I’m a little girl from a town in Germany that is quite cool (but nothing special, to be honest), it’s scary, it’s just scary. The thing that scares me most is that people are disappointed of me. It’s a weird situation because, on the one hand, I’m scared that people don’t like me or that people are disappointed. On the other hand, I can’t pretend, and I HAVE to be myself. So it’s like I watch myself doing it, and I feel the catastrophe coming. But fortunately, it never came. (Lisa and Kerstin laugh) Uhm, it’s hard, and it’s hard for me to talk about it. As you might have realized, this is so … it’s scary, it scares me!

The thing I love most in this business is that it gives me the possibility to be friends with so many people and to get to know so many people. I tell you, I’m just as much interested in those people I meet -- may it be friends or fans or whomever -- as they are interested in me! Everybody has got something to give and everybody wants to take. When I’m on stage, I have the feeling that this not about being friends anymore. But I’m standing there, and I have to DELIVER somehow. And this is what scares me a bit. It’s hard to say really. I’m sorry, I’m not good at these things ... I’m emotionally dead. (Kerstin and Guido laugh)

Kerstin:  Not! (Lisa laughs)

Robin:  Hardly emotionally dead, I must say.

Robin:  What are the next steps for Kerstin’s solo album? You’re still finishing up some of the songs and getting them mixed. What then, what then?

Kerstin:  Yeah, we’re finishing them up, getting them mixed …

Guido:  I have to take a break right now for five weeks because I’m on tour with another band.

Kerstin:  He can do a little promotion, yes? (all laugh)

Guido:  I’m on tour with a German rock band called Eschenbach. After that, when I come back, I’ll immediately start doing the last guitars, and I’ll try to make it a finished product. I’ll try to do a good mix. Then, yeah, the next step will be then to think about how to release the album and where to release it.

Kerstin:  Meanwhile, while Guido is on tour, it gives me time to think about the visual concept of the record, because I want the photography, the styling and the image to fit to the music. Not the other way around. Sometimes, in the business, you’re writing songs and you’re releasing your record as a band that is supposed to fit into a certain genre. Then you have this visual concept of that genre, and you MAKE it fit into it. I don’t want that, this time. I want the visuals to, well, spring from the music. Since the music is nearly done now, the next weeks will give me the time to do that, to think about the concept. And for me, the pictures and the photography is very important this time. So, I’m looking forward to doing that.

Lisa:  Me too! (all laugh)

Kerstin:  Shall I reveal it, Lisa?

Lisa:  Yes, yes of course! Give them some footage.

Kerstin:  There is another part of the secret’s first part. Lisa is going to support me. Well, not only to support me, but in fact, she has the creative hand over this process, over the photography, over the visual images. We are going to do a little brainstorming -- a listening session with all the songs to figure out the styling -- and Lisa will be responsible for that. I LOVE the way she does styling, and her ideas are great!

Lisa:  Awwwww.

Kerstin:  So, I think we can expect very very very extravagant and, well, unique photos.

Lisa:  Yes, I have an idea to put some birds into your hair!

Kerstin:  BIRDS?!? (all laugh)

Lisa:  No … joking!

Guido:  Well actually, this morning, it looks a little bit like that already. (all laugh)

Lisa:  Robin, there are pictures I already of took of Kerstin. You may know the profile picture of Eve’s Apple, the hands with the apple. This is a picture I took of Kerstin … last year? Two years ago, I don’t know.

Kerstin:  Two years ago? No, three years ago.

Lisa:  Oh my God, we get old! (Kerstin and Lisa laugh)

Kerstin:  No, we get only WISER.

Guido:  Lisa is a great photographer. Really, she is! She is very talented.

Lisa:  I’m trying my best. The thing I love, even the most, is the styling part because I’m working as a stylist for, ohhhhhh, NINE years now. And I love it so much! Though I must say, it’s really easy to create a styling on somebody like Kerstin because you don’t have to change anything to make her look beautiful. So, everything I can do with styling, is just additional.

Kerstin:  Fortunately, I don’t have to hide my face. (laughs) Although I’d love to wear this latex...

Kerstin Bischof, Lisa Middelhauve and Guido Wehmeyer interview

Guido:  Well, I’ll go and get a coffee. (all laugh)

Lisa:  Uh, Robin, I think we should explain that …

Kerstin:  As you can already see, the nice thing about this solo project is that we’re involved in all the creative processes and that we are responsible for all the creative processes. Not only the music and the recording stuff, and even the mixing and mastering, but also the visual representation. This is very important for me, that I can give this into the hands of people that I trust, that I love and adore.

Robin:  I so much enjoyed talking with you. Thank you so much! As always, the last words are yours. Final words for your friends and fans at Sonic Cathedral?

Lisa:  I hate this part of an interview. I hate it because, normally, everybody in this situation would say: “Thank you so so very much for supporting us, and for being so nice, and I love you.” But since EVERYBODY says so, it’s not original. So now maybe we can be original and say, “We love you!!!” (all laugh)

Guido:  Go to school, learn something serious, and don’t take drugs!

Lisa:  And don’t become musicians!

Guido:  Don’t become a musician, ever! And listen to your parents …

Kerstin:  Actually, I’d like to say that I’m really looking forward to releasing this album because I’m so excited about the reaction. I don’t know what to expect because we’re not on the safe side with this release. It’s an experiment. It’s meant to be shared with the fans and friends, so they are an important part of this … as they are at live performances, for example. So, I’m really anxious about it and excited about it.

Lisa:  Oh, I have great last words! If Kerstin’s and our experiment works out fine, we are going to change the world of music completely with you.

Kerstin:  Nice, well done!

Online Links:

Kerstin Bischof on Facebook
Lisa Middelhauve on Facebook
Guido Wehmeyer on Facebook
Eve’s Apple on Facebook