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Oh nein, jetzt treibt sich dieser Spacko auch noch im Netz rum!!! Tut dat Not?!? Aber hallo! Hier gibt es Interviews, Reviews und mehr. Allem gemeinsam: Der ganze Krempel ist komplett von mir! Ob das ein Vor- oder Nachteil ist, muß jeder für sich selbst entscheiden... Was wollt Ihr sonst noch hier sehen? Ideen habe ich reichlich, möchte aber zuerst wissen, was Euch interessiert. Teilt es mir mit, z.B. als Kommentar. Spezielle Fragen zu mir und meiner Arbeit, Lob und Kritik aller Art ("Wie besoffen muß man sein, um so einen Mist zu verzapfen?") - egal was. Bin gespannt, wie sich das hier entwickelt... Haut rein, Ihr Eierbären! Michael P.S. Das Copyright aller Texte auf dieser Seite liegt ausschließlich bei Michael Schübeler.

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09
NICKELBACK – Feed The Machine (EMPIRE-Originalversion)

(BMG/Warner) 11 Tracks, 43:04 min. VÖ: 16.6.17 Da ich zu Feigheit, Heimtücke und Hinterlist nicht fähig bin, tauge ich nicht zum Extremisten, egal welcher Art. Auch anonyme Haßtiraden im Netz sind eine Art von Extremismus. Damit vergeude ich meine Zeit nicht. Deshalb habe ich auch nicht mitgekriegt, daß NICKELBACK die meistgehaßte Band des Planeten sind. [...]

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HALFORD – All music is therapy! (WAY UP version)

Samstag, 19. Dezember 2009

As Denis was not available, I unexpectedly had the honour to speak with Rob Halford. At the first date the phone rang at 1.32 CET (!), and I prepared for 0.30 at the max (and so already fallen asleep). I wasn´t able to ask some questions that made sense. At the second date – this time at 0.00 CET and right on time – the following chat (not only) about the third HALFORD disc “Winter Songs” took place:

 

 

MS: I read a lot about the new album and made up my mind about it. The big problem for you must have been the traditionals!

Rob: Well, first of all the big problem was trying to find the right balance for the songs that would take the kind of treatment that we wanted to give them. Of course there are many many many different types of songs, traditional songs that everybody is familiar with around the Christmas holidays. And there are some songs that immediately you feel they have a good chance of a different interpretation, a rock/metal interpretation. And then there are some songs that seem intriguing to kind of explore… For example, “What Child Is This?”: to listen to that in its original state, it´s kind of compelling to consider what it might be able to turn into. At the end of the day a good song is a good song. And a good song will take any kind of reflection. So that´s what we started to look for. And of course we found 6 tracks. There were others that we thought we would leave to one side for the time being. But we have these 6 tracks. Of course one is the song from Sarah Barreilles which is totally different (“Winter Song”). So it´s 5 really traditional Christmas songs and then the rest are originals and the one by Sarah.

MS: Any songs that you would have liked to do but you couldn´t “halfordize” them maybe because they are too popular or just didn´t work?

Rob: I think we were trying to stay in the theme of the message of Christmas, as far as the messages of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Oh Holy Night.” They were important to me personally. I wanted to have that type of signal in the words of these songs. So that was the idea that we talked about in the band before the project began. I think just on a personal level I was able to satisfy my own pleasure in recording those particular songs. And maybe, if we make a second release, the other songs that we considered might just be more of a kind of “informal” type of Christmas celebration. Anyway, I think what we ended up with was a good balance, you know, 10 very different sounds, different tracks, different performances, and just making an interesting release.

MS: One of the greatest aspects of the album is the guitarwork which is absolutely brilliant!

Rob: Oh yeah, it´s amazing! You see, the thing is, I was busy on the road with PRIEST. And so, the rest of the guys were working away independently by themselves. And that was great because they are first-class musicians. They know exactly what they wanna do and how they want to present themselves on these songs. So I didn´t hear the songs until they were almost completed. I was like a fan, you know? When I heard ´em I was like, “Oh my god! I can´t wait to put my voice on these instrumentals!”, it was really exciting!

MS: From the original songs on “Winter Songs,” musically my favorite is “Get Into The Spirit” but lyrically it´s “I Don´t Care”, haha!

Rob: Oh yeah, haha! When I was writing the lyrics for “Get Into The Spirit,” I was thinking about the Christmas spirit. But I think it´s also about the spirits of metal you know, living the dream together and coming together and raise your spirits high and everything like that. I think that was my feeling towards the Christmas spirit and the metal spirit. And of course what I like to call “The Charles Dickens´ Christmas Scrooge” or “The Heavy Metal Grinch” from America is in the lyric of “I Don´t Care For Christmas.” So I had a lot of fun with writing lyrics for the original tunes. The other ones I didn´t want to touch; they had to be left intact. I like songs that have a story, a good story.

MS: That´s what I miss on some PRIEST lyrics.

Rob: If you look at all of the lyrics that I´ve written – generally all of them, I´m not saying every single one – but I think most of them, they all convey a message of hope and understanding and kind of caring for each other and being a team and staying strong and fighting against the bad things – that type of philosophy. I think heavy metal music carries that type of attitude you know, good against evil, whatever it might be. At least that´s in classic metal!

MS: Yeah, but some of the PRIEST lyrics are a little too vague for me. Do you know what I mean?

Rob: Yeah. Well, again, depending on which song you´re talking about, I like to consider the what I call “The ambiguity of a lyric” which means that that can be taken to be understood in more than one way. And that´s just a personal choice. Sometimes they´re very direct, like “The Painkiller” or “The Sinner” or something like that. So many many different topics, but that´s the pleasure that I get as a lyric-writer as well as being a singer and everything else.

The power of metal is very inspiring. And I think it´s been used in many many ways to help people get through difficulties. I mean I use it myself! If I feel a bit blue or get depressed for whatever reason, I just listen to some metal and it picks me back up! And I think that´s what it does to people. Generally that´s what music does. All music is therapy!

MS: And it´s the universal language!

Rob: Yes, it´s the universal language. That´s what I like about the metal scene: If you take a metalhead from Germany and a metalhead from Japan and from Italy, from England, from America, Mexico, Brazil, you put ´em all in the same room, they may not be able to speak the same language, but they all speak the same language of metal music. So that´s sometimes the connection that we´ve got with the power of metal.

MS: I can imagine that you enjoyed writing the lyrics for “I Don´t Care” because they are a little different for you. But I can also imagine that sometimes your very serious image gets in the way…

Rob: Yeah, hahaha, it does! Yeah it does. It´s an opportunity that I like to take. It´s very rare to be able to have a lot of fun with that kind of lyric for “I Don´t Care For Christmas.” Actually, I can´t take full credit for that because the inspiration for that lyric came from quite a famous movie from America. Many years ago (1987), two comedy film stars, Steve Martin and John Candy made a movie called “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” And that´s one of my favorite Christmas films that I like to watch. So for some unknown reason when I was listening to the music I started to think about that film. So that film was kind of the inspiration for the lyric that turned out to be.

MS: While I was listening to “Winter Songs” I thought to myself that you with PRIEST have done a song with some Christmas flavor, and that was “Evening Star”! What do you think about that?!

Rob: Yeah, that´s a good reference point! I think you´re the only journalist that´s ever mentioned that particular song. I remember writing the lyrics to that song, “Evening star, shining so bright.” In my memory, I don´t recall it having that type of feeling, a Christmas-type feeling. In all honesty, I can´t really remember how the idea originated. But certainly, I agree with you, it could be viewed as the Christmas star. I think that´s quite correct, yeah!

MS: Yeah, it has some kind of coral flavor!

Rob: It does, yes! To be honest, I haven´t listened to that song for many many many years. You´ve inspired me to check it out! As I´m talking to you I can hear the melody in my head. I´ll definitely check it out, yeah! I remember that was quite a successful song for JUDAS PRIEST. It was in the British pop charts!

MS: I can imagine that during your career you have spent the Christmas holidays in various places…

Rob: Yes, in many places. Most of them have been in my home in Warwickshire outside of Birmingham. But I´ve had holidays in… I have another home in Phoenix, Arizona. That´s a beautiful location but of course it´s very crazy ´cause on Christmas day it´s usually very hot. You know, to wake up on Christmas morning and to see the cactus trees and the rattlesnakes and the scorpions and all of the other things that live in my garden, it´s very different to sing “Reindeer” or things like that, you know, very, very different.

I´ve had Christmas there; I´ve had Christmas in Las Vegas – which is very surreal, very, very strange -; I´ve had Christmas in San Diego; I think I had one Christmas in the Bahamas; I´ve had Christmas times in Denmark and obviously in Germany. Nuremberg especially I remember one Christmas time… – So yeah, lots of different places with different types of feelings, you know. But I think Christmas for most people is when you´re at your home where you´re born, together with your family and the people you love.

MS: And finally: What is the price of being the Metal God?

Rob: Well, I think it´s a small price, but I think it´s responsibility. I think that you exist by your own achievements. I think that you get out of life what you put into life. And I think that when you have a relationship with the fans of your music, then I think it brings a certain element of responsibility into the whole experience. And I think if you recognize that, it can make you a better musician because you´re always endeavouring to do the best that you can do. And you´re also trying to maybe try things a little different, a little unusual, something that you think your real fans understand.

For somebody like myself that´s had a very comprehensive career in metal – and I´ve done many many things – that´s because I´ve loved the sense of adventure, and the sense of responsibility too. To myself and to my fans to try and get as much out of music as I possibly can. Because music is music is music, you know? You don´t wanna put yourself in a box and stay in one place. That´s crazy if you wanna do that; it´s like trapping yourself musically. The best musician has a completely open mind and takes off the blinkers and goes and searches and has fun and experiments and sometimes succeeds and sometimes doesn´t succeed. But surely that´s what being a musician is about: It´s about enjoying all the pleasures that all kinds of music can bring you!

This story will be published in WAY UP #35

MICHELLE YOUNG – The Smile Of Art

Montag, 27. April 2009

The interview of the year on the album of the year? For me without a doubt yes. Would you like to enter the “Marked For Madness” land? I invite you to take a close look into Michelle Young´s shining soul.

After talking to the solo artist and sometimes backing singer for GLASS HAMMER for more than two hours, I´m convinced that this wonderful human/woman/artist/singer/writer can even whisper with an open mouth!

 

MS: I know that most people compare your vocals and your music to Kate Bush. To me, it´s not that obvious. I know what they mean, but the similarities are not so strong in my opinion.

Michelle: I hear everything from Kate Bush to Tori Amos usually. Those are the two main ones but I´ve heard a handful of other ones that usually surprised me – but that´s okay! Everybody has to have a point of reference…

MS: What made the quality of your art increase to these heights?

Michelle: Just the fact that I knew that I wanted it to sound even better. And I met Clive (Nolan, ARENA keyboardist), and my writing had grown also into different things, you know had always moved and evolved. So I think everything collectively is the cause of it being of higher quality. I recorded at different studios, had different people engineering, different people producing, co-producing, things like that. Clive was a big reason it sounded a lot better, I have to say.

MS: How did you arrange your ideas and his ideas about the making of “Marked For Madness”? Any compromises?

Michelle: Oh yeah, hahaha! We got together several times and talked about the orchestration, arrangement, production. Yeah, there had to be some compromising, on both of our parts. I did my best to give him the freedom that I wanted him to have to use his expertise. But there were certain times when I had to say, “No! I think this.” or “I think that.” There were certain things I really wanted to stick to, and there were other things I gave him big freedom with. We worked very well together with that. And our ideas for the most part were really cohesive together.

MS: Did you record the album in England because the other artists were from there or for any other reasons as well?

Michelle: Yeah because Clive is from there and it was much easier for him working in his own studio and keyboard room to do the recording in England than it would be for him to fly over here, and me putting him in a studio situation he´s not familiar with. So it just worked a lot better.

MS: Why is it so unique what you do? Can the main reason be that you are from Tennessee and not from L.A. or New York?

Michelle: Well I guess I can say that I´m a transplant. Originally I was born in Milwaukee/Wisconsin, so I am also from the North. My sound definitely isn´t what you would consider a “Tennessee” sound. I don´t know… I have a strong will to do what I wanna do and to get done when I wanna get done. And God´s given me the opportunities to meet the people that I need to to… work!

MS: Rudi (Buttas, PUR guitarist and head of his own project RUDY´S JOURNEY) told me that you can be really… I don´t know if “stubborn” is the right word; it sounds too negative. I would say: You can be very fixed on your ideas. Is that right?

Michelle: Hahahaha! Yes I can. If I believe in something strongly enough. I´m guessing we´re not talking about musical ideas so much as if there´s something I wanna do I can achieve it. Is that what you´re talking about?

MS: Yes.

Michelle: Okay. Yeah I can be very stubborn, sort of like a bulldog when he bites in and he doesn´t let go. My motto is sort of, „Where there´s a will, there´s a way.” I´m not very happy with people who are just so easy to say „No” or „We can´t do this.” or „Oh, it´s impossible!” I don´t like that. I like to find answers!

MS: Aren´t you surprised sometimes what lyrics come out of you?

Michelle: Yeah sometimes inspiration takes time. My lyrics sometimes are not so planned. You know, it´s almost like I open my mouth and it comes out before I have to think and think and think about it!

MS: That´s a real gift!

Michelle: Yes it is, it is! I like to think over this inspiration. But sometimes I have to think how to say correctly what I want to say in a song. But usually, I just open my mouth and there it goes.

MS: You say, „There is hope for the world” („Hope”) and I think you´re right, but I don´t think there is hope for mankind – and you prove this with „Melissa´s Demise”!

Michelle: Right. But all we can do is… Actually, our hope lies not in humanity but spirituality and godliness. And if you look inside the lyrics you´ll find that that´s the answer: „Walk in the light”! I didn´t intentionally take that directly from the Bible. The Bible I use has two different versions to one page, so you can read acrossand see what each one says. And one of the versions had as the title of one particular chapter „Walk in the light,” and I found that´s exactly what I was talking about anyway in my music. It is mentioned „the keeper of the universe” – which is God – watch over me. It is a spiritual journey and unfortunately, we´re human and we have to go through human experiences. If we keep our eyes turned up and love our fellow man like we´re supposed to, life would be a lot better. We have to appreciate the human experiences; the joy, the pain… just the variety! It´s like, if you lived in a sunny place everyday, all the time, eventually sun wouldn´t be special anymore. You have to appreciate all aspects of being human! Not that you want to cling to the darkness. Some people have a bad way of clinging to the darkness but you have to take the darkness and learn from it, so that you can embrace the light and the goodness and really appreciate it even more once you´ve been through those experiences. So many people are so concerned about material things. They don´t put the emphasis on the right things and get caught up in everyday life.

MS: The most obscure tune on “Marked For Madness” is “Pull The Wool.” Do songs like this or “Right Of Passage” have a certain function? They sound like a part of the whole puzzle, not like something completely different. But they ARE, from the making and sometimes without vocals. What are the thoughts behind these songs?

Michelle: “Right Of Passage” is a piece I originally wrote as a duet for violin. I was teaching myself violin. I love the violin, it´s a beautiful instrument. And Clive took what I had done and arranged it for orchestration. It´s really great the way he did it. He brought a new magic to it that I… You know, what I had was nice. He brought something very special to it that to me, made it one of the best things on the album. But the meaning behind the title – and it´s “right,” not “rite” – is that I have the right to produce whatever kind of music I want to or go whatever path I want to. I don´t have to have trained 30 years on the violin before I´m qualified to write something or before I can let my heart write something for it. A lot of people say, “Oh, you can´t do that! You have to study for years and years!” Once again we come into that “You cannot” attitude. I don´t like that. So to me, my title of that is: I wrote this, and I´m allowed to do because I want to, haha. Because I can! And you can´t tell me that I can´t!

MS: All of your songs are your “babies” I know, but is there any on the album where you say, “This is the one I put the most of myself into.” or “This is the direction I want to go into in the future.”?

Michelle: Puh, there´s such a variety! That´s a difficult question! There are some things I guess I feel a little stronger about but everything I feel so strongly about on this album. I had even more material than what´s on there originally. We had to cut away and cut away. And even some of the songs that originally were written for “Marked For Madness,” that were part of the original concept, are not on the album! Maybe someday there´ll be a “Return To Madness” CD…

MS: Would be great!

Michelle: There was so much material to choose from! Originally, “Pull The Wool” was a very long, heavier, progressive rock-sounding thing that I did. And we just didn´t have room, and we had something so special at the beginning. I didn´t want to lose that. And I didn´t want to lose the statement that I said at the beginning, all of the phrases. To me, that´s an integral part of the album, all of the statements. A lot of people say, “I don´t understand this, I don´t understand that.” Well, read it – use your imagination if you can´t hear it, because maybe sometimes when you listen to music you hear the music more than you do the lyrics. There´s something meaningful behind EVERYTHING said on this album. There´s nothing frivolous at all. Im “Mystery Man Summoned,” at the end it´s said, “It´s been a mystery to me. Let me have it all someday.” That´s sort of me putting karma into… just throwing it in. Just sort of sitting back in wonderment and going, “Wow, how is all of this happening?!” You know what I´m saying? It´s like everything is just really a big mystery. We don´t have all of the answers to everything. We don´t know why this happens, why that happens, how we got here sometimes, you know, but then I fit in my own wish for the future to have it all. I really wanted to include that.

MS: Can you explain, maybe by the example of “Mystery Man Summoned,” how you arranged all the different voices? Must be a lot of work!

Michelle: Yeah it is, hahaha! It REALLY is… But it´s weird because when I write these things – I come into my own studio when I´m writing – I just do it, you know, like I do the bass layers or playing the keyboards. Like “Mystery Man Summoned” I wrote on the keyboard whereas “Melissa´s Demise” I wrote on the bass! So I write on different instruments sometimes. A lot of times I sat at the keyboard and started writing and singing and I heard these things in my head, like the particular sound of my old-fashioned Disney harmonies. Are you familiar with old Disney movies? With that big, broad harmony thing going on sometimes?

MS: I know what you mean but I don´t like the singing in most Disney movies. To me, in most cases it interrupts the flow of the story.

Michelle: I grew up watching Disney movies. I have a ton of ´em now! I like the older ones better sometimes because they´re styled differently, musically and visually, of course. So what I did, I just started layering vocal upon vocal layer until I had all my harmony parts in the places that I wanted ´em.

MS: In my favorite – that´s why I asked for yours – “Spider´s Thread” you say, “I think I know my fate.” What is it?

Michelle: Hahaha! It´s… Well… It´s knowing what your path is but not wanting to totally accept that you have no control over it in a way. I don´t mean to sound like I believe necessarily in pre-destination. I believe we all have our own choices. But I think everybody has a path in life. And you can fight it or you can follow it. And if you follow your path, there are certain things you´ll know, like… In this particular case, in this song the person, the singer or the writer, author, how you wanna say it, is looking for a love, a romance. EVERYBODY is looking for love and romance! And in this particular song, the person is saying basically, “I´ve been through so many relationships. I know what my fate is: At the end of the day, I won´t have this relationship anymore. I´ll be alone again.”

MS: When you write in second person like in “Marked For Madness” or third person, how often is it you that you mean?

Michelle: Ah, you could say that a lot of it is often I guess. Sometimes, like in “Walk In The Light,” it´s almost like a peptalk to myself, a self-examination, looking in the mirror. But I also think that there´s something that can be applied to the world. Therefore I can share it as such, not just as a totally personal experience.

MS: “Marked For Madness” is a very strong image!

Michelle: I wanted it to be strong! Yeah I wanted it to be very strong! Well, if you look at it from a personal standpoint, I´ve been through a lot in life. A big, BIG, BIG life, okay? I have very good things happen to me, and I have very bad things happen to me – and not so much in-between. It was something really good, something really bad. And between that and knowing where you want to be, all of these things, the bad days, the bad incidents, all of that together can drive you crazy! Or if you wanna say, mark you for madness. If you have these incidents in life that you know are gonna push towards what someone would call “madness” or “insanity.” But everybody, every human pretty much will experience these events, you know, good things, bad things. But sometimes it just seems like some people live a little more dramatically than others, you know…

MS: And who marks you for madness? Is it life itself or a person?

Michelle: It´s life. It´s life in general.

MS: The word “madness” has a negative flavor, but I guess it´s not always something bad.

Michelle: Well, madness can be positive in a creative way. If you think about Edgar Allan Poe and some other people who were very creative but considered mad at the same time. There´s one meaning after another after another which equals. This is the logical title. This is the logical thing.

MS: You said that “Marked For Madness” (the song) reveals a lot about yourself. What do you think, what picture do people get from your art about what kind of person you are?

Michelle: You know what? I haven´t a clue! I really, really haven´t a clue! I´m the world´s worst at knowing how I appear to other people. I´m serious with that. I have no idea! I wish I knew because you really need to know what you look like to other people. But I just don´t know, so I leave it to just being me. Whatever they see is what they see. If they like it – good. If they don´t – that´s okay, too. I´m not for everyone.

MS: Maybe you are too beautiful that some people say, “Just another pretty face!”

Michelle: I don´t know about that. One thing I should point out to those are these people that I´ve worked with. I´ve had to be reminded by my friends, “Michelle, they are not working with you because they think you´re pretty! They might think you´re pretty in addition, but they´re working with you because you´re talented!” I don´t even think about it. I underplay my own talents and skills sometimes. I don´t know how to say it… You know how sometimes it´s hard to take a compliment? You´re proud of what you do but you´re not wearing it like a badge on your shoulder. These people are working with me and it´s not that I´m taking it for granted because I cherish the opportunity to have met these people, get along with them and work with them musically. But I underplay the fact that they´re seeing a talent there. I see myself being plain – and normal.

MS: How important is styling and looks for you? Because in the booklet of the RJ CD you look completely different than on “Marked For Madness.”

Michelle: Yeah I do. I looked pretty tired in that booklet because I was. I had just come off from recording the vocals for my CD in England and that was so much work, so hard!! And I was so tired when I arrived in Germany. Also I had rushed to do my hair and my makeup. I like to look nice sometimes. When I want to, I can look very nice. But I had another guy who did an article on me for a paper here in town. And he said something that I chuckle about when I think about it, and I have to share this with you: In my private time he called me “the poster child for casual dress.” But when I´ll go to work tonight, to sing, I´ll look nice. I make sure I´ll look good. But I´m not one of these people that wake up every day and has to have my makeup on before I can step foot out the door. I´m definitely not like that. I´m very, very relaxed. That doesn´t look I don´t like to look good. I´m just more casual.

MS: I prefer natural beauty. Most people overdo with styling and cover this beauty, even hide it. Maybe they think it doesn´t exist.

Michelle: Yeah. I think sometimes that´s the case. You gotta have self-confidence to a certain degree and just be comfortable with yourself. If my friends drop over, I´m not worried because I have to comb my hair. They don´t care; they´re not here to see my hair combed. They´re here to see me! But I have to say that I´ve been very, very blessed to have a good smile that conveys my spirit.

MS: I think the long solo in “Madness” wasn´t possible on “Siren.” You weren´t in the state to get the idea and do it that way at the time. Am I right with that?

Michelle: The way the song structure goes… See, when I structured everything on “Song Of The Siren,” it was all instinctual. I haven´t studied this. I try to make educated decisions when I make decisions now in my music. But “Song Of The Siren” was totally a raw, just feeling-it thing. And what came out came out.

MS: If you could record “Song Of The Siren” again, with all the knowledge that you collected during the making of “Madness” but under the same circumstances, would it be very different from how it turned out 5 years ago?

Michelle: Wow! Oh, of course it would have to be different. I know one thing: I would use a metronome, hahaha! I used to hate metronomes because a lot of my music is expressive, with tempo-changes and ritards and things like that. I start with I didn´t like metronomes. But now I´ve gotten used to them – Thank you, Clive! – I think it would be technically a lot better. But then again: Could I create the same thing??? A lot of it was creative impulse to a degree. Like when I was recording the title-track “Song Of The Siren,” this I recorded layer upon layer. I would put a bass down – and I don´t mean a bass instrument, just a bass sound -, like a keyboard bed, whatever I use as the bottom. And then I will go on top and decorate it and talk and tell a story till I got to the end. And I just did my best to express the story musically in my own way. I´m not THE guitarist, but I´ve spent a whole weekend on the guitar solo trying to punch in… You know, you can´t punch in and out when you´re by yourself. I´ve tried it. You know, you take your toes and you push, hahaha. Doesn´t work that well, so I would have to do the whole thing in one take to get it right. So I worked really hard on that until I got what I thought was acceptable for me and I could move on. I know there are people out there who can take what I´ve done and do it ten times better than I played it and make it sound even more beautiful. So I´m not always the best person to express my ideas – although there´s a certain charm to some of these demos and stuff that can´t be duplicated or replicated. And you have to be aware of that when you go through a recording situation, like when Clive and I are working together. I will bring in a demo, and I say, “No, I want it to sound like this and that!” And he will go, “Why not use your demo then?!” Just being sarcastic to point out, “Hey, we´re trying to go for something a little different here!”, so that I wouldn´t be so intent on sticking to a particular sound or feel. And like I said, there were certain times when he would give and say, “Okay, whatever you want. It´s not important to have it this or that way.”

MS: I can imagine that you can get very angry when something doesn´t turn out the way you want it because you have such a strong vision.

Michelle: It can be very frustrating. You have to be flexable, or else you could just die being frustrated and feeling horrible because you can never get anything exactly the way you want it. That´s why I like to learn my own tools and things, for graphics, expressing myself musically. If I really, really want something to sound a particular way, if I can´t find somebody to do it where it gonna sounds like that, it´s up to me to learn to do it – or it´s just not gonna be done and only stay in my head.

MS: Almost every song on both of your albums has very radical breaks. Are the songs always in your mind the way they turn out? Or is it due to the time you spend on writing them?

Michelle: Oh no! When I write, things usually come pretty quickly. ‘It´s not a matter of working and working on it. Usually, I hear it, I do it – and that´s the way it is! If I don´t like something, I change it, but the breaks and stuff come while I´m doing it. I hear these things and I follow it. Like I said, sometimes I don´t like where it´ll go or sometimes I have to think about, “Where do I hear it going?” but I don´t like something that sits in one place so long that you get bored with it. I don´t like that. That doesn´t mean I haven´t written pop music or other types of music. But when I´m feeling totally free with my music… When I know I´m writing something that is just coming from me, could be progressive or whatever, usually it´s gonna have these changes and stuff in it. But sometimes songs come to me that are like pop or country. And when they come to me, they come to me in that form, and that´s how I´ve got to express them! I´ve got a song called “Kiss Me,” it´s sort of a jazzy, sultry, torchy tune; just piano and vocal. But I kept hearing the song over and over when I´ll be driving down the road. And finally one day, I said, “Okay, I´m gonna get this out of my head. It drives me crazy!” And I sang it into my little handy tape-recorder that I usually carry with me, and then I went home and did it – and there it was, hahaha! I got rid of it, I could free my mind from it for a while because it was coming to me. I´ll be driving down the road and start singing this thing. So it´s automatic: When I hear it this way, I try to reproduce it the way I hear it. And therefore, it´s in the style of whatever style it´s in!

MS: When I hear you sing or read your emails or now we´re talking, I have the feeling that you always smile. Do you?

Michelle: Hahaha! I do, quite a bit! Qute a bit… I like to be happy. And I like to be around people who are happy also. And that´s just me! I´m glad that´s who I am. I don´t wanna be like a moody dark artist, like a gothic, you know. I´m not out to by any means represent myself as being gothic, even though there are dark elements in this, and the photographer took it a little too gothic for what I have asked of him. Definitely, he took it way too far. It was nothing really like what I had planned originally. Once again, you asked about being upset about things like that. Oooh! For the money I´ve spent with this guy, and the results I got, I was veeery upset. But what can I do? Either you have just wasted a whole lot of money or you do what you can with it. That´s my motto. Because I researched on the internet. I looked at people´s work. I found this guy whose work I liked. He lived in Atlanta which is 2 hours away; big metropolis to have a good pool of resources. And I liked his work! And I talked to him on the phone, and I explained everything. I thought we´ll be seeing eye to eye. Come the day this year, I drove to Atlanta, and it didn´t turn out the way I had hoped… But it´s not so bad, the way the graphic artist and I worked together to make the final images. It´s nothing I´m embarrassed about, okay? I was hoping to find something as good or better than the cover for „Song Of The Siren.” That´s what I was hoping for. This guy didn´t give that to me at all in my opinion.

MS: What went wrong? What do you think did he see in you that he wanted to bring out? And which sides of your personality did you want to emphasize?

Michelle: He heard the word „madness” and wanted to cling to the „madness” part. But we both agreed we didn´t want to overdo it, okay? So, my idea was… Did you see „Bram Stoker´s Dracula” by any chance?

MS: Yeah of course!

Michelle: Very good! This guy did not. I did my best to get the photographer to watch the movie to see what I was talking about. Do you remember the scene where the two girls are in the storm in the garden, and they are wearing the night gowns? There is a sensuality to it, but not an overt-sexuality, okay? That scene I wanted on the front of my album…

MS: Ah!

Michelle: …with me wearing something light, with the wind blowing in it in a dark background, mysterious background, stormy, okay? Obviously that did not happen. The woman that he got to pick up the clothing, she supposedly works on movie sets and stuff in North Carolina. Everything she brought was to gothic, too vintage, too heavy. The material was too heavy, you couldn´t move it! And I had explained to him that one of the things I liked about his photographs, one in particular, was that he had movement going on there. The wind was blowing this girl´s dress… That´s what I liked! I made a point to tell him everything that I weanted, everything I liked about what he did in the works I had already seen, so that we would come together in this. He didn´t. He failed, haha.

MS: Too me, it looks too much like a session (which it was indeed) and not natural.

Michelle: Right. You know what? To me, the most expressive, totally Michelle picture on there is the „pointing picture” on the back. That´s me! That was an accidental picture. He didn´t even mean to do it. That wasn´t supposed to be one of the nice creative shots he was doing. But I chose that one because it was the only thing that had movement.

MS: That was another thing that came to my mind. I guess you had a lot more pictures. So what kind of impression did you want people to get from you?

Michelle: There weren´t a lot more pictures!

MS: Oh no?!

Michelle: No! We spent a whole day and loads of film on these particular poses or variations of these particular poses. So there wasn´t a lot to choose from! It was horrible! It was a nightmare for me!!!

MS: Some of the instrumental parts on „Siren,” especially on the title track, could be on a soundtrack also, but they are a bit too long to me.

Michelle: My point like on “Song Of The Siren” was that this is all me! All of it´s me! Some of it is a little more appealing or polished or better-looking than other parts. Maybe the voice is nicer than the music, but it´s all me! And to me, I just wanted to express myself. It wasn´t: “Oh, what are people gonna think?” And you´re interested in what people are gonna think! You wanna do your best job. But I don´t make an album just to try to make some money, haha.

MS: What I miss a bit on “Madness” is the irony of your first album, something like “Les Talk” or “Another Frog”, haha.

Michelle: “Another Frog” would be sort of similar to maybe “Mystery Man Summoned,” lyrically, as far as, you know, contents, not actual words. The equivalent of “Les Talk” on this new album would be “Melissa´s Demise” because it´s a true story that I´m relaying. Both of ´em are true stories!

MS: Oh! “Les Talk” appears like a weird dream to me!

Michelle: Ah! No, it´s a true story. You heard of Les Paul? He invented the Les Paul guitars. He designed them. I met him several years ago because a friend of mine was helping him put together a second studio in his house. That was little over 10 years ago. I went to do some work with this guy in Pennsylvania. Then we went to New Jersey and we´re gonna meet Les. We were around New York the day before, and while I was gone, someone was supposed to come in and feed my snake for me. And they came in and saw that my place had been broken into, my office, and so they called Les and told him that my office had been broken into. So when I first met him, he shook my hand and he said, “Are you Michelle?” I said, “Yeah!” And he said, “You need to call home. Your office has been broken into!” So like the best and worstmoment of your life combined. Like I said: Really good things and really bad things, sometimes in the same breath. So that´s my story of meeting Les Paul and talking all night with him; sitting there, eating spaghetti in the kitchen while the guys worked in the studio. We got along very well – I mean, really, really well. We really liked each other a lot. He´s a good guy, very good man. He´s very intelligent, has a wonderful spirit about him.

MS: Do you like words?

Michelle: Oh yeah, I love languages! I´ve studied a little bit of German and French. When I was in school, in university, I sang in German, French, Italian, Latin… And I´ve also studied a little Spanish, too.

MS: One thing I miss in English often is the emphasis. And that´s a strong point of your voice. The middle part of “Marked For Madnes,” for example, is really scary!

Michelle: That´s what I appreciate about the natural gift: being able to sound like whatever I want to pretty much. I enjoy that! It´s a whole other color and flavor – and it´s me! I don´t have to depend on anyone else. It´s just another way I got to express myself.

MS: And which mic do you use?

Michelle: The microphone I use in my studio is my “baby,” a Neumann M49 1953. And I use a Telefunken tube preamp 72 to go with it. So I can use it in the digital domain without losing all the warmth of the analog. In England, I used whatever Clive had in the studio.

MS: When I listened to RUDY´S JOURNEY, I asked myself; “How can 4 people write on one lyric???”

Michelle: Because everybody sits together in one room or one person alters things. Like one thing I did: If I have a writing credit on “Rudy´s Journey” – not including this one coming up because I´m writing lyrics also for this one on my own – and it may have co-writing credits because someone may go in and edit some of this, too. I don´t have contro lover all that. But I was asked to do some English editing. Sometimes Germans have difficulties with lyrics in English. You can´t rightly understand what they´re saying or maybe they pronounce something wrong. So I´d ask him, “What are you trying to say? What is the storyhere?” And then – because this is my craft, and I know how to do it – I would take and shape it into whatever need to be said to express what he was telling me needed to be said.

MS: Can you give an example for that?

Michelle: Well, “Harder Day”…

MS: That´s the best of the ones that you sing!

Michelle: Well, thank you! You know, I think lyrically it´s more precise than some of the others. They had something there, and I was like, “What are you trying to say here?” ´cause it really didn´t say anything. It gave you a little hint, but it didn´t tell anything. So I got the story from them: They wanted to talk about a homeless person, someone who is addicted to alcohol and sleeping in the alleys. And so I´ve made the description where when you hear this song you hopefully see someone in an alley that´s stuck on booze.

MS: After working with such great musicians like Clive, Doane Perry (JETHRO TULL) or Karl Groom (THRESHOLD), the duets with Mike and Steve, are there any dreams left?

Michelle: Yeah, there´re definitely dreams that I have left that I want to achieve. I like to be able to do this fulltime, without having to do other jobs. I sing five nights a week with THE HOUSE BAND. But what I like doing the best is working on these albums, flying back and forth to Europe… I love Europe! I tell you, Rudi and his people have treated me like a queen! I can´t ask for anything more in life. That´s the best! I tell you what my goals in life are, and then maybe you can understand from here. These are my goals: I don´t necessarily want to be rich and famous although if that happens, that´s great.

1) I wanna have an appreciative audience.

2) I wanna have the respect of my peers.

And 3) (We´re still working on this) I want to be financially stable with this stuff. And that´s where my “!Where there´s a will, there´s a way” comes in the play: You have to find the path that it takes to get either way you wanna go.

MS: Sometimes when I listen to music that´s very ambitious I ask myself, “Will people take the time to listen? Will they even notice it?” But your music is so dramatic and goes so deep… You force people to listen! They cannot escape!

Michelle: Yeah. But sometimes it goes right over people´s head. I´m looking for people who will enjoy what I´m doing. I´ve already realized: If I was gonna be a bubblegum pop queen, that would have happened when I was 16. I think my style of music is gonna attract a more mature audience. Not necessarily agewise so much as their listening tastes and where they are and what they can digest and what they can´t. I want my music to be uplifting, I want it to be meaningful. I don´t want it to be just something they whistle to or hum to. When somebody listens to it, I want him to really feel the lyrics. But you never know. Sometimes there are certain things that I just think, „Oh! This is the way I want it! Everybody´s gonna pick up on it!” – and nobody does! There´s always something in an album you think, „Ah! People will pick up on this!” – and they don´t! But that´s okay because it´s still there!

MS: When you were here in Germany to record, did you notice any differences between European and American artists? I mean they say that Europeans are too serious and Americans have more this „Let´s do it!” attitude. Is that true?

Michelle: Oh man! I might say that for England, the people that I worked with in England. There was not so much humor… There was not a very light mood in the studio, to put it that way. But in Germany… Gosh, we had a GREAT time! It was one big party, hahaha! Oh, we got our work done, that was the first and foremost thing, of course, and we worked long hours. But it was a lot of fun. Even at the worst moment it was better than some good moments at a bad job, you know. It was a lot of fun, so I always went to bed feeling really good because at the end of the evening, after we had this big long day of work, and then right before we quit, something very special would happen. Like the very first day: It set the mood for our recording in Germany. At the end of the day, I go to do my wailing at the end of a song. I come out of the studio and the engineer (Torsten Kühn) and Rudi are doing the „We´re not worthy!” bow, haha (from „Wayne´s World”, of course!). They made it so great, so comfortable. We had a very good and happy attitude in the studio.

MS: Do you see any weaknesses yet in your voice? Anything where you say, „Oh, I really have to work on this before I record the next album!”?

Michelle: Hahaha! I don´t think of them necessarily as weaknesses. The way I´m approaching the next album which I already started writing is, „Okay, I want to say this and I want to say that!” This time I´m actually thinking, „What would be interesting? I like this idea. Is it going to be interesting to other people?!” I want to do some more what I call experimenting also. I wanna try to come up with some new sounds. I know you have to have a consistancy in your sound to not lose your identity. And I know you cannot get away from sounding like yourself. And there´s nothing wrong with that. I´m not trying to get away from that, I just want to expand.

MS: You will certainly never lose your identity, because no matter what you do musically, there will always be your voice!

Michelle: But I want to do even more things with my voice! And I want to do more things musically, too. I have a lot of ideas. And I´m also leaving my mind open for new ideas because I haven´t finished writing yet. I´m putting this next one together, and it has to be more calculated because it´s gonna be even more complex.

MS: Don´t overdo the calculation!

Michelle: Well, I´m only calculating to the point where everything is cohesive. I don´t want any anchronisms going on. You know, tentatively it´s going to be three separate stories which would allow me to work with three different setups and situations if I want it to. But the thing is, theoretically, at this point, it will be entitled „Three Tales For The Telling,” and it will be three separate stories. And I´ve already got the ideas and stuff, and I´ve already started writing some of the music. And already I have a variety of sounds. But I have to make sure that within a story, the songs say what I want them to say, that they tell the story. But I also want the songs to be able to stand on their own. I don´t want it to be as much of a rock opera, that each song depends on the other songs. I would like that you can pull a song out of the album and say, „Hey, I like this song!” And then somewhere you find out, „Oh, it belongs in a story somewhere!,” not „What does this mean? I don´t understand. Ah, it´s in the story!”

MS: That´s a fine line. You must be careful not to lose balance.

Michelle: Well, once again we come back to one of your not-so-favorite: Disney! The older Disney was pretty good at making songs that make sense where they go and tell the story the way they are supposed to do. You can pull them out of the context if you want to and it´s a cute little song. Or you can stick it in the musical or the film or whatever and it makes complete sense where it is and it´s appropriate and helps tell a story.

MS: When did you start writing songs to bring it that close to perfection (whatever that means…)?

Michelle: Âs time goes on I´m trying not to depend so much on natural abilities because natural is not always right or accurate. That´s why we have trainings for certain things. And I wanna train myself to do what I want. If I´m looking at a Rembrandt, and I say, „This is what I want at the end of the day,” then I have to train myself to make my brush strokes, use the right colors and everything, so that at the end of the day I have my Rembrandt. Of course I want it refreshing. There will be obviously variety because I can´t stick to one thing. I can´t have an album that sounds the same all the way through. There´s gonna be different moods. You´ve gotta have light moments, dark moments, funny moments… I love humor! Humor is very very important. And I think you find a very tongue-in-cheek attitude in some of my music, like „Mystery Man Summoned.”

MS: The facettes are still so fascinating! When you circle around the album now, do you still find new doors to get into it, that you didn´t even know they existed before?

Michelle: Actually yes. In a very non-narcistic way I still listen to the album. Because sometimes, I sit back and I don´t even think of it as being me! It´s not me! It´s „I´m listening to someone´s album.” So it even takes me somewhere else. Believe it or not, when the September 11 thing happened, I actually turned to my own writing, not as if it were coming from me, but looking to it for comfort and inspiration – the „Walk In the Light” again, you know, that there is a purpose.

MS: That´s why I think you´re right when you say, „There is hope for the world.” For the world yes, but not for mankind. See, we tend to destroy what we love – and that includes ourselves.

Michelle: Nothing lasts forever. That´s why I say, „I think I know my fate.” When I was growing up, I took for granted that I had my cousins around me. We went to school together, we spent the nights together, we were in girl scouts together – we did everything together. I never dreamt one day we would all be separated all over the world and not see each other again. You just take for granted that everything is going to be the same, always. And it´s not! Nothing ever stays. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes.

MS: „The Innocent One” has a similar tone to my lyric „Soulmate.”

Michelle: „The Innocent One” I truly took from an innocent point of view. That was very carefree. That was sort of… Are you familiar with „Peter Pan”?

MS: Sure.

Michelle: For me, that was in a way the same spirit as „Peter Pan” because it was definitely the bottom line of „Innocent.” When I first heard „Peter Pan” I said, „Oh, this is the perfect song for me. I´ve got to do this song!” And of course it was one that Rudi wanted me to do. But Mike Sadler did a slightly different version on the album, called „Breath Of Life.” Now „Peter Pan” came first, and he wanted to change some of the lyrics! And he came up with „Breath Of Life”! That was supposed to replace „Peter Pan”! But I told Rudi, „You can´t do this!” And I told Mike when we were in the studio – and this was funny because I had just met Mike, but I had to disagree with him upfront because he wanted to change these lyrics. He took out the words „Peter Pan,” „Mary Poppins,” and he put the word „lust” in there. And to me, that just totally changed the idea because the whole has an adult theme anyway, each song has an adult theme. This was the one song that has a childlike innocence and fantasy that could take you away. And to take away those elements and add the word „lust” was just to destroy the song in my opinion.

MS: Now I know what Rudi can do it´s a pity that PUR are not more risky. As a solo artist you don´t have that problem.

Michelle: Exactly. I´m my own label, hahaha!

MS: Is there any negative thing in that as well or is it just heaven on earth?

Michelle: Oh wow! It´s good and bad. The bad point is that I have to take care of all the business stuff. If I would just be concentrating on the business that would be one thing, if I would just concentrating on the music, that would be another. But to try to do everything and do all these… I have so many responsibilities that finding time to do everything correctly is difficult. Very difficult.

This story was published at SEA OF TRANQUILITY webzine (seaoftranquility.org)

AFTER FOREVER – The 5th combination

Samstag, 10. Januar 2009

It may sound overbearing at first sight, but it´s remarkable any time: guitarist Sander Gommans mentions the new album of his band and METALLICA´s “Black Album” in the same breath. Two different worlds musically, but there are common things: with both the fifth production is self-titled, and with both every record was straighter, more goal-directed, just better than the one before. Well, you all know how it went on with METALLICA: commercially mega stardom, musically… err…

In the info you say that this album is named after the band because it´s a summary of everything you have done so far. But can it be that it´s also like a new beginning for you in some way?

In some way it is. I mean, of course the new record deal is also a new beginning. But you have to see that we made a lot of albums in different styles. This time it´s the first time that we have actually combined all these styles into one album. And that´s why I think it really deserves to have the title “After Forever”. There are a lot of styles that you hear on the first 4 albums passing by on this album. It´s like a new energy flowing through this album, combining all this stuff, and adding some new things.

I wrote in my review that I´m not familiar enough with your new material yet to say if it´s your BEST record to date, but it seems to be the most explosive, the most colourful, shortly: the most intense.

Yeah. I think these words fit the album. It´s a very loud album, but also very dynamic because of its many styles. Everything you hear is pretty intense because the sound is intense. And the classical orchestra makes the emotions more extreme. So yeah, I think you´re right!

After many listenings it came to my mind that the essence of “After Forever” is in “Cry With A Smile”, both musically and in the contrast in the title.

It fits with the album, that´s true. You can have several emotions that are opposite, but you can have them all at once when you listen to the album. And our music also reflects that a little bit, you know. Sometimes it´s very sad, but it´s also very energetic and powerful. I guess you can call it “Cry With A Smile” or something like that. Cool observation!

(weiterlesen …)