One of the most recent signings to The Laser's Edge Sensory label is SpiRitual, a band/project spearheaded by Darkseed vocalist Stefan Hertrich. Combining dark & heavy guitar riffs, death & doom metal male vocals, ethereal female vocals, progressive elements, and plenty of Ethnic and World Music influences, their brand new album Pulse is an exciting and varied listen sure to please metal, gothic, and progressive rock fans. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo spoke with multi-instrumentalist Stefan Hertrich regarding this new project-read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Stefan, before we begin to talk about SpiRitual and the new album "Pulse", can you give us an update on Darkseed?
Stefan: I left Darkseed several weeks ago in order to have more time for my ethnical projects Shiva In Exile (Ethno Gothic) and SpiRitual (Ethno Metal). 14 years were enough! It´s unsure whether the band will look for a new vocalist and go on, but I wish them good luck – either with Darkseed or/and with their upcoming musical activities. It was a great time and we had much fun together, but when you feel that it would be better to leave the past behind and dare new challenges, you really should do a "painful cut" instead of remaining static. The music world has so much to offer, which is the reason why I concentrate on my ethnical influenced projects now.
SoT: Can you talk a little bit about the early ideas behind the formation of SpiRitual, and how you put this project together?
Stefan: In 1999 I already wrote an ethnic metal CD with Christian Bystron (Megaherz), the project was called Betray My Secrets (the album can be obtained in the store of www.spi-ritual.com, although I don´t know if any distributors still sell it). Unfortunately the label went bankrupt during the promotional phase and the album wasn't very popular. I liked this "ethno mixed with metal" experiment and always wanted to do a 2nd Betray My Secrets album, but Christian was too busy with his main band Megaherz. So I decided to form a new project and called it SpiRitual. You could say that "Pulse" is a sort of "unofficial 2nd Betray My Secrets album". Putting this project together was easy, because I know many musicians and have many contacts with people from "exotic" countries, besides that I have a small home studio where I can make pre-productions of my albums without any costs.
SoT: The album "Pulse" is pretty diverse, and should appeal to not only extreme and gothic metal fans, but also to the prog rock community-how has reaction to the CD been so far?
Stefan: The reviews are surprisingly good. I didn´t expect that the metal audience would accept an album with a "warm" atmosphere instead of "nordic" elements. Luckily I was wrong! However, I expected that more people occupy themselves with the message of the album (multimedia section texts, lyrics etc.), but not many people do. But well, I am also pleased if they just like my music !
SoT: Ethnic elements showing up in metal music seems to be a hot thing these days, as bands like Orphaned Land, Moonspell, Nile, and others have interjected all sorts of different elements into their music that reflect various cultures and traditions. Can you talk a little of the ethic styles and instruments that were used on "Pulse"?
Stefan: I mainly use instruments from the near/middle east, for example Darbuka percussion, Djembe percussion, Ney flute, Duduk flute, Zourna flute and various "small" instruments like rattles, etc. Big thanks to the book author Dr. Ph. Christian Raetsch who provided flute recordings, performed by a Shaman from Columbia, as well as rain forest bird sounds, etc. As you can see, much stuff isn´t just taken from sound libraries but was really recorded in "ethnic" surroundings.
SoT: Can you talk about the various musicians and singers, especially Yana Veva, and how they came to join the project?
Stefan: The most important persons to mention are Dr. Phil. Christian Rätsch – a book author and scientist who provided sound material -, Deviant Creations, a Russian video team that was responsible for the fantastic video of "Pulse" and my friend Konstantin "Bonez" Viktorov from Moscow who handled all graphical aspects of SpiRitual (cover design, booklet design, webdesign). I got to know all of them during my time as vocalist/songwriter of Darkseed. When I came up with the SpiRitual idea they didn´t hesitate to support me, and I am very thankful for their idealistic work! Christian Bystron of Megaherz (and former Betray My Secrets) contributed some great guitar solos, and other musicians appeared as guests as well (Gaby Koss – ex Haggard, Rene Berthiame – Equilibrium, Maurizio Guolo – Darkseed). I think the greatest aspect of SpiRitual is the selfless work all those mentioned persons have done! Ooops, I forgot to mention Yana Veva, (laughs). She was recommended to me by a Russian record label, and I immediately liked her ethnic way of singing (she usually sings in a band called Theodor Bastard). Yana and I are currently working on the 2nd Shiva In Exile album (ethno gothic) and she will handle all vocals.
SoT: What other artists and bands, current or past, influence you musically?
Stefan: Artists really inspiring me are Hans Zimmer (soundtrack Black Hawk Down) and the band Dead Can Dance. I also adore the simple but effective songwriting of Rammstein. Hmmm… Loreena McKennith has the best instrumental recording quality on her albums. Apart from that I don´t have any favourite bands or influences and I don´t listen to music that much, because it tires my ears -not because of loudness, but I overuse my ears too much if I listen to music all the time plus write my own music. The emotions in music get lost if I occupy myself with it twenty-four-seven.
SoT: Are there any plans to take SpiRitual into a live enviromment?
Stefan: I think SpiRitual would be an interesting project for concert bookers, especially here in Germany where medieval influenced bands are very popular (SpiRitual could be a sort of "counterpart"), however, forming a stable line-up would cost too much money and there are also technical difficulties that would have to be solved. The guitars are tuned so low that you would just hear noise on stage, I think it´s 8-9 halftones – when I recorded the bass guitars in studio we had big difficulties in hearing whether the tone I played was correct, because it was too deep for the human ears! (laughs)
SoT: How did you come in contact with Ken Golden & Sensory?
Stefan: He occasionally browsed on the SpiRitual website and then contacted me. It´s the first time I am working together with a record company from the USA, therefore this cooperation is quite interesting for me! A regular communication between band and label is important for Ken, which was one main aspect why I wanted this album to be released on Sensory. I am sick of labels not replying to emails, etc. Apart from that, his releases are really impressive and I am proud of the fact that "Pulse" was released by a company that focuses on the QUALITY of music, not just on the quantity (sales etc.).
SoT: In your opinion, what make up some of the most important elements of a song, whether it be metal, prog, or pop? The guitar riffs? The vocal melody? The beat? The atmosphere? The rhythms?
Stefan: Every single element is important, but there´s no ultimate definition of how a song has to sound in order to become successful. Take for instance the song structures of SpiRitual, they are completely weird and make absolutely no sense, (laughs), but still the songs – in my opinion – sound like songs. Songs of Rammstein or Nirvana for instance, work completely different. They are very simple, have an easy structure BUT they sound convincing. I dare to say that writing simple songs is more difficult than writing complicated songs. The gap between "the song sounds cheap" and "the song sounds awesome" is very small when you write easy songs. Every element is "naked" and not hidden behind complicated riffs, sound bombardments etc. Another band I admire for their songwriting is Dead Can Dance. On the one hand they have very boring structures and the songs are very long, or they suddenly end unexpectedly, but still, I can listen to them again and again and can find so many emotions in their music. I am currently working on the 2nd Shiva In Exile album and often try to write easy songs or overtake structures of Dead Can Dance, but it simply doesn´t work! My songwriting brain simply works different, and this is what makes the music world so interesting!
SoT: Death metal growls paired with clean female vocals have been tried by other bands, not always successfully, yet you have pulled it off quite nicely on "Pulse". How hard is it to pair the two and make it work?
Stefan: Thanks! Well, it wasn´t difficult, because even before I started songwriting for "Pulse" I had an "image" of the CD in my head and knew how it has to sound. All you have to do is be picky (in other words be patient while songwriting, throw away parts, try again and again and again) and after some time both the grunting elements and ethnic elements simply fit together. It´s just a matter of time. You could also call it "trial and error" principle.
SoT: What does the future hold for this band, and will it be an actual band at some point?
Stefan: I didn´t think about the future of SpiRitual yet, because I am currently working on the Shiva In Exile album. The future will tell! If I will write a metal album in 2007 it will for sure be SpiRitual!
(Click here to read our reviews of Pulse)