Sunday 30 November 2014

Interview with Whalerider

Whalerider's debut album is an intriguing and stunning mix of Sludge, Stoner, Doom, Ambient, Grunge and Experimental Rock. It's not a straight forward album by any means. Thanatos is a complex and mysterious journey you have to fully experience for yourself.

I said this about their debut album - “Thanatos. The debut album from Whalerider. A band that have a strange and original sound all of their own. Whalerider are very much an experimental band as they play different sounds through the almost 60 minute running time of their debut album.

Whalerider describe themselves as an Alternative/Sludge Rock Band. Sure that is one way to describe them but there is so much more to Whalerider's sound than that brief description. They also add elements of Grunge, Hard Rock, Stoner, Doom, Ambient and even Post-Metal on the album for one crazy complex ride. Whalerider should be applauded for doing something different with their sound. Thanatas is an outstanding debut album. Whalerider are a band to keep an eye on in the future.”

Whalerider have kindly agreed to do an interview with ourselves. So lets see what they have to say.

Q1 – Hi guys. How are things with you all today.

SAHBA : Everything is cool, I just went to an ENT-physician today, the first thing what she said to
me was that long beards were quite „in“ and popular....but only in the 70ies.

Q2 – Can you give a brief history to our readers of how the band came about and where it is today.

SAHBA : Phheeeew, I'd say that everything went down the usual way. One goes to concerts, you get to know each other and then you build up a band which is based on a corporate level and vision. It took a bit of time till we all found our musical identity and our way of exploring how we work each other best.

PATRICK : We played festivals, experienced many cool shows with cool bands. The joy of making music with the band is still high.

MAX : As a result of being completely D.I.Y, we are now much smarter and more experienced than in the beginning.

Q3 – Why did you choose the name Whalerider. Any specific meaning to the band.

MAX : The name refers to the New Zealand movie Whale Rider. The film is about traditions and how you can even break them. We do have a similar motive in our music and in the band.

Q4 – How would you describe your own sound. As I feel it's best coming from the band themselves. Plus you have tons of different vibes going on.

SAHBA : Rock in the broadest sense ? We stopped thinking in genres at one point and we didn't want to feel the pressure or the need to belong to one genre or scene or to care what people think of our music or which expectations certain scenes or people might have. We write songs which feel most exciting for us and if a grunge song uncovers itself as an alternative song and ends in doom, then that's how it is... Maybe this explains the different vibes that you mean.

MAX : Atmospheric, fuzzy, dirty, dark....

PATRICK : Dreamy ? Heavy, we need the word heavy !

DANIEL : It's a hybrid of many different genres. Whalerider is not just another stoner, doom or alternative band. It fuses many different styles and many kinds of music.

Q5 – We have to talk about your new album – Thanatos - So are you excited, nervous or thrilled what people are going to make of it.

SAHBA :We are now very happy to have all the hard work and the physical product in our hands. The origination process of Thanatos was very educational for us. One can say that we all grew together as people and musicians while facing death. I like Thanatos with it's rough edges, up's and down's. That was the most important thing for all of us : to make an album where we'll still stand behind in 20 years. And of course, we're all feeling glad when people like it. We will surprise ourselves with what Thanatos might bring to us in the near future. The good thing with a debut record is that you do not need to fulfill certain expectations.

Q6 – Was it a hard or easy album to write and record for. As it's a complex and progressive album which I didn't expect at all.

SAHBA : Well, to be honest, recording sessions were already finished 'till we realized, that we all wanted more than just another solid rock album. We wanted more depth and variety. We wanted to make an album that is like an adventurous journey. A trip through every state of mind. So, we all sat down again and started to experiment with the songs but without any kinds of strain and without any thoughts of crossing borders of genres or if we all have to fulfill any hopes.

DANIEL : As Sahba already said above, we all learned a lot during the recording process. We all grew up in certain senses during the recording sessions for Thanatos. It was not an easy record to make and it took quite a long time to finish it, but if you have high expectations on yourself, you need to fulfill them. Thank God that we didn't shelter. We started pre-producing the record in September 2012, a very dark time of my life but even that time inspired me and I put a lot of strength, blood, sweat and tears into the record to make the drum sound as good and the drumming as interesting as possible. Needless to say that the other guys made the same as well! For example, they nearly spent 4 months for polishing the songs....

Q7 – What influenced you when writing and recording the album.

SAHBA: Everything influences us. A conversation with a certain person can end up in song like the records that we all like to listen to. Even films and books inspire us. Max works in a psychiatric hospital and processes the absurdity, the actions and the obscence into our songs.

Q8 – Why did you choose the name Thanatos for the title of your album. Does it have any specific meaning to you as a band.

DANIEL : We all gave some thoughts during the pre-production about the artwork and title of the record. Sahba worked on a graphic for a BLACK SHAPE OF NEXUS album at that time, an illustration with a grim reaper who stands on the surface of the moon. B.SON decided not to use it and Sahba made the suggestion that we could use it for our own record. I looked for names for the grim reaper, Google is like our everyday friend, you know? And then one word appeared : Thanatos. I liked the sound of the word, it sounds very mystical, dark and menacing. I suggested it and the guys liked it. We didn't use the artwork anyway, you can now see the graphic on WALL's self-titled record.

Thanatos cover art

Q9 – Who designed the fantastic album cover. It perfectly captures the mood of the album and how much input did you have into the overall design of the album cover.

SAHBA : The album cover was completely designed by Lars Henkel, who is one of my heroes when it comes to illustrations and who has one of the big names in Germany's „land of art“. He is incredibly talented. I first stumbled over his name in 2008 through the B.SON & Crowskin SPLIT LP where he made the artwork. I can still remember how nervous and jittery I was when I asked him if he wants to do the artwork for Thanatos. I still hold on to the opinion that no one is more able to visually capture the mood for the record than Lars Henkel. There were no instructions. We trust him 100%. Needless to say the he is also a really great guy. I love you Lars !!!

Q10 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians. Any particular album that stands out that made you decide to become a musician.

SAHBA : I grew up with Punk and Hardcore, stuff like the Descendants, Bl'ast, Circle Jerks and noisy stuff like Unsane, Ulme, Helmet and Jawbox. I still like to listen to Indie Rock today. I incredibly love The Breeders ! They had a huge influence on me. Then I discovered classic rock music for me. I started listening to ZZ-Top's Degüello and Deep Purple's Machine Head endlessly. And I think without Tom Petty's Into the Great Wide Open and Soudgarden's Badmotorfinger, my life would have taken a different direction....

MAX : I grew up with David Bowie, Beatles and Kraftwerk and I grew, from a musician's point of view, with stuff like Tool, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. There wasn't a certain record that changed everything, it was my older brother who gave a bass guitar to me and wished me a certain amount of fun – that was the beginning of the noisy time.

PATRICK : I discovered music quite lately and after some lovely affairs with the Foo Fighters and QOTSA, I enjoyed listening to Post-Hardcore and Math-Rock stuff. The Fall of Troy (especially the Doppelgänger record), Tera Melos and Minus the Bear influenced me and the sound that I'm struggling for.

DANIEL : The song that changed my whole life was Another Day In Paradise by Phil Collins. I can still remember the day when I went shopping with my parents and I wanted that 7“ vinyl. Jeez, I was two years old back then. Phil is my idol when it comes to drumming. He was an incredible drummer, listen to Brand X if you don't believe me! Shortly after Another Day... I started to discover Genesis, my favourite band of all time. I got The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway as an easter bunny present with four years I think, definitely my favourite record of all time. I also like to listen to bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or Deep Purple, real classic rock stuff. Another Top 3 band of mine is Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson in general is a true genius when it comes to intelligent and contemporary music. I also enjoy listening to real 70ies Prog, Krautrock and electronic music like Plastikman, Leftfield or Underworld. Collecting music is also a hobby of mine, no matter if it's CD, Vinyl or BlurRay. I'm really addicted to limited deluxe edition boxes....

Q11 – Your album is being released via DD/CD. Are there any plans to release this on vinyl in the future.

SAHBA, Yes, there are plans but we need to finance it on our own because we work without a label.

DANIEL : We definitely want to do it. But it really costs us a lot of money to make the vinyl that we want. Most bands tend to release their record on wax by all available means, even if there is not much money on-hand.. As a result, the whole packaging process of a record falls completely under the table, as the customer only gets a boring slip case cover, made of thin paper and a vinyl which has some minor flaws and feels like a frisbee. As always, Whalerider wants to do things right. The packaging needs to cope with Lars' artwork, you know? We want to make a thick and heavy gatefold sleeve with printed and padded inner sleeves and press the music onto 180gramm vinyl with a few colour options available.

Q12 – Crowdfunding gets bit of a bad reputation at the moment. Where bands and artists ask people to donate to help fund their latest musical project. Would you ever go down the crowdfunding route.

SAHBA : Generally, I wouldn't say no. But it depends on how useful you use such possibilities. What speaks against the fact that people can have access to a good project and where bands don't have to go down the tube because they do not have the moneys? I don't think it's reprehensible to elude a financial risk and to make a project happen that wouldn't be possible without the finanicial capabilites.

Q13 – Do you perform regular gigs in your home town. Or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

MAX : Mannheim is a very musical town with many different cultures and subcultures. There is a big Punk and Hardcore scene which has their festivals. And there is the Mannheimer Brückenaward where Doom, Rock and Post-Metal is performed live by bands. But there are also Jazzfestivals like the Enjoy Jazz Festival or the increasingly popular Pop/Rock festival Maifeld Derby. There are really many opportunities to present our music, even so many that we decided not to play in Mannheim that often.

PATRICK : One can't speak of regular gigs in our hometown. There are bands who play at least one time per month here and no one wants to go to any of their shows anymore. That's why we try to stay a bit “exclusive“ and why we prefer to play shows in the whole country. We drove 1700km for our five shows in November, which keeps it in reasonable limits.

Q14 – What is your musical setup when playing live or recording new material. Do you have an advanced setup or basic setup.

MAX : We have a basic setup for live shows which fits to the songs. Our equipment changed a lot since the beginning of the recording sessions for Thanatos because we experimented a lot with amps and cabinets and tried a lot of miscellaneous effect pedals. Everything which influenced the song or made the sound of a song better found the way in our basic setup. We love effect pedals ! It doesn't necessarily mean that we hide behind them, the songs were basically written on an acoustic guitar without any kinds of effects. We'll then look for the right setup based on the mood of the song and we'll then polish it during the recordings. It's a continuous process, something that we will keep in the future.

PATRICK : Concerning guitar and bass : we all like old vintage tube amps (Hiwatt, Sovtek, Matamp) whose sound build the basis for everything. In the studio, Jens, the engineer and co-producer of Thanatos, had many old Amps available, which we all tried out while looking for the best sound. The variabilty comes from many effect pedals with way too huge boards, which take – and strain a lot of space on stages.... During live gigs, we also use a sampler to get as close to the album sound as possible.

DANIEL : I don't have a basic setup, I play whatever sounds best for my taste. I'm really no brandfanboy. I started restoring vintage drums over the last couple of years and I use a lot of different drums and snares to get the drum sound that I have in my mind. I'm currently in love with my old Premier concert tom kit, a real Phil Collins mock-off set which I completely restored. And I love my old Remo Encore Acousticon kit. But I played something completely different on the album sessions though.....

Q15 – What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it down to one individual or a group collective.

SAHBA : It turned out to be productive and practical when I come to the rehearsal room with song ideas. But that's not the law. Everyone in the band is allowed to come with ideas. We then decide together if we want to work on particular songs or ideas. We like to experiment a lot and we also think about which sound fits best to the song. Many things occur during the recording process and a lot happens there and songs can also get a totally different direction. We're very flexible and very open for a new orientation. Max experimented a lot with soundscapes in the second recording phase of Thanatos, which gave the songs a very dark and melancholic feel. Additionally to that, he also arranged strings and horns which gave a new breath of life to the album.

Q16 – Apart from the new album release, what other plans do you have over the next 12 months or so. Anything exciting you would like to share with us.

SAHBA : I think we're going to to promote Thanatos in the next couple of months and we'll play as many shows as possible. And we'll also plan the next release simultaneously. We're even going to play some new tunes on the upcoming live shows.

MAX : To play shows outside Germany is on the top of our to-do list !

Q17 – Do you find it hard being in a band in today's current climate. If you could change anything about the Stoner/Doom/Sludge Metal scene. What would it be and why.

SAHBA : Well, we're not the standard sludge or stoner scene band, even though we always keep an eye on what happens around us. Nevertheless, I don't tell anybody what they have to - or should do and what not....

Q18 – With 2014 drawing to a close, what have been your favourite records this year.

SAHBA: in no specific order

Blitzen Trapper - VII
Mutoid Man - Helium Head
Baptists - Bloodmines
Nothing - Guilty of Everything
Bongripper - Miserable
Guided by Voices - Cool Planet
RVIVR - Bicker and Breathe
Andalucía - There Are Two of Us
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Hypnotic Eye

MAX : In no specific order :

Lalzlo Lee and the Motherless Children - Dirty Horns
Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Karnivool - Asymmetry
Dot Legacy - s/t
Archive - Axiom
PATRICK : In no specific order :
YOB - Clearing the Path to Ascend
Kill it Kid - You Owe Nothing
Blitzen Trapper - VII
Kamchatka - The Search Goes On
Tycho – Awake
Band of Skulls – Himalayan

DANIEL : In no specific order :

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Swans – To Be Kind
David Crosby – Croz
Hans Zimmer – Interstellar (Soundtrack)
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Robert Plant – Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar
Aphex Twin – Syro
Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused
Birdpen – In The Company of Imaginary Friends

Q19 – Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans.


Thanks to Whalerider for doing this interview. You can buy Thanatos from BandCamp now.

Words by Steve Howe and Whalerider

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