Thursday, January 7, 2016

Aethernaeum

Aethernaeum
The German-language epic melodic/folk black metal band Aethernaeum has a new album “Naturmystik” that once again delivers the excellence for which they are becoming known. The band began as a solo project by Alexander Paul Blake, from the also excellent long-running “gothic metal” band Eden Weint Im Grab (EWIG). Fundamentally centered on quality, Aethernaeum’s new album rewards the listener with elegance in the execution of the music. This publication sent some time-consuming questions to Alexander Paul Blake, who fortunately made time to answer them.
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I’m sure that you, Alexander Paul Blake, have observed that your 2015 album “Naturmystik” has been well received by your supporters and by quite a few reviews. That is very positive for you because the songs are long and you cross various styles, with your atmospheric, melodic black metal with folk elements. Do you feel that you are very far or near from your own expectations and objectives at this point?
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Blake: “Well, we are glad, that the album has been received so well in most of the magazines and by our fans – so it was worth all the time we spent into this album.
About our status … I think it’s realistic to say we are a quite small or unknown band and I guess we have to release many more albums and tour a lot to gain a bigger fanbase. Since we haven’t played that much live in the past and also not outside of Germany, there’s still a lot to do. But I hope at least the internet helps to spread our music all over the globe and of course magazines like Metal Bulletin. My main goal is to make more such beautiful albums in the next years. I don’t think so much about success, numbers or status or things like that. That’s can be too frustrating ;-) So we are curious ourselves, where this journey leads us.”
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Do you feel more pressure now to play more shows? You have stated that you are not a big fan of touring: the waiting, the transporting of equipment, the driving/riding around, the food/diet issues, so on and so forth. How do you see the contradiction: the band gets more positive receptions, which leads to more offers to play shows, which leads to more possibilities for touring?
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Blake: “It’s not like we get lots of offers and refuse to play these shows. To be honest there are not many offers. We’re going to play a Germany tour with Dornenreich in March and we are looking forward to it a lot. I think it’s a great possibility for us. I’m more the studio guy and for me writing new songs is more fun than touring all the year, but that does not mean that I am not open for concerts or tours at all, as long as I have the feeling that it still gives me the possibility to record stuff for all my projects.”
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What is going on with your studio Winter Solitude? Are you busy with the work of other bands? Do you produce, mix, master and do all those type of things for other bands? How long has the studio been active?
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Blake: “It’s hard to say how long this studio exists already. I recorded all the Eden Weint Im Grab albums since 2004 with my own equipment and the studio grew all the time, but we have started to do recordings for other bands not earlier than 3 or 4 years ago. Yes, we do recording, mixing and mastering – and also composing – and at the moment we always have one or two bands in the studio. Local bands. But it’s not enough to make a living from it and mainly we use the studio for our own projects. Hopefully it will grow in the future.”
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Let’s go back in time a little bit because I am curious about the beginnings of your journey in music. EWIG began in 2000, correct? You began it as a solo project. Metal Archives says that you were involved with Dissolute Paradise in the 1990s and the band was “gothic/death metal.” How much of that information is true? Were you in bands in the 90s? What were the reasons to start a solo project like EWIG? Frustration of dealing with other musicians? Lack of agreement with other musicians in terms of musical perspectives? Not finding the right people? How much did you have in terms of resources to start EWIG? Did you have access to a studio? Did you have a little studio at home?
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Blake: “My first band was Despairation. I joined the band in 1995 as a singer. We released a new album a while ago, but to be honest there’s not much happening in this band anymore. The idea to start a solo project came about when I finally had the recording possibilities – at that time a Cubase software on a cheap computer at home, which was crashing all the time ;-) I was just fooling around and experimenting to learn something. Eden Weint Im Grab (and also my other band at that time: Transit Poetry) arose out of that. For me it was just a fun thing to do and I had no serious expectations. That’s why I released the first album in 2004 as a gratis download only. But the reactions were so overwhelming that I continued and after some more albums I gathered a band around me, started playing live and so one.
Right now we’re recording our 7th album. For me it always seemed easier to write my own music, since I was capable doing it and didn’t have to make any compromises. Despairation was a band, in which we had to make lots of compromises at that time. So I guess that was one of the reasons. And also it was easier recording everything by myself than asking other people.
About Dissolute Paradise … I don’t know, why this information is still in Metal Archives. I only sung in this band for half a year without ever recording something with them. The albums they released were with a different singer.”
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Was your childhood filled up with music? Did your parents listen to a lot of music? What type of music?
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Blake: “Well, they listened to music, but mainly to crap music ;-) Maybe that was one of the reasons why I started listening to Metal at the age of 10 already. Bands like Metallica, AC/DC, Megadeth, Skid Row or Judas Priest were my favorites back then. Later in my teenager years I also listened to lots Black, Gothic and Death Metal bands and some more years later listened to music of nearly all styles, which I still do today. Beside many kinds of Metal I like Indie/Alternative, Rock, Trip Hop, Soundtracks, Avantgarde, Folk, Singer/Songwriter and so on. I don’t like to limit myself to a certain genre, that’s why my own projects are so different from each other.”
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EWIG and Aethernaeum sound very far from bands like Judas Priest and Scorpions, and also from the thrash of the 80s. Did you like any of that music?
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Blake: “Oh yes, I like that music as well. As I said, I listened to many of these bands when I was a teenager and even today sometimes. But they haven’t influenced my music that much, that is true. Maybe the reason is that I never tried to play songs of these bands on the guitar, but always tried to do my own thing. And also that there is so much other music I like.” *
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Now, what about the 90s? What bands made an impact on you and your desire to make music? Were you at all interested in bands like Trail of Tears and Tristania a long time ago?
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Blake: “No, I haven’t been a fan of these bands you mentioned – I’m not so much in ‘The beauty and the beast’ music with opera vocals. Especially on Eden Weint Im Grab bands like Type O Negative, Alice Cooper or Rammstein made a bigger impact, and Aethernaeum is obviously influenced by the more melodic and atmospheric Black Metal bands like In The Woods…, Emperor, Burzum, Wolves In The Throne Room, Dornenreich, Empyrium etc. I know, that some of these bands are not part of the 90s, but I don’t regard music in terms of decades anyway.”
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Is it frustrating to hear some metal people tell you, "I love your music!" and "Your music is awesome!" and see in your bank account that few of those people want to give you any financial support? Translation: "I love your music, but I will not support you by buying a shirt or a cd. I will pay for a movie at the movie theater. I will pay for a McDonald's meal and for things last one moment. For your music that I listen to many times and years, for that, I refuse to pay a cent." How do you feel about those "fans"?
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Blake: “Well, it’s a pity, that it’s so hard to earn some money with music nowadays. If I counted up, how many hours I invested in my musical career and how my bank account looks like, I would have to stop. But the reason I make music is not money, that’s why I continue anyway. Music is a mission for me. I have these creative impulses all the time. I have to write songs. I have no other choice. It’s a deep urge. So even though the way is long and stony, I need to go it. And of course music provides me with a lot of fulfillment and fun. And these fans, that don’t want to pay for music … well, I think it’s senseless getting angry about it, since I can’t change it, anyway. That’s the way the world looks like nowadays and we have to make the best out of it. And on the other hand this technologic evolution, which made it so easy to copy music, also gave us cheaper recording equipment, so that I’m able to record all the records that I want to do in my studio without having to pay thousands of Euros to an external studio like it was in the 80s or 90s. What I want to say … of course, musicians earn less money nowadays, but making music also became much cheaper and we have more free promotion possibilities online.”
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How old are you now and do you see yourself making metal music when you are 55 years old?
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Blake: “I’m in my mid thirties. If I will be still alive in 20 years I’m pretty sure that I will still make music – but don’t ask me which kind of music, since I’m open for so many different genres and I like to explore the whole world of music rather just the Metal genre. There’s so much good stuff in various styles of music. And since I said, that making music is a deep urge for me, I can’t imagine that it will go away one day.”
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Do ideas for music come easier now at your current age than when you were much younger? We see that metal bands play music for 40 years or more!
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Blake: “Ideas are coming anyway all the time, that happens while improvising. And that hasn’t changed over the years. So it’s not easier or harder than 15 years ago. But I’d say that I became a better songwriter, producer, mixing engineer and arranger over due to the experiences I gained. Thus I can write better songs since I can get more out of the initial ideas. I believe that in terms of sound and arrangements all my releases are still getting better, since I learn something new all the time.”
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You have said that the music for “Naturmystik” was actually written a little while back. Maybe in 2014, I think. Nowadays you have much more technical experience. What is the most time-consuming aspect of making an album? It appears that coming up with music is not a problem. Is it the process of editing, changing, arranging, re-arranging, trying to find the right sound, so on and so forth? Is that what takes so much time now?
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Blake: “Yes, you’re right, songwriting is always a fast process here. When I have some time and rest I can write and arrange a song with lyrics within some hours and then the basic songs is there – in a demo version at least. It takes much more time to record the stuff with the rest of the guys afterwards, doing the editing (especially drum and vocal editing can be lots of work), going back and forth in mixes, mastering it, listening to it on several stereo systems, mastering it again, going back to a mix, mastering it again, haha, and then creating the artwork, doing promotion, preparing stuff for live shows, etc. So I only had to put some demo versions online I could release a new album twice or even more times a year ;-)”
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On “Naturmystik” there is a song that you did not write, correct? Was it difficult to make the change of allowing other people’s music on the album? *
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Blake: “Yes, our guitar player Marco wrote the song ‘Im Zyklus der Jahreszeiten’. He wrote the basic music and I added the lyrics and vocals lines and suggested some changes. Well, it felt a bit strange in the beginning to leave the songwriting to someone else, but after a while it was ‘our song’ like all the rest of the album. It wasn’t important anymore after a while who wrote it. But in a way I’m a control freak in creative things, I have to admit and always like to have the last word ;-)”
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Aethernaeum is a band, but you are the main composer and main engine behind it. At the same time, “Naturmystik” continues your objectives of having a full band, not a solo project. How has that process been for you, on an emotional level? Has it been difficult to accept other people’s input and ideas or has it been the thing that you wanted? Do you foresee that in the future an album might have only 3 or 4 of your songs and the rest could be by different band members?
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Blake: “Generally it’s not hard for me to accept other people’s input. But it always depends. If I like the idea, great! When I don’t like the idea it can be problematic since on the one hand I don’t like to offend anyone, but on the other hand of course I don’t want to release anything I don’t like. But in the end we always found a compromise. It is definitely enriching for Aethernaeum to have five people with creative minds instead of just one, since I think in the end the songs always sound better than my first versions. I can’t imagine to give so much of the songwriting to someone else in the future, to be honest, because I’m so used to it to do myself, but you never know what happens. Let’s see.”
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I know that you do not like it when people ask to explain your lyrics. So, I won’t ask you about that, but of course your beliefs do affect your lyrics. That’s obvious. How important is philosophy and literature for you? Are there particular authors that you seem to read more than others?
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Blake: “Yes, I don’t like to explain lyrics that much, because I think everything what needs to be said is in the lyrics already and the they shall stand for themselves. Aethernaeum is inspired a lot by spirituality and romantic poetry, of course. I like poets/writers of German Romanticism like Novalis, Bonaventura, Eichendorff or Tieck, but also English-speaking authors like Poe or William Blake. I feel connected to the Romantic philosophy somehow, which doesn’t reduce things to a material level, but sees something transcendental in the most banal aspects of life and always searches for something higher in a ongoing process, that can‘t be finished. Likewise my life is a constant search for a higher truth and that is reflected in my art in several forms.”
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For 2016, what plans do you have? Are there some shows that you are planning to do? Will you be busy with the work of Winter Solitude? What about EWIG? Is there anything that you would like to mention, other plans? *
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Blake: “I have lots of plans. Recently we recorded the drums for the next Eden Weint Im Grab album and we will keep on recording stuff for the next album during winter and springtime. For Aethernaeum we are also recording something at the moment, but I don’t like to reveal any details yet. Beside that I’m working on a poetry book, which will contain 100 (German) poems and will be published in February already. And I also have two new musical projects in the pipeline, one which I’m working every now and then when I have time. They are not Metal since I like to explore new musical horizons as well. But I guess it still needs some time till they are finished, since I always switch between different works. And yes, of course there also some productions in our studio beside our own music. So lots of thing to do, but that’s the way I love it.
Thanks for the interview and the well-researched questions. Was a pleasure answering it.”
Aethernaeum „Heimreise (Ein Requiem)“ (Official Video)
www.facebook.com/AethernaeumOfficial/
www.einheit-produktionen.de
THE END
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As a little bonus, here is a video from Eden Weint Im Grab!
Eden Weint Im Grab „Die Jenseitsflugmaschine" (Official Video)

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