This is the original english version of the interview. Italian version contains a brief introduction.
Fabrizio Garau (FG): Despairation is well known in Germany, but with Music for the night a new “European” phase is starting: could you please present the band?
Sascha Blach (SB): We started the band in 1994 and released our first demo in 1996. We were very young at that time and it was rough and naïve music from today’s point of view. In 1998 our first CD “Winter 1945” has been recorded and released by ourselves. That record marked a first step towards more ambitious music but it was still in the vein of traditional metal. “Scenes From A Poetical Playground” appeared then in 2000 and was mainly categorised as Gothic Metal/Rock, maybe because Bruno Kramm (Das Ich) produced that album!? Two years later “Songs Of Love And Redemption”, our third album was released once again by Moonstorm Records whom we left afterwards to sign a deal with My Kingdom Music. In the end of 2004 they released our fourth album “Music For The Night” finally all over Europe. And here we are…
FG: Some people says that your last record is too long: it’s a non-sense, because we are talking about a concept album. From a musical point of view, I simply associate Music for the night to the word “ambition”, but a thin line separates ambition from pretension: have you ever considered something in this album as pretentious?
SB: It’s not a category in which we think. We never asked ourselves if we can do this or that. We simply did whatever the story required. And why should it be a pretension to tell a story within a wide-ranged concept album which is a bit longer than “normal” records? Because it demands more patience and open-mindedness? The songs simply came and in the end we had 18 songs which we all liked. Of course it’s a different question if also all listeners like the album. But that’s not in our hands. Maybe the term ambition is right. In the end all we try is to transpose our visions into music. To me it’s hard to write a cheap blabla-love-song, maybe my thinking is too complex. So what I do is to build a concept around this love song, which goes beyond the borders of time and place… Ok, now you got me. Maybe that is pretentious…
FG: Music for the night is the story of Melissa and Elias. Melissa passed away and left the lovesick Elias be’ind. “Eleonora”, a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, comes to my mind (the beautiful girl dies, the lovesick Edgar enters in a dream-like state for an indefinite time, in the end Eleonora appears again helping him to start a new life). Do you know this tale? Could we say that your story explores some romantic archetypes?
SB: No, I don’t know this story of Poe, but the plot sounds equal. What I had in mind were the diary entries of the German romantic writer Novalis after his beloved had died. He spent a lot of time at her grave and wrote down everything he did and thought to handle her death. But that’s just one point of departure. Also “Ulysses” of James Joyce had a big influence. Not in terms of the content but the structure. It has 18 chapters that tell the story of one day in Dublin. Likewise we tell the story of one initial night that leads mournful Elias away from this world into transcendental realms where he experiences different things that make him realise a higher truth…also in 18 chapters. Of course we’re close to some romantic thought patterns because our time is regarded as incomplete and a higher unity is the aim. But to reach this higher unity Elias has to realise how things are playing together. When you look at certain passages you will recognise different ideas from several poets, writers and philosophers who all speak through our story to some extent.
FG: You have many literary influences, some of them are “gothic”, some romantic, and
there are also James Joyce, Arthur Rimbaud… Can you help Fucine Mute’s readers to understand your literary world?
SB: Can I? Not really, I suppose. It’s such a huge field that I don’t know what where I should start. I study German and English literature at university and have to read a lot for that. So my likings are not limited to any kind of epoch, maybe I like romantic and postmodern literature more than other. As I said there are several influences from various authors, among them are Joyce and Rimbaud but I don’t want to reveal everything to adhere the suspense. Thus I think, those who have read a lot will recognise certain things and others won’t. But in the end it’s not important to understand the story. That’s more a game of mine.
FG: “Imagination” is one of the keywords in this album. It reveals that you are influenced by William Blake’s aesthetics. What can you tell me about your relationship with the work of this poet?
SB: If you look at my way of writing with its very close form and the continuous rhyme you might find some parallels to Blake. I like his way of looking beyond the earthly matters into a distant, secret sphere… like a visionary. That’s what we try to do as well. And of course we share some of the romantic ideas and translate them into our postmodern times.
FG: Ulver released a concept album entitled “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (William Blake’s masterpiece). Do you know this album? What do you think about it?
SB: It’s great. But Despairation is something completely different because we’re more a traditional Rock-band whereas Ulver is a studio project with a predilection of electronic music. We’re more organic and write “real” songs. Furthermore they wrote music to Blake’s verses whereas we’ve written our own story. Anyhow, I appreciate Trickster G. very much since he’s a very intelligent and ambitious guy. So if there’s an influence it’s on a more intellectual level, not so much musically.
FG: I can see some similarities between Despairation and The Third and the Mortal. Both bands embodied the “Bristol scene” into their gothic metal sound. I’m not saying that Despairation is copying, because we can find so many differences between you and them, but could we talk about a similar path?
SB: You’re the first who mentions the name The Third And The Mortal in connection with Despairation and to be honest I don’t see any parallels because we’re doing something completely different. Don’t misunderstand me, The Third… are a great band, but none except me in Despairation knows them, so it’s simply not possible that they’ve influenced us so much. In my opinion it’s typical for journalists to think about all the possible influences (I’m a journalist myself), but that’s really nothing an artists spends much time for… at least we don’t do. We do our own thing and even if some bands may influence us subconsciously the final result will always sound like us some way or the other.
FG: Excuse me, sincerely I don’t want to find your musical influences (it’s always an utopia): in both cases, Ulver and The Third…, the connection is open-mindedness in a metal context, not only and not strictly trip hop or electronica. I don’t consider you intellectually closer to Manowar, Motörhead or Darkthrone, or am I wrong?
SB: Maybe you’re right. At least we went two steps forward with every album in the past instead of copying ourselves all the time. But maybe that’s the big problem of our band since due to this lack of continuity it has always been hard for the listeners to follow us. We don’t consider us as a Metal or a Gothic band anymore, but we’re promoted in that scene because it’s hard to reach “normal” music fans outside these categories when you’re not on a big major label and your videos aren’t played on TV, etc. So, we often had the feeling that people from the Metal and Gothic scene completely misunderstood what we wanted to do. They often compared us with David Bowie. Basically that’s fine… but all these David Bowie fans out there will probably never hear our name, because we don’t know how to reach them. Well, we’ve chosen the hard way and it’s frustrating sometimes because you don’t get back much for your open-mindedness. It seems that most people are interested more in the 999th Death-Metal album, which sounds the same as the 998 before, not in bands that really try to be different. Anyway, I don’t want to complain and to get connected with Ulver in terms of open-mindedness is a really nice compliment. Thanx.
FG: Music for the night is a concept album, so we find different atmospheres and different musical styles. In a couple of tracks (i.e. “Underground Poetry”) you collaborate in a very effective way with a scratcher. How did the idea come out? How did you get in touch with him? What’s his opinion about the record and about the collaboration with your band?
SB: To be honest I never met that guy so I could not tell you what he thinks about the album and the whole cooperation. He’s a friend of Martin, I think they’ve studied together. Martin knows many musicians down there in Heidelberg, where he lives. So he simply asked some of them if they didn’t want to play some parts on our album. The rest of the band has never seen most of these guest musicians up till now. Martin did everything alone. As far as I know he’s given some of the early demo versions to the scratcher and told him to do whatever he wanted. That’s what happened and I think the result sounds really nice. So, everything in connection with the guests was Martin’s idea and most of it happened very spontaneously. No big plans or anything, they simply came into his studio, recorded their parts, went home and that’s it.
FG: Let’s talk about Transit Poetry: what can be expressed with Transit Poetry that
is difficult to put out with another of your projects?
SB: Transit Poetry is meant to be my solo project, so I write, record and mix all the songs alone whereas Despairation is a democratic band where everybody has his own part. Mine is mainly the representation of the band and of course lyrics and singing. Also concerning the music there are a lot of differences because Transit Poetry is somewhere between Electronic and Gothic music whereas Despairation develops more and more towards a traditional Rock band. I think these differences will become more obvious with the next albums of both bands.
FG: I really don’t want to be superficial, but every time I listen to records like Themes From The Desolate Ocean, I think that’s incredible how Depeche Mode is still influencing the German goths. What’s your opinion about it?
SB: My opinion is that this is really superficial… I think that Transit Poetry has it’s own style and I’m definitely not trying to copy DM. I like some of their albums but I like many other bands as well and on a certain level everything I listen to is an inspiration. But in the final result you can always hear my own way of singing, playing and writing songs. Anyway, at least I agree to the fact that it’s not possible anymore to do something completely new. That’s a general postmodern problem, because everything has been there already and real innovation is nearly impossible. But what artists can do is to speak their own language, find their own style within these discourses. And that’s what we try with Despairation and Transit Poetry. For what concerns the general DM-Influence in the German scene, maybe it’s true to some extent. Especially in the Synthie-Pop-Genre many bands sound like a DM-copy, but that’s not a German phenomenon in particular. And as I said… I don’t think that this is true for Transit Poetry. Maybe it’s a subjective thing. Two people can hear a different album listening to the same record.
FG: Transit Poetry is going to release a new album: what can you anticipate to our readers?
SB: Our second album “Shamanic Passage Through The Embers” is finished now and will be released on August 8th in Germany. I’m not sure about other territories. It’s more guitar-oriented and faster, but still based somewhere between Gothic, Electro and Guitar-Rock. It’s the second part of our four-part concept around the elements. “Shamanic Passage…” is dedicated to the element ‘fire’ and therefore needed a more passionate and hot approach.