Downfall Of Gaia – interview met Dominik Goncalves dos Reis (vocals, guitars)
Dominik Goncalves dos Reis: “It is about Weltschmerz, but not as big as that, it is more the regular day stuff which has an impact on the lives of the people in the songs. You are just forced to play the game, you are forced to continue, it is just the way it goes. I wrote the record in winter and Berlin is a pretty depressing, dark and grey place in winter, so it was the perfect inspiration for all of this.”
Duitsland heeft een behoorlijk interessante post black metal scene en Downfall Of Gaia is één van de actieve bands in die stijl. Op hun meest recente worp ‘Silhouettes Of Disgust’ – inmiddels alweer hun zesde studioalbum – serveren zij ons een intense mix van crust punk en black metal met heel wat atmosferische elementen. Zanger/gitarist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis was erbij sinds het begin en vertelt ons meer over het nieuwe album, diens duistere concept en de terugkeer van gitarist Peter Wolff.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 8 mei 2023
When did you start writing the material for the new album ‘Silhouettes Of Disgust’ and did you have intentions for a slightly different approach before writing this material?
Yes, the writing itself went pretty fast to be honest. We started in October 2021 and went to the studio in April 2022. That was a really fast process, but that’s probably also because Peter Wolff is back in the band and there was again new wind in the sails. For the last two albums, I wrote everything on my own and now Peter – he is also a founding member of the band – we just split it in half. So it was less work for each of us, so of course everything went faster as before. We had some plans. We exchanged ideas and talked a lot about the direction we wanted to go and take on the record, because we felt somehow like running around in circles. We needed some new, fresh air in our sound. Basically the new record is a blend of two worlds: the Downfall Of Gaia we became in the last few years, combined with our roots where we come from in the early days: the crust scene.
As you said, Peter came back. How did that happen? I remember he left the band to focus more on family matters… How did this new cooperation come into being?
Peter left in 2015 to focus on family, business and all of that stuff, also on a solo project he did, some electronic music on his own in the last few years. When Marco left in 2019, it was basically our only option, because we were a little bit tired of adding new people to the band just to have someone. Our only option was just Peter. So we gave him a call – we were still friends in all of those years, so it was nothing new to him, he always knew what was going on in the band – and he thought a few hours about it and said yes. That is basically the whole story. If Peter wouldn’t have joined the band, I don’t know what would have been now. We would probably do this as a three piece or it would be done.
And he did a lot of things, because he was also responsible for the artwork…
We did it together indeed. Peter is an editing pro, he is doing this as a job and I am just there for the input. I see things in my head and then Peter is the guy who is putting it on the screen.
Ah so, but before we go into the symbolism of the artwork, I like to talk with you about the lyrics, because they should be quite an intriguing concept… Every song – eight ones – is representing a person in a fictive town, with his own problems…
As you said, it is eight different persons with eight different stories and eight different problems (if you want to call it like that). The main goal wasn’t to write a concept album again, but I always need some kind of red line when it comes to writing lyrics, so in the end I ended up in the same corner: a concept album again (chuckles). The last few years, what’s going on, on this planet, everything is turning in the wrong direction. It had a huge impact on all of the lyrics. This fictional story about fictional city came up with eight different people, suffering because of how the world is becoming. Weltschmerz, but not as big as that, it is more the regular day stuff which has an impact on their lives. You are just forced to play the game, you are forced to continue, it is just the way it goes.
If you could put this concept in reality, do you have a real city in mind where this can be situated visually?
It is basically Berlin. I live there. I wrote the record in winter and Berlin is a pretty depressing, dark and grey place in winter, so it was the perfect inspiration for all of this. The winter is something completely different as the summer. In the summer everyone is on the street, everyone is happy, but in winter everyone is just depressed, it is dark and grey, everybody is angry.
How did you end up with an American drummer?
You mean Mike? (Michael Kadnar – Vera) We met on a tour in 2013. We were touring together. Mike with his other band, Black Table. After that tour, our drummer left the band. So we had no idea who should be our drummer. We were still in contact with Mike and his band, we became friends after wards, and he was just joking around: ‘I will do it’. Then we just gave it a try and it worked out pretty well, because we also didn’t find someone over here who would fit, because it is always important to get along on some levels, so we said: okay, why not? So we don’t play any more weekend shows anymore, just touring, no rehearsals anymore.
Isn’t that difficult?
No, these days not really because we have the internet. We are always in touch, we write our music on line, we write demos at home and then exchange them back and forth. It is super easy, it is just expensive, that is the only thing that is really bad about it.
Also for real human contact. I mean, when I think about rehearsals I think of four guys who come together having a beer and try out things…
Exactly, this is exactly what we don’t do (laughs)
Maybe that’s why your music is so serious…
Maybe, because we are not getting wasted one time a week (laughs)
You returned to shorter songs than before. Was this a plan as well?
Yes, we also talked about this before. We were kind of tired about those ten minute tracks. It wasn’t a kind of commercial move; it was just personal taste I would say. I guess nobody in the band is listening to those long songs anymore, at least I don’t. It was also something we wanted to change to have new wind in the sails, to do something different. I mean, the songs are still five minutes, but the old ones are longer.
In this respect of changes, we can also say that you used synthesizers for the first time and there is a female vocalist…
As I said, Peter did a lot of electronic stuff. When he came back in the band, this was pretty useful for this record and the female vocals were coincidence. We didn’t plan it in the beginning, it just happened. We had a pretty long intro of a song and we had no idea what to do with it. So we decided to put some vocals on it, some clean vocals. We also tried to sing it ourselves, but it sounded terrible (laughs). Lulu Black is living together with Mike in New York, so it was pretty easy to get in touch and ask her if she would do it and she said yes, so that’s the whole story.
But that recording process seemed to be quite an adventure this time…
Yeah a lot of things went wrong, but everything worked out in the end. A few days before we wanted to enter the studio, our studio guy Timo Höcke caught covid-19 and we had no chance to reschedule all of this due to private stuff and deadlines and whatever, so our next option would have been that the record would be released in the second half of this year, in winter. So we just had this little time spring and in the end we recorded everything on our own in Peter’s studio. Luckily he has a studio in Hamburg, just a small room, but it was enough to record guitars, bass and vocals in that studio. Then we went for one day to the real studio and re-amped our own recordings with Timo who did the mix and Jonas Romann did the mastering.
We have some videos. Is that also your work or do you work with a director?
We work with a guy from the US, Brendan McGowan. He is also a friend of Mike, so this was also pretty easy. We were looking for someone who could create a music video and Mike came up with the idea, so we exchanged ideas with Brendan, talked a bit about the song and he came up with a plot. He took a camera and went to work in New York and filmed everything.
The first single was ‘Bodies As Driftwood’ and it should be dealing with loneliness…
Not just loneliness, but pressure… the daily pressure on your shoulders from work and social commitments and everything… it is just so much and you are forced to run around in the wheel every day and it is just exhausting. This person in particular, she can finally feel free and she finds her peace in the night, when the whole world is silent, it sleeps and there is not too much going on. She uses the night as a protective veil.
The second single is ‘Existence Of Awe’. Can you tell something about that?
This is about… I don’t want to call it mental illness, but – the inner demons that people have, to get along with and to find a way to live with stuff like that. That is probably not obvious and vulnerable for everyone else in the first case.
Did you already play live after the pandemic?
We played three festivals last year, but that was also with a lot of time in between. Basically we didn’t tour for three years now, so we don’t know what to expect, but it is probably like riding a bike I hope.
How did you get into music and became a guitarist and singer?
I don’t know, good question… It is probably because of punk rock and the punk movement I got into as a teenager, so I started to listen to all of the stuff and I wanted to start my own band and play music. Music was always just the main thing in my life. It is how I meet people. I meet them at shows, by talking with those people, talking about records, it gave me so much and I guess then the next step was to start a band, so some friends and me started a band and we played the first shows, so basically it all started when I was a little punkrock teenager and music was just everything I wanted to do back then. Right now music is still my social network.
Are there plans to go on tour to support the new album?
Yes, we will go on tour next week, just a small release tour, nothing big, just ten shows. Then we have a few festivals confirmed for the second half of the year, like Damnation festival UK for example and a few shows around and we are working on another tour right now, but it is not public yet, so it is still in the making. So yes, we will play a few shows for the new record, after the festivals we hope to be back on the road in October. We will play at the Samhain festival in Maastricht for instance.
To round off let us return to the symbolism of the artwork. You see a kind of cottage in a hazy mist…
It just represents the vibe of the album I would say in a pretty good way. Of course this is always subjective, for some people it is probably not the case. For us it just felt like the right cover. It is a little bit moody, cloudy, it fits to the title of the album, it fits to the mood.