Matthias Trautes (M.T.): “There is more in life than go to work and buy and consume stuff”
Op 29 april komt met enige vertraging – oorspronkelijke releasedatum 1 april – het derde studioalbum ‘Of Clarity And Galactic Structures’ uit van de Duitse melodieuze black/death metal band The Spirit. Maar wat is een luttel maandje later in het leven als het om puike muziek gaat? Om jullie warm te maken voor deze sterke release waarop men ook meer progressieve invloeden laat horen, publiceren we alvast ons derde gesprek dat we hadden met bandleider M.T. Daarin komt het relativeren van het belang van de mens in de context van het oneindige universum ook aan bod, zodat dit artikel een spiritueel tintje meekreeg. Is dat niet de essentie van The Spirit?
Vera Matthijssens Ι 12 april 2022
The previous album ‘Cosmic Terror’ came out in February 2020. What happened then? Could you play some gigs?
We started some shows on the seventh of February and the whole shit happened in the first or second week of March. We could play for one month. We had a small release tour. We could play six shows and five of them were sold out. For many people it was like the last concerts they attended before everything was shut down. It was amazing. The response was great, packed venues. If someone would have told me three years before, when nobody knew the band, there was nothing out there. We released out first album on our own and three years later we played headliner shows with 300 people, sold out shows. It was great that you get anything back for all the hard work you put in the band. So we were super excited to conquer the world, but unfortunately a couple of weeks later all hell broke loose in Europe and the rest of the world. Since then we are waiting to start again.
On the new album I think you free your progressive influences to the max, do you agree?
Yes, here and there we had something like that on ‘Cosmic Terror’ already, but actually when I started the song-writing for ‘Cosmic Terror’, the previous album, I wanted to go more in this direction, but I did not had the balls back then. I was not confident enough to do this and this time I said: ‘fuck it, I do what I want and let us do something new.’ Let me challenge myself and see if we can add this to our sound and it turned out – at least for us – very, very interesting. We had a lot of fun when I met Manuel (Steitz – drums) in the rehearsal room and we started working on the drums, adding special flavours really benefited our overall sound. It was quite challenging in the beginning, but you know that is always in life. You need to have some challenges to get out of your comfort zone.
I must say that these progressive tinges suit very well with the general atmosphere of The Spirit. I didn’t expect that…
It is always the same: when you add new elements, it can totally go wrong. There are tons of bands with a lucrative career, but when they made changes, it totally went backwards, you know and after that they changed again. But the challenge was to add these new elements, but still make good music. What I always want in our music, is that the songs flow. There always happens a lot in the songs, surely in the long songs, with a lot of riffs but not a single bad moment. The riffs are getting better and better. That is always the challenge.
In our former interview, you already said that you were often listening to progressive metal and progressive rock. So it is a logical development I think…
(surprised) I mentioned that back then in the interview? Yes, of course. I am not so much into progressive metal, rather into progressive rock from the seventies. The seventies are the golden age of prog music. All the good stuff: Rush, Yes, Camel, Pink Floyd,… all these great massive bands. And there is so much music that came out back then, I am still discovering many new bands every month. When I am listening to them, I ask myself: what the fuck was going on that I never heard of this band? How could I live 37 years on this planet without knowing this great band? It is still very exciting to find these diamonds of music, even when you think that you know already the most of them.
What were recent examples of bands you discovered?
(thinks) Probably the band I was listening to the most the last two weeks is a band called GTR. It is prog with a rock approach, but it is more like a super group, formed back in 1984 and they just released one album. It was Steve Howe, the guitarist of Yes and Asia and Steve Hackett, the former guitarist of Genesis. They released this one album and it totally blew my mind. I just found it by accident and it was on high rotation the last two weeks. I love it. There is one song, the best I have heard in years and it is called ‘Imagining’. It has everything I love. It is catchy, the vocals are super good… check it out maybe, if you have the time later. Another positive surprise is Saga, from Canada. I never checked them out deeply, but now I am on it right now. Awesome band. I want to discover new bands until the day I die. The seventies and eighties, I don’t want to be too nostalgic about it, but the level of musicianship they did back then was something completely different than nowadays. Even bands that never made it to a breakthrough, they had much more to offer than most bands nowadays. They say many negative things about the internet for the music business, but one of the positive things as a music lover and a music consumer, is that it is so easy to check out all these great bands from back in the days, which would otherwise probably be lost forever, but now with the internet it is so easy to discover these gems from back in the days.
I know you don’t like to talk about the lyrics, but there is one specific sentence I would like to have your thoughts about if possible. “The daily struggle should be seen in a larger context, the big picture often leads to clarity’ and so you came to the album title ‘Of Clarity And Galactic Structures’. Can you tell about that?
Yeah sure. I have no problems to talk about the lyrics, I just don’t like to explain the lyrics. These days it makes a big difference. These days, when I write lyrics, I always try to keep the lyrics open, so that everyone can access them. There are double meanings, metaphors and stuff and I don’t want to be strict when writing lyrics. So everyone can come up with his own conclusions, everyone can see it a bit different, I let it open to everyone. What you just mentioned is taken from the press sheet. Also this title has two different meanings to me. I like to keep it simple, it is just like overall, what we don’t do and what we should do more often, that we take a big step backwards and that we have a look on our life, on humanity, on several things, but from a different angle. We all live in our small bubbles and we lose the sight on what is going on beyond that. If you take a big step, it can cause a big change in perception. And then maybe take thousand steps and ten thousand steps back and take a look, then you will have another angle again and you will see things very differently.
That view also reminds me a bit of a sentence one can say to someone who is complaining about daily life: look at it from a different perspective: how bad are your troubles, seen from a cosmic kind of view? In the universal way?
Exactly! That is the thing! I don’t know, what are people complaining about? (thinks) I guess in the Netherlands it is the same as here, the prices for gasoline are exploding, they are super high. People complain about it, but what would you do with ten or twenty euros extra per month? It does not mean anything. Or when someone gets sick – it is always a terrible thing, it depends on what you have – but if you take ten million steps back and you see this small planet called earth where we are, we are a tiny dot. Take the last song on ‘Of Clarity And Galactic Structures’, called ‘Laniakea’ which is the super cluster where our galaxy, the Milky Way, is just a tiny dot, a tiny part of it. We are nothing! Our daily struggles are nothing compared to what’s out there. Complete emptiness.
And the universe is still expanding as we speak…
It is getting bigger and we find out every day, every year we find out so much more and that is the very exciting thing about this topic at all. We actually don’t know much. I saw yesterday or two days ago that the James Webb telescope made the first rough pictures of the universe. When this telescope is sending pictures, I guess in the next couple of years we have to rewrite a lot of science books again, because it will change a lot about what we know of the universe. That is what I hope, I don’t know if it will happen. There is more in life than go to work and buy stuff and consume stuff.
For the first time you have used synthesizers and it is very obvious in the latest track. It reminded me of Tangerine Dream…
Yes, I am a big fan of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and artists like that. I had this picture in my head about the song and I tried to turn it into music and into sounds. I thought it could work if we had a synthesizer on this track, but the challenge is… we did not know who would use the synthesizer in the studio, because our rule number one is everything we do in the studio, we will do it live as well. So it made no sense to use a synthesizer in the studio and then live nobody can play it. We don’t use backing tracks or whatever, that is an absolute no go, we will never do that. Everything we do on stage, we do it live, because it is quite normal nowadays unfortunately, that a lot of metal bands are using backing tracks, you know, with instruments, synthesizer, even vocals. I remember back in the days it was like a death sentence for bands when they used playback and nowadays it is just ‘normal’, unfortunately. For us it is important for everything we do, we do it live. When I had the idea to use a synthesizer for this track, I had to deal with it in that way that we can do it on stage as well. So I came out on a sequencer, Tangerine Dream is using it a lot. I can work on this one and combine it with guitar. I can move away from the synthesizer and play the guitar parts and the sequencer just gets into this repetitive mode in the background.
For the recording process you work more or less with the same people as before, but what was true from the rumour that Victor Santura was going to play in The Spirit?
Well, where did you hear that?
Eh… I just read it in a magazine…
Ah okay. It was like… when was that? I think it was like after ‘Cosmic Terror’? We were looking for a guitarist and I was in the studio and we were talking about it, that we did not find a new guitarist. And the other day I was asking Victor: ‘what about you?’ and he said: hey dude, last night I was thinking about it. Well, we were talking about it, but the thing was, back at that time it wasn’t possible, because Victor is a super busy guy. He has a studio, he has like three other bands, back then his schedule was full and he could not be able to go with us on stage, but he is still an important part of the band when we enter the studio to record everything there except the drums and he is a good friend. Now we have a new guitarist: a young guy who joined us last year and everything is great. I hope he can play live soon. So Victor and I had this conversation, that he might join the band. It is not a secret.
And do you have a new bass player already?
Yes, we have a bass player, so luckily and finally we will be able to get on stage as a four piece, because the last shows we did over the last three years, there were only three people on stage without bass. Now we have a new bass player joining us for the live shows. I am quite confident, with the live line-up we have now, that we will be able to play the best shows we ever did.
I hope it will happen soon…
Yes, I am quite confident that we can play our first show in April. We are just announced for a festival in Ireland. They are a bit ahead of Germany, almost all restrictions are gone there, so the show will definitely happen and I think it will be easier in the future to book more shows and that we will get back to “some kind of normal” and maybe we have the worst behind us. Let us hope that the next years will be a bit easier in the music business than the years we have behind us. I mean, not only the music business, but overall. For everyone of us. I hope that shows and festivals can happen. We will definitely play more shows than the last two years, that is for sure.
Are there plans for video clips?
Yes, the title track is on line since three or four weeks and next week we have a single coming out with a music video, it is for the song ‘Celestial Fire’.
That is a very nice title. With the cosmic things I sometimes have he feeling that it is a bit poetic as well…
(enthusiast) Yes, of course! You know, this is the hit single of the album. This song is accessible for the people. You hear the song and it fits in. Catchy chorus, a short one, well indeed it is the hit single and so we decided to shoot a video clip for it.
Maybe some words about the artwork, because you have worked together with someone who is pretty famous: Eliran Kantor.
Again – after Valnoir – we had the honour to work with someone who is an artist who chooses the bands he works with. So when I reached out to Eliran – the same I did with Valnoir on the previous cover – I was quite happy when the collaboration came together, because they don’t work with everyone. So when I reached out to Eliran, I told him I wanted something a little bit different from what he usually does. I guess he was comfortable with that idea and what we do. He enjoyed the album. He was the first person outside the band who got the album back then. He came up with this artwork and we are super happy with it. We did not gave him too much input, just which direction. The main thing for me was that it was highly recognizable. Nothing too complicated and too many details. Just like something you see. Well, recognizable and it has a quite sinister atmosphere that fits with the music. He totally nailed it. I never met him in person, but since our first contact, we talked many times on the phone and he is such a cool guy. It is not every day that you meet someone so reliable and cool in the metal scene. I am quite happy that this collaboration came together. Super nice guy!
Recently I had Agathadaimon on the line. Your drummer comes from that band and I see Martin as photographer at your shows, so I guess you know them pretty well?
I know Martin and actually I did an interview several weeks ago, because he is writing for Metal Hammer Germany. I did an interview with him and of course Manuel was in Agathodaimon for two albums. I met Martin at Summer Breeze 2018. Cool guy and I am glad that they are back, but they chose like the worst time (laughs) because they wanted to play their comeback show at the German Rock Hard festival 2020 and we were on the line up as well. It was like the return show for them, the reunion show and of course it had to be cancelled. Now they have a new album of course, but you know, to come back these times, it is not that easy. So of course, we know the guys and one of them was for a couple of years in the band. There are so many people on this planet, but not so much musicians in this kind of music genre and you always see connections. This guy has played in this band and that band… especially drummers. Good drummers are so hard to find.
Well, then I round off with the hope to see The Spirit live on stage one day…
At the moment I would even play on a parking lot at the autobahn. I just want to go out and play. The two shows we played at the end of last year, showed me how much I missed this. It is so incredible how much energy you can get from the people and of course you can give so much back and it is just like this whole interaction of energy flowing up and back. I hope we can get back soon to all this.