Saltatio Mortis – Interview with Alea der Bescheidene
Interview by Victoria Fenbane
Victoria Fenbane quizzed Alea der Bescheidene from German medieval folk act Saltatio Mortis via email. Alea revealed the story of how he came to front a premier medieval folk act, the band’s origins in the German medieval re-enactment scene and the meaning behind their latest single ‘Wachstum über alles’. Their new album ‘Das Schwarze Einmaleins’ is released on 16th August via Napalm Records.
Hi there! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you. I am guessing you only do a small number of interviews for English language publications. Am I correct?
Alea der Bescheidene (AB) – Hello, this is Alea from Saltatio Mortis, this is actually the third English interview I am giving in one week. But yes, most of our interviews are usually in German.
How would you describe your music to people who are new to medieval folk rock?
AB – First you take the charm of medieval instruments, such as bagpipes, hurdy gurdy and more, add a strong hard rock backbone and top it with a clear voice and powerful backing vocal arrangements. You would have to check us out live to get the real idea of Saltatio Mortis.
How did the genre develop, there seems to be nothing like it outside of Germany?
AB – That is a hard question, I know of folk- and medieval rock bands from Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Netherland and Belgium. It’s true though that there are many bands in Germany. The medieval re-enactment scene is pretty big in Germany which is what helped to develop the music scene as well.
Why did you decide to form a band in this genre?
AB – When we started Saltatio Mortis, all of our members had already been part of the medieval re-enactment scene. I was part of a medieval culture club in my hometown for example. I did sword fighting, crafted chainmail armor and much more. One day I found a bagpipe in the shack of our club. It was in pretty bad shape, and it took a lot of work for me to fix it up and make it playable again.
About half a year later I was able to play a few tunes. So I took the pipe with me to visit a medieval winter market. This was where I met some guys and after a night of partying we decided to get together and start the band Saltatio Mortis.
How did you come to learn such unusual instruments? Are there any particular difficulties in playing traditional instruments when it comes to touring? The bagpipes look heavy to rock out with on stage!
AB – Every one of us has their own history on how they got addicted to these special instruments. My story is the one you’ve read above. To find out how the other members of Saltatio Mortis got into medieval instruments you just need to buy them a drink and they will gladly tell you.
And it is not too hard to rock out on stage with bagpipes. It works pretty well. Check out our live videos on YouTube and visit our shows, you will see people who can rock harder with a bagpipe then others with guitars.
Are you surprised the band and the genre of medieval rock has become so popular in the past 10 years?
AB – I always believed in our music and the scene, that´s why I am part of it. Surely nobody would have guessed that we would become a Top 10 Band in Germany, but of course we were always hoping it would happen for us some day. I think this genre has a better future than most other music scenes, because it uses the sounds and the charm of instruments and stories that inspired people for ages. That charm combined with the modern rock music makes it unique and special.
And with the re-enactment scene as a fan base, it will get even more popular.
The medieval markets are something wonderful themselves. They give all kinds of people, no matter the age and what they do for a living, a chance to escape their normal stressful lives. In a way you could say, a well done market is like a wellness center (spa?) in the middle of Taverns and market stands, underlined with the unique sound of medieval music.
Changing from the electronic sound of ‘Das Zweite Gesicht’ was a great move, what made you do it?
AB – That pretty easy to explain, the change came with the change of the songwriters. I was never a big fan of electronic stuff. My heart has been beating for metal ever since I was 12 years old. So as soon as I got my hands on the songwriting, our music got harder and more rock than electro.
Maybe one day we will take the best material of our first CDs and give it our new hard rock sound. I would love to do that.
Could you see the band incorporating electronic elements again in the future, as Faun and Qntal already do?
AB – No way. I mean we still have programming’s on our CDs, but they are mixed into the background as a sound design. More? I don´t think so and why should we. I think Saltatio Mortis has found their own sound so why do something totally different? We might get harder or softer one day, but more electronic??? I don’t think so.
What inspires the band’s image?
AB – Our own lives. Each of us has his own style, his own way of living. The image of the band is the coming together of 8 different people, who decided to fight for one thing. And this thing is our band and our life.
Previews of the new album hints at it being heavier, are you trying to break into the folk metal scene, and away from the medieval rock?
AB – I love metal and personally I think that the border between rock and metal isn’t a clear or fixed one. On our last albums we had many songs that belonged more into the metal scene than into rock. But are we a different band in a different genre because of this? I would say no. We are Saltatio Mortis and nothing more. We do what we want that is our only true music genre.
What is the story behind the video for current single ‘Wachstum über alles’?
AB – In the video, there is a king who orders to feed a small child with golden food. The innocent kid grows into a monster and eats the king in the end. This is a theatrical version of what we think of our world politics at the moment. Everything must grow, profit and ego becoming the deadly sins of our time. If the world will go on like this, we will be eaten by the monster we fed all through the years. Profit über alles, like our Pagan Friends of Omnia sing in their version of our song. You can find it on our single WACHSTUM ÜBER ALLES, and the English translation of our song will help to understand what we are trying to say with our song and clear all misunderstanding. Enjoy…
People in the UK rarely enjoy music in a foreign language, but folk metal is increasingly popular? Do you plan to write any future songs in English? Besides ‘My Bonnie Mary’ from the latest album, of course.
AB – Our own lyrics are in German, because we love to write in our mother tongue. But we do have songs in all sorts of languages; especially in our acoustic shows we play songs in English, French and Swedish for example. We are always looking for interesting historical lyrics, no matter what language they are written in. But there will be more songs in English for sure.
How does the band keep in shape for your energetic live performances?
AB – Each of us have their own way to keep fit for our tours. I study and teach shaolin Kung Fu. The cool thing about it is that you don’t need any equipment to stay in training. I just need a park, a room for myself or even the venue itself. There is always room to do a bit of a workout and stretching. I love kung fu, it has become my main passion besides making music with my folks.
Any chance you will be performing in the UK someday soon? Maybe even acoustically at one of the many medieval events?
AB – It is really hard for us to promote our shows in the UK. So I would like to thank you for this interview. Our tour in Germany will start in November 2013. We are also playing at many big festivals, like the Summerbreeze Festival here in Germany.
Unfortunately we have no shows coming up in the UK, it is nearly impossible for us to find promoters and bookers outside of the German speaking regions of the world.
We would love to play in the UK and enjoy the re-enactment scene there, because we believe that music is a language itself that can be understood all around the globe. A strong language that is much more powerful than words could ever be.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you on stage in Cologne at the 15 Jahre Schandmaul anniversary concert in August!
AB – Hey, that’s great that you will be there. Maybe we have the chance to meet for a drink and talk a bit more.
Thanks again for the interview and all best.