@ The Unicorn, Camden
1st February 2015
Interview by Ben Spencer and Jarod Lawley
Photography by Jarod Lawley
After arriving at the Unicorn early for tonight’s show, we join Stalhsarg’s guitarist Krieg to discuss World War II, touring in Europe, brewing beer and the band’s plans for the rest of 2015.
Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with us. Can you introduce yourself and tell me about how Stahlsarg began back in 2013?
Krieg: My name is Krieg, founding member of Stahlsarg and my previous band Eastern Front. I decided to start this band as I thought that the musical direction of the old band wasn’t what was in my minds eye and where I wanted to take the band. Now I’ve got a band who see the same vision. So it seems to be going exactly the way I had envisioned it in the first place. It’s a more broader portfolio of colours that we use. Whether it’s Black Metal, Death Metal some slightly more Gothic elements and rock elements and just trying to think outside the box, and that’s what’s cool.
What can fans expect from tonight from tonight‘s show?
Krieg: I think that diversity. With a Black Metal in a song like ‘Frost Bite Division’, it’s to do with the parallels between when the German Army in World War II we’re heading toward Moscow and the parallels between Napoleon going there in 1812. They got to a place called Borodino outside of Moscow, and there was a large battle. That’s one of the songs that will be more Black Metal sounding. ‘Black Valhalla’, which is more Trash. So it’s that diversity I suppose.
Your music focuses on the campaigns of WWII. Which campaigns do you write about and how do you choose them?
Krieg: I think when you come across something, and you think ‘wow that’s interesting, I didn’t realise that!’, You kind of want to share that with other people. The first song we ever posted, which you can find on Stotify is a song called ‘Damocles XIII’. That’s about the thirteenth SS division, but it was made up of Muslims, and Muslims in the SS for most people seems like ‘What are you on about? They’re blue eyed Arians with blond hair aren’t they?’.
Well, it’s true I read about it, and I thought that was interesting. So I thought I had to do some more research as I was intrigued that the Grand Mufti from Palestine who Britain had been after during the War had gone all the way to Germany. Once there, he met Adolf Hitler and Himmler decided it would be good to have a Muslim division because the Muslims had a common enemy the Jews. So I thought there was a story to be told!
We’ve got songs such as ‘The Partisan’, which is about farmers in Russia who was just trying to defend their motherland. So it’s a song about their situation and not fighting from a military point of view but just a guy defending his wife kids, livestock etc. So songs like that again show the diversity that interest me and maybe they will interest some other people.
Your debut album will be released this year. What will it sound like?
Krieg: I think tonight’s gig will encompass a lot of that. We’ve added a lot of sounds between the songs that will give the flavour. It will provide an experience that will take you away from the Unicorn to somewhere else. So its like going to see a film at the Cinema. So it’s more than just a rock band playing some songs. It’s trying to get you to feel involved in those emotions. I think we’re trying to portray that in the album, not so much as a concept but more as a theme or feeling.
We’re recording at the beginning of April, so we’re just pressing on now to get it done. We did the first three songs with Scot Atkins at Grindstone Studios. He’s worked on the Devilment album. He’s always just so busy; so trying to get down time out of him at a cheaper rate I can’t compete with him in the way that a band like Devilment can. We have done some work with him, and we will do more but there comes a point where we have to say we can’t wait for Scott’s down time, and he appreciates that as well. So we’re using another studio but I’m sure the experience we gained with Scott and what we’re doing with our friend Danny now who I’m sure will do a grand job too. He plays in a band Criminal, and I enjoy the sound he did with them in his own studio. At the moment he’s got the band Annihilated in there, and I went over and heard some stuff and it sounds really good. He’s local, easy to get on with, and I’ve heard the stuff he’s done so I don’t mind which studio it is really.
On the subject of Cradle of Filth, you supported Devilment at a Halloween show in Belgium. What was it like to play there?
Krieg: We supported Devilment in the UK recently. We have actually played Belgium three times this year. Each was a paid gig fuel, hotels and everything else so we’ve done extremely well out of that. We have friends in Belgium, and we’ve been to France a couple of times, again some sort of deal. So we’ve been doing really good.
The gig we did with Devilment was really good. I’ve known Dani for many years so he said if ever there was a slot where he could put us on he will. Typically you can’t just say ’Oh I know this band I can put them on the bill’ because the business runs differently from that. It’s like they could get a better ticket price if they put on a band that’s got a bigger profile. So no matter who you are in the market place with something like that you can’t just pick and choose. It happened to us, and it was really great to play as two bands who know each other.
We have been really happy with Belgium and France and our next gig is actually in Germany. We are playing Wonnemond Festival in May.
How different was this experience from playing in the UK?
Krieg: I don’t know how they do it abroad but somehow they seem to pay a lot more money. It’s really surprising. I mean for us to go to Belgium as effectively an unknown band but still get away with having fuel and everything else paid for is great. I don’t know whether the overheads from the venues charge less, (pauses) I don’t know. It’s more viable.
Whereas if we drive from here to Manchester, you don’t really get any real support which is a shame as it makes it really hard for UK bands to feel supported. We’re lucky we’ve got a vehicle like this that were sitting in. For a lot of guys it’s like driving in three cars which is adding to fuel cost. It just multiples everything and it’s commendable that there are bands out there who still want to do that. So there’s a need and a desire to support the scene, even though it’s not financially viable. It’s a bloody expensive hobby!
So you can see there’s benefits in both. In the UK, there’s the feeling of we have to do it even though the money’s not here but in Europe the money is there. This is great if you’re a British band because it’s like ‘bloody hell this is amazing’. It takes the worry off of things like breakdown insurance if you’ve come out of your comfort zone.
I recently learnt that a beer has been made that is named after your band. How did this come about?
Krieg: The particular pub we go to in Ipswich also has its own Brewery across the street. There’s a shop as well so anything you want to buy to make your own beer you can. Then there’s the pub where you can hang out, or there’s a brewery in which they brew their own beer that they sell. As we go there so regularly, we know the staff really well and the boss, and I said we wanted to make our own beer. They thought it was a good idea, and they thought it was interesting.
It was two weeks ago, I was with the head brewer and there we were with all the barely being heated up. Then the sugar and water comes out then you’re pumping that into another tank and then there’s a lot of hanging around and waiting. Then eventually we got a beer! (smiles)
What are your plans for the rest of 2015?
Krieg: (pauses) Kind of avoiding doing shows unless they are really viable as we really want to a recording done. I mean everyone wants to do that but it’s a bit like chicken and the egg. It’s like if you go and do a recording, but you haven’t built up a fan base then you’ll wonder why you can’t sell any albums. The reason is that you haven’t built up a fan base. Then once you have got a small fan base, you don’t want them losing interest by not having a product that they want: Your music. It’s great selling T-shirts but even in this digital age people still want a physical product whether it’s a CD or Vinyl.
Doing a Vinyl is something we’re really interested in doing as well as well as some really good artwork for it. We would like going back to the old ethic of producing lots of pages with lots of interesting things going on. There’s so much stuff you want to talk about it just seems daft having it reduced to the music and a few poor pictures. So I feel that’s as important to spend time and thought on every single page to have its own picture per page kind of thing! (Excitedly)
You sing pretty much exclusively about World War II. I was wondering when did your interest start in that?
Krieg: As a kid, my Dad was in the Royal Air Force, and I had an interest in aeroplane model kits. I think that was the earliest thing that put me on the track of being interested in this. I always thought that history was terrible, but I think that was just an indication of the Teachers and their methods. I mean the seeds were there but at the time I didn’t connect with it as history it was just something I was interested in. So it has always been with me throughout my life.
It would also be pretty tripe to do a Black Metal band and do the whole Norwegian thing when you’re from Ipswich. It’s far more interesting to be an honest band and be honest in your bones and do something because it’s who you are. So if you combine it with your other interests, such as Death Metal and Black Metal, then you’re far more likely to get a response that’s genuine and that’s good as well. (smiles)
Also you did away with doing a demo, and you just uploaded three songs online. I was wondering if you think doing a demo is a bit old fashioned nowadays?
Krieg: I think with the market place and digital downloads, things just go viral, and you think ‘wow that’s amazing’, but it just doesn’t work like that. I think it’s a little bit like testing the water and doing it that way. So you can hear our songs on I-tunes and Spotify, but it’s still not drawing any real attention because people don’t know it’s there in the first place. So it’s like how do you get people to know you? Through live gigs.
Well the reason we got into you was through watching you at Bloodstock and I thought you were one of the best bands of the Festival.
Krieg: Oh that’s great! I think if there were signs to get there people would.
Yeah like a book.
Krieg: (Ponders) But there isn’t. So it’s just networking, and there are certain individual elements of situations that occur. I heard someone say tonight, ‘Oh it’s that click of London Black Metal bands that just service each other.’ Well for something that’s so small it’s a shame that people are like that because people should be rallying together and supporting each other in the bigger sense.
I don’t know if that’s true as there’s a lot of bands who play in London who aren’t from London at all. I think London has more of the venues for it.
Krieg: (Nods) Yeah.
Thanks for the interview. Is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t already been covered?
Krieg: (Pauses) The thing with all gigs or interviews you kind of wonder ‘Oh I wish I said that. I think all bands suffer from it in one way or another. Like tonight I had an issue with my amp, so I’m not using it. It’s such a pain, but I think you can sometimes loose your marbles a bit when doing a gig because your mind is here and on the interview.
I just appreciate the fact that someone is interested enough to want to interview us, and we’re excited that we’re doing the album soon. I’m sure after this gig we will be looking to do something back in London later in the year. I think it will be sometime after May, around the Summer time. We will be back in London I’m sure (smiles).
The great thing about the Unicorn is that its free entry and what a great stage size for a free entry show! It’s not like a pub gig; it is like a decent venue. It has a great sized stage and the diversity of people you can end up with because it’s a Metal night you end up exposing yourself to people you wouldn’t ordinarily. That’s an added benefit in playing here tonight. So thanks for the interview and hope you enjoy it!