Thomas Herrmann – guitarist/bandleader of Darkseed
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack at Massacre Records for making the interview possible.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing the promo-pictures of Darkseed.
I hooked up with Thomas Hermann, guitarist in Darkseed, this spring to have a talk about the band’s new album POISON AWAITS. The band play goth metal and are considered to be one of the most influential and original German dark metal bands of all time. The band is now doing their comeback and I was really eager to see what they were up to. Amongst a lot of things, we of course talked about the new album, the new members, and Hermann’s role as producer.
Your new album is called POISON AWAITS and is in my opinion a great album to say the least. How long did it take you to write material to the album?
Thank you. I do not know exactly. I think about 6 months, but not full-time. Also this time the other members also created some good songs, some of them I “tweaked” a bit into the right direction.
Also we had to “rearrange” the bands songwriting processes because of member changes.
It took you a while to follow up the 2005 release ULTIMATE DARKNESS why did it take so long?
We made a break. In 2006 Stefan Hertrich, Vocalist and Main Songwriter, left the band. So that time we had no idea how to continue and we had a lot of other stuff to do. The idea of a new album started in 2008, and we had to complete the line up, first. We needed a new bass player and we found one in Michael Behnke and the main problem was to find a new singer. But finally Harald Winkler was a good choice.
What have you and the band been up to in between these releases?
I worked in my recording studio and produced some bands and I also did some soundtracks for computer games. Tom Gilcher founded his own music school because he is guitar teacher. Armin Doerfler has also his own company, he is “recording studio outfitter”. Maurizio Guolo was active in another band but he quit with them some month ago.
Who writes the lyrics and what are the lyrics about?
Most of the lyrics wrote Harald Winkler our new singer (who was Drummer in Darkseed from 1992-1995). In general the lyrics are about problems every person can have in our society. Sometimes people’s lives are full of problems such as relationships, work, money, alcohol, drugs, something like that. On the deepest point, were you think you can not fall deeper, maybe that’s the last chance to change something in your life. You have the decision to take a better way, but you have to change something. If not you will be always reacting to decisions other people made for you, like a marionette. It’s time now that you understand, your life is in your own hand, it’s up to you to change things to make your life better, so just do it.
Where does the title POISON AWAITS come from?
Today you have the mass media… TV, magazines, commercials. They tell you how to life your life. What you have to buy, what you have to do in your life. You have to built a house, buy a big car, have wife and kids, and to work for this all. On TV, they tell only crap, most of the TV shows distract you from your own life. That’s a creeping poison witch lurks everywhere you go, nowadays. And that’s what we mean with POSION AWAITS.
What do you think of the cover art for the album? Do you think it reflects the album and who has done the artwork?
The art-work was done by “Markus Ruf”, he did an excellent job.
Yes, I think it reflects the album in a good way. You have the snakes which stands for the poison, and the women. She can “betray” people into false directions.
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album and that you had to leave behind?
No, we only wrote the album songs you can hear. Nothing we sorted out. In recording process we rearranged some songs, but that was all. But two songs we took only for the digipack edition.
On the digipack edition have you featured two bonus songs could you tell us a little about those songs?
The cover version of the “Amelie” Soundtrack made Tom Gilcher our Lead guitar player. So we decided to take it for the digipack edition. “The demon within” is a song that do not fit exactly the albums direction, so we took it also as bonus track.
How would you like to describe what the kind of music Darkseed plays?
I would it name simply Gothic Metal.
Have you had any response from the fans on the album yet? What do they think of it?
Most of the responses where very good. It is always hard for a band to change the singer and main songwriter, but the responses say that we did a good job. Sure, some fans are missing Stefans voice, but you can not replace a good singer with his special voice.
Are there any plans on shooting a video to any of the songs?
We thought about, but at the end we did not made it. The reason is when making a video it has to be a very good one, and that’s very, very expensive in the quality we expect. So before doing low budget shit, we decided not to do a video.
What did the fans think of “Poison Awaits Medley pt 1 and 2” that you put out on your MySpace site?
That was the first contact between our fans with the new material. I think there was nearly the same reaction like on the whole album I mentioned before..
Have you read any reviews of the album and do you care about what the critics in the media have to say about your work?
Sure, we have read a lot of reviews. And not all of them are good. We read them, but as band you have to stand above bad critics. They will always be, no matter how the album sounds. You can keep some things of them in mind for the next album, but the point is that we want to do the music we want and not what the people expect from us. You can not be everybody’s darling. But if most of the reviews are OK everything is fine.
Most of the artists and bands think that their latest album is their best one they’ve done so far What do you think of POISON AWAITS? Is it the best album that Darkseed have done so far?
I think every Darkseed album has its own special vibe so I can not say which is the best one. But I think “Give me light” and “Astral Adventures” are not as good as the others. POSION AWAITS is for me definitely one of the Best, but at this place its better to let the listeners choose 😉
The band has a new singer – how did the fans react on the member change?
Very good. Sure, it is hard to replace a very good singer, but most of the fans accepted Harry better than I expected. It is clear, some fans are missing Stefan s strong voice, but something like this, you can not prevent.
The song “Incinerate” is featured on many compilations that follows with various goth/metal magazines what kind of reactions have you got on the song?
Our Record company said that “Incinerate” is a hit so they decided to feature this song. The reactions are different some say it is a killer song some say it is a little bit to commercial…..but the song is exactly how we wanted it to be so I do not care about.
You recorded the album in your own studio, where is the studio located?
The studio is located in a small village named “Hattenhofen” between the towns Munich and Augsburg in southern Bavaria in Germany.
Who owns the studio and have you had it for a long while?
That’s my own studio and I started very small with the DIVING INTO DARKNESS album. I think that was in year 2000 about. This time I rearrange my studio and a new website will be online soon in a few weeks (www.th2-studio.com) .
How come you chose to produce the album on your own?
The reason was that we always spent a lot of money at the recording studios so we thought about recording and mixing our stuff at our own in 2000. After the years the studio got bigger and I improved my skills, so now I do a lot of other work besides Darkseed.
What did the rest of the members think of you as producer and what do you think is your strongest feature as producer?
The other members trust in me, and the best thing is, that we do not have to care about money and time in the recording and mixing process. I think the strongest feature as producer is that I can do everything. I do all on the Darkseed recordings. It starts with the first Bass Drum Hit and Ends with burning the final Mastered songs on CD. I record all the signals I edit them I arrange most of the songs I Mix them and also the Mastering is done by myself.
Don’t you find it hard to stay objective when you produce your “own” band?
Yes, that is a hard thing. Sometimes I need some opinions from other people I have some friends whom I send sometimes rough mixes to hear their opinions.
Have you produced other acts besides Darkseed?
Yes I have also produced Slate Grey and Soul Sabotage as example. Also I do a lot of audio stuff for companies and computer games.
Who did the mix and mastering?
As I mentioned before I did everything.
I know that you had some member changes back in 2006 what happened and who left?
Stefan Hertrich our Singer and main songwriter left the band and also Martin Motnik the bass player. Martin moved to USA and Stefan wanted to concentrate on other things his project Shiva in Exile and his company which translates speech in computer games.
It can be a really difficult to change lead singers, did you ever think of putting the band to rest and quit?
Not really. We needed a little break to earn power for the future and to re-arrange the band but I was always sure to continue with Darkseed.
Who is the new singer and how did he end up in the band, are you happy with his work so far?
The new singer is called Harald Winkler. And he is not really new. He was with Stefan founder of Darkseed in 1992 and played Drums and Backing vocals there to 1996. The years between we had no contact to him. But 2007 he called me if I can record his band. And while the recordings I got a job to compose a title song for a computer game in Gothic Metal style with Vocals. So I asked him if he can write the lyrics and sing the song. He did a good job. When we talked about searching a new singer I remembered that it was good work with Harry, so I asked him if he would join Darkseed again. So, here we are. Michael Behnke our new Bass player was a friend of our keyboarder Armin so he took Martins place.
Are you know the only remaining original member in Darkseed?
Yes, it’s our new singer Harry, ha ha.
Is the band a democracy where everyone can say what’s on their mind or is it you that take the hard decisions?
Everyone can say what’s in their mind,we discuss that and make a decision. But sometimes when something is going wrong I have the last word.
Are you still friends with the old members today?
Partly. I have always had a big friendship with Stefan. So we are still nearly daily in contact. Also I mix always his songs for his musical projects. With the other old members I do not have much contact.
Do you know what the old singer Stefan Hertrich up to today?
Yes, actually two days ago I mixed a song for his project Shiva in Exile. I have said before he has a own company and also he does musical things 😉
Are any of the current members involved in any other bands or projects besides Darkseed?
I think Armin has a project called Eyes Turned Skyward it is modern sounding Keyboard music, and Maurizio has also a band project.
Do you think that the line-up of today is a solid one?
I hope so 😉 You never can be sure, but at the moment everything is fine.
You are signed to Massacre Records, are you happy with working with them?
Yes the are a good company and do a good job with promotion and such things.
You have been signed to Massacre for a while now and have released two albums prior this one do you feel that you have got a higher priority on the label now compared from the beginning?
We had always a good priority at Massacre so everything is fine.
For how many albums are you signed for at Massacre?
For three albums all released. Maybe we extend the contract we will see what the future brings.
What did Massacre think of that you changed lead singer?
Nothing special. If the album all in all is good so everything is fine with them.
Do you think that it’s a benefit to have a label that’s based in the same country as you?
Sure. You have better conversation in your own language everything is easier to handle.
Where in the world is the album released at the moment? Is it released worldwide?
Nearly. Maybe not in every country but most of the world should have a release.
Do you co-operate with any booking agency or management at the moment?
We are in contact with some people but I can not say anything concrete yet sorry.
Previously you were signed to Nuclear Blast why did you end your deal with them?
Because we lost Priority at Nuclear Blast, that time we split up with them. There was a massive hype with 80th Heavy Metal, so they spent all their power into bands like HammerFall.
Is it possible to get a hold of your older albums out in stores today?
I think all of the nuclear blast releases are re-released as digi pack edition, they should be available to order. The older ones like MIDNIGHT SOLEMNY DANCE and ROMANTIC TALES are more difficult to find.
What’s the main difference between your time at NB and now on MR?
Difficult question. I do not know. I think both companies do a good job. Years ago with Nuclear Blast it was also fine, but then they decided to feature the Heavy Metal thing. But that’s OK a company has to make money so they must decide to take the way to earn the most money. That’s the only way to get successful.
You have a really good looking website who runs it?
Yes, Alexander Koenig from Destination Design runs it. He always makes a good job and he is also a friend (http://www.destinationdesign.de/).
Do you get a lot of mail from fans and what’s the most common question you get from fans?
Yes, we get a lot of mails but not much questions. Most mails are to congratulate on the new album.
What do you think of MySpace as a way of getting your music out to the masses? Are you and the band active on MySpace?
MySpace is not as it was some years ago. It looses members. And the new Layout 2.0 is not good. We had a good designed MySpace site for POISON AWAITS but 2 month ago the forced us to Design Layout 2.0, so everything was lost. Meanwhile we had no time to create a good 2.0 Layout.
Are you big in Germany?
We have a good standing here but I think we are “bigger” in other countries.
Which ones of your albums do you like the most?
Surprise! POISON AWAITS – at the moment…..
ULTIMATE DARKNESS is the name of your previous album did it went well amongst the fans?
Yes, it is a very good album and the fans loves it. One of our Best for sure.
Where does the name Darkseed come from?
From a 90th Computer game called “Darkseed”, ha ha.
Have you done a lot of touring during the years?
Not really. We are all very busy with a lot of things so we had only single shows. And not to forget our break from 2006-2008.
Are there any plans on heading out on the road now that the new album is out?
We are in contact with some booking agency’s these days, we will see………
What’s the plan for the band during 2011?
Nothing special hope to play some good gigs….
When do you think you’re gonna follow up POISON AWAITS?
Maybe in 2012
Does the band members have any common musical idol that they are inspired by?
Not really. We have a lot of musical input and much of them inspires us to new songs, but this are so many different inputs I can not mention here a special idol or something like that.
What was your vision for Darkseed when you formed the band?
To make good music 😉
Could you give the readers three great reasons why they should buy POISON AWAITS?
Why buying? You can download it everywhere for freee…. haha…to be serious:
1. It sounds great and has good songs
2. Poison Awaits has a very good cover artwork
3. You support the band by buying to finance another release
Well, that was all I had for now. Thank you a lot for making this interview possible. Do you have any final words of wisdom for the fans and readers?
Thank you also, and Thanks to all our fans out there who still supports us after this long break!!!
More info on the band.