Mats Kurth drummer of Coronatus
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing me with promo pics.
Mats Kurth, the drummer of the German goth act Coronatus and I hooked up a while ago after I heard their new album TERRA INCOGNITA and became curious about the guys. The band has two female vocalists who sings in English and German which must be considered as a bit unusual so our conversation evolved of course a lot about the new album and the atmospheric music. We also talked about the bands past present and future and scroll down to see how the interview turned out.
Hi Mats, thanks for making this interview possible. I thought we could begin talking about your band Coronatus brand new album called TERRA INCOGNITA.
Thank you for your time and yes let’s do this.
How long have you worked on the album?
The main part of the work we completed within 3 months, after our tour with HAGGARD in April. In August we entered the studio. Of course some of the ideas have already been outlined earlier at home.
Who writes the material, and what are the lyrics typically about?
Almost every band member, actual or past, was concerned with songwriting for CORONATUS. However, on the Terra Incognita album, each of the songs have been pre-produced by a certain member and outlined by the whole band afterwards. This time 4 songs have been composed by Dirk, 3 by Aria, 2 by myself and one song each by Simon and our former members Fabi and George.
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
No, this is not our compositional style. Once we have decided for a certain basic song idea, we work on it until we all feel comfortable with the result.
Your previous album FABULA MAGNA came 2009 what have you and the band been up to in between releases?
We had a whole lot of line-up changes this time. The most serious change was of course caused by Carmen. She left the band mainly because of her pregnancy with her second child. Due to this development finally also Fabi and Jo quit. Meanwhile also the bass player changed. Dirk Baur replaced Todd Goldfinger. After that, we spent much time in working with a Russian singer, to replace Carmen, but it came out that it did not fit at all. This did cost us almost ¾ of a year! Up to that time, the offer by HAGGARD came and we decided to ask Ada to take over the soprano voice. The combination of Mareike (who replaced Lisa Lasch immediately after the release of Fabula Magna, alredy) and Ada was really great. We never had such a good stage performance. Thus, we decided to keep to this new line up.
Have you felt any pressure to deliver something extra ordinary this time?
Of course any musician wants to create something new and extraordinary from album to album. However, we did not want to change our musical style completely. But due to the new band members also a lot of new influences merged amongst our compositions.
Do you think that the band have developed music-wise since the previous album? If so in what way?
Yes of course we developed our music. i.e. Aria contributed compositions with some thrash elements, Dirk likes to add musical-like elements, and myself favorites folk elements. All this ends up in a melange called Coronatus.
Who came up with the title TERRA INCOGNITA?
This was me…and nobody complained about this title…*g*
Who has done the cover art-work and what do you think of it?
This was done by Lukasz Jaszak from Poland and we really like what he did. He is a great designer!
How come you chose to sing in both English and in German?
It is a matter of sound. There are lyrics that sound better in either English or German, depending on the underlying musical basis. Sometimes, it is also a matter of “spirit” which is expressed by means of language and speech.
Do you see any problems in that maybe many of your fans doesn’t understand German?
No, I don’t. Music in general works by feelings that are independent of the language. For example, if you listen to Latin music, you will often hear Spanish lyrics, if you listen to classic music you will often hear Italian words and so one. And most of consumers do not mind, whether they understand anything or not. Myself, I like to listen to FINNTROLL for example, I love this music; but I do not understand anything of the Swedish lyrics. And anyone who is really interested in the exact meaning of the lyrics will be able to use translation programs and so on…
How would you like to describe what kind of music Coronatus plays?
Difficult, but let’s try: it is some kind of melodic metal with female voices. Our first songs have been very much in the Gothic Metal style. Later we added symphonic and folk elements, too. But our most outstanding “brand” is, now and then, the two different voices of our two front ladies, rock voice and soprano.
The album is also available in a limited digipack version, what does the limited version include that the ordinary edition doesn’t have?
On the limited edition there is a live recording of “Mein Herz” (My Heart) recorded at a gig in Stuttgart, Germany.
Have you shot any video to any of the songs? If so could you tell us about the video shoot?
Yes, we did a video to the song “Fernes Land” (Distant Land). The shooting was very funny. We have been in a photo/video studio to record the playing scenes and we recorded the outdoor scenes at the “Rheinfälle” (Rhein falls). Therefore, we dressed in some pirate/seamen look. It was really fun.
Have you read any review about the album? Do you and the rest of the band care about what critics have to say?
We got about 80 reviews or so. And of course we read them as far as this is possible, means: if the review is in German or English. Some of us also are able to read the French or Spanish reviews, Mareike even is able to read (and speak) Swedish, since she lived there for a while. Of course we also care about those reviews. But we try to react more on general trends in the whole amount of reviews, not to a single one, because you always will find a review, that tells the exact opposite to another. However, in the end, we always will do what we think, is the best for our music. I think, this is the only way to create music in a true way. We are not ghost-compositors or songwriters, who sometimes have to react to the “market” or something. We do what we want, but we also listen to the fans (and sometimes even to the critics…*g*).
Is there any difference in how the band is treated in the media if you compare the native press to the foreign press?
I am not really sure. But I have the impression, that the native press sometimes reacts harder than the foreign ones.
Did you have a release party for the album when it came out? If so when and where took it place?
We had a release party in a club called Rockfabrik nearby Stuttgart, just at November the 18th, but it was not a live gig. The DJ played some songs of the album, that was all. But it was fun…
What does the fans think of TERRA INCOGNITA?
Up to now, the reactions are quite good! Of course we did not make a tour with the new program yet, but first reactions on some club gigs have been quite enthusiastic!
Many artists often think that their latest album is their best so far, is that also the case with TERRA INCOGNITA?
I think, this is hard to decide, since every album we recorded had their special highlights so far. Therefore, I would not say, this album is better or worse than previous ones. It simply is somehow different, again. Things developed and we all feel very comfortable with the result.
You have a lot of keyboard and pagan/folk music influences featured on the disc who is going to play keyboard when you’re playing live?
Sometimes we have a guest musician playing the keys, like Psalm did on the tour with HAGGARD. Sometimes we have to use samples as well, especially when we play small club gigs. For the future, of course, we like to have a steady band member at the keys as well as somebody playing violin. We will see.
Where was the album recorded and who has produced it?
As every album up to now, we recorded and mixed in the Klangschmiede Studio E in Mellrichstadt, Germany. Producer has been Markus Stock, again (Eisregen, The Vision Bleak, etc.).
You also recorded your previous album there how come you chose to return there once again?
I like the studio very much, also the little town and the great surrounding landscape which is a national park called “Rhön” in Germany. Most important, however, is the great guys working in this studio.
You have also once again worked with Markus Stock what is his strongest feature as producer?
We really feel comfortable working with Markus, since he always pulls the maximum out of every musician. However, he does not try to interfere with the songwriting of the band, but he supports us in finding the best way to bring our ideas to life whilst the recording session.
Who did the mastering/mixing and was any band member part of the process?
Mix and mastering had also been carried out by Markus Stock. He has a very special style to record the guitars and drums, which always results in a very powerful mix.
Are you going to continue working with Stock in the future you think?
I think so! Hopefully! Of course we will also continue to try to improve our songs as well as our sound from album to album.
Was it hard for the band to get a record deal?
Once we had decided to record a complete album by our own risk, it was not so difficult. However, for me personally it was a long way realizing that one cannot wait for the record companies to discover the band, but to take your luck into your own hands and try to do whatever you can to get a professional recording by your own means. And of course you need a vision and a god portion of luck, also.
How come you chose to ink a deal with Massacre Records?
I think this was at least partly due to the initiative of a designer, who already worked for Massacre. She helped us a little bit, to get the right connections. And of course, our music and concept did convince the A&R somehow.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Yes and no. Nowadays small companies like Massacre cannot put much money into promotional things, since every company suffers from decaying album sales because of illegal downloads. The guys actually concerned with us at Massacre really do their best to push us. They really do a good job. However, with so low promotional budget you cannot expect to create any form of hype!
You signed a deal with MR in 2007 and the same year came your album LUX NOCTIS. Was the album already finish and ready to be released immediately?
Yes! We had recorded the album in summer 2006, already! Then, we completed the cover and artwork, as well as our promotional material. This was all done by our own financial means. I think, you cannot go another way to get a deal, except your band is established already. Nowadays you will have to deliver a video, additionally.
For how many albums are you signed for at MR?
Due to the success of the Lux Noctis album, we could negotiate and improve our deal a little bit after its release. Thus we have the option of five albums all in all. Means, one album left so far for Massacre. After that, new negotiations will be necessary!
Are your albums released worldwide today? And if not is there anywhere the fans can download your album legally?
In principle, we have a worldwide distribution. But there are some countries, especially the South American countries, without a distribution via Massacre, at least as far as I am informed. Of course there are a lot of legal download platforms in Germany and the US. Recently, Massacre developed a widget which we installed for the download of the new album on our homepage (www.coronatus.de).
Is it possible to get a hold of your previous three albums today?
Yes, of course! You can get them directly from Massacre or from online distributors, i.e. like amazon or nuclear blast and many others as well!
Are you currently co-operating with any booking agency or management?
No, unfortunately not. Especially a booking agency is missing! The management is done by our own, but a competent and engaged booking agency is still missing. Of course we had many attempts in that direction. However, it did not work up to now! There are a whole lot of so-called booking agents, but the only thing they do is to put your band to their homepage and that’s it! Shit on that! This is something we can do by our own! What we would really need is an agent or an agency with established connections to the promoters and venues and with the interest and power to really work (!) for us. Actually, we have a very powerful line up and we really deliver a good live show. This could be seen on our tour with HAGGARD or the recent show on the Wave-Gothic-Meeting in Leipzig! If we had a competent agency, we would play much more live gigs, than we do at the moment.
When and where was the band founded?
The very first sessions have been done by George G and myself in 1999, followed by a first recording of a single in 2001. But this was more a project than a band. For me, the real launch of Coronatus was much later, in 2004/2005 when we established the concept of two female singers with different voices!
Why did you want to form a band and was it given from the start that the band was going to play this kind of music?
In the past I always played in different kind of bands, sometimes 3 or 4 at the same time. However, Georges ‘ songs initiated my interest in this kind of music. And this was something that became a steady factor in my life. Bands like Nightwish inspired me to try out something in this direction. In principle, this Gothic and symphonic style was more or less present right from the start. But in the very early stages the focus was more on the Gothic parts. Later the music became more metal and folk elements.
When was the bands first single recorded and released?
This single was recorded in 2001 in a studio in Winterbach, Germany, nearby Stuttgart. The recording engineer was Achim Köhler (Pink Cream 69, Sinner, Primal Fear etc.). However, it was never released via a label. I think, this was mainly due to the fact that we only made a single but not a complete album.
The band have gone through some member changes what can you tell us about that?
Yes, we really had a whole lot of lineup changes. I think it is more than 20 musicians playing with Coronatus till the very start in 1999. Furthermore, I am the only foundation member left in the band. The reasons for all of those changes are quite different, varying from case to case. Some members quit due to their own decision and their own private reasons, some of them have been thrown out by the band. However, I am sure, that this happens to a lot of bands. This is nothing very special. But in contrast to other bands, Coronatus did not resign after even very important musician quit the band, i.e. like Carmen, our first soprano voice. And this obstinacy is indeed something only very few bands are able to keep over all the years.
Have all the member changes been difficult for the band to go through?
No, of course not all of them! It is far more difficult for a band to loose a singer than an instrumentalist for example. Furthermore, it is much more difficult for the band to loose a member that really takes over more duties than only playing his musical parts compared to somebody doing not more than that. It really depends on the personality and abilities of each musician involved.
How did you come up with the idea to take in two female vocalists?
An old story: in the end of 2004 we had a gig offer but no singer. We made a casting and two of the ladies, one with a soprano voice and one with a rock voice had been that amazing, that we simply could not decide for the one or the other. Thus, we took both. And this was the real starting point of Coronatus with our very special brand pointed out by the two female voices.
Where does the band name come from and who came up with it?
The name is Latin and means “the crowned own” and represents lyrics of the first songs of George G. He was very much concerned with religious ideas in that time. It was also George, who came up with the band name.
When was the first time the band performed live?
Uh, I hardly remember this. Ok, this was in a small club called Rising Sun, nearby Stuttgart. Although I like the club itself, it was one of the worst gigs we ever played. We have been really bad *g*
When I looked up the band on wikipedia there were three ladies listed as lead vocalists. Do you have three singers in the band now?
No, we only have two singers: its Mareike and Ada, not more!
How come the band has done so little touring through the years?
Actually, I do not understand also. One reason surely is our lack of a competent booking agency. And we do not have the money to book on a tour each year by ourselves. Unfortunately, our label also cannot support us very much by financial means. Thus, it is not possible for us to go on tour with a more famous band. I think this is a pity, at least since we have this new line up of the tour with Haggard. We do really great shows since Mareike and Ada joined the band!
Why have you only performed in Germany and surrounding countries and not in any other parts of Europe?
It’s the same reason! The lack of money! Most festivals do not even pay anything for the less famous bands. Only the headliners are payed well. If you have to pay for the travel, for the hotel, and on the other hand you loose money at home, since you are out of work because of the journey, then you might understand why it is not so easy do such gigs. However, we have been in Hungary, in Romania, and Belgium. Maybe we can add some countries in the near future. Hopefully!
Does the band members live in the same town or far apart from each other?
Most of us come out of the area of Stuttgart, but our bass player has a little bit longer way to our rehearsal room; also Psalm (keyboarder on the tour with Haggard) lives a little bit more far away.
In your biography it says that the new album marks a new phase in the bands history and that the album is taking the listener along for a unique musical journey. What do you think of that statement?
I think, this is a good description of our situation and the album as well. After Carmen quit and half of the band followed, it was totally unclear, to what kind of musical shores the journey would go.
Are you active on the internet? And do you think it’s important to be a part of all the social networks and forums that’s around at the moment?
Actually, we do have a facebook page, as well as a myspace page and a regular homepage. And of course, being part of and being active within those networks is a tool, which is surely necessary today and means quite a large diversity of advantages to every band. However, at the same time, it is somehow very time consuming to do so.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question they ask you?
I think, the most frequently asked question, is,if and when we will play here and there, depending on the town the fans come from.
Are you going to do a proper tour through Europe soon and do you have any festival shows booked for the summer so far?
We will try to go on tour this year, but up to now it is not clear yet. One festival show we played was at the WGT (Wave Gothic Meeting) in Leipzig a few weeks ago.
Are you happy with what the band have achieved so far?
Yes, of course. Although a band should always try to reach a higher level, it is not so bad, what we did and I am proud that we did not give up the race over all those years. Of course there are a lot of bands that gained more success than we did, but on the other hand, there are a whole lot of bands that gained less. That’s it!
When can we expect to find the next album by Coronatus out in stores?
Hopefully, in autumn 2013…
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered Coronatus yet?
Check out our music, give it a try and some of you surely will be convinced of it!
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy TERRA INCOGNITA?
Well, first, we never record a boring album; we always deliver a wide variety of songs with a whole lot of ideas. You may love it or hate it, but it will not be boring, if you listen carefully. Second, we always try to keep the songs melodic, thus not too technical but with a big portion of high musical demands. And last, it is simply a very good production, with the best sound we ever did. You shouldn’t miss it!
Well, finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?
Words of wisdom? Uaah! Maybe this: simply, keep to your dreams, don’t give up and do not copy music illegally…?
That was all for me. Thanks a lot for taking the time answering the many questions and I wish you and the band all the best in the future.
Thanks for your time.