Britta Görtz, Jonathan Stenger, Christian Bröhenhorst and Gerrit Mohrmann - Cripper
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Björn von Oettingen and Jan Rosenberg at CMM Gmbh Marketing for the help.
Promo Pictures is taken by: Alina Omerbasic
The Hanover based thrash metal act Cripper is back with their smoking third album titled ANTAGONIST, and man, are they back with a vengeance! I think that Cripper is one of the best new thrash acts around today. Growler Britta Görtz, Guitarists Jonathan Stenger and Christian Bröhenhorst along with new bass player Gerrit Mohrmann and I had a chat about what the new album is about and of course what the band have been up to in between the releases. The interview became pretty long so if you like thrash metal I urge you to check out Cripper. Remember where you read about them first! If you want to read more about the bands background then take a look at the previous interview I did with Cripper.
Hi, thanks for taking the time making this interview with metal-rules.com are you ready to kick off?
Britta: Sure, let's go. It's a long way through all these questions Thanks a lot for offering us so much space to present ourselves to the metalheads!
The brand new Cripper album is called ANTAGONIST and was released earlier this year. How long did you work with the album before you felt it was ready to launch it?
Britta: We recorded all songs after the whole writing process was finished. So we mixed and mastered the album right after the recordings were finished.
Were there many songs that didn't make it on to the final cut of the album?
Britta: No, maybe 1 or 2 got kicked out in the end phase of the writing process. But they were never recorded.
What are the lyrics about this time and who writes the material in the band? Also, where do you find inspiration to write music and lyrics?
Britta: We write our music together in our rehearsal room. It's really us five sitting together, jamming, writing riffs and drum licks. Most of the time I get the first ideas for lyrics in that phase. I write lyrics wherever and whenever, sometimes a pile of small paper cuts falls out of my bag and jeans pocket. It's chaotic. But somehow I get it sorted out in the end and come up with something.
Life itself offers a vast choice of topics to write about. There seems to be no limit in finding something interesting in people, nature, our daily routine. Not all of my lyrics are autobiographic, but all of them are personally inspired.
The album clocks in on 45 minutes, do you feel that is a fair amount of music the listener gets for their money?
Britta: Funny question! I don't think the value of music can be expressed in song length. There many songs from many different artists that have given me more than I could pay off with money. In turn, it's not money that pays us off for all the effort that we are putting into our band for 7 years now. Money can't buy that. It's our fans who make it worth it.
Are there any limited or deluxe editions of ANTAGONIST available? If so what's featured on the special editions?
Jon: We had a limited edition of 100 copies in a box we designed and decorated ourselves by hand. Including the digipak, a t-shirt and a custom pin with an unique number.
Christian: All those boxes were sold-out very quickly. So thanks again for support out there! The boxes were only sold through us – at two shows and in our official web shop, that we run on our own.
Your previous album DEVIL REVEALS came out back in 2009 - what took it so long for you to follow up that album?
Britta: Well, the writing process itself was done in a time span of three years. That may sound much, but it's not really a lot. In the meantime we played a European tour, lots and lots of festivals, Jonathan became a father... and not to forget we all have steady full-time jobs. We are not making a living on the band and therefore we cannot work on songs 10 h each day. Maybe one day, who knows?
Do you feel and Cripper have developed music-wise through the years? If so in what way?
Jon: Of course there is a development. Every record has its own style and sound. There is a big difference between the first demo EP "Killer Escort Service" (2006) and the first album "Freak Inside" (2007) for example. In the beginning we played a more melodic and undefined style of Thrash, kinda Melodic Death in some moments. Through the years we learned how to compose more compact and defined song structures and we managed to recognize our strengths and weaknesses to improve our skills into the right directions. The current record "Antagonist" again is a huge step for us, in both technically and song writing matters. Well, of course that's just our opinion. Otherwise it would be really fucked up, if we became worse through the years... But still we are playing our own style of Thrash.
Do you think that the older fans that has been with the band from the beginning are going to like ANTAGONIST?
Jon: We really hope so! There isn't such a big clashing with the "old" style in "Antagonist". Some songs are faster and more angry, some are a bit more Rock'n Roll. It needs massive changes and a lot of innovation to boost polarization, I don't think we are at a development stage like The Haunted or Metallica, which are inventing a complete new style on every record. If you like it or not, they are doing their thing and I like that thought. But we as Cripper are still happy with our musical direction, if we need a new inspiration in some years, we'll keep playing, what we wan to play. And then we'll record a song with Justin Bieber, be warned! Haha.
I think that Cripper plays a modern version of thrash metal. How would you like to describe what kind of music you play?
Jon: We all listen to different styles of music, so the influences are widespread and the overlap is Thrash. There are no hardliners in the band, so we are free to spice up our sound with some new ingredients. As mentioned before, we're just playing what we would declare as "badass enough" and what's sweaty to perform on stage.
I wouldn't say, that we are focused on "modern Thrash", some reviewers hear some Old School influences, too. In the end, we just don't care. Thrash is stereotype enough.
How would you to comment on the following lines that was written about the album in your biography – "shows both its old school as well as its rock' n'roll and have become more mature".
Jon: Well, that refers especially to the development from DEVIL REVEALS (2009) to ANTAGONIST (2012). And of course we don't play Old School Rock 'n Roll at all...
Did you throw a release party for ANTAGONIST? If so when and where was the party held?
Britta: Yeah sure! And it was a hell of a party! I don't think I remember how I got home Luckily the club „Musikzentrum“ here in Hanover is in a walking distance of where we all live. It was 15th June 2012.
Have you shot any video to any of the songs yet? If so which song and was it fun to do that?
Britta: Just before we went on European tour with Onslaught we shot and released a video for the song „Animal of Prey“. It was a lot of fun! Jonathan and me did the video concept and Jonathan also did the whole post production. We are real control freaks and do any artistic work ourselves.
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs?
Britta: Plans... let's call it „idea“. We are not sure yet and I won't reveal the song.
It is possible to listen to two of your new songs on your website, is that a good way of promoting the album?
Jon: If no one knows your stuff, you gotta promote yourself. I don't see a reason for hiding our shit and make it un-accessable for potential new fans.
Britta: Try before buy – always a good concept. On our website we chose the songs of the new album that we think can stand for the album best and mark the stylistic edges.
How did you chose to title the album ANTAGONIST?
Jon: It has a link to the working process of the album. An antagonist can be an enemy or an obstacle, a test, like in tales etc. The writing and production process wasn't very easy. We had a lot of job-related difficulties in the band, I became a father and so on. All these private matters were massively affecting the song writing process. To finally release this album after these 3 years of development was like passing a difficult test or defeating an enemy, which is a part of us. That guided us to the title and cover artwork.
Who has done the cover art-work and what does the band think of it?
Jon: The painting was done by me, Christian is responsible for the layout. The cover shows Siamese twins, who are fighting themselves. They are sharing a single heart. One is ripping the heart out his/their chest. So both will die. It's a metaphor to the "Inner Enemy" who stands on its own way and cannot reach his goal. Sometimes it's better to arrange yourself with that bastard than ripping out your own heart to defeat him.
Britta: It also stands for that what solves one problem can easily lead to another. Kill your twin brother, but then you're going die, too.
The last album cover was really red what colour have you used this time?
Britta: It's a black drawing of these Siamese twins. It's on an almost white background. And we used an accentuating darker red for the heart and typography.
Have you read any reviews of the disc in the media? Do you care about what the critics have to say about it? Do their opinions affect your work?
Britta: We read each and every review on our albums and live shows. It's really interesting – one likes our stuff, the next one doesn't like it. It all comes down to taste I guess. It doesn't really have an effect on how we write our music. Why would it? We are not making our living on the band and we write and play what we like As long as there are people coming to our shows there's no reason in questioning what we're doing.
Have you experienced that native and foreign media treats you any different when it comes to reviews and interviews?
Jon: Some English people are labeling our band name "odd"... well, it is! Scandinavian magazines and Dutch are not sooo overwhelmed by "Antagonist" as other media in Germany or Southern Europe. But maybe that's just a specific point of view. I have no clue how the average media feedback is separated or separable between the countries, when it comes to ratings.
Is the band happy with the outcome of the album?
Jon: Yes, Until the next is released, ha ha.
Your albums are all available to buy at your webshop that you got on your website, are there many that has bought the albums there?
Jon: Hm... what is many? We can't complain. But it's not enough to balance the band's costs for rent, car, instruments, recordings, promotion, CD productions etc.
Britta: Many fans really like the fact that we are still running our web shop ourselves. Especially metal heads see an extra value in it and often leave us really nice messages with their orders. The personal contact with our fans is not only important to us, but it's also a lot of fun! I remember one girl sending us a picture of her family including their dog as a thank you card for the merchandise and autograph we sent her. I mean – that's really cool and cute.
How many copies have the two previous albums sold in? Are you happy with those figures?
Britta: We are really happy with every album so far. Please understand that I won't tell you the exact numbers. It's too tricky and can easily become a shot in the foot. Some might think it's a lot, some might think it's too low... plus I simply don't know how many albums and songs were sold digitally so far. An important factor nowadays! So much I can say: Sales went up with each album so far. No money yet to put into our own pockets, but to reinvest into the band.
Many artists and bands consider the music industry to be dead and that it’s difficult to sell albums, do you agree?
Jon: I wouldn't say the industry is "dead". It has changed. Nowadays there are so many bands and artists of every colour and style all over the world. You just cannot even overview how many different styles of Metal there are! In modern days you have the possibility to get music for free, it's still illegal, but it's pretty easy. That allows you to get to know tons of new bands and the starting conditions for new bands are way better through the internet than back in the 80's. The money lays in concerts and merchandise. Physical distribution like CDs is losing more and more importance. "Larger" bands may have some problems with the collapse of the album selling, but for smaller bands like us, there is a bigger chance to reach the "middle field" than ever before. Labels and distributors are not the only members of the music industry. So, it's still alive and growing, as long as there's interest in music.
Which studio was used this time? And who has produced the album?
Christian: This time, we recorded the album in different places were at different places. Drums and vocals were done at "Waveland Studios" Hanover. Again it was engineer Carsten Frank who did the job. Christian's guitars and also Bass-T's bass guitars were recorded at "Institut für Wohlklangforschung" near by. Jonathan recorded his guitars himself and at home. No technical problem nowadays
How does Cripper work in the studio? Do you record everything together or how does the recording process work?
Christian: As I just said, we recorded each instruments separately. Sometimes there were up to 3 or 4 band mates present with the one who was recording his tracks. To give feedback, support and for better control. But usually there was just one of us and the engineer.
It would be a great experience if there was a chance to work together and at the same time in the same studio and having one producer from the very beginning to the end of the project. This time it was not possible. Anyway, we're proud of the result. Let's see what the future holds
Who has done the mixing and mastering on ANTAGONIST? And where took that process place?
Christian: Everything was put together at "Kohlekeller Studios" ("Small Room"). Not an easy thing to do... Just think of keeping everything in mind / the overview... satisfy the band... Kai Stahlenberg did a great job by mixing and mastering the whole stuff.
How long did it take before everyone was happy and felt that it was time to deliver the album to the label?
Britta: There must be a misunderstanding. We don't have a record label. We have a contract with SAOL, that stands for „Service for Artist owned Labels“. They are providing promotion and distribution, everything else is up to us. Full control about what when and where we release etc. and also – the uncomfortable part – the finances. We pay for everything ourselves, like the production and advertising etc. – but it comes back in little pieces with every sold album.
I know that the band have had some departures not long ago, who left the band and why?
Britta: Our bass guitar player Bass-T left the band. It was a personal decision. He moved on mentally and then he moved to a different town. It was just time for him to look for other things life has to offer. He lost his interest in the band and when you're not really burning for something as time-eating and sometimes also very stressful as Cripper, then it doesn't bring you joy anymore.
Is the band still friend with Helwig?
Britta: I wouldn't call it „friendship“ in a narrower sense. But we have a friendly relationship with him. There is just not much left that unites us and therefore we don't talk a lot or meet up. And I don't think he moved to a different town and start a new life there for keeping up strong bonds of friendship But there's definitely no hate or bad talk at all.
The bands current line-up
If I look back in the band history it seems like you have had problems with finding and keeping bass players, why has it been so do you think
Britta: It's a disease called „bassism“ ... It's really difficult to say... I don't know. But we actually never had real problems finding a new bass player, otherwise we'd be fucked right now I guess, he he.
Who's the new bass player and how did you find him?
Christian: It's Gerrit Mohrmann. Feels very comfortable and family-like 'cause he's the band's friend as along as Cripper exists. We shared the same rehearsal room with his band when we had just started. So, complete again and ready to kick some ass!
Gerrit: In 2008 I help them out playing the bass for some shows. Christian Kähler (not Cripper's Christian), the guitarist from my other band SCARNIVAL, is good friend with our drummer Dennis since they went to school. Christian played the 70000 Tons Of Metal shows while Jonathan was staying home with his just new born baby. So the contact was always there.
Has the line-up changes had any impact on your music?
Gerrit: Well, after playing the Onslaught tour, we are starting with song writing sessions right now, so to speak. Hm, let’s see what will happen…
How did the live debut go for Mohrmann? How many live shows have you done together with Mohrmann now?
Gerrit: I played just one song, “Totmann”, at the release show for “Antagonist”. It was Bass-T’s farewell show as well, so for me it was really exciting. The show took place in our home town Hanover and I was not quit sure, whether the fans would accept me or not.
But after the show was over, everything was cool. We had a good time!
Until now we played roundabout 17 shows together, including the tour. For me it feels really comfortable to be in the band with these freaky bastards. All of them are taking the band really seriously, managing it professionally and living it with all their heart's blood.
Hos have the fans responded to the band having a new bass player?
Britta: Yeah of course everyone was curious what happened and also sad that Bass-T was leaving. I mean, look at Bass-T, how can you not like this guy with his dreads and beard, always in a party mood? But as much as the fans reacted sad or unpleasantly surprised about him leaving, they welcomed Gerrit on board in the same manner, welcomed him in the band and were open for him to take over Cripper's bass-guitar. Fans who saw him live on stage already know how much fun it is to play shows with him. He's always in for a good joke or some silly stage acting. We all share a similar humour. On the Onslaught tour all the band had a silent contest of implementing cool 80s moves into their show... you know, doing crazy turns, posing with the guitar like it was a gun etc. Especially Gerrit and Christian made a good team in that!
Gerrit: Thanx Britta, for the kind words!
Britta: You're welcome, Gerrit. Now you owe me a beer... hehe
Your currently signed to SAOL/H'Art are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and into the album so far? & You do work with the promotion label CMM gmbh are you satisfied with their work?
Britta: As mentioned earlier, SAOL as a product of CMM gmbh is not a record label. It provides promotion and, with the company H'Art, a European distribution of the physical CD. We are really happy with the promotional work that the guys and girls at SAOL do. They are located in Hanover as well, and they know we'd send some big guys with sunglasses if they mess it up... haha, no honestly. The people working there are really into Metal and Rock music, know what they are doing and we fully trust them. Antagonist is the 3rd record we release through them, we wouldn't have done that if we were unhappy.
Were there other labels that were interested in signing a deal with Cripper?
Britta: We didn't offer this album to any record label.
How come you chose to ink a deal with SAOL/H'Art?
Britta: Never change a running system We are working with them since the re-release of Freak Inside which was in 2008. So far we are happy with it, so why change it?
Who distributes your albums outside Germany? It's really hard to find any Cripper album in stores or on online record stores here in Scandinavia, why is it so and what do you think of that?
Britta: There are a couple possibilities to get your Cripper CD in Scandinavian countries. In our shop on cripper.de we have CDs, T-Shirts, Posters etc ready to be shipped worldwide. Swedish fans can get our album at Sweden Rock Shop for example, and of course there is Amazon and. Plus various possibilities to purchase a digital copy.
At the moment it probably wouldn't be smart to ship many copies of our album over to Scandinavia to have it in the record stores. See, a CD production is really expensive. We don't produce enough CDs to be in every record store throughout Europe or even farther. We sell best in areas where we play live a lot. If we had a couple shows planned in Scandinavia, what we really really hope to do soon we'd have a good reason to force sales through record stores over by you cause then more people would know us. When record stores can't sell a CD, they send it back to your own expenses after a certain time.
So, let me paint the worst case scenario here for you: We have 1000 CDs in the stores throughout Scandinavia. Sales are not good cause we are not playing a lot. 1000 copies are laying around in Scandinavia. At the same time, sales in Germany go really well, we need to produce more (and pay the bills). Then, 800 copies are sent back from Scandinavia cause the record dealer needs space for better selling products. Shipping needs to be paid. German record stores have enough copies in stock... = we have 800 extremely expensive copies of our new CD in our rehearsal room (nice decoration!). 2014, we go on tour and play 10 shows in Scandinavia. Our distributor tries getting our CDs into the stores. Record stores say: "Noo, Cripper? Ah, they don't sell well!"
Of course a record dealer in Scandinavia can order and get Cripper CDs from our distributor - but at the moment we are not putting an extra effort in advertising it. Our distributor H'Art is working with co-distributors in Scandinavia such as Target for Denmark, Supersound for Finland, Indie Distribution for Norway and Border for Sweden.
Do you have any plans on trying to conquer the North American market or the Asian market anytime soon?
Gerrit: Yeah, indeed. But at the moment there are no concrete plans. Let's see what the future brings. For us it would be really great to play your stuff around the whole world
Do you know if there's any legal way to download your albums?
Britta: Well you can buy all our songs and albums digitally on many platforms such as Amazon, itunes etc.
Does the band co-operate with any management or booking agency at the moment?
Britta: We are working with the booking agency Redlionmusic.They are doing a great work. It's not easy for a band in our status to find a good and also payable booking agency. We are too small for the large booking agencies and too big already for the locals.
We don't have any management in the narrower sense. Of course there are good people around us who know the business very well and don't hesitate to help us with difficult issues. Especially people from CMM and Redlionmusic – we have a very good partnership with them and trust their advice.
I know that Cripper and Overkill were out on tour in Europe back in 2010 how was that? Were the Overkill fans nice to Cripper?
Christian: Felt very cool taking part in the Killfest tour, supporting mighty Overkill every day. Learnt a lot on that - our first - "real" tour. Received the impression of nightliner, living on the road, set up the equipment stuff and load it into the trailer again, playing sweaty shows... every day a new place and a new stage... "Living a dream", so to say Overkill fans and the band itself treated us very good and it felt very cool having a great time with all these metal maniacs across Europe.
How come you mainly tour in Germany, the surrounding countries and Slovenia and Slovakia and not in the rest of Europe?
Britta: Because we are still making our way up that list. But it's getting bigger and bigger and we hope to play all countries we haven't played so far, soon. It's really not like that we have tons of offers of playing Finland, Greece and Romania and we say „Ah, no, come on... thank you“. Haha. And also, the farther it gets from our home town, the more expensive it gets regarding travel costs and whatnot. We can't pay all that extra costs out of our own pockets. We need to evaluate where to put our money in and what will be best for us to invest in.
When can we expect to see a European tour with Cripper?
Britta: We will see. We've just been on European tour with Onslaught and Izegrim, and we hope there will be more opportunities in 2013. Especially the Scandinavian countries would be interesting since we have never played shows there.
Cripper also tagged along on the second edition of the 70,000 tons of metal cruise in the Caribbean this year, tell us how was that? Did sun and waves got along with thrash metal?
Britta: They got along together perfectly! I mean, sun, metal bands, beer, cool people... what more could you ask for? But – sorry to correct you – it was in 2011 and so the first edition of 70k we played.
You had a tv-crew that followed you on the cruise, what can you tell us about that?
Britta: It was fun and a new experience. We have never done that before. Luckily the people were very cool and also professional, and the documentary turned out good in the end. In the beginning we were a little careful regarding our expectations, cause you never know how they cut everything and put things together in ways you never said it. All that didn't happen. Although in the first couple sentences of the documentary the narrator called me „Jutta“. That stuck on me like an old chewing gum for a couple weeks... oh well
Last summer the band played at some festivals but what does the band like the most play at festivals or at intimate clubs?
Britta: There is no either... or. Both is great. A sweaty, narrow club, the crowd and band being one thick soup partying... feels more raw and rock n roll than playing on a big festival stage a few metres away from the first row. The energy coming back from a huge crowd is something that I really dig. On Summer Breeze we played in front of around 5000 people. The tent was well filled from front to back... gooooosebumps! Plus, playing on a bigger festival makes you more available for your fans, which is good. And you make more new fans of course.
Where in the world do you have the biggest fanbase?
Britta: Definitely in Germany. This is where we played our most shows, many people know us from a festival or a tour.
Are you active on the social networks? Do you think it's important to be active on internet?
Christian: Facebook and Twitter are kind of necessary in nowadays. People and fans like social networking and it seems that it is a good way to promote your product, your band, your life and share these information with others. We reach a lot of interested people all over the globe and get lots of feedback on our posting. That's quite impressive.
Gerrit: Although it’s me having the only private Facebook account, we love our Facebook. Sure, a website is cool for presenting the band in an unique design, perhaps a cooperate design or how ever you like to call it. What is really cool with Facebook or with the social media thing in general: We have a direct contact to the fans. It’s really easy to get some feedback. This kind of “Behind the scenes” thing is a lot of fun for both sides. We feel like a kid in a candy store while reading all the comments and counting the “Likes”.
Here we go: www.facebook.com/cripper.thrash
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What's the most common question you get from fans?
Britta: Yeah we get quite a lot e-mails from fans. We get asked a lot if and when we are playing in someone's home town. But most aren't even really asking anything – we receive really nice letters where people from all across the world express how much they like the band, where they come from or how they first heard Cripper. We always get back to them and I hope we always will be able to do that.
You have been out on tour with Onslaught this fall how has that been?
Gerrit: The tour was fucking awesome. We had a great time with all the guys from Izegrim and Onslaught, the bus driver, backliner, tour manager, mercher, and the sound man. As you can imagine it could be quit difficult to be on a bus with 19 crazy rockstars. But through all the days it was really easy to be with the guys. Everyone was absolutely charming and respectful. I think that's the best what could happen to you on tour.
Did you join Onslaught on the entire tour or only on parts of it?
Gerrit: We just did the European part of the tour, which included 11 shows in a row, but we follow them on facebook to where they are heading, hehe!
Do you think that you are going to tour more on this album this year?
Christian: No. There is not much time left and the end of the year is pretty near. Maybe there will be more dates to come in 2013. A second Antagonist tour is not fixed yet.
Do you already have any confirmed shows for summer 2013?
Britta: Yes, we do. The ones I can talk about already are Metaldays in Slovenia and Burnign Sea in Croatia. Get your swimsuits!!!
How would you like to describe what a concert with Cripper could be like?
Christian: Nothing less than an an ass-kickin', death-ridin' trip of motherfuckin' heavyness. Moving to hell an back, thrashin' your brains 'gainst the wall, beating the shit outta you!!
Gerrit: Fuckin’ Metal, dudes! Bang heads and crush your necks!
Are you happy with what Cripper have achieved so far as a band?
Christian: It's really cool to have this standing with the band and all those great experiences of the past you can look back to, funny stories and events / festivals we played so far. Never ever did we have that in mind when we were forming the band!
Britta: Well I was really hoping for that right from the start. Writing music and making good experiences on the road. I don't think I will ever be fed up with that. It's too much fun!
Any plans on when the next Cripper album could be find in stores?
Britta: You are asking difficult questions! No, there are no plans. Of course we are writing on new songs – when there are enough ready we will put out our next album. Maybe I am in the mood for a yellow cover this time, why not... Who knows if there are even CDs any longer once we are ready
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy ANTAGONIST?
Britta: It's a fucking great album that as a lot of blood, sweat and tears in it. It's honest and authentic. And it kicks ass! If you like it, please buy it to support us.
Finally, do you have words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?
Britta: Let it be! Let it beeeee, let it be... let it be... speaking words of wisdom... let it beee-eeee-EEEE
Or how about: „Kein Bier vor vier.“ That's a German saying. It means: No beer before four. But you know.. it's always 4 somewhere...
Thanks a lot for making this interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I really hope to see you on a stage in Scandinavia soon.
Britta: Thank you! We hope so too!