Interview with Georg Neuhauser
November 1, 2017 – Koko, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Metal-Rules sat down with vocalist Georg Neuhauser of symphonic power metal band SERENITY prior to the band’s show in London supporting Delain. Read on to find out about the creation of the Lionheart concept, possible future concepts, Georg’s take on the current climate in the power metal scene and more!
How are you doing? Did you have the time to check out London at all today?
I’m fine, a bit wasted. Yesterday we had some kind of party, because today is the last day of the tour. Due to that we have to travel back to Austria tomorrow. We also have to travel back with our own ‘band-mobile’ for ten more hours when we arrive there. So no party tonight. I didn’t have time to check out London at all today unfortunately. It’s the tenth time we are playing here, and I’ve been here two or three times in private so I’ve done some sightseeing here before. I’m not a big fan of really huge cities, I’m more of a guy who prefers to live in the countryside with trees around [laughs].
First of all, how has the tour been for you guys so far? Any specific memories or moments that come to mind from the shows you’ve done together?
For sure. This tour is really, really great for us because first of all, one day into the tour, our new album Lionheart was released. The time was perfect. All shows were sold out or nearly sold out, so playing in front of crowds of up to 1.800 people a night is really a cool thing. We’re quite happy with that.
What do you do to relax or blow off steam when on tour?
To be honest, the most relaxing thing is sleeping. So if we have the chance, we go to our bunks and nap. Like for example tonight, you have to get out of the bus when you enter the ferry to get across the channel. So there’s always something interrupting your sleep. Having some coffee and just sitting together talking is good, but nothing less or more. To be honest, the time before a show is quite boring – because you’re just waiting, waiting, waiting. Then you are stressed because you are rigging up, sound checking and doing the show, then it’s waiting again. That’s the way it is.
How do you take care of your voice when you’re on tour?
To be honest, normally I try to get as much sleep as possible, that’s the most important thing. In general, I drink a few cups of Jägermeister every day, and this works somehow. We’re a Jäger-band, we’re sponsored by them. The thing is, the others, for example our bass player who doesn’t drink at all or our drummer who’s not that fond of Jägermeister they both got ill this tour but I was fine. With Jägermeister, nothing bad happened at all [laughs]. I don’t do any training or anything otherwise.
Congratulations on releasing your sixth studio album Lionheart last week. What’s the feedback been like so far?
The feedback has been really cool so far. Only, there’s always one or two magazines, especially the big ones like Metal Hammer in Germany, have to give you a bad quote just because they need at least one band to put down every band. Especially if you’re not on Nuclear Blast or any major label. Our label, although it’s quite big [Napalm Records], perhaps doesn’t invest that much money in advertising in Metal Hammer. But all other reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, also the touring situation; we sell merch like never before so that’s really a good sign.
You’ve been playing a couple of new songs live, how have they been received so far?
Cool. They’re really enthusiastic about it because we’re playing the two singles, so people already know those songs. Normally when you start a tour on the same day as or before an album is released, it’s quite hard for people to follow the songs as they don’t know them. In this case we only play the two singles, because our set is only 40 minutes long and we have to play some old stuff. They are quite well known already, so the reaction is quite good.
What is your personal favourite track on the album and why?
I guess I will go for the title track, “Lionheart”. Also “Hero”, that one is a bit heavier. Also “United”; I guess these three are my favourite ones. The whole record is full of metal hymns, which was really our aim. Codex Atlanticus, because it was about Leonardo Da Vinci, was a bit more, let’s say complex, with the overwhelming orchestral arrangements and all this stuff. Lionheart is a typical symphonic power metal album; straight in your face.
The concept of the album surrounds King Richard the First, known as Lionheart. Where does your fascination for this man and this part of history come from?
First of all, due to my main job – I’m an assistant professor of history at the University of Innsbruck – history is a big part of my life. Secondly, when we toured Israel last year, we visited Jerusalem. That was the main motivation to grasp this topic. There is also a connection to Austria, because King Richard himself was imprisoned in Austria for some time. The English had to pay a huge amount of Stirling silver to get their king back. So those three are the main reasons behind this concept.
Do you other concepts in mind for future albums?
Funny thing is, our bass player Fabio and myself were just talking about it on the toilet earlier [laughs]. We were standing next to each other and he said “how about for example Shakespeare?” I could really imagine making a concept album about every big personality of the past. Perhaps we’ll do a bad one at some point. Although Lionheart also wasn’t a very nice guy, we could do someone like Napoleon, Caesar, Alexander the Great or Karl the Great. We’ve also done songs about Henry VIII, but that guy would also be perfect for a full album, with all his Tudor stuff.
Was there a lot of research put into the creation of the album?
Research, yes. The main interest for me was not to tell all the typical myths of Robin Hood and all this stuff, so the topics on the album are facts. There is no Robin Hood song on it, and a lot of people connect Lionheart to Robin Hood. First of all, this guy never existed and if he did, he never would have met Lionheart.
If you were to introduce someone to Serenity for the first time, what five songs that really define the band would you show them?
“Reduced to Nothingness” from our debut album, “Velatum” from Fallen Sanctuary, “Fairytales” from Fallen Sanctuary, “Wings of Madness” from War of Ages, “Spirit in the Flesh” from Codex Atlanticus and “Lionheart” from the latest one. They’re all extremely catchy and these are the songs that the audience also likes the most.
Generally, what is the song writing process like in Serenity? Do you brainstorm and write together as a band or is it more like an individual process?
The main songwriters in the band are our guitar player Chris, myself and our producer Jan. The three of us do about 95% of the song writing. Our bass player Fabio actually wrote one song on the new album; “Stand and Fight”. Normally it goes like this: Chris delivers some riffs and structures, then I add some vocal lines and then we send it over to our producer Jan who changes some things here and there. We meet, and finalise the demo version. When this done, everyone sits at home, improving some parts. The other way around is if for example I have an idea for a melody, and I’ll whistle it or sing it into to mobile. Then I’ll drive to Jan’s place in Munich since it’s not that far from my home town, and I’m not really able to play any instruments. I learned piano for eight years, but nearly everything is forgotten because singing was always more interesting. So I’ll drive to his place and explain exactly what I hear in my head, then we work on it together and send it over to Chris, and he adds his guitar riffs.
You’ve been around for more than ten years now. How would you say the power metal scene has changed?
Yes, there are not that many bands left anymore. When bands like HammerFall really had their peak, there were so many other power metal bands around and they all got record deals. There are not that many left anymore, there’s still bands like Sonata Arctica, HammerFall, Powerwolf, Sabaton and Kamelot, but then… not that many.
Do you think it’s easier or harder to start up a fresh power metal band then when you did?
Yeah, it is. We released our debut album in 2007 and we were at least seven years too late. Of course, this is just a thought, but I am quite sure that if we had released our debut album in 1998, then we would be in a different position. Then we would have been in the same group as Sonata and all these bands, after the whole ‘metal-gap’ with the grunge music in the 90s. Bands like Helloween survived, not even them maybe [laughs].
You are returning to London to play The Underworld in February. What can Serenity fans expect to see there?
First of all, a complete headlining show with at least a 1.5 hour set. I’m not a big fan of bands only playing 60 minutes as headliners, so we will for sure play 1.5 hours. We have some guests with us in the package itself, Visions of Atlantis and Sleeping Romance, both new Napalm Records bands. We will add some special features in the setlist, some songs we hardly have played in the past and for sure some new songs.
What are your immediate plans following this tour?
Right after this tour we start song writing again. In 2018 there should be another release, not a complete album but an EP. Or perhaps some live-DVD stuff, but we’ll have to look into that. Chris will be on tour with Beyond the Black in December and in the meantime we’ll write new songs. In February the headlining tour starts, then in May we’ll do some more European shows then the festivals start. In Autumn there’ll be a new tour, and as far as I know the booking agent is currently booking our next UK tour.
Anything you would like to add in the end?
First of all, thank you very much for the interview. Our UK fans mean a lot to us, and hopefully with Lionheart, which is about English history, it will work well over here. We hope to come back soon with a complete UK headlining tour, and we hope to see as many of you as possible out there then. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your time, and good luck with the show!