Interview with Christian Hermsdörfer
The Underworld, London – February 11, 2018
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Metal-Rules sat down with guitarist Christian Hermsdörfer of Austrian symphonic power metal band SERENITY prior to their London show last week. The band is currently touring Europe in support of their latest album Lionheart, released in October last year.
How’s the tour been for you guys so far?
Pretty good. The first two shows had way more people than we expected. Our Switzerland show had twice the amount of people as last time we played there, so we’re looking forward for tonight, it’s good to be back in London. It’s usually freaking awesome when we play here, so hopefully it will be like that tonight also. It’s still only the fifth show of the tour, so there’s so much more to come.
Did you have any chance to check out London at all today?
Not so much today, I just went to a few shops close to the venue. There really isn’t all that much time. After we play tonight, we travel to Belgium. But I’ve been to London so many times in the last ten years, there’s still more to explore, but I’ve seen the important stuff many times already.
Are there any moments or shows so far on this tour that stick out?
I think for us it was very special to start the tour at home in Austria, in Wörgl. I think it was the biggest ever Serenity audience in Austria, around 400 people or so.
Lionheart has been out for about four or five months now, how would you say the audiences have reacted to the new songs live?
After six records we try to make the shows a mix of old and new songs, ‘best of’ if you want. I think reactions have been very good so far, we noticed that during the Delain tour last year when we played the two new singles (“United” and “Lionheart”). Now we have some more new songs with us of course, we did the same when touring with our last album Codex Atlanticus, adding current songs to the setlist. So not just concentrating on the old ones, and I think it’s been working pretty well, just good reactions.
Georg [Neuhauser] told me last time I spoke to him that he’s an assistant professor of history. What’s your role in the creative process for a new album?
I’ve only contributed to the songwriting of two Serenity albums since I joined, but I have to say it makes me pretty happy that I’m credited as one of the main songwriters on the last album. More than half of the songs are done by me. As we focus on historical topics, Georg researches different topics to get ideas for what to write about, and then we settle on something. Of course, I’m not a history teacher, but checking historical facts is something we can all do. We try to create these pictures in our minds with music and lyrics and try to fit it in songs that work well on the record. We did somehow manage to do that with Lionheart [laughs].
Are there any specific riffs, sections or songs on the album that you are particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the song “The Final Crusade”. First of all, it was never meant to be a Serenity song, I did it for another project. But then I thought about maybe putting it in the pool of potential songs for Lionheart, because I got this idea of creating a song with all the ‘best of’ elements of Serenity. There’s the usual female guest vocals, and there’s even growls which are not used very often in our music. We have to focus on the current lineup of Serenity and now we have someone who can do that. The song turned out really great, and people seemed to like it. We got many reviews from people saying things like “wow, its somehow Serenity and somehow not,” and “it’s so fantastic, can you please play it live?” and of course we do. That makes me very proud.
You played guitar for Visions of Atlantis before. What’s it like to be on the road with your old band?
Serenity and Visions have shared stage together for so many years already, so it’s funny that the sides have switched. Usually I was supporting Serenity, and no it’s the other way around. I think during the last Serenity/Visions tour I was still playing for Visions. But yeah it’s good, Thomas Caser [drummer] has played with the band for so many years, and Clémentine [Delauney, vocalist] I know from Serenity. It’s like family, so it’s just funny.
If not music, what do you think you would be doing for a living?
I don’t know, I mean I studied economics which I have a Masters in, so maybe I would have ended up in this boring business world. I like cooking a lot, so a kind of dream has always been to have my own bar or restaurant or something. Also, let’s call it “artistic cooking”, not your typical bar job, maybe a little bit more special. It’s hard to tell cause my life has always been about music, but of course I’ve always made sure to have a plan B or a backup, if it doesn’t work, but ever since I was six my life has belonged to music. I can’t imagine what it would have been without.
Do you have a specific warm up routine you do before a show?
Of course, we try to get our instruments a little before to get ready, and even more important is to hit the stage and do sound check beforehand. I remember when I played football, you always warmed up before you were put on the field as a substitute. And the same applies to music, of course I don’t need to be warming up for two hours or anything, but around 10-20 minutes before the show I get my guitar, and go through the first two songs. Back to football, if the first five-ten passes of a game are successful, you play a lot differently compared to if you did a shitty pass that early. It’s a psychological thing, so for me it’s always important to have the first couple of songs ready and practiced, and then the rest comes on its own.
What would you say is the biggest negative and the biggest positive of being on the road?
The negative is always leaving home, somehow you need to be able to stand that. We’re all adults, but some are really not able to do that. They might party for the first two or three days and then fall into this kind of depression, “oh, I miss my girlfriend” or “I miss my cat and dog” or whatever. So you have to be able to cope with that, if its two weeks, four weeks or even half a year. That’s the negative side. The positive side is the fact that you are able to be on the road, I think. You get to see places you never dreamed of going to before, I played the Loud Park festival in Tokyo with Beyond the Black in December. I knew Tokyo existed, but it’s not a place I thought I would ever visit. That’s really an advantage, if you ever get the option to go on tour like this, you should really do it without thinking of money, cause its worth more than just that.
What is in your opinion the ultimate Serenity song?
On stage, I think it’s… It’s hard to say, but I think we feel super well with “United” from the new album, but from the old ones I think “Velatum” is one we should always play. I think “Velatum” better fits as a ‘best of’ song from ‘old’ Serenity, because it was more symphonic, it’s still symphonic now, but more power and ‘in-your-face’-metal. So that’s why I would say these two songs, I can’t just choose one [laughs].
Georg hinted at a full UK tour last time I spoke to him, are there any news about that?
Yeah, we’re still on to that. Hopefully it will happen in the autumn. We’re not just planning it, it’s becoming more and more concrete, so I think we will announce that next month. Really good news. I think it will be around 5-8 shows, also playing Ireland and Scotland. I think that’s what I heard. I hope we’ll come back to London then, but I don’t know yet.
Can you list your top five power metal bands?
Okay, I will try. Iron Maiden first of course. Helloween is up there, one of my mentors [Sascha Gerstner] plays there. When I first started playing guitar I was always listening to HammerFall, so of course them. I mean the development of Powerwolf has been amazing, and they’ve somehow become one of the biggest power metal bands. Number five I’ll give to Stratovarius. What a great band, and good company when we toured with them. “Hunting High and Low” is one of those legendary songs. Great guys.
What are your immediate plans after you finish this tour?
For Serenity, trying to get some tours sorted for the autumn and winter. We’re also trying to get some more festival dates for the summer, we have a few at the moment but are working on getting more. Then of course we have to start working on some new material again, Lionheart has been out for half a year now already. I don’t know what the plan is, if we release an EP or maybe a new record in one and a half year, somehow you have to start again. First now, just being on the road, that’s more important at the moment. To simply spread Lionheart all over the world, we want to finally go to Asia and South America. Besides a full UK tour, we also would like to go to the whole of the US as we have never been there before, just a few places. Russia and eastern countries are also being planned so we’re gonna have to travel a lot, but we like that [laughs].
Anything you want to add in the end?
Thanks for the interview and the interest around Serenity throughout the years, especially now with Lionheart. Hope to see everyone at as many shows as possible.
Thank you very much, and good luck with the show!