Virocracy – Interview with Alex (guitar) and Anika (vocals)
Interview by Johnny Wolf
Hey and thank you for your time. Please state your name and position in the band.
Alex: Hi, my name is Alex Jelinek and I am the guitarist of Virocracy.
Anika: My name is Anika ov Moseberg and I am the vocalist.
You’re quite a new band and only began a year ago. How did you guys all meet? What is the meaning behind the band name? Have you been in bands previously?
Alex: Our former drummer and I met via a common friend. The rest got in touch via the internet. We are not living near each other and have to take certain distances to get together for practising.
Virocracy implies the dominion of a virus or viruses. In our song Rane, we draw a comparison between humankind and a virus and find many similarities. Flo had played for a few bands before and has played for Worm Cluster next to Virocracy. Jan has been a founding member of Acromonia and Godless Crusade. I have mostly made music on my own (Illunis) or in rather smaller band projects (Boiling Blood). Virocracy is Anikas first serious band project and she already joined a second project consisting of various female musicians across Europe.
Anika: I had made my first band experience in a project Jan and I had had before we joined Virocracy. We wrote some songs there but did not play any gigs. It was still important for me to be with experienced musicians and learn more about songwriting, rehearsing and dynamics within a band.
When did you first start getting into music and know you wanted to join a band?
Alex: I started listening to rap music when I was ten years old and have done so ever since. My father had a large impact on me as back in the day, he would always listen to 80’s thrash metal and classic rock at home. So I soaked that music in subconsciously. When I was 14, I found new friends who were listening to Nirvana, Green Day, Blink-182 etc. which pushed me into another direction until I discovered old school Metallica and decided that I wanted to play the guitar. I got my first guitar when I was 16 and I have never taken any lessons. I played all my favourite tracks (i.e. the whole Nevermind album, among other things) with YouTube tutorials. However, I was writing my own music right from the beginning because writing music had always been quite easy and natural to me. I started a number of smaller projects with friends but was unsatisfied collaborating with other who were less motivated so I started my own solo project Illunis in 2008.
Anika: Music has always been an important part of my life. For as long as I can remember, music has been around. As a small child, I’d be listening to the radio and always ask my mom: ‘what are they saying?’ when the lyrics were in English. I’m thankful that my parents supported my interest in music. Early musical education, dance, children’s choir, flute lessons and at the age of 8, I started playing the piano.
I discovered rock music when I was a teenager and was listening to bands like Linkin Park, Alter Bridge and Rise Against. Analysing and understanding that kind of music better was probably the main reason I grew the desire to make music myself. At that time, I wrote small pieces on the piano and short German poems and also taught myself some chords on the acoustic guitar so I was able to sing along my favourite songs. My active search for fellow musicians started a few years later though.
You’ve recently released your first album. What is the concept behind the album?
Alex: The album is a concept album that critically examines the role of humans in the environment. It tells a story from the perspective of the main character known as Rane.
Rane lives alone and does not care about others. The only passion is the love for nature, for which they stick to nothing, which makes them end up in an extreme realm. After a dedicated ecoterrorist attack, Rane suffers an enormous irradiation dose and has only five days left to live. Should they abandon all convictions or break down all boundaries? A phase of illness full of illusions is followed by a brief improvement (walking ghost period), which causes Rane to lapse into hybris. Shortly thereafter, however, the radiation disease returns and leads to lonely death.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Alex: The music comprises elements of thrash, death and black metal adorned with progressive elements. Bands that served as inspiration here are Death, Gojira, Revocation, Obscura, Alkaloid and others. Other music styles also find their way into the music.
Who does your artwork? Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with, be it an artist/photographer or producer?
Alex: During the production period of the album, we stumbled across great people and music professionals who we were glad to work with. Our artwork was designed by Justin Abraham. We found him via Instagram: www.instagram.com/artofjustinabraham/)
I personally enjoyed the recording sessions at Hard Drive Sounds run by Roland Böffgen in Stuttgart a lot. He’s a great character to spend time with and his attitude, quality, and way of working impressed me a lot. It was also extremely exciting to watch Christoph Brandes at Iguana Studios do his job with Mixing and Mastering. Our bass player has known him for quite some time and collaborated with him on several occasions.
What is the procedure of producing a new album? Do you have a set way of doing things?
Alex: In the beginning, me and our former drummer wrote a handful of songs. I would provide the majority of riffs and the basic structure and our former drummer would add his two pennies. When Anika and Jan joined in, we improved those songs and also wrote new ones. By the time our bassist Flo joined the band in late 2018, most of the songs were basically finished. Once complete, we gradually changed parts of the songs and practised them for our first live gigs. With the new album, things will be different. We are four creative minds that work on the next album right from scratch. We first try to come up with a story that we could tell on our next album. With these concepts in mind, I try to write music that fits to these images. Jan and Flo write music, too, which I try to implement in the basic structure of my idea. Similar to piecing together a puzzle.
Being a new band, do you have any plans to gig/tour?
Alex: We planned a few shows for summer and autumn, but COVID-19 thwarted our plans. We are not able to meet in person to rehearse. So at the moment, songwriting takes place remotely. Beyond that, our drummer just left and we are currently looking for a replacement.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
Where do you draw your influences from when it comes to producing new music/lyrics?
Alex: From bands I like to listen to obviously. However, I try to find new music every once in a while. I love to look at album covers on websites like bandcamp and give them a try. Other than that, I stumble across new concepts when researching things that interest me. Much of the musical ideas pop up in the most random situations, for example on the train or when riding my bike.
Anika: When it comes to lyrics, there are a lot of sources for inspiration. Books, journal writing, other bands’ lyrics, the news, but also reading poetry (I am a big fan of Emily Dickinson’s work for example). I love it when the deeper meaning a band wants to express with their music also shows in the lyrics; so that is my aspiration, too.
Most spontaneous ideas come when I’m busy doing something totally different like being at work or doing sports. Sometimes, a simple line jumps into my mind and I start building the lyrics around it.
Is it difficult balancing out being in a band with a ‘normal working life’?
Alex: Yes. But to be fair, I am working as a freelance conference interpreter, so mostly, I don’t have to abide by “normal” working hours. So it’s probably easier for me compared to the rest of the band. Being in a band takes many resources but can be very fulfilling.
Anika: One problem might be to find a weekly rehearsal day that is convenient for everyone. During the first months of rehearsing together, I was working in shifts. That makes it even harder than with regular working hours (especially when another band member works in shifts, too).
What is the music scene like where you are based in Germany?
Alex: The music scene in Stuttgart is quite active. We have come to meet many aspiring bands during the last two years. They greatly stand in solidarity and it’s always a pleasure to play shows with them.
Do you think image is important when being in a band?
Alex: It’s definitely important. We had many discussions about how we want to come across as a band. For instance, what language should we use when posting on social media? What to wear on stage? Do we want to make serious music about serious issues or do we sometimes want to make songs that do not deal with anything in particular? Personally, I think our music has depth and this needs to be reflected in the way we communicate with our followers.
Anika: Being together in a band is much more than just making music and presenting it to others. As a band you also develop an identity and I think that is something the audience at live gigs notices right away but which also shows in our music’s topic, artwork and photo styles and everything Alex mentioned that we show to the outer world.
Is there anyone or anywhere you would like to play and haven’t yet?
Alex: I have never played at an open air festival.
Anika: Yes, applying for festivals in 2021 is definitely a plan to pursue. It would be also great to play a gig supporting a more popular band.
Is the music industry how you thought it would be when first starting a band?
Alex: My range of experience is not extremely vast. So far, it has been a pleasure to work with our label MDD/Black Sunset. They are very supportive.
Do you think it’s important for a band to be signed to a label to be recognised in today’s society?
Alex: MDD/Black Sunset helped us with the promotion of the album on a plethora of channels. We are quite satisfied with this and I think it helped us to gain international attention and sell more CDs. Since our release on 20 March, we have received copious reviews from all sorts of countries, which clearly shows that people are listening to our music.
What are your views on bands who give away their music free on social media? Do you think this is a good beneficial marketing idea, or should fans be paying to purchase tracks?
Alex: It depends on your aims as a band. With my solo projects, I have always uploaded my music to listen and download for free. I just wanted people to listen to my music.
With Virocracy, we invested heavily into our album “Irradiation” regarding money, time, and effort. And I think you can hear that in the quality. People will recognise that and be more willing to pay for the music.
What genres of music do you like to listen to personally? Any new bands that have caught your attention recently?
Alex: Next to death and thrash metal, I love to listen to classic rock, grunge, and also rap (due to my background). As long music is handmade and sophisticated, I’m open to listen and enjoy it. I recently discovered Xoth with their amazing sound and song structures. And I’m joining the hype surrounding Jinjer. I am very fond of their sound, ideas and song writing.
Anika: Mostly death metal, but also some black and doom metal bands. I discover ‘new’ bands continuously; Instagram contributes to that pretty often. Festivals are still the best place to find new bands, though. Last year the most impressive festival shows I watched were Décembre Noir (because of their atmosphere) and Critical Mess (because of their energy).
I also think that being open to different genres is important. I include a wide range of songs of several genres in my vocal practise and there are many songs outside of metal which I like.
Were you given any advice from other bands before starting out?
Alex: No, we just came together with our experiences from other band projects.
What do you like to do outside of music? Any hobbies?
Alex: I recently discovered gardening. Aside from that, I do sports and voluntary work for the German trade association of translators and interpreters.
Anika: Sports, painting, being outdoors in nature. Getting fancy in the kitchen. And beer brewing!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Alex: That’s probably the most difficult question of the interview. We are currently writing new music for the next album while looking for a new drummer.
Anika: We had planned a few gigs in autumn before the lockdown started. Hopefully there is a chance to be on stage again in the second half of 2020. Or at least the possibility to fix new dates for any time after the Corona crisis.
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Alex/Anika: Thank you for supporting the underground. Stay healthy and safe.