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24th May 2009
A renowned musician within the dark alternative scene for many years, after a self-produced debut solo EP in 2000 and a series of collaborations with the likes of Soman, she hooked up with Lutz Demmler of Umbra et Imago fame in 2004 with whom she now fronts her own band. Metal Discovery's Elena Francis arranged to meet up with both Lahannya and Demmler on a soaringly hot Saturday afternoon at the end of May prior to their gig later that night at The Water Rats in London's King Cross...
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you two at the moment?
LAHANNYA: We are hot [laughs]. It’s been a great tour. It’s been adventurous. It’s been really adventurous, up and down the country, every day a different challenge and today’s no different [laughs] but we’re quite used to it now. It’s the last day for the first part of the tour so today is kind of like celebrating and the home town for many of us. Hopefully lots of friends will be here and we’ll have a good crowd for tonight so it will be good.
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(Lahannya on the importance of music and creativity in her life)
“I think it’s my purpose for living. I don’t really want to find a family or whatever. For me it’s my passion, it’s the legacy I want to leave behind, it’s how I express myself. If I didn’t do it, I would feel like I’m not actually living or breathing.”
Lahannya and Lutz Demmler on their tour bus, 24th May 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Elena Francis - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview by Elena Francis
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L: I think actually really well. I think it went down really well because it was sort of the first release where we were starting to find what our style really is. When we released ‘Shotgun Reality’ that was a lot of old songs I had written ages ago and Lutz sort of produced and made sound like songs we had written together so it’s a much more diverse collection of material and with ‘Welcome to the Underground’ we kind of…
LUTZ DEMMLER: It came out of the situation we were at that time. We formed the band; we did the first concert so it was much more clear. It sounds very good together, not that many different styles.
L: And live it works really well. ‘Welcome to the Underground’ and ‘Inside the Machine’, which are two songs we have, we play almost every time and people seem to really like them. They go down really well and we’re really pleased with that.
MD: How would you say this differs from your other work?
L: I would say it’s heavier because even on ‘Shotgun Reality’, the last track that we worked on was ‘Doors’ which was already a lot heavier than the rest of the album. So I think ‘Welcome to the Underground’ is a lot heavier. It’s darker. Also, the big difference is when we did ‘Shotgun Reality’ it was a collection of twelve songs which are all songs in their own right, and with ‘Welcome to the Underground’ there’s a story behind it and a concept and a different world that we’ve created and all the songs happen in this different reality. That’s different as well and it’s something we’re carrying on with the new album.
MD: On this concept, you’re exploring the idea of non-conformity and this whole surveillance state that we’re approaching. Would you like to elaborate your thoughts on that?
L: Well basically, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re in the UK or Europe and it’s probably the same in the States as well. We’ve all seen because of the terrorist attacks, the general fear, crime is going up, youths are stabbing each other in the street. People are afraid and the Government is reacting to it and what they’re doing is putting in more measures to control people. They’re passing more laws to actually find out what people are saying in their emails, where they are, how they’re behaving. You can see that if we had another big attack happening, even more of these laws would happen and possibly your past, your actions, what you buy in the supermarket or what medication you have, who you spend time with – that could potentially have a negative effect on the jobs that you get, where you get housing, how you are treated by the state.
LD: They say this data that they have is safe but there have been a lot of issues that shows they aren’t safe and the problem isn’t that there is data of everybody; the problem is that it can be used in a criminal way.
L: Or even in a non-democratic way. We’re not here to campaign for or against something. We don’t have the solutions. We’re not politicians. We’re here to create rock music but at the same time we envisaged a world that is not really unrealistic, in which something has happened, say for example a big attack, and this surveillance example has become a reality and we’re writing from the point of view of the people who have been affected by it. It’s really interesting because it means we’re not just writing music, we’re kind of developing a whole story which at some point we could turn into a comic book or a film or a book or whatever. They’re little stories anyway and it makes the creative process more interesting because you’re not just saying “Oh, today I’ll write about how pissed I was last night or how angry I was with my boyfriend for standing me up.” You actually have something and you can visualise the whole story and tell a story with it. I’m really enjoying that, I have to say.
MD: And you say you’re going to continue with that on to the next album.
L: Yup, we are. The next album is going to be called ‘Defiance’ and it’s all about a group of people that decided that they don’t want to be part of this surveillance society. They’re drawn to the underground and they fight back against the system. So it’s about what they’re going through.
MD: Is it going to be a whole story or individual stories?
L: The songs are not really telling stories, they’re more about the inversions and the situations people are in so they’re also applied about your everyday life but we’re writing them out of context, basically being set in the underground.
MD: Interesting. You guys work with electronic music and that’s quite non-organic. They say music is about showing emotion so how do you work putting emotion in this machine-like music?
L: Obviously on the one hand, I’ve done a lot of guest vocals for electronic projects. That’s very different from what we do with our own project. Lutz has also done electronic remixes for other people and for us but that’s kind of really a thing apart. The way we write music, it’s first and foremost the guitars, the bass, the vocals and finding the song. The electronics enhance what’s already there.
MD: You’re more a rock band before an electronic one.
L: Definitely.
MD: Ah, okay then. You have a wide range of influences, don’t you?
L: Yeah, I think so! [laughs].
MD: You reckon that stands you apart from other electronic/rock bands?
L: Well, there are a few bands that probably aren’t that far from what we’re trying to do. I think in the past, there has been a huge divide between people who do electronic music and people who do music with real instruments. I don’t think and I definitely don’t claim that we’re the first. There are a few people who’ve done it. Of course we have a few famous ones, I mean, Nine Inch Nails have always done it and very successfully as everybody knows of them and we sound nothing like them. We do it a very different way but there are other bands. They’re not that well-known but they are mixing the two of them like we do, also sounding a bit different but people might not know them. Bands like Kidney Thieves or Mankind Is Obsolete, they’re not huge bands but they’re doing interesting stuff.
MD: The whole electronic music comes with an image. How important do you think image and visual presentation is in electronic music?
L: I think in general, image is something that you can’t really create or put on because it doesn’t work. I think you either have a style and a personality that’s reflected in your look or you don’t. I think there are certainly bands that are trying to put on an image and I think it comes across as fake. It doesn’t work for me. If you look extravagant no matter what music you do, it helps because people memorise you.
LD: Makes it recognisable and if you’re talking about a live situation or a concert or something like that, I think it’s not just a concert it’s a performance that includes everything. David Bowie in the ‘70s was one of the early [people], well not the first but one of the early [ones], who brought that together, just not going on stage and playing the songs but doing it as a kind of performance. Not just the music but the impression and an overall thing.
MD: So what sort of things do you do in your live show to make it more like a performance rather than a band just playing their instruments?
L: I think actually we don’t do anything that isn’t already there. I think it’s fortunate that everybody in the band already has a particular look that stands out. I think if you see us, you’ll see that compared to a lot of other bands that are there in jeans and a t-shirt and wore long, dark and blonde hair, there are people on stage with us who look very different, have their own style and it’s colourful, I think. If we get the chance to play large stages then we do other things as well. We have a lighting engineer with us that does a light performance that reflects the music.
LD: Yes, we have special decorations for stages, stuff like that. It’s a little bit limited for what we can do. First of, all the venues are quite small. Secondly, we are a bit limited in truck space. We are thinking of extensions [laughs].
L: Yeah so we’re limited in what we can take on the road with us when we’re touring but for the festivals sometimes we do bigger things. We’ve done fire shows in the past and that’s always gone down well. And that always leaves us a few stories to tell afterwards [laughs].
MD: What’s the aim of the band? What do you think you’re contributing to music?
L: To be honest, I’m not sure it’s an aim even, we love making music. I think it’s my purpose for living. I don’t really want to find a family or whatever. For me it’s my passion, it’s the legacy I want to leave behind, it’s how I express myself. If I didn’t do it, I would feel like I’m not actually living or breathing. I want to actually do something with my life. I might actually be dead, you know? I want to give my life meaning. It’s less about that I think about what is my aim with it and what can I contribute to the music. It’s more like I have to do it because if I don’t do it, I would just go crazy or depressive. Basically, I would just not be a happy person. It’s a way of life, isn’t it?
LD: Yeah, I think some people need something to express themselves, even if they are painters or whatever. It just depends, they have to do something. For me, it’s music and I don’t know what I would do if I did not do music. I’ve never thought of that, I’d have to say. It’s absolutely clear that I go on doing what I am now until the rest of my life.
L: Even if it kills you.
LD: Well, of course. I can’t live without it. Definitely not.
MD: So are you both full-time musicians then?
LD: I’m a full-time musician. I am running a music studio in Germany. I have another band in Germany and I’m doing nothing else.
L: I do sometimes do different things in between but really I kind of make sure it’s always just limited to certain periods of time and I can focus on the music and everything around it because what I do as well is run our record label and I do all our bookings, I run the website, I do the design for our fliers. I find graphic artists that can express what I want to do with the art work and I work very closely with them. I’ve got video ideas for what I want to do, going forward. Those are all things that need a lot of time so I concentrate fully on that. It’s one thing writing the music and performing and being on tour and the other side is doing the behind the scenes and behind in a band and releasing music commercially just involves really.
MD: What are the future plans for Lahannya?
L: Conquer the world [laughs]! In an ideal scenario! We start with a few festivals this summer, all of them in Europe: Germany, Poland and Belgium. I’m really looking forward to them. Then we’re releasing a new album in October.
MD: Have you started writing that already?
L: Yes, we’re in the studio at the moment, well not at the moment, but we were until last week.
LD: After the first festival in Germany we go back to my studio and we will finish it. It’s all ready recorded. Some of the vocals and additional vocals…
L: And the mixing. So that’s going to come out in October and obviously all the promotion around it, leading up to October. In November, we’re going back on tour in the UK, definitely London again. We’ll be playing the Purple Turtle on the 25th November, that’s a Wednesday, and other gigs in Sheffield, Leeds, Glasgow.
MD: So quite an extensive UK tour then?
L: Yes, we’ll do about eight dates at least. We’ll probably also be going on a small Germany tour in November. Possibly touring again February, March next year and that summer we’ll probably use to go to more festivals and present the new album live across all of Europe. So that’s our plans, maybe not conquering the world but hopefully maybe the UK and German music scene. That would be a good start!
MD: What can we expect musically from the new album?
L: It’s gonna be heavier. It’s gonna be darker and it’s definitely going to be our most aggressive album to date, I think.
LD: It’s a continuation of that we did on ‘Welcome to the Underground’. ‘Welcome to the Underground’ set the direction of where we want to go into. That’s the way.
MD: So a natural progression then.
LD: Absolutely.
MD: Are there any final words you would like to say for the readers?
LD: The final words are always on her [laughs]!
L: I know and they’re always difficult! I would just say that anybody who’s supported us over the years or is finding out about us now and is coming to the concerts or buying our CDs, a huge thank you because we appreciate very single fan, every single person who likes our music and comes to our shows, thanks very much for the faith that they put in us and what they do.
MD: Thanks for the interview!
L: Thank you very much for having us and for coming here and spending this rather gorgeous day in a hot venue!
Drowning (EP - 2000)
Bleed For Me (Single - 2007)
Albums, EPs & Singles
Shotgun Reality (Album - 2007)
Welcome to the Underground (EP - 2008)
Official Lahannya Website:
Official Lahannya MySpace:
Thanks to Mike Exley at M.E.P.R. for offering and arranging the interview.
MD: You released ‘Welcome to the Underground’, your EP last year. How was that received by the fans and the critics?