DATE OF INTERVIEW:
LONG DISTANCE CALLING
6th May 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: Hey there! ‘Trips’ is a magnificent album, and I would say a career best, so you must be incredibly proud of what you’ve achieved with this one. Are you a 100% happy with how your sound’s progressed, and how the album turned out?
JAN: Hey! Thanks a lot for your nice words, we are really happy with the album. It sounds really, really good and I guess we made some good songs and also increased the songwriting level. It´s very diverse and showcases where we are right now.
(Jan Hoffmann on the new Long Distance Calling album, 'Trips')
"The plan was to create a very diverse and emotional album, covering all colours on the emotional palette."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Long Distance Calling Website:
LONG DISTANCE CALLING DISCOGRAPHY
Satellite Bay (2007)
Widely lauded as their strongest, most diverse, album to date, Long Distance Calling's fifth full-length release, 'Trips', is also their second to be lavished with a liberal dose of vocals; this time, courtesy of Norwegian singer/songwriter Petter Carlsen. Metal Discovery quizzed the German band's bassist, Jan Hoffmann, about progressing beyond their instrumental roots; using a producer for the first time ever; songwriting isolation; dreams; and whether the introduction of singing to their aesthetic has been long prophesised, seeing as Long Distance Calling is actually an anagram of “I’ll cancel d’no sing tag”!
Long Distance Calling - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2016 Markus Hauschild
Official Long Distance Calling Facebook:
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for arranging the interview.
Avoid the Light (2009)
Long Distance Calling (2011)
The Flood Inside (2013)
MD: You worked with a producer, Vincent Sorg, for the first time, after previously having complete autonomy with your own sound. Did you feel this was a necessary move as one of the ways to help you progress your sound?
JAN: I would say, yes. Once you have a band for a couple of years, you tend to develop some kind of “formula” when it comes to songwriting. We wanted a fresh angle and a new approach to our music so it was a logical thing to try something new with ‘TRIPS’.
MD: Did you have any apprehensions about bringing in a producer, and did it initially feel strange in any way by having another person working with you?
JAN: Of course, we were talking about this before and we had some concerns, but after the meeting with Vincent we felt very comfortable and energized. He has a great sense for music and we had a good feeling to dive into this with him.
MD: Vincent’s done a remarkable job with the production as the album has a fantastic fresh and resonant sound, but what drew you towards using Vincent in particular? Are you fans of any of his previous work?
JAN: He is living and working not too far from where we are from and he is well known for his big productions, so that´s why we contacted him.
MD: Compositionally, the album feels very natural, expansive and free-flowing, and I understand you escaped into total isolation by relocating to a remote hut in the mountains, and a forest cabin, for the songwriting sessions. Did that heighten your creativity in the ways you hoped it would?
JAN: Totally, we just had to break out of our habits so that’s why we chose this path of “isolation”. We wrote a lot of material there which we brought to Vincent, who then helped us filtering the stuff and giving us his view of things, which was totally refreshing.
MD: There are so many different moods conveyed through the music on ‘Trips’ so it makes for a refreshingly unpredictable listen. Did the songwriting prove to be an artistically unpredictable experience for all of you, and did you surprise yourselves by the diverse paths the songs took?
JAN: Yes, we did. It was exactly the plan with ‘TRIPS’, to expand our universe and just go with the flow. The plan was to create a very diverse and emotional album, covering all colours on the emotional palette.
MD: I gather that the general concept behind ‘Trips’ is about time travelling, into the future and past, through your dreams. Is this intentionally reflected in the music, which seems to be both regressive and progressive, with a retro feel in places, but also with a forward-thinking aesthetic?
JAN: Exactly, this is what we wanted to do. Go back and forth, both musically and in dreams. Music has this ability to travel time and that’s why people love it. It can bring you places you have been before or make you dream about the future and the now.
MD: What’s the most recently bizarre dream you’ve had, where you’ve travelled either into the past or future?
JAN: I had a dream recently that I had a lot of times when I was a kid. I was climbing up a huge crane and walked to the very end of the huge long arm. Then I am falling down. I had this dream a lot of times when I was a kid and it´s still very scary.
MD: Do you derive any form of creative inspiration from your dreams? Do you ever try to rationalise the abstract through your music?
JAN: Not the rational side but the emotional side. A dream can forge an emotion that you can translate into music, which is a great thing.
MD: You’ve gone for a very 80s tongue-in-cheek vibe for the ‘Getaway’ video, so did you feel the visuals needed to reflect the kind of 80s feel of the track?
JAN: Of course, this song should not be taken too serious so, of course, the visual aspect had to match with the music.
MD: This is your second album that has vocals on a number of tracks, so it now seems more like a natural part of the Long Distance Calling aesthetic, but were fans generally accepting of your use of vocals when you released ‘The Flood Inside’?
JAN: No, not all of them; of course, some only like the “pure” instrumental side of the band but that’s something we don’t care about too much. This is what we want to do so we just do it and hope that people dig it. It would really be wrong to only do what people expect from us, that has nothing to do with art.
MD: In essence, I guess the voice is just one more instrument in your overall sound, but would you say it still remains the same challenge to make the music tell its own story, even though you now have lyrics in some tracks to fulfil that purpose?
JAN: It´s just two different animals, the vocal songs need space to breathe and the instrumental songs need much more detail work, so both are a challenge actually.
MD: For the songs with vocals, are you always careful to try and hold back by not putting too many layers in the instrumentations, so as to leave enough breathing space for the signing to gel comfortably with the music?
JAN: Exactly, that’s what I mean when I say the need to breathe. Too many layers would just add too much chaos to the songs; good melodies need room to unfold.
MD: You recruited Martin “Marsen” Fischer for keyboard/vocal duties on ‘The Flood Inside’, and despite performing all keys, piano & electronic sounds on ‘Trips’, he’s not contributed any vocals. So, did you want to progress vocally by using Petter Carlsen? Was Marsen cool with not singing this time around?
JAN: Yes it was totally ok for Marsen, It was his decision so he was easy with that. We don´t know what the future holds, we always start from scratch when we do a new album, but Petter is amazing so let´s say “definitely maybe” :)
MD: Marsen’s now left Long Distance Calling, so what led to his departure?
JAN: Marsen wanted to focus on this private life. He has kids and a job, so that´s all. No bullshit or stress.
MD: Petter’s touring with you for this album, but I gather he’s not actually become a permanent member of the band. Are you hoping to lure him into the fold on a more permanent basis? The guy has a phenomenal voice, so he seems like the perfect match for your music!
JAN: Like I said, we never plan ahead that much, let´s just see how it works out, he is an amazing vocalist and person, which is a good basis, I guess ;)
MD: Petter’s already guested on a track on your previous album, titled ‘Welcome Change’, alongside Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh, for which I gather he also wrote the lyrics with Vinnie. Was Petter also responsible for lyrics on the new album?
JAN: We wrote the lyrics together. Some of them were already done so we re-arranged them with Petter because I think it´s important for him to sing about what he can feel.
MD: What can people expect from a Long Distance Calling live show?
JAN: You can expect a pretty energetic and diverse live show, it´s a trip through silence and chaos at the same time.
MD: Finally, are you aware that your band name is an anagram of “I’ll cancel d’no sing tag”… so do you think it was always your destiny to progress beyond your instrumental roots?!
JAN: Haha, that’s really funny :) We didn’t find a vocalist in the beginning, that´s why we started instrumental. It was never planned and we always knew that we wanted to work with vocals at some point. But it´s always about the quality so waiting was a good thing.
MD: Thanks very much for the interview, much appreciated, and best of luck with all the touring!
JAN: Thanks a lot man! People, check out ‘TRIPS’, we hope you enjoy the songs as much as we do!