DATE OF INTERVIEW:
30th July 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Congratulations on ‘Destined Ways’, a fine debut record you’ve made there. Did the songs turn out exactly as you’d envisaged them at the start of the writing and recording processes?
(Nina Jiers on what makes Neopera stand out from the crowd)
"We didn’t want our sound to be of a ‘metal band with an orchestra’. It’s important for us that everything in the music is one unity. Every instrument has its place and space to develop."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Neopera Website:
Destined Ways (2014)
The pertinently monikered Neopera are a new symphonic metal venture from Hamburg. Their debut album, 'Destined Ways', is loaded with grandiose instrumentations that combine orchestral/operatic/metal elements, all adorned with a polyvocal triumvirate of soprano, baritone and growled vocals. Featuring established talent in their ranks with Dark Age guitarist Jörn Schubert and Gamma Ray bassist Dirk Schlächter, alongside relative newcomers with the singing trio of Nina Jiers, Mirko Gluschke and Thorsten Schuck, this bunch of talented German musicians have succeeded in crafting a most invigorating blast of operatically-charged sympho-metal. Already accumulating a string of positive reviews since the release of 'Destined Ways' in their homeland mid-July this year, Metal Discovery posed some questions to the band's soprano vocalist, Nina, ahead of the album's worldwide release at the end of August...
Neopera - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Foto Franz
Official Neopera Facebook:
Thanks to Chris Hewlett for arranging the interview.
NINA: Thank you very much! Well, of course, some small things were changed or added during the recording process, but when Jörn first wrote the songs, he had a concrete vision of them. They were already “built” in his head. And that is what they actually sound like in the end.
MD: The band formed in 2010 although it’s taken four years before you’ve been able to release your debut album. Have certain members’ other band commitments stalled progress on completing ‘Destined Ways’?
NINA: Not really. There were so many different circumstances. Jörn started looking for the singers in 2010. Then, in 2011, we went into the studio to record a 4 track demo. After that, we signed a deal with earMUSIC and went to the studio again in 2012. We finished the album in the beginning of 2013 and started working at the live show. That’s why it took a while, but it was also necessary for us to grow together as a band.
MD: The cover art’s very atmospheric with a dilapidated theatre as perceived from the circle, but what’s that supposed to represent within the context of your music?
NINA: Yes, we thought that that’s the perfect place for our music! Bringing new life into it and revive it.
MD: The band name obviously combines the words ‘neo’ and ‘opera’ so do you want people to interpret your music as literally that, a new form of opera?
NINA: Talking about the musical aspect, that’s what Jörn thought of, when he wrote the music: a new kind of opera. He imagined the music in kind of an “operatic dress”.
MD: Where do you stand on the ‘rock opera’ tag (or, I guess ‘metal opera’ in this instance)? Are the storytelling narratives associated with such a label are applicable to your work?
NINA: Each song has its own story and a certain theme. There is no storyline which goes through the whole album. It is possible that we will do that on our next one. The stories are told within each song. There are sometimes dialogs between the 3 singers or each singer tells his own story. There is a lot going on. This debut is the first “try” for Jörn to realize all the ideas he had in his head. We will work on the show to put it more and more into a theatrical/operatic direction. But it will take its time.
MD: There’s been a long history within the symphonic metal subgenre of combining an operatic soprano female voice alongside growled male vocals, although you’ve also introduced male baritone vocals into the mix. This evidently helps Neopera stand out from the crowd, although what else about your music would you say makes you sound fresh amongst the glut of other symphonic metal bands?
NINA: We didn’t want our sound to be of a ‘metal band with an orchestra’. It’s important for us that everything in the music is one unity. Every instrument has its place and space to develop. From the softest to the hardest, everything can be revealed within the music.
MD: Obviously, Therion have led the way with their polyvocal approach for years (although not so much the growls in recent times). Some of the material on the album reminds me of a harder-edged Therion, so do you take any inspiration from Christofer Johnsson’s music?
NINA: Long time ago, Jörn also listened to Therion, but not that much. He didn’t really follow the Therion discography. So, can’t say that it really influenced him. As for me, I used to listen to Therion a lot, when I was a teenager.
MD: Where were three such talented vocalists found - Mirko Gluschke, Thorsten Schuck and yourself, and is Thorsten’s and your background in metal?
NINA: When Jörn was about to write the music, he made an announcement on the website of Dark Age, that he is looking for classically trained singers. That’s where I found out and sent him a demo. I was a fan of Dark Age, so it was kind of ‘by accident’. I don’t remember what Information I was looking for on the website...maybe tour dates? My background is in metal, yes. Although I spent most of the time of my life with classical training. But, in my early teens, I lost my heart to the metal! But Thorsten never listened to metal before he came into the band. He was recommended by a friend of Jörn.
MD: With three discrete singing voices, I’m guessing vocal arrangements take a while to perfect? Or is it fairly intuitive, within each composition, over what passage of music each singer’s style and voice fits?
NINA: That wasn’t very easy. I remember in the beginning, I couldn’t sing all my parts easily, because either they were too high or too low or too jumpy etc. The same for Thorsten, I think. It was necessary to change some parts or to transpose them. But, during the writing process, Jörn learned a lot. It became easier.
MD: The symphonic, operatic and metal elements all combine well within all of the compositions’ arrangements so do you work hard to ensure such a seamless fusion, so that Neopera aren’t just regarded as simply another metal band adding an orchestra to their songs?
NINA: Exactly, this seamless fusion is most important in our music (see the question above).
MD: I gather the Wacken show this summer will be Neopera’s second ever live show. By playing the world’s biggest and most prestigious metal fest, considering the band’s lack of gigs thus far, is that a fairly daunting prospect?
NINA: In a positive way! We are very looking forward to play there! Of course, some of us have already played in Wacken, but it doesn’t matter how often you have played, this is always exciting! And, also, with a new band everything is different. We just hope that everything will work out fine and we will just see what happens! This is surreal and crazy!
MD: I also gather you hope to be able to tour with Neopera in the near future. Do you have plans for a stage show that will match the theatrical nature of the music? Maybe some costumes and stage props/scenery etc to reflect thematic ideas in the lyrics?
NINA: Yes, we have many ideas for that. We will work on the show step by step. We will see what the future brings. Like you said, until now, we had only one show. There is much space to develop.
MD: Will Neopera’s live lineup be comprised of the same musicians that appear on the album?
NINA: We are five members in the official line up of the band, who played on the album and also will play live. But, on the recordings, we had many more people who worked with us and recorded different instruments. Also for the live shows, we have a session drummer and a session guitarist, who haven’t played on the album but they might play on the next one, since we are planning to have a complete line up for live and studio.
MD: Finally, what have you learnt from this first attempt that you can build upon to ensure that future Neopera music is even more awesome than that on ‘Destined Ways’?
NINA: I know that Jörn learned very much during the process of songwriting and recording. He now knows exactly how our vocals work best and also for the orchestration. In addition, we have many new ideas for the next album, which we are already working on. Also, we had enough time to grow together as a band and can work better together than before.
MD: Thanks very much for your time and best of luck with the album when it’s released across the world.
NINA: Thank you!