DATE OF INTERVIEW:
24th August 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: Hello, thank you so much for this interview! Congratulations on the ‘Fire & Ashes’ EP; how has the feedback been so far?
MARCO: Thank you! The feedback has been 99% positive, which makes us very happy of course! We actually are a bit surprised, because we thought that people would be much more critical with the cover versions and that we would get our faces kicked much more, especially for the Meat Loaf cover, but, well, people seem to really like what we have done here!
(Marco Heubaum on Xandria's heavier approach to the symphonic metal subgenre)
"In a time when most symphonic metal bands became more “pop” oriented, we wanted to do the opposite."
Interview by Salomé Sequeira
Official Xandria Website:
Kill the Sun (2003)
Albums & EPs
Releasing their sixth studio album, 'Sacrificium', last year, which showcased the wide ranging voice of newly recruited vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen, Xandria further consolidated their reputation as sonic purveyors of heavy, epic and progressive symphonic metal. And 2015 has seen the release of a stopgap EP, 'Fire & Ashes', to tide fans over until the Bielefel-based German metallers' next full-length release. Metal Discovery's Salomé Sequeira posed a few questions to Xandria founder and guitarist/keys man Marco Heubaum about their latest work, plus a few more things besides...
Xandria - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2015 Tim Tronckoe - www.timtronckoe.com
Official Xandria Facebook:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Salomé: The Seventh Veil (2007)
Neverworld's End (2012)
Fire & Ashes (2015)
MD: Could we say that this is more a sort of gift to the fans so people can enjoy some new music as they wait for the next full length? Where did the idea come from?
MARCO: Yes, it is exactly that. And also to assure people that we still have our current singer, haha! The idea came from our label, and we liked the option do some things we wouldn´t do on a regular album.
MD: Dianne is extremely versatile throughout this EP. ‘Fire & Ashes’ sounds like a combination of old Xandria and the so-called "Xandria 2.0". Was this intended? Can we expect this mix on a future release?
MARCO: There was no plan like that. Except for the remakes, that have been a wish from many fans, we don´t look back to the past very much. As for the new songs, musically, it´s just the Xandria we are now; we just did what we felt like. I think it´s very much in the vein of the two last albums. But maybe you are referring to the vocal diversity on the EP. Yes, Dianne tried out a lot of cool and interesting things, but that doesn´t mean we have the intention to be reminiscent of the “old era” Xandria. It is just adding facets of expression and, for sure, you are going to hear a lot of these on the next album, because we are very convinced of Dianne´s abilities to show different facets and supporting the mood of a certain song that way.
MD: It seems settled that you decided to have a classical female singer and that is what we can expect in the future. So what was the main reason for this change after Lisa left? Most fans seem to embrace both directions, what would you say is the link between the Fire and the Ashes?
MARCO: If you are asking what has been something that never changed in Xandria then it was the mix of metal and a lot of atmospheric elements. But even before Lisa decided to leave, we had approached a dead end, also because of severe musical differences in the band. Xandria was close to be over. After Lisa had left, we all sat down and tried to find a way for the future, a way we all want to go and that we would be enthusiastic for. We wanted it to be heavier, more complex and a more epic sound. In a time when most symphonic metal bands became more “pop” oriented, we wanted to do the opposite.
MD: There are 17 tour dates announced, starting in September; with the release of this EP, can we count on listening both to the covers and new songs live, or will these dates be more focused on Xandria's vast repertoire?
MARCO: We will definitely play songs from the EP, that´s for sure. On the support shows for Powerwolf it will probably be more our own material, because as a support band we want to present our very own songs to an audience that probably doesn´t know us yet. For the headlining shows that are to come, we will still decide. Let´s see. What I can tell you is that there will be more live dates next year, so also stay tuned for those.
MD: Your rendition of ‘Don't Say a Word’ is absolutely stunning; have you had any feedback from any member of Sonata Arctica? You have recently toured with them!
MARCO: We have toured the USA and Canada with them last year. Coincidentally, we have been asked to do that cover version right when we have been on that tour. It was a label with the plan to make a Sonata Arctica tribute album. So when we got that email, we could go right to the Sonata guys’ backstage room and tell them about it. Very funny! We definitely wanted to contribute to that tribute album with a song, because we like the music and the guys of Sonata Arctica a lot! They are really great people! They also liked the result very much, and as we didn´t want to hold it back from our own fans we decided to also put that track on the EP.
MD: Delain, Stream of Passion, Sonata Arctica, Epica and Xandria, all big names in the scene now; I remember seeing you guys back in 2012, opening for Epica in Portugal and you completely conquered the crowd, the buzz around you was enormous. Being a band with pretty settled roots, how differently does it feel from 10, 5 years ago? Do you still feel like you play in a new place and attract new people or is it more like an already desired performance by your fans?
MARCO: As I already said, since ‘Neverworld´s End’ we feel like a new band, so for us it´s definitely about going to new places and present ourselves to new audiences – that´s why we do support tours. We are far away from feeling like settled…
MD: Any band you would like to play with that you firmly believe would attract people to Xandria's sound?
MARCO: Of course, there´s one most applicable answer and that is Nightwish. I think a lot of their fans could like Xandria, but most of them probably don´t even know that we exist…
MD: Dianne is the most recent member in the band but not the only one. Steven Wussow replaced a long time member, Nils Middelhauve. As far as performance and composition goes, what did Steven add to the band's overall sound?
MARCO: Steven has a very straight and powerful way of playing the bass. This is exactly what we wanted to add, heaviness and that little dirt to make a nice contrast to the more “elegant” orchestral arrangements. He is doing a great job here!
MD: Xandria is a band with an extremely good connection with their fans. I've never met such nice musicians. You seem to be able to come out before the show and mingle, making a lot of people happy. Is this energy still going on? How do you find time to relax when, sometimes, you guys are to be found chilling outside the venue with fans? Can we still find Philip outside, jokingly saying that selling merch is his main job?!
MARCO: Sure, he is still doing that, going out to the fans – as we all do! As long as it is possible for us, we will do that. This is why we are doing all this, to come around and meet the people, to be close to the ones we are playing for.
MD: You have been working on Xandria since 1994 so, in the last 21 years, what’s been the happiest moment and which one has been the most challenging to overcome?
MARCO: As you may know, Xandria has not been founded in 1994; it just has been the early beginnings of my personal musical career. I started a band with a friend back then, and what we did has been the roots of what later has become the Xandria you know today. This earlier band split up in 1997 and then I was writing songs and trying to develop as a musician for the next 2 years before I started to look for fellows to start a new band. Since then, there have been a lot of ups and downs and I cannot pick a single one. We, of course, have been very happy when we signed our first record contract, this was like a dream coming true and very surreal. The most challenging time maybe has been when we had to find a new singer after Manuela left. As this was happening for the third time already, for some time I wasn´t sure if I would have the power to carry on. Sure, today this is no question, with Dianne on board and everything going so well. But back then, how could we know we would find someone again? It´s really hard, believe me, there are not that many good singers out there…
MD: Lastly, Dianne did some research for her Master's degree about the combination of metal and classical music and how to combine them both vocally. It is quite common to have metal fans preferring to listen to classical music other than any of the many genres available nowadays. Why would this be; do you believe that, musically and emotionally, they are highly connected?
MARCO: Not in general. Same as non-classical music, also classical music has a lot of diverse styles and moods. Its history is spanning over several centuries. But it has always been a music that was not mainstream, in the sense of what normal people in the streets are listening to. Also not in those past centuries. But it has a lot of power and expression, can be very dramatic and due to that transport themes apart from the usual pop song, just like metal does. So there is some overlapping, which becomes more obvious when the styles are being mixed. But we must not mistake “classical music” with “music played by an orchestra”, which many people do, I fear. For example, as a songwriter I am much more influenced by film scores than by classical music when it comes to include orchestral arrangements in our songs. Of course, people connect to a voice a lot, and Dianne for sure has a very well trained classical voice. She would also probably be the one bringing real classical influences into Xandria, if there are any - like she just did with ‘In Remembrance’ on our new EP. It is based on an aria from Verdi, a favourite composer of Dianne.
At the end of the interview, we would really like to thank you for your support!! Many blessings to you people out there who read this! We would love to welcome you on one of our concerts, so hopefully see you there!