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SAMAEL: The new solar era (Interview with Xy & Vorph)

SAMAEL: The new solar era (Interview with Xy & Vorph)
BANDS : Samael

From the darkest road, from the openly expressed aggression to religion, from rebellion, Samael found their way to eternity and to a reign of light, and now they're going full speed towards the sun. Solar Soul is their latest masterpiece and it's out since June 1st. Their quest goes on and still it's a new beginning, with one of the best metal labels out there - Nuclear Blast. And, most of all, a new state of mind and the acknowledgement of the band's identity. So I invited Xy to a discussion about all these… the mastermind, the creator, the perfectionist, always with an idea in mind, always looking to the past with a critical eye to improve the present, but most of all, the future. And in the end, Vorph explains the universe of ideas that is present on every song of the album.



Metalfan: Hello! How are you?
Hi! I'm good, I'm good, yeah yeah. You know, just came back from this weekend [6-7 July] that we had two shows, I'm recovering and a bit of that, but yeah, good.

Metalfan: And how were the shows?
Yeah, they were quite good. I mean the first one in Germany was like, you know, second edition they did for the festival, and there were not so many people there, I thought. And for the billing they had and what they tried to achieve... And Poland was quite good I thought, it was nice to be there.

Metalfan: Nice to hear that! Ok, so now I'll get to my first question. You have just released an album and it is called Solar Soul. [Xy agrees to that] You came all the way from a "Black Trip" to a "Reign of Light", and now even further, straight into the sun. Can you explain this concept?
I mean, you know, I think we never really tried to follow something, it has always been for us more like a natural development, you know? We kind of tried to transcribe within the band music-wise, and I think that lyric-wise also, what we basically are as people. I think it's just like the way we changed or evolved or developed is reflected in the band, you know? And yeah, as you mentioned, I think it's interesting as we could really see every album for us as small steps that bring us memories of what we've been at a certain time.

Metalfan: Because it's interesting… I don't think there's other band where you can actually look at the titles of the albums and really describe them, I mean the title of the albums to describe the evolution of the band. [Xy agrees] It's really interesting! Uuuhm… okey. Who created the cover and what does it represent?
So basically for the cover we tried a few things and there was the drummer of Makro's band, Sludge, who did it. And he's also somebody he knows for years, he's working for some architect's company and stuff… I mean we basically had the title, he came up with a few ideas which we kind of liked and then we worked with him further to develop that. It was pretty much based on the title and you know, to have something in which you could find a connection with it, that would not be too cliché, you know… "Solar Soul" - obviously the sun image is kind of there. We didn't want a picture of something. So I think it's a bit abstract, but still there's also like a Yin-Yang approach with the concept, which is something that was into Samael for a long time. It was interesting for us to try something a little bit different, but still matching with what Samael is.




Metalfan: The album I think reached number 41 in the Swiss charts [Xy approves]. Okey, so how is it comparing to the previous releases?
It's a bit better, so it's a good sign and once again, I mean charts are basically based on how the album sells in the first week and then it's also a matter of how constant you're gonna stay. And in Switzerland we stayed I think three weeks in the charts, but I know it's still selling quite well. But... yeah, it's quite positive for us, you know?

Metalfan: Are charts important for you?
Uuuuhmmm… that's a good one. You know, it's important and not, in the end it doesn't mean that if you're not in the chart you're not selling in a certain country. You can still sell later and for instance Samael is a band whose back catalogue is still selling quite well nowadays, so I mean it's pretty much a constant thing and you know, you could be in the charts, sell really much in the beginning and then sell much more. But it's still a sign, so I mean I would lie if I'd say it's not important. Basically it's not something we're really looking for, but if it happens it's always nice.

Metalfan: You present your new album on your website and on Nuclear Blast's website as a new era for the band. What would that era be?
I don't know, it's… Reign of Light was something like… we had a break before that and since Reign of Light we have like a steady line-up and I think we feel more comfortable there. It's like having a new label... It's a bit of a new start in a way. So we could feel that way, we've been with Makro for years and it's a good atmosphere, there's a will to do more, also to play more and all that, so in that sense... might be.

Metalfan: The new label is Nuclear Blast. Why did you choose their offer, over the others?
There were a few things. I mean Nuclear Blast has been interested in Samael for quite a long time and we also knew a lot of people over there, within the company, and then they also made a good offer. So I mean basically, all in all, that was really a logical step for us. They also had Reign of Light in the US anyway, so we thought it would be more interesting to work with one partner worldwide, pretty much, as we are with them in all countries except Switzerland. So you know, I think it was really logical, it came quite smooth and we've been to the company before that, we met the people, we knew them, so it's kind of… we feel pretty good there.



Metalfan: Also, the deal with Nucler Blast, since they are so huge, will probably bring more intense touring. Many musicians find it really cool in the beginning but afterwards they find it quite hard to cope with, especially if it means to be far from their dear ones for long periods of time. How do you think you'll all manage? 
You know, basically I think it's your dream that in a band you do the live touring, you know that… Then, as you mentioned, if it's a lot it's a different thing, but at the moment I think it's definitely not too much for us, which is very nice. We're just willing to tour more and I think everybody in the band enjoys that. I think it's a difficult side that you're away, but it's also interesting that you meet people… it's a really good thing. And if you play music you definitely want to defend that live, so we'll see if we reach the point to have too much, but we never did so far.

Metalfan: You recorded the album in three studios [The Cube, Albertine, Roystone], as it's written in the booklet. Why did you need three studios?
Well, it's pretty much because we wanted to record everything here, so we used one for the vocals and some drums parts and we used our own stuff for like more transferring, editing. As we did for Reign of Light, the idea was to make everything with the studio album here and then to mix somewhere else. I mean we could do a recording session and then come back to it and enrich things and even go back to the studio after a while if you feel there are a few things you want to re-record or to do differently. I think it's really interesting, you have like more control and on the other hand it's more dangerous in the sense you could go so much into details that you almost lose yourself… or myself [laughs].

Metalfan: Yeah, I know you enjoy to work with details so much!
Yes, quite a lot. And yeah… you should find a limit, I think.

Metalfan: Did anything unusual or particularly funny happen during the recordings?
Mmmmmm…. No, not really. I mean there was one point when we had some tuning issues, so that was… It wasn't that funny, but there was one tuner which was not calibrated at the right point, so we had to re-record. But nothing really special, I mean it was quite smooth in a way and as always, right before the mix, I wait the last minute and was quite intense.

Metalfan: You worked once again with Waldemar Sorychta. This is already a tradition for you... it's like he's become the 5th member of the band. [Xy agrees] Well, in what way did he help you this time? Did he choose to make something different from the previous albums? What was his input to this album?
No, we pretty much know what we want, we know the direction, we know the theme for the song, but it's just this one point when you did as much as you could and having someone with excellent ears, who can come with fresh ears and just tell you a few things, really helps. Sometimes it's really not much, but just to repeat one part or to delay one part, change little things. That just brings more air to the song. You know, it's small things but they are really important in the end. So it was really smooth to work with him, also he came here for like a week or so and just went through every song. And as you mentioned, it's a friendship for a long time in a way, so he's really someone we can trust, it's quite easy. So I mean maybe one day we might try somebody else, but it's just good so why should you change when it works?



Metalfan: Are you fully satisfied with how Solar Soul came out? Production-wise and the songs themselves...
So far yes, because it's not long ago and I think that's what we wanted to achieve. And yeah, I'm happy with that. I mean I'm just looking for the next one and see where we'll go, but maybe something a little bit more energic. We will see afterwards, but I'm really happy with some of the songs from Solar Soul.

Metalfan: Honestly, tell me what are your favorite songs from this album and why?
Pfffff….. uuuhhhmmm… I can't really tell! To me it was nothing really to be put aside, it was not one song in there where I feel this one is definitely less strong than the other. So it's… I don't know… [after a pause:] I kind of like Western Ground in a way, I wouldn't say it's my favorite, but it's a song I'm quite happy with even if it's not definitely the favorite or the first song you're gonna catch, but you know… I like the groove of it and the arrangement with the chorus and I think it's quite open in the chorus. And this mix between the keys and guitar, so I was quite satisfied with that one.

Metalfan: I like it too!
Just to mention one, but I wouldn't say it's like my favorite song from the album.

Metalfan: Okey… Tell me a little bit about the guests on the album: Sami who plays the sitar on Quasar Waves and Vibeke [vocals on Suspended Time]. How did you think to bring in some guests, why them and anything you can tell about your collaboration.
So, we did this also with Reign of Light, having some guests. And Sami did some sitar for us on the previous album and basically that time I almost wanted to have a song with sitar again. Not just for him, you know, but in the sense that we worked fine last time so I thought it would be interesting to have one again. So I kind of wrote Quasar Waves in the idea to add this Indian vibe to it. So, you know, you really expect us to have him. And for Vibeke was Waldemar who was working with Tristania and we were talking about those ideas and he kind of found that it would fit in there, so it was more like his idea for that one. I think it was nice, it just gives a color, an extra color for the song, so it's quite good.

Metalfan: Quasar Waves is my favorite from the album :)

Metalfan: There are a lot of keyboards on the album, it seems like a keyboard driven album... Are there actually any songs that you composed on guitar?
Oh! Uhm… Hehe… [pause] I'm thinking!! [pause again] Not really… [long pause] Interesting question. Wait…You know, if you take like Ave!, definitely you could tell it's a keyboard song for instance, but… Well, maybe Suspended Time was more guitar playable. There was just a drum beat before and then… so that one is more guitar. But most of the songs start with keyboards, yes, so that's correct.

Metalfan: How much time do you give to your work? When you're not having a 9 to 5 job, how do you work?
It's pretty much by period, you know? If you have a touring period when you practice and then if it's a really writing process. Like for that one I had a few ideas, which I'm doing from time to time, just to have like a little draft, but we kind of started in February 2006 after the tour, it took like four-five months, when I pretty much was into writing. And then you have this… you get used to it, I mean the two-three first songs are harder and then you're really getting through this writing process, which when it goes fine I could probably do like drafts of two songs a week or something. Basically you need to have the first ideas and then come back for details, and I give this to Vorph and we have like a demo, we kind of discuss within the band, then he's putting lyrics to it and then we try to record that song, giving some advice on what I would change in the vocals also and then, you know… We're also doing demo tapes nowadays which we didn't do like before Passage actually. I think it's good to have a clear idea, a clear view of what the song will be like at the end. And then, after that we meet with Waldemar who is bringing the little touch and then go back, change this [laughs] and mix.

Metalfan: Referring again to the keyboard parts, most of them have a classical music, a symphonic flavor [Xy agrees], which is more noticeable than on any of your previous records. What happened, did an orchestra move next to your rehearsal place?
Xy: [laughs]
No, I mean that's something we all like in the band and which, you know, I was always really attracted by also all sorts of soundtracks from movies and stuff. And I think with an album like Eternal we could put that a little aside and experiment more with electronics, maybe a bit industrial things, and it was also different. And then for this one we kind of wanted to have pretty much everything back. This more orchestral side on Samael, we wanted to have this more present. We also wanted to have the guitar more there and also to keep the Indian flavor from Reign of Light on some songs, like you mentioned - Quasar Waves, also on Western Ground the violin part has a bit Indian, Arabic vibe to it.

Metalfan: So should we understand that Solar Soul is in a way a back-to-the-roots album?
I wouldn't say back to the roots, in a way it's more an album which englobes different sides of Samael maybe. So it's… you cannot say a "best of", but something which englobes everything from the past and represents what's going on nowadays. And yeah, there are actually some songs, like On The Rise and maybe Valkyries' also, that were more made for the live situations and we've had pretty good reactions on those songs live so far, so it's quite exciting also to play them. It's just a new dimension when you get to the live and that's when you really know if a song's gonna stay within your set or not.



Metalfan: Yes, by the way, which songs from the previous albums will you exclude from the set list to include new ones?
Yeaah, yeah, this is like a nightmare a little. I don't know… I mean we had those two shows where we kind of excluded Inch'Allah. We also excluded Jupiterian Vibe… [Metalfan expresses big disappointment] But it doesn't mean we're not gonna bring them back, you know? It was like sets of one hour, so it's not so long, it's a festival thing so we had to make a choice to include some new ones. But I mean we're gonna play Portugal next week [14-15 July] and we're gonna bring back those two already, so… But then yeah, it's true it's a choice and more you go within songs that… You know, you need to decide what you keep, but we always try to keep quite some old stuff also and to make a variation, you know? A set which includes a bit of every album.

Metalfan: If you give up to Baphomet's Throne I think everyone will be mad! :)
Xy: [laughs]
I don't know, that song is one that we always played and then we stopped for a long time, like for a few years and that was fine. And we kind of decided to bring it back because I think it sounds good and we still feel fine with it and we also wanted to have something from Ceremony of Opposites anyway, so… I don't mind playing that song so far, so… But you know, I think that in a band, if you really get bored of one song, you'd better stop because basically you don't feel it anymore, it's no sense. But as I mentioned, the feeling is right.

Metalfan: How is it that you became so interested in being melodic and having catchy choruses? This is the first time that I noticed that for some choruses you used backing vocals, I mean not only on Suspended time, but on other songs as well you can hear something in the background too.
Xy: [strongly agrees]
I was always into catchy stuff, you know? I like also experimental and more like industrial, some more other music, but basically I always was into harmonies. And maybe that's something we've tried also. And what you mentioned also with the vocals, we worked in a different way, we always recorded twice or three times the vocals, sometimes even four for choruses, just to work more on that and to have this melodies and maybe to make them more catchy. I think that's really important, that a song... you know... to be able to remember the next part and those kind of things, so… yeah.

Metalfan: The best example that comes to my mind for good choruses is Architect, the bonus track! It is extremely nice [Xy: thank you!] but it's quite unfamiliar because, you know… Vorph really sings, and he doesn't do that often.
No, no. I mean that song was… I mean it ended up as a bonus in the sense that we made it almost at the end and a bit different than the rest, but that doesn't mean we didn't like it, you know? It was just a bit different. But that's actually a song where I had the music and the basis and then I gave this to Vorph and he kind of put his vocal lines and then I finished the music afterwards. So that was a bit different from the way we're working usually and I think it's more interesting since he had maybe more freedom for the vocal line, you know? It was just basically drums and a bit of the rythmic and that's it. So I think he could find a vocal line where he feels comfortable, while if he had the whole music… it's harder, you know, you need to follow that.

Metalfan: [laughs] So that means that in general you force him to sing in a specific way!
No, no, but in the sense he's pretty much waiting for the songs to be full [Metalfan: I was just joking!] and then he's writing lyrics pretty much based on what the music inspires. And you know, the song is kind of done and sometimes I change little things to fit with the vocals, but it's basically doing vocal lines after the music fully and I think it's interesting to work in a different way sometimes, like starting with vocals, you know... You could start with keyboard, as you mentioned, you can start with guitar, with bass, with drums. And in a way it gives you a different approach. So I think it's good to experiment anything.

Metalfan: Also regarding Architect, it is the bonus track but on the CD it's not the last song, it is before the last song. Which is unusual… Why?
It is, yeah, yeah. But it is because it would fit there. I mean Olympus, the last one, that's one of those songs where… almost when it was written we knew that's gonna be the last. And it stayed there :) Solar Soul also was a song which we were quite sure it's gonna be the first one, the opening track. And then you need to think about every option for the tracklist, because I think that the tracklist is really important and you need to think that maybe another song could be the opening one. But those two were like… they didn't move. So we couldn't really think about the bonus afterwards.

Metalfan: Did you use real drums this time?
Yeah, yeah, we did a few things like within the studio for cymbals, to have something real because it gives more live…
Metalfan: Yeah, it sounds more natural!
Okey, thanks :) Basically it is what we wanted and I think I like the challange to work with programming, but to have a live approach to it, a human kind, you know… a mixture…



Metalfan: You also did the video for Slavocracy. And it's on your website and it's very good, congratulations for that! [Xy: thank you] Can you tell me a little bit about the concept, the shooting, the political issue it displays?
Yeah, I mean the shooting... we did that in Germany, we shot with a company called Film-M and I mean they did a few videos before, they've been contacting us years ago and we kind of just liked some stuff they did, so we thought it would be interesting to work together. And then for the concept, I mean that song, the idea behind it is basically the bad side of democracy, when you come to a point where you think you can choose but pretty much everything is set for you. And you don't really choose anything, it is media controlled. The whole concept is that of what's happening in some countries nowadays and I think we wanted... not to judge or to say anything... We just wanted to show that basically, and then everybody makes up his own mind. But for us it just felt really important to react on that, I don't know. It's strange because it's the first time within Samael that we do something which is more bond to something real. I mean basically we've always been with supernatural things, spiritual ideas and stuff and that song is definitely more about the world which is surrounding us.

Metalfan: And I think this is also the first video… well, except for Baphomet's Throne which is a live shooting, when all the members appear. How did you come to this idea? You said "ok, Vorph, you were the only one to appear, now we want to appear, too"? [laughs]
Xy: [laughs]
Yeah, I mean we did three videos where he was really alone and one was more animation. There was also budget and things like that back then. When we did Jupiterian Vibe for Passage, it was pretty much during the tour, you know? He just flew in, made the shooting and… But maybe also what I mentioned, the reason that we had a steady line-up for five years and that we feel comfortable with that. So maybe that was also a will, like when you trust that this line-up is gonna stay for until the end. And also a lot of people requested to have the full band, so…

Metalfan: Your image for the last 10 years was that of some… how should I say?… insane galactical travelers through time and space, that went to "infinity and back again", carring with them a greater knowledge and truth than the regular people have access to. Now on Solar Soul you present a more down to earth approach and I'm not talking about not having spacey-things on the cover anymore. Was this a conscient thing to do?  Were you getting tired of this association with space and universe?
Well, a little, yes, because we felt we wanted also not to be stuck. I think within Samael there's always something of which we've been afraid in a way to be stuck to. And we wanted to change a little also, to move and try different things a little, but there's also few of this spiritual, spacey concept which is still present. So I think that album is more balanced between what we used to do and some more down to earth topics and songs, maybe. Yeah, it was a will behind that.

Metalfan: Maybe you couldn't stand that people thought that it was about real space and universe and not the inner self in fact, the inner universe…
Xy: [agrees]
Yes! You know, I didn't want to say this, but this thing got mentioned still... that it would be about UFOs, which is not really something real. I think our approach is much different than that, but as I said, it's been like we did a few albums with that concept and we had the will to do something a bit different, but I think the basis for Samael is still there…

Metalfan: Okey, this was my last question for you, thank you very much for doing this interview.
Thank you!
Metalfan: If you have something to tell to our readers…
I would say hi and that we are looking forward to hopefully come back soon [laughs] because it was really nice last time, so… let's see! And hope... And yeah, that they check Solar Soul!




In the end, we asked Vorph to give us a few details about each song, so you could have a complete image about what Solar Soul is about, both music-wise and lyric-wise.

Solar Soul
This is a song about moving on with one's life, it focuses on a personal level in the verse and on a more general sense on the chorus. The first word is "Go!" and I like to think it's a good way to start a song and to open an album.

Promised Land
This one deals with personal quest. I guess we're all after something, dreams, ambitions or ideals and I think there is a place within us where the fulfilment of what we're looking for already exists in its final version, that's the promised land I'm talking about here.

Probably the first song I wrote about the actual world or at least about a certain vision of it. If democracy is the sovereignty of the people who impose their view to the world, a slavocracy would be when a view is forced onto the people, mainly by medias consensus.

Western Ground
It's a song about emigration; I've got not much else to say about it. I like the somehow oriental melodies which contrast with the title, I see it as a metaphor for the cultural and emotional baggage people take with them while moving westward.

On The Rise
The rush of adrenaline that comes before taking the first step into the unknown has been the starting point of that song. There is a moment of invincibility before facing adversity and I've explored that time pattern in the lyrics.

Societies are all built around a text. I feel like today more that ever before they are alternative communities that have their own rules and codes. With Alliance I've tried to write something for the people we connect with, those who understand us without need of further explanations.
Answering my question if this song is somehow dedicated to his brother, Xy, being his way to show his appreciation for him, Vorph said: I didn't have a particular person in mind while I wrote that song but Xy is definitely someone I connect with.

Suspended Time - Since I was puzzled because on the previous album he always encouraged us to take control over our lives, to be active and fight for what we want to be and to be proud when we reach our ideal, meanwhile in this song he tells us to "suspend time" and to enter a completely dream world, where reality has absolutely no place at all, Vorph explained:
I did read a few things about the theory of multi-universes and find it quite interesting. Not that I particularly believe in it but I thought the idea was interesting to play around with. I've tried to write something experimental about alternative reality and I thought that song was pretty much standing out from the rest but thinking of it right now I can see a link between "Suspended Time" and "Promise Land".

Valkyries' New Ride
That's a song about war. The ongoing war in Iraq was what triggered me to write about that subject but I think the lyrics could apply to any war in history. I've tried not to sound like someone who wants to give lessons to anyone but just give my vision of it.

Money, success, power are some of the most hailed values of our society. The music of that song was so massive it was pretty obvious I would not go for an introspective kind of lyrics. I tried to answer, what matter most to the world today? And then I went with the flow.

Quasar Waves
My feeling is that strong ideas travel in time until they find a way to reach us somehow and that might be true on different scales. Quasars are believed to be the further object ever encounter in our Universe but their waves reached us now and that's how we know about them.

There is something mystical about architecture and I like to think of the link between someone designing a plan to build something and somebody doing the same while constructing himself.

The song was originally called "Pushing The Top" and that pretty much resumes what it is all about. In a few words, never stop, never give up.



The last three questions refer to vocal lines and lyrical approach, to be able to better understand the 'job' of a singer in a band. That being said, I'm leaving you all in Vorph's company until the end and I hope you enjoyed the trip into Samael's universe.

Metalfan: How do you know in what way to approach a certain song vocal-wise? Does it come natural when listening to the instrumental melody?
Both the music and the lyrics have an influence on how I'll use my vocals. I guess it's not only about what you say but about how you say it.

Metalfan: Some of the vocal approaches on Era One (actual singing) also appear on Solar Soul. What made you try this particular way of singing on a Samael album? Will you bring something like this in the future as well?
I don't know yet what the new songs will be like so I can't really say but if we think it would fit somewhere, we'll probably try it out.

Metalfan: How can you express what you want to say when your ideas are limited by lyrics that have to fit with the instruments? Have you ever had problems with this? Have you ever wanted to say it differently, but had to change the "form" because it didn't fit right?
I feel comfortable with the lyrics "form", I like when a text can be open to interpretation or can have a different meaning to different people. If I would write an essay, something I don't think I would be able to do, I would have to make my point and to be understood. With a song I can say something that matters to me but then it belongs to the listeners and what they will understand doesn't have to match with my original idea.

Autor: Klawz, Nebelhexa
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Samael

   July 10, 2007  | 13 Comments  | 13925 Views « BACK

Comment on: SAMAEL: The new solar era (Interview with Xy & Vorph)

  • ma, poate sunt eu mai uituc, damn it, dar parca... parca numai.. era odata, ca niciodata, o trupa de METAL cu acest nume... oare ce o patit?? au stat prea mult la soare??? de ce suna amu' ca scos din Burta?? oare mai trece o era pana sa isi revina astia, sa puna drecu mana pe instrumente, si sa faca o treaba mai sanatoasa decat precedentele vomitaturi (ca sa nu le numesc albume), ca de nu.. drecu ii ia, daca nu i-a luat deja!!!

    1. Posted by burta_deatherului | 31 Iulie 2007 23:37
  • pfui... auzi acolo.. solar soul... bleaaaah!!! solar SHIT !!!

    2. Posted by burta_deatherului | 31 Iulie 2007 23:38
  • Trupa e tot acolo, dar membrii ei nu mai au cum sa fie la 35-40 de ani la fel cum erau la 16 sau la 20. Ii urmezi pe unde se duc, sau ii lasi in pace. Dar de ce sa le pretinzi sa fie ceva ce nu mai simt ca pot fi? Iar unde sunt acum nu este un loc mai putin bun decat ala in care erau inainte. Yeah, I know, pentru unii suna a blasfemie ce zic eu aici, dar poti gasi piese cu adevarat reusite pe Solar Soul. Nu zic ca e albumul meu preferat, no way! Dar shit in orice caz nu este...

    3. Posted by Nebel | 01 August 2007 00:24
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