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“Once upon a time, there was a band in Switzerland who decided to contact STALKER ...” Actually there´s no fancy tale to tell why Mingmen are our new Fresh Act. The STALKER editor simply stumbled over this e-mail and found this female fronted band very talented and the music quite appealing. And they just released their new album "There´s a place" (March 2014), recorded live during a month´s residence at the Relief Studios, Fribourg - perfect timing. Singer Sway tells you more about her band:
Who are you - can you introduce yourself and all of the band members?
I´m Sway, singer-guitarist author and co-composer of MINGMEN !! JG is the guitarist, Etienne is the bassist and Dem the drummer.
How did you meet each other?
I met JG through a mutual friend, who was the drummer of the band for a little while and with whom JG played in another band. Then we met Etienne, I know him, because he was playing in other bands in our area, and the last one to join the band was Dem, I also knew him for years, since I started MINGMEN, because he had a band with the first guitarist of MINGMEN, who I formed the band with.
When and why did you form this band?
I formed the band in 2001, because when I stated to sing, I also began to write and compose my songs, and the best way to play your own stuff is to form a band…. I had the feeling that you´re stronger when you´re not alone !!
How would you describe your musical style, and how did this style develop? What are your musical roots and influences?
It´s always been very hard for us to describe our musical style…. it´s a mix of Rock and Metal with melodic vocal lines !! In this 3rd album there are also some progressive songs. It wasn´t planned at all, it´s the first time we have such songs, but it´s just what our inspiration was when we composed the songs !!
There´s also a song called ¨Cross the line¨, which sounds more rock-blues than metal !!
We always had the will to create our own music with our own sound… which is not that easy…and we certainly don´t want to copy or sound like another band !!
We have many different roots and influences, I really love Folk music and songwriters like Everlast, the White Buffalo, Tracy Chapman, Ben Harper, Bob Dylan… and when I started to sing, I fell in love with Janis Joplin. I was kind of a hippie, which was really not the trend at the time ! In the actual music I really like Pink, Adele, Emeli Sande´ voices it´s my dark pop side :))
I listen to a lot of different styles of music, Rock, Blues, Folk… What I like the most in music is being touched by a song, having a strong emotion. So whatever the style or the artist if I love the song !!
JG is a big fan of Iron Maiden and Metallica, he also likes Frank Zappa and the guitar player Scott Henderson, he played in a lot of Jazz, Fusion Bands before MINGMEN. Etienne loves Metallica, Rob Zombie, Rammstein and Dem swears by Tool which I really love too, and Meshuggah !! We´re all fans of System of a Down, which represent the perfect alliance between musicality, technique, originality and melody!!
In which bands have you played before?
I had some acoustic covers bands… for financial reasons, but my main band all these years has always been MINGMEN ! JG played a lot of jazz/funk as session guitarist and has his own fusion trio called Papapitufo. Etienne has played in the metal band Eversince and the rock band Cruisers and Dem in the metal band Disblow and now also in Betraying the Planet.
How do you write your music and lyrics, is it teamwork?
Most of the time JG and I are coming with the main idea of the song… riff, verse, chorus, vocal line, we record vocals, guitars and drum samples in our project studio at home and then bring the demo to the rhythm section. We play it and re-arrange it together if needed. Sometimes JG have all the musical part, I find the vocal lines and the lyrics and some other time I have guitar/voice idea and we work on it together. There´are no rules, it really depends on the songs and inspiration !
Is there a particular philosophy behind your works, or where do you get your inspiration from?
At the beginning there was no philosophy. I was a young girl (15 years old) who just wanted to sing rock´n´roll. But even at this age I always wrote songs which had a ¨meaning¨ or I tried to… I never wanted to sing stupid things …lyrics are very important to me, it´s my way to express myself… I´m not a depressive person but I´ve never been able to write a happy song. Writing songs is my thing to not get crazy in this crazy world, to evacuate all of the negatives things I´ve got inside and turn them into something more creative than killing people !!
Now we want our music to have a kind of depth… of course we love to drink beers, play rock´n´roll and have lot of fun on stage, but we´re trying to create, to push our own limits, to discover and to talk about universal subjects, but not the same kind as in club music: fun, sunshine, beach, naked girls having fun on a sunny beach !!
How did you come up with the band name – is there a story behind it?
We were in a restaurant searching for a name with my parents and my dad told me about a very strong point in Chinese medicine (he´s a Dr. in Chinese medicine…but he´s not Chinese… half African half Portuguese)
This point is a vital point, the life´s gate, you can reanimate dying people with it, it also means the introspection, the man who turns himself into the the spirit world and the mandate of heaven, like we all have a mission on this earth and can´t do nothing but accomplish it, we can´t give up… (I only recently learned this last signification!! ), so for all these meanings I thought it would be a great, original and meaningful band name…
What are your goals, dreams, what do you want to achieve with your music?
Our goal is to earn our lives with our music !! To keep on evolving, keep on searching the best alchemy of MINGMEN, and most of all PLAYING our Music LIVE !!
Find our public, people who´d love and understand our music.
Are you looking for a record company or would you prefer to stay in the DoItYourself mode?
We´re sure searching for help, because it´s not always easy to do everything by yourself, it takes a lot of time, energy and money to promote the band, and while we´re doing all those things we´re not making music... !!
Being alone has it´s positive points because you´re free to follow your inspiration and you don´t think in a marketable way when you create, but sometimes it´s good to have an external advice on what you´re doing ! Having this band taught us a lot of things in different domains, but first of all we are musicians !!
What should an ideal record company for you be like, and do for you?
A record company which would understand our vision of music and the music we want to produce and have enough faith in us to really move its ass before thinking about profit.
What are your live shows like ? What´s the perfect venue/show for you?
When we´re on stage, we´re giving all we´ve got, so our shows are a mix of rough energy and intense emotions !! The perfect show is when you´re 100% in the music, in the moment, and the audience is completely connected to you !! Technically we need a decent P.A. system and our own sound engineer and backline to give an amazing show.
Do you have a weird /absurd story to tell, e.g. about mishaps at a gig/tour?
During our 3 weeks tour in Brazil (in 2011) we drove a lot, one night we even had 2 gigs in the same night, we played the first and drove 5 hours to go to the second one ! But the craziest was in Salvador, there was a big outdoor festival called ¨Palco do Rock¨ with a lot of metalheads, we arrived too late for soundcheck because of the driving (24 hours non-stop from Rio de Janeiro…), we didn´t have time to check if everything was working right… so we went on stage without knowing if we´ll have any sound from our amps at all, we were looking at each other like ¨good luck guys, it´s time to have faith¨, we started to play and it was amazing, people were crazy, big moshpit and the cops in the crowd trying to control too violent behaviors… this was surrealistic !! The next day when we came at the festival to listen to other bands, because it was a day-off, the crowd started to come closer, wanted autographs, taking picture with us, it was crazy, like if we were fucking Rock Stars !!
If you could freely choose a band to tour with, who would it be, and why?
System of a Down, Tool, Metallica, Iron Maiden… because… do I really need to explain why ? They are simply the best ! But there are much more we would like to tour with, like Stonesour, Alterbridge...
The internet, a curse as well as a blessing – what are your favourite (promotional) websites (to present the band, e.g. Myspace, youtube), which others do you think are rather not recommendable to other bands (they cannot keep their promises, it costs a lot but does not do anything etc)?
I don´t´ know if there´s a perfect website for bands… it all seems to me like it´s getting very commercial, not for the bands of course, the bands are always the ones who don´t get paid and have to pay to play and get hypothetic opportunities!! Our website (www.mingmenmusic.com) is the best place, Reverbnation is cool, but like in other website you have to buy things, widget etc… to complete your profile…We´re on Bandcamp, Myspace, Facebook and Twitter too !! It´s scary because it feels like you have to be on every platform and spend a lot of time on each… and personally it´s not what I like to do in music, but it´s the evolution and we all have to adapt … I´m a bit too old school maybe, but i prefer people to write us a mail through our website to get in touch !!
What I would say to other bands is : if you have to pay before getting anything else: Run away !! We had a lot of experiences, not with the website, but with pseudo manager /booker… Andreas Lemke in Berlin for instance, very good in taking your money but not doing anything !!
What are your plans in the (near) future?
We are very proud to release our third album, we´ll promote it the best way we can, play as much gigs as possible and we are still in composition mode so get in touch because brand new stuff is coming soon ;-))
Video ´Great Illusion´: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovz_tc_htC8
Author: Klaudia Weber, photos: Band Date: 2014-04-01