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Saltatio Mortis: Modern Minstrels

Year 2000: Seven young men - with the most different musical background - come together because they have one passion that unites them: the love for the Dark Ages, especially for the music of that period. Quickly a new band is founded and Saltatio Mortis is born. The Dancers of Death from Southern Germany area manage it easily to attract audiences at medieval fairs. Not only with their music, but also with an entertaining show they take the hearts of the audience by assault - faithfully to the slogan "who dances does not die".

Purely acoustic with a real historical repertoire, but reinforced with electronic and modern instruments, Saltatio Mortis surprises the masses with diversity and a sovereign mixing of styles. Now with a new line up, the medieval rockers open a new chapter of their history that will take them to the top.

There´s only one direction for "Aus der Asche", Alea the Modest (vocals, bagpipes, shawm), Brother Frank (bass, Chapman stick), Cordoban the Playful (bag pipes, shawm flutes), El Silbador (bag pipes, shawm), Falk Irmenfried von Hasen Mümmelstein (bag pipes, hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa), Lasterbalk the Blaspheming (drums, percussions), Mik El Angelo (guitars, bouzouki, zister) and Thoron Drumfire (bag pipes, shawm, percussions): Leap forward, only forward!

Your new album "Aus der Asche" has just been released... please tell us something about the history and the CD itself.
Alea: We´re working on it for nearly two years now. The ordinate pre-production started in the late summer of 2006. After the line up changes in the last autumn, we wanted to start a new area of Saltatio Mortis.
Cordoban: And I think we managed it. Relating to the reactions of the press, fans and friends, the album is very compact and powerful and shows that Saltatio Mortis found their way towards a "rocking future". The lyrics were again in Lasterbalk`s hands, next to them there are two traditional texts and one I did on the CD.
Alea: The development of the songs was almost the same like it was on our previous releases. In the beginning there was the idea for the lyrics, most of them are Lasterbalk´s. Then Mik El Angelo and I did the raw versions of the songs, and after that we went to the rehearsal room and worked it out all together.

Was there a concept in the beginning?
Alea: Not a real concept. It should have enough power, be fun and rock!!!!!
Cordoban: Of course there were clear defaults, concerning the construct - we decided consciously to use medieval metaphors, and we had clear expectations how the rock side of the songs should sound like: powerful and clear.

What were the inspirations for the album? Is there a special story behind the songs?
Alea: The changes of last year affected us indeed. Three long time companions are now going their own new ways and four new members joined us. That was one of the stories behind the album.

Have there been any cutting or surprising moments or experiences during the production?
Cordoban: One of the funniest moments were the vocal recordings for "Choix des Dame". Our producer Thomas Heimann- Trosien was not quite satisfied with Falk`s singing, so he said: "Just imagine you just drowned a bottle of red wine." Falk answered: "I can`t imagine that!" and Lasterbalk went out of the cabin. A bottle of wine later, the song had exactly what was missing, but we had some problems to get Falk out of the cabin again... (laughs)
Alea: The greatest moment I can remember was when we worked on "Prometheus" and I played the intro. The melody touched me so much I almost cried. I had to play a second voice under the melody with an A-bag pipe with approximately 1 meter 80 floor length. I went into the cabin, started to play and out of nothing I got goose bumps. Exactly this moment is now on CD...

Why did you choose the title "Aus der Asche" [engl.: From the Ashes] ?
Alea: When the news that three members leave the band went through the magazines, I got a lot of mails, asking me if this is the end of Saltatio. With "Aus der Asche" we have proved that sometimes it is good to get rid of the past just to rise even stronger like Phoenix out of the ashes.

3 words that describe "Aus der Asche"
Alea: Strength, emotion, hope
Cordoban: Innovation, resurrection, truth

Most of the people do not know how diverse the genre of "medieval music" is: How would you classify yourself?
Cordoban: Take a bandsman into our times but leave him his old time instruments, that pretty is it. There is no special category like "medieval- true-metal rock"... we are more like a symbiosis of two lifestyles, middle age and rock´n´roll.

Are there any musical changes since you started in 2000/2001?
Alea: I think you can answer this question yourself if you take just some time on an evening to listen to our CDs, from "Das zweite Gesicht" to "Aus der Asche". Electronics made room for nature. Synthetics were defeated by emotion. We all have grown, so did our music.

What are your aims, concerning your music and lyrics?
Alea: Like the musicians in old times, we want to make the people think with our songs. Lasterbalk is a genius in melting modern and Dark Age themes into images. If you take a closer look on our lyrics, you will quickly realize that there are not many changes from past to today. It`s still the same things that make the people angry or happy. The same stories that are touching us.
Cordoban: Musically we always want to mix the old and the new, which is presented in the lyrics as perfect as possible. And we want to live this fusion as modern minstrels.

Which bands influenced you in the past and now?
Alea: Too many to mention them all. I`ve got approximately 480 CDs from all kinds of music, and of course what you hear has an influence on the music you create.
Cordoban: That`s the interesting thing. We all listen to the most different genres. Everything from Die Ärzte to Zappa is included. Only the discussion in the tour bus which CD should be played next are sometimes a bit tiring.

So which music you can not do without?
Alea: Frank Sinatra, Queen and Johnny Cash
Cordoban: Die Ärzte, Johnny Cash, Hammerfall und The Pogues

Is it hard to "forget" your Mannheim-dialect when singing? Is there any interest to become honorary citizen of the city, like Xavier Naidoo did?
Cordoban: Unfortunately those rumours that we`re from Mannheim are still alive, but we only rehearse there. Most of the members are from Karlsruhe, and becoming honorary citizen would be nice...
Alea: I`m from Kaiserlautern and I don`t want to give up my Palatinate dialect. Of course, when I have to sing, it has to be hidden. Honorary citizen of Kaiserslautern would be cool, but we have too many soccer players, so it would be difficult (laughs)

Obliviously you live your musical life with heart and soul - does Saltatio Mortis haunt your private life? Can you draw a line between private and public?
Alea: If you found a project like Saltatio Mortis, there is barely any free time left. Both sides of existence come closer until they finally melt together. Of course, this is not always easy for ourselves and our friends and some friends- or relationships were broken off because of the band. So I want to thank everyone that helps me to stand upright.

Are there any problems like that you were not taken serious by your environment?
Cordoban: Not anymore. Of course for a lot of people a symbiosis of medieval bag pipes and rock music is still hard to believe, but we walk our own way, and who walks with us will see quickly that we are not that crazy as you might think.

How much did the line up changes influence your energy?
Alea: Since Cordoban the Playful, Brother Frank, El Silbador and Mik El Angelo joined us, the fire burns even hotter. One way to get convinced is watching us play, the other is our new CD.

What does it need to become a member of SaMo? Which criteria`s I had to fulfill to join the band?
Cordoban: We`re looking for a trainee with the prospect of a renewal of lease
Alea: You`re interested? (grins)

I will come back to this later (laughs) How do you choose your names? Any free names left?
Cordoban: You have to earn your name, they are not just picked. Ask the guys after some glasses of Met and you will find out.
Alea: Our lovely Cordoban - that much I can say - is not called the Playful because he played his instruments, you know...

Seven albums in six years - how much increases this the pressure on yourselves?
Alea: Surely, stagnation is the death, and I also expect of bands that I like that they develop further...
Cordoban: ... and we have enough to fill the coming years...

Do you know Hamburg? Can you recommend a place to go out at night?
Alea: The dungeon... (giggles) or one of the Musicals. Is “Dance of the Vampires” still playing?
Cordoban: I have been to Hamburg only once, but I can recommend the Grünspan at September 23rd. Just a hint...

Some last words?
Alea: Thanks and take care. Let´s meet on tour...
Cordoban: ... and remember, our new album is waiting at your favourite record store (laughs)

THANKS!!! We see you on tour.

Author: Jasmin Froghy, transl. Marie-Luise Führ, photos: Saltatio Mortis
Date: 2007-09-18

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