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Xandria: Dreams of a red lakeside cabin
About four years ago, the popular front lady Lisa Middelhauve left the band, and many thought that this will be the end of Xandria. Just as the band was about to re-start, also the successor Kerstin Bischof decided to leave. Now four years later Xandria are once again re-formed and present their new singer Manuela Kraller, who can also be heard on the latest record „Neverworld´s End”. Marco and Manuela reveal why „the new girl“ is a late bloomer musically and which connections she has with Finland.
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Hi everybody! Your new album „Neverworld´s End“ has just been released, how do you feel about it?
Manuela I am super curious how people will react and I certainly hope, that they will like it as much as I do ;)
What can fans expect of the new album with your new singer, have you changed your style a bit?
Marco It is definitely a new version of Xandria! But who has always liked our epic symphonic elements more, will enjoy the album, because this is what we tried to get to a new level. We wanted to move on from many things we didn´t like in our sound anymore, and we wanted to become heavier, darker and more sophisticated as well. This represents our common preferences so much better!
Your recent records always showed a certain musical trend far away from the typical Metal sound, for example the oriental or Celtic influences. Is this also the case on your new record
Marco We understand our music like an imaginary movie soundtrack mixed with Metal, and such Folk elements add to the atmosphere. Therefore the new record contains a lot of Celtic and oriental stuff. We found some fantastic musicians, who recorded those specific instruments; it was fascinating stuff which we recorded with them! It spices up many songs …
The fans heard Manuela Kraller´s voice live already, are you nevertheless still curious how they will react to the new record?
Marco Yes of course, as this is overall a big step for us, not only because of the voice.
Manuela, you have been part of the band for almost one year, how did you experience this time and how were the fan reactions towards you?
Manuela It was a really exciting time so far, because I could experience many new things, for example doing studio recordings for an album for the first time, and singing my first gigs with Xandria, which were a lot of fun. I also learned to record my voice in this year, which was essential in order to provide demos with my voice. Therefore I am really proud, especially because I have always shied away from that kind of computer-technical stuff. But now it´s really fun! The reactions of fans have been really positive so far, and I am glad about that. Of course there are negative statements every now and then, but I try not to let them come too close, but rather focus my attention to the positive ones.
How much have you been involved in the songwriting, Manuela? Could you also impose your own influences, or are the guys too stubborn about it?
Manuela No, the guys have involved me from the very beginning, also in the creative process. As the major part of the album was already finished, I could only add little things, for example I wrote the lyrics to “A thousand letters”, which means a lot to me, because it is about the love between my grandparents Maria and Sebastian, and I could come to terms with my grief about their death. Moreover, I wrote the lyrics to “Call of the wind” together with Marco, and we all talked a lot about the structure and construction of the songs. So everybody could be creative in his/her own way, whereas the macrostructure and the major compositional part is mainly Marco´s.
Lisa left you after 8 years of collaboration and 4 records. How was it for you to start all over again, at the peak of your career?
Marco It wasn´t our career´s peak, rather the opposite. We haven´t moved on and also creatively we were in a crisis, which occurred especially because of our musical differences. At this point it couldn´t go on either way. Therefore I have a huge respect of Lisa´s decision to leave the band back then, because it was clear that each one of us had to follow their own ways. So it could be a real new beginning for all people involved. For me personally this was also a moment of mixed feelings: Of course experiencing such a cut was a strange feeling after all these years together, but I´ve noticed how this inspired a creative explosion, I could once again develop a true musical vision without compromises.
Did the search for a new singer turn out difficult or not really, as you had found a replacement for Lisa already after 5 months?
Marco It went pretty fast, because Kerstin was a friend of an old friend of Nils. Even though she applied formally, like the other singers who had introduced themselves. Kerstin Bischof was the first successor of Lisa, however, she stayed only 14 months. Why did she leave the band? She decided not to keep on doing professionally music, before it got serious with the recordings of the new record, because other things in her life became more important to her.
What are the biggest differences between Manuela and Lisa? Do you have to get used to someone new first, after so many years with somebody else?
Marco Those two are quite different, but I don´t want to elaborate this any further. Every human being has certain peculiarities. Yes, of course, you always have to get used to someone new - but this happened really naturally, because Manuela is a great, open-minded woman with a lot of humor, so that we all get along very well.
So, now I want to know a little bit more about your front lady: Manuela, you are not quite unknown, you have already sung for Haggard and Nagor Mar. How did a Bavarian girl get into a Swiss band?
Manuela I never planned to join a Swiss band (laughs), but the band founder of Nagor Mar (new name: Forty Shades) decided after one year of desperate search to try his luck in Germany and he found me via advertisements, in which I was looking for people to form a Gothic-Metal-Cover band (laughs) Well, anyway, I received a song of them, to which I should add my voice and my own lyrics. Apparently the Swiss guys liked it, because shortly afterwards I was in.
What caused you to apply for Xandria?
Manuela I wasn´t happy anymore at Haggard and was looking for a new vocal challenge. Still I probably wouldn´t have applied ever; if not one of my best friends (Mani Müller) had kicked me violently in the ass, verbally (laughs). He was so confident that I was the right one for this job, before I myself knew it, haha
I heard that you are a late bloomer musically and that you discovered singing only at the age of 23, in a Finnish choir. How did you come to Finland back then, have you studied there?
Manuela Yes, I have studied there one semester at the university of Savonlinna, to become a teacher for basic school (yeah, yeah I have elementary teacher education, unbelievable ). It was a wonderful time with marvelous people!
And naturally a question is burning in my soul as Finland-fan - why did you choose to go back to Germany, because the north is some kind of a Metal heartland?
Manuela Well, afterwards I don´t know it myself that well anymore (laughs). No, back then I was really shy and didn´t dare as much as nowadays. Travelling was something completely new and also to be in another country for a long time. I was pretty proud of myself, already back then, that I spent one semester in the high north, far away from home and my alpine mountains :) The fact that Nightwish lived not that far from Savonlinna, I didn´t know back then, because I started only later listening to Symphonic Metal…otherwise I might have stayed there :) So because of the music it pays of…and because of the people, they are just great! Greetings to my Finnish friends!
You are fascinated by Savonlinna, as I see in your profile. What is so fascinating to you? What was your favorite location? And would your dream house you would build for 1 Million Euros also be there?
Manuela I love the fact that everything is surrounded by lakes. Savonlinna is located at the Saimaa Lakeside area and I feel at home near water, maybe also because of that dream of a lakeside house. A red wooden cabin, to be more specific. I saw many of those in Finland and I fell in love ;) I didn´t have a special favorite location, because there are so many beautiful places, but behind my student dorm there was a bench directly at the water, where I spent a lot of time to look over this beautiful place The nicest day I have experienced in Finland was when me and two friends got invited by a Finn to a house at the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day, we went to Sauna and then jumped naked into the lake (laughs). My dream house would be definitely located in Finland, of course with a Sauna :)
What is the situation today with Finland, do you spend your holidays there every now and then?
Manuela Unfortunately not, previously as a student I didn´t have the money, now I don´t have the time because I spend my whole holidays on tour, what I surely enjoy doing, but visiting Finland once again would be great, I miss the country and the people. On the “Out of the Dark” –Tour I met Heidi Parviainen of “Amberian Dawn” and we got along really well. She said I really have to come and visit her…that would be an option ;)
Which goals do your set yourself with Xandria that you wanna reach this year?
Manuela Of course to play and to sing as much as possible life!! My biggest wish it would be to sing at the Wacken Festival, that would be awesome! I hope it will work out :)
And what else will happen in the near future?
Manuela In the end of march we play 3 gigs with Epica and probably a couple of gigs are coming up, let´s see ;)
Ok thank you and all the best!
Author: Sandy Mahrer photos: Xandria
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