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AHAB - dull Ice Sphinx and jitter at the customs
Already a year ago, The Heidelberger doomheads from AHAB released their nautical giant, “The Giant”. It´s time to ask if they have a follow-up in the horizon and thus I am meeting up for a beer or two with Daniel Droste (g/v) and Stefan Wandernoth (b) in the bar “Vater Rhein”, directly be the Neckar in Heidelberg.
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Have you considered playing „The Giant” from start to end live?
Stefan: Well, we have thought about it, but not done it until now. The first time we thought about it was on a tour, when Corny (Kornelius Althammer – drums) came up with that and we really warmed up to the idea of playing all of the new material completely through. In the end, we ended up mixing up the old songs with the new. One simply takes it for granted that during the concerts, the audience wants to hear the older songs.
All of your albums have a nautical theme, right? Has one of tested his sea legs, even if it was just a cruise?
Stefan: I don´t think so. You haven´t, have you, Daniel?
Daniel: Nope, me neither. Well, one of us could come up with stories about holidays at the Baltic sea when he was a kid, but nope. Not really.
Stefan: Yeah, I could come up with a few stories from my granddad; my mom grew up on a boat in the Neckar, but that has nothing little to do with anything
AHAB as a full-time job; can you imagine that, or should it remain a hobby? Two of you are playing in “Dead Eye Sleeper” (Edit: Stefan Wandernoth and Cornelius Althammer also play in the tech.-Death Metal Dead Eye Sleeper).
Stefan: Not really. One goofs around and wonders if you could do it this way or that, but in the end of the day, we come to the conclusion, that it´s more fun for us when it remains as a hobby and as such, we enjoy it more. If we were to do it all of the time, then it could turn into a routine and thus be a shame if all the fun in it was gone.
Daniel: You notice it on tour on the at the last two-three gigs how low your battery is. If you really do it to earn money, you have to be on the road a lot and it takes the joy out of the whole thing.
Well, you see that in bands, that do it professionally; always in the studio or on tour to bring home some cash, because as musicians, that´s all they can do.
Daniel: There are plenty that worked in factories and hung up their gloves to go on tour and afterwards end up looking for work. That wouldn´t be my thing.
What do you do for a living, then?
Stefan: I´m a social worker and work in a school
Daniel: I´m a ergotherapist; I worked in a practice and now I´m working with disabled at a diaconie.
How were your shows in Moscow and Munich?
Daniel: Russia was completely different; a few years ago we didn´t think that we could get there so easily. Yeah, it was great. The people were really greatful and you notice that. They really appreciated that we came all the way there. We would to it again definitely. We were a bit qweezy that we might have had to come in as something else as a bend because we might get problems with customs.
Stefan: As we were there with tourist visas, we had to be a bit careful. It was, however, stress-free.
Daniel: I don´t know, and neither do you. Can you take a thousand t-shirts with you and explain that when they search your bags? What does a tourist do with all that stuff? Nobody said what the whole thing was. Next time we have to be a bit smarter.
Stefan: Well, they really laughed their asses off when we told them we didn´t have any t-shirts with us because we thought that they would search us through and through. We weren´t searched until we got to Stuttgart, where the customs officers wanted to know what we had on board. They went through everything, while nobody in Russia cared.
How did it come about that you got booked for the Depressive festival in Russia?
Daniel: There were already requests from Russia to come and play there, I don´t know if it was the same people though. After the second or third request, we did it and there came another request to play in Kiev. (To Stefan) was that Kiev?
Stefan: I think so, yes.
Daniel: That was a bit dubious. They suggested that we travel from Moscow to Kiev by train and it´s 1000 kilometres. We would have never made it on time, so we left it be. Apart from that, the organisers in Moscow didn´t want to cooperate with their counterparts in Kiev and it was unclear as to wether or not everything would work out or not.
How about the tour later on this year –will it be something bigger?
Stefan: Nah, considering the coverage, it will be a mini tour. You mean the tour with Omega Massif, or?
Yes, Omega Massif and uhm, Valborg?
Stefan: Yes, exactly! Valborg. There´s only three dates. In the last tour there were eleven and ted dates. This one will be an extended weekend trip, more or less. It´ll be with really nice people; we know Valborg a bit longer now and we intentionally chose both bands so that we gather up the whole bunch in a bus and ride around the country. (laughs)
You´re playing soon in Dresden with Orange Goblin. I´ve been waiting to see them, but just when they´re coming closer, I´m out of town on holiday.
Stefan: We will be playing twice with Orange Goblin. First in Dresden and a day later in Warsaw.
Are you writing material fort the next album, or have you already come up with something?
Daniel: We have already come up with something. We just have to really go through the material to see if it is what we hope from ourselves.
But not the…wait what was it? The Ice Sphinx? Edit: the Ice Sphinx from Jules Verne is based on Poe´s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which was the subject of the album “The Giant”)
Stefan: We chose not to go with the Ice Sphinx. We thought about it as it would have been a logical follow-up. I have read it too and Hecci (Christian Hector –guitar) has too as far as I know. Have you read it too, Daniel?
Daniel: I began to read it, but after the fifth chapter, or so, I stopped because nothing was really happening and as such we decided not to work with it. It wasn´t as good as for instance, Moby Dick or The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Nothing really happens in the Ice Sphinx; they just sit around on an island and wait for a ship to come. There´s not much to work on.
Whatever it will be should probably remain as a surprise, or?
Stefan: Yes, as we don´t completely know what it will turn out to be, we´ll keep our cards close to the chest.
This book, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, have you all read it?
Daniel: I think so.
Stefan: Korny too? Yeah, sure. We´ve all read it.
Was it difficult to talk Herbrand Larsen from Enslaved into working with “The Giant”?
Daniel: No, not at all. It was a lot trickier to find out who we should take on board. We also had an idea before of having guest vocals, but it didn´t work out time-wise and the input wasn´t really there. Somehow it was obvious as we found the next to last album from Enslaved good, but none of us came up with the idea of asking. When we were in Madrid, where Enslaved was playing and Ivar Björnson was standing outside, I had had a few beers and thought I´d just spit it out. Then he said he´s interested and we exchanged e-mail addresses and he recorded it in the studio. It was really problem-free.
Was he in Germany for the recording?
Daniel: No, he has his own studio in Norway. We basically sent him the files with the lyrics and he did his thing. It was great and we took it as it came.
What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?
Daniel: OH, queerbeat! Doom. Rock. Racket. Everything.
Stefan: Well the last few albums I bought at the Doom Shall Rise festival were Clutch, Astra and the new Uncle Acid.
You were at the Doom Shall Rise festival? Did you by chance see Victor Griffins In-Graved?
Stefan: I didn´t
Daniel: I think I saw it, at least shortly –it was a boozy weekend.
Now that we´re on the subject of Doom shall Rise, what do you think about it ending? The organisers say that it´s more and more difficult to book doom metal bands as doom is the trend now and the bands are booked all of the time.
Daniel: Difficult, yes as they only want to have bands there that haven´t played there before. It is great promotion-wise, but that sets some limits, I think. Jochen knows so many bands that would play again there for almost nothing, so it´s setting some limits. Because of this, the line-up wasn´t as good as it was a few years back when I was there. As such, this accounts to how few tickets they sold. I wouldn´t make the bookers responsible. We asked too if we could play there, right Stefan? (Stefan nods)
So you played there only once?
Stefan: Yes, but I wasn´t there.
Daniel: That was basically our first real performance we ever had. We didn´t want to do shows then, just record a bit of music and see what happens and then we got the offer from DSR and before that we had done one little promo-gig.
Stefan: That was so to say the start for the whole live playing.
Daniel: Exactly. There we saw the resonance of what it could become and simply went on.
Were the lyrics to „The Giant“ done before the recording?
Daniel: Well it wasn´t in the studio; by then they were already done. Hecci writes the texts. It was always sometimes this way, sometimes that. It was never the case of moving onto the next bit when one was ready. It was always a bit freer. We had all read the book as well as the stories before and that constituted the frames and foundation.
You recorded „The Giant“ in the studio “Überwälder Klangdressur”. Were you there during the previous albums?
Together: (both laugh) Nope, unfortunately not.
So you would go there again?
Stefan: Yes, we talked about it a few times and I think we will go back again. It´s a great studio and the guy there is a good guy. He has an arsenal filled with good equipment that you can try out and mix up with your own stuff; a lot of vintage stuff, old amps and a feeling for the music you want to make.
Daniel: Even if he doesn´t come from that type of music. He´s from the rock/indie scene and that´s mostly what he does. And he has a professional working method, but not like from 8 in the morning to 10 in the evening; we were sometimes there at three in the morning. Sometimes we´d go home and he´d sleep there three-four hours and then continue. In a cellar without windows, so the guy is really keeping himself busy. But great, we´ll do it that way again.
Stefan: Apart from that there was the thing, that we wanted to go away from the polished metal sound and a bit more rock influenced. We wanted it a bit more dynamic and he (Jens Siefert) fitted it in pretty well and we are pretty satisfied. I was just talking about it with a friend, that it´s pretty difficult to find a weak spot in the sound. In “The Giant” I can say for the first time, that I like it and after some years I will still like it.
Daniel: Even though it will probably never be perfect, there are a few things that I would do a bit differently the next time. That´s empirical value. Then you can moan at a higher level.
I personally found AHAB through „Divinity of Oceans”; I had heard of you before, but with “Call of the Wretched Sea”, hmm, too much Funeral. Do you want to go in the same direction with the next album, or away from funeral doom?
Daniel: We talked about that on the way back from Munich and about how it should be as free as possible and not say louder, quieter, quicker, slower, but just see what happens. Until now it has always worked. After the second album, I wondered if I will hold onto what I said in the future, but in the end, it´s the case, that all of us put in their own mark and so it will still sound like AHAB.
Was the cover of „The Giant” done in comic style on purpose, or did you see the picture and thought that it would be something for you?
Daniel: Nope, that was a longer story. We came up with the ground idea with Sebastian Jerke, who did the cover. Then we drew sketches of the single elements and sent them back and forth and put it together. So it grew bit by bit and I think he painted the inlay in one go.
Stefan: We sent him one or two pages of the inlays sketches and the rest came through in one go. He worked a lot on the figure of the giant, namely how he should look. He did different character studies and sent a lot of sketches.
Daniel: Also with the proportions. How big the figure should be in comparison to the whale next to him and diverse measurements. Sebastian really thought it through.
Stefan: The resulting comic style wasn´t known to me. It came out first when colouring it in as we had only seen pencil drawings and I hadn´t thought about how it could be in comic style, which it probably is.
It´s nothing that I find bad. The cover only differs to the their two albums, as well as the music itself.
Stefan: This time we could allow and afford to hire someone to draw the whole thing. Previously we had to use already existing pictures. With “The Giant” we wanted someone, who could let someone make something that would fit to the book itself as well as our requests. We didn´t give him that much to work on; he read the book and heard the music –as in the rehearsal recordings.
How did it happen that you left Midnattsol? Didn´t the music intrest you any more, or was AHAB just more important?
Daniel: Yes, AHAB was always more important as I am one of the founding members in AHAB, but not in Midnattsol. Hecci is one of the founders of Midnattsol and I kind of slipped in that way, as they were looking for a second studio guitarist and I had done music with 70% of the people there. And as I didn´t play in a band at the time, I thought to myself “yeah, let´s give it a go”. when AHAB kicked off, I had to set my priorities. There were also days where I had two shows on one day as I screwed up the dates. Playing in Stuttgart with one band and then to Heidelberg to play with another band was simply too stressful for me, so I decided to do one thing and do it right.
Considering your theme, it would be interesting to do a video. Have you thought about how it would look?
Daniel: Shortly, yes. I mean, we have already had some offers, but the problem is that our expectations are relatively high. I´m just saying that I don´t need a video of a band headbanging in the forest; that´s already been done hundreds of times. We could have done it already, but none of us wanted to.
Stefan: This kind of stuff rises and falls with the support from the label behind the whole thing. We have to chat it through with Napalm (Records) to see what would come out of the whole thing.
Daniel: The thing is also that when you have long songs, the video will be expensive. None of us want to shorten our songs, so it´s a monetary question.
That was it already, I´m through with all of the questions. Thank you for the interview.
Stefan: Thank you too!
Author: Björn Schmiterlöw | translation: Ozzy Aikas
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