A talk with
RALF NOPPER (Drums) & BASTIAN ROSE (Vocals/Keys)
Questionnaire by Patrick 'Sloof' De Sloover
One of the best albums that I heard in 2015 is ‘Come To Wither’ from the German metal band Vanish. It was a little strange that we received this masterpiece just recently, as the official release was scheduled in 2014. We wondered a lot of things about this unknown band, so it’s obvious that we get in touch with one of the members and this is our Q&A result:
Q: First of all, congratulations with ‘Come To Wither’, as it is truly a masterpiece! Before we start talking about that album and future plans, I would like to know how it all started, as Vanish was totally unknown to us until the album blew our speakers..
Bastian: Thank you very much, you really seem to get the record and the music we are trying to make. So thanks for the praise.
Ralf: Thank you for these nice words, Patrick! We were pretty excited to read your great review. Vanish started in the year 2000. Tommy and myself were playing in a hardrock band called Heartaway. One day we found out that the name is crappy, the music is not what we wanted to play and for our designated musical vision the band did not fit perfectly. So we transferred this old Band into a new stage. I have to say, we chose the name VANISH long before the cleaning and washing products were on the market. So we are the real VANISH (trust the Germans, not the pink!).
Q: It seems like Vanish has a stable lineup, as many members are still original. What was the initial idea when you started the band with Thomas Rösch (guitars) and Bastian Rose (vocals and keyboards)?
Ralf: When Basti joined we finally found the voice that we were looking for. The additional benefit was, that Basti is not just an awesome singer, he is a multi-instrumentalist as well. He knows to play the piano, guitar and the drums. That opened up our range of possibilities in our compositions. At the end he was the perfect man for our new musical direction: We want to create a kind of modern metal combined with old school elements, because everybody has a passion for different styles of metal in our band. We are all involved in songwriting. That is the reason why our songs are pretty diverse…. Basti, I would be happy if you can stop hugging and kissing me now ;-)
Bastian: That’s high praise. But I think it is fairly accurate. Haha, no seriously, everyone in the band brings so much to the table and is involved. That’s the great thing about VANISH and our music.
Q: Lead guitar player Philipp Schönle joined the band around 2004, and after the release of the debut album a new bass played entered. What happened with former members Tim Rilke (bass) and Christian Bollinger (guitars)? Why were they replaced?
Ralf: With Christian there were some musical differences and one day we decided to go separate ways. For many years we had some problems to find a good bass player. Tim is a bandmate from our other project, a ska band called Piracy. He is a great bass player and good friend of VANISH so he helped us out for a while.
Q: Current bass player Daniele Dei Giudici seems to have Italian roots?
Ralf: Yes, half Italian and half German, an explosive mixture. Daniele is hot blooded and he has a kind of Mafiosi-attitude combined with German correctness and reliability. So better be friendly to him. If you ever hear something about the prejudices about Italian guys, believe me they are true!
Bastian: If we ever need someone to beat up a crappy soundman or club manager, he is our guy.
Q: In 2006, the debut album ‘Separated From Today’ was released independently. How comes that there was no interest from any label?
Ralf: We never tried to release it over a label because we were not 100% satisfied with the album. We wrote the songs in a finding/changing phase so there was no common goal yet. The songs itself are not bad, but the whole album has no common thread and is not fitting in our recent concept very well. So if you are interested in knowing how we developed, buy this one ;-)
Bastian: Yeah, it has some great songs and some ok songs. But it is a really important album for us. In some parts you can feel the band that we wanted to be. Also the album took so long and we had multiple line-up changes through this period.
Q: How was the reaction in the press, and is it still available?
Ralf: The reviews were quite good, but we did not put so much effort in promoting it. We sold about 1000 copies over the years, there are some copies available in our own web shop. You can´t buy it on the market.
Q: How comes that you released an EP in 2010 with the same title ‘Come To Wither’? Was it a kind of try-out? Perhaps, it was all intended to get signed, something to shop around the record labels?
Ralf: Yes, correct. We recorded three songs in our rehearsal room by ourselves and send this EP out to the labels to gain some first feedback. Some labels were interested but they told us to record a complete album and come back when it´s done. So we did this in 2012. After that we send out the album again and got several offers, finally we decided to release “Come to Wither” with Massacre Records.
Q: Massacre Records offered a deal, but promoted the album in 2015 instead of 2014. How comes? What was the main reason for this delay?
Ralf: In my opinion we had a bad date to release our record. In October 2014 there were many new records coming on the market from establishes bands and we fell sometimes through the cracks at several magazines, unfortunately. It took a while until we realized this, so we decided to send out promo copies to selected print and online mags on our own (one to Metal To Infinity ☺) – to receive more reviews and get some awareness.
Q: It’s a pity that I can’t nominate ‘Come To Wither’ in my personal top of 2015…
Ralf: Yes, but you can catch this up with the successor, it will be even better.
Bastian: It is an honor that you would even consider it.
Q: Did the band receive critical acclaim in the international press? What happened after the release, what are the highlights for Vanish if we take a look at 2015?
Ralf: We were pretty satisfied with the reviews. There a lot of great reviews and very few negative words about our music. In 2015 we played many gigs in Germany to promote our album, we had lots of fun and got many new friends and fans. We had many highlights in 2015, for me one was to play a big show with Battle Beast and Bonfire, another one was to play one of the weirdest gig I ever played. We rocked an Austin Powers-Birthday Party where the entrance was decorated as a big vagina. The people where dressed in 60s style and we shared the stage with many hip-hop acts. It was strange but also we had lots of fun there. Basti, what was your highlight?
Bastian: One of my highlights was of course playing shows with bigger artists like Brainstorm and Battle Beast or Bonfire. But I also really enjoy the small gigs where you get to talk and play with cool new bands. I really liked the atmosphere at the gigs with our friends from Pussy Sissters or Victim of Myself and so on. One highlight was the gig in Stuttgart a few weeks ago. It was one of the occasions where just everything clicks – the sound on stage was good, the playing, the audience and the vibe. That’s what we do all this for. Just rocking for an hour.
Q: The band already played support slots of Queensrÿche, Brainstorm, Mystic Prophecy, Axxis, Freedom Call etc.. How was it to play these gigs? Is playing live the ultimate goal for Vanish, or do you prefer working and recording in a studio?
Ralf: Opening for Queensryche was a big honor - they are heroes for us. The concert took place in “the one and only” rock club in our region called “Rockfabrik Ludwigsburg”. It was also one big goal for us to play there – two birds with one stone. After that concert we also did our release party in this club, another cool thing for us. For me playing live is the reason why I make music. Of course recording and songwriting is fun, but rocking on stage is the best, no doubt. I think my bandmates will agree with my opinion. Our first goal as a band is it to be a great live band. We want to rock and kick ass, so that everybody has fun at our concerts, and normally this is the result.
Q: Let’s focus on the songs on ‘Come To Wither’, but first I would like to know something more about the album title. I’m sure that there is a story to tell?
Bastian: Haha, there is an official version and the true one. We have a bassplayer friend named Todd who suggested the title in a session after listening to our songs. But the concept of the record was already there. We wanted to write about dystopian themes – about mankind being too concerned with itself that one day it is just too late. So the record talks about how religion comes into play and narcissism. It is about all these self-absorbed people who just live for themselves and not for others. So it has some dark themes but also a positive side if you look at the lyrics of the “The Grand Design” or “Renewal”. So the album title embodies these themes perfectly.
Q: What is the link between the title and the front cover artwork?
Bastian: I wrote a little one page treatment to Jan Yrlund, the Designer. The cover is what he came up with right away. It was important to us that it was something symbolic and not too literal. So the destroyed planet can be seen as many things. It can be a bomb or mine, it can be a virus etc. So it fits not only to the literal theme of a destroyed world, it also is about the human corruption through warfare and biological corruption.
Q: Jan ‘Örkki’ Yrlund is responsible for the artwork and we know him as ex-guitar player of Ancient Rites and Imperia as well. How did you get in touch with this dude from Darkgrove Design?
Ralf: Massacre linked us with Jan for creating the artwork for “Come to Wither”. Jan did an awesome job, and he is also a very nice guy. He received a briefing from us and he matched our imagination about the cover very good.
Q: The title track is an intro where we get warned with the message: ‘We wish you all good luck’. What’s the deeper meaning?
Bastian: Haha, good luck getting through the album. And of course the message to mankind that they should hold on for a very difficult ride. I think 2015 showed some glimpses how difficult this ride can be. Terrorism in Europe, refugees and the resurgence of a very right wing attitude in many people. We need to find a new way of getting through these things. But everything is very “Ying/Yang”. At the same time these terrible things, bring about some great results. Just look at the music community after the terrible attacks at the Eagles of Death Metal show.
Q: When people listen to the band for the very first time, they will be surprised about the vocal capacities of Bastian Rose. He really is outstanding!! In the track ‘Great Collapse’ he’s doing one long breath from time frame 5:10 till 5:22, so I wonder, is he really capable to bring this live, or is it upgraded and tinkered in the studio?
Ralf: Yes he is. In general our songs are composed with the focus to play them live. What would be the effect to create oversized productions and perfect results in the studio? The fans would be disappointed because you never can bring this quality on stage. So we keep our arrangements playable and only use samples only to replace the keys as an instrument, no voices or overdubs are coming from tape. If you want to hear perfect CD-style choirs and playbacks, you have to go to a Steel Panther or Lordi show.
Bastian: That is why I never do that line that long, haha. We open our show with “Great Collapse”, so I would be really stupid to be out of breath for the rest of the show. But in general I think we are doing a good job of transporting the songs onto the stage.
Q: Another typical Vanish element is the addition of melodic choruses above the aggressive layer. ‘Bless The Buried Child’ is such an example. Bastian’ voice is full of anger, but when the chorus drops in, you get a melodic twist, and that’s one of the strengths of the band! How do you start writing such tracks?
Bastian: We always start with the riff. If the riff is not good enough then we won’t even go on with the song. Sometime we also have a chord progression. We always try to counterpoint and give our songs a balance. If we have an aggressive verse we try to balance this by having a more open or melodic chorus. So we have a good mix of melody, groove and aggressiveness. Other bands are much better at writing a very aggressive Metal song, but our strength is to use different elements and puzzle them together. A lot of progressive metal also sounds like a puzzle. We always try to make it sound like one song. It should be a unity – so the puzzle results in a complete song. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t, but that’s our goal – especially in the longer songs like “Curtain Call”.
Q: ‘Curtain Call’ takes 9 minutes in playing time and opens very spherical, followed by a nice guitar riff and a major spot on the keyboards. Bastian is vocalist and keyboard player, so how do you manage it live, at gigs?
Bastian: Until a couple of years ago, we played with keyboards on stage. But that always proved to be somewhat of a challenge for us and for the audience. A metal crowd is always focused at the lead singer. So having myself in the middle of the stage with basically a wall of keys is never a great idea. But we did it for quite some time and it worked alright. But without the keys we could focus much more on working with the crowd and having a more powerful show. A lot of bands in the metal scene use backing tracks. We decided to bring in a keyboard backing track to be tight and have more access to the fans. But that’s it, no backing vocals or guitars on the tracks.
Q: A song with such a long duration might be considered as ‘the masterpiece’ or ‘the hymn’ of the band. Does it have an added value for Vanish, or is it one of the songs that you are proud of, nothing more, nothing less?
Ralf: To be honest, we had not the same opinion in our band about this song. Some of us like this song as it is, some of us thought it is too long. I do not care about the length of a song when the composition is interesting. There are not many bands that can write long songs I will not get bored from. So I am a little bit proud of “Curtain Call” because I think we created a 9 minute song that is well-composed with a great hookline and great variability. I also love to play it live, even when you have to be much more concentrated and are not able to drink beer for 9 minutes.
Q: There is also a little help from another great musician, as Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear also entered the recording studio for the song ‘The Grand Design’. How did it work out? Did you know Ralf personally or was it by chance?
Ralf: The contact to Ralf Scheepers came through or mixing engineer Axel Heckert. Ralf was visiting him in his studio and Axel showed him some rough tunes of our “Come to Wither” recordings. Ralf liked it immediately and offered us to drop some lines. Ralf lives near to our rehearsal room, so we met him personally. He told us some great stories about his rockstar life, and we had some Dinkelacker beer together. By the way thanks to our sponsor Dinkelacker brewery from Stuttgart for supporting us with this awesome beer for free!
Q: I guess that you wrote already new material in the past year, so what are the plans for the near future?
Ralf: Yes, that is correct. We will reduce to play gigs and focus on the recording and promotion of new album. We finished 10 tracks already and two more are in finalizing state. We plan to record in summer, so we are able to release it end of 2016. The new material is great, I like it very much.
Q: Will you continue the same style and direction, or will the new material be different? What can people expect?
Ralf: We will get a little bit harder with some more thrash and prog parts but we will keep our trademarks. You can look forward to the new songs, I promise.
Q: Did you have any particular bands in mind that can be considered as influential? And does it apply to all members of the band, or do you have different roots and influences?
Bastian: We have a lot of influences as Ralf said before. I think you cannot really mention any particular bands, as every listener seems to hear something different. Some reviews have compared us with Angel Dust, a band none of us really were listening to a lot in the past. Of course you hear a lot of thrashy, American power metal riffing in our songs. But you also hear the piano parts and more epic parts that go into a more European direction. Some of us are into very heavy bands. Ralf and myself listen to a lot of heavy shit. But Philipp is more into the melodic stuff. He even owns an Axel Rudi Pell shirt and he never wears the Kreator Shirt which we gave him as a present.
Q: Do you agree that I categorize Vanish as a Modern Metal band with a lot of heaviness and a Progressive edge.
Ralf: I could not describe it better.
Q: Massacre Records describes the band as Power Metal, which I disagree, as the band has so much more to offer. The music of Vanish is much more complex and discloses its beauty after several spins. Power Metal is straight forward, direct, and up-tempo, although that’s my opinion…
Ralf: I agree. But there is not genre where we fit perfectly into. We have power metal influences in our music and our singer Basti is singing in a power metal style, so that may be the reason for this definition.
Bastian: If you look at a lot Power Metal bands, they have also much more to offer. I think we would get more into trouble if we would be labeled “Progressive Power Metal” as we just would be too straightforward to the Progmetal Fans.
Q: Well, Ralf and Bastian, we know much more about Vanish and I’m already looking forward to hear the new material. Let’s make one promise: once the new album is ready to be released, we will have another chat! Do you agree, does this sound great?
Ralf: Patrick, we would love to! Even better would be when we will meet at a concert and have a Dinkelacker together!
Bastian: Definitely, we really look forward to making your Best Of List of 2016 or 2017.
Q: I want to thank you for your time and I hope that the third full length album of Vanish will be able to bring the band to Belgium and Holland as well! Keep up the good work and when there is news to spread, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Metal To Infinity!
Ralf: Thank you for the good questions and congrats for understanding our music so well!