Das Ist Berlin – An Interview with Kadavar

Tiger, Lupus, Dragon (Photo: Joe Dilworth)

Despite starting in 2010, Kadavar seem to crave for older times. Exhibiting the kinds of skills that were popular in the late 60’s with psychedelic and stoner rock, they have achieved a considerable level of success with their music. With 3 studio albums under their belt, and 1 live release, all of which have been very well received by the critics, Kadavar seem to be destined for great things.

We met with Christoph Lindemann (a.k.a. Lupus) to talk about Berlin, the band’s newest release, as well as to learn a bit more about the story of this bearded German psychedelic band.

This is rock and roll; it was never meant to be perfect

Metal Blast: We just saw the release of Berlin, your new album. If you were to put it next to, for example, Abra Kadavar, how do you feel it compares? Do you think that Berlin continues on the same line?
Lupus: Abra Kadavar was written in like 10 days and recorded right after; the whole process of writing and recording was about 30 days. This time we spent about 4 or 5 months writing the songs. It’s the first time we didn’t record in our own studio, and actually went to another one here in Berlin; it’s also the first time we don’t do the mixing ourselves. We sent it to Pelle Gunnerfeld in Stockholm to do the mixing; we really liked his sounds and his ideas, and so in the new album you can really feel that the sounds have changed. People say that the band sounds more grown up, maybe because of that sound. The album, like the previous ones, was recorded live, but we did more overdubs, and Pelle changed the sound a lot afterwards when he was mixing.
The difference in Berlin is that while in our previous albums they always had a single sound, now each song has a unique sound. This is cool, and I like it, but it’s something we’ve never done before.b

MB: Why do you record your instruments live? Why do you feel is important?
Lupus: I think that it’s still rock and roll; it was never meant to be perfect. It’s the recording of a take when we played together, and if you hear every track separately you’ll hear that there are little mistakes in the songs, but the dynamic and the feeling is something that you only get when you play the song together. This is really important for us; we are a live band, we love that feeling, and the songs should work live anyway. It’s not a problem for us to play the songs together, and I think that you can hear it differently in the dynamics, as opposed to just playing everything straight and perfect. I’m not a big fan of that.

Tiger, Lupus, Dragon (Photo: Joe Dilworth)

MB: Tiger commented, referencing the album title, that the Berlin lifestyle, this place where people from different backgrounds come together, greatly influenced the band. Can you tell me a little bit about this lifestyle, and how you felt it affected you and Kadavar?
Lupus: We all met in Berlin, although none of us is from there. We’ve been here for about 10 years now, so there are a lot of influences. Berlin has a big techno scene, and while I wouldn’t say that I was influenced by the music [laughs] the whole city is influenced by it. It’s a city that never sleeps; it’s a dangerous city as well, because if you don’t know your limits then there are no limits… there’s always someone interesting to meet around the corner, someone from around the world. I’m a village boy, and I came to Berlin to experience precisely something like that. Everything that happened in the last 10 years affected me and the band, and you can hear that in our music and on the record.
Now we still live in the center of Berlin, but a bit more towards the south; although we are not going out every night anymore, we have our community of people. It’s my home-base; when I come back from touring I always feel “it’s good to be back home.” That feeling was so strong when we came back last year from all the tours that when we started writing the album we almost immediately knew that we had to name it Berlin. It was not meant to be something about how Berlin is great and everything is awesome here, not at all; it’s just another city, but it’s about our personal lives here.

MB: What sort of role did that play into the making of the sound of Kadavar?
Lupus: I think we realized that we came to a point where we can try new things. Maybe that’s why we started songs like “Thousand Miles Away from Home.” They’re not typical Kadavar songs, they’re more straightforward, the whole album is. We tried to get rid of the parts we don’t need. In our first album there were 6 minute songs with 20-thousand parts each; it’s fun and cool, but it doesn’t really bring anything. This time we wrote songs that were like 6 minutes at first, but then we decided to start cutting every stupid part and just make them more straightforward, to find the melody and the idea of the songs and work the song out around that. We never worked like this before, we were always thinking from part to part, and now we tried to see the whole picture and figure out if every part was necessary.
This is also the first album that we do with Simon, our new bass player, so the bass parts sound different. He plays the bass like a guitar, with way more melody and groove in the songs. This changed our sound.

MB: Speaking of your bassist; have you had an opportunity to listen to Mammoth’s work with The Loranes? I was surprised to see that it was quite different from what he did with Kadavar.
Lupus: I think I heard it once. He always wanted to do this kind of music, so I wasn’t surprised. He never liked the music of Kadavar, and he always wanted to be like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, so now he has it and I hope he’s happy with it [laughs]

MB: It reminded me a lot of The Black Keys, which was surprising. But, as you said, if it works for him, that’s great.
Lupus: I think that’s what he wants to do, so I wasn’t surprised. He just released a 7-inch, and he’s going to release an album, and I wish him good luck, but I’m not really interested in what he’s doing.

MB: Speaking of Mammoth, Lupus, Tiger, Dragon… what was the motivation for the animal names?
Lupus: I think it was just a stupid bar situation; we were drunk, joking around, and Mammoth, who definitely looks like a mammoth, wanted to have that name. Then, since there were two Cristophs in the band, every time somebody said “hey Cristoph” we both turned, which was shit [laughs]  So that was a good reason, so he [Cristoph Bartelt] took “Tiger” and I took “Lupus“.
There were no bigger meanings, and we never thought that it would be a big story, because for us it just happened out of a bar situation, and we never really thought about it, but then after all these years people think that there’s a deeper meaning behind it. We thought that maybe we should try to come up with a deeper (fake) story, but we never did.

MB: The interest probably comes because Kadavar is usually mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Coven or The Devil’s Blood. People called you “the leaders of the German Occult Movement” or something like that.
Lupus: Yeah, somebody wrote that, it was horrible. We didn’t like it at all. We don’t do “occult rock.” Just because sometimes we’ve had occult lyrics, or because I’m not always happy, it doesn’t mean that I’m into occultism or that I’m Lucifer’s friend.

MB: Still, I’m a photographer, and last year when I photographed you at Hellfest I think I noticed that you have a Luciferian tattoo on your chest, right?
Lupus: I do… that’s true [laughs] But I hope my beard is getting longer, so you can’t see it anymore.

MB: So it was more of a thing that you did when you were younger?
Lupus: I liked it, I like symbols, and I like to fuck around with it… When I used to do it, I did it for myself, but now people look at me, take photos, and think about it. It’s a new experience for me; that people know what I’m doing or wearing [laughs]

MB: You mentioned that Abra Kadavar was written and recorded in just a few days; was it just the way it happened, or were you under a bit of pressure, as a young band?
Lupus: I think that it was a little bit of both; we wanted to release the album for the Roadburn Festival, so we set our own deadline. In the process we realized that we had to hurry up and that we didn’t have enough time; we also realized that we had to release a new album because we wanted to go on tour. When you become a musician, you have to make a living out of it, because you have to quit your job because you’re on the road all the time, and there’s the pressure that you have to release something to go on tour and keep the momentum going.
At the end of the day, it was one of the stupidest things we’ve ever done. Writing the album in such a short time…

MB: But the album did quite well…
Lupus:  Yeah, but the pressure we had… we were working like 24 hours a day for almost a month, with no breaks. You need some distance from your music; you need to go out, get some fresh air, come back to the studio with fresh ears and listen to it again; this wasn’t possible. I like the album, but we could have done it better.
This time, with Berlinwe took exactly the time that we needed to write the album. I’m proud of it, it’s the best thing that we could do. It was worth it to take the time it took and not write it in 10 days; it was a mistake we did once, and we’ll never do it again.

MB: So you feel Abra Kadavar could have been better?
Lupus: Things can always be better [laughs]

MB: There are specific things that you’d change?
Lupus: Sound-wise, we could have done better. I’m not a big fan of the sound of the second album, it was too high, without enough lows. We could have done a bit better. Back then we were happy after we released it but now, after two years, I think that we could have done it better… but I think that will happen with this album too [laughs] It’s a typical musician thing, nobody really likes his own music,

MB: But that’s a good thing; if you look at your older work and you always think it’s great, it means you never actually improved.
Lupus: Maybe I’m not a better musician now, but the band has grown. Especially with Simon on bass; if you take one third of the band away, it can be  a total nightmare for the band, or a new beginning. We had the luck that we found Simon and he jumped in.

MB: And very quickly, if I recall correctly.
Lupus: Yes; Mammoth left the band one or two days before the album was released, and then we had only 4 days to get ready to go on tour. We called Simon, we invited him, he said yes, we told him all the songs, he learned them in the 4 days we had to get ready, and we went back on the road.
This was just luck; it could have been the end of Kadavar, and we actually thought it would be the end. The record was about to be released, so that was the worst time for someone to leave the band and have us start all over again with a new member. Simon had a tough time, because Mammoth‘s face was on the fucking cover of the album! [laughs] People were wondering who was that guy and what he was doing there, so it took him about a year, and I think he was kind of frustrated about it, since some people would say they wanted Mammoth back. For us it wasn’t really a question though; it was clear that he was the new bass player, he has always been our friend, he has even been on the road with us before, as a driver, so it was just a matter of changing his “position” in the band.

MB: I can only imagine that being with someone who simply doesn’t like the music you’re making must be hard. It’s great to see that now with Simon you’re all on the same page.
Lupus: That’s exactly right. I’m happy for Mammoth and his project, but he never liked what we were doing. Simon comes from this scene, he lives for this dream; he left his parents’ house when he was 16 to make music, and I think that he found a real spot in our band. He was a big influence in the new album, and the way he plays, and we all play together, is on a completely different level. When I compare how we were a couple of years ago, and how we are now, I’m really proud and happy about how things turned out.

MB: I’m afraid that we’re out of time, but I really appreciate that you took the time to meet with us today. See you soon on tour!
Thank you very much!

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