It is not a common occurrence that you stumble upon an act that surprises you. Most of the time, bands, even the ones I love, tend to stick a formula that has proven effective; while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (although it can be) it’s always nice to find something new and unique. That’s the case with Kontrust.
Metal Blast sat down with Stefan Stefan Lichtenberger (vocals) and Mike Wolff (guitar) to gain a bit of insight on the mind of this band that, by all accounts, is crazy.
Check the transcript below and, of course, the video at the bottom!
Metal Blast: Hi guys; thanks for the interview. Let’s get down do it; Have the fans reacted well to the new album, “Second Hand Wonderland”?
Stefan: Yeah, I’d say they did.
Mike: It’s been really fun so far, since the album has been very well received by the fans. It’s nice to see that all the work, efforts and emotions we put into it were received really well by the fans. It’s been cool so far!
MB: You are now signed to Napalm Records, a label commonly associated with heavy metal. How did this partnership come about?
S: There’s one good explanation for that, which is that since Napalm Records is from Austria, we have them on a short leash to make sure that they are really working for us… and they also have the chance to see that we are working.
It works! And I think that they’re starting to include other music styles outside of TRVE METAL. They also work very professionally; we didn’t want a major company, but just a label that would be really working and pushing hard.
MB: You are usually asked to describe your music, so let’s skip that. However, on the same vein, to what style or genre does Kontrust belong to? It’s usually described as “crossover” but, in reality, that’s just a catch-all term!
M:Well, that’s probably the best explanation anyway. Let’s put it this way; Napalm Records have been interested in doing something different, something outside the usual genres they do and, of course, we’ve been looking for someone who’d be willing to work with us on our terms. So far it has worked really, really well, and I guess it’s a lucky coincidence that we found each other.
MB: Although the current line-up started in 2005, the band itself started in 2001. Back in those days, were all these folk and crossover elements present? What was your aim with the band?
S: No, not all this kind of influences. Everyone of us has a different style, so everybody brings their own influence; it was only a matter of time until new elements got into the band, and we’ve tried to make the best of it.
MB: The Netherlands is a special place for Kontrust, since the band reached a spectacular popularity with the single “Bomba”, which was even the best-selling song in the Dutch version of iTunes. This level of success, however, hasn’t replicated, to the same extent, in the rest of the BeNeLux. What do you think explains this phenomenon?
S: No idea. Do you have any explanations?
MB: None whatsoever.
S: Me neither! I have no idea about why something works in a certain way in the Netherlands or in Belgium. We don’t have a real explanation and, in fact, we don’t care about it.
M: I think it also depends on the moment. The way “Bomba” happened here in the Netherlands was (I don’t like to use the word “luck”)… well, a lot of factors played in really well. It worked here, it works along the German border with the Netherlands… Austria jumped on later, after they saw that it worked somewhere else, and then Poland, of course. As a matter of fact, we have Germany cornered really well now, so the next trying is trying to get Germany on their knees!
MB: Were there any major differences between the production and recording of “Time to Tango” and “Second Hand Wonderland”?
M: This one is a lot crazier! There was more money, more funding… we wrote a LOT more tracks, somewhere around 100 songs. These were ideas, just basic things that we would never use in this band but we decided to write them anyway; in the end you cut this all down to 12 songs and pick the best of the material, at least the best you think you wrote. I think it’s been a hard effort, it took a lot from us, a lot of emotions, love, frustration, hate and anger… and then we put out this album and everybody is really happy now. It works well, but it took a lot of effort, maybe a bit more than the last album but every album is different and every album is more fun than the previous one, and every time you’re prouder.
MB: You mention that this album is “crazier”. Is the songwriting process as chaotic as it sounds?
S: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….. Yes. That’s the difference between “Time to Tango” and “Second Hand Wonderland”. In “Time to Tango” a lot of the songwriting was done first with guitar and vocals or just percussions and guitar; in the new album a lot of the stuff came out of vocal fragments, so a lot of the songs were written based on vocals, this brought a lot of new vibes and new starting points for the songwriting; perhaps this is one of the reasons why it’s crazier than “Time to Tango” .
M: It’s more colorful.
MB: Are the influences of every member different, or does everybody come from kind of the same background?
S: It’s hard to explain; I don’t know if it’s the same regarding other bands. Of course, there are a lot of bands that we all like to listen to, but everyone also has their own corner where they listen to something when nobody else can hear. It’s not always easy to put things together that everybody is happy with.
MB: Regarding these bands to listen when nobody is around; what is your guilty pleasure?
S: Depeche Mode.
M: I’m trying to think of something really embarrassing.
S: I think we’re the only ones who listen to Iron Maiden.
M: I don’t feel embarrased of that!
MB: Nor should you!
S: Agatha has her own hip-hop influences…
M: Well, I like drum-n-bass.
MB: Were you listening to anything in particular during the writing of the album, and which influenced your style?
M: Not our own music!
Of course, you try to listen to whatever is going on right now just to see if you’re doing something that’s hip or in the picture or completely out of the way; on the other hands, the main aspect when you write music is that you simply shouldn’t give a shit. Everybody in the band is putting their own influences, it gets mixed up in this big goulash, and the result is what we put out as an album. The writing process was as colorful as what you hear now that it’s finished. Confusing but fun.
MB: Is there ever a concern during the writing that the mixtures and the crossover style may simply not sell well, that maybe it’s getting too crazy or that people won’t like it?
No. The thing is, usually when you go see a band or when you buy their music, you always expect something new, something that will set the band apart from what you already know; that’s something that I consider very positive, even if not everybody thinks that way. On the other hand, trying to do something different from everybody else is always a good thing… so why they hell shouldn’t we be more different than everybody else?… or just a little more crazy. I guess that we enjoy the fact and we try to be a little more crazy too.
MB: Any final words?
M: Thank you for the interview, it’s been really fun. We’re looking forward to this tour in the Netherlands…and be more careful when you’re riding your bikes! We have a fast-running bus and we also have to take some extra precautions when we’re riding in the Netherlands.