If you have read our feature piece (available right here) with Clemens Wijers of Carach Angren and want more, then Rock Sins proudly presents the full interview! We sat down with Clemens to discuss the band’s brand new record, This Is No Fairytale, the importance of social media, the complexity of performing in a live environment and why the band are leading the modern black metal scene.
Your new record, This Is No Fairytale has been out for just about a week now. How have you found the early reception?
Clemens: It was very good! It’s only been a week but of course we have read a lot of reviews already and got some response and what we see is people are really happy with it. People have to listen to it a lot to absorb all of it because we usually have complexity in our music and it is always a concept album. You can also see that we included some new elements now and some people like the previous work more, Lammendam and older stuff, but that always happens when you release something new yknow? So some people like older stuff better and some people prefer the newer stuff but yeah, the reception has been really good!
To celebrate the release of the record, the band played a release show. How was it to get back on stage?
Clemens: It was great! It’s always a bit exciting and we were a bit nervous because we had new songs and it was the first time we tried them live. We had like a dance act; a professional ballet dancer on stage to spook it up a bit. So there was a lot to prepare but afterwards we were really relieved but everything went well, it was really awesome!
The band aims to uphold the horror elements in live shows and your sound. Do you think that sets your band aside from other bands in the black metal scene?
Clemens: Yes indeed. The thing is, when we started in 2003 we started this band as a project and already then we were making songs about ghost tales and stories we found out about. We liked that. It sort of got out of control because every time we would start a new record, we would base it on a legend or a story and this turned out to be our way of working. We got better and better at it and throughout the albums we focused more on horror than solely just paranormal events. So it was a natural development and we couldn’t write albums about something general, or like one song here or there. We really need a story.
So was that always the aim of the band? To tell these stories and concepts rather than having just meaningless lyrics?
Clemens: Yes exactly. We have this writing process, with the three of us it is like a machine. Usually Seregor thinks of a story but this time he called me up and he told me the story of the album (This is No Fairytale) and I was completely blown away. He said maybe this will work for one song and I told him “no this is the whole album!” Immediately I have these scenes in my head of what’s happening and I sat down at the piano and started playing and all these scenes come out, it is basically scoring a movie. We just want to do it this way and we will do it this way.
Like every other record you have done previously, the new record is a concept. What was the thought process when it came to writing for This Is No Fairytale?
Clemens: For some years we already had this idea to include fairy tales in one of our stories, so it always in the back of our minds. This time we were like “okay let’s do it” and we had some vague ideas and when I sat down one day Seregor called me and said “I’ve made this really twisted version of Hansel and Gretel” and he just read out the concept. In the original tale the children are put in the forest because the parents cannot take care of them but in his version he wants them to flee the house because it’s horrible inside. It’s over the top horror! So that is where we got the idea.
I noticed with the tracklisting for the new record, it looks like each song title is a chapter in a book. Was this intended or was it a natural process?
Clemens: Yeah it was a natural process but when you write songs you always have these temporary names. I called the songs chapter 1, chapter 2 etc so that stuck with us but it is a bit like a book yknow? We tried to make this based off a fairy tale book and reality because when you start the first song it is about drugs, it’s about things in modern times. So just when you think it’s too much we then have some fantasy elements, we tried to make it mix. If you look at the booklet there is also a mix of fairytale and then some drug stuff so it is a bit of both.
You certainly get the sense that Carach Angren’s music is more focused towards dark journeys with each album that you have done. Do you think that with black metal today there is a lacking of that, that bands just making music without really exploring lyrically?
Clemens: Yeah, I think not many bands do it the way we do it. There have always been some concept albums but we really put this in front, we prioritise it. The music also follows the emotions we tell through the stories so it’s not just a nice tale. We really try to keep this a focus and a lot of black metal bands focus solely on atmosphere or try to make a point throughout a song. We are story tellers so there is no political view and we don’t have opinions to get across, this is what we like to do.
One of my favourite things about the band is that you sing in multiple languages. Do you think by doing that you can build your fan base stronger when you play different countries?
Clemens: Yeah that worked really well for us. I mean when we play Bitte tötet mich in Germany, the Germans love that or the French love La malédiction de la Dame Blanche. For this album we felt we should do it just in English, we also decided to go with this really over the top way of telling things, it’s really direct. There’s no room for interpretation, like a children’s fairy tale book. That’s what we did on purpose. Maybe next time we do it completely different again but indeed on the previous records this helped us a lot to use different languages.
Recently, the band received death threats following the single release of There’s No Place Like Home. Are controversial subjects an issue for the band? Does it help portray the dark messages in your lyrics?
Clemens: With that death threat, the boss of our label (Season of Mist) Michael Berberian got a lot of emails with complaints like “this is not a black metal topic, it is stupid, and how do you sign something like that?” So it was more controversial in the black metal world apparently…like you cannot write about topics like this. But we expect controversy about the subjects at hand; like domestic violence. But we haven’t heard much about that because maybe we tell it in a story setting, it’s not like we love domestic violence!
So following from that, do you think that the black metal scene today has lost its cutting edge compared to the notorious 1990s?
Clemens: Yes, but those were different times. We never tried to be like that, I always say that the black metal scene in the 80s and 90s was more of a cultural movement. Things were different in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, so I respect what happened there. For what it was I was not there then and we don’t try to be like that and if people call us dark metal or horror metal we don’t care. Of course we included some things stylistically like the vocals and the rhythm guitar playing but that’s just our music as it evolved throughout the years. I’m really not into this true metal kind of thing, I really don’t care.
How would you describe the modern black metal scene?
Clemens: You have a couple of bands that really are good with the atmosphere, I don’t really know any names. But they focus on atmosphere and you have some of the really great bands from the early days like Marduk and Mayhem and they have a cult status. I really love those bands for what they do and I think bands are trying to be like that or copy that, I’m like why?! You have to try and find a voice of your own and that can take time. We also had to do this but you have to start somewhere. I think we have a lot of bands that aren’t so necessary, I appreciate everyone trying but I miss bands with their own voice.
So do you think that bands are emerging now are just a carbon copy of the bands that came before?
Clemens: Yes! But some are really good but it is also because with the internet these days, you can put out a very good demo immediately to big audiences or you can target audiences. 15 years ago that wasn’t possible. We had to physically send demos out in 2003 but now it’s through Facebook and everything. When you start a band today you can have an audience immediately but it’s now difficult to find really good emerging bands.
Is social media really important to the band?
Clemens: Definitely, for us it is very important. We have such a great fan base, we have all these fan clubs in different countries which is amazing to see! They make fan art on a daily basis and they send messages which is amazing. And when we go to different countries we really feel it; there are people waiting, people wanting to meet us and that is really awesome. Social media is something that really works for us.
One of the huge focuses for the band’s sound is the use of the orchestration. Do you think it gives the stories you are trying to tell a more immersive sound?
Clemens: Yeah definitely. For this album I put a lot of effort into the orchestration. Like I said earlier, some songs I just sat down at the piano like if you take Two Flies Flew into a Black Sugar Cobweb the start is really hasty and the children want to get out, I was smashing the piano! When you record that it’s almost like a guitar riff played on a piano, but then you take it down with a clarinet or a cello but sometimes a part is solely a guitar part. We really sat down and tried to make the best out of the riffs and the orchestra is really complex this time. It’s a little bit more in the background of the sound, I feel that it fits the theme, it fits everything because it’s so dark and brutal.
Was that always the aim of the band to have a heavy use of orchestration?
Clemens: It’s not a goal on itself, because sometimes you can have a very simple orchestration. For example the last song on the album it has a melody, you want that to come through and not have a thousand different things to distract from that. But for example the second song, When Crows Tick on Windows, in the beginning there is all this hectic stuff and this was in essence a very simple riff and I took it down and it was fun to do that. I got better with all this stuff throughout the years but it never was an aim to be complex. It has to fit the story and it has to feel right.
So the orchestration is there to drive the pace of the record?
Clemens: Yeah exactly! It has to fit yknow?
As you said, you like using the horror lyrics and the orchestration. Do you think this fits the band into horror culture?
Clemens: Yeah, and also the eerie violin effects we have works. When I sit down with the violin I get goosebumps myself and I know it is going to work. So then I try to get that sound into the album.
And really my last question is, now that the record is finally out, what’s next for Carach Angren for the rest of 2015?
Clemens: We are going to try to tour as much as possible. We have some festivals planned and we have good management and good booking agents, we are looking into touring opportunities so we hope to tour as much as possible.
Do you think the live sound replicates the sound of your studio records. Or do is it a challenge?
Clemens: It is a challenge technically because we are a three man group. We had some live players in the past but it never worked out, it was difficult. So we want to keep it a three piece band and so we have to do some technical tricks to make it happen but like I said, we did the release show and it really worked well. I’m really sure we can bring this to different countries.
Excellent, I hope to see that in the near future!
Clemens: That would be great!
Well thank you for your time, I really appreciate it
Clemens: Thanks a lot, see you next time!