EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HEAVEN SHALL BURN’S MAIK WEICHERT
If I needed music to represent the act of breaking a glass bottle and using its jagged edges to repeatedly stab someone in the throat, I might very well point towards Heaven Shall Burn as that aural example. Oh, sure, guitarist/co-producer Maik Weichert says the band isn’t advocating violence in their music, but how can you listen to HSB and not wanna kill every other living entity in the room? It’s almost impossible!
And the music band’s latest, Invictus, will do little to quell your bloodlust.(And while we’re on the topic, we’re still giving away an mp3 of the song “Buried in Forgotten Grounds” off of that album.) It was released by Century last week in Europe, and comes out June 8 in North America – so this seemed like an ideal time to shoot Weichert a few questions via e-mail. After the jump, get his thoughts on the thematic connections between Invictus and the other entries in HSB’s Iconoclast series, why he prefers not to work with an outside producer, his thoughts on being a vegan, violent political uprising, Asterix & Obelix vs. The Simpsons, and more.
Invictus is the third part in the Iconoclast series, which has now spanned two albums and a DVD; how are all three works related, musically and thematically? The intro to both of the albums and the outro to Invictus even sound like variations of one another – I assume this was deliberate?
You´re one of the few journalists who noticed the related themes in the intros and outros. They are variations of one other were meant to connect the different records with each other. Also, if you listen to the two records in a row, you´ll realize that we made sure that it seems like one record. We did not change very much about the sound for Invictus – so everything sounds like one record with 23 songs or so. The main thought that connects the lyrics is that we tell famous stories about heroes and try to see these myths from a different point of view – to reveal the dark sides of certain hero stories. On the other hand, we also tell stories about unknown heroes, about people one should actually know.
The title of the original Iconoclast album obviously means you knew there were going to be more in the series. Was any of the material for Invictus ever intended for the original Iconoclast album?
No, not at all. We did plan to do a second part as a DVD, but we never thought of doing a third part as a record. That was pretty spontaneous, as we realized our lyrics were going in the same direction as last time.
There are some synths and drum loops on “Combat” and “The Lie You Bleed For,” which is unusual for HSB. Can you talk about the decision to incorporate those elements into the band’s sound? Do you think you might explore electronica more into the group’s future endeavors, or do you see its use on Invictus as a one-off experiment?
It´s not unusual for HSB – we had electronic samples on older records. But it was not as obvious as this time. Since we had this dance bit on Iconoclast I and we got really cool feedback for that, we had the guts to use it more dramatically this time. I am sure there will be more stuff like that in future – it adds a new dimension of aggression and brutality to our sound.
“Given In Death” is also an unusual song for you guys, not least of all because Deadlock‘s Sabine Weniger contributes clean vocals. How did Sabine get involved with the album, and how did the collaboration between Marcus[Bischoff, HSB vocalist] and herself go? Being known primarily as a heavy band, did you feel any trepidation with regards to how your fans might react to the use of clean vocals… sung by a woman, no less?
Well, we won´t be doing a Nightwish-like video for the song with Sabinw and Marcus as a wedding couple or whatever. I guess if you listen to the whole record and before you hear this song at the end of the disc, then you’ve already gotten so much brutal and harsh sounding music that you’re happy to hear a calmer tune.
Deadlock comes from the same area in Germany as, and we’re really good friends. After we realized that the lyrics to “Given in Death” would need some girl vocals and that Whitney Houston had no time, we decided to ask the Deadlock guys and girl for help. We just sent the tracks and lyrics over and they did something with it – we liked the result very much, so we changed almost nothing about it.
You’re one of the producers of the album, too. Can you discuss the differences between working with the band as a member versus working with the band as one of the album producers? And what’s the collaboration between Alexander and Tue and yourself like?
I think if you produce your own band, you care a lot more. There are tons of records released, where you can tell that there was a famous, really expensive producer involved, but you can hear that he did not really give a shit about the band, and was maybe lost in thoughts of playing golf that weekend or whatever. I don´t want something like that. So we do our own stuff. It’s enough if we have someone looking over things while mixing and mastering, like Tue Madsen does. If something sounds strange we can re-amp it with Tue, for example. It’s important to have someone independent of the band having a look over everything in a certain stage. But if you know what you want, working with a real producer makes thing more complicated, I guess – it just generates more compromises. And HSB is not about consensus!
As far as I’m aware, you haven’t done any producing for any bands besides HSB – do you have any plans to do so in the future? Do you enjoy the act of producing in and of itself, or only as it relates to your own musical projects?
Alex does a lot of producing, but I have almost no idea about all that computer stuff and so on. I just sit there and write and arrange songs and tell people handling the computer and equipment stuff what is good and what not. I know what should be there and what sounds I need, but I don’t know which button to press, so I would need really good engineers, haha. I have a lot of ideas, so maybe I will produce someone else in future… who knows?
Your music is very angry. And you’re all vegan and straight edge. Do you think if you had a drink or at least ate some red meat, you might feel calmer?
Just some of us are straight edge – we always had at least one party guy in the band, and straight edge was never an band philosophy. Veganism is a lot more important to us. Eating meat would mean I am not thinking about this world that much, which means I would be maybe a bit calmer… so that might be right.
I read somewhere that you were studying to be a lawyer. Is that true? And, if so, do you have any plans to practice law? And, if so, what kind of law? Do you know any other metal musicians who are studying law? And where do you get off being intelligent, anyways? Don’t you know all metal musicians are supposed to be morons?
You know intelligent lawyers!? Haha. I studied law and I am now about to write my doctoral dissertation about constitutional law. So I am more like a jurist or legal scholar, and not a lawyer. So if you need a divorce, you have to ask someone else. To be honest, metal musicians are either alcoholics, or very intelligent, or both. Maybe that is because you have so much time on tour and then you start to read books or drink – or drink and read.
Any plans to tour the States this year, or am I gonna have to get on a plane if I wanna see you guys live?
We’re only touring the US if there is a cool offer. We want to see the country and play with cool bands. We don’t need to tour to sell records, but of course we know there are quite a few people waiting for us, and we would do it for them. But we will never do something like a six week North America tour. And getting in a plane and checking out Europe is never wrong!
HSB’s material obviously espouses strong political views. But I wanted to ask you more specifically about your thoughts about violence as a political and ideological tool. “Endzeit” contains the lyrics “We are the violent ones” and “we are the final resistence;” the video appears to portray the band carrying out of what some might consider to be a terrorist act (although there’s obviously a twist). Now, on Invictus, there’s a song called “Combat,” which has a sound clip of a shotgun blast. Is the band taking a stance on violent acts of political rebellion?
In our western world, we’re very far from a violent political rebellion. Only if people have nothing to lose anymore do they start a riot, and power holders are very keen to keep their slaves happy. Greece, France and Italy might be different – these peoples have a traditon of revolution. Today, poverty does not mean not having a TV or not having a cell phone. It’s a poverty in mind -that is the main problem. Crappy nutrition, consumption of crappy media, and so on and so forth. As long as people are entertained and occupied with their little sorrows, like the rate for their car, no one will use violence. I mean, most people don’t even go vote, you´re asking me about a violent revolution?! The song “Combat” is about child soldiers, not about a revolution. The messages we promote are more like symbols. First we need a cultural revolution – a violent revolution or a riot is the only kind of ambush power holders can fight, so we should not focus on something like that.
Finally, and on a much, much lighter note: you list The Simpsons as one of your hobbies on your webpage. Please tell us why The Simpsons is the most metal cartoon of all-time.
The most metal cartoon of all times is Asterix & Obelix – pagan ftw!!! But The Simpsons is awesome, you’re right. Homer is one of the greatest philosophers of all times! I guess Otto is very metal!!!