Interview with Stefan from Kontrust

One of the surprises and biggest finds  so far this year has come in the shape of Austrian metal band Kontrust, not that they are newcomers just that we have been blind to their impressive sounds until now. With release of their stunning new album Second Hand Wonderland, a deeply eclectic, wonderfully eccentric, and extremely brilliant release we are now enjoying the treats and pleasures the band brings with each and every song. We had the chance to find out more about the band and new album by having the pleasure of vocalist Stefan answering our eager questions.

Hello and many thanks for taking time to talk with us at The Ringmaster Review.

Firstly please just introduce Kontrust and its members.

Glad to have this interview. We’re a hard rocking 7 piece. There’s Agata, who does the vocals, not necessary the softer ones. Rhythm section is Roman on the drums and Manuel on the percussions. Those to supply the a** whooping beats. Gregor our bass player delivers the fat groove, while Robert and Mike kick in with the walls of guitars.

For those of us who have only just discovered you, yes we hold our shaking heads in shame, tell us when and how the band started.

We originally got together in 2001, released the first 2 EP’s and finally 4 years later in 2005 after a massive line up change, when Agata and Gregor joined in, our first long player We!come Home. That’s how it all began.

How has the band changed since those early days?

After the line up change we were a six-piece that started to be heard by an audience at clubs and festivals. We played tons of great shows and then in 2009 we put out a new album “Time To Tango” and then “Bomba” happened. Something we didn’t expect at all. It was our first big international breakthrough. We we’re really blown away. First high ranking chart positions in the Holland, then later in 2010 we received the AMADEUS Music Award in our home country of Austria.
The single and of course the album as well became really popular on the internet and received a substantial airplay on TV and radio. Things started to go really well. We got strong feedback from the international music press and a constant growing international fan base. In early 2011 we added our 7th member Mike (guitar) to the band. After massive touring we played Poland with our biggest show ever at the Prystanek Woodstock festival in front of over 300000 crazy Kontrust fans.
We spent over a year working on our new album “second hand wonderland” which is finally released.

With a sound that has diversity and flavour which encompasses all forms of rock, metal and distinct genres further afield what were and are the influences that helped and still add inspiration your inventiveness?

From Sepultura to Depeche Mode, from Iron Maiden to Bob Marley and so on. All kinds of musical styles from rock to jazz, to electronic music and experimental forms.

The songs  bring so much ingenuity and as mentioned invention to their richness it is hard to imagine where you start when writing them so please give us some insight into the song writing process within Kontrust.

There are a lot of ideas! Then of course time for our ideas to develop and legal and illegal helpers!
We jam, we record, we re-write and so on. We enjoy working with other songwriters as well in order to get a different approach. Working with so much passion, love, frustration and aggression all put into the music we do, we try many different approaches when it comes to writing the songs and leave all the musical barriers behind. And it the end…it sounds like we do.

Listening to your music one also has the thought that songs almost shape themselves that they evolve on their own with the band the guide at times. Is that so?

That really depends on the songs, some go really easy and are done in just a couple of hours, others occupy you for several weeks or even months.

You are about/have just released your brand new album Second Hand Wonderland. Where does the release go or has brought from you as a band that is different from your previous and acclaimed release Time To Tango?

Well compared to all other previous releases, it’s a worldwide release. For the first time, our stuff will be available in every corner of the world. We’re looking forward to the fact, that a lot of new people, who aren’t aware of us yet, will hear us.

Admittedly as I ask this I have only heard the singles Bomba and The Smash Song from the previous album, something that will be remedied soon, but there feels a stronger intensity and dare one say aggressive streak to Second Hand Wonderland. Is that the reality?

The music itself evolved and we brought our songwriting to a new level. It’s definitely more playful, twisted and very hooky. We enjoy writing stuff, that actually touches you, whatever you mood may be, doesn’t matter if it’s in your face, bashing stuff or more melodic parts.

How long was Second Hand Wonderland in the making?

The entire process took over a year to produce, record and finish. The entire time span of finish to start was well over two years.

The album has a soundscape that is almost like an aural version of the South Korean movie The Happiness of the Katakuris and in some ways of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit with its reality blended background of cartoon and reality. Do you understand what I mean and if so do you agree haha?

Well Roger Rabbit I know and it never crossed my mind till now, but yes it’s somewhere in that neighborhood. Crazy and wicked.

The vocal blend of Agata and yourself is as distinctive and contrasting as it is seamless and an obvious and perfect fit. Was this as natural from the start when Agata joined the band or was there work needed to done to make it as impressive as it is?

There was an instant chemistry that worked for everybody at that point in time. We evolved quite a bit since then, got more creative and approached a different musical level. We grew together and got better at what we do.

Agata is from Poland originally, how did you find her?

She found us after we put an ad into a local music-mag. Back then, that was way to do it. She already lived in Vienna several years before, so all of us were in one big town. Just a matter of time until we found each other.

It is impossible to choose a favourite song on the album, each song stating a firm and undeniable claim, but is there any particularly track or moment on Second Hand Wonderland you are most proud of or simply have a stronger pleasure from?

All the tracks! I love them all. I guess it depends on the mood I’m in. Each songs kick’s ass. Or gets you a speeding ticket, because you slammed the gas to hard, while listening to the tunes.

With an album so eclectic and at times wonderfully eccentric you will sadly but obviously find some people that will find it hard or unwilling to venture into your world of imagination. Do you ever think about that when writing or simply declare it their loss?

Obviously it’s an impossible task to satisfy everybody. I guess this album will polarize a lot more than all previous ones. You either love it or hate it.

For all the innovation and imagination you bring to your music has there been ideas or sounds that even you have found hard to immerse into your music or simply unable to work with?

There are a couple of tracks where we were not sure, if should put them on the album or not. But in the end we’re really glad we put them on there, just because of that reason. They color it, they make it different. We like!

You have a great reputation for your live shows making sure everyone has an experience to remember but for you the performance at the Przystanek Woodstock festival last year in front of over 300,000 people must have been a real highlight?

It was absolutely crazy. Insane! Totally overwhelming! We had an instant connection with the crowd and they gave everything back tenfold. So they fired us up really well and we returned the favour. It was an amazing show full of mosh pits and walls of death and bodies surfing everywhere. Flags waving from a crowd that cheered so strong we couldn’t hear ourselves on stage. Very intense. Timeless memories.

An event and success like that must have given the band a stronger hunger and heart for more of the same and inspired your creativity?

For certain! Events like that give you such an intense boost in great vibes and positive energy. It satisfies you. You get the feeling…ok, we must be doing something right. But the most important fact is, you know that you can be grateful. Grateful for being able to play such an event, because of the fans who supported us.

As much as the catchiness to the songs and the irresistible hooks and lures you lay upon us, a lot of the infectiousness comes from feeling and seeing the fun the band has making and bringing the music and how it equals ours receiving it. This is as important to you as musicians as much as the music itself, having fun?

Oh yes. Having fun was always the major part of being in this band. We really enjoy what we do.  Playing live, jamming, recording, writing music, all of it J

Second Hand Wonderland is released on Napalm Records, a surprising link up though we all know they know good music when they hear it. How did the union come about?

Well we were looking for a label and found one. The really treat us well and take good care of us. They have been in the industry for ages and always proved themselves as a great long term solution that makes everybody happy.

Have you shows or a tour lined up to support the album? …and possible festival appearances in the year ahead?

Oh it will be a busy year! We go on tour with “Die Apokalyptischen Reiter” in early may through Germany, Switzerland and Austria. We have many shows planned for the summer festival season throughout Europe. Check out our homepage for exact dates and where they’re happening.

Thank you for sparing time to talk with us would you like to leave with any last words or thoughts?

Thank you for the interview. Big thanks to all our fans out there who support us. Without you we would not be here. This new album is dedicated to you. See you out there on tour J

Finally in our review we referenced the likes of Skindred, Dub War, Djerv, Rammstein, Mike Patton, De Staat, Guano Apes, Yello, 12 Stone Toddler and Shaggy to name a few to give an idea of the music and songs within Second Hand Wonderland. Any there you agree with haha and any we may have missed?

Guano Apes… haha…haha…haha. Why is that? ;-) – Oh yes, probably you forgot Justin Bieber…

Read the Second Hand Wonderland review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/kontrust-second-hand-wonderland/

The Ringmaster Review 25/04/2012

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The Sea: Rooftops

Having been bowled over by previous single New York the anticipation for the new album Rooftops from UK band The Sea was eager and impatient, and the band has fulfilled and exceeded all hopes and expectations placed upon the release. Rooftops is a triumph of big melodies, larger than life songs, and music that lifts and lights any day or heart. It is a refreshing new breath and a familiar friend all at once, its sounds infectious and instantaneous whilst being imaginatively inventive and distinctly varied. Pop, rock, show tunes, soul, blues, the album has essences and veins from all and more fused into songs that easily rouse the spirit.

Brothers Alex (vocals, drums) and Peter D’Chisholme (vocals, guitar, piano) from emerging out of their parents garage in Newquay, Cornwall in 2007, have instilled themselves as one of the most thrilling bands in the UK. From the off the duo took no time in grabbing attention and acclaim from their shows through to their debut single Love Love Love and album Get It Back, both released on their own Lusty Records in 2009. Tours around and across the UK and Europe surrounded their recordings and took up the following year, 250 gigs in less than two years. Summer 2010 saw the band enter the Sawmills Studios in Cornwall to record Rooftops with producer John Cornfield (XTC, Muse, Supergrass, Oasis, Razorlight) and bring their evolving lush, rich, multi-layered sounds to new songs. The following year saw The Sea tour Europe extensively as the USA and Canada but also witness a freak surfing accident in the summer to Alex which left him with a broken neck and serious doubts he would walk again let alone play the drums. Like their music though the band and its members do not lie down quietly and Alex returned within months to tour Europe again as well as undertaking shows in North America. The heart, strength and passion showed echoing that of the music which strides with a power and depth of feeling that is irrepressible and impossible to shy away from.

The single New York opens up the album and it could not have a finer entrance. The song is immense, a buoyant and boisterous track that towers over the ear with confident expansive energy, eager guitars and rhythms all brought within the glorious arms of dazzling horns and grand harmonies. Its anthemic grace and senses stirring heart opens one up for what follows with drooling anticipation, and the album makes sure satisfaction is guaranteed with a lively and eclectic flurry of ideas, music, and imagination.

Where’s The Love with its rolling hypnotic drums instantly pulls in attention to hear expressive vocals and matching emotive guitars weave and wind their warm and earnest passions around the soul. The song provokes emotions in a different but just as distinct way to the opener and as the next in line Silly Love Song and its mischievous twinkle in the eye shows, the band never rest or stand still making a release that is mesmeric, unpredictable and lovingly attentive. The third song on the release has a wonderful show tune type feel bringing large sure and bold melodies whilst the piano and harmonies all stroll with an air of the dramatic and more than a dose of wicked humour.

As the songs unveil their beauty and pulsating diverse charms it is impossible not to sink deeper within the luxurious waters of impressive songwriting, equally skilled craft, and consuming pop rock sounds. The likes of the pulsating slow burning Rooftops Of London with its blues inspired guitars and Doors like keys and melodies, Need Breath Dream with its heart boosting ELO keyboard pomp, and the excellent and beautiful acoustic soulful ballad Cry where Pete tugs more than gently on the emotions, three more perfect examples of the distinct and stunning treasures to feast upon.

Alongside from New York, the track Panic On The Streets Of Dalston fights for the honour of flaring up the senses most of all, its garage punk fuelled riffs and direct electrified rock aggression revealing yet another side to the band and their creative sound. To be honest it is impossible to pick a top song. The whole release is strong and impressive with the likes of another blues rock track in Shake Shake and the closing Young Knives like anthemic wonder that is Emily’s Waltz which leaves the listener with a final heart pumping and life warming lift, just as glorious and pleasurable as those previously mentioned.

Rooftops is simply outstanding and should be on the playlist and shopping list of all who enjoy big, vibrant, and deeply inspiring pop rock songs. The Sea is an incoming tide you will wish to be consumed by.

RingMaster 25/04/2012

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Vera Grace: Rotations EP

The debut EP from UK metalers Vera Grace has had a bit of a buzz behind it with comparisons of Underoath, Oceana, and Parkway Drive being thrown the way of the band. The Oxfordshire quintet are building a fine and respectful reputation for their raw and aggressive hardcore/metal sound which has had many eagerly waiting for this release, The Rotations EP. Now with the experience of hearing it one has to say the comparisons maybe a little premature as the EP shows a band still evolving and finding its sound but the EP also offers up a wealth of promise that will surely see the band make a true and deeper mark ahead.

Formed in 2011 whilst still at school, the line-up of vocalist Stephen Nulty, guitarists Jonjo Williams and Chris Thirtle, bassist Aaron Godfray, and drummer Josh Williams, has already left trails though ears with their first single Living Forever Isn’t Living At All and a free download single in the shape of Dark Hearts which has just been released prior to the EP. Rotations unleashed on May 14th is set to light up even more senses whilst as mentioned igniting a keen anticipation of greater things ahead.

The release opens with Wasting Away and takes no time in scorching the ear with well crafted and incisive riffs alongside a deep imaginative bassline. The song soon flexes its muscles with a concentrated  aggressive rhythm and demanding riffs which easily stride through to the senses whilst the growls of Nulty leave coarse trails that compliment and add intensity to the song without being overtly violent. Then the song leaves one wrong footed by the introduction of his clean vocals. It has to be said immediately that on this song they work wonderfully though one wonders if in the way intended, but as the release progresses that aspect of their music suggests it still needs more definition and work. An excellent coarse purveyor of words his clean attack is not an easy or seamless fit but as mentioned on Wasting Away it actually works to their advantage. On the song it brings a surprising old post punk feel with elements of Public Image and Joy Division coming in, and once given some time to digest it works wonderfully making the track easily the favourite.

The stirring Lost comes next and another track where the band rampage with a strong accomplished skill and power . The music is not particularly ground breaking but it is certainly as strong if not better than the majority of other emerging similar veined bands. The track pummels with a sure intent to keep the attention fully focused to ensure the fine melodic interplay and detours the song neatly takes are not missed. To balance the earlier comment the vocals work a treat in both guises on the song and are well placed within the alternating melodic and aggressive demands.

Esther’s Imagination takes over to continue the impressive consumption from the well crafted and thoughtful testing of the senses. There is a nice balance and blend between the two sides of the music that persistently intrigues and keeps one interested. Sadly here the vocals lack cohesion on the clean side, it is not terrible or destructive to the song but just a sign of some work to do and even greater things to come.

The title track brings an atmospheric progressive touch as it emerges and expands and brief though it is it explores and displays the creative side of the band wonderfully as it leads into the closing beast of a track in I Am The Earth. Expressive and emotive the song is a towering wall of heavy incisive sounds and melodic invention that takes one on an at times tumultuous journey. It is a formidable song which sadly loses its stature from the latter clean vocals and group shouts. Hopefully this will not come over as an attack on Nulty as for the whole he is as mighty as the rest of the band with his aggressive grabbing of the emotions. The band just need to reassess the use and placing of his clean vocals and infuse them to the best effect as on the opener.

     Vera Grace are a band on the rise which need a close eye on as Rotations more than suggests something special will be coming are way soon.

www.facebook.com/veragraceband

RingMaster 25/04/2012

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The Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers: Drop Some Leg!

Sometimes a day just does not go to plan with frustrations bringing their mischievous devilment to taunt and obstruct whilst other times everything is blissfully on course and one can bask in warm glories and self pleasing satisfaction. For those days and anything in between one needs a soundtrack to feed and ignite the inner sun and inspire the reaction required to fight or fully enjoy. This is where bands likeThe Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers come in. They heat up the emotions and stir up the heart with irresistible sounds and feel good energy that is impossible to ignore or avoid. So with a collection of songs to fulfil any need meet the soul reaching pleasure that is Drop Some Leg! It is a pulsating re-energising array of Jamaican-style bluebeat and rhythm’n’blues songs with a concentrated dash of ska and more that leaves one pumped up and swaggering like they just won the lottery.

Now we will make no claims of knowing much about the sounds that have inspired the music of The Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers but we know what we like and Drop Some Leg! definitely falls into that category. The band is Oxford based and consists of the ubiquitous guitarist, vocalist, and song writer Sir Bald Diddley (Hipbone Slim and the Kneetremblers, Louie and the Louies, Sir Bald Diddley And His Right Honourable Big Wigs to name just three of his expansive list of exploits), drummer Bash Brand (Milkshakes/Headcoats/Link Wray/Holly Golightly), plus trumpeter AJ (Intensified/Laurel Aitken/Dave Barker/Dennis Al Capone and Winston Francis), trombonist Napolean Trombonaparte, Kid Wig on piano, Johnny Loafer on tenor sax, and  the double bass of ‘Later’ Ron McRobbie (previously of Sam Brown’s band). Labelled Oxford’s Skatalites’!! the band feed from influences such as the Skatalites, Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken, Derrick Morgan, Fats Domino, Huey Piano Smith, Rosco Gordon, James Brown and Ike Turner, to create tunes that makes one just get involved, music to elate and inspire the emotions with a smile on the face and grin in the heart.

If you were a fan of the late seventies/early eighties ska boom Drop Some Leg! is an exhilarating feast of sounds though the music of The Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers has a wider and more expressive depth which will please everyone. From the opening brass charms of If The Coast Is Clear the album lights up the ear. Ska guitars nudge and poke  whilst the piano strolls boldly behind bringing an instant engagement. Sir Bald lays down his vocals with a fifties blues rock n roll gait whilst the brass take the emotions on a hazy saunter into warm vibrant climes.

The sultry temptation of following instrumental The Elusive Mr. Kaplan takes the hand next leading one through a beckoning tease into the excellent title track. Drop Some Leg opens with a glorious throaty bass from McRobbie which instantly recalls the wonderful deep moody equivalent sounds of The Beat. The song transports one into a welcoming and sweaty smoke filled dancehall, everyone blissfully swaying and matching bodies in a relaxed mass exultant dance. There is nothing complicated about the music but not many songs sweep one up into an inner peace and wanton giving of their hearts as here, a reflection of the genre in general .

The foot provoking persistence of instrumental Bare Our Souls comes next to continue an eclectic mix of sounds with its jazz/soul stomp to be equalled by the likes of the captivating Everybody Ska with its obvious but irresistible jaunt through the ear, the brilliant instrumental Hugh Mingus where the band simply own the heart with its soulful emotive passion and imaginative craft, and the rock n roll blues gem that is Shot Full Of Holes. As mentioned the album is openly varied with these four songs alone coming from different corners and inspirations.

Every track on the album is an outstanding treat but the side by side Baldhead and Pempelem create the deepest affair. The first is just one of those sing-a-long triumphs that has one engaged within a few notes, its cheeky amble though the ear picking up emotions like hitchhikers to drop them off at a party of pure elation. There is no way if you have a pulse you can resist joining in with the chorus and vocal returns. Pempelem quite simply takes thoughts and feelings downtown into another inviting house of hungry and insatiable warm sounds. The song swings with and seduces with clean and rousing musical passion.

    Drop Some Leg! is pure pleasure, an album to turn every day into one of joy and stirring animation. Place The Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers on your daily soundtrack right now and feel the warmth and energy wrap around you.

RingMaster 25/04/2012

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