Thrash metal comes in numerous shapes and sizes, generally all ravenous and out for blood, but few have been as voraciously compelling and inventive as the recent album from German band Cripper. Hyëna is, as its title suggests, a beast of a proposition, one built on sinew and aggression but with the creative enterprise and captivating adventure of an instinctive predator. The album is one of the most exciting genre releases in recent times and the evidence of a band at its strongest peak to date. So it was a pleasure to explore the world of Cripper, and especially get to the heart of Hyëna with the kind help of vocalist Britta Görtz, guitarist Christian Bröhenhorst, drummer Dennis Weber, and bassist Gerrit Mohrmann.
Hello all and thank you for sharing your time with us; firstly can you give some background to the emergence of Cripper in 2005, inspirations and intent for its birth?
Christian: Hello Pete, nice to meet you!
It all began in 2004 when Jonathan and I met in university. Both of us found out that we got quite enough time to do some thrashy music besides studying. So we took a rehearsal room to exchange some ideas.
Well, two guys and some riffs don’t make a band – so we started searching for persons who really wanted join this. We didn’t have a clue about the direction we wanted go at this point. It was just to keep the passion and maybe have kind of a group out of fitting members in the end. The other band that was rehearsing at our place was one step ahead and invited Britta for singing. But she ends up with us and does not really fit to the music of the other group. Even more luck was on our side when we completed with Dennis and the band’s first bass player. Cripper was born.
With first 6 songs in the bank we entered the studio to record our first demo EP. First live shows followed and had a good impact on us. We got hungry for more.
Do you still feel about the band and see it the same way you did in those early days or like your music has that evolved over time and releases?
Christian: Still it is all about fun and fulfilment. This might be the real “success“ or how do you wanna call it. Of course it is great havin’ the chance to spread your music / art all over the world. And even knowing some guys who like it! 🙂
But I have to admit that it is kind of calculated professional work. This is more influenced these days than it was back at the point we recorded our first song. Because now we have more like a goal, we try to match our personal visions. But still it is exciting ’cause we never know how what a song will sound like or how a certain feel is gonna work in the end.
Talking of releases you of course uncaged fourth album Hyëna last November, a voracious snarl of an encounter. A couple of months on has it matched or surpassed your hopes for it with fans and in drawing new attention?
Christian: Hopefully it brings us even more listeners than before. To be honest, we don’t really know the selling stats yet and have to check back with the guys of our record label. First feedback was really good and our partners were lucky as we are about the fact that everything worked out with the new album and the press echo is a damn good one in whole.
The album for us is your most adventurous and diverse release sound wise so far, did you have any specific aims when writing it or was it more an organic creation; see what comes out with ideas kind of thing?
Christian: So good to hear that, man. Great you love the album and listen to the stuff in this way.
Well, it’s always kind of “organic“ ’cause we choose to write our songs during rehearsal time and have all the band members involved during this process. To collect feedback and opinions from all around and don’t have a song that’s just represents a certain taste of a single band mate.
This time, we really felt the challenge to write a compact but dynamic album. Do not bore the listeners when listen to the whole album from first note to the very end. And this time we put the focus on the tracks, creating different atmospheres and havin’ even more different song structures.
How do you see the evolution between Hyëna and previous albums Devil Reveals and especially Antagonist from two years ago?
Christian: On Devil Reveals we tried to experience atmospherically heavy stuff and some “epic“ parts for the first time. On Antagonist it became even more varied and we tried to create different stuff beyond typical thrash metal. Although it is still music out of this genre we mix it up with groovy death metal parts or havin’ some elements that’s got nothing to do with extreme metal at all. This development moved on when it comes to our current material. We put in some rock influences, havin’ stoner riffs, used pretty heavy riffing and mixed it up with thrash stuff. At the end of the day all these different ingredients creates a cocktail which taste like typical for the band but smells fresh and tasty… hopefully, haha! Beside this, we tried to have a sound that is more “grown-up“ in comparison to the album Cripper released before. It is more about a heavy filthy bastard of an underdog so to say.
Whilst writing and recording the album was there any aspect to its sound or presence which took you by surprise?
Christian: We planned to not double layer the guitar tracks. That meant we chose to play all the rhythm stuff just one time and havin’ some additional parts on top. Just to keep it basic and not too constructed. For this one shall hit you right between the eyes.
On our first records the sound was OK but may not feel catchy enough and misses the rock ‘n’ roll in it. This is what we think about after havin’ listened to the old shit for so many times, to be honest 😉 We tried to build up Hyëna’s sound as catchy as possible. Drums and bass are more to the point than ever, the vocals are real killer.
Is there a certain process to the song writing within the band more often than not?
Dennis: For ten years, songwriting of the instrumentals happened exclusively in the rehearsal room – most of the time involving the whole band. So in general, the all over process is kind of the same: All five are jamming, trying out stuff, and discussing our asses off to come to something that actually all of us would consider to be a song. Britta writes all the lyrics on her own, but making them part of a song also involves the others. But of course we tried different approaches over the time, mostly to minimize discussions and keep the actual music in the foreground – which isn’t easy at all, especially when you try not to repeat yourself – which is of course a question of definition. So the optimal process (which actually happens at least sometimes) would be: Britta has an idea for some lyrics or at least a topic or feeling she wants to bring alive through a song; one of the guitarists understands this approach and puts out one or two riffs we all think would fit; all of us jam along on that and record a scribble version of a possible song structure; Britta completes the lyrics independently; and with all elements being set, we cut everything into pieces and put it again together in thousand different ways until it is a full grown song. When I think of it that would be the practice happening most often, not thinking about the time every step needs – and sometimes this could be months or even years.
It is easy to assume that you all take inspiration from leading lights in thrash and extreme metal like Exodus, Testament, The Haunted etc. but are there any other bands or influences which are maybe more unexpected?
Dennis: I think we do not (anymore?) really actively take bands as inspiration for the band Cripper. Actual inspiration happens more on single musicians concerning her/his instrument, which doesn’t depend on metal at all, but more general on being a good artist. So the fact that many of us listen to music which is far away from (extreme) metal is good for an open-minded perspective, but probably not really helpful in the songwriting process. But on the other hand, perhaps it’s a good approach to find the point you and yourself want to make by being also into all the other stuff for distinction and finding precision…
I have the idea that Cripper is a band always working on new ideas or taking elements of previous songs, experiences and exploring them further ahead. If so was there anything particular about Hyëna and its recording which you took as a seed to your next creations?
Dennis: I already mentioned the problem of do-not-repeat-yourself and something woolly about inspiration, and I see your consideration as praise so thank you for this question. But this is hard to answer as we will perhaps be able to answer this question not before the plant is grown. Concerning songwriting we will try a completely different approach this time and I won’t come to details until we are not sure it could work. I think the most concrete and traceable aspect will probably be the sound and the overall production, because that is something where we try to achieve “the best that is possible” from our humble perspective at least. Creativity-wise I have no idea which aspect leads to what. In the most general way you can interpret this.
Give us some insight into the recording of Hyëna.
Dennis: We split the recordings into two sessions with half a year or something between them, because of different reasons, but one interesting aspect was that we were able to really let the production sink into our minds and so had the possibility to change major decisions with fresh ears. Also, I firstly recorded the drums with Kai at the Kohlekelles Studios, so he as hands-on-mixing-mastering-producing-guy had all the possibilities in the whole process of how he wanted them to be. That also applies to the other recordings as well, even if they were made partially in other studios.
Did you approach it or try anything majorly different in the studio than when recording Antagonist?
Dennis: We try something new on the recording- and overall producing-processes of every Cripper-album, so: yes. Christian spoke about some aspects in the beginning and almost everything I described in the last question was new for Hyëna.
Hyëna was your first album which was not being self-released, being unleashed through Metal Blade Records. How did the link up come about?
Gerrit: Metal Blade took notice of us at the Metaldays festival in 2013 and sent an e-mail afterwards. First we were thinking someone is kidding us. Then we realized that this is the “real” Metal Blade company and that they are seriously interested. And so we stayed in contact and made a cool deal. In summer 2013 we decided to produce four songs as an EP to check out if the Cripper stuff will be interesting for any label out there. We decided to record the EP in the Kohlekeller Studios in November 2013. With this decision we went to the Metaldays 2013…And then there was Metal Blade, haha.
What has been the biggest difference and benefit from this union for the album?
Gerrit: It feels great to have Metal Blade as a partner on our side. Knowing Cripper since their beginning in 2005 as a friend of the band, seeing them working so hard all over the years, I’m really happy that Cripper now steps to the next level. We bust our asses for Cripper, and there will never be a way around it. Artistically, every little thing is still in our hands, no compromise. Metal Blade is a good label for us and I hope we can reach more people out there with their help, travel farther and make new experiences. Cripper put out their last 3 records out through SAOL (Service for Artist owned labels). They provide promotion and distribution, 2 things you cannot do yourself beyond a certain extent. So signing to Metal Blade doesn’t make that much of a difference in that business area anyway. To help us bring Cripper to a next level, we think Metal Blade is a real good partner for us.
The great artwork for Hyëna summed up the release and the individual songs perfectly. Who designed the cover art?
Gerrit: For the development of the artwork, the whole band was involved in the brainstorming process. Finding images, textures and especially the technique for creating the artwork.
Britta: The process of the artwork was surprisingly complicated. We thought “hey, a hyena on the cover – this is gonna be easy to do“. But no, it turned out to be quite difficult to find some good basic material. Since hyenas can look extremely cute and fluffy, haha.
Christian: In the end it was me who set up a collage of the animal we got in mind and you can see on final cover now…then added skyline and certain textures. Jonathan was responsible for the finish and painting details. In order to make it look even more dangerous and given’ the hyena itself a heavy metal attitude.
Afterwards I created everything around – like layout, booklet for cd, vinyl versions, digipak and shit. It’s quite a heavy product we can tell. Kind of hard this time to create a final scribble of the album cover that every one of us loved.
There is a great bonus DVD that features a whole show we did on Metaldays festival this year, behind the scenes / making of the album, a complete collection of all the video clips we did so far. 2 discs are included in first issue that comes on European market, a black vinyl edition and a limited splattered vinyl version of the whole album. Furthermore there is this special box edition we offer exclusively on our website and live shows. There is a 7″ vinyl included which you won’t find elsewhere.
A lot of different products to do for a band that’s responsible for the artwork and do nearly all the stuff by using their own hands, haha. But that’s the way we like it. Besides the music, this plays an important role in our creative process as a band.
Same thing with the album’s title and whole concept behind Hyëna as Gerrit can tell.
Gerrit: The other guys actually came up with the title idea when they wrote our previous album Antagonist. But it didn’t fit the songs well and so they kept the title in their minds.
We see Hyenas somehow as the thrash metallers among all the predators. Not as elegant as the cat-types like Lions or Panthers – but mangy, imposing and really strong. As a motto for a metal album, an aggressive hyena with very impressive teeth just fits very well. The album as a whole is very heavy and there are many serious, punchy riffs. This was decisive for the gloomy atmosphere in the whole artwork.
Some have already mistaken the two dots above the e as a German Umlaut. It is no Umlaut, since in German language that is only ü, ä and ö. The dots above the e are simply cool looking “rock dots” that we just wanted to have.
Looking back is there anything about Hyëna, a particular moment or idea in a song maybe, which you wish you maybe had pursued further but also a part which gives you an extra tingle of satisfaction and pleasure?
Gerrit: No, I don’t think so. During the songwriting process there is a lot of discussion around every single idea, riff or song structure. After that when a songs comes to its end in the writing process we’re usually quite happy with the result. We are writing all our songs together in our rehearsal room. That is not easy, since you have 5 people writing together. Sometimes it feels as if we were writing 5 different songs at the same time, before we find that little seed we all get happy with.
Your live performances and presence are renowned for their energy, ferocity, and sheer passion; this is home for the band?
Gerrit: Yeah, I think the live performance is the important thing for every band mate in Cripper. It’s important to us that we bring the fun that we have and all the energy on stage. We love to have a good time on stage. Well, we are also metal fans and loving the music we do. And so we try to catch everyone in front of the stage to party with us, haha.
What have you got lined up live wise for 2015?
Gerrit: Actually, we’re looking for shows all the time. Especially when there is an album out the band is hungry to bring the new shit on stage, right? Same with Cripper. Unfortunately there are no touring plans yet. But we hope for opportunities that bring us on international ground, doin’ some festivals and club shows in different countries. Maybe there is a chance to bring our music to some countries we’ve never been before. This might be a great adventure, a challenge and lots of fun to do.
We fixed some festival shows in Germany for the summer and can’t wait to get some more dates on the table. We consider Cripper as a live band as said at the very beginning of this interview.
So hope to meet ya out there very soon!
…And in other aspects of Cripper, recordings etc.?
Gerrit: At the moment we’re planning some video shots for songs from Hyëna. We hope that we can realize some of our ideas as soon as possible. There are actually ideas for a new album, but this is quiet in the beginning.
Thanks once again for taking time out to chat, any last thought you would like to leave us with?
We also thank you very much. Thanks also to the readers for reading this interview till its end, haha. Keep the Metal alive and support your local bands and underground. Check out http://www.cripper.de for more live dates. We’ll keep you updated. Thanks for your question and being interested in Cripper 😉 See you out there
Danke & Cheers
Gerrit | Cripper
Read the Hyëna review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/cripper-hyena/
The RingMaster Review 17/02/2015
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Categories: Interviews, Music
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