German heavy rockers Black Space Riders is a band which has persistently drawn acclaim and attention with their unique and ravenously adventurous sounds but it is fair to say that new album D:REI is their finest moment. A journey of progressively sculpted metal and psychedelically forged rock through a dramatic narrative, the bands third full-length is a compelling incitement for the imaginations and passions. We grabbed the chance to find out more with JE and Seb from the band, touching on origins, albums, and much more…
Hello and thanks for talking with us.
Hello and thank YOU, here are JE (vocals, guitars) and SEB (vocals) from Black Space Riders
For newcomers to the band, please tell us about its beginnings.
JE: Black Space Riders were born in the deepest winter of 2008/09. C.RIP (drums) and I wanted to play Heavy Rock again after some years of making decent songwriter-stuff. I contacted SLI (guitar), an old friend from the schoolyard, we had been doing a NWOBHM-fanzine together when we were teens around 79/80. He brought in SAQ (bass) and we started jamming in an old mouldered bowling alley. It was great from the start. Fantastic musical and social chemistry! We created 4 songs in 2 rehearsals. We recorded our debut in 2010 and played shows while writing material for album No.2, “Light is the new black”, which was released in 2012.
SEB: In 2012 I came across and joined Black Space Riders first as an additional and background singer, then as the 5th member. But I already had known these guys years before.
JE: Now there are 5 Riders, 5 friends, just been releasing album No.3 called D:REI.
What are the musical histories of the band members before Black Space Riders?
JE: All of us have been playing in many bands or projects before. SLI played in Heavy-, Punk- and Indie-Bands since the Eighties. SAQ had a couple of Punk Rock bands before but also played in Indie-Rock-Bands, SEB used to sing in Metal bands but also has a great experience in playing accordion and singing weird, folkloristic Chanson-Stuff together with C.RIP who played and plays every imaginable musical style from Jazz over Metal to Ska. I also played in a lot of bands since 1980. Metal, Rock, Wave, Punk, Indie, Folk, Jazz … I played and sung for a long time in a Crossover band with C.RIP, which gained a decent regional/national awareness in the Nineties.
What was the spark or initial intent within the band when you started out?
JE: As said, to create something loud and wild after years of “decent” music and to take up the Heavy stuff that we all are loving since our youth. The idea was to jam around and to create a hypnotic wall of sound … there were no ideas of releasing albums in the beginning
The band’s name stands out and suggests a space ranger like almost comic book appeal. What inspired the band name?
JE: Exactly what you have read in the name. 60ies and 70ies Sci-Fi had a very strong influence on me. I read a lot of those books when I was a child, my uncle had hundreds of them. We were looking for a name which can instantly create cartoonish, dark, hypnotic, psychedelic and cool images.
How would you say your sound has evolved since the early days and your self-titled debut album to what we thrillingly hear on new release D:REI?
JE: This time when we entered the recording studio we knew even better what we wanted and what we did NOT want. As for the sound of the recording itself: we wanted to retain the warmth, the organic live-feeling and the bottom of the first two albums but wanted to add additional freshness, transparency and openness to our existing drive. So – for example – we have been discussing a lot about the amount of “attack” in the drum sound or about guitar amps and how to record the guitars with our friend and engineer Role (“die Tonmeisterei”) before entering the studio. Stylistically we allowed ourselves to integrate more elements and accepted the eclectic result of our songwriting without sorting out parts, grooves or ideas that sounded a little bit far out in the beginning.
As you said earlier D:REI is your third album; for us an exceptional progressively sculpted metal and rock adventure which can seduce and prey on the senses at any given moment. Did the album end up exactly how you envisaged it or did it have some surprises in store for even you guys as it evolved and emerged?
SEB: There are, in fact, some positive surprises for us. Partial tiny, audiophile little things – but also relevant structural changes we have made during the recordings.
JE: There are always surprises in the studio. The songs and arrangements are final before entering the studio, but then you begin experimenting with sounds or somebody within the band or let´s say our engineer Role has a charming “new” idea and – oooops –you find yourself changing the master plan. We are a live-recording band, old-school, five friends and all their instruments and amps in ONE room … but sometimes we are adding some decent flavours later … experimenting with dozens of effect-pedals and creating some “space” can be so inspiring almost addictive! We are also experimenting with our vocal expression while recording, encouraging and coaching each other.
The album is split into ‘chapters’ exploring a…actually could you tell and expand on the theme behind the album for us please?
SEB: A new life in a new world? The depths and abysses of the human soul? Find out for yourself !
JE: On the first look a post-apocalyptic plot of destruction, escape, voyage and looking back. But maybe it´s all just in your head and it´s all about inner liberation and freedom?! The listener is defining the meaning of the story. My advice: Take a look at the story and the lyrics (you will find them here: www.blackspaceriders.com/d-rei), then put on your headphones, lights out, volume up and find it out!
Did the lyrical aspect or idea of the album come first or the music?
SEB: We had framework for about the half of the songs when JE delighted us with his concept of “Total destruction as the root of a new beginning and the Journey as a transformation”. From this point concept and music were evolved in parallel.
JE: Music first, basic concept next, lyrics last.
How does the writing process work within Black Space Riders?
SEB: On the way from our debut album Black Space Riders to D:REI we have expanded the common songwriting.
JE: The process of songwriting has changed over the years. In the beginning I brought in almost finished songs and structures. Today it´s “just“ a riff or some harmonies, somebody picks it up, we start jamming and then we love it or we don´t. At one point SEB and me are starting to hum or sing. We are recording every rehearsal, every jam and are listening to it before the next rehearsal. We then discuss about it and try out different grooves, tempi, atmospheres, sounds. Our drummer C.RIP is playing a big part in arranging songs and developing structures…So the “song” as you know it from the album, is a common work of several band members.
Being a concept album did you approach the writing of D:REI any differently to say previous album Light Is The New Black?
JE: Not really. Light is the new black was considered by many to be a concept album as well. But D:REI seems to be so perfectly balanced and cohering, both musically and lyrically. To be honest: that is a happy ending and not a result of a worked out master plan. We have changed the sequence of the songs several times to find the perfect flow through the whole album … so we had to fiddle around with song titles and lyrics in the last moment during the recordings.
What did you take into the recording of D:REI in particular which you learnt on previous releases to enhance or ease its emergence in the studio?
JE: As said above … a clearer vision about the desired sound, recording techniques, approach and modus operandi. Additionally a greater open-mindedness, a grown faith, trust and friendship within the band and with our engineer/producer … relaxation and a strong belief that this album was going to become something special.
With a concept album is there a more demanding and intensive focus needed to link music and the expanding lyrical story of the narrative or does it pretty much come together as any other album?
SEB: I find it even a little easier because I had a specific movie in my head since the said date.
And is another concept album a possibility for future releases or maybe with the next will you return to individual standalone songs?
SEB: Anything can be, nothing must be.
JE: … all is possible. No plans, no expectations, no disappointments ;)
Have you shows/tour in the works to support D:REI, and if so will you be rampaging around Europe, the UK maybe?
JE: Yes we have played some release-shows in some of the bigger German cities and are working on more shows and festival-slots in 2014. We are doing all this on our own. We have a distro and some professional help in the background, but in order to keep our independency and all rights… no label-contract! So most of the work, organization and booking is up to us. Additionally we all have families and jobs. It seems as though our new album, D:REI, will be received very well, so with that kind of “tailwind” we are starting now to book more shows for 2014 and will hopefully be able to play some festivals in the summer as well. Would love to play some shows in the UK, but we don´t have an “official” distro or label in the UK … so I guess we have to wait for some nice offers to play the UK.
Rightly or wrongly I have the assumption that you are a band which never stops writing or working on ideas, if correct how far are you into writing album 4? ;)
SEB: Honestly we have just a few ideas or fragments, because we were very busy with the preparation of our release-shows. But the prickling is already there and I’m looking forward to the upcoming rehearsals.
Once again many thanks for sharing time with us, any last thoughts to leave us with?
JE: If you like what we are doing … tell the world about it! Spread the word! May the force be with you!
And lastly what are our biggest inspirations not so much for Black Space Riders but just as musicians?
JE: Of course each of us has different inspirations that is why we sound like we sound. On the other hand we have a lot of common preferences – and again – that is why we sound like we sound. Band-favourites are e.g. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, NWOBHM, The Chameleons, Motorhead, Monster Magnet, Alice in Chains, Massive Attack … many more. For me personally on top of those: Psychedelia like on the early Pink Floyd –Albums. 80ies Dark Wave like Bauhaus or Joy Division and the BIG three: David Bowie, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash.
Read the D:REI review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/black-space-riders-drei/
The RingMaster Review 12/02/2014
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