Heathen Harvest: Greetings and thank you for accepting this interview! We're not well lost in the middle of these winter months. How has this season treated you so far?
Herr von Branden:
Moinsen! I can’t complain up to now, honestly I like winter time very much. Its silence is something I deeply enjoy, it is much more calm than any other silence. I still miss some snow, as it gives this world an innocent touch. Just an illusion, but a nice one.
HH: Von Branden was born in Germany -- What part of the country are you from? How is the culture there?
HB: All three members of [von Branden] have chosen to be nothing but the shadows of our former human beings only few years ago. We do neither have a past to tell about nor a future to poison. We have no home, we are restless. Not encaged in flesh and blood and no longer bound to linearity. We exist, to focus pure emotions into music. I know this sounds kind of schizophrene, but that’s the way we handle things. We can hardly hide that we were born in Germany, but we don’t define ourselves this way. We think, our life is not important, it is our music that counts. To at least give you an impression of where we originally came from, I can tell you that we always meet in the very north of Germany. A landscape called Eastfrisia, at the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean. Stormy but calm, endless and divided only by the horizon.
HH: What led to your upbringing in metal? Why did you choose to take a classical metal route rather than one or the other?
HB: We didn’t make any choice to decide what kind of music to play, it just happened. All we do is try to capture the emotions of special moments, using instruments we would like to experiment with. We felt that we had to do something new, something we haven’t done before. For us, our music is like a painting of our souls, to keep ourselves a memory of what we once felt. Words are not enough to do so, that’s why we embed them in music. We didn’t even care if our music will be metal at all… What we do is first line for ourselves, we want to learn by doing something new, something different. This is, in my opinion, the only way to create intense honest music.
HH: What bands, artists, and composers were primarily important to you growing up?
HB: If I had a childhood, I’m pretty sure my first music would have been something like AC/DC, Billy Idol, Metallica, later switching to Black Metal like Emperor, Immortal, Satyricon, but also classical stuff like, Bach, Beethoven, Händel, not forgetting about all time classics like The Doors, Dire Straits and so on… Pretty much everything that I consider as intense music. But as I exist since only three years, I can’t answer that question, haha.
HH: Have any of the current three members ever been involved with other projects?
HB: As I mentioned before, we do not think that our former life is important. Therefore, we created the three members of [von Branden]. We do not exist in that common sense. Our names and pictures for example are nothing but a result of the need to define ourselves in this world. This is part of our idea of [von Branden]. We surely have been making music before we became [von Branden], but there is no need to know anything about it.
HH: On the 2004 EP "Behind the Rain", the two musicians listed (besides guests) are yourself and Vestriz. This means Arminius was not yet part of the band at this point. When did you meet Arminius and what led to him joining the band as a full member rather than a guest/session member?
HB: We met Arminius the first time in August 2005, when he became part of Dynasty [von Branden]. He didn’t exist before. Like Vestriz and me, he has decided to create himself to leave humanity and become part of something different. At that point, we already knew that we would possibly sign to GreyFall, and we thought a full time drummer would complete the band. There was no need to choose someone, Arminius himself decided to join us. We think three members are a perfect number to efficiently work together.
HH: You've had a number of guest appearances on every release from many of the same people, namely Eike-C. Kroeger, Lutz de Putter, and Bernd Ammermann. Why the decision to use the same guests on your albums?
HB: Well, you have to know, that our first recordings in 2004 happened very spontaniously. I would even say [von Branden] didn’t exist that time. Vestriz and I had written some songs together, and from one day to the other we had the possibility to record them, as some band had cancelled their date at a friend’s studio. So we went there along with some friends, without any intention to release our songs or to form a band. The result of this session was later called “Behind the Rain”. Two years later, we welcomed Arminius von Theesfeld as our third member, and started another recording session, which we called “Ignoranzkult”. Our debut album “Scherben” consists of those two recording sessions, therefore we wrote down the names of all guests who lent us their talents. When we finally signed to GreyFall, we changed some vocaltracks, recorded one more song (Vergessen), remastered the old recordings and gave our “ok” for the release.
HH: How do you know the people who have guest-appeared on your albums?
HB: Some of them are close friends of ours, like vocalists Eike and Lutz, who by the way often speak in our name to all other guests, as we prefer to not have contact to other people. Bernd helped us out with his synthesizer, he was a member of Lutz’ Band Mandrake some years ago. Jörg, who was our drummer in the first recording session, is the owner of the studio, and also a close friend of ours. All others happened to be at the right place when we searched for some different instruments or voices to experiment with.
HH: Why didn't you continue working with celloist Carolin W. past the Behind the Rain EP?
HB: I would have liked her to join us again, and I hope she will be with us next time. The simple reason is, she wasn’t in town when we recorded the next couple of songs. Furthermore, we always want to try something new and focussed on the Saxophone instead, to have some variation on our album.
HH: Was your first full-length, Ignoranzkult, a self-released album? It appears that Scherben is more-or-less a re-release of this album. Was it also re-recorded for Greyfall?
HB: No, we didn’t release anything before “Scherben”. We knew that we would possibly sign to GreyFall before the band even existed, we just created some artwork and a title for each recording session for ourselves, for our friends / guests and for GreyFall. We’ve sent away some copies to few magazines, just to see how people react to our music. I guess that is the reason why “Scherben” is sometimes considered as our second album, although it is in fact our debut, consisting of two recording sessions.
HH: Who handles your artwork?
HB: The artwork of “Scherben” was done by Lukasz Jaszak, who usually does all artwork for GreyFall and Prophecy Productions. I am very satisfied with it, Lukasz was just in the right mood to understand what we want to express. I think he found a perfect way to visualize our music and words, and I am very thankful for his work. It completes our album, goes hand in hand with the atmoshere we wanted to creat. Honest and beautiful, but disturbing and somehow shocking if you have a closer look.
HH: How did you come to start working with Greyfall / Grau Records? Has your relationship with them been good thus far?
HB: Quite a different story… After recording our first songs, one of or guests asked to show our music to GreyFall, where his band Mandrake is signed. We agreed, created the first two members to form the band, and sent our material to GreyFall. Obviously they liked our music, as we were asked for more to possibly release an album. You know, all this was never planned, we never intended to release anything. We wrote the songs only for ourselves, happened to be able to record them professionally, got an offer to release an album and then decided to form a band. This is not the way it usually goes I guess, but who am I to complain? We’re very satisfied with our situation, GreyFall and Prophecy Productions do a great job. Everything just went far better than we would have expected, from the moment Vestriz and I started writing songs together until now.
HH: It seems perplexing to me that you would do a Tori Amos cover, although her music style does indeed seem somewhat like yours in its odd nature in relation to what it generally represents. Why did you choose to cover this song in particular?
HB: Simple reason: I love this song. I used to listen to it very often, it reminded me of a girl I know since a long time. Somewhen, or somehow, our feelings changed, and every time I listened to this song I just wanted to let my anger flow. I talked to Vestriz and Arminius, explaining my intentions with this song, and they agreed to record it. We tried to change the atmosphere, from sad and melancholic to blind accusing hate. Honestly, this was the first time we tried to use a clean male voice for more than just some words, and we didn’t know if it would work out. It’s all an experiment and it’s all about girls, haha…
HH: You've mentioned in other interviews that you're only just now considering playing live because you never intended to in the first place. The main problem you foresee is that you would have to bring on guest musicians to play live gigs. Has there been any progression in these thoughts?
HB: Not really. As I mentioned before, everything developed in a direction we never intended to go. We decided to create ourselves far away from humanity, as most of the emotions focused in our songs is caused by those we do not want to belong to. Therefore, we prefer to stay in the distance, to watch them destroy themselves. We do not like to have them around us, which would be unavoidable playing live. So we would have to find away to hide ourselves, as we do not want to present us encaged and flesh and blood. This is the main reason why we’re not sure to play gigs, guest musicians shouldn’t be a big problem. A celloist, a saxophonist, maybe a second guitarist or basist, and we should be able to do the rest. I wouldn’t mind playing guitars or base on stage either.
HH: Would you consider bringing on board full-time classical members?
HB: Definitely as live-members, definitely not as band-members. We prefer to stay alone, only the three of us. If we decide to play some gigs, I would surely like to have a steady line-up. The less people are involved, the better is the outcome. We have to trust the people who are near us, so I would propably ask the same persons that are listed as guest on our album.
HH: While most bands seem to try to capture flow and progression through their music like a film, Von Branden seems more like photography, capturing particular moments in black and white forever... It's sort of like cutting out the middle man, only taking the important part of the imagery and framing it as a bold statement. What are your ideas behind this style of writing? Will there ever be an attempt at some sort of 'concept album' or will your writing always be this capturing of moments?
HB: Thanks for that nice description first of all! I can only say, that this our way of thinking. I only know black and white, there is no grey in my mind. Grey is a compromise, compromises are not pure and genuine in my opinion. Everything around us is always in a flow, nothing stands still, except for moments. They’re the most minimalistic, the most precious thing we have, although you cannot define them concretely. They speak to me more than anything else, as they can be remembered without changing. There is so much you can concentrate on in a single moment… We try to capture this with sounds and words, to create an atmosphere, to let you feel what we felt. Maybe someone will understand…Our thoughts and emotions are our music: extreme in its contrasts, but also very calm and beautiful, minimalistic but nevertheless very intense. We use our music as some kind of self therapy, I do not know where it will lead us. Maybe this capturing is our foundation, what makes us different. I wouldn’t dare to say something about what we will do in the future, we do not think in concepts like this. Everything is possible, but it will never be the same again.
HH: Are you at all into the neofolk or neoclassical scene? It is certainly strong in your country.
HB: We’re not into any scene at all. We surely have a lot of musicians among our friends. Most of them are more into black and death metal, but we prefer to stand for our own and not be part of any scene. I don’t know, belonging to something always makes me feel limited, and I don’t want any limits in our music. It comes from our heart, so I don’t care for any scene or style of music. We are honest to ourselves and we do what we feel we have to do, thus we prefer to stand for our own.
HH: Now that you're on a label, do you see yourself taking Von Branden to another level? What can we expect from the band in the near and distant future?
HB: Yeah, due to the deal with GreyFall we surely reached another level. Since 2004, we kept really qiet, admitting only that we exist. Now that we released our debut album, we have the possibility to reach a lot more people with our music, and I hope that at least some of them will like it. Again, I must say that we originally never intended to show our music around, as it is very honest and personal, written only for ourselves. We will surely continue writing songs, in fact we already have some new material. But first of all we want to see how people react, as we know that we are different.
HH: Thank you for the chance to interview you! This last space is for you to say whatever you feel you need to say.
HB: I thank you for the possibility to let some words leave the silence of my mind. Hopefully, I was able to give you a more concrete view into our way of thinking and feeling. I enjoyed your questions very much!