Last month I had the pleasure for reviewing Darkride’s debut album Weight of the World where I described it as “If well thought out precise and intricate musicianship is your bag then this is for you”. Darkride had a host of guest musicians play on this album and having the calibre of Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth, Dying Fetus drummer Kevin Talley and DGM guitarist Simone Mularoni on there must say something about the quality of the songs on display. Thank you to the band for answering my questions and I wish them the best of luck for the future.
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
Kay: Currently we are scattered all over Germany. I live somewhere in the no man’s land between Leipzig and Nuremberg, Carsten sits in the Ruhr area near Bochum, and Dirk has spent the last 20 years living in Nuremberg.
How long have you been playing together as a band?
Dirk: Almost 25 years, with slightly changing line-ups, different band names, and also with breaks in between. Since 5-6 years we are more active again, write songs, meet more often.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Carsten: I think we can combine our different musical influences of the last 30-35 years quite well without our songs sounding too strange and I think we can write some sweet melodies. These melodies probably keep all the different parts of the song together, so nobody notices when we mix Bon Jovi with Meshuggah. What we do quite often, I guess.
Darkride released their debut album in July. How did it feel to put all your blood sweat and tears and get the album out there?
Dirk: For my part, I’m pretty burned out. I wanted this album to be so good that it is indistinguishable from those of my favorite bands in terms of sound and quality. The typical “Plant, a tree, build a house, father a child” thing, only with an album instead of a tree or a child. To do this the way I had it in my head, I learned to mix and produce over several years and invested a lot of money in hardware and software. Sure, we could have spent the money on a studio visit but then many ideas and details would never have been realized. But let’s not kid ourselves, that was an enormous job, and when I was finally done after the 59th remix of the album (too bad I’m also a perfectionist), I was just empty. Carsten and Kay, on the other hand, are still full of energy, so they take care of everything at the moment. I hope that my batteries will recharge, otherwise the other two will have to produce the next album without my drudgery.
I stated your album “If well thought out and precise and intricate musicianship is your bag then this is for you.” How have the reviews been for the album thus far?
Kay: The critic of German print-zine Legacy wrote that we are getting to the heart of metal. I thought that was pretty fitting. For the German Metal Hammer we are “Heroes of tomorrow”. Their critic was sure that our sound has the potential to become a genre crossing next big thing. Believe it or not (laughs). And Rock Hard reviewed our album, saying that we “combine technically demanding songwriting with strong melodies” and that Darkride have a higher calling. So, if you ask me, the reviews so far were all not too bad.
What are the lyrical themes of the songs for the album? Is there a primary lyricist in the band?
Carsten: Our lyrics are mainly dealing with strutting your stuff, get the motivation to fight against the odds, and going your own way. But there is also a second layer of lyrical themes, which is focusing on society and politics. For example, take “Burning Bridges” on the one hand. A song about leaving your past behind and finding the strength to take a stand with a new confident position towards those people, who have been holding you back from feeling good. And other the other hand, there’s a thrasher like “Dogs of War,” a track about political leaders, who send their people into death to secure oil prices and economic structures. These two songs very much illustrate the spectrum our music is into lyric-wise. I write most of the lyrics in conjunction with the vocal lines. Neither of them comes first. They are really like a pair of siblings, or even twins.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
Kay: We meet a few times per year and then always have very structured, well-organized songwriting weekends. They are mostly planned by Carsten. Imagine that from Friday evening to Sunday evening, each of your free minutes is occupied with some meaningful task. For example, we wrote “Deny Control”, “Weight of the World” and “Hammer Down” on such a weekend – in less than 48 hours, including a visit to the gym, at the hospital and two hours of watching football on TV, because Carsten and Dirk are ardent BvB fans. Of course, it took some time until the songs were recorded entirely, but they were written on one weekend.
Dirk: Everyone records his parts himself. There is quite a high technical understanding among us. For example, all three of us are quite good with Cubase. And since we are all quite good with bass, guitar, etc., ideas and additions come from all corners. Synths were sometimes contributed by Carsten, sometimes by Dirk, and also Kay delivers piano parts every now and then. But when it comes to singing, I’m a total failure, but Kay often has quite good ideas and a gentle voice. I mostly do the drums and all the hocus-pocus with sound effects. All vocal recordings are done in Carsten’s studio. He delivered me production ready recordings, sometimes pre-mixed, after we talked about details of our vision for a song’s atmosphere and style.
How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the primary songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Darkride, a band where all members contribute to the songs?
Carsten: Many of the songs or parts are more than 20 years old and have not gone out of our heads in all those years. An example: In Stare I/O there’s a guitar melody on a 3/4 beat in the middle of the song, which then changes to 4/4 later. The theme is so incredibly old, and I think Dirk wrote it for his first big love (laughs). The two are of course no longer together, but this melody has remained and is now part of Stare I/O.
So we are all working on the songs, even if there are songs that were written to a large extent by a single band member. But we didn’t put that in the credits because every song is a collaborative work. And yes, there are a few are kind of central themes throughout the songs: When it gets harder, the riff often comes from Dirk. He just grew up with Testament and Meshuggah, and you can’t get that out of him anymore. Conversely, most of the melodic guitar stuff comes from Kay, who probably heard too much In Flames during his puberty. And whenever it sounds catchy, I was in charge.
What are the recording facilities like within Nuremberg?
Dirk: We really did everything ourselves. There is an excellent studio near Nuremberg (Ghost City Recordings – we love the guys), but as I said before, a big studio was out of the question for our workflow.
Carsten: We have the luck to own two nice recording and mixing project studios in Nuremberg and near Bochum, where we can record and mix our musical ideas. Additional guitar recordings are made by Kay in Leipzig. I guess, this album simply proves that you don’t need much today to produce a whole album, if you just put in all your love, sweat, and tears.
Darkride is a three-piece band and having different musical influences within the band, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?
Carsten; Sure, we had some discussions, but Dirk usually forgot his objections the next day, Kay is pretty easy anyway, and I’m the only one of us who knows about music theory. That makes sure that gut feeling, mind, and soul are in balance when it comes to our songwriting.
How did the album release party go?
Kay: This was one of the rare chances to sit together with our guest musicians, fans and friends to have a good time. Given that we live all over Germany and all these people came to Nuremberg to celebrate our album release on a weekday. It was definitely a success.
How hard is it for a metal band like Darkride to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise to bring money back into the band?
Kay: To be honest, we are fed up with this and thus are trying a completely different way. That’s why we decided to release first and see if metal fans out there love our stuff as much as we do. Only then we will go out to play live gigs or well planned tours. Our motto is do it once, do it right. So, as soon as you will see a tour announcement for Darkride, rest assured we will be there 110% and give you the best show possible, with everything we have.
So what are the plans for the year ahead in 2019 and 2020?
Carsten: We already had a massive radio airplay, and our songs have been played about 2,000 times all over the world during the last three months. But we will still try to bring this to the next level, which is tough work for our little indie label Monstrosa Music. Furthermore, there is a vinyl edition of Weight of the World planned, and after that we will check out, if touring the album in 2020 could make sense.
Being from Nurnberg, are there any other bands from your local scene that you would recommend?
Dirk: That’s pretty simple: Defy the Laws of Tradition are incredibly good. Please have a look at them; they are incredibly talented. Our guest singer Nico as well as Phil T both play with Defy the Laws of Tradition. Phil played bass on many songs of our album and recorded a guitar solo as well. He has also taken over the second vocal part in our song “Generation Under Fire”. And of course, there is Effloresce, the band of our other guest guitarist Dave Mola, who also make outstanding music.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Carsten: Slayer – Reign in Blood
Kay: Iron Maiden – Edward the Greatest
Dirk: Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
Carsten & Kay: Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
Dirk: The Prodigy – Fat of the Land
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
Carsten: Believe in your dreams. Don’t give up. Sometimes it will take you decades to fulfil them but if you don’t let go of your vision, you’ll have the chance to create something wonderful, tighten friendships on the way, and make lasting memories. That’s what we did with our album. It’s our once in a lifetime thing. And bam! One day you wake up and have your album ready, Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth playing drums for you and an incredible guitarist such as Simone Mularoni of DGM playing lead guitar on your opening track. Do it once – do it right!
Weight of the World is out now