Atrocity Goes Back to the '80s...again.
-- Interview --
As the years pass, trends fall out of favor. Who knew that a moustache was once hip and not just something to be worn by rednecks and creepers? Who knew “Hammer Pants” were once totally in? I did, and I loved them. They were so airy. But, that’s another story.
But, regardless of whether something is ‘in’ or ready for the dust bin, something that has had staying power for over 20 years now, is the music of the 1980s. Go to any karaoke night or meat market dance club, and as soon as “Don’t You Forget About Me” pops on, someone, severely intoxicated or not (OK, likely yes) will start singing. And “Livin’ on a Prayer?” Forget it. Or maybe that’s because I live in New Jersey.
Perhaps some of it is novelty. The 80s were truly an era all their own, full of “Morning in America” optimism and stone-washed jeans. Even more novel is when a death metal band covers these tunes, and covers them more or less faithfully, albeit with a little more grunt and growl.
Germany’s Atrocity can be considered a pioneer, as when they released Werk 80 in 1997, the realm of 80s music in metal was reasonably limited. Life of Agony had covered “Don’t You Forget About Me” two years before, but no one had released a whole album.
This year, the band has released Werk 80 II, and the landscape has changed somewhat. 11 years will do that. We spoke with Thorsten Bauer, guitarist, to get a better idea on what to expect this time around, and why the 80s will never truly die.
MusicTAP: What was it like going back to covering 80s tracks a decade after the first time? Why did you do it? Was the process easier? How so?
Thorsten Bauer: Already after finishing the first Werk album in 1997 there were some songs left and undone. They were constantly in our minds. In addition we thought, now after 10 years it would be a cool idea to come up with a new werk 80 album.
To be honest the process was definitely not easier. To work with a whole orchestra and choir, creating and recording their arrangements was a huge monster of work. The whole production time of this album is more than 2 years. But I think putting all this work and passion into this record has paid off. Werk 80 II is definitely not an afterburner of the first record.
TAP: When Werk 80 came out in 1997, this whole "death metal band covers 80's tunes" thing raised a lot of eyebrows. Since then, bands like Paradise Lost and Susperia have had their turns on "Smalltown Boy" and "The Sun Always Shines on TV," as Atrocity has presented here. Why do you think heavy bands have been attracted to the music of the 1980s?
Thorsten: I can only speak for myself. I like especially the songs and bands that made pop music but in a darker way and sometimes with a kind of almost "metal attitude"...Frankie goes to Hollywood just come into my mind. A lot of these songs can now be seen as classics and roots of the dark wave movement (for example "Fade to grey"). This kind of dark wave pop music is very fascinating for me about the eighties. But it’s quite funny that after the success of the first Werk 80 record suddenly other metal bands started to do the same thing like we did before hahaha!
TAP: Do you think the metal atmosphere has changed much between the two Werk 80 releases? How so or how not so? Anything you miss about the mid 1990s? Anything you don't miss?
Thorsten: At least here in Germany, the mid-nineties have been a hard time for handmade music with the upcoming of Euro-dance and techno music. Some people even dramatized by asking: “Is Metal dead?” I really like the fact that young people are again excited about learning to play drums, bass and guitars and that handmade music is treasured again.
The new Werk 80 can be seen in this development. The record is almost completely handmade, which gives a warm and natural sound. Nowadays the metal scene has a wide range of different substyles, which is a good thing in my opinion. What I miss sometimes in new bands and records is an individual and distinct note in the music. It’s a bit like in the development of the car industry. New cars tend a bit to look all the same, while older cars seem to have more character and individuality.
TAP: What process did the band go through in deciding which songs they would perform for Werk 80 II?
Thorsten: We made up a songpool of 20 different songs, and then just started working on them. And soon it was clear which songs would make it to the album and which ones not.
TAP: How does everyone feel about Nick Barker taking the drumming reigns? How did that come about?
Thorsten: We are very happy that Nick joined our two bands, Atrocity and Leaves Eyes. He is a fantastic killer drummer and a great and charming person as well. I feel that our two bands will be even stronger in the future. Nick and Atrocity know each other for a while. We met during several European summer festivals and last year, Alex and Liv were at The Metal Hammer UK award and spoke about the vacant position on the drums for both bands. In the beginning of 2008 Nick came for some sessions to our studio Mastersound, and since that time he is a full member. Welcome to the family.
TAP: Any status on a bass player replacement? What happened with both members of the rhythm section leaving the band?
Thorsten: For the upcoming shows in Mexico and China we will have Alla Fedynitch (Enemy of the sun, Ex-Pain) as female session bassist with us. She will appear also in the video clip for "The sun always shines on TV". Moritz, the former drummer, decided to go for a regular job in his hometown in Austria, that’s why he quit the band. With Chris, the bass player, there was just no common working base anymore, so we decided to split up. Anyway, we are very happy with the way things go and I think the best times for Atrocity as well as Leaves Eyes are just before us.
TAP: What can we expect from the Atrocity camp in 2008? Tour? Any plans for a new Leaves Eyes album?
Thorsten: We are constantly working parallel on several projects. For Atrocity, you can expect a lot of European summer festival shows and a tour at the end of the year, maybe also a support tour for a bigger band. 2008 we will also start with the recordings for the next Atrocity record together with Alex (Krull, lead singer) sister Yasmin. It will be an album in the style of "Calling the rain" (1995 release), with ethno- and folkelements and the magic of Yasmin’s voice.
And a very dark and heavy Atrocity trilogy in the way of the “Atlantis” album and a DVD are planned, too! But also 2008 will see a new full Leaves Eyes record. The raw material for the new record is already very promising. With Leaves Eyes we will also release the DVD with the viking ship show in Belgium, plus we will also play festivals like Wacken and most like a USA Tour in the second half of 2008. Many, many plans, haha.
TAP: Any chance we'll get to hear a Werk 80 III in 2018? Are the 1980's so durable that it's possible?
Thorsten: You should never say never. Yeah, for sure the 80s are durable. For example I also like to listen to a lot of 40s music like Glenn Miller or the 60s surf sound. The music and the music taste of human beings is always going in circles. So the 80s will never really disappear, but come back in certain waves and movements.
TAP: Thanks for checking in!
Thorsten: Thank you very much for the support and hopefully we see you all on tour!