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Interview by - John Dunphy

Sabine Duenser (Elis) : Interview

Sabine Duenser - Elis

What is it with my obsession with these bands that have no immediate plans to get over to the United States? Beseech, my last interview, has no immediate plans, and neither does Elis, the four-piece (who will eventually be a five-piece again when their drummer situation is resolved) from the tiny German speaking country of Liechtenstein. Given my love of female-fronted gothic tinged rocka rolla, a tour with both these fantastic groups would get me begging and screaming with Napalm Records to get on the guest list. Hell, I’d even PAY! C’mon, Napalm!  

But seriously, Elis’ latest release, Dark Clouds in a Perfect Sky, won me over earlier this year with not only the sensational vocals of Sabine Duenser but with a technically powerful band that is as important as their easy on the eyes front woman. I recently got the opportunity to speak with Sabine about the band, their future and just what exactly that name means.

Music TAP: So, what does “ Elis” mean anyway?

Sabine Duenser (vocals): When we decided to change our name some years ago, we searched for one that had a connection to our former work under the name Erben der Schöpfung (Inheriting the creation). So we chose the title of the opener of the album Twilight, “ Elis”, as our new band name. This song is based on a poem of the famous writer Georg Trakl that is called “An den Knaben Elis” (to the boy Elis). So as you can see Elis is just a male name. I searched if there is also some historical or mythological meaning of this name but I found nothing. In the meantime I learned that there is a region in Greece, which is called Elis.

MT:How has general reaction worldwide been to Dark Clouds in A Perfect Sky? Where have you felt strongest?

SD: The reactions were very positive in general. Of course there were some negative reactions, too, but the number of good was bigger. I think we achieved to make some new fans and I’m sure that the fact that our video was broadcasted on VIVA and MTV, which are the biggest European and German music TV stations, helped us a lot. Good reactions came from Germany, Mexico and now from the USA.

MT:Where do you find your inspirations come from?

SD: We are inspired by our feelings, emotions and atmospheres we live in. And of course we are influenced by the music of other bands. The guys are mainly influenced by metal bands such as Soilwork, Nevermore, In Flames, Annihilator or Iron Maiden to name just a few. I myself like many different styles of music such as Jazz, Rock, also good-made pop-music as well as metal, gothic metal. Artists and bands whose music may have an influence on my singing are Tori Amos, Natalie Cole, Maria McKee, Liv Kristine, Taria Turunen, Anouk, Kosheen, Creed and many more. I personally am convinced this album is our best so far. We spent a lot of energy to write good and complex songs and I think we achieved that!

The band during filming of the video “Der letzte tag” from their latest album, Dark Clouds in a Perfect Sky.

MT: There are shades of band manager and producer Alexander Krull’s Atrocity and Liv Kristine’s Leaves’ Eyes in Elis’s music. What is your involvement with those two bands, either personally or professionally and do you see any similarities yourselves to them or any other bands?

SD : Alex doesn’t exactly have an influence on the music and the song writing but he sure has a big effect on how our music sounds, and that might be similar to the sound of Leaves’ Eyes. But I don’t think that there are much more similarities than this. I know that many persons start to compare all the bands with female singers but I think this fact alone is not enough to say that they sound similar. All the bands like Nightwish, Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation have their own sound and the only thing they have in common is that they have female singer and that they use keyboards. But if you listen to it carefully you easily can notice that they all have their own style, which cannot be compared.

Of course we know all the members of Leaves’ Eyes because its members work in the Mastersound Studios too. And in October we supported them on the Atlantis/Lovelorn Tour through Europe. So we all know them very well and it’s much more a personal than a professional relationship now. We are in Germany from time to time and sometimes Liv and Alex and their little Leon make a visit here in Liechtenstein.

MT: No keyboardist is listed on my promotional copy of the new CD. Who performed the keys on the album anyway?

SD: All the keyboards are written and programmed by the person who writes a song. On “Dark Clouds In A Perfect Sky” everyone except the drummer wrote at least two songs. When our former keyboard player left the band, we decided not to search for a new keyboard player, because you know: the more people the more difficulties to find common directions, which fit all.

Elis , on tour in 2005

MT: What do you think of the whole “gothic” sub-genre of metal and where do you feel Elis fits, or does not fit, into that?

SD: If you define Gothic as metal with keyboards and a female singer we surely are a gothic band. This name or category does not disturb me too much, because I know that is easier for people when they can put everything in a special style. All the same I think that ELIS isn’t such a typical gothic metal band maybe just because, we all are influenced from many other kinds of music.

MT: It’s rather uncommon for a band, unless you’re Rammstein, to sing a song, let alone three songs, in your native German. Why did you choose to do this? Do you find you write better lyrics in German than in English?

SD: We decided from the beginning to have some songs in German on our albums for our German fans and also because it is our mother tongue. Because of that it is somehow easier to write lyrics in German although you have to be very careful that the lyrics don’t get kitschy. Usually everything sounds better for us when it’s sung in English.

And on the other hand I just like to sing in English because its sound is much nicer and somehow it is easier to sing in English. I always decide whether a song will be German or English when I listen to its music for the first time. Most of the time it is clear immediately if the song will be an English or a German one. The German suits better to the dramatical and more theatrical songs. Nevertheless I prefer songs in English so there are more songs in English than in German.

MT: Do you write your lyrics or is it a shared duty among other band members? Where does your lyrical inspiration come from?

SD: So far I have written all the lyrics except the ones we have taken from the Austrian poet Georg Trakl like “Ballade” on [Dark Clouds in a Perfect Sky], and “Abendlied” on our last record [God’s Silence, Devil’s Temptation]. I always write the lyrics when I listen to the music of the songs, so the lyrics are influenced of the atmosphere and the feelings I have when listening to the song. The songs are about [my] own experiences, things that caused deep emotions or sometimes they are just a trip in my daydreams and my parallel universe! Mainly the lyrics want to say that everything has two sides. When there is death there’s always life, when there is hate, there’s always love, too and so on. It also should give some hope to those who think that there is nothing more to come.

MT: Given the recent popularity of female-fronted bands such as Lacuna Coil and Nightwish, where do you see yourself and your band in this phenomenon?

SD: We never made this kind of music to fit in a certain image or style of music which is very trendy for the moment. We just try to express our feelings and our understanding of metal music in our songs and that is what it sounds like. Of course there is a big boom for female fronted bands at the moment and maybe this could be an advantage for us too. On the other hand the people have Nightwish, Lacuna coil, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Leaves’ Eyes and many more. So do they need ELIS? We of course hope they do!

MT: Have you found a replacement drummer yet? It was a shame to see Rene Marxer go; he was one hell of a drummer. Was the split amicable? Are you touring with someone in the meantime?

SD: Rene joined the band about a year ago. He didn’t make the recordings on Dark Clouds in a Perfect Sky, that was our former drummer Franco Koller(“well then he was one hell of a drummer” –ed.) and on some songs Martin Schmidt, the ex-drummer of Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity. The split was amicable and we wish him all the best for his future.

We now are rehearsing with a new drummer who is supposed to be a steady member of the band if everything works fine in the near future. Unfortunately, he can’t join our tour in April so we have a guest musician there. Tommy [Zeltwanger] is a friend of ours we got to know when we played some concerts together with his band Seven of Nine and he also was drum roadie of Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity on our tour in October.

MT: Any hopes of heading to the United States?

SD: There is nothing planned so far, but that doesn’t depend on us. We would come immediately if we had the chance to! That would be really cool and somehow a dream would be coming true.

MT: Finally, what’s next for Elis?

SD: In about a week we will start a headlining tour through Germany, Austria and Belgium together with Visions of Atlantis and Lyriel. After that we will concentrate on the song writing so that we can enter Mastersound Studios in autumn in order to record the songs for our next album, which shall be released in February, or March [next] year…we hope that everything works as we have planned! During the whole song writing process we continue to play some festivals and concerts throughout Europe.

Thanks for the interview!


To check out my review of the band’s latest release, Dark Clouds in a Perfect Sky, go here!


Elis, from left-right: Rene Marxer (ex-drummer), Pete Streit (guitars), Tom Saxer (bass / additional vocals), Juergen Broger (guitars), and Sabine Duenser (vocals).

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