Interview with Words Of Farewell

Words Of Farewell have changed quite a bit since their 2011 debut Immersion. Digging deeper into more technical core influences, the band have molded their sound into a sort of melodic death metalcore style that I have yet to hear replicated in the fashion that they’ve shown with ‘The Black Wild Yonder.’ I spoke with Leo (Keyboards) and Alex (Vocals) as they discussed the history of the band, the new album and the change in style, as well as some hobbies, influences and future goals.

First of all, how did you guys come together and what made you want to pursue making music? Were there any bands that you played in prior to Words Of Farewell?

Leo: The story reaches back to the friendship between Erik Gaßmus and Phillipp Olivier, who are both awesome guitar players and decided to form a band in late 2006. They had played together in another band before and decided to take it to a higher level. They looked for friends and musicians with similar musical taste and eventually Words of Farewell were founded. I for example played in the school orchestra together with Erik. The initial lineup consisted of only pupils from grammar school.

It has always been a dream to write and play our own music and maybe score a record deal some time. This inspired us and might be called the common belief behind our music. Over the years we have become close friends, e.g. Erik, Tristan and I are sharing a flat, which strengthened the formation and increased our endeavor to tour the world together.

The Black Wild Yonder sounds much more rooted in deathcore/metalcore than your previous album, Immersion. Why did you decide to move your sound into that field and what may have inspired that move? 

Leo: It wasn’t really a conscious decision to move into this direction. I would rather say that personal taste is always subject to change on the one hand and that unforeseeable events affect creative output on the other. One of the main reasons might be the lineup changes. Shortly before we finished our former album Immersion, our lead guitar player Phillipp left the band. He played a different musical style than Erik and they had inspired and influenced each other. On The Black Wild Yonder, the composition process was more open, as for example our new drummer Tristan contributed two songs and the rest of the band took a larger part in the creation of our music. The main reason for the album sounding a bit more core-ish is probably Erik’s taste, which is actually everything between Queen and Born of Osiris. 

Explain the writing and recording process for The Black Wild Yonder. How long did it take to write and record the album? What was the atmosphere like during the writing and recording process, and where did you record the album?

Leo: Once we finish a record we almost immediately start writing new stuff, so it’s pretty hard to answer how long The Black Wild Yonder took us. Usually when someone has an idea for a song, he writes it down in the composition software Guitar Pro. Erik wrote most of the stuff on the new album on his own and presented it to us. Everyone who wanted to contribute or change something uttered their thoughts and we decided whether the song should make it on the new album or not.

We recorded the album at Metallurgy Studios in Mönchengladbach which is near Düsseldorf in western Germany. Andreas Funke has a great little studio there and the recording atmosphere was relaxed and productive at the same time. We recorded the bass, keyboards and guitar solos at home ourselves and did the rest (drums, rhythm and lead guitars, vocals) at Andy’s. It took us quite some time to finish the recordings (from July to September 2013), as we weren’t able to do everything at a stretch (due to work, an operation, and live shows), but we are more than satisfied with the outcome.

Instrumentally, what would you consider your weapons of warfare on this album? What guitars, drums, bass keyboards were utilized?

Leo: I can really only answer this question for myself as I don’t know the exact gear that the others use but I’ll try to summarize the most important stuff. We used two ENGL guitar amps (an ENGL Savage SE and an ENGL Thunder if I remember correctly) and fitting ENGL cabinets, as well as some nice little guitar effects here or there. Erik and Henrik both play IBANEZ guitars as far as I know, but please don’t ask me which model! Our bass player Konni plays a five-string Musicman SUB and a HARTKE top. Tristan plays a TAMA drum set with MEINL and PAISTE cymbals. I use a YAMAHA MOTIF XF-7 synthesizer as well as a couple of digital synthesizers, e.g. spectrasonics OMNISPHERE. I tried combining organic orchestral and synthetic ambient sounds which can be especially seen in the intros and outros.

Was this album more difficult to write and record than your previous disc? Why or why not?

Leo: Interesting question! Once you have released your first album you will be expected to keep the overall sound and style. On the other hand you will have to further develop and improve your music on a new album to make it distinguishable from its predecessor. Luckily since Immersion so much has changed within the band and within our own interests and personal lives that it wasn’t hard to create a very unique new album. We especially tried to make the sound more organic, putting in quite a lot of little details that will probably not be heard in a single listening session. This way we hope to keep our folks interested in the album, as you will only start to see how much time and energy we put in the composition and recording of each song when you listen to the album for the second or third time.

Lyrically, what do the songs on this album deal with? What inspires the lyrics for the band? 

Alex: The album basically deals with different aspects of the human psyche that aren’t usually explored by people who don’t indulge in introspection. I’ve been asking questions about the motivation of certain actions by myself and also my surroundings for quite some time now – maybe something that comes with the profession of being a cultural studies student – and I’ve been finding some interesting things about the human condition and the way our behavioral patterns are structured or how they a governed. So the different songs deal with different scenarios which I found to be interesting concepts to think about, like the intrinsic works of interpersonal relationships, the fear of loss or simply what motivates people to get up in the morning. I have to note though that I never had any arch-concept in mind for the lyrics, it just happened to end up as being interrelated somehow. My motivation for such topics usually derive from theoretical concepts that I read about, their application to my real world surroundings and into popular culture.

Who would you consider to be your influences at the start of the band and your influences for this album? 

Alex: For me the influences haven’t really changed much. When we started out I was very much into Anime and Sci Fi, studying Japanese at the university but also always reading a lot of outdoor literature. Nowadays the focus has shifted more towards the outdoors and my studies have gained a stronger influence, but I’m very much still a romantic nerd somewhere deep inside. Basically it’s a clash between the rational and the dreamer in my head.

Leo: Concerning the music we have our roots in 1990’s Gothenburg style Melodic Death Metal and bands like Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Scar Symmetry, and Insomnium. I’d say we are still influenced quite a bit by that genre but nowadays a bunch of younger, more technical bands like Born of Osiris and Periphery have found their way into our music.

What are some acts that you are currently into? Are there any other German acts that you want to represent? 

Alex: I’ve been stuck on the whole Post Metal / Post Rock / Black Metal / Ambient thing for several years now, and apparently it’s not going to change anytime soon. Currently I’m listening to Winterfylleth, Long Distance Calling (one of my all-time favorites), Deafheaven and Caspian. As far as representing other bands I guess we’re in a way similar to some of our befriended bands with which we’ve shared the stage a couple of times like Harasai, Kadavrik, Hero’s Fate or The Very End. Although I wouldn’t say that there is a real scene for our genre at the moment.

One thing I’ve noticed about you guys is that you’re quite young. So it’s absolutely phenomenal what you’ve already achieved at such a young age with the previous album and this one. I was never a huge fan of the core genre, but you’ve done something with it that I’ve never seen attempted before, which makes you pioneers in a way. How do you feel about that?

Alex: Actually you’re one of the few who attests us to have done our own thing. Usually we face bland comparisons with the usual suspects. We just don’t really think too hard about what direction our music takes as long as we’re content with it. Thus the range of elements is pretty far spread from traditional Melodeath over Prog to Djent and Core. I haven’t thought about that what we’re doing is original or not but we consider such a statement as a compliment since being the vanguard for something is usually a good thing when it comes to art.

Where will you be touring? Are you going to be touring the U.S.?

Alex: Currently there is no touring schedule, but we’ve been playing a showcase for a small booking agency lately thus we may get to tour at least in Germany a little more the coming months – maybe in winter. Sadly we don’t have any financial means, being students who have to work part time to cover living expenses, to organize bigger tours let alone crossing the pond to get to the US. If however we had a strong promoter in the US who would like to get us over there supporting a band on tour or for a couple of festivals we would be absolutely psyched to get onto a plane!

What do you guys do when you’re not playing music? What kind of hobbies do you have outside of it? Is there anything out there you might recommend (movies, books, video games, food, beer, exc.)?

Alex: We’ll I can just talk for myself here I guess; I usually work out a couple times a week and I am and ardent landscape photographer still following the delusional idea that I may live off it one day in the distant future. Other than that I’m working on my master’s degree in American Cultural Studies and Media Studies. And if I was to recommend something that I’ve been exposed to in the last few months, then I’d say to watch the remake of Kentaro Miura’s Berserk which should be distributed by Warner Brothers over there in the states (It is). It was one of my favorite mangas back when I was younger and they were still released on an irregular basis. [The Grim Tower highly recommends this three chapter remake as well. Best of all, future installments in the adaptation are due to appear soon!]

Leo: I’d say music is my one and only hobby and I’m trying to make it a profession. I’m studying music to become a teacher and currently active in a couple of orchestras and other musical projects, Words of Farewell of course, being most important. Apart from that I’m giving piano lessons, working in the music conservatory of Münster and teaching music in a local school. Is there anything I’d recommend? Travel the world. That’s the best investment in your life and no one can take those memories from you. Of course, preferably with your band mates. On a tour bus. In the States.

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