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maandag 04 november 2019
VANDEN PLAS: Back To Their Heavy Roots!

Interview with guitarist Stephan Lill by Vera in October 2019

German progressive metal band Vanden Plas winded up their previous two-part concept ‘Chronicles Of The Immortals’ in 2015. Now we can welcome the start of a new two-fold enterprise with the release of ‘The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening’, their ninth studio album since their inception in 1986. This five piece is also a very established theatre crafted outfit, but with this new Vanden Plas album they return to their roots of vigorous progressive metal with less orchestral layers. We had a nice chat with guitarist/composer Stephan Lill about the essence of Vanden Plas.

I think you have a whole new direction on the new album, while former albums used to be more theatrical and orchestral… can you tell more about that?
It is 50% true and 50% not true. This new album goes back to a former style we used to have in the beginning, such as you can hear on albums like ‘The God Thing’ and ‘Far Off Grace’. After the two-part concept of ‘Chronicles Of The Immortals’ we composed the rock opera ‘Everyman’ and we played it more than 60 times in theatres all over Germany. That was indeed something different. In 2017 we released the live CD/DVD ‘The Seraphic Live Works’ and in July we recently launched a boxset called ‘The Epic Works 1991-2015’ with all the albums we released in that era. You could see this as a kind of closing a chapter and now we start anew with ‘The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening’. After the more orchestral stuff we did, we always had the intention to go back to our style and that’s exactly what we did. We do the heavy stuff, the great melodies and the progressive tinged instrumental parts. That is eventually the foundation of a good rock song. If you play live it is different than the studio work. If you play live you can easier go in a direction you finally want the song to develop. I think this approach we already had with the ‘Chronicles’ albums.

I think you have written a lot for this new concept?
I wrote five from the six songs, so for sure, me and Andy (Kuntz – singer – Vera) are the main writers, but of course that doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate the input from the other guys. But usually we write 98% of the material, so that’s nothing new.

And what can you tell more specific about the lyrical contents?
When we started to write, Andy already started thinking about the lyrical contents. He was thinking it would be cool that every song should have its own fixed story, that was one solution, but then he came up with that Ghost Xperiment, which is a very crazy experiment of scientists or someone from the State who created a person. They gave a name to that person, they gave an own life to that person, even a social life with being married, but the person never existed. He never lived. And that was the moment Andy said, yes, let us take this as influence on the story I will be creating. And like every time when Andy writes a concept, he mixes real life with fiction. The protagonist in the story is called Gideon Grace and it is a documented paranormal story in which we follow that protagonist, fighting his demons.

You are very productive…
When I write a song, I do it all alone. Then I can be more focused, later we complete it right away in the studio. However, not before I made a detailed demo, so I can take that to the studio and show the guys what I mean. We have been working like that for many years. I know there are musicians who write a couple of songs, then they go on tour for three months and then they go to the studio. They let it sink, but I never work like that. If I start something, it has to be finished, it has to get out of my system so to speak. For sure there will be one or two surprises on this CD, but it is above all our signature style, even going back to the roots. And maybe there will be one or two new things on the next CD, but when you like this album, then I am pretty sure you will love the next one too.

How do you see your contribution in theatre?
Andy writes a lot for theatre, but it is rock music we write for that. Sometimes also a jazz like song, the next one rock ‘n’ roll, because in theatre you need a lot of variation. It is a segment of art we all love to do and of course we try to make a living from it in music. Without the engagement in theatre, we should not be able to live from the band Vanden Plas only. We did a lot of gigs in Germany with the rock opera ‘Everyman’, we also played in Austria and maybe we should go to Prague, but mainly we focus on German speaking countries of course.

But that’s the reason why you do not tour with Vanden Plas so much…
That’s right. We simply don’t have the time to rehearse the songs. Of course we know the songs, but we have to rehearse the songs before going on tour, just like any other band. We have so much work with the theatre shows – since the previous metal album, we have played over 100 theatre shows – so that booking a tour is almost impossible and for surviving the music business, we have to see the theatre thing as main income. That’s why we can play a show with Vanden Plas now and then, but we are not a heavy touring band. We have to be prepared before we play a show, because if you play a bad show, it is no good for the band and it is no good for the audience. Then you better play no shows. We write our own rock operas and that is appreciated. Rock music for theatre. With Vanden Plas we played in Germany, also in the Netherlands and Belgium, but the market is not really getting bigger. We are doing well in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, we made a solid foundation in the US after playing at ProgPower Atlanta but furthermore there are many places in the world we haven’t conquered. We are fine with that, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t hope to expand our success. And soon we have shows in Munich and in Innsbruck in theatre. We are rehearsing for it at the moment, for Green Day’s – American Idiot. For next year we are already booked for many theatre shows, so it will be hard again to tour with Vanden Plas again.

What brings the near future for Vanden Plas?
We are looking forward to the reactions on ‘The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening’. The sequel will be called ‘The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination’ and is scheduled for an Autumn 2020 release and after that we are planning to tour properly with Vanden Plas with the new material of both new albums.

Geplaatst door Vera op maandag 04 november 2019 - 12:48:52
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