Sons Of Seasons – heavier approach on Magnisphyricon
text: Gerianne Meijer
photo’s: Marc de Jong
Right before their show in Baroeg, Rotterdam I was supposed to interview the founder of the band, Oliver Palotai.
Unfortunately, he is still on tour with his other band Kamelot, so a change of plans is in order. The lead singer of the band, Henning Basse is kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. Outside on a park bench, the atmosphere is very relaxed and informal.
When I tell him the sound of their new album is harder and more full compared to the first album ‘Gods of Vermin’ he completely agrees.
Henning Basse: ‘The reason is that we found another guitar player, who is really involved in the song writing. His name is Pepe Pierez. He fits really well with the band, now we’ve found our sound. The direction of the band is heavier. We didn’t have a band ideal on ‘Gods of Vermin’, because we didn’t know who would be in the line-up. We’ve found ourselves now.”
“Yes, for the first time we worked with Dennis Ward who is the co-producer (and bassist, red.) of Pink Cream 69. He has made many great metal-albums. We actually thought of having Sacha Paeth (producer of Epica, Rhapsody and Kamelot albums, red.) as a producer, but we really liked the warm sound of Dennis Ward. He did an incredible job.
You have had an overwhelming amount of positive reviews for ‘Magnisphyricon.’ Did you expect this at all?
Basse Henning: (sounding a little sad) “No”. (In normal voice) “To be honest, it was overwhelming. You know, when a band has success regarding the reviews they are always really overwhelmed. But we can tell you, we worked on the album for one year. To make it happen and to get such great results regarding the reviews, we never expected that. It was hard work and we’re very proud of the result.”
You wanted the new album to be heavier, did you have any other ideas?
” No, that’s actually the point. We wanted to have it heavier, even the orchestrations. That’s a thin line, having the orchestrations that loud. It’s a matter of taste. Some people might say this is too loud, but at least it has a symphonic vibe. The way it sounds, sounds really good.”
How do you decide what the final versions of the songs will be and who decides? Basse doesn’t know what to answer right away so I ask is more straight forward: ‘Who’s the boss?’
” Oh yeah, I see! Oliver has this kind of thing, where he decides what is going on with the music. But we all have this democracy thing going on in the band. That’s how we decide the song writing. Oliver is the guy who decides how it should sound.”
So he’s the one who says: this is it, stop bringing in ideas?!
“Yeah, but we wrote the songs together, or on our own. He is the last person who decides. That’s cool I think, because otherwise you have too much kooks. Then it doesn’t make any sense.”
It sounds like you have had a lot of fun in the studio.
” Yes, it was an interesting thing because this was the first time I had the chance to express myself, doing experimental things and different parts with my vocals. This was the first situation I encountered where I could work on my voice, doing the belting, screaming and grunting. I sang in Metallium for twelve years, this power metal band, doing lead vocals. Having a band like Sons of Seasons and creating something different is like paradise to me!
You sound really good on this new album indeed. Do you have any techniques to improve your voice?
“Actually, this tour is a big improvement for me. There were so many techniques and styles I had to develop as a singer. I didn’t think I could make it on the tour, because it’s so hard to sing like that; the belting and grunting and screaming. Besides that, I need to figure out if the conditions are good enough live. In the studio you can do anything, you just have one moment, but live you have to do it all the time.
Yes, I can imagine that’s really hard. On this tour you have to sing with MaYaN as well. That must be really intense.
” Yes, it is. I told the guys from MaYaN I needed to go through their songs again before I go on live, but it will be fine.”
I wanted to talk to you about the grunts you did on ‘Magnisphyricon’. You mentioned this is the first time you did them. Was that your idea?
” It happened spontaneously while the song writing was going on. Because we had such aggressive parts we had to develop something new, regarding the singing style. It just happened by accident. This was the first time I did this on my own. I was inspired by Mark Jansen (MaYaN, Epica, red.) (laughs).”
” Yes, he drinks cocoa! While the Epica tour was going on I was listening to him a lot. I think he has a very aggressive grunting style, I like that. but it’s new to me, I’m like a virgin right now. It takes time, you know.”
Do you see the grunts becoming more present in the music?
” Yes, but not all the time. It’s just an element of the singing. Oliver wants to think about it too and wants to do it as well. Maybe we’ll split the singing style, clean and grunts.”
That would be better for your voice. Do you have any routines before you go on stage?
” I always do warm-ups regarding the scales, humming, bubbles and gurgles. If you don’t warm up you get fucked, it won’t work out. You need 15-30 minutes. That’s the only thing I do when I sing.”
Does Sons of Seasons have any aspirations to write a concept album?
” Concept albums are very overrated these days. We’re not involved in any concepts and there’s no interest in doing that.”
Can you tell me something about ‘Yesteryears?’ I thought that was such a great song!
” The lyrics are pretty easy: You should leave the past behind you and be happy with what you have. Be happy when you look back at the past but be happy in your life now as well. Don’t have any regrets.”
Why did you decide to put it at the end of the album?
” Because it’s such a great ending. To end so low and to really cry at the ballad at the end is a great thing to do. I don’t like these albums where you have the ballad in the middle. It’s not a typical ballad.”
How about ‘Tales of Greed’? It is a song with many contrasts; very hard and fast but also features a child’s voice. What’s the idea behind that?
” That’s my daughter, Michelle. She is only twelve years old and it took her ten takes to do. She was really professional, I was really proud! The song is about human kind being full of greed, that’s the biggest problem in this world.”
So why did you decide to put Michelle in the song?
” I just asked her. She said: ‘Yes, but what should I sing?’ (Sings her bit of the song) It just happened by accident. ”
Now I’d like to talk about Sons Of Seasons live on stage . I saw you in Paradiso, with Kamelot about two weeks ago. (Basse: Ah, did you like the show?) I liked it yes, too bad you only played for twenty minutes or so.
” It’s really hard to have this kind of spot as a new band. I mean, we played sixteen shows with them and we were one stage for about twenty-five minutes. You have to start very early, around seven o’clock. But at least you can get a lot of promotion, a lot of contacts. We were happy to be there! Paradiso was a very good show, first time for me in that venue actually, amazing.”
Have all the live experiences changed the sound of the band?
” Yes, I think so. We all grew up together and we’re a band now. The most important part for us is to have people in the band who can all contribute to the song writing. The sound changed by getting Pepe’s guitar sound. He’s so different from Oliver. Oliver writes his songs on the piano, while Pepe does the guitar riffs.
Do you feel more connected as a band because of touring?
Henning Basse: (about the tour with Kamelot). ” Yes, it was really hard to go out with just a small van, you know the silver one (points at a van parked by the side of the road). We went from hotel to hotel and drove on our own. I was sick the whole month, I’m still a bit shaky. It wasn’t easy.”
” Yes, but it’s fine. Now we have more time to play, it’s a headlining thing. I’m looking forward to it!”
So tonight is the first show, are you excited, nervous?
” Really excited! I love this! I have been in Rotterdam before, I know this club. I’m nervous about the MaYaN show. Because it’s really complex stuff to sing, you have to really concentrate on stage. It’s new to me. I’m also nervous about how my voice will do during two shows.”
What’s your favourite Sons Of Seasons song to play live?
” Gods of Vermin and Soul Symmetry.”
Last question for now: What do you hope the future holds for Sons Of Seasons?
Henning Basse: “ Another great album with my friends. Maybe one day money and a lot of touring. It’s really hard to make it happen these days, you have to tour a lot. My regular job is voice coach, in Germany. It’s really hard to stay alive as a musician these days. Hopefully we’ll have a creative life in the future! “