This phone interview with the guitarist / vocalist Eike Freese of Dark Age was done by Alexa Kasparek in July 2004.

Dark Age is an exciting German dark metal band that formed in Hamburg in 1995. After having recorded a demo tape they signed a three album deal with the native upcoming label Remedy Records. In 2002 they released the critically acclaimed album "The Silent Republic", followed this year by a self-titled fourth studio album. Our own Alexa Kasparek spent some time on the phone with frontman Eike Freese.

Hi Eike! How are you, especially your foot?
Yeah, out of the hospital I'm now ready to rock again!

You put some pictures on your homepage – it really looked quite bad!
Yo, indeed!

Well, your new album is on the roll (?) now, how are the reactions? Did everything go as you hoped?
Yeah, completely positive. Especially abroad they are even better than in in Germany and that is quite impressive, because generally we hadn't thought that! Well, here in Germany in two magazines it was just mediocre (clears his throat and laughs) – the rest was pretty great – also in the internet we got highest ratings. There also have been some that weren't so good, but that's for sure because there are always some people who don’t like it. But we are fully satisfied!

You did all the producing by yourself – was it worth the work?
Right - it was worth everything, at any rate. This way we had the opportunity to concentrate on our work and really just make of the spirit of our music in our own lair – it helped us very much and was pretty cool.

So you can recommend it to other people?
You really can recommend that, yes, but of course just if there’s someone around who accordingly is able to deal with the technical and other stuff, because if you only have a PC then it isn't really possible to do a whole production; you have to be articled after all, you have to have some experiences with audio engineering and stuff.

The album cover is quite plain – is there any message behind it?
Yes, the nude person kneels there and ceases from all formalities , and behind it "Dark Age" can be seen in the shadows – that shall say that everything's restriced to the sensations of the music. And then the guy there makes this pose because he just found a way into the music and the music flows through him – that's everything.

It's striking that on the latest album is quite much of clean vocals, that was different before…?
Yeah, right, well, before there have been two songs with clean vocals, but indeed that's way fewer.

Will you stick to that development?
It depends on the new songs we'll write – and it wasn't planned for this, either. For some refrains I sat down and then I had the lines for it and afterwards asked the guys if they like it or not and they liked it very much, so we should do it that way. Even when we published Silent Republic some people told me to sing more clean than those two songs and now the new songs just offered the possibility. And when the next songs again have such refrains that we can do it again, it will surely happen, and if not... then not.

Did you take any singing lessons before to prepare you for the recordings?
Nay. Indeed it's a pity, but I just haven't had any time for it, but on tour I asked Henning Basse (Metalium) and Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) to give me some tips but I didn't attend any real singing lessons, no.

But it works?
Yo, it works. Of course I improved live – it was a bit problematic especially in the beginning because it was something completely new for me, but lately it worked quite well and I think the tour pushed me forward.

Your latest album is quite melancholic, especially in the lyrics – please tell us something about that.
Well, I use the lyrics as platform to reflect my own emotions and those of the four other guys and we use the music as an outlet. To write merry songs makes us depressed, so we write depressing songs to be merry, and that's a good deal! Also we use them as platform to call attention to the grievances our society and the world in general. That's just perfect for us and it integrates better in our music if the lyrics have senses and doesn't only reflect the positive sides of life.

That amazed me a bit – you seem to be quite funny guys!
We are indeed! Well, I don't know if we are funny, that lies in the eye of the beholder, but we enjoy our lives! Yeah, of course there are some phases in life which are quite terrible and not so good, but that even helps - well, as people already know for some time: metal heals and I think we have the opportunity to use our music as sort of a ventile and so many negative emotions, aggressions abolish.

Where do you get your inspiration?
From our everyday life. Well, I'm a guy who deals with a lot of things – I mean not only political, but also what happens in other countries, and I watch a lot of movies which are quite melancholic and those are the themes that move me. Everyone has his own things that moves him, and those are the things that move my soul. So I use them or also things that happen to me and work them up in my lyrics.

Dark Age isn't your first album, but it could be the levelling staff for your future releases – do you have any doubts, when you think of your future?
No, not really. We don't notice any pressure, because we just don't pile on the pressure. Right, the record banged in, but we're still quite young – well, not that young anymore, but there's still a lot to reach for us and we just don't want to get any pressure because that's totally useless in our genre. We just will try to keep on making music that moves us to our hearts and that we love, and then it's left to the audience's discretion, but we still feel that we have a lot of potential and that we could outplay this album easily because there are a hell lot of things where we think: "hey, that's not all! If we improve on our instruments, there's still something to reach!" Well, we're quite confident, at least at the moment.

Are the new songs more difficult to realize live?
Yeah, the new songs really are a bit hard, especially because I usually write the singing parts afterwards and before I devise those obnoxious riffs and then I think: "fuck, and then you also shall sing?!" Yeah, and then there's the awakening in the rehearsal room, but usually we manage it somehow. On tour we really could notice that in the end we were as great as never before, but that's because we played 14 days in a row. Of course there are those songs where you know for sure that there's this passage in it which jolts a bit, but if you're motivated enough to train with your instrument, then it usually works.

How does it work with the double stress – to play the guitar and to sing in the meantime?
Especially in the new songs that's hard, because I have to sing clean, which needs additional concentration than just to scream everything, but due to rehearsals and the tour it works pretty well! But in the beginning it was so hard, I really had to kneel into it!

Please tell us something about the tour and the Wacken Roadshow.
It was cool! It was our first bigger tour and so it was more of a dream – together with Freedom Call in a bus, all those stories we experienced with them, we have about three videotapes with the strangest meterial. Well, on the next DVD we'll publish you'll be able to see some fiercer things! And then the crew was very nice – they're doing it since a hell lot of years so they said "ah, well, the newcomers, they've never been on tour before" and so on. But we managed it quite well and even on the second day we got a complaint from the tour manager because we boozed the beer of every band! So we had to stand at attention and he said: "Dudes, tomorrow you'll get no beer and you'll enter the stage 15 minutes earlier or you'll return home!" So we behaved a bit and then, the third day, we let go again and bought our own beer so we didn't have had to drink less!

Also the farewell in Switzerland, in Pratteln, was so great. Of course they took the mickey out of the opening act, that was so cool, even moving, because we liked all of them, the whole crew and even the tourmanager, so much and also the other bands were so nice, especially Freedom Call in the bus and yeah, I just can dote, it was so fucking great!

Sounds like they had to do some education with you!
Yeah, they had to do it, the tour manager also said: "Well, guys, I'll manage to trim you guys", hihi... but even that couldn't restrain us – our Rock 'n' Roll-factor prevailed and they bent the rules a bit, so it was okay!

So you have benn on a really huge tour for the first time?
Yeah, right. We just pervaded some things with like 4 days, but more than two weeks in a row, that was new for us.

How do you combine the touring with your jobs? Some of you even still are in studies...
Right, I study music production, Andr้ also studies, then two already are working and the fifth is about to finish an education. It's right, that's a hard organisation and coordination thing like in many bands whose members need to work – especially if the band is about to tour. The holidays, of course, are spent now... well, for me and Andr้ it works, but I also have the studio which costs time, so it's quite tight. Andr้ has a lot of time in his semester breaks, but for the other three it's difficult, of course.

Let's change the topic now: you already did some coversongs and your label is about to publish a Saxon- and a Running Wild Tribute compilation!
That's right! Well, maybe we'll do a Saxon song, this Heavy Metal Thunder, but not Running Wild. And Yes, we always like to do some covers, it depends if it makes sense, depends how it's planned and which bands should be on it. Generally it's more the fun-factor, also for our own records. For us it was a bit sort of tradition because the people liked our "Hell's Bells" so much so we decided to continue that! But unfortunately we didn't find any song with bells in it!

Do you have any idol bands?
Hmmmm.... I think idol is the wrong word, I'd rather say we have many influences and I still have those influences and people I immensely respect. For example, talking about the guitar, I'm totally Zakk Wylde-fanatic – I think he's the best, he's "my" guitar player who impressed and influenced me with his style. Talking about bands there are those standards: Ozzy Osbourne is my hero and he even was before this hype, I have all his records and I'm busy in collecting and so on... and then I listen to Metallica, standard-Metallica, because they managed to produce such good and high-quality music for a long period. Even although lots of people are a bit discrepant towards their newer albums, they, obectively viewed, still now what they do.

As a quite young band: what do you think of internet filesharing? Was it useful for you to become known?
Awkward issue... well, I think for undergroundbands, that are financial ensured because they have other jobs and don't live on music, it's of course an opportunity to increase the name recognition because the filesharing community is able to accelerate the spreading of the music. I mean it also existed years ago in the tape-trading, which was similar, only the logistics were a bit difficult. Of course it's really catastrophic for the music industry and I'm more or less part of it now. You even can notice it in our metal genre – how the amount of sales dramatically decreases. And if you, as a young musician, try to make music in a professional way, you must be able to pay for your bread and your shelter, and that's at least in Germany hardly possible, especially as a metalband. This development truly is a pity because you work hard for the music and those musicians also enter the studio where they spend a lot of money and lose much heart's blood so I think it's justified when the consumer has to pay 15 Euros for a CD! That's right and therefore I think filesharing is illegal.

But there also is this other side, but indeed you have to put the blame on the music industry because they foozled it, didn't they? They should have offered, like Apple does with its i-tune store, mp3s for low prices in the internet right from the beginning. Then everyone would have the opportunity to buy single songs and not only whole albums, because that's usually the problem – why are you forced to buy whole albums?

There are many people who listen to music mainly from their PC and who are ripping their CDs then, but often it doesn't work due to some copy protection – so it isn't thought through fully!
That's a problem, right. But honestly that's the fault of the major labels! They foozled it and now they're whining how bad everything is and in fact it's their fault. But also as band – we notice it, too. We want to do music as professionals, but we heard from quite a lot people wo wrote into our guestbook or in our chat: "yeah, the record I burned from a friend" and so on. And then you wonder why at your concert there are way more people than you actually sell CDs, and that's a pity, because of course you also wish to be well-known and successfull because of your recordsales!

So music belongs to the service sector and needs to be payed.
Yes, for a special area, it belongs. You have to distinguish between professional musicians who live on music and made it their profession, and those people who play music as hobby.

That was all I wanted to know, so thank you very much for the interview! Do you have any finishing words?
Yeah... We're glad to play again and we have quite a lot of seperate gigs now – come along, there's something to celebrate, something to drink and we're looking forward to it!

Links of interest:

Dark Age
Remedy Records