This live interview with Thomas and Anna from the German folk metal band Schandmaul was done by Melanie Schuh and Matthias Altenhöfer at the Summer Breeze festival in Germany on August 21st, 2004.

Germany has one of the most vivid music scenes in the world and especially when it comes to alternative music they have a lot to offer. One of the more interesting bands at the moment is the folk metal act Schandmaul. Learn more about them in this interview. [The Editor]

Are you satisfied with your gig tonight? What did you like best? Did you have any problems?
Thomas: Everytime we get our audience to do the 'Seemannsgrab'-waves, I find it incredible impressing to see - no matter which audience does it, somehow they all have two hands. We had an awesome/gorgeous audience tonight.

Anna: My transmitter failed one time and when we're on stage we always do a lot of show and movement. I am used to move around on stage and that didn't work with the cable, so I had to stand still.

This it the first summer you're on some 'big' festivals. How do you like playing on festivals? Or do you prefer club gigs?
Anna: I think both is interesting. If you play in clubs the fans come because of YOU and so they know all the songs and lyrics. If you play on a festival, there are many people who come for other bands, but that is also very appealing to us. Then you've got the chance to gather new fans. ...I don`t know what I like better.

Many fans think that you've become a little harder in recent time. Where do you think that comes from?
Thomas: We changed our mixer this year, an the new one mixes a little harder. But basically we're harder if we play live than we're on studio albums. It has always been like this. On CD you always have the opportunity to add an instrumental ensemble or a harp. We are six persons when we're playing live and we don`t use any computer effects, so we just kick ass with what we have - that`s our concept.

One consequence of playing on the major festivals as you did that summer is that you reach international and non-German speaking audience. Are your records sold world-wide? Will you be on an international tour?
Thomas: Our records are distributed in Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. Further we know that our records are played in Spain and Russia in some gothic discos.

Anna: And we received an e-mail from Brasil. That guy had our DVD - I don`t know where from.

Thomas: There is a college radio in California which regulary plays our songs.. as you can see it's very scattered. We just should tour there and then see what happens.

Anna: Yes, our last gig was in the Netherlands and I was quite surprised. The people really freaked out, but I think this is because our music is so varied by our usage of various instruments, so you can enjoy our music altough you don't understand the language.

Anna: Our friends from In Extremo have great success in Mexico - we should try to play in a non-german speaking country. It still is written in the stars, but I think we'll go there once.

You have a great variety concerning your instruments - are there instruments you haven't used so far, but you would like to use in future?
Thomas: I want Birigit to learn to play the Ulian Pipe - this is the giant bagpipe you can see in 'Braveheart' - and she's already working on it. Learning to play this instrument is a real challenge. We'll see how she manages to learn to play it, but she'll make it.

Anna: I would like to work with a more orchestral sound or a choir for our studio recordings.

Thomas: Or percussion, but all this also means employing non steady musicians and so this hole thing must happen well organized, but (smiling) ...perhaps we've already had an idea concerning this.

How does a song develop? Do the ideas for the music first appear or are the ideas for the texts there first? How long does it take you to write a song?
Thomas: Basically we write all the melodies and lyrics in the band. Someone comes up to the band with a rough pattern in our rehearsal room and presents it to the others. Then the others work with the new stuff and try to integrate their ideas. So everyone adds something to the new song. I always have the text at first - the meaning of the song - and around the lyrics I build up the music. I think it`s very difficult the other way around. If you have the melody at first then you press the lyrics into it.... But everyone has his/her own way of doing such things. (to Anna): How do you do it?

Anna: Sometimes I have an idea for the music in my head and I ask myself: 'Would this be suitalbe?' and if I change some structures it mostly fits into the hole. In these cases the music would have been there first, but usually it's the lyrics.

Thomas: How long does it take to write a song? Hm, well, that`s quite different. Sometimes you start writing and you just can't stop. Your mind is slower than what your writing. And all of a sudden you have a whole new song in front of you. But you could also have both, music and lyrics. Then you try to build up lyrics and music on each other. In contrast to those fastly written songs there are songs where you just write one line and put away the notes for a while. After perhaps two months you again write a few lines and then you've got an idea for the music. You move towards the piano or guitar and you try to create something suitable. Then a friend of yours comes across and says: 'Hey, try to play it like this.' and this then fits perfectly.

In most of the setlists of folk rock or metal bands occur some traditional or medsongs. Is that something you've never thought about?
Thomas: You've just answered that question by yourself. There are quite enough bands playing the medieval charts up and down. If we would also do it, we would leave our own special place within the scence and cross the area of others or even merge with the flow. There are bands like Corvus Corax or In Extremo that do this extensively and if many others in this style - somewhere there is a point where you just can't hear it anymore. We don`t want to contribute in this 'I just can't hear it anymore.' , we rather do our own stuff: our heads are filled with ideas and they need to get out somehow.

How would you characterize your music?
Anna: We are six musicians coming from six different styles, amongst them classic, german rock, medieval, hip-hop....and all that is blended - you really can't find a precise definition for that style.

What music do you listen do or do you play when not with Schandmaul?
Thomas: I am a big fan of Guano Apes, Live, Rammstein, but then again I like Herbert Grönemeyer, Rheinhard May..... widely spread, everything contained.

Anna: For me it`s everything from Rammstein through Loreena Mckennitt up to Herbert Grönemeyer, as well as I sometimes enjoy listening to classical music.

You´ve recently released „Wie Pech und Schwefel“. Is there already a new release planned? Will you publish something in 2005?
Thomas: We were quite busy so far. The release of the next studio album will be early 2006. What will happen up to then? - Who knows? (smiles) But I guess you will hear from us in the meantime.... And for the next album we have twelve songs up to now. If it goes on like that, we'll enter the studio with twenty to thirty tracks and then we'll pick what we like best.

Links of interest:

Summer Breeze