Volkmar Weber aka Volk-Man (Bass, Synthesizers) from Die Apokalyptischen Reiter
The band, founded in the middle of the 1990s, is one of Germany’s most individual Metal bands. On May the 30th they released their 8th studio album. The interview was held short before the release with founding member Volkmar.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Your new studio album is coming soon, the promotion work is running, do you think that you can overtop the success of your past releases?
Volk-Man: I think every band wants that, but most of them do not have the courage to speak it out. The question is what is success, success is relative, so far having a band is always publicity work. We are grown out of the status “We play here, but no one should know what we do”. We want to make the music that we actually do, if we are getting famous with this it is very nice. We would not change our music to have less success. We do only what comes from our inner self. The fans may see the band 1 to 3 times live, some 10 times or more, but we personally have to play on every gig.
RoD: You are a band that is permanently introducing new musically aspects, you don`t repeat yourself in general. Are you afraid that someday there are no more new ideas, or are you such inspired guys who always are creative.
Volk-Man: Well, we don`t throw away anything too soon, nowadays we practice for the upcoming shows. There is always a common thread, I think actually DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER have a relative unique and remarkable sound, which also is to be found on our concerts. I don`t mind that we always reinvent the wheel completely new, we are constantly adding new details to make the album something special. We don`t stress up because of that. Indeed this time we collected ideas even faster, but when we wanted to enter the studio one and a half year ago (the album at first should have been released in 2013) it seems too early for us, everything was too fresh. At this time we started to play some acoustic songs, which we enjoyed very much, on the other hand there were some very massive riffs, which would be perfect for some really powerful and heavy songs. We wanted to test out what could rise out of this. So in the end there were two complete albums. For us they belong absolutely together, because they were created in the same time, they are chronicles of this period. We got the pleasure to work on dual tracks, the albums point this out.
RoD: When I listen to your new stuff I got the feeling that you are always getting more positive and chilled out lyrically and musically. It seems very self-satisfied to me. There is no destructive “Rock`n`Roll” or “No Future” attitude in my eyes. Was it ever there?
Volk-Man: Oh we got it in the past and a part of it is still there. We are not a tearful band. I really don`t like this part of the German Indie Rock scene, starting with... better to say no names... [laughs]... this music where everything is going on this depressive path. I can`t chum up with this depressive stuff and I don`t like this unsubstantial lyrics like “outside it is night and it is dark” or “in the summer it is hot and in the winter it is cold”, there’s nothing of interest for me in such songs. We often have a deeper message in our lyrics, so that you have the possibility to think about it for a time. We don`t want to give instructions how to construe it. I got the opinion that it is very interesting, there are no strict rules what thoughts and conclusions someone could make out of our songs, different points of view are possible. And yes I agree that we are a positive band, there are so many bad things in this world, about which we are talking and thinking every day, but in the end the greatest gift for mankind is hope, no matter what kind of hope, hope for something better, for something different, an alternative to the actual situation, which is featured in many of our songs. I surely belief that this is rare or even unique in our Metal genre. Normally bands of this genre are fulfil the cliché and sing about the dark side, occultism, but nobody knows how it is meant. We are a straight shooter in the case of emotions, we got the balls to speak it out when we are sad.
RoD: Ok, many bands are very stereotype, what also can be cool, it can be fun either.
Volk-Man: Sure, I don`t want to talk someone down. Hard Rock and Heavy Metal got its rituals, its own aesthetic, that is absolutely ok, we don`t want to be different under any circumstances, but we are the agents of our own pleasures, with the “Reiter” we restock it with our own facets, but without questioning the scene in the whole.
RoD: Since some releases the lyrics on your albums are completely in German. Are you doing this for the better expression of yourself? Mostly Metal lyrics are in English.
Volk-Man: They even could be in Swahili, it would not matter, most lyrics in Metal you don`t have to understand. Often they are in Norwegian, Finnish, some old language or even a troll language or whatever. We handle this so because our vocalist Fuchs sings very clean and understandable and his lyrics got a lot of content. German is a fantastic and wonderful language, English has such a small word hoard. German gives us so many poetic and powerful was to express our emotions, in a more pure way than to find words for it in English. So we got more freedom when we write lyrics.
RoD. Most lyrics are very personal, very rarely in a storyteller perspective where only a story is told. Also the texts are very timeless, they often can be written 100 years ago….
Volk-Man: Yes, not for all, but I understand your intention in the case of personal experiences reflected in the lyrics, but there is also many influence from the books we read, or lecture isn´t always contemporary, it maybe Goethe, Nitsche, Adoro or some old Asian ones. Zeitgeist is not or our actual strength, but we don`t see us as retro or nostalgic.
RoD: Actually you are not the ones who sing about their new motorcycle?
Volk-Man: No, ha ha, that’s no way of great art, I would say. On the one direction we want to be understood, not too complex, but some platitudes we won`t to convince, because it doesn´t fulfil our aspiration as an artist. Because of the reason that people today infected of Twitter and Facebook are not able to concentrate on something more than five minutes, we will not capitulated in front of this, we won`t make only sentences with three words so that everybody could understand it. And only one or two songs so that no one has a problem to get the message. We will not confirm to this Zeitgeist. I think this fugacity and superficiality are accompanied with actual information overkill, which overwhelms us every day and every hour from many sources. That gives me the question “was it so bad in the past without all that stuff of today?”. In this case we set other priorities.
RoD: When I am right DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER have their 20th birthday next year, have you planed some specials for that?
Volk-Man: Yes your right, we plan to make a big festival in the end of this year, ideally featuring all or the most bands we played together with in the last twenty years, it would be fine to invite them and play with them. Actually we got the problem to find the location. We don`t want to make it in the summer, because there are too many Open Air festivals and begin to get stressed because of that. We want small indoor festival at home in Thuringia. At the latest we will clear it up in the autumn.
RoD: The LP version of your third album contains a board game, do you still have other funny ideas like this?
Volk-Man: We had things like that sometimes, the fourth album also had a board game, it was not as evil as the first one. The first was invented by myself , it was really very crude, it was really an enlightened moment. At that time I was around 25 years old and made it out of beer minds, it is very rude and not to be taken to serious. Today I think in this way it is not possible again, for ‘Moral & Wahnsinn’ we had a card game which the fans also liked. With the new album it is a very serious gimmick, a canvas with the cover Artwork, it is... man we are getting old. The cover is very complex and one that nearly one meter big picture you can get all those details of it. From the direction of a fan I think it could be really likeable. But no reason not to play the old board game once again.
RoD: Yeah, but you will need a day to recover. On Whitsun you are playing at the Rockhard Festival, your new album is available at that time, right?
Volk-Man: Yes it is released one week before, it is a kind of release show.
RoD: Afterwards some summer festivals and a tour in autumn, are there any bands you always would like to tour with.
Volk-Man: Maybe, in the past I would have liked to tour with SLAYER, but I don`t mind that we would be chosen by them. But if ever so I would say yes. Three years ago we were on a festival in Britain and played together with CARCASS, one of our most important bands for us, they were one of the reasons to start playing music, we played two bands before them on the main stage. We were very excited and happy, it was a dream coming true. For a real tour I have no idea, you don`t know if they all are really cool maybe they are idiots. Once the guitar player from TESTAMENT treated us disrespectful when we were on tour with them for four weeks, nowadays I can`t listen to their records without a bad feeling. So I think it maybe better not to tour with your faves.
RoD: The second CD of your upcoming double album is made up of rerecording of older songs in acoustic and orchestral versions. Will there be an extra tour for this songs?
Volk-Man: Yes, in spring of next year we will do a separate acoustic tour, we will play in very nice venues, including churches and theatres, the audience will get seats mostly. It is completely different to those Heavy Metal gigs with those loud amplifiers.
RoD: Ok that sounds very interesting. I have listened to the promos of ‘Tief.Tiefer’ and like most of the REITER albums. I need some time to get into the stuff. As I told you earlier you are really sounding very relaxed, what was your feeling recording it?
Volk-Man: We were definitively very relaxed and we wanted it to be so. We travelled to really nice places to do our songwriting, we wanted to escape from the routine that exists at home. We made a houseboat trip, were in the Ural, in Florida and other locations. It is something different than working ten hours on a turning machine and then write songs in an angry mood. We had a very good time and wanted to reflect that on the album and the fans should have also a good time while listening to it.
RoD: The ones who expect something from you like the first four albums would be disappointed, but no one really has such expectations at this time or?
Volk-Man: Not really, I would say it the same way. We were often asked if we like it to snub our fans, there are easier favourite bands than us to have, we are totally fast bored by ourselves when we do the same thing for same years. We are very jittery when we practice and sort out ideas. I believe the die-hard Death Metal guys who listen to the first three albums really don`t listen to our music anymore. You see it when we play live, that the people are getting more in action to the newer songs, but we still play always play some old ones, because we like the old raw power.
RoD: Yes I have seen that last year in Essen on an Open Air in the city.
Volk-Man: Yes, The Nord Open Air!
RoD: Yes exactly, I was happy that you played some old stuff, but it was really recognizable that most people get on with the newer songs. You really have a big crowd nowadays, when I first time saw you in 2001 it was very small. How have you perceived it to play in front of 50 Death Metal heads and suddenly a big audience with all kind of people?
Volk-Man: That’s really something we never had expected, it is just happened, like many other bands we just started out of a mood. We made a demo, sent it out to record labels and very soon we got a contract. Than it goes very fast, we got many concert offers and every time more people were coming to see us. At first we couldn`t believe it. It was maybe a got confusion of talent and luck. When we started we got a very engaged label, they done a lot for us. I think today it is a lot harder for musicians to start with a band on a similar way, when I remind me how unprofessional we acted in the past, just sending a demo away with the post and answering some fan letters. Nowadays, newcomer bands appear with perfectly cut video clips, everything very heavy assigned, but there are hundreds of them. That’s the problem in this , to attract attention you have to do a lot.
RoD: Everybody has the possibility to get into the public eye by using Facebook, YouTube or other platforms…
Volk-Man: Yes, but everyone has the possibility to do so.
RoD: So we got a big oversupply?
Volk-Man: There is no time for details of a single band, in the past there was only fraction of it. For example in the Metal Hammer was one page with one column for the releases of one year, today there are two pages for the releases of two month.
RoD: But you have managed it to be constant in this fast moving times.
Volk-Man: The fast moving nature is there today, so we have do the best we could make out of it. I am not a friend of being enemy to all technological progress, on one way it gives us a fascinating possibility to communicate with the fans via Facebook. In the past there was no direct feedback. But we always have to be careful not every technical evolution is a step forward, many things have to be watched with a critical view and maybe in the past not everything was worse. I think that some people are getting too deep into the world of the internet and losing their bridge to the real world, they are losing their tenacity, everything is expected to happen instantly. For about ten years or so we didn`t make any money with the band. We have tried a lot and sometimes we got success. Many people don`t have much persistence at this time, we had a long breath, quality has to pass the test of time, that people see what really has substance. So I have to give every band who is starting in this time the advice not too lose their aim, not to desperate if they fail ten times, maybe the eleventh try will make it.
RoD: Tenacity should be honoured?
Volk-Man: I hope so, yes.
RoD: Thanks a lot for this interview.