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TheOther2022 01 byHeilemaniaInterview with

Rod Usher (vocals) from The Other

THE OTHER is considered as Europe’s best-known Horror-Punk band. Their eighth album, ‘Haunted’, was released in 2020 and went straight into the German charts. In the meantime, frontman and band founder Rod Usher - also known as Thorsten Wilms in everyday life - can look back on a twenty-year, thoroughly eventful band history.

A lot has happened in the past years: Performances at big festivals like Wacken, Summer Breeze, Amphi, M’era Luna and many more. There has also been constant movement within the band. Like recently, when drummer and founding member Dr. Caligari announced his departure. What does this mean for the band, now that THE OTHER can finally play their current songs live in front of an audience after the interruptions caused by the pandemic? I had the opportunity to meet Rod Usher in Düsseldorf and go on a journey into the past with him. Among other things, we talked about the history of the band, Rod’s personal musical influences, a very special Halloween event - and the THE OTHER audio-play.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: THE OTHER is celebrating twenty years as a band. How does that feel?
Rod Usher: Twenty years mainly manifests itself in the fact that we always have funny anecdotes that we remember every time we’re on the tour bus or backstage. It’s always funny because there are band members who haven’t been in the band for twenty years. It’s always really great fun to tell the old stories. But actually I feel the same way I used to. I’m just as excited about what we’re doing, I’m still just as amazed at the opportunities we’ve gotten and continue to get. Sure, you expect to celebrate twenty years, of course, because other bands don’t last that long. But on the other hand, it’s just another level. Actually, it’s not that special, the special thing is just that we’ve experienced a lot. But actually it’s just number. And I hope that we will still be able to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary!

RoD: How have you developed in these twenty years - musically and personally? The band line-up has changed several times during that time.
Rod Usher: The biggest development came after the third album, when we switched from my own label Fiend Force Records to Steamhammer / SPV. We suddenly had a budget to work on new material. That was with Waldemar Sorychta, who also did THE GATHERING, LACUNA COIL, MOONSPELL and many others. He took us to a whole different level, also in terms of promotion. The next step came when our bass player left. At that time, a friend of ours switched from guitar to bass for us. This suddenly made us much better musically. But the biggest step came definitely in 2015. Since then we have two guitarists in contrast to before - two damn good guitarists. And a very good bass player. A lot has changed in that time. There are some fans who say the rough and punky of the early days is gone. I partly agree with that, but I think we still make damn good music. It’s more elaborate now, there’s a lot more dynamic. I think we’ve evolved very naturally. Let’s see where the journey continues. Even though there is a change in the band again now, I hope it continues like this.

TheOther2022 04 byItWaitsArt

RoD: You mentioned a recent line-up change. Who is leaving and who is joining?
Rod Usher: Our drummer and founding member Dr. Caligari, who I played with in a cover band before THE OTHER, is leaving the band. It became too stressful for him. We play even more now than before, there’s a lot more to do, from social media to bookkeeping and so on. We do it on the side, we all have jobs. It’s actually very stressful a lot of the time. I understand his reasons, but it makes me incredibly sad that he’s quitting - right now, when things are starting up again after the Corona restrictions. But through Corona, many have changed their attitude, many have seen that a quiet life without many commitments can also be beautiful. Dr. Caligari and I part on best terms, I am sad but grateful for the time we had. It’s a cut. Currently there is another drummer with us, but I can’t say exactly what it will look like in the future.

RoD: How did it actually come about that you founded THE OTHER?
Rod Usher: Dr. Caligari and I played in two other bands. But I wanted to do more out of my own feeling, I was always a big fan of the RAMONES, DANZIG, BAD RELIGION etc. I then decided to form a MISFITS cover band and then came across him because he had played to me before. And so we formed a band. It went from there, we wrote our own songs, I started my label. I put out a compilation called ‘This Is Horrorpunk’ at the time, which first popularised the term. That’s how it went on - I can say that in all that time it was more forward than backward.

RoD: You are always in the spotlight as the singer and frontman of the band. How is that in your private life? What is the difference between Rod Usher and Thorsten Wilms?
Rod Usher: I feel totally good and safe on stage, I love what I do and I know how to do it. I like to be there in the spotlight. But privately, I don’t always have to be the centre of attention!

RoD: You are considered Europe’s best-known Horror-Punk band. Are horror and punk two genres that have always fascinated you?
Rod Usher: Before I met the MISFITS I didn’t know that they had anything in common. Then when there were the darkly dressed, made-up guys singing about horror films, I really absorbed it. I found it fascinating. For me, everything fit together. When I named the compilation that - I had read the term somewhere and found it totally fitting - and it sold well, especially in the USA, the term “horror punk” was also there. We didn’t found the genre, but we were the first to name it.

RoD: What music influenced you in your teenage years?
Rod Usher: At home I was surrounded by ELVIS PRESLEY, SHAKIN’ STEVENS and the BEATLES. That was certainly very helpful for what came later. But at the age of nine I was visiting a cousin who had been given a KISS record. That immediately got me massively excited. Then I started watching horror films on TV, and suddenly everything fell into place. From KISS I went on to harder metal music, to JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN, then I also listened to death metal. Through my younger sister I then came to the RAMONES and BAD RELIGION, and then I got more into 80s punk rock. And that’s what I still love.

TheOther2022 02 byFiremoonPictures

RoD: What was your most important or formative concert for you as a fan?
Rod Usher: When I was twelve I went to a concert by KISS in Düsseldorf, the supporting band was BON JOVI. My father came with me. It quickly became clear to me that this is what I want to do.

RoD: Did you grow up with music in your family? Did you learn to play an instrument?
Rod Usher: Yes, I learned the xylophone and the flute, then the acoustic guitar. The thing is, I’m pretty lazy. I wanted to switch to the electric guitar quickly, but I always found practising stupid. As for singing, I discovered my vocation late. I only became a singer at the age of thirty. But even as a child, when I sang in the nativity play, I was always told how beautifully I sang. Maybe I wasted some time and should have started earlier...

RoD: Was it a teenage dream for you to start a band?
Rod Usher: We had a school band when I was fifteen or sixteen. I actually sang one or two songs there. I don’t remember what the feedback was. But we were really bad! (laughs).

RoD: What does music mean to you today?
Rod Usher: Everything. Besides literature. I read a lot, but music is my passion, my life. It’s always with me in some way, and hopefully that won’t change. That’s me, that’s my identity.

RoD: 2022 is the year when it starts again after the lockdown, you can play live again. Is that a kind of liberation?
Rod Usher: Yes, it is indeed liberating to be able to play music in front of people again. I feel like life is starting again.

RoD: You now also play at big festivals like Wacken. Would you have thought back then, twenty years ago, how far you would get?
Rod Usher: The incentive was always there, the imagination definitely not. But in 2010 we played Wacken for the first time, that was something special. Of course, that was something completely different than before. Although we had big gigs before, we played with THE DAMNED, we were at the Summer Breeze Festival - but Wacken was a huge crowd of course. That was certainly a crucial gig for us.

RoD: How important is the direct contact with the fans?
Rod Usher: Very important. We are always at the merch stand after the concerts and chat with the fans. Many of them are now also good friends who have been coming to the concerts for years. A great group has developed, we see each other again and again. I am incredibly grateful for that.

TheOther2022 03 byHUSKY

RoD: Your current and now eighth album ‘Haunted’ was released during the lockdown. That means you only now have the chance to present the songs live. How are the fans’ reactions?
Rod Usher: We did a streaming concert on the day of the release and played the new songs live there. That’s how we first tested which songs were well received. It would be interesting to know now if people really realize that they are hearing the songs live for the first time, because they have known the album for two years. But of course the songs are different than on the record. ‘Vampire Girl’, for example, we play twice as fast on stage, and that goes down totally well. We’ll probably still be playing that one in ten years.

RoD: You write the lyrics. What inspires you, how do you find the words?
Rod Usher: Well, first I write the words that sound good. Often the first verse and the chorus are the things that take months to write. Then the studio date comes and I think, shit, I have to write a second verse - but it works! I often think in verses and rhymes. Lyrics come easily to me. Lately I’ve been moving away from horror themes and more towards real horror, dark themes. Life itself is like that, there are always lows, and life always has an influence on art.

RoD: How much of your personality do you reveal in your music?
Rod Usher: There are a lot of personal experiences and thoughts in it. On our last album there are many songs about the end of my relationship. But there are also earlier songs like ‘Tarantula’ or ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’ which are about nature taking revenge for what human beings have done to it. When I sing ‘I Love Dead Girls’, it’s a tribute to goth girls! The goth scene has always welcomed us really great. Anyway, it’s very nice to be able to communicate in the form of song lyrics.

RoD: Is there a song that means a lot to you personally?
Rod Usher: ‘Beware Of Ghouls’ from our first album. That was the song that gave us the absolute kick start back then. It’s still a fan favourite, and mine too.

RoD: What are your next plans? Are you working on new songs?
Rod Usher: For now I can only say ‘Corona was a bitch’. On the one hand we were very productive, we even released a radio play, but then came the big lethargy. The question is where we want to go with the band. Some say we should go back to our roots, others want to experiment more. The song-writing came to a standstill. And then the motivation started to vanish. It was a total hole, the biggest fiasco in the band’s history. In 2020 and 2021, because of the pandemic, everyone did their own thing, contact with the band and the fans was no longer really possible. There were no more weekly rehearsals, and so we lost our motivation. Now we are concentrating on the concerts, so song-writing has taken a back seat again. With ‘Demon Eyes’ we released a song last year and we still have a lot of ideas, but at the moment I don’t know when we will continue working on it.

TheOther2022 05 byItWaitsArt

RoD: There is also a THE OTHER audio play. Without revealing too much, it’s about the Heirs of Doom wanting to resurrect the dark god Esiarp to rule the earth with him and other dark creatures. Their adversaries are THE OTHER. So you must save the world. How did that come about?
Rod Usher: I gave an interview to my good friend Michael Krisch, a podcast, and that’s when the idea for an audio play came up. Another friend of mine, Thomas Williams, is a writer who now writes for John Sinclair. And he wrote a script for us, I was totally blown away, it was amazing! Great! We found a great cast of voice actors. It turned out very professional. One of the main characters is spoken by the erotic legend Conny Dachs. The author Wolfgang Hohlbein was also there, and Dr. Mark Benecke, Michael Rhein from IN EXTREMO, AnNa R. from ROSENSTOLZ, Joachim Witt, Mille Petrozza from KREATOR... and Michael Krisch as narrator. All of them did a great job. It was a kind of childhood dream that we realised there.

RoD: You have announced several more gigs this year. Is there a concert you are particularly looking forward to?
Rod Usher: Yes, and that’s our legendary Halloween concert in Cologne, on 31 October at the Carlswerk Victoria. We’ve been doing the Hell Nights on Halloween for more than twenty years, and it’s been getting bigger and bigger. In our scene, we probably do the most famous Halloween concert there is. The fans come from all over, and we always have great musical guests. It’s a kind of sacred ritual! This year we’ll be joined by THE FRIGHT, BLOODSUCKING ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE and LEFT HAND BLACK.

RoD: Thank you very much for the interview!

Currently confirmed tour dates
31/10/2022: Hell Nights on Halloween, Cologne, Carlswerk Victoria
11/11/2022: Hanover, LUX
12/11/2023: Kiel, die Pumpe
13/01/2023: Coesfeld, Fabrik Coesfeld
14/01/2023: Kassel, Goldgrube Kassel
11/02/2023: Düsseldorf, Pitcher (UNDEAD-UNMASKED-UNPLUGGED)
17/02/2023: Osnabrück, B.C. Osnabrück
18/02/2023: Hamburg, Molotow
10/03/2023: Wiesbaden, Kreativfabrik Wiesbaden
11/03/2022: Stuttgart, ClubCANN

Photos by:
01: Heilemania
02: Firemoon Pictures
04: ItWaitsArt
05: ItWaitsArt

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