Artist: Alex Krull, lead singer for Atrocity
Label: Napalm Records
Interviewed By: Ken PierceInterview Date: 3/30/2008 Photo By: Ken Pierce (2007)
Alex Krull is the imposing and dynamic front man for the band Atrocity and for the past couple of years he has also been a part of the growing popularity that is Leaves’ Eyes, the Gothic Metal sensation that’s fronted by his wife Liv Kristine. As a band, Atrocity has walked many different paths over the course of their career and while beginning as bone crushing Death Metal have morphed into Symphonic Melodic Death and even touched upon that which is Gothic. Capable of delivering surprise after surprise, the band followed up the epic “Atlantis” with a second volume of classic 80’s New Wave with “Werk 80 II”. We snared some time with Alex and talked about things Atrocity, Leaves’ Eyes and life as a touring musician with a family. Read on for his insight into the new album, videos that are in the making and how he manages to keep a balance with all of these exciting projects.
PiercingMetal: Before we discuss the new album, let’s talk a little about the band in the touring sense. The last time that Atrocity appeared in the States was during an Extreme Metal festival which made a stop at the now closed down CBGB’s in NYC. Since the group went over so well at this appearance, I had expected to see you performing again shortly after but it didn’t happen. Why doesn't the band gtover to this region a little more often?
Alex Krull: Yes, you are right; the US shows we did went very well! And I have to say it's a pity that couldn't have the chance to come over more often with Atrocity to the states, also back in the past of the band! At least we managed to tour a couple times with Leaves' Eyes in the meantime, and we'll be back with Leaves' Eyes in September and maybe we have the chance to play also some shows with Atrocity then or in the future. Well, let's see. In the moment we are happy that we finished the album, after we toured nearly in 40 countries in the last years with our two bands Atrocity and Leaves' Eyes and on top we had this big production with a symphony orchestra and choir for the "Werk 80 II" record! So it took all a little bit longer than expected but we are very happy with the result. Many fans allover the world asked for another WERK 80 album, so here we are and we had great fun producing it as well as it contains new ideas and elements, too!
PiercingMetal: The next thing I want to talk about is the departure from of Christian Lukhaup and Moritz Neuner from Leaves Eyes. Given that they were also a part of Atrocity, can I assume that they have also decided to leave that band as well. What is the scoop on this major upheaval since it affects two touring bands.
Alex Krull: Yes, that means they are not in both bands anymore. We decided to split with Chris, because there was no more working base and before that Moritz made the decision to leave the band for private reasons. For the new Werk 80 II record Chris was not involved in the writing process even he loved the idea doing that record. Moritz was never really involved in the songwriting process of both bands at all. He did his studio and live job and was booking the band. We are the same creative team which was doing the music of Atrocity in the past, so nothing really changed if it comes back to the musical aspect. We had an exciting time together with the guys, especially with Chris who is also a longtime friend and wish both all the best for the future. Now, Nick Barker is the new drummer, who was before in Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Testament and he is an old buddy of us. I know him since we toured with Deicide in 1992 - Nick was the drum tech of the support act Cancer who were opening the UK shows for us. Alla Fedynitch is the new session bassist, she is playing with the two projects of Waldemar Sorychta, Enemy of the sun and Eyes of Eden, and she was bassist in Peter Tägtgren's Pain before. We will see soon if she will be a steady member.
PiercingMetal: Let's move on to the new release. Regarding "Werk 80 II"; I am wondering what made you decide to release a second chapter to this idea given the fact that the first one clearly left your longtime followers a bit confused.
Alex Krull: Already in the production period of the last "regular" Atrocity album "Atlantis" we decided to record a new Werk 80 record! We thought it is a good idea after ten years to record an album like this, to play compositions from others in our typical band style. In those days as we recorded the first WERK 80, fans, DJ’s and people from wherever in the music business were coming up wish lists to record an album in the same way. Even many bands and musicians came to us asking for a following up of this uncommon project due to its success. But we didn’t want to do it in those days. It was clear to us that if we want to do something like this again, we need to have a break in between and also we had to receive new and fresh musical input. One idea was to boost the classical parts on the album and to substitute the electronic elements with them which was a lot of work but well worth it! ‘WERK 80 II’ is dynamic, vital and rocks like hell! The album was just hitting the German charts at rank 19 and Austria's Top 100 at rank 74 which was the first time for us and our record label too, and they are an Austrian company, so they are quite happy I guess hahaha ---and of course it is very nice for everybody! So many fans are very much into this unusual project again, that's awesome!
PiercingMetal: I grew up on many of these songs myself, yet I could hardly envision doing them had I been the leader of band that is most known for delivering such crushing Death Metal. Do you fear that such an experiment tampers with the music Atrocity did in the past or questions their relevance in the larger Metal arena. Do you even care what people think?
Alex Krull: We listen to our hearts and we care about our fans! And as I mentioned before so many fans were asking for a follow up record of Werk 80, too! I guess our fans love us because we stick to ourselves and our way to explore the fields of metal music! You have to see that we are not the "typical" metal band which wants to try to record the same thing allover again and again! We were formed in 1985 and I saw so many bands and trends coming and going in that long time since we started, and so many musicians said "Oh yes, we are so true and we will do this forever, we are real blablabla bullshit" --and they split up and become something totally different! Well I tell you something, we really try to live the spirit of being a free artist and my lifestyle is Metal, that's what I'm doing every fucking day! Heavy Metal means FREEDOM to me and not living with fucking rules, man. And I really don't care about people who want to put you in certain directions and who are coming up with stupid rules! I judge music if it's good or bad for me and not if it fits in a special category. You know, we see ourselves as artists who are finalizing own musical ideas in miscellaneous ways without limits but with infinite creativity. A good actor has to play different roles too, a successful script writer or director has to be able to put on a drama or an action-packed thriller too. I see a similarity between them and us as metal musicians who dare to look beyond one’s own nose as you can see on the new WERK 80II. We didn’t interpret any metal songs intentionally but Pop and Wave classics of the eighties. We dare things that other bands wouldn’t dare to. But we love musical challenges even if some people will never understand the philosophy of the band. We give a damn, because we have our own visions how the band has to sound like. Artistic diversity is enrichment and certainly not a flaw at all. A great example are the great classical composers and soundtrack writers who are able to produce new impressive works with a given concept which can be very diverted in an emotional and atmospheric level!
PiercingMetal: Do you think it might have been wiser to release this as an Alex Krull solo abum as opposed to a new Atrocity album?
Alex Krull: I really don't get your question...? Hahaha! WE are Atrocity and I guess some people over in the states may not know everything about us because not everything was released in the US officially, but we were not only forerunners of technical Death metal in the late 80s early 90s we also have a long past where we have been involved in developing a lot of new things in the metal world. So this Werk 80 idea for example was copied so often from other bands until now, and some bands even told me that right in the face. It should not sound arrogant or something like that but it's a fact. Well, the whole thing actually started out of a mad idea how those songs would sound like if we played them. There were never any commercial ulterior motives or such to do it. We already did a Metal cover version from a Demo song by DEATH called “Arch Angel” on the “Todessehnsucht” album. But the idea to do a complete album with non-Metal songs occurred as we made good experiences by working together with musicians from completely different, musical backgrounds. A first step was definitely the acoustic Ethno-Metal album “Calling The Rain” with my sister Yasmin which was really something extraordinary for a Death Metal band. With WERK 80 another aspect arises as well, which appeals to us by setting completely different songs to our music. One Metal band covers another Metal band is actually nothing special anymore and to look at it from the musical side it is a much greater challenge for us to attain a new and good outcome from a song which is stylistically different to what you normally do. In 1995, we recorded covers and new versions of our songs on “Die Liebe” together with the Dark Wave band DAS ICH. On the one hand it was a big step to show that the Metal and Gothic scene was growing together, on the other hand it showed to us musicians that it worked very well if a band like ATROCITY can do something in this way. It is funny and significant that we together did a cover from LAIBACH which are very well known for their covers too. Anyway, shortly after that we did a successful cooperation with the Gothic band LACRIMOSA and the Synth band SILKE BISCHOFF. It was a lot of fun and suddenly there was an amount of people from the Gothic scene that caught attention to us and wanted to work together. The idea to WERK 80 was in our heads much earlier than that but we didn’t feel that time was right to do it. When we entered the studio the next time to record an album with some kind of project character (after we did the “regular” and mighty “Willenskraft” album, which contains some real heavy songs like “Scorching Breath”, “Bloodstained Prophecy” or “The Hunt”), a lot of people started puzzling what comes next. As it came out that we will record WERK 80, a complete album with hits from the eighties, a lot of people said we went absolutely crazy without even listening a single note from the album. Many of them asked themselves why the hell does a Metal band do a cover album of eighties Pop and Wave classics? But this is IT, this adds zest to it, man! Many ignorant people didn’t get it until now. It is guaranteed not the case that we wanted to become a Pop band and to dissociate from Metal music. This is complete nonsense and in principle we do the exact opposite of it! We transform Pop and Wave songs into Metal songs and not the other way round. We do our thing and we are not a band that wants to record the same thing over and over. I know a couple of musicians who really envy us for doing something like WERK 80. As WERK 80 became a real seller and entered the charts besides all the prophecies of doom and killjoys, a lot of people suddenly came up to us completely enthusiastic, the same people who once threw their hands up in horror! I got inquiries from all different places if I’d like to do similar projects with other bands and producing it. And many bands have tried shortly after that to do similar cover versions, as nowadays, when it got clear two years ago, that we work on another WERK 80 album again. Who cares, it doesn’t matter to us now as in the past. In fact we think it’s much cooler that for example in Wacken, thousands of raised fists from Metal heads from all over the world scream along “Shout” and the other songs. Or as we cleaned up as headliner of the biggest Gothic event in this world, the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig(Ger)! Who would ever had thought before?
PiercingMetal: The release of "Werk 80 II" comes at a time when there are so many cover albums that the idea is not viewed as original and instead seems more commonplace now. What are you thoughts in presenting something like this when we are finding such albums by bands like Queensryche, Poison, Tesla and now even Ministry being done.
Alex Krull: To be honest I don't know these other records, and I don't know if those bands know us either. Like I said as we did the first WERK 80 album nobody was doing something like that before as a metal band. When we announced some years ago that we will do follow up album it seemed to be inspiring for others as you can see a couple Euro band try to do the same thing from the Metal, Gothic and Electro scene, and people keep on telling me that some bands want to jump on the successful "Werk 80 train" or something like that hahaha---it doesn't bother us so much we are doing other musical things as well anyway.
PiercingMetal: What would you say that your favorite numbers are from “Werk 80 II”? If you could have swapped any songs which would you have done so with. I mean if you had the chance to replace a number or two with something else.
Alex Krull: I can't really tell which is my favorite song. "Forever Young" I dedicated to my son Leon Alexander. When I mixed this song it was a very emotional moment for me. In general I think these are the right tracks we picked for the second WERK 80. As it was clear we will work with an orchestra and choir and giving the whole thing a more symphonic touch we already made our minds which could be the right ones to do. Of course there could be some other tracks, too, so who knows, maybe we will do a 3rd part some time in the future. There was also another idea and concept about the Werk 80 record we didn't record this time, so we will see...but at the moment we have other plans in mind.
PiercingMetal: What has the response been like to the album?
Alex Krull: The feedbacks have been really great. We have huge feedbacks in the rock and gothic clubs over here and the songs are played everywhere so far and we already hit several club charts with that album which is very unusual for a Metal act in general. Well, it's not really all about charts, success and shit. It's much more important to us that people appreciate what we are doing! It was just quite funny that some stores were completely sold out when the record came out and there were no CDs left for their Top 20 CD sales racks anymore hahaha surprise, surprise---a crazy German Metal band playing Pop and Wave classics...some people don't get it what we are doing and don't like us for recording another Werk 80 album. Well, so what?
PiercingMetal: “Atlantis” was such a powerful release and clearly laid some new musical ground for Atrocity. Why didn’t you follow this album up with more original material. Is the follow up to this one even in the planning stages and if so care to give us some insight into it.
Alex Krull: Yes, we have already some new plans coming up. We will start a dark trilogy in the near future which will be in the vein of Atlantis album, even more heavy, epic and bombastic! But before that we will do an acoustic project album together with my sister Yasmin like we did in the mid 90s with the MCD "Calling The Rain"!
PiercingMetal: I want to flip back and forth between Atrocity and Leaves Eyes a little bit for a few moments. The ease of reaching a wider demographic of Metal fans seems very clear with the music that you do in Leaves Eyes. To what do you attribute this success.
Alex Krull: Maybe it's not so hard to follow Leaves' Eyes than the "metal chameleon" Atrocity hahaha...just kidding, but I really think the people like to dive into the musical world of Leaves' Eyes, and they like the strong and unique combination of Liv's outstanding vocals, symphonic musical elements, deep metal guitars and aggressive male vocals as well as the lyrical concept based on Northern nature and mythology! It's really great how things go for Leaves' Eyes---and we are very thankful for that.
PiercingMetal: How hard is it to get into the writing head for Atrocity and then flip the coin and be in the creative mode for Leaves Eyes.
Alex Krull: We see it right now. After this long touring process and the breaks in between where we had to finish the work for the new Atrocity "Werk 80 II" record, it's now time for the new Leaves' Eyes album production! And we have plenty of great new ideas which has to be released out of our heads after we were releasing the latest "Legend Land" MCD almost 2 years ago. It’s always clear when we start to write material for which band we are doing it at that moment!
PiercingMetal: The lovely Mrs. Krull fronts Leaves Eyes and you come out every song or two to lend the necessary "beast" factor to the mix. Do you like this as a role in the band or will we find some of the future Leaves Eyes material having a larger male vocal presence in the future.
Alex Krull: To be honest if it's up to me I would really like to keep it that way! On tour Liv and the rest of the guys like to push me to be on stage more often and of course it is great to play all together, but I think it should always be the right mixture for this band.
PiercingMetal: How different is it to be touring with Atrocity as it is to touring with Leaves Eyes, and how hard is it to be a husband and wife team of performers on the road so much, after all you are parents. Since there are obviously other musicians who might have children reading this, what advice can you offer them on doing this effectively.
Alex Krull: Actually we try to keep our touring plans separated but sometimes if it's making sense we still go together on tour like last year when we toured the Baltic states together. It's quite heavy to play with both bands in a row, I can tell you that hahaha but we manage it! When you are on the road with your own wife it's of course a totally different situation on a tour bus than at home where you have 100% privacy. And if you bring your children on tour the whole team has be to fair and gentle enough to respect the situation having kids on board. That means less noise but not less fun! If you go on tour you should always take care that the kids have the chance to go out to some nice places with the parents. We often go swimming, to museums, Nature Parks and so on. Leon really likes the big toy stores in the states and when we went to Disneyworld.
PiercingMetal: What is it like for your son to come traveling with Mom and Dad as they deliver the Metal in places a youngster wouldn’t ordinarily see. Any special memories or stories on this to share?
Alex Krull: It's always great to have Leon with us. He is 4 years now and a huge drum fan! Everybody loves him to be on tour. When we have played at the Monterrey Metal fest it was the highlight of the tour for Leon: There were like ten drum kits ready for sound check on the big stage! He felt like to be in Paradise and he went to our mates of Deicide and Obituary to join their drum check hahaha. Steve and Donald were very patient and were impressed by Leon's long hair hahaha. Matze's son Paul was also coming along with us a couple days in Europe, then the two little rockers showed us what's really Rock'n'Roll and jumped all around the tour bus!
PiercingMetal: Regarding stage image, your own is rather imposing as you are a giant of a man and your hair is the longest that I have seen on any singer. During the shows you head bang so much it literally pummels those who dare to stand too close to the stage. Just how long is it and how do you maintain it?
Alex Krull: Hahaha---the length of the hair is about 1,20 m---that’s what I have in mind when German Metal Hammer made a family report about us a couple years ago. They asked me about the length of my hair back then---maybe it's even longer now, I don't know...I don't really do any special things with my hair, I just let it grow since many, many years--that's all.
PiercingMetal: As someone who has been involved in the Metal scene for a number of years, you have lived through some changes most assuredly. In your opinion what is the current state of affairs in Metal and what things need to be done or need to change in order for it to continue to prosper.
Alex Krull: Metal was told to be dead about one million times but the music always survived all trends and up and downs. That’s why I don't understand that people are always afraid of new influences and elements? Without that the Metal music would not be so exciting anymore, just imaging there would have been never Speed or Thrash Metal because nobody would dare to play faster riffs hahaha I can only speak for myself and I always liked the most extreme way of metal and music in general, if you want to keep the Metal alive then don't cut off the creativity by narrow minded thoughts!
PiercingMetal: Who do you find yourself listening to for inspiration or just enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be all Metal bands but I am wondering who impresses you out of the scene nowadays.
Alex Krull: In the moment I like to listen to some classical music and soundtracks sometimes. It's just relaxing your soul and inspiring at the same time. One of the newer albums I liked a lot was the Lamb of God output "Sacrament". I always love to listen to my all-time faves Celtic Frost, Slayer, Judas Priest and so on. I just had a nice conversation with Nick about all the old stuff which was great! Some of the old classics never can be done better! They will be always great music. A band besides the metal genre I like very much is Laibach, like us they are a musical chameleon and they did some really great covers, too!
PiercingMetal: You are remastering the Atrocity back catalog of albums for release on Napalm Records. How excited are you for this event and what do you hope comes of it for the band.
Alex Krull: Yes, I've almost remastered the entire back catalogue at our own Mastersound Studio and there were indeed some things from the old recordings to do better sound wise. It was real fun and treasures like BLUT, WILLENSKRAFT, CALLING THE RAIN, DIE LIEBE, TODESSEHNSUCHT or our debut album HALLUCINATIONS are gleaming now in new splendor. Some of the album were really hard to get or not available at all because they were sold out. It would be a shame not re-releasing these albums again. It is also a chance for our latest fans to get an overall view from the creative drive of the band ATROCITY and their diverse projects in the past. We were always giving our best at the moment we were doing these albums. Sometimes there is a chance to improve a little bit of it which makes the whole thing even more interesting! I enjoy very much to listen to all the old "classics" right now-that's a real nostalgic time travel!
PiercingMetal: Which is the album that you are most eager to work on and what sort of bonuses can the fans expect on them.
Alex Krull: I guess I was quite happy to work on the famous vampyre concept album BLUT from 1994 which sounds far better now. It was a very important release for us because on that album we did a lot of experimental stuff and actually it was the basic release for some interesting cooperation’s for our future works like with Yasmin or Das Ich. Some releases containing bonus materials, too. For example the "Hallucinations" album contains 2 CDs including the Blue Blood from 1989, The Hunt EP 1996 and live material from 1992.
PiercingMetal: I know Leaves Eyes has finished filming a live performance DVD, care to discuss a little about that one? What will we see and how good did the film come out.
Alex Krull: We will hopefully release soon our first Leaves' Eyes DVD which contains a lot of great footage of Leaves' Eyes and the world touring we did and also the special show we made with our Viking ship at the Belgium Metal Female Voices Fest "En saga i Belgia"! I just saw the first cut of the filming and it looks fantastic! The Viking ship, the audience, the light and effects and all the special moments of the show turned out great.
PiercingMetal: Any chance we will see a live Atrocity DVD any time soon? Perhaps both new and archival footage can be included on it and some documentary.
Alex Krull: We are still working on it, but this DVD will be more like a documentary film! It will contain footage from the late 80’s until today. We made a lot of effort for this already, a lot of interesting interviews with different musicians, fans and press people will be included and some surprises as well. We will feature a lot of old friends from the past like Carcass, Sodom, Obituary, Peter Tägtgren or our friends of the Gothic scene like Das Ich and so on. I hope we can finish it this year…
PiercingMetal: You always seem interested in interacting with the crowds at the performances of both Atrocity and Leaves Eyes that I have seen. How important is that for you as a musician.
Alex Krull: I really like to work with the audience, it's the moment on stage where you can interact with the people while they are listening to your music! A live show should be exciting! I like it when just special moments appear while the concerts, and which you will keep in your memories forever. I will never forget when we played Wacken one time I just told everybody let's hold on for a second and keep this moment forever--and yes it's still there hahaha After the show we always go out to merchandise and sign autographs and we have a talk with the fans! That's very important for us and we will always doing this.
PiercingMetal: You obviously meet a lot of young musicians when you are at the shows, what kind of advice can you offer someone who wants to pursue a career in music?
Alex Krull: As a producer I work a lot with young bands in our own Mastersound studio. As I work for a record company as A&R talent scout, too, I made very often the experience that young bands don't really dare to do something new. Most of the newcomers want to follow the path of their idols. Maybe one "advice" could be try to create your own thing.
PiercingMetal: Outside of the band and family life, what does Alex Krull like to do with his time.
Alex Krull: I don't have so much free time besides that all. But if I find some time I'm very much into historical and mystical books and documentaries. And yes, I like to play some ego shooters hahaha but I never have time for that...
PiercingMetal: OK, so new album, re-releasing of your back Atrocity catalog and some new Leaves Eyes stuff. What does the future hold for Alex Krull and both Atrocity and Leaves Eyes?
Alex Krull: So this year the new Leaves' Eyes record will be finished hopefully in the summer time and then we start to record the next Atrocity Ethno semi acoustic album with my sister Yasmin. Of course we will also play some summer festivals and we are having tour plans for autumn and winter time. As I mentioned before we will return to the US in September with Leaves' Eyes on our tour with Amorphis, Samael and Virgin Black. I hope the Leaves' Eyes DVD will be out by then and we will surely start writing songs for the dark Atrocity trilogy which we want to record in 2009. There are a lot of touring plans for 2009 so this will be another busy year for sure....
PiercingMetal: Any other items you want the readers to be aware of please indulge us.
Alex Krull: We wanna thank everybody for their great support and we hope to see you guys soon on tour again!!!
PiercingMetal: Thanks for your time, best of luck in everything.
Alex Krull: Thanks for the interview!
As mentioned in the dialogue, Alex is preparing to release a complete remastered catalog of the early Atrocity albums and this is stuff that is a recommendation for the discerning Metal head. Watch your release calendar from Napalm Records to see when you can get copies of these recordings as I am quite certain you will not regret doing so. The touring also continues with Leaves’ Eyes and a new CD and DVD will be forthcoming from them in the not too distant future. Having seen both bands perform I am very excited about these items and it seems as though we shall have our hands full of Metal as a result of these endeavors.
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Official Web Site: www.atrocity.de
Official Web Site: www.leaveseyes.com
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