We conducted this interview with Matthias Voigt of HEAVEN SHALL BURN on August 13, 2011.
You recently performed live in Korea. How was it? Did you enjoy playing there? Also, a couple of days before you rocked the main stage of the polish Woodstock Festival 2011, where about 700 000 people came.
Please describe both crowds and emotions.
Unfortunately I’m taking a break from playing shows at the moment, so I can’t say that much about the mentioned shows, but the guys told me that both had been amazing.
It wasn’t our first time in South Korea, we’d played there last year already and we loved it. People had been very enthusiastic, but friendly and respectful at the same time.
I remember some interviews before the show of last year. It seemed special to them to have a band from a country that had been divided too. There were many questions concerning that and it was interesting for me to answer.
If I’m not totally wrong, the Woodstock gig was just our second show in Poland ever. I think the difference couldn’t be much bigger between these two shows. I remember the one in 2004 as very hot and very energetic. The difference is that back in the days we mainly played in front of people who grew up in the hardcore-scene. At events like the Woodstock Festival there is a more diverse crowd. Even if I would have played there, it would be hard for me to compare.
The crowds and the kids in different countries react different towards the music, but I think they all share the same passion. There is only some kind of a cultural difference that makes the shows look different.
What about smaller venues? Do you miss the late 90s and the early 00’s? [Laughs] One of my biggest fantasies about me being a member of well-known metal/hardcore band is going back to the roots, changing the management and big concert plans and planning a small club tour that would bring the old memories back. So how does it look like in your case?
Actually I don’t miss these kind of small shows, because we still play them anyway. It happens once in a while, but we have special and small venues to where we will always come back. There also will be a time when we won’t get on those big festivals bills anymore, because of some decreased popularity… [laughs]. So there is the right time for everything and a show can be good or bad, the size of the venue or the number of people doesn’t matter.
We also keep things still under our own control. We only do what we really want to do. No management is telling us anything. We just do our thing, because we are the only ones, who really know what we want.
More than a year passed since your last album was published (“Invictus (Iconoclast III)“) and your fans are getting hungry. What are your plans about the nearest future? Did the writing process begin?
No, not at all. I think there won’t be anything new before 2013. We always had something like 2 years between two records, but it seems that we will take a bit longer this time. On the other hand, you never know. If we think that we got enough good ideas to make an album, we will just do it. Until now there might be some ideas already, but the songwriting itself didn’t start.
There is no doubt that you have improved a lot of aspects of your sound. At the same time there have been voices that your guitar work have gone through minimal change, you bet on repetitive riffs and cause the feeling of déjà vu staying too determined to stick to your tried formula. Both stands agree that you are still hugely promising and capable of amazing music achievements. Is there a certain direction you’d like to head?
Well, I think that we won’t ever really change. This is the music that we all like and so we’ll stick to it. We never tried to be innovative or even to re-invent the wheel. You know, we don’t even see ourselves as „musicians“. I think this is making us different from many other bands. We’re on the same level as the people who listen to our music and I really think people notice that and appreciate this at the same time. We don’t create „art“. We just express ourselves with the music. There is no thought about creating something new. We’re not the chosen ones… [laughs]. We’re not great musicians or anything. Music is an outlet and nothing else. We look up to bands or musicians who create something new, but it’s not our thing.
It is well-known that, despite your professionalism, HEAVEN SHALL BURN is not a 100% commercial enterprise band, touring heavily and living off music. At the same time, you have been sharing some news about your jobs and university careers. Could you please sum up what do you guys do in your everyday lives?
It’s hard to have this band running on such a level, including all the commitments concerning shows and tours. Our singer is working as a nurse for example and he has to work in different shifts, including night shifts and weekend. So everything needs to be well-organized to keep it going. Right now he is not working full-time as a nurse, he reduced the number of weekly working hours.
The same about our bass player Eric. He works as an ergo therapist and also cut some hours.
Alex has his own studio and he can influence his work schedule a little bit. Maik studied law and is now writing a thesis.
I, Matthias, just finished my studies. Right now I’m using my time to get well and ready to play shows again.
We never intended to have a full-time band, but things got bigger and out of hand. So right now we’re in the process of organizing things. It’s quite hard to keep everything running smooth on this level. But we still don’t want to focus on the band 100%. We need other things besides that. It’s necessary to have an input from every day life. What do you wanna write about if you’re only playing an instrument 24/7?
At the moment it would be possible for us to live only off the music, but we like to have things running besides that.
The things we shared about our careers on our DVD was more or less a joke. I hope most people could see this… [laughs]
What we love is that you have always been a band that has something interesting to say. Covering subjects ranging from social injustice, political blindness, racism and war, to philosophical topics, Germany’s struggle to reconcile with its past, etc.
What do you think about the London riots and do you think this has anything to do with the widening migration crisis and growing resentment towards the immigrants spreading across Europe?
It’s a social issue for sure. Governments are using this so-called economical crisis to raise the taxes and to cut off expenses for social projects, youth centers or education in general.
If you remember, in the 80s, Great Britain had been also a place with massive violence and riots. All that happened when the Margret Thatcher and the Tories ruled the country and under circumstances that had been similar to the ones in Europe today.
I can’t say that much about racism in Great Britain, but I think many immigrants never had the chance to get a decent job or to get the education they would like to get. They are the ones that are kind of „used“ for the jobs that don’t need a graduation or a good education. It all comes with lower salaries and that’s why all these people are forced to move to the cheaper suburbs where people with no chances for good jobs or a career are being gathered. That’s why other communities or societies develop within „our“ society.
Many immigrants, but also young British people are living in these suburbs. They built their own society. These times are like a revival of a new „No Future“-generation. These people got nothing to lose and they are just fed up with politicians and the rest of the society.
When policemen shot that guy, it all started, but there has been all that tension under the surface for too long already. People see that there are no equal rights and equal chances for everyone and this naturally leads to riots.
I think people in Britain, who watched the TV-news, saw all these young guys, many who looked like they were not born in the UK and those pictures could be a reason for more racism in the society. It’s easy to point at these people, because you got someone to blame and you don’t need to think too much. People everywhere love populist opinions. It’s for the ones who don’t like to use their brains and there are many of them, everywhere in the world.
Many forget that these riots were just a result of the situation, many young people in the UK are living in.
It’s not only the immigrants, also the English youth isn’t looking into a bright future.
Politicians don’t want to be the ones to blame, so they are just talking about these people like they were outlaws and the media helps them with the pictures you can see in the news and they way they talk about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I also know that there was stupid violence involved and actually violence is always stupid. But I don’t think that just the people are the ones to blame. It’s the politicians, the police, large parts of the economy and so on.
Unfortunately some people also used the riots to steal and to just do damage for whatever reason. I think that after some time things just got out of hand.
I just don’t see why people started to attack everything. There is still a difference between a multinational corporation being destroyed or a small, local health food store. It all ended in brainless violence and this can never be a good option.
Everything should have been a peaceful protest.
MySpace is gone, Bandcamp is alive and running, the major labels are suffering. What’s your outlook on the record industry today? What’s your opinion on spreading the music online, DIY culture and its ideologies? Are you still close to this ideal? Do you still support your local metal/hardcore/punk bands, labels and shows?
If I would know about the future, I would be rich already… [laughs] Personally I think that bands, artists and labels won’t make any money with the CDs or with the music itself anymore. They money will come in through merchandise and shows, but that’s no secret.
Actually for a band like us it is good, because we got our name out through the Internet as well. Some years ago already, people in Asia or South America got to know our band via the Internet. They couldn’t buy our CDs in stores and yes, for smaller bands, who don’t get airplay in the radio or in TV, the Internet is very useful.
About the DIY thing. We try to do as much as possible, but some things just became harder with sticking to this ideal. So we got other people and companies who are working with us or for us. We never thought if this still could be considered as „DIY“ or not. In general, we tried to have all decisions concerning the band in our hands. There is no one else, who is taking decisions in our name. This isn’t that common in the „music business“. Some bands just get told what they should do, but we always make sure that we only do what we really want to do. We do our thing.
About us, supporting the local scene: Well, we support things that we like and that we want to support. It’s always been like that. But we got more careful about that. We don’t support anyone, just because he’s local or something. It’s fair to say that we support people, who don’t ask for support… [laughs].
If there are shows and we’re at home, we still go to shows. Less than in the past, but that’s only because we all like to have some time at home with our family or girlfriends.
Do you agree with the opinion that the technological progress is inevitable, accelerates and changes the world, therefore we need to adjust? Are you a heavy Internet user? Do you use a smartphone or a tablet? What do you think about the social media and the mobile gadget revolution?
Of course, we all enjoy progress and new technical ideas, but we need to be careful that it won’t take over our personal life. Compared to some years ago, so many things, especially in the way we communicate, have totally changed. You need to be available 24 hours and if you’re not, you got a problem. People expect faster decisions and communication. It’s good and bad at the same time. I think there is not that much we can do about it, as a single person. It’s really one of the few things, we can’t influence in any way.
Thank you for your time. We wish you the best of luck in all your future plans, both personal and professional. We’re looking forward to catch you guys live again.
Thanks a lot for the questions and the patience ;)
I don’t really separate personal from professional things, because it all comes together in one package. You can’t achieve personal happiness when things go wrong in your working life or your career.
So right now I’m very much focused on getting back on stage and things are looking good at the moment. I just need to be a patient and work hard.
As a band, we will tour this year and play some Summer festivals throughout Europe. At the end of the year, we might start working on a new album, but it won’t be out before 2013. So keep your eyes open!
In other news, HEAVEN SHALL BURN guitarist Alexander Dietz did a remix of AS I LAY DYING‘s “Upside Down Kingdom“:
“The Weapon They Fear” video:
“Black Tears” video: