Attic - Interview


After seven long years German heavy metal legends Attic have finally released a new album called "Return Of The Witchfinder" (read review here). Of course this was a wonderful reason to chat with their vocalist Meister Cagliostro and do some research about the reasons for this long waiting period and which role the ominous Witchfinder plays in the history of the guys from the Ruhr Area. And if you want to know what King Diamond, Hell and Powerwolf have in common, just go ahead and read the interview. Enjoy!

Michael

Hi, Meister Cagliostro, how are you doing? Nice to meet you finally face to face!

I'm fine, just having a coffee and being absolutely relaxed.

Let's start with the title – where was the Witchfinder up to now? I'm not aware that he played a role for you guys yet?

Well, there are two things. Our first Attic song we ever wrote and which is just to find on the demo called "On The Belfry" also deals with the Witchfinder and an accusation because of witchcraft so that he has a role in this song. We found that this would be a cool reference back to this song. And for the absolute insiders, I had a band back then and we had an album that only some friends knew and which was really shitty (laughs) which was named "Welcome The Witchfinder" and that was a really early concept album by me. Eventually I am pretty glad that it never saw the light of day because I don't like it too much nowadays.

Your new album got very good feedback everywhere. Were you surprised about this or did you expect that?

Of course we are fully convinced of our material, this is clear. We would never do a half-baked album or just even song and of course we like our stuff. But sometimes you might be blinded by the fact that you are fully into your own songs so that you're in your own bubble. Then you come out of this and everybody else throws their hands up in horror – this already happened to much more popular artists, for example with "Nostradamus" by Judas Priest. They probably thought that this would turn out to be a great, first concept album with an epic length, so much content, and the people would be blown away from that! Now everybody was expecting some "Painkiller" stuff and it was a nightmare! So this can happen anytime and there is no guarantee. But referring to ourselves, we hoped that it would be accepted in a positive way but we also considered that it would be a little bit more accessible than "Sanctimonious" with the whole story and it seems to be this way.

Many people including me had to wait a very long time for "The Return Of The Witchfinder" (7 years). Why the hell did it take so long?

I am a super slow song writer and I am hard to satisfy. If something isn't good, I don't want to do that so it takes some time. I mean, it isn't only me but I guess I am a huge factor in that. But we also did some very intense touring which also led to a break in songwriting…well, the years pass by and you don't have the feeling that it is such a long time actually. And when the album is done and you look back, you go "oh, this was already seven years again…!". When "Sanctimonious" was released I said in the interviews that we won't take such a long time again, the next album comes up within the next 2 ½ years – this was all a lie (laughs).

You already told me before our interview that the stories are partly loosely connected but don't have a real concept story. Maybe you can go a little bit more into detail with some songs you like most?

Well, of course they all are close to my heart and during the whole song-writing process for "Sanctimonious" we had so many good ideas but all under consideration of writing a concept album. So I had the story in mind what has to happen and of course when you start writing a new album, you just write and write because you have to fill out every aspect of the story. But the more was written the more specific the songs have to be for the gaps in the story that still exist. So you may need a mid-tempo track with some creepy tunes and out came many great ideas which we couldn't use for the story. So it was already during "Sanctimonious" logical for us that the next album won't be a concept album because of all the cool ideas we had which are better for some stand-alone songs. The A-side songs are loosely connected because they all deal with witches and the witch finder. But if you only have a few songs you don't introduce too many names or characters so this time there aren't any characters to find here. The atmosphere is much more important than that.

Is it more about the European witch hunts or do you refer to the US history where all this went on a little bit longer?

Well, we don't mention that explicitly. I find it better to leave a certain vagueness because everybody has their own imagination and their own fantasy is still the best. But of course if you take the British witchfinder general as a role model you have early modern age Great Britain before your inner eye and not Salem.

Your vocals are very theatrical and match perfectly to the songs. Do you dive into the story of the song to emphasize the whole thing?

That's a tricky question. When we write something new, it's always the atmosphere which is the most important thing. I have in mind how things have to feel and around this atmosphere the ideas circle. When I think that something matches to how the riffs sound, I make it to the topic of the song. Then I start to put myself into the position of the song, try different vocals and different characters and this all feels quite natural. I like to use direct speech to let the characters talk, this always makes fun and I think this is helpful for the atmosphere.

Your vocal range has become wider since the last album. Did you take some vocal lessons for that?

I take it as a compliment but I don't think so actually. I wouldn't say that I got a bigger range compared to "Sanctimonious". I would say between "The Invocation" and "Sanctimonious" happened more when it comes to my vocals but also nothing groundbreaking but the little things. I never had vocal lessons for the things I actually do. I did a drama course and with that came a lot of vocal training, elocution lessons and also singing. 2013 I had some vocal problems I don't know where they came from and it was really a huge effort to get it all clear before the shows. So I went to a vocal coach to learn some techniques for warming up just to have it in my repertoire if there is an emergency. So I took some lessons from a very good teacher who also is a countertenor at the opera – I wanted to get lessons from somebody who can sing falsetto otherwise I couldn't use it that well – and he gave me some good tools for the worst case. Nowadays I don't need that anymore, my vocal problems vanished after half a year, nobody knows why. These days I drink a beer and scream into the shower cabin or toilet to check how my voice sounds, the real warm-up for my voice I do during the set. This is quite similar to what Rob Halford does. I was quite astonished when I read that in an interview and I mean it is quite silly if you have to perform a set of 90 minutes; you cannot train your voice for about one hour before the real set. It is better to arrange the set that you can get through and your voice develops quite easy just like at a rehearsal. I guess this is much healthier.

Musically you are much heavier than on the predecessor, in some parts you even go into black metal when it comes to the riffing, for example in 'Hailstorm And Tempest'. Didn't you want to imitate yourself to this typical King Diamond/ Mercyful Fate worship?

Hm, well…these black metal influences we always had but they didn't come out that clearly on "The Invocation". Maybe it goes a little bit more into that direction since we have a new guitarist since 2019. He likes that style very much and has pushed us a little bit more into that way although we had this already with our former guitarist Robert on "Sanctimonious", too. On that album the title track also starts with some blast beats and a very black metalish riff. So there is to say that we always worked with that but we try to do this in a quite natural way and try to force anything or try to get away from any King Diamond comparisons. It just needs to fit well into the song and that's the way it has to be and if it fits, it fits and if not, not. In this case it is just a very traditional heavy metal song like 'Azrael' for example.

The stories in the songs have a very creepy atmosphere. If you could shoot a horror movie which matches to the music, would it be something more subtle like "Rosemary's Baby" or something gorier?

No, that would be something subtle. "Rosemary's Baby" is a great example. We all love this movie and this is a typical influence on us. I think our former guitarist who also is the director of all our music videos is also a huge friend of that. He instantly would say yes to something like that. And I love old Polanski movies, all the old Italian and 70s and 80s horror movies. Such a project would go more into this direction, some more aesthetic and subtle horror and not "Chainsaw Massacre". (laughs). And in the songs this is also very important for me. Here and there if it has to turn out more explicit, I have to do it explicitly but not in a cheap splatter kind. On "Sanctimonious" there are found some dead infant bodies but I have to say that to explain but the real hard part must be left to the imagination of the listener. This turns out the story much scarier than if you have some Cannibal Corpse lyrics where no detail is spared out. But again coming back to the movie question – if somebody reads this who is a rich funder – we take the bucks and shoot the whole "Sanctimonious" story and "Return Of The Witchfinder", our director would be really hot for that and I am 100% sure he would do a great job with that!

On stage you are very convincing which also depends on the opulent stage design. How important is this for you?

Well, since our beginning this was very important for us. Of course we built up our props, bought these massive oaken church railing, candles, fog machines… You always need some help and at the beginning we had nobody who helped us out nor did we have money, nothing. This isn't fun and I can fully understand every band that says I have to focus on playing my music and on a good sound. On a festival you may only have 15 minutes for checking everything and you don't want to be stressed with more work than necessary with heaving up some church balustrades on the stage but said for us that we get this done even if it is bugging and you don't know where to put it backstage. It was hard sometimes but this visual component was always very important that you also get this very special atmosphere also live. Not in a cheesy way like Powerwolf for example who carry some Styrofoam walls on the stage and where some nuns do some striptease but something that underlines the atmosphere. Nothing gimmick-like that the vocalist does in every song. I know that King Diamond does this too but this isn't our way. Or take Hell – I mean Andy Sneap doesn't have any more time for the band now but when they were active, every song came with some pyros, a doll was taken on stage, the vocalist wore a new outfit – this gimmick character is shitty for me but a coherent stage design is very important.

So no Attic on stage without a proper stage design?

No, there won't be a Kiss "Unplugged" show and I guess this would not fit for us (laughs).

When can we see you guys live again? I recently talked with Sakis from Funeral Storm and he told me that they would love to play with you because they love Attic. So there might be a chance even because you all know Vasili who does the Unholy Metal Mayhem festivals in Oberhausen?

Vasili is a good friend of us and we did at least one show at Unholy Metal Mayhem. There aren't any concrete plans but of course we would always like to do. Funeral Strom are great and am in touch with Sakis and we like each other's bands very much. Of course it is a great honor that if they would play in Germany they would like to play with us (laughs). Apart from that "Rock unter den Eichen" (in Bertingen; M.) and "Beyond The Gates" in Norway will be next shows. We haven't planned a tour so far but we will see when we can do this. We did in February the tour with Lucifer and Night Eternal, we'll see what we can do. It must be a good opportunity and affordable so we always have to check.

Last but not least – both King Diamond and Meryful Fate have said to release a new album. Which one are you looking forward to most?

I would honestly say King Diamond. I always found King Diamond much more interesting because it always sounded much more coherent, the story and the music. I know that many people love Mercyful Fate because of this crazy progressive touch and this is the cool thing that both bands are so different from each other. But for me Kind Diamond is more exciting because I imagine that in that band is a more balance between the music, lyrics and the vocals while Mercyful Fate always sounds to me like Henk Sherman is delivering a ready composed song and King Diamond is just putting on the lyrics. It isn't that smart with the music and the story and they don't complement each other like in King Diamond. Nevertheless it is great – 'The Jackal Of Salzburg' is really cool and of course I'm looking forward to both. The new King Diamond is going to become a double album according to him which shall be titled "The Institute" and this is what I'm looking forward to enormously because if it gets that opulent and he invested so much time in it, it only can turn out great.

Em, yes…or it will become such a boring thing like the last Iron Maiden album.

That did you say! Although I almost fell asleep while listening to it. 'Hell On Earth' and 'Stratego' are okay, I guess.

Entered: 7/10/2024 1:19:08 PM

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