Winds - Interview
Even though Winds is another all-star band from Norway (and you all should know how I feel about those kinds of projects by now), after checking the line up I immediately knew that we are here for a special treat. Lars Eric Si (vocals), Carl August Tidemann (guitar), Jan Axel von Blomberg (drums) and Andy Winter (keys) are the names behind this band and if you’ve heard their work with other outfits (Arcturus, Mayhem, Kovenant, Tritonus, Khold…) you’d know that they don’t disappoint their fans. After the very good mini CD “Of Entity and Mind” came time for a full-length, “Reflections of the I”. And what can I say? It’s one of the most intelligent, mesmerizing and captivating albums I’ve heard to date. It’s a perfect blend of classical music with metal, from outstanding lyrics performed by Lars to flawless musical arrangements “Reflections of the I” deserves a listen by everyone to whom music is more than just an entertainment. Winds create art of the highest class. So, without further introduction I strongly recommend picking up this masterpiece and reading what Andy Winter and Jan Axel von Blomberg had to say about it.
How did Winds come to life? Did the overall vision of band's sound and music direction have any effect on the selection of the members?
AW: Basically, how it started out was a little bit a coincidence actually where it started out being kind of like a project that eventually developed a little bit here a little bit there by coincidence, everyone come together. And than after we recorded the first CD, when we kind of didn't have a clear plan of what is going to be happening with Winds, after that the four members forming the Winds today we decided that we want to keep doing this and pursue the band further and we decided to make it a band instead of just a project and we continued working on it till where we are today.
Actually I just wanted to ask you does heavy involvement of Winds members with other bands makes this band a side project or fully functional band? So, you are a regular band now.
JA: Yeah, absolutely. I have all sorts of different bands and project and I also do a lot of work as a session musician but it's not the case with Winds because Winds is...
AW: Your band as well.
JA: You bet it is. [laughs]
AW: Absolutely, and also the other thing is that Jan Axel is really the only member who has the major bands on the side because the other members of Winds really don't. For me, Carl and Lars Winds is the only band and our main priority. All the other involvements we have are just minor side projects and not really that significant when it comes down to it. [laughs] I know Carl works on his solo album and things like that and he also has Tritonus but Tritonus really hasn't been able to do too much lately because I think they're very busy with other things and because of he's involvement with solo album that he's working on and that will be actually happening. Lars is no longer playing in Khold so for him it's only Winds too.
That's great to hear cause I already can't wait for the follow up...
AW: You just got it and you already want a follow up? [laughs]
It's not like I just got it... I listen to it for at least 3 week now.
AW: OK, that's better. [laughs]
What were you and other members looking for while joining this band? Looking at the list of bands you guys play with you cover almost all aspects of metal, from black to power. (Mayhem, The Kovenant, Arcturus, Tritonus, Khold, Sensa Anima, and now Winds)
AW: For me personally what it was is to explore new musical ground and to do something different. I mean, what I've been doing in my background before is more like I played in different rock bands and things like that and never really played in any metal bands. So, for me it's interesting to venture new grounds and I think it's also this same for everyone; it's something different from what they've done before. It's always a goal to try to evolve musically and not to get locked into one thing because if you do that you can very easily become locked as a musician and not grow musically.
JA: I'm sure that we have some aspects of other metal styles in our music but I feel that with Winds we have our own sound and I haven't really heard any other metal or rock band I can categorize with us or compare to.
I don't want to give your band any tags like dark/progressive metal or anything like that cause I don't think that other than characterizing Winds as just a beautiful music, anyone can fully describe you sound...
AW: I accept your description. [laughs]
Do you have your own description of your sound?
JA: Do we? I don't know.
AW: No, the thing is a lot of us really hate labeling music. It's like people have to put labels on everything. I think that any label you find for Winds it won't completely cover what it is and it's better to take music for what music is and just listen to it. If someone wants to put a label on it that's fine with us but we're not going to put any label on it. We're just going to say it's music and that's it.
JA: All that I can say is that it's in realm of rock and metal. That's for sure but it also incorporates classical music so, if you had to you could call it a neo-classical-progressive metal.
AW: Yeah, that at least should cover our first MCD.
JA: Our new albums is a little bit different; it's heavier, it has a little bit different sound, it's more...
AW: I agree. You can come up with many different labels but at the end you wont find one that would suite our sound. It has neo-classical element, classical elements, progressive, elements of jazz and pretty much anything. All musical skeletons we have we try to put into our sound. [laugs]
It has to feel great to come up with something new that no one can really put a tag on it especially in today's scene where almost hundreds of bands are formed every year?
JA: It does. That's the reason we stayed as a band and wanted to make it a full time band. We felt we have something unique going on and I think Winds is really making a name for themselves.
Musically you represent one of the best blends I've ever heard of technicality and taste without compromising the atmosphere and overall melancholic feel of the album. Did you make it one of your main goals while writing "Reflections of the I"?
AW: I think when we wrote the album we didn't really keep in mind that we're going to make it this way or that way, it was more just writing the material and coming from our feelings and musicianship and trying to create something based on ourselves. For me at least it's a very personal album I've put a lot of my personality into songwriting and pretty much everything. But I think also that it's really important thing for us to not to overuse our technical skills even though in my opinion everyone in the band is quite superior as far as technical musicianship but it's important to keep in mind that technique is not what makes great music. It's actually taste and feelings. For me it's important to write the music that can be on a high technical level but it also has to have a good musicality behind it, it's really important...
JA: Absolutely, it's good to have technical skills but musicality has to be good too. If you can combine those two together then you can make something special.
AW: I think we kept in mind to do so and that's why our music is so diverse with some intense sections with really fast double bass drums and really fast guitar picking and also quiet parts with jazzy typo of beats and very symphonic parts with strings and piano.
The music just flows from the speakers... After listening to the album I had the felling that I wasn't listening to your first full-length CD but rather to a group of people that played together forever. It seems like each one of you feeds of each other and Winds wouldn't exist without one of you, is your music in any way a reflection of the relationship between the members?
JA: Yeah, I think that's one of the things that makes this band so special. Each one of us throws something unique... My drumming, Carl's guitar and Andy's writing and excellent musical skills make like the essence of this band. I think it pretty much lies in the name of the band; Winds is a perfect name for this unit...
AW: We must not forget about Lars...
AJ: Sure, sure...
AW: [laughs]... who does a lot of work also with strings and vocal arrangements. I have to agree with you and actually other people have said it too in their comments about the band and when we talked about it we've said that if one of the members is not in Winds it's not really Winds anymore. Our music is really a reflection of four of us.
AJ: We are like four winds; West, East, North and South. We just don't know which one is which yet. [laughs]
AW: I also had a comment on... Oh shit, I forgot. What were we saying before this winds stuff?
The way you guys feed of each other musically?
Oh, I remember what you've said now but I think my comment was totally lost. Maybe I'll think of it and come back with it later on.
OK, so lets move on... there are too many great songs to mention, almost all of them...
AW: Almost??? [laughs]
Yeah, cause some of them are more like intros to the real songs and that's why I've said almost... All songs are great, I'm sorry, it won't happen again...
...But 'Reason's Desire' with its beautiful music and lyrics moved me so deeply that for the first time in years I dusted off my guitar and started playing again. I was promising myself to do this for a long time but this album actually made me do it. How does it feel to know that your music inspires people all over the world?
JA: It feels very good.
AW: It feels awesome and it's really an inspiration for us too to hear that other people are inspired by our music, it really is and there's nothing more rewarding for us as a musicians to hear that.
JA: It's the best complement you can get as a musician.
Inspiration by classical music is well evident; use of piano and the full string of violins enhances the dreamy fell and adds more natural touch instead of computer or keyboard driven effects. Are you against using artificial effects or in your mind there's no place for them in your music?
AW: I'm not against it but as you've said there's no place for it in our music because Winds is a very organic band. If you want something to have a violin feel to it use real violin and not just a keyboard that has a violin sound. Actually we've got a review from a magazine that really liked the mini CD and they though that very very modest use of synthesizers that I've used on this album enhanced our sound and they've missed it on our new album. All I have to say to that it's not really our sound and on our MCD we worked towards to find our sound and on the new album we found it. We now know what it is and keyboards are not part of it and there won't be much use of it in the future. We're going to use acoustic instruments of different kinds tied in with our normal instrumentation.
And speaking of what was on MCD and it's not part of the "Reflections of the I" are classic guitars. As a big fan of classic guitar I have to know why since you've used it on "Of Entity and Mind" you didn't save at least one part for it on your full CD?
AW: Actually we have written quite a few different things for an acoustic guitar on a couple of songs and we even recorded some of it...
Can I have a copy?
AW: [laughs] Well, basically the reason we decided to not to use it was because there was no room for it with the piano and strings. After we recorded it we said that it would have been too much and decided not to use it this time.
But you're going to use it again in the future?
AW: Yes, that's one of the things we're going to be using and for our future work as you've seen in the past, we are not going to repeat ourselves and do exactly this same thing. We're going to continue in that fashion and try to do something new every time so, next time we are going to make room for many different type of instrumentation. Strings, acoustic guitars, piano, guitar solos... everything.
JA: From my side, I'm going to incorporate some kind of classical percussion instruments like gongs, concert based drums... stuff like that.
AW: Maybe orchestra drums... there are really no formula. We've kind of decided to what we want to do and we do it. We just do what suites the songs and for this particular album there was no room for an acoustic guitars because we went for more symphonic feel with strings and piano driving the music. I'm not too much of a fan of totally over arranging music because I feel it makes it too chaotic and you have to kind of keep a little bit of openness in the sound where you can hear all the elements.
Lyrically "Reflections of the I" is a logical continuation of "Of Entity and Mind" and represents the next chapter of your soul. I wonder how true is the "Reflections of the I" of the writer himself and are we going to hear next chapters with following releases or this concept is closed know?
AW: Basically, the reason why the title of the album is what it is it's because that's what it is, it's very literal and it's a very honest title. And as Jan Axel said with the Winds... that was my comment before, I remember now! Actually, when I thought of Winds while we were recording the drums in the studio for the mini CD and we were driving I told Jan Axel what do you think of the name Winds. He immediately liked it and though that was perfectly suitable name for the band and that was also important to me with the title to emphasize that it's very literal and it means what it means. "Reflections of the I", that's what it means; it's a reflection of us.
But since this is already a second album with this concept are you going to follow it on your next releases or start something new?
AW: No, I think our next album won't be as concept based as this one. Basically because this concept is, to at least some degree, finished but the way the album ended is also in a state where it's not completely closed. So, in the future there might be lyrical themes that would touch, at least on a parallel level but it's not going to be direct continuation as it was the case with mini CD and this album.
Speaking of the next releases, since this material was written almost a year ago I'm sure there are new songs already waiting to be recorded. If so, what can we expect from Winds in the future? Unless you're not going to tell me since this CD is not really out yet?
AW: Well see, the only thing I don't like is to promote the next album when this one is not even released yet. [laughs] But to answer your question, yes I've actually completed all the songs for the new album from my side and the other members are working on them right now. We always try to make something that is a little bit different but it's not going to be too different that you won't know it's Winds. I would say our new compositions are a little bit darker...
JA: What I feel is that those songs are like solar with darker atmosphere... I also feel that they are much stronger composition than our previous ones without saying that this songs are not because they are all absolutely beautiful.
AW: In my opinion they're all absolutely fantastic [they laugh] It's always easy to say that it's going to be better but it really reflects badly on what we've done before and that's not really what we think. For us musicians is important to always improve and to always get better. If we wouldn't be sure that our next album would be better we would probably quit because there's no point to put out the album that's not better from the previous one. Honestly I have to say that it's a very strong material and it's going to blow people away but this album is also really from our souls, it represents our musical journey and we're extremely proud of it.
Oh yes, we've already established that... it's an outstanding album with no weak songs. [We laugh]
AW: That's what we tried to do and it's very nice to hear that we accomplished our goals.
Do you plan to perform with Winds live or is it just a studio band?
AW: We have talked about doing it and we are open to do so if the right opportunities present themselves but we also need to be very picky about it considering that our sound is very difficult to transform from the album onto the stage. With all those different elements we're really dependent on having excellent sound live for it to be something we can stand for. As of right now we don't have any plans but we actually though of doing some festivals in Europe this summer but it's probably not going to happen simply because we need to wait a little bit and find out ways to make sure that everything will be in a way that artistically we can stand for. Sound is so important and it's very difficult to drag the whole string, orchestra on stage because it's very expensive.
Since there are two members of Arcturus playing in Winds, one ex-member and one still active, and both bands new albums are coming out at this same time, is there a competition which band will make better album even though your music differs so much?
JA: Those two bands are completely different. It's just a coincidence that those two albums are coming out at almost exactly this same time. Arcturus material was written like ages ago... I mean, I recorded the drums like 2 years ago and the music was written almost 3 years ago so, those two bands got nothing to do with each other other than I play in both bands.
AW: In having them released at this same time there were two issues as far as Winds was concerned. One was that we would get less priority from the label because Arcturus has been around for a lot longer but on the other hand we though it might actually be good, even though those bands have nothing in common, because people who like Arcturus can also like Winds and people who like Winds can also like Arcturus. Hopefully those two bands will be able to help each other instead creating a competition.
JA: We don't have any competition at all. It was just a coincidence but it was a nice one.
AW: Yeah. The other thing also to emphasize is that Arcturus has been around for a while and I'm not going to take words out of anyone's mouth but as far as I understand it it's going towards the end, isn't it?
No, no, no... Axel, don't tell me that Arcturus called it quits?
JA: I'm afraid so [laughs]
That's not funny... Don't do this. My best bands are breaking up!!!
AW: On the other side of that Winds have just started and we are on the way up...
And that's what keeps me alive, man.
JA: That's cool.
AW: So you know, it's two different bands with two different kinds of music and two different areas of their career. There really is no comparison but even so, both releases can have a potential to be very much appreciated if you like Arcturus and Winds sound.
JA: Also, both bands represent something entirely unique.
AW. Yeah absolutely, I agree.
Is it also a coincidence that both bands ended up on this same label in the States?
[Both laugh] AW: What happened there was, when Andreas first got in touch with me regarding Winds and ended up signing the deal, he told me that he always was a big fan of Arcturus and he would really like to sign them and he asked me if I could help him. I contacted Hellhammer but what he told me was that they are already signed to a different label. So, same as with Winds, Andreas had to talk to the label and I guess they've come to an agreement. That's how that happened.
I guess, it's too early to ask for opinions on The End Records but it seems like they are the hottest label on the market right now.
AW: We are very very satisfied with The End Records and the work they've done for us in US. It's really incredible how professional they are; they are always on top of things. We foresee a great cooperation in the future with them.
So, we found out a lot of great things about Winds, we also found very sad news about Arcturus... I just hope that Winds will for years bring us many, at least as good albums as "Reflections Of The I", and that it will never break up.
AW: No way.
JA: Winds will always be around.
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