Fireworks Magazine Online 74 - Interview with Serenity


Interview by Carl Buxton

Austrian Symphonic Power Metal band Serenity have been around professionally since 2004 gradually building up a fan-base and establishing their name and identity in the sphere of Symphonic Rock and Power Metal. Drummer Andreas Schipflinger and vocalist Georg Neuhauser are the only two remaining original members left that recorded debut album "Words Untold & Dreams Unlived" in 2007. And during 2012 to 2015 they even boasted dual singers with French soprano Clémentine Delauney in their ranks who sang on 2013's "War Of Ages." Whilst bassist Fabio D'Amore has been with them since their third album "Death & Legacy" they lost fellow-founding guitarist Thomas Buchberger last year owing to not having the time to devote to the band anymore. They've recruited ex Visions Of Atlantis guitarist Chris "Cris Tan" Hermsdörfer and have released their fifth album on January 23rd entitled "Codex Atlanticus" – an epic concept album based on the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. After a number of attempts to reach Georg Neuhauser in between the album launch party and travelling the autobahns of Austria and Germany, I finally reached him backstage at Hamburg's Logo venue on Chris' phone and ended up interviewing both of them.

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Obviously the new album is about Leonardo Da Vinci with Codex Atlanticus being a twelve volume bound set of writings and drawings in Italian comprising of 1,119 leaves dating from 1478 to 1519, so I was wondering why there isn't 1,119 songs on the album?

(Both laugh) Chris: Yeah, not really, because Dream Theater did it on their latest album. Do you know it? How many songs are on there?

34 songs. It's a two CD set (The Astonishing)

Chris: We didn't want to copy them (laughs)

Yes, less is more. Haha.

Chris: Yeah, sure. Always.

Obviously you cover some of the different subjects I was wondering if you could sketch over the songs which part of Da Vinci's area of expertise are covered.

Chris: We tried to get inside of the lyric and also of the song the basic summary of all the years and of all the things he was writing in Codex Atlanticus. Of course it's very hard to get all the things he did in one record because it's really amazing I think a week to write down from several documentations we were just trying to get at first pages of what we wrote down, what could support his records, everything he did. Then of course we tried to focus on the really important things in his future nature that he was so addicted to and got all the most important inventions he created were done with nature. Of course we tried to get his view to our hearts like Mona Lisa, we tried to get war things – he invented war machines and also covered anatomy – that was one of the biggest conflicts where he was forced to fight against the church.

The song "Spirit In The Flesh" covers that I think...?

Chris: Yes, for example "Spirit In The Flesh" and also "Caught In A Myth" is about anatomy. For example "The Perfect Woman" is about Mona Lisa and then we have "Sprouts Of Terror" for example which is about war machines.

I think he designed the first concept of a tank didn't he?

Chris: Yes. He did that

He started at the age of 26 until his passing which covers a period of 41 years, constantly adding to the Codex. So you're doing an album based on his life and you've got to get 41 years into a dozen songs. It's one hell of a challenge!

(Both laugh) Georg: Well, you know, perhaps all of the upcoming album will be about him too.

Chris: Maybe the Codex Atlanticus '2'.

I guess watch this space Haha. Fabio (D'Amore, bassist) has mentioned that "The Da Vinci Code" is his favourite book. Was it his idea for you guys to cover Leonardo Da Vinci or was it something you've all been milling around with for some time?

Georg: The thing is with the book, the 15th and 16th Century are exactly my actual topics at the university, because I'm teaching at the university – I'm an assistant there, and so for sure, Leonardo was always a very important point, also, for when I'm teaching my students there. So when we had a discussion about topics for the upcoming album, Da Vinci cropped up, and for sure Fabio was very enthusiastic about it because, first of all he's Italian, and he likes the surrounding stories about Da Vinci very much, so it was just a logical factor.

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What was it that particularly fascinated you about Da Vinci?

Georg: To be honest, for me the most – the biggest thing – about this person was that he really combined everything in one genius personality. He was so fucking great in doing art, he really did a revolution of art at this time, and he was a real perfect engineer, and he was a doctor, let's say, and that was honestly the combination itself. The combination in itself was really the fact that made us say okay let's do that.

When I first heard "Spirit In The Flesh" I actually thought it was Tobias Sammet.

(Both laugh) Georg: You're not the first're not the first one who thought that.

And I had to look it up, what the hell, that has to be Tobias, with the link with Avantasia it must be true, and then it turned out to be Fabio Haha.

Georg: That's Fabio (laughs) The funny thing with Serenity is that for years people are asking if Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) is the singer of Serenity because I am sounding a bit similar to him, and now we even have Tobias Sammet, so...

Chris: We are Avantasia! (laughs)

Georg: (laughs) Yeah. To be honest we are Avantasia but we have to have a different name.

(At this point Georg was called away by the tour manager to deal with the arrival of the merchandise)

Let's talk about your guitar playing Chris. In my notes I've written about the clean soloing, the melodic sensibilities that underpin the strong rhythms, the guitar riffs are really quite strong – stronger than previous albums when Thomas was the guitarist, it seems like you've made it slightly heavier, obviously you're definitely playing with a different tone, so can you describe how you approached this album?

Of course I tried to focus. I wanted to add something different to Thomas because of course I play differently to Thomas and I wanted to show my style and my view of playing guitar like I did in Visions Of Atlantis too. With the song writing process, whilst we were sitting in the studio and listened to the first pre-production ideas, the riffs came very, very fast to my mind, which formed the basic structure of all the songs we did, and also of the songs I wrote for the record. It was not that difficult to write the rhythm parts, for example, for the songs like they are, and that's how they finally came together.

How inspired were you for the solos?

I'm a big fan of and influenced by John Petrucci, or even guys like Zakk Wylde and 'Dimebag' (Darrell, Pantera). Of course I've tried over the years to get a great combination of all these styles, sometimes a little bit more Petrucci, sometimes a little bit more, let's say brutal like 'Dimebag' or what Zakk Wylde is doing, and I'm still trying to find my own tone – I'm not finished yet, but it's great that you can combine something with the name Chris Hermsdörfer that's cool.

I assume Petrucci would've been one of the main guys that would have influenced the way you play the melodic scales?

Yes, that's true.

(It was now Chris' turn to leave but Georg had returned)

Guests on the album include Amanda Somerville on "The Perfect Woman" and Natascha Koch on the bonus song "Sail."

And Natascha's also singing backing on "Iniquity" and "Caught In A Myth."

And keyboards?

Our producer Jan Vacik, who is playing in Serious Black, plays keys and he's also sung some backing vocals, and he's also doing the song writing together with me, mostly with song structures.

You said earlier about Freddie Mercury being one of your heroes. Before I knew that I'd written for "The Perfect Woman" 'Dramatic orchestration segues into piano with vocal, straying into Journey and Queen-esque territory.' The piano keys are very similar to what Jonathan Cain does in Journey, and that Queen-like orchestration obviously comes from your influence.

(Laughs) This is true, yes, this is true. Like I said, I'm a huge fan of all this 80s stuff and what I don't get in general, or sometimes you know, because this was also one of the biggest points of criticism for example in the press, is that I have too much influence by Queen and by Meat Loaf, and by Journey and by Toto and I say 'How the fuck can something be too much influence by these great artistes?'

That's very true indeed. Serenity will have been out on a co-headlining tour with Xandria throughout February including a date in London and will be touring throughout Europe in March and April as support to Powerwolf and Battle Beast before embarking on six dates as support to Kamelot.

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