5 Questions With... is your chance to get to know a new or up-and-coming metal band. Beyond The Bridge is a 7 piece progressive metal band from Germany. Their debut CD is The Old Man And The Spirit. Guitarist Peter Degenfeld introduces us to his band.
Give us a brief history of Beyond The Bridge.
We started out as a school band. Back then it was Dominik (bass), Christopher (keyboards), and me. We were friends in high school. After our graduation, Christopher decided to become a recording engineer. The band was breaking apart as everybody left heading in very different directions. But I knew that the three of us had to keep contact. First of all we are good friends and wanted to keep that up. But furthermore I thought that if Christopher went for a life of recording music, then we will certainly have the chance to record music in a professional studio. With this in mind I came up with the concept of the album. I convinced Christopher and we wrote the album. Five years later it turned out that my plan worked out just fine.
Christopher met Simon during his studies and they became good friends. After finishing University, Simon went to the Gate Studios in Wolfsburg where he is now a sound engineer and producer. He also recorded, mixed, mastered (together with Sascha Paeth) and produced The Old Man And The Spirit. Simon also brought Fabian (drums) and Herbie (vocals) to the band and I met Dilenya at a concert of hers in Munich, Germany.
Describe the sound/style and concept of your debut album The Old Man And The Spirit.
At first sight the songs are written in a progressive rock/metal style. They contain virtuosity in both the playing and the compositional design. People that like this kind of music will definitely like our album. With the two singers and especially with our way of arranging the songs and vocal lines, we have created something which has been rarely heard before. Dilenya's voice is very unusual in the rock/metal genre and it adds something to the music which is fresh and indeed progressive.
When we decided to create the album we knew that we want to take the idea of a "concept album" really seriously. It is not only that the lyrics tell a continuous story, but you will also find musical connections between passages spread over the whole album. There are many melodic lines that appear intentionally at certain passages in different keys, tempos, time signatures and so on. The songs sound as if they describe the scenes. "The Struggle" sounds like a conflict between the two parties. "All A Man Can Do" composes the strength and pride, but at the same time the limitations and imperfections of mankind. Overall the music and the lyrics merge and create one single story. We feel that The Old Man And The Spirit really gives consideration to our ideal of a "concept album".
But it is more important to say that the songs themselves will excite the listeners. Nothing is just made for showing off technical skills. The music is touching. It will even touch you in a different way each time you listen to it. Inspiring and ambiguous lyrics with a combination of a large variety of musical styles will accompany the listeners through the story of the conceptual album.
Talk about your songwriting and recording process for the album.
The songwriting is done by Christopher (keyboards) and me. The two of us meet, buy a lot of chocolate or candy and start working. The working atmosphere is always great as we respect each other a lot. But even more important is that we laugh, make jokes and relax while writing music. It feels as if the creative process was something like a holiday from everyday life. Dominik sometimes joins in as well. He is very skeptical, which helps us a lot to decide whether the music we wrote is good or not. He is also a great inspiration. At the very beginning we started with the concept of the album. We wrote a brief abstract and divided the whole thing into successive statements. Basically before the notes were written, we knew what each song had to sound and feel like and what the lyrics had to say.
With these restrictions we started the songwriting process. We write the music first and record it immediately. Even the vocal lines are recorded, but mostly with some weird instrument to emphasize that this melodic line is supposed to be the vocal melody. I remember that for the vocal lines of the "Spirit" we had a pan-flute as a guide track. I guess that something absurd like a pan-flute makes clear that it is only a guide track and has to be replaced by a real voice at the end. After the melody is fixed we write the lyrics. Usually we use a very simple setup to do this. Just a computer, Pro Tools LE, a guitar and a keyboard.
At the end we create something like a pre-production. Apart from the drum parts everything is fixed. With this we go into the studio. Everybody knows what needs to be played. I think we will do it in the same way on the next album. We first create a concept, then write the music and lyrics that fit to the concept and at the end we go into the studio. The restrictions given by the concept were really helpful for us. Although one might think that restrictions limit creativity, it was actually the opposite in our case.
All the recording was done in the Gate Studios in Wolfsburg, Germany by Simon Oberender. We recorded each instrument individually, but we always started with the drums and the guitar right after that. From the pre-production it was clear what parts had to be recorded. Usually we were only three people in the studio. The instrumentalist or singer, Simon and either Christopher or me. We also recorded a choir and speakers for the poems. The Gate Studios also offer a big variety of instruments and gear one could try out on a record. We were experimenting with these things. For example, you can hear Christopher hitting the strings of an old piano with drum sticks in the beginning of "A Doorway To Salvation". We also sent a guitar through a Leslie. That was fun.
What are your upcoming live show plans?
To be honest, Beyond The Bridge started out as a project and became a band over the last two years. We finished a CD and right now we are rehearsing and promoting the CD. Everybody is excited to take this great piece of music on stage. We put a lot of effort into the goal of creating the studio sound on stage. But we also will rearrange some parts to make them more suitable for live performances. Unfortunately, we did not arrive at the point where the concrete tour plans are supposed to come up next. At this point it depends on the reactions of the people around the world to the album. We will see if you guys can make it happen.
Anything else you'd like to mention or promote?
Well, thanks to everybody for reading this interview. Check out our music on our website www.beyondthebridge.net. You can find a full song and two snippets there. You will find band photos and background information there as well. Please feel free to share your opinion and thoughts with us on Facebook or YouTube. Make a suggestion or a wish and we will see if we can make it happen.
(photo courtesy Frontiers Records)