Shylock: Another highlight for German hard rock.
Shylock guitarist Johannes talks about their hard rocking new album, which sees the band step up and deliver a cool European hard rock release.
Hi guys, this is your second album - which sounds like a big leap from your debut. Did you have a blueprint for how you wanted this album to sound and are you happy with the results?
First of all we want to thank you for this compliment! Yeah, we also think that the new record is another step forwards in the band's history. Now to your question:
Right before we started with the songwriting for the new album, Matthias (vocals) and me sat down and discussed a bit about the upcoming style. Soon, we both agreed that we should try to put more power to our songs and let the guitars speak a little bit more. The new songs should simply rock. So Matthias went into his room and wrote about 30 songs. He simply recorded them on an 8-track recorder with a drum computer and he was always concentrating on straight guitars, good riffs and a big chorus. When we entered the studio for Welcome to illusion we were sure that we would spend much more time in checking our guitar and drum sounds. On Pyronized we recorded e.g. all guitars with a digital amp and I guess you can hear it. So we lent some good sounding amps and tried two days till we found the right combination of sounds.
The drums were played by nobody else than Rami Ali of Frontline and Evidence One and man, this guy knows how to rock. So after all, we learned from our faults in the past, tried to make things better and maybe you can call this procedure a kind of blueprint.
By now, we can say that we are quite happy with the results. The production sounds really fresh and dynamic and our songs rock more than ever. Sure, there are things we could have done better but I guess every musician would tell you that, after a production is finished. We've definitely made the best out of our situation.
You are a new German band - how did you get started and how did the guys in the band meet?
Back in 1998 we simply decided to turn our former band into SHYLOCK . With the new name SHYLOCK we just wanted to start again and leave our musical past behind us.
The line up was:
Matthias Schenk ~ Vocals
Johannes Löhr ~ Guitars
Oliver Thiergärtner ~ Keyboards
Achim Thiergärtner ~ Drums
Andreas Havel ~ Bass
1999 we released the first demo CD simply called SHYLOCK. Luckily, the opening track CAN`T LET U GO was featured on the Unerhört CD of the German ROCK HARD MAGAZINE. This CD was published in order to give unsigned bands the chance to get known to a bigger audience and to find a record deal.
Right after the Unerhört-CD we got in contact with the label POINT MUSIC (and their sub label BLACK ARROW PRODUCTION) and we signed a so called distribution contract. But then nothing important happened. The label just took the bad sounding demo and sent it to all kinds of CD shops that was all.
In the year 2000 we decided to change the label and we started with the pre-production for Pyronized . Besides, we knew that we'd have to go into a professional studio just to keep things going. So we got in contact with Tom Amendt and recorded Pyronized at the Cherrywood Tonstudio in Kitzingen/ Germany.
Our first real debut album Pyronized was then released by MTM MUSIC back in October 2001 and till then the band could make great efforts. MTM promoted us in all kinds of print and online magazines and in 2002 we had the chance to play many cool live shows with well known bands.
The line up of the Pyronized -Tour:
Matthias Schenk ~ Vocals
Johannes Löhr ~ Guitars
Oliver Thiergärtner ~ Keyboards
Achim Thiergärtner ~ Drums
Chris Heun ~ Rhythmguitar
Peter Adler ~ Bass
Now, in the year 2004, the line up of the band totally changed and now we are back with our new record called Welcome to Illusion. This record is again published by MTM MUSIC/SPV on the 16th of February.
SHYLOCK 2004 :
Matthias Schenk ~ Vocals
Johannes Löhr ~ Guitars
Steven Wussow ~ Bass
Matthias Appel ~ Keyboards
Stefan Appel ~ Guitars
Helmuth Welther ~ Drums
It´s a funny story how we got in contact with our new band members. After Oli, Achim, Chris and Peter left the band (February 2003) we only knew that Steven Wussow (bass) would join Matthias and me as soon as possible. I knew Steven for years and he was always a quite good friend of mine. Stupidly, the positions of the drums, rhythm guitar and keyboards were still vacant. Another bad thing was, that we were already booked for some festivals in 2003 but we had no complete band. So Steven came up with the idea that he could ask his friends if they would help us to play the gigs. After only three rehearsals we could play the whole live set and it sounded great. The first show took off in Hamburg at the Metal attack festival and the gig was so successful and fantastic that they all decided to be a firm member of SHYLOCK & that's the story ;-)
Have you received any good advice from other bands or musicians around you?
No, not at all. Fact is, that we got known to many bands in the music business, because we've played a lot of shows with bands like: BONFIRE, AXXIS, GOTTHARD, KROKUS, U.D.O. etc, but on the other hand we never had the chance to get a helping hand or advice from them. Somehow we just know these bands and respect one another, but we can't call them good friends and we are not in contact with them in everyday life.
For some reasons it seems that every band is just trying to concentrate on its own business and just to keep oneself alive. But nevertheless, it would be great if someday we could have the opportunity to get some good advice just to make things better.
Your debut album was met with a good response, how hard was it to market yourselves or introduce a new name to rock fans?
A really good question, indeed. You must know that Matthias and me play this kind of music for about 10 years. We always believed in our songs and in the band's qualities and we never thought of chasing trends like crunch or something like that. In the beginning, it was sometimes hard to stand all the criticism and people didn't expect that we could stand the test of time. But somehow they were wrong. Before we started with SHYLOCK we already took the chance and we had won some newcomer festivals with our former band. One highlight was e.g. our unplugged performance in a TV show called SDR 3 Extra Spät and the moderator of this show told us that about 200.000 people watched it. But on the other hand, nothing important happened after that. We were still so far away from a record deal. With the release of Pyronized many things changed and for the first time we could present ourselves to a bigger audience. MTM MUSIC did really good work and our CD was featured with many reviews and interviews in well known online and print magazines. It was great to see that people liked our music and somehow it was fantastic to get a good feedback.
Another really important thing was the chance to play all the live shows with BONFIRE, AXXIS and the other well known bands. This brought us much further than we could ever imagine and I guess it's the only way that can carry you further in the business.
Do you have any advice now for upcoming unsigned bands?
If you are playing in a young and unsigned band you should never give up believing in your own music or in the things you do. Do whatever makes you happy and enjoy the time with your band members. I can remember a lot of statements of many critics when we started with SHYLOCK . Nearly everybody told us that our music is too old fashioned and that we would never have the chance to be signed by a record company. These moments are very hard for you and it seems that all of your hopes are drowning. But these statements should make you stronger each time and you should use them to give you even more power to carry on. So if you are sure that you are on the right way and that your band is good to stand all the mess & just never give up fighting. Your day will come but you must know that it's a long way to get the chance to sign a record deal and it's an even longer and stony way to stay where you are. If you get good feedback from your fans and the critics don't think you've got it made. Keep down on your feet, work on yourself and try to do things even better & then you are on a good way to survive.
The new album is certainly heavier - the feedback seems to indicate a very favourable response from media and fans alike. Are you happy with the feedback?
As far as we got feedback right now, we can say that we are quite happy with the results. Nearly everybody tells us that the new record is a great follow up to Pyronized and somehow not everybody expected it in that way. We are happy that people like the new style and it shows us that it was the right decision to make everything sound a bit more heavier.
What are the songs of Welcome To Illusion about? Is there a theme to the songs or are the topics varied?
There's no certain theme on all of the songs as someone could expect. The topics on the songs are quite varied. E.g. the song Welcome to illusion is a kind of invitation to everyone who listens to our new album. Just sit down, forget your sorrows, use your fantasies and take a ride into the different parts of our music. Revolution is a very political song. It talks about the social circumstances in today's life. In our country people are sick of paying even more and more money for taxes. The situation is getting worse every year.
Darkness is a kind of war song. The story´s about a soldier who came back from war, but he´s stuck in his memories and can´t forget what he went through.
The funky Out in the streets is a song about prostitution, while But I like it is a kind of love song.
You see, we´ve been trying to put many topics to the songs on our new album. We didn´t want to keep it boring and monotonous.
I don't believe the producer of the album has been mentioned anywhere - who did you work with on the album and what was their influence over the outcome?
Welcome to illusion was produced by Tom Amendt. The same guy we worked with on Pyronized . Tom is a very good friend of us, he knows us for years and he´s got all the technical equipment stuff you need for a professional recording. The studio has got a fantastic atmosphere and Tom knows the way we wanted the upcoming album to sound. After the pre production was finished, Tom was already involved in the songs and he contributed a lot to the rough and heavier sound. He´s got a very good feeling for the right tempo of a song and he knows how to get the best out of someone´s playing abilities. So you can say that he did a great job for the new record and he always encouraged us to keep our aim in mind.
Tom surely was one of the guys who said that we should publish all of the 15 songs.
Favourite songs on the album?
Hmmm, there are so many. All in all, I must say that we are 100% proud of every single song we recorded. But nevertheless, there have to be some songs you like most and here are mine:
Welcome to illusion, Revolution, But I like it, Darkness, Middle of Paradise, Lose you, Out in the streets, World of the lonely, Tomorrow and Guilty.
It just depends on my personal mood & sometimes I love to hear The Need e.g. when someone or something bothers me. So there are 15 songs for every mood or personal situation enough for everybody.
What is on Shylock's live set list? What do you really enjoy playing live?
From the Pyronized album we´ll still play:
Bloodsister, Lost in a dream, That kills me, Another lonely night, Lovers in chains or maybe Never give up fighting.
We started to rehearse the new songs of Welcome to illusion about two weeks ago and by now we actually know which songs will be played in our new shows:
Welcome to illusion, Revolution, But I like it, Darkness, Guilty, Tomorrow, Out in the streets etc
I guess we can vary a lot with the songs of new album and still with the songs of Pyronized .
Only time will tell which is the better set list.
For my part, I enjoy playing every song mentioned above. They are really great live songs.
What are your touring plans for 2004?
Right at the moment there´s only one live date confirmed. It´s a beneficial concert for kids who need financial help and it takes place in May. But we certainly still hope that we´ll soon have the opportunity to go on tour with Welcome to illusion , because it´s the only and really best way to promote our new album. SHYLOCK is definitely a live band and we need to go out on stage and play. Our booking agency (www.events-intown.de) is still working hard to find a tour where we can jump on. There have been several offers from well known bands and at the moment we´re just checking the conditions. So far, we just have to be a bit patient and we´ll see what will come for the future.
What artists influenced the band members as they grew up?
There are many (and I mean really many) artists who influenced us when we grew up. We listened to all kinds of Hard Rock or Metal bands. You know them all and when we started to play in a band (at the age of 16 years) we tried to cover songs of: Bon Jovi, Kiss, Ozzy, White Lion, Bonfire, Metallica, Whitesnake, Bryan Adams, Megadeth, Skid Row, etc&
We learned a lot from these bands and I guess it´s just the usual way, when you start playing an instrument. Just listen to your heros and take as much as you can with you.
And what are your favourite albums of all time and currently?
My favourite albums of all the time:
Skid Row Slave to the grind
Metallica the black album
Megadeth Countdown to extinction and Youthanasia
White Lion Pride
Bonfire Fire Works
Love/Hate Wasted in America
Tesla The great radio controversy and five man acoustical jam
Queensryche Operation Mindcrime and Empire
Currently I hear a mixture of my favourite albums (of all the time) and some new releases like SHAKRA or Pink Cream 69.
So what comes next for Shylock in 2004?
At the moment we are trying to create an absolute new live program and we´ll rehearse a lot to be prepared for the gigs. You´ll never know what kind of offers you will get and how much shows you can play through a year. It´s always better to be prepared in the best way. In the meantime we´ll try to promote our new album as good as we can, doing some interviews, radio interviews and so on. Maybe, in about two or three month we´ll start to write some new songs but I guess we won´t put ourselves under big pressure.
Do you already have plans for the next album and what direction you will go in?
Recently, we don´t have any special plans for the next album. All I know is, that Matthias wrote some new songs but he hasn´t recorded them on his 8-track recorder yet. And I haven´t heard one of these songs at all. I think that we´ll try to keep our recent style and maybe the songs will be a little bit heavier again. For my part, our music could be a bit more heavier and aggressive in the future
..but we´ll see.
Anything you would like to add?
Yes! I´d like to thank all the people who supported us through the years. We are so proud of you and you can´t imagine what your loyalty means to us. Further on, I would like to invite everybody who doesn´t know SHYLOCK by now, just listen to our music and give it a try. The new album features a lot of power and energy from us & don´t hesitate to risk your ears. If you like it, than just contact us: www.shylockmusic.de and we are happy about every feedback!
Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview!
Thank you for this great interview.