Bridge / Flesh
Interview by Rock Report
With one album in the shops (“Bridge”) and another one to be released in the autumn (“Flesh”), I thought the time was ripe for another interview with Everon main man Oliver Philipps.
CL: The last time I did an interview with you was right after the release of the “Venus” album. So I would like to pick up the thread there. After that album guitarist Ralf Janssen left the band. Why was that?
OP: No spectecular reason actually, he just lost his enthusiasm a bit over the years, already on “Venus” I actually played most of the guitars myself. We did not split up in anger, he just changed personal priorities. He’s still making music, but with a lot less effort, only just for the fun of it. He runs a Led Zeppelin cover band together with Moschus, our drummer, so as you can see there’s not bad atmosphere between us or anything like that.
CL: Ralf Janssen was replaced by Ulli Hoever. Was it difficult to find him?
OP: No, it was really easy actually. He was recommended to me by a common friend and from the first minute it worked really well, couldn’t have been any easier actually.
CL: Please introduce Ulli Hoever to our readers.
OP: Not so much to say actually! Before joining Everon he’s just been playing in local bands, so he isn’t known to a wider audience and never released any albums before. He’s an excellent player nonetheless, a lot more variable in his playing than Ralf was actually, he does just as well when playing heavy parts as when playing atmospheric parts or melodies. Besides that he contributed a song of his own (“Carousel”) to the new album, so actually this is the first time I did not have to do the complete songwriting on my own.
CL: As owners of SpaceLab, you and Christian Moos began to get more and more work as producers (for other bands). Do you accept every offer that comes your way or do you have to select?
OP: Never thought about that actually! It did not happen very often that we got offered a production but refused to go for it because we really didn’t like the band at all, I guess we had that 2 or 3 times in total. Normally, whenever a band has a halfway professional attitude and is full of enthusiasm for what they’re doing, there is no reason to refuse working with them; it's great fun and getting involved in different styles of music is very exciting and also helps to widen our own horizon as musicians. Naturally in the first place it is up to us to work for our client and give him the best of support we can, but in return there is usually something we learn from each band as well. It is a very inspiring kind of work, and won us a lot of good friends also. Almost every band that has been here, was really happy with the result, so usually they return to our studio with their next album as well. Some are already scheduled for their third album at our place this year, and naturally together with the common work on the music, also friendships grow over the years.
CL: In 2000 album # 4 - "Fantasma" - was released and once again it was of a high quality. Did it sell better than the first three albums?
OP: To be very honest I never mind that much about it, so even if I wanted I could not give you an exact answer. As a matter of fact, it sold pretty well, otherwise Mascot Records would not have provided a budget to do two new CDs this time. As long as they’re happy, I am happy as well. Everon is not a commercial project for us, so we do not pay that much attention to the exact sales in each particular country, we leave that to the record company.
CL: “Fantasma” saw the introduction of live keyboard player Oliver Thiele, but that was not for long. Why did he leave after a short period of time?
OP: Well, that is a long story, but to cut it short, he wasn’t really able to keep pace with the rest of the band. We were all really optimistic in the beginning that he’d get there pretty soon, since in the beginning he seemed to learn really fast, but in a way his development as a player stood still at a certain level, that was definitely not high enough to cope with the new material the way he should. We were not feeling comfortable with the situation, and the same applied for him, in that respect it was kind of a relief for us that he decided to leave by himself instead of us having to kick him out. He’s a really kind person, so splitting up in anger wouldn't have felt good to any of us.
CL: Before the release of “Fantasma” one of the band’s crew members (Detlef Dohmen) died. What impact did this have on you and the other band members?
OP: It had a strong impact on the overall feeling of “Fantasma” and also on the lyrics of the album. He was a really close friend of the band from the early days and thus his death was a tremendous loss for everyone involved, especially for Shymy, our bass player, who was a friend of him from his childhood days. The spookiest thing was, that the night before he died he showed up at our rehearsal. We hadn’t seen him for almost a year, since he had been on tour all the time due to working for a sound/light company, and we had not played live with “Venus” due to the line-up change anyway. So when he suddenly popped in at our rehearsal, that was a great surprise and we spent the whole night talking due to not having seen for so long. He even slept at our bass player’s house, left next morning and died less than one hour later. Everon always meant a lot to him and actually Everon was the reason why he ever got into becoming a light engineer at all. Looking back on it, it almost feels as if he wanted to say goodbye to all of us, really spooky in a way.
CL: Early last year you wrote songs for another project. What kind of project was that? Can you reveal a bit more?
OP: Naturally I could, but I don’t want to actually. The whole project was done for a particular company and during working we noticed we had completely incompatible points of view on certain things, which is why I decided to not bring it to an end. So why make words about an album no one will ever hear anyway.
CL: In the last 4 to 5 years you and Christian Moos produced several bands in SpaceLab. Did these bands influence you as a songwriter? Please explain.
OP: Surely they did, not voluntarily, but on a subconcious level these experiences surely become part of the inspiration you come across. When writing songs, this is a thing that rather happens, it is nothing you do on purpose; the music is suddenly there in my head and this is it then. The wider your field of interest is musically, the wider spread will be your inspiration. For instance I don't think I would have ever thought about bringing in some grunt vocals without having produced any death or black metal bands, or these gothic influenced really low vocals I am using every now and then on the new stuff I would have never tried without having worked with gothic related bands such as Danse Macabre or Re-Vision. As well my fascination with orchestral arrangements was born when working with real classical musicians, in particular while working in New York together with the Ahn-Trio. It’s a great source of inspiration to have the chance to work with all these artists, so in a way every now and then I feel I should rather pay them than the other way around.
CL: Which brings us to “Bridge” and the yet to be released “Flesh”. When did you start writing material for both?
OP: All the writing was done in two sessions. The first was in March 2001 and at that time we were almost drowning in studio work, so I needed to take a two week time-out to finally finish some of the ideas I had in mind for our own album. Back then I rented a house on a little Danish Island, loaded a trunk full with recording equipment and jumped on the ferry to get there. All songs from this session are actually to be found on the “Flesh” CD. If I remember correctly, none of the songs on “Bridge” was already written back then. All other songs were done from September to November 2001. Again we had to close the studio down, since naturally getting the songs in a shape that would really do for the final production was far too much work to do in just a few weeks, and there is no way of doing that properly while being busy with another production in daytime. But to not give you a wrong idea, when I say all songs were written between Sept. and Nov. 2001 one that doesn’t mean I started with nothing on the first of September. Usually I have all songs completely finished in my head already, they just happen to be there sooner or later and after a while there are that many of them that it’s time for a new album, or in this particular case, even for two albums. So songwriting is not really work, it happens all by itself. So the actual work is to arrange the songs and get them in a shape that they also work in the real world outside of my head, especially doing these orchestrations we have in many songs is a thing that takes a lot of time. If you want to do that really well, it can take ages every now and then. In terms of the effort it requires there is no difference between doing an orchestration which is performed by real players later on and one which is created with samplers.
CL: Originally “Bridge” and “Flesh” were meant to be released simultaneously, but that didn’t happen. Why the change?
OP: That’s record company policy, I don’t interfere into this. I guess they believe it makes more sense marketing wise and most likely they’re right about that. Personally I don’t mind, it’s up to them and I am sure they know what they’re doing.
CL: Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to release both albums as a double album?
OP: Sure, for us it would have been cheaper. On the other hand, for the fans it would have been more expensive. The albums are quite different from each other, so there will be people that love “Bridge” but don’t like “Flesh” the same as much and the other way around. So instead of putting them in one box urging people to buy both albums anyway even if they only like the music of one, we prefer to leave the choice to the fans. Naturally for those that do buy both albums, that means they have to pay a bit more than for one double CD. No matter how you do it, you will always leave someone pissed of, no way to completely avoid that to happen. I hope no one will really complain, since both albums come with a lavish artwork from the hands of Greg Bridges again, so both are well worth the money people spend on it.
CL: I've only had the chance to listen to “Bridge” and it sounds like a ‘normal’ Everon CD. What way will “Flesh” be different?
OP: That is difficult to answer for me, since I hardly have an idea of what you consider as ‘normal’ in terms of an Everon CD. As a matter of fact, “Bridge” is performed in usual band line-up, and in that respect is a convential Everon CD. Nonetheless it contains quite a few elements we did not have in our music before, but still I agree it is easily recognizable as Everon. Which is also true for “Flesh”, but unlike the other album it features a lot of guest musicians. There is a string section in 4 songs, an additional cello player on another song and a female guest vocalist in two songs. In general the feeling and atmosphere of the second album is more sentimental and melancholic, though also on “Flesh” naturally there are heavy parts as well, but in general I’d say the guitars are less dominant on this one, to give more room to orchestration and a rather epic feeling. The title track is of 15 minutes length and is almost like a little opera or something like that. As always, it’s hard to put music in words, so after all you will have to listen yourself to find out what it sounds like I guess.
CL: Let’s have a closer look at some of the new tracks. The first one I’d like to mention is “Juliet”, because of its extremes (from a pop song it evolves in pure heavy metal). Can you say something more about it?
OP: Yep, it is how you describe it. The song unfolds in a way which you wouldn’t really expect when it starts, actually this is what I like that much about it. It just grew naturally, so we didn’t force it to evolve that way. I totally like that one, to me it is a very intense and exciting piece of music, and the grunt vocals by Gunter Theys (Ancient Rites) in the very end of the song perfectly fit the slightly macabre tone of the lyrics.
CL: The same contradiction is to be found between “If You Were Still Mine” and its follow-up “Ten Years Late”. Do you like to work that way (and keep the listener awake)?
OP: Well, it is something different here, since we are talking about two different songs here. “Still Mine” is a very melodic piece that builds up on piano/vocals, while “10 Years Late” is a straight-forward heavy rocker. I don’t know, both are sides of Everon that have been part of our music for a long time already, and we always try to find a good balance of songs on each album. When deciding about the running order of songs, we always try to put them in a way that listening to the album never gets boring, and hopefully it works with the new album as well.
CL: The odd track out is the instrumental “Puppet Show”. Why is this strange one included?
OP: It’s really just for the fun of it, it is just great fun playing this piece, but apart from that I would not call it a very relevant song. In a way it is like a little bonus track within the CD. On the other hand there are plenty of people that will especially like this one, we have plenty of fans that also like the more technical direction of progressive rock, stuff like Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, … and those actually want us to play a lot more songs like “Puppet Show” or “Battle Of Words” on “Fantasma”. We do not have a very technical approach to our music and always try to submit the player to the musician in ourselves; but every now and then it happens that the player takes over and thus you end up with a piece like “Puppet Show”.
CL: "Carousel" is the only song written by Ulli Hoever. Is it difficult to perform a song written by another band member?
OP: Not at all, I’ve been performing on dozens of albums of other artists already, actually I really like doing it. The reason why on all previous albums I was the only songwriter in Everon wasn’t that I am such a despotic person or anything, it’s just that the other didn’t come up with anything. Nowadays it’s different, and that is perfectly fine with me. On “Flesh"” is one song, that Oliver Thiele, who meanwhile left the band, has written.
CL: What do you think of Ulli’s song?
OP: I totally like it, it’s a song with a great groove and a good hookline. In case not all of us would have been fully convinced with it, it surely would not have made its way on the album.
CL: May we expect more Ulli Hoever songs in the future?
OP: Hopefully we may, actually this is hardly a question I can answer.
CL: Being an AOR addict, I like the track “Harbour” very much. Do you think there’s a thin line between AOR and progressive rock?
OP: There absolutely is, there have been loads of bands that have been somewhere between both genres. Just think of Journey, Kansas or Triumph for instance, even AOR acts such as Toto or Chicago also had songs in their repertoire that were rather heading into a progressive direction. Personally I like both genres a lot, and I guess that also reflects in our own music.
CL: And to round off I have to mention the title song “Bridge”. What is it all about?
OP: Unlike most other lyrics, this one is less obvious and not as easily accessible as the others. I did that on purpose, and would like to keep it that way actually. The whole piece is very symbolic and provides various options in terms of interpretation. I don’t want to spoil that by giving my own.
CL: In the booklet you apologize to Billy Joel for borrowing some of his chords. Isn’t that a strange thing to do?
OP: Well, I’ve done stranger things in my life already, but indeed it is rather unusual. What can I say, it just happened, when playing this piano outro I simply noticed the last 4 chords were really sounding like the closing chords of Billy Joel’s “Leningrad”. Usually whenever I notice something found its way into one of our songs that reminds me too much of someone else’s song, I kick it out right away. In this particular case, stylewise Billy Joel is that far away from what we’re doing, that I thought it would be alright to leave it in. But nonetheless I wanted to state it on the album. Why pretend something is mine when it isn’t. So I apologize for it, though naturally with a twinkling eye, cause as a matter of fact I am pretty sure Billy Joel won’t really bother.
CL: From day one you have been working with Australian painter Gregory Bridges, who’s delivering all the artwork. How do you work together?
OP: He gets an advance tape with pre-productions of the songs and then he comes up with suggestions and rough ideas. Just by exchanging opinions, we usually find a common idea pretty soon. Once we have that, we leave the final realisation completely to his hands, since he is the painter and knows best how to transport an idea visually.
CL: Do you have any idea when “Flesh” will be released?
OP: My information is that it will be out in late autumn, but the record company hasn’t set a definite date yet.
CL: Will Everon play some festivals this summer?
OP: The first festival will be ProgPower at Baarlo in October.