Martin Wittsieker – Vocals
Yannick Becker – Guitar
Henrik Tschierschky – Guitar
Arne Laßen – Bass
Nicolas Becker – Drums
Their debut album “The I – Conception” is out, it’s a nice MDM album, they come from Germany and I think that one day they will get what they deserve, today we are with Harasai. Welcome on Aristocrazia Webzine guys, how are you?
I think everything is going pretty good at the moment. We have lots of stuff coming up in the next few weeks, and it feels good to see how everything related to the band is slowly developing and getting bigger. Thanks for asking!
As usual, the first step is telling us something about your band.
Okay, I will go back to the very beginning and try to make it short. In 2006 Yannick (17, guitar) and his older brother Nico (21, drums) sat together and were making plans for a new band they wanted to form. They asked a few friends they knew from other bands and thus, within a short period of time, had a complete line-up. Martin (21, vocals) was also a founding member of the band and joined them right away. After playing some smaller shows and spending a great time rehearsing they managed to record two demos (“My Lake of Terror”, 2006, “Begotten”, 2007) and an EP, “Into Oblivion” (2008). Shortly after the recordings of said EP the band dismissed their second guitarist, Kevin, and asked me (23, guitar) to join. In the summer of 2009 we entered a professional studio (CKB studios in Essen) for the first time and recorded “The I-Conception” in – if I remember correctly – over the course of two months. Then, after doing some great shows throughout the year 2009, we kinda noticed that founding member Dave (bass) was slowly developing interests in other musical fields and did not show the enthusiasm needed for a metal band. We talked a lot and came to the decision that it’s better to go seperate ways. Followed by this, we immediately asked our friend Arne (21) to play the bass and become a full member of the band. In the middle of 2010 we finally accepted the deal offered by Firefield Records, who then released the album on July 2nd. I guess the highlight of our “career” (if you want to call it that) was the gig with Slayer and Amon Amarth in 2008, which left a huge impression and was truly awesome.
The monicker Harasai comes from “Heresy”, which is the heresy which inspired this choice?
These are just my two cents on this, but I think that “Heresy” finds a place in nearly all kinds of lifes’ situations. Historically, “heresy” is a term that mainly refers back to the times where people were burned at the stake for doing or saying things that went against church. Today, the term isn’t used anymore, but there are still lots of people who deserve to be called just that; for example for being a bad or even betraying friend. In addition, the world is full of greediness, and people tend to do everything to get money. So my interpretation of the band name is roughly a mirror of the world: You don’t know who you can trust, who your friends are or who just wants your money; everyone can be a heretic to your person. I also see it as a kind of an advice: act with intelligence, see through the masks people are wearing, make decisions that are well thought out.
The first thing that I noticed listening to your album is how it sounds like it was released in the late 90s, luckily it’s not too modern. Are there any albums of the 1997-2002 years which influenced your style? Maybe “Damage Done” by Dark Tranquillity?
Yeah, of course “Damage Done” was a great influence for us. When we contacted Dan Swanö he asked “Guys, is there any album that I can use as an orientation?”, and we were all like “Sure, make it sound like Dark Tranquillity’s “Character”. So in terms of sound we’re definitely influenced by the newer DT albums, which is not too true in regards of music or songwriting, although there are certain elements we find to be quite similar. You could say that the era you mentioned in your question is pretty much the generation of albums we can relate to the most. Albums like “Crimson” by Edge of Sanity, “Whoracle” by In Flames and “Slaughter of the Soul” by At the Gates are all works of extraordinary quality. We also like lots of the older stuff and sometimes embed elements of “forgotten masterpieces” into our sound. For example, listen to “The Fifth Season” by Sacrilege and you’ll see what I mean. In addition to those bands we have another huge pool of influences, since we don’t limit ourselves to a certain genre and listen to a lot of unusual bands that you wouldn’t find in a typical metalheads’ collection.
Sweden is almost an obligatory reference when you play this genre and listening to songs like “A Costant Disbelief” or the titletrack I would say that you were swedish if i didn’t know you were german. How much is it difficult to have a personal style but still remaining in the style?
This is a tough call. But your question and statement that you thought we were a swedish band makes me kinda happy. Even though I don’t know what a typical German band sounds like (probably The Scorpions, ha), it’s good to hear that we’re doing a good job playing like a full-on swedish band. In my ears we have a pretty unique style in terms of riffing, but the melodies and harmonies sound like they come straight from the late 90s. This is also underlined by the fact that Yannick uses a very individual playing technique and I needed quite some time to get used to it. This alone is something I’ve never experienced, and I think it gives the music a certain vibe and atmosphere that I only associate with Harasai. But despite all this I have to say that we don’t sit a table and discuss about our music or develop a plan for the future, we just write songs and see what’s coming out. Usually after shows, people come to us and say things like “You sound like band X in era Y, it’s good to see those days are still alive.” You could say that we don’t want to sound like our idols, but we’re interpreting their works in our own style and mix them up with some new energy.
How do you write your songs? Who writes the music and who the lyrics?
Martin writes all the lyrics and arranges them. He is constantly collecting ideas and inspiration from people, mass media, the internet or his own life and always manages to write a great text. There were and there are days where he is constantly sending me new ideas, working for hours on a single line or just looking for things he can use as a symbol or personification within the lyric. This guy’s also crazy when it comes to literature, but maybe he can tell you more about it someday. The music on the other hand mainly comes from Yannick’s mind, sometimes enriched with ideas from Nico (who also plays bass and guitar) and myself, but not always. There are also songs that are solely written by one of us, but this is rare. Usually we sit at home alone and doodle around, then write some ideas down and send them to the other guys. That’s it. When we meet to rehearse, we play these ideas (sometimes full songs) and afterwards talk about what we like and what we dislike, then change it until everyone is satisfied. We’re not too great fans of developing ideas in the rehearsal room, because for us this turned out to be very unproductive. I guess we are people who need a quiet place to compose music, not places where four other guys are talking about random stuff and drink beer. Oh well.
Which are your main lyrical themes?
If you’re looking at our band page over at metal-archives.com it’s “Death”, but this is not the case. As I wrote in the previous answer, Martin is responsible for the lyrical side of the band. But since we’re talking every day, I have a pretty good insight of what’s going on in his head. So if you just ask me, the lyrics mainly deal with the problem of being your true self; of living in a dead concrete world. The idea of the title track sums it all up: People are wearing masks to be accepted, to make friends who aren’t real friends, to gain an ego, to get a relationship with a loving partner. The mask helps you, because in our world you have to resemble everything but yourself to achieve your goals. This point gets also clearer if you look at our artwork. The man on the cover takes off his mask, his I-conception, and thinks what Martin wrote: “Nevermore I bear/This I-conception I created”. The song can be seen as an analysis of your character and person and states: “Be yourself, despise superficial people”. By the way, I hate it that the whole world is just getting more and more superficial, no one has time for anything social and most people sit at home and get their brains infused with television and the internet. Some time ago a friend of mine complained to his girlfriend that they didn’t see each other enough. She was astonished and said: “What? But we see each other every day! On the internet!” Sadly, this will be the future of the human race. I think there is a kind of frustration or even desperation growing in all of us, and this and other facts drive Martin to release his anger in form of lyrics. I mean, what is left when everyone sits at home alone, only accompanied by the sweet glowing of the LCD?
You all played in different bands with different sounds, was this large range of influences useful in the composition process?
For Yannick there’s only been Harasai and some shows with death-grinders Diaroe; as far as I know he’s never been a member of any other band. Nico still is in Diaroe, and Arne plays in a rock band called The Bratwurst, where he also does the bass and clean vocals. Martin sang in a lot of bands; his most recent, death metallers Risoid System, have a very American sound. I for myself played for the black-thrashers Erazor before I joined Harasai and had a short intermezzo with German prog-deathers Symbiontic; both bands have a sound that’s very different from our current music. I must say that this is a very complex topic, especially for me. Granted, I can only talk about my personal experiences, but coming from a completely different field of metal makes it extremely hard for me to contribute ideas that are essential to Harasai. This is also the reason Yannick is the main songwriter. I tend to compose music that sounds more like Anata than In Flames, and this makes it hard to create a coherent line within an album, so that it doesn’t sound like a sampler with the same singer or anything like that. So you could say that all the influences were – at least for me – not too useful in the context of Harasai. Alas, I don’t want to miss the experiences I made in all my other bands, be it songwriting in general, recording or just simple ‘band life’.
How was the collaboration with Björn Gooßes from Night In Gales born?
That was easy, we just asked him! But to be a bit more elaborate: He lives in the same city as we do, and over the past years Martin made quite a few contacts to a lot of people within the local scene, this also includes the guys from The Very End (Björn’s current band) and the old line-up of Night In Gales. Martin is a huge fan of both bands, and I think he was at a concert or something, just went up to Björn and said “Would you like to do a part on our album?”. When we were in the studio a few weeks later, we just called him and he showed up and did a great job. That’s all.
Going to the Unisound studios of Dan Swano means that you want to make a good work, I think it’s not so easy for a small band like yours to make something like that, how much is it important to sacrifice something to make what you really want, especially in this world in which everyone wants everything and immediately?
Yeah, this is totally true. I mean, just look at our children: When I was young, I had a Super Nintendo and some candy, today’s kids have iPhones, Laptops, cell phones and PS3s. And they still want more. But I’m getting way sidetracked here, so back to the question: Given the fact that all of us are still enrolled in university, school or have other educational obligations, it is obvious that we don’t have lots of cash. In fact we’re still paying the debts we made for “The I-Conception”. But we wanted this album so bad and put so much effort and work into it, that we didn’t want to let money get in our way, so we recorded it despite all financial problems. We think that it is very important to sacrifice anything for your goals, especially when it comes to music. It is something creative, something that comes deeply from your heart and soul, and it is something you can’t buy. This alone made us work even harder at our day jobs, pulling shift after shift and spending the money on studio time. Most people today miss the sense of deep thoughts or meaningful conversations, and seek validation in the arms of the internet or the joys of consumption, thus losing all personal connections to things like music. So to answer your question: It is goddamn important!
Usually in some albums I find 3-4 nice tracks but too many fillers, luckily in yours the best songs come with other good ones. Of course you have time to gain personality and maturity, but what will be the next step?
Thanks for the compliment! In my opinion, the next step will be kind of a maturing of the material. “The I-Conception” basically has a very youthful and wild attitude, everything is like ‘in-your-face’ and very direct. We already have a few new songs finished, and all I can say is that the compositions got a lot more depth, but also more complexity and a rather mature vibe. Of course there are typical melodic riffs that define our sound, but everything will be more “grand”, so to say. We’re not talking about or even comparing ourselves with Opeth, but they are the only band that everyone in Harasai loves. And this time, all of the band members are involved in the writing process, as opposed to our debut. We’ll see what’s coming out.
The german scene is always producing something good and can give to some good bands a chance to make themselves more visible, how is the situation? How do you live it? Do you have some friend bands with which you support each other?
Well, the German scene is booming, but I wouldn’t say that it gives a lot of chances. You can never achieve anything through good or well-written music. No. It’s all about connections and/or money. A good band without connections won’t make it big here, a band with lots of money playing shitty music will headline all concerts. It’s that simple, and unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it. Look at a German band like Centaurus-A. They’re fucking awesome. But after their debut album came out, nothing happened. What is this? I will never understand it. As I said earlier, Martin is the guy who is pub/disco crawling nearly every weekend. He manages and organizes the band and does the booking. The fact that we have – in comparison – lots of gigs is due to the fact that Martin works his ass off and writes millions of e-mails and makes thousands of calls a week. And even though he does this, we’re still a relatively small band, because we don’t have the money for buy-ins or a proper booking agency. Luckily, we have a lot of said friend bands. We meet relatively often, party and do lots of concerts together, also pushing ourselves to new levels of songwriting, creating a kind of competition. We even critizise our songs and give advice to each other, so it’s a very relaxed atmosphere. We don’t take us too seriously, so it’s okay. Next week we’re even going on a small self-organized tour through Poland with one of the closest of our band friends, Kadavrik.
What do you think about the today metal scene? Good and bad things, or something which you miss compared to the past?
I think that todays’ scene is worse, only because of the internet. I mean you can hear and rip everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, within seconds. Music lost its character of being culture good or special, because everyone has instant access to all bands that are in the Metal Archives. I know lots of people who sit at home and download like 50 albums a day, giving them a spin once and then press “Delete”. I don’t get it. Sure, I also use the internet to listen to new bands, but at least I buy CDs, HEAR them, and try to understand or interpret the lyrics if they have an appealing topic. The internet is the McDonald’s of the music industry. Positive points are the flood of information about nearly every band and the fact that there are still people out there doing fanzines or blogs. Online fanzines often have a much edgier style and can write things that the big print mags can not, so I regularly read lots of them. Other than the fact that music is currently being degraded to a fast food feast, I don’t think that lots of things have changed over the past. Also, I don’t consider myself a member of the local or any scene, so my take on this is rather one-dimensional.
How is the promotion of “The I-Conception” going? Will you make a tour to bring you music on the stage?
Our label is doing a great job promoting the CD, and we already had articles in magazines like the German Rock Hard, Legacy and Blast!. In addition we lead an internet campaign and have ads in nearly every print media that’s related to metal. So you can say it’s going well. I heard that our distribution partner, Twilight, is nearly sold out and we have to do a second pressing in the near future. A tour on the other hand is also something we always wanted to do. It’s our big dream to go on a full-on tour through Europe or America (or both?). But so far we don’t have any offers and/or the money. Until then we do lots of single concerts all over Germany and even play a festival in Switzerland (together with Vader, Gorgoroth and more) on new year’s eve.
Do you have a positive and a negative experience which made you improve your live shows?
For us, there is no such thing as a “negative live show”. We try to give everything when we’re on stage, and it doesn’t matter if there are 5 or 500 people standing in front of the stage. Sure, you can always improve things and learn a lot from bad or unresponsive shows, but I think our previous experiences in other bands give us the self-esteem needed to go nuts on stage or do crazy stuff. We’ve had stage-divers, people who sang along, moshers, circle pits, walls of death; virtually everything you can imagine. I think we wouldn’t have made these experiences if we were boring the fuck out of the people watching us. Also, those guys were paying money, so we always have the obligation to provide the best show possible.
Can you say three bands with which you would like to share the stage? And another non-metal one that you’d like to open to?
As I’m doing this interview alone, here are my personal choices. I picked bands that fit into the context, because a band like Disgorge or something is nothing Harasai could play with, style-wise. I’m also not a huge fan of the obvious choices like In Flames or Dark Tranquillity.
2. Dead Eyed Sleeper
3. Fragments of Unbecoming
Non-Metal: Alcest. And if that doesn’t count as non-metal: Porcupine Tree!
Are there any confirmed dates to tell to our readers?
Sure, just check our myspace-page! But there’s nothing confirmed in Italy yet. Feel free to book us, we play anytime!
Thanks for the time spent with us, I wish you all the best. The last message to our readers is up to you.
Thanks to you and the Aristocrazia Webzine for the interview!
We hope that we’re going to play in Italy someday and until then we want to thank everyone who gives us a listen or supports us in any other way!