MEET THE ARTIST: EWIAN ABOUT "WE NEED MONSTERS"
Welcome EWIAN! First of all I'd like to congratulate you on your second album "We Need Monsters", which not only met all expectations of our team, but also exceeded them by far. Your debut album is out only a year. Were you planning on releasing a quick follow up or have you just been kissed by the muse?
Ewian: Just been kissed by the muse. In other words making music serves as well as some sort of mind grooming for me. Whenever an idea pops up in my head I have to transform it into art or else I would implode. Usually I plan on taking a break after each release, but it never happens. Yet I won't give up on this idea.
In our first interview you said the following about the expectations for your debut: Of course I hope that the album finds it's way to an audience, that can relate to it and make use of the music in which way so ever. I also hope that one day people talk about this album as an inspiration for other artists. How did this pan out for you after one year? Has there been feedback from people and fellow musicians regarding your album?
E: Oh yes. There's been quite some response from the press, fans and musicians alike. Sometimes fans tell me episodes of their lives and how they made connections to my music. I feel deply honoured by this and always answer to them accordingly. I am lucky to still have the time to dedicate myself emotionally and I hope it stays that way. Of course musicians provide feedback. But that's good form among musicians anyway. I was particularly happy with a response by Plike's Em Baker. She recently wrote to me that she is listening to "Good Old Underground" every day and that she would like to collaborate. Her project is thrilling and I didn't hesitate to say yes (click here for further informations). If EWIAN has been a source of inspiration for other artists I can't really tell. Frankly speaking this wish was a bit presumptuous anyways. Further more I noticed that in numbers "We Need Monsters" receives less attention by the press than "Good Old Underground".
You are a master of bold album titles. After "Good Old Underground" we now see "We Need Monsters". What are these monsters that you are speaking of?
E: Those monsters are pojections of personal inner states like fear, guilt or yearning onto external realities. This can manifest in many different ways: bogeymen, ideologies, stereotypes and even delusions. They all amount to apsychological survival strategy and serve the purpose of not having to cope with ones fears and guilts, since on a short term projection and supression are easier to deal with. Thus "need". As you might have noticed there is a recurring little alien (in the eyes of some even cute) in our press and live photos. I named it Jacob and it stands symbolic for the monsters. To have a menancing avatar would have been a bit over the top, so I decided on a harmless yet disturbing character. Furthermore I tried to express some self-irony since I don't take it all too seriously anyhow.
The new album is considerably darker and more metaphorical, as if you try to cope with hard times in your songs. Have there been tragic moments this year which inspired your songwriting?
E: No, not at all. Generally I don't use all too many autobiographical elements in my songs, but instead dedicate them to certain themes which might have relevance to my life but don't need to. If those themes are demanding or melancholic the song will reflect this accordingly. Ok, there might have been one moment, but it wasn't tragic. I was somehow furious at god, because I couldn't understand how much pain and suffering he was willing to let happen. I told him to bugger off from my plane of existence until it all stops. As my emotions had cooled off somewhat I knew that not god but men and it's free will are culprit to all suffering (not postulating here). It all made sense again, yet the sadnesss remained. As I speak of it I just realize that this form of attribution is just another example for what I try to tell with WWe Need Monsters". In this case god was the monster - a projection for my rage and the wrongs of men. At this time I couldn't have it any other way. Later I revoked that projection.
You then worked out this episode in "Monster"...
E: Exactly. I have no use for a manifested god. The only thing that makes sense to me is a collective consciousness that like all living is in constant flow and evolution - bare almightyness but also not bound to time or space. The day after I sat down on my keyboard and didn't get up again until the song was finished. I never felt so lost and depressed while composing a song, but I had no choice. I had to go through with it. Lyrically the core element was inspired by some lines of Benjamin Lachance (Crooked Ways), which I slightly modified: "I'm staring at the floor, as god knocks at my door. Lord - Would you be so kind?To stop the killing. Tonight." After the shootings in Paris a fan posted these lines online. I was deeply touched cause it could not have been more spot on.
The cover art is very sinister too. It features a ghostly man emitting black smoke from his mouth. A raven is sitting on his shoulder. What's the story behind it?
E: By luck I came across a similar looking picture by a digital artist from Portugal. It shows the same thing happening but to an abstract, androgynous being. From what I saw I immediately made the connection to 'We Need Monsters', that is the moment when a person rids itself from it's fear and projects it onto an external object. You can't see the object - which is irrelevant anyhow - but those trails of smoke visually symbolize how this is happening. I then got in contact with the artist, who goes by the alias Elia Magnolia and asked her if she is willing to do a modified version of her drawing. The objective was to redesign the androgynous being into a person with a suit, a tie and a briefcase and also give the overall image a darker look. My intentions were to have a more down-to-earth frame, as the original drawing was a bit too abstract and spiritual for my purposes. The raven was artistic freedom. I was extremely happy with her first sketch right away and used it without further changes.
On the last page of the booklet there is a photo of you standing besides Jannis Körfer-Peters. It all seems very static - a deliberately stark contrast to your emotionally effervescing sound?
E: Some people critisized this and mistook the stasis for stiffness. Which is ok. And yes, this contrast was intended.
Speaking of which – how did you come to collaborate with Jannis? And what happended to your old companions from the days of "Good Old Underground"?
E: I need to clarify a possible misunderstanding at this point. With Clemens Engert (Alien Hand Syndrome), Fifi Rong and James Hrabak (Slack Armada) I only worked on remixes and features for just a couple of songs on "Good Old Underground". Apart from that none of the above contributed to the album on a compositional level. Unfortunately I seemed to have failed to make this clear and some assumed otherwise. Clemens just released a new single named "Summer Of 1816". It's a very beautiful song. Fifi successfully crowdfunded and released her new EP "Violently Silently" and Slack Armada have grown quiet lately. I am still in contact with Benjamin Lachance, but currently there's no musical exchange between the two of us. Just a couple of lines in the song Monster are inspired by his lyrics. As of today Jannis is EWIAN's guitarist for live performances, but this might very well change for a potentially third album. He has composed some pretty slick guitar tunes, which in my view tremendously add to the songs. Also since recently drummer Florian Jooß is on board and will have his first live appearance on February 13 in the Blue Shell, Cologne. We will perform there with synthie-pop combos SonicWhiteOut and History Of Art.
Jannis: I took notice of it by an open bidding, project EWIAN searched a guitarist for live performances. As a result I listened to the recordings and decided quickly to relish the challenge to bring this particular sound on stage. Still and despite the fact I added my own tunes to the songs I see mself just as live guitarist, because they originated before my time.
Let's get straight to the point: 'We Need Monsters' opens with a provocative story right from the start. The lyrical self is handed a Ticket From Kingdom Come, a ticket from or to the beyond. It is in hope to be closer to it's loved one there, than it has ever seemed possible in the mortal world. Sounds like a death wish...
E: But it has nothing to do with it! "Ticket From Kingdom Come" serves as a template, a prototype for the thesis behind "We Need Monsters".
For this song you shot a video in an old attic. How did you come up with this idea and what experiences did you make while shooting?
E: It was the attic of an abandonded house in Landau and I chose this location for it's morbid flair. We really made extensive use of it. At first we were shooting some stills with our photographer Hanna König. Solomon Seed, a reggae musician and friend of mine, came up with the idea to also shoot a video there. It wasn't all easy and we sweated a lot. The summer of 2015 was really hot and we had to shoot at 40‹C plus. I believe it shows in the video. At one time I thought it to be a good idea to do some experimental shots on my own. I was turning on my own axis a couple of times, passed out and woke up in my own vomit. Jacob has a key part in this video, because he represents the fears of the protagonist. There's a primordial fight raging within the main character: keeping up the projection vs. facing the fear. The level of abstractness and the control over the fear oscillates throughout the course of the video. Fear is latent and subconscious when Jacob is flat and black, then manifest and in full bloom when his texture is visible.
"Some Day" almost reminds of the famous utopian speech of Martin Luther King wouldn't it be for the heavily distorted voice. You almost get the impression an extraterrestrial is speaking to us. Are you mocking the hope for a better, more peaceful future life?
E: Not at all! The speech is inspired by several great speakers this world had to offer. I rerouted it to a universal setting. Yes it is recited by an extraterrestrial - Jacob that is. At a recent live performance he already spoke in that voice and someday he might recite the whole speech of 'Some Day'. I have no influence on this.
Seems that you're heavily dealing with Jacob...
E: Well. Okay, to get this straight: of course Jacob is fictious. I'm not all crazy I assume. Yet it's a lot of fun to play with this concept. As I mentioned above this is also an expression of self-irony. Nonetheless I try to keep it serious to not spoil the message.
"Quiet Like In Heaven" also comes up with a statement: It's Quiet Like In Heaven, When Soldiers Come
Home. What is it you want express by this line?
E:"Quiet Like In Heaven" depicts a moment, that actually isn't one anymore. How does it feel when a soldier's wife awaits the return of her spouse at the docks? When the ship lands and the soldiers disembark right into the arms of their loving wives. All around you hear shouts for joy, while less and less soldiers disembark, yet the hope remains until the very last has left the ship. And then everything turns silent. Quiet despite all the cheers. A moment like this is hard to grasp and hardly can it be wrapped in words. My intention with this song was to express the feeling when somebody does not return and the yearning for a moment of gathering.
Your music has notably matured. Is it fair to say that EWIAN have come a step closer to 'their' sound?
E: I think so. Maybe "Good Old Underground" has the better songs, but overall I am more pleased with "We Need Monsters". It just sounds more like EWIAN which could be due to the fact that I did not collaborate with other artists on this album.
Can a musician reach a point where he says: "This is exactly my sound"?
E: By all means no. What might exactly be your sound today, tomorrow probably isn't anymore. By nature people are in constant change. Nonetheless I try to keep up a certain continuity with EWIAN. The framework might change with time but at the core it shall always be EWIAN.
On your homepage you have announced that you will focus on live performances this year. Can you just flip the switch or isn't songwriting a creative process, that you can not simply put a halt to?
E: I honestly don't know yet. It will show during the course of this year. I hope it won't mess with my creative juices.
Your "Wall Of Sound" is very cinematographic. Will you work with installations on stage or solely rely on the pure power of your music?
E: I have to admit that I'd love to have installations, but right now it's enough of a challenge to create a sound on stage, that captures the vibe of the studio recordings.
|| INTERVIEW: DANIEL DRESSLER | DATE: 05/02/16 | CONTACT | READ IN GERMAN ||
PHOTOGRAPHY © HANNA KÖNIG
COVER © TIMEZONE
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