Interview by Vard Aman
Sunwalter – an Extreme Metal band from Moscow who have recently released their debut album, “SETI Evidence”. I caught up with their vocalists: Natalia, to talk about her singing career and the projects she has been and is involved with (such as Pesante, who also have a new EP out, called “Overplayed”); and Alexio, to talk about “SETI Evidence” and all things Sci-fi; and a few other topics too. At the time of this interview, the members of Sunwalter that featured on “SETI Evidence” had just parted ways; Alexio will continue with Sunwalter and Natalia will continue with Pesante.Natalia, to start off, when did you start singing and what inspired you to become a singer?
Natalia: You know, I’ve been loving singing since childhood. As my mother says I tried to sing some tunes even when I was two. Then in high school I used to sing in all amateur concerts. At that time I was always preparing some songs of rock or metal bands to sing in front of audience.
But as it seems to me, my real start at singing was at sixteen when I began lessons with my teacher of classical singing. Why classical singing? Because there was Tarja in my world. And I sang in church chorus where I met a woman whose operatic voice I liked very much. So I would like to sing like she did. And also I thought that technique of classical singing is very difficult and versatile. So I decided that if I master such technique as foundation of my singing I would be able to sing everything.
And now I can use my classical technique and also I can use non-classical style of sound in my singing. For example, you practically won’t hear my classical voice in Sunwalter’s release “SETI Evidence” but you will hear it in my EP release with Pesante.
If to speak about the time when I decided to make a music career… There weren’t an exact moment. I just loved to sing and I sang, sang and sang. And gradually the process of singing was becoming a strong passion. But it isn’t easy to be a musician in my country, so I didn’t consider music career as a good way for my future life. So I finished school, entered university at a faculty of applied math and then graduated from it. After that I tried to combine working as a programmer with music activity. But then I finally realized that I only should be a musician in my life. And gave up everything for it.The first time I heard your voice was when you were singing for Hidden. Were you in any other bands before that?
Natalia: No. The Hidden was my first one.Tell us a little more about your time in Hidden, and about the band/music itself.
Natalia: Hidden means a lot to me. While taking part in Hidden I gain my first experience in working with a band, in metal concerts, in working on album. Also guys helped me to make my vocal development more exact. And Hidden gave me several friends whom I will never forget. So I’m really thankful to Hidden for all these things. If to speak about music, I can say that it is interesting. It combines Sympho metal, Progressive, Power and Black.What are the biggest differences for you between singing live and singing in a studio, and what are the easiest parts/biggest challenges of each?
Natalia: When it is a concert, there is a great inspiration in me that draws me on a stage strongly. Sometimes this feeling is so much before the performance, that I even can compare myself to a chained dog which only wants to tear chains away. When I sing a song I plunge into it, concentrate on my inner world. And when I’m on the stage, I can take in my world those, who are around me. And share it with them. This is amazing. And also a stage by itself has some attraction. So even there are no listeners around, anyway it would be pleasant for me to sing there. I don’t know why I feel this.
When I’m working at studio I also have a sense that there are some listeners. Because I know that people will listen to my songs. But that people are virtual, they live only in my imagination. So the sense of their presence is quite weak. And when I’m on the stage people are real, each other has an individual personality, so this is really exciting.
But in general there isn’t principal difference between what I do on a stage and what I do at studio. Anyway, there are much more inner motivations for me to sing then outer motivations. And usually I enjoy the process very much in both types of work. Because singing and performing are absolutely great. I like it much. And the technique part of singing in most cases doesn’t set up big problems for me, because I work a lot on my technique beforehand at home.Why did you leave Hidden?
Natalia: Besides positive moments there were also some negative things for me. And finally I realized that I should go. Any way, it was a hard decision for me.Is it true that you also did some session work around this time? A band called Galathea?
Natalia: Yes, that’s absolutely right. I took part in two songs from Galathea’s debut album “Iz Glubiny” (2010). The first song is an intro in Latin (“Somnium Initio”) where I and my friend Anastasia Neretina made an imitation of chorus with our two voices. And there is a song “Angel Iskusheniya” where I sang backing vocals in classical style of singing. This band plays progressive metal with leading male vocal. It was a big pleasure for me to do this work because I like these guys and the music is really great. And there is no any other session works of mine yet.Alexio, when did Sunwalter first start up and what was your inspiration?
Alexio: The project Sunwalter formed in 31 August 2008. It was the ex-project of my previous unsuccessful band after completely reorganization it with changing everything from band members to the name, style and conception. In the begin it was power and black metal project with thematic about demons, madness and fatalism. But band members changed and music too. I began to understand that this style is very ordinary and even correction of it will not bring any success. I needed for something completely new. Something that nobody does, slowly coming to the point of difference. The first text I have written in Sci-Fi style was “Nibiru”. The music for this song has appeared early. And first theme on keyboards in this song turned my mind to the idea of Sci-Fi. “Nibiru” is really important song, which brought in Sunwalter‘s life the crucial point. After this song I have said good bye to nearly all previous songs and texts and started to write everything again in new style. As far as I interested in Sci-Fi books, films and some documentary information I have enough large well of ideas, especially when I start to mix them and improve.Sunwalter is quite original name. What is the meaning behind it?
Alexio: Firstly I prefer to tell the interesting story of formation this word. I am the fan of the one old role playing game – “Fallout 2”. There are four mafia bands in one of city in this game and one of these bands has name “Salvatore”, which has access to high laser technology. The name “Salvatore” sounds good as I thought and in the beginning I have borrowed this name and began to change it with trying to save nice sounding. As the result I have come to the word Sunwalter.
In fact the word Sunwalter is not so simple. Here is 2 words from 2 languages: SUN (from English) and WALTER (Lord – from German). That’s why when we pronounce this word need to say second part of the name – word “walter” like it pronounces in Germany, but not in English. Just using word combination “Sunlord” or “Lord of the Sun” is very ordinary and I am sure there are a lot of young band with such names or something like this. Also some people advised me to call the project “Sonnewalter” like completely German name, but it could be ordinary too, also in this way logically we have to sing on German, but not in English.How did you two first meet up with each other?
Natalia: I just found their advertisement at internet forum for musicians. Then I went to audition and they decided to take me in the band.
Alexio: When I have written text and vocal theme for the song “Nibiru” I started to understand that in half places of this song my extreme vocal sounds not so good. And when my father has heard the raw music for “Nibiru” he said that with my extreme voice the clean female voice could be sound interesting. I thought about this idea a lot of time and made a decision to find female academic voice. I have found the girl for this role very fast with good voice and we started to work and record the album. But after record one song I’ve understood that she isn’t enough reliable and punctual. I don’t like these both traits in people, especially if I plan to work hard with them. So we have said goodbye to her and started to find new female vocal. This process has taken about a year, because all candidates we have seen didn’t have 2 important properties: beautiful vocal and reliable. But “all good things come to he who waits” and at last I have found Natalia through the popular Russian music forum in the Internet. We worked about two months checking everything and only after this she become our new member of project and the second frontman.
Your debut album, “SETI Evidence”, has just been released (14 Feb) on Grailight Productions. What can listeners expect from the album?
Natalia: “A mixture of aliens who will abduct your brain warm autumn night, wrapped in a mystifying veil of silky female vocal and remaining sounds of supernovae in the dark of the infinite cosmos will impress those who run this record.” Kirill Matyuhin, our new guitarist.
Alexio has been taking a great interests in science fiction, aliens, space and space invasions since he was a child. So there’s nothing surprising that he wants to bring this great part of his life into music. And he successfully does this. Some people says to me, that this subject matter is unactual, that no one will listen about aliens and space. But I’m not agree. Because if it was true, there wouldn’t be a great deal of literature, films, graphics devoted to science fiction and the extraterrestrial life problematic. This means, that many people are interested in it. And if the music is a form of art as well, why not to create songs on this subject?
If to speak about music from our album, it is a kind of a quintessence of feelings, emotions, moods, emotional experiences and thoughts of band members. Each song has its own story, but if you try to separate the lyrics from the music, it could be viewed from different perspectives, and rethought completely different. We did not try to write songs in a particular genre of music, we have tried to create a good and quality music and if we needed electronic parts or symphonic parts, we added them, trying to emphasize certain phrases of lyrics. In general there can be detected some elements of Heavy, Melodic Death, Progressive, Symphonic metal in music.Are the songs mostly based on or inspired by existing Science Fiction, or are they mostly your own concepts?
Natalia: Alexio is the one who invented all this.
Alexio: This question hasn’t a simply answer. The thing is that our government always try to hide any true extraterrestrial information, because some sensation can cause unpredictable reaction of civilians. And government will completely loose control. As the result everything will finish with anarchy. That is why we still haven’t real proof about Roswell Incident. The only we have is unchecked information from civilians or official information leakage. The government will deny information from both sources. Take no notice of that, I used this information, then added my own ideas or predictions and wrote texts, making every song like a small story. From me I can say that I don’t deny all these contacts with extraterrestrial intelligence and concede that contact between Earth and extraterrestrial intelligence has happened. And happened a lot of time ago, in the ancient age and this contact continues nowadays. Some songs like “Supernova” is not any Sci-Fi. It’s just beautiful description about birth of new star. The idea has come to me when I have understood that many people don’t know how it happens. I always liked to learn basics people in spheres where I know enough for it.
Song “Nibiru” doesn’t need a lot of comments. In the last few years nearly all science channels on TV and mass media discussed Dies Irae (Doom’s day), which foretold the ancient tribe Maya. And one of the reason they foretold is that will come the giant planet Nibiru which will have size like Jupiter and destroy the Earth. So I couldn’t get past this idea as text for one of our songs. Same situation with song “Battle for the Moon”. Some sources assert that on the dark side of the moon aliens has built the base and watch us. Also our spacemen detected this base and from time to time skirmishes happen between terrans and aliens… “He-he! Nice idea for the next Sunwalter‘s song” – thought me and have written this text.
The song “Phantoms of Mars” and “Pandorum” I have written after films “Mission on Mars” and “Pandorum”. I like these films and sometime think, what if it’s true? Because we know there is no any proof disproving it. So we still have chance that it could be true. Martians who live under the surface of Mars in special bases. Or the illness “Pandorum” when people try to spend really much of time in space travels. Songs “Sunwalter” and “Alien Opera” this bout are completely Sci-Fi. The song “Sunwalter” tries to tell us who is Sunwalter. I image him as the spirit which controls the universe. He is all, but he is nothing, because the spirit. He can contact with everybody and everything and as an example in this song he comes to the man through the dream till the man is sleeping and tell him about himself, and sure informing everybody who listen this song too. “Alien Opera” has written under the influence of the film “WALL-E”. I tried to show in this song that even as terrans and aliens are different they could live in peace and harmony even if only occasionally. Nothing to say about the song “Rotten”. This song has come to this album from our previous single CD. It doesn’t linked with Sci-Fi. The song is just about one man, who hates the world. Just this song knows many our fans, so we have recorded it and added to set list of the album.The South African part of me has to ask: Have you seen the film “District 9”? If so, what did you think of it?
Alexio: I have seen many films about extraterrestrial creatures. And sure I have seen “District 9”. This film has strange conception. I think that all aliens who can reach our planet must have very high technologies, including possibility to repair their spaceship easy. It must not be a problem for them to solve the problem which shown in this film. Aliens shown weak, a bit stupid and almost without high technologies except pair guys. So how they could travel through millions stars and reach our Earth in they became slaves for humanity. The humanity which even can’t leave their home system – Solar System. I think that all that shown in this film can’t be in real life, because too much contradictions and stupidities. But in spite of it the film is made on high level and interesting for customers.What is your prediction for the future of the world and mankind?
Alexio: Interesting question. I have two answers on this question, because I still can’t make a decision for me what is more real. So I really want to believe that once in future extraterrestrial creatures will come and “open our eyes”. Eyes of every human on the Earth and give answers on many questions as: how we come here many years ago, what happens behind Solar System in other galaxies and how possible to reach these far places of the universe (at least how they do it). So I believe in great contact between us and extraterrestrials which will globally change our life. But there is one more problem. The thing is that we have a lot of problems today on our planet. For example if tomorrow will happen any international conflict it can easy finish with nuclear war. And if once it will happen we won’t wait till the moment of contact with extraterrestrial. Just any condition of the global war will destroy everything on the Earth. So I want to believe that we will try to avoid this problem and wait till the great contact.Now that the members of Sunwalter (at the time of this interview) have parted ways and only you remain, what are your future plans for Sunwalter?
Alexio: If you tried to ask me about it before album release I’d asked that I have a big problem. But there is another situation. I have an album as good portfolio. So for now it’s very easy process to find new band members. I have already found a good drummer, also founda new female vocal. This vocal is differ than Natalya’s but still has interesting sound and I think that our listeners will find new vocal mix interesting. Very soon we will record the new single “Forbidden Sun” with the new members and a new sound.Natalia, let’s talk about Pesante a bit. How did you end up joining them?
Natalia: As it usually happens to me, I found them in internet. I’ve just accidentally visited Pesante’s page in a social network and saw that they were looking for a new vocalist. And I liked the music very much. So I came to audition and they decided to take me in the band. But there was a little problem. They and I live in different cities. I live in a small town near Moscow and they live in Tver which is in another region. It takes me about 4 hours to get to them, which is hard a little bit if to do it often. And we decided, that I would come to them for repetitions not every week, but would do the most part of work at home.How would you describe Pesante‘s sound, and tell us a bit about the new album?
Natalia: We call our music Female Fronted Melodic Metal or sometimes Gothic Metal for simplicity. But our music versatile and you can find there some elements of Sympho Metal, Death Metal and even Thrash in some places. Our EP album is a starter project for our coming full-length album. And we are searching a label for it.I love those big vocal melodies in “The Evil Twin” – some real ‘gooseflesh’ moments in that song for me. What is “The Evil Twin” about?
Natalia: This song isn’t mine. It was written by Daniil, our vocalist and bassist. But yes, I have something like my own interpretation of it. What if we had no dogmas and rules? What if there was no one before you and you had to discover your new world from the start? There would be a virgin, boundless world around you. And your path would be unexplored for you. You would be guided only by the wishes of your soul and the dream. And probably the life seemed to be an interesting thing and would be amazing.
But we live here for a long, long time and we invented a lot of standards for our life. At the beginning of our time they just protected us from bringing damage to each other. But then they developed into a complicated system of dogmas. And at these times this system existing, first of all, for guard itself from being destroyed. Though it was created for assisting you, nowadays it can suppress your individuality.
So, I wonder, what if simply to throw it away? To throw it away and became free. No, you should keep those principles which help you not to harm others. But all other things might be thrown… You might feel pain (or a lot of pain) while following such path. But as it comes from my experience, I can say, that any pain has its end. And after it ends the strength comes and even wisdom. The Dark Queen from our song is the image of those things which you can give up to gain more freedom.You’ve just come back from touring with Pesante. Where did you tour, and how was it?
Natalia: It was really great! I like it very very much and would like to return. I like just everything. The performing by itself, people, the way of living we had. Besides concerts we also had several days for walking around the cities.
We went first to Belarus (Gomel), then to Ukraine (Kiev) and then to Poland. In Poland we’ve been to Stalowa Wola, Zielona Góra, Poznań and Kraków. Also we’ve been to Cottbus in Germany for one day. But we visited this city just for fun. We didn’t have a concert there.What bands do you usually like to listen to?
Natalia: There are a lot of them. I even can’t enumerate all of my favorite bands. And there are different styles of music from Sympho metal to rock’n’roll: Rhapsody of Fire, Helloween, Angra, Apocalyptica, Nightwish, Moonspell, Lacrimosa, Dream Theater, King Crimson, Doors, Motley Crue, Aerosmith. Also I like classical music and folk music.
Alexio: Some years ago I listened to black, gothic and power metal styles. But last time I prefer to listen everything. One my friend has said great quote “Every music has a right to live”, maybe after this quote I have started to listen all styles. Today I like almost all metal styles, pop-music like Garbage, Roxette, Ace of Base, Smile.DK, No Doubt and techno/electro as Scooter, Enigma, David Arkenstone. I know that many people say that it’s strange when musicians who play heavy music listen to absolutely another music style, but for me it can help to do new and unusual style with mix of everything.Can you personally recommend any good Russian bands?
Natalia: Yes. The first whom I can recommend are those bands, which were in tour to Poland with us. I like them! They are United Mind Club and Funeral Speech. Also I would like to mention Anadora, Odium Nova and Reveletio.
Alexio: To confess the truth no. Almost all Russian musicians are very lazy and want to see the result and to be super stars after their first record or concert. It is very awful and it’s the problem of all our young bands. After this they just stop to work and one more band dies. That’s why we have million rock bands in Russia but only one percent of them really can be successful. And the problem is that some really good Russia bands are not popular, because they have no money to show and publicize themselves. But without money in our country very difficult to do something. In Europe and USA it is more easy because people are not so lazy and they are ready to put all their energy and a lot of money their in band. And when they meet any problem they don’t stop to work and don’t leave bands like happens always in Russia. Yes, sure we have some successful bands, but you can easy find better band of this style in Europe or USA. Sometimes our successful bands are just copy of something better in Europe or USA. I think it is not interesting.