Interview by Arianna Govoni
In a music biz that slowly becomes more competitive day by day, it’s amazing to look the other way on this one: with the advent of Internet, it’s easy nowadays to come across new metal and hard rock acts that have still something to say through their music. This is the case of Kings Winter: this duo now some fresh air to those metalheads who are searching for something new to give a listen to. FMW has nicely exchanged a few chats with this married couple who now introduces itself to our readers, so here’s our in-depth interview with Jule and Tobias.
Hi Tobias and Jule, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. It’s a great pleasure hosting this chat with you today. How are you doing?
Jule: Thank you, we are doing very good and are extremenly happy to have the opportunity to do this interview!
Let’s break the ice and let’s talk about the band, Kings Winter, a new born project that is now moving its first steps into the music environment. Would you mind telling us something more about this band?
Tobias: Well, Kings Winter was basically founded in 2018, when Jule and I started playing around with some ideas for a side project to our main band Leviathan, where we both play. And quite quickly, we had material for a complete EP ready and decided to give it a go.
Both of you come from different bands, how did you manage to create your own sound for Kings Winter?
Tobias: The sound for Kings Winter basically just happened somehow. I was collecting ideas for a record that Jule and I could do together and as it started out, it directly went into this Rock / Heavy Metal direction. But for a long time i was feeling like, there was something missing that would set our sound apart from a lot of this more retro bands that are releasing albums nowadays. But at that point of time i discovered Magnum and immediately fell in love with their orchestral approach with a lot of keyboards. When i combined that with my own influences that range from Deep Purple all the way to bands like Audioslave, it just simply clicked and i knew where we had to go with Kings Winter.
Jule: Since Tobias is leading the way when it comes to writing the music for Kings Winter, it was mainly he who created the sound. But as far as vocals go, these are probably the recordings that I am most proud of. It is the one record in all my years making music, where I could really be creative with my vocals and also go out of my way a bit, to create something unique and different. Before that was never really possible, because the music that we wrote with Skadika or Leviathan didn’t give the vocals as much space as there is now in Kings Winter.
Amongst the influences you mention, we notice two great names: Blackmore’s Night and Magnum. How did these bands affect your music background?
Tobias: I come from a background of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, that has been my entry point to heavy guitar music. Therefore my guitar heros have never been the technical players that we see in metal nowadays, though i obviously love guys like Tosin Abasi, John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen. But growing up, my favorites were always players like Hendrix, Ritchie Balackmore, Slash or especially Michael Schenker. Those guys were the ones who influenced my playing the most, so it was pretty much natural for me to go into that direction with the songwriting for Kings Winter.
Is there any band you would love to cooperate with in the nearest future?
Jule: At the moment, I can’t think of any special band that I would love to work with in the future. But I love signing duets and I have already been involved in a few other bands as a guest, so I would love to get someone to sing a duet with me on a future record.
Tobias: Not really a band, but if we are talking about musicians with whom a cooperation could be possible, i would love to have Henning Basse of Firewind as a guest on a future record. I love his voice and especially the last album that he recorded with Gus G and Firewind. If we remove the restriction, i would love to have Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian singing on one of our songs, since he probably is the best singer that we have in Germany. But as busy as he is, that will probably remain a dream.
Kings Winter will now release its debut EP, ‘Forging The Cataclysm’. The album has been completely recorded by your own in your home studio. What about this choice?
Tobias: It was basically the only way to really try out something new and create Kings Winter. I have been dreaming for years of branching out a bit and trying something fresh aside from Leviathan, but booking a studio and recording something there would have been way to expensive. Last year we then started to work on a new Leviathan album and faced the same budget problems, so i decided to build a homestudio and treach myself how to record and mix a record. It was a really challenging process, but the album turned out to be great. Afterwards i really had everything i needed to start working on a new project, without any pressure, time restriction or budget limit. So slowly a few ideas became what will now see the light of day as “Forging The Cataclysm” and i’m really proud of the result!.
I have to say that I’ve immediately fallen in love as soon as I’ve listened to the very first track of this EP: “Time’s Running Out”. Jule’s voice is beyond amazing, she has great vocals and she manages to show off her versatility in a very unique way (I’ve noticed this listening to the titletrack of the record). I wish the EP was more longer, because I can’t stop listening to ‘Forging The Cataclysm”!
Jule: Thank you so much for the compliment! It’s always thrilling to hear, how people react to your voice, especially when you have put so much work into an album.
Tobias: Thank you very much for the compliment 🙂 I was also totally impressed by Jule’s vocal performance on this record, i even think that it is some of the best stuff she has ever recorded. In her previous band Skadika and in Leviathan the space for vocals was always very limited, so she couldn’t show off all she can do. But by dialing down the guitars a bit during the verses, she really had the chance to show more diversity on this record.
Peculiar is also the choice of introducing an instrumental song: “At Road’s End”. What about this one? Did you put it just in order to “give a break” and offer the album more depth?
Tobias: Honestly, the song just simply happened while i was working on ideas for the EP. It all started with the acoustic guitar and layer by layer i added the other instruments to it. I am a big fan of letting songs develop by themself mostly, so i never try to force an idea into a certain direction. I’ll just sit and jam to a drumtrack, and follow where the ideas take me. This one just never turned into the direction of a classic song structure with verses and a chorus, but rather ended up being this eerie instrumental piece, that just fit into the whole tone of the record perfectly and added another dimension to the repertoire of tracks we had to offer.
In your opinion, what’s the strongest point of Kings Winter?
Jule: To me it is probably the fact, that we are married and live together. That makes working on music and ideas so much easier, because you don’t have to get every bandmember into a room to talk about a new idea. Instead we basically can work on things whenever we have time, which made the whole creation of the record simply a fun process and i think that the fun also shines through in the songs. Apart from that, we are able to share our our opinions on everything very openly, which also is a great help while working on new music.
If you were to describe Kings Winter to somebody who has no familiarity with you, how would you arouse his/her curiosity? How would you describe your music to this person?
Tobias: Well it basically takes the vibe of classic Hard Rock from the seventies and eighties and mixes it with a modern metal production, that also adds a lot of heavyness to the tracks. To me it really takes the best of both worlds and blends it together. You have the catchyness of Hard Rock, the stomping riffs of Heavy Metal and the punch of a modern Melodic Metal record.
You’re basically a duo, Jule took over the vocals and you, Tobias, have basically recorded all the instruments: drums, guitars, bass and even keyboards! How did you manage to take over all these recordings? How long did it take?
Tobias: I can’t really say how long the whole process took, because we never really had typical recording sessions. Whenever i practice, i do that in my homestudio, so between practicing guitar and recording it’s just a simple press of a button. So in between September 2018 and April 2019 i’ve been working on these songs whenever i had the time or an idea came to me. In April we then finished the vocal takes within a few weeks. And about all the other instruments, well guitar is my main instrument and over the past years i also managed to teach myself how to play and write for bass guitar. When it comes to putting together drums and keyboards, “Forging The Cataclysm” was my first real try at that. But i gradually eperimented with different rhythms and keyboards sounds and slowly found my way into writing for these instruments.
Beyond holding all the recordings committments, you’ve also managed to take care of the promotional pictures, the artwork and the promotion itself of the album. We could say that you guys are greatly independent! How hard is to take care of so many things in order to allow the band to get some recognition around?
Jule: It’s not as hard anymore, because we both have so much experience in doing it. I was in charge of most things with Skadika, Tobias has been doing the promotional and management side of things for Leviathan for years – and after some years you learn, what it takes to get some recognition. Adding up to that, I am also doing a lot of photography in my free-time, which also proved to be very helpful when it comes to promotional pictures.
What was for you both the toughest part of the recording process?
Jule: To me it was a very special experience to record songs while being pregnant. It’s hard to imagine, but your voice really changes during a pregnancy, which makes it hard to get the perfect sound sometimes. That is why I had to focus a lot more on my technique, in order to get everything out the way I wanted it to be.
Tobias: To me the toughest part is always the mixing process. After weeks of recording, it becomes really difficult to take a step back as a musican and to start seeing the songs more from the view of a producer. That sometimes even means that you have to cut out some pieces, because they simply don’f fit the overall flow of the track, even though from the a standpoint of a guitar player you might love the take that you recorded. A good example for this is ‘The Grand Delusion’ which originally featured an acoustic outro with only guitar on there. I loved that short piece, but Jule pointed out that it somehow really broke the flow of the track and she was right. I ended up cutting this segment, but it was really hard to get a perspective on that.
Reconnecting to the previous question, how difficult is nowadays to entrust some metal label? Why is getting more and more complicated to have a record deal and to get new music out in the music industry? There are tons of metal bands who are facing difficulties in getting their music released by someone or even to get some recognition over the Internet. What’s your own opinion about this matter?
Jule: To me it is basically the fundamental problem of the new music industry that we have nowadays. It has become really hard for labels to earn their money with CD sales and therefore the deals they offer to bands mostly involve a certain amount of money, that a band has to pay to even get their CD released. Therefore i am pretty sure that sooner or later a lot of labels will disappear and we will see a lot more independent bands like us. And that is the upside of modern technology and the internet, because you don’t really have to have a label. We just recently released a very successful album with Leviathan on our own, that earned us a lot more money than the previous albums we released with a label. Of course it includes some work to run your own onlineshop and ship CDs to every corner of the world, but at the same time we were able to make some money with the CD that will allow us to continue with the band in the future. And also with Kings Winter we have already been shipping CDs all over Europe, so it really is possible to sell CDs without a label and for small bands it can even be the better choice.
I hope that, sooner or later, some label will notice you because you really deserve a bigger attention. Also medias, fans and the press itself should pay more attention to you, guys, because you rock!
Tobias: At the moment we aren’t really looking for a label, because we do like the freedom that our independent approach gives us. But obviously if the right label would come around and we would get a good offer, we’d love to get Kings Winter onto that platform to even reach more people.
I know that soon Jules will be a mother, so congrats girl. I think this is one of the biggest joys that a woman can deal with in her own life. I guess that the upcoming months will be very happy but also very tough, since it’s a big deal raising a kid but do you think there will be the choice for you both, guys, to bring your music on stage in a live show or will Kings Winter be only a studio project, so to speak?
Jule: A kid will obviously change your whole life, especially within the first year, but we have the big advantage that we can rehearse and work on music in our studio at home. That way it’s always someone around to take care of our daughter whenever needed. And while she sleeps, we can quickly go back and work some more on new music.
Tobias: For the time being Kings Winter will definetly remain a studio project, but actually we’ve had a few people so far who were asking for live shows, so you never know. But for now we are going to focus on the next record and on building a fanbase. But as soon as we have enough material out to fill a concert, we might consider taking Kings Winter onto the stage someday, probably for a limited run of shows every once in a while.
Do you think that Kings Winter could become a real band with more band members in it or will only remain a duo for now?
Tobias: I don’t really see Kings Winter becoming a real band with more permanent members, simply because we are both very much busy with Leviathan as our main band and don’t want to add more complexity to this project. As it is now, it’s just really simple to work on new material, since we can work whenever we want to and have a few moments of free time. As soon as you start adding more members, the whole organizational side of things becomes much more complicated. Personally i would like to see Kings Winter become something like DEMONS & WIZARDS, where Hansi Kürsch of BLIND GUARDIAN and John Schaffer of ICED EARTH create music together. They also take their songs to the stage from time to time, but with changing musicans. That’s what i would envision for our future too, though we will probably put out releases more frequently then DEMONS & WIZARDS did recently 🙂
Is there a place you would love to play in? For example, I see Kings Winter perfectly inside the Frontiers Rock Festival, an event that is getting bigger and bigger in Italy and that is getting a great reception also abroad?
Tobias: The Frontiers Rock Festival as well as Frontiers Records as a label would probably be pretty fitting for Kings Winter, as our music would fit right into their roster of great artists. Especially swedish band ECLIPSE has been one of my favorite new acts in this area of rock/metal in the past years. But as far as festivals, I’d love to go back to Summer Breeze Open Air here in Germany one day. We had the chance to play there with Leviathan in 2010 and it was just the most fun i ever had on stage.
Jule: I would love to play abroad again in the future, It’s been quite some time since i’ve been on stage outside of Germany. But in general it is not important to me, to play on a huge festival, because sometimes a small festival or show in a club can be even more thrilling. Mostly because you get into much closer contact with the audience, which also makes it a lot more fun at least to me.
Are you currently working on a follow up of this album, like the first full length album or is it too early to even think of it?
Jule: As of today, Tobias has already collected material for a new record. He even started with the basic songwriting for the first track, so there will definitely be a follow-up to “Forging The Cataclysm” in the near future. As you mentioned, we will become parents in August, so we’ll probably not get to record too much until the end of the year. But i am pretty sure, that you’ll get to hear new music in the first half of 2020, wether that will be our first full length or another EP has still to be decided, but Kings Winter will continue.