Interview : Katarzyna Nieniewska & Lisa Tomantschger – Illuminata




Interview by Robin Stryker

Illuminata is a new band from Graz, Austria with two multi-talented female singers, Katarzyna Nieniewska and Lisa Tomantschger. Illuminata’s three-song EP, “A Frame of Beauty”, has a lushly symphonic sound with the added beauty of passages featuring the piano, guitar and flute. Read on to learn more about this exciting new band.

Hello, Katarzyna and Lisa! We’re glad you could join us today. Would you tell us a little about Illuminata’s history and how you became involved with the band?

Well, the band was founded in 2006 by Luki, who played bass then and Dave. The guitarist of their former band joined and, as they had a pretty clear concept in mind, they auditioned two female singers and a keyboarder. The current line-up exists for about half a year now. We’ve released three records: the two EPs “Lachrymal” and “A Frame of Beauty” and one full length album “From the Chalice of Dreams”.We have played concerts together with Elis and Grossstadtgeflüster and are currently looking forward to performing our first festival. That’s Illuminata in a nutshell.

Katarzyna: After a long, tiring and unfortunately fruitless search for a band that would suit my style and ambition, I almost reached the point at which I wanted to abandon the thought of being in music altogether. At exactly that moment, I came across Illuminata’s ad and it instantly clicked.

Lisa: Since Illuminata’s search for a new singer was quite active, they rather found me than the other way round. One day they contacted me via a social network website and we arranged a meeting where Katarzyna and I noticed that we had already seen each other at university (and an exam we both failed). We instantly got on well and that’s pretty much how I became a member of Illuminata.

Who are the other members of Illuminata?

Besides us (the singers), the band consists of Lukas Knöbl on guitar, Dave Slut on drums, Chris Vide on Bass and, for the moment, Sabrina Supan on keyboards.

I was sorry to read that your keyboardist, Sabrina, is moving to Germany. How is the search for a new keyboardist coming?

As said above Sabrina will, for the time being, remain with us as a guest musician so we can be on stage until we find a replacement. So far, we cannot say anything definite about a new keyboarder. We don’t want to rush this decision as we are not just looking for some hands to play the keys but for a proper new member of Illuminata; so character is very important to us.

What does the name Illuminata mean?

Our name means, translated from Latin, “the illuminated one”. In essence it expresses what we are trying to do, to illuminate people with our music. The female form underlines the influence female musicians and especially we singers have on the whole concept of Illuminata and it also fits to our ideal of the band as a unit.

How would you describe the music on “A Frame of Beauty”?

Although the songs are a bit slower than on the previous album we think they are much more powerful and focused. We are always trying to push our boundaries so it’s got a lot of progressive elements in it, yet it is packed with emotion and passion. It simply is Illuminata.

Which bands influenced your sound the most?

We guess that all our favourite bands have influenced the way every single member contributes to the sound. The general style of our sound is however inspired by classical composers like Wagner on one hand but also modern composers like Hans Zimmer on the other.

The third song on the EP is an acoustic track in Polish called, “Czlowiek bez twarzy”. What is the song about?

Katarzyna: The English title would be “Man Without a Face”. This character in the song is afraid to show his true self, not recognising that he in fact hurts himself and others by always trying to manipulate in order to avoid being hurt. He represents that paradox in human character in general.

In 2008, Illuminata released its full-length debut, “From the Chalice of Dreams“. Why was “A Frame of Beauty” released as a three-song EP?

One reason was our technical resources improved a lot at the time compared to “From The Chalice Of Dreams” so we could create orchestration as it sounds on “A Frame of Beauty”. However, it took us quite a lot of time to get confident with these new possibilities. As we really wanted to improve in terms of sound with this release, we decided to concentrate on fewer songs in order to do them properly. After all, it took the band and our tireless Master of Sound, Mister Mac, almost a year to finish that record. It wouldn’t have been possible to do a quality full-length album straight away. Another reason was that, for the first time, we did not copy the record ourselves. So we wouldn’t have been able to realise anything other than the EP financial-wise without the quality suffering.

Of all the songs recorded by Illuminata, which is your favourite and why?

Katarzyna: It’s a difficult choice, but one of my favourites is definitely “Czlowiek bez twarzy”. The song is based on personal experiences, so it has a great emotional intensity for me.

Lisa: I like “Arnediad Lôr” from the “From The Chalice Of Dreams” album best. Maybe because the song was written before I joined the band and, as we have so much new material already, I don’t have to practice it as often as our new songs which means I’m not sick and tired of it yet 😉 Just kidding… I like it because it’s a really powerful song, it has a very catchy melody and for me it creates a very special atmosphere.

You have both been involved with music since you were small children. Would you tell us about your musical backgrounds and training?

Katarzyna: Ever since I was a little girl, my family sang a lot at home. At school I sang in choirs and later performed in a musical. During High School I started taking vocal lessons in popular as well as classical singing. Presently I am improving my technique further with a speech-level-singing instructor.

Lisa: When I was young I experimented with a lot of different instruments like the violin, flute, drums, guitar and piano. I have always been singing in addition to that and finally settled for it. I’ve received professional lessons in classical singing for three years now and an additional five years of training in popular singing. Like Katarzyna I’m currently broadening my horizon with speech-level-singing.

When did you first become interested in metal?

Katarzyna: At the age of 19 which is in fact quite late, I suppose.

Lisa: I think it started at the age of 13. I had braces and a lot of pimples then, so I guess it helped me a lot. I could release a lot of anger and frustration by listening to metal.

What percentage of your music is driven by passion versus technique versus inspiration?

Katarzyna: Technique is a prerequisite of for making quality music but for me passion is even more essential. In my opinion passion is a means for transporting emotions. It’s that certain spark that makes music genuine. Inspiration plays a major role in the writing of music. In general these three components have to add up to at least 100%.

Lisa: In my opinion all three factors are equal and it depends on mood and condition; we compose them differently every day but in the end they always amount to 100%.

How has the audience response been to Illuminata’s live performances?

Usually the reaction ranged from “Hell, yeah!!!” to “Show us your tits!!!” . No, seriously, so far we’ve never received a single negative response to our performance. Of course, people sometimes compare us to bands they think are similar, after all the concept of female fronted metal with classical elements is not exactly new. But overall we think people appreciate the “I haven’t heard anything like this before” experience we provide.

What are the biggest challenges for a new band like Illuminata? Is metal considered underground music in Austria, or has it entered the mainstream?

It is very difficult to be recognised when you are a young band nowadays. You literally need to grope for all the presence you can get which is often quite tiresome and difficult financial-wise. At the moment we finance everything we do from our own pockets. As a band we actually pay equipment, transport, merchandise and new releases quite through our nose. Another challenge is, of course, the search for gigs which often results in “You can play concerts when you’ve got a name but you can’t get a name without playing concerts”. Another challenge for new bands is the establishing of a network. We found that especially for a new band it is vitally important to have as many connections as possible. It might not sound romantic but often it matters who you know rather than who you are. However, we think the most important challenge is not to be caught up in all those “problems” and not to forget the music over them. We always wanted our music to determine who we are as a band and we will stick to that. Although metal is a quite established scene, not only in Austria, we think that the flair of underground is in a way essential to metal. It will always be something different or more extreme no matter how many people like it. As for ourselves, we think that in this respect we are pretty much underground of the underground. There are not many Austrian bands that are in a similar vein, though we have many, many young metal bands. Oh, well at least that way no one can accuse us of running with the pack .

If you could go back in time, what would you change and what would you leave the same?

We wouldn’t change anything. We think that every phase we went through with this band was a phase of development towards our current level.

What can we expect from Illuminata in 2010?

One thing we can confirm is that we’ve just been invited to perform at the Newcomer Stage of this year’s Metalcamp Festival. So you can definitely expect an overwhelming show there. In general we will be playing more gigs this year than ever before, just check our websites for dates. Furthermore, we are looking forward to release our second long-player “A World So Cold” (that’s actually the first time we reveal the title to anyone) this year which is doubtlessly going to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done in terms of both sound and writing. Currently we are working on the last details within the songs and we will kick off the recording as soon as possible. Again do check our blogs and websites for updates.

Thank you both for taking the time to chat with us today. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?

Stay Metal!!!



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