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Interview with Stefan Hertrich of SpiRitual

SpiRitual is the new ethno metal project of Stefan Hertrich. You may know some of Stefan’s work from the longtime gothic metal band Darkseed. He is also a soundtrack composer for several PC games. A couple other projects by Stefan include Betray My Secrets and Shiva In Exile.

With the latest release ‘Pulse’, Stefan uses many elements of death metal, goth and an overall blend of world music that he himself simply describes as a “piece of art.”

Stefan was kind enough to take some time out to answer some questions for us and enlighten us on what ethno-metal is. Along with what’s up next for him and the band.

SH: Hi all, my name is Stefan Hertrich from Munich/Germany. I am writing metal-CDs since the mid 90s (Darkseed – 15 years, several albums over Nuclear Blast and Massacre Records, Sculpture – a project with Crematory and Tom Angelripper guys, Betray My Secrets, my first ethnic metal project with Christian of Megaherz and Shiva In Exile, my one and only non-metal production so far -> ethnic/gothic soundtrack music). My latest CD is SpiRitual “Pulse” and this is JH: First of all, give us a brief background of yourself. what the interview will be about.

JH: Tell us how the Spi-Ritual project came about.
SH: In 2005, after the last Darkseed album “Ultimate Darkness” was released, I felt that it’s time for a sort of “extraordinary metal CD” again (in concerns of “more elements than just metal”), so I decided to write an ethnic/metal album. I already did in 1999 under the name Betray My Secrets, the feedback of the press was fantastic, unfortunately the label went bankrupt short after the album release. I never lost my passion for this kind of music and in late spring of 2005, when the first sunbeams even reached the cold mountain area of Bavaria, I decided that it’s time again to dare an adventure J

JH: Where did you come up with the name and what is the meaning behind it?
SH: Well, of course it might have been natural to release the album under the name Betray My Secrets again, but I wasn’t the only member of Betray My Secrets. I did this album with Christian Bystron of Megazerz, and since he didn’t have time to work on the new ethnic metal CD as well, I didn’t want to chose this band name but decided to start a completely new project. In the end Christian anyway played a lot of solo guitars, he simply couldn’t resist, haha. A friend of mine who has nothing to do with my music activities came up with this name, I needed a song name, and he said “why not SpiRitual”. It looks cool, is easy to understand and it has a funny double meaning “Spiritual” and “Ritual”. He was right, so the new project name was born. I consider myself as spiritual person and I am very much interested in all that, so the name fits well. But there’s no special meaning behind it, and the word “ritual” makes no sense at all, because for spiritual experiences no rituals are needed J

JH: Okay, I’ve never heard the genre “ethno-metal”. What is it, (besides your music) and what can it be compared to?
SH: Well, apart from one Russian band I know and maybe a bit Orphaned Land I don’t know any band doing this kind of music, so it’s difficult to compare it to other bands. You could say it’s metal mixed with Dead Can Dance influences, and maybe near eastern soundtrack stuff. I really hope that more bands will go into this direction in the future, as this genre offers so much to discover, not only in concerns of music, but also philosophically etc. It can be even an attitude to life, like punk, hippie music, gothic etc.

JH: Tell us a bit about the debut, ‘Pulse’.
SH: Well, the special thing about it is that the whole product was done with the help of friends, and without ANY business people who have no connection to the music itself. Cover design, website design, even the translation of multimedia section texts (and this was NOT easy, the text of my friend Dr. PH Christian Raetsch in the multimedia section is really tricky LOL), the video clip and of course the music. All people I asked helped at once, without one second of thinking or doubting. This was an awesome experience and the album wouldn’t be like it is without the support of many great musicians from all over the world.

JH: Musically, what would you closely relate it to? Or even, in your words describe your sound for those who have not heard of you.
SH: Well, the music can be described to bands like Rammstein, Dead Can Dance, Moonspell, the vocals are a bit like In Flames, Dimmu Borgir etc. But the lyrical concept is new age / motivation stuff, and no Nordic myth/satanic stuff. The music has extremes: very aggressive and low tuned guitar, high screaming vocals, but also warm, clean vocals and of course all those ethnical elements which give the music a positive magic touch.

JH: How about lyrically? What sort of things inspire your song writing?
SH: I am mostly inspired by books, both esoteric/spiritual books and psychology/motivation training things. For example the way we should approach fears, defeats, losses etc. When religions says we shall create “heaven on earth”, they don’t mean creating a god-lead global nation after an apocalypse or global war that destroys everything, but that EVERY can create his own “heaven on earth”, by changing his/her view on things. This works by changing our opinion about all those negative things we face every single day. A good example: last year I didn’t feel well, but this year much better. I thought “this year everything simply runs better”, but after I took a closer look on my life, I noticed that objectively seen, the last year was much better than this one (in concerns of songwriting, my job as pc game translator, relationship things etc.). But the fact that I changed my point of view, that I made my “own brainwashing”, helped me to live my life different, to set free more energy, motivation etc. and really think that this year was better than the previous one and with that I attracted more positive things for the upcoming years. It’s all a matter of how we see things. I know so many people from all over the world, extreme contrasts between rich and poor, peaceful surroundings and warfare surroundings etc., but this doesn’t mean the rich ones are more happy than the poor ones etc. The only reason is OUR POINT OF VIEW, and NOTHING ELSE. This is the lesson I learned during the last years, and it’s the message I wanna spread with SpiRitual. It’s a combination of spirituality, religion and psychology J

JH: What would you like the listener/fans to get from listening to this album?
SH: Whatever they want.

JH: Tell us a bit about the other players in the band.
SH: The most important persons to mention are Dr. PH. Christian Raetsch – a book author and scientist who provided sound material -, Deviant Creations, a Russian video team that was responsible for the fantastic video of “Pulse” and my friend Konstantin “Bonez” Viktorov from Moscow who handled all graphical aspects of SpiRitual (cover design, booklet design, webdesign). I got to know all of them during my time as vocalist/songwriter of Darkseed. When I came up with the SpiRitual idea they didn´t hesitate to support me, and I am very thankful for their idealistic work! Christian Bystron of Megaherz (and former Betray My Secrets) contributed some great guitar solos, and other musicians appeared as guests as well (Gaby Koss – ex Haggard, Rene Berthiame – Equilibrium, Maurizio Guolo – Darkseed). I think the greatest aspect of SpiRitual is the selfless work all those mentioned persons have done! Ooops, I forgot to mention Yana Veva, haha. She was recommended to me by a Russian record label, and I immediately liked her ethnic way of singing (she usually sings in a band called Theodor Bastard). Yana and I are currently working on the 2nd Shiva In Exile album (ethno gothic) and she will handle all vocals.

JH: How well has the album been moving for you so far?
SH: Oh well, I don’t know any sales yet, but the reviews were fantastic, and the feedback of the listeners also. I also got to know some interesting people in “spiritual concerns” with whom I want to work together in the future, stay tuned J

JH: What sort of touring plans do you have lined up?
SH: I think SpiRitual would be an interesting project for concert bookers, especially here in Germany where medieval influenced bands are very popular (SpiRitual could be a sort of “counterpart”), however, forming a stable line-up would cost too much money and there are also technical difficulties that would have to be solved (the guitars are tuned so low that you would just hear noise on stage, I think it’s 8-9 halftones – when I recorded the bass guitars in studio we had big difficulties in hearing whether the tone I played was correct, because it was too deep for the human ears, haha).

JH: Tell us about the video for the song ‘Pulse’. (excellent I must add!!!)
SH: Thanks! As I mentioned before it was done by the Russian video team deviant creations, I think they spent more money for it than I was able to invest for the clip, haha. It was recorded in late autumn, somewhere in cold Russia and it must have been a pain in the ass for all involved people. The video shall represent the mood of the SpiRitual concept: energetic music, positive lyrics and overall-atmosphere, but still 100% honest metal with credibility. You can see “making of” photos on www.spi-ritual.com. Dasha (the model of the video) did a great job. She has never been model for a video before that, she’s the girlfriend of one of the video guys J Thanks, Dasha!

JH: What’s up next for Spi-Ritual?
SH: In 2007 I will finish the second Shiva In Exile album (a sort of new age version of SpiRitual, without guitars and screaming vocals but more gothic/soundtrack like and still VERY melancholic – fans of Dead Can Dance or the Black Hawk Down soundtrack will like it for sure). If I am pleased with the result I might consider writing a metal version of this album which then would be released under the name SpiRitual.

JH: What are some of you long term goals for Spi-Ritual?
SH: I have absolutely no idea. All musical projects I do are done spontaneously. I have months where I don’t write any song, but then months where I do nothing else. It makes no sense for me to plan releases or big steps in all my life concerns, because as artist the mood can change quickly (a negative or positive review can be enough to make your day or waste it, haha), so I wake up in the morning and have no idea what will happen. Will I write a song? Will I translate a PC game? Will I meet an interesting “spiritual” person and get inspiration for further songs? Will I go to nature and do simply nothing? That’s what my life is about J

JH: Anything you’d like to add?
SH: Hm, maybe a book hint: two books I REALLY recommend to everybody are “The Peaceful Warrior” and “Conversations with God” (both have NOTHING to do with religion etc. so it might be even interesting for black metal fans). One book can change a life more than watching 100 movies, that’s my personal opinion.

JH: Thank you very much for the interview. What I’ve heard from the video and the snippits on the site are really good. I look forward to listening to the whole album. (When’s the next Darkseed album coming?)
SH: I left Darkseed two months ago to concentrate 100% on Shiva In Exie, SpiRitual and everything else that might happen in 2007. I am not sure whether the other Darkseed guys will write a new album. For the case they do, I wish them good luck!!!!

http://www.spi-ritual.com