Interview Frank Bossert (Eureka)

“The more you know about things you don't know, the more you loose that innocence you need to let things happen and develop”

(January 2012, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures provided by Dirk Jacob & Frank Bossert)

'Silverware, The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010' (see review) is the title of a compilation-CD released by Eureka. The man behind this project is the German multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert, a musician who already released four albums under this moniker. I think not so many people actually know who Frank Bossert is and what he has done in the past. Therefore I seized the opportunity to ask him about Eureka and about his past, present and future! 

Can you introduce yourself and tell me why you release your music as Eureka?

Frank Bossert: “I started playing guitar in a school band at the age of fourteen like most of us. I quickly changed to the bass guitar, because someone was needed to play bass. In the beginning I was not so happy with it, because
Frank Bossert
at the time it seemed to be a second choice instrument since everybody wanted to be a guitar hero. However, then I saw Geddy Lee playing in 1983 during the Rush Signals-tour and he set my soul on fire for the bass guitar. Being a fan of softer music like Mike Oldfield, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, amongst others, Rush introduced me to the more physical side of rock music, followed by Yes, ELP and bands like Thin Lizzy, Triumph and all the classic rock stuff. Later I bumped into Celtic music, world music, jazz rock and new age sounds. From that time I felt I could love almost all musical styles, as long as it could amaze me! I've been a lead singing bass player in some young rock bands and after some thrilling years on the club stages of Hamburg I became interested in recording. I learned to play keyboards and drums, built up my first small studio and tried to create some really special music. I felt tired of commercial standard rock music and tried to develop a style that featured all my influences at once. It took some years to find out what could be my place and in 1994 I decided to record my first album entitled Eureka. Although Eureka was initially a solo project I disliked to run the project under my name - there's so much egomania in the rock business − I didn't want to feed that. Eureka is about the adventure of music in a more sustainable sense and I still like the name a lot!”

In 2009 you surprised us with Shackleton's Voyage, but only few people knew that you had already released more albums. What was the reason that the previous albums Eureka (1997), The Full Circle (2002/2008) and The Compass Rose (2005) were not picked up?

“I really don't know. I've tried as hard as I could and in the days of The Full Circle album I earned enough to make a living from it, but from one year to another it ended by all that copying shit that started. It's a matter of fortune; who's there at the right time and in the right place. I always gained the most out of making music. It took so much effort and time to create it that maybe the promotional aspects remained in the rear.”

Why did you compile the album Silverware with tracks from your entire back catalogue? Was it difficult to select these tracks?

“I simply had the feeling that the time has come to look back facing the things I did so far. After the first four albums this chapter of Eureka has been closed and I wanted to celebrate that accordingly with a compilation album. It felt quite easy to pick up the tracks, but it cost more trouble to re-record these tracks than I had expected. It's a bit like recording a new album, if you want to make things right.”

The album has been subtitled The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010. Does the album really contain your best compositions? Why did you only include the new track Solid Ground?

“I think the tracks featured on Silverware are the signature tracks for Eureka that build the picture of the whole story. There are always tracks you miss on a compilation - it's just a matter of compromising. The reason to include Solid Ground was to picture the change from Eureka to my new project Taurus. This track will also appear on Taurus's debut album. It's the softest track of this album and therefore it will function as a fine link to the Taurus-project. It's a logical advancement from the more rock-orientated stuff of Shackleton's Voyage. It had just enough characteristics of Eureka to fit on Silverware, but in fact it's an outlook to the future.”

It seems you like the music from Shackleton's Voyage the best, since you took four tracks from this album. Am I right?
“No, sorry, but that's not right. I took four tracks from every album except for the first one, but that's caused by the fact that my debut album had a much lower production quality. Into The Blue is one of the re-recorded tracks; the original piece sounds like a demo compared to the new version.”

Eureka (2003)

How many songs did you re-record for Silverware and what is the meaning of the album's title?

“The re-recorded songs have different vocals and singers; they have been reworked from a production point of view. On some tracks instruments were re-recorded as well and on Into The Blue I composed a whole new middle-section. The title Silverware represents the things which are here to stay like the family treasure. So it seemed appropriate to me to wrap it into a treasure chest just like the cover suggests.”

How did you succeed in getting musicians like Troy Donockley (ex-Iona, pipes, whistles), Billy Sherwood (ex-Yes, Circa:, vocals) and Yogi Lang (RPWL, keyboards) to play on Shackleton's Voyage? Was it difficult to get them?

“I've been in contact with Dave Bainbridge since I contributed on a track of his project Songs For Luca 2, so he contacted Troy who was with Iona at the time. I sent him an MP3 of Departure and he liked it a lot. Billy Sherwood wrote a nice comment on my MySpace-site and he liked my playing as well. That encouraged me to ask him if he would like to sing on a track of my new album. He really put a lot into the songs; he's absolutely great! Yogi Lang was contacted by Dirk Jacob, our mutual label manager at the time. After playing the Moog-solo I asked him to mix and master the record, which appeared to be a good decision, because I was a bit burned-out at this point. He did a good job!”

Yes, he did indeed! You also managed to find less known musicians as singers Esther Marake and Martje Johannsen and Stefan Markus and Manuel Knortz on bagpipes. How did you find such professional musicians who all added something extra to your music?

“It's quite a natural process. I got in contact with them while working on the other albums I recorded or produced in my studio. I really like to work with guest musicians; it has an expanding effect on my music that I appreciate very much.”

In your music I can recognize many influences from different countries and religions. Did you visit countries like Ireland, Spain and Greece a lot or how did this happen?

“I've been in Ireland and Spain several times, but these influences are more rooted in my musical background. I'm very open-minded to other musical cultures and it's
Belly dancer
adventurous to discover their languages by listening to them. But to be honest I'm not religious at all. I even tend to find religions dangerous and brain washing. Music has the effect of being convergent to foreign cultures and their people, while religions often cause the opposite. I think we have to separate these two very carefully!”

In the booklet I noticed a picture of a belly dancer. Why did you include her?

“She was part of a concert performance in 2005 when we had a gig in the yard of the Castle of Husum. She was performing a belly dance while we played the track Arabesque with a total lack of attention from the audience - they just had their eyes on Halla and man, she deserved it!”

In the credits you mentioned your son Tim for the loan of the treasure chest. Would you please explain that?

“The treasure chest of the artwork was a gift for my son that he 'lent' me, not knowing that I was using it for these photos. He lives with his mother and I very rarely see him. It's a tragic story. Have you ever heard of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)? It's about parents that willfully break the relationship to the other parent of their kids. I've been to court for years, but the German jurisdiction isn't capable to end this most detestable crime of our time. I've made a YouTube video of the unreleased Taurus-song Stolen Child to make my official contribution. You can watch and listen to it on Tim's mother tried to forbid the video, but without success.”

No, I never heard of PAS, but this is a sad story! Thanks for sharing it with us. Your albums show that you're especially influenced by Mike Oldfield. How important was Oldfield for you and at what age did you discover his music?

“I was thirteen when I discovered his music and he certainly had a strong influence on my way of thinking about music. He's a genius and he made some of the most lasting albums in rock history. Incantations (1978) is an album I can still listen to over and over again. I think the first ten years of his career were outstanding. Oldfield is one of the most remarkable musicians of all times. I wish for his comeback for at least one more album and that he gets the attention he deserves. His latest albums has put him far away from the place where he belongs!”

Can you mention some other bands or musicians that influenced you to make progressive rock?

“Rush, Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, Davy Spillane, Mark Knopfler, Eddie Jobson, Vangelis, Pierre Moerlen, Phil Lynott, Mark King, Simon Phillips, Tony Levin, Trilok Gurtu, Donal Lunny, Afro Celt Sound System, Andreas Vollenweider, Patrick O'Hearn, Lindsey Buckingham... well, we can spend a whole day with putting this list together!”

Frank Bossert

On your songs you play synthesizers, guitars, mandolins, bass, Glockenspiel and tubular bells. How did it come that you master all these instruments? Did you have any lessons or are you self-taught musician?

“I never had any lessons. I just wanted to learn to play these instruments and I have the gift of talent to express myself on different instruments. I believe in the magic of music. I don't think that you can capture music in its entire meaning with the usual methods of studying something in an academic way. I have quite some gaps in my theoretic knowledge of music, but ironically I think that helps a lot in the process of creation. The more you know about it, the more you loose that innocence you need to let things happen and develop. Funny enough I earn my money these days as a music teacher.”

Do you call yourself a composer, a keyboard player or a guitarist?

“I feel most closely connected to the bass. That's maybe because it was the first instrument I tried to get on a virtuosic level. It's like your first love that will always be special in a way. Composing gets more important with age I think, so that's the same with me getting 45 this year. What matters most to me today is the album I'm working at. Well, what a surprising statement! I'm very excited about it because this one hopefully will be a 'live affair' more than anything else before.”

I was quite surprised about the high level of compositions in your back catalogue. Do these albums all have a musical concept or are they just a collection of songs?

Shackleton's Voyage is the only real concept work of my career to date. The Full Circle and The Compass Rose could be labeled as Celtic world music. The sound of the first one tends more to Celtic music and the latter more to world music. The first album was a mixture of all that and a bit more rock orientated.”

Do you still work with the live band as shown on the pictures in the booklet or do you have a new live band?

“The band pictured in the booklet is history. It was aligned to the live concerts between 2003 and 2005.”

Frank in studio

Was it difficult to find a record company for your music?

“I've never been putting much effort in that direction. I don't want my musical work to be too much depending on these business aspects. You see so many artists who are totally pissed with the music industry, and I can imagine their reasons are well justified. It's hard to believe in a healthy connection to any record company these days. In my case it's not different. The only years that I could make a living from my music were the years that I did it all by myself. You can sell a few more records with a record company, but you start doing it for free then. That's why nobody produces records any longer. You got to have the ability to make a living as an artist, otherwise we become fools!”

You already told me you were working on the new project Taurus. Can we soon expect an album? What are your future plans?

“I currently work on the Taurus debut album. Like I mentioned before it's a power trio live project and I'm half-finished with the recordings. There's still a lot of work to do, but hopefully in 2012 we'll see the release of Bricks And Mortar, which is still a working title. I'm very happy with what we have so far. You can listen to full-length versions on the following MySpace-site for a limited time yet:”

Frank, thank you for answering my questions!

“It's my pleasure!”

More info about Eureka on the Internet:
       Eureka Website
       Frank Bossert on MySpace
       Project 'Taurus'
       review album 'Silverware, The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010'

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