“It wasn't our intention to create a concept album; it was the album that wanted us to create it...”
(March 2012, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures by Arthur Haggenburg)
Currently RPWL are undoubtedly one of the most popular progressive rock bands from Germany. Their latest album and first concept album Beyond Man And Time can be regarded to be a highlight in their career. Background Magazine wanted to know what this album is all about. Therefore we asked lead singer and keyboardist Yogi Lang and guitarist Kalle Wallner to answer some questions about their latest album and other things related to RPWL.
Congratulations with the new album Beyond Man And Time! As far as I'm concerned you recorded the first musical highlight of 2012. Are you satisfied with the album and do you think you made something special?Yogi Lang: “It's definitely more than just another piece of music. That's why we included the audio book to the limited edition. It's a plea for original thinking together with the most colourful music we ever made. It took some time to record the album and at the end we had to shorten it, because we had too much material. The lyrical content is really tough and maybe it's a story for all and none, but it will be worth to immerse into this travel through the world beyond man and time.”
When did you start writing and recording the album and did your solo projects have any influences on this album?Kalle Wallner: “We started during the winter of 2010 with long discussions about the topic of this album. That was the first and of course the most important step. Then we tried to find musical motives and ideas for the single chapters which should end up to the songs. It was a long process and we took all the time we needed. In the summer of 2011 we finished all the songs and made the final production. As far as solo projects are concerned, I've experienced that I'm much more willing to compromise, because I already had the opportunity to satisfy my ego. So I'm very open-minded and interested in other ideas. And finally it helps to figure out the best ideas and thus making the album better.”
Why did you record a concept album and why did it take so long to release it?Yogi Lang: “It wasn't really intended to be a concept album! I think I wrote down the first words and ideas in the beginning of 2011. What I really wanted to do was bringing together the spiritual part of World Through My Eyes and the rational social criticism of The RPWL Experience. I put my thoughts into a story, a travel of a human being into a new kind of responsibility. And as the story grew it became quite clear that it was too much a story for a simple album with a central theme. So you see, it was not our intention to create a concept album; it was the album that wanted us to create it...”
Would you please explain the album title Beyond Man And Time for our readers? What's the concept all about and what happens in the individual tracks?Yogi Lang: “The story is very much based on Friedrich Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra and some of his figures, mostly seen in the Honey Sacrifice. Basically it's a plea for a new original thinking with many interesting thoughts to experience, to agree or to disagree. In every track the protagonist meets another figure.
Transformed is the stepping out of Plato's cave. In Plato's parable of the cave our world is just a shadow-play on a wall. People are chained to that wall and so their only reality is the shadows, and not the place where the shadows come from. Our protagonist frees himself from the illusions; he finds his will to get awareness and to find the place where the shadows came from.
We Are What We Are is the beginning of his transition to a new kind of thinking. The figure is like a keeper at the entrance of this new world he's going to discover, tells of the way that lies ahead and gives first recognitions.
In Beyond Man And Time he finally arrives in the new world and meets the voluntary blind, a figure that discovered the abuse of a so-called truth in a system that is based on belief. This system darkens the sun of perception and prevents us from a progress in spirit and morality.
In Unchain The Earth we meet the difference between knowledge and wisdom, between knowledge and the true spirit of being. The title comes from Nietzsche's interesting work The Gay Science: “What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving us? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns?”
He moves on and meets The Ugliest Man In The World, a deformed man. But the wanderer soon discovers that the so-called ugliest man is only the 'unmasked' human being. However, without a culture of repression we don't need this mask and the acceptance of what we are fades away the ugliness and makes us complete.
In The Road Of Creation he meets a figure, who discovered that creation also means destruction. How can we talk about finding new ways when we're not willing to break with the old easy-going ones?
In Somewhere In Between the protagonist takes a short break. He's tired from his adventures so far and needs to have a rest. He begins to see that the new way might not be easy, but how much more dangerous it is to stick to old models.
The Shadow is a very colourful figure that shows the other side: not only a copy, not only the unwanted dark side, but also the brother that sharpens the view of ourselves.
The Wise In The Desert is a wonderful figure! He is the cloud between the seas of life and brings together wisdom, because everything that comes down on us comes from ourselves.
The Fisherman is very close to a figure like Jesus. He fishes in the abyss of our human being, but not with fear and anxiety. He uses his joy, his acceptance. It's the most powerful picture and the longest song on the album.
The Noon is a picture for many things, but also for his moment of clarity. This clarity doesn't mean an answer for every question, but just a new way of thinking.
Who made the cover of the album and what does it mean?Kalle Wallner: “Again we worked together with the female artist Judith Reichardt. She already did the illustrations of The RPWL Experience. If you have a good look at the finished CD with the booklet you may notice that the character has been filled in with the front side of the booklet. This front side is like a summary of all the single chapters of the album. But of course the character is in the focus. That's why he's on the cover.”
To what extent was working with bassist Werner Taus different from working with Chris Postl?Kalle Wallner: “Werner Taus is a great bass player and a wonderful guy. We already had lots of fun at the RPWL-shows in the past two years. So the main difference is that we have much more fun in the band and this is something the audience feels. Werner has a more modern and rockier musical background, which I like very much. I think you can feel his energy on the album, so it was really a great pleasure to work with him, also in the studio. In his other projects he's lead vocalist as well, which helps RPWL a lot for the background choirs.”
What was the reason Chris Postl left the band? Will he ever return?Yogi Lang: “Once Chris did the same when we finished the second album: he left the band right before the tour. Anyway, he made it very clear that he doesn't want to work with us anymore and we have to respect that. So the rest of the story isn't in our hands, but I wish him all the best for the future.”
How did you find Werner and what was the reason to work with him on this album?Kalle Wallner: “Chris left the band in May 2010, so we had to find a bass player very quickly for the upcoming shows in the USA, The Netherlands and many festivals. So I asked Werner, who I already knew as a great musician from other projects. Since he decided to join RPWL and we really had a good time on tour he naturally would play the bass on the new album. Now Werner has been a permanent band member for a year and a half.”
How big are the influences of Markus Jehle as a musician and a composer?Kalle Wallner: “You know, if you got two keyboard players in a band it will never be easy, especially for me as a guitarist! But seriously, Markus is our highly talented musician. It's unbelievable what kind of compositions he's able to play both on the piano and the keyboards. Yogi is the producer of the RPWL-albums and he often works with sounds, pads and moods. And of course he is the mastermind of the analogue synthesizers, especially Moog. It's awesome to see him working with these old devices. So I think both are working together pretty well, especially live where Markus is responsible for I think 95 per cent of the keyboards, since Yogi acts as a vocalist and frontman. Although Markus isn't a songwriter for RPWL, he's great in arranging songs for live performances. I know he's working on his own compositions, which are closer to the classical style. All in all, RPWL wouldn't work without Markus. Since his first show in 2004, he became more and more an indispensable member of the band.”
Like on several other RPWL-releases I heard influences from Indian and Hindustan music. Do you agree and can you explain why you use these influences?Yogi Lang: “The Indian mythology is full of wonderful and colourful pictures. That also applies to the Indian music and instruments. It somehow makes your thoughts deeper, like a catalyst or a bridge. That's nothing to be mysterious about: think of the many people who can think better when they walk. By the way, this is the great thing with music: it can be a bridge to transport thoughts that might not be understood if you just used only words.”
I still heard some influences from Pink Floyd. Can you tell me how much of an influence they are nowadays and what other bands inspired you to make music?Kalle Wallner: “That's a really hard question, because I'm not thinking about my influences. In the last twenty years that I've been working as a musician I did so many albums and listened to loads of songs that I really can't differentiate anymore. It's like asking a cook to extract a complete egg out of a cake. Of course there are favourite bands, but even these are too many to count, but Pink Floyd are an all-time favourite for all of us. And there aren't that many favourite bands we have in common. I grew up with heavy metal in the eighties and I still love it as you can hear on my solo project Blind Ego. There are many current bands that I really like, but I would never name one of them, because they're just a piece of a big mosaic. Inspiration is changing over the years; sometimes a picture or a book or even walking in the mountains inspire me in a totally different way. Especially on Beyond Man And Time, music was not the main inspiration, but the topic.”
Manfred Mann always crosses my mind when I listen to an RPWL- album. Who did the solos that were inspired by this great musician?Yogi Lang: “When I was a kid I was a fan of Manfred Mann's Earth Band ! The way Mann played the Moog- synthesizer was my first love in music. So when I play Moog-parts it's like I'd tell you stories from my life when I was young.”
With two keyboard players in the band I guess both have a different task. Can you tell me which parts you are responsible for?Yogi Lang: “In general I play all the keyboards in the studio. It's Markus great responsibility to bring the studio keyboards and all the sounds and arrangements to the live stage.”
For me The Fisherman is the highlight of the new album. Do you agree or do you have other favourites?Kalle Wallner: “It's always the same after finishing a new album: my favourite songs change very often. Right now it's The Shadow, maybe because we never did such a song and I like a different style on a new record. For an artist, it's always good to see that you're still able to develop yourself. But you're right, The Fisherman is a highlight. We never did such a complicated song, but it was necessary to meet the requirements of the lyrics. It's like a small trip within the album.”
Yogi Lang: “I love every figure and every song of the album, but of course The Fisherman has something special. The figure is very close to a person that you would call a messiah in religious terms, though he doesn't use the methods of religion like fear, repression, anxiety and all that. The bait he uses is joy and self-acceptance. He has a leading part in the story. But if you look at the beginning of the story: We Are What We Are is one of the main statements so this song is very important and a favourite of mine, too!”
Are you going to perform this song on a live stage and how difficult is it to perform?Kalle Wallner: “Yes, we definitely will perform The Fisherman live. I'm really looking forward to it. Of course, sometimes you have to change some things. For example: I'm using many different guitars in this song, like a 12-string, a sitar, an acoustic guitar, an e-bow, etcetera. Certainly it's not possible to change the guitars in every part of a song. For some parts we have to find different ways. However, it was never a problem in the past and I'm sure that it will work out great for the new album, too.”
Are you using real bass pedals on this track or synth basses?Yogi Lang: “I always use a sampled Moog Taurus I for the bass pedal parts, but this time I played more often on my Moog Voyager, for example in The Fisherman. I got the Voyager because I needed it for my solo tour! You know, I didn't want to take the old MiniMoog with me. In the meantime I really began to love the Voyager in the studio, too! Beside the Memory Moog it was the main synthesizer on this album.”
In addition to the regular version of the album you want to release a version with a bonus disc. Can you tell me what we can expect on this disc?Yogi Lang: “There will be an audio-book in German and in English to bring the story closer to the listeners. It also will be a very nice package with a poster-map of the world Beyond Man And Time. I really hope that it will be a push for many people to dig into a new culture of thinking.”
In April you'll start touring. Will you play the new album as a whole or just a number of tracks from the album?Kalle Wallner: “Of course we will perform the entire album, because it's a concept album, but there's much more to come. Somewhere In Between is much longer than the album version. And we have a lot more songs we wrote for Beyond Man And Time, that haven't been recorded yet. So the new album will be in the centre of the tour.”
Are you going to use additional props on stage to visualize the new album?Yogi Lang: “We're working on that at the moment!”
Why did you start your own record company Gentle Art Of Music?Kalle Wallner: “For years Yogi and I have been discussing about releasing RPWL on our own label. We already had many experiences of label work with other projects like Blind Ego and Parzivals Eye. Finally in 2010, when we planned to release our anniversary album The Gentle Art Of Music it seemed to be the perfect moment to realize this idea, so we founded our own Gentle Art Of Music. Why? Because we can!”
Who decides which bands may release their music on this label? How did you get the bands that are currently on the label?Kalle Wallner: “We started two years ago and in the beginning we only talked about RPWL and our solo works. However, we always liked the idea of releasing some great and fascinating other bands as well. So that was the reason to sign the American band Simeon Soul Charger and Schizofrantik from Munich. Both bands are brilliant and we're sure that both acts are doing well. In our team we decide which bands will be signed. We are a small team so we think that it's very important that everybody feels confident about the acts.”
On the anniversary album The Gentle Art Of Music you included a disc containing an acoustic approach to the music of RPWL. Why did you record them this way and why did you never play them during the anniversary tour?Yogi Lang: “We wanted to show that our songs can be played in a very easy, nearly unplugged way. There are many aspects of this record that we did on tour: different arrangements and extended versions like Sleep. So you see, parts of the recording of course influenced the live show, but you're right: we never had the feeling to get to this acoustic approach on stage. On the one hand it was a chance to have the compilation of ten year's work and on the other hand a status quo of the band here and now.”
Is it possible for you to make a living with playing and recording music or do you have jobs to earn a living?“We are all full-time musicians. That doesn't mean that we live only from RPWL, but all from music and that's a good feeling!”
Thank you for answering my questions!“We thank you, Henri!”
review album 'Gentle Art Of Music'
review album 'Beyond Man And Time'
review DVD 'The RPWL Live Experience'
review concert 10-Apr-2009 in Zoetermeer (NL)
review concert 12-sep-2010 in Den Bosch (NL)
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