As teased before, there is more Chaosbay-Content for you! Lead singer JAN LISTING took the time to answer some questions. You can now read, what the musician told me! At this point, I want to thank http://www.lightinmirror.de again for the awesome pictures that you can see here!
Shieldmaiden’s Voice: If you had to describe your musical style in three words which would you use?
Jan Listing: Do you mean with adjectives? Doesn’t matter? Then… Progressive, rock, metal!
SV: What constitues your style?
JL: Now on tour, it is predominantly our precision while playing, that we now sound more grown-together and everything seems very well nailed. Apart from that, it our big melodies and the hard guitars.
SV: Is there any band, an album or a song that influenced you significantly in your style?
JL: I would say the second Periphery album called Periphery II. While writing our album Vasilisa it influenced me tremendously. That Periphery album brought us to where we are now.
SV: You also do a lot of work in the Pop-Genre. What kind of influence does that have on the Chaosbay sound?
JL: It doesn’t really the affect the sound, but rather everything else around it. The Pop-World in Germany is really thoroughly organized and professional, which is why I can count myself lucky to be part of it. To be standing on large stages and seeing how it is done, how certain processes are made more effiecient, but also how entertain the audience and entertain on stage, how the light show is conceived… That stage presence is, in my mind, missing for a lot of metal bands and I am glad that I get to collect all these experiences concerning stage show and presence. And you can probably hear it in the sound a bit as well, since I do write very pop-sounding melodies that I simply put into a hard frame.
SV: If someone has never listened to you and does so for the first time, what can be expected?
JL: Only good things! (laughs) I think you will be thoroughly entertained. I believe, that we stell stories that can be easily followed, not just on a content-basis, but that that you are taken on a journey. Live, this story is of course loud and brutal, but also very fragile and emotional and we play a lot of contrasts. Everything that works quietly, works very loudly and in small spaces. It is exciting and energetic!
SV: You have a new album planned for 2020. What can we expect from that?
JL: Right now, we are sound more grown-up. What I mean is, that we sowed our wild oats with our last album and we limit us to the only necessary level in terms of musical escalation. We focus us on that and are more poignant to enhance the effect the songs, the melodies and stories, that we want to tell, have. That means that there will be more approachable melodies, but will also have an on-going theme and be very Chaosbay-like, because it will again be a concept album.
SV: What will be the most important differences in comparison to the last album Vasilisa?
JL: There are more catchy melodies, it is more musically daring, there will be things you don’t know of us yet and the sound will be sicker. We have grown up, our songs have grown up and we can put everything better into a nutshell.
SV: You talked about the on-going theme. Can you tell us more about that? What will it be like?
JL: The on-going theme is more on a content base, than on a musical one as it was the case in Vasilisa. I have hinted at it online in the last before, but it will be about the topic of Xenophobia since the refugee debate a couple of years ago really occupied me and with it the moral view that a lot of people have. I don’t want to get too political, but it is a topic that I wanted to tell from the perspective of someone actually impacted, but also from a satirical and critical point of view of other parties that are, sometimes globally, involved.
SV: Oh wow! Normally, the metal scene tends to be apolitical, if we leave out bands like Stallion. Was it a conscious decision for you to tackle such a socially problematic topic?
JL: Of course! It was totally conscious! It just didn’t seem right to me to invent stories during a time in which there is so much to tell what really happens. That was more important to me.
SV: How do you conduct your songwriting in that context? Do you have specific experiences that you use or are that things you are told by people or the general events?
JL: More the general events. In terms of morale, I look into my own opinions, what I perceive and experience daily, in the media or with my friends or in my family. The moral opinions that exist, and occasionally contradict themselves, but also align with each other. This was my basis on where to start. Apart from that, I did some research, I don’t throw numbers around, but if I wanted to know specific facts or places, then I would do this research. The main focus however is on the inner moral compass and that can be found separately from the statistical research.
SV: Do you write the music on its own or do you put it into relation to lyrics you have or is that more a work-in-progress type of thing?
JL: I always write the music first. That is simply the thing with music. The music tells me quite early on where the main emotion of the lyrics needs to situated. If I write a happy song then it is quite clear that the lyrics will not talk about death and this is how this is conceived. When I am done writing, the music will tell me what needs to be happening on a content basis and also in terms of the arc of suspense. The music doesn’t tell me facts, but it does tell me „Hey, this song is angry“ and „Now this is a more relaxed phase“. I take that and try to build my story around the emotions of the songs.
SV: What are the hardest songwriting challenges for you?
JL: Well… At some point you have to decide on where to go. There is so much you can do and at some point you have to decide. Especially when you are writing songs alone in the studio and there is nobody there to tell you „Yes, this is sick!“. We are not doing music that appeals to the average radio listener. There you can objectively say „That works“ or „Now the stadium is chanting along.“. I have to decide that for myself which is actually quite hard. An the other thing is, even though I see that as a positive challenge, to write a good complex song, which is exciting for the listener, but also possible to play live, so that we don’t have to push our limits so much that we can’t move around or convey feelings on stage anymore because we are focussed on playing. I want to find the sweet-spot where it is appealing to people who are not regularly listening to metal, but so that it is still metal and progressive metal.
SV: The metal scene is prone to negative over-emoting, very judgmental. What is new and unknown, can be shot down quite quickly. What was your experience in that regard and what are your hardest challenges in the metal scene with your style of playing?
JL: That certainly is an issue and it is hard. We are often caught between two stools, because we are too hard for the average rock fan but sometimes too soft for the hardcore fan, for instance. This is a difficulty and some people don’t know at first what to make of us. But we can’t be discouraged by that, we have to find our fans at the intersection point of these things. It certainly is an issue and oftentimes it’s very shallow and people are very impatient. In that regard, I would not only say that in relation to the metal scene, but make that more of a general thesis. It is more the generation spotify and tinder and as soon as I don’t like something, I swipe on or hit „next“ and don’t listen to the CD until the end, since I can just skip the song until I like something in the first three seconds. This is why no one takes the time to listen to something for more than a minute and that is an issue.
SV: To unter all that negativity: You have been around as a band for quite some time, what where your biggest highlights so far?
JL: My biggest personal highlight so far was our gig at the Euroblast-Festival since it broke with that cycle: Finally we were not that alone anymore and tried to play a club with ten people, but you had the European scene present there at once. That was an amazing feeling which is why it still, even after five years, still one of my highlights. The more recent highlight was our closing gig of our tour last year in Weimar! That was more of home game for me because I still have a lot of contacts there and a lot of people, who have been listening to us since the beginning, still live there and so it came to be that the whole club was packed and a hundred people enjoyed our music to the fullest there, as I never imagined it before. That made me really happy and it really quickened us and that was the reason we decided to do another tour this year.
SV: It is almost half-time with this tour. What would your intermediate conclusion be like?
JL: It was amazing! I think, we topped ourselves! We have grown together more and more, Alex, our guitarist, has only been playing with us since the last tour, but now he is certainly part of the team. We are more relaxed with the show, more relaxed on stage and can really push the limits. The people are also reacting amazingly to our music. We are always surprised, how we can convince people, who have never heard us before and we hope that the next five concerts will be even better, because it only gets better.
SV: What are your goals for 2020 and for the new decade in general?
JL: We want to play more, especially in contrast to the years we were in hiatus. And with new album, we hope a lot of things will be happening: We want to find a record label, we want to play festivals, but that always coincides. You need a record label to play festivals and the label wants you to play festivals before signing you, but we try to break this vicious cycle. And we want to try to reach a more international audience with our music, because we got more and more messages from Mexico and Brasil where we have fans. We see a huge potential there and are really motivated to promote our album through Youtube, Spotify and everything else and bring it into the world.
SV: So would you say that Chaosbay is more a live band than a CD band?
JL: No… Well… I would say 60/40. I would always recommend the live experience more, even though that should not be, it should be balanced.
SV: With which band would you like to go on tour sometime?
JL: Well… Let me put it like this: In the last four years until last year, I would have said Dream Theater, Periphery, Pain of Salvation and so on. Starting with this decade, I would say, and I want to dream bigger, Biffy Clyro for example. That is a band that totally flashes me and that impresses me a lot, because they overcome genre limits and that is what I want to do. Their audience is so open to new things because of that, that it would be amazing to play for these people. Then there are also bands like Muse. I would love that!
SV: What are places where you would like to play?
JL: I have been living in Berlin for three years now and the Columbia Hall is a truly magical place for everything that goes on there, no matter which music genre. I would like to play there because I think that it is the perfectly right size between club and bigger hall. And apart from the fact that I would love to play the biggest stadiums in the world, I would be the happiest person in the world, if I could play there with my band. Then I have truly accomplished everything.
SV: And if we look at countries, which ones are on your wishlist?
JL: I desperately wan to play in South America. A lot of prog-bands are telling me that it is totally insane to play there, the audiences are mad as hell and love this kind of music. As I said, we have a couple of fans over there and I think, I would do that just for their sake. And many people also say that Russia is supposed to be a lot of fun metal-wise, even though it might not be on everybody’s radar.
SV: From the fan perspective, what would be the best way to support you?
JL: The most important thing is to come and see the concerts. That pushes us the most and if you come to a concert, get inspired and bring more friends the next time around, that is incredibly helpful to us. Then of course streaming our songs and sharing them on social media. In third place is buying merch, but that is only important when it comes to financial aspect of it and then it is the best option.
SV: Streaming is a highly debated topic because the pay-out is higher with CDs, but you can’t ignore streaming anymore. What is your opinion on this? Is streaming helpful for the scene or does it more harm than good?
JL: I think it is more harmful, but I stopped judging it because to me it is only logical technological advancement ad we have to live with that. New things will always be given the side eye and there will always be advantages and disadvantages to it. If I had to, I would say that i complicates things. At the moment it first makes an appearance it’s great because you get to spread your music and bring it directly t the people, but because everybody did it at the same time, the consumer doesn’t know what to do first. It just becomes this random game of who, by whatever coincidence, will be discovered and who won’t. That was more easy to navigate before. But that is too manipulative and scientific now. I would enjoy it, if people would actually take more time to to actually engage with an album, because they paid money for it and have something in their hands now. I think the necessity for people to hold something in their hands after they bought it and to engage with it, is still there and that is taken away by streaming. That makes it hard ofr us bands to generate fans.
SV: If you had one final message to the fans, which would it be?
JL: Be nice to one another, listen to each other and don’t just babble at each other. If you’re done with talking and listening, come to our shows and tell everyone about it!
CHAOSBAY are (in the picture from left to right):
Alexander Langner (Guitar)
Jan Listing (Guitar, Lead Vocals)
Patrick Bernath (Drums)
Matthias Heising (Bass)