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  STEFAN SCHMIDT: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT VAN CANTO

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus

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van canto

I am still smiling from ear to ear after really sinking my ears in to the latest studio album by German "Hero Metal A Cappella" Rockers called Van Canto. Their latest offering goes by the name of 'Dawn Of The Brave' and in conjunction with presenting such a striking album cover with super hero style artwork, the music contained behind this sleeve is just as cool.

They are made up of six individuals, one who plays the drums and the other five who use their voice to provide a certain style of musical accompaniment. When reading this you'd be forgiven for thinking that the sound would resemble a bunch of folk trying to be heard over some manic drumming, but they are a cohesive lot and make some great music.

I took the plunge when offered the chance to chat with a key member of Van Canto as I was smitten with their new album. Stefan Schmidt was on the other end of my conversation, and is known for his lower "rakkatakka" vocals plus his contributions to wah-wah solo guitar vocals. Would we just make musical instrument noises at each other?! Maybe we might end up collaborating on something as I lay down my very best vocal beat box rhythms to his fine vocal displays?! The mind boggled as I made contact with the main man.

Article continues below...

 
 


"The main difference compared to the former album is that the former album was written while we were on tour, and this one was written while we were at home in studio and we had the time to work out everything quite detailed. I think it's the most compact album because we really had the time to work everything out." Schmidt replied to my enquiry about any lessons that had been learned from the recording process of their previous four albums.

Knowing how Van Canto had done their fair share of cover versions, I was curious to know more about their thinking process behind this. "We don't have any master plans concerning that, so we decide from album to album which covers we want to, and if there are any covers we want to do, and in the beginning we thought about covering three songs.

"The last one we did was 'Paranoid', was intended to be a bonus track but we liked it very much. Ross did the main vocals, one of the guitar singers, and we thought it was quite a special version and thought we would put it on the album as well." Stefan didn't stop there as he rounded up his flow of thoughts regarding this topic of conversation. "In general we try to keep the balance between covers and originals, so that on every cover we have two original songs. This works quite well for us."

Sensing the pride in his voice, I asked Stefan whether there were any favourite tracks above the others that he wanted to talk about. "Actually this is the first album where I really do like all of the songs, and we spent a lot of time concerning the song order on the album because it just wasn't clear which one was the best opener, or which song should be on the first three positions. Literally we could have taken every one in our opinion so this is where every original song is one hundred percent in our review."

Noting how Blind Guardian were referred to in connection to Van Canto thanks to contributions and collaborations on each other's albums, and using the same producer for various aspects of recording, I wanted to know a little more. "It was on the second album 'Hero', where we got our first deal with a record company and we sat together wondering who was the right producer for Van Canto. I went to my room and watched the credits on my CDs that I own and noticed that half of them were produced by Charlie Bauerfeind, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a producer that's known to work with a lot of voices like he has to do with Blind Guardian and all the choirs."

van canto

Stefan continued explaining this relationship with Bauerfeind also pointing out that their last three studio albums involved Bauerfeind producing only the drums. Thanks to this alliance and the respect each band had for each other, they ended up becoming involved in various ways.

Allowing my curiosity to stray, I asked the accommodating lower rakkatakka artist to explain why they called their music "Hero Metal A Cappella"? "In the beginning where we thought about how to describe our music, we got the idea to call it "Hero Metal A cappella" because we wanted to have the Metal in it of course, and we wanted to have the a cappella in it, but we also wanted to have the word in it that describes our music that should create a good mood and a powerful mood for those who listen to us. So we decided to call it "Hero Metal A Cappella" because the attention of Van Canto is to let the listener feel like a hero himself."

With a short intake of breath, Stefan then lets rip with the rest of his thread of thought on the subject: "For the current album we thought okay, if we call ourselves "Hero Metal A Cappella" then it would be a good thing to have a complete album concept around the super-hero theme starting with the album title and the artwork, and the photos we did and the own compositions and the lyrics; even the chosen covers especially 'Holding Out For A Hero' and 'Into The West' which feel very hero-like in our ears."

If you get a spare moment, please check out their video for the single 'Badaboom'. It is regarded almost as a separate entity to the track itself. You can see the video here.



"Sly, our lead singer had the idea. What we wanted to do was to develop the story that works independent from the song that's chosen for the single. In the past we always waited for the album production to be completely finished, then decided which song is best for a video and then just shoot a performance video clip because we didn't have the time to develop a complete story as we didn't know which song to take. So this time we wanted to develop a story that would work with every Van Canto song and then just take the best song to shoot the video." He then elaborates by explaining the thought process of the storyline.

It was a rhythmic conversation which flowed really well. Stefan revealed to me how he would go walking in the countryside and ideas and melody lines would just come to him creating the basis of a new song. During our relaxed chat, I asked him what triggered his interest in Heavy Metal in the very first place. "In the very, very, very first place it was actually 'The Final Countdown' because I was six or seven years old at the time the song came out, and it was the first song that really was my own personal favourite song."

Towards the end of our conversation, I had a query regarding whether their album titles came first and then their song-writing was shaped to fit that theme, or whether their songs dictated what the album would be called. "Actually, 'Dawn Of The Brave' is the first album where we had the album title or at least the direction, we also had three or four super-hero sounding titles before all any songs were written; and this is the first time that we did so.

van canto

"The first four albums were written and produced completely and then the record company came and said you need a booklet and you need a cover and you need a title." It's really good knowing that you've asked a relatively appropriate question that the artist hasn't heard before. It must get really boring after a while being asked the same questions hour after hour?

Due to Van Canto building their foundation of sound on vocal performances, they tour for short intervals before taking a break, and then returning to live activities for another short duration before resting their voices again. Stefan did confirm that there was a London gig planned (Underworld) thus far, so anyone wishing to see them will get an opportunity.

With a strong album in the form of 'Dawn Of The Brave' out there, Van Canto will be touring other countries and will be busy promoting their form of Rock music. If perhaps you're not overly familiar with these guys yet, this could be a good time to catch up. It's novel, it's hook-laden and more importantly it's Rock!


6.2.14





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bruce dickinson BREAKING NEWS: IRON MAIDEN SINGER BRUCE DICKINSON UNDERGOES CANCER TREATMENT
Sometimes a news item breaks that shakes you to your foundations...

rock goddess ROCK GODDESS ANNOUNCE FIRST LONDON DATE IN OVER THIRTY YEARS
The waiting is over. The reformed South London hard rock trio have announced details of their first London concert in over 30 years...

nigel glockler BREAKING NEWS: SAXON DRUMMER NIGEL GLOCKLER PRONOUNCED 100% RECOVERED WITH ZERO DAMAGE
"This means that I am okay to get back to work, but I am told to ease back into it and on my own timeframe..."

turbowolf TURBOWOLF RELEASE BLISTERING NEW SINGLE 'NINE LIVES'
"Nine Lives is a song about making the most of our limited time; about living with no regrets; about changing our attitudes towards death and about life..."

arch enemy ARCH ENEMY ANNOUNCE NEW LIVE DATES FOR 2015
European fans will see Arch Enemy again in late April. The band are coming back with support from US Metal force Unearth and Drone from Germany...

motley crue EXCLUSIVE: MOTLEY CRUE PAY TRIBUTE TO GARY GLITTER ON THE FINAL TOUR
Debauched rockers Motley Crue are currently in Japan performing their last Asian dates on their much publicised Final Tour...

music for nations LEGENDARY HEAVY METAL LABEL MUSIC FOR NATIONS IS BACK
As well as reissues, the label will be signing new artists for the first time in over a decade...

satyricon SATYRICON SIGNS WITH NAPALM RECORDS FOR RELEASE OF SPECTACULAR LIVE DVD
"It's not a live album. It's a celebration of what Satyricon stands for as a band..."

absolva ABSOLVA RELEASE NEW VIDEO FOR 'IN SOME WILD UNIVERSE' PLUS TOUR UPDATE
This video features the touring line-up of the band for 2015...

rival sons RIVAL SONS WITHDRAW FROM SOUNDWAVE 2015
Australia will have to wait a little longer to see Rival Sons in the flesh as family matters take priority...

the answer THE ANSWER RELEASE BRAND NEW LYRIC VIDEO FOR TRACK 'LONG LIVE THE RENEGADES'
"The song is about just doing what you do best and having a bit of a bunker mentality..."

dead kennedys DEAD KENNEDYS ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPE HEADLINE TOUR FOR JUNE 2015
US punk pioneers will bring their distincitve sound to four countries over ten dates...

carl sentance BREAKING NEWS: CARL SENTANCE ANNOUNCED AS NEW VOCALIST FOR NAZARETH
Persian Risk vocalist Carl Sentance replaces Linton Osbourne to start the next chapter for the Scottish hard rockers...

rockingham firefest BREAKING NEWS: ROCKINGHAM RELIGHTS THE FIREFEST; GOTTHARD, DAN REED, STAN BUSH AND MORE ANNOUNCED
The AOR flag will be raised high yet again over Nottingham Rock City...

pentagram PENTAGRAM RE-SIGNS WITH PEACEVILLE RECORDS - ALBUM RECORDING UNDERWAY
Through four decades of adversity and triumph, Pentagram have become a legendary international act...

uriah heep URIAH HEEP 2015 UK TOUR ANNOUNCED
This tour follows on from the release of the band's acclaimed album 'Outsider' which enjoyed excellent reviews...

godsmack GODSMACK VOCALIST SULLY ERNA TO MAKE AN ONLINE POKER COMEBACK
For Godsmack fans this could be disheartening as Erna shifts his attention from music to poker...

quo convention FIRST EVER STATUS QUO FAN CLUB CONVENTION ANNOUNCED
There will be live music, very special guests and a packed programme this October for this very special celebration...

queensryche THUNDER CONFIRMED AS VERY SPECIAL GUESTS TO ZZ TOP AT WEMBLEY ARENA PLUS MINI UK TOUR ANNOUNCED
The group's first studio album in six years, 'Wonder Days', reminds us why Thunder are now more revered than ever before...

queensryche QUEENSRŸCHE TO TOUR EUROPE AND RELEASE NEW ALBUM IN 2015
It's a busy year for Queensrÿche with headline shows and festival appearances before the new album release...

dir en grey dir en grey RETURN FOR TWO EXCLUSIVE SHOWS
The Islington O2 Academy will be the scene for Japanese avant-garde Metal in May...

unleashed SWEDISH LEGENDS UNLEASHED REVEAL ALBUM TITLE AND ARTWORK
The founders of the Viking Death Metal movement are back and as brutal as ever...

santa cruz SANTA CRUZ REVEAL LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'MY REMEDY'
Get a taste of the new album with 'My Remedy', the third single to be released...

Shattered sun LEGENDARY BRITISH MELODIC ROCKERS FM RETURN WITH 'HEROES & VILLAINS' ON APRIL 17TH
"We're on a roll! Some of the tracks on this album are better than anything that the band has ever produced, and Steve's voice is as good as ever..."

nightwish NIGHTWISH ANNOUNCE ONLY UK DATE THIS YEAR WITH ARCH ENEMY SUPPORTING
"Who would have thought about headlining at Wembley Arena one day when we were starting our UK touring history..."

quireboys THE QUIREBOYS GO UNPLUGGED AND PERSONAL: ACOUSTIC DATES ANNOUNCED
After last year's highly acclaimed unplugged tour, The Quireboys are pleased to announce a very intimate string of evenings early 2015...

killit KILLIT UNLEASH DEBUT VIDEO AND ANNOUNCE FIRST EVER LIVE SHOW
'Shut It Down' is the first single from the album and is out now and available...

state villains STATE VILLAINS TO RELEASE SECOND EP IN SPRING
State Villains have an honesty that harkens back to an era of integrity and a distinct lack of gimmicks...

chris slade BREAKING NEWS: CHRIS SLADE IS BACK IN AC/DC
Chris will rejoin the legendary hard rockers for their appearance at the 57th annual Grammy Awards as well as the band's upcoming tour...

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