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Exclusive Interview With Anna And Merlin Including Ice Cream And Strangely Pigmented Giraffes

metal talk
5th October 2016

cellar darling

Twelve days ago, on Friday 23rd September 2016, a new phenomenon was born as Cellar Darling unleashed their first two tracks to an overwhelming global response.

That was the beginning and it heralded in a brand new era for Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi who departed Eluveitie in May, a scenario that caused widespread discontent amongst the Swiss Folk-Metallers' fanbase.

But these folk of cheeriness and strength were never going to be inactive for long, as proven by the manner in which they took up the challenge that life threw at them. Their day of strife is now over and their dawning glory will shine.

We discovered a lot more about what the future might bring for Cellar Darling, as well as the inspirations, philosophies and motivations behind this indomitable and bold new venture.

What can we expect from the forthcoming new album in terms of style? Are the two tracks that were released last week, 'Challenge' and 'Fire, Wind & Earth', a good indication of what to expect or have we got some surprises to look forward to?

Anna: "I think they reflect our style very well and so far lots of people have said what we perceive as a great compliment: 'This just sounds like you three.' We have more surprises in store though, it doesn't stop here. There will be heavier tracks and we will definitely also write some acoustic pieces.

Merlin: " both, really! What I find pretty awesome is that we didn't set out to make a particular style of music – we just did what felt right. It developed really smoothly so I suppose that yes, it is an indication of what to expect in so far as that we will simply sound like ourselves (and as Anna said, we take it as a huge compliment if people recognise this!), and for the same reason there are certainly also some surprises left to look forward to."

Are the lyrics to 'Challenge' directed at anyone in particular?

Anna: "No, if anything they're directed at myself. Or everybody. Usually when I write lyrics I don't want to state the obvious, I want to address what is going on in my head with symbolism. If I want to tell the story of a frog I will not do this by writing about a frog, I'll write about a strangely pigmented giraffe."

We know that the name Cellar Darling was originally used as the title of Anna's 2014 solo album but where does this name come from?

Anna: "Originally it comes from ice cream, but that is another story. There is an expression in German called 'Kellerkind', it's basically a person who doesn't get much sun (often because of computer games [laughs]). Cellar Darling is a much nicer expression I think and a lot of songs on the album are about my love for one such person. So there.

"The reason we chose this name for our band is because we think it's a great and unique name and we kind of adapted the meaning. 'Cellar Darling' is all the ideas and melodies that were hidden beneath the surface and are now brought to light."

The title track of that album is sinister, with echoes of a certain Josef Fritzl. Can you tell us more about it? Who did you kill and why?

Anna: "So I'll elaborate on the ice cream story here. Basically I ate too much of it and thus wrote a song with the lyrics 'Why did I do it?'. Not wanting to write a song about ice cream, I somehow came up with the idea of killing a beloved one, and obviously not being happy with it. At some point I started writing about a woman who tortures and kills people in her basement. She falls in love with one of her victims, causing her to face quite a conundrum. She can't let him go obviously, but is reluctant to kill.

"No reference to Josef Fritzl here. I like fictional horror movies a lot, that's it. I think it's very unfortunate that sometimes they can come close to reality."

cellar darling

So just how dark is your dark side? How black is your Sabbath?

Anna: "Um, maybe not as dark as you'd think? Haha. I like being outside, I enjoy nature and laughing with friends. It's not that hard to be happy. But I'm also bipolar and completely out of my mind at times; the world can turn black for no reason whatsoever. That dark side is only directed at myself though, I would never want to harm any other being."

You painted most of the artwork on your solo album yourself Anna. Is art/painting something you do a lot? How does it compare to music?

Anna: "I don't do it as much as I'd like to. Music is something I consider myself good at. I know the technicalities of it and I have a feeling for it. With painting, I'm a complete amateur. I just sit there and see what happens."

We're all aware of the origins of Cellar Darling and we're not going there today as it's been done to death and we'd rather look to the future but out of that unfortunate situation, we were left with the impression that Chrigel Glanzmann is not an easy man to work with?

Anna: "I have never met a true artist who is easy to work with, including myself. I had no major difficulties working with him though if that's what you're asking."

Merlin: "Perhaps he was too easy to work with, actually. One lesson I took away from this is that it is absolutely crucial to be open with each other when embarking on such an intimate, extraordinary and high-stake adventure together. Leaving things unspoken for years will come back to haunt you... in that regard I think Cellar Darling is off to a great start on a personal level, because not only were we friends before, but we also got to learn this lesson together."

cellar darling

Yourselves and Chrigel all still live fairly close to each other. What would the atmosphere be like if you found yourselves in the same bar as him?

Anna: "Depends how drunk we would be!"

Are you still in touch with Päde Kistler? Is there a place for him in Cellar Darling?

Anna: "No, we are not in touch. Cellar Darling's line-up is also complete as it is."

Anna – it says on your Official Facebook page that your influences include 80s pop, alcohol, gaffa tape and drugs? What drugs do you enjoy and do you take them with gaffa tape?

Anna: "Wow, that's a great impression I'm making. Um, well I'd say the most dangerous drug I consume is in fact alcohol. I've experimented with other things, but there is nothing that I do on a regular basis apart from drinking. Gaffa tape is not a part of the actual ritual but I usually bring it to places - you never know."

Ireland and Switzerland are known for their unique folklore. Are you more more inspired by Irish legend or Swiss, or the other way round? Which nationality resonates more with you?

Anna: "At the moment I'm more interested in Swiss tales because my Swiss folk band, Fräkmündt, will soon start working on a new album as well. Time to get inspired!

"I would say I'm an even blend of both nationalities. The neutrality, unnecessary politeness and ridiculous need for security and order could be my Swiss side and the chaos, humour, alcoholism and various forms of not being right in the head could be Irish. I'm saying 'could' because I also think clichés are kind of dumb. Every person is different and there's a lot of the same attributes in different cultures. But sometimes you have to be blunt to keep it interesting I guess [laughs]"


Booking Cellar Darling for your very first gig in Amsterdam on December 17th was a pretty big gesture by Anneke Van Giersbergen. How did all that happen and what are your feelings about this concert now it's just ten weeks away?

Anna: "Yes, it was! She is the best. She's always been a big supporter of me and my projects, so her and her husband Rob almost immediately agreed on having us as a support for their show. Even before we released any music. That is having true faith I would say..."

Merlin: "I reached out to a bunch of people I came to respect over the years when the whole thing with Eluveitie happened. Including Anneke and her manager Rob, whom I respect a great deal for both their achievements and their personality. I was proven right immediately when they took that leap and gave us that chance, so that was one of my brightest moments in an otherwise pretty dark time."

Can you tell us about your 2017 touring plans? Are we to have the pleasure of some UK dates?

Anna: "We are currently planning things and talking to various promoters, but nothing is confirmed or booked yet. I do hope the UK will be included!"

Merlin: "Thank you very much for this feature, actually. The UK certainly is one place we would absolutely love to play right away, and as extensively as possible – but it is also a particularly hard spot to get a foothold as a band. Probably not least because you guys have such an amazing and expansive music scene already.

"I spend a lot of time in London and I'm pretty much set on retiring in Scotland, which is one of the most beautiful places I've seen in all these years of travelling, so it's a bit of a personal desire as well!"

Will you be playing 'The Call Of The Mountains' and 'A Rose For Epona' live? Will you do any other Eluveitie songs?

Anna: "I can imagine playing 'A Rose for Epona' live because I co-wrote the song and still very much enjoy it. 'The Call Of The Mountains' on the other hand doesn't involve any creative work of mine and I was never the biggest fan of it so that will not be in the repertoire."

Merlin: "Playing Eluveitie songs was what I lived and breathed for a decade, so personally I'd say 'never say never' – but at least for the foreseeable future, and for Cellar Darling, I think a break is required."

So looking ahead, what can we expect from the band in the future and how long do you think it will take before you are recognised in your own right and publications such as MetalTalk can drop the phrase 'ex-Eluveitie'?

Anna: "You can never know what will happen in the future, that's why I never think about it. I hope of course that we'll record a shit-ton of albums and tour endlessly! But in the end, nobody knows... let's see [smiles]."

Merlin: "You never know, but I am pretty confident that we are going to kick ass in our own right as soon as we can get our own behinds on tour. I'm also aware of the reality that the 'ex-Eluveitie' is probably going to keep popping up for a long, long time.

"Just recently I've read an interview with Max Cavalera yet again chewing through the Sepultura discussion [smiles]. I don't mind it too much though. I'm very proud of what we are doing here and I was also proud of what we've achieved together in Eluveitie – as long as people judge our music by itself, I'm totally fine with some phrases."

Anna – do you have any tips for anyone learning air-hurdy-gurdy?

Anna: "You should learn real hurdy-gurdy, it's way more exciting!"

Any final message for your legions of supporters out there?

Anna: "I can't thank all of you enough for the support you are giving! I hope I can give all that back by writing great music and having beers with as many of you as somehow possible [laughs]."

Merlin: "We always said we have the best fans in the world. Just how true that is only fully came to light this summer, and we have no words for how much we appreciate all the support we've been receiving. We can't wait to see you all on the road!"

cellar darling

And Cellar Darling are asking you to "Share your Challenge with us!" Ivo, Merlin and Anna recently published the following:

"We are so happy to witness your overwhelming reactions to 'Challenge', both publicly, as well in private messages from all over the world. Creating and releasing those two songs was the biggest, but also most exciting challenge we faced in a long time.

"Our friendship and your support have helped us through a very dark period, filled with anguish and uncertainty, and we are thankful to all of you for such a warm reaction to this - the new start for Cellar Darling. For your friendship, we will reward you thousandfold!

"Music flows in our veins. We've stepped up to the challenge that life threw at us! Tell us about challenges you're facing and how music and good people helped you through. Share in the comments, send us a message, or use the hashtag #ChallengeMe!

"We can't wait to hear from you!"

Cellar Darling's first live show will be with The Gentle Storm, the band headed by Anneke Van Giersbergen, at the Melkweg, Amsterdam on December 17th. We'll be there to cover what will be a very special night.

Steve Göldby's Heavy Metal Chronicles



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