For almost one and a half decades, German instrumental rock band LONG DISTANCE CALLING have been proving the versatility of their sound without the use of many words. Always redefining their sound, the band is now ready to release their long-awaited seventh studio effort, “How Do We Want to Live?” We had the opportunity to talk to drummer Janosch about the upcoming release. Read the whole interview here.
Hi, there! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. We’re certainly living amidst the strangest of times, so how are you doing?
Actually, I’m doing okay. I’m fine, I’m healthy, and my family and my friends are too. That’s the most important thing, I think. As you can imagine, all our shows are cancelled so I’m not able to work as a musician right now, which is a bad thing, but it could be worse.
The lockdown measures have surely taken a toll on bands everywhere. Without the opportunity to go touring, have you been able to keep yourselves busy?
Most of the time we have been busy with the new album. Me and my bandmate, Jan, the bass player, we’re doing all the communication with the label, management, booking, and so on. We are really busy with the promotion of the new album right now. Since March actually. When the lockdown started, we also started mixing the new album; it was like the middle of March, the 15th or 16th, when the lockdown started in Germany. We were really busy with that, but that’s a good thing. It’s really important to keep things going in these strange times, to be busy, to have to do something that’s important. I really needed that, it’s a good thing.
LONG DISTANCE CALLING are releasing your new album “How Do We Want To Live” soon. How are you feeling about the upcoming release?
I’m feeling good about it, actually. We first thought about postponing the record, because many bands these days believe they cannot release a new album in summer as they had planned, so they either postpone it to fall 2020 or maybe to the next year. We thought about doing that, but our new record, “How Do We Want to Live?” is the perfect music for times like these. It’s almost a soundtrack for these strange days. When we released the first two songs, we got some messages from fans telling us that they really need music like that these days because it makes them happy and it helps them to get over it, to get out of these strange times. For us as musicians, it’s a really great thing that people write us these nice messages, so I’m looking really forward to releasing the new album. Of course, it’s a little bit strange that we don’t know if we can even play shows and play the new songs live. We have a tour in September in Germany, so hopefully it’s going to happen but we don’t know yet – fingers crossed.
What can you tell fans about the sound of “How Do We Want To Live?”
I think it sounds a little bit different, especially in comparison to the last record, “Boundless.” That album was very heavy for LONG DISTANCE CALLING, with so many riffs, many heavy parts, many heavy guitars. On this record, it was really exciting to experiment with some more electronic sounds, so you can hear a lot of synthesizers and a lot of electronic beats on one hand. On the other hand, you can find typical LONG DISTANCE CALLING sounds like guitar melodies and the mood is a little bit melancholic, but also hopeful sometimes. It has heavy riffs as well, but I think it’s more of an electronic record of LONG DISTANCE CALLING and when it comes to the sound, in general, we really believe that this is the closest we could get to the perfect sound. We spent a lot of time and money to find the best studio and also the best room to record the drums. Our producer, Arne, did a really good job tmixing the whole album. We mastered the album in Paris, in France, they did a great job so, we’re really happy.
Yeah, I also wrote down that I feel like you guys redefined your sound a little bit, especially because you were experimenting with electronic sounds. What took you in this new direction? Did you have other influences or inspiration, or was it a natural process?
We’ve had electronic influences somehow on all the records, but it’s even stronger on this record. We are listening to a lot of music, a lot of different genres. I really got into electronic music in the last couple of years, music like TANGERINE DREAM, new acts like BONOBO, but also 90s music like MASSIVE ATTACK. We like all kinds of styles. It’s really nice to listen to a lot of different genres of music because every different kind of music is inspiring, well… almost every kind of music, not every kind. It can be inspiring for us as an artist and for us as persons. When I listen to a good song, it’s inspiring for me and it doesn’t matter whether it’s rock, metal, electronic, hip-hop… you can find good things in every kind of music.
What was the writing process like? Is it usually collaborative or is there a main songwriter?
Some songs stem from jam sessions we had in the rehearsal room. We just jammed around for a couple of hours. On the other hand, I did most of the electronics and the beat programming in my home studio and all the guitars, bass, and cello were recorded by our guitar player in his studio in our home town. It was a mixture, most of the material comes from jam sessions and some of it, when it comes to electronics, was composed in our home studios.
“How Do We Want to Live?” is a concept album; where did you get the idea to come up with a concept album?
Since we’re an instrumental band, it’s always difficult to transfer a message since you don’t have lyrics. Of course, we have some voice samples and some speech on our albums, especially on this record. Since the message was a really important aspect of this album, we thought it’s the perfect time to ask ourselves and people how we want to live. On the album, most of the theme deals with the coexistence of men and machine. It’s a very interesting question for us since everybody is using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. There was a funny moment when we were going to a show in Hamburg, when we talked about silly food things, about Asian food. One hour later, I looked on my phone and just browsed through Facebook and there was an advertisement about Chinese food. Living with social media and social media technology can be really scary. We think we are now at a turning point where we somehow need to ask ourselves how do we want to live. Also, how do we want to live when it comes to technology because I think it’s also about how we act with our personal data; we are giving it for free to big corporations like Apple, Facebook, or Instagram, and yeah, it’s really important to think about that.
About the themes on the album: technology versus humanity. The message you wanted to convey does not seem utterly hopeless, am I right? To me, the album does not paint a grim doomsday prophecy.
No definitely not. Of course, there’s a dystopian element in the album. When you take the last track for example, “Ashes,” you can experience a very dark and strange feeling while listening to the song, but in every song, there’s a little bit of hope. I think that’s really important too, even if it’s a dystopia, I believe that hope is the most important thing, especially in times like these. We can take this whole crisis as a chance to make things better and this record is also about positive things, of course. It’s not only about the negative aspects of technology, but it’s also about the positive aspects of technology. For example, for our upcoming single, “Immunity,” we have this video where people from all over the world send us videos from their lockdown situation. It’s a good thing we can communicate with each other so easily these times and especially in times like these because we are not able to see each other, I think that’s a very good thing. I think it’s just important to be aware of both sides and the things that can maybe happen in the future.
The new album is a concept album; in the modern age of digital streaming, there is an almost over-saturation of music available online, and it has, in a way, shortened the attention span of the average listener quite a bit. Most people don’t even play through a whole song anymore. Do you think it was quite a bold step to release an album full of songs that are thematically connected?
Yes, because I’m a really big fan of albums. I know it’s outdated because people just listen to one song. Many bands or acts, especially when it comes to techno, electronic music, or hip-hop release singles, not whole albums. A concept album is really outdated, but I think the message that we want to transfer with this album is not possible to tell with one track. It has so many different aspects – on one hand it’s positive, on the other hand it’s negative. It’s not only black and white, it’s grey. We thought that it’s a really nice thing to have, an album that you can listen to from start to finish. It’s also a development; the first track is really positive and the last track is almost dystopian. It’s a story we wanted to tell and so I think it’s really cool because I personally love to listen to a whole album from start to finish.
The album is filled with sci-fi references, such as the Agent Smith monologue from “The Matrix,” a bit of Terry Pratchett, or the subtle sonic references to the Ridley Scott classic “Blade Runner.” Was there some particular reason to choose this theme for the album?
On the one hand, I think they just fit the album perfectly, especially the Agent Smith quote. On the other hand, we’re just big fans of science fiction. It’s us being nerds. Also, the cover artwork has this retro science-fiction vibe going on. Max Löffler, the artist, has been doing big works for The New York Times and so on. He has this referral science fiction style in every painting, so he was perfect for the job. I think it’s a mixture between nerdism and just transferring the message the right way.
Just out of curiosity, how did you create that particular “Blade Runner” synth sound?
We created the sound. It’s actually done with a Prophet, the name of the synth, which is also the one they use for the “Blade Runner” soundtrack. I definitely had it in mind when we started to write the first song of the record.
The track “Beyond Your Limits” features nice, hard-rockish vocals by Eric A. Pulverich from KYLES TOLONE. It’s not the first time you’ve collaborated with a vocalist. How would you describe the difference in working with vocals, in comparison to a fully instrumental approach?
You definitely have this typical chorus and verse-structure present in the song. There’s a verse, a pre-chorus, and a chorus. That’s different because when we write instrumental tracks we don’t have this structure, on the other hand, it’s also important for us that it has this LONG DISTANCE CALLING atmosphere in the song. Regarding Eric, our producer suggested him. We were looking for a vocalist for the song because we really wanted to have one vocal song on the record. He just said he knows this amazing guy who sounds a little bit like Peter Gabriel and maybe we could ask him. He was also in lockdown when he wrote the vocal lines for the track and then, via Skype, we wrote the lyrics for the song. In the end, he went to the studio with our producer Arne and nailed it. We’re really happy with the result. I think it adds a new element to the record, it’s almost a very poppy song, but in a good way. I really like it.
Under these circumstances, touring is pretty much out of the question. A lot of bands came up with alternatives, such as streaming concerts. Is that a possibility for LONG DISTANCE CALLING?
Yeah, definitely. We are maybe thinking about doing a record release show online so that everybody is able to join from all over the world, which is a good thing. There have been tons of these streaming concerts, but we would like to do things differently. We don’t want to have one where you would play in a venue or a club and you are standing on the stage, with the cameras instead of the crowd, filming it as if it’s a normal concert. That’s really strange to me and it just doesn’t feel right. I recently saw a stream from APOCALYPTICA and that was nicely done. It was live, but it almost felt like a music video. We are thinking about doing one at the end of June, so if you are interested just check our Facebook, Instagram, and webpage for more information.
That specific stream of APOCALYPTICA was also interesting because the drummer was facing them, which I think is a bit nicer if you don’t have an audience. Is that something you guys want to do as well?
Exactly, at least you have to communicate with each other. Normally we communicate somehow with our fans, with the people in the audience, but that’s not possible. I think it’s really important to at least communicate with each other, to get in the right mood and to enjoy playing music as well.
When this whole lockdown situation is over, are you planning to come to Finland for a show?
Definitely. So far, we’ve played in Finland only once. It was at a very small festival. We definitely want to go out with the new album when it’s possible again. We want to play everywhere as much as possible.
Looking forward to that! Thank you so much, for your time! Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with our readers?
Please check out the new record and maybe you ask yourself how do you want to live. I think it’s important that we take this crisis we are living in right now as a chance to make things better. I think that’s the most important thing right now
Interview by Jani Lehtinen
Transcribed by Laureline Tilkin