German Gothic metal act LORD OF THE LOST recently released their new double album, “Judas.” We talked with frontman Chris Harms about the recent release. Watch the interview here, or read the complete transcript below…
Hi and thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. How have you been doing this crazy year?
Chris: I’ve been doing fine. I’m being asked this a lot, which I appreciate. Actually, I always see the question “how are you” as some kind of nice thing that you just say [because it’s polite]. In these times, I learned to appreciate it because most people really seem to be interested in it. I can just repeat myself here. I’m sitting here in an interview with someone from Finland, asking me questions about my band, being interested in the things that I’m doing, so this makes me one of the privileged people in the world where kids are starving, like just a couple of hundreds of kilometers away. I really don’t want to complain, but if I allow myself to complain for a couple of minutes, of course, it sucks, you know, fighting to be a musician for 20 years. And then finally, being at the brink of being able to make your hobby actually your job and actually, LORD OF THE LOST already is my job. I can even say that it’s my… let’s say my 60% main job, besides the other things I’m doing, and then everything gets canceled, so of course, it sucks. But as I said, I don’t want to complain so… We have the best fans in the world, like buying our merch and going to our online streams, and yeah we have found workarounds, but these things for me are only workarounds. I don’t want to get used to them. I want to go back to life business.
Let’s not dwell on this whole corona situation. You have better things to look forward to! You have a new double album coming out named “Judas.” First of all, where did the idea for a double album come from? Is it something that happened during the process or was it always something that you wanted to do connected to this concept?
Chris: I knew from the beginning that this seventh album needed to be something big. I did not think about a double album at first. When we started doing research about the whole Judas topic, which we found so inspiring, it was in early 2020, we were on European tour in January and February, also in Finland. Then we thought we wanted to do a normal record and maybe we do a very special visual concept for it. Then in March and April, the whole pandemic kind of really, really hit us everywhere. We were just planning the whole timing for the year because we don’t produce a record by writing some songs and just recording some drums. We don’t do that, we really plan a record very strictly and we planned it out from June 2020 to March-April 2021. From the first day of songwriting until the final master. Then we thought since all shows are being canceled now, 100% of the shows being canceled, we had like a hundred more days – we had like a hundred shows planned actually in this time – so we wanted to use these days, we didn’t have any excuse to not use these days, so we thought we would do a double record. We actually were planning to do the songwriting in Finland in June 2020, in the very north of Finland where it never gets dark, and being inspired by this whole thing [the midnight sun]. We couldn’t do it, so the first thing we do when the pandemic is over [is the] songwriting in Finland. We wanted to do it in the very north of Finland in June 2020, in a place where it never gets dark, to be inspired by this whole thing. And yeah, we couldn’t do it. So it’s going to be the first thing we do when the pandemic is over and we have to write a new album again.
Chris: Jaani Peuhu is one of the most brilliant guys. He is so inspiring. He has a way of working with melodies and sounds and he can create songs that have a pop appeal, which I love – we both love good pop songs – but they still have this progressive vibe where things are happening which you really do not expect, especially in the way he merges melodies and harmonics. It’s just astounding and I can only say the best things about him because he inspires me a lot. I’m very happy that I could work with him again, on songwriting, and also on some co-production things for some songs, yeah.
You must be pretty excited about his new band then, but anyway, let’s not stray away too much from your upcoming release.
Chris: I must say this new band of his, this MERCURY CIRCLE, has become one of my most favorite go-tos, when I want to listen to new music. I turn that on a lot lately.
Now, before we start talking a little bit more seriously about your album… today, I went to the store and it just kind of hit me that your album is called “Judas” and the first track is called “Priest.” Judas… Priest… I thought that was kind of funny, but I was wondering, whether that was an intentional wordplay, or whether it’s just a complete coincidence?
Chris: At first it was a coincidence. When we started writing songs, we always write together as a team with all our band and live crew and some musicians from other bands, like Jaani. I find it the most inspiring to not be just reduced to the five guys you always see, so we love to open up the circle of songwriting. I told my colleague from the studio Eike, which I already wrote lots of LORD OF THE LOST songs for, what I wanted to do. I told him a little about the concept and before I actually mentioned “Judas,” I was just telling him about soundscapes that I had in mind. He said, “You know what? When I think about you guys, I always have these weird tribal drums like in this Inception movie. I always hear that and then I hear, ‘Priest!’.” I told him that sounds very strong but then I said, “Listen, the album is going to be called ‘Judas.'” He also thought that was going to be weird. And I said, “Yeah, that’s really weird, but it’s great, let’s just do it!” So it was a coincidence, but we were like why not? Why not just do it? Then, we worked with many weird references, also in the song “Priest.” You have a line that says, “Jesus, He knows me and He knows I’m right,” which is clearly a quote from a GENESIS song. In “Priest,” these words are coming out of the mouth of Judas, saying that about Jesus. This kind of turns this whole quote so much, which gives it such a new meaning that we also found fascinating. Then, in our music video, we have the “Bohemian Rhapsody” QUEEN reference because it shows the whole band as a choir. We work with lots of these references, sometimes just some signature sounds that you know from old Michael Jackson records, or from other ’80s records, so there’s actually a lot to discover on the record because it was a lot of fun placing all these Easter eggs.
I didn’t discover them all but that’s really fun to hear. I love intertextuality! What I also felt while listening to the record – and I come from a visual art background – for me, not all albums are art, but I felt like “Judas” is one big art project. Do you agree?
Chris: Thank you very much. Of course, I agree. It would be weird if I wouldn’t, because I see ourselves, not as musicians, I see ourselves more like concept artists. Artists that do like 75% music. The rest is the overall concept. So I really thank you for that because this is exactly what I had in mind. We want to create music. We want to create art. Music and visuals, which are so connected, that they give you a cinematic feel that if you just listen to the music, it’s a movie for the ears. So when you listen to the album, I also wanted this cinematic aspect as if you are listening to one of these overlength “Lord of the Rings” movies with a break in the middle, which would be then the two CDs. So yeah, thank you very, very much. It’s not easy to create art in that way because, especially in the dark kind of field, which we work in – not because we try to be part of any kind of dark scene, which is just something that happened because we really adore it – it’s so easy to be just too cheesy, like almost pathetic. Of course, in the ears of some listeners or in the eyes of some viewers, we already are pathetic. I’m fine with that. I really don’t have a problem with being cheesy, but sometimes it just very quickly flips, with this kind of thing. We really tried to kind of hold the balance between like doing serious art and still being us, so it wasn’t easy.
That makes sense, especially in your genre, as there are actually quite a lot of bands that have “religious” themes, for instance in their music. Anyhow, where would you say the fascination for the character of Judas came from?
Chris: This is the thing… First of all, this record is not pro- or anti-Christian, or pro- or anti-religious. We don’t try to tell people that Judas was a good guy or to find a new aspect of Christianity. We don’t do that. We don’t tell them the whole Bible thing and Christianity is super bad because Judas is actually the good guy. We’re not doing that, it’s not what it’s about. Of course, we have an agnostic point of view on that kind of matter, so we do not say that there’s a truth in belief or a truth in science. Being agnostic means that you’re open and tolerant with everything and everyone, which actually most people don’t understand. What we find most interesting about it is that Judas, as a character, his role is being so much reduced to just being a traitor. There’s so much more behind it. When we started digging, also in this Gospel of Judas, this epic critical script which got forbidden by the Catholic Church, it was super inspiring to actually see Judas more. If I should explain it to my 10 year old son, I would say that what Batman is for Gotham – sometimes Batman also needs to be the bad guy, he needs to be the scapegoat because Gotham needs it – that is Judas, in this story. What’s so interesting about it is when you start digging, you find so many different point of views in the four gospels, in the Bible, and also in different analysis interpretations that you can read, which go from Judas being a traitor, to Judas the actual Savior. Some theories are so wacky, they also say that Judas and Jesus switched places, and actually Judas died on the cross. There are so many things. That was just super inspiring. We just wanted to reflect in that album on this kind of variety, of that gray area in between, not by telling one story of what Judas does. It’s more like the overall inspiring theme for different kinds of single topics.
History, in general, really interests me, so it’s fascinating that you guys really did your research and tried to discover every possible angle of this character. You also mentioned you are not pro- or anti-Christianity. When you take for instance, the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which was created in the ’70s, there was a lot of backlash from religious groups, because it shed a more positive light on Judas. Do you feel like religion has changed a lot over the years?
Chris: I need to say three things here… First of all, I must confess that I’ve never seen “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I was aware of that musical, but I didn’t know what it was about. I just found out what it was about when people told me in comments on social media. Maybe I should have watched this before writing the album, but I’m thankful that I didn’t, because it might have been too inspiring and we may have followed the same path. Now I really want to see it, but I said I will do that when “Judas” is out, because it’s super fascinating. Of course, talking about Judas is not reinventing the wheel. Not at all. I never said that it’s a new idea. Second, in the modern world, if you ask how important religion is, let’s put it this way, I differ between belief, religion, and churches or, let’s say, institutions. Belief can be something… Me as an agnostic, I also sometimes feel that there is a higher power, I have moments in my life where I’m like okay this this was weird, something just led me, but I cannot define it. I would not call it a religion. If you define this higher power, I would call it religion. Also mythologies… What’s the difference between mythology and religion? If someone believes in Thor, in northern mythology, isn’t it right to still call it religion? Isn’t it arrogant to say, no that’s mythology? That’s religion… that’s mythology, whatever. That’s a different topic, but if you find yourself in any kind of these aspects of the different world religions, you find your higher power there, then it’s a religion. You don’t necessarily need a house for it. If you need the house for it, then you need an institution, then you need a church. I think nowadays I do not think that belief, or even maybe religions have become less important to people. I just think that people are daring to put it in other words. Same as genders, you know, you don’t have to decide anymore whether you’re male or female, or whatever. Even I, for myself, as a male heterosexual men, I must say that I don’t even find my place there, because I am not anything like I was told what a real man is, when I look at all the real men. I was told all these things when I was a little boy, I’m not anything like them. Still, I’m heterosexual and I have a penis. So, what am I then? You do not even have to define it for yourself, make up your own religion. Sorry for the long answer, but I think that institutions are becoming less and less important. I’m actually thankful for that because also, if you look at Christianity, there are also gospels, for instance, the Gospel of Judas, which has parts that say that you do not find God in the church, you find it in yourself. That makes me wonder why it’s being forbidden by the Catholic Church. There you go, with all those “Da Vinci Code” movies with Tom Hanks, which also have this topic, which are super inspiring. To sum up that question: I think human beings, even scientists, will always look for a higher power. It’s actually the same thing if you want to explain the world. It doesn’t really make a difference if you’re trying to look at the molecules in the micro cosmos or if you try to look at the universe on the other side, and others try to find God and do both, finding a way to combine it. Others already explain microcosm and macrocosm, with God, or by God, or in God. Actually, I think institutions have been kind of becoming less and less important, which is a good thing because most of institutional beliefs are working with fear and oppression against the believer itself. I always say as an agnostic, if all of this is true and there’s a God that created all of us, then this God would embrace everything that makes us human and wouldn’t do all the shit that the institutions are actually telling us to do.
Thank you for that, that was interesting. Now, let’s dive a little bit more into the writing and how you brought this album together. You mentioned that your original plan was to go to to Finland and write there. How did you guys go about it instead?
Chris: We just did in the studio. We wanted to have this “being away from home” feeling, this holiday feeling, but we couldn’t, so we just did it here. We told ourselves [that] we are professionals, we can do it, of course, Finland would have been great, but if not, we can do it here. There’s no excuse, so just shut your mouth and go to work.
Now there’s also something in the the sound of this album that I thought was interesting. It had this kind of feeling you have when you hear a church organ in a church, for instance, this kind of massiveness. I was wondering whether that was somehow an intentional thing?
Chris: It’s super interesting that you say that because that says that the record actually did what it was meant to do. On this record, you hear a lot of church organ. What we said is that we do not want to just switch on the keyboard and look for an organ sound, and then just hit the keys. What we did for the record… we recorded a real church organ in a real church. We did the same with a real choir, with real strings, with a real piano in a big hall, so everything on the record is real. This is what we actually wanted. We wanted to have this massive wall of sound with a very special guitar sound, so we didn’t use regular metal amps, we work with different kinds of distortions that force you to relearn the instruments because you can play the usual stuff. We wanted exactly this feeling that you have when you go to church and listen to that massive organ sound, which kind of gives you this very special feeling. The only way is to record the church organ, that’s what we did.
That’s cool! Another thing I read today is that you did this song experiment with “Viva Vendetta,” one of the songs off the record, where you let artists do their own thing with the song. What is that going to be like?
Chris: What’s super interesting, is that the song experiment, it was an experiment which I wanted to do since when I started studying audio and music production. I never did it because I never really had the chance. Now, we had the time to do it and all other artists had the time to do it. What I wondered was, when I would give a finished instrumental song to any kind of artist, without telling them the name of the song, without showing them my melodies, my lyrics, without even telling them that the album was going to be called – “Judas” – would let them treat that instrumental like one of the guys in the band has written it, and they were forced to write their own melodies and lyrics on top of it, what would actually happen? I asked, I don’t know, 40 of my friends and other bands, because I expected like five of them actually doing it – it’s the same thing with remixes, you know, you asked your friends for a remix and they either have no time or they say how much money, or they say yes and then you never hear from them again because they’re musicians – and in this case, they all said yes, and then some didn’t have time. So, we ended up with having 32 versions of the same song and it’s just immense. It’s mind blowing. It’s like in some versions, even the entire genre you’ll listen to is completely flipped, just because of the voice of the singer and how he’s interpreting the song. It’s mind blowing, really.
Were there any songs that had the same feeling as the original song?
Chris: Some. Some kind of got close, even the topic was kind of close. Some were super off and super different. It’s very interesting. They were also allowed not to only put lyrics and vocals on top, they also could put like other stuff on top. For example, Saku of FEAR OF DOMINATION, he just put like electronic stuff on top, you know, they weren’t allowed to get rid of things or to re-arrange the parts, but they were allowed to put on top whatever they wanted.
That sounds super exciting! Anyhow, our time is up. There’s no point in asking you about live shows, so any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?
Chris: I’m always happy to talk to someone from Finland. It’s – besides my home – my second favorite country and I really miss going to Helsinki. It always feels a little like my hometown, Hamburg, just a little smaller and colder version. Being there is always one of these magic memories. It feels a little like the memories that I have of being on holiday as a child, you know, it has this kind of magic. I really miss that. So, I’m super happy when I can go to Helsinki again. If there’s not going to be a show, I’m just going there for a weekend and go to Hesburger and fly back.