AltWire Interview: Gilles Heinisch of Kitshickers

AltWire [Natasha Lopez de Arenosa]: You have performed shows which include special headphone live shows with video projection and live art performances, to capture the essence of the music. Now with a vocalist dedicated to the band, has your creative process for composing a conceptual album changed? Are songs and albums composed with its live translation in mind?

Gilles Heinisch [Kitshickers]: Actually there was not really a difference in the songwriting process for this album. We basically get together every week to  jam. As all our rehearsals are recorded we carefully listen to the jams afterwards; the parts that get stuck in our head and that we all like are then developed and are slowly merged into (well less or more) structured songs. When writing this album we did that exact process and only towards the end of the songwriting and whilst doing some of the pre-production we took the decision to work on most of the tracks with a vocalist as the tracks just seemed perfect for adding vocals.

And no, not really. We compose as it comes. No barriers.

AW: How did Kitshickers and Yann Dalscheid come together- was it a conscious search for a vocalist? Did Kitshickers look for a specific sound in the vocals?

GH: We always like to work with guest musicians on our records (since 2006 guest appearances have been featured on every album). Yann sung on the song COS.90 on Horror Vacui and we really liked his metal growls and we wanted them on some songs for the album. When we learned that he practiced over a year on his clean vocals it was obvious for us to give it a shot. His first demo track that he sent us just blew us away and the decision was taken. On III.0 we will have no other guest vocalist and welcome Yann as a new member. Not only did his metal growls reflect the exact harsh sound that we wanted, his clean vocals had exactly the brilliance we were looking for.

AW: In composing instrumental tracks such as “Awareness I,” are strings, if any, included from the beginning or worked in? Do you compose with all instruments together or are they individually worked on?

GH: Adding various instruments played by guest musicians, like strings or i.e. piano (performed by David Ianni on Early Years.) always comes into our mind at the end of the songwriting as we work our way through the songs for the album. Lisa Berg  gets the essence of our songs (it’s the second time we chose to work with her). We didn’t even rehearse upfront. She just showed up at the studio and immediately immersed into the track as she would have been part of the band during the whole songwriting process. Sometimes we like to play around with software strings or orchestral instruments during rehearsals to see what a certain instrument adds to the overall sound, but loads of it only happens during pre-production.

AW: The majority of lyrics were written by you, the guitarist and samplist of Kitshickers- did you have to write III.O’s lyrics based on Dalscheid’s existing style and ability or has the band challenged his vocals into new limits?

GH: I definitely think it’s the latter. I am not really a singer (also I did sing back in the days, or shall I say tried to sing) so I didn’t particularly write the lyrics bearing in mind that someone will have to sing them afterwards. Basically I wrote what came into my mind. Most of the lines were kept, only here and there Dalscheid made a change but overall he seemed to be happy with them (lucky me).

AW: How did synthetic elements come into being a consistent part of Kitshickers­­­? Was it a purposeful move to have a sound not common- or well used- in the overall sound of metal or is it a personal strength you carry into any music?

GH: Since the very beginning of the band we’ve liked to play around with samples. I recall on having a mini-disc player integrated in my pedal board in the early years where I sampled speeches or intros/outros into our set. With software and computers being more available for live use I got more and more into synthetic sounds, landscapes and sampling. These synth sounds help to make the music more ambient and match perfectly with the sound we are seeking for – a soundscape that should take you on a journey through our (Kitshickers’) Galaxy and minds.

Personally I also think that sometimes if a person has already said something well, then why bother in repeating it in your own words when the best way to put it has already been done (c.f. Charlie Chaplin’s Speech on Horror Vacui).

AW: Putting aside the collective flow and experience within III.O, what is the connection in the album covers throughout your discography? Horror Vacui and III.O in particular are very similar.

GH: Throughout the entire Kitshickers discography we have a main character, an androgenic alien, that we developed with our longtime graphic designer “De Gutz”. He designed every single one of our covers and merchandising up to this day, always putting a lot of details into his drawings, just have a close look and you will always discover something new. If you put the covers next to each other you can see the journey from our alien, the different phases in his life, the decisions he took…one can consider him as kind of an alien Buddha-like person. On Horror Vacui’s cover he’s a grown-up, meditating in front of a tree with weapons hanging from the tree, barbed wire and electric cables all over the place, only a few leaves here and there…all in all very negative.

On III.0, our protagonist sits in front of that very same tree, becoming “one” with the tree and everything is colorful and positive, birds flying around, a beautiful peacock sitting next to him, all in all positive. He’s coming closer to his enlightenment…or will he not ? Who knows.

kitsbandphoto“III.0 was written until we found the natural end. When it felt right we decided to hit the recording studio. On Horror Vacui and The Orion Constellation you have more tracks, that’s right, but since that album we actually considered our sets and records as being one single song…”

AW: Will Kitshickers tour in support of III.O or is that still to be planned? What countries have had the pleasure to attend your shows or has Luxembourg kept you exclusively?

GH: We will try our best to tour as much as we can, which is not always easy as most of us have a full-time job and kids and a family to nourish. Next week we will start with a mini-tour in Germany (Braunschweig, Leipzig and Berlin) together with our friends from The Majestic Unicorns From Hell. In November we will be playing Bang Your Head Festival in Luxembourg with Exodus, Prong, Fractal Universe, Miles to Perdition and many more. We might hop over to the United Kingdom in spring next year, but we are waiting for shows to be confirmed. Our main priority during the last few weeks was to record and prepare the release party. Apart from that we only start the booking in support of the album from next month on, so if anyone is interested in booking a show just send us a message.

AW: Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna) mixed and mastered the album, adding III.O to his incredible list of work. Was his work a planned investment with the crowdfunding or did he come into the process by chance?

GH: On the past records we worked with our recording engineer on the mix. But for III.0 we decided to go with someone completely new, someone that has never met us and never heard our music before. The crowdfunding made the choice of course easier for us to go with someone like Magnus Lindberg but we probably would have done the investment even without the crowdfunding. The result is just amazing and we are very happy about the choice we did. Magnus has mixed some of our favorite bands and it was a real pleasure for us to work with him. There are so many great mixing engineers but Magnus got exactly what we expected and even beyond that.

AW: You have mentioned your longtime recording engineer, Charel Stoltz, to know exactly what you need and want. How did he adapt to, or influence, yet another change for Kitshickers with this album?

GH: For over 10 years now we’ve worked with Charel. I would be lying if I’d say that he wasn’t surprised when he first heard the pre-production on the new tracks. We can sometimes be a bit challenging as we always want to add layers and layers on top of our tracks, but he perfectly adapts to our needs and most importantly he doesn’t just hit the record and stop buttons. Instead, he really gives us feedback and even sometimes comes up with another idea just to make the song work even better. Charel is a very quiet and patient person but has great talent musically speaking (check out his band “Fox”), so all of this makes us feel like we’re at home when we work with him. He is not our producer by itself but he definitely has credits on the production. With 3-4 years between each recording session it’s always a pleasure to hear and see an evolution both in his work and our work.

AW: III.O consists of only six songs, varying in length with the shortest being about six minutes, while your previous albums had fifteen and twenty songs, for example. Was III.O written until you found its natural end or were more tracks written and taken out to leave us the final six we now have?

GH: III.0 was written until we found the natural end. When it felt right we decided to hit the recording studio. On Horror Vacui and The Orion Constellation you have more tracks, that’s right, but since that album we actually considered our sets and records as being one single song. We also performed each record that way: we came on stage, played for 60-90 minutes continuously without any real break in between the songs (there was always something going on…like a sample or a looped guitar, never a second of silence) and then went off the stage after that one single song was played. The track listing and separation is just to help the listener through the album and make the record “more user- and radio friendly”.  As the songs on III.0 are more accessible, our shows will probably also be more of a standard set-up but still there will be moments of 15-20 minutes of music nonstop.

AW: In crowdfunding for III.O, you pledged part of the proceeds to Liter of Light, a charity that provides eco-friendly bottle light to communities living without electricity. Can you tell us more about your choice in charity and decision to give to Liter of Light with funds that your new album depended on? (You’re amazing for doing so.)

GH: This option to make a donation that pledgemusic.com offers is just amazing. You can choose any charity organization you want and so it was obvious for me to go with the “Liter of Light” project. It’s just so simple what they do but it has such a great effect on the life of people all over the world, and it not only helps the people but it also helps in the struggle against CO2 emissions and helps to protect the environment by reducing waste. Those are 3 things important to the band, all within one charity organization! All our merch and memorabilia is printed on recycled paper/cardboard, our T-Shirts are Bio-Cotton and Fair-Trade, so “Liter of Light” was an obvious choice. And what better way of helping than through our music.

AW: Is new music already in the works or are you allowing yourself to rest creatively for now?

GH: There will probably be no rest. Parallel to the promotion of this album and the touring we will for sure start writing on new material…will it be instrumental or with vocals ? We can’t just tell that yet.

 AW: Thank you for having us!

GH: You are more than welcome. Thank you very much for featuring us and allowing our album to spin on your record player (and in your head).

 

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