quarta-feira, 4 de novembro de 2015

Jagmoor Cynewulf with Leonard Las Vegas - An Interview

Alexander Leonard Donat, voz, guitarras e teclados se juntou com David Kandert - bateria, voz e samples e formaram o Leonard Las Vegas.

Alexander você já conhece, além de tocar a gravadora Blackjack Illuminist o cara ainda tem toca o Fir Cone Children e o novíssimo e espetacular Vlimmer, mas aqui sob a alcunha de Leonard Las Vegas, Alexander e David mostram seus lados mais degustáveis. Um mix certeiro de pós punk e indie rock sem em nenhum momento desandar para algo brega.

Jagmoor Cynewulf lançado em setembro, consegue equilibrar de forma elegante e ao mesmo tempo lo fi o que parecia ser completamente impossível, imagine um meio termo entre The Fall, Placebo e Radiohead, pois o Leonard Las Vegas conseguiu equilibrar esta equação sonora de forma magistral.

Mais um ponto altamente positivo para o hiperativo Alexander.

***** Interview with Leonard Las Vegas *****

Q. When did Leonard Las Vegas start? Tell us about the history...
Leonard Las Vegas was my first project with me being the sole song creating force, the only member at all. Everything started in 2006 as a one man project in my student flat in Greifswald, a town at the Baltic Sea, full of students, elderly people and … well, yeah, mostly students and elderly people. It was a roommate of my girlfriend who suddenly had this Ozone Midi keyboard with which you could also record music by easily plugging it into your laptop. Once I saw it I was totally thrilled and bought one myself. The first songs were my attempt of creating Shoegaze songs without the guitar – because I simply didn’t have one yet. So it was all keyboard sounds, artificial drums and singing through the cheapest microphone which I could get from the local electronics store. The first EP was called “Wuthering Heights” (yeah, you can see I studied English literature at that time), it had 7 songs and I only sold it to like 6 people at the gigs of my noiserock/hardcore band Jet Pilot where I was screaming my lungs out. It was a nice contrast to properly sing with a change. In the beginning LLV was just a side project, but that would change soon. If I remember correctly I spent half of my time as a student recording music and teaching myself how to mix. The family living one story under my room even thought I would be a full time musician. Whatever, my experimental electronic indie sound changed when my parents gave me a guitar and a bass for my birthday. Or was it Christmas? What I do know is that I recorded so many songs in not even a year that I had to release two records at the same time in 2007. A mini album with the title “Die Sphären Drehen Sich” which still included lots of keyboards but had more structured songs with proper verses and choruses than my first EP which, by the way, I never mentioned before in an interview! The other release would become my first proper album, an album about 13 different perspectives on the end of the world, most of them of apocalyptic nature, yet some are humorous or romantic: “Naked Feet On Highway Darkness” – it had no keyboards at all, which was a real challenge for me. I got to admit, I am still very proud about the songs I recorded and about the way I produced it. I never learned to play the guitar but it isn’t important unless you want to play live which I didn’t intend to do at that time. For me it just was an open field full of song writing possibilities. Record, record, record, that was all I wanted and needed, almost like an addiction. It was when I moved to Würzburg, Bavaria, when I felt the urge to find a backing band to perform my music live. And it didn’t take too long until I had four fellas for two guitars, bass and the drums, and a girl for the violin. Sadly, she only played one gig with us – the first – because it was simply not possible to travel to our shows with six people in one car. After one more gig my label back then, Record 1fourFIVE, sent us on a ten days tour across Germany including a show in Amsterdam. That was in 2009. We travelled in a night liner, man! It was big, crazy, unforgettable. Unfortunately, half of the gigs weren’t well attended, still, it was the rock star dream everyone who plays in a band would dream of at one time. It was 2009At the same time my second proper album was released – if you don’t count in the dark ambient excursion “LLVpinx.” which I released in 2008. “Lightspeed Your Body, We’re Going Downtown” was still guitar-centered, but I got back to the use of keyboards and wasn’t afraid of including a song which consisted solely of electronic elements besides the vocals. “Lightspeed” is mostly a night time record, a very colourful one. Lyric-wise I was heavily influenced by a two months stay in the USA. A lot of things there were just amazing, yet ridiculously crazy. I ate a lot of junk food which resulted in gaining more weight than ever before, ha ha – but, in Europe I got back to normal. Oh, please don’t think the album is about food, it just crossed my mind. Today, I still like most of the songs but think it wasn’t as direct as the first album, also I’m not satisfied with the mix. Maybe it’s only me, but I have a better feeling about my albums when the songs are recorded in a shorter period of time – maybe not more than three months. If it takes one year or more to collect songs for an album it appears confusing to me. Luckily, I never made that ‘mistake’ again. On the contrary, in 2009, twelve days before my final Latin exam at the University of Würzburg I decided to even increase the pressure and record one song a day, every day for what I decided should be my next album. I started recording the album’s opener “Where to go?” on the first day, saved it on my computer, shut it down, studied for the Latin exam and decided not to listen to the song again until I would finish the last song. On the second day I recorded “Checkout & Goodbye”, which is the second song on the album. This went on until I had 12 songs. The 12th song was recorded right before the exam – which I would pass, I should add – it wasn’t with flying colours, though. Then I listened to what I had recorded: It was unbelievable, it fucking made sense! I didn’t even have to change the song order of the tracklist. From start to finish there it was, the best thing I had ever recorded: “Jagmoor Cynewulf”. Now, you will ask why the record wasn’t released until almost six years later. I honestly don’t know for sure, it was the combination of a lot of things. Maybe it was all the shows we played that time. Maybe I felt I could make this album even better. Maybe I got more and more unsure whether my mixing abilities would suffice? Maybe it was because Record 1fourFIVE decided not to go on with their musical aspirations, so I tried to find a new one? I grew desperate with the years and the album began to become a burden. I even recorded two more Leonard Las Vegas albums in between. One is called “Floak” and clearly expresses my love for heavily distorted Shoegaze guitars, for a long time I loved it more than any other LLV release, still it didn’t fully fit into the discography, it was like a bastard son. The other album is pretty dark, it has yet to be released. We even played two songs from it live – one is called “Stop Playing The Piano”, a live favourite of the audience -, but I’m not sure it will ever be released. Maybe under a different moniker? “Stop Playing The Piano” was also the first video in which Leonard Las Vegas officially weren’t a one man band any more. My drummer named David became a full member, not just a live addition. By that time, it was 2011, we had parted with the other band members and played as a duo including samples that we really needed because it simply wasn’t possible to play these songs with only one guitar. With David on board Leonard Las Vegas had become more of a real band. I decided to make him play the drums on the new album, so we recorded them at the end of the album process. Weird, huh? Usually you start with the drums, but … yeah, whatever. Now the album would be ready for the release, no? No! After the recordings had taken place I still hoped I would find a label, but as we played less and less shows it would become more and more difficult to gain attention. No label signs a band that barely plays live. In Spring 2015 I finally decided to release it on my own label Blackjack Illuminist which I have had since 2007 but never used to go beyond selling hand-made sleeves with CD-rs at gigs, besides the before mentioned “Lightspeed” which had a proper store release. Now, I went full attack, I even made a dream come true and had “Jagmoor Cynewulf” pressed on vinyl. I invested that much money, I will never get it back, but it’s all worth it if you love what you do. When a promotional agency got into contact with me - last minute, man! - I suddenly had professional help. Leonard Las Vegas songs were played on the radio, in fact, 10 of the 12 songs of the album had been played at least once until the end of October 2015. I was so relieved when the work on “Jagmoor” was finally done and I didn’t need to think about it any longer. No more mixing. No more looking for a label. DIY to the max. Even more, it has become my work ethic with all the one man bands.

Q: Who are your influences?
On Leonard Las Vegas records I can hear a very British influence: My Bloody Valentine, My Vitriol, Hood, Bloc Party, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, British Sea Power, Amusement Parks On Fire, Aereogramme, Oceansize, Biffy Clyro, Flying Saucer Attack, The Cooper Temple Clause … Also, there is a definite American influence: Arcade Fire, The National, Liars, No Age, Jimmy Eat World, Trail of Dead, Deerhunter …

Q. How would you describe Leonard Las Vegas’ sounds?
I often tell people that LLV is a Shoegaze band, which is only a small part of the truth, given the fact that this band never really had the famous buried vocals and Kevin Shield-ish guitars, well, it has, only on one of five albums, though: “Floak”. It probably is just a Dream pop sound with a definite Indie pop/rock influence and atmospheric Shoegaze-based or Postrock-ish guitars - modern psychedelics squeezed into songs which are pretty poppy. So I wasn’t really surprised when the radio stations played that many different songs from “Jagmoor Cynewulf”. And while I never thought about the audience while writing songs before, this album I couldn’t help but wonder if the “Jagmoor” songs could be played on the radio. I was pre-occupied, yes. In fact, it was an honest attempt to write a pop album with the tools of a Shoegazer, a mostly verse-chorus-album with unorthodox arrangements, though. I’m very satisfied with how it turned out, maybe I won’t ever be able to get so close to the point where pop and my personal taste meet. Still, I’m telling you: for now I’m done with pop tunes in the context of Leonard Las Vegas. Maybe that’s a reason why I’m focusing on so many other projects at the moment: Feverdreamt, Fir Cone Children, Vlimmer, to name my most important bands. Bands which are new. Bands which couldn’t cause any expectation with the listener. After all, I have to admit: having this album ready for release has turned out to be an exhausting experience. If you include the audience into your thoughts it’s getting tiresome. But hey, that’s something every band has to face after they have released at least one album. I just want to keep it fresh and intuitive. Sounds like an uncertain future? Quite.

Q: Tell us about the process of recording the songs?
No LLV song was created in a rehearsal room, ever. Every single song was written in my bedroom. Mostly it starts with an idea in my head which I record playing the guitar or a keyboard, seldom it is a bass line. It has proven to work out just fine to focus on this one instrument and finish its part until the end of the song. When I say ‘writing’ I mean directly recording the things I can hear in my head after I recorded the initial part. It’s a bit like gluing one part after another. If that sounds like a complicated and enduring process I have to prove you wrong, I work pretty fast and effective that way. After recording one instrument I switch to the next, usually in this order: guitar or keyboard, then bass, then drums while the vocals are sung somewhere in between – basically it’s the complete opposite of conventional recording methods. In the early years I wrote many songs in the way of just jamming on whatever instrument and focusing on the parts that turned out to be good. Now, I’m just listening to the song in my head. I still happen to jam and improvise, but only with other projects like Feverdreamt.

Q. Which new bands do you recommended?
Right now, I’m completely baffled by Liturgy. They started as a non-traditional Black Metal band and just released their third album “The Ark Work” which is batshit crazy, pure megalomania. There is no single growl as singer/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix decided to sing all parts, often in a monotone way which comes close to Hip Hop in at least one song. Hip Hop? Yeah, I don’t know why it works but it sure does. In addition, I generally don’t know what’s happening with these weird bells which are jingling on top of the guitars but, damn, it’s awesome! I ordered their two other albums and can’t wait to listen to them.

Q: Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?
I haven’t made a cover of any really famous band yet. When I’m asked to remix songs I never remix them but cover them my way. Frankly, in general covering is mostly too difficult for me, I prefer doing my own stuff.

Q: What are the pans for the future?
After almost nine years I think I need a break from this band. Did I mention I also wrote a book for “Jagmoor Cynewulf”, a 130 page narrative? See, I pushed it real far.

Q: Any parting words?
Qathlo’ je Qapla’, Renato! (This is Klingon, ha ha! Look it up!)