DANTE might not be the hardest of band names but you sure will remember it. Read this interview to find out more about the band. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
My first thought when I saw your band name was “The Divine Comedy”.What made you chose this as the name of the band?
MM: The band started out as a project of Markus Berger and me, and only with the inclusion of Alex as the vocalist and Chris as the drummer a few months later did we make it a “real” band. Then arose the need for a name. What we wanted was a name that would sound good, was easy to remember and would look good when printed on album covers. After some time Alex suggested the name “Dante”, and we immediately liked it. It was a clear check in all areas just described. It had nothing to do with Dante Alligheri or the Divine Comedy, but the connotation was a welcome bonus, as we always thrived towards creating artistically ambitious packages of good music, poetic lyrics and a cool artwork. And the name does transport that pretty well I think!
You are now on your third album. What kind of journey have you had to arrive at this album?
MM: In many ways this was a long and at times difficult journey for. First, with two albums already out that had a pretty high standard we had set the quite high, so obviously we wanted to make sure not to deliver something that would be “less” in any kind. That was some added pressure and took its time.
But the by far biggest issue came right after the actual writing: the whole thing about Markus´ illness and eventual death. I mean, he and I co-founded the band, he was there from day 1, and was, together with me, the center of the band. He was there during the whole writing process and even managed to record all his parts, but was already away when we started the mixing and production and started looking for a label for the album. That was so tough, us, finishing the album and preparing the release, with all the decisions and time that takes, while he was already away, fighting his disease. This last year felt like it lasted several years. Markus supported us as much as he could, encouraging us all the time to finish the album no matter what, and so we did. It is a final tragic twist of fate that he died just a few days prior to the actual release of “November Red”.
When you look back at your two previous albums how do you view them today?
MM: We are still very proud of them! To this day it feels so good that back then we were able to release an album like “The Inner Circle” without any outside help at all, we just did everything on our own, the recording, the artwork, the distribution…that we were able to do that is something we are very proud of. Of course, because we did not know whether or not anybody would buy the record we could not invest that much in the whole recording department, so abviously it does not have the best production, it is ok though. And then “Saturnine” was another step forward, justifying the good reviews we got for “The Inner Circle”. It still is special to us, because we were signed by ProgRock Records with just our second album. I still like it a lot, and it has a few of my abolute favourite DANTE-tracks, namely “Vanessa” and “Maybe One Day”.
Of course, looking back at these albums there are several things we would probably do different if we made them today, but overall we are very happy and satisfied with them!
Do you feel that you follow the path you set out when you formed the band or has it been revised during the journey to be something completely different?
MM: Different yes, but not completely different. There certainly is a development in our music and our writing, but I feel that the album still very much sounds like DANTE. It´s about the experience with the previous albums, what we really like about them and what we do not like so much, and just going from there. We certainly are leaning more and more towards the metal side of things, but this is not a decision we consciously made, it´s just a normal development for us. The biggest difference this time is that the album feels very cohesive to us from start to finish.
How hard is it to stay true to your initial intentions? How easy is it to revise the intentions as the journey continues?
MM: Personally I don´t find it that difficult to stay true to that. When we started out, we just wanted to write music as we like to hear it ourselves, giving many ideas the room inside a song or over a complete album, to be diverse and not stuck to a single mood or idea. We want the songs to be exactly as long as they want to be, be it 5 or 20 minutes. We also always tried to deliver well thought out and poetic lyrics and a cool artwork. And to this day, this is what we still do, and that, as the intention, is not that hard to keep up. Realising it of course sometimes is! 🙂 I guess it also helps that we are in a very uncommercial genre, so there is no big label pressure to deliver the next hit single, so this certainly helps.
What is the progressive part of your music? How does the progressive part manifest itself in your music?
MM: That´s difficult to answer exactly. Of course, musically speaking we have tons of what is commonly referred to as ingredients of “Progressive” music. We have so many meter and time changes, that does look quite funny when you look at the scores, and of course there´s a high level of musicianship and playing with lots of solos and tricky parts. But to me, all these things are just ingredients we use in order to achieve what we want to achieve, and that is to write songs that really get you, where you can dive in and recognise new little things and nuances every time you listen to it, songs that just develop the way they want to. A song can be hitting hard one moment and be very gentle the next one, it can be epic or simple. That just develops naturally. We just want to write good songs, and are very peculiar about not getting lost in complex stuff just for the sake of it. We certainly are not really progressive in the way that we do things no one has ever done before.
Can it be too progressive? When does music become more than entertainment?
MM: It depends. I think the line to draw here is when the music becomes just a means to an end, when it is progressive just for the sake of it. I think you still need some kind of goal, something that all the music is heading towards. This, by no means, equals being completely straight forward. I just feel that good music needs to have a purpose beside being complex or strange. When music is progressive in order to really catch the listener, when he really dives deep into it and is dreaming away, when a song really moves him with the melody or the lyrics, if he feels like he is really getting something out of it, when he feels that he has really gained anything substantial by listening to the music – that is when music becomes way more than entertainment. And this is something very precious!
What kind of responses have you had to your music so far? What has been the high light of the band’s career so far?
MM: So far the reception has been very good. Actually from day one we received great critics from all over the world. And almost all people that see us play the music live are quite excited. However the main problem still is that too few people actually know about us. And that is pretty difficult to change when you make music that is not played on the radio and are not supported by a big label that gets you the big gigs. So you just have to stay patient and keep doing what you do. And right now, with “November Red” being so well received, and with the great support of Massacre Records, we finally see things moving. I find it difficult to name a single highlight, there have been quite a few, from the release of the first CD ever to signing with Massacre Records, where many of our favourite bands are signed, from playing the first gig ever together to playing the Grenzenlos Festival…I can´t pick a single one.
Would you say that there is such a thing as a German traditional progressive metal scene? Where do you gather your inspirations from?
MM: Well, there are a few bands that have been around for a long time, Vanden Plas, Sieges Even, RPWL…But I feel that it was more about the being a “Progressive” band than about being a German band, and so it is for us as well. Actually, this is not something we think about at all. We are German, but I don´t think this influences our way of writing.
Inspiration can come from everywhere, you just need to keep an open mind and an open ear. You need to allow yourself to be inspired by whatever may come. It can be from a certain mood, or from a painting, or a certain song you hear, and in the end it doesn´t really matter, it´s all about that you take what´s inspiring you and carve that into something special.
What do you see in the future?
MM: I hope that we will have the chance to present our music to more and more people out there. Of course we will always continue making music, our music, no matter what. But it is so rewarding if you get out to the people and play for them, present them cool albums. And I feel right now with “November Red” there really is something happening, we are getting more and more recognition, and that´s pretty sweet!
As far as the next few weeks and months are concerned we hope that our concerts in support of “November Red” will be successfull and that we can add a few more dates to the list. And then we will have the audition for the now vacant position of the bass player. I really hope that we´ll find a cool guy to step into Markus´ footsteps!