ON ATLAS’ SHOULDERS is a band that is new to me but i wanted to know more about them, hence this intview. Anders Ekdahl ©2021
Interview with On Atlas’ Shoulders:
Marius Bönisch – Vocals
Ben Chadwick – Guitar & Backing Vocals
Björn Anders – Guitar & Backing Vocals
Leonard Pick – Drums
A band name sets the tone for the band. With the right name you don’t really need any sort of declaration of intent. Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?
OAS: Greetings from Germany, thanks for having us! Finding a suitable band name took a long time. We really wanted something that was unique, instantly memorable and most of all had a true meaning for all of us. “On Atlas’ Shoulders” originates from the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants”, which implies that all human progress is made by building upon previous discoveries, for example in science. We transfer this concept to the musical realm: Musicians and bands are influenced by their preceding musical giants, building upon their work and transforming the music into something new. Also, the titan theme (Atlas), Greek mythology as a whole, is definitely suitable for a heavy metal band, so that name clicked for us and we have become very attached to it. And it matches our genre – epic heavy metal!
Who would say are the founding stones of the kind of sound you have? Who are your house Gods and how have they coloured your music?
OAS: That is actually a more difficult question to answer than it may seem. While we are all huge metalheads ourselves, all of us actually have slightly different musical preferences and sources of inspiration. While our sound is relatively old school/traditional, influences come from a wide range of subgenres, from traditional to power to prog all the way to death metal. Which is what makes our sound unique, in our opinion, as you will find elements of all those influences in our music. In terms of specific bands, some that come to mind instantly are Unleash the Archers, Judas Priest, Accept, Dream Theater, Enforcer, Ne Obliviscaris, and many, many more.
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
OAS: Absolutely. While playing fast, you can create a tribal sense of rhythm that is heavy and near hypnotic despite not having a huge amount of variation – repetition is often your friend. On the other hand, while playing slow, the melodies, touch and feel of each individual note become super important. So you can put more emphasis on complex harmonies. We really like combining both fast and slow passages to make a song more interesting for the listener. Actually, that is a very important element of our guitar solos. Both guitarists play solos, one being more melodic and the other being more shreddy and fast, so we find they complement each other in a great way.
Playing live is a totally different beast to studio work. How does your music work in a live environment?
OAS: Yes, live is definitely a different beast – but a beast we love! To take one example, our music is characterized by the use of backing vocals, among other things. And you really need to put a lot of practice into that element to be able to transport it live. In the studio, you have as many takes as you need – or you can afford haha. But live, you need to deliver instantly. So in addition to rehearsals in a full band setting, Björn, Ben and Marius meet separately to practice their harmonized vocal melodies, because we really want to deliver the songs as close as possible to the recordings.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
OAS: We believe labels can offer important benefits in terms of supporting an artist’s growth in general, helping in distribution, networking with important industry players and playing tours with other bands from the label’s roster. That being said, in this day and age, labels are definitely not as essential as they were in the past. Through digitalization, all the platforms and tools are available to everyone, you just have to put in the work yourself. Regarding music being readily available, that is a double-edged sword: As metalheads ourselves, it is great that you have instant access to all your favourite music and can easily find new bands. But as a band the downside is that there is an abundance of music available, it is extremely difficult to cut through the masses and of course you basically don’t make any money from music that is streamed online. One other aspect that comes to mind is that the album format has lost its original appeal, because people rarely listen to an album front to back, but instead skip in between songs and artists. But we love the format and are continuing to release our music that way. All this is just the way the industry has evolved – so adapt and conquer!
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
OAS: To a certain extent that is certainly true, but we also see the opportunities of technology. There are different mediums available nowadays that enable bands to engage with fans and create new opportunities to connect.
What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
OAS: A great cover should match the style of music you play, tell a story that is coherent with the songs you write, and be a piece of art by itself as well. But as with art as a whole, there are different styles, expressionist, surrealist, minimalist etc., and each style is able to tell a story. It just has to match the story and style you want to convey as a band. As for our artwork, Marius, our frontman, actually created all cover artwork for our singles and albums. So they have a unique connection to us as well.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
OAS: Metal in Germany, while definitely not mainstream, has quite active local scenes. From traditional metal, oldschool thrash, all the way to modern prog, there is a lot going on. We can just encourage everyone to take a look beyond the mainstream and into local scenes, there is great music to be found!
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
OAS: As mentioned earlier, one “conflict” we face is that the album format we all love, the traditional album, is dying. In the day and age of streaming services, people rarely take the time to listen to an entire album front to back, but prefer to skip between artists. We have decided to release full-length albums nonetheless, simply because we love the format. On the other hand, we believe that vinyl is experiencing a renaissance these days, so that is truly a bit of hope for all of us who enjoy the traditional ways of listening to music!
Another problem is the overabundance of new music, which has been enabled by technology. Anyone can make and release music from their bedrooms. But we see it more as a challenge and tell ourselves: Great music will prevail, so let’s make some kickass, epic heavy metal!
What lies in the future?
OAS: Our second full-length studio album “Hyperion”, which will be released in late spring! We used the Covid lockdown to write, record and produce 10 tracks that we are super proud of, in our opinion our best material yet. We have already started publishing singles and music videos, the first was Age of Fire, a power metal style song with a lyrical theme heavily inspired by the Dark Souls video game franchise. Stay tuned to our social media, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, new songs and videos coming very soon!