On January the 16th, Gillian had a pleasant conversation with singer Karolina and guitarist Michel from the electro-industrial metal band Skeptical Minds. We found ourselves a nice place in the couch of the backstage area of venue “The Verlichte Geest” and started talking …
Tonight you are playing at ‘De Verlichte Geest’, have you already played this venue before?
Michel: Once, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, when we were promoting the previous album with “Beyond the labyrinth”. So we knew the place already and it’s good to come back!
Did it leave a good impression on you?
Michel: yea, the conditions were not so easy that day, technically we had some issues with the mixing-table. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but we did have a good gig and the people also liked it. If we wouldn’t have liked the experience we wouldn’t come back! (laughs)
In October, you released your latest album “Omega Thanatos”, what made it extra special was that it was accompanied by a comic book. Tell me how this idea started to grow and how you practically worked it out.
Michel: In 2008, when we were making the previous album, we already had an idea for the future. We had a story in mind and we thought it would be nice if we could make a concept album for the next (third) album. We wanted to combine that with a comic book but at the time we didn’t know how and with whom. It was just a project we had in mind and we would see what the future would bring. Then in 2011 there was Alain Poncelet, I know him since 20 years but I didn’t know that he was working on comic books and so on. He proposed to make a t-shirt for us and we said OK, that’s how we started to work with Alain for the artwork of the band. We made a first comic ‘Broken dolls’ as a try-out for this project, to see how we have to work to make a comic. It’s like a movie, it’s very specific and for us it was completely new. This is how things started so we gave him the idea we had, he started to prepare his storyboard and we had some songs already. he made the final drawings to adapt to the songs and fit on the ambiances of the drawings, so it was like ping-pong. It took us 2 years to be ready but we did achieve this and everybody is happy about the result.
So you actually adapted the songs to fit his drawings?
Michel: Yea, we had to because when you look at the final drawings it’s very dark, we wanted to put that in the songs too and what we had in the beginning didn’t fit the drawings enough.
It was too “positive” ?
Michel: Not too positive, it was maybe aggressive when it had to be more melancholic. The first song for example is a dreamy song, it was not like that in the beginning so it didn’t work.
Karolina: Also when you see the different chapters of the the comic and you hear the songs, you can say “ahh, okay that’s why it’s like that, it works together”.
Michel: When you listen to the cd after you know the comic, you will see some images coming back, so it’s easier when it fits. It had to be like a soundtrack!
What where the reactions on your new album up until now?
Karolina: very good!
Michel: Better than we expected, because we didn’t know if the metal world would like it. Some songs are completely different, if you compare “Thanatos” to “The dance” for example, we couldn’t put those songs together on a normal Skeptical album. Within the atmosphere of the comic, it makes sense. People say it’s different and it’s something new, so that’s good.
Karolina, where did you find your main inspirations for the lyrics of the new album?
Karolina: When I saw the comics, I had the information what each chapter was about and I imagined what kind of words could fit to each chapter. I saw the images and from there I created the lyrics
Michel: Something interesting to say is that the text from the comic book was written by me and the lyrics of the songs were written by Karolina. No one watched what the other wrote, we didn’t want to take the same words so each one expressed themselfs in another way. That was very interesting, it was better to let Karolina do the lyrics because this way it was more natural. In the comic we chose to put less words because the girl in the story is empty and desperate so it makes the whole feel more heavy. When you sing, you can explain more things! So we had 2 different ways to explain the same thing and it was interesting to work like that.
It is far from a cliché album, the songs are varying from each other and we can hear different styles. Was that a conscious choice from the beginning or did it just evolve that way?
Michel: in the beginning the songs were more classical “Skeptical Minds” songs, but because of the drawings we started exploring other fields.
Tell me about the title of the album, how did you pick it ?
Michel: The main subject turnes around death; will she die or not? She had a dream that said she will die, she saw the end of her world and it turns around this. It all comes down to this; whatever you do, whether you influence death or not (we don’t know if you can), you will die one day. Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and we wanted to choose a word that is understandable in every language. Thanatos is death, so all together the title means; ‘in the end we have death’. Thanatos also appears like a character in the comic, we used that opportunity to make the “Skeptical Minds” logo appear in the comic as Thanatos. He represents the god of death.
Would you say that your style has changed with the new album?
Michel: The problem is that people like to define a style for a band but we don’t really do that for ourselves. We just say we mix different elements; electro, industrial, metal guitar sounds and melodic female voices. The rest is just inspiration, we don’t want to say we play more metal or more gothic because we don’t care. I think some of the new songs are different from what we made before, like “Balcony dreams”, this song starts with a harp and I could have never thought we would ever use a harp in our songs.
For me it is difficult to say if our songs still sound like “Skeptical Minds”, it’s up to our fans too judge that.
When we compose, for every song we use three keywords; sadness, depression or aggressiveness. We always try to use minimum 2 of these words in each song, thats why all the songs still feel like Skeptical Minds songs and that’s what keeps the coherence. For me personally it’s a very different album from what we did before, but it’s more easy for people who are not in the band to judge this.
How do you like to play the new songs live and how is the crowd reacting to them?
Karolina: From the crowds side I see the curiosity, I see they experience the new songs and the emotions that come forth from it. From my side it is also very interesting because I play something new that was recently created and I can express myself in a new way, so I like it.
Michel: I would like to make a difference between the day we presented the album and now. When we presented the album in October, it was the first time we played the new songs, so we didn’t know if people would appreciate them. We knew that some songs were very different from what the fans were used to hear but the reactions were very good, since that moment we were relieved. We already liked the songs as we composed them, but as soon as we knew the fans liked them too, it felt better on both sides. Tonight we will play 5 or 6 songs of the new album so it’s wel represented!
In the album booklet it said that there would be more “Skeptical Minds and Alain Poncelet” on stage, can you tell something about this?
Michel: yes, we try to integrate different visual elements on stage. At the release for example we had a screen, so we could project things and we had movies for every song, that was very cool. Something different that will happen next week is our show in a comic book store. Alain will have a signing session in the afternoon together with 6 other artists. After that, we will play a gig to present the album and those 6 artists will be drawing on the side, they will each make their interpretations, related to “Omega Thanatos”. We will try to do more things like this in the future.
You have played gigs in different countries throughout the years, what country left the best impression on you?
Karolina: in every country you have different kinds of responses and very nice fans, but for me, the best show ever was our show in Athens. We played there for the first time, supporting Epica. We knew some people but it was our first time to play there as a band so we could not know how people would react. When we were putting our material on stage, people saw us and they started to scream “Spartaaa” and when we started to play the gig, people were singing along with our songs.
Michel: We never sold the CD there but you could see that despite this, a lot of people were following us, they were ready to see us. We just thought we would play there like ‘newbies’, but they welcomed us like a professional band. It was very surprising, there was an ambiance like nowhere else and it was incredible for us.
We also played Metal Female Voices Fest and it is also one of our best memories, just like when we played in Poland last year, but Greece was really blowing us away.
Since that moment we never played again in Greece, but every time we go the country, we tell people when we will go to a bar and sometimes 50 people come to the bar just to have a drink with us, we never saw this before!
One final question; how do you see the near future of Skeptical Minds?
Karolina: We will try to promote the new album as much as we can.
Michel: We will give you a scoop; the first part of 2016 we will promote the new album, the second part we will work on Karolina’s side project. It’s not particularly metal..
Karolina: You can guess what it will be about! (laughs)
Michel: Normally it will be ready at the end of this year, it is also a collaboration with Alain Poncelet, but it will be more about Polish legends.
Thanks a lot for your time!