Interview with vocalist and guitarist Wolfgang Elwitschger and drummer Lukas Roth
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: July 30, 2016
Wildhunt is the name of new Austrian Speed/Thrash Metal force that was formed by vocalist and guitarist Wolfgang "Wulfgar" Elwitschger and drummer Lukas "Luki" Roth back in 2011. The band recorded their first 5-track EP titled Scenting the Prey in the summer of 2012 and was featured on the Austrian Metal Alliance compilation released in January 2015.
Descending, Wildhunt's debut album, was released by Italy's Metal on Metal Records at the end of April 2016 and has been receiving praise from the press steadily since.
The Metal Crypt was curious about Wildhunt and decided to find out more about them. Both vocalist/guitarist Wolfgang and drummer Lukas were kind enough to talk about their band, how it all started, the importance of putting time into the songwriting process and many other things as well. Read on to find out more about these uncrowned "wild hunters of frenzied and brain-slaving Thrash riffs and hooks..."
Luxi: First of all, thanks for accepting my interview offer. Appreciated! Secondly, would mind telling how you met each other and decided to form Wildhunt in the first place?
Lukas: Hello and thanks a lot for the interview request, Luxi! Actually we met through a mutual friend of ours who was doing a fanzine article with Wolfgang's old band. We had gotten to know each other in the nightlife of our old hometown of Villach and were pretty soon drinking together with increasing frequency so basically one thing led to another. We were both looking for new musicians to jam with and the ensuing sessions were productive and we knew it would work out very well. Wolfgang came in with loads of brilliant song material and we worked it out in our former rehearsal room in my parent's house. The band was formed in late 2011 and the very first sign of life followed in early 2012 with a raw demo of Death Spares (N)one recorded for my matriculation project and our Scenting the Prey EP in summer 2012. Our bassist Benjyi joined in early 2013 followed by some incoming and outgoing second guitarists. At this moment we are lucky to welcome Markus Hublik on the second axe. He did an amazing first job at our Descending album release gig last Saturday.
Luxi: Do you feel like you were very much on the same page as far as Wildhunt's musical direction is concerned right from the start or was it shaped a bit later?
Wolfgang: Overall, I think we were pretty much on the same page from the beginning. However, the style and the visual aspects are still evolving. In the beginning we sometimes overestimated the complexity of the songs, especially live. I think we're now at a point where we can objectively point out what went well and what went wrong in the past and specifically work on these things.
Luxi: When listening to your band, 80s Speed/Thrash Metal is clearly your thing, so could you tell us in your own words what fascinates you about that style?
Lukas: Personally I'm fascinated by the power and strength but also the ingenious finesse of this musical genre. Well done Speed and Thrash can allow you to go berserk and crazy but also give you goose bumps with sad, melancholic or a very sophisticated part of a song. You can put just about every palette of emotion and idea in this music which makes it easy to run your band in a unique direction and stand out from the masses when done properly.
Wildhunt are totally disassociated from the typical "Thrash thinking". We are of the opinion that this musical genre deserves more than just fast songs with no variety or hooks at all so are definitely looking beyond the borders and we feel free to incorporate all input and never limit ourselves to clichés. Extraordinary Thrash has always overarched the genre and not created by stubbornly wearing blinders.
Luxi: Instead of churning out 2-3-minute Thrash anthems you have chosen to add a couple of extra minutes to you songs with the average length being closer to 6 minutes. Where does that come from? Do you find it more challenging to write those lengthier tracks vs. 2-3-minute Thrash outbursts?
Wolfgang: As much as I love catchy songs with a simple structure, I always felt more comfortable in writing songs with more progressive song structures. I like when a song is building up like a journey or story, with twists and turns and all kinds of different moods and emotions. However, the truth is that most of the time the song length and complexity just evolve naturally. Mostly the writing of a Wildhunt song starts with several parts that already have a vague direction in which the song is going but overall it's really open as to what the song will be like in the end, which I think is the most exciting thing about songwriting.
The songwriting for the next album is already in an advanced stage and I think we managed to find a really good balance between catchiness and complexity. Time will tell but maybe there will also be some shorter more straightforward songs and maybe even a ballad.
Luxi: Is there someone in the band that works as the main filter as to which stuff can be accepted for Wildhunt and which should be rejected?
Lukas: Basically, all of us put our oars in as soon as Wolfgang brings new songs and riffs to the rehearsal room. They are already very elaborate but sometimes we have a relaxed atmosphere and working on the fine-tuning altogether. Everyone throws ideas into the big cauldron and we all bring the songs to the final level. This means writing breaks, transitions, some additional riffs and arranging.
Wolfgang: Musically we never really had a situation where we completely disagreed. Of course, there are sometimes different opinions on things, for example which beat fits best to a certain riff or how often a part should be repeated. But in the end it always works out. As Luki said, we all are very open-minded towards other musical genres and avoid limiting ourselves to just one genre. I think we all feel that the authenticity of the band is one of the most important things so good ideas are never turned down just because it doesn't fit to the cliché of a Thrash band.
Luxi: What types of things do you try to pay attention to when you compose a song for Wildhunt? It has to be "professional" but still have the "old school" vibe, right?
Wolfgang: As we already mentioned, we don't box ourselves in any way. I always try to avoid simply sticking one riff to another. We always try to find a good transition and to create different emotions throughout each song. We've all played instruments since we were kids. Lukas learned to play the piano as well as the drums, I played violin and Benjyi spent years learning Jazz and classical stuff on the bass. I think that musical background has helped us a lot in thinking outside the box in arrangements and songwriting and allows us to use unconventional ideas.
Given the rather complex arrangements, it usually takes a relatively long time before a song is completely finished, including the lyrics. Even when a song is basically finished we do a lot of fine-tuning, so it can take up to several months till we're completely done. I think the "old-school vibe" comes naturally because we don't try to push the music in a certain direction but just do what comes to our minds and what feels right regardless of trends including the current "retro trend". Of course, the bands from the 60's through the early 90s are undeniably the bands which were most important for us. I wish I could say that we're inspired by modern stuff too but unfortunately the term "modern" evolved to be a code for boring, uninspired and synthetic. I could never understand why bands like Pink Floyd are always labeled as old school or "retro" when many of them were so much more creative and experimental than most of today's bands.
Luxi: You mentioned that you worked intensely on your debut album, Descending. What kinds of things made it so challenging and tough to get this album recorded? Do you feel as though you pulled it off the way you expected as far as all the time-consuming recording sessions for Descending were concerned?
Lukas: Ha ha... Yeah, it was definitely tough making this album. Let's say, except for our great mastering engineer, we met a lot of people that delayed our work to the maximum so the whole production process took longer than expected.
I have always had a very accurate idea of how I wanted the album to sound and feel like and at the end of the day not one of the engineers we tested could interfere with our intentions. Nowadays it's literally impossible to find someone who is able to record and mix this type of music in a really heavy way. There are surely such folks around but we weren't blessed to happen across any of them. The clear majority of all current releases from bands of the old and the new sound exactly the same and we just wanted to make an album that is different, authentic and unique. Since we couldn't find anybody who was capable of implementing this, I decided to assume responsibility and do it myself. Of course, this brings a healthy, or rather unhealthy, level of over-criticism and all of us spent months perfecting everything right down to the last detail but in the end the hard work really paid off and I am glad we did it this way. I think we pulled it off and created an album which stands on its own, breathes nicely and manages to convey the feel of the songs in an interesting way. Certainly there's a lot room for improvement "musically" and "sound-wise" but for this period of time we are really satisfied with the outcome of the months of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. I already have a precise concept of what the next album will "be" and sound like and since most likely there won't be anyone who can implement this, we are going to do it by ourselves again.
Luxi: How did you end up signing a deal with Italy's Metal on Metal Records? Is it the usual one; you sent some Wildhunt stuff to them and they liked what they heard and the rest is basically history...
Lukas: Indeed, it was that simple. We sent the final master tracks to selected labels worldwide and connected with Jowita and Simone of Metal on Metal Records pretty fast. They instantly liked our songs, sound and attitude and totally perceived our overall concept and vision as a band. Although we are pretty much a "Do It Yourself" type of band, knowing exactly what we want and not allowing ourselves to be persuaded into something else, we recognized the benefits of being part of such an ambitious label pretty fast. As soon as all the integral parts of the contract were reviewed and some disputable clauses negotiated we signed the contract. They're doing great work, giving us freedom to breathe and are great partners for the release and distribution of Descending.
Luxi: Were you also hunting for offers from other labels or was your main target a European label so you could be physically close if there was something that needed your "presence"?
Wolfgang: We didn't really think about the close presence of the label. We contacted a lot of labels around the globe and also got some other offers but Metal on Metal Records was the best choice for us because we already knew Jowita for her amazing artwork. Although it's a neighboring state, it's an 8-hour drive to their place in Italy. Unfortunately, we met Jowita and her husband Simone just once, at the Keep It True festival this year.
Luxi: I noticed you have done a good number of club gigs and festival appearances in the past. Is playing live in front of an enthusiastic and supportive crowd the thing that motives you to keep the band going vs. money or getting fame and fortune?
Lukas: As with any artist on the globe, we surely live on the acclaim and the appreciation of people who really get what we are doing. This motivates us to carry on and do our own thing. Certainly an enthusiastic, freaking out crowd in front of us is one of the most important nourishments, too! Nothing can compete with the release of endorphins at the end of a great gig. I think there's nothing more important than – I would say – the interplay of audience and musician. If you witness people in the crowd going nuts, it's like instant energy and a motivational push. You just accelerate and give everything you can to the audience which will fan their flames even more. A perfect circle.
You know, generally you are always aiming for the highest goal at any given point in time. Working hard to succeed and achieving it whilst simultaneously setting new aims might possibly be the greatest thing in this business. Every artist wants to be successful, period. Besides playing live the biggest motivation on earth is when your hard work really pays off and gets appreciated by the right people. You work from one achievement to the next always setting the next major goals. You should never mark time and be satisfied with something for too long I think.
Luxi: Out of all your past gigs, which one has stuck in your mind and why?
Wolfgang: We have a lot of great memories from gigs, especially the numerous gigs with our brothers High Heeler and all the other bands at our gigs in Germany or Holland. However, the gig that is stuck in my mind most is a wedding gig we did near Graz. It was equally amazing and weird to blast "Lifeless Birth" at the half-headbanging, half-startled crowd after the wedding vow, ha ha! An elderly woman was literally shattered the whole day because she never saw or heard anything like it. The overall response was good, even from the people not into rock. It really was a unique experience because unlike most gigs, a wedding is remembered for a lifetime and therefore you better not fuck it up, ha ha!!
Luxi: Viper Room in your current hometown of Vienna has become an important place for you guys. You have already played there at least 3 times - in 2013, 2014 and 2015 - and now you had your record release there on June 25, 2016. What makes Viper Room such a special, "homey" place for you?
Lukas: It's a location with small and medium dimensions and perfect for any club gig. The employees are nice folks and you can celebrate great parties there. Viper Room is one of the two or three most frequented Metal clubs in Vienna so it wasn't that hard of a decision to locate our release party there. Descending had been a worthy night of pure Heavy Metal Music supported by some of Austria's highest-class; High Heeler, Hellrex and Küenring. We also had two DJs playing selected vinyl records as well. It was a blast, great audience, party till total destruction and all in all a relaxed hot summer night of quality live and vinyl music.
Luxi: Do young Metal bands have enough places to play in Austria or could there be more venues?
Wolfgang: I think, especially as a new band, when you're looking for opportunities to play regardless of the fee or how many people are going to show up, there are a lot of opportunities to play, at least in Vienna. However, you'll soon find out that most of these gig come with unfair door deals and extremely uncooperative promoters. So most of the gigs we're now playing in Austria are organized by ourselves or fellow bands. Fortunately, there are a few clubs and festivals that are very supportive, like the Arena Wien, Viper Room, Club Wakuum in Graz and the Sauzipf Festival in Carinthia. We just organized our release party at the Viper Room Vienna with our friends High Heeler, Hellrex and Küenring, really top notch acts I recommend to everyone.
Luxi: Like every other country, Austria has its own strong Metal scene with some truly well-known acts like Belphegor and Hollenthon coming to my mind. How is the situation for Speed and Thrash Metal bands?
Lukas: It's always hard in Austria when you create music that isn't either obtuse or ultra-brutal. We have big modern Black- and Death Metal scenes here but besides a sea of jesters you can find some nice Heavy, Speed and Thrash gems such as the acts mentioned before. These bands just GET the way of unique music, attitude and feel or – although I hate this unsuitable term – "the old school" instinctively. There's no fakery here. They're just doing their own thing which they would always have done even if the big retro waves since the middle of the 2000s would never have happened. Such bands are creating their music by their gut feeling and not by following trends. Generally I miss autonomy in today's music the most, there are far too many copy-cats around the world just trying to be like "A","B" or "C". Most of them are playing the exact same style, covered in the same sound atmosphere, parceled in the same looks as everyone else. You just can't tell the difference between any in this vast array of none too varied bands.
Returning to your actual question, I would say the state could be much better, there is no doubt. Besides the lack of genuineness around bands it's quite hard to run clubs, organize concerts and to sell records when you play music that won't address the masses. It's always the same old story, but hey, we fight till death!
Luxi: How much effort is Wildhunt putting into playing outside the borders of Austria this summer? According to your official page, you have already played in as Germany, The Netherlands and Hungary, so obviously your goal is to expand your territory in the future gigging wise, correct?
Lukas: We surely love playing in our home country and the local scene is great but you always have to expand your territory because Austria isn't the healthiest hotbed for such style. We know that our music will always be for a select group of people so you have to reach them all, no matter where they are! I really like our scene since it's straightforward, manageable and quite family-esque. Nonetheless, you have to go outside the envelope and spread the message as far as possible if you want to recruit new fans. Austria's real maniacs are the best BUT unfortunately quite countable. You know who you are, we salute you!
In the summer and autumn time we are planning to return to Germany and Hungary and set foot in Poland and the UK to present our debut Descending.
Luxi: What do you personally expect from Wildhunt within the next 2-3 years and do you believe those personal goals are easily reachable?
Wolfgang: We're already in negotiations with a well-known Austrian producer for the recording of a few new songs which we will hopefully manage to record this year or next. Besides the planned shows and tour, the main target is to record our second full-length as soon as we can. I can't say when that will be because we really want to have everything fully worked through until we're completely satisfied before we start the recording. Given the fact that the final recordings of Descending album are nearly two years in the past, we can point out the flaws that the record has and with the new songs written so far, we can already say that it will be a far superior album. As it is the case for most bands the debut album contained material from a wide time frame, in our case nearly ten years. The main goal for the next album is to focus on our strengths and to expand our style to record the ultimate Wildhunt record.
Luxi: I guess that was everything I had in mind for this chat so thanks for your time and all the best with Wildhunt's future opportunities. And those "famous last words" belong rightfully to you dear sirs, so go ahead if you have anything in your mind you'd like to add to this conversation...
Lukas: Thanks for the interview and your awesome review of Descending as well!
Check out our debut and stay tuned for future plans, shows and releases. Stay hungry, fuck hard and party on! Prost!
Wolfgang: Thanks for your interest in Wildhunt and the support! Hunt on!
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