Of All Trades
At metalfest we, from folk-metal.nl had the chance to talk to Saltatio Mortis. While it’s been a while since the album ‘Sturm aufs Paradies’ was released, the band still had a lot to say! We spoke with the friendly and sincere vocalist Alea and hurdy-gurdyplayer Falk.
Can you tell me something about Saltatio Mortis, for the people who don’t know you yet?
At first we need to say that Saltatio Mortis loves Holland! Unfortunately, we don’t play much over there. It’s a shame, because we’d love to! However, we are Saltatio Mortis, and we’re playing medieval rock music. We have a special approach, and that’s that we always want to have a wonderful time together with the audience.
What is your main source of inspiration when writing music?
The main source is life itself! Since 12 years, we live in a way the medieval minstrels did. We tour around through Germany and the rest of Europe, meet new people, we talk to people and they share their stories with us. And that is inspiration, life itself is inspiration. That’s the thing with inspiration; you can learn every day. We draw inspiration from everything we feel, everything we experience and from the life we’re living in general.
And when writing the music, is there someone who writes all the lyrics and all the music?
The most lyrics are written by our drummer ‘Lasterbalk’, he has a wonderful way to tell stories. Most of the times we start with these lyrics, singing over an acoustic guitar. But also, sometimes we’ve got 5 people working on the beginning of the song, using the lyrics as a starting point. We meet together, where we spent a week on just writing. Everybody has its own task, working on its own. With this method, we’ve been able to write 22 songs in 2 weeks. However, there’s a lot of preparation needed beforehand. When we come together, we just fit all the ideas together. When there are more options, more melodies for example for a single song, we take the best one. We take everyone’s ideas in account during this process.
When making the songs, do you use traditional melodies in your music, like for example Eluveitie does?
Of course! We did it more in past times than nowadays. We started out with traditional tunes, playing these on medieval markets. But since the last 3 or 4 albums, the main tunes are written by ourselves. But sometimes we discover lyrics or special traditional songs which we liked to cover.
The last CD ‘Sturm aufs Paradies’ has a lot of different versions. For example, there are versions with a flag, a flute, bonus DVD’s and so on! Why have you chosen to release so many versions of one album?
The main reason for the flute was that we’ve always wanted to have a flute with our name on it. And the great thing is, you can even play our song ‘Eulenspiegel’ with it! We really like to purchase special editions ourselves, so we decided to do that for ourselves. Furthermore, it gives the fans more options to choose whatever they prefer.
Continuing on ‘Sturm aufs Paradies’, it looks like the album art is heavily inspired by Délacroix? Who came with the idea to do that, and why?
When we had the title of the CD, we asked ourselves how we could translate this to a visual image? ‘Sturm aufs Paradies’ has something to do with liberty, and to be free from everything. The icon which has the strongest connection with liberty is ‘La Liberté’ from Délacroix. We decided to put Alea as ‘Lady Liberty’ and the rest of the band as surrounding people. It was very interesting to do, and we worked with a very talented photographer named Otto Kasper. We built the set in the studio, and the most awesome thing is that we didn’t use photoshop for the album cover. Everything is real, for example the background which was an oil painting.
Regarding the rest of the artwork in the booklet, we decided to mix modern and medieval elements, since that’s also what we do within our music. So for example, Alea is sitting on a washing machine, holding a microphone. But still, every image is done with a certain medieval touch. Every picture in the booklet has a meaning, and there is a lot of symbolic meanings to be found within the photos.
It looks like you’ve thought about every detail when it comes to the booklet of the CD. Does this mean that you yourself are interested in art?
Not only that, we’re interested in everything! We are very proud of the fact that we have a hand in everything we produce, from the CD-cover to the merchandise to the music itself, we all do it ourselves and the label doesn’t disturb us. The owner of Napalm is a friend of us, and he knows that we’re very sincere in what we’re doing. The thing we love most about being musicians is that we can work on so many different aspects of art at once, it’s unbelievable.
What do you think of similar bands within your genre, for example ‘In Extremo’ and ‘Subway to Sally’? Do you see them as friends, or more as competitors within the same genre?
We are friends with Subway to Sally for nearly 8 years now. I got to know Eric (Fish, founder and vocalist of Subway to Sally) on a festival 9 years ago. Half year later, we played our first gig together. We don’t see them as colleagues, but really as friends. We help each other, we make sure our activities don’t interfere with each other. It’s great to work with these guys.
Feuerschwanz is another story, we helped them to grow as a band. In Extremo is a band we see as colleagues, and we really respect what they do and what they’ve achieved so far.
In our opinion, the scene is really big. We are not competing against each other, we only help each other out. If a band is good, they should have the opportunity to play, and why should we be afraid that they might take something you could have? We are thankful for each band who helps to make the scene bigger, and we support each band who asks for it.
You’re one of the biggest bands within this scene in Germany, but looking to other countries, you only play in very small venues. How do you feel about this great difference?
We played in Enschede, in front of 80 people, and we had a blast! We are used to play on the streets, that’s where we come from. We learned to be a musician the hard way. Still, we are very thankful to every person who is willing to pay to visit and party with us. It’s not important if there are 1000, 100 or 10 people in the crowd.
We’ve got a job to do, and that’s take people away from their every-day concerns.
In your live-shows, you have a lot of contact with the audience. A standard routine is that Alea is crowdsurving during the song ‘Falsche Freunde’, and now and then a wall of death is organized with Alea in the middle. Has this ever gone wrong?
The wall of death did go wrong one day, haha! We don’t want to talk about it, haha! Because if somebody reads it, he might try to do it again! Morale of the story; don’t ever get in the way of a guy with a pole in his hand!
Every time Alea is crowdsurving, we are praying on stage he will return to us safely. One time, he lost his microphone on the way back!
We do these actions for a reason. We think the crowd is a mirror to yourself. So if you’re willing to give everything, they will give it back. We do this, because we really trust the crowd. It’s the audience choice if they lift me up, or to let me fall. In this way, we create a unity within the audience.
What do you prefer? A big gig at a festival, or a small acoustic gig on for example a medieval market?
The point is, these medieval markets aren’t small gigs anymore. However, it’s nice that we can be with the people and walk around all day. Nonetheless, there is no real difference for us, besides that when we’re doing clubshows, we don’t get wet from standing outside! It doesn’t matter for us if there are 10 or 1000 people waiting for us, they came for us, so we do everything we can to make a party.
Another choice; a metal festival or a medieval festival?
It doesn’t matter. If you saw the crowd during the show; everybody was participating! It’s no matter which music. It’s the same thing with our German lyrics, people say it wouldn’t catch on beyond German borders. Music is a language without words, it can be understood everywhere. With tunes and emotions you can touch people everywhere.
You have a lot of people in your band, has this ever been a problem?
No, not at all! After all these years you know how people work. For example, if one gets unhappy you give him alcohol, another one needs girls when he’s unhappy, and so on, hahaha! But on a serious note, it’s great to be with so many musicians. When we were with just 3, during arguments it’d always be 2 against 1. When you have an argument with 7 or 8 people, you have many opinions. We have learned to listen to each other, something which is very important.
What can we expect in the upcoming year(s) from Saltatio Mortis?
Many, many surprises! In the moment, we’re recording a new Medieval live album at the ‘Mittelalter Phantasie Spektakulum’. Furthermore, we’re working on our next rock-album. It will be a refined version of the past 3 albums. Like all other bands would say, it would be better and more awesome than the previous records, haha!
Is there still something you want to say to the Dutch fans or the readers of folk-metal.nl?
Yes! Everyone should visit us when we are in Holland! If every reader of folk-metal.nl would visit one of our shows, we’d be very grateful, and we promise that we’ll give you a show you would never forget! When 1000 people will visit us in Holland, we PROMISE that we do a song in the Dutch language! So thank you very much, and see you in Holland.