Interview with vocalist and guitarist Philipe Piris and guitarist Marco Schäfer
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 28, 2018
Tempest represents a new breed of Thrash Metal bands coming from today's Germany. The band was formed in 2013 and has released one very well-received EP so far, When Hate Has Dominion. Unlike many of their German comrades in the Thrash Metal genre, the Tempest fellows chose to play a heavily Bay Area-influenced Thrash instead of choosing to jump on the same boat that made German Thrash Metal so big and famous back in the eighties.
The Metal Crypt was impressed by the band's tight and well-performed Thrash Metal and we decided to contact the band to find out more about them by throwing a few questions in their direction.
Philipe Piris (vocalist and guitarist) and Marco Schäfer (guitar) kindly provided some answers.
Luxi: How are things in Aachen, Germany, these days?
Phil: Hi Luxi, things in Aachen are fine—rainy as usual, but after the awesomely hot summer a nice refreshment! Hope all is well in Finland?
Luxi: It's pretty good in Finland actually, thanks for asking. Anyway, as for starters, could you tell us how you guys first got together and why you chose to play Bay Area Thrash Metal?
Phil: Tempest started as a two-man project after I was introduced to Marco by a mutual friend, Jan from Human Waste (a local Death Metal band). After years of absence from the rehearsal room, I was ready to rock out again in a band and the same went for Marco. We recognized that we are fans of the same music—Thrash Metal, especially the stuff the old-school-heroes. So, when we started the project, we both exactly knew in what direction we wanted to go.
Luxi: Has this Bay Area Thrash Metal always been more fascinating and closer to your hearts than, let's say, "traditional" German Thrash à la Kreator, Sodom, Destruction?
Phil: Yes, absolutely! I really love European Thrash Metal as well, but the Bay Area bands had something absolutely unique. They have the perfect mixture of melodic hooks and fast, intense riffing, whereas especially the German Thrash movement was more aggressive and relentless. The Bay Area Thrash always sounded "bigger" and more "epic" to me, and being a big Iron Maiden-fan, that absolutely appeals to me!
Marco: I think age plays a role in this as well. When I was younger, I was more into aggressive, fast music and getting older changed my musical taste and the way I listen to music. The more melodic stuff to me gives a lot more possibilities to speak through the music one plays.
Luxi: When you were on the verge of putting this band together, did each of you have a clear picture of what Tempest should be all about regarding your musical direction? Were there any compromises you had to make?
Phil: I guess Marco and I had a very clear and similar picture in mind. The only compromises we have to make in the active process of songwriting. I tend to write rather classic thrash riffs, while Marco leans deeply into more modern styles of riffing.
Marco: Compromises are always an important part when it comes to songwriting, because this process makes our different styles glued together, and that is what forms the music Tempest plays quite a lot.
Luxi: Your first EP, When Hate Has Dominion, was released in July this year and in my sincere opinion, it's a great and really well-executed mix of straightforward and melodic Thrash Metal, spiced with some killer hooks. I guess it's safe to say you are very happy with the outcome?
Phil: First of all, thank you for the kind words! We totally appreciate it, that people all around the world give us great feedback—what else can you ask for?! In regard to your question—yes, we are very happy with the outcome. Except for the album's mastering, everything has been done by our own hard work—recording, editing and mixing was done by Marco. The design of the CD artwork, promotion, distribution, all of these things I am currently taking care of. We take a pride in this kind of self-managing, and it gives us absolute freedom in planning our next steps.
Marco: Yes, we are very happy with the result! It took enormous effort and hard work to do it, but in the end, it paid off. The album consists of music we like to play and hear ourselves, and that's key to us. And we hope that Metal fans around the world like it too.
INFLUENCES AND SURPRISING SIMILARITIES
Luxi: I am sure I am not the only one saying that you sound very much like Phil Rind (Sacred Reich) mixed with Steve "Zetro" Souza (Exodus). Have you noticed the same thing about your voice?
Phil: It's really interesting you point that out, a lot of online feedback states exactly the same! Interesting part is that I was never meant to be a singer in the first place—I sang for my personal joy, but rather in the vein of my idol, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. But we didn't find the right person, so I just thought, "Ah suck it, I do the singing in the demos anyway so why not try it out for real?"—and in my opinion, it worked out great! Of course, I am at the beginning of my vocal development, so I am eager to see what I'll be able to sing in future.
However, when starting to sing for the band, my biggest influence was Chuck Billy of Testament, there are only few who have such an incredibly strong voice. In addition, I'm a small guy, so I rely on higher registers on my vocal chords and it turns out I have some vocal similarities with Steve Souza and Phil Rind. If you ask me, not the worst references.
Luxi: I don't know if you guys have noticed this but to me, the second song off the EP, "Scorching Death", the timing of the vocal parts, excluding the chorus part, reminds me of Slayer's "Angel of Death". Coincidence or not, but has this ever come to your mind as well?
Phil: I never, for the sake of my life, noticed this, until you pointed it out (*laughing while I am writing this*)! With "Scorching Death"—which by the way was the first song ever written by Tempest—we rather had a blend of modern Exodus and Testament in mind. But this just shows the impact of Thrash Metal in our musical lives—it dwells everywhere, ready to jump out here and there.
Marco: When it comes to the songwriting and creative aspects of it, as a Thrash Metal fan, and we all are in this band, influences cut through sometimes. It's a natural part of the creative process and I'm personally fine with it. I think it's kind of a tribute to our longtime heroes, that here and there a glimpse of their music finds its place into ours.
Luxi: I couldn't help noticing that the ending vocals in the title track somehow bring Testament's "More than Meets the Eye" to mind. Other than that, you do have a pretty strong Testament flavor to your stuff as well, which isn't that surprising, knowing about your love of this whole Bay Area Thrash thing...
Phil: Yes, indeed. The Formation of Damnation was an epiphany to me when it was released in 2008. I was 18-year-old and that album totally smacked me and is to me perhaps the most important album for my musical development.
It wasn't intended to have the same vibe, but I really think it's cool that people think about the big names when they listen to our material. Also, in regards to the "Testament flavor", yes, the newer releases of Testament are, both for me and Marco, major influences.
OF LYRICAL THEMES
Luxi: The lyrics on the EP have already raised some waves of controversy, both for and against. The lyrics in "When Hate Has Dominion" seem to be like a matador's red cape for many of those who live in Europe and are kind of pissed off at how politicians make decisions in Brussels as far as things like immigration policy is concerned.
Phil: Of course, the lyrics of "When Hate Has Dominion" as well as others on the album, are derived from social wrongs, but I want to make it very clear that we are not political in any fashion.
What I tried to describe with the lyrics of "When Hate Has Dominion" is that hate in our society is growing to an extent where it becomes unbearable. This is not limited to the rise of hate specifically in Europe and not only in the sense of the "refugee crisis". However, the loss of morality, letting people drown pathetically to keep borders "safe" to me is an especially perverted form of hate.
Luxi: Lyrically, you have covered topics about the current state of the world on the EP; wars, child abuse, dictatorship, and other ugly matters. Do you find it important for yourselves to tell what's wrong with this planet and with humans as a destructive part of it?
Phil: I see myself as an observer of things, and I write lyrics about what I see. The source of inspiration is not purely limited to "ugly matters", but the words I write show my personal relationship to specific events. It turns out I am somebody that thinks a lot about the dark side of humanity. Also, playing Thrash Metal and singing about rainbows and unicorns would only be half as cool to me ... or maybe not (*laughing as I am writing this*)?
Marco: For me, one of the pillars of art is criticizing things going wrong in our world, and I find music is a really good form of art to do so. We can and must be loud when it comes to pointing out the unjust.
Luxi: Do you have new material in the works? How does it compare to the songs on your debut EP? Do you already have enough material ready for a full-length studio album?
Phil: Yes, we have written a few songs since the release. With every song, we work hard to recapture the creative essence of this band and develop it even further. We really strive to make every song as unique as possible without losing our musical core identity. That said, When Hate Has Dominion is a great release for where we are standing today, and the music written on that record to me is timelessly good. In its own sense, I find it perfect how it is.
Talking about numbers, we do not have enough material yet to release a full-length album. Let's say, a year from here, maybe we will have enough in the pipeline to fire a second shot.
READY TO THRASH EVERYWHERE
Luxi: How are the gigging opportunities in your hometown of Aachen? Do you have some famous venues that arrange regular Metal gigs?
Phil: Aachen unfortunately does not have a dense club culture where we can play. However, we are currently trying to establish some annual Metal events in our hometown, which we started this year with the Mosh-Hour Vol I., so we'll see how that goes. That said, we are currently eager to play outside of Aachen, so note to the readers, if you are in a band or booker, and interested in booking us, get in contact with us and let's arrange a great gig together!
Luxi: As Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany, located near the borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, I suppose the location of the city also gives you some nice opportunities to travel to both Belgium and the Netherlands for gigs, right?
Phil: In theory, yes, the geographical location of Aachen brings great opportunities to interact with an international audience, and we would love to play outside of Germany. Here, again, I say; Get us booked! We are ready to rock your stage!
Luxi: I believe playing gigs is what keeps bands motivated and overall helps keep spirits high. Is there anything else that keeps the engines of Tempest going?
Phil: Of course, playing gigs is the peak of being creative within the band and is our biggest ambition. Rocking out with fans gets you pumped and brings an awful lot of joy!
From a creative perspective, the blend of Marco's and my perception on songwriting and riffing drives the band, but that said, every instrument within the band is treated with the same detail. I think our dedication to writing the best music we can is really keeping us rollin', because we really enjoy what we do, and we grow further by doing so!
Having left the hard work on When Hate Has Dominion behind us, the feedback of our fans and listeners all over the world is also massively inspiring and overwhelming. Kudos to everybody supporting us so far, may it be visiting our concerts, buying our merch or simply handing us a "Like" on our Facebook-page—you make the difference!
Luxi: Doing festival gigs is also fun. Are you aiming at getting some slots at some (Metal) festivals in 2019?
Phil: This is our main goal for the upcoming year—gigs, gigs, gigs! We have written to plenty of festivals and applied, so let's see what happens. We certainly want the exposure to a bigger audience, and festivals are the perfect platform to reach out to people who have not been in contact with you before.
In addition, the festival scene is awesome in Central Europe, both bigger and underground festivals. It's a Metal dream come true!
NEW BREED OF GERMAN THRASH
Luxi: Germany has always had a tradition of Thrash Metal, as we all know. There's also been a strong, sort of second coming of Thrash in Germany this decade with bands like Dust Bolt, Skulled, Fabulous Disaster, Riot Instinct, Rezet, Space Chaser, etc., just to name a few. Can you find any clear reasons behind this increased Thrash Metal movement down there in Germany?
Phil: To be honest, I have no clue, but I absolutely dig it! I feel that, in general, Thrash Metal is on the rise again, not only in Germany. But to speculate on your question, I could imagine the reason for this being that Germany has an excellent festival scene. This brings a lot of possibilities for exposure and playing live, and also certain regions such as the Ruhr-Pott always had a bond to Thrash Metal. Also, Germany is quite densely populated, so it's easy to travel around a lot, gig and build a scene.
Luxi: What about the band's realistic plans for 2019 overall? What's on the drawing board at the moment?
Phil: Currently, as stated above, we want to play live. We tasted blood during this year, and we're greedy for more! We have only played three gigs so far, but the reaction of the crowd was amazing as well as the feedback after the shows. We want to continue this and build our reputation by playing great live shows.
Apart from that, we want to write more material and grow naturally as a band. We are very excited about what the future holds for us.
Luxi: That's it, for now at least. Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the band. You are, of course, entitled to the last comment (-s), so just be my guest, sir... ;o)
Phil: First of all, thank you so much for having us here, Luxi! We highly appreciate it—keep holding the flag for Metal high in the air—the scene needs people like you! Also, a big shout-out to all the people supporting us so far! I hope that everybody enjoys what we do, and we are eager to set off the storm—LET THE TEMPEST RISE!
Thanks again and take care!
|Other information about Tempest on this site|
|Review: When Hate Has Dominion|
|Review: Point of No Return|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Philipe Piris on January 17, 2023 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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