February 18th, 1666
SYMPHORCE - PHORCEFULAHEAD - METAL BLADE
SYMPHORCE - TWICE SECOND - METAL BLADE
SYMPHORCE - GODSPEED - METAL BLADE
SYMPHORCE - BECOME DEATH - METAL BLADE
On a cold Sunday morning recently as the wind howled and the snow banks piled ever higher and higher Ali "The Metallian" received a call from guitarist Cedric Dupont of the band Symphorce who wanted to talk about his band's latest album, the impressive Twice Second.
Having attended to matters of the state all day, this interviewer put aside his royal duties and made some time for heavy metal and the investigation of the said band and album. Read on for information on the music, Andy's urine problems, Cedric's girl problems and the matter of the scarcity of lead guitars. Symphorce is completed by drummer Sascha Sauer, singer Andy B. Franck, bassist Dennis Wohlbold and second guitarist Markus Pohl. - 01.02.2004
METALLIAN: Cede, thank you for the chance to speak with you. Are you calling in from Germany?
CEDE: No, I am a half Swiss, half French guy calling you from Switzerland and playing in a German band. It is sort of a multicultural situation (laughs).
METALLIAN: Do you live in the French part of Switzerland?
CEDE: No, I actually live in the German part. I live in Basel which is 120 kilometres from Bern. I am near the French and German border.
METALLIAN: One reason for this interview is the difference in quality between your PhorcefulAhead album from 2002 and Twice Second. The improvement is obvious.
CEDE: I am glad if we have changed your mind. Twice Second was the next step after PhorcefulAhead. The latter was a completely new start for us. We had recruited Markus on guitar, started using seven string guitars and become more aggressive and straighter. With Twice Second, we have more live shows under our belts and are more experienced. We are tighter and have grown as musicians and songwriters. When Dennis and I were writing the new songs we weren't thinking a lot about how we should sound. Everything came about quite naturally. Many people come up to me and said 'Twice Second is much much better than PhorcefulAhead' as you are doing, but others are saying that PhorcefulAhead was easier to remember. Twice Second is an album that you need to listen to a couple of times before it develops its magic. There have been very different opinions out there actually. Within the band itself we think that Twice Ahead is our best album. Of course, every band says that, but I think Twice Second is a lot fresher than PhorcefulAhead and is also in-your-face.
METALLIAN: My first inclination was to say that Twice Second is better because it is faster and heavier, but it is more appropriate to simply say that it is better, faster and heavier.
CEDE: Yeah, absolutely. We had more mid-tempo songs on PhorcefulAhead. It was very important for us to have something for everyone on Twice Second. We have mid-tempo and groovy songs, we have slow songs like Cry On My Shoulder and faster songs like Two Seconds To Live. I think Twice Second has something for everybody. Of course, we mostly play power metal in a modern way, but we also have melodic metal parts, 80's thrash metal parts in the guitar riffs, soft moments and very aggressive moments. You will find a little something for everybody on the album which is cool, I think.
METALLIAN: Is that your description of Symphorce?
CEDE: Absolutely, if you take the name Symphorce itself you have 'symphony' and 'force' which stands for the power in our music. Today though, there is more 'force' in our music than 'symph!'
METALLIAN: That is true. That actually takes me to another question. The band has a penchant for often combining two words.
CEDE: That is right. It is always Andy who comes up with these game of words. Our second album was called Sinctuary, last one was called PhorcefulAhead and even our new one follows the pattern. Twice Second stands for our fourth album. You have 'twice' which represents two which combined with 'second' makes four. It is about mathematics and drunken bullshit (laughs).
METALLIAN: You anticipated one of my questions!
CEDE: People have come up with different ideas and guesses regarding the title. It is funny seeing how people analyze the album's title. Andy also sings in Brainstorm and I also play in Freedom Call. Those bands are bigger bands in Europe than Symphorce. Someone came and said Twice Second means Symphorce stands twice second to those bands. I was going, 'oh no, oh no, you're totally wrong.' I had never thought about it like that. Obviously it is not correct. All those bands are at the same level for Andy and I. All our bands come from our hearts.
METALLIAN: Is Symphorce a less popular band than either Brainstorm or Freedom Call?
CEDE: Yes, both those bands have toured a lot more than Symphorce in the past so it is natural for it to be so. It might be different in America. Freedom Call is probably not the right band for the US market. Those guys probably prefer Symphorce. The bands are different pairs of shoes. One band is bigger in one country and the other is bigger in another country it depends.
METALLIAN: Let us go back to Twice Second. Does the album have a water motif? The album's artwork, intro, etc. all point at a marine theme.
CEDE: Er no if there had to be a liquid concept then we would use beer! It actually wasn't our idea. When we had finished recording and had to decide who will do the artwork we really wanted to use Travis Smith who has worked with Iced Earth and Nevermore. The only important thing was to have it all in blue. If you look at our previous albums they each have a main colour. They are, in order, green, red and yellow and now we wanted something in blue this time and what is bluer than water? Travis came up with the idea you see. It is not a concept album though and there is no special meaning to the artwork. We added the sound of the sea to the beginning of the album when we already had the artwork.
METALLIAN: Nevertheless the album's booklet features a page with a paragraph about water.
CEDE: Yeah, yeah, I have to say that Dennis and I write all the songs, but lyrics are Andy's thing. He came up he is always coming up with certain introductions or small texts for the booklet. He also wrote that piece after we had received the artwork for the album. I also have to say that I have never been a guy who pays too much attention to the lyrics. If you would ask me what the texts mean I probably could not answer. I pay much more attention to the music. Give me an old Judas Priest album and I can talk about every drum break, but I have no idea about the lyrics!
Andy mostly writes about personal experiences and what the problems are right now on this planet. This text might have something to do with that as well.
Perhaps Andy was having a pissing problem and he could not control it and that is where all the water came from (laughs). Who knows?
METALLIAN: That will go in the interview's opening sentence.
CEDE: Although that wouldn't be blue water, but anyway!
METALLIAN: One would not be straying too far from this topic by bringing up the song Tears. The song seemingly features down-tuned guitars.
CEDE: We use seven string guitars. Everything is tuned down and you play the solos on the higher scales. It gives the guitars an extra aggressive touch.
METALLIAN: What about the many vocal layers? There are many vocal overdubs.
CEDE: If you think about it, Twice Second was Andy's tenth album overall and he really wanted to do something special. He didn't want the huge choirs like PhorcefulAhead, so he started messing around a lot with the vocal effects in the studio. He always does this answer-and-question thing with his lyrics and that is very significant on Twice Second.
METALLIAN: Whatever Hate Provides and Cause Of Laughter have a distinct melodic guitar which are a nice touch.
CEDE: Whatever Hate Provides is a song that kicks ass. We opened it up a bit in the middle part. Cause Of Laughter is more mid-tempo and starts with the guitars you are talking about. We love playing that song live. It has a cool guitar riff. The song was actually co-written by Markus and I. The main riffing was his. It is a cool song which people have told me reminds them of Korn. It is kinda true if you take the riffs. I am fine with that. Here in Europe, everyone gives the middle finger to Korn and that kind of a music and people say, 'nu-metal sucks' and 'Fred Durst is gay,' but it is important to be open-minded. We are not afraid of standing in front of metal people and saying 'we've got some nu-metal guitar riffs, but we are going to blow you away anyway.'
METALLIAN: The sounds may be related, but the song reminded me more of recent Nevermore than Korn.
CEDE: Absolutely, the song is a little like Nevermore. I am not sure if Nevermore have those mid-tempo groovy songs, but aren't they faster than us on average?
I think it is important to come out with something new and something fresh. It makes an album so much more interesting.
METALLIAN: The song Takes What Mine begins with a crushing riff.
CEDE: Yeah, it is a song that Dennis wrote. It reminds me of Wherever I May Roam by Metallica. It is a song with a lot of atmosphere and it is something we have never done before. It's a crushing song, then it's calm and then the chorus crushes again. I like that song also. Some people say that song is too slow, but I think it is a cool song and it makes the album sound a little different.
METALLIAN: The guitars on Face Of Pain are quite aggressive.
CEDE: That was a song which I wrote. I thought we should come up with something very aggressive and in-your-face. It is kick ass. I like Face Of Pain very much, especially the chorus and the solo. Face Of Pain is aggressive and a faster song.
When I am listening to a heavy song like that in my car I drive too fast. It's always like that. I probably should get some Pink Floyd in my car and I will be driving more slowly.
METALLIAN: You were telling me earlier that there is no real title track, but Two Seconds To Live could have fit the description.
CEDE: Well, if you want to put it like that, OK. We don't have a title track. The titles are identical a little. It is a song I came up with and Markus added his chorus to it. This one is a total headbanging song live. I really enjoy playing it live. It has many great parts in it. It is very aggressive and one can do great backing vocals on it when you play it live. It is also a technical song. It is not that easy to play and we have to rehearse it quite a lot.
METALLIAN: Speaking of the different vocals on the album, are they all sung by Andy or are there different backing vocalists?
CEDE: It is just Andy in the studio, but live sees Dennis and I supporting Andy. Especially on this album, take Whatever Hate Provides for example, there are many vocal lines and it would be difficult to play them live . Andy can't sing them all and I can't play guitar and sing also so, if we play it live, we might have to rehearse it a lot.
METALLIAN: Would you consider Cry On My Shoulder a ballad?
CEDE: It is not a ballad where we sing about flowers. It is a slower song with a lot of atmosphere. Andy wrote the lyrics for his newborn son. His boy was born during the writing session for Twice Second and once a night he was screaming like hell - I have a baby too - and Andy was recording it. He also wrote the lyrics for his son and he put the screams on the song.
This song has a very special feeling. It is an emotional song and is also one of my favourites on the album. The solo is improvised and the result of jamming in the studio which is a cool thing. I probably have five different versions of the solo. We were in the studio for about four weeks and that solo was one of the last things I had to record. I think it was the last day. The day before I had some personal problems with a girl which (raises his voice) pissed me off like hell! I just went into the recording studio and said, 'God damn it bitch, I am going to lay you down a solo.' So this guitar solo is a very personal thing. The song itself is also very emotional.
METALLIAN: Did the personal situation get resolved?
CEDE: I am not with that girl anymore. In the end I prefer this solo to the girl - I really have to say! Sometimes things go wrong, but I am over it (laughs). There are new adventures to come.
METALLIAN: The lead guitars are proficient and a treat to hear. Why not have more?
CEDE: I don't know. I really love playing lead guitar also, but sometimes a song does not need a solo. Cause Of Laughter is an example. However, and looking back, I wish we had added a solo to In The Cold. Something is missing from that song. The solos have to help the song and not be there so I can show the world how good I am which I am not by the way.
I want to play solos that fit the songs. I think solos are good to play a little faster, but should also have a melody. We probably will have more solos again on the next album.
METALLIAN: My version of the album features a song called Under The Curse which is described as a bonus track. What makes this song a bonus track?
CEDE: First of all, for a long time we didn't even know that there would be a bonus track. We thought the song would be part of the album which would have eleven songs. Then we thought of making that a limited edition. In Europe, the CD is a digipak, has a bonus song and features the video for the making of Twice Second. In Canada the album comes in the regular jewel case and features Under The Curse as a bonus track. We wanted to do that because many people are downloading music nowadays and we wanted people who like us to get something special. It should also help more people buy the album instead of just downloading it.
It was important to have something special. We weren't sure which song would be the bonus one, but we decided on Under The Curse because if you listen for the lyrics you will notice that Andy utters every album title of ours on it. The song has a rock 'n roll attitude which I really like. Just because it's a bonus track it doesn't mean that it's a shitty song.
METALLIAN: Although my personal opinion is that it is the weakest song on offer. Regardless, and on another front, how is Metal Blade working out for you?
CEDE: It is working out well. We were with Noise Records before and we weren't happy with them. It was frustrating. They would make promises and not keep them. Metal Blade is very cool because those guys do everything possible for a band at a certain level. I m not just saying that because we are on Metal Blade at the moment. We are totally happy with them. It never can be good enough of course, but they are good to work with.
METALLIAN: For how many albums have you signed to them?
CEDE: I am not really sure. I think four in total. Andy is our business guy.
METALLIAN: Is Noise paying you promptly for the royalties of the first two albums?
CEDE: Noise isn't managing that. The rights are taken care of by GEMA out of Germany. They are the publishing rights institution.
METALLIAN: What is next for Symphorce?
CEDE: We just came off tour with Grave Digger. Twice Second was released in the middle of that tour. We were just playing Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but we managed to promote Twice Second. We are getting great reactions from other countries so we are planning to tour those countries. We will do a few festivals in the summer and then probably do another tour in the fall.
It would be a dream come true to play in North America. We are probably not at that level yet. It is very expensive to play there. This album has to do well if we are going to tour in America. Although Symphorce was born to play live. We have to be patient. Fans should check www.symphorce.net and if we are lucky enough there might be an American tour. I think the scene there is growing at the moment and more and more European bands are playing there.
I was supposed to play with Freedom Call in Canada last year, but now it might happen this spring. The flights were too expensive then and it was postponed. So hello and greetings to all Canadians. Hopefully we can get to see each other soon and have some cold beer.
Canadian fans should make sure to get the guitarist a pack of Molson or Moosehead when he eventually makes it over the pond. In the meanwhile, Symphorce's new album Twice Second is now on reputable store shelves.