German a capella metal masters VAN CANTO return with their energetic Rakkatakka-power and are set to release their eighth inimitable offering, ‘To The Power Of Eight’, on June 4, 2021, via Napalm Records. We talked to mastermind Stefan Schmidt about their newest material and many more in an enchanting interview.
CVLT: Hello, Stefan!
Van Canto, one of the most unique concepts in metal – acapella metal – we’d like to know where it all began. How did this concept start?
Stefan: When I started Van Canto, I wanted to do something vocal-oriented. While trying things out in the studio, it turned out that with every voice we recorded, we found it more attractive to just leave the instruments away. And so Metal A Cappella was born.
Music is, more than anything else, a feeling that connects you with nature and places you in the universe. However, do you consider that the artist, in its time of creation, thinks about this perspective? Can this feeling become a vanity that might be taken advantage of at some point?
Interesting question, which goes a bit too deep to answer with “yes” or “no”. What I noticed, is that many creative processes of “producing” something, like music, art, photography, writing a book, even writing software are all comparable from a certain point. Patterns on decision making, trying things out, comparing to former experiences, and so on apply to all these different domains. But with music the ONE thing that is really different is the birth of that new small melody, or chord progression, or riff, that just seems to come out of nowhere. So if this is the way, the universe connects to me, for example, as a composer, I am very happy this happens.
Let’s talk about the new album “To The Power Of Eight”. If you were to advertise it, what would you start with and what would it look like?
I think it is our most versatile and at the same time most balanced album. We have everything on it that defines Van Canto, a perfect summary of 7 former albums with new inspiration and in my opinion the best sound so far.
In addition, “To The Power Of Eight” seems to be a climax, marking the fact that you brought back Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke. How did this reunion come about?
We are not only former bandmates, but we are also friends, so I had close contact with Dennis throughout the years. For me, it does not feel like he was really away, because he is a part of my life. He joined us as a special guest at the 2019 Summer Breeze festival show. This felt great, so we decided to invite him as a guest on 1 or 2 songs on the album. When the pandemic kicked in, we noticed that we have a lot of time and no touring will be involved anytime soon, so we made his guest appearance a remarkable one for all tracks on the album.
How does the songwriting and recording process differ from previous albums? Is it really more challenging to record an a cappella album than a regular album with instruments?
Well, as our previous albums were all a cappella albums as well, not so much has changed. (laugh) This time the songwriting process was really about the constellation with 3 lead singers and making use of all the possibilities this opens in terms of singing styles, vocal overlaps, harmonies, and so on.
Writing songs for Van Canto does not differ so much from writing songs for a regular metal band. It starts with a riff on guitar or some chords on the piano, and afterward, the composition is arranged into our metal a cappella style.
Are there any other challenges involved with your non-traditional instrumentation?
I’m sure there are, but of course, after 15 years and 8 albums for us, all that feels very natural. It’s not that I have to “translate” any of our compositions into a cappella and back anymore, I just think and feel like a guitar. (laugh)
What music have you listened to lately? Any recommendations?
The last albums that really touched my heart were “Out of this World”, the debut from Kee Marcello’s new band, and the “Skyfall” single from Helloween.
How do you imagine your project in its full fulfillment, in total understanding with the world?
For me personally, it is just the fulfillment of all my teenage dreams. In relation to the world, Van Canto is just a band, and we are very thankful to reach that many people all over the world with our music.
Is there a secret recipe, maybe an ancient one, some elixirs that help you guys maintain your voice?
It is unspectacular, but it is just water. Lots of water.
You can share with us some funny, maybe weird, moments from your tours or from the studio?
What happens in the studio, stays in the studio and this is even more true for touring events. (winks)
If you were able to go back in any period of your preference, where would you find yourself?
I don’t know. I am very happy where I am now, and the best thing about my past is that I met so many great friends that I have in my life and especially in my band. I like to stay in the present, it is exciting enough.
What are your plans for 2021?
It is all about releasing and promoting the album. I think our live plans / live appearances will not happen before the festival season in 2022.
Photos: (c) Tim Tronckoe