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|with Anja Orthodox on Jul 11, 2003|
After a newly recorded English version of Closterkeller`s best album "Graphite" it`s time to ask some questions about this album, the band Closterkeller and the Polish gothic-scene.
|Can you give our readers a short history of your band? Some of them might not be so familiar with Closterkeller.|
Closterkeller has been active in the Polish since 1988. We started as young, completely inexperienced musicians. And how did it come about? Well, we just loved music and wanted to play, very much. We never thought we would be popular at all, not to mention our current position in Poland. We`d play wherever we managed to get to, often in „beginner band competitions” and such. Well, and suddenly there came a time when we started to win these competitions. Including the most important and prestigious ones! It was something incredible for us. Surprisingly to us we became headliner of the whole flow of gothic music in our country and we gained some kind of commercial popularity. Some of our songs became popular hits in Poland. I am proud to say that many years of self-improvement, our determination and sincerity gave us a very strong position in the Polish rock scene. We are sometimes called a “cult” band. Young bands play our songs and vocalists who are learning to sing take me as their role model. It is really fantastic and awfully nice and exemplary as well because I treat it as a proof that my art has real value. And this value is the most important in my work. By work I mean the creation of something that moves the audience and will affect the listeners for a long time. Until today we`ve released 10 albums; 6 studio albums, 2 live ones, the EP- "Agnieszka" and a compilation.
|As an introduction, what does the band name Closterkeller mean?|
Closterkeller means „a convent cellar” in German. The name is from a wine bottle. In the very beginning, when we got together and started playing, my friend glimpsed a „Closterkeller” wine bottle lying on the sidewalk (it`s just a wine brand) and came running with it to where we were rehearsing... (it was an empty wine bottle), shouting - ok guys, I found you a name. And there it was. Then I just changed the first letter to „C”, to be higher up on alphabetical lists - I`m a very impatient person.
|You have released quite some albums during the years. You’re becoming a big name in Poland, aren’t you?|
I`m very happy and proud to say that we are. You can see the result of 14 years of work. Not only for our music but also for our determination to stay who we really are, the openness and frankness in what we say, for not giving up to any pressure or any fads. And for the fact that we`re developing all the time and that every new album is better (well... or equally good as the one before). Our fans can be sure that they won`t be disappointed when they come to our concerts. We`re good at concerts. And my lyrics are also very important. For many of our fans, they are extremely important and dear - they open their eyes on certain things, show them the way, give them courage and a belief in their own selves. And they just make them happier. In return, our listeners give us their great devotion and consider us their favorite or even „beloved” band. This is the greatest and the best reward we can get. It gives us strength to carry on creating.
|How do you see this aspect reflect in popularity outside of Poland? Are there lots of reactions from outside of Poland?|
The English version of „Graphite” is released only quite recently. The first reviews and reactions have been coming in just now. Fortunately most of them are good. Still, in some of them we got our ass kicked. Oh well... you always learn. As far as popularity goes, we can`t really be called a popular European band yet. It`s just the first step of the way... We`ve recently played at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany and we were very favorably received there. The first steps are taken... We are trying to achieve something outside of Poland. We want to make it.
|Do you see a new and fresh start for Closterkeller, now that you’ve made a name in the English world, as well as a new promoter for you music (CBI as distributor instead of Metal Mind)?|
As for the new distributor, well, I do the singing, ok? The CBI thing is still something quite new and quite a surprise for me. Actually, I didn`t know about the whole affair until like a couple of days ago. Well, I hope they`ll do their best to manage us on the European market. That`s it.
|I assume that the purpose of the re-recording of “Graphite” is to promote your music in other countries? Why did you decide to do this after 13 years in your career?|
From time to time we heard about the interest in our band in other countries. But the main reason for recording this English version was our participation in the Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany - the biggest gothic festival in Europe, it would be a shame to go out to the audience without an „international” medium of expression at hand. I am aware that if we sung in Polish we could be treated as an ethnographic curiosity, and not really considered as a serious band.
I choose “Graphite” because it`s the most beautiful one. It was the album I have always wanted to make with Closterkeller. Exactly this atmosphere and means of expression. It is the most mature and homogeneous one.
Earlier we didn`t really think about promotion outside of Poland. Maybe because we were just so ruptured at the adoration of our fans in our own country. The people here love us and we cherish it. But suddenly I realized that nothing seemed an unconquerable challenge anymore, no distant peaks to reach. Like, we started being that „legend” and we didn`t really like the turning into a stone monument. We want to develop, to go on, and to face new challenges. It`s like starting all over again from scratch, going outside Poland now. And it`s just great! Something new is coming on, something new is going on.
And my lyrics... They are a very important part of Closterkeller. And this also was one of the reasons I decided so late to go out to the foreign audiences. My lyrics are not simple, they work on numerous metaphors, connections with literature and are written in a very rich way. Fortunately we met Unicornis, a very skilled born Anglicist and a poet as well. His translations are genius. They are both very exact and poetic. Now I am not afraid that Closterkeller in English would feel like a shaved sheep.
I was also afraid of the English language. I speak it well enough to communicate, but singing is a very different thing. Of course I mean singing good English, with appropriate accent and pronunciation. But Unicornis showed himself to be a excellent teacher as well, as he led me during the recording of the vocals.
|What are the differences between this version of “Graphite” and the Polish version, except for the English lyrics? I don’t believe you’ve changed the songs themselves?|
And you are right not to believe! Because that`s practically the only difference. Aside from that, we`ve only did the overall sound up a little, and changed little bits in a couple of songs. But, unfortunately, we didn`t really have the time or the opportunity to improve more things. Well, and that`s a shame, `cause the album was recorded as many as four years ago. At least I can hear that.
|What is your personal opinion on the English versions? Did you think they sound better in English or Polish? Can you name some songs that specifically did (not) work out?|
Singing the Polish versions is easier and more pleasant for me than singing the English ones, for sure. Well, I think that should be obvious. I`m sure I interpret them more accurately in my native language. But it`s natural that outside of Poland I sing the songs in English, so that others can understand and feel what I sing as deeply as my Polish audience. I can`t really objectively say which of the two versions sounds better. Rationally speaking, it must be the English one - although for me my native tongue is beautiful, lucid and melodious, I realize that it must seem quite harsh-sounding for people from other countries. Not too nice to listen to, I guess.
The singing though was a big surprise for everyone! I mean, it`s quite a funny story. When the English vocals had been recorded I played them to the guys from the band. They listened to the CD and were sitting there without saying a word. So I went petrified with fear, thinking „OK, it`s worse than the Polish. But THAT MUCH?!” But it turned out the reason they were just staring agape was that they never thought that album could be sung so much better! For me everything was just „normal” - I have been very close to that voice for four years, and in the concerts the guys can hardly hear me. But the change was clear on the CD. It`s a great joy for me, `cause it`s a proof of my constant development as a singer. And yeah, there was one song that didn`t work out... „Marble-Enchanted” Try as I might - and I really nearly twisted my throat, working so hard on it in the studio - I think I just didn`t get as much magic and sense of atmosphere as there is in the original version.
|Is there a general theme on “Graphite”?|
"Graphite" has a common theme, a specific, special atmosphere to it. It was a very special album for the band. Aside from the fact that it was our best, most mature and the most beautiful work (in my opinion), it is created in very sad circumstances. That is, my marriage with Krzysztof ended; he was the other driving force of the band. The album was recorded a month after the break up, and that breaking up could well serve as a base for a Brazilian soap opera... But still, to record that album was so important to us that, as well as we could, we tried to shut our feelings and emotions out and cooperate, working together for the sake of the music. I never thought in my life that I`d live through such a painful ordeal. A lot of what took place back then somehow went into the atmosphere of that album. Yes, it`s very, very special for me. After we had recorded it, Krzysztof left Closterkeller.
|What are the future plans for Closterkeller? Will you do a tour?|
As far as doing a tour goes, we`re still waiting for invitations from abroad. But there is a big chance that when we start, we’ll start in the Benelux!!! Still, it`s too early to give you any specific info.
By the end of July, we`re giving a concert at the biggest gothic festival in Poland - Castle Party. We really can`t wait to be there. And right after that, we`re going into the studio. At last. After a time of a long stagnation we started to work on some new things. Any day now our first DVD is going to be released. And in October a new studio album titled “Nero” will see daylight. The title means “Black” in Italian. The music also will be this way: black, sad and heavy. Because that’s the color I recently have in me. As I have never had it before. Sometimes when I write the lyrics, I`m afraid to get too close to the truth... If everything works out, this album `s going to be indescribable.
|How about re-releasing more old material in English?|
Somehow, this never entered my head. I don`t like looking back. Let the old albums stay as they are... I prefer doing new things. Still, I`ve got English translations for a lot of the old lyrics, and I can sing them like I do in Polish.
But all the new albums will surely be recorded in two versions at once. Unicornis, whom I mentioned before is a fantastic teacher who is able to prepare me and help me with the recording. So I stopped being so insecure about it. And... I do not know if I should talk about it... one of our old albums has already been released in two versions. I`m thinking of our second album, “Blue,” from 1991. But it`s awful! I don`t like it and I`m ashamed of it! Those old English versions are hopeless. The next album after “Blue” - “Violet” - was also recorded in English, but I was too ashamed to release it. On our website www.anja.pl you can find some older songs in English that you can download. They are the better ones, of course.
|And the last question; is there anything REZ forgot to ask? Things you feel like sharing?|
Maybe it`s a good thing that REZ forgot to ask something, `cause this way we`ll have some things left to talk about in the future!
OK, there is just one thing - you wouldn`t ask me about it yourself, anyway. I`m really proud of an idea that I had and I`d like to brag. In the year 2001, our CD titled „Pastel” came out in Poland. It was just a nothing-really-extraordinary „the best of”-compilation kind of a thing, so I decided to include a second CD, called „EL” (the first one was called „Past”). This second CD was a multimedia package ONLY - you can only play it on your home computer. There are videos, a long video-interview where you can also see parts of our old concerts, and over an hour and a half of various mp3-curiosities. Like three mp3s from our very first concert in 1988 - I`ve never heard anything that horrible - you can laugh your head off. ;-) There are also cover versions, unreleased demo songs, etc. Our fans just loved it! :-) For sale for the price of 1 CD. Did you ever hear of something like that? I think we were the first ones in the world to do something like that!!! :-)))