Inteview: Simon Schorneck – Guitars, Voals; Phil: Guitars; Norman – Drums
In 2016 a five-person expedition from Hamburg, who had set out towards the unknown, established a base on newfound ground. The crew – consisting of seasoned doom metal veterans also hired on vessels like OPHIS, FVNERAL FVKK or REMEMBRANCE – claimed the place as their own, named it VOIDHAVEN and used it as origin for the distribution of their artistic cargo. The exported wares combine various components to spread an atmosphere of oppressive, yet harboring gloom. Lyrically, they incorporate skeptical world watching, critical reflection of social relations, addressing inner struggles and spinning haunting tales. Musically, they blend a foundation of Melancholic Doom Metal with elements from Death Metal.
The first goods in form of the “Voidhaven”-EP were shipped in collaboration with Solitude Productions in 2018. Overcoming a line-up change on the drums, an unplanned break due to a pandemic and personal circumstances dispiriting the crew, they hired fleet admiral Jens Ballaschke to produce new wares in October 2022. Assorted in the “Lithic”-album, the resulting luxuries will be distributed in company with Ardua Music.
Hello, best regards from Czech republic. Could you give us a brief background history of the band? Who came to the idea of this doom metal band in the first place?
Simon: Hi everyone and thanks for having us! The inception of VOIDHAVEN was kind of a flowing process. You could probably pin it to 2016, where it became obvious that things could not continue the way they were. Almost all members at the time played in another Doom band called CRIMSON SWAN. Their guitarist and main songwriter moved to the other half of Germany and although we tried to keep the band together, it just did not work out over the distance. The remaining Hamburg based members decided to continue as VOIDHAVEN and searched for a new guitarist, which we found in Phil from OPHIS. A stylistic change was never really discussed as we all simply like to play Doom. In 2018 we released a self-titled EP via Solitude Productions. After that there came another lineup change from Martin to Norman on drums, the pandemic and our crammed life circumstances, thus it took until now to release a full length album.
What got you into Doom Metal music? It is an ideal musical form for introduce your own feelings?
Norman: I’ve been addicted to extreme metal since my early teens, but it turned out very early, on that the slower, more emotional tones, grabbed me more. For me personally, MY DYING BRIDE’s “The Angel and the Dark River” is a milestone in Doom Metal and this CD had a strong influence on me. I would love to list all my faves now, but that would go beyond the scope. Bands like MORGION, SYVEN, SKEPTICISM and FOREST OF SHADOWS definitely left deep marks in me. I would particularly like to recommend the music of “Deha” to you. In my opinion, no other genre of music manages to create such intense music. Personally, Doom Metal not only drags me down, it also builds me up and energizes me.
Your debut album “Lithic” is beautiful piece of doom metal music. Did you achieve what you wanted to? What does it mean to you and where do you think will the journey go from here?
Simon: Thank you very much for the compliment, we appreciate it! While working on „Lithic“, we aimed to build on the qualities of our first EP, while simultaneously extending the stylistic scope between the different songs a little and up the production quality. I think we achieved all that, which feels gratifying. Moreover, I’m also am relieved and it means much to me to have this album finished, since it had a long and not always easy creation process. To be honest, at times I was not entirely sure if it would ever be recorded. As for the journey ahead: We are still in the middle of the release process and all that comes with it, so at least I am not thinking way ahead right now and just enjoy the feedback we get. We will probably start working on some new songs this year and hope that a second album will not take as long as the first.
How would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording? Can you describe the album in general for those who haven’t heard it yet?
Simon: We like to call it melancholic Death Doom Metal. Critics have described it as a mix of various Doom styles with elements ranging from Funeral Doom to Epic Doom and I think that’s fitting. We try to maintain a balance between crushing heaviness and melodies to keep things interesting. The 6 songs on the album should batter you down and then lift you up again, leaving you with an overall atmosphere of
soothing melancholy. If you dig bands like MY DYING BRIDE, SWALLOW THE SUN, HAMFERD, SATURNUS or OFFICIUM TRISTE, chances are pretty high that „Lithic“ is your thing, too.
What sort of lyrical themes are you addressing on this album? What song from this album is the most important for you to perform?
Simon: I think everybody in the band would answer a little differently to the second question, because our fave songs on the album vary from person to person and also there are songs that function better live and those that function better on a recording. I assume, it is quite sure that we will be performing „The Everblazing Picture“ and „Something Cruel Within“ in coming live-sets, since they work well. „The Desolate Throne“ on the other hand could be problematic, since neither Phil nor I probably can reproduce the guest guitar solo, haha.
As for the lyrics, I think we have broadened our topics a little. We are still addressing personal struggles and feelings, like for example on „The Desolate Throne“. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of skeptical world watching and critical reflection of social relations. „Resting on Tombs“ for example is about widespread social inequality and the ever growing gap between super rich and extremely poor, while „Sermon of Scorn“ is a harsh criticism of organized religion. We also process experiences from our jobs, where many of us work in the social sector. „The Everblazing Picture“ is an allegory for dealing with traumata and „To Walk Among Ghosts“ is inspired by working with people suffering from different forms of psychosis like paranoid schizophrenia or anancasms.
Is VOIDHAVEN a democracy or is there a distinctive leader who makes all the important decisions?
Phil: I have played in several bands before (and I still do), but Voidhaven is by far the most democratic I have ever been in. That‘s both a blessing and a curse, because it ensures that nobody is ignored and everyone can contribute, but it also means that writing takes forever. And it also increases the risk of ending up with a watered down compromise. That’s the biggest challenge in this band.
As you write, are you thinking about how the songs will be performed live?
Phil: Only so far that we make sure we are able to reproduce it live. In other words, we would not write something for 4 guitars when we only have two. Otherwise, no.
How has been your experience with Solitude Productions? How difficult was it to release debut full-length record after “end” this label?
Simon: Finding a new label for our full length fortunately was not as hard as we thought it might be. We asked a few ones and had the privilege that more than one showed interest, despite us being a very small band. Ardua Music made an offer very quickly and decisively. This gave us the good feeling of being trusted in, so we went for them and so far the cooperation has been great and very fair.
What are your relations with your fellow musicians in Germany? Are you friends or are you competitors? Do you believe in underground culture and friendly relation ships?
Phil: Competition is so unnecessary. Doom Metal never sells much, so why should we care if we sell 5 records more than another band? The bands that sell the most are not necessarily the best ones, so that could be regarded as „unfair“, but so what? There are reasons for everything. We are friends with many of the bands out there. When we perform together, we have a good time. Who cares about who sells more? If you start bitching about being headliner or refuse to be the opening act, you are an imbecile, and can fuck off.
Simon: I totally agree! Competition among bands is absolutely idiotic, just enjoy what you like doing together or just leave each other alone, if you don’t like the music or the people. I have the feeling that this mindset is shared among many bands in the Doom scene (at least the underground) and it is a thing that makes me feel at home there. As Phil said, we are friends with many other Doom bands and thus, shared concerts are often like a family meeting.
What are the things you want to do in the near future to support the album? Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
Simon: We are trying to make some gigs happen, but there’s nothing definitive at the moment. We are all very occupied with our day to day lives, so we only have a limited budget of time and flexibility for playing shows. We’ll simply have to see what is possible. We did a pretty cool video for „The Everblazing Picture“ though, in case you haven’t seen it yet ;).
What are your favorite artists? Who are the people that influenced your playing style? Are you fans older doom metal records?
Simon: Those are questions that probably every musician could ramble on about forever! I’ll try it in short. My favorite artists are numerous and partially changed over time, but I’ll list some here that I often came back to over the years and that also were key influences for me. Most importantly, I would name PARADISE LOST, LAKE OF TEARS and SHAPE OF DESPAIR. They all probably had an impact on the way I write songs. Greg Mackintosh’s lead guitar style rubbed off quite a bit on me, I think. As for clean vocals, I have to mention Robert Lowe from SOLITUDE AETURNUS and CANDLEMASS. And last but not least, our guitarist Phil’s main band OPHIS is a source of inspiration for me, especially regarding songwriting, harsh vocals and production.
Which bands would you consider as your greatest influences?
Phil: I think Simon summed it up quite well in his previous answer.
Norman: If someone were to ask me, which 3 discs I would take to a lonely place, it would certainly be: KATATONIA – Dance of December Souls, IN THE WOODS – Heart of the ages and ANATHEMA – Serenades. These discs shaped me and they still fascinate me today, as they did then. I have no influences to playing drums, I do what I feel and what I like.
Do you have some recommend for me from the Germany scene?
Phil: in terms of Doom Metal, I strongly recommend ASCIAN, URZA, BST, CARRION MOTHER, DUST, LONE WANDERERr, NIGHT SLUG and CROSS VAULT. All of them are just extremely good. In terms of Death Metal, I recommend DAWN OF OBLITERATION, PARANOIC, FEACES CHRIST, LIFELESS, DEATHRITE, REPULSIVE FEAST and INCARCERATION.
What are your ambitions about VOIDHAVEN? How high you think you can go?
Phil: I am downright honest with you: I think there will not be that much headroom left. Not because of the music, but because our situation. I hope we can expand our borders a bit and play some single shows or weekenders abroad, and every now and then I think that might be possible. But to achieve a really relevant step upwards, we would need to tour as much as possible – and that simply won‘t happen, because most members just can not do this. No bitterness here, it is what it is. Simon is too involved in family life, Norman is not keen on touring, and I am already playing a lot with other bands, so I simply can not add another touring band at this moment… There would have to be a massive shift in our line-up to tour much more. We do not want that. And we are all consent about it, so there is no problem.
Thank you very much for your time and wish you all the best for the future!
Simon: Thank you for putting together this interview and for your support!