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In Words: Vanden Plas

- Andy Kuntz - April 2000 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Andy, Andreas
& Günter -
Sep. 2002 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Günter Werno - May 2010 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Vanden Plas
© Vanden Plas

Günter Werno - May 27th 2010 (by phone)

It's been 4 years since Christ O., now they are back with a new album - The Seraphic Clockwork. The German progsters have been active between the albums with theater projects, but their fans want to see them playing as Vanden Plas.
Time to learn a bit about the new concept album and the bands activities. Keyboardist Günter Werno called on time and so we both sat down with a cup of coffee to talk over the phone.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the pre-listening party, but I wanted to know, if they were satisfied with the spontaneous reactions. "It's always good to get feedback, especially if it's spontaneously. In general we got very positive feedback."
My first impression of The Seraphic Clockwork was that it has more symphonic elements, but also is heavier... more metal, so to speak. "We wanted orchestral arrangements which don't take away the heaviness, the orchestral parts should just support the songs. Sometimes it's just one oboe. When we are in the rehearsal room we consider what to add and what's touching us." Most bands who write concept albums start with the lyrics and then do the music - and I thought Vanden Plas worked that way too. But I was wrong! "We had the music first, then the lyrics been added. It worked well. Andy and Stephan worked on the songs for quite awhile, the 3 songs I wrote been added later when we were close to start working on the arrangements. The concept developed while we were working on the songs, even if Andy had an idea about the story. I think Andy had a raw sketch of the story in mind when they worked on the basic musical concept of the album... Anyway, later he presented us a multi-page long synopsis."
Stories about time travel aren't new, but usually they travel into future - and not back in time like at The Seraphic Clockwork. "There have been stories about traveling back in time, but it's true the majority is traveling into future." Then Günter told me that he's the wrong person to talk with when it's about the lyrical concept. And so we kinda moved on... Talking about theater productions which kept the band busy through the years. "We would love to record an album every other year, but in progressive metal it's almost impossible. But we all have projects we are involved with, I have played on 3 albums lately - Joe Lynn Turner, Michael Kiske and Debauchery, a German death metal band. I also arranged the music for a musical. I did Hair without Andy, but the last 6 weeks of a production always have been very busy for Andy and me. We need to rehearse, have to make agreements, etc. For Christ O we had to re-arrange the songs - and that's time consuming." Günter explains. On the other hand the theater productions are something totally different and I think also inspiring... "It's great, even if some smile at us because of the theater productions, but it's great to work with an orchestra, a conductor. When we play as a band then we get a lot more attention from the audience then at a rock concert. I can't say that I prefer one or the other." Awhile ago the Vanden Plas guys took part in Die Schöpfung rockt, a rock version of the Haydn piece which they played with a baroque orchestra. "We played a show with an orchestra which's instruments are tune the way it was done in the 17th century - and it sounds totally different! We played part of Die Schöpfung with Vanden Plas and it worked well, then we did a short Vanden Plas set with the choir - songs of Christ O. It needs a lot of discipline, but it was fantastic! And a great experience, we are really thankful for the opportunity!"
That Vanden Plas got involved in theater productions first just to make money to do their first album ain't a secret. These days it's a bit easier, with new technology you can do a fairly good demo - with little budget. "It's true, with Cubase you can do a lot, but even with this tools I can't produce a sound a profi is able to generate. But it's a good thing for bands who just started, a chance to make a first step. We were lucky to get the chance to do Jesus Christ Superstar and make money to record our first album." As always there are two sides of every story... "With nowadays technology you work differently and it allows you to try new things, be creative. Everybody is waiting for the next thing, for a new sound. Back in the days we probably missed some great bands - just because they never got the chance to record anything..."
Talking about audiences... "We did 3 theater pieces we wrote. To combine rock music and theater isn't anything new, it's known for 50 years now. The theater audience is different, they are used to experiments. Just think about Stravinsky, but to have rock music as the main element is something new. So far it's been musicals combined with rock sounds or pseudo rock operettas with soft rock sounds - I can't stand the later! So we tried something we would like to hear - and that's the niche we found. And we were lucky that the audience gave us the chance." But still Vanden Plas are a band, call it rock, call it metal, whatever... it's a different beast compared to the theater stages. "We want to play more live shows as a band. When we played a show in Belgium we were really nervous. But we are looking forward to get back on tour and rock the stages!" A few dates are already confirmed, more should be announced soon.

Claudia Ehrhardt


Andy, Andreas & Günter - Sepember 2002 (by email) -

It's been awhile since the album Beyond Daylight hit the stores, but still enough to talk about with Vanden Plas. And so - with a little help from their promotion agency CMM - Andy, Andreas and Günter answered the questions by email. Hope you find this interesting!

Andy, in the past you said that you aren't interested in doing a conceptual album. Now you released Beyond Daylight which can be seen as a conceptual album, coz there is a link between the songs which is more then a red fathom.... Did you changed your mind?

Yes! During the writing process it turned out to be a concept, but this was not the main goal.

Why did it took so long to release the follow-up of Far Off Grace? As far as I remember did Stephan suffered from some illness....

I think one and a half year is not such a long time for a progressive music album... And we want to produce quality, not quantity.

Actually there were talks that you should tour with Savatage, but due to the Rocky Horror Picture Show you wasn't able to do. You are re. were involved in other theater and musical projects. Please tell more about that!

Yes, of cause, on one hand it was a pity not to go on tour with Savatage, on the other hand we could establish in the theater. You know the plans for the theater productions are done sometimes one year up front. Also the contracts were made.
When our company came up with the idea to tour with Savatage it was much too late, everything was fixed.
And yes I was involved in many other theatre productions. I did Rocky 3 times. This time it was also arranged by us. I did Little Shop Of Horrors 2 times, Evita and Jesus Christ.

Is it right, that you had the offer to be part of the Virgin Steele theater shows in Memmingen?

Yes, I was asked by Walter Weyers to sing the main character. Unfortunately I had no time.

ProgPower festival.... Will you play this year?

I think not...

What about a touring? As far as I remember there were a few shows scheduled, but had to be canceled, coz your father passed...

Our management is working on some touring plans. At the moment 5 shows are fixed. There will be more to come.

Your performance on Beyond Daylight is amazing!!! Congratulations!!! What gave you the inspiration to sing the way you did on this album? What techniques of singing you use to have this brilliant performance?

As I told you I had the chance to play in so many different characters. Every director or conductor wants to have something different from you. So you learn a lot more about your own possibilities. You learn a lot more about the different shades of a character. I think this is very helpful for a deep and clean performance.

The lyrics content is also brilliant, is beautiful, you deal very well with the emotions. How did you do that? What inspires you?

My dreams!

You sing in French very well. When and were did your learned to speak French?

I've learned French in school. My teacher thought that I have no talent for speaking French. I wish he could read this interview.

Andreas, your album Beyond Daylight is out for several months now. How are the reactions so far?

Reactions from press and fans are very good. Beyond Daylight contains very good songs with a very powerful sound. That's how we and our fans like it.

Many people said that you are a power metal band with progressive influences, but some other said that you are a prog metal band and I am agree with this statement, but what do you think? How do you describe the style of Vanden Plas?

I think the Vanden Plas style is heavy rock with some progressive influences. The first thing is always to have a good song and then comes some progressive things.

Which are the bands and musicians that represent your mayor influences for making the music of Vanden Plas?

That is very different for each band member. Everyone comes from a different musical direction. So the range is very wide. But also this is very important for the Vanden Plas style.

To me your last album Beyond Daylight, is the best album you ever made and also the most complex and complete. What do you think about it?

I think Far Off Grace is also a very good Vanden Plas album what express very good our style. Far Off Grace is a little more complex, but also very powerful and melodic.

Günter, your keyboard sound on Beyond Daylight is more warm an diverse than in your other albums. How did you made this change? Which elements did you change to get this sound?

I got the new instrument (Korg Triton) and added the new sounds to the improved old ones. But more important was the way we worked on the songs. I played all the songs in a sequencer program (cubase) and since the demos where done and there were no big changes to the final recordings anymore, I had the time to listen to several sounds and create some sounds. Compared to former times, we recorded the stuff on tape, listened, changed, recorded again, listened and so on... There wasn't really that much of time to listen to different sounds. Most things I had to do in the studio where you are in a hurry. This time Markus Teske, who is a keyboard player himself, also helped me out with some cool organ sounds and it was real comfortable working with him.

To me, in Beyond Daylight your keyboard playing is more complex and diverse than in your other albums. What do you think about it?

That's maybe because the song is more complex then most of the songs we've written so far. It's not only the keyboard that plays complex, all the instruments and the vocals are very vary in this song. And of course with keyboards you have the possibility to vary the most of all instruments. The other thing is that we are learning and growing playing live, playing with other musicians and bands, and so do I...

Which gear you use to play keyboards?

Korg Triton, Korg Trinity V3, Korg trinity Rack, Korg SG ProX-Stage-Controller, Yamaha CS1

Which are your main influences as a keyboard player?

Jon Lord was the first who really excited me. Further on I listened to Keith Emmeson (not even hoping to become as good) and to some classical-jazz-rock like Exception. (Always organ players, and when I started to play in bands first didn't want to use a synth only my Hammond-organ. But I went with modern times somehow and discovered the keyboard sounds for me). Later I listened to piano-players like Billy Joel and the wonderful solo-works of Jon Lord. Of course I was blown away by my first listening to Kevin Moore's keyboard playing.

You are part of a new generation of excellent keyboard players into metal / prog metal genres. Any name that you would like to mention of this new generation of keyboard players?

I wouldn't put me in the same line, but I have to mention Kevin Moore who was the pioneer in re-emancipating the keyboard into Metal.

Will we see you again involved in some other recordings? Projects?

I don't know anything yet, but I think there is for sure something to come in the future.

Do you think that working with different bands has a positive effect on your keyboard play?

Yes, absolutely. Playing with other bands means always learning and progressing. You see how other musicians write their songs, how they play the stuff and if you concern music as a kind of higher language, beyond language you see how they speak.

Anyone you would love to work with in future?

Maybe a nice little tour again with my friends of Kamelot...

Or will you do your own project? Something in mind?

Yes, I'm working right now on a solo output together with Dennis Ward. It will be called Helliconia. Our drummer Andreas will play the drums and I could lately get Kiko Loreiro from Angra to play some guitars.

Any plans for touring in South America? And other countries?

Andreas: Of course we want to tour there, but its very expensive and we need good sales a and few dates in a row to make it happen.

Famous last words.... Anything you want to say to the fans?

Andy: I hope to see them all on tour soon. We are very hot to be back on stage.

It seems that there is a lot to come in future and we will keep you updated about Günter's project which sounds pretty interesting so far. Definitely it won't be the last time we talked to the German progsters!

Claudia Ehrhardt
& Roberto Palmitesta


Andy Kuntz - April, 7th 2000 - Verviers (Belgium)

At a Friday night we, Ilia and I went to Verviers to see Vanden Plas at the Spirit of 66. I missed the German prog metal quintet when they toured Germany, or more exactly I preferred to meet my friends Overkill one more time instead of going to see Vanden Plas in Mülheim.... Vanden Plas play quite often in Germany and so I thought that I'll get a second chance soon... And here we are in Verviers! The Spirit of 66 is one of my favorite bars with live music and since I've been here with American Rock Live I took every chance to get back here...
After a superb show of the five piece I finally had the chance to talk to singer Andy Kuntz for a few minutes... If this interview seems to be a little confused, it's because we got disturbed again and again and so I got lost sometimes....

You just toured through the clubs with Far Off Grace. I was always wandering why you are more successful in France then in Germany which is unusual. You also released a French album. Where do you see the reason therefor? You supported Dream Theater, but the big bang didn't come...

Successful.... What is successful?

More or less... You are successful in France, more than in Germany.

I think that the French market is better for this kind of music in general. Beside that we have a 3 year advantage in France. Olivier Garnier and his company NTS kinda discovered us 3 years earlier then everyone else and he had the right strategy to push a band like we are. He showed the media that he beliefs in the band. With our German label Dream Circle it was different. We kinda made it to the same level here in Germany and now we have the support from the media. In comparison with France we are not as successful in Germany as we are there. In France we have up to 1,200 fans attending and in Germany we now have up to 600 or 700 people. The discrepancy is not as big anymore than in the beginning. For me the success it that the magazines now accept us and don't see as anymore as Dream Theater clones. When they became big with Images & Words a lot of bands tried to jump on the band-wagon, also German bands. We did this kind of music for quite a while at that time and we tried to progress our music. Soon we been categorize and throw in the same folder. That was something we didn't wanted, but now the people except us, respect us and partly they like us more than nowadays Dream Theater. The problem is that if you got lumped together with a band which is around for a longer time, you'll always be no. 2! And if it's an American band, you don't have an advantage been a local act like a local team would have in sports.

But through the internet there are many fans outside Europe, even in the States where the current album isn't release and you haven't toured...

That's kinda miracle...

... And even if there is no media support in the States or even in South America for bands like Vanden Plas.

About the States I can say that we got pretty good reactions there. The former manager of Dream Theater got us on the US market and he didn't make any mistakes yet. He had enough time to kinda discover the band and to see how we are live and that's a basic to start discovering the US market. He knows that he can promote the band without having doubts about the bands ability. We are a live band and we are around for quite a while...

In my opinion it's healthier for a band to start playing live and build up little by little.... Are there any plans to release the back catalogue in the States as well?

It depends on the sales of the album. At the moment we just have an interim statement about the sales and the figures are better then expected! I think that they'll be released somewhere in future. When our live album will be released in September, they people will listen to songs from our previous releases. I think than there will be a demand and then they'll re-release the albums there.

A question which got asked again and again is, why doesn't Vanden Plas play in the States or South America. And I read a few posts where people said that they plan to go to Europe on holidays to see Vanden Plas....

Come on over! Yesterday and the day before a young lady from Japan came to see the shows in Frankfurt, someone told me. First I thought that's a joke someone plays on me, but then I met her. Soon I found out that we been in touch by mail in the past, but I didn't knew that she'll come to that shows. She told me that she came to Frankfurt last year to see us, but the show was cancelt. She isn't or wasn't on a round-trip in Germany, she came just to see Vanden Plas! And so we decided to take her with us for today's and tomorrow's show and bring her back to Frankfurt on our way back home. We also had people from Sydney and Stockholm which is amazing for us. It just make sense to tour in a country far away, if you sold more than 10,000 copies of the current album there. The fact is that it doesn't make sense for the distributor, if less copies been sold. At the moment it seems that we'll reach that figures in the States.... We sold very well in Japan in the past and we hoped to get there, but before the release of the latest album we've been kicked. The label got the order to kick every band which sales less then 20,000 copies and we been one of these bands. With our album The God Thing we build up a lobby for us, we sold about 10,000 copies and with Far Off Grace we probably would have sold about 20,000 copies. In that case it would have make sense to tour there.

I see.

But even that we been kicked the album been reviewed in Burn!!! (biggest Japanese genre magazine - the editor) and got 88 from 100 points, got into the import charts... Btw, at that issue we got the highest rating! And I think they'll release the album soon there, too.

I think they have to, coz they see that the album sales very well as an import. And the reason why the Japanese versions have bonus tracks, is to make it more interesting for the fans to buy the Japanese release instead of the import. Even if the import releases are almost less expensive... I was a little surprised about the cover version you released on the single. You recorded a track from Sting who is not a usual pick to cover for a metal band! How you came up with that track? It's not an artist you think of first when you think about cover versions...

I think it's obvious, if you know us for a longer time, coz I'm a huge fan of Sting and....

But that doesn't explain it at all, coz I think it depends if it's possible to transpose it.

Okay, that's right. But our background is much wider, e.g. we did play musicals! From our abilities there is no doubt about doing it, but...

That's nothing I said....

Right, in general it was a question for us, if it fits. We always been open-minded and right after Colour Temple ... (then we got a little disturbed...) ....After the release of the first album most bands would have stick to that sound, but we always try not to limit ourselves. I think in the beginning it maybe didn't helped us and fans probably been kinda scared... I belief in the progress and continuity of a larger variety which in the end is more interesting for different people and also for the band.

I think it's healthier for a band to grow instead of releasing a debut and make it. In a case like Hammerfall's there is a huge pressure on the band to make expectations and realty fit together, for them it worked, but other bands failed...

Absolutely, it's better to grow as a band.

Anyway, I wondered about that pick, even if I have to confess that I like Sting. What I would like to know is, how been the reactions about the French version of How Many Tears outside France?

The idea was that there are fans who wants to own everything and for the rest of Europe where this version wasn't released, we wanted to give the fans a chance to hear it. I don't expect or want fans to go to France to buy a whole album to get that version. They would pay about 40,- DM for the album, just to get that track which won't be fair! But we know that many fans would like to have that version and so we decided to put it onto the single. It's not to show Germany that I can sing in French. That would be ridiculous.

Personally I prefer the French version!

I agree and I like singing in French a lot. It'll be on the coming live album...

I think it's obvious that you like to sing French...

I wouldn't just sing in French to ingratiate with the French fans, no way! For me it's fun and if it fits into the concept, why not? My intention was... I always been very bad in French while I was at school and my teacher, Mr. Schneider, shall recognize that he was wrong!

That kinda reminds me of myself....

That was the intention in the beginning....

I think that's very interesting to hear songs in not so common languages. Like Angra who recorded a song in Portuguese which been released at a limited edition....

But in that case....

I know it's there mother tongue, but it's interesting to listen to that stuff, coz they never had Portuguese songs in the past. Beside that we are used to listen to Eng­lish words and partly to German vocals and a different language is interesting to listen to.

In my opinion it's important to have fun and not to think about the commercial success. If you like to do it, just do it! And if you are honestly do what you like to do, the people will understand and appreciate it. At the live album we did something special, during the slow piano part at Far Off Grace we worked in a Jaques Brel song Ne Me Qui Te Pas. The interesting thing is that the Brel song is lyrically about the same theme as Far Off Grace... More or less. The song is also about losing and being abandoned, in that case it's about a woman, but he say just once something which tells that it's about a woman. So I rewrite that, coz it make no big difference, if you say in French king or queen. I rewrite it in the way that it fits to the story of the old man who lost his son and is now in search of something. I think it fits almost perfect into the mood and the story, so I'm proud to have it on the album, especially because it's live! It's really cool!

I think it's also interesting, coz most metal fans won't know Jaques Brel and that makes it even more interesting in my eyes to work it into your own song.

I'm curious to see how the people react and what they think about it! That album will definitely be released all over Europe! For me it's also kinda incentive to try new things... People translated How Many Tears into Italian, but word-by-word, so I can't use it. I could imagine doing something in Italian. it's a beautiful language. I don't speak Italian, but I can sing it, if someone tells me how to pronounce, etc. It would be fun to do, but it doesn't work with that translation.

I probably can help with that. I can ask some friends from Milano to do the translation and the good thing is that they are singers, too. So they know how to write lyrics. They did an Italian song at their latest release.

Which band?

Lacuna Coil. I'll ask them, but I think that they would like to do it.

That would be cool!

I think the fans appreciate it when a band sings in their language...

If it's fun for me, I would do it, but not to catch the attention of the fans!

I think that's what it's about, doing whatever because it's fun and not because it maybe successful! Back to the live album... Can we expect other special things?

I think you already know about, that's why you're asking.

No, I just have the idea that there is more then the Jaques Brel thing...

I think it's a surprise, I mean for me it was a big surprise. At the Far Off Grace we had a cover version of Kiss Of Death which we play live and in Paris we got joined by Don Dokken! He likes our version and he wanted to join us on stage and sing the song together with me! That will be on the album and it's pretty cool! We are proud to be on stage with a kind of dinosaur of rock. He's a great guy, we talked for quite a while and got along very well. We first met at a photo session and later he listened to our album and so it happened... He's really interested in the band and it was a lot of fun for him, too. He's someone to learn from.

That's for sure! He's around for more than a decade and he had his ups and downs. I saw him back in 80's and he still is amazing!

His performance and the idea behind the whole thing is what impresses me. If he enters a room, it's a special moment. He has a great aura.

Yes, he is very charismatic! And that's something you have or not, nothing you can learn!

Right, but it's something you shall aspire to, coz many people have it. Often this people don't allowed themselves to let it happen, but that's something you can learn.

If you already have it, then you can learn to accept it. But people tend to keep it inside which is due to the compulsion we feel from our surrounding, from the masses.

I try to break free from that. At the moment a lot of things happen due to the release of the single, especially with the radio stations....

And that was the point of the final interruption, the club was closing and we had to leave without getting answered the last question... But we agreed to go on with that conversation the next time we meet. As far as we got I think it was pretty interesting and I'm looking forward to continue this chat somewhere in future...

Claudia Ehrhardt


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