Divinity Compromised - Lothar Keller

Divinity Compromised - Lothar Keller

Lothar Keller has been really busy these days with DIVINITY COMPROMISED, THE SKULL and also with SPILLAGE working on new music as a singer, a guitarist and a sound engineer, respectively. To get a good scoop of his activities METAL KAOZ got on the phone with him and fired away a string of questions and got the following answers. Check them out.

Divinity Compromised - Lothar Keller

Hi Lothar, first of all happy birthday for yesterday.
Hey man, thank you very much!

So, are you getting older or wiser?
I am definitely getting older but I do hope that I am also getting wiser. I think I am. (laughs)

The DIVINITY COMPROMISED album has been out for almost a year; what’s the feedback you had for this?
For the most part it has been on the upside. There were a couple here and there that did not seem to get it but most of the reviews were positive.

Do you think the response had anything to do with the fact that it had been four years since the release of the DIVINITY COMPROMISED debut? After all, musicians change, right?
Yes, of course; there was definitely that span of time and it was partly due to problems and personal issues some members were dealing with for a couple of years. At least we took that time to work on the new record and we ended up writing 15 to 20 different tunes. Basically, it was getting down to picking what to use and I think we spent a year and a half recording the album.

Do you have any material from those sessions that you did not use and plan to do so for the next album?
Oh yeah, and in fact we are three or maybe four songs into our next album. Our anticipation is to get another record out in the next year or year and an half. We are also planning to press vinyl this time.

Awesome, are there any plans to do vinyl for “Terminal” too?
We may consider doing this for the first two albums if there is a demand for them. The time duration of those too is longer so we have to decide if it is worth doing it. Because 44 minutes is the average time duration for most albums and if you go over it you can either do a double album or decrease the quality and I do not want the quality to suffer.

Absolutely, and what about the record label; with whom will you be working with for this release? Will it be No Dust Records?
We are kind of taking this on an album-by-album basis; we may consider No Dust Records but we may shop around in search for a larger label and distribution.

Nowadays and with this state of the market doing album by album deals has become the new norm.
Indeed, it is a tougher market and if you consider the digital market then in some cases it makes sense for a band to do this by themselves but then, it is hard to get the support. You know, you have to get the albums in the market to give the band more exposure. Touring is good for the band to do but it is tough to get into some of these tours and festivals unless there is some traffic going on.

Yeah, and touring in the US is tougher when compared to Europe where the distances are shorter.

Anyhow, let’s talk about “Terminal”; is it a concept album?
We never know when we’re going to write a new record but it does seem like, as this also happened with our debut record, that a lot of songs come together with the same type of themes. Some of these are personal to each band member because I do not write all the lyrics; a lot of those were done by Andy [Bunk] and even Jeff [Treadwell] did some stuff so it kind of seems to be that the album is a concept.

It is uncommon to hear that the singer is not writing all the lyrics.
Sometimes you get some different input. For example, when Andy writes a song and he has a melody in mind and some lyrics I work on those; it is never the same thing.

Oh yeah, my non-musician’s mind thinks that a singer has to feel the lyrics to perform them.
Yes, I do agree with that and luckily, most of the lyrics are easy to get something out of. After all, most of the personal things that happen to a person happen to everyone.

For the mixing of the album you worked with Jens Bogren? Was there a specific reason for this? After all, the band did the rest, right?
Yes we did everything. The reason for this had to do with the way Ben did all the orchestrations. He is a little bit particular on how those should be handled in the mastering and he knew that Jens had a very good reputation in that area dealing with dark Symphonic Metal. So, he checked what his availability was and we were lucky what he was available. I think he did a fantastic job.

You had Kayla Dixon from WITCH MOUNTAIN doing some guest vocals in the album opener so how did this happen?
WITCH MOUNTAIN, SAINT VITUS and THE SKULL were on tour together and during the time we were doing the tracking and recording, one of the things that was brought up was having a female singer for the answer-backs and for some section of “Terminal”. We were racking our brains out to find who to get and while being on tour I was watching Kayla perform with WITCH MOUNTAIN each night so I realized that she would be able to do what we needed. I asked her and she accepted right away. Rob Wrong helped her to record the parts and sent them over to us.

Thinking that you are involved in THE SKULL and in DIVINITY COMPROMISED how do you split your time between those two?
Well, both of those bands are in Metal but in two completely different genres. I grew up liking bands like DREAM THEATER, FATES WARNING but at the same time I grew up being a TROUBLE fan. So, for me it was like having the opportunity to play with these guys and it has been pretty cool. One more difference between the two bands is that I get to play the guitar in THE SKULL and sing with DIVINITY COMPROMISED whereas with SACRED DAWN I did both. So, being in these bands I can be concentrated especially on a live performance to do one of those things a little bit better without splitting my dedication. I like singing and playing the guitar at the same time but with Prog Metal it is tough to sing while worrying about how many notes you have to play while holding a note; it is not easy if you know what I mean. Even when Vito [Marchese] step out of DIVINITY COMPROMISED after the first record the opportunity could have been there for me to play the guitar but I thought it would be the best to bring someone else in and then, Ben [Johnson] stepped up.

Got it. Did you use a past tense when you mentioned SACRED DAWN?
Well, SACRED DAWN has been in a kind of hiatus. We did a reunion show a couple of years ago and in fact in August we will have another kind of reunion show with DIVINITY COMPROMISED included.

You can bring THE SKULL along so you can pull out a triple duty, right?
Oh my, if I had a triple billing on the same night it would have been crazy. I think two is enough for one night.

Maybe there is a Guinness record about this…
There might be one, but I am sure Mick Portnoy might have this (laughs)...

I am sure he does. So, with DIVINITY COMPROMISED you have this show on August and then, the show with GLORYHAMMER in September. Anything else?
We are looking at some tour dates with another band from the East Coast for a late Fall tour but we are working on the dates and the particulars. We will definitely be adding shows later this year.

Great, and do you have any update on the release of the new THE SKULL album?
From what I hear the release will happen in August or September but there is no exact date. The mastering is done and the record has been sent to the label. Tee Pee Records will make the announcement about the release date soon. It will get out a few weeks before we head to Europe.

Awesome! I saw a posting on Facebook that you did the mastering for the new SPILLAGE album.
I am working on this right now. I had the SPILLAGE singer Elvin Rodriguez this past weekend and Bruce Franklin was here too doing his producing job and I was just playing the engineer (laughs). I am loving it, it is going well and after returning from THE SKULL tour we will finish the overdubs and start the mixing. That album may be coming out roughly around the time of the release of THE SKULL album; we’ll see. Maybe a little bit later.

Great news! If it’s ok with you I will go off script here and ask you this; is there any chance to see Bruce Franklin joining THE SKULL onstage?
You never know, I would be actually cool with it. And I don’t think either Eric [Wagner] or Ron [Holzner] would have a problem. You knows, actually this would be really cool!

Indeed it would be awesome! Thank you Lothar for your time and please feel free to add anything you’d like.
We have a couple of record coming out from THE SKULL and SPILLAGE and DIVINITY COMPROMISED are working on the third - soon to be titled - LP, there are some shows on the way so stay in touch.

Hi Gus, thanks for doing the interview via the phone.

No problem Dimitris after all health comes first, so take care of yourself.


Thanks, but let’s get into business right away; so my first question is about the recent tour in Canada. The weather was pretty harsh, right?

Indeed it was! We were in the middle of a snowstorm but we did make it to the venues in Montreal and Toronto, and the shows were great. There were a lot of people in both shows.


That’s awesome. Let me ask you the obvious question; is Apollo out of the band or this is something temporary?

No, this time Apollo is out of the band for good.


Was this a joint decision or did he just say “I quit”?

This was entirely his decision. But we had problems with Apollo in previous tours when he had to step out, so now we realized that he can no more follow the band’s schedule. He has some issues back home with family and his job, so a heavy touring schedule was out of the question. I think he will continue with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS and do some occasional shows and that’s all.


So, being in a band as a full time member is not an easy task, right?

No, it is not. Things are not as good as most people think. This requires many personal sacrifices and of course a lot of time away from home. Anyway, I think this was the best decision for Apollo.


And was this the best decision for FIREWIND too?

I think this was the best for FIREWIND too, since having someone who is not able to follow the band by falling behind is not something one can work with. So, we need to find someone who is able to keep up with the band’s schedule and this is way better than just having Apollo for some shows. This is also not good for the fans.


Did you have enough time to find a replacement singer or did this happen in a short notice?

This time we had plenty of time since we knew about Apollo’s decision since November. So, we listened to some singers and we decided Kelly Carpenter was the best choice for FIREWIND, at least for the time being. And up till now, Kelly has done a great job.


I know Kelly from his days in BEYOND TWILIGHT where he did an amazing job. I think his singing style fits FIREWIND like hand in glove. Is it in your mind to keep him as permanent singer?

Sure, we have thought about that, but honestly we have not discussed this with him. After all, this is just the first week of the tour, so it needs time to get to know each other. He is getting better with each show and the band looks tighter every night. But to tell you the truth we are not in hurry to make a decision. We want to be 100% sure when choosing the next singer for FIREWIND and that he will be fully dedicated to the band.


There seems to be an issue between FIREWIND and singer…

(laughs) Yeah, we have changed enough singers during the band’s history but amazingly FIREWIND is still on a rising course. I think this is due to the fact the fans love the music first, even though they can eventually get connected with the singer.


Well, the truth is that Apollo had been with the band the most time from the rest of the FIREWIND singers.

You are absolutely right. After all, Apollo had been the singer in FIREWIND for seven years and we did with him four out of seven albums. We had a solid lineup for many years and this is why we won’t rush to make a decision about the next singer.


Of course, and you have a live album coming out soon, right?

Yes and it is on the mixing stage…

How many songs shall we expect in this one?

We haven’t decided yet. We have many recordings on our disposal and we have to choose the best ones because there are some issues to some of them.


Does this mean that you will be re-recording parts that were not that good?

No, because we have a lot of material and we will just leave outside whatever is not good enough. We did not record only the Greek shows but we recorded almost all the shows in the previous European tour with LEAVES’ EYES so we have a lot material to choose from.


That sounds like a lot of work.

Yeah, it is a lot of listening. After the shows in December I got in the studio and started listening to all the tapes and picked the best songs to use. A week ago I listened to the final mix and I liked it a lot except from some songs, so we have to put some additional work on this.


Do you have a release date in mind for the live album or even a title?

The plan is to release this sometime during this summer and there are some ideas regarding the title but nothing solid to tell you. We are working on the final mix, the cover artwork while being on the US tour, so I think the entire project will be completed after this tour.


So, after the US tour there are some summer festival and then what?

There is nothing planned and there is a good possibility for FIREWIND to take a break for a while after summer. I am also working on my solo album that I am thinking of releasing it sometime during this autumn.


Will you release this via Century Media?

I have not decided yet but I am in the talks with Century Media for a possible collaboration, but I am open to possible propositions. I haven’t signed a contract yet.


Will this contain instrumental music?

It will be half with vocals and half instrumental.


So, do you have singer for this?

I have singers… (laughs) I have already recorded some songs with a couple of singers but I cannot tell you the names. I want to have everything confirmed before making announcements. What I can tell you is that there are some surprises here.


How many songs shall we expect in your solo album?

I have completed 11-12 songs but I most probably have to write some more because I am not sure if all of them will make it in the album.


And what about the music; how would you describe it?

It has nothing to do with FIREWIND and it is more Hard Rock oriented. To give you an idea I’d say that if FIREWIND is more DEEP PURPLE then this one will be more LED ZEPPELIN.


That sounds very interesting. You also performed in a Jason Becker benefit show and shared the stage with Uli Jon Roth and Steve Morse among others.

Yeah, this was a benefit show to support Jason Becker with his medical bills. This was a great experience and I had the chance to meet Jason and this family; amazing people. It was a moving experience and the show felt more like a family, despite the fact I did not know everyone.


How did the show go?

It was sold out and as I heard from Jason’s friend this was the one of the two benefit shows that they made money out of it and helped supporting his treatment. From all the shows that had done in the past they did not make a buck.


That’s awesome indeed. Now let me ask you about Ozzy; do you have any news from this camp?

There are plans and some ideas for the next Ozzy album but everything depends on the BLACK SABBATH schedule and on Iommi’s health condition. But I have no other input on this; it’s like taking things as they come.


Let’s go back to FIREWIND; I imagine that you are using a specific setlist since there was not enough time to rehearse many songs, right?

Well, in this tour we are playing 40 minutes sets and this is very good for us. It’s a long time since the last time we did 40 minutes sets apart from festivals. We have two songs from “Few Against Many” and a ‘best of’ from the previous albums. This tour gives us the opportunity to play in front of different crowds that have no idea about FIREWIND. And this is the reason why we chose this tour and make a crossover in different audiences.

Ok, Gus, these were my questions and I have once more to thank you for taking the time to do this.

No problem Dimitris and I’m sure we will meet again, because you always come to FIREWIND shows. So, get well!