SPI-RITUAL – Humans make mistakes
Spi-Ritual er et prosjekt ledet av tyske Stefan Hertrich. I høst ble den første skiva Pulse sluppet. Den byr på gothic metal og noe som tidvis grenser til Rammsteinaktige riff blandet med world music. Her er aggressive gitarer, både aggressiv og ren mannsvokal, urbefolkningsvokal, fløyter, spaca synther og mye mer blandet sammen. Og rarest av alt – det fungerer!
Jeg tok kontakt med Stefan via e-mail for å høre mer om bakgrunnen for prosjektet, og det resulterte i et e-mail intervju som du kan lese under
What was it that first got you interested in other cultures, and what gave you the idea of doing the projects SpiRitual and Shiva in Exile? Were these projects something you had in mind for several years, or did it come to life quite spontaneously?
"There was an ethnic metal project even before SpiRitual. In 1999 I went to the studio to record some songs just for fun. If I remember correctly, it was Gothenburg metal style (In Flames, Dark Tranquillity etc.). Occasionally my friend Christian (and owner of the studio) pressed a CD player button while a demo song was playing, and so we had my metal song + some flutes from the CD he had in the CD player. It sounded excellent, and this was the day where we knew "wow, metal + ethno sounds damn good!".
He joined my project and we wrote the Betray My Secrets album, that was released by a small German label named Serenades Records in 1999. Unfortunately this label went bankrupt short after the album release, so Betray My Secrets didn't get the attention it deserved (in my opinion). Some years passed, and neither Christian nor me had time to continue Betray My Secrets (he worked on his Megaherz albums, and I worked on Darkseed CDs). However, I more and more got interested in spiritual/esoteric topics, so I decided to express this interest by doing a gothic / new age album in 2004 under the name Shiva In Exile. It was just a fun project with maybe 1500$ budget, but it finally won the Just Plain Folks Music Award in the category "best new age / world album 2004". So I knew I should go on with this mix of "European music + ethnic / new age stuff". In 2005 it was time again to write an ethnic metal album (before that I was writing Darkseed "Ultimate Darkness"), but Christian didn't have time for another Betray My Secrets album, so I decided to do it as solo project but with new name: SpiRitual."
You write on your website that SpiRitual and Shiva in Exil are "neither political nor religious projects". I understand this, especially if the words political and religious are to be understood in very general terms. Still I feel that simply the concept of these projects in a sense represent a political statement. When the world (in my view) is so fundamentally run on conflict and fragmentation, projects like these become catalysts for change. It represents synthesis, unity and the fact that as a human race we have a common ancestry. Please comment!
"Hm, interesting question! You say, it represents synthesis and unity, and you are right. But I wouldn't define this message as politics or religion. Synthesis and unity is more a moral point of view, a general statement of how we should act to other humans – it also can be a spiritual understanding, by feeling and "knowing" "God is everything, so we should love everything and everybody". This point of view must be developed and be felt by every individual person and cannot be "teached". You could say, my album's lyrics are about "personality improvement" and "self awareness". It's something every individual person must do; it cannot be done in an organized "group". So it's not religion. Politics also is a "group thing", where humans define GLOBAL rules in order to live and act. So it's also a group activity, and does not related to the inner self of one single person. I think SpiRitual is a good way to discover yourself and getting strength by listening to music."
Personally I do not like religion, because I feel that it is a tool being used by some people to exercise power. However – religions may have some truths in them which have been very much distorted by the whole organization of religion. Spirituality is for me a much more positive term. One of your projects is called SpiRitual, and even if it is not connected with religion, the name implies that it has to do with spirituality. I feel that there is a spiritual quality about both the music and the lyrics. What is your relation to spirituality, and do you agree with my analysis?
"I agree with you, religion often is used to exercise power, that's why I also don't like religions. However, many people make a mistake: they say "religion sucks, I don't believe in God", but don't understand that God and religion is NOT the same. God is "God" (what or whoever he/she is), and religion is a human-made interpretation of God – and humans make mistakes: that's why we are humans!
Unfortunately, it's a very old interpretation (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism), based on many traditions that make absolutely no sense, if you see them with the eyes of the 21st century. However, the Bible and the Koran contain VERY much truth. You just must be able to throw away the symbols/traditions and understand the CORE MESSAGE (which can be done best if you "reduce" this religion to the clear and pure message of Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha → they all represent the same message, and it doesn't differ 1% from the esoteric / new age book content of our days). Those three persons experienced and taught religion as a "self experience activity". You can find "self experience" in all religions. That's the real meaning of "mystic". It's the self-experience of God, the universe, ultimate wisdom etc. You can find such people in Christianity, in Islam, in Buddhism, in esoteric movements etc.
Two weeks ago I was going to a Christian church here in my village, and one week later I was in a mosque in Turkey. I felt the same feelings in both buildings. No difference at all! Both religions bore me with their symbols and traditions, but they also "move something" in my heart. The process of discovering God etc. by yourself, combined with some psychology and life improvement philosophies is what I would define as "the way I live spirituality/esotericism". My lyrics are not much about "discovering God", but much about "how to improve your life by seeing the world with different eyes". If you read books like "Conversations with God "by Neale Donald Walsch or "The Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman, you will find points of views that I share with them in my SpiRitual lyrics."
I find it interesting that SpiRitual offers such a great deal of synthesis. Even though Heavy guitars, drums and angry vocals in this vein are a quite new phenomena I feel they hold a primal quality – it is something shamanistic about it, something ancient. The flutes and percussion certainly contribute to this ancient feeling, but the more "electronical elements" also fit well in. I do not see a contradiction here, with all these elements. All the elements contribute to the whole. The album could be seen as a model of synthesis which can be applied to many areas in life, even the world situation. Are all these barriers we have created really that natural? Does it have to be a conflict between east and west, between nature and technology, between heart and mind?
"Yes, to create this synthesis between the metal and the ethnic/spiritual elements was the biggest challenge during song writing. It was mainly possible because of two metal aspects: first, the drums play very "stomping" beats, these're not "complicated", but very groovy (which is much more difficult than playing complicated beats with 1000 changes) – same with the guitar riffs. Those're not complicated, but sound more "tribal" and "natural" (maybe "Roots" of Sepultura inspired me for this!). Another aspect is the guitar tuning. The guitars are tuned very deep. Many metal bands do that, but I tuned them even deeper (close to normal bass guitar tuning). I noticed that the guitar sound of these low tuned guitars goes directly into the stomach, into the solar plexus of a human. The solar plexus is an area that is responsible for both sensitivity (emotions) AND strength as well. So you get both, an emotional connection to the songs, AND energy!
You asked a good question: "Are all these barriers we have created really that natural?". I think barriers are always a matter of individual perception. Some people hate the Arab world, while others love it. My girlfriend for instance is Muslim, and we have absolutely no cultural differences, because we both share the same spiritual point of view, and we both listen to our intuition instead of defining values having to do with east, west, heart, mind, nature, technology etc. We simply live and try to discover positive aspects in our surroundings as much as we can. Technology can be a curse, but also connects people so much and enables us time we can spend for reading books instead of having to hunt for food 24 hours per day. Not the technology itself is a curse or a blessing, but the human living with it makes it a curse or blessing. If you live in central Europe and profit from technology only by spending your free time in front of the TV, then it's a curse. But if you use the possibilities we have here: buying books, reading interesting things in internet, talking to people from all over the world and try to understand their culture etc., then it's a blessing! Imagine being a rich person. You can either buy expensive cars and waste petrol all the day, or you can install a sun energy system on your house roof."
The album is quite aggressive in many respects. Can a "positive aggression" be a foundation for love? Is not spirituality very much about transforming emotions into something constructive? I believe that metal has a great potential in this respect. Metal can be very cathartic and it can help to transform emotions. I feel that anger has a lot of energy to it, and it can be used. Maybe the anger often arises because ones energy is not used constructively in the first place? What is your view on these topics?
"Here I must again refer to the afore mentioned question (barriers natural or not): I think we too often measure things as "black" or "white", instead of simply accepting both and profiting from both in a constructive way. Anger simply happens, it cannot be avoided. The anger itself isn't the problem, but what a human makes with it, can be a problem. If you swallow your anger all the time, you most likely will get stomach problems, or even stomach cancer. If your surroundings make you aggressive, or you think all the time "damn why do I have to see this assholes all the time, they make me sick" you most likely will get weak eyes and need glasses or your ears will get worse (not wanting to see/hear things is bad for our eyes/ears – very interesting topic by the way). So we must think: what to do with my anger, what to do with aggression. And here you are right again: metal can transform aggression, so it indeed can be helpful.
On the other hand, it won't solve the problem. If anger or aggression appears, we must try to find a way to avoid both of them. Music is a great way to escape (for some time), but doesn't avoid this anger. Sometimes it's simply necessary to change life (for example changing your friends, if they have a negative impact on you etc.). It's a heavy step, but it's sometimes necessary. Too much anger and aggression are like a sign, a friendly helper who wants to show you "something goes wrong in your life, you should change some things".
So I partly agree, metal can transform emotions to some extent, but we shouldn't glorify music as saviour in this concern. Music in my opinion never is a saviour; it's something that makes you feel understood. But a depressive person won't find REAL peace by listening to gothic. This person feels attracted to gothic, because it represents the same emotion the person has deep inside, but it won't make life better in the long run. A problem that comes with it: if you feel "gothic" and listen to "gothic", you will meet only people who feel the same. I personally never found cure in any music scene. I find cure when talking to people who can teach me something, or by reading books. But music itself never cured me in any way, because it doesn't motivate me to work on myself. It maybe makes me forget things, or makes me feel understood, but it doesn't kick my ass and says "change this and that, you fool!"."
You compose music for pc games. This is something quite different from your two Ethno-metal projects, which are more related to nature (at least that is the way I perceive it). Do you feel a contradiction about this, or do you feel it to go well together?
"I stopped composing PC games music because I want to reduce my music activities to free time fun only. I am currently working as PC game translator and tester, or do sound effects, but composing music shall be 100% passion in the future, and not business anymore (smiley)"
This interview is a co-operation between Imhotep and Eternal Terror and is published on the same day on the English site www.imhotep.no.