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Arno Menses (Subsignal)

Interview with Arno Menses from Subsignal
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 08 June 2018, 7:19 AM

Originally intended as a side-project, SUBSIGNAL were founded back in 2007 by former SIEGES EVEN members Arno Menses (Vocals) and Markus Steffen (Guitars). To date, the band has released four studio albums, including a full-blown concept album at over 70 minutes in length. On May 25, 2018, they released their fifth, titled “La Muerta,” Editor-In-Chief Dave “That Metal Guy” Campbell was recently given the opportunity to review the album, calling it a "masterpiece," and chat with singer Arno Menses.

Welcome from Metal Temple! How did you all first meet and come together as the band that you are today?

Thank you for having us. Well Markus and I started working together in 2002/2003. Him being a founding member of Sieges Even and me joining them to record the “The Art Of Navigating By The Stars” album and everything that came after that. Ralf joined us 5 minutes after we announced that we were starting Subsignal in 2007. We knew Ralf from Dreamscape, as they supported us during the Paramount Tour. Markus Maichel has also been involved with the band for a long time, helping us out with several gigs. But right after the release of “The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime” he joined us as a fulltime-member. And Dirk came to our rescue as we were recording the aforementioned album. We had a drummer for that album, but that did not work at all. So our then Producer Charly Czaikowsky suggested Dirk to us, as he knew him from his work with Axxis…he never left after that.

Now that your new album “La Muerta” has been released, how has it been received in the music community? More importantly, how happy are you all with how it turned out?

Needless to say we are overwhelmed by the positive reactions from the press, our dedicated fan base and also new “fans”, it’s a thing you silently hope for, but you’re never sure about it. We, of course, are extremely happy and proud with the outcome. It was a long and sometimes painstaking process. You have a certain vision of what the album should sound like. And with the help of Jogi Lang and Kalle Wallner it turned out even better than we’d imagined.

For people unfamiliar with the band, how would you describe your music?

I’d say the keywords are, and always were, melodious and hooklines. I might even go as far and say that it is a mixture of melodic rock/AOR and progressive rock.

I was not familiar with your band until hearing this newest album. In what ways was did your approach differ from past albums? In what ways was it the same?

Well, as I said, it has always contained good melodies and hooklines. Those ingredients are of the utmost importance and have priority no matter what. Now some older albums might have sound a tad more melancholic or darker if you will. Even a bit more technical or challenging as far as rhythm patterns or certain passages go. La Muerta is definitely more “stripped down”, we really were aiming for “simpler” song structures, with which I think we succeeded. Or let’s just just say; We didn’t let the music get in the way of the song!

What are your proudest moments on “La Muerta?” What are some of your favorite songs off the new album?

That varies from time to time, speaking for myself. My favourites are “The Bells of Lyonesse”, “La Muerta”, “Every Able Hand” and I am extremely happy with “the Passage”. I wrote this song over 22 years ago (Markus rewrote the lyrics though) and now got to record it with top notch musicians. It now sounds like it envisioned it back then.

I obviously loved the album. I found the songwriting to be emotional, intelligent, and just so easy to enjoy. It was the title track that caught me first. What themes and lyrical content were you exploring on the album?

Well, thank you. The lyrics (all by Markus Steffen except Every Able Hand) are of a personal nature. Telling about hopes, dreams, fears and failure, to name a few. Sometimes they are weaved with old myths which deal with the same issues or resemble/mirror the emotions he wants to express. La Muerta, the song, though, is simply about “La Santísima Muerte” or “Our Lady of Holy Death”. She is a personification of death, associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife.

What I think I liked most on the album was just how honest and genuine the songs felt for me as a listener. It was for me pure substance; something really missing today in a lot of music. How did you approach the compositions on the album as a band?

Speaking for myself, I consider music a bundle of emotions displayed by a mixture of sounds and words. When I look back at the music, end seventies and beginning of the eighties, these are the sounds and words that shaped me and triggered certain emotions, be it happy or sad.  Those emotions that I had/have when I hear these tunes, I also want to incorporate in my music and hope that the listener will experience something similar as I have.

What are some of the bands that influenced you as musicians? Am I possibly right in hearing some TOTO influence in your music on this album?

Again speaking for myself, Toto (and everything connected with the “Westcoast/Yacht Rock” community plays a very important role in my musical upbringing. Very important also is Kansas, a band that unlike many other prog bands of back when, had a way with melodies that touched me. Then there is a whole variety of AOR bands that shaped my musical landscape (Survivor, Night Ranger, Balance etc.). Markus has a bit of a different background and is more of a Rush and Peter Gabriel admirer.  We just put all of those influences in a big box, shake it about and there’s the Subsignal sound.

Are there plans to tour on the new album? How have past tours been for you all? Any highlights you can talk about, and are there any funny road stories you can share with us? What is life on the road really like?

Yes of course we will tour in support of this album, Germany and Austria this year, other countries next year. We were on tour with SAGA some time ago, which was an obvious highlight. But also the Touchstones tour (2011) and the recent tour with Blind Ego was a tremendous success. Funny stories…let’s just say, without naming any names…you get into the venue and the staff is showing you around. There’s your dressing room, there’s the stage, here’s your shower and so on. You turn around and a member of the band you are touring with steps into your fresh shower and starts to take a leak because he’s too drunk to be bothered and look for “his” toilet. . Life on the road for us is fun. We all have “normal” jobs to sustain a living. So it’s like going on a short holiday with a bunch of friends…and you get to play for a crowd every night!

What do all of you do when not making music? Any fun or interesting hobbies?

We go to work and be with our families. Our main hobby is music or something connected to it, so that leaves little space for other hobbies.

People have some misconceptions about what it is like to be a musician and in the music industry in general. What have been some of the best things for you? How about some of the more bad things about it?

To me it’s all good. I am not financially dependent on my music. So that takes a lot of stress away from it, since I get to do what I want to do. But on the other hand that’s also what bothers me sometimes. You put a lot of time in recording, promoting and touring for an album…and you don’t make a dime. So the sword cuts on both edges. I don’t know the music industry that well. Of course we had our share with different Labels and some of them are not cool, some of them are. I must say, being signed to the Gentle Art of Music Label is a blessing, because it is being run by musicians and not by business people.

What changes have you seen in the industry from when you first started until now?

There’s less money available, because they are making less money. We have never been with a major label, so there is not that much pressure to sell big time. The closest we came to working with a big label was with Inside Out (Sieges Even days) and yes, there were a bunch of assholes working for that company. As I said, luckily we are with the Gentle Art family now, and ofcourse, all of us are trying to make a buck…but we all remain human during the process.

Do you have any musical regrets at all?

Maybe that I did not start singing at a younger age, and only got started when I got the gig with Sieges Even. I sometimes think about where I could have been now, had I started at a young age. Other than that, it is what it is, and I am fairly content with the way things turned out.

Where would you like to see SUBSIGNAL heading in the future?

I really don’t know. None of us are getting any younger. Of course I wanted to become a full-time musician and tour the world and all that comes with it. But there are tons of bands with that same dream and you have to separate yourself from that and that is hard. We are also in a category of music that has a select audience. But I think we are doing really well, considering the unfortunate situation the music industry is in right now. So I consider every little step forward as a bonus, but at the same time keep both my feet on the ground.



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