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Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery)

Interview with Gary Wehrkamp from Shadow Gallery
by Michael Dalakos at 23 June 2005, 8:43 PM

I had the honor of being the first person in the world to have reviewed the latest masterpiece of Shadow Gallery, Room V. My thoughts on this album are well expressed in the review, so no point in mentioning them again. Soon after that I also had the chance to do an interview with Gary Wehrkamp (Guitar). Gary was more than happy to answer all the corporate questions I had for him.

Hey Gary it’s good to finally be talking to you.

Michael hi, how are you? How are things over there?

I’m fine but the weather is terrible as we speak. It seems that we have a huge storm over our heads…

Really? Cool! \[Laughs] And I thought the weather over there should be awesome by now. Michael, are you the same guy who’s responsible for the first review?

Yeap, what’s your opinion about it?

I think we should put you on a payroll. \[Laughs] I was looking at the interview schedule today and when I saw Michael / Greece I said Oh I hope it’s the same guys. It was great man, you know, no mater how much confident you are for your album you always expect with great anticipation the first couple of reviews. Thankfully those were great. Once again thanks! We want you around all the time.

So, Gary, first of all tell us about your decision to continue the concept that started in Tyranny…

When we finished Tyranny the storyline was not completely finished, there where a lot of things untold. We have followed these two characters for the course of a year and they never meet each other. They decided to do that on Christmas Day in a secret location and that’s where the album ends… we never found out what happened.

So we knew that the story had to be continued but the timing was not right to do it after the release of Tyranny with a second concept album. We didn’t want to become too predictable and give the story right away…

 I’ve heard that originally you were thinking of finishing the story by adding three or four songs and not an entire album…

Yeah, it’s correct. It was Carl \[Cadden-James] who had the idea to finish things up right after the Tyranny story. This song was included also in the Carved In Stone album and contains guidelines for the entire story… so the idea was to write down a small chapter to finish the story, close the gap.

So it started up as three songs. One of them was Death Of A Mother. From there we wanted to add two more songs and have a small trilogy in the album to finish the story. But when Carl started writing the music we all added stuff and he put them in order, this gave him an emotional thought… the music dictated him how to continue the story. That’s how it became a full concept album.

The concept of Tyranny is considered by many people as one of the best concept albums in Metal music. How difficult, or should I say how dangerous was it for your to continue this concept?

I don’t think it was that difficult, I think it has more to do with the timing. If we had approached it like two years earlier it might have been more challenging but we were ready this time for it. Especially the fact that Carl had the entire storyline in his mind was a huge thing for us. Once you have that it’s not that hard.

The album sounds darker - in my opinion - than all your previous works, it also sounds heavier and even more modern at times. Do you agree on this and tell us if you always like to incorporate new elements in your music…

Well, we always like to incorporate new ideas to our music. I don’t find it interesting to play the same thing over and over again. We don’t really look to sound modern. For example the song The Andromeda Strain… there was not really any intention to make it modern or something. I think it happened during Brendt’s \[Allman] arranging of the song. It started from a riff that I had for the beginning of the song, but the way I wrote this it was just an idea like many other riffs.

He heard it and said Hey let’s make a song from this riff. I think that because it is a little more simplistic than most of our guitar lines gave it that modern breath. Also there was some heavy reconstruction in the mixing where I cut off all the reverbs in between the songs. I erased everything behind the riff… yeah, I guess that also gave it a more modern approach.

I want us to stick a bit to this song. There is a book and a movie called The Andromeda Strain (written by Michael Crichton). Now, I didn’t fully understand the lyrics since I don’t have a booklet, most of it came from what I understood from Mike’s singing…

This has to be quite a challenge! \[Laughs]

Yeah, but at least Mike is not a brutal vocalist. Anyway, are you aware of this book? It has a similar story…

I don’t know about the movie but I do know about the novel.

Are there any influences from there?

There are many influences for those two concept albums. A lot of research has been done you know…

Room V contains many instrumental parts. More than all your previous releases. Why is that?

I think this has to do with the fact that we wanted to have a specific number of songs progressing the story. I don’t think there are more instrumental songs? You know most of our albums contain lengthy songs with big instrumental parts in them? Now we simply separated the instrumental songs from the actual songs. I think that Tyranny was the album with the less instrumental parts. But Carved In Stone and Legacy contain around the same length of instrumental parts. First Light contains a twenty minute instrumental part for example…

We also used those instrumental songs to progress the story in a more open way. We wanted to portrait how the story goes. Birth Of A Daughter / Death Of A Mother was originally one song, but we separate it. Also those instrumental songs are of short duration.

Many of your fans claim that there are hints and outtakes of this concept in both Carved In Stone and Legacy. I’ll mention as an example the song Alaska from Carved In Stone. Any comments?

Well… I can say this: the story of Alaska is about a grieving father out on the coast of Alaska, remembering or looking for his lost daughter who is supposedly dead. In Room V the daughter’s name is Alaska. So I leave it up to you to decide…

Can you give us some explanation concerning the front cover art of Room V? There are some similarities with the cover of Tyranny…

Yes, there are. There are many symbolic stuff on the front cover of Room V. From the wings and the staff… the staff was the sword in the Tyranny front cover. You have two snakes in the front cover and first of all it indicates that this is part two… the two snake form the medical symbol. There is a D.N.A. form in the end…

How close to reality is a story like this one?

It is based on reality. We have done a lot of research, obviously the characters are made up but all the details in the concept are based on real world events.

Is the way you worked on these two concept albums somehow different from the way you worked on the other albums?

Tyranny was a little bit more challenging as a compositional sense. There was a lot of back and forth as we expanded the story. With Room V the music came first and the lyrics came after, it was a lot easier. We wrote the music freely and Carl let the emotion of the music dictate the lyrics of the story.

Most bands have one key composer or maybe two. How difficult is it for you to collaborate without trying to kill each other?

Quite easy I can say. We are peaceful people. \[Laughs] It has been difficult at first you know. Back ten years it was indeed difficult. For the lyrics it was always Carl and Mike doing the job, I guess it is a bit difficult to have two persons writing a concept, so it was Carl’s turn to handle things. Musically it was difficult for me because when I joined the band they already had so many musical composers. But we managed to make it work, it took a lot of time but it was worthy.

Is this the reason you release an album every four – five years when most bands release albums every year?

The delay is for a lot of reasons. Ultimately it takes us a long time to coordinate our schedules. We all do have other jobs, we don’t actually book a studio for two months and record an album. We also like to handle things the best way possible? We look every album we make like it is the best album we will make in our life.

If you had the ability to change one thing in the music industry what would that be?

I think it would be much fair if mainstream music was not based so much on financial support. I mean people spend fortunes for airplay and TV play… who gets on the air… is not an accident that you get the same 100 songs played over and over again. It’s not because they are good songs… the music business is such a business that 95% is business and only 5% has to do with the music, sadly.

I preferred a 50/50, let the fans decide what’s good or not, never force them what to listen or buy.

One unfulfilled dream you have for Shadow Gallery?

I like to have acapela themes, with voice only. I really wanted to do that in this last album but never found the chance. I also like to work with a full orchestra. We have worked with individual violin players but never with a full orchestra. I think that would be great.

Gary, I want to thank you for your time. Please close this interview with a message to all our readers…

Michael, once again thanks for the great review. I want to thank all the people who supported over the years. I hope they will like the new album. Nothing more to day, I hope to meet you all some day somewhere. Until then, keep listening to good music.


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