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Gravety's Gernot Gebhard: "I’m a huge fan of “The Wheel of Time” and always wanted to pay tribute to the series with a song (or two). That was one of the moments when I was kissed by a muse"

Interview with Gernot Gebhard & Kevin Portz from Gravety
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 27 March 2022, 10:06 PM

Even when trying to escape it, the Fantasy world, at times in secret, has a lot in common with reality, upon its compliments and hardships. There is a lot that can be learned from the variety of stories about people, these individuals that make the difference, doing something different, for the sake of others, or against the world. Being strong fans of the Fantasy world, stand the Heavy Metal band, Gravety, and their new album, "Bow Down". Don't think that they are bowing down to anyone, but rather stand strong. Steinmetal had a good talk with guitarist, Gernot Gebhard and vocalist, Kevin Portz, about coming back after being in the freezer, and the new album

Hello guys, it is great to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online magazine. How have you been doing?

Gernot: In fact, even though of all that shit going on right now, I’ve been doing fine.

I believe that to refer to the times we have been having for two years now as trying is probably an understatement. How can you preserve your sanity during this pandemic?

Gernot: Honestly, I cannot complain too much. Sure, I miss going to concerts a lot. Even though there have been a few “sit-in” shows this still does not feel the same. Yet, there is a lot of distraction with my family, my wife and my two small kids. With that strong foundation we’ll overcome this pandemic eventually.

One of the things that I have been noticing, other than bands breaking up or going into a coma, is actually the opposite, bands returning in full swing, with new material, ready for a chance to get back out there when it's possible again. After nearly 9 years also Gravety is back with a fresh set of songs. Going back to the era after the debut, what happened that made you go on hiatus?

Gernot: The answer is pretty simple: Kevin, our singer, moved too far away for having weekly rehearsals. We thus decided to freeze Gravety and wait until he returns. Furthermore, two of us started with family plans and hence everything was put on hold.

Coming back with a new album in such a time period where the culture suffers and the uncertainty levels are off the charts, that is interesting. What motivated you to first return to activity, and second to release new material when it might be difficult to support it live?

Gernot: Our friendship. Even though there was a huge physical distance between us after Kevin moved away, we managed to stay friends for all this time. When we put everything on hold, we’ve sworn to continue with Gravety once Kevin returns. Hence, we are back!

Not being able to play live wasn’t actually something that stopped us from releasing “Bow Down”. We simply felt that we’ve got the right material at the right time. Sadly, there is currently not much opportunity to play live. But I’m sure that will change eventually. It has to.

Signing with Metal On Metal Records, a label which has been serving the old school for years now, was a wise decision. How do you perceive this signing? As a band, what are you looking for in a relationship with a label? What are your expectations going forward?

Kevin: I'd say Jowita and Simone have their hearts filled with passion. They only support what they really like and trust their own instincts. As a band we are looking for the best possible support of our music and we hope to get further support in carrying on the steel.

You titled the new album "Bow Down", sinking your teeth harder into the fantasy worlds of vehement steel, swords and sorcery. With such a strong title under your belt, what can you tell us about the narrative of the record? What in the story, or stories, in your view, makes it tick?

Gernot: In fact, the title “Bow Down” simply says it by itself: These songs are our tribute to, our “bowing down” to some of those grand fantasy stories, (Nordic) mythologies, and last but not least to the grandfather of Epic Metal Mark Shelton. Their arrangement lures the listener into this wonderful fantasy world and allows them a glimpse at what these tales fully unfold.

No doubt that writing songs with fantasy driven epos is a way of escaping from the reality that is currently being led by a wretched virus and the ongoing social worldwide change. On the other hand, I believe that there is something within myths and fantasies that might apply to the current state we are in. What is your take on that? Is there a connection between the two?

Gernot: That is an interesting question. I’d say that fantasy stories always emerge from something in the real world. I believe that there always must have been some kind of trigger for such stories to be written. That would explain the connection between real world and fantasy to me. For the other way round, I could image some myths to match our situations just like in a fable. Yet, I find it hard to find a direct connection here.

It was my first time listening to Gravety, and at first, I thought that it would be a Wizard kind of experience, another great German band. However, I was proven wrong, and quite rapidly, I might add. Other than flying the flag of Epic Metal, it appears that there were some elements of Doom, and even of Thrash Metal striving for dominance in the past. How do you find your musical development on "Bow Down"? Where did it actually take you musically?

Gernot: I’d say that when we did our first recording, we were all so eager to produce an album that we had not reflected ourselves. Hence “Into the Grave” is so full of different influences which shows the various musical styles we have been influenced back then. When it finally came to producing “Bow Down”, we had spent much more time in shaping the songs and in putting everything together such that the individual songs yield a nice picture both on their own and as a whole.

What can you tell us about the songwriting process on "Bow Down"? What influences surged down upon you while brainstorming for material?

Gernot: For “Bow Down” we decided on writing about fantasy tales. We’ve been strongly influenced by the Lord of the Rings, Conan and even Nordic mythology, among others, when composing the songs. For some songs the lyrics were already existing, and we had to wrap these in musically, for others the whole riffing were first, and lyrics had to be found. So, there was no genuine approach in writing “Bow Down”. Each song has different kind of story to tell, similar to its writing process.

This time around, which aspects of your music would you say were awarded with a much better focus than on your previous album?

Kevin: This time we focused especially on the epic and catchy refrains, driving riffs and epic parts, which stay in contrast to the rough guitars.

The vocals surely led the charge, and quite notably, however the rhythm sections, riffs and melodies set the path. What can you tell us about your way of being able to find that coherence between the narrative of the album and the music?

Gernot: In my opinion, we managed to achieve a good balance between vocals and instrumentation by putting the spotlight on whichever element is currently active. This is evident when listening closely to the chorus sections where the instrumentation becomes less playful and less distracting, allowing more room to the vocal section to become more prominent.

The past always comes to haunt us in a way, whether through influences or simply because we learned something once and we simply need to employ it in order to do better in the future. How was it in your case? Did you implement lessons from the past in the songwriting or recording process?

Gernot: Right after the recordings of “Into the Grave” were finished, I was convinced that we could do recordings better on our own as we’d then have the full control starting from the first demo to the final mastered track. To improve I went to several mixing and mastering tutorials. Over the past years I’ve recorded, mixed and mastered some CDs and made a few mixes of live recordings.

Regarding songwriting, mhh, that is hard to answer. Previously, I’d directly note down everything, and try to think about which notes would fit here and there. Of course, this is very tedious, kind of mathematical and even somewhat mechanical when a song is about to evolve. What has mainly changed for me is that once some nice riffs comes up in my mind I directly start to record this and let things flow. Then I try to feel how that single riff evolves to a whole song. At least in my opinion, this makes the whole thing feel more natural, more cohesive in the end.

What did "Bow Down" teach you in regards to your role in the band, the chemistry between the band members and also your mental state while working on the record?

Gernot: During the making of “Bow Down”, my role has shifted a little bit. I become more and more the mixing and mastering engineer and less the guitar player. Hence, I’m strongly involved when it comes to adding background tracks to make certain sections to make them sound the way they should – making them sound epic. Of course, there were always discussions inside the band on how to achieve which effect. Yet, I was and am always open to criticism. So, I guess we did quite well. And rest assured, I’m mentally stable. *laughs*

The album's heaviest tune, "Red Mountain", is a heaven for rhythm guitar riffs fans and those who admire their Metal both heavy and melodic. Other than the riffs, the vocals and their production made this track a gem, possibly the band's classic for years to come. What can you tell us about this track and its significance?

Gernot: Thanks a lot. In fact, “Red Mountain” is a quite old track which I started writing in 2010, even before the recordings of “Into the Grave”. Back then, that song was in fact quite different, and a lot faster. When we started working on “Bow Down” I got that old song out of the attic and decided it could fit when being played slower. After a few sessions with Kevin, the song then got its final structure.

"Tower of Ghenjei" is one of the album's most dramatic moments - at times it felt like a part of an opera, an aria. No doubt there is a great story behind it, yet other than that, its drive, enchanting melodies, energy and emotion are top notch.

Gernot: Thanks a lot. I feel deeply honored. This specific song is the best example for how songwriting works best for me. You know, I’m a huge fan of “The Wheel of Time” and always wanted to pay tribute to the series with a song (or two). That was one of the moments when I was kissed by a muse. The song – in its raw structure – was written in one evening. Together with Kevin we polished this raw diamond into its final shape, of which we are all very proud of, I might add.

Earlier on, we talked about album support and how it is not easy to make plans at the moment. Nevertheless, bands have been taking their chances and booking shows. Are you guys on course for supporting "Bow Down" live?

Gernot: There are plans to do so, yet I cannot tell anything specific yet. Feel free to check us out on our homepage Gravety – Bow down! on our Facebook page Bei Facebook anmelden or our Instagram profile Login • Instagram for any updates.

Guys, many thanks for your time and answering this interview. It had been a while since I listened to Epic Metal and I am glad that it was you guys whom I heard first now, cheers.

Thank you Lior


 



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