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Interview with Heike Langhans (DRACONIAN)

Interview with Heike Langhans from DRACONIAN
by Erika Kuenstler at 10 March 2016, 10:28 AM

DRACONIAN fans had their world shaken in 2012 with news that Lisa was leaving the band, causing much speculation as to who would fill the void. Certainly very few if any would have guessed that the part would be given to South African Heike Langhans. Yet any lingering uncertainties were cast aside with the release of DRACONIAN's sixth album “Sovran” at the end of last year. And after seeing her performance on the recent “Towards the Unknown” European tour, there is surely no doubt left that Heike is more than capable.

Having lived in Cape Town myself for six years, I'd actually inadvertently met Heike years ago, and so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do an interview with her. However, Googling DRACONIAN's new album will likely give you everything you might want to know about “Sovran”, so I decided to rather use my interview time to find out more about Heike's many other sides, ranging from her music projects, to her avid gaming, and to the ideals she stands for.

“Sovran” was your first album with Draconian. How has that experience been?
When I came to Sweden, I thought it would be very intimidating to have to all of a sudden be in this professional studio and work with world-class producers, and I underestimated myself a lot. But once I actually started doing it, I realised I was completely over-thinking everything. The guys were really laid back and easy to work with. I think the most intimidating thing was actually being in a professional studio and working with a professional producer because they are used to working with  absolutely perfect world-class musicians, and I'm a rookie. But I learnt a lot. I learnt not to underestimated myself, and to go with the flow, and everything will be fine. Now I really enjoy it. I'm ready to do ten more albums. It's so much fun once you actually get into it.

How was the creative process of “Sovran”? Were you able to give your own input?
Johan is the main brain behind the band. He writes the music, but lyrics are left up to Anders and myself. I was assuming that I wouldn't have any input, but Anders is pretty flexible. If I write something and he sees it fitting into the whole theme of what he has in mind, then he'll use it. I wrote one of the songs on the album, and he was happy with it. We have a different style of writing. He's much more poetic, paradoxical, and metaphorical. And I'm much more straight forward and emotional. But somehow we found a middle ground that works really well. And the great thing is that Johan appreciates input when it comes to vocal melodies. He doesn't give me the melody and say “Okay, you have to sing that”. He gives me the music and says “Try whatever you want to and if I like it, then cool”. And he liked everything I did. There were maybe one or two songs where he had an idea for a vocal melody which I didn't change. He's very good at coming up with harmonies. I was actually surprised to have so much input, because when you join a band that has been around for so many years you assume that everything is this well-oiled machine and that you'll just be slotted into a position, but it wasn't like that at all. I like writing music myself; I don't think I'm just a singer.

What is your favourite song from “Sovran”, and why?
I think “Pale Tortured Blue” is my favourite because its slower and more weepy and more emotional. It was really hard for me to choose it in the beginning because I was so excited about all the songs. I was like “I hope people like this!”. I loved all the songs, but now that I've had time to listen to it, I always end up liking the slower, more emotional “emo” songs hahaha.

How has it been integrating into the band from a social point of view?
That was really easy! Swedish people are very polite, and they avoid confrontation. And you know us South Africans are much more straight-forward and fiery personalities. If something bothers us, we just come straight out and say it. It's not like that with Swedish people. They would rather discuss things behind your back instead of to your face. So that becomes frustrating when you can kind of see all the unsaid words between people. So sometimes I become an intermediary there. But integrating into the band wasn't hard at all because they're all really laid-back and really nice people. Now and then guys can get grumpy, and you have to kick their ass a little and be like “Hey! Stop being so grumpy!” haha. But I think it would have been a lot harder if I had been a shy person. But I'm not. If I think something, I just say it. And they appreciate that.

How has working with Draconian impacted on your solo project :Lor3l3i:?
It definitely drew attention to it, which I didn't expect because it's such a different kind of music. But a lot of Draconian fans have been writing me and asking “Please, please will you do more :Lor3l3i:” and I really do want to, and I have started to write new material, but I honestly have almost half the amount of time now to do that. And even though I have a hard-drive full of unfinished projects, I just don't have the time. I've also just started a side-project with my boyfriend, so that's also taking up a lot of time. But it has definitely helped me with the production side of things. Before I used to feel really insecure about working with the technical stuff; I'm not like a producer or an engineer. But now I'm learning a lot of things in the studio, and seeing professional musicians do it. I think when I do finally put out something new, it will be a little bit more professional, which is exactly what I wanted: Learn from the good guys and then apply that to my own stuff.

I read in a previous interview that you planned to release a :Lor3l3i: EP sometime in 2016. How are those plans going?
It was actually supposed to be done already. Last month, when my boyfriend was on tour, I finished the EP. I finished all the songs, then I upgraded to Windows 10, and suddenly my music programmes aren't working any more, and then it's the tour, and then it's more gigs, so everything just falls behind. It never comes out when you say it's going to come out. But this year definitely! First we're going to do another Ison release, and then I'll get to the :Lor3l3i: stuff. I already have all the ideas for the artwork, and have even picked a photographer. All that stuff is already planned; it's just finding the time. And then I play too many games and stuff.

Your side project Ison has met with incredible success, with physical copies of your EP “Cosmic Drone” being sold out. That must have been encouraging?
I really wanted to have a project where I could play an instrument again. When I was young, I used to play the guitar, and when you join a band as a girl, you don't really get to do that because you have guys for that. So I really wanted to play an instrument again and just to really put a part of my own soul into it within a genre that is not electronic. And doing it with Daniel is perfect because he likes the same kind of music that I like in terms of droney, atmospheric, post-rock, and spacey vibes. So it was really nice to do something on a level that's professional. And I didn't expect people to like it very much. We were very shocked when it sold out, and even our pre-orders for the vinyl sold out as well. And now we're getting a lot of feedback, wanting us to print more CDs; we can't even keep up with it all, because it's a DIY project, and we don't want to get signed. We absolutely do not want to get this project signed, because when you see how the music industry operates, and when you see how much money goes to them and not to the people making the music, you sorta go “Okay, maybe we should do something completely by ourselves” so that everything we put in and everything we get back goes to us. It's ours and no-one else's. We did sign a vinyl release deal with Sound Devastation, but that guy was very sweet about it, and he's putting in a lot of finance to give us a good quality product, and he's very easy to work with. But other than that, we have no interest in getting signed.

The only negative comment I've heard about “Cosmic Drone” is that it was too short. Are there any plans for a full-length?
Maybe. We spoke about it. Some of the songs we want to be longer. It's almost as if a full release of that kind of music will get a bit much. Sometimes less is more in the sense that if you have something atmospheric or vocal-heavy. You can't appreciate the thread that runs through the EP or the release. Even though most people might not pick it up, we have a thread that runs through it. Each of the songs, from start to finish, there is a thread running through the EP. It's like a little story almost. We don't care if other people don't get it. We get it. So we don't want to just mash a bunch of songs together on an album and go “Oh, there you go”. We would rather just release maybe 3 EPs with five or six songs each that are very atmospheric and spacey, and then maybe do a 3 box-set release with everything. I think when it comes to that kind of music that's more droney and bleak and atmospheric, you get full of it quite quickly, and everything starts to sound the same. So why bother doing 12 of the same kind of songs? But hey, who knows? If we manage to put together 10 songs that we feel are not one big drone of similar sounding soundscapes, then maybe. But we don't have to, because we have no label telling us what the fuck to do! Haha, we can do what we want!

How has it been being away from home? Do you miss Cape Town?
Yeah, I miss Cape Town. I miss my friends! I miss Simone. I sometimes miss the people: just the forwardness. Again, I'm not a shy person, I talk a lot, and sometimes I feel frustrated with just having to not say things. In South Africa, you can go off your fucking brackets at someone, and you can say what you want, and no-one will take it too personally. Or maybe they will, there's also a lot of conflict. But hey, it's alive! It's fiery. And I miss that sometime. And I miss Afrikaans jokes and Afrikaans words that you really can't say anywhere else; no-one gets it. Sometimes I'm sitting in Sweden, and I read a funny word, and I'm like “haha!” or I see a car driving and the registration say “fok” I'm like laughing, and no-one gets it but me. It gets lonely. But I do plan to visit this year, maybe in July, for two or three weeks. I'll try and cram as much visiting in that one month, and of course I have to reapply for some licences and stuff, otherwise I lose my driving licence. And I don't feel like having to do everything over again, especially not in Sweden, because it's quite expensive. Get this, it costs me less to fly to Cape Town, reapply for my international licence, and fly back to Sweden, than what it does to go for the compulsory lessons and write the test in Sweden.

Wow, that's insane! I haven't even bothered with my licence here.
You don't have to, because there's public transport. But I like driving, and especially because there's sometimes band stuff we have to go to, and there are only two drivers in the band, so it would be nice if there's three.

Have you already introduced the band to the South African braai? (For those not familiar with a braai, its a an almost-religiously followed tradition in South African. Kinda like a barbecue, involving a wood/coal fire, lots of drinks, great company, and mounds of perfectly grilled meat)
You know, in some parts of Sweden, you're not even allowed to make a fire outside, especially the first town I moved to, because there's forests everywhere. So their idea of a barbecue is like a little Weber with some charcoal, and a grill, haha. So, no, there's no proper braaiing in Sweden, I'm sorry! I would love to introduce them to that, but again, I don't eat meat any more, so I'd probably braai some mushrooms or something, so I don't see the point. But I have introduced them to some things, like biltong, but they only know the Americanised version of that, you know, beef jerky and blah blah blah.

Now that there are some bigger promoters in the South African scene, like Witchdoctor Productions, are there any plans for a Draconian tour to South Africa?
 I actually mentioned this to Alex. There's another band, I won't say who, who'd really like to play South Africa with us, and WitchFest would be the perfect opportunity for that. But again, and I know it now from seeing conversations with booking agents and managers and stuff, it's really expensive to fly a band to South Africa. It's not that the band isn't interested, its the management and the label that isn't interested, so we don't really have much of a say. I was thinking about doing a South America, South Africa, and Australia kinda thing. That's a lot of travelling, with huge costs, but it would be amazing. I would even consider seeing the South Africa show as a bit of a holiday, and show them around: take them up Table Mountain, something like that. But it all comes down to management and cost. It's not easy, but I have been trying to get it done.

Now a question for your inner nerd. Alliance or Horde?
Horde! Always! For the Horde! Well, actually, I'm a bit of a traitor, because when I started playing, I started as Alliance, and then I quit for four years, and now I'm back, and now I'm Horde. Sometimes I regret it, because Horde is so bad at PvP on our server, and we're just losing all the time, but hey, I prefer the Horde. It's more metal anyway! Hahaha.

What is your World of Warcraft character like? Race, class?
I'm going to be a bit of a cop-out here. I mostly play blood-elf and undead. But my main is blood-elf hunter. And yes, I hated hunters the whole time I was playing, but when I came back, I said “Hey, fuck it, I'm going to make a hunter, just for the fun of it”, and I actually love it. It's really versatile, and I'm having so much fun. But my original main has always been a rogue. I just find that in this expansion, rogues were a bit squishy haha! So I gave up on the rogue idea, and now I'm playing hunter, and I'm hated on the battlegrounds!

Haha, that's awesome! What other games do you play?
When I'm not playing World of Warcraft, I'm playing almost any other RPG I can get my hands on. I specifically like old RPGs, like Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Lionheart, those kind of games. But I also like the newer ones like Skyrim. And I finish them, but it's just not the same as WoW. You always go back to WoW, and once you're back in WoW, you don't have time to play other games. I've had a lot of suggestions from people: “play this, play that” but for me there's only time for one black-hole sink in my life at any given time, so… I think I'll be playing WoW for quite a few years to come because the new expansion is going to be so amazing! And it's coming out June I think. And I have nothing planned for June, maybe one or two shows, so I'm thinking that if we get any offers, I'll be like “No! No, I can't do it, I have to play the new expansion” hahaha. But I won't say that obviously.

You've mentioned that you're an activist. What movements in particular do you support?
I'm a big supporter of the Ubuntu Liberation Movement in South Africa, and I love the work that Michael Tellinger is doing. I've read all his books, and I'm totally on board with all his ideals and the fact that he's suing the Federal Reserve Bank in South Africa and that he's actually winning. He's really loud and proud about free energy, and those kind of things. I also really support the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement. In some ideals, they do clash, but when it comes to the ideals and what I want to see happen in the world, of course it's human liberation and free energy. We're being told “No, this isn't possible, and that's not possible” but when you start doing research, and when you see all the innovation that has already been put into play, whether it's at a governmental level, or whether it's at an above-government level, the fact of the matter is that we have everything we need in technology and resources to run this planet in a sustainable manner. But we are being forced not to by the fucking one percent of the world that is enslaving us. I honestly go “I'm so against that”, so whatever movement out there supports the opposite of that, I will support it. I don't necessarily support environmental groups like GreenPeace. I don't support them because they avoid some of the biggest environmental concerns like animal agriculture, because their sponsors are people who will not acknowledge the fact that animal agriculture is one of the biggest environmental destroyers on our planet. I really support the Hacktivist movements. I support smart people who are willing to, behind the scenes, expose shit that's going on. I support whistle-blowers. I know a lot of it is reverse psychology, and it's planned in every detail. They want you to think that this conspiracy is going on, and it's really reverse psychology going on. I don't think that I'm a conspiracy theorist or a truth theorist, I just think I'm a bullshit analyser, and there's a lot of bullshit going on. At the end of the day I will support whoever is willing to expose that and to make a change. You have to be active to be an activist. You can't just be an armchair slacktivist. So I think that in the terms of my own life, I don't support any big corporations. I will not eat or drink anything that comes from big corporations. Yes it's difficult, but I refuse to support them. I also don't eat meat any more, and I don't really care what people have to say about that. I think that once people really put in the time and effort and research, not only from a health or principle perspective, but from an environmental perspective, they will realise that there is a lot that they are not being told. If they want to follow all the bullshit lies in the industry, then fine. But I will actively be against that. That's what I think being an activist is about.

Sounds great. Well, those would be all the questions from my side. Thanks for taking the time to answer them!
Sure, thank you!


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Edited 16 July 2018

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