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Lonewolf's Jens Börner: "…we never left our path, we never did stupid experimentations…our fans are loyal, our music has to be loyal to them... When a new Lonewolf album comes out, they know what they’ll become"

Interview with Jens Börner from Lonewolf
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 20 October 2020, 11:42 PM

With a constant Metal and Rock scene twisting and turning, always on the move, always trying to find the next trend that would take on more listeners and fans a like under a single banner. Well, it has never been an easy task, especially when there are those that are considered true to the vintage, true to the path, true to the ways Metal was made back when it was considered golden. The French / German Lonewolf have always been old schoolers at heart, never letting go of their primal influences that made them great. To celebrate their 10th album, "Division Hades", they even released a bonus CD with treasures of the past. Steinmetal had a talk with founder, Jens Börner about the old days, the present, mankind, Metal and more…

Hello Jens, it is massive to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been holding up, especially with what is happening in France with the pandemic?

Hello! Thanx a lot J I’m a bit like everyone…in the expectation of what is to come. Personally I lived it rather well. To be honest I nearly didn’t stop working at my full time job (We only stopped for two weeks), and anyway when it was clear that children were not really touched by the Covid –or at least, hadn’t many chances to get really dramatically ill from it, I was really reassured as in the beginning I was a bit scared for my daughter. But after knowing that there was not much risk for her health I must say that I took it all rather easy. No need to stress, anyway what shall come has to come. As long as there is no real danger for my daughter I am absolutely not in Panic.

How do you perceive this pandemic in overall? Can this be a kind of warning sign of things to come for mankind or perhaps simply letting people know that nothing is for granted, including everyday life’s freedom?

Interesting question. I guess that both are true: It can be a kind of warning saying „stop to manipulate viruses, to try some experiences“ etc.‚ because they will be returned against you one day; Yes, I am pretty sure that the virus was made by human hand (No bat eaten by some Chinese people) and that somehow a problem has come in the laboratory where it was made. But most of all, yes…it is AGAIN a sign that absolutely nothing is for granted, that we don’t know the horrors that might come if we continue this way and that humanity should be more humble. Be aware of what you have and enjoy each day.

It has been 2 decades since the second reincarnation of Lonewolf surfaced the Metal scene, taking the world on a rampaging trip of old school Metal, breathing and inhaling the likes of Teutonic Metal. It is quite a landmark, an incredible milestone, how does it feel?

Somehow it’s rather…bizarre. 20 years seems amazing, furthermore for a french band like us, as France isn’t really known to be a « metal country » and that for a long time true metal was considered dead here. In the same time, it’s, of course, something fantastic and much fun and joy.

Thanx to Lonewolf we lived so much experiences…travelling through Europe, meeting so much people, releasing all these albums… when I look back, I still find it’s amazing to be still here. Of course we owe it to our fans who always supported us, and made sure that we’re still here after all those years…I’ll never thank them enough. That’s also why we never left our path, we never did stupid experimentations…our fans are loyal, our music has to be loyal to them.

When a new Lonewolf album comes out, they know what they’ll become. Sometimes speedier, sometimes heavier, sometimes more epic, but always true metal to the bone. It is also something that saved us. Being true to ourselves became kind of like a trademark, people know what to expect from us when we release an album.

As the cream on top, Lonewolf is releasing its 10th album, “Division Hades”, clearly proving that time is just a number to be measured, yet the spirit of Metal is endless and has no age. When you sit down and listen to the album, and I bet that you did a number of times at least, what goes through your mind? 

Haha, yes I had to, from the beginning of the pre-productions until the final mixing and mastering. Now what goes through my mind? I had the feeling very soon that we’d really release one of our best albums ever. Something in our top 3. And today when I listen to it, I guess that we managed to succeed and materialize my feeling. The songs are rather varied, with strong riffs and choruses. It is a good 10th album I think, a good album for the fans – and that’s the most important! Of course another thing comes to mind is all our history, all we went through, the good and the bad times to finally release a 10th album.

“Division Hades”, other than bearing a title that has some closeness to a very early track of yours, is crossing various themes, yet one of them is regarding our social order, or disorder. What have you been so pissed off about? Would you say that there has been a change in the relations between people following the pandemic for instance?

This song was finished before the pandemic. But to answer your question, I guess yes that the pandemic is changing relations, it changes some ways to work, it changes the daily life. There is a before and there will be an after, at least I think so.

What I am really pissed off today in our society is this everlasting moral that our medias, our rulers and our society want to give us everyday. I am sick of all those people telling you what you have the right to say and what you have not, what is "socially approved“ and what is not.

I grew up in a time where you could make a joke about arabs without being seen as a racist-just like you make jokes about Germans or people from Belgium, where you could look at a girl without being seen as a sexist, where you could say that you love meat without having one "I know it better than everyone“ person saying that you’re a murderer, a time where nothing was directly driven into excess.

It’s totally insane, freedom is slowly dying, more and more is forbidden to do or to say, in order not to hurt this minority, those religious people, this way of thinking, that way of living, etc etc….every sentence and act can be condemned. I mean, we talk for example of freedom of speech, but where is this freedom when someone says something that the so called moral doesn’t want to hear? It is going totally insane, and that’s what the song is about. Don’t get me wrong: I have, basically, nothing against vegan people, religious people, feminists or whatever – everyone is free to practice and preach whatever he wants, as long as it is in the respect of other people. But today everything is put into excess, and I am really fed up by all this shit.

If there is something that Lonewolf has been, as a unit, expert in, is stick to their guns, barely moving an inch from the influences and musical directive that have been its guiding light all these years. It is pretty easy I gather right? If it sounds good, why change anything?

Thanks, that’s a great compliment to me ;) Yes, that’s it. Why change anything? Try some stupid experiences in order to have different experiences?? What’s the meaning of that??? You only deceive your fans by doing this, the early fans, those who helped you in the beginning to take shape in this great world called underground. Those first fans are those who kept you alive. It’s sad to deceive them I guess. I mean, you can make some slight changes, even slight experiences, but they have to remain in the path you walk. Look, for example on "Division Hades": the intros of "The Last Goodbye" and "Drowned In Black" are something not very common in Lonewolf. But it "works“ with the rest, it’s not something totally out of what we always made.

Of course, this is my opinion, and many other musicians have other opinions and think that bands have to experiment, in order to get maturity, in order to deliver each time a different album, in order to increase their musical abilities, in order to get new fans or whatever – the reasons are many. That’s ok for me, I respect that – each musician has his own vision of music, no problem. What sickens me is for example when people say about Lonewolf (or other bands that don’t change their much through the years) "it’s always the same you should evolve“. Where is the problem? Why do those people say such shit? Lonewolf fans don’t want us to make too big experiments, and that’s what matters. Our fans matter. Not such shitty opinions of people who always lessons have to give you and who want to teach you how you should play music. That’s bullshit.

Nonetheless, I believe that in every release, no matter how traditional the artist, there is always a pathway to something different that hasn’t been done or honing an approach that is foreign to the band. What do you think makes the music different from the latest Lonewolf albums? How did the band progress in its methods while the songwriting process?

Exactly! That’s it! When people say that we always release the same album, they’re wrong anyway, as there are always little different things – shall it only be after a lead guitarist change (and we had many haha), because he won’t have the same ideas or playing as his predecessor.

What makes "Division Hades“ different? Good question…. but difficult to answer for me haha!! I would say that "Raised on metal“ was very straight, very raw. "Division hades“ is a bit more complicated, more various and more epic. Then, as we just had a lead guitarist change, it’s obvious that the solos and some leads change compared to our previous albums. I would also say that it’s the first time that we really go back to the "Dark Crusade"era (and as our new guitarist, Damien, played on this album I think that this explains that).

The songwriting process itself is more or less the same since years, despite line up changes. We first first demos, then take a riff here and another there, try some things, put all together. On the other side one can come with a complete song from A to Z and we don’t change anything because all works immediately. This means that there is no "real“ rule to proceed, and so it goes since long time.

What really changed this time is, even if it sounds cliché, the magic that came back as I worked again with Damien. We know each other so well…something happened since his return, and it’s the first time since long that I feel this magic in the songwriting again. And I guess you hear our joy and fun on the album!

Throughout the years, Lonewolf has been direct, straightforward in its songs, what motivated you, on your 10th album, to keep on pushing with head on tunes?

One thing is what you said in your question: it is our 10th album – only this was already a very great motivation for me, honestly. 10 albums…. that’s rather symbolic, and something I am proud of. So of course I wanted us to do one of our strongest albums ever, and believe me that we worked harder than ever before. I asked very much from all members, honestly.

Another thing that motivated me was the return of Damien at my side, when it was clear that the magic was back we worked really our asses off. Sleepless nights on the demos, going to work the day after and another sleepless night after to work, work, work. I cannot count the hours we spent.

And last but not least…I simply would say the passion for heavy metal. The fact of having the luck being able to release the music we love is always a great source of motivation. I feel it like a privilege that we have the chance to defend true heavy metal.

Listening to this album, well not on all the cycles I had with it, in particular while preparing this interview, led me to drinking a fine beer, the music simply demanded it, the old school demanded it. What is your favorite beer brand?

Hey that is fuckin‘ cool!!!! J My absolute favorite beer is a German Weizenbier, called "Gutmann". Perfect for hot summer days, perfect for cold winter nights, perfect while listening to your favorite bands and relaxing. Another one I like very much is the "Furst Wallwrstein" Bier.

As mentioned, “Division Hades” also marked the return of one of your previous band members, Damien Capolongo, which also participated on some of the band’s mightiest albums. What led to his return after a decade? What is your appreciation of this work on the new album? I guess that you missed his approach towards the band’s style and musical flavor?

Back when Michael Hellstöm (lead guitars on "Raised on metal“) left the band, I stood there a bit alone. I had already in mind that the next album (which would become "Division hades“) had to be very strong as it was the 10th album. So I quickly sampled all my ideas, and wrote as much stuff as possible, as I was not sure that maybe I would have to write this album alone. I didn’t know of course who’d be the new lead guitarist, if he had ideas, and on the same time we already had the deadline to deliver the album to Massacre Records, our label.

I worked hard on new songs. The thing is that at home, I have nothing to record. I do it in the old school way, all is in my head. But a tone moment the ideas were too much form my mind to bear, so I asked Damien if he would mind to record me at his home. There was absolute no problem for him, on contrary. So I started to record all my demos at his house. And time went by, he gave me advices, and then even some ideas, and finally made me listen to some ideas he had – which went in the old Lonewolf direction.

So it came naturally that one day I asked him if he wanted to come back. It all came like a natural process in fact. It’s been ten years since he left the band…But he understood us on a musical level.

You wrote the song “Manila Shark”, as a tribute to the late Mark “The Shark” Shelton, the main man behind Manilla Road. Certainly a tragic loss for the world of Metal. How did Shelton and his music influenced Lonewolf throughout its journey? 

Manilla Road is, since ever, one of my greatest inspirations. Even if it’s not that heard in the songs. Manilla Road is in the top 3 of my favorite bands, with Running wild and old-Stormwitch. I discovered them around 87 or 88, and since listen to them almost one time a week, if not more sometimes. So this band really has something like a great part in my life.

They always fascinated me…the music, the lyrics, I cannot say how much I worship Mark’s work. It’s impossible to say it with words. Like I say in the song, Mark’s music really taught me how far you can dream and travel by listening to music. Closing your eyes and being far away…. this fascinated the teenager I was, and still fascinates me today. Another thing that influenced me is Mark's attitude towards the people who critizised, sometimes very hardly, Mannila Road. He didn’t give a fuck but llways made his way and cared about the fans. The rest didn’t interest him.

“Underground Warriors”, other than blasting with a Running Wild spree of pedal to the metal, lets the listener live the true meaning of old school Metal, yet also represents the survival instinct of the old school Metalheads within a different surroundings that is now the current Metal scene. I guess that you have been feeling different as well with what has been going on with our favorite music?

Yeah, you said it. It’s somehow a survival instict that made that true metal never died. Sometimes things go better, sometimes worse, but true metal never dies. It has to do with the essence of something very true, somthing pure, kinda like holy for people like us.

I sometimes felt different, in a sense that I didn’t really understand what was going on. I have problems to understand when people say that true metal is dead, I have problems with people who will make fun of chains and leather but will hail "so called“ metal bands going on stage with bearmuda shorts and Donald duck t-shirts. I guess these people lost the essence of what hard rock and heavy metal mean. Of course I feel very different from this haha, but also know that there are other passionate metalheads who think like me, who are true, and thanx to these people true metal will never die – even if some say the contrary!!

The album’s finest hour is actually it's clincher, “Drowned in Black”, sporting that fine Running Wild direction, reminding the epic tunes of the German marauder. What do you find special in this tune that makes solid gold? 

Thanx a lot, furthermore as this song is, lyric wise, very personal. I lost my mom not long ago, and this song deals with the "after". How life changes when you lose your mom, all the questions you ask to yourself, the doubts, …everything changes after that and this song deals with these first weeks after your loss, where I felt totally lost, like a kid and how, deep inside you know you have to fight for your beloved ones, in order not to drown. So, this makes it a very special song for me, of course.

Musically, the song has as well as 100% typical Lonewolf, as well as passages that are not so typical for us, who make this song maybe also a bit special for Lonewolf. We have this song intro, not that typical, but also this passage in the middle. First an acoustic guitar coming (We never had an acoustic passage in a song, we only had accustic on intros or outros), and all the long lead passages in the middle. This leads are influenced by old French folklore from Brittany. It has a certain celtic touch, yet still’s a bit different. But all this mixed with typical Lonewolf stuff makes that it works very well, in my eyes.

In order to celebrate a 10th release properly, you decided to give something back to the fans by going back in time, taking the best of the early music of the band, re-recording, while also having one of your old band members, Dryss Boulmedais, recording all the guitar parts. What are the fans to be facing within this compilation?

A journey back in time….the fact that since all those years we never went astray, we have always followed our path and our influences always stayed the same. That’s something I am proud of. They are also facing rare or ultra rare demo tape material, what should be really interesting for them. The old versions were horrible back then, even if I always loved the songs themselves but the sound was awful, not to mention our really bad musician skills back then…horrible haha. I am really happy that the fans can discover those old songs in a total new shape, with actual sound. The bonus CD is absolutely no "B-Sides“ CD. It’s a trip through our history with sound standards.

Dryss did an amazing job, and it was amazing to have him and Damien at my side all those months, like in the good old days of youth and innocence. The pre-production was a real time machine!

I am going to make it tough on you, out of all the re-recordings, which of the songs made you stop everything and remember the good old days of the band? Which song had a number on you when you rehashed it?

Hell yeah that’s tough man haha!! I would say maybe that two songs: „Into the battle we ride“ and „The forgotten valleys of hades“. Those songs were always special to me, we played them at every gig back in the days and I have always loved them. It was really special to sing the lyrics again after all those years, a very strange feeling…imagine, when I originally recorded them it was something like 25 years ago! That was something really cool, beiing able to present these songs today.

One song that really surprised me is „Witch hunter“. It took another dimension thanks to Charle’s sound and mix. Very aggressive and straight, the very young Lonewolf (should I say our prehistoric age???) with the production standards of 25 years later.

Once all this pandemic mess is over, what is planned for Lonewolf in order to properly commemorate its 10th release? Where will you be heading?

I hope that we’ll be able to play all cancelled gigs of this year. If all goes well, we’ll head towards Germany, Czech republic, Spain and some gigs at home in France. I cross the fingers that the situation gets well as soon as possible, it really becomes more than complicated for many people of the music business.

Jens, thank you so much for the interview. I cannot wait for yet another blazing album, but for now “Division Hades” will keep me company. Cheers 

I have to thank!! For this interesting interview and your kind words about Lonewolf. I had fun answering! Take care and stay safe, cheers!!


 



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