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Mentalist's Kai Stringer: "How about writing a song of a nuts gone dentist whose only intention is to kidnap his patients and torture them in his surgery? A cool idea, isn’t it ..."

Interview with Thomen Stauch & Kai Stringer from Mentalist
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 25 August 2021, 10:42 PM

When there is time, why not use it wisely? What not continue venturing forward, maintain the process of creation, never be drowned by what is going on outside. Since everything has been shut down when it comes to culture, at least most of it, heading out to perform is a risk, and where is the fun in taking such a big risk. The German Heavy Metal band, Mentalist, already proved themselves to be quite a melodic phenomenon with their debut last year, and this time around, exactly a year afterwards, they return, stronger and wiser, releasing "A Journey Into The Unknown". Once again Steinmetal had the great pleasure to have Thomen Stauch & Kai Stringer of the band to talk about the new effort and what they achieved in a year's pass.

Hello guys, and here we are, once again, and I am fortunate to have you both for another conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been this past year? What is going on where you are?

Kai: Hi Lior! First of all thanks to you and Metal Temple online Magazine for having us again. Besides the corona situation the past year was quite a busy and productive year concerning Mentalist and it still is since we’re already writing on new material for the third album in store.

Thomen: Hello Lior! Long-time no talk! Almost a year already, ha ha! Hope you’re doing well! Yeah, we’ve been really hard-working on this new release, I promise you. But there wouldn’t have been anything more logical than writing on new material for the second album, while the countries restricted touring for artists.

I think it was just last year when we last talked, and time really flies, I'd tell you that. So tell me, how have you been handling this period of time of the Covid-19 pandemic with the vaccinations? Do you see an end to it?

Kai: Well, I called my doctor to get an appointment for the vaccinations. He put me on a list. And what can I say… I got my second vaccination more than one month ago. I hope this will do because I really don’t like syringes. Yet I have the feeling that in case of further virus mutations, further injections might be necessary.

Thomen: I had already my second vaccination one week ago. So just one week more to go and I’m officially fully protected. Let’s see what the next months will bring us as regards covid-19. I’m really tired of these situations with all the lockdowns, masks wearing, etc. etc.! There are different opinions about the global thing and everyone thinks about it in his own way. One thing I learned for sure. You are not allowed to talk about your personal opinion about it anymore, because otherwise you are directly a conspiracy theorist or whatever, just because you don’t believe everything that’s been told in the media. Everybody has a different opinion and we all should accept this. Let’s just pray that this horrible pandemic will find an end soon!

I know that several large capacity Metal festivals already took place, well not that many to be honest, the closest to you were Bloodstock in the UK and Alcatrazz in Belgium. It feels so close and yet so far, what do you think about these two festivals opening up, as if the pandemic is no longer a threat? Is this a pure example of freedom of speech or rather a total risk?

Kai: I understand that many people want their freedom and normality back. As for me it’s an illusion to believe the problem has been solved. Now seeing people acting like in the times before the pandemic seems to me slightly irresponsible. On the other hand, we have to learn to live with the virus. Caution is required.

Thomen: We should all be careful, of course, but you can’t restrict and lock mankind for years or probably the rest of its life. I don’t know why, but I truly believe that suddenly, at any point in the upcoming months or few years, nobody will care whether about Covid-19, nor any delta mutants, anymore. We are living in hard times, without a doubt, but ……well, let’s just wait-and-see.

Talking about the live scene, did you have any chance to perform at all with Mentalist or are you taking your time, month after month, contemplating whether it is viable or not?

Kai: Of course we have been thinking about that situation a lot. But to be realistic live shows and a tour will only take place by next year due to the pandemic situation.

Thomen: This year definitely wouldn’t make any sense for tour activities. Let’s see what 2022 will come up with for touring possibilities, but I must say, I’m not very optimistic as regards this. But I still hope.

Following “Freedom Of Speech”, where you won me over ten folds, you didn’t really take any rest and went ahead charging in full force, with new bullets in your magazine. I have to ask you, was it a rush to release yet another album so fast, or you simply felt that there was no time like the now?

Kai: The answer is quite simple. Since we couldn’t play any concerts because of the corona thing we decided to sensibly use our time for the second album. Nothing else was more logical to us.

Thomen: We just used the time to work on new stuff, while everything else for artists was forbidden, at least concerning live activities. So we took the best out of the situation and strongly concentrated on a follow-up for Freedom Of Speech. And it was definitely worth it, because in my humble opinion we created a great power metal album that sounds more mature than the debut album, more melodic, faster and stronger. I stand 200% behind these songs we put on that album and I’m proud about what we created here. 😊

The decided title for your sophomore album is “A Journey Into The Unknown”, which can tell many stories, raise way more questions than a mere “Freedom Of Speech”, no pun intended. For me it sounds as if you were shooting in the dark, not really knowing if you would hit or miss with your material. However, it was only one of several assumptions. So instead of me trying to figure it out, will you help me out?

Kai: It was the first song for the new record we recorded last year and we thought that the name of the song sounds like a cool album title. We actually did not have any deeper interpretations for this.

As far as the themes within the tracklist, the album crosses paths, from the personal insight to something that I found to be out worldly. In your view, and other than the music of course, what is the connection between the tracks lyrically, and I know that it is not a concept album?

Kai: There is no direct connection between the lyrics on the album. Each song stands for itself.

As I am a fan of old school driven artwork, “A Journey Into The Unknown”’s piece is even more enchanting the debut’s, a stellar art that I would really like to see on a t-shirt. Andreas Marschall never fails and his craft is amazing. So where is your mascot driving to? To his own oblivion or rather salvation?

Kai: Thanks for the compliment. Yeah, Andreas is really an amazing artist and I love his paintings too. I have good news for you, Mentalist T-shirts with the cover art work will be available soon in our fan shop. Guess where our mascot is driving to… into the unknown of course, haha :-)

Thomen: Andreas is an amazing artist and I loved his works already when we worked with him with Blind Guardian. Yeah, as Kai says already here, this time we will have T-shirts with the cover on it and I’m really happy about it. Our fans will be, too, I believe. :-)

 “A Journey Into The Unknown” pretty much dances the same dance as the debut album when it comes to the powerful fusion of 80s and 90s driven Heavy and Power Metal. So guys, what did the sophomore really change in your musical minds? What makes it an uncanny feature in Metal music?

Kai: On the second album the songs sound more unified. We found a bit closer together musically and were able to define our own style better. In addition, Jacob Hansen has mastered our album, which gives it a very professional and high quality standard.

Thomen: I totally confirm what Kai answered here already to this question.

Continuing the previous question and dissecting it into small bits, you talk about a new identity for the band, following the mixture of influences from the gods of melodic Heavy Metal. What is that Mentalist identity?

Kai: It’s what you hear on the current album now. Each and every one of us has his own individual style of playing and when we write our own songs we’re melting into one piece of a new version of ourselves.

Thomen: It is correct, when listeners say that Mentalist sounds basically like Iron Maiden, Helloween or Blind Guardian, but if you read most reviews for this album so far, the journalists mostly say that we have found already our own identity and style and surely don’t copy our old heroes. And as concerns Blind Guardian similarities in our music, I would say that there is nothing more logical than this, since I can’t hide my roots, after having played for Blind Guardian for over 18 years. :-D

One thing that I did notice about “A Journey Into The Unknown” is that its general songwriting methods made it catchier than the debut. Every song has its powerful touch over the listener, and along with the outstanding production, the flavor is never over. Would you say that the choruses were given an extra treatment this time around? And of course that your vocalist is prime, I know that

Kai: It’s hard to answer that, really. As we always try to give our best for each song I would say there was and is also always a special treatment to them. One reason why you might think the songs are catchier is probably that we came together better on this album than on the one before.

Thomen: I believe that we simply did a better songwriting on this album than on the first album. The band as one got more mature and for single musicians found more to each other. It’s a kind of natural development that happens when you communicate and work with each other day by day. There was not given an extra treatment to the choruses, it was simply coincidence that they sound even catchier than on the debut album.

Earlier on “Freedom Of Speech” you had the powerful Daniel Heiman, which my son is a fan of by the way, and now you turned to unending Henning Basse. Listening to his duet with Rob Lundgren, was almost surreal on “Live Forever”. How did you know that Basse was your man for this album, and in particular this song? How do you find the two vocalists’ clash of voices?

Kai: To be honest it was Peter’s idea, so you better ask him for the reason why he came up with that :-) But all in all I have to say that I really love the song and especially the duet in it. It’s an epic master piece and for me one of the best songs on the album. Henning and Rob did just great there!

Thomen: Our plan is to have a special guest singer on every album doing a duet with Rob. We still don’t know who it will be for the third album, but I’m sure it will be a great one again. We all love Henning’s voice, so there was no doubt about that he will be the one for this album, if he would agree on that job. And he did, for good luck!

I don’t believe that “Freedom Of Speech” employed Keyboards, yet for “A Journey Into The Unknown” you gave the instrument a room. And for the role you took no other than Kamelot’s Oliver Palotai. I guess it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for your next ventures? How does it feel to have keyboards in your music, merely for atmosphere?

Kai: Well, Oliver played on our first album and on the current one. He is a great musician and almost a one-man orchestra :-) But not to sound like a symphonic metal band we had to lower the volume of some of his keyboard parts, unfortunately. If we would want, we could even release a special orchestral version of each song from our second album :-)

Turning to the renowned Jacob Hansen surely had an impact on how Mentalist sounds on the new record. I guess that you found your permanent mixer or are the skies the limit when it comes to how many roles is Hansen going to take as your engineer?

Kai: Jacob was the right engineer for the second album and hopefully will be for the next ones. We are very satisfied with him. He did a tremendous job.

Thomen: Yes, Jacob Hansen is a great mixing and mastering hero. He did such a great job on this album! I never want to miss his work on Mentalist’s further albums! His sound surely took part on this album’s success as well.

Generally, what do you make of the new Mentalist sound? Is it exactly how you envisioned it to be?

Kai: The short and true answer is “Yes”!

Thomen: Yes! Definitely! I expected a lot from Jacob, but he even exceeded my expectations.

When I first listened to “Dentalist”, I wasn’t really sure to what I was listening other than a punchy track that takes no prisoners with ounces of melodies. However, after a little while I knew it, it was your own sort of “Dr. Stein”, that Helloweenish humor of the late 80s. Was it intended to be as such?

Kai: It was a short time after the recordings of our first album. I got a little crazy from all the recording sessions and short after I came up with a totally manic idea. How about writing a song of a nuts gone dentist whose only intention is to kidnap his patients and torture them in his surgery? A cool idea, isn’t it …The intention was to release this funny horror song for the Halloween season 2020. Yeah, but for 2020 it was too late, so we put it on the new record as a “fun” song. The intention was not to make some sort of copy of Helloween’s Dr. Stein – it may appear like that but it’s a mere coincidence.

A song that really touched my soul was the ultra-catchy, yet deep, “Soldier Without A War”, which I found to be a salute for the veterans, some of whom didn’t really come back from the battlefield. Do you personally know people that share this same story? On the musical front, what is your view on this track and its energetic vibe? Thomen you really blasted on this one and your conjunction with the melodic guitars and Lundgren’s amazing vocals is emphatic.

Kai: No, the story goes different. It is about a conspiracy theorist whose inner doctrine and ego are only taken into account through rebellion and friction with the outside world. You can clearly hear Fates Warning (Parallels / Inside Out) influences stylistically. The song is very complex musically.

Thomen: I remember this song had a different chorus when we started working on it. I disliked the old chorus anyhow and suggested to the band to change it to another vocal melody. Rob offered another one and it’s the one we took for the album now. I’m so happy we changed it.

Wow, you had me surprised there I must say, anyways, it is an amazing song that has strong vibes that really tear the senses

With “A Journey Into The Unknown” nearly out, dare I ask if you already started working on your third album?

Kai: We’re already working on the third album. It’s hopefully going to get nonetheless better than the second one. We’re aiming to increase.

Thomen: Yes, most of the songs for the third album are already composed as rough versions, but some few ones are actually already almost finished, at least as it regards their arrangements.

Interesting that you chose to cover Neneh Cherry's "Man-Child", what was that all about?

Kai: A very cool song which I’ve known since my childhood. We love to “mentalize” 80’s songs. Especially when we can turn pop into metal! :-)

Thomen: I wasn’t a big fan of this idea in the beginning, but the guys convinced me why we were working on that song. It got better and better, so finally I agreed, too, that we should put it on the album. :-D

Guys, I can’t thank you enough for your efforts and patience on this interview. Once again, you gave me one of a thousand reasons to continue being a die-hard Metalhead. I wish you nothing but the best. Cheers.

Kai: Thank you so much Lior and all of your readers! It was a pleasure to me. Keep listening to Mentalist! Stay metal and nothing else :-) Bye, Kai

Thomen: Lior, my dear, we have to thank you for this great interview and still being interested in our activities with Mentalist. We hope to see you, your readers and all our fans worldwide on any concert as soon as possible to rock the venues or festival areas with you! We love you all! Do not miss to buy our CD and keep on supporting us. Hugs and cheers - you rock!


 



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