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Mentalist's Kai Stringer: "The main thing is that everything has its time in this world. Empires rise and fall. Nothing lasts for ever. Everything is in constant motion and change"

Interview with Thomen Stauch & Kai Stringer from Mentalist
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 October 2022, 9:24 PM

Nothing lasts forever, whether the good things or the bad. When it comes to the those that rule others, or the powered elements of our society, the story is the same. Empires, over the years these rose and fell, no matter the reasons. They could last for centuries, but their day comes eventually when they topple down. Embarking on their third run, crossing the Rubicon with exemplary melodic Heavy Metal, the Mentalist Metallers continue to amaze. This time with "Empires Falling". Steinmetal had again the pleasure to discuss the record with drummer Thomen Stauch and guitarist Kai Stringer.  

Hello dear gents, and here we are again, and it has been just a little more than a year since our last talk, how have you been doing?

Thomen: First of all, thanks for having us. So far we are all fine. We have been very productive since our last interview and our album Empires Falling has now been released on September 16th.

Last time we were still in the belly of the beast with the Covid pandemic, which was quite a pain in the behinds, but gladly, slow and easy, the world has been recovering, licking its wounds. Actually, most of the Mentalist activity was in the pandemic period. Now, you have a chance to support your creations. How do you summarize this period of time and what is your look towards the future?

Kai: Exactly, during the past Corona period there were hardly any opportunities to play live, so we mainly focused on the songwriting and the production of the new album and thus used the time efficiently. In the future it would be very nice to appear live, insofar as the corona situation allows it.

You amazed me once again, being the busy bees that you are, and already you brandished a new album, “Empires Falling”. I have to ask, even though I partially know the answer, from where all this energy comes from? I can understand that most of the last couple of years it was sitting at home, but even a burning mind needs a little rest. Please enlighten me

Kai: Most of the ideas and musical outlines come from Peter and me. The chemistry between the two of us seems to be right in the creative area and we're not running out of ideas, at least up until now. As soon as we have an idea, we record the guitar tracks on the click and pass the raw material on to Thomen. He contributes his part to the composition. During this phase, some of the arrangement is also revised. When the basic instrumental structure is in place, we move on to the lyrics and the vocal melody - Rob, for example, also contributed a lot to the lyrics on the current record - If Peter, Thomen, Rob and I are satisfied with the demo, it goes out to the bass player (Mike LePond) and the keyboard player (Oliver Palotai). The song is then completed. Improvements usually follow and provide the necessary fine-tuning and nuances.

What I have always liked about your albums, with “Empires Falling” included, other than the music, is the delivered message from both the artwork and the philosophical end. Let’s start with your star player, the Mentalist mascot. Now he is playing chess but in a scenery that shares multiple events at the same time. This piece of art is quite cryptic than the previous ones, what can you tell me about what is going on in this scene?

Thomen: You recognized that correctly. Essentially, there are scenes on the chessboard that are part of the individual songs in terms of content. In order to be able to recognize the respective scenarios, you have to deal with the lyrics a bit and then you can quickly relate to. I also think that Andreas Marschall did a really good job with the drawing!

I also noticed that some of the peons on the boards are you guys, well two of you actually. I wonder, why were you added to this game? What form of role do you fulfil in the artwork?

Thomen: We just thought it would be cool :-) If you look closely you can see that the whole band is represented as a chess piece. We're about to enter the Noah's Ark. Once you've seen the video for the song, it's easier to understand:



With such a title as “Empires Falling”, and I believe that the opening song, “Solution Revolution”, makes it somewhat clearer, there is a presentation of the state of affairs of past, present, and a possible future. What is your take on this title? In light of the title, is this your vision of our coming future?

Kai: First of all, the title sounds very powerful and memorable. For this reason, it is a great choice as an album title. The main thing is that everything has its time in this world. Empires rise and fall. Nothing lasts for ever. Everything is in constant motion and change.

Truth be told, I tried to make connections to “Empires Falling” with the rest of the tracks, and there are various links to imperialism, or at least anti-imperialism. Let me ask you this, if there is a prediction here that there will be a day where all the empires we know will fall, what will be the outcome worldwide, as you see it? Go wild with it

Thomen: We are not experts. But we are happy about a world full of democracy. Even if all the negative events in the world are currently being carried into our living room by the media and the impression is created that the state of the world is worse than ever before, we believe that there is a positive development in the world over the centuries that continues. This means that prosperity, health and human rights are improving worldwide. It is a long step as there are many centres of power and selfishness. But we must not stop demanding further development and criticizing those who oppose it. Yes. All empires have fallen and future empires will fall to give freedom to all people.

The spirituality of the music that looms within “Empires Falling” is a sheer continuance of the previous two albums, nevertheless, I did feel that this album is somewhat more melodic than its predecessors. I find it to be a great advantage, and it sure made the material hooked more than ever. How do you recognize the musical effort on the record in general, is this your next step?

Kai: I'm glad you see it that way. We always try to work with very catchy melodies which are often underpinned with modulating, key-changing chord progressions. That makes the whole thing very exciting for the listeners and also for us as composers. However, this is a stylistic method that has been used on practically each of our albums. As we continue to develop as a band from album to album, the songwriting is also refined. But these are definitely processes that our fans are more aware of than we are.

Another reason, for which I found “Empires Falling” as a success story, is the fact that you were able to find the right hooks in order to capture the attention of a listener. The melodies played part for sure, but the arrangements of the songs as well. What can you tell about the songwriting process of the record this time around? What was done differently?

Thomen: On this album we tried even harder to capture the mood of each song by matching the lyrical content with melody, chord progression and rhythm in such a way that they are aligned in harmony with each other.

Out of curiosity, since “Empires Falling” maintains pretty much the same vibe, and musical form and influence, of the previous two albums, in your view, will there be a sort of a line drawn one day in order to keep a certain measure of freshness in your musical efforts?

Kai: This vibe defines our style as a band. Of course it should be retained. For the future we'll just keep trying to write good songs and work on their technical nuances. We are always giving our best to create new Mentalist songs, so I can`t say more.

I noticed that your bass player, Florian Hertel, didn’t take part on “Empires Falling”. Did he call it quits from the band?

Thomen: The father role fills him completely, family and job. So he quit for lack of time, yes.

Continuing as guest, after taking part in your previous record, you had Mike LePond as your session bass player. This time around it was a closer partnership between Mentalist and Mr. LePond. Did LePond also have any opinion, or contribution, to the written material for “Empires Falling”? How do you find his playing, and integration, with the spirit of Mentalist for this new chapter?

Kai: Mike LePond did not participate in the songwriting. However, his bass playing interacts absolutely perfectly with the songs. I love what he plays! He is a monster, haha… :-)

Magic already sparked from the get go, starting with the opening song, “Solution Revolution”. A swift return to past history, with a grand opening of astonishing melodies, and tenacious riffs. What can you tell about this track and how do you find its importance as the opener?

Thomen: First of all, Solution Revolution musically represents a good cross-section of the album and due to its attached intro and also from a dramaturgical point of view it fits perfectly to the starting position of the record.

A hooking killer is “If You Really Want”, where your Swedish vocalist, Rob Lundgren, had me go crazy. This song is a near perfect example of a great fusion of melodic Hard Rock with crispy German styled Heavy Metal. What is your take on this particular track?

Kai: It`s become a very catchy song, Rob's voice shimmering on it. It's also our grooviest song so far. Something different, turned out pretty cool.

Going a little darker, epic, and also with events of the negative side of human history, there is “Years Of Slavery”. Let’s face it guys, slavery is still on and I just wish someone would really abolish it for good. This song is a great Epic Metal driven documentation of something that all should be aware of. Furthermore, this number is quite creative. Please share about this creative process of writing this tune

Thomen: It was Peter's concern to write about this topic. Slavery in earlier times and also modern times is a topic that should be dealt with. It was and it is a terrible evil.

Kai: The song is one of our most progressive ones on the new album and personally I think it's absolutely fantastic. The arrangement breaks out of the norm, creates tension and spreads an eerie mood.

So, as I gathered, there is an Autumn tour in the works, quite interesting. I guess that it will be a celebration of the three albums?

Thomen: Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled. If a new tour comes about then there will be a celebration of the three albums ;-)

I got a little hint, perhaps more than a hint, that a fourth album is already in the works. What can you share about it if you may?

Kai: Yes, that is correct. We are already working on the 4th record. This one should be a bit harder than the 3 predecessors, but I don't want to reveal too much by now ;-) Expect the unexpected!

Gents, sirs, I wish to thank you again for your time for this interview, once again a pleasure, and I believe that it was the third time with you Thomen. All the best and thank you for that awesome music. Cheers,

Kai: I also want to thank you for the interview and the interesting questions. It was a pleasure. Greetings to all the Metal Temple readers! :-)

Thomen: Hopefully there will be future occasions for a 4th or even further interviews, haha :-)  But for now thanks for this interview and as well  to the interested readers of the Metal Temple community and the great support.  You all rule! Stay metal!
 



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