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Midnight Prey's Winston Ziller: "I hadn't known at that time that there are other people my age who still do manically listen to the great, and sometimes for today’s standards, 'obscure' sound of the second half of the 20th century…"

Interview with Winston Ziller from Midnight Prey
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 14 August 2019, 9:30 PM

It is not about merely getting one's wits together to be creative, it is a passion for the old days. The years where the feeling of natural was a standard in music. However, it has been a long way and the world changed. Nonetheless, there are still those that wish to preserve that old sensation. The newcomer German Midnight Prey have been in on it for some time, and recently delivered their debut album, "Uncertain Times". Steinmetal had a talk with one of the band's founders, Winston Ziller, about the new album, the fascination for vintage times, current Metal and Rock scenes and more.

Hello Winston, I would like to thank you for taking the time for this little chat for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been mate?

Hello mate, I’ve been alright lately, thanks for asking. And thanks a lot for your interest in Midnight Prey.

Your band, ongoing since 2012, hasn’t really been under the radar up until the news of your debut album release, “Uncertain Times”. So before we dwell onto your new album, let’s talk a bit about the band. How did you guys begin your journey?

Everything basically started out when I was fifteen years old and got to know our bass player Friesen in a cafe where kids from my hometown used to hang out while skipping classes at school. After deciding to make music together he introduced me to Hannes, our drummer, with whom he had already played before. This was a crucial experience for me, because growing up on the countryside, I hadn't known at that time that there are other people my age who still do manically listen to the great, and sometimes for today’s standards, 'obscure' sound of the second half of the 20th century, which I had only gotten into through my dad‘s record collection. But Hannes also really was into that kind of stuff and near his hometown there takes place a festival called "Keep it True" and somehow we grew into that underground metal thing. We spent a great and wild youth partying with people from all over the world who share the love for honest and handmade live music.

Both music and band imagery kind of reminds me of late 70s Hard Rock bands, with a few recollections of the striving British, or perhaps German, Punk movement of that same period. Have you been fascinated by these musical concepts of that time frame?

Yes, I have been fascinated by those kinds of music for all of my life. I think I always had the impression of this music to be less fake and superficial, less willing to be liked at every price than what the mainstream and in the end also society during the time of my adolescence had to offer.

Which bands have been your chief influences?

When it comes to influences, no one of us was ever very limited. Anything that arouses our interest, no matter from which part of this planet or genre and era in music is an influence.  Even pictures, movies, art, memories, dreams, drugs, smells, noises, experiences - you name it - are influencing our music. But before getting too philosophical here - we have been socialized in the European hard rock, heavy metal and Punk Rock underground and of course there are cult bands and people from the old and new days which really had an impact on us.

Slowly sinking into the “Uncertain Times”, though there is an obvious old school tag on your music, it is quite refreshing, channeling proto-Speed / Heavy Metal, energetic Punk, classic Hard Rock, even noticing the Brit-Pop style of THE SMITHS, especially in the vocals. I guess that you have been trying to break that obviousness with something that sounds vintage yet diverse in its nature?

Yeah I mean 'obvious' equals 'boring' for me in this case. If you’re hungry some junk food will do the job but a well-made and balanced meal with proper ingredients has more taste and nourishment hasn’t it? To make vintage sounding music only for the sake of nostalgia never was enough for me. I want to express my thoughts and feelings closer to reality and in a way that creates something new of some kind. Only reproduction never created anything.

Why title the album “Uncertain Times”? Are we living in a period where we don’t know where are we going?

Really getting deeply into that topic would take me more words than I could write down right now. And as an artist it actually isn’t my job to explain my work to the listener or spectator in anyway as it is standing for itself. Otherwise, we would not leave space for interpretation in the music or lyrics. But to not reject the question: I think there have always been few people in the world who know where we are going, and who know which way would be the best to go for most of humanity. Unfortunately, history teaches us that most of the times something terrible has to happen before those people are heard by the masses. And I also think "Uncertain Times" can be around yourself as well as inside yourself.

Blast beats in 70s driven Hard Rock / Metal music, were those a part of the plan in order to shock the listener?

I don’t know. Did it work? Joking aside, again - it’s not my job to explain my work. But I can say, once you free your mind from borders of genre, scene, what belongs where or what’s right or wrong in a situation of creativity, you’re basically able to do whatever you want.

Was “Uncertain Times” recorded in digital form, as the sound can have someone think of an analog recording? Who produced the album and what is your appreciation of the turnout in the studio?

The album was recorded digitally but without a metronome / triggered drums / line-in recording and other unnecessary things and partially live with as few overdubs as we could manage. Producing analogue is what we wish for but unfortunately it would’ve gone beyond the scope of finances and time. Chief of recording was Jörg Uken at his "Soundlodge" and our stay there was just amazing. He fully understood what we wanted and also gave us some really great input. A studio I would recommend at any point.

What can you tell regarding the album’s songwriting process? Was it a joint effort by the three of you, spreading ideas and picking up the best to carry with or was it an effort of a single person?

Except for the lyrics, which I regularly write, it is always the three of us! We all come up with ideas that we discuss and when any decisions are made everybody’s in the room and has the same voting weight if there are disagreements. Often we just jam together and something cool happens.

Which of the album’s tracks is your foremost effort? That one track that you simply can let go of. Please elaborate on your pick

This question is difficult to answer for me. I think "Stoff“ was the longest in the making and originally very different compared to its final form. "Black Forest" existed and was played live even before our previous release "Blood Stained Streets“. The title track "Uncertain Times“ was in contrast to that written within one or two evenings at the studio, after a day's work of recording. So yeah, I‘d say „Stoff“ was the foremost effort.

I am positive that you have knowledge of what has been going on in the Rock and Metal scenes worldwide, especially in Germany. Modern Rock and Metal exports have been pretty much dominant, as though nostalgia comes back to haunt, looking forwards seems as more attractive. Do you agree with that assessment? What is your viewpoint on this? Does a band like yours still have a place in nowadays Rock and Metal scenes?

Yeah you’re right, I also have the feeling that there’s some kind of revival going on. I hope that people re-developed their appreciation of a guitar actually sounding like a guitar and drums sounding like actual drums. I don’t like the over-produced sound that the modern metal or rock mainstream seems to be all about. A good production in my opinion is not to erase every last mistake and editing the whole arrangement until you have a plastic-like sound that could also have been produced by artificial intelligence. I like music when it still has a 'soul'. No matter which style. And now that the digital revolution is in full swing, I'm confident that in the future more people are going to share this opinion.

How do you intend to support “Uncertain Times”? Is there a run of German shows or perhaps teaming up with another band for a small tour?

We have two shows in Germany (with Tanith / Intöxicated) and one in London (with Ice War) coming up as well as a little four-day Germany/Austria tour supporting our brothers in arms of "Vultures Vengeance" in the middle of November!

Winston, thanks again for the interview. Midnight Prey is very interesting, it doesn’t settle merely on the past, yet uses nearly every part of the early days’ arsenal to make something unique. Cheers mate!

Thank you very much for your interesting questions and your kind words and appreciation!
Was a pleasure!



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