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Squealer's Lars Döring: "Who has dared to put a band photo on the cover in metal in the last few years? Not many, we are doing it now"

Interview with Lars Döring from Squealer
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 16 November 2020, 10:16 PM

Madness all around, but how about dwelling on it more than just stating the fact that it is there? It is evident that it could be one hell of a journey to cross through the realms of insanity and its idioms, up until the point when the inside looking in might result in a personal insanity case. It may sound freaky, yet insane talk is fun for a change. Taking insanity into the next level with pure Heavy and Power Metal delivery, made with granduer by German hands, the veteran Squealer returns with, believe it or not, "Insanity". Steinmetal had a chance to look into the release without straightjacket, talking to guitarist Lars Döring, expect an insane ride.

Greetings Lars, it is quite a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. Well, I can only guess that you are enduring the lockdown situation in Germany due to the pandemic, how have you been holding up?

I can say that my health and mental health are in good shape. I am not alone and have enough social contacts in whatever form we keep them. This also applies to my bandmates. And we had a lot to do with the production of our new album.

Since we are about to talk about sanity, or rather insanity, let’s hear it from you first, how do you keep yourself sane while the pandemic is hitting the world, already in its second wave?

Our house is in a small place. It's very rural and so I can go out into nature at any time. This is of course a big advantage over the people in the city, who hardly have the opportunity to be active without constantly meeting other people. I just try to sort things out for which I usually have little time. I am currently optimizing my listening room acoustically in order to be able to enjoy music even better. I also ordered building materials for my work room to beautify the ceiling and improve it acoustically. It takes some work, but I'm looking forward to it. We are currently working on the crowd voices with the band. It then runs over Skype, Michael guides us and Manuel and I learn. It's fun and when we can start again with concerts we are better than before.

Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps, some measure of hope that you hold on to that you believe might end this dark endeavor in mankind’s legacy?

I am certainly not a fan of the current vaccination practice, which is sometimes given to the bodies of babies and toddlers, is perhaps a bit too massive, but I think ultimately only a suitable vaccine and a sufficient number of vaccinated people will bring an end to it. Nevertheless, the causes should be investigated and changes brought about. Factory farming for the food production and fur industry, as well as the meeting of wild animals with humans due to the deprivation of their habitat, could be the root of such problems and our society should go in a different direction. I fear that our carefree life will not go on like this and all those who do not slowly practice a certain abstinence and question their existence and learn to love themselves without all the superficialities, may break at these changes.

While “Behind Closed Doors” slipped my line of sight, I told myself that I am not going to lose your next in line release, and here we are, right in the perfect timing with “Insanity”. You picked quite a down to earth title, yet it drags with it a lot of attempts to understand it. So what went through your mind upon deciding to have it?

Right now there is a lot of insanity around us. Politics, lockdown, conspiracy theories, conflicts in and between states, wrong dealing with social media etc. In terms of content, the album deals with various topics, each of which can be described as madness in itself. At least the album title leaves room for interpretation.

I find insanity as both personal and as a mutual factor to a lot of people out there, depending how you look at it. First, what is it for you personally? Where does it find you on a daily basis?

Oh, that's very different and versatile. For example, I think it's madness that so many people are so misanthropic and that confused views find so many followers. I don't like to be on Facebook either, because there are so many people in their echo chambers and they want to stand out there with disrespectful statements, actually they are not smart and tolerant enough to face other opinions. I think it's madness that politicians have still not managed to implement an energy turnaround and traffic turnaround in a sensible and sustainable manner for society. And so on…

I try to explain many of my ideas in discussions and I try to integrate them into my life. I don't always succeed, sometimes I'm not strong enough to e.g. practicing renunciation. On internet forums I am also reluctant, no matter what you say you will feed the dogs and in the end you will be mangled. Then I'd rather leave them alone in their echo chambers as long as there aren't too many. Maybe it takes more sense holding good people on a good way.

Throughout the record you provide various examples of motifs that are closer to the main theme. Was there a plan to make a connection between the tunes in order to form a front for the title in the first place or you simply went loosen with whatever goes?

We are always looking for topics that have a social background, e.g. dangerous tendencies in society. Personal characteristics and fates are also good topics. Especially personalities who act immorally or criminally have a charm and we examine these personalities. So a hodgepodge of different topics came together for the songs. The album title was not yet fixed during the writing process. In the end it was an idea that sums up the current situation and the themes of the songs.

What I also liked about the record is actually the artwork, which is the first time that the Squealer lineup is displayed on the cover without an interesting painting to be the forefront. Did your artist run out of ideas or did you guys simply wanted something more natural and less demanding?

If you look at the enormous number of releases, then there are certainly a lot of very good covers, but such a classically designed cover quickly gets lost in the crowd. Who has dared to put a band photo on the cover in metal in the last few years? Not many, we are doing it now. We've been in business for so long and we have produced so many albums, it was time to pull this card out.

I believe that one of the record’s main pitches is the diversity of the music and without even being close to refer to it as progressive. It appeared that you simply wandered through your spectrum and knew how to utilize it in various ways. How do you find this sort of progress within the band’s songwriting ability, to burst into sheer power or touch one’s soul at will?

First and foremost, we want to create songs and records that we like and that always requires variable song material. Many professionals advise to stick to one style in order to be successful. Maybe they are right, but this is a little bit boring, isn´t it? Our fans are also versatile and find varied songs on every album, but always in the wake of power and thrash metal with a certain amount of Squealer. As we in the band are not musically on one line, there are different influences and ideas. It is dangerous to produce the individual songs in specific directions, with very different sounds and instrumentations. You don't get that together in the end. Perhaps this is how pop records work, which hardly anyone hears through on the piece. It's not a viable route for a heavy metal record. In the end it has to join up to one. I think we did it well again.

Do you recognize “Insanity” as a pivotal kind of release, in particular when comparing it to your early discography and what has been going on in the Metal market nowadays?

One thing is very clear, it is the most coherent Squealer album to date. The songs are varied, but the album is still a whole. The sound is aggressive but not brutal, it's just fun to hear the record. And we have increased in many areas in terms of individual sounds, guitar playing, bass and ultimately also the vocals. Regarding today's market, I would like to say without judgment that you can still produce a good Metal record without deep growls and the infinite sequence of different single notes, but also with harmonious vocals and fat riffs.

As a sucker for riffs, I couldn’t help myself headbanging to those mighty Thrash meets Power Metal riffs, such a strong combination I’d tell you that. What motivated you on “Insanity” to continue to come up with those meaty, tasty riffs of old school nature?

I don't have to think about that. It's just in me, in us. Either an idea develops in my head and I pick up the guitar and transfer the music in my head to the fingerboard, or I just play guitar to myself and the riff or melody is suddenly there. Since we have soaked up the metal of the 80s and 90s, we don't need to pretend or analyze the music and then copy it. It's just there. In addition, of course, we also listen to modern metal and certain influences have an impact on us. You can't deny that. But we also don't let trends guide us.

Ex-Helloween & Masterplan’s guitarist, and also known producer, Roland Grapow, once again took you forward in terms of sound. No doubt that “Insanity” sounds divine, up to date, yet still old school at heart. How do you find his work on this album? Would you say that the final outcome was exactly how you pictured it to be?

I think the fact that very little consultation and feedback was required during the mix and subsequent mastering process speaks volumes. We delivered the recordings as we liked them and Roland was absolutely satisfied. He could work with it well and make it into what we imagined. We are absolutely happy with it.

As mentioned I am a strong fan of riffs, and the heavier the tasty the better, therefore it was rather easy for me to be trapped by the powerhouse “Insanity”. That Metallica edge is certainly felt, but with enough German class and catchy approach to add more to it. What can you tell about this track and its creative process?

Manuel and Sebastian also play guitar and so they can conveniently compose songs for guitars and then give them as input to the band. Manuel provided the foundation for the song. On guitar he works in his way, he is building riffs that are rather unspectacular but clearly structured and arranged, very catchy and with a clear goal: Bang your head! A good example of this is also “Brainwash”. Later we build drums and vocals and I added a solo.

 “Hunter For Myself” actually had me puzzled, storming in with melodic riffs, at least to begin with, that resembled something I would listen to in a classic Black Metal album.  Nonetheless, it developed into a varied kind of personality, a dangerous meeting of influences and directions. What is your appreciation of this tune? Do you deem it to be the next step in Squealer’s music?

No, I don't think it's a next step. We've done something similar with the song “The Prophecy” before. It's just one facet of Squealer. At some point I sat down and wanted to compose a nice melody again. Then the first idea came up, I tried the picking sometimes slowly and sometimes faster and recorded it. Then I developed the second voice. The rest of the song came surprisingly quickly and I only had to work out small details later. A planned "beautiful" melody turned into something freaky and the ears get slightly confused when listening. Since I also like to listen to progressive metal and like "Conquering Dystopia" a lot, I am a little proud of this creation.

You had two iconic vocalists, Zak Stevens (CircleIICircle / ex-Savatage) and Bernhard Weiß (Axxis) on board for the final power ballad, “Black Rain”. How did it feel to make such an important cooperation with these two? Would you say that they answered your expectations once completing this song?

Well, Michael asked them and explained how the song is structured and what part they can contribute to it. Both then went to the recording studio and sent us the recordings. It was very impressive to see how all the parts finally came together to create this great song. It all fits together. Everyone is very satisfied with the result and of course we are very proud to have these guys singing with us. Also Roland plays one of the guitar solos in that song, so we have 3 of our all-time favorite musicians in “Black Rain”. Isn´t that great?

With a lot of bands already gave up on trying to go live, even if there are a few permits, but how really fun it is to perform with a mask, there is the trend of live streaming. Have you considered this approach by any chance?

In these times it is difficult to plan shows. But we are optimistic and will try everything to create enough encounters with our fans and hopefully new ones in 2021. If this situation lasts any longer, however, the urge to show yourself in a truly live situation will likely become so oppressive that there will be such a performance. Maybe straight from the rehearsal room, raw and unpolished. Let's see what happens.

Since you have time on your hands with no shows to promote the new album, have you already started thinking on the next in line album?

In any case, the mood in the band is such that we will record another album. Once again there are good ideas left that didn't make it onto the album this time. I also feel the urge to be creative in this line up. How an album will appear in the future is in the stars. Perhaps the CD will really be dead soon and the distribution channels are different than they are now. But that doesn't scare us, our music will find its way into your ears.

Lars, it was amazing, thank you so much sir. Once again Squealer proved that it is unending with quality. Cheers sir.

Thank you very much!



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