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Terra Atlantica's Tristan Harders: "I think humans are egotistical by nature and mostly strive for their own well-being without regarding that it might affect others negatively"

Interview with Tristan Harders from Terra Atlantica
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 14 July 2020, 11:34 PM

There is the unending, constant in nature, struggle circling mankind's behavior and relations to others across history. While being greedy, mankind also found a way to be kind and just to the fellow man. Whether in fiction or reality, all are evident. In light on their sophomore album in place, Terra Atlantica continue their sage in the 19th century's industrial revolution, coming up with a different version of what actually happened back in the day, crossing an interesting story. Steinmetal had a talk with the band leader, Tristan Harders, about the new release of “Age of Steam”, philosophy, music, going forward and more…

Hello Tristan, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. I trust that all is going well on your end sir, especially in these challenging times for humanity?

Hello and thanks for having me! The times are challenging indeed. Luckily, I have not been affected as hard as others so far.

Truth be told with how I ended the last question, yet I believe that Terra Atlantica, upon its fictional storyline, may as well dwelled into the issue of the constant struggle of humanity, yet from within, with itself. Paving the road to yet another glorious story, let’s just jump in the pond. Is the newly created album, “Age of Steam”, is actually a story of envy, jealousy, simply egotistical mannerism?

You are right to believe that. In our first album we thermalized the downfall of Atlantis, an empire that became so powerful that its inhabitants considered themselves better than others and began to disregard their environment, thus leading to their ultimate downfall and destruction, a phenomenon that can be witnessed over and over again in similar cases throughout the history of mankind. In the new album we are continuing this story.

As the storyteller, and writer, of this epos, why do these strong negative emotions arise between two parties, as both can strive for a common goal? In this particular case, the Atlantians, along with their contribution to the Industrial Revolution, and the rather powerful British Empire. Is humanity consumed by evil in your view?

Not by evil, but rather by egoism, as you already assumed in your last question. I think humans are egotistical by nature and mostly strive for their own well-being without regarding that it might affect others negatively. If there are resources to be exploited, one party will try to claim them for themselves, even if theoretically there would be enough for everyone.

When you look at what is happening worldwide at the moment, who is the British Empire and who are the advanced Atlantians? Where do you find “Age of Steam” in our reality?

In this story, the Atlantians are dedicating themselves to inventing new technologies that will make their lives easier, but with no intent to use their advantage to harm others. The Empire on the other hand is trying to claim these technologies for their own cause, which is to gain more wealth and to expand their realm. So you could say that Atlantis stands for the science sector of society while the empire stands for the business sector, only focusing on how to use new technologies to make more money.

Going backwards a little bit, as I haven’t been tracking the previous record that began a journey through time, what interested you in the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution that you made the scenery for the story?

Well, as you might have noticed we have been using a lot of steampunk elements as well in our outfits as also in our story. This style depicts the future as people imagined it in the 19th century. Back then the steam engine was the latest high-tech thing so of course they imagined that in the future everything would be steam-powered. I like this idea because everything is highly functional but yet purely mechanical. You can see how everything works, in contrast to nowadays digital technology. I consider these times as much more exciting than today. Of course, this might be a much romanticized idea.

Terra Atlantica, which has been based on a type of operatic styled Power Metal, even without operatic vocals, feels like a successor of what has been made in the late 90s and the first decade of the 00s. How do you feel that “Age of Steam” made the band make a step forward musically? What do you think Terra Atlantica, in the light of “Age of Steam” brought to the rather crowded table of European Power Metal?

It is exactly our intention to make power metal like in the 2000s because we love that style and we are sad that not so many bands are doing this anymore. With "Age of Steam" we definitely made a huge step forward, especially in terms of songwriting and vocal skills but also the production is way better this time. The structure of the songs is more developed and conceived to work well on stage in interaction with the audience. I would say that we deliver the vibes of 2000s power metal while not copying other bands because we mix everything with different elements and influences, for example from the folk- or death metal world.

To raise such a production, which might not be on the scales of Avantasia or Empires Of Eden, yet it felt rather close in proximity, is quite challenging. What can you tell of how things went on with preparations for “Age of Steam”? Which dilemmas did you face while this album was in the making?

Thanks for the comparison! It actually took us one year to finish all the recordings for this album because there were so many issues that occurred during the process including half of the band deciding to quit so I had to record some of their already finished bass and guitar tracks again by myself. Then we had several guest artists which we had to travel to record their parts and for the backing choir recordings it turned out really, really difficult to find a date where everyone had time at once. Also, a lot of technical issues but we learned from that and next time it’s not going to take that long (I hope).

As a vocalist, it was hard for me to not fall for the mighty orchestrations and backing vocals of this release. Surely the vocals had a strong impact, sometimes even more than the addictive guitar riffery, which boasted tremendous melodies. What is your appreciation of the arrangements of the vocals and the classical orchestra? Did you handpick the vocalists for this imperative task of backing vocals?

For the orchestration we worked together with Alex Hunzinger again. I can compose melodies and have a vague imagination of what instruments would be the best to play them, but he has a real understanding of how an orchestra works and how to put it together. So we let him do the final arrangements. We wanted to have a real backing choir this time instead of multiple single vocal tracks like we did on the last album, so we asked everyone in our friend circle of whom we thought was a good singer, to get together and record the choir. We actually did this twice with different people, so we have different choirs on some songs. If you listen closely, you’ll hear it.

Other than the backing vocals, you had a female singer, opera singer and a growler, quite remarkable touching nearly all worlds in one swing. What can you tell about these co-operations?

The female vocals were, like on the first album, done by Kathi Stahl again because it was really easy and enjoyable working with her. She does not only have a solo part on "Mermaids’ Isle", we also put her in some of the backing choirs where we felt we needed some female touch. The opera singer is Oleg Rudych from Magistarium, whom we knew from a gig we played together some time ago. He is taking over the part of Mortheon, who is one of the bad guys in our story. I imagined him to be a very classy villain with a cylinder and a mustache, so it seemed only logical to let him have the voice of an opera singer. Speaking of the growls: I actually did them myself.

After the intro, you opened with a fist of steel with a rather obvious type of track, going in full speed, all around catchy. However, within the typical nature of “Across The Sea Of Time”, it is something that hasn’t been heard much nowadays. It feels that Metal music of the present that is technically guided and modernized, needed that punch and immense drama. How do you feel about this song? Do you believe that it is some sort of against the tide kind of thing?

I actually never thought about it like that. I just had the urge to make the first song as powerful and fast as possible, not only to immediately catch the listeners attention, but also to make the statement: ‘This is a power metal album and it’s going to be epic’. To make everything more dramatic has obviously been a trend for some time already now. I like it but I also don’t know where this is going. Some time we will have to step back because you can’t get even more dramatic at some point.

I believe that one of the album’s most emotive piercers is rather the semi-jumpy “Quest into the Sky”. The orchestrations simply command the charge on the speedy / melodic nature of the song. Has it always been in your view to gather up such a victorious feel to a tune?

Well, it is power metal. The purpose of power metal is to make you feel powerful. So yes, this was definitely my intention behind this song.

One of the album’s prominent productions is the balladry of “Believe in the Dawn”. It is more than a power ballad, it is a sort of an intermission within a sea of rage. What is your take on this track and also its position in the tracklist, right in the middle of things?

The album follows the story of a man who is struggling hard to achieve his goal. During this constant struggle one sometimes has to take a break and contemplate everything one’s been doing, maybe even think about if it’s the right choice. This process is represented by this song. In the end, the pace is being picked up and the path is clear again.

On the business side of things, “Age Of Steam” brought you to a new label, Pride & Joy Music. How do you feel about the signing? How did this relationship start? How do you consider the promotional process of this album?

Pride & Joy Music was the first and one of the few labels who responded to our application when we presented them the finished album. The way they communicated and the deal they proposed immediately convinced us, since we had and still have issues in terms of both with our last label. Everything is going great so far. We already have a lot of positive feedback on our first single and music video.

With the pandemic still far from being aloof, shows and tours are either postponed or cancelled on a weekly basis. How do you guys take care of promoting the album other than the press? Are there plans to head on to live stream shows?

We had a release show planned, but as expected, it has just been cancelled. At the moment we are looking for alternatives. We are not very enthusiastic about live stream shows since we would be missing the interaction with the audience, which is very important to us. But we’re definitely going to have to do something to catch people’s attention.

Have you started thinking of 2021 in terms of live performances or rather start thinking about a new album concept or how to continue this saga?

We have one show planned for 2021 since months already. Let’s hope that one doesn’t get cancelled as well. Apart from this we would love to do a tour if the world is finally back to normal next year. A new album is also already in the first steps of making. I actually wrote one last year but dismissed it again because I wasn’t satisfied. Now I’m working on two albums simultaneously. We’re going to have to decide which one we will do first.

Tristan, many thanks for your efforts on this interview. It was a great chat and I am certain that this album will be making waves. Cheers sir.

The pleasure was on my side. You’ve been asking some challenging questions!



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