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Torsten Ihlenfeld (Brainstorm)

Interview with Torsten Ihlenfeld from Brainstorm
by Grigoris Chronis at 18 February 2008, 1:36 AM

Torsten 'Todde' Ihlenfeld proved to be a really nice guy to talk to; even bigger the pleasure was, since BRAINSTORM's latest creation is entitled Downburst and - if you're 'into' this really 'metal' sound of these honest German metallers - you'll confirm the album kicks serious ass first time you get your ass and listen to it! The band's most successful album, so far? Time will tell. Till then: roll on, Mr. guitar wizard!

Todde, Since BRAINSTORM’s new album was a highly anticipated release, should we start by talkin’ about it? Did ideas for Downburst start to take initial shape just after Liquid Monster was released? And, eventually, how long did it take you to enter the studio for the recordings? And, not to forget, Sascha Paeth & Miro took over now, right?

We started the real songwriting process in fall 2006, after the summer festivals. We had very intense songwriting sessions this time and really took our time for it. We started recording in early summer 2007 and it took until October until everything was finished. It was a big wish of the band to work with Sascha and Miro and it turned out great. They both are great producers, very talented musicians and nice guys to get along with. They definitely took the album to a higher level.

Did you have lots of ’raw’ tracks ready, in order to clear things out for what the tracklist would be? Or, you usually go vice versa (writing only what’s decided form the beginning that will fit the new album)?

We always write and finish only what we think will make it on the album or on the different versions of the album, so we usually have around 12-14 basic songs ready before entering the studio.

The cover artwork is rather bright. With vivid colours, it can be considered as a simple yet powerful picture, but somehow mystique (did not get the message, to tell you the truth!). You are in support of the opinion that you should (or shouldn’t) judge a book by its cover or not (laughs)? Who was in charge of the cover this time?

The same guy who did the Liquid Monster cover. When we were on tour for Liquid Monster we already discussed that the next album should have mainly the colours red and white, with only one focus on it that should represent the band itself. Means; the guy should express what we, as a band, stand for. We always did things our way and never gave up and believed in ourselves and that’s what the guy on the cover does as well. The title Downburst simply refers to the music on the album, as we felt that the new songs have something very powerful and impressing, like a storm that suddenly appears and runs all over you. That’s why we called it Downburst. Got it now?

Clear…So, does the cover relate to some (or all) of the album’s lyrics? Due to the promo CD we got for review, I’m rather curious to ask you ’bout your lyrics themes this time, for tunes like e.g. Stained with Sin or End In Sin. I felt - at times - rather depressed, to tell you the truth. Is Downburst a powerful yet - kinda - gloomy album?

The lyrics are on one side very personal, on the other hand just about things that happen around us, in real life or in the world wide media. So, it is not surprising that the lyrics are kind of ’dark’ as so many shit happens in the world nowadays. Personally, I think the lyrics are great on the album, very impressing and totally fit with the music. And as the whole concept for Downburst is darker than usual, it all is a very fitting big picture made of many single puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.

Does the whole band provide ideas for the lyrics in each BRAINSTORM album? Furthermore, do you think Metal fans still pay attention to the lyrics in a song?

That’s mainly Andy’s part. I think some fans really do pay attention but there are many that focus very much on the music. I, personally, first have to like the music and if the lyrics are good, \[it’s] too fine with me, but I can not just read the lyrics if I don’t like the music. In the end, music should entertain people first and if you are able to give them something more with the lyrics, then even better.

Do you watch movies or read books? Are they a source of inspiration? Literature has always been a good companion for (mainly) European Metal bands. Local/regional myths and history, too.

Yes, I do both, but more inspirational are definitely books. The bible is a very impressing book for example.

If you had to pick one song out of Downburst to attract the interest of an existing or potential BRAINSTORM fan, which one do you think would be the most representative one? I mean, not necessarily your beloved one…

That’s a hard decision, but I think Stained With Sin is a very typical BRAINSTORM song. Traditional heavy riffing, great melodies and even some acoustic parts in the beginning - that sounds pretty much like the classics, like it could be MAIDEN, PURPLE, DIO, RAINBOW - and that’s exactly the music we grew up with when we were teenagers. Music is nothing without harmonies.

Fire Walk With Me preceded the album’s release in late 2007. And, wow, it topped the Hungarian Single Charts! What was your reaction to this achievement?

We have been really like What? This is really unbelievable and we can not thank our fans enough for this.

What’s the feedback so far, from both fans and the Media?

Luckily, almost everybody seems to like the new album. We get amazing feedback from our fans and from the Media as well and everything looks like Downburst will be the most successful BRAINSTORM album so far.

I have - several times - heard the opinion that BRAINSTORM would be even more successful if they were keener in the (so called) happy version of Heavy/Power Metal. For my likes, I love the band’s music just the way it is! On the other hand, some die-hard fans of the early days do (now and then) express the opinion that BRAINSTORM has - somehow - turned out to be more typical in their recent works. Really, how difficult is it to please everyone when releasing an album? And, first of all, what about yourselves? Aren’t you the first ought to be pleased?

You can not please everybody and that’s not what we want to do. We have to love the music we write and play and, if that’s the case, the fans will like it too, because it is straight and honest. There will always be some people who like the first album best, for example, but hey, we love all our albums because every album stands for a certain point in our career and reflects the band exactly how it was back then when the album came out. We could have easily followed a more ’happy’ version, but that would have not been honest. We like our music exactly the way it is and I think, really, that’s a very important reason why we are around for such a long time now. People now that our music comes straight from our hearts, from our deepest inner and we always try to give the best we can.

Todde, Downburst will also be released in vinyl format (a pic.disc edition). I grab the chance to ask: why do you feel some labels have started again to press some limited copies of vinyl format from (some) new releases? Is vinyl dead yet, or not, anyway? Do you still collect vinyl releases (new or second hand)?

Yes, I still collect vinyl. Metal is and always was, for the fans, more than just buying music. Metal fans always are collectors and try to get their hands on the items (same with me) and a picture vinyl is a collectors item. So, vinyl is not dead as long as Metal is alive.

Back to the normal issues: there are some dates already fixed for an upcoming European tour in March 2008. What’s the plan afterwards? Are you in talks for more European dates or something in the US? Not to forget, European summer Metal fests are on the way, too!

Yes, the tour is booked and we are very busy preparing everything for it. We start March 4th in Denmark and have the last day of the tour in Budapest, Hungary. After that we will be busy playing the summer festivals before we plan to go overseas in fall.

Really, the last ten years we witness an ever-growing presence of summer Metal fests. How would you explain the success of these events, especially in Germany? Is Germany the center of the Metal World now, the way e.g. Britain was once?

Germany has always been a big market for Metal music. The reason for all those summer festivals is that you can see many bands for a good price and the festivals nowadays are more \[of] happenings where people are having a good time, meet friends and so on.

I feel somehow disappointed from all this ’downloading’ stuff in our days. And - truth is - CDs are not selling that much, too. On the other hand, you see (classic legends, anyway) bands like IRON MAIDEN or METALLICA playing sold-out shows in arenas while (virtually all???) the other bands struggle to perform in front of some hundreds of metallers. Do you feel post-80s bands should be given more chances by (first of all) the fans themselves? AND - to extend - in what ways the labels/managers would (or would not) let something like this happen?

Well, what happens if MAIDEN or METALLICA call it quits? Where do the people go then? Or are they just too old then and die with the big bands? No one knows, but fact is nowadays there are so many bands - too many - to be able to concentrate on. Bands like MAIDEN or METALLICA are great and talented musicians on one hand and have been at the right place at the right time…but the world will not stop turning and we will see other bands come and go…everything that stands the test of time has a reason and just listen to the songs of such bands & great songs and that’s why they are where they are.

Todde, thanks a lot for your precious time to answer these questions! We really hope all the best for Downburst and BRAINSTORM; a band worth a lot more!

Well said! Thanks for the support!


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