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Twilight Theatre's Tristan Harders: "There was one lesson from the past which I deliberately ignored while making this record: Making the songs simple enough to perform them live…"

Interview with Tristan Harders from Twilight Theatre
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 26 December 2021, 9:12 PM

Think about the possibility that there are so many artists out there, musicians, part of bands, which have material kept in reserve, but are never used. The possibilities for countless of songs, converging into albums, are simply off the charts. Nevertheless, the chances of actually being able to enjoy these flakes of could be promises, are pretty slim. Terra Atlantica's vocalist, Tristan Harders, had time on his hands throughout the pandemic. Using his time, he went back in time, crossing old material that was never used, and did something with it, engineered it into an album under the moniker, Twilight Theatre. Steinmetal had to find out more about this new project, and the Power Metal it holds    

Hello Tristan, it is a pleasure to have you again for an interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hello and thanks for having me again! I have been doing well so far. No diseases.

Last time we talked it was the Summer of last year, due to Terra Atlantica’s latest release, right at the belly of all the Covid-19 pandemic. With all that has been happening worldwide, and as it appears there is another wave on the way, in your view, what does the future hold? Is this us living side by side with this virus like any other or is there something different in play?

Well last year I expected to witness the end of all human life but now we are still here and most people seem to have gotten used to the circumstances, so I guess we'll just carry on like this for a while longer. This year I was lucky to even play some concerts and I think next year we will somehow manage to make even more possible. I am optimistic.

The project that is called Twilight Theatre is fairly new. According to what I read, it was conceived due to the temporary shutdown of the live scene, meaning Terra Atlantica not performing. On the other hand, you have been gathering material for quite some time now, so you were just waiting for the right timing to kick this baby into gear? Were there earlier attempts to start the project?

At the beginning of 2021 I already released two or three songs as a solo artist that were originally written for Terra Atlantica and I had fun doing it, so when I looked into my 'unfinished ideas'-folder I realized there was enough quality material in there to make a whole album and so I did it.

No doubt that having Twilight Theatre around is a great motivator, and possibly going solo is your personal escape from what has been going on all around. Would you say that you find this project as your sort of life savior, or better stated, mental savior?

Definitely. Ironically, the album's title is 'Drifting Into Insanity' but in fact for me it is the opposite, for it has prevented me from doing so by giving me a task to distract me from what's going on around me. On the other hand, I may have put a little bit too much work into this since I did everything alone and spent lots of hours producing it. Next year I definitely have to take a step back, but I already have a feeling that will not be possible :-D

Talking about the gathered material that has been gathered earlier on, would you say that this raw material, later to be shaped into songs, was actually material that didn’t really fit Terra Atlantica musical direction?

The main difference between these songs and those of Terra Atlantica is that they are less dramatic due to fewer orchestral elements and more straightforward. They go more into a mainstream direction, which I try to prevent with Terra Atlantica. That's why I sorted them out.

Signing with the same Melodic Metal home that features Terra Atlantica, Pride & Joy Music, you are set to release your debut solo record, “Drifting Into Insanity”. It is hard to ignore by the title that there are issues at hand that you are probably facing, and attempting to solve, through the album’s songs, following a cosmic journey. Would you say that this is the case at hand, yourself facing your own mentality and perhaps other troubled occurrences?

Actually most of the songs I write are a way for me to process my emotions, even the Terra Atlantica ones. Only there it is metaphorically transformed into a story. The lyrics of Twilight Theatre songs are more emotional and personal in a direct sense. For me this is the best way to deal with my problems. Just turn them into music.

The motifs of the artwork have shared qualities and values with Terra Atlantica, in particular the ship featured in space. Is that ship there to state your connection to your main band, or is it a symbol that simply can’t leave your side?

Very well observed. Of course the ship symbolises the connection to my main band but I also like to see it as a metaphor for the musical and emotional journey I have been on all my life. Right now the ship is out there in space, so it's obviously a bit lost in these difficult times.

Leaving behind the cinematics, at least not in such a wide scale as on the Terra Atlantica universe, “Drifting Into Insanity” holds a more straightforward European Power Metal direction that is a journey back to the Metal revival of the late 90s, I guess that this direction of Power Metal has always been your favourable, sharing an approach that is your guiding light when writing music?

That's right. My songwriting is heavily influenced by those bands from the late 90s or early 2000s like Edguy, Gamma Ray, Sonata Arctica etc. At the beginning, Terra Atlantica also wasn't that cinematic. It only came when Alex Hunzinger made an orchestral arrangement for one song for fun and we were so impressed by it that we made it our style.

With you being the multi-instrumentalist, playing everything, and of course singing, other than the drums, which were programmed, throughout this process of “Drifting Into Insanity”, was there never any doubt about whether you should collaborate with additional musicians, since it is a studio project?

Since it is a solo project, my ambition was to do everything myself as much as possible. Except for the drums of course because I cannot play them that good. At first I thought about having Nico play them but then again I thought it would make it less differentiable from Terra Atlantica. And sadly I didn't know any other drummers, so it had to be done this way. It did have some support on the vocals though. My friend Robin Kelka and my brother Finn Harders did some backing vocals to make the choirs bigger. Then there is a guest appearance by Tomi Fooler of Skeletoon on vocals and a guest guitar solo by Gabriel Tuxen of Seven Thorns / Magic Opera.

“Drifting Into Insanity” channels hard driving riffs, twin guitar harmonies and essentially by the book of Power Metal. Nonetheless, I am positive that there is a form of uniqueness within the music, perhaps not for the naked ear. In your opinion, what makes this album uncanny in contrast to the vastness of Power Metal going on?

Well for starters on this album I try to recreate the sound of older power metal bands that don't sound like that anymore. And second the singer on this album (me) cannot sing as high as other representatives of this genre, so it is easier for you, the listener to sing along to this music :-D

With you being the man behind Twlight Theater, virtually doing everything on “Drifting Into Insanity”, including production, mixing and mastering, what can you tell about the experience of being the engineer, other than the musician?

As a musician it is always hard to finally be happy with a take and say 'that's it. It's good enough now.' but as the engineer it is even harder because there are a million possibilities to tweak the sound on every edge and corner. Also you are the last piece in the production chain, so if it doesn't sound good in the end you get all the blame.

Soundwise, I found various comparisons to the late 90s sound of Gamma Ray, along with the ambiance of the keyboards layers of Rhapsody. What references were your totems while selecting which sound direction to follow?

Gamma Ray is already a good example. I actually tried to use as few orchestral elements as possible because I wanted this to be more Edguy and less Avantasia. Sometimes though I couldn't contain myself and had to add the orchestration big time. Let's not deny the fact that Rhapsody is still one of my biggest influences.

Throughout the songwriting, recording and production of “Drifting Into Insanity”, what did this experience teach about your approach towards songs, arrangements, and of course studio work? What lessons of the past, as a songwriter, did you take into account while this record was made?

There was one lesson from the past which I deliberately ignored while making this record: Making the songs simple enough to perform them live. A problem that I encountered several times in my early years of songwriting. I always made the songs too hard to play live. With Terra Atlantica I learned to change that. But since this solo project is just a studio album I could simply ignore the live aspect and make the songs as hard as possible without concerns.

The first tune that emblazoned my mind was the Symphonic / Power Metal export of “In The Realms Of Memories”, a journey back to the glory days of this energetic sub-genre of Metal. The melodies are exquisite, sounding somewhat like a Scottish bagpiper at times. What is your take on this track?

Funny that you say that it takes you back to the old days because that's exactly what it is about. Not in the musical sense though but more in an emotional way. Re-visiting your memories and dwelling in them. But it's nice that the connection of lyrics and music seems to work. I think this song is a lot influenced by Freedom Call, at least the chorus. The main riff is supposed to have a little folk metal vibe because I used to listen to folk metal a lot in my early days of metal.

“Halls Of Glory” has that modern touch to it, taking a different turn in contrast to the loosen high octane tracks, somewhat of the Edguy halo pattern. The chorus is inspirational, contributing to the powerful nature of the song. What can you tell about this track’s creation? Would you consider it a pivotal moment of the album?

This song started as a joke for me. I tried to make a really commercial 4 chord song to make fun of certain other bands that do it all the time and are highly successful with it. When it was done I really liked it though and it became an instant earworm so then I said 'why not put it on the album' But I wouldn't exactly rate it as one of the album's best songs. There are better ones on it ;-)

Even though we called it a project throughout this conversation, is there a consideration to make it more than that, a live band perhaps?

Not so long ago I was planning to do a release show for the album with a real live band but first I think we will have restrictions in January again, making it impossible, second the songs are quite difficult as stated before and third I realised that I don't have time for this right now because I am fully submerged in the production of the third Terra Atlantica album, which will come out in 2022. So I think in the near future there won't be any live performances of Twilight Theatre.

Tristan, once again, a pleasure to have for a talk, I wish you merry Christmas and happy new year. Thank you for letting this project run, it produced only greatness. All the best

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you too and thanks for questioning me!



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