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Venator's Johannes Huemer: "It’s not always easy to describe but what is definitely the case is that with the decline of Rock N’ Roll as a lifestyle in music in the 90’s, metal also changed from time to time completely…"

Interview with Johannes Huemer from Venator
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 25 March 2022, 11:30 AM

A way of life that might exist anymore, yet maybe it is slowly making a comeback, but in better conditions, perhaps technological related. The spirit of the 80s might be breathing through newer bands, and albums, but the meaning of a Metalhead's life, or kick back to the past of the Rock N' Roller, will probably remain as past. It has to be considered what is more important, the life, or the music, or maybe both of them has to be together side by side. Thankfully, it is up for the fan to decide upon that issue. The newcomer Austrian Heavy Metal band, Venator, explore the old way of life with their debut album, "Echoes from the Gutter", where the underground lives. Steinmetal took that trip with the band's vocalist, Johannes Huemer, to understand more.

Hello Hans, it is a great pleasure of mine to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Great, thanks!

After the last wave of the pandemic, which is on its course of demise, there is now the next in line, the war in Ukraine. Such a turn of events that burst into our lives, and it affects us all. In your view, are we strolling between unfortunate occurrences, or someone is trying to tell us something that we don’t really get?

Yes, it kind of seems like once something that has been a threat to us and our society is slowly starting to disappear, it is immediately followed by another wave of bad news. But we can only hope this whole madness finds an end pretty soon and that justice wins at the end. And I really do hope that in the near future we can all think of it as an event that, despite all the terrible things that’ve happened, still ended quickly before more disasters were about to come.

Your band, Venator, started out a little while back, yet only started releasing material on an official basis just two years ago, right before things changed all around. Looking at these past two years, with the band releasing an EP, along with a split effort, how do you view the path that the band has been on?

The band did form earlier but it took some time to get ready for our first gigs and to play them in front of a live audience. That finally happened in 2019. Our first concert was such a huge success to us that we instantly got eager to play as much shows as possible and to record our material. Covid reduced the expected number of shows of course and it also caused the delayed release of our full-length. However, the less festivals took place during the pandemic the more thankful and motivated we got for every concert we were able to play that year.

Once you got things going, made sure that ol’ Covid-19 wouldn’t become a factor that would stop you on your way to immortalize your state of mind into your debut, the Venator shipped forward, with conviction and motivation. "Echoes from the Gutter" was born eventually. Following possible obstacles that may shaped the reality of the album’s experience, would you say that it was an easy going ride?

I wouldn’t say easy going at all but if I could say anything positive about the Covid era, it gave us some extra time for the songwriting and the preparations. But we actually planned to start the recordings right after the second wave of the pandemic in January ’21. However, due to the third one being on its way, planned things always turned unclear, which was nagging of course. So it gave us lots of troubles during the recording days in March as well, making us postpone the recording process ’til June. Nevertheless, we took it as an opportunity to put the finishing touches on the guitar parts.

When I thought about the idea behind such a phrase as "Echoes from the Gutter", it had me wondering about those that don’t care if they are part of the underground, some things should be, and remain as such.  Was that the case with the decision making that was surrounding the chosen title? How do you view this title personally?

The idea behind the title was to fuse the atmosphere of the music and the band with the experiences we’ve made over the years while spending our time in our hometown, Linz. Our rehearsal room is located in the cellar of an abandoned slaughter house in the middle of the most run down part of Linz, where lots of bizarre things take place from time to time. Looking from an artist's perspective this provides lots of inspiration and heavily contributes to the charm of the music one makes. It represents our story. And yes, that's where the "underground“ also plays an important part. It started in the underground, let's see how much it gets to the surface.

Another aspect of the spirituality of "Echoes from the Gutter", and I believe that you can call it like that, is a sense of freedom, a form of escapism that doesn’t really relate to what is going on. The focus on being out there, street lethal, free to have a life to live, without it being handed to you. What is your take on that? Is this album your way of letting things go and just live?

I think each of us has his own take on this album. Personally, it does represent a feeling of letting the past be past forever to me, liberating oneself from a sorrow-stricken way of life where the only thing people want you to set focus on is a boring, or let's say even hopeless, looking future that doesn’t give you nothing but a shivering fear of an endless routine that wants to take you over. That’s where Rock N’ Roll comes in, which has left the world for far too long. That’s the point where this album shows what we really want to do in our life. Creating our own stuff, letting everything out, carry other people along and entertain them and living our life the fullest.

Your mascot, which I have no idea what you call it, is out there again, as the masked giant that scans the place, and looking for what? Probably if there are posers around or something like that? How does this giant fulfil the intentions of this album?

It was actually the very first thing that came to my head when I imagined what the cover should look like. I wanted something with a city that has similarities to the streets of our hometown. I just had to, because that was how we wanted the atmosphere of our music to be, especially for the debut: Something that comes from deep inside and what everyone who listens to our music should see.

I also wanted to include the character of the EP again, but this time he evolved. Now he seems as something bigger, more threat inducing or shall I say something like a higher being. But when I think about it why I painted him like that it’s probably because it should express the „Get out!“ message of the song "Paradiser“ from the EP but also the thoughts that were put into „Nightrider“.

The drunk guy lying in the gutter shouldn’t really represent a poser but more an abandoned Metalhead that first sees this „being“, whether it’s an illusion or not, as a threat. But eventually it may turn out to be some kind of sign, telling him to get back on his feet and break free from his miserable situation. But those are my thoughts to the image. Since it may not very clear to see what exactly is going on, it also lies in the interpretations of the spectator.

Not just an 80s driven band, but as if you were there, when things started to erupt in Europe and the US, at the beginning of the 80s. "Echoes from the Gutter" is not proto stuff, it is the actual thing, alive and breathing, could be already referred to as vintage. I have to ask, what makes that early stage of Metal so compelling to you personally, and of course for the rest of the boys? Other than being fans of course

I think it lies more in the feelings that the style of old-school metal gives us. It is a pretty wide spectrum of course but it still has this mixture of rawness, melody, speed and Rock N’ Roll that the post 80’s styles of metal mostly ceased to contain. Old-school metal seems to be out to convey power and a way of life more than just shock and controversy, but that of course depends on the genre. It’s not always easy to describe but what is definitely the case is that with the decline of Rock N’ Roll as a lifestyle in music in the 90’s, metal also changed from time to time completely. But that could also be a simplification from our perspective since we did not live through those times. We can only interpret it through the music itself.

In continuation to the previous question, in your view, what is that slice of heaven that is Venator, as a band that revamps the past in such a manner that it would have the flame burn those that don’t understand or care not to know? What makes Venator as that unique beast within the 80s revival as you see it?

Over the years we’ve barely listened to anything else than old-school-metal which results in our music hardly showing anything that does not relate to the vibes 80’s metal gives to its fans. We know what we want, we know what it should sound like and what kind of atmosphere the music should have. But an important factor could be that each of us has his own preferences and inspirations that he puts into it, which prevents the music from being too monotonous. But that’s all I can say about it and various bands probably do that. Maybe there’s something about our way of doing music that turns out to be the formula but we don’t really know it ourselves.

The songwriting of the album isn’t mainly targeting how to form up hooks, memorable tunes that would last long, but also on musicianship skills, which aren’t on the verge of modernity. Would you say that you guys chose a sort of integration between a measure of skill as musicians, along with being hit oriented?

Every member in the band has the chance to give what he’s got. That either being particular riffs or melodies or even a whole written song here or there. On the same time each member that participates in the writing process wants to express himself in a way, resulting in a consistency of different elements one can bring into a song. Those being hooks, complex melodies, expressionism, fills, etc…

We talked about the type of songwriting, yet it would be great to know what you can tell from the experience of this album? Furthermore, what can you share about the recording of this piece?

While the creation of the songs for this album happened in a span of two years, it still brought us into a healthy flow of inspirations and eagerness for more things to come. We learned lots of lessons that we can use for the future. And besides the troubles caused by Covid, we still were having an amazing time during the recording. The studio that was provided to us turned out to be the most comfortable place in Eferding, which is also where I come from and kind of gave us some bonus points.

Even though "Echoes from the Gutter" is your debut album, it probably also served as a learning curve for the future. In your view, what did the experience of making the album, combating obstacles along with way, and of course recording your material, teach you about yourselves as a band, meaning a unit, as musicians, and of course as those who write the songs?

That it is vastly important not to wait too long when taking the next step. You never know what is to come next, waiting out there to prevent you from getting your plans right and reaching your goals the way you’ve imagined it. And also a better feeling for organization and team work.

What can you tell about the album’s sound? It shares that peak of power that is hard to resist, slightly sawing in your brains, but leaving patches of sweetness that will not let one go that easily. Who produced the album, and who took care of how Venator would sound in 2022?

We always knew that we’d never be satisfied with our material if the sound isn’t as convincing as possible when it comes to old school-metal. Because if there’s something new coming out that wants to be old school but doesn’t have that special feel in the sound that makes it so likable, it loses a lot of spirit. And the person that made it possible to reach that exact feel is Aexxl Stoecker, who we met at a gig in Innsbruck where we played as an opener for his band, Stallion. He’s a brilliant producer and a good friend. Without him, this album as well as our EP wouldn’t have reached that many listeners.

I have to tell you Hans, it was tough to select a song from this album, largely I found it like an elixir. However, I did mean to ask about it, so I will focus on “Red And Black”. What can you tell about the song’s narrative, and what is it about? As for the music, what can you share about the creative sessions while it was in the making?

When Leon showed us the riffs for the song it already felt like something that wants to tell some kind of story. So I thought about what kind of story would fit in there. At that time, I was reading about the Austrian civil war that took place in 1934 and I decided to take this historic event as a fundamental idea. As soon as I got the melody for the chorus, the words „Red and Black“ fitted perfectly in there, which happen to be the colours of Austria's two main parties. It was the war between the Social Democrats and the Christian Social party, which ended up in the rise of the „Austrofascists“, therefore continuing the suffering of people among the state.

Once you had the chance to listen to the entire album, from top to bottom, since it is your debut album, which makes it even a more special event, what did the listening make you feel?

To be honest, as soon as the recordings were done we had no patience whatsoever so we ended up listening to the unfinished product so often, that in the end there was barely anything new to us. We did this to communicate with Aexxl about the sound effects and other additions! Nevertheless we were astonished with every progress and therefore very satisfied with the final product.

Europe is out there for grabs, unless Russia invades more countries, which I hope would be impossible, therefore, what are your plans ahead to support "Echoes from the Gutter"?

Taking as many opportunities and playing as many gigs as possible to make the times of nonstop show cancellations and prohibited action finally past!

Hans, I wish to thank you for this interview, and for your time. Thank you for your great token with an old school champion right there with "Echoes from the Gutter". All the best

Thank you, it was a pleasure!



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