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Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk)

Interview with Ferdy Doernberg from Rough Silk
by Grigoris Chronis at 01 March 2009, 5:30 PM

Who has missed the velvet wildness of ROUGH SILK all these years? Good, enough hands in the air…ROUGH SILK, the sounds-like-no-other German Heavy/Power/Melodic Metal band is soon to deliver the goods again with A New Beginning; a fitting title, indeed. Mainman and only original member Ferdy Doernberg surely is a vivid and no borders thinking person. Really can't wait for new tunes by this blessed act.

Interview with: Ferdy Doernberg from ROUGH SILK

Hello Ferdy, welcome to! It's more than great news to see ROUGH SILK are back on the Metal map again. Almost six years since the release of End Of Infinity, it's true so many things happened in the band's camp, right? Still, it seems A New Beginning is a fitting title for the upcoming ROUGH SILK CD. Do you now feel reborn, finished working on the new album?

Yes, definitely! What happened was that the band (in the End Of Infinity lineup) had broken up in 2003 directly after the release of the album. The other members were not interested in playing Metal music or playing at all anymore. So it was over and ROUGH SILK didn't exist anymore. I carried on playing with Axel Rudi Pell, Uli Jon Roth and many other musicians, made a solo album which was way more successful than I expected it to be and so I played many solo shows as a singer/songwriter; something was missing.

I had many ideas for Metal tunes that would not fit on my solo albums at all. So I started looking for young and hungry musicians to form a new Metal band. Andre Hort, who had been ROUGH SILK's webmaster for a few years already, was an obvious choice. Andre had opened up for ROUGH SILK with his band A.O.D. a few times and after the band had split up A.O.D.'s guitar player Mike Mandel also joined the newborn group. We started writing together and after a while it was obvious that the music sounded a lot like the Metal side of ROUGH SILK combined with some fresh new influences but definitely without the Pop & Prog Rock experiences of the last albums. Originally we had planned to give the band a new name but now we had to realize that my songwriting style makes a Metal song automatically sound like ROUGH SILK. So because the old members of the band do not play anymore anyway we decided to become the new ROUGH SILK!

After a few months we found the perfect drummer: Alex Wenn, who is a really a good drummer from our neighborhood and has - even though he's still pretty young like Andre and Mike, too - played with many good musicians like Craig Robinson (bass player of John Lee Hooker), Spencer from SHARK ISLAND and the famous german Country singer Gunter Gabriel. Only one month later we gave it a try opening up for the legendary American Speed Metal band AGENT STEEL. And it went very well! So the title is definitely fitting : We're ready for a new beginning and I'm very proud of the album.

The musicians now surrounding you seem to be fresh names and a recent Press release speaks for some young and hungry musicians.

I actually answered this question before. Yes, they are young and hungry - and I'm the Metal grandpa, ha ha!!! They are great guys and very good musicians. Because Mike and Andre come from the Thrash and Death Metal scene, their way of playing is very aggressive and up-to-date and makes the old songs sound fresh and new. Alex's pounding drumstyle, that includes many technical skills, brings an exciting contrast to their playing.

Still, you decided to handle the lead vocal duties again. Didn't you even search for a singer or you did not find the perfect match?

No, we never looked for a new singer. I always  wrote all the ROUGH SILK lyrics and wanted to sing them myself. I had classical vocal lessons, sing a lot when I  play with Axel Rudi Pell and after playing many solo shows as a singer I have a lot of experience in the entertainment sector now as well. We already played live and it worked very well.

Was it, working with fresh musicians, some kind of an elixir for you? Did you have any tough time trying to communicate in the beginning? Did they help you on the song compositions, too?

No, it is very easy to work with Mike, Andre and Alex. There are no communication problems. I wrote many songs together with Mike and Andre. Alex didn't write this time, because many songs were already written when he joined the band, but next he'll have more input time.

It may sound rather typical but - truth is - what should we expect from a New Beginning in terms of music? As pre-said, it's been six years now since your last album. Are the 'trademark' ROUGH SILK melodies and structures here again?

Yes, of course. I already answered this before as well, I guess. It's still typical ROUGH SILK. ROUGH SILK have definitely created an own style. The name says it all: Rough stands for the real Heavy (sometimes even Thrash and Hardcore) Metal influences and Silk for the unusual singer/songwriter elements and piano parts. I think that this album is way more ROUGH SILK than the last album with the old members. And it's definitely a METAL album again!!! That was the main reason why the old members left. They were not into Metal anymore and ROUGH SILK had always been a Metal band.

Are you any nervous regarding the received feedback? Things have been changing rapidly the last years in the music business, don't you think? Are you afraid the 'ROUGH SILK' name may be 'old news' for many fans? Six years of absence can been a drawback at times, I suppose.

Yes, of course I know about the situation in the music business - I never left it! It will not be easy, I'm pretty sure, but we didn't make this album for money; we made it because we love this music. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to have a band with young and idealistic musicians and not some old mercenaries who play for money only. So if it doesn't sell that good we won't be too happy but we will still love the music and the songs.

Anyway, what should we know regarding the new CD? First of all, what was the songwriting process like? Then, did you have enough difficulties rehearsing the new song-list or things ran smoothly? Last but not least, were was the new album recorded/mixed? Your studio? The production is yours again? And what about the mix?

Yes, we did everything in my studio apart from A Song for Hilmer which was recorded in Los Angeles/USA. We had a major computer crash in the middle of the production so we had to re-play many parts. But that was the only thing that was special during the production. The songwriting process was very nice. I had half of the songs written and for the other half we just sat down everybody played his ideas and we worked on them. Very nice and relaxed work!!!

The cover artwork ties with the message, that's sure. Was it your idea? Who drew it? Did you have to reject other proposals?

The Artwork is done by A.M. Karanitant, who has worked with HATEBREED, SIX FEET UNDER, BOLT THROWER and many others. He's great and I love his work very much. We had a couple of ideas ourselves, but when we saw the raw version of Meran's cover we just said: Yes, that's it !.

While waiting to listen to A New Beginning, a special reference should be made for two songs: A Song For Hilmer (R.I.P. …) and your collaboration on We've Got A File On You (weird, huh!). Tell us a little bit more 'bout both of them, since we have already read the general info posted on the ROUGH SILK homepage.

Well, so you may already know what A Song For Hilmer is about. I wrote and right away performed it in L.A. the day I got the news, that our original guitar player, Hilmer Staacke, had died the day before. I was in L.A. playing with Uli Jon Roth and Robbie Krieger (THE DOORS). But for those who didn't read it on our website here are a few words about Hilmer:

Hilmer and I went to school and had founded ROUGH SILK together, and after he had left the band we still were getting along very well, even though we didn't have so much contact anymore, which is something I regret a lot now. Musically Hilmer was an underrated guitar player, who had a great tone and was more into melodies than the shredding thing. Besides Jeff Beck one of his favourite guitar players was Warren De Martini from RATT. As I was now playing with Warren in L.A. I thought of Hilmer and told Warren that I had a friend who was a big fan of his playing. The next day Warren brought a poster to the show that he had signed for Hilmer. I wanted to give it to him on his birthday on the 5th of June. But 10 minutes later my cellphone rang and Ralf (the original bass player of ROUGH SILK) told me that Hilmer had died.

Of course I was totally shocked. Instead of playing my keyboard solo I played Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door, that I dedicated to Hilmer and the audience sang with me. 2 days after I got back I went to Hilmer's funeral and that was really tough. People I knew had died before (like a few month ago Peter Wells) but nobody so close. Hilmer and me grew up together and shared so many things. For ROUGH SILK he was very important and he definitely left his mark on the songs of the first albums. In the first years we rehearsed 6 times a week for 8 hours and all songs got worked out together in the rehearsal room. The basic ideas were always by Hilmer, Jan and myself. Hilmer's songs (like, for example, Don't Leave Me Now and Ups And Downs) had a very strong 70s touch (way before the 70s revival) and were very different from the typical riff-orientated songwriting style of the end of the 80s.

His always present disease was one reason for him to leave the band in 1995 but also he was very shy person who didn't like to be in the spotlight and also hated the business part of being a professional musician a lot. On the very long European tour with HELLOWEEN (3 months) he already had problems with asthma and allergies. Hilmer was a very sensitive and intelligent person and after he had left the band the innocence was gone. Even though all the people that played in ROUGH SILK later were great or at least good musicians this special us against the world feeling of the original lineup was gone (I don't mean the new lineup - I'm talking about the lineups in between!!!).

Hilmer later recorded an instrumental solo CD called wild Desert (I played keyboards on that one, too) and he also played a solo on my Storyteller's Rain CD. After leaving the band he worked as a session player (for a local radio station, for example) and gave guitar lessons. He married and got a now 8 years old daughter who became the main focus of the last years of his life. Hilmer only got 38 years old but his music will survive him. I will never forget him and from now on when ever I'll play songs like walls Of Never on a stage somewhere out there in this strange world I will think of him.

What's weird about We've Got A File On You? It's a cool Punk Rock tune. My first band THE WABBLES was a Punk Rock band. I was a huge RAMONES fan as a kid. ROUGH SILK have always been open-minded but the older members were not too much into Punk Rock, but with the new lineup it was possible to finally record this song that I had written some years ago. I really love this song. The lyrics are very funny and it was great to collaborate with the guys from SUBCULTURE SQUAD - a Hardcore/Street Punk band from Hannover who are known as Germany's answer to AGNOSTIC FRONT. I'm a huge AGNOSTIC FRONT fan since they started.

ROUGH SILK always had many Thrash Metal and Hardcore influences especially in the guitar riffs. You can hear that already on the Walls Of Never album (H8 What U Want, Toxical Roses) but especially on albums like Mephisto and Beyond The Sundown, so the collaboration with a Hardcore band is not so special for us - but we never did such a song before; it reminds me a lot of AGNOSTIC FRONT or even more of Roger Miret's solo stuff but also a lot of SOCIAL DISTORTION. But it wouldn't be a ROUGH SILK song if there wouldn't be that strange break section with just piano and vocals in between.

2009 marks the band's 20th anniversary of the band; another sign of a new beginning. Would it be cruel enough to ask if this is a 'solid' saying, since you only are the only original member? Or you feel a 'band' is the songs and not the band members?

Exactly - as I said before: The name says it all; Rough stands for the real Heavy (sometimes even Thrash and Hardcore) Metal influences and Silk for the unusual singer/songwriter elements and piano parts. It's a really unique style. And bands like MOTORHEAD, RUNNING WILD, SODOM, SAVATAGE, THERION and many others also work for years with only one original member.

We originally wanted to give the band a different name but after we had written the first tunes everbody who heard them said that they would sound a lot like ROUGH SILK , so I asked the other guys what they would think and so we decided to continue as ROUGH SILK. I have the right to use the name anyway and the other original guys stopped playing and live in a different world now as teachers, lawyers and family fathers - so why should we give it a different one?

ROUGH SILK had many lineup changes through the years anyway and I'm the only remaining guy but actually it was always more about the band's style - the name already says it: ROUGH SILK!!!

Generally speaking, are you willing to carry on now with ROUGH SILK starting off with the A New Beginning album? Should we expect a more normal activity from the band? We already know your tight schedules regarding Axel Rudi Pell or your solo works.

Well, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll do whatever I can for ROUGH SILK. This band is my baby and I'm very satisfied with the album and the lineup. ROUGH SILK was my first professional band and is still my secret passion. We created a very unique style wich I still love. That's the reason why I founded a new version of ROUGH SILK. After the band had finally split up in 2003 I originally thought to let it rest in peace. But then I formed the new band with Andre and Mike. So, no problem. Wherever there's power to plug in - we'll play!!!

Of course I work a lot with other people but other members of bands like ROUGH SILK have day jobs - so they have even less time than I do because I don't have to ask a boss for vacation when I gotta get on the road…

How did you come in contact with Dockyard1, really? Do you have a deal with more than one albums? Are you satisfied from your so far cooperation?

I know Christine of DY1 for many years. We are good friends and worked together many times before (Roland Grapow, Rick Monroe) and she also manages one of my best friends, Mike Terrana. She was the first one I asked and I'm very glad that she and her team liked the album. I also knew Piet, Dirk and Sonja (who comes from my hometown!) before. I'm very happy so far. They are great and very professional people who still have an open ear for music - a rare thing these days!!!

Did they propose you should have a guest musician appearing in the new album? Really, is there any special guest in A New Beginning?

No, we didn't want that. We didn't want a huge namedropping thing like everybody does nowadays. We just had a few friends of us singing backing vocals. But no Rock stars. The SUBCULTURE SQUAD guys and Dr. Thorstein (the drummer of the German horror Punk band TERRILL, who sound a bit like the MISFITS), who's one of Andre's best friends, are the only ones who play in bands with record deals.

You feel you have forgiven all your wrong moves (if any) in the past, regarding ROUGH SILK? I speak 'bout former members, co-operations, contracts? How wise are you 20 years later now?

Oh yes, I'm very wise indeed - NOT!!! Of course I would do many things differently - but only if I knew what I know now.

In the same situations and with the same knowledge I would probably do all the mistakes again. Of course we got ripped off, trusted the wrong people (even some band members…) and made many wrong moves - but that's life!!!

Do you have any advice to offer younger artists/musicians? Music is the only thing that matters or management/promotion is of equal (or - at times - more) significance in a band trying to spread its name in the Rock/Metal world?

Oh I think it's even harder nowadays!!! I wouldn't like to start right now. The business is in a huge crisis and on the other hand there are way too many bands. Another problem is the lack of originality. Many bands just copy other bands and only a few new bands have an own style. But that's what most business people want because this way bands are easier to categorize. But I think in the next years a lot of changes will happen in the music business.

Is there any personal quest behind the art you make?

Besides my work as a musician I always saw myself as a songwriter and lyricist. That's the reason why I started recording solo albums. My solo albums give me the chance to write all my crazy ideas down and record songs with 7 verses and no chorus, for example. This is impossible in Rock and Metal music. That's why my solo albums are in the singer/songwriter style. Also this gives me the chance to work with many acoustic instruments and experiment a lot with different slide guitars and vintage keyboards.

The inspiration comes from…life, actually. I travel a lot and see different things, meet different people and have a lot of free time in the bus. And because I don't drink and don't take drugs I have a much time to write lyrics on the road. But I'm the kind of guy who always wants what he doesn't have. When I was doing only Metal music I wanted to do different stuff as well but when I was doing more singer/songwriter stuff than Metal I missed writing and performing original Metal music a lot so I started the band with Andre and Mike that became the new ROUGH SILK

Sometimes things happen very quick in the music business: You get a phone call and 2 days later you sit in a plane to somewhere, touring, writing and also - last but not least: live!!! I've learned one thing: Most of the things in life you can't plan anyway - we are oh so sure how things will turn out and then suddenly everything changes and all our carefully made plans are nothing but dust in the wind… So maybe it's better to talk about hopes: I hope to stay busy, healthy, lucky and maybe something/someone cool will come my way - who knows?

Do you still feel yourself being also a Rock/Metal fan, apart from your musician profile? Do you still buy albums, go to gigs, read magazines/webzines?

Yes, of course I'm still a fan and I still buy records. Do you want to know my favourite records from 2008? But I'd better warn you : It's a long list of totally different stuff; as I said, I'm a very open-minded person. Alright, here it comes:

- LAAZ ROCKIT: Left For Dead- Vinnie Stigma: New York Blood- DEICIDE: Till Death Do Us Part- Matt Roehr: Uhad2bthere- TESTAMENT: The Formation Of Damnation- Kip Winger: From The Moon To The Sun- LEATHERWOLF: New World Order- BON JOVI: Lost Highway : The Concert- CYNIC: Traced In Air- Bryan Adams: 11- AC/DC: Black Ice- HONEYMOON SUITE: Clifton Hill- Denis Leary: Why We Suck- Chris Isaak: Live In Australia- Alex Webster & BLOTTED SCIENCE: Machinations Of Dementia- THE CAVALERA CONSPIRACY: Inflikted- Jason Ringenberg: Best Tracks & Sidetracks- Udo Lindenberg: Stark Wie Zwei- Toby Keith: That Don't Make Me A Bad Guy- SIX FEET UNDER: Death Rituals- ZZ TOP: Live From Texas- SOULFLY: Conquer- HATE ETERNAL: Fury & Flames- METALLICA: Death Magnetic- Neil Morse: Lifeline- Brad Paisley: PlayAnd last but not least the new albums of two of my piano heroes:- Randy Newman: Harps & Angelsand- Dr. John: City That Care Forgot

I warned you, ha ha - don't get me started…you see, I'm definitely still a fan and I buy all this stuff - I don't download music. I'm pretty old-fashioned when it comes to albums. I like to read the credits, watch the pictures and think that an album should be a piece of art and not just a collection of songs. Unfortunately this seems to be going down the drain.

Ferdy, I think we wasted enough of your time for a start, haha! Is there anything you would like to add? Really hope A New Beginning will turn out to be everything you aim for in 2009!

Well, what can I say ? I hope those of you who read this are interested and listen to some tracks of the new album on MySpace maybe and, if they like it, they hopefully buy the album. Take care everyone and hope to see y'all soon!!! Peace - out!!!


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