The great leftover of my 2016’s musical year has been Lone Wanderer, without any doubt. As I previously mention I only discovered this project -and its latest album The Majesty of Loss– at the very end of the year. That didn’t gave me the chance to include it in my annual “best of the year” list. Even so it did struck me. Pretty hard!
To redeem myself I had to “find” the band and ask for a brief chat to get to know what there’s beyond the mammoth album. Well, from across the border, in the German city of Freiburg I’ve found Bruno Schotten (guitar and vocal) and Jakob Zeblin (drums) willing to respond to my -slightly biased- question.
Here’s what we’ve talked about.
Hello, welcome to The Somber Lane!
First of all, just to break the ice, we’d like to get to know the background of the band. You guys are based in Freiburg. I’ve been there this summer. It seemed to me a lovely, cheerful city. So what did you guys do to be willing to start a Funeral Doom band in such a happy place?
Just kidding, the serious question is: how is your local scene? Is there a good support by fans and other fellow bands?
J: The local scene in Freiburg is actually pretty good. It’s far away from being a big one, but everyone knows each other more or less, which makes it fun playing there and getting reviews from his friends. But the most support to this point we received from DEAF PROOF, a Stoner-/Psychedelic Rock Band from Freiburg, which let us record our two releases in their rehearsal room.
B: As Jakob said, we have a small but loyal gathering in Freiburg. DEAF PROOF have been very generous and we’re thankful for that. There are few, all too few great individuals in the scene that make Freiburg special, which is what counts in the end. Besides, it might be that cheerfulness which is often artificial and turns us to the more sinister sides of life.
Let’s jump right into the action, now.
Your new record, ‘The Majesty of Loss’, has been out for a couple of months now. How has been the audience response so far? And how did you guys come up working with Mournful Congregation’s Justin Hartwig?
B: As expected with an unknown band like us, things are going slow, but steadily. Generally speaking we receive very good feedback so far and are selling quite some copies. As you know we produced the record on our own, so there is no label backing us which of course slowed down the process of gaining recognition. On the bright side we kept all the creative momentum in our hands. We came to work with Mournful Congregation when I hosted the first ‘Doom over Freiburg’ festival. After they played their headlining show I kept their contacts and Justin visited me in Freiburg on his Europe vacation. One evening we jammed together and saw the potential. Finally, when the album was almost done I asked him whether he would like to play a guest solo in one of the songs. Being the phenomenal guitarist he is he delivered a stunning solo on top of the lead and rhythm guitars.
Listening to both your records -‘Principles’ and the latter ‘The Majesty of Loss’- in a row I’ve been stunned by the giant leap forward you guys made. The compositions are definitely better constructed and so is the production, which sounds mammoth. How would you explain those enormous improvements?
J: Bruno wrote all of the songs – on ‘Principles’ and ‘The Majesty of Loss’- so he can explain it far better but the mindset of the whole band changed. The ‘Principles’-EP was our first sign of life and we just wanted to show something of our music. That been done the next step was to get more serious: on the one hand Bruno and his songwriting and on the other the production which did improve massively.
B: Some of the riffs on ‘Majesty’ were written way back but were revisited for the composition of the album. So it is hard to describe what changed in songwriting, I would say the main difference is the shift of the Rhythm guitar from basic chords to more complex ones as well as multi-voiced melodies. With Chris’ incredible ability to instinctively play all the new chords I wrote it opened more space to add more voices in the lead guitar and bass as well. This can be heard in many riffs – most of the title track for example. As for the production: we took our time and didn’t rush any of the recordings. As with the last EP we recorded all the instruments at night. Our equipment also improved, as we have had new guitars and amps. In the end, Damon Good did his magic and worked out the great sound which is so thick and yet organic. He earns most of the respect for the outcome here.
I think that one of the most interesting thing when interviewing a Doom band is talking about lyrics. Yours are intense indeed. Mind telling us something more about the topic? Which are the themes covered in your latest album lyrics?
B: While our older songs focused on different topics, ‘Majesty’ has a loose concept to it, a philosophical journey if you will. It resembles a depiction of several aspects of a greater whole, each manifested in the individual songs. In it’s very core it is the Schopenhauerian theme of the heartfelt recognition of the thing in itself (Noumenon), manifesting itself in a world of suffering and deprivation. Since all emotions and impulses result from striving, they can only be negative in their very core (hence the title of the opening track). Joy is regarded merely as an absence of pain – often narrow, short and ultimately pointless. Since the inner self of what we perceive as the existing world is timeless, the individual life span becomes a tidal phenomenon in the boundless floods of existence, further diminishing all efforts of finding values, goals or deeper meaning. What may sound as a nihilistic, depressing conclusion is more of an offering towards a final question of finding the valuable things in life. Having a grasp on the true negative nature of existence, and only in hindsight, one may cherish the few things possessing some kind of value. Nonetheless it is an unsettling message though.
I guess you’re most likely gonna reply “Mournful Congregation” at this very question. And well, if you are not I won’t ever believe you! [laugh] That being said, what are the most influential bands for ‘Lone Wanderer’?
And what do you guys like to listening to that somehow has nothing to do with Doom or Metal in general?
J: For me it is of course MC but also Shape of Despair, Ningizzia, Funeral, Warning, etc that made me wanting to play Doom Metal. But besides of Doom or Metal, I am a huge fan of Jason Molina (all his work), Vic Chesnutt, Giles Corey and dark and sad folk in general.
B: When it comes to doom, it is Mournful Congregation, Evoken, Funeral, Thergothon, My Dying Bride and a few others. Classic bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who or even Dire Straits are a big part of my musical development as well. And last but not least I enjoy a lot of the 80s post-punk movement including dark guitar work. Anything with great guitars really!
Another basic point I’d like to cover is your private life. Now, I don’t mean to invade your own privacy. Still, I’d like to ask what do you guys do when you’re not playing with each other? Any other hobby or side project?
B: As most musicians do, I have written songs for in many styles but none of them turned into real projects yet. There is a lot of songwriting and experimenting going on apart from Funeral Doom, though. I also like to improve my overall guitar playing and reading philosophy. The rest of time is taken up by studying and social life.
J: Chris and I have a Post Black Metal project called ‘Désespoir’ but since I moved from Freiburg to Dresden it is very hard to be active on a consistent basis. Besides we got a lot of work to do with Lone Wanderer [laughs].
Thanks a lot for being here.