Van Canto: One Step at a Time

A-Cappella-Metal Band Van Canto just ended a successful tour for their current album „Dawn oft he Brave“. Shortly afterwards, Stefan Schmidt, responsible for the low-pitched „rakkatakka“ vocals, took the time for an interview with STALKER.

First of all thank you for taking the time for this interview and kudos to you for the concert in Dortmund an April 13th – it was really great. I was especially impressed with the clear and full sound and the fact that you sound even better than on CD when you play live.
Thank you, I will let Jan our soundman know. 😉 Dortmund was a great concert and a perfect ending of the tour from our point of view.

In an older interview I read that you sing through guitar amps and after that I read that you don’t do that any more. So how do you manage to make your voices sound like guitars or a bass?
Well, that is only half true. With the first album we simulated the distortion with guitar amps only. From the second album on we created the distortion with our voices, by singing “rougher”. Still we sing the guitar solos through real guitar amps.

How do you take care of your voices? On tour and in general?
On tour it’s always a bit risky. There is no such thing as being fully prepared not to get ill. Therefore we rarely play more than four concerts in a row and take a break after those. Other than that: drinking a lot and that means no alcohol and just taking care of oneself.

Dortmund was the last concert of your tour? How did the tour go?
The tour went extremely well. The number of visitors overwhelmed us all. Of course we had been hoping for a full house every night, but to have 1000 and more people in the audience in all the big cities blew us off our feet. We had lots of fun and it was a great time for band and crew.

I’ve read in an older interview that all of you have regular jobs as well. Is this still the case? If so, how do you make that fit in with your touring?
Yes, this is still the case. Most of us are free lancers and we just build our lives around this. What makes it easier is the fact that we can determine our own tour schedule. It would be more difficult if we were touring as a support act and had to schedule everything according to the main act’s plans.

You have been in this business for almost 8 years now and you have released 5 albums. Looking back, what has changed for you during this time?
Phew, that is hard to say, since we have been part of it all this time, haha. I mean, of course we notice the band is getting bigger, we are reaching more people, play larger venues, tour more countries and so on.
But on the other hand this band has never seen a big bang that catapulted us into a different league from one moment to another. We’re hard-working, we stick together and we take things one step at a time.

What separates you from other Metal bands is your – so far – unique style. Which advantages and disadvantages does that have?
Well, the advantage is that we are different and thus it’s easier to draw attention to our band. The disadvantage is that Metal like claiming they are different, but if someone is different differently it sometimes leads to poor or personal criticism. Yet after all this time we have learned how to deal with it.

Do you think you appeal to a wider / smaller / different audience than other Metal Bands (e.g. people who generally do not listen to Metal)?
Yes, we think so. From the Metal genre we mostly appeal to Powermetal-Fans, fans of bands where melodies and good singers play the main role. Also many fans of Medieval Music find something in our music. Yet at least half of the people who visit our concerts don’t go to Metal concerts on a regular basis and are just interested in Van Canto.

I always find it interesting to hear about the songwriting process. Could you tell me how that works for your band, maybe give me an example of one specific song?
Unfortunately it’s a lot less spectacular than people might think. All songs are created with guitar or piano just like in any other band. After the song’s structure, harmonies and main melody have been written, the song is translated to an A-Capella-arrangement. Lyrics almost always come in the very end.

You make he arrangements for your music together – is writing the lyrics teamwork as well?
What is your inspiration?

Most of the time one person writes the lyrics, just like 90% of the music. The teamwork happens in arranging and recording the songs, especially concerning the drums. Our lyrics are inspired by personal experience, but at the same time they are designed in a way that everyone can find something for themselves there. Summed up, Van Canto’s theme is “Believe in yourself”.

Apart from your own songs you play cover versions. Is arranging these songs and different from arranging your own? Where are the differences?
With our own songs it’s easier to change things when we notice that something is not working, for example if the key is a problem for the singer. With covers we have to try to do justice to the original, and at the same time we have to find something that separates our version from the original.

In a different interview I read that you cover the songs you like. Is your taste in music similar and can you quickly agree? Or how do you select what you cover?
Our tastes in music are different, but the cover versions we do are pretty much the intersection. We have to like what we cover, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.

Please tell me a little bit about the making of your current album “Dawn of the Brave”.
It is the fifth Van Canto album and for us it is the one that feels most balanced. For the recording we worked with 200 Van Canto fans who sang choirs for us. That was a huge motivation for the entire production process.
Other than that it was the first time we worked with Ronald Prent. He was responsible for the mixing and did a great job.

How have the reactions to the album been so far?
Super, as you can see by the large audiences on our tour.

I like your Badaboom Video . How did you come up with he story? Can you tell me a little about that?
It was Sly’s idea. We thought since we imitate guitars it would be consistent with that to imitate our heroes as well. At the same time we are the heroes who do not want to take the guitars out of Metal. It was all a lot of fun.

You’ve played with may people and toured a lot. Is there still a dream-band you’d like to work with or a dream tour you can imagine?
This is different for each one of us. Personally I would love to share the stage with Joey Tempest and Eric Adams.

Thank you very much for the interview!
Thank you!

PS: Stefan´s comments to the 7 deadly sins can be found here.

Author: Stefanie Oepen Fotos: Band; S.Oepen

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski