Cypecore: Sci-Fi movies in your head

How did I not know about this band sooner??!” …was all I could think about when visiting their YouTube channel, after internet put Cypecore in my “you might also like those artists…” newsletter. And you will ask yourself the same when you hear their music and the latest album especially. Oh, and watch the videos too! This band has been around for about 10 years, made 3 full studio albums and even played at Wacken, and yet we know next to nothing about them. Cypecore is a melodic death-metal quintet with a strong post-apocalyptic concept both in visual and lyrical content, set in 2133. Or as they themselves describe it, sci-fi metal. Their live shows are called “operations” with audiences as fellow survivors. So now, STALKER takes on a mission to enter this cypecorian zone, go behind the post-apocalyptic radioactive ruins to discover who and what makes Cypecore what it is: a solid heavy metal act with excellent production, deeper meaning and very handsome futuristic/military appearance. We interviewed the guitarist and mastermind Nils Lesser and the vocalist and writer Dominic Christoph in the efforts to aid our research…

Now you’ve just started the tour to promote the newest album “The Alliance” and played in Frankfurt last night. How was it?
Dominic:  There were ups and downs, I guess… but it was very well received.
Nils: Very nice atmosphere at the show because there were people with the outfits in the crowd… Yes! And with masks and stuff, so…
D: It starts to get out of hand when the crowd looks better than us! (laughs) Well, to be fair, that wasn’t the best show we’ve ever played, so it’s nice to have some room for improvement
N: We are playing the new setlist, so we’ve had to check how it was. We’ve tried out some new things, so we optimized it today. So now our setlist is better than yesterday, but it was a good show yesterday.
D: It was a good show, especially considering that it was a Thursday in Frankfurt, it was pretty good.
N: As a musician it is pretty good when you think, “oh it was not goo…” and the audience is like, “oh, it was awesome…” and you’re like (sound of relief) “ahhh….” (all laugh)
D: As a musician, you have different expectations of yourself than the audience, you know? So, I think we have a room to grow, but it was alright.

So, to you as a band, what makes a good show?
: No mistakes.
D: Yes, play to as closely to the record as possible.
N: That and putting on a good act and having a good connection with the people is that for me.
D: For us it’s important for fans to be getting a whole package. We do this visual stuff just to have another instrument to put in their minds, so when they consume the music, they can also have this imagery that unfolds this large epic experience…
N: And if you can read in their faces, they get the meaning of the songs, what the songs are about and why we wrote them… That’s the most satisfying feeling.

Then the current setlist is mostly the new stuff?
D: Not mostly, we do have some classics… There are some six songs of the new record, we have a good mix.
N: It’s hard to make a good setlist! Sometimes you are tired of playing the old songs, because as a musician you’ve heard them a couple of times before (all laugh) I don’t know how Metallica feels playing “Nothing Else Matters” today (all laugh)
D: And it’s actually quite hard to keep it interesting. You can’t always be like high pace and intense throughout 90 minutes. Nobody can follow that, so you’ve got to have some mellow moments and it’s really complicated, especially when you don’t have so many slow songs (laughs)

Are you tired after yesterday?
N: Kind of (smiles) I got 4 hours of sleep, it’s enough!
D: I got 6, ha!
N: He got six… We’ve had to do some photo and video stuff, so it was fun!

Working all the time, non-stop!
N: Yes, you kind of have to.
D: You have to, if not, it goes very fast… (makes a hand gesture of a plane crash) And we are survivors!

What does it feel like to be a post-apocalyptic survivor on stage?
D: (takes a sip of his beer with a sigh) …painful! Radiation is killing me today! We are just surviving… (said in a creepy low voice) For me it’s like… getting in “the zone” moment before the show, it’s like flick of a switch and this crazy guy appears and when off the stage it flicks back to “normal” …
N: It’s good that you can do that!
D: Yeah, we practice…

What inspired the post-apocalyptic…
D: Lots of Fallout! (all laugh)
N: YES! (laughing)
D: One thing came to another, we were just like and we like sci-fi stuff and video-games and we had this vision of the band and it’d be fucking awesome! Then he (nods at Nils) built the first suit and we were like – yeah, let’s roll it!
N: Especially if you’re a fan of Rammstein and Slipknot, so you like the show…
D: … wow, that’s awesome…. (said with a heavy, hot breath)
N: … so you try on a suit and think that it’s awesome too maybe, so let’s try it out…
D: … will it work? And it did work… so…
N: … because you want to give to the people what your vision is and what the songs are for, so it helps to dig the atmosphere…
D: … and understand a bit better of what’s happening, yeah!
N: This is not that easy to do with black t-shirt and shorts.

You guys mentioned Fallout. What kind of characters do you play?
D: I actually didn’t, I’m more of a World of Warcraft or Diablo III kind of guy, but he (nods at Nils) is the Fallout professor. He probably played all the characters! (laughs)
N: I was always the good guy, who made all the right good decisions and tried to find the dad all the time. Once I’ve tried to do it the other way around and kill everyone, but then the game was over in 2 hours because everyone was killed and you found your dad!
D: So like I said, he’s done it all.
N: Yeah, and you’re just playing Starcraft
D: Yeah, I used to be a shooter guy, but I’m too old man… Those 15 year old kids come out and they crush you! Gaming is heartbreaking nowadays. (makes a very sad face)

Overall then, how happy are you with “The Alliance”?
D: The record? I am VERY happy with the record because it’s the first one I’ve actually contributed lyrics to. The last one was written by the original singer and I just re-recorded it. But this one I wrote the track and the vocals for. And I’m very happy the way it turned out. I think it has some interesting moments…
N: …and some experimental ones
D: Yes! And then some catchy parts, but also very dark moments too and overall reflect a very hard year that we’ve had. I think it’s pretty dark in its own right, but it deserves to be and it does show that impressively. I am very happy with the record.

I’d say it sounds heavier and more desperate than the one before, the “Identity” …
N: Yes, like a friend of mine said, it sounds like a soundtrack to your escape, like the In Flames album. It is very escaping music. It’s the best music for escaping some radars who chase you through the desert or something like this, like your movie in your head. It’s very fitting I think, it’s very exhilarating album.

You’ve mentioned you’ve had a difficult year. Can you tell us more?
D: The most disastrous thing was the cancer our bass player Chris was diagnosed with. So, he had played in the band for 10 years and right when we got to play at Wacken, one of the biggest festivals, he got diagnosed with leukemia, and from then on, he went to 3 months of chemo therapy. And of course, it hits you! The guy’s like 26 years old, he’s your brother, and all over sudden, ten years in the making, and he can’t reach this pinnacle. But he survived, he is on a good path to recovery. But from then on it just kept hitting us. The drummer quits, and such… It wasn’t a good year, but we’ve bounced back and now focusing on touring, and having some joy in what we do, so…. But maybe this explains a bit why this album is a bit darker than the last one.

And how long did it take to create this album?
D: Overall?
N: There are songs that are five years old, there are songs that are just one year old…
D: It works that way that you have a pool of music, and somethings make the record and some things don’t, they get back to the pool and then you review it… And maybe use something later. So, we’ve recycled some old stuff and wrote some new stuff, refined it…
N: We wrote a lot of new stuff
D: We’ve written for 6 months, and next 6 months recording it…

How do you guys work on a record, is it a collective or one rules all?
D: Well, yes, we are all together. The riff ideas were mostly done by Nils, the drum beats by then-drummer Tobias, and we got all together in the studio and recorded some demos, and I just put some vocals over it… I wrote some lyrics and we recorded it over and over again, and then the whole band came together and reviewed it and everybody shared their ideas. Then we refined the songs and that’s how we work!

Which of the songs do you think are your strongest of this album?
D: If I had to rate it, I’d say the Alliance is pretty strong…
N: Yes, it’s the most representative of the album. But for me, it’s the Dreamsmasher. It’s a very strong song!
D: And also Reject the Stream is a very strong one on the record. Yes, so those three.
N: And Remembrance…
D: Ok, we like all the songs! (all laugh) That’s why we picked them out, otherwise the album would’ve been just these three songs. (laughs)

Are there any songs which are more special and personal to you?
Both: Yeah!
D: Remembrance is a pretty tough one. I wrote that when Chris’ cancer got worse, and I thought about the matters of life and death a lot, and I was wondering if people would remember me and in which way… The robot voice is kind of like the voice from the other side. That’s a special one for me.

And why are your songs in English?
D: Well, my English writing skills are good, equally terrible is my German writing. I just couldn’t write a German song!
N: German spoken is very difficult, hard and harsh, so it’s very good to write a good-sounding lyrics in German. So, we have to play with old poetry stuff and that’s what Rammstein do, so…
D: … these guys are geniuses, but I couldn’t do it! I tried! Even at school, when I had to write this and that…
N: … also when all your idols are touring worldwide, then yes, do English lyrics.
D: It’s really not by choice, it’s by ability actually. I could never write a German song that sounds nice, and that’s ok! (laughs) Maybe we’ll try in the future…

So, writing lyrics, music… what inspires you?
(long silence…)
N: Other musicians, other bands, new bands, other genres… Like electronic stuff, like classical stuff or something completely new…
D: You’ve to point out movies and video games
N: Yes
D: It’s kind of a nerdy thing to point the finger and go like (demonstrates a known Beavis &Butthead laughter) but it does play a huge part in our environment, and we do watch movies and series and play the video games
N: It’s in our nature that we think much about our future, so we are these science fiction fans, and there are some ideas of our future, some are good and some are more dystopian, but we like the future and this is where are going.

Do you go see often other bands, concerts and festivals?
D: I used to, but not so much anymore because of lack of time. But whenever I can, I do.
N: Yes and often we do if we play there ourselves, so…

Alright, so then why year 2133? Is it a way of escapism?
N: Because it’s not that far away, it’s just some 100 years from now…
D: I wasn’t there when the number was picked, but I can guess it was kind of random? But not that random…
N: … and 33 is our number because of “cype-core”, so CC is 33. If you go for basketball shirts, ours would have 33 on the back (all laugh)

So, if you’re already in the 2133, which is still a future for us to come, can you tell us what is going to happen to us?
(Nils laughs)
: That’s a cheeky question! No spoilers. Spoiler alert! (laughs)
N: You’ve to see for yourself.
D: Let’s just keep it that way, but maybe there’s a hint when you’ll take a glance at the show later tonight

Ok, can you at least tell us who is the American president in 2133?
D: Well, the problem is with post-apocalyptic scenario and very little people surviving, there’s really not that much politics going on, so the concept of “presidency” is overly in the past. In the band I’m the Commander and I think I deserve it, but America is not that inhabitable anymore.
N: So we are trying to build a new civilization
D: There are no more presidents, there are other issues…
N: … warlords, yes!

You’re the commander, and everybody else in the band has their role too. Can you tell us more about each one?
D: When we first envisioned this whole concept, we’ve tried to make it as cinematic as possible. We’ve figured to have this end time scenario, and I personally thought of the A-team. Every guy has his special ability, and projected it onto our band members, so there is the Commander guy, he’s leader of the operations…
N: … so we’ve got these outfits, and they are radiation suits. My character is the Alchemist, who is the super chemist, building the liquid that is flowing through my veins to keep me alive. So I am completely bound to my suit, it keeps me alive and white. The others only need their suits when they go outside, because of the radiation – it’s very strong out there!
D: Everybody has their job! Our second guy is the Mechanic, he builds and invents stuff.
N: And our drummer is an android, who was built by the Mechanic.
D: And the bass player is the henchman, very rough brutal guy just for the dirty work.
N: He is defending us! (laughs)
D: He’s actually a good guy, but when it comes to business, he’s not.

This is very clever! Who came up with all this, and your awesome suits?
D: Mostly him (nods at Nils) but I like to bask in his glory a bit… I like to tell the story like I did it, but actually it’s him! (said in a creepy evil voice)
N: Yes I did. We tried it out a lot, like every cosplayer. Although I wouldn’t say that our outfits are comparable with cosplayers, because theirs are so much more detailed, and cannot move the same. But we have to deal with instruments, and headbang, and stuff, so technically ours are more practical. So I wanted to find a compromise between the two worlds.

What about your videos, they are so well done and through. Who is behind that?
N: The videos came from us, yes. And we have very good guys to help us, to get our vision on film.
D: tTe first one we did with Mirko Witzki was “Identity”, and we came up with the story, but he directed and filmed it. Then we’ve cut it with him and it just progressed from there. It got better and better, and we’ve got more ideas and a bigger budget. But yeah, we have a good team, although some stuff we do on our own but as little as we have to.

Your videos, are they all related? is it like a series, that each one continues to tell the story from the previous one?
D: Not really, the videos are all individual stories/performances.

Is it difficult to make a Cypecore video?
D: As difficult as it is an interesting matter. It didn’t come over as difficult, but it was interesting. To me at least it was so, but it was my first time with this band.
N: It’s art (laughs)

Soon in March you’ll be playing at the Hammerfest in the UK and it is sold out already, sharing the stage with Sepultura… How does it feel?
D: Incredible! If somebody would’ve told me three years ago that you’ve got this voice, and someday you’re going to play in the UK, I’d be like… naaah! And yet here we are. This whole year has been overwhelming, I mean, playing Wacken, Summer Breeze and some other festivals… it’s insane, INSANE!!!
N: And there are people, looking like us, and singing our songs, and it’s crazy!
D: And at the same time bands like Slipknot and Korn are playing 300 meters away from us, but there are 2000 people watching the gig, and we are like… INSANE!!!

Have you played much outside of Germany?
D: Not yet
N: Actually one show in the Netherlands, long time ago, so…
D: … until now we were an exclusive Germany-Swiss-Austrian booking, until we joined Brainstorm and they do international booking, so we shall see how far it takes us.
N: Maybe some French festivals…
D: yeah, Hellfest!
N: YES! That would be a dream to play there.
D: it’s not up to us, but if we get the phone call, we are ready! So if you’re reading this, dear Helllfest-booker-guy, please call us!

How do you feel about the internet in the music business today?
: Tough one
N: There’s good and evil. There is one good thing on this whole streaming stuff, because people hear music and if the music is good, they want to listen to it. So the bands can survive, if their music is heard. But the artist is forced to make good interesting music to be heard.
D: The music scene has gotten a lot more competitive over the past few years and that’s because of the internet. It’s good for the quality of the music, but bad for the lazy artist who has to put out a good record every 2 years. Because if you don’t, you disappear.
N: Yes, it’s a very big change at the moment because writing an album, releasing an album, touring, then writing an album, releasing… That cycle is breaking up because you don’t have the time or the money to do that, maybe there are other concepts to release your music… Or you can release your music without a label, people can hear if they like it… In the past you had to be assigned to a label in order to exist.
D: You see it when Machine Head came out with a record and sold 2500 copies in the first week…
N: But there is more streaming. In Germany we have more physical sales at the moment because we have such a bad internet connection! (all laugh) But we are all Spotify-dudes…
D: The problem is, you never know how your fans consume your music. There are too many platforms.
N: No but at the moment we have 51000 monthly listeners on Spotify. That’s what I say, if you make good music and people hear you, and not just one song but all… That’s a very good balance and that’s my theory.

As a band, what is the Cypecore mission? What do you want to tell your audience?
D: It’s hard to put into words, I think every guy in the band has his reason behind it. But if we had to find a common nominator, it’s like if you think ahead a 100 years from now, it’s just wasteland, something is not going right.
N: Especially on this album, the message is: don’t be divided. Come together, don’t get divided. Because there’s so many people trying to get you, to manipulate you, to destabilize the situation, hate-speeches, to split us all up…
D: …and go against each other.
N: The first song says: “We are one!” It is because we are this planet. We are one race, it has to be in the mind of the people. Because of this view, we make the science fiction theme.

Do you think there is much hope for humanity?
D: Of course! Humanity has proven in the past that it can rise to the occasion.
N: There are some people who give hope, especially Elon Musk, who tries to make the world better with electric cars and travelling to Mars, to build another civilization away from this planet where we’ve messed up. But we have to sort things out on this planet first before we go to Mars.

What else do you do outside of the band?
D: Sometimes we sleep!
N: Actually, I am a full-time music producer. I record other bands, help other musicians
D: I used to be a sports guy, but lately I’m just a lazy sports guy.
N: He is a very good fighter. Few days before our video shoot he broke his eye! In his skull. Somebody punched him in the face.
D: I was doing this fighting thing, I was rolling in the gym, and some guys there got ready for a fight and I was like, oh, let’s do some sparring, and in the second round I got caught in the eye, and it just broke my left orbital socket, two days before our video shooting… Ok, I’m dizzy, I’m seeing double, no big deal, just put some ice…
N: Put your monocle on (laughs)

What style of fighting?
D: I used to do MMA fighting, but now I walk my dogs, I play video games…

And the other guys in the band?
D: Well, Chris is studying, Jay is working at a music store three days a week and doing his own music, he likes to party too. And the drummer is a substitute, we don’t have a fixed drummer right now.
N: We have an android as drummer
D: Yeah, he doesn’t do very much, he’s just recharging (all laugh)

So what are the next steps for Cypecore?
D: That depends.
N: Next steps are working on new music, working on our show, maybe a new tour at the end of the year… There are some dates that we can’t tell about yet
D: We’ve got a tour coming up supporting some bigger band but it’s not official yet!

Well, we will have to follow your pages then!
D: Yeah, if you want.
N: Do that, it’ll be awesome!

(The tour with Die Apokalyptischen Reiter in December is now confirmed, details HERE, the ed.)

The comments of the band on the 7 deadly sins HERE

Text: Marina Minkler   Translation: Uwe Minkler
Photos: Kira Hagen Photography

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