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Interview with Downfall of Gaia

Germany's Downfall of Gaia unleashed their sixth studio album via Metal Blade Records, on the 17th March. 
The new album “Silhouettes Of Disgust” delivers a dynamic and textured blend of crust punk and post-black metal doused in atmospheric elements, pushing them in new and gripping directions. The record includes the return of guitarist Peter Wolff and female vocals, courtesy of Lulu Black.
The lyrics are all based in daily life and the struggles we all deal with. 
Metal Imperium chatted with Dominik and Peter about the bands latest output, their upcoming tour and the desire to return to Portugal. Read on...

M.I. - First off, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Dominik has some Portuguese blood running through his veins... has this “heritage” influenced Downfall of Gaia’s sound somehow?

Dominik - I wish! But in the end not really. But I’m always happy to play some shows within the country. Well, so far we just played Porto twice and it was also Amplifest. But both times were incredible!

M.I. - This year marks the 15th anniversary of the band... what were your expectations when you first started? Have they been achieved?

Dominik - To be honest, in the beginning our main goal was to release our music on vinyl. To find a label who’s into helping us out and to release our music. And to hit the road, of course. 
Fortunately all of this worked out in the end. Due to lots of amazing people - from labels to all of the people in the DIY scene setting up shows for us all over Europe. 

M.I. - How did the idea of forming a band come up? Why did you feel the need to share your music with the world? 

Dominik - There is not much of a story behind it. We were all in bands before, which more or less didn't really progress. In 2006 Anton and I formed Toxic Nation, which became Downfall of Gaia in 2008 after Peter joined the band. 

M.I. - Neurosis has been an influence for the band. But which other bands/musicians have influenced you to want to be a musician as well? 

Dominik - I wouldn't say that there was one particular artist that made us want to make music, much more it was a whole scene. We come from the DIY/punk scene and this time in particular has influenced us as people, but also us as a band in our sound. The whole movement inspired us to want to be a part of it and contribute. 

M.I. - The new album is titled “Silhouettes of Disgust”. How different was the recording of this album when compared to “Ethic of Radical Finitude”? Did you face any restrictions or problems because of Covid and the Ukrainian war?

Peter - I can't say much about the difference with the recordings of "Ethic of Radical Finitude" because I wasn't part of the band then. But maybe this is the biggest difference: our recording engineer got sick a few days before the booked date for recording "Silhouettes of Disgust". So we had to find a solution, and in the end we recorded the guitars, bass and vocals ourselves in my studio. We are very happy that Timo recovered well from Covid and was able to mix our record.

M.I. - The band’s drummer Mike is from the United States. Having a line-up with members from different cities is complicated but from different countries and continents must be harder. How do you deal with this?

Dominik - Of course, the internet makes many things easier. Even if we don't live in the same cities or countries, we are always in contact. Also in songwriting the internet is a big help and we can send files back and forth and edit them. And if a tour is planned, we get together and rehearse for a few days before it starts. The only thing that really sucks is the financial aspect. And we can't play single shows anymore because it doesn't pay off and we don't want to fly Mike over for just one show.  
But all in all it's not as complicated as it might seem.

M.I. - How does the writing / recording process happen in Downfall of Gaia? Do you jam together online or what? 

Peter - I don't think we ever jammed together, even if we wrote songs together in the rehearsal room. It was always the case that Dominik or I had already prepared something. With Silhouettes of Disgust, the songwriting process was mainly done digitally by mail. Dominik and I talked a lot in advance about what we wanted to do and exchanged our ideas before we started writing the songs. After that, we were in close contact and kept sending each other new drafts. In the end, we met with all four of us in the rehearsal room for a week and put everything together.

M.I. - When I think of the title, I immediately think of everyone that is disgusted by his/her own self image, because of all the “perfect” bodies and lives on social media and the negative impact of social media in people’s lives. What crossed your mind when you came up with “Silhouettes of Disgust”? What inspired it? 

Dominik - Basically, the album title is the perfect summary for the theme of the record. Our bass player Anton came up with the name while we were looking for a title of the album. The album tells the story of 8 different people, with 8 different stories, as residents of a fictional metropolis. Each person with their own worries and struggles. Loneliness, addiction, the fear of tomorrow, pressure from society/work and others, the everyday compulsion that everyone is at the mercy of whether they like it or not. Things that many of us probably know all too well. You have to play along somehow or you fall through the cracks. Each day you are surrounded by so many things you just want to avoid and hate, surrounded by all of these „Silhouettes of Disgust“.

M.I. - Usually you inspire yourself in life to write the lyrics. What subjects do the lyrics deal with this time around? What inspired you?

Dominik - Like you said, it's just normal everyday life. My personal experiences and feelings. 
As mentioned in the question before, for this album it’s just pretty basic things that I guess every one of us knows or has experienced. 

M.I. - Writing meaningful and great lyrics mustn’t be easy. Is there a special context or setting in which you need to be in order to be able to write? Have you always enjoyed writing? How long does it usually take to write one full lyric? Does it come to you in stages or does it come in full?

Dominik - To be honest, for me it's a pretty exhausting process. I'm not the kind of guy who writes texts in a book every day or anything like that. I really only write when it comes to an album. Otherwise, of course, such thoughts are always present, but in my head and not in written form. That's something else. But when I write, I'm pretty focused and it's also the only thing I do at that moment. So I don't work additionally on guitars or something, my head is fully with the lyrics. There is no fixed time frame that I need for it, sometimes it flows, sometimes it takes longer and i don't get anything done at all. But a full album takes multiple weeks for sure. 

M.I. - The cover artwork is completely different from what I expected as it doesn’t seem to have any connection to the title as there are no silhouettes in sight at all. Care to explain its connection to the lyrics / title and album in general?

Peter - For us, the image of the cover is a perfect backdrop for the concept of the record and reflects the feelings and atmosphere of the songs very well. It could be a good environment for all the silhouettes of disgust.

M.I. - Fans seem to be extremely excited with the singles that have already been released: “Bodies as Driftwood” and “Existence of Awe”. How excited is the band with the final result of the album? 

Dominik - We are definitely very happy with how the album turned out. But that's what I'm saying now. To be able to judge it completely with distance, I definitely need some more time. But right now all is good.

M.I. - This is the band’s 5th release via Metal Blade Records, so it seems this alliance is working fine for both parties. Has the band received offers from other labels in the meantime or do you stick with Metal Blade because they are definitely the best option for you?

Peter - Of course there were other options and offers in the meantime, but we are very happy with Metal Blade and there is absolutely no reason for us to change to another label. Besides, parts of Metal Blade have become good friends of ours and it's a pleasure to work with them and also to meet them in person!

M.I. - The band has already lined up a tour in April with Deathride and Implore in order to promote this album, plus some concerts and festivals. How excited are you to be back on the road after 3 years? 

Peter - We are more than happy to go on tour again and play some shows! Playing live has always been a big part of our band and has always been very important for us. Of course life has changed a lot and it's not possible to play as many shows as it used to be, but it's always a pleasure for us and an important part. We are also looking forward to playing with our friends from Implore and Deathrite!

M.I. - Downfall of Gaia seem to mainly play in Germany and the neighbouring countries and the US. What are the main diferences between a tour in Europe and a tour in the United States?

Peter - I think the main difference is that touring in Europe is much more comfortable. The promoter books a place for you to sleep and you get food at the venue. In the US, there's usually nothing organized for the band besides the show itself. Other than that, both are a lot of fun and we hope we can come back to the States soon!

M.I. - A few years ago you said that it would be a dream come true to tour in Australia and Japan. That dream was already accomplished in 2015. Now what’s the band’s dream regarding tours? 

Dominik - Yeah, fortunately we were able to tour those countries in 2015. It was a great experience and definitely something from the bucket list! For me personally, I would say Canada. That’s still one of the countries I really would like to see and play. That would be cool! Who knows!?

M.I. - The band played at Amplifest in Porto in 2013. Do you recall anything of that festival in particular? Any idea when you might be back?

Peter - Amplifest was a great pleasure for us at that time and it was really exciting to play at this great festival. I also remember really liking Porto, it was a beautiful setting for the festival! We would definitely come to Amplifest again if there is a chance!

M.I. - I read somewhere that Downfall of Gaia would love touring with Altar of Plagues if they ever reunite. Why this band in particular? What’s so appealing about them?

Peter - To be honest, I don't know where we talked about it in an interview, but I would definitely like to tour with Altar of Plagues if they get back together. It's one of my favorite black metal bands of all time and they had a huge influence on me as a musician and also on Downfall of Gaia.

M.I. - These days, some tours don’t even come to Portugal because of logistics and it’s sad to see that happen. Is touring profitable for bands or do most bands “lose” money in order to tour and promote albums?

Peter - I think these times it’s hard to get any profit out of a tour. It’s mostly a break even. 

M.I. - The band’s vocalist/guitarist working in the music industry at All Noir Promotion is an advantage for the band in some way? 

Dominik - Since we are with Metal Blade Records, not so much, to be honest. Of course, they already work with an absolutely professional network. 

M.I. - Is the life of a musician as exciting and glamorous as one imagine?

Peter - I don’t think so. Maybe for the big musicians and stars who really earn a lot of money with their music.

M.I. - Does the motto “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” still apply these days or should there be a new one?

Peter - I think in times like these, when the world is so fucked up and so much shit happens, an egocentric slogan like that is no longer appropriate. Apart from that, as a band we never had that slogan because our music has always been an important part of expressing our political awareness.

M.I. - Are you familiar with any Portuguese bands that you think are worth listening to?

Dominik - I have to admit that I don’t know that many Portuguese metal bands but GAEREA for example are worth a listen for sure!

M.I. - All the best for Downfall of Gaia and all the other projects the band’s members are involved in. Care to share a final message with Metal Imperium’s readers and Downfall of Gaia’s fans?

Peter - Thanks so much for having us at Metal Imperium!

Listen Downfall Of Gaia, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca