Home / Interviews / Neaera with Ben Donath

Neaera with Ben Donath

Can you briefly summarize how the band formed and what you do in Neaera?

Neaera was formed in 2003 and was originally intended to be a side project to another band that Stefan, Tobi and myself were active in at the time. The approach in Neaera was to try to bring a broad range of Metal genres to the table as far as the songwriting was concerned. The other band we were in was more or less just a grindcore thing, so the new side project brought with it a fresh perspective  on experimenting with different styles of Metal. So from there, out of the fun of trying different things, it all started evolving. I play the bass in Neaera.

Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a concept behind the writing of Omnicide – Creation Unleashed?

We take our inspiration for the political and social lyrics from things we deal with by reading, watching the news etc…. If someone is confronted with a topic they think is worth adressing, of course the band and the music offer a very good „valve“ for that. We feel that every song should transport a somewhat meaningful and positive message for people to take from it. That´s also the case with the lyrics that are more personal and less political. There´s room for interpretation, but the bottom line is always that people have the everything in them to influence their situation in a positive way. This is the lyrical concept that we have followed on pretty much all our records, the new one is no exception. Just as on the last record, the concept behind the title is taken up in the title track. Omncide, the destruction and annihilation of mankind through human actions.

You just released Omnicide – Creation Unleashed, how has the reactions been thus far? What can fans expect when they pick up a copy?

The reactions to the record from the fans and the press have been very positive and encouraging. I think this album offers something for both the people who have been following us since we first started as well as fans who are only now coming into contact with our music. The musical elements and trademarks that have comprised our last three records are still present on this one, but at the same time we have changed and added some new twists and influences, recorded with another producer and had it mixed and mastered in the US. This album is a step away from some of our old habits without giving them up, a step in the right direction.

When it came to releasing Omnicide – Creation Unleashed how did that whole package come together? What was the recording process like, how long did you have, was their any pressure on you?

This was actually the most relaxed recording process I can remember. We had a lot of time for the pre-production and to prepare for the studio. After putting out one album per year for three consecutive years, we decided to take a bit longer this time as there was not any pressure to rush things. The recording and mixing went very smoothly, as did the mastering process.

How do you think you will effect the Metal/Hardcore scene you are part of? What are your thoughts on the growing popularity in it as well?

It´s hard for me as a band member to make any evaluations or assessments in that respect… We are basically just five fans who like to play concerts and record songs that sound good to them, and it´s just astonishing and humbling to see that people click with what we do. We try to bring across a positive vibe in our lyrics and our stage performance, we’re a pretty honest bunch of guys, and I guess people see that. There´s no fake „evil“ image or anything. It´s nice to think that more people might want to come to our shows and have a good time with us, that´s about all we can ask for.

You guys are from Münster, Germany what is the local music scene like there? Any bands you’d recommend?

The scene here has actually spawned some pretty cool bands over the years, like our buddies of MISERY SPEAKS, VERSUS THE THRONE or HELRUNAR, to name only a few Metal bands. LONG DISTANCE CALLING is another band hailing from here, they can be attributed to the „Instrumental Post Rock“ genre I guess. Good band.

How has Metal Blade Records been thus far for you guys? Who approached who? Who did the artwork and title for the album, when you look on the final project, is there anything you wish you could have done differently?

The collaboration with Metal Blade has been pretty relaxed over the last few years. The most important thing is that they let us do our thing and leave us all the artistic freedom we need. They don´t make artistic decisions for us. Metal Blade approached us saying they were interested in our stuff after we had sent them a demo. We exchanged some emails with them and they basically asked what our goals were with the band, how much time we could invest, and in the end offered us a recording contract. Stefan first came up with the title, but due to the fact that „Omnicide“, by definition, is a pretty brutal word and open to many different ways of interpretation, I felt it would be good to put it into some sort of context to give a more definite meaning to it. This is how the words „creation unleashed“ were combined with it, illustrating the fact that ever since man, created by someone or something, has been able to think consciously, we have always had the tendency to strive towards the destruction of our own race. We felt the concept, the brutal title, would need a strong way of illustrating it without making it too complicated. We once again turned to Terje Johnsen, who had already done the ARMAMENTARIUM artwork, for the job, and he once again managed to perfectly capture the mood of the music and the meaning of the title in the illustrations he made. Unfortunately, there were some time constraints during the development of the DVD for the limited edition, which in the end resulted in the release date having to be postponed. That could have definitely been done differently.

The name of the band Neaera, is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?

Stefan came up with the name. Neaera is a figure from Greek mythology. She was a prostitute who was sold from sexual slavery into the hands of different people who, by „acquiring“ her, had the power to command her in whichever way they deemed appropriate. At somepoint she was eventually „allowed“ to buy her freedom, but in her later life she was used as sort of a pawn sacrifice in a process between two politicians of Athens, one of whom was her partner at the time. The outcome of this process remains unknown, but the fact that Neaera and her biography were used both against her and the persons she associated herself with is a depressing example of how circumstances and imposed traditions can influence a persons life. Neaera was never able to rid herself of the shackles of her birth and her past, and the treatment of females and sexual slaves in particular at that time, especially given the example of Neaera, is a form of injustice which can still be found today in many social, religious or other groups. This is why we thought the name and the biography behind it represented something that may have happened centuries ago, but is still going on today.

Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?

Playing shows probably the main reason for everybody in the band to make music. It´s a great feeling to write and record an album, but really nothing comes close to the experience of playing a live concert. There just isn´t any other situation where the energy and intensity comes alive like that and you´re able to share it with the fans. Nothing compares to that. It´s a give and take situation, the crowd pushes us, we try to push them more. It feels amazing when you play a song and you just see how the parts work and how people pick up the music and start pits and simply have a good time. That´s when the effort, all the work sorrounding the recording process, the artwork etc., finally pay off and everything comes together.

Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?

It´s basically the two guitarists and the drummer who write all the music. Our guitar player Stefan writes a lot of the lyrics, I write some and Benny sometimes writes some lyrics. When a song is done we get together and the guys play it and we discuss whether and what things should be chenged or adjusted, because after all we all have to be content with the result. So all in all it´s pretty much a group effort.

What are the upcoming plans for Neaera?

We just released the fourth album and we will see how things go from here. We are currently playing festivals and club shows and working on plans for a tour this fall, but at this point it´s all still in the making. We hope to be able to play some major festivals next year, but right now we´re in constant „planning mode“.

Going back to the music business, what do you think of everyone downloading music, possibly even your music? Do you think it helps or hurts bands in the long run?

In my opinion there are two sides to this coin. It seems that the market for CD sales has reached a very low point, mainly due to downloads. There is really hardly anything that labels or bands  can do to contain this. The upside of it is that, especially in the Metal scene where there is still a pretty distinct „collector´s mentality“, the downloading problem is also somewhat of a challenge to the artist to come up with new and creative ways to design their product and offer people a reason to want to own it. Also, the aspect of playing live shows becomes more important, to prove that you are able as an artist to transform the energy of the music to the live situation. Furthermore, the positive thing about downloading is of course that a much larger number of people around the globe are able to access the music, albeit without being able to enjoy the artwork etc. However, for some bands it´s probably much more difficult to establish themselves when they first appear on the scene. The situation has shifted from playing live to support a record to recording an album in order to add new potential material for playing concerts.

How has MYSPACE and the internet impacted your band?

As I said, the Internet has brought drawbacks and advantages for all bands. I think MYSPACE these days has become sort of a virtual „business card“, it´s the first thing people check out when they become interested in a band. For us it´s worked out very well, it offers a great way to keep in touch with the fans and to check out what they´re up to.

What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?

One basic lesson is probably that no matter how well you prepare yourself, there are some things which you just can´t keep from going wrong. You can make a lot of steps to minimize the potential for error, but trust me, at one point you WILL find yourself crawling on the floor during the show checking which one of the goddamn cables is broken and causing your sound to die, hahahahaha…

What bands would you like to tour with and who has been your favorite to tour with this far? Any particular reason?

Personally, I’m a huge Lamb of God and Behemoth fan, so touring with them would be really interesting I think. As for the tours we have done so far and the bands we have toured with so far, it´s really really hard to point at one particular tour or band, we have basically developed a friendship with every band we have toured with, and each tour has marked a certain stage in our development as a band. I know it sounds kind of boring, but having to list all the tours and the anecdotes and crazy shit that has gone down would be really time consuming :)!

What is currently playing on your iPod or CD Player?

The new Mastodon record most of the time. „Wrath“ by Lamb of God, „Two Hunters“ by Wolves in the Throne Room, and some Explosions in the Sky records.

Describe Neaera in three words.

Uberbrutal Awesomatic Metalnudity.

If you had a chance to go back in time, where, what, and why?

It´s about time someone cracked the „Bill and Ted question“ hahahaha… there are a lot of things that could be changed for the better I guess… maybe it would make sense to travel back to when Hitler was a child and to tell him to chill out, live and let live. That might save everyone some trouble in recent history. I would probably also like to travel back in time to wake up Bon Scott so he doesn´t choke on his own puke, or try to smuggle some Red Bull back through time and take the steering wheel of the Metallica tour bus… „St. Anger“ would never have been made. Wittnessing the crucifixion: interesting. Or the last supper. Maybe having a video camera would be cool to document what really happened in regard to the events described in the bible… Would love to see ancient Egypt, China, Rome, Athens, chill with Vikings… literally hahaha… high five with Julius Caesar… teach basketball to cavemen maybe… Or travel back to when some overpaid, mentally retarded fuck decided to invent the Jar Jar Binx character and kick him in the balls hahaha… or to stop the „Episode I-III“ bullshit altogether. Many things that could be undone.

How do you think the recession is affecting musicians like yourself? Is it at all?

I think it´s affecting pretty much everyone in one way or another. It´s obvious that kids are going to think twice what they spend their money on, especially since there´s less money in circulation, more bands are touring since CD sales are not of that much importance anymore… the recession is becoming this causal chain that affects all social groups, saying that the Metal scene or the bands or labels in particular are an exception would be presumptuous.

What’s your reaction when/if a fan told you a very meaningful statement such as “Your music changed my life?” Has this ever happened to you?

Yes, it has, and I had a lump in my throat, I´m not going to lie. For example, there were people who had been abused physically who wrote us that our music has helped them to stay strong and positive and to face those events with confidence. People have written us saying they had lost a loved one and were close to committing suicide. And these weren´t any teenage „cry for help“ fake mails, but accounts of what happened to them written in a sober, calm manner… when you read stuff like that, it makes your own problems seem very, very small, but at the same time it´s simply a completely overwhelming feeling to read that your music has helped them with their struggle. That´s when you realize that at some point the things you create stop being your „property“.

Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?

We are obviously influenced by a lot of Death Metal and „Metalcore“ stuff… Bolt Thrower, Amon Amarth, At The Gates, Edge of Sanity, Behemoth, As I Lay Dying, to name only a few. German bands like Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn have always been big influences for us. Our guitar players listen to a lot of Metal all the time, so the influences are constantly changing and shifting, there´s a constant development in the scene and new music coming out all the time, so there´s always new stuff to be psyched about. The Acacia strain, for example, was a big influence for our current record. I think as far as the influence apart from the music goes, Heaven shall Burn have always been role models for us, they are very consequent in their way of life, and at the same time they´re very down to earth guys.

All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?

I try to work out whenever I have the time. Running and doing excercise to improve stamina and physique. When we did the first tours I was still partying and drinking a lot, but at some point it just wears you down, it´s just not good for your body, especially with the stress and the different routine that you have on tour. I did not want my performance to be limited or affected by a lack of stamina, so I have pretty much given up drinking on tour over time. It´s also just relaxing to be able to get away from things and just concentrate on working out, to get your mind off of things. Especially when preparing for a longer tour I try to lay a lot more emphasis on a regular workout to prepare myself.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks a lot for the cool questions. I hope all of you who read this enjoy the new record! We hope to see you on stage at some point in the not-so-distant future :). Cheers and horns up!

About Don

Check Also

Dismember the Fallen

Dismember the Fallen with Nick Deneau

Last month, I was fortunate enough to reach out and speak to Nick from Dismember …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *