sToa - Emotion and ratio are most often enemies that eliminate each other
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When evoking the name of sToa I immediately make a link with the now gone, but legendary Hyperium Records label. This German label has been very active during the nineties becoming one of the leading labels from the electro-gothic scene. With bands like Clock DVA, Die Form, Love Is Colder Than Death, Chandeen, Attrition, Calva Y Nada… and of course sToa Hyperium Records became soon a recognized and word-famous label. The albums "Urthona" released in 1992 and "Porta VIII" released in 1994 were like albums opening a window on a new style of music, which has mainly be defined as ethereal. Set up in the early nineties by Olaf Parusel sToa became a good-selling band with an increasing recognition. During the years several changes happened in the line up, but Olaf Parusel remained the driving and creative force behind sToa! Joining Alice In… in 2001 sToa went on with the "Zal"-album. It took again 7 years and already some new changes in the line up (with again a new vocvalist) to welcome the "Silmand"-album. Several guest-musicians contributed to this album while Louisa John-Krol (which made her debut on Hyperium as well) as main input. "Silmand" became a remarkable piece of refined music where dreamy atmospheres and neo-classical influences are going hand in hand. Time for a chat with Olaf Parusel. (By Elise Din)
SL: After the "Zal"-album released in 2001 it seems you went through a long silence! What happened in the meantime and what made you start writing some new songs again?
Olaf: Basically we have continued to compose songs, but with sToa, only few very selected songs ever make it onto the definite album-release. I have very strong selection-criteria: Only songs that can emotionally touch me and persist to do so, are worth to be released on a CD. All other material can rest in peace on my harddrive.
SL: With Mandy Bernhardt joining in as singer, Stoa again got a change in the line up. How comes and can you briefly tell us who's Mandy and how you got in touch?
Olaf: Meeting Mandy was a piece of fortune. But all those conincidences make life to follow certain ways that we call fate: On a meeting of my old class-mates, a class-mate came up with his girl-friend being a fantastic singer - and whether I had interest in a collaboration or not. Mostly, those things become embarrassing very soon due to the fact, that person in question have been socialised in countrymusic or trained by their cat. With Mandy it became the opposite: I had been listening to her voice and I instantly had known that she was the right person. But not only her voice, her entire being, person and attitude towards live and her experiences fit to sToa perfectly. Thus, maybe this meeting has never been a conicidence but fate???
SL: Tell us a bit more about the concept and ideas behind the "Silmand"-album? It seems that "Silmand" is an old German dialect referring to the 'soul month' September! What kind of inspiration did you find here and what symbolizes the month of September to you personally?
Olaf: For me, September is the begin of fall, begin of evanescence. It still retains the beauty of summer, but there is the silent dawn of the end arising.You can enjoy the beauty and cheer the moment, but you should keep in mind the finitude of all, to make the feeling to become really intense.
SL: Talking about influences, what do you especially like in the work of the French poet Paul Verlaine, which inspired you for the song "La Lune Blanche"?
Olaf: I love the French language! When I have been composing "La Lune Blanche", I felt this song needed French lyrics. And there is a emanent circle of poets comprising Verlaine. I have read some poems and Verlaines' "La Lune Blanche" fit to the song in a way as it had been written for it!
SL: Being Belgian, I remember you've been also inspired by one of our great writers of the 20th century, Maurice Maeterlinck. That was back in time on the "Porta VIII"-album, but I'm not used to notice Germans being interested in the work of Maeterlinck! What did he evoke to you?
Olaf: I have found Maeterlinck via the work of Béla Bartók, who had written an opera with the Sujet von Blaubart. In the 90s there has been somewhat a small Maeterlinck-Revival in Germany, after he had been forgotten for a long time. Maybe we have been involved a bit in that.
SL: You've studied philosophy so have you already try to find out the deeper meaning of music for people?
Olaf: I have worked about that very very often. Why is music moving us so deeply. Why not all people to a similar extent? How comes, that simple movements of air make people crying or experience deepest happiness? But my final conclusion: Never think to much about it! It's just like love: When you think about WHY I love my partner, I destroy that feeling. Emotion and ratio are most often enemies that eliminate each other.
SL: I guess that 'stoa' refers to stoicism, but what does it say about your own perception and vision of life?
Olaf: Stoic philosophy has become a basic part of my thinking. I aspire it as an ideal that I will never reach, however from it I receive a stronghold and direction in many questions of my life.
SL: There's a gap of 7 years in between the "Zal" and "Silmand"-albums. How would you perceive your evolution as composer from one album to the other?
Olaf: This is something other people should judge on. Maybe my experience as composer of movie scores has some influence in the composition of Silmand.
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SL: "Silmand" features several guest musicians and Louisa John-Krol is for sure the most present one here. How did you get in touch with her and how did you work together?
Olaf: Louisa and me know each other from the old times on Hyperium-Label. Fortunately internet has enabled us to stay in contact. When Louisa was on tour in Europe, we have met. We have made music together very intensively in that time. For example, we went to a church of a remote monastery high up on a hill, put up a microphone and performed medieval vocal improvisations. It's the famous monastery found by Konrad of Wettin. Later on I composed music for a historical documentation on Konrad of Wettin and used Louisas phantastic recordings for it.
SL: I perceive the work of Louisa John-Krol as much more 'floating' and 'light' than Stoa. What did she add to the sound and emotions of "Silmand"?
Olaf: Yes, she brought other aspects in our music. But for me it was important not to adapt her kind of work. I think, every sToa-Album has it's own, unique language and is still perceived as a sToa-Album.
SL: Another guest musician is Ralf Jehnert (known from Love Is Colder Than Death). How did you get in touch with him and what has been his input to "Silmand"?
Olaf: Ralf and I know each other for a very very long time, as I am friends with Love Is Colder Than Death via Maik Hartung. His voice is phantastic and I have had in mind to do a song with him for a long time. With "My Last Way" is was a very clear decision, that he HAD to sing it.
SL: Another and maybe more surprising contribution comes from Pieter Nooten who got some fame as member from Clan Of Xymox. What incited you to collaborate with him?
Olaf: I have been fan of Pieter Nooten for many years. His CD "Sleeps With The Fishes" has become a mile stone and is still inspiring me, despite it had been written long time ago. And then I composed a song, to which my intuitionn told me to use his voice. From that point to asking him to contribute was a only small step away.
SL: I think that the "Tacitum" track, which is the last one from the album is a special one for having been used in a movie. How did it happen and how does it feel to hear your music on a movie soundtrack?
Olaf: It is usual practice with movie score production to ask for a snippet to see how the composer meets the needs of the projec.t I had just finished "Tacitum" and just gave it away as an example. Finally,the song was so perfectly fitting, that he became on third of the background music for a documention on WWII children. In this documentation, eg. old people talked about their playmates they had played "Catch Me If You Can" a day before, lying under blankets with their small legs uncovered. Pictures like that with "Tacitum" playing, a moving moment. Till today.
SL: I guess it's a dream for many musicians to compose music for movie soundtracks. How do you think about it and what would you like to do in this particular style?
Olaf: Well, the dream is much more attactive than reality. As movie score composer you are in first line subjected to the proejct and will of the director. Having a free choice to direct your compositions is only possible in maybe one of thousand movies. Mostly you will be confrontet with a temp-track of a well-known hollywood-movie that the director thinks could fit best and you are ordered to do ‚something like this'. Fortunately I have also worked for directors that had strong faith in me and I was granted a high grade of freedom what to develop my own ideas.
SL: From movies to YouTube where some tracks from you can be found! What do you think from YouTube as a platform to promote your music?
Olaf: I love YouTube! I have discovered many little treasures there. Someone has recorded a music videos in the 80s on VHS-tape and put it online now. Great! There come so many funny and extraordinary things to light, which are sometimes very interesting for us, too. No matter if it is a metal-version of a piano-song of sToa, or a South-African shortmovie containing our music. BTW I have compiled the most interesting YouTube-Movies and they are online on our website www.stoa.de
SL: Back in 2005 you contributed to a tribute to Dead Can Dance (compilation released on Projekt) so how was it to make a tribute to this legendary band and where there some aspects you especially take care of?
Olaf: Exhausting, but very interesting. Whenever I do a coverversion, I do not want to rearrange with different instruments or put a simple 4/4-drumloop underneath. I want to get into the message of the track and from that core, I create a real new interpretation of it. It's similar to a story you have been told and you want repeat it in your own words. In that way you can bring in your own aspects and create something really new.
SL: Shall we have to wait again for 7 years to welcome a new album from Stoa? What brings the future?
Olaf: I cannot predict that by myself. I look forward to see what future may bring to my life.
Band: www.stoa.de / www.myspace.com/stoa
Label: www.darkdimensions.de / www.myspace.com/darkdimensionslabelgroup
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