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In Words: Sympathy

- Dharok - May 2009 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Dharok - May 4th 2009 (by email)

Sympathy stick out a bit, coz the former one-man project differs in many ways from genre colleagues. And so I'm glad that Dharok was so kind to answer my questions!

Sympathy was in a beginning a full band, but then members left and it became a one-man show for years. Please tell us what happened and why you didn't recruited new guys?

Well, I was just a kid when I started Sympathy. When we recorded our first demo and album I was very inexperienced and young. The reason the band fell apart is that everyone was growing up and figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives. So one by one everyone left. But Sympathy was always my band, I kept writing music hoping that I could find other players someday. After about 5 years of doing everything myself, I gave up trying to find other musicians. I just never met anyone who was into the same metal that I was listening to and who could actually play an instrument well enough to join Sympathy.

The name Sympathy doesn't really fit to a death metal band, but you aren't a typical death metal band as your lyrics are based on Christianity and philosophy. Some kind of a concept behind this?

It is unusual. I choose the name to be different than everyone else. Most death metal bands seem to be in a competition with each other to come up with the most violent and brutal names that the can think of. My opinion is that the names have just gotten stupid because of this. I chose 'Sympathy' as a name because of something that Richard Wagner once said about the power music has to speak directly to listeners. I wrote a blog about it on the Sympathy myspace page last year. ( Wagner talks about how musicians plunge their listeners into a dream-like state through 'sympathetic hearing'. If I remember correctly, that's where I got the name from.

Now years later and with a few albums under your belt you are a band again, a trio. Have you been looking for mates for a longer time? Or was it more incidentally that you got hooked up?

I have been looking for other musicians since I was able to release my first Fear Dark album, Invocation. I would have rather worked with other musicians the entire time. In fact, I had a drummer from California (formerly from Vengeance Rising) lined up to drum for Arcane Path, but it just didn't work out. So when I was able to convince Jeff and Jim to join Sympathy, I was very happy.

After you worked on your own for such a long time, was it somehow strange to work again as a band?

You know, it was a bit strange. Everything took a bit longer because of it. But we really didn't write the songs togetherówhich was too bad. Jeff wrote four of the songs by himself and I wrote the other six on my own. I wish that we had been able to write together because you can hear the difference between Jeff's songwriting and mine. If we had been able to work together when we were writing, I think it would have only made the overall results better.

The new album Anagogic Tyranny is offering a variety of death metal sounds - and even other elements. And how much influence did the new ones have?

That's tough to answer. I think that the end product sounds very different than previous Sympathy albums, but then again, each Sympathy album sounds different than all the others. I do think that Jim's drumming added a very progressive sound to Anagogic Tyranny, and I don't think that we could have gotten that without him. And I know that Jeff's lead guitar playing is much better than mine, and that his skills made a big difference. For the first time, this Sympathy album actually contains leads that are of a very high quality.

What are your influences? And what inspires you?

I have two big influences: books and music. I really like to read, and what I read inevitably ends up in my lyrics. I also listen to a lot of music. And although I don't think I am influenced by every new band that I hear, I do like to get new ideas from listening to other band's songs.

Is it true that your lyrics lately are inspired by some books? Please enlighten us!

I read a series of fantasy novels written by a Canadian writer named R. Scott Bakker a few years back. Bakker's books are very philosophical and really made me think about a lot of issues. I could relate to the characters, so I found his work quite powerful. Plus, the books are very brutal. They are not easy to read. They are violent and dark, very much like Sympathy's music. And they are not for the faint of heart. Most of the songs from Anagogic Tyranny are inspired by Bakker's characters and the struggles that they went through.

Would you like to do a video for one of the songs?

Yeah, that would be great! I think that I would choose either Insurrection or Potter's Field. Both of those songs have lyrics that tell a story and would translate quite well into a video.

Lyrically you tackle other topics then many death metal bands... You partly have a philisophical point of view, so with the economic crisis it seems that there are more shootings... Mainly in the US. Do you see a connection between the crisis and these shootings?

I am no expert on economics or on why people do terrible things. It might be more than a coincidence, but it might just be an excuse too. I really donít know, and anything that I say is likely to be wrong or too simple.

Do you think these incidents will inspire some bands to write about it?

Likely they will. Or I guess we could say that they might. I remember hearing once that extreme music always grew in popularity when times were tough. People like to listen to tough music when they feel that their lives are tough too. Plus, most bands like to write songs about serial killers and horror movies, so recent shootings would seem to be the perfect inspiration for many death metal songwriters.

And any idea why the Canadians who have as much weapons as the US Americans are so peaceful?

I think that part of it is that there are so many fewer of us. Canada is a very spacious and uncrowded country. Part of the answer, I am sure, is that we do not have the crowded inner cities that America has. And part of the answer is that most of our gun owners are hunters and farmers who use their guns as tools, not as weapons. There really is no simple answer, which is exactly the opposite of what people like Michael Moore would lead us to believe. All I can say is that I don't know why things are the way that they are, but on the other hand, Michael Moore doesn't know either.

With all the new technology it gets easier to record... And you were responsible for recordings etc. Was it a tough job to do?

I do have my own studio, but I don't have the space needed to record a drum kit very well. So all the guitars, vocals, keyboards, and bass were recorded in my studio, but the drums were recorded at a professional studio in Jim's home town. Honestly, I did find it tough. There are a lot of drum fills and snare hits in each Sympathy song. I would guess that one of our songs has as many drum hits as most entire rock albums have. That means that mixing is a lot of work. It was tough. I won't lie.

As a three-piece it would be hard to play live... No intention to play live? Or do you have some session players for live shows?

We do have session players lined up. We would all like to be able to do some live shows and a festival or two, and that would be very difficult as a three piece. Especially since the guitar parts are too complicated for me to be able to play guitar and sing at the same time. So we have other musicians who are available to play guitar and bass so that I can focus on doing vocals.

What do you do beside music? It seems that you are into books... Something else?

I just finished law school, so I will begin practicing this summer. Besides that, I am married and have a baby on the way. I also like to weightlift and be active outside in the summer. I am the type of person that needs to keep busy.

Any recent news you want to share with us?

Well, Jeff and I will be recording the guitar tracks for the next Sympathy album in May. All the songs are ready to go. It's going to be another step in the right direction for Sympathy. Since Jeff and I will be working together on all the songs this time, I think that the overall sound of the next album will be more cohesive. Plus, we are planning on recording a lot of extra material for the next disc and making a special edition release available. At least, thatís what the plans are now . . . but things always seem to change along the way.

Sounds interesting, so keep an eye on the Canadians!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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