"The next album will always be a surprise!"
Jennifer, the frontwoman of Beyond the Black, on categorization, women in metal, Covid – and the necessary motivation beyond the stage.
12. Dec 2020
A diva, in the common use of the word, is a celebrated singer, an artist with great talent. You are currently celebrated in the scene like few other metal artists. What do you think is the recipe for success for Jennifer Haben and Beyond the Black?
Jennifer: That we don't think in boxes. We allow ourselves to do what we feel like doing at the moment. We don't want to be stuck in predefined roles. This is something that's very important to me as a person, but I believe that as a musician, you also have to take this freedom. And, most importantly, having fun. Especially in times like these.
Is this kind of pigeonholing something you still regularly encounter?
Jennifer: Of course. We changed our music a lot with the last album, at least for the genre we operate in. So, we do encounter some negative reactions. But that's okay because the alternative would be writing the same album over and over again. With Horizons, we wanted to show that you can't always predict what we'll release next. We hope people are open to it and will support it. Because for us, the next album will always be a Kinder Surprise egg.
That fits perfectly into the picture. You come across as very authentic and unpretentious. In the music industry, which largely thrives on staging, that's rather the exception. How do you maintain your naturalness in this tough business?
Jennifer: You have to know exactly where you belong. I have a very down-to-earth family, and we see each other regularly - this is very important to me, and it's good for me. You can actually tell that you change a bit when you're on tour for a long time. And it's important that you're grounded when this happens. There are so many situations where you're thrown into something new, and it's understandable that you build a protective wall now and then. But if you keep breaking through that wall, it helps you stay authentic.
Do you also ground each other within the band?
Jennifer: Absolutely. We make sure that we talk about things other than just band-related topics. We're all friends, the guys are like a second family to me. So, we always feel like we're on a class trip when we're on tour. We're professional when we step onto the stage, but we also make sure to have fun.
What advice would you give to young aspiring women who want to make metal music?
Jennifer: Do what your heart desires - and don't care about those around you who doubt it. Because that will happen. It happened to us, and it happened to others. But, in the end, it's about convincing. I remember special festivals where there's only heavy music. (laughs) It's difficult for a band with a female front to break into those, especially when you're not just growling. (laughs) And still, people will notice that there's a lot of energy on stage. So, you have to stick with it, convince people, and show them that there's real power behind it.
The situation with booking legend John Finberg doesn't exactly inspire a career in metal. How tough is it for women to make it in this male-dominated business?
Jennifer: Fortunately, I haven't had such experiences, and I don't think it's the norm. But it's crucial to have the right people around you. If you find someone who behaves oddly, you should avoid them. Only in this way can you drive these people out of the industry, ignore them, and not engage with them in the first place.
You can recognize a great team when they believe in your music, regardless of gender or how you dress. The music always has to be in the foreground. I've been very consistent about that. And that's maybe one reason why I haven't had any negative experiences.
Do these stereotypical guys really exist, promising you the world as a musician?
Jennifer: Honestly, I find it difficult to judge, I've never had to deal with such men. Of course, there are some really strange guys here and there. But you have to draw a clear line. Otherwise, things can quickly go in the wrong direction.
Changing the subject: On a scale of 1 to 10, how frustrating is it not to be able to tour with a new album due to the pandemic?
Jennifer: Is there a way to surpass 10? (laughs) No, seriously - it's really frustrating. We've had a few actions recently, like Wacken World Wide or the drive-in shows for the album release. They were very important. I was a bit worried about the drive-in shows at first, whether they would be really weird. At that time, the Covid situation allowed people to stand in front of their cars. So, you could see the reactions of the fans on their faces. I walked between the cars, saw the joy in the fans, and, as a result, the shows were incredible for me. That's what we're missing even more now.
You are not just creative minds musically, you also keep your fans entertained with a lot of creative ideas on social media. The BTB podcast, behind-the-scenes insights, the Wacken Advent Singing. What motivates you to constantly reinvent yourselves beyond the music?
Jennifer: The social media team consists of Chris, Kai, and myself. We talk on the phone every week and brainstorm about what we can do in the following week. The most important point is always: What can we do for the fans that evokes emotions, both externally and for us. It's more fun to come up with special things, like the Golden Pariahs fan edition, than just post things to get any kind of reaction. Another example is the Wacken Acoustic Clash. To be honest, in the end, it's just great for us. (laughs)
Certainly, the co-headlining tour with Amaranthe will be like that too. How did this lineup come about?
Jennifer: I've always liked Amaranthe. I often listen to them when I'm working out, and I think Elize sings incredibly well. The guys, of course, too, but I'm more a fan of female voices. We had a few shows together in Finland. That's when the idea came up that it would be great to tour together. That's also where the idea for the joint song came about.
Speaking of "Wounded Healer" – do Elize and you harmonize well?
Jennifer: Yes, definitely. What I found really funny is that she is incredibly chaotic. (laughs) The first time we were in Finland, she came in at 1 PM, just getting up and said, "Oh, I'm so tired" – and I found it so cool because it's exactly the same with me. I always sleep for a long time on tour, partly because of the voice. Once you wake up, you start talking – and if you've sung the night before, you should avoid that as long as possible. So it makes sense to sleep longer for that reason. But maybe that's just an excuse. (laughs)
You're fulfilling the classic musician stereotype and underpinning it with professional arguments – not bad.
Jennifer: That was the plan! (laughs)
When you take a look into the metal scene, you get the feeling that everyone gets along pretty well. Are there still bands or musicians you can't get along with?
Jennifer: Regarding support shows, we've had very good and bad experiences. That gets a little more relative when you hear stories from other bands. But from time to time, we've certainly thought: Hey, what's going on here? Why aren't we getting dinner – or why aren't we invited to the closing party?
So there are bands that act like headliners?
Jennifer: Yes. We had a specific experience in that direction. Otherwise, it's actually really good, even overwhelmingly good. That's how we are too. We had such positive experiences on the first support tours that we also made a pact to treat those bands that tour with us as support very well. It was extremely important for us to realize at the beginning: Hey, we belong here now. And we want to pass that on.
Last question: Christmas at the Haben household – traditional or modern?
Jennifer: Traditional! I love it completely. I'll go to my family – it seems to be allowed. I promised my mom that I would spend every Christmas at home when I moved out. So, with a real Christmas tree, a song together before opening gifts, and a big meal. Traditional – and I think that's super important too.