"We sound more confident than ever before"
Jennifer Haben in our interview about the new album "Beyond the Black," the tour with Amaranthe and plans for 2023.
27. Dec 2022
You are still quite fresh from the experiences of your highly successful co-headlining tour with Amaranthe. After two years of COVID-related delays, how much did this confirmation from fans across Europe mean to you?
Jennifer Haben: It was absolutely amazing. We didn't quite know what to expect – and how high the risk was to actually carry out the tour. The music industry is still a little fucked up. Costs have increased by 30%, ticket prices have remained the same. So, the calculation was very different from the original plan. Nevertheless, we said: we really want to play this tour, and we're excited to be back on the road. Of course, we had to hope that no show would be canceled because that would have thrown a lot into turmoil. But: everything went really well. Unfortunately, Amaranthe had to cancel one show. But the rest went completely smoothly. We had an incredibly good time. And: I stayed completely healthy. I had never experienced that on a tour before. We had so much fun every night, to this extent we hadn't had that on any tour before.
Does this also give you a good feeling about the new album?
Jennifer: It was nice to finally have the opportunity to perform the Horizons songs. Now we can start anew with new songs and the new album. Just do the normal promotion. And that feels really good. We've done so much new stuff in the last two to three years. It was sometimes a lot of fun – but it was also very exhausting because it wasn't clear what it would ultimately achieve.
Jennifer: Honestly, were there moments in the past two years, where, with the frequent uncertainty about how the Covid situation would develop, you as a band thought: That's it for us?
Jennifer: No. But there were doubts, of course. In the sense of, can we make it? We tried a lot of things. Among them, the Acoustic Streaming Show "Origins." It was noticed with many concepts that the metal community does not respond well. Such as the drive-in or beach chair shows. The metal community likes to be together, toast, and have fun. That was simply not possible with these concepts. Yes, it hurt us financially. Still, we didn't give up and tried new things. If this had continued for a few more years, we would probably have had a problem. But now everything looks very positive again. It was difficult, but more in terms of having the energy to persevere. The uncertainty, not knowing when things would go back to normal, was the most challenging.
It was probably also a kind of feeling of standing still – not being able to evolve, even though the signs were good.
Jennifer: Totally. It was like hitting pause. Postponing the tour the first time, everyone kind of understood – we thought: it will be okay. But the second time hurt so much. That's when real doubts came, like when will this really stop? Of course, there were difficult moments. But hopefully, we have overcome that now.
The Covid situation led to a surprising setlist on your tour. You played more songs from your new album, which will only be released in January, than from Horizons – the album you originally wanted to promote with this tour. Does it hurt that you couldn't present Horizons to a larger live audience during this tour?
Jennifer: Yes and no. I think we were pretty aware that it wouldn't work with Horizons. We still wanted to release it for various reasons. We wanted to show what's currently happening with us. I am very glad that we released Horizons back then – today it wouldn't feel right for us anymore. It was a very experimental album. Many different people wrote on it, and we worked with many different producers. We just tried a lot of things. With the new album, it's that we asked ourselves important and big questions beforehand – personally and for the band. Who is Beyond the Black, who do we want to be – and how do we want to sound? For the first time, we really had the time and the pressure to go deeper into that. Questions we hadn't asked ourselves before with that intensity. That has done a lot for this album. That's why Beyond the Black sounds much more confident than the previous albums.
I remember an interview with Simone Simons from Epica. Epica faced the same challenge as you with their album Omega: the new album was there – a promo tour was not possible due to Covid. She said back then that the album felt unfinished to her because of that. Did you have similar feelings with Horizons in this case?
Jennifer: Hearing that, you can certainly understand it. But I'm not someone who looks back and then regrets. I am totally happy with our new album, also that the tour worked so well. I am now focusing on what comes next. And there will be a lot of good things. We are so proud of the new album – maybe that's why the retrospective is not so painful.
How was it to be on tour with three other bands – effectively performing every night at a mini-festival, with you or Amaranthe as the headliner?
Jennifer: They were very long days (laughs), especially for our crew. But it was a really great experience – and totally harmonious. We had a mega party together, and everyone felt comfortable. No one wanted to step on anyone else's toes. And that happens here and there in this industry. After six weeks, I said: I could go on for another six months (laughs). This is probably also because I didn't get sick and felt good. That wasn't always the case for the others. So they were probably happy to be able to recover now. But I could have gone on forever.
Your fifth studio album "Beyond the Black" will be released on January 13. Following the motto "After the tour is before the tour": Can you already share plans for 2023 in this regard?
Jennifer: I can at least tell you that we are planning another tour. And, of course, the plans are much more short-term than before the pandemic. But so short-term that we will go on tour again in January or February: I don't believe that (laughs). There will be many summer festivals, and then we will probably go on tour again in 2023. We are planning a lot right now and hope to release it soon.
You said in an interview with us two years ago: A new BTB album will always be a surprise. In doing so, you have indirectly rejected expectations based on the previous release. How would you describe the development steps from Horizons to BTB?
Jennifer: Because Horizons was such an experimental album, it taught us a lot. Just like the pandemic. That's probably why we now know exactly what we want. With Horizons, it was the journey we took to figure out what we wanted to end up sounding like. And with Beyond the Black we knew that beforehand. And that's the biggest difference between the two albums. We combined a lot of things from the previous albums - went more in the direction of symphonic. But then again not too much. Nevertheless, there are also electronic elements here and there because we find that very exciting. Even if we don't push it to the fullest like we did with Horizons. We wanted to perceive the album as one big picture. That wasn't the case with Horizons. Every song stood on its own.
You're super proud of the new album, you can feel that enormously.
Jennifer: For me this is the zenith so far. I'm super proud of it. We also get a lot of positive feedback. Normally there are a lot more haters there - I don't even know what's going on with them, they're all so quiet (laughs). The curve is currently pointing steeply upwards, at least that's how it feels. And I'm looking forward to everything that comes next.
Speaking of haters: Do negative comments on the internet concern you?
Jennifer: Nope. I don't really care (laughs). When you publish something and you're not 100% sure whether you should like it - and then there's exactly one comment that sticks out: yes, that's true. But if you say to yourself: what I'm doing is awesome, then there can't really be a comment that really hurts me. Then it's just opinion. There are a lot of people who don't like our music - and that's completely okay. But if I think it's good myself, then I'm at peace with it.
To what extent did the experiences of two years of the pandemic shape the new album?
Jennifer: Actually a lot in the lyrics. We processed a lot there. All topics can be extended to the whole of life and they have not only been there since the pandemic. For example, “Is There Anybody Out There” – it’s about feeling left alone with your thoughts and emotions. That you feel like the whole world is collapsing around you. Of course, a lot of people felt that way during the pandemic. That's also the reason why we were able to be very specific in the texts and why many people can understand it well. There are many passages in the album in which such things were packaged.
What is your favorite number on BtB – and why?
Jennifer: This is so hard. Because I am very convinced of every single song. Everything was just as much fun live. And I know, I'm actually a ballad girl, so of course I'm a fan of “Wide Awake” and “I Remember Dying” – even if they're not the biggest sing-along songs. But especially the latter: I listened to a lot of Hans Zimmer and film music in general during the pandemic. That was actually the inspiration for me to write this song. I wanted to write a song that not everyone understands - maybe has a little special interest. (laughs) And even if someone can't do anything with it, it still adds color to the album and rounds it off. It's a little close to my heart, even though I know that many people won't choose it as their favorite.
Especially with such special songs in your luggage: How do you as a band define a tracklist?
Jennifer: I find that very exciting. For me it is very important that the dramaturgy works. We don't want to do similar songs one after the other, we want to keep surprising them. And we almost always have a song like “I Remember Dying” at the end, something very special. If you sit down and listen to the album all the way through, it ends up being pretty easy. Catchy at the beginning, with a nice transition - and a completely new emotion towards the finale. This is my guide.
Jennifer, thank you very much for the interview!