Interview with keyboard player Günther Werno, Vanden Plas (May 25th 2006)

After 4 years absence Vanden Plas returns with their brand new album “Christ O”, yet another astonishing album, which once more proves that they clearly belongs in the Champions League of European progressive metal. We have put a few questions together for them…  

I know you haven’t been lazy or anything, but isn’t it a big risk to take such a long break between albums?
Günther Werno - Yes, it is a risk and people might ask themselves if we still exist. But we had engagements in the theatre, Andy wrote his solo-album “Abydos”. The instrumentalists played on several projects.

“Christ O” is based on the story of the count of Monte Cristo – who came up with that idea, and how close to the original story have you kept the storyline?
Günther Werno - Five years ago a theatre-director asked us to write music for a play he has written and the title was “Montechristo”. We were interested in this idea and Stephan and I started to write songs, even particular ones for the scenes we’ve imagined. But for the above reasons we had no time to work more on this play and in the meantime this director lived in Berlin and the plan to do this play was delayed. For “Christ.0” we extracted the best fitting songs for a “real” VP-album. The original storyline has pretty much changed. We putted the story in a timeless or modern scenario and we see the main character as a serial killer.

I know a lot of fans didn’t like “Beyond Daylight” quite as much as earlier albums like “Far off Grace” or “ Colour Temple ” – did that surprise you, and did that have any kind of influence on the writing of the new album?
Günther Werno - Its the first time I hear this but maybe fans don’t tell me... The reason is maybe that we changed the studio and the mixer and worked for the first time with Markus Teske. It is logic that the record sounds different than the ones before. Personally I was very happy with the songs on “Beyond Daylight”, but I didn’t like the drum sound so much. So we kept an eye on that while recording “Christ.0”. It didn’t influence our writing at all.

What’s the biggest difference between your new album and “Beyond Daylight”, personally I think the uses of orchestrations are a big step forward?
Günther Werno - We’ve always been fans of natural instruments and we used them before. But to have a real Orchestra playing would be too expensive. The sample techniques are very good today and we used a brand new plug in which we have the sampled sounds of the Symphonie Orchestra of Prague. So we have at least the instruments of these guys on Christ.0. The samples sound real and the orchestrations can make the music bigger and more epical and even more intimate. We made these experiences while playing together with the orchestra in our theatre engagements. That’s also the reason of the choir of the Pfalztheater. I am the musical director of "Abydos" and I worked with the choir and asked them if they wanted to sing on our album. Another difference is maybe the fact that we knew exactly what we wanted even if there were some surprises during recording.

What kind of expectations do you have for the new album?
Günther Werno - Number 1... I hope we can use the album as a basic for the rock musical "Christ.0".  

What’s the song you consider most representative of the new album and why?
Günther Werno - Maybe “Postcard to God”. It shows all of our trade marks: heavy riffing, big chorus and some progressive elements. The only thing the song misses is our more calm side, which is represented in “Fireroses Dance”.  

In what words would you describe the music and moods of Vanden Plas for someone that has not heard you yet?
Günther Werno - Metal based Rock with big choruses and some progressive elements, epical ballads.  

On this album you’ve used a classic novel as inspiration for the lyrics, but what else inspires you in the writing process?
Günther Werno - Writing songs has become a basic element in my life and I can not exactly tell what inspires me. Sometimes it is an emotional inspiration, sometimes just new sounds. The good thing is that I can record every idea and can later decide if it is worth working on.

Where did you record the album and who has produced and mixed it?
Günther Werno - We recorded in Bazement studio in Iddstein with Markus Teske. We always produce our records ourselves, but we had Markus as a co-producer.

Do you feel that your sound will evolve in some different direction, in the future, or you will still follow the same path?
Günther Werno - I think we have developed our own sound and people can recognize us through our sound. It’s a thing we are proud of and I don’t think we will change that much.

Which song do you consider to be the best one you have ever written; my personal favourites include “Father” and “Rainmaker”?
Günther Werno - Live I like “Into the Sun” or “I can see the Best”, on record its maybe “January Sun”.

The music scene really changed between the 70's, 80's and 90's. What would you say has been your strongest influence?
Günther Werno - The 80’s and the early 90’s.

How did you end up with the name Vanden Plas?
Günther Werno - We decided to take a name, which not implies the style of music we are playing and 20 years ago we didn’t know which style we’re going to play. So Andy saw this Jaguar Vanden Plas and liked that name (Van Halen was big at that time). Later we found out that it is a company that tunes cars.

Let’s play an association game, please tell us your first spontaneous thoughts about the following key words:

1. FC Kaiserslautern (their local soccer team in case you didn't know)
Günther Werno - Good bye!  

World Cup in Germany 2006
Günther Werno - The biggest event of the year.

Günther Werno - Charismatic person, nice musical.  

Religion and politics in music
Günther Werno - In some cases music can move the society.  

Progressive metal in Germany
Günther Werno - It’s growing.  

Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life … and why?
Günther Werno - Maybe the blue album of the Beatles, "Made in Japan", "Song Remains the Same"; it was the first music I heard besides German Schlager.

If you want to kick back at home and relax, do you put on music, turn on the TV, read a book or…?
Günther Werno - Yes!

What albums or bands do you believe have had the greatest impact on the history of metal?
Günther Werno - The ones I mentioned above and of course Metallica, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Bon Jovi and all the great bands.

Thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you…
Günther Werno - Have fun while listening to our music!!!

Kenn Jensen

Vanden Plas - Christ O

Album available on InsideOut Music.

Click on the album cover to see more info on Vanden Plas.