Interview with Johannes Zehl (Vocals)
Dead Like Swansea is a young German group with a eviewecently-released debut LP and an ever-increasing number of local gigs on its resumé. On Fragile Man, the up-and-coming sextet is seen putting its own touches on its many influences–metal, melodic hardcore, djent–and now hopes to draw people’s attention to their new creation. In this interview with Johannes, one of DLS’ two vocalists, we discuss the band’s cryptic name, being neophytes in the recording business, and the importance of lyrics.
Metal Revolution: Dead Like Swansea was originally conceived as a deathcore band, but switched genre early on. What was the motivation behind the change?
Johannes: The plan to make a deathcore project was the idea of the two founding members, (Max Kersten and Johannes Zehl), who are the vocalists of DLS. The steady change of members at the beginning always brought new influences. On the other hand, it is the first band for everyone in DLS, so we first had to find our way to write songs and to work together.
MR: Googling “dead” and “Swansea” lead me to a number of news story about a Swansea-based man whose cause of death was thought to be an outbreak of measles. While death-by-measles is certainly newsworthy, I’m going to assume that that particular incident wasn’t the reason you chose Dead Like Swansea as your moniker. Can you explain the meaning behind the name of the band?
Johannes: To be honest, there is no deeper meaning behind the name. But the name is a reference to a ghost town, named Swansea, in Arizona. After Googling “Swansea”, to learn more about that city, we also read stories about many Swanseas all over the world. So we decided to choose Swansea and–to make it sound more interesting–we added ‘Dead Like’ in front.
MR: On that note, can you detail the sound of Dead Like Swansea? What makes you guys stand out from the crowd?
Johannes: On our first two demo records our biggest feature is the diversity of the songs. Even though it is all melodic hardcore, there are no songs that sound identical. What makes our debut full length unique is the mix of many sub genres of metal/hardcore. We have taken elements from metal, metalcore, hardcore and djent, and mixed them all up to create a new style and mixture of metal. But it was also an aim to have a big diversity again, like on our two demos.
MR: Fragile Man is Dead Like Swansea’s first full-length release. What was the recording process like? And is this every member of the ban’s first LP?
Johannes: Yes, Fragile Man is the first LP for everyone and the first record we all made in a big studio (our demos were recorded in a little home-recording studio). The recording process was an awesome experience for all of us! I personally can’t imagine feeling that you can compare to seeing a song grow from the very first idea and writing it down, over building a complete song around it and bringing these songs to a studio to work on them again, discussing every single part and seeing every step of the recording. After we recorded Fragile Man we all knew our songs much better than before and it was a lot of fun during our studio time.
MR: Does Fragile Man have a specific theme, or is it a collection of standalone songs?
Johannes: As mentioned before there is something like a theme. The big diversity and the influences from many directions was something we always had in mind. We also changed some parts in between the songs, so they all have a connection to each other. If you hear a song from [Fragile Man, you have to know that it is.
MR: Which song off of Fragile Man do you feel would make the best entry point for someone new to Dead Like Swansea?
Johannes: That’s a hard one! I think this depends on the direction you are usually listening to. “Spotlights” is the best candidate to get an earworm from and is very easy to listen to. If you like technical songs, “To The Grave” is the best one. When you search for Dead Like Swansea on Youtube, you’ll see “Earth” on top, since it’s the most popular song we have on Fragile Man.
MR: You’ve uploaded a couple of your new songs to Youtube, with the lyrics serving as music videos. You guys have two people sharing the vocal duties; do they also share lyric-writing responsibilities?
Johannes: No. The lyric writing is not something that is focused on one person. If someone in the band has a good idea for some lyrics, or even a finished text, he comes up with it and we all work together on them. Of course our two vocalists change some things after to perform a better vocal track.
MR: Do you consider the lyrical content of your songs as important an element as the music and vocals? Which subjects can a new listener expect to hear about when they listen to a Dead Like Swansea CD?
Johannes: Yes! Lyrics are very important to us. The often form the character of a song and are the reason if the vocalists can do a good job or not. Our contents are basically feelings and matters of personal experience. An exception is the song “Earth” ( there is a lyric video on Youtube [Also featured at the bottom of this interview. -ed]). The topic is our world and how humanity destroys everything. So here again we have a big variety of topics: Feelings, future, dreams, experience, everyday life…
MR: Other than Fragile Man what’s your pick for best album of 2013 so far?
Johannes: Hm… Here the opinion of every band member goes in a different direction: Some say the new Born Of Osiris, the new August Burns Red, A Day To Remember, Asking Alexandria, Attila… Here, we can’t really say what’s the best. But we are all very excited for the new Reflections!
MR: You’ve been playing a lot of shows locally. How long did it take you before you felt your live performances really clicked?
Johannes: We all gain more confidence in everything with every gig. We are all very safe in what to play, how to move, how to react in different situations, but we can’t predict how the crowd reacts to our music so every new show is a new experience
MR: Do you prefer being on stage to writing and recording music?
Johannes: I would say there is a balance. As I told you about the writing and recording, it is an awesome feeling, but on the other side it’s a unique feeling to play all these shows live, seeing how the crowd and other bands react to our music, meeting new people, meeting other bands, learning from other bands, traveling around. It would become boring if you wrote and recorded all the time, but it also becomes monotonous if you only play shows and play the same songs and the same set every time without writing some new stuff and working on it.
MR: What are your ambitions? By this time next year, do you foresee Dead Like Swansea playing international gigs?
Johannes: When we started DLS, it was our aim to become big and famous and everything! But now we only want to have fun, write new music, record new songs, travel around wherever it’s possible–it would be a great step and experience to leave Germany for some gigs and see how our music works in other countries. So our aim is to exist for a very long time and reach as many people as possible with our music.
MR: Thank you for your time.
Johannes: Also a big thank you from our side.