The instrumental/psychedelic/groove rockers MY SLEEPING KARMA released their first live album, in February 24th, celebrating their first decade as a band. METALPATHS took the chance to interview Matte, the bass player, concerning this release and more interesting stuff about his band.
You are about to release the first live album of your carrier, “Mela Ananda”. Have you recorded an entire gig from start to finish for this album or is it a collection of recordings from various shows?
Ιt is a collection of recordings from various shows during the “Up In Smoke” tour. We were on a tour together with GREENLEAF and MAMMOTH MAMMOTH last February and there we recorded several shows. It was shows in France, Belgium, and I think two shows in Germany we were able to record. We couldn’t record every show because in some cities we didn’t have enough time to build up the full recording equipment, so it’s actually a collection of four to five concerts.
In the tracklist of the record the second track is called “Enigma42”. Is that a new track?
No, actually it’s a very old track from our debut album. We like playing this song live very much and it’s usually the second or the first song in our setlists. With the live record we wanted to give the people an overview of the 12 years of MY SLEEPING KARMA, so we decided to include songs even from the very first album on it.
(edit: He is probably referring to “23 Enigma” but the track listing announced by Napalm Records referred to the song as “Enigma42”)
Have you noticed that a song in your live sets is more recognizable by the audience than the others? Like, a “hit” song?
There is one song, it’s called “Ephedra” it’s from the “Soma” album. When our guitar player plays this small, starting melody [he sings the melody] people recognize it and sometimes they sing these notes and it’s quite funny. I think it was in DESERTFEST ATHENS, Greece, where we played last October, peopled loved that song and they were singing along the melody.I was there and I also sung along the melody!
[Laughs] Then I was right in my memory. It was very nice!
Your bass playing is very interesting and it is a pleasure seeing you play. Which bass players do you draw your influences from?
I have to say I really like the bass playing of the BLACK SABBATH bass player, Geezer Butler. He likes to play a lot with the fifth and eighth and the basic tone. When I started playing the bass he was one of my biggest influences.
What are the advantages of being in an instrumental band?
It gives you freedom in the way you compose songs. It also gives you, freedom, reason and open-mindedness when it comes to the interpretation of the song. Because when you have lyrics – i.e. when you sing “I’m driving on the highway” – then there is a scenario, automatically, that somebody is driving a car. With our kind of music we want to be more open-minded and create a bright atmosphere. We don’t want boarders like these to limit us to a specific story or a specific direction. It’s the perfect thing for us to be an instrumental band.
In the covers of both the live album and your latest album, “Ganesha” (a Hindu deity) is doing the “devil horns” sign in one of his four hands. How much into Heavy Metal are you?
[Laughs] Everyone in the band is into Heavy Metal and we are all in our 40s now! We love the 80s Metal like IRON MAIDEN! Seppi, our guitar player comes from the True Heavy Metal and Power metal years. I was more into the Thrash Metal and sometime even Death Metal. Our drummer Stefan, who is a few years older than me, has seen stuff like VENOM and MANOWAR live in the 80s. The other day at a rehearsal we had brought our concert tickets which we had collected over the years and was quite funny that they where only from metal bands like JUDAS PRIEST, MANOWAR, OBITUARY and Metal Festivals.Other than making awesome covers and t-shirts from the characters of Hinduism has its philosophy somehow influenced your personality?
I think so. There are many positive characters in this religion. Although we are not very much into this or any other religion, we are open-minded people and we are checking out what Hinduism or Buddhism has to say. When we are writing an album we are trying to have a concept with the cover and the song titles and we try to dig a little deeper into these stories and we do get a bit touched emotionally by those religions. After all these years our personality has influenced by them mostly in the way of positive thinking , being calm and solving problems without aggression.
It has been more than a decade since you released your debut. Since then you have toured through the globe and your latest album “Moksha” entered the German album charts! Did this ongoing success have had an effect to the band? Did it raise new ambitions or different goals comparing to the ones you had when you started?
When we started the band we didn’t have ambitions like going on tour, playing a gig in another country, do five records or hit the German charts. We were friends since twelve years old and we just loved to hang around, creating our music, drinking beers and talking about normal-life stuff. There was never a pressure about how we need to make it in any kind of way in the music business. We just did our thing and maybe this success came from that non-pressured environment. Of course we were super happy we hit the German album charts but it didn’t change anything. We are all having day jobs, kids and normal lives. We are far away from being rock stars but we love what we do and when we are on stage we try to give more than 100% to our fans. I know many bands are saying that but to MY SLEEPING KARMA it really means a lot to play live.
Being signed to Napalm Records has helped you to reach a wider audience, make a video and increase your popularity. How come you didn’t make that deal sooner? Is it more stressful for a band to co-operate with a major label?
When you see the roaster NAPALM RECORDS when we started the band; known Metal bands, upcoming Metal bands and a handful of Rock bands, like MONSTER MAGNET, you understand that the chances for a German Psychedelic Rock band to be signed back then to this company were few. Our first chance appeared later on because the A&R, Sebastian [Muench], was a friend of ours; he loved our music and put lots of energy to get us signed. Of course there were meetings and pauses, and they thought; “Can we sell music without vocals to a wide audience? Will it be interesting? ”. The time was still not right for us back then. It was not before six years ago when Heavy Rock/Stoner bands started having success and festivals with these kinds of bands started gaining more popularity. Before that there wasn’t any interest for bands like us in metal labels.You own a booking agency named “Sound of Deliberation”. How does it work? Are bands coming asking you to book them? Or are you keeping your eyes and ears opened, for bands that you would like to co-operate with?
It goes both ways, we are keeping our eyes open for new and interesting bands but we also work hand in hand with record labels and sometimes they come to us saying “Hey, we have signed this band, they are searching for a booking agency, are you interested?”. Sometimes we are reaching out to bands and ask if they are interested working with us. It always goes both ways.
In “Moksha” the arrangements are more complex and you used more instruments (piano, cello and some brass organs too). What do you believe the next step of the musical evolution of MY SLEEPING KARMA will be?
Honestly, I really cannot say because we will start writing new material after the upcoming tour, that maybe in April, May, or maybe on summer. In “Moksha” we wanted to finish what was started with the “Soma” record. These records together are one completed picture that you can frame it and hang it on the wall. That chapter is closed. It will be interesting to see what ideas we‘ll be coming up next time. I can’t say if the next record will feature a full orchestra or a Kozakian choir [laughs], everything is possible. The basic sound of MY SLEEPING KARMA will always be the same though.
That orchestra part sounded good to me, since I liked the progression on your latest albums.
Over the years, with each new song you write, you learn more. After playing for 12 years, we learned more for our sound and gained more skills. I think the normal process is to go deeper into the story and progress.
What are the future plans for MY SLEEPING KARMA?
We have a tour for the next month with COLOUR HAZE. We are promoting our live album “Mela Alanda” and COLOUR HAZE will have a new studio record soon. We will do seventeen concerts in Austria, Switzerland, UK, France, Belgium and of course Germany, since we are both German bands and we have our biggest fan base here. We also have some festival offers that we need to consider and then it’s time to write some new music.
I’m looking forward to hear “Mela Alanda” because I always thought that your music sounds even better when it is performed live.
Thank you. The first feedback we got was pretty good. People say that you can really feel the spirit of a MY SLEEPING KARMA live concert. It is always difficult for every band to bring the live dynamics and live sense into a studio album. The motion, the sweat, the energy of the crowd makes the feeling better in live music. We have also added a thirty minutes documentary video with bonus material from the tour and a full live concert video from 2010, to give a better idea of what a MY SLEEPING KARMA live means. We are very happy with the results and the sound is how we wanted it, it’s a very natural sounding record, if someone doesn’t know us it is a great way to discover us.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Thank you too Achileas. MY SLEEPING KARMA have always felt like home in Greece, we always love playing there, both in Athens and Thessaloniki we had great time in the past, not only at the concert but hanging around and drinking with the people at the bar. We are looking forward to come back there, maybe at the end of this year or in 2018.