Van Canto’s Stefan Schmidt has a new project titled Heavatar, whose debut is titled Opus 1 – All My Kingdoms. Van Canto’s distinct approach consists of performing metal songs a cappella, with five vocalists and a drummer. With Heavatar, Schmidt gets to shred on a 7-sting guitar, as well as perform vocals. Joining Schmidt on this project are drummer Jorg Michael (formerly of Stratovarius), bassist David Vogt, and lead guitarist Sebastian Scharf, as well as members from Van Canto. Schmidt took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for Take Five, the results of which are below.
What inspired you to form Heavatar? How would you describe this band’s musical approach?
Stefan: “I had this friend of mine building me the most adorable 7-string I guitar I had ever been allowed to put my hands on. I got it in September 2011. So, I played a lot on it while we were on tour with Van Canto from September 2011 to January 2012 and quickly had some cool riff ideas that could not be sung (laughs). I thought it would be a good idea to use Van Canto’s live break to team up with some friends and record an album.”
Tell me about your debut album, titled Opus 1 – All My Kingdoms. What can fans expect to experience?
Stefan: “On the first look, it’s a power-metal album with some thrash-riffing attitude here and there: fast and midtempo songs, lots of double bass drumming, and big background choirs. And the special idea behind Heavatar is to include some of the greatest classical parts and motifs into power-metal compositions.
“I always like if a band or project has a certain idea. I think it’s not a bad thing if somebody tells you that your band sounds like this band or that band, as long as you are able to put something special on top. Of course, we are not the first one to include classical parts into metal compositions, but the way we did it is something special, I think. I really tried to imagine what it would be like, sitting together with Bach or Beethoven and writing METAL songs. It just felt like Bach said, ‘Hey I have this cool part here, let’s try to include it in the chorus,’ and I answered, ‘Ok, but let’s transform the chords a little bit and perhaps take a variation of it for the bridge.’”
Explain the classical elements that run through Opus 1 – All My Kingdoms. In particular, describe the classical motifs and how they were incorporated into a more metal approach.
Stefan: “We have listed every original in the booklet, so I think it’s good to have something left open for surprise if someone buys the album (laughs). We have parts from Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, and Bizet, and the way they were incorporated differs from song to song. In some songs, it’s just a bridge (e.g., ‘Elysium at Dawn’), whereas in other songs it’s leading through the whole song (e.g., ‘Long Way Home’) and sometimes it even inspired the lyrics like in ‘Abracadabra’ or ‘Luna Luna’.”
Although there are classical structures that inspired the music on Opus 1 – All My Kingdoms, the music is decidedly driven by power metal but with aggression and heaviness. Thus, this album is not overtly symphonic like much of symphonic power metal. Was this intentional on your part? What are this approach’s benefits and potential pitfalls?
Stefan: “Intentional in a way that I just wrote the songs like I wanted to. I didn’t have that big master plan, but you are right. Apart from “’The Look Above,’ the songs are not too symphonic, there are enough bands around that do this very well. I like sounding heavy, and the music should fit the voice of the lead singer.”
Any plans to tour the United States in support of this new CD? Any chance of performing in New Mexico? Provide any tour details.
Stefan: “We’re just at the beginning of promoting our debut, so it’s way too early to announce further plans. Fans should check the website heavatar.net regularly.”