JESTER'S TEARS: "The best gift we can make listeners is finding something in our lyrics and music that resonates with them"
Travelling is great, but coming home is always special. So - at least from my point of view ;-) - we stop for a moment “at home”, as good things can be very close sometimes. You’re welcome to follow me to Munich, Germany and learn more about JESTER'S TEARS, who conquered my proggy heart by storm last year with their album "Perception" (out since October 30th, 2020, you can find my review for it here).
Glad I had the opportunity to hit them up, and it's my great pleasure to share our chat with you:
Hey, thanks a lot for the invitation and making time to answer my questions. How are you today?
Tobias: We're all fine, thanks. It feels so great to meet and play music together again after the long, forced break. And we just moved to this amazing new rehearsal space, so welcome to our "Paradise" :-)
Amazing indeed! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Bernie: Sure - My name’s Bernd Huber, bassist in JESTER'S TEARS for 27 years now. Started with this instrument by chance as a teenager, because no one wanted to play it in our school band back then. So I switched from guitar to bass, stuck with it, and it’s still my great joy.
Mike: I’m Mike Sauter and joined the band back in 2000. Started drumming by accident as well due to a misunderstanding with my music teacher, when he searched a few guys to play some Beatles songs. I just raised my hand to say “I can play the piano”, but he thought I wanted to audition for the drums, so I hit the pots, was voted by the other students, and stayed with it.
Dimi: Hey, my name is Dimi Tsiktes, and I have the honor and great pleasure to sing with these wonderful musicians and friends. I discovered my passion for vocals during a DIO concert, when QUEENSRYCHE opened with Geoff Tate on the mic. Before that day, I was always focused on the instruments, fascinated by their playing, but this show completely changed my mind.
Tobias: My name is Tobias Dorner, guitarist and, together with Dimi and Bernie, founding member of JESTER’S TEARS.
Which brings us straight to your band history: How did you guys get together, and have there been changes in the line-up since then?
Tobias: JESTER’S TEARS formed in 1993, when Bernie joined Dimi and myself. Apart from two changes, that happened a long time ago already with Mike taking over the drums in 2000, and Philipp Schultheiß replacing Willy Schneider on keyboards, the line-up remained the same. That is not a matter of course, and probably also due to the fact that we’re connected by a strong friendship, which we’re very grateful for.
In 1995, we had the chance to enter the studio for a few hours to record our first mini-CD, “Reflections”, and promoted it – without internet ;-) – by sending copies to fanzines all over the world. We got great feedback in form of letters and postcards from many different countries, as for a newcomer, the songs were really good, just the mixing couldn’t keep today's standards anymore.
The second album, "Illusion", was released by a label in 2001, but we weren't happy with the sound, as the producer didn’t understand the heart of our music, and they did nearly no promotion for it.
Record No3, “Perception”, is out since October 2020. Even though there are 20 years in between, as we all have our jobs, families, and unfortunately there have been some strokes of fate too, we were never away, and the friendship was always most important for us.
That's awesome! How did you come up with your name, and is there a deeper meaning behind?
Tobias: Among others, "JESTER’S TEARS" expresses our affection to Venice and the melancholy connected with this unique city that, like no other, can be associated with the tears of a harlequin, even symbolizes them. A city that stands for beauty, pride and aesthetics, doesn't care about conventions, and was build up with diverse, cultural influences. It shines on the front, but behind its facade often hides a different image. And we always liked the double meaning behind this philosophical kind of name: a clown making people laugh, but actually can be a sad person.
Your cover artwork looks unusual for a prog / powermetal album, but is probably even more striking for that reason. What can you tell us about its origins, and how does it reflect the album thematically?
Tobias: It’s interesting that mostly women talk to me about the beauty on the front cover, while men usually just smile when they see it.
Dimi: But even though the first impression is on the lady, the artwork should be seen in its entirety: from the harlequin's rhombus pattern on her skin, the hair flowing into the ornaments and leading the eye to the title, which is broken by a line and expresses "Perception" even more that way.
Tobias: The booklet reflects the topics, as you can find graphics for every single song inside. Lyrics are an important part of our music, so we wanted to make them accessible and visible for the listener.
Your lyrics are intense and thought-provoking. Is there a message you want to share?
Dimi: The best gift we can make listeners is that they find something in our lyrics, resonating with them and their situation. That's what I love about this kind of music: you can feel it your way, dive into, and adapt it for yourself.
Every song on "Perception" tells its own story: some are based on reality, some are just fiction, and others opened for interpretation. Take yourself the flexibility, fantasy, and especially the right to interpret them the way you want.
As "Perception" was self-released: What kind of experience was this for you?
Tobias: For us, it was the right decision, as we didn’t know how the songs would develop. It’s not easy to find a producer who fully understands your music, also regarding the negative experiences we made with our previous release. Things took a bit longer, and we put a lot of work into this album, but the result was definitely worth it :-)
Bernie: We’re really proud of it, as every note and sound is 100% JESTER’S TEARS.
That's great, and I love it :-) Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
Tobias: The melody is a very important part for us, no matter how heavy or complex the music gets below. That's why our song-writing used to start with the melody lines in the earlier days. The newer songs are mainly written by Bernie.
Bernie: I start building them up based on the rhythmic structures, bass and drums, then add the guitars and sometimes a bit of keyboards or sounds, too. Afterwards, we further develop the songs together, and Dimi brings in the melodies as well as the lyrics.
Tobias: During the recording process, many songs changed again, because we tried and included different ideas. Nowadays, we have the possibility to do the recordings ourselves, but we were always in close contact with Jan Vacik, who is responsible for the great mixing.
How about JESTER'S TEARS live? What was your most memorable show?
Mike: On my 40th birthday, we were in a club called “Neuland” in Munich. For me, this was one of the most impressive gigs, as we got a great response from the audience, and it was really fun to play, everything fit perfectly.
Dimi: I remember a lot of great shows, but two really stand out for me: we were invited twice by Mozartheum in Salzburg, one of the most prestigious music academies in Europe. The location was great, our show worked, we got amazing feedback. The whole package was awesome, from playing the concert to returning to the hotel at 7 o’clock the next morning.
Bernie: For me, the most memorable show would be the Mozartheum gig as well, but rather the first time, because the response from the audience was even better. What I liked most was the incredibly professional stage and sound crew, as everything was set up within a few minutes, they knew exactly what they were doing. It was just great.
Dimi: What we're still missing is playing a festival, it's about time we do that.
How would you describe your local rock / metal scene, and has it changed over the years?
Tobias: Hamburg and the Ruhr area used to be the cradle of German heavy metal, and Bavaria was always a bit behind. We once had the privilege of playing with Kai Hansen and Edguy, that was great fun, as they live the spirit differently. There was a good, relaxed atmosphere right away.
Dimi: Munich is a tough place, as for some reason it's harder for the fans here to connect with the bands during concerts, which is different elsewhere. This has nothing to do with people being colder, it's just a slightly different mentality.
The metal scene in Bavaria used to be huge, but then slowed down a bit. Meanwhile, there are some good, young bands around with talented musicians. Their sound is technically more sophisticated than what we did at the beginning, so it seems as a lot is happening right now.
How about your future plans? I hope we don't have to wait 20 more years for the next album ;-)
Dimi: Haha, no! We want to revisit the songs from our second CD and see what can be done better, to bring them back the way JESTER’S TEARS sounds in 2021.
Tobias: Probably together with a few new tracks, who knows?
And we had to cancel our CD release show due to the current situation, that’s why we keep our eyes opened for the right moment to celebrate “Perception” with a party it deserves. We’ll see when this will be possible again, hoping for 2022. Playing a festival would be on our bucket list as well.
Sounds very promising :-) Do you have any further thoughts you'd like to share here?
Bernie: We want to encourage people to buy our CD, so they can experience the album in its entirety, acoustically and visually.
Tobias: "Perception" is all-embracing.
That’s the perfect closing. Thanks a lot for your time, and all the best for you and your musical plans \m/