Puoi leggere l'intervista in italiano nella prima pagina
After six years of waiting, the Brazilian Metal band Shadowside have made a comeback and have published their new album entitled "Shades of Humanity" (here you can find our review). We haven't lost the opportunity to have a chat with the singer Dani Nolden, about it. We talked about music, a dark period faced by the band and much more. Here it is what came out from our enjoyable talk with her.
Interviewed by Marco Donè
Hi Dani, I’m Marco from Truemetal.it, how is it going?
Not bad at all, thank you for asking!
Before starting to talk about your new work “Shades of Humanity”, let’s get a little step back. In 2015 there was a turnover in your lineup: Magnus Rosén, ex bass-player of the band Hammerfall, joined the Shadowside. How did this collaboration come?
At first, we thought of asking Magnus to just record the album since we were going through a lineup change and we didn’t want to rush the decision of who should be our permanent bass player. We admire Magnus a lot as a musician, and when we got in touch with him and discussed the ideas for the album, the band, plans for the future, immediately we all got along, and we started admiring him as a person as well, so we decided to ask him to join the band and as you can see, he said yes! [laughs] It turns out he really missed being in a Metal band and we are very lucky to have him on board.
The Shadowside line-up
“Shades of Humanity” is being published six years later your celebrated work “Inner Monster Out”. Why has the wait been so long? Your fans have been waiting for years for your new album…
First of all, the tour in support of our previous album, “Inner Monster Out”, was also very long. Our last show of that tour was in 2014 and the album was released in Brazil in 2011, so we spent a long time on the road. However, the plan was to start working on the new album right after that, but I went through a very dark personal period during that time. I went through depression and I just couldn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t write. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t even want to listen to music anymore. I was completely numb inside and I realized that during the shows, especially the last one we played, because it was awesome, people were great, everything was incredible and I had this strange feeling of not even being there. It felt like I was watching all that through somebody else’s eyes and I just couldn’t feel a damn thing. No happiness, no sadness, nothing. So I just had to go seek help, and in the meantime the guys in the band kept working on their ideas for the album, and when I was finally starting to heal I joined them, but it wasn’t until I had to stay at the hospital with my grandmother for 19 nights in a row to keep her company after a surgery, that I started to really move with the songwriting. During those 19 nights, I pretty much forced myself to write, and came up with most of the lyrics and melodies you hear on the album, and the initial ideas of 3 songs, Alive, Insidious Me and Beast Inside. The guys went through a rough period as well, but I only talk about mine out of respect for their privacy, but I can tell you 2014 and 2015 weren’t easy on any of us. When Magnus joined us in late 2015, we decided to set a limit date to finish the songwriting and start recording the album, because we never finish stuff if we keep an open date [laughs].
I really didn’t know anything about this, Dani... You left me speechless. After finding this out, and seeing you again in the scenes, seeing everybody of you coming back with a new album, is something to take as an example. Thank you.
Talking about your new work, your career started with a heavy-power-based proposal, but in my opinion is “Inner Monster Out” that maked you find out your real musical dimension. You have added to your sound a “modern” element and this has given to the songs a more aggressive slant that never forgives the melody, though. At that time I coined the definition “modern power-metal” to describe the album. And now? What do we expect by “Shades of Humanity”? Another step ahead?
Absolutely! I feel that “modern power-metal” description you use also suits “Shades of Humanity”, but we also added a few more elements to it. I think we went one step further with that musical identity we found on “Inner Monster Out”, but “Shades of Humanity” embraces pretty much everything we’ve done in our entire career, we kept that balance between the aggressive sound and the melodies, but we also went a bit heavier at times and revisited our more distant past in a more modern way, the way we’re playing now. I feel “Shades of Humanity” is everything we’ve been seeking musically since we started Shadowside.
Has something changed in the process of songwriting after the entrance of Magnus Rosén in your lineup?
No, I would say it’s quite the opposite… we kept the same process. The process we used on “Inner Monster Out” was getting everyone in the band highly involved in the songwriting, working on the songs using everyone’s ideas until everybody is happy. So we did exactly that on “Shades of Humanity”, and made sure Magnus would feel welcome to express his ideas and bring his songs to the band as well. He wrote Unreality and the Japanese bonus track Haunted, in partnership with his friend and King Diamond guitarist Andy La Rocque. It was a collaboration, a group effort and I’m very proud to be part of such teamwork!
What themes do you deal with in “Shades of Humanity”? The title makes think about some kind of reflections on today’s society…
That’s exactly what they are… reflections on people, on society, on our ability as humans to destroy the very home we live in, and at the same time be capable of noble and selfless acts… there are lots of different shades of grey in human personality, so there is a lot to discuss regarding the different “shades of humanity” we can find in people and in ourselves. We are flawed and imperfect, and yet there is some kind of strange beauty in that chaos we have within us.
Your lyrics has always been involved in society. You have spoken about the decay of society, fears and anxiety of mankind. What does Dani Nolden thinks about the age we are living in, deeply influenced by the social network dimension and the hate for the “different”, which is gradually rising?
It concerns me, to be honest. Everything has changed really fast. I don’t think the hate for different is rising though, I just think it’s becoming more evident. The internet just made everyone express what they always felt, but wouldn’t say it to people’s faces. This social world allowed us to see the true and darkest nature of people. It’s sad to a point, because we are now seeing people offending and attacking each other for political reasons, for different ideas, or for no reason at all, but at least we can now actually see that happening. We kind of “diagnosed” it, but we don’t know how to heal it yet. But if that kind of hatred hadn’t been exposed, we would never be able to heal it… it would just sit there, hidden, expressed when least expected. Now at least I think we can try to figure out a way to lay a better future for the next generations. It will take time, I don’t think any of us will be alive to see a human society that actually respects and embraces diversity, but I do believe that is going to be possible someday. The first step, in my opinion, is getting everyone together to fight for humanity. Now we have lots of small groups fighting for their own rights, many times dismissing the rights of others. I think things will really start to change once we stop that and start fighting for everyone’s rights. I’m a woman, but I don’t have to fight for women’s rights and ignore whatever men go through, for instance. If one single person has a problem, that is everybody’s problem.
That’s a very deep thought, Dani... Now, let’s go back to “Shade of Humanity”: as forerunner single you chose “Alive”, for which you shooted a video, that revealed itself similar to a short-film. Would you like to talk us about its meaning?
“Alive” is about that depression period I mentioned before, and about the will to survive. I wasn’t suicidal, but I know that getting to that was only a matter of time as I was contemplating some weird and dark thoughts about death. The lines about “seeking a reason to verse and force at myself one more song” are very real. However, the video director, Daniel Stilling, had complete freedom to create the script and he turned it into an amazing story of survival and finding the strength to stay alive, and made that short movie featuring four different situations where the characters had to find that strength in themselves. And it’s interesting because all of those stories can very much describe what depression feels like… being trapped, drowning, being lost. And you just keep going. You seek help and you keep going. Just one more song, and just one more day. And in the end…. Well, you can see what happens in the end for yourself [laughs]. The video is available here so you can see what happens if you just keep going one more day… [smile].
You worked together with Fredrik Nordström and Henrik Udd in the control room also during the recording of this album. Great collaborators don’t have to be replaced…
Exactly! They know exactly how to get the best sound and the best performance out of us. They both really know how to push us to create and write the very best that we can, and then to record effortlessly, playing and singing things we didn’t know we were capable of. We don’t even have to tell them what we’re looking for. We just get there with the songs. All we ever tell them is that we want it heavy. They know what to do [laughs].
The album cover of “Shade of Humanity” made me curious about it. Although your faces been “reworked”, it is you that appear in that, and this is a solution that nowadays we find rarely. Is this a choiche to show a counter-trend, to be different from the others? Or is there a specific meaning?
The meaning of using the unfinished and flawed faces was to represent that idea of humanity being imperfect. The idea of using ourselves on the cover was to demonstrate that we’re not pointing fingers. We’re including ourselves. People are imperfect and that begins with us. That’s the idea behind it… the album is very personal, so we felt the cover might as well be personal too!
"Shades of Humanity" cover
You introduced yourselves to the European fans especially with the support tour with the band Helloween, in 2013. What do you remember in particular of that experience?
The people, mostly! European fans were amazing, both in countries we had been to before and in those we hadn’t had a chance to play yet. It’s always very hard being the support band because you’re being directly compared to legendary bands, and those people are eager to see the main act, so when you are so well received, just like we were by those fans, it really means a lot.
What differences have you found in the organization of the exhibitions between Europe and South America? If there are, obviously.
When it comes to the really professional events in Brazil, such as the big festivals, there really isn’t much of a difference, the structure and equipment is very similar. The problem in Brazil, one we rarely see in the events we play in Europe, even the smaller ones, is that lots concert promoters here don’t understand the impact of making bands playing with crappy gear, but not because that’s all that is available, but because they don’t bother reading the tech rider, or they think ‘that will do, it can’t be that different’. And when you try to explain it, they get mad and say you are forgetting your roots, that you should play no matter what, that the gear is too expensive. However, it the sound on stage sucks, it’s always going to be the band’s fault. We get it that gear rental can be expensive, and if the promoter feels it’s too expensive, he should not organize the event, but instead they sometimes don’t feel that way, they want to do a low-cost event no matter what.
Fortunately, we never had to deal with that in Europe or USA. Whatever we ask for when it comes to gear, it’s always there, because they know we’re not asking for it because we want to be rockstars, we are just concerned about the quality of the show. Thankfully, that is slowly changing in Brazil and more and more we see promoters who are willing to plan ahead, organizing less concerts, but quality ones.
Are there differences also between fans? Do they react in the same way?
I think there aren’t many differences between the Brazilian fans and fans from some parts of Europe, like Italy, Spain, France and Poland, for instance. Those were very intense crowds, that always seem to be extremely passionate about music, just like we are in Brazil. Other countries seem to show their appreciation a bit differently, they seem to want to absorb every detail the concert has to offer so they watch it a bit more quietly, and you think they didn’t like it, but they come to your merch stand and buy every single cd and t-shirt they see and tell you how much they loved the show [laughs]. It’s very interesting to see how different cultures react and enjoy the music.
Dani, one of the most distinctive element of the Shadowside’s sound is your voice, with no doubt. Talking about female voices, in these last years the metal scene has shown us above all lyrical sopranos. On the other side, you are a contralto and able to be aggressive and melodic, extremely original and expressive. Did this “diversity” impede your progress at the beginning or did it help you?
It’s quite hard to say because I couldn’t and will never be able to “test” it. It’s a good thing that when I started to sing, female metal singers weren’t that common, I actually didn’t know of any, so I learned how to sing by listening to the guys and trying to sound like them… and since I’m a contralto, that was never a problem. It never felt out of place for me, it just sounded natural and I was 12, 13 years old, so it didn’t strike me back then that “boys sing like this” or “girls sing like this”. I didn’t have that consciousness about male and female roles, differences, it didn’t hit me until I was like 15 or 16 and people started pointing out how unusual my voice was. I can’t really say if that helped or not, maybe it did in some way, because it was different than what was popular, but at the same time, that means people wanted to listen to that, so I honestly can’t say what impact it had in the beginning of my career. In the long run, I think it helps, because there is already one Tarja, one Floor, people won’t care about me if I try to sound like them, because they’re already amazing at what they do. So I just try to be myself and sing in whatever way I feel will suit the song. I’m glad and thankful that you like the way I sound, and I think that makes it clear for all the people who want to be singers out there that it doesn’t matter if you don’t sound like your favorite singers, or like the popular singers out there. Just sing your heart out and you’ll find your niche.
What are the next projects of the Shadowside? Will it be a tour after “Shade of Humanity”? Will you come in Italy?
I hope so! I have great memories from every concert we played in Italy and I can’t wait to go back there.
Dani, we have just come to the end of our interview. Thank you very much! As usual, I’ll leave you these last lines for the greetings to our readers.
Thank you so much as well, for all the kind words and support! I hope you guys enjoy “Shades of Humanity”, it’s a very personal, deep album on a lyrical aspect, but it’s still very musical, very melodic with a lot of heaviness added to it, so it would reflect that beauty in chaos thing... so I hope you guys like it and that we’ll meet on the road soon! Take care!