German prog-metal trio The Hirsch Effekt will be releasing their brand new studio album, "URIAN", tomorrow, September 29th. To celebrate we asked Ilja John Lappin to tell us about the latest single, "Otus." Here is the story:
I remember the time in January 2021, deepest winter in Germany, while the country was in the middle of a long lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic. This was the second one and it would last about half a year. It had been a tough time for everyone with social distancing and everything that was going on. Maybe for us musicians things were even a little worse since we had already faced a year (2020) of financial struggles, cancelled shows, festivals, tours and had just somehow managed to keep afloat financially. The band dropped the last album "Kollaps" in the beginning of the pandemic, which unfortunately got barely recognition, since people's minds and focuses were somewhere off and not quite so much with new music that was being released. Understandable. The music & promo ran basically into nothing - at least that's what it felt like. We also never could tour the album and nobody could foresee that the pandemic would last for years, or at least I thought that first. Or maybe I was just being too naive. Probably.
So there I was in the middle of the second lockdown, once again alone in my apartment in Berlin, beginning a new chapter of my life that was heading to - uhm...no idea. I had lost my jobs as a musician for the foreseeable future as postponed tours got canceled once again. There was no real goal ahead, little ambition and there was not much to do than to wait things out. I had been living a ferocious life the last years and had to get adjusted to the things around me calming down in a horrifying way - at a speed that went way too fast for me. I had turned into a pessimist, was even facing existential concerns and but still managed to buy myself a new 6-string baritone guitar, well - plainly out of spite.
The guitar and I became friends with each other and it granted me new inspiration and fun in a time that was mostly darkened. So we started to talk, first just exchanged a few words, then got to know each other really well. I wanted to write new music to somehow process what had been and what was going on but I had been missing the spark that would ignite the flame. And there it was, tada : the guitar became the spark and I named it Bert. So I entered a phase, where it was literally just Bert and me, hanging out for weeks in isolation and jamming around. I started to experiment with drop tunings, riffed around for days and developed a gigantic collection of different pentatonic figures, that somehow were friends with each other. Not with a real song in mind since it was just more like trying things out and seeing where it went - like a mad scientist who had just discovered a new potion. However, I then started to pair these riffs with atmospherical synths & spacy sounds - a blend that I have always been fond of. Also, I took a deeper dive into sound design and sound production. I had upgraded my sound libraries in the last years with tons Native Instruments & Gforce stuff and finally had some time of peace to engage with them - one of the few, good things about the lockdown.
I realized that I had started to create something that had a long intro, a recurring riff part in variations, something like a verse and something that... hooked...a song! And that combo of those different parts would become the first version of "Otus" of the new record "Urian". The guitar laid the ground work for the other instruments, so I could just go on programming drums to the guitars and would record the bass after and produce all the other sounds mainly around the guitar figures. So, I had somewhat the first major part of the song pretty quickly established and a "riff jam" that I saw before my mind's eye somewhere happening at a later time in the song - but as things always have to go sideways at a point: I had a couple of fallbacks along the way, that killed the creativity. I kind of sometimes also lost track of what I was even writing. Because besides my "songwriting mode", I was just also sitting most of my time at home and binging news at a terrible pace, trying to understand the pandemic situation...and where things with the world were going.
At times I would fall into nostalgic episodes and wished "the old world" back, basically lost myself to thoughts...about the world and how I stood with or against it. After thinking deeper about the past, the long C part of the song emerged as a kind of introspective reflection of the mind. I wanted it to sound snowy, dreamy and calm since it fitted to the actual winter that was going on outside as well as to the winter in my heart. I remember being happy about creating that long C-part though and that I took so much time for the detailed production and the sounds, the reverb rooms, the delays, etc. I also realized I wasn't creating a classical "song" anymore but more an epic, long adventure that had interesting atmospherical ups & downs. Which then again somehow fitted to what I was actually really going through.
It was a weird time. The pessimism would get worse and I started to engage more with day drinking. The days felt empty and the weeks seemed longer in isolation than ever before. Then the first few drinks would turn into five, the five into ten. And I would always keep coming back to the song though in order to place another piece of the puzzle. But then again it was a back and forth and the beers would turn into bottles of rum & whiskey. I was on a good way to destroy myself and was losing it.
I knew I couldn't go on continuing like that and started to change things, quit drinking for a while, got out of my own mind a little bit, ignored the news and gained new clarity. This new clarity helped to come up with the end of the song and how to finish it. I knew what I wanted to say and what the song was about. I knew what I had been through and that I couldn't return to that place. It took some time to process all that was going on but then at a later point in time the lyrics finally emerged - as a letter of contemplation, a long journey through one's own past and self - in order to not succumb to the crept in self-destruction, but to embrace the hope for a better future...that things would at some point somehow turn for the better although the light at the end of the tunnel could not be seen.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself below and learn more about the album here