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Interview: Flo Laurin from Sinbreed

Based in Germany, Sinbreed has been infusing their personal brand of no-nonsense power metal into the genre since their founding. Their third and most recent record Master Creator (released February 2016 by AFM Records), has been receiving positive reviews for its relentless energy, lyrical diversity, and overall creativity in a sometimes-stagnant scene.

Over the weekend, Music Existence was able to connect with Sinbreed founder and guitarist, Flo Laurin, via Skype for a candid conversation about forming a metal band, creating high-intensity music, selecting a new guitarist, the works of Franz Kafka, and more.

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ME: I was wondering how you would describe your music to new listeners. I feel like it could fall into power metal, but it has a different feel to it.

Flo: Power metal is a good description. I like to start from there, because everyone has a different definition of power metal. We try to keep it in a heavier and more aggressive way of power metal. We focus on four-minute songs, and we get to the point—no nonsense here and there, no three-minute keyboard solo, this is nothing that we do. We bring you a cool song in about four minutes with nice melodies and a fast pace.

ME: One topic I’ve seen come up is whether your music is Christian. Does religion play into your music, or is that something entirely separate?

Flo: We handle religion in our lyrics, but not in a way to be understood that we promote one specific religion or a god. When we write lyrics, we think about what’s going on in the world today. We do not promote any religion, but we think about it and give our opinion on certain aspects. I think the reason we mostly get connected to Christianity is Herbie Langhans, our singer, played in Seventh Avenue, which is a so-called white metal band. Some people mess that up, but this is in no way a problem for us.

ME: Then I was wondering about the band’s beginning. I’ve read a bit about it, but it sounds interesting how you were able to bring everyone together.

Flo: Yes, absolutely. I composed the very first record, When Worlds Collide on my own when I was a little kid. I really wanted Herbie to sing it, because I was a stagehand with Seventh Avenue in my hometown. It was something like ten years later when he in fact became the Sinbreed singer. This was a pretty cool thing.

I knew Frederik Ehmke when he joined Blind Guardian back in time. We were in the same school, so there was always a connection. [I thought], “OK, if he’s in Blind Guardian, I’m pretty sure he can play the stuff I imagine.” [Laughs] So I asked, and he was busy with his schedule but free for it.

Alex (Alexander Schulz), our bass player, was also in the same school so he knew us from there, and this was the way I put everything together. I’m pretty happy that I found the people that I wanted in the first place and that it’s worked since 2005 to now. This is pretty awesome.

ME: Right, it sounds like an interesting school experience, too.

Flo: Totally! [Laughs]

ME: You mentioned composing your first album when you were a little kid. I was wondering exactly how old you were.

Flo: You know, when you start playing guitar and evolve to not only playing a Metallica song or songs like that, but you start to write your own music—it was pretty soon after that that I only write and work on ideas which later become a song. I’m not the guy who collects like 40 or 50 riffs and song ideas. I always prefer to finish songs, and this was when I was like 15 to maybe 18-19. This was the time when I had all 10 songs on the record ready. Those were finished, but I had to find the people to record it, like I mentioned before with Frederik and Herbie. This took another five years or so until it got released or recorded. Throughout this time, I kept playing guitar, I kept playing concerts, and I worked as a stagehand for a small festival over here where Seventh Avenue was playing. And I just got into the local music scene here and there, did some networking, got connected to promoters, and stuff like that. That’s how it all began.

ME: Then you mentioned that other members have outside projects like Frederik with Blind Guardian and Herbie with Avantasia. Is it difficult to bring everyone together to create the record?

Flo: [Laughs] It’s nothing but difficult, because Avantasia and Blind Guardian are the two biggest players around. They have a heavy schedule, so this isn’t easy for Sinbreed at all. But, Frederik is my friend. I’m the godfather of his daughter, so we are really connected. I’ve known Herbie more than ten years. He’s a friend of mine. I’m totally happy for him, because he’s such an awesome singer, such a talented guy. This was and is his big chance to get to the next level, so we talked about this and we do not want to hold them back—so he’s doing Avantasia at the moment. Frederik, of course, is still with Blind Guardian, but there will be time with Sinbreed also. We’re working out the schedules and things like that to promote Master Creator and the live scene. With luck, Sinbreed will grow like it has grown in the last couple of years. It’s difficult, but of course it’s doable.

ME: Right—difficult, but it’s a good thing that everyone’s being successful.

Flo: Absolutely.

ME: For this current album, Marcus (Siepen) left. Did you handle all of the guitars by yourself then?

Flo: Absolutely, yes, this was something I was used to, because the first record When Worlds Collide was done by me with all of the guitars. It was a luxury to have such a nice guy as Marcus sharing the guitar parts on the Shadows record, but he wasn’t able to do this with the mentioned schedule of the Blind Guardian world tour going on. We decided to do it nonetheless, so I was able to take care of all the guitars like I did on the first record. It was more work, yes, but I was confident that I could handle it. It turned out pretty well at the end of the day.

ME: For when you play live, are you going to add a new guitarist or play with just you?

Flo: Nope. We do have to play live with two guitars. We gave it a lot of thought, but the Sinbreed songs—like I mentioned earlier—are totally composed for two guitars with all the twin guitar solos and stuff like that. It just didn’t feel right. So yes, there will be a new guitarist first for live, maybe for being a five-piece again. We announce him this coming week.

ME: That’s perfect timing. Was there anything you looked for when selecting your new guitarist?

Flo: Honestly, this was—what’s the word when someone is writing you, letting you know that he should be the new guitar player? [Laughs]

ME: I can’t think of it now. I know what you’re saying though.

Flo: Yes, and as you can imagine, we get a lot of questions like that even with such a prominent guy such as Marcus Sieben leaving. You get tons of the word we cannot think of at the moment, but this guy, he was just perfect. He wrote the right things. He linked us the right videos. We knew what he was able to do, and he did a demo recording that blew us away. The guy is from Spain. Sinbreed is becoming a bit international, but this must be nothing bad—who knows, more influence, more cool stuff that’s going to happen. I’m very happy with the current situation, yes.

ME: Then each track on Master Creator is really diverse when compared to each other, yet everything comes together. Did everyone participate in songwriting? How did that happen?

Flo: The cool thing with the third record, Master Creator is this is the first record where all four band members contributed whole songs or to the songwriting process in general. I believe Herbie put in four songs in total, and everyone wrote at least one song, so this is the diversity you mentioned. It really brought some new color to the record. The first [record] was written by me. Three guys wrote the Shadows record, and now we [wrote this album] as a band when it comes to the songwriting, the recording, and the mixing process. It’s really helped the record to become what we are finally holding in our hands. It’s still Sinbreed’s style, and we couldn’t be happier.

ME: Then what is the process of putting together your guitars and songs, just because your songs are so fast?

Flo: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s absolutely a good question. This is no secret, but we work with click-clacks. If you might have seen our “Making Of” videos on YouTube, we invite the listener to take a closer look behind the scenes. It all starts with drums. Frederik is nailing the drum parts on a click to make sure that everything is on time. After this, Alex is taking over, and he has to nail it the same way, because when I have to play the guitars and I double it, there’s no room for wishy-washy and stuff like that. It really has to be on time. It’s a hard thing to do, but we’ve known each other for ten years. We’ve played some records together. We’ve played some live shows, and we’re really working as team there. It works pretty well.

ME: “At The Gate” (the seventh track on Master Creator) marked a surprising slower song. Were you meaning to add a slower song in this album? How did that come about?

Flo: I always said that until I turn 40, I would not contribute to a ballad. [Laughs] And I’m very happy that I had nothing to do with “At The Gate,” beside producing it and of course playing my guitar parts. Frederik brought up this song, and he had this song composed a few years back in time. He rearranged it for Sinbreed. It’s not a typical power ballad. I think we added a certain touch when you think of the verse, which is some kind of monotone. Herbie’s experimenting with his voice in the verse section. I’m totally happy with the song. I have no songwriting credits on it, but like I mentioned before, it adds another dimension and another color to the record.

ME: Then the other track I wanted to call out, mostly for its music video, is “Moonlit Night” (the fourth track on Master Creator). Did Franz Kafka’s work inspire this?

Flo: Absolutely! It was a bit risky. We gave it a lot of thought and talked with the label, because it’s something different. It’s not a video that some might expect from a power metal band when most other bands are doing things with dragons and stuff. So going with Kafka and such a very, very cool book, which is called Metamorphoses, was a risk we could take also with the director who did a very good job. The creature was created very, very well. We were uncertain how fans would receive it. But, it took eight minutes and we had the first YouTube commentary where someone said, “Is that about Franz Kafka? Well, it’s awesome.” This was the point in time where we said, “OK, we did not fuck up. This will get received very well.”

ME: Where did you get the idea to use Metamorphoses as inspiration?

Flo: This came up with Thomas Noller. This is the guy who worked with us on the very first record, and this is kind of a tradition. On each Sinbreed record so far, we have at least one song based on a book. When it was time to have the story and the book for Master Creator, he came up with Kafka and this story with the guy waking up the next morning turned into a bug. It was pretty fucked up, though, that this was the one we had [for the record]. The song is pretty cool. Herbie wrote it, and the lyrics speak very well to the idea. They’re dark enough, and we like it very much.

ME: Do you have a favorite song off the album?

Flo: Ooh, my favorite song. Maybe it’s “Master Creator,” the title track, but for nothing more than I surprised myself. I wanted to have the song as the Japanese bonus track. While working on it and struggling with the opening riff, which is in fact 15-years old, the song turned out so cool so that when it was finally time to release it, I was totally happy. It became the title track a little bit by accident, so I have to pick the “Master Creator” song because of the history.

ME: Then I know you played in the US before, especially for the ProgPower USA festival, and then you’ve of course played over there. Are you planning to come back to the United States?

Flo: You mentioned that particular festival, ProgPower USA, and I have to admit it’s a special one. There are a lot of cool fan connections going on. There are fans that are really into the music, so I couldn’t imagine a better festival for us to play [in the United States] in the first place. We’re totally happy with this experience. We do want to come back some day to the United States, even though this has become problematic with visa issues and the cost, but this is something that we’d really like to do again.

ME: What will the rest of 2016 look like for Sinbreed?

Flo: We are playing three concerts next month with the German band Van Canto. This will be to promote the Master Creator release. We are focusing on playing some more shows and hopefully a little tour in the fall of 2016, mainly in Europe.

ME: Lastly, is there anything we haven’t touched on you’d like to bring up or anything you’d like to say to fans?

Flo: I just would like to invite all of the Music Existence readers to look up Sinbreed. If they’re into power metal with a certain touch of heaviness and fast guitars and drumming, they won’t be disappointed.

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