Late last year, we were blessed with the news that vocalist Britta Görtz is joining a new melodic death metal act Hiraes. Their powerful debut “Solitary” is out now (read album review here), and we sat down with her to talk about it. We discussed the beginnings of the band, music, lyrics and video creative processes, how she balances between Hiraes and her other band, Critical Mess, and much more. You might even find out how her nickname “Elchkuh” came about. Just read our chat down below.
MG: Hello, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. How are you? Have you been able to enjoy the nice weather today?
Britta: Hello, the pleasure is mine. I was very pleased to receive your request. I also enjoyed the weather, I actually was outside a bit this morning.
MG: If you don’t mind, let’s start at the very beginning of Hiraes. The guys knew each other from their time at Dawn Of Disease. How did you get involved?
Britta: Dawn of Disease and my bands loosely knew each other, I’d say. With both, Cripper and Critical Mess, we have already shared the stage with them. It’s not a big band friendship but you just run into each other from time to time. So I already knew what kind of band this is and what kind of people there are. Then Lukas, the guitarist and main songwriter, sent me an e-mail around January or February 2020. Something like, “Are you looking for a musical project? We might plan something, let’s see…” But we didn’t go into the details. I mean, of course, you can‘t write in the first mail that Dawn of Disease have dissolved. Then I said, “Yes, of course. What kind of music?” I just make it dependent on whether I like the music or not. Then we e-mailed a bit more and talked over the phone. Then he told me that the band was going to disband and that they were going to form a new band. Lukas really hit a nerve with me, because he said: “We like what you do on stage and how you come across, so we want you to sing with us.” I thought: „Wow cool! Playing live is, of course, the thing I mostly do, that’s what I love the most. That someone sees this and says, “We like it, we would also like to have you with us.” That is, of course, great. Then I said, “Yeah, let’s do this.” We met and wrote a song, played it and noticed that it works very well together.
MG: Then everything seemed to fit perfectly from the beginning!
Britta: Yes, the chemistry was great right away. That was great, we were all on the same level.
MG: You’ve almost answered the second question! How long have you been working on the band? Was there a moment where it was really clear: “This is going to be a new band”?
Britta: We actually wanted to meet much earlier, but then it didn’t work out because of the pandemic and then we met via Zoom at some point. We said we’ll write a first song together and then we’ll see how it develops with the pandemic, if we can meet then. Then we met in May or June last year for a rehearsal, played the song a few times and then, we all looked each other in the eyes and then it was clear. I also checked with my guys at Critical Mess again, not to ask, more to say, “There’s something coming, don’t be surprised.” I just wanted to get them involved, not have them wondering, “What’s she doing now?” I would say from June last year, so it’s been sort of clear for a year now. After that we worked with high pressure on our songs. We delivered pretty fast, I’d like to say.
MG: The singles you’ve released, each has a very different vibe… “Under Fire” is more melancholic and “Solitary” is more explosive. How were the singles received by your fans? As a “new” band, did you have anything to say in the selection of singles or was that decided for you?
Britta: We have chosen the singles ourselves. There’s a third single coming out now, I just saw the final version of the video before we talked. I’m really excited about it, it’s gonna be really cool. Of course, Napalm [Records] had a couple of favourites and the third single is also one of those. We had two that we wanted to put out and we thought, if the song is received well by Napalm, then we’ll take that one. When we chose the songs, we didn’t have any distance to them. You’re still in the production process and you hear the songs a bit differently than outsiders. That was just the first feedback we got from the outside. The singles were extremely well received by the fans, I must honestly say that we did not expect this powerful, overwhelming feedback. Just looking at their clicks alone. „Under Fire“ over 69,000 and „Solitary“ almost 40,000. That’s pretty rad. Also how many people make the effort to also like the videos or leave comments, or even how many messages reach us. I’ve never gotten so much feedback for the lyrics as I have for „Under Fire“. Really directed at myself and people were thanking me for the lyrics and I thought, „Wow, cool!“ I’m always so grateful to do this because I can bring a little fun into other people’s lives and give them something positive. That is the greatest thing you can do as an artist or as a musician. We chose the songs and especially the third song to define the spectrum of the album a little bit. „Solitary“ is the title track and by far, the fastest and hardest track on the album. „Under Fire“ thus reflects the album’s powerful, melodic side. The next song that comes out is kind of in between, I would say. And I think that’s quite appropriate for a summary of the album. Also the videos… we made reflect the different sides of the album.
MG: You guys released an interesting video for the track “Solitary”. Can you tell me a bit more about the filming and the plot?
Britta: We shot the video here in Hannover, I live in Hannover and the others live all over Northern Germany. I like to work with a video production company where Jonathan, the guitarist of Cripper, works, or rather that’s his agency together with a buddy. I was so up for doing a video with them again and I was like, “Hey guys, what’s the deal, can I do the storyboard for „Solitary“ and plan the video?” And they were like, „Yeah, go for it!“ Then I sat down and listened to the song and looked at what kind of pictures were coming to my mind. And all of a sudden, there was this astronaut kid. I have no idea where that came from, it was just there, and I was like, „Okay, trust in your creativity.“ Then I did the storyboard and everything, drew some stuff and then showed it to the guys. I thought they might think I was crazy, but they said no, that’s cool and we’ll do it like that. I’m just like, „Okay, totally cool. I can’t believe they have such trust in me.“
I wrote the lyrics to it over there on the sofa (turns the camera and points to the sofa in the background). I think that was the second to last song or the second to last lyrics that I wrote. In the song, the whole theme and way of life in the pandemic has crept in. I am alone a lot, I live and work alone. We all worked or wrote by ourselves and at home. Of course, we sent it back and forth and talked on the phone, but we weren’t in the same room together and we didn’t record together. Everyone did it by themselves at home. At some point I thought that it is almost unreal. You have such a responsibility when you do it all alone, you have the feeling that it has to be good. It’s such an ambivalent feeling of respect for the task and then doing it. When you realize that it works, you get a lot of strength and confidence in your own power and in your own creation. In this ambivalence, “Solitary” moves a bit… I always say so raw, so pure, so whole… It is a raw feeling, also a bit of a blatant, very direct feeling but it is also very pure because you can feel your own power. That’s what “Solitary” is about and we tried to put that into the storyline of the video in a bit of an abstract way. I don’t know if you noticed, but all the story parts, except for the last scene, are not completely vertically filmed but a bit tilted. There’s something wrong in the world, there’s something wrong. You hear your own inner voice, you know it’s there but you don’t listen to it and you don’t pay attention to it. This inner voice, this inner feeling is embodied by this little astronaut who is standing there, just not fitting into this situation. Only in the moment in which we consciously perceive and face the things and ask ourselves, what does my inner self actually tell me, then the world is actually properly in order again. Probably nobody could read that out of the story, but that was the metaphor we found for us.
MG: Well, I have to be honest, I didn’t notice that the picture was tilted. I have watched the video a few times and after the third or fourth time you have the feeling that something is not as it should be.
Now for the rest of the album. Can we expect the same brutal vocals and hard riffs from Hiraes as we know from your previous projects?
Britta: The vocals stay like that. I sang a mini clean part at the very end of “Solitary”, I don’t know if you heard that. There are no clean vocals on the album (laughs). I don’t think that Hiraes is as heavy as Critical Mess, for example, in terms of riffs. I also wouldn’t say it’s as experimental as Cripper was, at least at the end. I think it stands on its own. Through the vocals alone, the level of heaviness is also kept very much throughout the album. Of course, here and there clean vocals would have probably fit but my trademark are simply my harsh vocals. I have to say, though, I’ve been using them pretty melodically. Well, I’ve never sung on such a melodic project, this is the most melodic thing I’ve done musically in my life. It’s also really rad how different it feels! Of course, it’s metal and it’s powerful, intense metal, but it feels completely different to sing on it than singing on Critical Mess. It’s a nice, new experience and it was really not that easy to sing so many lyrics without pausing for breath (laughs).
MG: Which of the first two singles would you say represents the album better?
Britta: Probably „Under Fire“.
MG: Besides Hiraes, you are also active in Critical Mess. What made you want to join Hiraes as well? Both bands have a relatively similar style. What is the special thing that one band offers you and the other doesn’t?
Britta: Well, I think musically the bands have hardly any overlaps. I mean, all these harmonies, the melodic structures and also the song lengths and stuff are already different in Hiraes. The whole melodic aspect is totally missing in Critical Mess, but I also totally like being in two projects. After all, I started in Critical Mess when I was with Cripper. I was also looking for a second project for a while before I joined Critical Mess. On the one hand, with two bands you have the chance to play live more often than with only one band, and I like playing live very much. On the other hand, it is also somehow a challenge. I like to write together with different people and to get new impulses because that changes my work and because it makes me better. Being out there in two different directions is totally fun in any case. In the beginning I was a little bit worried, if I write a lyric now, which band will you give it to? But I’ll say, it’s crystallizing for me right now. We’re also in the middle of songwriting with Critical Mess. In Critical Mess, everything just breaks down and humanity is totally destroyed. And in Hiraes, there’s always at least some silver lining on the horizon. So there’s no danger of confusion at all, it’s all much more cryptic, much shorter at Critical Mess.
I would say, Critical Mess and my musical creation, there is such a small section or a small piece of cake from my musical taste and also from what I can and want to achieve somehow. Hiraes is just a bit of a different piece of cake. That means that it triggers other things in me and it also gives me the opportunity to use my voice a little bit differently – I don’t want to say differently, but in a different way. If with Critical Mess I often have all the deep stuff and all the short, fast stuff that has little melodic part, then it’s the other way around with Hiraes. The playground is just bigger and more colorful, I like that.
MG: How do you keep distance between the two bands? Are you able to focus on both at the same time, or did you have to put all Critical Mess stuff aside during the releases of Hiraes?
Britta: I can’t even put everything else aside. I’m curious to see how it will be when it really settles down and when the pandemic also maybe allows normal live business to resume. I don’t know exactly how it will feel yet, but at the moment we have a lot of hard work, especially with Hiraes. All the promotion, feedback for the videos, shooting videos, producing content and stuff like that. But the creative phase is quite over, I’d say. With Critical Mess, we are now in the creative phase and that fits quite well. I don’t know what it would be like if both bands were in the creative phase at the same time, whether it would be so easy then. So far, it’s working out pretty well. In terms of time, of course, it’s a balancing act. We are also slowly starting to rehearse regularly again with Critical Mess, where we are finalizing the songs we are writing for the next album. But because one band is in Hannover and rehearses regularly and the other band doesn’t rehearse regularly, I can arrange the time in which I practice freely. Then I just go to the rehearsal room 2 hours before the rehearsal, play the Hiraes songs and have a Critical Mess rehearsal afterwards.
MG: Well, let’s get away from the music for a bit. In Germany you are also known as “Elchkuh” and you even had the nickname registered in your ID. Who came up with that name?
Britta: That’s true and it already feels like 100 years ago. In 2006 or 2007, we were on a self-organized German tour, the “Triple Thrash Treat” Tour, together with Cripper, Hatred and Lost World Order. The former drummer of the band Hatred, which has also disbanded in the meantime, Ewald (Daniel Buld), said at some point, “Britta, she roars like an ‚Elch’ (male moose)”. And then the singer says, “But she’s a girl!” And Ewald says, “Then it’s an ‚Elchkuh’ (female moose)”. On the last day of the tour, you prank each other on stage and do some stupid things. We had to pick someone else’s name out of a large pot and create a kind of superhero costume for them. Then I got dressed as a moose cow and that stuck over the time. When I was a kid or a teenager, I always wanted a nickname, I never had one before. After that, I finally had one and I found it so nice because it fits me so perfectly. It’s kind of silly, but it also has something to do with my singing, it has nothing to do with princesses and I thought that’s mine, great. It just came from the heart. I associate very nice memories with it and then other bands have picked it up too. I thought to myself, “Oh, come on, let’s put that on my ID.”
It was very funny getting it registered. I was asked what stage name I want to register and I said “Elchkuh” and the lady over there just looked at me. Then I had to explain it to her and bring a lot of stuff, publications and other papers to prove it. I came to pick up the ID, around 10 days later, and I went into this office and she was already standing there, calling ‚Elchkuh’ from across the room (laughs).
MG: You also have your own series on Instagram called Britta’s Tavern Talk, where you have a live conversation with interesting guests. How did you come up with this idea?
Britta: I just wanted to. I’ve never done anything live before and I think it’s really exciting content. Since it’s live, it’s the only content you don’t have to prepare and work over later, which means the time saving is at maximum. I prepare a few things and then it’s already done in an hour. Everyone who has done something about content knows how long it can take to work on a post. Then there were a few people, I texted with them like this,“Oh, man, you know, we would run into each other at festivals, how are you? We haven’t seen each other for ages… etc.”… Like with Julian (Truchan), for example, from Benighted, who is also very sweet. Then I said, „Come, we just meet live and have the same talk we would have backstage, just like that on Instagram.“ It has little interview character, but two people just chatting over a beer and that’s how it should be. I just didn’t want to do anything really regularly, because it just doesn’t fit in my calendar. Otherwise, I would always think I have to sit there every Sunday and that doesn’t work. That’s why I do it the way it happens, and then everything fits.
MG: Last question: Who needs to write an autobiography out of your musical inspirations and influences? Whose life and career would you like to read about?
Britta: So, definitely Devin Townsend and Mike Patton. I’ve been following both careers from a distance for many years, but to see it again from a personal point of view would be totally cool. I think they’re both very different people, but especially Devin, who has a very special kind of creativity paired with such a warmth… There’s no other way to put it. I always say “Devin is Love”, because the guy just radiates so much sympathy and happiness and every time I’m at his concert, I go out there and I’m just totally happy and touched. He is also just so friendly on stage and at the same time such a talented musician. Especially in his past projects, “Strapping Young Lad” for example. He’s a crazy, crazy guy and incredibly talented and musical.
Mike Patton is my ultimate vocal inspiration. Not in the sense that I just want to sing or be like him, but thanks to him I understood that it’s not just about what you can do with your vocals, but above all how smart you can handle them. So creativity and how to use your vocals. A lot of people in the world can make strange sounds like Mike Patton, but not everyone can make music out of it and be successful. Not only with Faith No More, but also with those crazy things he does, that’s awesome. I find this versatility that he experienced with his one instrument incredibly impressive. Then he’s also hilarious at times, I could watch it for hours. I’d love to read something like that.
MG: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, we wish you all the best for the future!
Britta: Thank you, I’m very pleased! You guys do a really great job, I really like your website! Also, thank you for the endless support, I appreciate that very much.
MG: Thank you very much!