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"When I'm teaching at the university and I want to create a new topic, I give Serenity lyrics to my students and ask them what could be the meaning and background about it."

Interview with Georg Neuhauser (SERENITY)

Georg Neuhauser is of those musicians that are fascinating because they are passionate about what they do. You can see that immediately at the tone and fast pace of his voice. The man is full of energy and his eyes sparkle with the mere mention of Leonardo Da Vinci, the main character of Codex Atlanticus, Serenity's new album. In the end, this interview is the occasion for this austrian singer (but also History teacher at the university) to give us an express lecture on Renaissance.

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Interview done by Sabrina and Guillaume in Paris, the 13th of November 2015, and transcribed by Sabrina.

Vous pouvez également lire notre interview en français

Sabrina: You dedicated most of your songs from your two previous albums to historical figures. This time you took it to the next level and decided to dedicate this whole new album to Leonardo Da Vinci. Why did you chose this particular historical figure?

Georg : It was quite an easy thing because, first of all, he was living exactly in this period I'm really fond of because I wrote my PHD about 15th and 16th century history. Fabio, our bass player is from Italy and surely he's proud of having a guy like Leonardo Da Vinci from his home country. And of course the person himself, Leonardo Da Vinci was such a genius in many ways: for painting but also technology and engineering and things like that. So he always fascinated me... And there was also a TV series called "Da Vinci's Demons" : I saw it when I was just hanging around, watching TV. I was like "OK it's about Leonardo" and it was really inspiring. So I grabbed my books again, I read his biography: I saw how many chapters his life had and how many sights you can get from this guy. So that was the reason why I suggested to make an album about Leonardo and the other guys really went nuts about it. They were like: "Yes, OK, let's just do one concept album about a person!". This is the first time, and we're doing that so yeah!

Fabio d'Amore recording in studio for Serenity (2015)

Sabrina: Leonardo Da Vinci has done so much in his lifetime that you could probably write ten more albums about him. How did you work on the lyrics? What specific aspects of him and his life did you chose to talk about?

There are different aspects. For example, you have songs like "Perfect Woman", it's about Mona Lisa because he wanted to create something really special which is completely outstanding and out of the rest of the artistical things that were created in this area and period. Then for example you have "Caught In A Myth" or "Spirit In The Flesh" that are about anatomy because he was one of the guys who was studying the human body. That was something really special at the time, because the church always told them: "Don't do that, it's forbidden". But he said "Fuck you, I'll do it anyway". (laughs) He even painted everything, every muscle and this is really fascinating. In general, we have some lyrics about the conflict between this new science and the church itself at that time. These are the main parts. But for example, "Sprouts Of Terror" is about his war machines because he was the one who invented the first tank five hundred years ago and this is so fascinating! Because the first real tank was built in the first world war, this guy five hundred years before that created something like a tank and a machine that could fly. So these are some of the chapters we created there.

Sabrina: In the band, you all work or study in other fields than music like science, history and geography.

We have to... Sad topic! (he makes a sad face)

Sabrina: No, but wait ! It gets better at the end of the question because I think it's actually very close to the Renaissance artists spirit and especially Leonardo Da Vinci, which is nice!

This is true, that combination really is like in the Renaissance. For example, in my case, due to the fact that I really studied history and archeology and that this is my favorite period of time, this combination is perfect because I can really put my normal work into the music and also vice versa. For example, when I'm teaching at the university, sometimes when I want to create a new topic, I give them Serenity lyrics and ask them what could be the meaning of it and what is the background about it: "Is this true or is this fantasy?"

Promo photo of Georg Neuhauser from Serenity

Guillaume: Is there another artist or historical figure you could write an album about?

There are many, yes! For example, I am a huge fan of Albrecht Dürer, he's a very famous german painter also in this period of time. But there are others like Paracelsus who was a doctor but also a scientist, a typical Renaissance artist you could say! This period is so fascinating in general that I could imagine writing an album about any of these people. There's also the possibility to write a concept album about bad guys in history. Like a concept album about Napoleon or something. We did one song about him but there would be enough stuff to create a concept album him. Although for many people, he's still a hero but somehow if you're really honest, he was also a bad guy.

Guillaume: Yes, he's really controversial!

Yes exactly! But on the other hand, he also created the "Code Civil" which was a really cool new thing to create back then. But he also made the war against Russia where he nearly lost his whole army.

Sabrina: Like you already said, you have a PHD in history and you told us that it was about 14th and 15th century but does it have something to do with Leonardo Da Vinci, or maybe the Renaissance era, or is it a totally different topic?

No, it's about mining silver or mining in general. The funny thing in this topic is that there are many influences from the Renaissance as well because in this period for sure when you're working in the mine, you have some diseases due to this kind of work. So there were doctors like Paracelsus who were studying the body and experimenting with liquids, and things like that. And also mining was all about the money back then so everything is big picture in this period. So it has no real connection to Leonardo himself but the whole period, the whole surrounding of his life was about my PHD as well.

Guillaume: Like we said, this time, you decided to dedicate the whole album to one specific person. It was the next level after speaking of many different historical figures in you last two albums. Maybe it's too early to say because this album hasn't been released yet but do you think that you will keep making albums dedicated entirely to one historical figure?

Like you said, it's a bit early because I haven't thought about the next album so far as this album is just finished and it's not even released yet. (laughs) But I could imagine doing it because it was really fun to have one person to care about and not that many. Because if you concentrate on one person, you have the possibility to go deeper into his or her life. On the other albums you only just can check a small part of their life. For example, for Napoleon, only one song it's much too less! (laughs) So I could imagine going on with this concept thing and we will stay in this historical genre for sure! It could be that we change the period a bit, but we will keep that spirit!

Sabrina: Musically, we can still recognize Serenity's trademark but it seems that your music got even more epic, especially on songs like "Iniquity". Did you have the opportunity to record with classical musicians or choirs this time?

When you listen to the intro, you can hear that it's the first time that we used real classical instruments. For example, there's a real cello at the beginning. It's a bit like Game Of Thrones (he hums the main title from Game Of Thrones) because I'm a huge fan of this series of course! (laughs) So I was a bit influenced! This album in general was influenced by soundtracks of Gladiator and Game Of Thrones, all this stuff. I was influenced by those melodies and also the movie scenes. We often had these scenes in front of our eyes when we wrote the music for that. So yes it's epic, perhaps it's less progressive and somehow it's even catchier. You have the melodies quite in there and you cannot lose them. At least for me when I'm driving in the car listening to it I'm like: (singing) "Nah nah nah nah ..." (laughs)

Sabrina: Yes for example, "Iniquity" stays in your head really easily!

It will be the first lyric video who will be out next week! Then the next one will probably be "Follow Me" and then we will create another video but it's not completely fixed about which song. So do you have any favorite so far?

Iniquity lyric video by Serenity (2016)

Sabrina: It would be "Iniquity".

That's already a single!

Sabrina: Then "Follow Me".

also a single! (laughs). I need a third one!

Sabrina: I'd say "Spirit In The Flesh".

We are thinking maybe of "Perfect Woman" although it does have a huge influence by Meat Loaf so we will see. But there's Amanda Somerville on that and I really love her voice. It's the only duet so we'll see!

Guillaume: Could you tell us a bit more about her?

Amanda Somerville, she does a lot of things like Avantasia, this "Rock meets classic" thing and she also has her own band Trillium. She also already did a duet with me on Death And Legacy, on the track "Changing Fate". I love her voice so much that I wanted to have her again on our album. On the normal edition, there is only one duet but on the limited edition there will also be another duet with Tasha, our live singer. She's on tour with us as a guest singer so we said: "OK, let's include one song with her on the album as well". But it's only on the limited edition.

Guillaume: Like you said, on the song "The perfect woman", we think there's a musical reference to Meat Loaf for the piano parts.

Listen to Georg's answer

Yes! You know this is something I don't deny! I really say it, yes it is! (laughs) Because you know there's a funny thing which I really find annoying in general. At the moment, bands who are doing this seventies styles, like Blue Pills and Kadavar, they're all hyped because they're copying exactly the music of the seventies. And they're the new big heroes because of it. So when I'm not copying but I'm really inspired by bands like Meat Loaf or Queen, I don't see the problem. For example also on Phantasma, there's this song called "Crimson Course" (he hums the melody of the song) really inspired by Queen. So I say "yes, it was inspired by Queen because I'm a huge fan". And what's the problem to put in the music of someone that you're huge fan of?

Guillaume: There is no problem at all but lots of bands don't like to say it!

I know but why? Just listen to the new Muse album, there's Queen everywhere: all the choirs and everything are Queen stuff. I mean there's no Queen anymore because Freddie's not here anymore. So why not be inspired by him. This is fucking great music! So this was the thing with "Perfect Woman", there's this part (he hums the melody from Perfect Woman) that's definitely Meat Loaf, but this is a great song. So who cares? (laughs)

Guillaume: I read in an interview (found on Wikipedia) that your band name "Serenity" is a reference to the TV show Firefly and the movie they made after called "Serenity". I couldn't find a reference to that anywhere else so is it actually true?

No, it's not true! Actually, "Serenity" was a song by a British progressive rock band called Arena. They released an album and there was one song on it called "Serenity". When our former keyboard player Mario founded Serenity, he took this name because he was a huge fan of Arena and he thought that this word described the music. That's the reason why our band is called Serenity. Not because of this series.

Wings Of Madness music video by Serenity (2013)

Guillaume: Do you know it?

Yes by name, because a lot of people ask us this question. But there is no real connection to that! (laughs)

Sabrina: On the same topic, we know you mostly write about historical figures since your album "Death And Legacy" but do you also get inspiration from movies, TV series, video games or others artists for the writing of your songs and music?

Video games, not for me, because I never ever play video games. Our former guitar player was really into this video game stuff, but for me, not at all. For sure, movies are very inspiring. But for me, the more inspiring was my topic at university because when you listen to War Of Ages for example, there are so many topics about the "German Cross", or about Tannenberg battle. There is also Napoleon, Elizabeth Bathory, this dark countess that we made a song and a video about. These are all topics I got to know because of my history studies. So I talked to the others and asked them what they thought about those topics. They checked them out and said: "Yes, this is cool, this is cool, or... this one is not because I don't like it". So that's the main inspiration! But for sure, movies are always inspiring, especially I really love these huge epic history movies like "Gladiator" and "Kingdom Of Heavens".

Guillaume: Do you also like the composers for these movies?

Yes for sure, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, The Lord Of The rings and Hobbits stuff, the movie background really fascinates me. For example, when I was driving up here with the train yesterday, I was watching again Gladiator and this music. (he hums the theme song of Gladiator) You nearly start to cry because it's so beautiful! (laughs) So, I'm really in love with these people, Hans Zimmer and also John Williams.

Sabrina: The cover artwork for your album is pretty mysterious and dark. Leonardo Da Vinci's face is partly in shadows and with this black hood and all those skulls around him, he makes me think of a Death figure. Can you tell us more about it?

The thing is in the back: you can see a Renaissance room, typical for this period and this time, and in the front there are these paintings of anatomy. Due to the fact that they were forbidden at the time, that's why he has this hood on: he doesn't want his face to be seen because he wants to stay somehow anonymous. There are many symbols in there too. For example, you can see the chalice and the eye of the free masons on it, and the compass which is also a symbol of the free masons as he was part of them. So when you watch carefully at this artwork, you will see many details, real details connected to his life and history in general. Also the painting in the background: these are originals paintings. And also in the booklet for example, you'll see that everything is covered with paintings from him, anatomy studies from him and all this stuff.

Codex Atlanticus' cover art (2016)

Sabrina: Codex Atlanticus is the name of the book where they gathered all of his drawings, so the booklet will actually be like the book itself?

Yes exactly. The scripted things has been written by hand, not computer stuff. So yes it's really like Codex Atlanticus itself!