INTERVIEW: RAINBOW SERPENT
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Frank Specht talks about Rainbow Serpent's universe
S&S: Hello Gerd and Frank, I hope that that is everything is fine. On behalf of Synth&Sequences readers, thank you for your time and for this interview. My 1st question will be a long preamble….
I’m going to put things clear straight away, I quite like Stranger. I find that it is a beautiful album, of course different from tortuous Berlin School that made the fame of Rainbow Serpent, to say the least since I know your music (from since 2005 and The 8th Nerve) and from what I read concerning your other albums, but it is a melodious album. Thus, the 1st question that strikes me is; what motivated Rainbow Serpent to unite its music with the voice of German female singer Isgaard? Because contrary to your previous albums, of which Live @ Liphook on 2007, this time Isgaard really sings songs, while Eva-Maria Kagermann blew of pleasant dreamlike vocalizes.
Frank Specht: The desire for an album containing songs was already there and also inspired by the vocals of Eva-Maria Kagermann on the album "Live @ Liphook". In search of a singer our first choice was Isgaard, whose songs we knew from the Schiller album "Zeitgeist ". We wrote to Isgaard and told her about our idea, but without having concrete tracks. Isgaard liked our previous music, which she knew from our MySpace page and spontaneously agreed.
S&S: In a previous email Gerd mentioned me that it was a long time dream for Rainbow Serpent to work with a female singer. What influenced you to do so?
Frank Specht: We both are fans of Lisa Gerrard. As musicians we always want to evolve ourselves and we believe that the human voice can't be replaced by any instrument. The music thereby gains an additional dimension.
S&S: Did Rainbow Serpent was really at this point in its career?
Frank Specht: The highlight of our career? Only our fans can answer this question. For us, each new album is a highlight.
S&S: Don’t you think that your fans will be disappointed and annoyed by this new musical approach? After all, artists such as Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre broke their teeth after such an attempt.
Frank Specht: We make our music first and foremost for ourselves. We always tried to develop our own style and never wanted to be a copy of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze or someone else. We already knew that some fans would be disappointed if we put out an album with vocals. On the other hand, we think that we will win some new fans. This CD doesn't mean that we will bring out only albums with vocals from now on. In future we'll continue to publish purely instrumental albums.
S&S: Is it a commercial or a creative approach that pushed Gerd Wienekamp and Frank Specht to undertake such a turn?
Frank Specht: Definitely a creative goal. If this change also leads to commercial success, then we are very pleased about it. Especially commercial success means that the music reaches more people and these people like that music.
S&S: How did the spark lighted? When did you feel the need to make such a turn?
Frank Specht: The idea originated in our local pub and was influenced by Lisa Gerrard's "The Silver Tree" and her songs in the movie "Gladiator".
S&S: From where do you know Isgaard and how the collaboration between the three of you did? Was the communication easy to make or it was laborious to make room to Isgaard voice, which, by moments, covers your rhythms as the strata of your synths used to do?
Frank Specht: Gerd made the contact. And when we realized, after the first personal meeting, that we got on with each other well, the cooperation was very relaxed. However, we had to approach the music differently than usual, to make room for Isgaard's voice.
S&S: Who wrote texts and how was the experiment of putting words on your music? Because, in spite of the vocal which gleans here and there, there are very beautiful music behind Stranger. So, how the transition music and words was made?
Frank Specht: Since we aren't writers, we left that part completely to Isgaard. Isgaard and her producer Jens Lück got very quickly a feeling for our music. Some tracks were not initially planned as vocal tracks. Isgaard and Jens surprised us with the vocals positively.
S&S: From where this ethnic inspiration that wraps your albums comes? On Stranger, we feel an attraction for Arabic rhythms while on The 8th Nerve and Liphook they are rather Indian rhythms?
Frank Specht: The inspiration for these tracks came by the movie "Gladiator" and also by the album "Passion" by Peter Gabriel. We love such things as the instrument duduk and oriental influences and long wanted to do something in that direction.
S&S: Thus, I presume that Beyond New World is strongly inspired by Enya?
Frank Specht: No, not Enya! "Beyond New Worlds" was actually planned as an instrumental piece based on Jean-Michel Jarre. Since Isgaard was taken by this music, she just tried to put vocals over it. We were so thrilled with the result that we had to publish the vocal version on the album.
S&S: Speaking about influences, what are the biggest influences of Gerd Wienekamp and Frank Specht?
Frank Specht: Previously influences came by Klaus Schulze. He is the link of the two of us. Over the years we developed a preference for many other genres.
Gerd Wienekamp: Working with Isgaard I again met with the popular music. I'm very exalted by particular groups such as Bad for Lashes, Hurts and Delphic. It also reflects my love of old pop music of the 80's (e.g. Heaven17, DAF,Frankie Goes To Hollywood,OMD,Yello).
S&S: If I asked each of you what are your 5 best albums, movies and books? What their will be?
5 best albums
Pink Floyd "Division Bell" and "Wish yo where here"
Klaus Schulze: "X"
Bad for Lashes "Two Suns"
Peter Gabriel "Passion"
5 best movies
Planet of the Apes
The Time Machine
Sweet November with Charlize Theron
5 best books
Nick Hornby "High Fidelity"
Frank Goosen "Radio Heimat" and "So viel Zeit"
5 best albums
Pink Floyd "The Wall"
Peter Gabriel "Passion"
Mike Oldfield "Amarok"
Klaus Schulze "Audentity"
Isao Tomita "The Planets"
5 best movies
Lord of the Rings
The Time Machine
5 best books
Songs of Distant Earth
& anything from Stanislaw Lem
S&S: If I said to you that certain songs of Stranger (Beyond New Worlds, Wide Open Spaces, Rub Al-Chali, Stranger and Beautiful Child) are outdistancing from the very Berlin School repertoire of the band to embrace a New Age tangent, even the Easy Listening kind. How would you react
Frank Specht: We do not longer make pure Berlin School. We always tried to combine different influences in our music. Thus, we usually don't think in drawers. Everyone has to decide by himself, in which drawer to class us.
S&S: How you define the music of Stranger? Berlin School, New Age or simply music?
Frank Specht: Just music! The influences we have on this album are too diverse to be specified in just one genre. It's just the Rainbow Serpent mix.
S&S: Do Stranger has more radio airing or commercial visibility with Isgaard in the band now?
Frank Specht: Absolutely. We are planning two or three radio mixes of tracks.
S&S: How her fans reacted with this association? After all, her musical direction is also strongly different than your’s!
Frank Specht: The reactions of the fans have been very positive. Isgaard herself serves a variety of styles from classic to pop (thinking of her project "Schiller" and her solo albums).
S&S: Stranger, is a beautiful mixture of cosmic EM (Beyond New Worlds who is astride between Jarre’s Oxygene and Metamorphoses areas), complex Berlin School (Intense and Elements) very melodious EM (Gateway and Memory Leaves) and of more accessible songs in the vein as Enya and Sarah Brightman. Does Rainbow Serpent is searching itself is it the musical direction that you will use from now on?
Frank Specht: Definitely no! We don't know at the beginning of an album where the journey will take us. Because behind the album "Stranger" there was no concept, we just wanted to explore the vocal styles of Isgaard. Thus more by chance, a very varied CD was created with a large spectrum. In which direction the next CD will lead us can't be predicted. The cooperation with Isgaard will continue if vocal tracks are needed.
S&S: Stranger is the 13th album of Rainbow Serpent. With hindsight, how you do analyze the road crossed by the group? Are Gerd Wienekamp and Frank Specht satisfied by the evolution of Rainbow Serpent?
Frank Specht: One is never satisfied. Satisfaction would mean a halt but we want to develop on each CD. When a musician speaks of development that is something different than the fan perceives.
S&S: Does Rainbow Serpent reach the goal you both fixed?
Frank Specht: No! Achieving a goal means we can begin to go to bed. But we still have so many ideas that we are now just waiting to compose the next album. For us, the road is the goal!
S&S: What can we expect from Rainbow Serpent shortly?
Frank Specht: At the moment we are still busy with the promotion of "Stranger". There aren't concrete plans for a new album existing. Life performances with Isgaard are possible.
S&S: So you think giving concerts with Isgaard could be something possible?
Frank Specht: Absolutely. However, a performance with Isgaard is a bit more complicated than the usual framework of pure electronic bands in our little scene. Just rehearsal with vocals requires more effort than instrumental music.
S&S: I discovered Rainbow Serpent music with the 8th Nerve? Since, there was Live @ Liphook 2007 and Elektrik Cowboys (with Keller Schonwalder). Every album borrows a different tangent but always breathes of complex and livened up rhythms. On Stranger this strange complex mixture between rhythms and melodies is always present. How can you explain this duality in Rainbow Serpent?
Frank Specht: This is due to our influences. While Frank is dominated by film music and melodic tracks, Gerd likes complex pads and percussion. But it was always like this: we hear very different kinds of music and combine them in our own music. It surely shows that each of us prefers a particular direction on our solo albums (Sebastian im Traum, and Kontakt).
S&S: Your previous albums, before your association with Manikin, are out of print. Within the rebirth of Rainbow Serpent, are the old albums will see the light of days, one of these days?
Frank Specht: Rebirth? We never were dead! ;-)
We merely indulged in a long creative break. In these times we tried a lot of new equipment and made us familiar with new techniques. Some older albums have been re-released by Syngate. Currently these are the albums "Voyager", "Sequel to Voyager", "Sebastian im Traum" and many more. It is quite possible that more albums will be reissued. We can't say what will be and what will happen.
Interview realized by Sylvain Lupari on December 2010
Picture courtesy of Sylvain Mazars