Lord's of Metal - Interview
Interview by Nima
Why don’t we start with the formation of the band? If I’m correct Shadow’s Mignon was formed in 2008 and you are still active in Chain and Frameshift. What was the reason to start a new band and how did that lead to what Shadow’s Mignon is now?
Answer: Hi. I think it is time to set the record straight on some facts that were purposely confused. It might sounds very self centered, but it simply is the truth and it might explain a few things. I am not active in Chain and Frameshift anymore. That is not how I would describe it. Chain hasn't been active since 1995. The two Chain albums were done because they were fun to do and primarily as a gift to the original band members. Even though they are listed as band mambers and participants int he recording process, they weren't, I recorded the material by myself, with the exception of a few guest parts on the second album. Stephan Kernbach (Keys) visited me in California and we wrote a song together....stuff like that, but the band has not been involved in the process. The drummer "Eddie Marvin" does not exist, any picture you see is my brother Stephan and he can't play anything, he just knows how to pose well.
Pretty much every album I've done is done the same way: I sit in the studio and do my job, then the vocalist does his...maybe there are a few guest solo spots or something like that, but the drums are always programmed, every single hit is placed carefully with a mouse. I KNOW the audience doesn't want to know that and I KNOW the metal fans want to see a band and identify with the individuals, that's why Chain appears to be a band, but it isn't.
Frameshift is the same thing, Frameshift is MY solo project and I invite different vocalists to contribute, nothing else. On the first album I co-wrote a few songs with Nik Guadagnoli who also played half of the bass tracks, on the second album all you hear is me with Sebastian Bach singing.
On the Chain and Frameshift albums as well as on my CD "Credit Where Credit is Due" Matt Cash, with whom I also did a country CD, was my co-writer for lyrics and melodies because he has an amazing gift to hit that perfect poppy quality.
So, to sum up, I don't have a band, I have projects I do and I give them different names because they sound so different. Shadow's Mignon could not have been a Frameshift CD, even though it is written, played and produced by the same person. I have many different musical interests and in order to distinguish between them and the different production approaches they get different names.
It might come as a shock to some of you, but the way I lied about who played what...that's been done over and over...in the 80s...the drums on all the Cinderella albums were not played by their drummer, they were played by Kenny Aronoff. Most recently the new "Shinedown" album, which I like by the way, doesn't even have they guitar and bass players on it. They are credited, they are in all the pictures, they ARE the guitar player and bass player, they just don't play a single note on the album. Those guitars were played by Tim Pierce, who looks like your average next door neighbour and plays on Country, Pop (Celine Dion) and many other releases, but the metal fans don't want to know that...they wouldn't like a guy like that playing that kind fo music, so they are being lied to. This stuff happens A LOT and you have no idea if they people you admire as your musical heroes are actually the people who ARE your musical heroes.
The album was quickly a fact and in less than year it was released. Except for the keyboards and the vocals you played all of the instruments yourself and all of the music comes from your hand. To me that’s pretty much as if ‘Midnight Sky Masquerade’ is more of a solo album. Didn’t you want to release it under your own name?
Answer: Well, I have just explained this. Stephan played a few keyboards, but I played most of them. He primarily did the keys on "A Slave to Metal" and he did the B3 Hammond Organ on two tracks.
As for releasing under my own name...who in the world wants to buy an album by a guy named "Henning Pauly", that's not metal, that's not exciting, that's just plain boring. We instead decided to do what we did on "Babysteps", we wrote "Henning Pauly presents...Shadow's Mignon". That actually was an idea by the graphic designer Mo Stuebig. It's on the left side in behind the plastic, a little hard to see, but it's there. It hink that is the best alternative...also, I don't think Henning Pauly is such a big household name that we could sell more CDs by saying they are from me.
Let’s talk about the musical direction of Shadow’s Mignon; from what I understand you wanted to release a typical 80’s album and in my opinion you have fully succeeded. The music reminds me of back when I started listening heavy metal and I just love the AOR-sounds in sounds ‘Goodnight Boston’ and ‘Kingdom Of The Battlegods’ that remind me a lot to Journey. But I also hear a bit the sound of the late 60’s and 70’s and with that I point mostly to Deep Purple. What can you tell us about your influences for this album?
Answer: Again, I will be brutally honest. This might piss ome people off, but I don't want to pose and pretend, I just want to be myself and I hope that is appreciated (even though I KNOW that the music industry doesn't appreciate honesty).
I was driving home from my guitar teaching job and I have just bought a best of DIO album for 4,50 Euro. So, I listen to that stuff and while I am horrified by the cheap riffs and horrible horrible lyrics, I can't help to enjoy it because it's fast and it's what made a lot of us become musicians in the first place. I mean, not necessarily DIO, I never really heard DIO except for "Holy Diver". So, I go online and look at some of the lyrics...that's some BAD lyrics writing. The idea came to me that even though it's pretty bad stuff, it would be a shitload of fun to actually write like that, play these kinds of riffs, write lyrics about dragons, rhyme light with night in almost every song, sing about unicorns and rainbows.
AND...I had just bought a Soldano Hot Rod 50, a dream guitar amp for many people, that's the amp that Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mark Knopfler, Carlos Santana and many many others used for their really beautiful singin lead sounds. Well...nowadays you can't really do extended singing lead solos. In order to use a sound like that you have to go back to the 80s and play solos like they used to do and if I wanted to have fun with my super noble awesome classic 80s amp I would have to make an album that it would fit on and that's what I did.
One thing I am pretty good at is to analyze music and get the essential elements from it so that I know what I would have to do to write something in that style. What sounds do they use, what's the tempo, the groove, the harmonies, the lyrics, the vocal phrasing, the bass line etc. So I did some research and listened to a lot of classic 80s metal in order to have something of everything on the album. There clearly is some Deep Purple on the, mostly because of the inclusion of the B3 Organ. We have some Manowar, Maiden, Dio and many more.
What I find remarkable is that the music from that period of time is more and more making a comeback. A few years ago many people saw this kind of music as obsolete and outdated, but those same people are showing interest and appreciation for it now. How do you explain that?
Answer: I have to admit that I am one of those people who find it outdated. It is fun to make, but to write music like this and pretend that one has just created something original and new is just silly. Most of these bands play 80s metal but put fast double bass stuff under it and that's it. Firewind, Trivium, Dragonforce....it's all dated, but with double bass drum. I think there is some truly awesome modern music out there that is heavy, but still melodic (I don't like the really melodic music with screaming, I need melody, so Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God....awesome music, but they need singers...). For me Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, Nickelback, Shinedown, Papa Roach...I like that stuff...heavy but still melodic. And please....can we just kill the genre MELODIC METAL? Not taht is it bad music, but the name....who in the world would claim that their music in NOT melodic? EVERY band, jsut go through Myspace, claims they play MELODIC METAL....who says they write UNmelodic metal? Music is always somewhat melodic, as soon as you play two chords...just get rid of the melodic, it makes the music feel cheap and as if it needs to be said that there is melody instead of letting the music speak for itself.
You have been around for quite some time and has seen trends and bands come and go! How do you look at the whole music scene nowadays and it’s development during the past decades?
Answer: Wow, you make me feel quite old right now...I have only been releasing albums since 2003. I have done a whole bunch of them, but not for a long time...I think there is a difference.
In general, musical styles come in waves, right now it's going back to more virtuosity and less dirt. The 70's came back for a bit, some of that has stayed...you can only do so much with 12 notes and the standard band instruments, at some point it will all come back to sound like something that has been done before...once you go crazy with those ingredients you just don't have something that sounds good anymore. Sure, I can go way out of the mainstream, but do I really want to listen to that? As I said above, I don't like the screamo stuff because I find that melodies are what people, and myself, are drawn to, other than that, you can do whatever you want.
Sadly, the tradition of the singer / songwriter is fading a bit. Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Tracy Chapman...we have a few people like that today, but not enough....not enough really great ones. For me the truly great music nowadays comes from Marc Cohn and John Mayer and we need more of them...sadly, the big money in Europe isn't in music with high quality...the whole casting show thing is really destroying that even more. In the US, John Mayer is a superstar and he deserves to be, here people barely know him...that's sad.
You are definitely a person that lives and breathes music! Not only have you contributed a lot to the progressive rock and metal both as a musician and as a producer. But you were also involved in many different types of music and nothing seems to be too crazy for your taste! I mean: hardrock, prog, heavy metal, Nu-metal, industrial, punk and even country… and not to forget a rock opera! Are there any types of music that you wouldn’t “touch”?
Answer: Yes, there are. I don't like Opera, Polka or Mariachi (don't think that is spelled right).
I know for sure that I could not do Latin Music convincingly since you simply have to have grown up with that music around you and we don't have too much Latin music in Germany. Jazz is something that I admire, don't listen to too much, except Mike Stern who is one of my heroes. I'd love to get into it more since it is very challanging to do and fun to make, but no one really listens to it and surely no one would be interested in a Henning Pauly Jazz album. I have been writing a few arrangements for choirs lately and I'd love to do an all A Capella album, but that would be a lot of work and you need the choirs on your side for that.
Back to your current band: can we reckon Shadow’s Mignon as a band or does it more have the character of a side-project? Because if I’m correct you have gathered more musicians and have a complete line-up at the moment!
Answer: Yes, we had a whole band together and we were ready to do it as a whole band, but that fell apart because...
I think the music on ‘Midnight Sky Masquerade’ definitely deserves being heard live, but as for now nothing is planned for a tour or anything. Can we expect the band on stage any time soon?
Answer: ...in order to get Shadow's Mignon on the stage, we'd have to have someone organize rehearsals and gigs and that someone would have to be devoted to it fully, otherwise it doesn't work and that someone would have to be me. I don't want to be that guy. I am horrible at these things and get very depressed...I just want to make msuic, not the crap around it. We were ready, we rehearsed, we could all play the songs, but it was just too much work on my side and I cancelled the live plans. If someone offers to be our manager and take over these duties we'd go live ina second...should there be offers for festivals or something like that we could play live within a few weeks, but I am not the one to get the gigs or to organize all that...I am a musician, not a manager, I get my kick out of making music, not parading it around and being the rockstar. I am happy to be in the studio and putting the pieces together...I mean, just look at me, I am not the guy you want to associate with the music I make...the two images just don't fit...
I guess the “big” question is what can we expect from you next? I mean, everything you do is surprising and I’m sure you’ve got a few more tricks and styles up your sleeve that you would like to experiment about.
Answer: I am working on three albums at the moment, well, four. One of them is halfway done and right now has the working band title "Loading Oakfield". But it seems to be going int he direction of the Frameshift sound so I might want to make it a Frameshift album, we'll see. It is heavy rock/metal that sometimes resembles Nickelback and bands in that direction. Alex Froese is singing, he's the vocalist for "Knockdown Industries", a killer metal outfit.
I am also working on a singer / songwriter album where I don't make use of distored guitars at all. it is very light material and simple nice songs. Half the album is sung by a woman and half the album by a male voice. it is done except for the male vocal parts.
Another album I have finally began working on is a guitar instrumental album. This one primarily serves to get my guitar skills up to speed. I have a few songs done and they sound a lot like Satriani stuff, just not quite as brilliant, but it's fun to do and might be enjoyable once it's done.
I am of course also still working on the long announced Frameshift 3 album. More than half the music is written, but I am not fully happy with the sound, so I am trying to find what I really want from it by doing other projects first and then getting back to it so that it will be the amazing album that it can be.
Is that enough?
Well Henning, I think we can call it a day for now, unless of course there is anything left unmentioned...
Answer: My fingers hurt from typing that much...I have to practice the latin tune Mas Que Nada on bass now because I am playing two gigs with a choir on the weekend...fun stuff...
Thank you very much for the answers and all the best.
You are more than welcome !