Johannes (Hannes) Braun, Kissin' Dynamite
Paul Flett settles amongst students on the upstairs floor of the Manchester Academy 2 for an interview with none other than Kissin’ Dynamite lead vocalist, songwriter and producer Hannes Braun.
I have read about you and realised that you guys are quite prolific when it comes to talking to the media. I noticed as well that you really do share the workload between the band, other band members like Jim and Andy, they do loads of interviews as well, so it is nice to get a perspective from everyone, really. And I saw the video you did that’s on youtube, and after watching it I realised, “Oh this guy is so positive, such a nice guy”, I am really looking forward to it! I did try to tailor quite a lot of the questions to be a bit more interesting so you not getting the usual kind of questions but unfortunately sometimes you gotta ask some standard ones to get the ball rolling.
“That’s all right”.
I read in an interview that the end of last year was the first time you were touring the UK?
“That’s actually true, I have been a couple of times to the UK before, but mostly promotional work like, and was actually only in London, with just a few days of interviews, so the show that we did at KOKO in London last year was the first ever for Kissin’ Dynamite, a real show and that felt amazing. Like later we found out that this was the very place where Bon Scott had his last drink.”
Really? That’s a hell of a story.
“It was named differently, I forgot the name of the club back then but it was the same building, and that gave me some goosebumps all over.”
And you are big AC/DC fans as well.
“Absolutely, I mean that is why the band is named Kissin’ Dynamite”
Of course, that is why I didn’t ask, because to me, it was absolutely clear. How are you finding the UK crowds compared to German or Italian crowds and the different receptions?
“That’s easy, they’re crazy! really! Like, of course, every country can have awesome crowds, it depends on the city, not just the country. And I don’t want to say England or the UK generally rules because we just played London! So let’s see what Manchester has to offer tonight.”
Considering the amount of records you have released since you were signed at the age of 15 you may come across as a bunch of veterans, But you were actually still really young and probably in your primes in terms of being in a rock band and of your technical capabilities and writing capabilities, especially the energy you can put on stage so if you go back to when you were 15, how does the reality versus the expectation of touring match up?
“11 years, I can’t believe it! Like we couldn’t even sign back then because we were not allowed to, our parents had to sign the contracts and of course any of us dreamt of a big rockstar career. That's when the teenagers have the big kind of dreams. We still have them there is still much more that we want to achieve but we are super happy. It took a while but actually this is kind of good! Our career goals are always up, up, up but not in the too rushing manner because those stars that are born this way, the fall comes next.”
Many bands which have released six albums over 11 years or more, would have different members, one of the things that is beautiful is that you guys have stayed together.
“Because we believe, I mean I can't say what is in the future if one of us becomes depressive or a drug addict, we may have to throw him out of the band, then it is the case, but we strongly believe that the spirit of a band is that you stay together just like in a relationship with a woman. It doesn't make it less complicated because it is 5 persons and not just two, so you have to learn over the years what kind of personality each one has and to where their limits are.”
Because you are in each other pocket for so long?
“Because on tour you spend so much time in spaces that are very small, dressing rooms, tour bus, you can get on each other's nerves pretty quickly, you really have to be a strong community to see how far you can go.”
With regards to your latest album, “Ecstasy”, I have given a strong listen to all your albums, and it is quite noticeable in the very early days we can hear your influences a lot more but the last 2, in particular “Generation Goodbye” and “Ecstasy” you can really hear Kissin’ Dynamite coming out really heavy with your unique sound. Was it a conscious decision over the last couple of albums?
“We have always been, how can you say? “Moment Energy Driven Band” something like that. It is quite obvious, as teenagers, we were tributing our big heroes, one song would sound like AC/DC, another like Iron Maiden, that is just the natural development of the band, How it went, and of course, from album to album you define yourself more precisely and I would say yes, Kissin’ Dynamite is now kind of a stamp.”
You have taken the role of producer over those two albums as well, did you have a vision prior to that and were you able to fulfill that vision?
“Yes! You have to see it like that. As a musician, you have a concrete idea. You can envision the result, and if you choose to take an external producer, you have to explain yourself super precisely to make that person to understand the idea that you have in your head, which is very complicated as you might guess.”
You must be very proud of the trajectory of how the albums have done? How the last two albums you have produced, have done extremely well, especially “Ecstasy” which has taken off in your home country?
“I'm very proud of that! As I've said earlier, I was able to take the albums easily where I wanted them to go and didn't have to explain myself to somebody else, and this makes the difference. Of course, not every musicians have the skills to produce, so a lot of bands need an external producer but since it is also my day job, it was the most logical thing to do.”
And how have the band members dealt with you producing?
“Very well, they just let me do. And in our band it's more or less two songwriters, I am composing the music most of the time and it's Andy the drummer, hilariously, who writes most of the lyrics. We go hand in hand, the other guys, more or less listen to some well-developed demos, and of course they can say I don't like this track or that bridge sounds strange. They are cool, they know our strengths, that we are good at what we're doing so they just let us do. I think this is a reason why as a band, after 11 years, we have the same lineup. Why most of the band split up, is either money or ego. We try to keep both of them as small as possible.”
On the kind of same subject, regarding lyrics, quite a large proportion of what you write is kind of classic and modern party, full energy very upbeat music, but sometimes you have a couple of songs in each album with an element of spirituality, you use quite a lot of symbolism, do you have other interests outside metal that influences what you write?
“Absolutely, everyone of us, of course has hobbies. Mine is boating. I have a boat in Flensburg where I live. I haven't had it for too long. Only 2 years, but I strongly believe that it influenced the sound on “Ecstasy”, the sun and the sound of the water gave a light good vibe to the album and you can hear that on that album. And we have some serious sad ballad on that album as well as on previous albums which were emotionally driven in the end. I think music must have a strong emotion. It can be super happy and upbeat or it makes you think, maybe makes you feel sad.”
There is also a deep honesty in what you have written as well, the song that impressed me the most is “If Clocks Were Running Backwards”, it isn't overly simplified in the lyrics and the melody is just awesome.
“And this brings me to my next point. Surprise! They are bands that do more or less the same songs for 30 years and that's ok. If they feel it like that, but but I wouldn't be interested in doing that. I like to surprise myself. It doesn't mean I'm going to turn into a progressive metal musician tomorrow, but having a look a little bit to the left or to the right is good.”
On the subject we were talking about, in terms of being able to add and develop stuff, I know you have produced a couple of albums in a kind of symphonic metal area and Anna Bruner appeared on “Ecstasy” and on a previous album you had another lady that appeared?
“Jennifer Haben from Beyond The Black, yes!”
When you produce you are kind of involved in the songwriting you can't help that I suppose. Do you ever think “I would like to take some of that and maybe start developing it as Kissin’ Dynamite material”?
“Like a song that I have written for somebody else?”
Do you ever sit in the studio and think I quite like this for Kissin’ Dynamite?
“Of course that happens. I'm a songwriter for almost anything, from german schlager to symphonic metal and anything in between, even pop. Especially when you write for let's say a symphonic metal band like ‘Beyond The Black’, it is close to me, not like other music genre. Sometimes when I've written a good song for them, I think I would like to take it for our band as well but in the end I've never done it, because you also have to let your ego go. And because they need good songs too and it makes you a successful songwriter either way. In such moments I always say to myself, I will write another song with a similar kind of approach, kind of vibe and most of the time I end up writing an even better song which I will take for Kissin’ Dynamite. So let's say, if you have written a good song and you have to let it go it was just a rehearsal for a better song.”
I've got a really odd question for you. I listened to your first album without knowing what age you were and without delving into your history. And laughed when I first listened to “I Hate Hip Hop”. Over the years and since you’ve had your hands in production and songwriting, has this mellowed you a bit? Are you open to more different music genres?
“Let's say this a little bit differently, I like Indian food but I wouldn't eat it every day, I like mountains but some days I prefer to be by the sea. I would say that hard rock and metal is still my passionate thing because that is what I do on stage and not just writing for it, it is very refreshing for the brain to force yourself and go in a different direction because of an offer from a record company to write a new project. It is all very interesting in the end . I would say of course I hate hip hop, we were 15 It was a hilarious track which was never meant to be 100% serious. Over the years you get more tolerant. I've noticed this as well in the crowds. Of course you have some metal fans we will say that they only seem to listen to metal but you find out very quickly that isn't so true, that they also love some kind of pop songs.”
That can be isolated to heavy metal fans because the structure of metal and rock is open it is from the Blues and hip-hop is from the Blues, pop music takes its progressions from The Blues.
“You speak it out man! You always come back to the mother.”
The conversation that me and Johann have all the time, is where is the next big rock and metal scene going to come from, in terms of what’s going to grip the world and for years it does always kind of come out of the UK or the States. We feel like it isn't going to be the case anymore, it is going to be Scandinavia, like Sweden. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on how you feel.
“I wouldn't just say that it is country dependent. I would say more and more bands with clear concepts are the ones to be successful. Powerwolf is a good example. It is a clear concept, you may call it Church Metal, in the end it is Power Metal with the imagery of Catholicism. “Take Ghost, it is basically the same. And all those bands are somehow more like a fairytale, taking the listener into a different world and this is what the listener wants in the end. I can't predict the next big band because if I could I would create one, but it will surely be one. I don't believe that just a rock n’ roll band like the 50’s rock n’ roll without anything special to it will be the next big shit. It must be a more sincere world that you take the listeners into. And we try to to do the same, like, we are a niche, we have had so many names, glam metal, poser metal, whatever. But for us the concept is clear because we feel that it isn't just a concept it is a lifestyle. We feel like it is fun to have these Stadium rock vibes like Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Bon Jovi.”
One thing I've noticed on your last album, your vocals seems a lot more mature, in terms of sound, whether they were recorded differently, there is a different tone to it. It feels like a total departure. Have you done anything different?
“I would say it is two things, of course, I try to develop as a singer, all the time. I've always developed my vocals from album to album, you can hear that clearly, on the first one I sounded like a pop teenager, which of course I was. it is like, skills just in singing that improve with time and not so much the sound thing. I mean the sound is like 5% of the outcome, I bought a very expensive microphone but it is only 5% of it, the biggest part is the outcome of your performance.”
I read somewhere that you were under no pressure to record your last album, did that lack of restraint enhanced the album in some way?
“Yes, it was like, we finished our old record contract with AFM Records which was 3 albums so we had fulfilled the contract. Then of course as a band you have choices, make yourself stressed, immediately go shopping to some record companies or give yourself some nice break first and wait to see what will happen. And that was basically our plan, to have some kind of break but all of a sudden, Andy and me wrote some songs because we liked to which I haven't felt this feeling for quite a long time. Actually since we did the debut album because there was no pressure. No contract was active or had to be fulfilled and we kept on writing. Most of the album was written when the A&R man from Sony Germany contacted me instead of me calling him. It was a nice incident that happened and he said “I’m a big fan, I have heard you are label-free, I want to sign you guys”. I was thinking it might be a good idea. I talked to the rest of the band and that is at that moment that it turned serious. We just had to complete the album and that was a nice feeling because there was no rush of how we going to make it.”
How does this work logistically when it comes to writing music, I've heard that you and Andy are living in different parts of Germany?
“That is actually a very good question, I think this is our biggest strength. Maybe an advantage to have a lot of distance between us guys because as I said earlier, of all I want to be alone in the studio, composing. I don't want anybody sitting behind my back or next to me, trying to interfere because I strongly believe that I am free to let myself go. If you try to make the other guys feel good you end up compromising. So I just do a demo with bubble English, nonsense English, it makes little sense but just to pin vocals melodies. I composed the whole track with my bubble English. Most of the time the hook is precise, with real meaning and then I send it over to Andy. He will listen to it, will get an impression of what I mean as everything is practically there but lyrics.”
Lastly what are your next goals for the next two years?
Absolutely, get the stadiums filled!
“It would be nice, but I don't know if in these times it is still possible. It would be nice to find out. Honestly, we try to become as big as possible and opening new markets but it sounds so business minded. We want to spread out and also go to the US and South America.”
South America has got an excellent metal fanbase.
“Yes but it is difficult in South America. It was easier 10 years ago. For new bands just beginning,, it doesn't get easier. You're always dependent on a risky offer from any local promoters. Those are the heroes because you cannot book a plane and sort the visas for all the crew cheaply. It can go in tens of thousands of Euros that you risk on your own, basically no band can do that. You must have a promoter who believes in bands and take the risks, and those guys are getting rarer. We are really happy to have achieved coming to England because this was a big dream for us during all those years we have been together. We are super happy to play Manchester tonight and all the other cities in the next few days, and we tried to go step by step. We hope the British crowds love us as much as we love the British crowds.”
Considering the success you are having in your country, it is amazing that you have not been on the Download bill yet or any festivals in the UK?
“This is the devil circle, so to speak. You have to be a headliner in those countries, and make at least 500 people come to your shows, the festival promoters see that and it isn't even a brave decision anymore to book these bands for Download or any other Festivals. But how to get there without being a name? It gets complicated. And the only way that's possible is to actually find a supporting tour that you can do, like we did with Powerwolf. It is extremely successful what we are doing with those guys. Our wanted achievement is to make as many fans as possible and that's why we are coming back in the UK. We have a headline tour in the making for this autumn. Those dates aren’t announced yet but will be soon so stay tuned. If it proves to be a popular tour, we may play at Download in 2020.”
That's all I have got to ask, you have been brilliant!
“You are welcome!”
Interview by Paul Flett