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After a decade of rock n' roll madness and the release of their gothic metal masterpiece 'Believe', Germany's Crematory decided to call it quits at a time when they were at their peak. Often times, many wonder why bands cease to create music when they are in their prime. Despite the rumors floating about the metal scene, only the band members can really provide the big picture behind the mystery. Metal Update had a talk with bassist Harald Heine, who revealed the underlying issues that led to the termination of Crematory's long and successful career.

METAL UPDATE: The main question concerning fans about Crematory's breakup is "Why?"

HARALD HEINE: Why? OK. (laughing) There are several reasons why we split up. First of all, it is our private life. We have done Crematory for over 10 years now and we had 10 years of rock and roll madness and we gave 10 years 100% for Crematory. We think that now it is time to look after ourselves and look forward into the future and organize our private lives and see what the future brings. The music business is getting harder all the time and we don't want to live on social security when we are at the age of 40 because now we are in our 30s. We did nothing but music for the last 10 years, so it's time now to take a break and look after our private lives, organize stuff and look forward to what we can do with our lives. The second reason is our health.

MU: I was going to ask about that. Do you have any specifics on the health issues involved?

HH: Yeah, for me, I have problems with my right arm. If I don't take care of that and I continue the extensive touring that we have done over the years, I may not be able to play bass anymore.

MU: So you just have to cut back quite a bit most likely?

HH: Yeah. It's possible to get some severe damage on my arm and, as I have mentioned before, we hope you understand why. We personally think that health is one of the greatest gifts that you have in your life and you can't buy it for money. So, it's time to look after that - to get that fixed again. If we continued doing our stuff like we did over the last years there was a possibility that I would never touch a bass anymore.


MU: That would not be good.

HH: No. And another reason is we think that we have gotten Crematory as far as we can get the band. We increased record sales over the years, slightly moving up and reaching our chart positions. We actually think that with the kind of music that we do, there's no chance to go any further. We think that Crematory, as it is now, is cult and we want to stay that way. We will stay that way with our fans forever. We want to get off with dignity and grace, on a high level of our career and we don't want to be a band playing in front of 100 people and no one takes notice of us anymore. Actually, the media in Europe doesn't support bands like us. We reached higher chart positions with every album, but our music isn't played on MTV or the major music channels. I think nowadays, when you don't have the support from big companies or big video channels, it's very hard to have a major breakthrough on the market. We just think that we achieved all the goals that we had in mind. We took Crematory farther than we ever imagined on our first record. That's the reason we want to remain to our fans in the way that they see us now and not as old farts going out on the road playing their old hits and having nothing to say.

MU: Yeah, like "Why are these guys still playing?" I hear that.

HH: Yeah.

MU: At what point did you join Crematory?

HH: When I joined Crematory, it was after the first record. It was the end of '93. We did the first tour with My Dying Bride. That was the time when I came to Crematory. They recorded the first album with another bass player.

MU: But you were on the tour.

HH: Yeah. I did the tour and then from 'Just Dreaming' I was a part of Crematory. But I knew these guys a long time before from other bands and in '93 I joined Crematory.

MU: What bands were you in prior to Crematory if any?

HH: Well, nothing special to mention. Nothing which got really famous. It was just local bands just doing stuff here in our area. I think we never released anything with major influence.

MU: What were the musical influences of Crematory?

HH: You mean in the beginning?

MU: In the beginning and even now. How might it have changed.

HH: First we were highly influenced by death metal bands and then we took it even further in the gothic scene. We got influenced by Paradise Lost, Sisters of Mercy and Type O Negative. And then also stuff from the 80's like 80's gothic, 80's wave and stuff like that. We went from death metal to gothic.

MU: What has been your most successful record?

HH: The most successful record I think is 'Illusions'. It sold pretty well here in Germany and still continues to sell records from that time. On 'Illusions' there is our biggest hit "Tears of Time". It's always like a club hit here in Europe and they play it in gothic clubs. We always are recommended to play it in concerts and we said as a joke on our last tour that we won't play "Tears of Time" anymore. The people were like, "No, you can't do that!" (laughter) We said we were all fed up with it, but it's not true. We're not fed up with "Tears of Time".

MU: How many albums did you sell of 'Illusions'? Roughly?

HH: Roughly I would say 80,000 copies here in Germany and in Europe I don't know.

MU: What was the biggest crowd that Crematory has played in front of?

HH: The biggest crowd? Well I think it was the Wacken festival that we did this summer, like 3 weeks ago. I think it was about 40,000 people. It is really big. It is the biggest metal festival in Germany or Europe. They have a lot of good bands there. A very fucking good crowd. I think we played on Saturday and there were like 40,000 people cheering for us on stage. It was a hell of a show. We really enjoyed it.

MU: Yeah, that sounds good. Good way to go out.

HH: It's the best way to go out!


MU: Yeah, totally. So you still have a couple more shows, right?

HH: Yeah, we're not doing a farewell tour. With 'Remind', we really did want to do something like a farewell tour. But then people came and asked us to play on certain festivals and we decided to do some more shows during the summer and that is the way to say goodbye to our fans. There won't be any special goodbye or farewell tour, but just some more shows. We're doing a best of show. We're taking it from 'Transmigration' to the 'Believe' album and just kick ass on stage and have a good time. That's what it's all about.

MU: Crematory has made statements that the recent headlining tours had insufficient turnouts. How many people would be showing up to these gigs?

HH: Well, to be honest, the situation of playing live here in Germany got worse and worse. When there was that hype of gothic metal we had 1,500 people coming to our shows. It got worse and worse by the years and we don't know why. But it's a general issue on the European metal scene that less and less people come to the shows. So we had on our last tour just 500 people each night. Our CD sales are excellent, but less and less people come to our concerts. That's also a financial problem because we're taking out a complete show when we go on tour like specialty lights and a specially designed stage set. These are all things that cost money and when less and less people come to the shows you earn less money. You sell less merchandise. Less T-shirts. Less CDs. The last two headlining tours we did were a catastrophe. You could say we could just continue recording albums and doing studio work, but we love to play live. Live is where you get feedback from your fans. Crematory was always a fan-related band. It's good to work in the studio to have a new record coming out. To a certain point we enjoy recording sessions and we make the best out of it. Everyone is anxious to get your finished CD and hear what you did for the last half year. It doesn't make sense to just record albums and not play shows because that is when you get the feedback from the fans. We'd miss that a lot. The live scene here in Europe gets harder and harder. We can't take a financial risk anymore. It's sad to say, but its true.

MU: What are some of the bigger bands that you would have liked to open for to increase the success of Crematory?

HH: Bands we would like to play with? Unfortunately, we never got the chance to do a big support tour. I don't know why. No one ever asked us. If there would be a band to open up for it would be Type O Negative. Peter Steele is a nice guy. We met him at a couple of festivals in Europe. We like the music very much. But no one asked us for a support tour for a bigger band. We opened for Sisters of Mercy, who are very big here, especially in Germany. We opened up for them on certain festivals. It was just great. We never got the chance for a big support tour, but if we did it would definitely be Type O Negative.

MU: Tell me a disastrous tour story.

HH: (laughs) A disastrous tour story. Oh god. Do you have the booklet for the 'Remind' album?

MU: Yeah, I have it.

HH: That is disastrous enough. There are certain horrible stories. Like when you come to a gig and there is a 12 hour drive. There is no catering ready. Then it turns out that the local promoter doesn't have the money to pay the bands. That's really disastrous. I think we mostly had a good time on the road. More positive than negative. We never got really fucked up with another band. Did you see the DVD?

MU: Not yet, actually.

HH: You'll have to look at that because it's 10 years of rock and roll madness. I think that shows best the time we had on the road. It's mostly positiv- the reactions we got and the people we get along with. There's nothing really bad to say about touring and life on the road.

MU: What are the Echo Awards?

HH: The Echo Awards are a national music award in Germany like the Grammy awards in USA. It turned out this year that they nominated a National Rock and Metal award. They nominated Hammerfall, Nightwish and Soulfly and they call it National Rock and Metal Award from Germany. Hammerfall are from Sweden. Nightwish are from Finland and Soulfly are from Brazil. So I must ask you are these German bands?

MU: Certainly not.

HH: They are not and we are asking ourselves, "What is happening there?" I think it turns out clearly in the record industry as a German band you are second class. It just turns out that bands from Sweden or from Finland are seen as better than German bands. They are not. This music does not depend on which country you are from. You make good music or you make bad music. It's a shame that on a National Rock and Metal award they nominate bands from Sweden and Brazil. So we ask ourselves, "What's wrong?" It really turns out that in other countries as a musician you receive help from the government and you are supported because you are part of the culture of the country. In Germany, you are treated as second class from the start. That's just how it is. I think this shows as proof right here.

MU: It's unfortunate, definitely.


HH: There's no point when they say International Rock and Metal award when you nominate Limp Bizkit, Korn and Papa Roach. There's no point because these are good bands and they have to write to be nominated for an international award. But when you turn out a National Rock and Metal award, it makes no sense to me to nominate bands from Sweden, Finland and Brazil from five nominees with two German bands. What is that?

MU: It's unfortunate. It must have something to do with certain countries getting hyped up. Sweden has been hyped up for a while. Now Finland is starting to get there. Maybe within time Germany will roll around with some kind of buzz with them.

HH: It's always been the same in Germany. It's the whole fucking media here. We did a video for "The Fall". Our last single from the 'Believe' album. It cost a hell of money and was done by a professional company who was doing videos for like huge pop acts like Modern Talk here in Germany and it was really brilliant. It was filmed not on video but on real film. The pictures were big pictures and we had a good story. It just turned out to be perfect. It was completely ignored by MTV and all the major video stations here in Germany. When you give bad quality to these stations it's OK when they don't play your video. But as a German band and on a German video channel I think it's a shame when they don't play a German video when it is good quality.

MU: I guess there's not much that you can do sometimes.

HH: Not really. When we went on tour, our fans always asked us when they could we see our video from "The Fall"? We told them that the only thing you can do is phone up the video stations, phone up MTV, send them emails and request it. That's the only think that you can do.

MU: How successful were the other Crematory videos that were made?

HH: It was a different time when we did our last few videos. At the time we did the videos for "Tears of Time" or "Temple of Love" or "Shadows of Mine" there was a big gothic hype in Europe. We had a lot of bands and the program schedule for the video programs was slightly different because you had a metal magazine on MTV like Headbangers Ball and Viva which is very huge here in Germany. Special programs for metal fans. The chance that you got your video played there was even bigger than nowadays. Now there are no metal shows left on MTV or any other channel. When they play hard music, they play Limp Bizkit or they play Korn or Linkin Park, which is commercially successful. With a band like Crematory, the only chance you get for video play is nighttime, as bad as it is. Then you do a video for say $50,000 and they play it two times. It doesn't make sense. I think it's good that we put the videos on the DVD and on the best of collection we did last year. It wasn't released in USA. Sorry. For Europe we had a box collection with old singles and remixes and we put all the videos there. It's a shame doing the video for such an amount of money and then just putting it out on CD. But I think now on the Remind box there are all videos we did in the past. So maybe there is a chance that you will get to see them there.

MU: What are everybody's plans musically after Crematory?

HH: Markus may be continuing with his side project called Century.

MU: And what are they?

HH: A bit more gothic wave style. Felix also has a side project. They are called Abnorm. They are doing death metal / grindcore. It's very aggressive, rude and heavy. Me personally, I'm thinking about reuniting some of my old bands. But actually we can't say what's happening in the future. We decided to maybe meet certain times in our rehearsal room and just jam out some old tunes. To destroy all rumors, there are no plans for a Crematory reunion in the future, but never say never.

MU: Exactly. You never know.

HH: Of course. We decided to meet in our rehearsal room from time to time, maybe once a month and just jam out on the old tunes. Just take some walks down the memory lane for ourselves and maybe something will happen in the future that we will decide to do a new record. Nobody knows but I think one thing's for sure, that when we come back we come back with a big bang and not in a way that everyone would expect. To be honest, there is now no plans for doing a reunion show. We didn't say, "OK. Let's take off and we'll be back in a few years or something." By the end of the month Crematory will be closed and we'll see what the future brings. Nothing is impossible. It's not that we split up because there is some anger in our band or something like that. We are close friends and will remain close friends. We actually live very close together. We'll let everybody go their own way and we'll see what the future brings. That's the way to do it now.

MU: Were you able to live off of Crematory's music at any time during the career?

HH: Yeah, for the last few years we had to do that. You can't do a band like Crematory, as I mentioned earlier, on 50%. No way. You have to be 100% and you have to live from the music. There's no chance having a really good job plus doing records and we played like three or four months a year. We were out on the road. We did every year a major headlining tour. We did a lot of European festivals. Then we did smaller club tours in the past. There is not chance to do it on a 50% level. As I mentioned earlier, now is the time that you can't take any more of the financial risks 'cause you live off the music and from the music. When you come back from tour and you have a big financial loss and you don't know how to pay your rent or to make your living, you just can't afford it. It's sad but it's true. As much as we love music, we have to look forward to our future and our private lives. Manage that and see how everybody gets along.

MU: What are the members' plans for full time employment after Crematory? Does anyone have careers lined up?

HH: We had regular jobs before Crematory and I think we'll go back when we finish the band. Next year we will start our normal jobs. I had a job as a carpenter and I think I'll do that for the next few years. Markus is real big in business like managing bands and stuff like that. I think he'll continue working in that part of the industry. Matthias took an apprenticeship as an electrician and maybe he'll do that. We'll get along well, I think, in the future.

MU: If you could name the highest point in Crematory's career and the lowest, what would you mention as far as events or anything that has happened.

HH: I think the highest point is now when we released the 'Believe' album. It reached the highest chart entry and it sells very well. I think when we look a few years in the future, we will have sold as many copies as the 'Illusions' album. It did very well and it got recognition from fans. I think musically it's just the highest level we ever reached. From the songwriting and from the songs I think this is the highest point we've gotten to musically. The lowest point was definitely when we split up with our first guitarist, Lotte because we decided to split up after the 'Awake' CD. By that time, he was the main songwriter for the band and he did all the songs. Many people said without your guitarist, Crematory is dead. It was a very hard time to get a new guitarist. We tried a lot of people. It was hard to find a new songwriter and to rearrange the songwriting process. By the time Lotte did the music, he did all of it in the studio and he just came out with finished music and showed everybody. "You have to play that. You have to play that. You have to play this." That's the way we worked our first CDs. It was pretty hard to manage to get a new guitar player and get a new songwriter and prove to people that they were wrong. That we're not dead. I think we got out of it stronger than we ever were. It just put the band closer together. We had a hard time with that. It just turned out right, I think. There was no way to work with our old guitarist anymore. He wanted to do a different way of music and we didn't get along anymore. If we had continued working with him, I think Crematory would have broken up by the next record. Then we got Matthias and he's just great. He's just a good fellow and a good guitarist and he fits perfectly with the band. Great guy. Also he brought a lot of new influences into the band 'cause he was completely different than our first guitarist. He's much more influenced by harder music like thrash metal and bands like Pantera and Slayer. I think that it turned out good that he had completely different riffing than our first guitar player. It took the band even further.

MU: In closing, what would you like to say to the fans of Crematory?

HH: To our fans? Believe in you and especially in Crematory.


review of Crematory 'Believe'






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