Xandria – Interview With Marco Heubaum

10th February 2015
Interview by Jacob Ovington

In today’s world of countless symphonic metal bands, there are few that stand out from the crowd – but the instantly recognisable Xandria is one of those exceptions. We caught up with the band’s guitarist and mastermind, Marco, ahead of their London show for a chat about surviving in today’s music industry and what goes into a band like his.

symphonic metal nights

Welcome to London, how has the tour gone so far?

Very nice, we’re having fun. It’s an adventure, it’s always how it should be.

Xandria is from Germany but Dianne is from the Netherlands, what is it like working in a band that is from across national borders?

Well we speak German when it’s just the boys, and when Dianne is with us we all speak English. It’s pretty funny because sometimes when she goes away we continue talking in English. It works well, it’s nothing that feels strange.

Your vocalist is from the Netherlands, why do you think that country has produced so many successful symphonic metal singers and bands?

I don’t know. It’s just that they have a lot of talented musicians I think. I don’t know if there’s a difference in education or something, if they have more support from the state or something – like in Sweden in the 90s they produced so many bands, death metal bands. I think they even got their rehearsal rooms from the state. I don’t think that’s the case in the Netherlands but maybe something is just different there, I don’t know.

Germany hasn’t produced so much symphonic metal, why do you think that is?

I have no explanation. I think there are a lot of symphonic bands all over the world, some are from Germany, because the underground was always big but many of those bands just don’t become well known. When we travel all over the world we often have local support bands, and in most cases they are symphonic metal bands from the area and it’s the same in Germany. So there are a lot of bands everywhere.

On your latest release you did a Meatloaf cover, what made you choose to cover it and what are the biggest challenges of making a cover?

It actually was the challenge that was the motivation for us, because most metal bands that do cover versions take them from pop songs from the 80s and turn them into a metal song. We just thought, well let’s do something different, something that other bands didn’t do before. And the other reason was that we have been listening to Meatloaf during the photo-session for our ‘Sacrificium’ album to get us into the mood. It’s also bombastic music, it has a lot of theatrical and film-score elements so it’s not too far away from what we are doing. They’ve never been compared to each other. Meatloaf is a complete standalone genre of itself, although there are parallels to symphonic metal – so we thought let’s just join those two worlds together. We all like meatloaf, so there were a few reasons that just made us say yeah, let’s do it.

Your last release was an EP but you haven’t done a full length album for a while – have you got any plans for your next LP?

Yes, of course. I mean, the last album was in in 2014 so it’s not that long ago. I think a two year rhythm is always OK. We’re still not there, but we already released an EP with new material.

Do you think it’s better to take your time and wait for the ideas to come to you?

Yes, of course. Well, the kind of music we’re doing with symphonic elements and filmscore elements it takes a lot of effort – a lot gets put into the arrangements and you have to take your time to let it blossom. You have the vision in your mind at the beginning.

What are the biggest challenges of creating symphonic metal?

The arrangements, bringing the worlds together – the heavy elements and the filmscore elements. There’s been quite some history of bands who are doing it in the correct way like Nightwish and Therion in the 90s. This is of course inspiriation for us, but we are looking here and there for some new flavours. We like to put it all into the arrangements and that takes a lot of time to work it out.

As a symphonic metal band do you feel like you are constantly compared to Nightwish and how does this make you feel?

For us it’s OK. They are the biggest band of the genre, they are the pioneers. With every album they made a big step forward, they did something that nobody had done before. So it’s just natural that many other bands are being compared. I also admire their music a lot, it’s nothing bad for me to be compared to Nightwish.

Today there are countless symphonic metal bands around the world, what makes you stand out from the rest?

I think you have to ask this question to someone else who can see us from an outside perspective. I don’t really like to compare ourselves to other bands. We have no strategy for the market, or a plan or something for how we can stand out – we just do what we do. We do what we like to do. Sometimes it sounds a little bit it one direction or compared to something else, but it’s not something we really intend to do.

What are the biggest challenges of surviving in today’s music industry?

Doing tours like we do, with the nightliner and stuff like that and the crew and everything costs a lot of money. Today there’s not that much money anymore, whereas back in the 80s every band member of, let’s say Motley Crue, had their own nightliner.

Now you’ve got three bands in one!

We’ve got three bands in one, that’s the difference. It’s a little more effort that you have to put in to get a little less luxury. But it’s all worth it.

So you’re in it because it’s what you want to do, not because of the money?

Yeah, it’s not about the money. Totally not, you can’t get rich from it today. If it was about the money we would have stopped many years ago.

How do you feel about the label female-fronted metal, do think your band should be labelled just by the gender of the person at the front if it?

I know there’s a lot of discussion about that at the moment, I also don’t think it’s an important discussion. If people need some structure in all the genres, well, I have to say I don’t really care about that.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you on tour?

There are a few things that I can’t tell you. Some other things, well… it’s always little adventures from time to time. Like the nightliner breaks down and then you have to stay in the middle of nowhere until someone comes to repair it. That moment it’s not funny, one year later you laugh about it or not everyone remembers it. Of course strange things happen to you when you are in countries that are far away. We have just been in Asia and things are a little bit different in other places. Sometimes you have to get used to it as a band in a very short time, it’s always a little bit of a challenge. Last year in March we played in India in a big college festival and we didn’t know we had fans, there were thousands of people. That was really cool, we got to eat very hot and spicy food and stuff like that. There’s a lot things happening, there’s not just one story.

What were the biggest differences between playing in Europe and India?

Well, we haven’t really toured there, we just did one concert. We flew there in a plane and then we stayed. Now I remember one story. I remember we had been playing in Hyderabad, it’s not a place where many tourists come to. We did some sightseeing and there were only other Indian people. There was an old temple and I remember that a lot of people liked to take pictures with us, just because we looked so strange. We were the strangers. They didn’t want to take pictures because we were a band, they didn’t even know about Xandria. So for us this was a bit strange.

If you could work with any musician in the world, who would it be?

If you asked me a few months ago I would have said Lemmy, but unfortunately that’s not possible any more. I don’t know if it would ever have happened anyway. I think, of course, it’s a bit far fetched because it’s so different in style but I’ve always been a fan of Motorhead because it’s so original and very honest music. I was always had the idea that it would be a very cool thing to have a collaboration that is very unusual like that. Now, there is no chance any more unfortunately. Rest in peace Lemmy.

To finish off, is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?

I’d like to thank everyone for their support, because without the fans and the people who spread the word about us we would not be here any more. That’s what keeps us alive, so thank you everyone.