Interview with: Stephen Wingard, vocalist and guitarist of Nitrolyt

Nitrolyt are a five-piece uncategorized metal/rock band hailing from Leipzig, Germany. Since their formation in 2002, as a Metallica cover band, they've made themselves quite a reputation as a great live-show band, with wild and hilarious performances. So far, they've released an EP/demo titled "Just Another Angry Record", and a debut full-length titled "Hollywood Death Scene" - both showing much potential – and now face a new challenge, my questioning…vocalist Stephen Wingard was brave enough to withstand the challenge.

Hi Stephan, who are you and the band doing? What have you been up to lately?
I and the band are doing great. I just got back from visiting my parents in the States (1st time in 3 years!) and I had to show up at the university for 2 weeks before that. So I guess you could say we took about a month long break. But despite my absenteeism, Nitrolyt kept on rocking with a fill-in singer who is a friend of ours and the singer of another local band. Now I’m back and will be up front as we hit the road for another series of shows throughout Germany.

I've read on your website and Myspace that you've participated some festival/contest lately, assuming I translated the German to English right, what can you tell us about that?
First of all, let me say that, as a band, we hate contests! We don’t like the idea of “winners” and “losers” when it comes to bands. Sure, some bands are more talented than others, but many times the bands are equally good and the “winner” is chosen based on the tastes of the jury or whichever band brought the most fans with them. About a year ago, we actually said we would never do a contest again…oh well. We recently won the first round of the “New Chance Festival” which starts at the local level and produces one winner at the semi-national level (not sure which regions participate). The next round takes place in September. We also took part in the local anti-rightwing, youth festival, but because I’m such an old fart (27), Nitrolyt performed with our alternate singer. We lost in the first round, which was a shame, but at the same time a bit of an ego booster for me.

While visiting those two sites, one can notice you write all your new/messages in German – yet all your song lyrics are sung in English – which crowd are you directing your music to? Is it more international or more local?
Great point. We have a lot of trouble with our websites because none of us are really web-literate, and we don’t have the cash (yet) to pay someone to do it. The lack of English info is probably my fault since I’m the native speaker in the band. I should probably get my ass in gear and write some stuff for the international fans which we do have. My apologies.

Let's talk about your debut album – "Hollywood Death Scene" – how was the writing/recording process of it? How was it working in the Salvation Recording studios (now named Kick The Flame) different from working with TAM Recordings studios (where J.A.A.R was recorded)?
We actually laid down the tracks for "J.A.A.R" at "Kick The Flame" studios as well, but sent them to TAM Recording for mixing and mastering. This time we did it all with Andy at "Kick The Flame" and I think there was more continuity in the recording.
Recording generally goes really fast with us. I would say too fast. HDS was finished in about a week. Sebastian and Georg lay down the core of the songs and then we add all the icing. I usually wait until the songs are nearly finished before laying down the vocals. People may not realize it, but recording vocals is damn hard. A guitarists’ hands might get tired, but his guitar never gives up. Sometimes I’m really into recording but my voice just says “Fuck it. I’m taking the day off”. In the studio, of course, time is money and I’m often pushed to my physical and psychological limits. I look forward to the day when we can afford to spend several weeks just on the vocals.

What's the meaning of its title?
The title of the album was taken from the track with the same name. I like Hollywood movies, but for a while now, the sensationalism seems to have been taken to a ridiculous extreme. Every film has to be more violent, bloodier, and have more explosions than the last just to get people to pay the $9 to go see it. In a way, we did the same thing with the album cover (exploding/flipping car) in order to grab people’s attention. But if you listen carefully, the song is quite critical of this perversion of a truly magnificent artform.

What are the lyrics in the album about and where did you get your inspiration to write them from?
There’s no single theme running through the lyrics of the album, except maybe sarcasm and criticism of things I don’t like. I usually let myself be inspired by current events, both in the world and in my personal life. “Soldiers” as one might guess, is critical of this new “War on Terror”. However, it is not one-sided criticism. The whole thing is ridiculous and both sides have innocent blood on their hands. “Sign Language” was written for all those people who just aren’t worth words of criticism. A certain finger is all they deserve. “Haunted” is a pretty personal song about me trying to figure out if decisions in my life were right or wrong. “The Suffering” was actually inspired by a great work of literature from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King. I won’t give away which work, but I spent over a year reading the thing. “Alive” is sort of an exaggerated version of me in my early university days. That’s all I’ll say about that one.

Is there a line or verse you particularly like? Why?
I really dig the chorus of “Sign Language” because it says exactly what I, and a lot of other people, want to say to people we have to deal with every day.

Let's go back to J.A.A.R ", your debut EP, which was releases a couple of years ago…when I first heard it I couldn't help wondering how serious its lyrics were, and in " Hollywood Death Scene " the lyrics are seemingly a lot more serious – was this difference intended? Did you have different intentions with each release?
Most of the songs on "J.A.A.R" were written before I even joined the band. The other guys are a lot younger than me and also a lot less serious. The general attitude was “there are enough serious bands out there, we just want to have fun”. When I came along, I thought this was a great concept. But as I took over the song writing, I realized that I had a lot of other things to say. So for HDS we agreed to take on a more serious tone for the lyrics while sustaining the same easy going performance in the live shows. I think in the future, you will see a return of the humor in some songs, while others will remain more “issue” orientated.

Were there any guidelines while writing "Hollywood Death Scene"? Did you start with lyrics and came up with riffs and melodies or vise-versa?
Lyric writing is always torture for us. The music is always done long before there is even a lyrical concept. I’ll gladly take the blame for that, because I tend to let the rhythms and melodies of a song inspire the lyrics. That can take some time, much to the annoyance of the other members of the band who would like to get the new songs out there to the live audience.

What's the writing process in the band like? Are there any "roles" or do you just jam and pick what sounds best?
Song writing is extremely structured in Nitrolyt, almost to the point of being anal retentive. Sebastian composes 99% of the songs. The songs are then delivered about 90% complete per email to the other members who then give their feedback. The individual parts of the final version are then practiced by each of us and a few weeks later we start rehearsing the song. It may sound a bit strange to most other bands, but for us it works great. Songs come together really quickly. We just have to wait for myself to get inspired to writes some lyrics!

How often do you guys meet up and rehearse?
Every week on Sunday at 15:00.

What other occupations, other than the band, do you have in common?
I don’t think we could be much more different from each other. Georg studies religion, Sebastian sport, Roland medicine, Johannes (the new bass player) is still in high school, and I’m a Biologist with an IT degree. The common thread that brings us together is Nitrolyt.

What is the origin of the band's name? What's a Nitrolyt?
As I was not around when this particular name was chosen, I can’t be sure of the actual facts of its origin. I’ve heard several rather comical versions myself but I won’t spread any half-truths. One thing is for sure: Nitrolyt is a fictional word made up by Georg, Roland, and Sebastian. They just thought it sounded good.

How did the band start? What was the first "Nitrolyt song"? How was your first gig?
Georg, Sebastian, and Roland knew each other in high school and got together to make heavy music. Nitrolyt actually started out as a Metallica cover band. Pretty soon they started writing their own material beginning with “Incredible Georg”. We still include this song in nearly every set we play. The first live performance of Nitrolyt is perhaps the funniest, coolest stories I’ve ever heard. Somehow, the guys landed their first gig in a church of all places! As the story goes, some guys in the crowd started rocking out so hard that they broke the bench! How true is that? Vandalizing a church as your first gig as a metal band.

What memorable shows do you recall?
We’ve had some really great shows and a couple that we would rather forget. The best shows are usually in Leipzig because that’s where most of our fans are and the energy from the crowd is unbelievable. However, for me personally, one of our best shows was in Hanover where we were one of the opening acts for the Swedish metal band Wolf. Those guys are crazy and they really dug our music as well. On the other side, we had a show in Berlin where just about everything that could go wrong with the equipment did and the crowd hated us. But that’s all part of growing as a band.

To someone who hasn't heard your music yet – how would you describe it?
People always want to know what other bands you sound like. That just doesn’t work with Nitrolyt, at least consistently. At one moment you might think Metallica, then 45 seconds later it sounds like Dream Theater. The next track might remind you of System Of A Down but before it’s over you think we stole a riff from Disillusion. My point is: Nitrolyt is complicated and has many influences that combine to form a unique sound that is hard to describe.

What's the most common response you get when people here your music?
People either love us or hate us and we like it that way. Generally, after every show we’ll have an equal number of people tell us how awesome we are and that we suck (Germans can be brutally honest). Most of those who don’t like us, however, complain that the music is just too complicated to bang your head to.

As an American (or rather a former American, since you now live in Germany), do you feel better doing music in Germany than in the US? What provoked your moving from one to another?
The US is HUGE and even a really great band can get lost in the sea of other really great bands. You need a lot of luck to get anywhere in the US. Germany is a large but considerably smaller scene than the US. A really good band is much more likely to get noticed on the national level. However, my decision to move to Germany had nothing at all to do with the music scene. It was more of a personal challenge to get out of the pit of American ignorance and see more of the world first hand.

Were (or are you) a member in any other bands?
I had a band in the US before I left (Three Shot), but we never left my garage except to record a 6 song demo.

As Nitrolyt's vocalist, which artists would you say influence your style the most?
I grew up on the fringes of the Mississippi River Delta, known for its blues and country music. There was just no escaping the influence of this soulful music. People often comment on the “soulful” color of my voice and I try to bring that influence into Nitrolyt songs when it fits. I was also heavily influenced in the 90s when I began singing by vocalists like Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell; James Hetfield was also, of course, a big influence not to mention all those great classic rock singers of the 60s and 70s.

Out of what you're listening to these days - name one new album, one old album, one unknown album and one album we wouldn't expect you to name…
I rarely buy albums because I find so few of them worth the few Euros I have. I usually try to find as much free (not stolen) stuff on the web as possible and if I find more than 3 songs on an album of reasonable quality, I’ll shell out the dough. Recently, I got my hands on the new Disillusion album “Gloria” which is incredible. Before that I picked up an older album “Waking the Fallen” from Avenged Sevenfold. While in the US, I picked up “In Between Dreams” fromJack Johnson for some good chill-out music on the road. Jack is one of the few great song writers on the airwaves now days and worth a listen, even for you metal heads.

Nitrolyt is based in Leipzig, a town most famed musically for Disillusion, what is the music scene like in you area?
Just like most places, there are a lot of bad bands, quite a few good bands, and very few great bands (e.g. Disillusion). Metal bands are by far the most common but there are quite a few more “radio-friendly pop bands” that are quite successful because of the party-like atmosphere at their shows (see for example Blossom).

Is there any "major goal" you'd like to achieve as a band?
Most bands would like to make it “to the top” and we’re no different. But honestly, we’re satisfied when get recognition from respectable sources for making the music we like to make. It doesn’t matter if they want to throw money at us or not. The greatest thing as a musician is to be respected by other musicians.

What are your plans for the near future? Are you guys planning to participate at any of the upcoming summer festivals?
Unfortunately, our booker dropped the ball on getting us into any major festivals this year. However, we will be playing lots of shows at smaller venues throughout the summer. Keep an eye on the MySpace site for the latest shows.

Any words of wisdom you'd like to add?
In regards to the previous question, bands should be careful when choosing booking agencies. A contract doesn’t really mean that much to a lot of them so ask around and find one with a good reputation and representing bands that are better than you. It’ll give you the motivation to get better and get you exposure to a bigger audience.

Since I haven't got any words of wisdom to add, nor more questions to ask – we'll finish with that. Best of luck with what's ahead, and let's hope to hear more from you and of you soon!

Ofer Vayner
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