Serenity – Interview with Cris Hermsdörfer

10th February 2015
Interview by Jacob Ovington

Serenity are a symphonic power metal band from Austria who recently released their Da Vinci themed concept album, ‘Codex Atlanticus’. We caught up with Cris, the band’s guitarist ahead of their London show to discuss where they get their ideas from and what it’s like having three bands and a crew crammed into one bus.

symphonic metal nights


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

The tour is going pretty pretty great, we are all close to the middle of the tour. Yesterday we were in Paris for example for an almost sold out show. We had great people, a great audience. We are really really happy to be back in London. We were last here in 2013 at the Boston Music Club.

So this is your second time in London?

We’ve been here more often than that, we were also here in 2011 for the Out of the Dark tour. I guess, as far as I know they’ve also been here with Kamelot. I have been with Serenity since 2011.

So you joined in 2011?

No, I didn’t join but I played several tours before I finally joined the band.

How do you feel about the reception your latest album Codex Atlanticus has received so far?

The reaction of everyone was just great. Also the reviews we received we read all the time, and we’ve also seen the reaction of the people after the shows. It’s just awesome. They really like it. It seems as though we did something really great, so. Also we entered the charts and got known in the UK, on the Hard Rock and Metal Chart we got to around 26 or 27.

That’s quite good for this country.

Sure, sure. So, I guess we did something right on this record.

The name Codex Atlanticus – what is the meaning behind it?

The meaning is the diary of Leonardo Da Vinci. The whole record is a concept album about the life, the inventions and what Leonardo Da Vinci did in his lifetime. This meant it made sense to use the title of his diary which is Codex Atlanticus.

What made you choose that concept?

We were, as you may know a historical based band. We always try to use historical themes and facts, so we came to the decision when we were starting work on this record what the next topic could be, and then one of us said, I think it was George: “why not do Leonardo Da Vinci?” And then we built everything together.

Have you thought about the next topic yet?

We’ve started already, we’ve started some planning on the record but of course now as it’s just released we’re focused on playing, touring, but the thinking is already happening. I can’t tell you anything detailed yet, though because we don’t know at the moment that much, but let’s see.

What is your songwriting process and how are your ideas formed? Do you start with the music first or lyrics first?

It’s different. For example, with Codex Atlanticus it was, of course we had to figure out first some main topics, main themes, and of course if you then know for example like ‘Sprouts of Terror’ it’s about Leonardo Da Vinci and his inventions, war machines and other things, then you can’t do a ballad about it of course, then you try to write a fast song but it was not always like that. Sometimes you just have the melody, then you have the whole song, the concept of the music, then you say aaah, this could fit for example, I don’t know, for ‘Iniquity’ or for another idea we had just recorded.

What are the biggest challenges of life on tour?

The biggest challenges on tour are of course – first is being on time at the right place because you have so many things that could happen. For example, the bus – when we had an off day last week, the bus was not working so we had to check out how to get it done again and touch things, but this is the biggest challenge because you just can’t tell. In general, I mean, maybe second place is to stay healthy because, of course because if just one of us, there’s 18 people here in the bus that gets ill too.

18 people in one bus? So both bands are in here?

All three bands are in here. Jaded Star, Xandria and our crew is in here. So if just one gets ill, you’ll all get it. It’s a closed space and the air isn’t great.

What are the best things about being on tour?

Being on tour means a lot of fun, in this situation you are always, well not always but most of the time, you are with musicians or bands who you really they’re good, like Xandria who we’re with now. We have a great time together because we’ve known each other for many many years. We’re all playing in cool and great clubs and venues in general. You can meet people also. It’s nice to read the reviews, it’s nice to read the comments on Facebook or getting emails and messages about how great people like us or what we do. It’s always, let’s say, even better to see how the people react. We like to be on tour and we will be on tour after this one again, Powerwolf is just coming up.

I’ve seen, you have a lot of stuff coming up.

And then, Kamelot is coming and then we’ll see what’s coming next.

Most symphonic metal bands have a female lead, on some of your songs you have a female, but have you ever had a permanent female member?

We had on the last, on the ‘War of Ages’ record, the previous album, we had Clementine as a fixed member. We tried it just for one record, but in general Serenity is not a female-fronted symphonic band, we are a male-fronted symphonic metal band. Or prog, power metal, symphonic metal – whatever you can call us. We now try and keep it how it was on the first records that we have a guest, like this time it’s Amanda Somerville, and for live Tasha on stage. This is a good combination.

You like to be different from the crowd?

Of course, but Serenity never was this female-fronted band. I mean, on this bus now it’s Xandria female-fronted symphonic metal, Jaded Star female-fronted, but Serenity never was and we will never be. We tried it for a while, it was not bad but we didn’t feel that great with it, so we came back. Now, as we can get out of the reviews and everything it turned out great like it was before.

In a world full of symphonic metal bands, what makes you stand out from the crowd?

I think first we can stand out because we have a really good gear, we have a voice which is really hard to copy, it’s very unique and we try… have you listened to ‘Codex Atlanticus’?

Yeah, I was listening to it last night.

So maybe you will see that we tried right now with this record we did a step that we tried to show, not just this straight typical line that you find in many many metal records you press play and after five or six songs you don’t know, is it still number six or is it again number three because sometimes they all sound the same.

Especially in this genre. A lot of it just follows the same formula.

Yeah. I mean, you have to keep your style, but we tried to keep our style but we tried to go a little off the track but going back again.

So working around your style instead of in just a straight line?

Yeah, we try to go around our style so that the listeners will be stay excited. So they’re not like, OK, after five songs I can already imagine how the sixth song will turn out, and if you listen to Codex Atlanticus it’s more like, ah, what’s next, how will the sixth song turn out? Or the seventh, or the eighth? What will they do next? We don’t want to go too far away, we keep our style, but I guess with the whole setting and our live performance and every one of us is able to sing and we fo everything main vocals are live, these things are typical Serenity, they’re typical for us.

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

I won’t talk for the whole band, because I think in our case I think it’s something you can get from the records and the songwriting. We have different idols, different kinds of heroes in the music business. If I was able to work with one guy, who could it be? I was always a fan of Mike Portnoy for example because of drumming and he’s a great songwriter too. If I could choose a singer, I would choose Corey of Slipknot because of his voice and his way of singing is super unique. If you ask anyone else in the band they’ll tell you a completely different answer. You can get from the songwriting that everyone is putting the best of his view of music into the music, and that’s when you get Serenity.

Going back to touring, what is strangest experience you’ve had on tour?

The strangest experience experience we’ve had on your, well there have been so so many (laughs). There are many many many many many many stories. I just have to think about, I guess on one tour, not on purpose, but on one tour we forgot our keyboard player in a parking lot. Usually you have to tell the bus driver when you leave the bus, and he didn’t do that so everyone thought he was sleeping, because the curtains of the bed were closed. We said, let’s drive and we drove and then we got a call saying, “oh you forgot about me.” We had to to a u-turn and go back and pick him up again. I think he was just putting out the trash from the bus, he was trying to do something good and we just left him. Goodbye, keyboard.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to your fans?

The first thing is of course, try and get ‘Codex Atlanticus’, try to get into this record, try and get into our music and I guess with the new record you will see what Serenity is able to do and a taste of what you’ll get from us in the coming years. Meet us live on stage, come to our shows and leave us a like on Facebook!