My Sleeping Karma are one of those instrumental bands that really don’t need a vocalist. Their beautiful brand of instrumental progressive, psychedelic metal has won them legions of fans across Europe. Speaking to the band’s drummer Steffan, we talked about the band’s recent appearance at Desertfest, the making of their latest album Moksha, festivals and much more.
Jack: How is the band doing now?
Steffan: We are quite busy since we started recording our new album Moksha end of last year. After finishing the recording process (all recordings have been done by us) we directly played some gigs, recorded a video, booked some shows and still have lots of promotion things to do. So we are quite busy but also very happy about the result.
Jack: In April you played Desertfest in Berlin and London, how did you find playing these shows?
Steffan: It was absolutely fantastic. Both audiences gave us overwhelming response. Amazing!
Jack: What was it like to share the stage with such an influential band as Sleep in London?
Steffan: To us it was an overall amazing evening. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed lots of different fantastic bands.
Jack: On Facebook you wrote that the Koko in London was a beautiful venue, what did you like about this venue?
Steffan: The Koko was one of the most impressive venues we’ve seen so far. It’s an old theatre with an amazing acoustic and almost every famous band already played there. It feels like you would smell the history of this building. We also love the fact that the crowd – even if the place is really huge – are quite close to the stage.
Jack: How important a band is Sleep to you personally.
Steffan: Beside the fact that we all have grown up with heavy metal of the 80s and 90s we are a very open minded band. So lots of different influences from all musical areas melting together in the karma world. I personally didn’t know Sleep until we have seen them in London.
Jack: Your new album Moksha was released on the 9th June via Napalm Records and it is excellent. What was the recording process like for the album?
Steffan: Since we started My Sleeping Karma we’ve tried several different ways of recording an album. The version we used on Moksha seems to be the most comfortable way for us: All instruments in our rehearsal room are equipped with microphones. The mics are all running in a small mixing desk and finally into a portable recording device. When we rehearse our new songs we usually record them. In the studio we use the most emotional version of a song as a guiding track. This version usually contains lots of ups and downs and almost some tempo variations in order to feel organic. The instruments have been recorded one after another (Drums, Bass, Guitar, Keys) by using individual selected class-A Neve or Neumann pre-amps from the 70s.
Jack: How would you say it is different to your previous releases?
Steffan: The main point might be that we’ve changed the way of our songwriting. For example the title track ‘Moksha’ is written and arranged over a piano lick and got in addition some cello parts. We also have some small brass parts and we included other musicians to arrange the interludes for us. We wanted to be more open minded and also avoid repeating ourselves.
Jack: Is there a narrative or theme to the album?
Steffan: Yes – we wanted to continue and enlarge the story of Soma. Soma was mainly talking about the dream world represented by the artwork and the most likely psychedelic-based music. The Idea of Moksha was to build a conceptional bridge from the dream world to the reality.
Jack: What does the artwork to Moksha represent?
Steffan: In Indian religion Moksha means enlightenment and is the final goal of human life. The artwork shows the reality below and the way to Moksha guided by the four goals of life which are represented by our previous cover artworks in the middle. On top of the cover you can see Ganesh sitting on a big Bodhi tree. With one arm Ganesh opens up the sky to reach the dream world or enlightenment. The Sun and the birds from Soma are representing this dream world. This is our conceptional connection between Soma and Moksha. I think this is also reflected in the music as Soma was more relaxed and chilling. With Moksha we partially also included our heavy metal roots as well as our experimental side by using other instruments like brass and cello.
Jack: A lot of your artwork contains religious imagery. As a band are you fascinated by religious iconography?
Steffan: We are not Hindus or Buddhists as many people might think. Buddhism simply has many analogies to our music (e.g. repeating things several times, stay calm and relaxed) so we think this fits perfect to our music.
Jack: What I like about your music is that it’s heavy yet calming with an exotic vibe. How do you create this vibe in the writing process?
Steffan: The song writing process is mainly based on feeling. Usually we start jamming with some riffs coming from our guitar player. In case we feel good while playing this riff, we go on working with it – maybe add some other parts, do some variations etc. If something does not feel good, we immediately throw it out or change it completely. Usually the structure grows over some rehearsals until it ends up as a song.
Jack: ‘Prithvi’ has a Claymation video, what was the appeal of working with Claymation for the video?
Steffan: As many things we were not searching for it – the video came to us. Two students have made this video over month. After they finished the Claymation work they were searching for the right music and asked us if they were allowed to use a song from us. This was exactly at that time when Napalm [Records] asked us to do a video. So, fortune coincidence or maybe good karma.
Jack: Are you pleased with how well the song and video were received?
Steffan: We are pretty happy, no question.
Jack: With this song you have included other instruments including a piano and a cello, why were these added to the mix?
Steffan: We wanted to be more open minded and also avoid repeating ourselves. So we invited several friends to add all these different instruments. In addition, we also asked some friends to do interludes for the album. That was kind of thrilling because you never know what’s coming back. But I think this also added some more variation to the album.
Jack: The album is broken up with 5 interludes, what was the reason behind this?
Steffan: We are using interludes since our second album ³Satya². The idea is to create a certain overall flow. Each song of course has its own feeling but with the interludes in the middle the whole album is kind of telling a story and shows an entire feeling/flow.
Jack: At the end of May you played some shows with the excellent Monkey3, what do you like about them?
Steffan: We know Monkey 3 since some years and became friends. So we are pretty happy to play with them and have some party afterwards. Also their music in some way has a kind of similar feeling. We like them very much.
Jack: You just got added to the Dark & Heavy Festival in France (which takes place in August), on this festival you are playing with a wide range of bands including Trivium, Carcass, God Seed, Finntroll and many more. Do you like playing with bands of different genres or do you prefer bands of your own genre?
Steffan: As we grew up with stuff like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Tool, Sepultura etc we like Metal festivals very much. We already played several festivals (like Hellfest, Out&Loud) with this kind of bands and it worked pretty well. But we also will play pretty different stuff like Hippie-Festivals and genre festivals which is quite a nice mix.
Jack: After you play a few gigs and festivals across the summer, what are your plans after these?
Steffan: Besides the different summer festivals we are planning a European tour in fall 2015 or beginning of 2016. We are already discussing the possible dates.
Jack: Finally, have you started to plan and book shows for 2016 yet or is it too early?
Steffan: We haven’t started booking for 2016 so far. As we all are pretty busy in our private lives the band has to deal a pretty complex schedule. However, we will see what happens.
Jack: Thank you for the interview.
Steffan: Thank you so much and keep your good Karma.