Interview: Lisa Rieger of Hydra
Written by Rainer Kerber
The band Hydra, founded by Lisa Rieger and Chris Diefenbach in Regensburg, released their second album, Solar Empire, on the penultimate day of last year. The ambitious concept album is well received by fans and critics, such as myself. And to my fortune, singer Rieger was gracious enough to answer a few curious questions.
Rainer Kerber: Hi, thank you for taking this interview with me. Please introduce yourself.
Lisa Rieger: Hello – thank you for your interest! We are HYDRA, a symphonic metal band from Regensburg. Characteristic of our music is the use of symphonic elements combined with a lot of Heavy Metal and perhaps the biggest hanger, female vocals. Currently we are four members – Clemens Birkenmaier is our bassist, Jens Viertel the drummer. Chris Diefenbach plays guitar and I, Lisa Rieger, am the singer of the band.
RK: You have named the band after a snake-like monster of the Greek mythology. Why did you choose this name?
LR: On the one hand, we simply wanted a slightly memorable name, preferably a single word. HYDRA creates good parallels to our song-themes such as mysticism, history or mythology. In addition, our music contains the most diverse elements. Each member of the band also has his own influences, and the different musical elements could also stand for the different heads of the HYDRA.
RK: On your homepage you describe your sound as symphonic metal. This genre has a very wide range. What is special about your songs? What bands / musicians inspired you?
LR: I cannot say whether there are any individual musicians or bands who inspire or shape us. For example, I find Liv Kristine and Charlotte Wessels very inspiring. From their creativity, I create, among other things, my own work out and develop my own style. Chris also listens to Country and Melodic Death Metal (for example, Insomnium). So you see, our influences come from almost everywhere. If I had to describe our music, I would say that it is important to us not to overload everything with symphonic bombast. Of course, our arrangements are also very complex, but the band side is more important to us. The one or the other may be of the opinion that the guitar/band work loud-technically on ‘Solar Empire’ is too short, which would actually confirm the contrary. I can only say that the mix – in the case of this album – very much corresponds to our expectations and we do not feel the guitars as too quiet. The band-work at HYDRA is no less complex or playful than with other bands. Characteristic for our sound are certainly fast double bass passages. Vocally, I vary between growls and higher, but also deep vocals. Very typical of the songs on ‘Solar Empire’ is certainly the great classical choir, which is an important element in our current work.
RK: Your second album “Solar Empire” is a concept album. Please tell us briefly which story is the main theme for your album.
LR: ‘Solar Empire’ is about a tragic love story. Amr’han and Lanya live on two different worlds and the love between two different peoples is forbidden. Nevertheless, the two would prefer to meet with great risk, as a life separated from each other. When the love opens up, forgotten conflicts between the worlds break up again and a war between the two worlds burns, which demands tragic and unexpected victims.
RK: On the album many well-known musicians can be heard, such as Zuberoa Aznárez, Henning Basse or Ally Storch. How did this collaboration come about?
LR: We have considered in the run-up to the recording, whether we like, as we already did at ‘Malachite Skies’, to involve guest musicians. We have great fun to have great musicians on board, as we believe they enrich the music. We already knew Ally from a concert in the past where we played together. Zuberoa is one of the absolute favourite singers of Chris and me, so it was obvious to ask her once. Henning Basse is one of the favourite singers of Chris and since we wanted to try out anyway how male singing and HYDRA’s music harmonize with each other, we just asked him.
RK: I’ve read the songs for your debut “Malachite Skies” you recorded within a few months. How long have you been working on your current album?
LR: The current album took a little longer. All in all, if you include the song writing phase, planning phase, recording, mixing and mastering phase, ‘Solar Empire’ has taken two years. Of course, two years with an extreme focus on the weekends, as we have our full-time jobs on Mondays to Fridays.
RK: For the Special Edition of the album Lisa has written the short story “Solar Empire – Scent of the Wolves”. How is writing a story different from writing the song lyrics?
LR: Oh, this is really an interesting question! It was a very nice challenge for me to write a long story for the first time. It is very difficult for me to keep the thread and to eliminate logic errors (although I do not guarantee that there are none in the story, haha!). It is always easier to keep the structure with song lyrics. What is hard sometimes is the choice of words in the chorus. One should not overstack these with supercomplicated words.
RK: In this short story, the classic Romeo and Juliet theme was processed in a fantasy story. I am fascinated by this combination. How did you get this idea? Are you fantasy fans?
LR: I think you could call me a fantasy fan. As with “Malachite Skies” I was responsible for the whole text concept and I am very happy. I like to read and mainly fantasy, am great Lord of the Rings fan. The idea came to me one day to write a story to the CD. With me such a thing always comes so to speak almost overnight and as I like to try out something new and totally wanted to write a story, we decided to make a concept album. The difference is that we have not been guided by a given theme, but have written a completely new story.
RK: How does your song writing work? Bring all band members their ideas into the songs?
LR: So far it has always been the case that Chris was responsible for the song writing – I have a little instrumental, often also the song melodies and the lyrics. At Solar Empire we had not yet got Clemens on board, but Jens also had the opportunity to get involved in the songs and certainly influenced the song writing in drums.
RK: Lisa, I like your soprano voice. The higher tones sound extremely clean sung. Have or had you a classical vocal training?
LR: Thank you very much! No, unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to enjoy a singing study. I chose the ground-level variant and studied social work. From time to time, however, I take singing lessons and they always feel very enriching.
RK: In some of the songs you change almost playing between soprano and partly furious growls. How difficult is it to combine these different singing styles together?
LR: Personally, this is not so difficult. I would not say that I have a perfect technique – there is certainly still work to do, which I also do. Curiously, the change between growls and clean singing has never been overly difficult. Definitely, however, it is a technique to create this smoothly.
RK: Will you go on tour with the songs of the album? In Hamburg e.g. you were at last in 2015.
LR: I would not speak of a real tour now. We try to play as much as possible and will certainly be able to confirm some gigs. But when it comes to where we are, I cannot answer in advance – it is not just a financial thing, which is profitable and what is not. As a matter of principle we would love to play live as often as possible and live all over Germany. You can support us by talking to bookers or organizers, recommending us at festival-votings, etc. etc. …. We are definitely dependent on the support of each individual!
RK: Thanks for this interview. Do you want to tell your fans something else?
LR: We are happy about the many positive reactions to ‘Solar Empire’. If you like our music, support us and I hope we’ll see you at a future concert! Thank you for your time and all the best!