Fear My Thoughts | Interview with Patrick Hagmann

Who hadn’t thought about moving job, city or even wife once in their lifetime? As everything in life, sometimes we feel an impulse to move ahead or simply evolve into other directions in order to feel fully fulfilled and accomplished.
Germans Fear My Thoughts had felt a similar impulse recently and opted to give a new route to their musical career on their sixth album “Isolation”.
A transformation that coincided with a change of vocalists, previous singer Mathias Ockl displeased with the new evolution decided to quit and was replaced by Martin Fische, who possess a more dynamic and melodic voice. As obvious, this newfound sonority brought a backlash of negative feelings among their fan base. Nothing that Fear My Thoughts weren’t already expecting according to guitarist Patrick Hagmann.

It doesn’t really sound like the old Fear My Thoughts anymore! The sound is unrecognizable against past releases! It is not Metal enough! These are some of the expressions commonly used by some press and fans to define the new record of Fear My Thoughts entitled “Isolation”.
The successor of “Vulcanus” definitely marks a new and bold chapter in the career of the Germanic group and the reactions that it has collected are not entirely unexpected to the band members. You were aware that some fans, especially the more conservative ones wouldn’t quite understand the evolution carried out by the band right?

“Sure, we were aware of that and we expected these reactions. But what can we do? We are artists and creative minds, so in the first place we have to like the music. If we would write music just to please the listener that would be the "Sell-out" many people are blaming us now for. But Fear My Thoughts was always about change and discovery and challenge. If you listen to all our records, you will recognize that we never sounded the same.”

What was the most incomprehensible reaction the band already had the chance to read or to observe, I’m particularly reminded of the strange associations to Gothic and Emo music?

“Oh, there were a few, haha. Next to "you guys are gothics and emos now" it was the use of the term "Nu Metal" in a few reviews, and someone said that our singer sounds like a mix of Warrel Dane (Nevermore) and Reamonn (I don’t know if this guy is known outside of Germany, he had this hit "Supergirl"...really shitty Pop-Rock-Stuff, haha)
Oh and that Martin can’t sing... really funny, haha.”

As mentioned above, the sound of Fear My Thoughts have evolved into wider directions, it’s more emotional, darker and very honestly it’s more interesting than previous propositions, especially the somehow disappointing “Vulcanus”.
I presume that the band wasn’t entirely satisfied with final result of that work and wanted to try out new options that matches your musical tastes right?

“Vulcanus” was quoted as our best effort so far by many fans and magazines, and for us it’s still a really good album. But after that we had the feeling that everything was said in this direction. But we were totally happy with that album when we recorded and released it. We still love to play the “Vulcanus” songs live, and our "new" singer Martin can sing these songs really aggressive.”

I’m aware that the necessity to try out and expand into other horizons led former vocalist Mathias Ockl to quit the band due to musical divergences with the remaining elements. This incompatibility was demonstrated at the very beginning when the band discussed the possibility to evolve into other directions or it manifested during the composition of the new themes?

“Thing is we never discussed about heading into this new direction. It just happened in the song writing process. We tried or even forced ourselves to write songs in the “VULCANUS” way, but it didn’t work out, it wasn’t honest. So we let it flow, and wrote these songs and were happy with it! Except our old singer who wanted to keep the old style. We said to him that we can’t force ourselves to write music that doesn’t come out naturally by itself. So he decided to leave, besides other reasons in his private life.”

Exit Mathias Ockl, enter Martin Fischer, an old friend of the band whose vocal performance reveals to be more diverse and melodic and fits perfectly in the new and reinvigorated sonority of Fear My Thoughts. The ability of the new vocalist Martin to produce more diverse and emotional vocalisations allowed the band to explore new sounds or the songs were already written when he jumped onboard?

“Three or four songs were already written, when Martin joined us. We didn’t change them drastically, Martin just put his Vocals on it and it fitted perfectly. After that change, Martin was really much incorporated in the song writing process, since he’s also a great guitar player (he’s a guitar teacher) and piano player and knows a lot about musical theory, despite the opinion of many people. He’s more responsible for the arrangements of the darker and brutal songs on “Isolation”. He’s not the "Pop-guy" like many people expect. Some of his favourite bands are Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon and Melvins.”

With a new album exploring wider sonorities and a new and talented vocalist, have Fear My Thoughts set new goals for themselves?

“Not really, haha. We never plan that much. We just write music and play shows.”

“Isolation” is getting a lot of attention and recognition, so do you still manage to conciliate your day jobs with the increasing activities of the band?
I see for example that Fear My Thoughts will team up with Dark Tranquillity and Poisonblack for a tour across Europe in October.

“We have to! Actually we’re happy that we don’t have to live off the band’s income. If we would have to care for that, we wouldn’t have the freedom to write an album like “Isolation”, it would be too risky. But we don’t work fulltime in our jobs, and our bosses are quite supportive, haha.”

For the first time in their career, Fear My Thoughts have opted to produce and record an album by themselves at Black Halo Studios which is owned by guitarist Patrick Hagmann, only hiring the services of famed producer Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Soilwork, and Strapping Young Lad) to handle the mixing duties and vocal recordings. Did you felt comfortable with this process? Some bands tend to loose objectiveness when they opt to produce themselves without the help of an external pair of ears.

“We know each other for so long now and since most of us come from a social worker/teacher background job-wise, we have pretty good methods to stay patient and calm, and to organize work, haha.
So it went actually pretty smooth, although it was a lot of work. But we liked the idea to sleep in our own beds next to our wives/girlfriends. We didn’t want to spend another 3 or 4 weeks in some studio 1000km away. That’s fun in the beginning, but annoying after a week.
But Daniel Bergstrand had some great ideas during the mix. He’s such a great guy, and has a unique way of working and being creative. He hates modern studio technology and he doesn’t use any digital effects or plug-ins.”

The end result is quite striking and organic, I believe it was intentional to strip down the recordings to a bare minimum of effects and overdubs right?

“Exactly! We were bored of these super-bombastic productions. We wanted to have this live feeling. It was supposed to sound how we really are. Just two guitars, one natural drum-set, a bass and a voice (that isn’t doubled for 95%).

Will you try out to set a career behind the mixing desk?

“At the moment, it’s still like a hobby for me, but I’m quite serious about it. I produce more and more bands, at the moment it’s KATE ON CRACK, the new band of our old drummer. They play a great mix of Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Biffy Clyro. But I also love my job as a social worker in an institute for handicapped people.”

What can we expect from Fear My Thoughts in the near future?

“You’ll never know, haha. First of all we want to play many energetic shows with a mix of old and new songs, then we’ll see...”