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Serenity : Melodies of Fallen Sanctuary

Interview with Mario Hizinger

A missed concert. . . A missed interview. . . So what is left to do? Meet the guys during my Munich holiday! Although Georg and Thomas were supposed to join us, due to prior obligations, they were unable to come. Therefore, I was left sitting with the somewhat shy, soft spoken and with a great sense of humor, keyboard player and founding member, Mario Hizinger, as well as Serenitys manager, Mario Lochert. With both I got to talk about the band, the music, and many other aspects pertaining to Serenity.

Virtual: First of all, lets talk about the creative process, how you come up with the songs.

Mario: OK, the creative process in Serenity. Its not that difficult because it all starts in my home of Tyrol, in a little home studio with guitarist Thomas, he is our creative center, he is the writer of almost 90%, sometimes more of Serenitys music. Over the years hes bought a lot of recording stuff and he has a nice place at the back of his bedroom where he can work on his own, completely separated from the rest of the world, being creative. Hes a kind of a phenomenon, when hes got no idea and he sits down to the computer, its amped with his guitar, starts riffing and (he softly laughs) fifty minutes later youll get a mail if youre sitting in front of the computer and he writes, Yeah, a new idea, and another half an hour later, Song is ready. You can listen to it, its attached to the email. Its really fascinating how he is creating music. He normally adds vocal lines, little ideas of vocal lines with the guitar to the song or a rough solo. . .

Virtual: The lyrics?

Mario: The lyrics. . . Thats my job in the band, yeah, but finishing what concerns the music. When these prototype songs are finished by Thomas, he sends them to us and then we meet in the rehearsal room and then see if they work in the band because its not said if you write a song in the computer in your home studio it will work with the band or in a live situation. So its very important to see if it works in the rehearsal room. Then we change parts, edit and delete parts or change them around in the song. When thats done we record it and. . .

Virtual: When do the lyrics come in?

Mario: The lyrics come in at the very end because our opinion is the lyric has to vow down the vocal line, so the vocal line is written before and Thomas and Georg do a demo recording with all the vocal lines and I sit down with the headphones and the mp3 player and listen to Georgs vocal lines, how he uses the syllables, the gravity of the syllables and according to that I write the lyrics.

Virtual: So where do the ideas for the lyrics come from?

Mario: (He laughs a bit mischievously) You said before you are very deep into the music and also in lyrics, so I wonder if you have an idea or a suggestion.

Virtual: In reality I could have a lot of ideas but I think its you who has to tell where the ideas come from.

Mario: OK. My work comes from a wide range of influences. It ranges from movies, books and stuff, from daily life. . . Uhm. . . Happenings. . .

Virtual: OK, which is your most personal song?

Mario: My most personal song. . . Uhm. . . Coldness Kills in the last album.

Virtual: Why?

Mario: Eeeh. . . Why? Its, yeah, the answer, its just given, its personal, its most personal, its. . . Its a song that will never get any other compared to it thats just as personal.

Virtual: (with a bit of surprise) You dont think youll ever write anything as personal again?

Mario: (He breathes deeply) At the moment I dont think so, because back then when I wrote that lyric it was exactly the mirror of my feelings back then, of the state I was in. It was winter, it was cold and I was alone, no girl around, you know, and I wrote it just down. Of course I knew it would be sung by Georg, but. . .

Virtual: Is it dedicated to anyone special?

Mario: No, no. No one special, its just a person who isnt there, but no special person.

Virtual: OK. You guys have had some changes in the band, how have you dealt with that?

Mario: The big line up change back in 2004 was uhm. . . We never thought it would happen but it was a very good opportunity and a good start in the future for a new Serenity. In the beginning it was planned as two bands with the new members it was planned as a project besides Serenity, with Simon, Georg and Thomas, but our former bass player, Stephan, said, Listen to these guys, they are perfect. Why not fuse the bands, make just one band and put all effort in being successful with this one band? And I quit and I left the place for the new bass player so it was a very difficult decision for him but it opened the way for us to go the way we are now on with Serenity. We are glad we did that back then, because otherwise we wouldnt have ended up here where we are now.

Virtual: Interesting how you handled it for the better. . . Sometimes such changes can cause problems for a band.

Mario: Yes. Of course there were suddenly three new guys in the band we didnt know before and there was also a difference in age because Im 33, Andys 32, and the other guys are now 20, 23 and Georg and Thomas are 27, so theres a bit of a difference. And of course there are some problems and some quarrels, uhm. . . (He laughs) We do not fight but we do have different opinions and different influences, but thats how life is, not every time theres happiness and peace, you know.

Virtual: Im curious to know when you talk about influences, in music what does an influence mean to you, how does it work?

Mario: Talking about music or lyrics?

Virtual: Either or both.

Mario: I can just talk for me as I write most of the lyrics because music Thomas does. Its something like when I read a book and often its just a simple line, and I think to myself, Wow, what an intelligent sentence or what, uhm. . . Its just like a blast and suddenly you think to yourself, A lyric that deals with this sentence, with this thought, would be great. So you just write down the page of the book, and that builds a lyric around that thought or that sentence. Or I go out, have some beers with friends and someone says something or something happens and your brain starts to work and you already have the first lines in your mind. But often I try to also insert word games in my lyrics or some hidden, not hidden messages, but hidden relations that are very hard to find if you dont know what I really wanted to say. And its the same with movies also, its not just the things that happen in a movie, its oftenly just the feel of the movie that gives you an idea for a lyric.

Virtual: Interesting. Why the name Serenity? After all, its a nice word, sound and meaning.

Mario: Actually Americans often ask, Are you a Christian band? (We both laugh) I think you get the point. And others ask us, Do you have to do something with Alcoholics Anonymous? Because theyve got this serenity prayer.

Virtual: I had no idea. That is pretty funny.

Mario: No? Thats also often related to us. Yes. The truth is I am a big fan of the British rock band Arena and on the Wizard album there is an instrumental track that is called Serenity and back in 2001, in the old line up when it came to the first gig, we didnt have a name, we searched for a name, I brought up some suggestions and I liked this instrumental track very much and I didnt know any other band with this name back then. I suggested it to the other guys and they said, Yes, its short, it sounds good, easy to remember, yeah, lets take it, why not? And its a positive name for a metal band that often uses some not so positive lyrics.

Virtual: OK. Most representative Serenity song, in your opinion.

Mario: At the moment, I think Sheltered by the Obscure. It was the third track we wrote for the last album and I think it contains everything that stands for Serenity, you know, the big melody lines, the chorus that sticks to your ear, the great orchestral parts, the metal parts, the riffing, the piano sounds, the feel of greatness. . .

Virtual: How would you describe Serenity?

Mario: We stand for big melodies in rather power metal shape with an orchestral covering, Id say. Sometimes we also have harsh moments, tormented riffs and also growling, (thoughtful pause) but all this together stands for Serenity.

Virtual: Tell me a little bit about the different band memebers.

Mario: (Before he can answer band manager Mario Lochert makes us laugh, so we start. . .) Should I start with the manager?

Virtual: Sure!

Mario: Mario, our Bavarian teddy bear (another unheard on the recorder management comment which makes us all laugh) We are very glad we found him or he found us, I dont know how it worked out. . .

Virtual: (I turn to Mario Lochert) So how did it happen?

Mario L.: He had asked me in the Summernights Festival 2008, I think, if I did do management as well and I said yes and after a few discussions between me, Georg and the band, we did plannings for the future and, well, we said OK, we want to try together and I think it works. I also do the sound of Serenity when they play live, I think I do a good job as well, and I think Serenity is satisfied with me as partner, manager, friend and sound engineer.

Mario: Yes, thats the truth and its always fun to be on tour with Mario. Of course, there are some times when hes just too funny, you know, you really like to talk a lot and to make jokes and its really often hard to stop him talking. . . And then its a little bit annoying but on the other hand, when we are on the road without him, something is missing! So, everyone in the band has the same opinion. So we are glad that weve found him, he does a good sound job for us, a good managing job, yes.

Virtual: OK, the rest of the band now.

Mario: The rest of the band. . . Georg is the Mozart of the band, the one who wants to move forward, to improve. . . Georg is the big motor of the band, the one who brings us forward, but who does a good management job, hes our link to the record company and he wants to be successful. He wants sometimes to have the band as the one profession, to quit the job and to live from the bands earnings. Thomas is the creative head of Serenity, who writes all the musical stuff or almost all the musical stuff. Hes a family guy, hes a daddy now, almost two years, and he likes to be comfortable, at home with his family, with his girlfriend. But sometimes he also likes to hang out with us and have some beers and then he gets very funny and laughs a lot! (He laughs again)

Virtual: How does he work out the band, the family, the job?

Mario: I think that its sometimes difficult for him, but in the last two years he learned how to handle it, in the best way. But sometimes, of course, hard times for him, but he knows and also his girlfriend knows that Serenity is so important for him, that he could not quit, he has to continue. And hes a good a guitarist. I think you cant find another experienced, metal guitarist like him in Tyrol, in our part of Austria. I dont believe it. Then, Andy, Andys the one with who I am in the band since ten years now, this Autumn. Hes a very nice person, when you get to know him you think hes a very silent guy, he never talks a lot, but when he says something, its very intelligent and you think, Wow, this guy, he know what its all about! And hes a good drummer and a good singer too. You know, when we do our quires, our demo quires in the rehearsal room, Georg sings the lead voice and then I try to find a second voice, this is sometimes difficult but for Andy its no problem, he switches from the second to the third voice even after a sixteenth pierce! Hes a really good musician. And Simon, Simon is also a quiet guy, a silent guy, but hes got a very good sense of humor, a kind of black humor also, but thats OK. Hes the youngest, hes 23 years old now. Hes also a good musician, a very experienced bass player, we have a lot of fun together. All in all, I have to say we are five completely different characters, but we fit very well together and have a lot of fun.

Virtual: Good! Now to another point. You all have jobs as well as the band, how do you handle job and band responsibilities?

Mario: In the last years we learned that we had to use all our holidays for the tours and at the time we signed the label contract, we talked about that. If we all would have the same opinion, if we are all willing to achieve success with the band, and everyone said yes. And so we knew what would happen to us and no one was angry when there was a tour ahead and we had to use our holidays for it. We talked about that with our bosses, and Thomas changed his job, I changed my job, so that everything got more comfortable with the band, they were the right decisions and everything below six weeks a year is OK for touring and so on, but everything which goes further is impossible at the point we are now. But we look into the future positively and hope to earn one day money with the band and quit the jobs. But I dont know how close this is to reality (and he laughs) Its difficult but not impossible.

Virtual: Earlier we talked about your most personal song in the album, now lets talk about another one, the one that gives the title and theme to the video, Velatum. Tell me about it, please. I think the video is pretty neat (he thanks me), but you need to listen to the lyrics, if not you are lost. Where did that idea come from?

Mario: (He smiles) Thats a long story.

Virtual: Make is short then!

Mario: Ok, Ill try to make it short. The lyric goes back to an archeological discovery in a part of Tyrol, a stone plate which is nearly 2000 years old, or something like that, and Georg was in this place with a team of university, doing excavations, and he heard this story, about a stone plate found in the eighties and they couldnt really date it back to the Romans or whatever or to the Celts, and after all these years the mystery of the stone plate, where it comes from. We engraved the signs on it and so I wrote the lyric (when) Georg told me the story and I wrote the lyric to his words. The lyric goes back to the days when the plate was engraved and to the threats the people were delivered to, nature and thats what made life hard, you know, like avalanches or heavy rain or thunder and lightning in the mountains. . .

Virtual: Yes, that comes out very clearly when you listen to the lyrics.

Mario: Yes. And although this is so far away, we are connected to these people because we are, they are our ancestors, and we have such a simple life now and we should be grateful for the life we have now because our ancestors had the hard life but pulled through.

Virtual: OK, I would talk about the rest of the songs, but I prefer to leave them for another day. So, before I finish, anything else you would like to add?

Mario: Yeah! We are going on tour now, two times in fall, and I hope to see as many fans as possible in front of the stage (Matthias from Emergency Gate enthusiastically adds I will come, I will come!) Great! We have one fan at least! So watch out, we are on tour with Edenbridge in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Germany in September (2009) and then with Threshold at the end of October and the beginning of November in the Netherlands, U.K., Germany, and Poland, the first time in Poland for Serenity! We are looking forward to that! And thanks to the fans who purchased our albums and I hope they will purchase the next one and they stay with us! And have a good time with our music.

Virtual: Well, thank you very much.

September 20, 2009
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