For the few lucky bands who live to see a career blossom out of their passion, even fewer manage to avoid the hopeless creative stagnation that happens when hobby turns into ”work”. We all know that as soon as rock n roll starts to resemble going to the office, there are no winners – everybody's screwed. As the German trio KADAVAR – arguably the hardest working band in European rock – stand on the brink of releasing their fourth full length album, they look back at a seven year long career of doing things the other way around. Rather than this being the time to start talking about how music is just another way of paying the bills, they could not be more in tune with the main reason anybody starts a band in the first place – liberation.
“We used to put ourselves under a lot of pressure,” says guitarist and vocalist Christoph ‘Lupus’ Lindemann. “We didn't want to be just another rock band, we wanted to be the best. Now we are free from the idea that we need to hit the charts or fill big halls to become happy. To get to that point everyone involved needs mental maturity, and this satisfies me more than any full arena.”
Not that they are strangers to neither chart positions nor sold out venues. After being formed in the German capital city back in 2010, the word of KADAVAR playing in a different league from their retro rock-labelled peers quickly spread worldwide, resulting not only in audiences growing past the 1000 mark on their many tours, but also in chart positions for their third and latest album »Berlin« – entering on position 18 in Germany and 21 in the US Heatseekers charts. Highly regarded as one of the most explosive live experiences on contemporary rock scene, their secret seems to be boiled down and brewed from three ingredients: an accessible yet personalized brand of classic rock; a no-frills approach to everything they do (”minimal arrangement, maximum effect”); and that undeniable German tenacity, yet again.
“Even in the early years there was somehow an implication that unless we gave it 120 per cent, nobody would ever recognise any of it,” says drummer Christoph ‘Tiger’ Bartlet. “That was one half. The other half was juvenile over-confidence!” Him and Lupus both grew up working class, the latter in an over-achieving family of athletes, which fuelled his competitive side (”in our family, the second best was the first loser”). Both studied sound engineering after high school, and met in the beer-drenched Berlin underground at night time, as you do. Inspiration struck when the new wave of retro rock flooded the scene in the mid-00s, and together they built KADAVAR on the foundation of a vintage sound with classic song structure – a conscious step away from the increasingly heavier stoner bands of the time (the name itself was inspired by the American underground heroes DANAVA). “If someone does a seven minute jam on one riff and sells it as something cool I think he is just too stupid to write a good song!” Lupus says. “We wanted to sound more like a heavy garage band. We still do, maybe now more than ever.”
Personality-wise, they couldn't be more different. Lupus is social and opinionated. An emotional straight-shooter, or ”East German” - as he himself sums it up. Where he wears his heart on his sleeve, Tiger on the other hand keeps his neatly tucked inside, only to be exposed to the outside world on stage. Where Lupus speaks, Tiger thinks.
“It's not by chance that he calls himself Lupus - ”wolf”,” the drummer says. “He has killer instinct and he is a loyal warrior. He is impulsive and it somehow feels like he enjoys being uncomfortable. Getting on the same page with him requires a lot of friction and a strong stance. It sounds rough, but I really like it.”
“Tiger takes the time it needs to really understand a situation and make a decision based on it. I trust him and rely on him and without him the band would be dead,” Lupus says. In between them two balances Simon ‘Dragon’ Bouteloup, the bassist who replaced the original member Phillip ‘Mammut’ Lippitz. There is nothing German about this Parisian bohemian. Simon spent his late teenage years drifting around Europe intuitively – just like his style of playing – later ending up with the infamous French psychonauts in AQUA NEBULA OSCILLATOR. He moved to Berlin in 2012 to play with THE OATH, and joined KADAVAR two years later.
“Simon is a really great, beloved person who changed the band so much. He has a totally different background music-wise, and also is attitude to life. If you don't give it time and learn how to slow down and listen to him, you will never find out who he is. But if you do a whole new world opens up,” Lupus says. “His dedication to music is remarkable,” Tiger adds. “That's something I've always adored about him.”
Together the trio form a uniqe symbiose, challenging each other to fill the sonic space between them when the curtain goes up – and to grow even closer after it's gone down.
“Being only three on stage does not give you much margin of error, so each and every one of us need to kick ass every night. But at least it gives everyone enough space to express himself, sonically and physically on stage,” Simon says.
In the beginning of 2017 the band prepared to start a new album cycle by literally rolling up their sleeves and building a brand new recording studio from scratch. Over 100 square metres inside an industrial complex in the area of Neukölln in Berlin is now their creative haven and workplace alike, and this is where the follow-up to »Berlin« has started to take form.
“We have been giving it quite a lot of thought, how we want to continue after the last album,” says Tiger. “Maybe I try not to only be a musician, but to think, write and play like an artist. It sounds corny, but I mean it in the way a brick layer differs from an architecht. Not to only lay brick by brick, but create a nice vision of a house with different rooms.” Intentionally or not, the act of manual labor – like building a house in arrival of a new baby – gives a poetic layer to the album process. “It is a big challenge,” Simon says. “But also a positive period where we are able to question everything we've already established in order to move forward as a band. We would not respect ourselves and our followers by putting out just another KADAVAR album. It needs to be different and hopefully better!”
They might have eased up on the competitive attitude, but don’t believe for a second the hunger is gone. Take it from the wolf himself: “When you realise you have taken it to the next level, where you can live from music and see the world – you work your ass off to keep that. What else should we do? We are useless in the normal world. And maybe it looks harder than it is...”