Tommy Schweizer

The Burden Remains

THE BURDEN REMAINS from Switzerland might eventually be the next best thing in Progressive Thrash Metal and their new album, "Fragments", via Czar Of Crickets Productions proves how open minded they truly are. Matt Coe talked to Vocalist / Bassist, Tommy Schweizer, regarding the band, perception of its music, and more.
By Matt Coe
June 28, 2014
Interview - Tommy Schweizer (The Burden Remains) interview
Hi Tommy, how have you been?  Thanks for taking the time for this interview.

Hey, I'm doing absolutely great! We're having a blast at the TBR front!

Tell us about your first memories surrounding music – who got you interested in music, and when did you make the move from being a music fan to picking an instrument and playing in bands?

Well, when I was about five years old I constantly listened to cassette tapes with stories and music from different composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach or Vivaldi. So, because of those cassettes I later on started playing the Cello at about 8 years old.

I guess the main reason why I ultimately started plying in bands is my father. He used to tell me stories of how it was when he played in rock bands and I suppose that's when my interest started. He also used to play bass in those bands, so in the beginning he let use his old G&L Bass. I realized many years after that what an awesome bass that was and that it must have meant a lot to my dad that I had such an interest in music.

Did you take any lessons growing up- or gain special instruction through your schooling? And do you think it's important to have a little bit of understanding in regards to music theory if you are more of a 'play by ear' musician?

Ha! The theory-question is the question of the year! But I'll get to that later… I've been going to instrument lessons since I was eight years old. In the beginning it was about ten years of classical Cello. Later I started taking guitar-, piano- and vocal lessons. Part of it was due to a personal interest and part was mandatory for my education as a music teacher. So, for me, practical  music has always come hand in hand with music theory. But to be quite honest, I love music theory! Yes, I'm a geek… For the last 2,5 years I've been teaching guitar lessons at a music school and I am constantly confronted with the question "how much theory is necessary and how much is just too much?".

I'll put it this way: The main goal in music is to actually PLAY music, so one might only need to now how to read notes (guitar, bass or drum don't even need that). The rest of the theory-knowledge can help your songwriting skills. There are many interesting Chord-approaches that Jazz players use, but that are equally useable in Heavy Metal. Also soloing can get a lot more interesting if you now when to play one single note at the perfect time (for example the major 7 note, in a minor scale, when you play the 5the chord as a major- not a minor-chord).

But for rock musicians I'd say groove is the most important of all, and you do not need theory-knowledge to groove! Just listen to a lot of music and play a lot. The best way is to copy licks or riffs from your favorite bands and later on adapt them to your own style.

How did the formation of THE BURDEN REMAINS shape up out of the remnants of CIDERAID? Did all of the members have previous experience within other metal bands in the Swiss scene?

The transition from CIDERAID to THE BURDEN REMAINS happened when we released our first "big" album "Downfall of Man". Up to that point we had released a few Demos and EP's under the name Cideraid, but were never happy with that name and so when it was time for our first professional album we thought "Now or never!". So that's when we changed the name, but we're still the exact same people playing in the band, as we were when we started out.

Your first album "Downfall of Man" came out in the fall of 2011. How do you feel the songwriting and recording sessions went for this record, were there any particular difficulties or surprises that came up that you would like to talk about?

That album was to be our first "professional" album, so naturally we wanted it to be as good as possible. So for the songwriting process we really took our time to arrange and re-arrange and re-re-arrange the songs. During that period we even worked with two producers and our pre-production was basically an entire album production in its self.

In retrospect the album is too overproduced and our live sets have a lot more edge to the songs than on the album. But you know, that's totally ok. We're really proud of the first record and our current album "Fragments" wouldn't sound it the way it does if it hadn't been for the whole Downfall-process.

A year later the interestingly entitled "The Bikini Blues-Sessions" EP comes out. Why did you decide to only record a 3 song effort – was it in hopes of shopping the product for a record deal, or did you not have enough material ready for a second full length album?

Actually none of that. I'll explain the concept: The idea was, to write, arrange, record, mix/master and release three songs in one week. And in that week people had the opportunity to watch us the entire time via live-stream. It was kind of a "metal-songwriting goes big brother"-thing. We wanted to give folks the real insight of how we write music, how we discuss things and how we record them. So actually, since we only had one week, three songs was totally enough! It was just something for us to stay creative and have fun! That was also when we noticed that we really liked recording live, which ultimately was how we recorded "Fragments".

The new album "Fragments" comes out on Czar of Crickets Productions, and is an impressive album to me as your music has progressive, alternative, and thrash nuances that along with your multi-layered vocal approach keep your brain and ears on high alert. Where do you see the development of the band stylistically on this album, and what are some of your favorite moments?

Thanks man, that's really nice of you! We definitely feel that our music has developed in some levels. I think a main aspect of our current music is that we are very open to our influences: A few years ago we all listened to a ton of metal and so our music was a lot more riff-orientated. Now we all listen to very different music. One guitar player listens to a lot of blues-rock, one is a fan of post-rock, our drummer has begun to listen to pop-music (damn!) and I'm into progressive stuff like CYNIC, MASTODON and DEVIN TOWNSEND and at the moment I listen to a lot of choir-music from Eric Whitecare. We still listen to heavy metal, but  the other styles do influence us very much.

In the metal-scene there are many bands that are awesome, but unfortunately they kind of release the same album again and again! You know what I mean? That's not our groove at all… We want to stay creative and not stand still at one point for too long. That has advantages and disadvantages: The good thing is, you stay creative and keep on pushing yourself. But on the other hand, the chances are bigger that your fans won't like what you do and also, you can't "perfect" a style of music… But that's ok for us. The main goal is, and always has been, that we have fun with what we do.

There are many moments on the record that I really like. For instance, the middle bridge in the song "…And I beheld the Strings" when the Hammond-Organ kicks in. That was the very first time that we had the balls to actually use a new instrument for overdubs. Or I also dig the vocals in the song "Keep to the Script", especially the verse where I use my head voice. That's not a very metal thing to do, but who cares?!

How do you compare the band in a studio setting versus playing live- and what have some of your favorite shows been with the band through the years?

When we're on stage we have a very strong Rock n' Roll attitude. It's more important for us to give the audience a good live-show, than it is to play absolutely perfect. So, it has happened that I fall over on stage or that Jenny hits his head on something while head banging. In the Studio we try to capture our live groove, but at the same time we try to be as tight as possible.

We've had many cool moments these last past years. Of course opening up for MEGADETH, ST.VITUS or VOIVOD was awesome. But we've also had great fun at other gigs, like once when we played in Lausanne at the Metal Assault Festival: That evening none of us was really in gig-mode and we just wanted to play and go home… but in the end it turned out to be one of the coolest gigs ever! Since then we still love playing in Lausanne.

Our release party for "Fragments" was pretty fun too: We had four stages, worked with a surround-system and even had eight tambours come help us out for the song "A Thousand Lives". That was some crazy shit!

What would you say are your top 5 all-time metal albums that you couldn't live without- and what are a couple of the best shows that you've personally witnessed as a metal fan?

Difficult… Top five metal albums would be (in no particular order): NEVERMORE – Dreaming Neon Black and This Godless Endeavor; MACHINE HEAD – The Blackening; METALLICA – Master of Puppets; TESTAMENT – The Gathering… Of course, there are so many other amazing albums out there. I also love pretty much every MASTODON album

One great live moment was at a BEHEMOTH concert, that band is pure evil live. No bullshit or wanna-be bad ass. The whole theatrical element works extremely well with their music. Another awesome live band is a post-black metal band called CELESTE. They turn of all the room lights and wear red head lights. I think I saw Satan that evening…!
Machine Head and Metallica are great live bands too, they have a shitload of positive energy.

Where do you see the state of the metal scene in 2014? Where do you think things are going well- and what improvements need to be made to keep things healthy for future generations to treasure?

I'm not quite sure… The problem with the music industry and all the downloading stuff, is that I think there's kind of an overflow of options: It's really easy now-a-days to get as much music as you want and to discover new bands every day, but at the same time, because of all the new music, I think people don't take the time anymore to really listen to music. I mean, REALLY take the time and listen very concentrated to music. So, that's kind of a down side in the scene right now.

The cool thing about the metal scene is that, in comparison with other music scenes, there actually is a very loyal fan base. As a band you can always count on some metal heads being around for your gig and talk to those people and have a good time. But where the scene is heading, I have no idea…

Do any of the members share any particular interests or hobbies outside of music? And do you think it's important to maintain friendships to develop successful band chemistry?

Yeah, we all do a lot of stuff outside of the band. Phippu plays a lot of soccer, Jenny is the most social guy out there and is constantly hanging out with friends and Silu is specializing on a hobby called women.

I think it's the key for a long lasting band to be good friends. We've been great friends for the last 10 years and because of that we can communicate in a very good way at practices. We tell each other exactly what we think but maintain a mutual understanding, so that there's no loss of respect. And I think, because of our friendship, if ever someone would quit the band for whatever reason, we couldn't continue under the name THE BURDEN REMAINS. It just wouldn't work anymore. Bud that ain't ever going to happen!

What concerns you most about the world we live in today?

Well, I still kind of hope that "global warming" actually will happen, cause at the moment, I'm freezing my ass off! Other than that, as a teacher, the general school system is big problem in my opinion, but that's a very long story…

Has the band started the songwriting process for album number three- and if so, do you think the band will continue to refine its sound or are you pretty content in the direction you've established through "Fragments"?

We haven't started writing as a band yet. There are many ideas out there, that were already  finished at the time of FRAGMENTS but will probably develop and hopefully be good enough for the next album. We'll see. I can't really say what direction of music we'll be playing on the next one. I can imagine that we'll stay on our current course, cause we really feel comfortable playing this kind of music. But the cool thing with our band is, that we always stay true to our influences and if by any chance we all start listening to ANDREW LOYED WEBBER, well, then we'll write a friggin' musical!

Tell the readers what the rest of 2014 looks like in terms of shows, videos, tours, and promotional activities for the band?

At the moment we're concentrating on promoting the new album and playing gigs foremost in Switzerland. That will be the main focus for fall/winter. After that maybe a small tour would be cool, but we don't have any exact plans at the moment.

We'll also release some video clips in the near future. And because our manager is totally awesome and creative, we'll probably pull some kind of promo stunt sometime soon… It never gets boring in our band!

Thanks a lot Tommy for the interview, I wish you guys the best, any last words for the readers?

Thanks a lot for having us on board, we really appreciate the support. And some last words: Folks, go give FRAGMENTS a spin, we put a lot of time and energy into the album and are extremely proud of the result.

And last, but not least: Spread the löve! 

crossmenucross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram