Rock City: Tell our readers in a short summary about the band history of Shamall!
Norbert: 40 years of DJing at the Aladin in Bremen – of course that leaves traces! In short words, you could say that in 1984 my first musical synthesizer experiments started – at that time the project was still nameless. Even before I became a DJ, I was touring as opener for many bands in Germany (for example Grobschnitt, Eloy, Kraan, Birth Control, Kin Ping Meh). So Shamall was actually just a return to the passion of my youth, to bring more creativity into my everyday DJ life. It was the time when synthesizers could suddenly do more than just wind and rain and I, as a tireless “play child”, which I still am, was brought home an ARP by the company “Musik Produktiv”, who were also the house supplier of the Aladin. On this machine I played day and night. And you can hardly believe it – the first result was the classic “Caligula 2009”, which still can’t be killed today. Of course this song had to be tested at Aladin. Due to its on the one hand psychedelic, dark-wavey mood plus powerful rhythm, which immediately took you along, this number completely unexpectedly ensured a very fast, unstoppable success. The important earcatcher numbers for the record companies at that time (in order to get a record deal in the first place), were 1986 “My Dream” and 1987 the successor “Feeling like a stranger”. Due to the disco boom of the time, the tracks quickly traveled around the world. Which led to the fact that “My Dream” and “Caligula” (as a B-title) were faster in Istanbul than I was.
It was really nice what we had conjured up there. I find that “Caligula” is still a very cool track, but actually I’m more of an “alternative freak”. This alternative sound had also characterized the Aladin for decades. And a bit wackier with ultra-long solos and epic effects was more what I had in mind. Without having aimed at it, the mid 80s was the time when suddenly every disco from here to Italy had a huge laser system to advertise to the public. Somehow I must have had an ear for what people liked and what offered new musical challenges for me. Maybe it was just because I was a hopeless “light freak” and had already developped possible light shows in my mind while making music. In any case, this led to the fact that all over Europe in the giant discos with laser equipment at that time, the music of Shamall was very often used for their laser shows. The resulting increase in popularity was completely unexpected, but of course it was simply great!
While working as a DJ, you are often unconsciously constantly evolving. You hear new bands and new sounds, new ways of playing, which of course unconsciously influence what you do. “Journey to a Nightmare” was my first longplayer in 1989 and the first album that reflected my musical ambitions at that time, as I still think today. In this style I produced six more albums until 1998, before I put my music to the test again. Logically I liked everything I had done until then, but this experimental rock with down-to-earth guitars and also with vocals – however – suddenly I missed it all. Whether it was because of the time or the feeling that in the purely electro-psychedelic corner musically it’s all said. Somehow I wanted the music to be spacy, but with more rock. And as a self-confessed fan of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Manfred Mann etc., I wanted to find out at that time what I had to say about my own ideas in this direction. I’ve always liked music that doesn’t sound like a “drawing board composition”. Just music where you can’t necessarily predict what’s coming next.
During this time I met my still best friend Matthias Mehrtens – an excellent guitarist – who has accompanied me musically since then. First little guitar snippets from him can be heard already in 1998 on the album “Influences” – which was also supposed to be the last album of the more psychedelic, pure electronic era. Since the turn of the millennium Matthias can be heard as a regular accompanist on every Shamall album. Finally, in 2010, I met Anke Ullrich. Anke has a completely different musical background. Nevertheless, more for fun than anything else, we initially did some sessions. It turned out that she knew how to enrich the Shamall music with her singing with great empathy.
Rock City: How did it come to such an elaborate double album in 2020 and why? It is a very expensive action!
Norbert: Already as a DJ I preferred records with an expressive cover, because I was of the opinion that covers visually reflect the music – which is true in most cases. When I think of releases by Marillion, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Eloy – just to name a few examples. Shamall had developed from a mood and I somehow managed not to sink into the swamp of boredom as „forever old” even after 36 years. Shamall has evolved into epic rock, which I like to call “cinematic rock” myself. Consequently, the covers have to be epic for me as well. Therefore, the question for me is not “how cheaply can I press my music that I’ve been working on for ages?!” For me, it’s a “big picture.” They are a part of me personally. I always want to feel like if I should close my eyes tomorrow, at least I left something good behind. At the very least, this view has led to Shamall records being bought unheard by fans to this day. And I am very proud of this trust.
Rock City: How did you come up with the album title and why?
Norbert: In my perception the world has changed completely. On this album I dealt with the ignorance of the human species towards the current social and ecological problems – freely according to the motto: “We all actually know what’s going wrong and just do nothing.” I find that schizophrenic.
Rock City: How would you describe and characterize your musical style to someone who is not yet familiar with you?
Norbert: Radio stations and other newspaper and magazine reviewers often describe Shamall’s music as spacey neoprog with hints of hard rock and prog metal as well as art rock. I make it a bit easier for myself and describe them as “awesome, cinematic rock music”. I always can’t do anything with all these pigeonholes. Therefore there is only good and bad music for me. Since my own music gives me goosebumps, at least it’s good for me 😉
Rock City: What musical influences do you have to report?
Norbert: We always just make music without thinking much about what or who it might sound like. Fans, however, have a fixed idea, in which bands like Pink Floyd, Marillion, Alan Parsons, Ayreon, Manfred Mann, Tangerine Dream, even Boston are mentioned again and again.
Rock City: Your further plans?
Norbert: After the “marathon” album Schizophrenia, on which I worked for almost 6 years, early plans for 2020 were put on hold for health reasons. Recently, the first sketches for the next album have been made. First lyrics for the next album are written and first preliminary working arrangements are recorded