25 years and eight albums in, Hanzel und Gretyl continues to weave nightmarish tales of the black forest; expect no happy fairy tale endings as Vas Kallas and Kaizer Von Loopy speak now with ReGen.
An InterView with Vas Kallas and Kaizer Von Loopy of Hanzel und Gretyl
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
For 25 years, the New York duo of Hanzel und Gretyl has eschewed virtually all musical conventions to weave a wholly singular and nightmarish fairy tale of its own. With the band’s juxtaposition of Teutonic programmed rhythms and martial riffs, topped off by an amalgam of German and English lyrics, Vas Kallas and Kaizer Von Loopy have stood on the fringes of electronic and heavy metal, creating a sound that is often categorized as industrial/metal, but in many cases defies even that most inadequate of terms. It’s not uncommon for the band to blend in touches of Wagnerian operatic pomp and searing techno backdrops, marking a satirical and surreal musical territory that has now brought the band full circle to what is referred to as the “Grimm Shiza” era – incorporating darker, more black metal influences and taking greater inspiration from the morbid tales of the Brothers Grimm, Hanzel und Gretyl released its eighth album in 2018, Satanik Germanik, which may be the band’s bleakest and heaviest album to date. ReGen Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Vas Kallas and Kaizer Von Loopy about this latest stage in the band’s musical evolution after 25 years, touching on the themes of the black forest, touring, an aversion to politics, and what the future yet holds for HuG!
This year not only marks the release of Hanzel und Gretyl’s eighth full-length album, but also the band’s 25th anniversary. Reflecting on the band’s history, what are your thoughts on your development over the years?
How do you feel your process has evolved, not just over the course of your career, but even between this current album and the last?
In what ways do you feel you’ve surpassed your original goals for the band?
Conversely, what do you feel you’ve yet to achieve?
Von Loopy: We always took things as they came with the intent to always be recording and touring and hopefully carving out some kind of living while we’re at it! Anything beyond that to me is serendipitous! I have yet to surpass my goal of hosing down the audience with beer and crushed ice while being bombarded by bratwurst cannons… as I robot onstage with a chorus line of überfraus in latex dirndls!
Satanik Germanik continues along the ‘Grimm Shiza’ style that the band began with Black Forest Metal. First of all, can you tell us more about how you came into this era? What motivated the shift towards heavier metal and the Brothers Grimm aesthetic?
Von Loopy: The transition to a darker, more morbid play on the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale was a no-brainer! And the black metal aesthetic and sound fit perfectly for what we were now envisioning for the band’s current direction.
If you actually read the fairy tale, it’s pretty fukken black metal!!
More music today seems to utilize technology and incorporate elements of ‘industrial’ production, such that they’ve become standard. What are your thoughts on the validity of the term ‘industrial/metal,’ particularly as it pertains to Hanzel und Gretyl?
Von Loopy: When we started, I knew I liked Slayer and I liked Kraftwerk as these two bands to me represented the alpha and omega in their respective genres – metal and electronic. Like Vas mentioned, we didn’t really think we were industrial; we felt bands like Neubauten and other more experimental acts that actually employed objects like power tools, banging on car hoods and aluminum beer kegs were industrial. Consequently, we discovered if you were adding electronics to your metal or vice versa, you were now industrial. Okay.
The band is no stranger to controversy, even though your music and image has always been with a sense of satire and whimsy. Although not overtly political, what are your thoughts on the current political climate? Particularly as it pertains to Hanzel und Gretyl’s music and image?
Kallas: I am a firm believer that politics do not belong in music. We get enough of that chaos in our daily news feed. Music is an escape from reality. Lyrics are colors that paint a portrait – a landscape, which is the song, the art, the escape, the dream. Therefore, I will never discuss politics, anywhere, anyhow, for any reason.
Von Loopy: I think the current political climate is positively surreal and so are we.
You’ve toured quite extensively; from what you’ve observed, what aspect(s) of touring have become more difficult (both for you individually and in a broader sense)?
Von Loopy: One’s approach to touring will change after enough trial and error. What you learn hopefully is how to avoid getting sick, losing large sums of money and your iPhone charger, and overpacking your suitcase. One thing that we are adamant about after so many years of touring is getting awesome hotels. We probably make more of an effort these days to arrange for time off in certain places to enjoy the local culture.
What’s next for HuG?
Von Loopy: We are taking the time to refine and perhaps upgrade our live show experience. We haven’t had the time or space to really focus on how we would prefer to deliver a performance at the level we feel fully capable of doing because we have been in a perpetual state of recording CDs then touring extensively. We have chosen this time to address this and look forward to getting back out with a laser-like vengeance in 2019!