Feeling more anger, and conversely more love and forgiveness than ever before, German industrial/electro-pop act Rotersand provides a beacon of light in dark times, asking you How Do You Feel Today?
An InterView with Rascal “Rasc” Nikov & Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg of Rotersand
By Brian H. McLelland (BMcLelland)
Since the band’s inception in 2002, Rotersand has been breaking down the barriers between the harder edges of EBM and industrial/dance with the more melodic aspects of synthpop. Helmed by vocalist Rascal Nikov and producer Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg, the pair have been a regular staple of the European electronic scene, topping the Deutsche Alternative Charts (DAC) several times, performing at such prominent festivals as M’era Luna, Dark City Festival, Infest, and Wave Gotik Treffen, as well as touring with fellow futurepop trailblazers as Assemblage 23, Covenant, and VNV Nation. Although the band ceased live activity for several years due to the singer’s health issues, Rotersand returned with renewed vigor with the remixed rerelease of the Truth Is Fanatic debut in 2014, followed by Capitalism TM in 2016, and the March 2020 release of How Do You Feel Today?. With this new record, Nikov and Wesenberg build upon and strengthen the foundations of Rotersand’s sound, with poignant lyrics that are as topical as they are emotional, addressing the darkness of the status quo and offering a beacon of light and hope for those willing to listen; as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, the duo explains that there could be no better time for their music to be heard in this special conversation with ReGen Magazine.
‘Hot Ashes’ is a haunting reminder of just how much the fight against fascism remains. What inspired the song and how does it fit into the album’s themes at large?
If you could have the entire world listen to only one song off How Do You Feel Today?, which would it be and why? What does that song mean to you?
Rasc: I wouldn’t think of songs; I would think of lyrics being condensed feelings. I want to sing with the entire world, ‘Love shall remain’ (‘Silence’). I would say, let’s not focus too much on differences; let’s focus on what we all share, what we all have in common, as ‘We all have an element of doom, an element of life, an element of faith, an element of hope, an element of love, and an element of truth’ (‘Elements’). And I would say that the only way to heaven, whatever the word for heaven might be in your religion, goes right through our hearts (‘Heart of Love’).
Why was ‘You Know Nothing’ the first single off the most recent record?
Rasc: Because it is a club hit.
Wesenberg: …and it accompanies the album title very well.
How do you think this album differs from 2016’s Capitalism TM and the rest of the Rotersand discography?
Rasc: We never felt more anger before, and we never felt more love and forgiveness before at the same time. It sounds crazy and it is crazy, but these times are crazy. Everything we have said since and with Truth Is Fanatic has become true. So how shall we feel?
What influences, musically, went into the album?
Wesenberg: Everything that carries a blend of melancholy, longing, defiance, and a glimpse of positivity. I tend to find these aspects in classical Detroit techno and in the wider field of soul and funk. I guess it doesn’t translate directly musically in Rotersand’s sound, but I hope we sometimes got this spirit a bit in our own way and form.
Rasc: And that’s exactly where we meet – in the depth of a Derrick May or Kevin Saunderson tune, in the melancholy of an old Pink Floyd song, in the emotional intensity of Tears for Fears’ ‘The Hurting,’ in the strong will to get lost in a Chemical Brothers or Underworld rave tune.
Describe your approach to composing music? How does a song go from nothing to big, bombastic bass lines and thundering drums? Where do these anthems come from?
Rasc: They come out of time. They start most of the time as a tiny spark of inspiration – a melody, a sound, words, and a vocal line. My way is typically vocal lines and a chord progression on my acoustic guitar. Sometimes it can be a synth line and a vocal melody.
What’s the meaning behind ‘Alive’ from 2005’s Welcome to Goodbye? Could you talk a little bit about the song’s lyrical significance?
Rasc: The song is written out of the perspective of Judas Iscariot.
How have you grown as an artist from Truth Is Fanatic to How Do You Feel Today??
What comes next for Rotersand? What does the future look like for you, as an artist?
Tell us something good, what are you enjoying right now?
Rasc: In Corona times, I feel strongly connected with my people even though we cannot meet physically. That’s a strong and great experience in times of fear, loss, and uncertainty.