INTERVIEW: Kurt Bachman of Believer
by Adam Warner
Hey Kurt, how are you doing?
It is widely known that you left the industry to pursue medical research, are you finding it hard to leave that to come back to Believer?
Well, I’m not actually leaving it. The nice thing is that I’m pretty flexible. And the way we developed the Believer business plan if you will, we really take into account… I love the science and the research. It’s one of those things where, I have logs I have to do and assign, what’s amazing is that we’re in a very fortunate situation where I can really… well, they’re far enough apart that I can take a break from them to pursue other things. But ya know, even like playing live or something like that, we talk to everybody. We like to play live, get out there and play live shows. We want to drop into a mini-tour and have a good time. Gives us a chance to get out and play for our fans and also you know, make ourselves available through Podcasts and things like that.
Was there something specific that made you come back to the industry?
Actually, location. I moved closer by the studio. Joey was playing in another band and he calls me up and he’s like ‘hey, can you help us out with a few things’. And I was like ‘ya, sure’ and so that put a little bit of a buzz back in me. So Joey and I started talking and we were like well why don’t we get back together and see what happens? Kind of for old time sake. We got together and we found that the chemistry was still there. And we started writing again. And it just clicked and everything from that point on snowballed. We have our own studio, we do our own production work. And so it wasn’t like we needed to go out and find a record label and get signed to record songs. We recorded them and then some of our friends from the music industry from our past were like ‘ya know what, let’s put this out’. So that’s how the whole thing evolved.
Was the writing process on “Gabriel” any different than previous records?
Yes and no. I mean, we went into the record saying we’re not going to put out one of our old albums. I mean, I think a lot of people would have probably liked that, but the thing is that we’ve done that already. We want to move on, ya know we’re into heavy music. We like writing it and playing it. But we all like different types of music and we all bring that to the band. The one thing that was really different about writing on this one was that I may come up with a riff, and before I may have said ‘no, too simple to play’ or something like that. The riffs we created that sounded cool to our ears, we kept it no matter how easy we thought it was. And we focused a little bit more on the songs entirety, rather than this is a cool part, let’s just wedge it in somewhere. But I think there was a little bit of maturity there in the song writing process. One of the songs I was writing it on bass, and the drums were going crazy, so we just melded it and made it work. Things like that.
It’s been a long time since you were in the media eye, do you think you’re going to get more of the old fans excited your back or a bunch of new fans who want to see what you’re about?
Ya know it’s a great question. Every once in a while someone on myspace will say ‘hey, check this out’ or whatever. There’s a lot of older fans coming back that are mentioning our old albums. Saying that they still listen to our old albums and all of that. It’s amazing to see a bunch of 17 year olds running around going ‘hey, heard about you guys’. So this is all, even though it’s our fourth record, all very new to us. When we were putting out the other albums we didn’t have the internet. It’s the truth and now with the record label behind us, all sorts of new people are starting to hear about us when they never have before. We’re still flattered that they’re giving us a shot. We have a three record deal with Metal Blade and it is a new world out there.
With you mentioning that when you started back in the day, the internet wasn’t a major element for Believer, what do you feel about the fact that a lot of music is being downloaded versus being purchased on CD’s?
Great question because when we had gotten it mastered, they sent us the track as MP3 and they were medium to high quality; ya know the same quality that a lot of people have usually. When we got the disc though, it was unbelievable. There was so much more depth than in the MP3, it really lost a lot. It’s one of those things where there’s the illegal downloading but I think what bothers me even more about it, I mean it’s good to have the money coming into the record label so we can do another album, but what bothers me is the production. I mean we have our own studio, but we want people to really hear what we’re playing. When I know people are getting subpar quality MP3’s and they’re judging us on that, I think that pisses me off a little bit.
With regards to the quality you were mentioning between MP3 and CD, the album really is fantastic, it’s extremely technical, it’s fast, it’s heavy but yet you have these moments of clarity. The message you’re transmitting seems Christian in nature. Do you get a lot of negative feedback from that community?
It’s interesting ya know because from way back we had never wanted to be labeled; a Christian band or a death metal band. That always bothered us because we write stuff that happens in our everyday life, things that happen to us, our stories, whatever it may be is very personal. Different people may get a different message out of it and that’s fine. The media really pushed that at the time so we just went with it as a sales pitch, and it hurt us in a sense. But we’re musicians, we’re a band and we were picketed, our shows were picketed. We were right up there in their eyes as the blackest of black metal bands. It’s one of those things that really limits a band and what they can do. People need a conflict in their lives so they go after a band. But that’s their issues and we don’t really care. Just go enjoy a record!
Is “Gabriel” a direct reference to the arch-angel or is there some other meaning behind it?
There’s actually several meanings behind that title. I’d love to give you those meanings and get into it, but we’re trying to shy away from that. Even with the songs, everyone wants to know what they’re about but a lot of it was about really personal stuff. It’s one of those things where we write a song that flows and we let people figure it out. It’s not just the music or just lyrically or whatever, we enjoy when people come up and say ‘hey I was listening to this song and this is what it means to me’. That’s really cool for them to come out and say that. What would be really cool to me would be 10 years down the road, if someone happens to put the disc back on and takes them back to what it meant to them, not what it meant to me.
Do you get a lot of instances where your fans approach you or contact you and say ‘your song really touched me’ or maybe helped improve their life at all?
Yeah we get a lot of that actually. We’d get letters from prisoners in jail, it’s pretty wild and I’m sure that a lot of bands get that too. It’s one of things where even with me personally, I remember going through a tough time in my education or in the lab or whatever and I would put on some Rage Against the Machine and that with the aggressiveness would almost help me get through. It would help me get past that rough time to release this aggression in a more positive way. I think that kind of stuff is really cool and is a huge compliment.
I know you said earlier that you want to leave things open to interpretation, but what’s the story with the girl with the horns on the cover?
What we did there was, early on maybe a year ago, when we started the myspace page we had been contacted by an artist, Michael Rosner who is a Believer fan. He left us this really nice message and we checked out his stuff and we were just blown away, it was awesome. So we contacted Mike and he works with a brilliant bunch of people that collectively make up Eye Level Studio. He does body paint, ya know the white light body paint like the fluorescent paint. We got him some of the early pre-production stuff and we wanted him to get an image in his minds eye, but then we backed off from there because he’s the artist; let him work his magic. We did have to say ‘eh we don’t like this or we do like that’ but we really wanted his major input on what it could be. The girl with the horns was actually a result of the hairdresser they worked with plus some other trademarked work as a result of some really cool hairstyles. That’s pretty much how it came about, we tried to back off from what we thought it should look like and we let these wildly talented individuals just go at it which brings another dimension to the album as a whole.
What was it like working with the added guests such as Deron Miller [CKY] and Howard Jones [Killswitch Engage] on some of the tracks?
It was really cool actually. We had some early stuff out there, were writing and we knew we were putting together an album and Howard had been a fan for a long time; I think he knew more history about the band than we do. Deron was the same way, both guys that were into heavy music and all this stuff was really so humbling and I was just in awe. They were both such great guys and we clicked right away and we’re friends now, we loved hanging out with them. We’d call them and it wouldn’t even be about the business, just ‘hey, how’s it going?’, it was a blast! So it was really cool to work with such unbelievably talented people.
So now the big question, a tour! Is there anything in the works for that?
Yah, that’s a pretty common question.
Well, everyone wants to see you!
[laughing] I know and that’s awesome and we’re completely aware of that. We all have families and we’re at different places in our lives, but we are rehersing. What our plan is, is to do a few drop in shows here and there, open up for some other bands. Tour for a week here, a week there and get out there and play for people. At least that’s our plan for this year. We’ll see how things go and how the album sells. For now we’ll play gigs that are close and not too far away.
Awesome, well Kurt I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, tell us all about the album and you guys getting back together. The album just dropped yesterday [March 17th, 2009] and we hope everyone goes out and buys it so they can enjoy it too.
That’s great man and I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Can’t wait to see you guys come through the Twin Cities, we look forward to having you.
I’m really excited to play there again, it’s a great, great area. Thanks much!