It's hard these days to be a hard charging band from hard rockin'... Austria? Yes, the land that makes one skip through the Alps, singing "The Sound of Music." The flowers, the trees, old dudes with liederhose, and alpine hats with the long feather. It's all part of the stereotype. But behind that vision is a different truth: Central Europeans like to dance, drink and rock out, which blend perfectly with the music of Gateway. Led by vocalist Tone Kammerhofer and guitarist Werner Moitzi, this band has been making some of the most powerful and dynamic alternative rock this side of the Alps.
[Kirby] How did you come up with the name Gateway for your group and what is its significance?
[Tone & Werner] Well, we perceive Gateway's music as some virtual archway which takes you to a new level as a person. This applies both to us as musicians, and the audience. The name is basically about meeting new people, or "souls," who hopefully inspire you/us to find new ways of going about a project in your life or life as a project.
This project, of which they are the core members, has had various musicians, as is documented on this album, called the "Ten Anniversary Edition." The sound, however, has remained the same. Drawing on the sound of bands such as Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, they have fashioned music that is simultaneously hard, smooth, rough, heavy and grooves. With a release celebrating ten years of musical activity, Gateway represents Vienna to the fullest.
[Kirby] Tell us about your earliest musical memories. What was the first song you remember?
[Tone] The first rock song I remember was "Pinball Wizard" by The Who; that one really stuck in my mind.
[Werner] That must have been back in elementary school. It was "Reality" by Richard Sanderson (a song on the soundtrack of the movie "La Boum").
[Kirby] What kind of music did you grow up listening to? Were your parents or other family members musicians or artists?
[Tone] I listened predominantly to classical music and a bit of commercial jazz and blues. My mother played classical piano and sang in choirs when she was still living in London, UK. She took up choir-singing again in the mid-1990s in Vienna. I sometimes teamed up with her to play tunes from musicals (guitar, piano and vocals) at home. We also loved to discuss theoretical issues in classical music and jazz when she was still alive. My mother's brother (based in New Orleans, LA) plays guitar, bass guitar and the piano. He also writes/composes musical plays for local groups on a semi-pro basis.
[Werner] Growing up I was listening to 80's pop music stuff. Two of my uncles play Austrian folk music on a semi-pro basis and have their own bands.
[Kirby] When did you start playing music? What inspired you to pursue music?
[Tone] I took up playing the guitar when I was about twelve years old (in 1982/1983). My main inspiration back then was the music of The Who, Iron Maiden, The Police and Einstuerzende Neubauten (a legendary band from Germany headed by lead singer Blixa Bargeld).
[Werner] I took up playing the piano and the guitar in 1993 at the age of about 15. My main inspiration was music as such.
[Kirby] Who are your favorite musicians and why? Who are your influences?
[Tone] I like all music except for commercialized MOR-like folk things. Favorite bands and artists include Tea Party, Steve Vai and Big & Rich, as well as The Cult, Johann Sebastian Bach (the German classical composer) and Celia Mara (a samba singer from Brazil/Austria). When it comes to singers, I think David Coverdale of Whitesnake made a big impression on me. I liked the way he performed on stage, a mix of entertainer-like attitudes (a bit like Frank Sinatra) and very convincing vocals. These days it's definitely James Le Brie of Dream Theater, when it comes to both stage presence and musicianship.
[Werner] Well, when it comes to song writing I was struck by the early 1980's Michael Jackson albums and the incredible work of Quincy Jones there. Other important influences, when it comes to talking about songwriters/performers, are Prince and Miles Davis.
This wide range of musical influences is reflected in this collection of tunes, which span the years 2000 to 2003. The first cut, "Addicted," is their signature song. It has all of the elements - great hooks, tight guitar licks, hard-grooving drums, and a great tune. And, oh my god, a sax solo! The vocal influence of David Coverdale and James Le Brie come out on this cut as Tone sings in that rare baritone croon last heard on the Doors tribute album, courtesy of Creed's singer Scott Stapp. Other cuts in this mode include "Estrillita," "Kittenlove," and "13."
"Estrillita" leans into the world of rock funk, groove-wise. It also includes elements that make a song great, such as breaks, stops, rhythmic kicks and stomps by Alfred Zethofer (bass) and drummer Wolfgang Kreditsch. This band is pure rock, unadulterated and without any irony or hipster smarm. This is particularly true on "Kittenlove," which has a real-deal Crybaby wah-wah, chicken scratch guitar intro that would slay Ted Nugent himself. The song stomps into a shit kickin' groove that reminds one of best American southern cock rock bands, like Black Oak Arkansas.
"13" is a song begging to rule rock radio. Starting with a tasty, subtle nod to the aforementioned "Pinball Wizard," courtesy of Werner's guitar and keyboardist Andreas Hierzenberger, the song snaps into a classic rock riff and melody that is familiar, yet different; then Tone's voice comes in with a distinctive rock melody. In a just world, this would be the signature tune of hit song, one that, when it comes on the car radio, it turns driving into an apocryphal moment. It is obvious that music of such depth has to come from a deep well of experience and historical perspective, one that comes from being present in the right time, especially in these days of watered down culture.
[Tone] When I look back to the mid/late 1980s I think the focus was much more on creativity and less on marketing with the indie bands. We would spend hours in rehearsal rooms and specialist stores listening, playing and discussing music. It wasn't for the money. The 1990s were much more about marketing, pulling crowds, high-end recording devices and the like.
[Werner] The music scene in Austria and Central Europe in the early/mid-1990s was virtually nonexistent. There has been considerable growth, and there are more and more projects out there playing live and releasing records. However, I think there is a considerable lack of quality, artistic and content-wise.
The indie spirit of melding interesting musical elements is evident on the record. "Rest My Eyes" has steam rolling drums and a guitar and bass line that could have been a hit 1998 or kick ass in the NYC scene today. The rap elements are a part of the song and act as a bridge to the chorus, which would have heads nodding and singing along, especially if you heard it on the radio.
Those famous MTV music critics of yore, the late, great Bevis and Butthead would say that the aurally rich acoustic rock ballad, "Twinkling of an Eye," was stupid. But this critic thinks it's cool, and chicks will dig it. The acoustic guitar comes in with sweet chords. The electric guitar follows with mellow licks that hook the listener immediately. And the time Tone spent singing musicals with his mother shines through in the agile melody and lyrics: "Breaking the chains of 9 to 5 / loving my life like crazy / open up to feel the flow / found the meaning of life - amazing!/ I can't save this moment twinkling of an eye / I can't fight this feeling, creeping, crawling . . ."
[Kirby] What is life like as an underground band in Europe? Describe some typical days in the life of your band.
[Tone & Werner] When you're in the studio busy with recording, it's all about content. Running an artist label means that you have the freedom to choose when and what to record. When it comes to marketing the recording (press work, touring, distribution) we are extremely lucky to work as a team. We do our own booking and have that organized according to regions (e.g., Tone is doing Germany and Switzerland while Werner is in charge of Austria and Italy). We also cooperate on press work, servicing online things and so on. You need a tightly-knit team to go about those things. A lot of those things are easier and cheaper these days as a result of doing things online. There are still publicly-funded venues in Europe but they have to survive on shoestring budgets now. Some of them just cannot make it. However, the great thing over here is that more business-driven entrepreneurial small and medium-sized promoters (clubs, bars, pubs etc.) and local/regional p!
ress are extremely open to new acts.
[Kirby] Why did you take such a long lay off between the last record, your last round of gigs in 2004, and this new release and return to the music scene?
[Tone & Werner] We started to get down to writing songs for a new album in summer 2004 and did record the first tracks a few weeks ago. After years on-and-off the road, doing a number of eps and singles, we just had to decide on our focus now. We will start touring again in March 2007 and hope to have that record out by January 2007. Maybe there will be a few unplugged shows in late-autumn 2006 as a sweetener for long-standing fans in what we call "fan base pockets" in Austria and Germany, we'll see. This record is no swan song, no way. The year 2007 will see us on the road and in the limelight again. We also hope that we can then finally hop over the Atlantic for a number of quick chats with new friends in North America.
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