Questions asked by Jon Wilde, added to Rock Realms 1st June 2012.
Swiss band 69 Chambers recently released their superb new album "Torque". Overloaded with great tracks, the album was a real surprise.
I had the chance to put a few questions to star of the show singer Nina Vetterli-Treml. Read on to see her answers...
Hi Nina, thanks for taking a moment to answer these questions. Hope you are well?
Nina: Hi Jon, thanks for the questions. Yes, we’re fine, the album’s out and we’re on our way promoting it.
How did 69 Chambers form, and did you know what sort of sound the band should have right at the start?
Nina: I founded 69 Chambers many years ago with two guys who are no longer in the band. It was supposed to be a hobby project at first, without too much ambition. It wasn’t until 2007/8 that I realized I wanted to take music more seriously and record a decent album – it was difficult for a while to find the right musicians so I had to cope with a couple of line-up changes, but I’m pretty happy with the way things worked out.
The sound was pretty clear right from the start. I’ve always liked the collision of heavy rock and metal with a softer voice. The music has certainly evolved, but the direction was given, it’s just the kind of music I enjoy composing the most.
Where did the name come from, and does it have a special meaning for you?
Nina: Hmmm... I’ve been trying to invent a story to it. But to tell the truth, we founded the band during a time no one thought the name would ever have to be explained in an interview. I’ll have to leave you guys with a question mark there...
Your line-up has changed for this album. What were the reasons behind bassist Maddy Madarasz’s departure from the band?
Nina: Maddy had been a member since after the recording of the first album, but unfortunately she had to stop playing bass for personal reasons.
Were you tempted to get another bassist to replaced her, or was the reshuffle (with you moving over to bass and producer Tommy coming in on guitars) always something you wanted to try?
Nina: At first we were determined to find a replacement. We had been playing live with two guitars for a while – with Tommy joining us a full member about 1.5 years ago, turning the former trio 69 Chambers into a four-piece. We tried out a couple of bass players, but somehow no one really convinced us, either musically or personally. It was only after a while that I mentioned the idea of switching to bass. And when we tried it out, it seemed like the perfect solution. It’s not something we always wanted to try, but it felt right from the start. I’m also comfortable on this instrument, and playing as a three piece makes the music sound much more "raw" and honest.
Who would you list as your main musical and style influences? Your singing style certainly covers a lot of bases.
Nina: I can’t point to a main musical influence. I certainly grew up with grunge music and loved Chris Cornell’s singing for instance. But I think I’ve always stayed open towards different styles, and unconsciously had many influences even from pop music. The point is, I never tried to copy another singer, and I guess you can hear that.
How easily did your excellent new album “Torque” come together? Any good stories or disasters during the writing and recording process?
Nina: It came together pretty easily, I guess. I wrote most of the songs by myself, but unlike the debut where I was more or less alone from start to beginning, Tommy and Diego have helped to bring out the best in the music. And it was a really good and easy collaboration since we all knew how the music needed to sound. No real disasters, really. Just hard but decent work!
How did your approach to this album compare with the debut “War On The Inside”, and how do you think this one compares in terms of sound and quality?
Nina: As I’ve mentioned I worked on ‘War On The Inside’ practically alone, whereas ‘Torque’ is the result of good teamwork. Plus, my former drummer hated double-bass, so that had an influence on my songwriting at the time. For the new album, I wanted the music to be less alternative and a little more modern and metal, Diego was definitely the right drummer for this – and I think Tommy’s guitar solos brings the music to a higher level as well. I wanted the music to evolve rather than just putting new songs on an album, but I also think that playing live together has matured us and made us realize what kind of songs we wanted to have on the second album.
What tricks and techniques do you use in the studio to get your sound?
Nina: The trick is: a great studio with great equipment, a great producer who not only knows his way with the equipment but also as a musician. Tommy’s work at New Sound Studio was priceless. We spent a lot of time working on the details, and I worked hard on the vocals as well. Studio work like this certainly has a cost to it, but I believe it’s worth it.
How do you go about writing your songs? Talks us through the construction of a typical track...
Nina: I’ll sit at home with my guitar in front of Mac’s “Garage Band” program (Tommy keeps trying to convince me to work with ProTools, but I’m so damn used to the simplicity of Garage Band). I’ll be playing around with some tunes, and as soon I think there’s something to it, I’ll start recording the ideas to be able to memorize them and then figure out a whole song based on them. I usually use the beats from the program just to give a rough idea how the drums could sound (but I’m glad that Diego is way more creative than I am when it comes to figuring out what the song really needs ;-). Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, sometimes days until I have a song together. I’ll add the lyrics later according to the song’s mood. Then I’ll email the idea to Tommy and Diego. Diego will start trying out different beats, and send me a file with ideas that I’ll add to the song. We often work via the internet because he doesn’t exactly live around the corner. From there on we’ll talk the whole thing through together and see which parts need changes. If, that is, we feel the song is worth working on. Before recording Torque I think we had about 26 songs to choose from...
What are your favourite moments on the album?
Nina: Hard to tell, it totally depends on my mood. But I personally like the heaviness of ‘Naughty Naughty Naughty’, the middle part of ‘Anhedonia’ that’s almost thrash, and the outro of ‘And Then There Was Silence’.
Tell us about your current touring plans...and what one of your shows is like.
Nina: We’ll be playing at Montreux Jazz Festival in July as one of the big highlights, then MFVF in Belgium, and a couple more shows in Switzerland. As for touring, we’re working on it, looking at different options for this coming winter. We’ll definitely keep you posted!
What are shows are like?
Nina: Loud, hopefully! With a fat sound. We’re not the kind to jump around on stage, we’re just honest musicians who love what we’re doing, and we give it our all.
What have been the highlights of your musical life so far?
Nina: Playing at Metal Female Voices in Belgium two years ago was definitely a highlight. We didn’t expect much from it cause we sounded pretty different from the other bands, plus no one really knew us. But the reactions were overwhelming and people wouldn’t stop waiting in line for autographs. On the other hand, one of the greatest gigs ever was at a really small venue in the French part of Switzerland. There wasn’t even a real stage, I was practically standing face to face with the front row of the audience. The place was packed, the atmosphere was great and it was just one big party. Those are the gigs I personally enjoy most.
What are you up to once you’ve finished answering these questions?
Nina: I’ve got more writing to do – that was one of the running gags when I first started playing music: ‘don’t quit your day job’. Well, I didn’t ;-).
Thanks for your time
Nina: Thanks to you!