Questions asked by Jon Wilde, added to Rock Realms Monday 16th March 2009.
There are a couple of bands with the name Cornerstone out there. This is the one from Austria boasting a current line-up of Carina Sethaler, Michael Wachelhofer, Steve Wachelhofer and Martin Key.
Michael, Steve and Carina answer questions.
Now, let's get this sorted for the readers... you are not the Cornerstone featuring Doogie White?! Both bands have been going for years and are quite happy with the existence of the other... correct?
Carina: Correct Jon, we are quite happy with the existence of the other Cornerstone and it's certainly not bad to get in touch with our name without knowing us. ;-)
Michael: Correct. We are aware of the other ‘stones. But facts are: Both bands have existed for as long (since 1998), we have the worldwide trademark and patent rights to the name Cornerstone in musicbiz, and we toured around in Austria since the begin of the decade. At the other side, the other band has released more albums under the name Cornerstone... It’s a bit difficult, certainly one of the parties could start a lawsuit, but music always should be a “together” not an “against”, so we simply try not to hurt each other. They are a two different styles, so I don’t think this is a big problem: there were two “Nirvanas” in the past, and two “Rages”, too, and it has worked out fine – more or less (*laughs*).
Steve: We have found the name in 1998, before this time the bands name was “Faith”, but this was a bit boring to us, so we’ve decided, that each band member should find 10 band-names, and the plan was, to choose the best out of these 40 names. Michael brought 10 names, I have brought 5 names, and the singer brought one name – all of these names were really, really ugly (*laughs*). So Michael checked out his CD-collection, and found STYX’ ’79-Album “Cornerstone”... his was the name. We have performed under this name for nearly 10 years - so I don’t see a reason to change it.
Austria is perhaps more famous for classical music than rock. What is the music scene like over there?
Michael: Honestly I have to say, in Austria there is no place for our kind of music. There are some silly German-singing pop artists, who sing about their last date, holding-hands with their boyfriend and buying ice cream. Then there are Austrian Folk-music, you know, the guys with the Leather-trousers and the yodels... and a quite small heavy scene. But the Austrian heavy scene is REALLY Heavy... Death Metal, Black Metal, and in my opinion most of the bands are really weak. That’s one of the reasons why we want to make it in the states and in the UK: for the Pop-scene we are too heavy, for the HM-scene we are to poppy. In the UK and US there are big AOR-scenes in which our music fits in perfectly.
Carina: In Austria you must sing in German, or even better the Austrian slang. Also the classical music finds a lot of followers straight through all age groups. More chance is given to these musical directions to set up. More chance of producers, labels and most of all also from the audience.
How and when did Cornerstone start?
Steve: We began to perform cover versions of REM, SOUL ASYLUM and THE CURE in the living room of Mike’s former girlfriend in 1997 (*laughs*) and that was it. After a time a friend of Mike – Markus Bousska – joined the group, he played drums so the band was born. We started to write our own songs. At the beginning Mike was the lead singer, but – let me say it this way - there are some things in the band he can do better than singing... (* laughing*)
Michael: Yeah, so a singer joined the band, we changed the name and started to perform. After four years – members came and went – and I couldn’t see sense anymore to be in a band... but we had good luck and the “reborn” Cornerstone started their work in 2004 – and now we have an interview for a UK-magazine, that’s really great!
How would you describe your style?
Carina: Beautiful melodies, big guitars, a melodic bass and sad-aggressive lyrics about the small and big topics of this world. And a powerful voice :)
Michael: I’d say, Rock/Pop/Indie, and a big dose of AOR. Yup, and certainly, big guitars and great voices and so on (*laughing*)
Who would you count as the biggest influences on the Cornerstone sound?
Michael: REM, Toto, Asia, Survivor, Alan Parsons Project, Journey
Steve: Metallica, Guns’ Roses, Queen, Foo Fighters
What about your favourite bands personally? Are you a secret metal head... or disco fanatic?
Carina: Rock chick! Guitars, Drums, Bass, just rocking good music :-) Queen is my personal favourite, the melodies, the lyrics, the guys... that one guy... awesome!
Michael: REM, Toto, Asia, Survivor, Alan Parsons Project, Journey (*laughing*). I come from the AOR side of the street. Ah, and I really like The Beatles and Smiths, too.
Steve: Metal is my kind of music, but it must be melodic. Nightwish play great tunes, Guns ‘n Roses, and certainly Metallica and Toto.
Was there a positive feel about the 'Head Over Heels' album during the recording process?
Steve: We have really enjoyed working with Kristian Ignatov and Horst-Dieter Steinhoefler, who did “Head Over Heels”, but we recorded a demo in 2006 before and the tonmeister was an idiot. So we recorded and mixed... mixed... mixed for five months (!)... and at the end we have changed the studio, and they have remixed the stuff, but as Eddie Van Halen always said: “You can’t polish a heap of dog-shit”. At the end we have paid 12.000 Euros (approx.. 11.000 Pounds) for a demo, which sounded terrible and weak. The most expensive demo of all times (*laughs*). So we decided: once again, please. The result was “Head Over Heels”.
Michael: Working with the band was fine, but Anja Schirmer (who did the vocals on HOH) had a lot of voice problems, so it was a bit difficult, but at the end it was fine.
What would you say is your favourite song on the album... or are they all brilliant? :)
Carina: My personal advice: Listen to it when you're driving! Then it gets more brilliant. It's such a laid back sound you just want to drive 200 times around the block just to listen to all the songs! And after the second time hearing 'Regret' or 'Leave' you get addicted to it.
Michael: Certainly ALL of the songs are brilliant (*laughing*). Serious: I REALLY LOVE “Fade Away”, because for my ears the arrangements to this song are nearly perfect, and it sounds like a typically AOR-song, which I really like. Recording 'Crises' was a horrible experience, because I haven’t recorded it with my own equipment – it took us two days to record it well! Two days playing the piano all the time!!! The only song I can’t hear anymore after all the years is “Changed”, because this was the first song, we have ever written – and we have played it VERY often through the years...(*laughs”)
Steve: My Favourite is “Changed” (*laughing*), but I really like all our songs. But even today I wonder why I’ve gotten writing credits on “Crises” – this is 100% Michael’s song, I have worked on it for 10 minutes or so (*laughing*), the rest was Michael's work!
You've got a couple of songs in the film 'Little Alien'. That must be pretty cool!
Carina: It is overpowering. To know the fact that our songs are played in a film, tops everything we've expected.
Michael: I agree. This film will be showcased in all Austrian cinemas and on Austrian television, so I’m very proud of this!
Are you planning to conquer Hollywood next?
Carina: Hollywood, we are coming!
Michael: Hm, you know, they have asked us for songs for so many blockbusters (*laughing*). Seriously: we’ll see what will happen next. We’re working with people who did promos for American Idol and other things stateside, so... we’ll see.
Are you already thinking about the next album, or are you fully focused on getting 'Head Over Heels' heard by as many people as possible?
Carina: I think being a musician means doing both, you have to be focused on the past, sell your cd, promote it and also the future and think of a new one, a new CD. Otherwise we wouldn't grow and if you don't go with the time, time goes with you.
Michael: We’re in the planning process for the new album, five or six songs are ready for recording, but I think we’ll start in the Fall or so. We’ll see.
You played the UK at the end of 2008. Any plans to come back?
Michael: We had originally planned to come back in April, but as you know, we’re performing at the Z Rock Festival together with John Waite, and now we want to do a tour after that in the beginning of June. More dates to come! (*laughing*)
You recently hired Carina Sethaler to replace Anja on lead vocals. Could you tell us the story behind that, and perhaps tell us a little about Carina?
Carina: Maybe someone should do that :-) Perhaps myself. My name is Carina Sethaler, I am 21 years old and I am from Austria. I love singing. I love expressing with my voice. And I know that my voice and me are a cool team. So stay tuned to get first impressions of my voice. :-) How I was hired? It was funny they ask me and I said okay. Then they wanted to listen to me and we fit like french fries and ketchup. So I come to the band with no expectations and now I'm writing my first interview. It's weird when it all began with the simple loud spoken thought like: I'm gonna search a band to join. And 3 weeks later, you have a band, a label, a signed contract, music in films on CD’s and interviews... but it's ok. My first impression was so overwhelming that I couldn't say no to the band and they couldn't say no to me, so... I think it should be like that. Before I stumbled into this gorgeous band I nearly never get in touch with a band, I was just a Karaoke fan (I’ve made it to #5 at the Karaoke championship in Austria ;-)).
Michael: I have performed with many musicians over the years, but it was clear after 5 minutes, that Carina is the right choice. Hand in Glove (*laughing*)
Steve: Anja was booked for the album recordings, and we certainly planned to do shows to promote the album. Before this she sang just for fun, on weddings and on parties. But being in a band like us means, that you always have to give 120%. And after a while some serious vocal problems (knots) were appearing, so we had to make a decision. It never looks fine, when there is another singer on the album than on stage, but the original plan was to go further with her, just replace her on stage. And than Carina joined. By the way, Michael: it was clear after TWO minutes (*laughing*).
Is there anyone out there you would really love to work with?
Michael: Maybe for the new album we’ll work with Robin Beck and Jim Peterik (Survivor), but let’s see. Personally I’d love to work with Alan Parsons as producer.
Steve: I’d love to work with Steve Lukather and/or Slash. But theses guys are very expensive (*laughing*)
What is the future going to bring, either as a group or as individuals? Any side projects you would like to discuss?
Carina: No, for my opinion there's no time for side projects now. We want to establish something. Something big. And so we have to be focused on it.
Michael: This is one of the rules in the band. No side projects. 100% focus on Cornerstone. One time someone asked me to play Double-Bass in an Elvis-/Rockabilly band, because of my Morrissey-like haircut. Oh my word!
Is music your life, or just a big part of it?
Carina: Difficult question, but it would be thoughtless to say it's my life and it's the only thing I'm living for. No, that would be a lie. I just want to get the chance to make music and to live because of doing it. Because, besides I want to travel the world, maybe write something, maybe draw or paint something. The world is the playground and I want to play. And first of all I want to make music!
Michael: Oh, Jon, you mean, what I’ll do in the remaining 4 hours of the day beside the music? (*laughing*) I do a lot of sports, reading, it’s important to have a time off from music, too.
Do you have a huge collection of instruments? What are your favourites?
Steve: I have six guitars, which I really love, a Fender Strat, but I really love my Goldtop – no, not Gibson, but an Epiphone. And a 12-string acoustic, but my favourite is my 12-string Rickenbacker 360/12. Remember, R.E.M. are a big influence, and we have even performed Byrds-tunes live (*laughing*). It doesn’t sound like Metal, I’m afraid. (*laughing*)
Michael: I have two Yamaha synths, but live I just play bass, an Epiphone Rock Bass. Nothing special. Black and 4 strings (*laughing*)
What are you up to once you finish answering these questions?
Carina: I'm going to having lunch. I'm so hungry already! :-)
Michael: Take a rest and enjoy the weekend. But before I have to do some band work (*laughing*)
Steve: Working in my new flat. There is a lot of work to do!
Anything else you would like to mention?
Michael: Please visit our websites, http://www.cornerstone.co.at/ and http://www.myspace.com/cornerstoneaustria, and enjoy. Ah, and enjoy Z Rock 2009, May the 30th! Excellent bands there!
Steve: …and buy the album HEAD OVER HEELS! We are a poor band, I have to buy new shoes (*laughing*) It’s available at Amazon.com, iTunes, CDBaby, and in UK at Destiny Records (orderable)
A huge thanks for your time!
Carina: Thank you Jon!
Steve: Thanks, too
As mentioned above, the new Cornerstone album is out already. Help the band get themselves some new shoes and buy it now!