Ivory Tower’s fifth album, Stronger, is one of the standout releases from 2019. The 12-song Massacre Records LP marks the German band’s first album of new music in eight years. The collection is also the debut of vocalist Dirk Meyer. In true Ivory Tower fashion, Stronger explores grandiose themes, from greed and existentialism to self-worth and mortality, propelled by stellar double-bass drumming and explosive metal guitar work. Read our review here.
With Meyer settling in as frontman and the band resuming touring activity, 2020 is looking to be busier for the five member group. Musicinterviewmagazine.com spoke with Ivory Tower guitarist, bandleader and mixer Sven Böge and singer Dirk Meyer about the creative process from Stronger, the logistics of playing such complex music, a lesson in collaboration and more.
An Interview with Ivory Tower’s Sven Böge and Dirk Meyer
Musicinterviewmagazine.com: How would you characterize Ivory Tower’s writing process?
Sven Böge: I often compose a guitar riff and record it and then arrange all the other instruments around and do the programming in my workstation. Everybody then has an idea as to how the song has to sound and how it works. But there is, in every case, enough space for every musician to come over with their own ideas and interpretation of the programmed stuff. Sometimes I also have a vocal line that is generally played with guitar. Sometimes it sounds a little bit strange.
Dirk Meyer: For me, it was about keeping and improving the quality and as flat as it may sound, to give the songs more energy to make them sound stronger. One song I sang completely new because I didn’t like the first idea anymore.
Böge: We took a long time composing the songs and since we have our own studio, we have no financial limits.
You tackle grand themes in your lyrics. How do you compose compelling music to complement those themes?
Meyer: This is the chicken-egg question. When I joined the band, the songs’ instrumentations were already recorded. That suits me very well because I mainly create a melody on which I can interpret a theme. For people like me, both elements are difficult to separate. It may be harder to create but the melody corresponds to the lyrics and vice versa. Sven, bassist Björn Bombach and I have only written down our current thoughts and feelings. But since I don’t believe in coincidences, we created a journey, albeit unconsciously.
“In Me” is a standout and the lyrics seem to describe an internal struggle. How did the song come together?
Meyer: This song is a good example of the cooperation between Björn and me. I didn’t want solely to write the lyrics, but that everyone in the band should say something when they have something to say. I had pre-set the melody and asked Björn to write something about what he feels while listening. I just added the interlude and interpreted the lyrics in the song.
How did the band’s dynamic change when Dirk joined, following the departure of Andre Fischer?
Böge: The band worked fantastic before Dirk joined the band, but we were seeking a singer and without a singer you couldn’t play live shows with our kind of music. We tested some singers before, but when we found Dirk and recognized he was and is the missing link and the fifth element in our chain, much more energy and motivation streamed through every musician. And you can see after Dirk was in, we played a lot of live shows.
Stronger features both dynamic and clean vocals. Dirk, what challenges do you face when having to deliver that sort of range?
Meyer: I didn’t get a certain template for a vocal goal from the band. It should be clear to everyone that you can stick comfortably to the microphone during studio recordings and sing relatively relaxed. Every voice on the album is sung by me, from the lowest to the highest note. Not everything is directly audible, but the overall result is perceptible. The really difficult task is to deliver this on stage. Also here, it should be clear to everyone that this is not possible, to replicate the record, with all the choirs and screams. But I do my best to transport that to you and according to reviews, I’ve succeeded.
The album’s title seems to also be a statement. How do you feel Stronger measures up to previous albums?
Meyer: With all the album titles we had planned, this one seemed the most conclusive to us, actually just before the end. I like a lot of songs from the old albums and would love to record them in a “Best Of” album, in my style.
Böge: I also like the other albums and love to play the older songs live. Stronger is the first album after eight years without any CD output and now with a new singer that makes this album so special. A lot of people thought that the band was history and now we are back and have a very strong album. That makes Ivory Tower much stronger.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.