By Dave Schwartz 

In May, prog rock fans worldwide celebrated the release of "La Muerta,"the fifth record from German progressive rock band Subsignal.  Since many in North America are less familiar with Subsignal I’ll run down a brief history of the band. 

Subsignal was founded by Sieges Even members Arno Menses (vocals) and Markus Steffen (guitars) in 2007 and originally was intended as a side-project.  Menses and Steffen left Sieges Even in 2008 and immediately began recruiting musicians to turn the project into a functional "real" band.  Former Dreamscape bassist Ralf Schwager was first to join and others soon followed.  Today Subsignal includes Dirk Brand on drums and Markus Maichel on keyboards. 

I had an email exchange with Arno Menses to learn more about "La Muerta," this is how it went…

DB:  First of all, congrats on "La Muerta," please talk a little about the record and how it came together.

AM:  Thank you. The writing process was much the same as any album we did before. Markus came up with the first song, "La Muerta," which incidentally also became the title for the album.

After that the writing continued as usual. Markus writing his songs and me writing mine. We send each other the demo of each song for the other to do some editing or arranging on it in order for each song to maintain the "Subsignal sound." The overall schedule as far as writing though has been like every other album. The real difference was made in the recording process in which Kalle and Yogi (producers Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner) were more involved than any producer before in shaping the songs.

DB:   When a band releases an album it marks a point on their musical evolution, please contrast and comment on the many changes apparent on "La Muerta" compared to previous releases.  

AM:  It was an unintended change this time. With the "Paraiso" album we purposely wanted to make an album with shorter and more catchy songs. I'd say with "La Muerta," although not planned this time, we succeeded.

The writing has no concept behind it. It is not that we have a meeting before to talk about what the musical or lyrical direction is going to be. We just start writing and finish when we think we have enough material.

Of course some songs or themes got thrown out along the way, because they were not the right ones or did not have the right feel. But again, we have been working like this since we did "Beautiful & Monstrous."

DB:  Keyboards are more prevalent on this record.  Was this a conscious choice or just the way the songs took shape?  

AM:  Since I play no guitars I write all my material on keyboards or by programming. Markus though composes mainly with guitars (apart from some kind of drumming). So the fact that my songs involve more keys is obvious.

But other than that, it again was no deliberate choice to do so. Though we intended to get an overall more '80s kind of feel for the production, the mixes forced the keyboards in a more prominent role.

DB:  With "La Muerta" being your fifth album, did you approach this record any differently than past albums?

AM:  No, much the same as always.

DB:   "La Muerta" is a very accessible record for new listeners.  When it comes to writing new songs, do you write what you’re feeling at the time or do you explore different stylistic elements to help round out the band's sound?  

AM:  Well, I think it still has that typical Subsignal sound and art of constructing the songs to it. The difference is in the mixing. This time it's far more open and transparent than any of our previous albums.

Of course with new faces on the mixing console, you'll get a new approach or vision to how the overall album might sound. You play with new sounds, different amps, different mics, different samples and effects.

As I said before, it was not an intentional move to write simpler, more accessible songs.  That just happened.

DB:  The approach to the new music is far more song-based than before.  Please discuss…  

AM:  I think for the whole album counts that "we did not want the music getting in the way of the song." That means as much as keeping things transparent, not stuffing every inch full of parts, licks and tricks.

Maybe consider it more "back to basics." Of course you can always add a keyboard here, a drum fill there, a litte uuh or aahh from the vocals there. But it is like designing.... sometimes less is more.

DB:  Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner…  please talk about their contribution to this record.

AM:  Their influence has been extremely valuable. Kalle is a top guitarist and songwriter, he really helped Markus with the guitar parts, not getting him through it, I mean Markus is a top player himself.

But two know more than one and if you discuss and analyze or restructure some things you've been demoing, something even bigger might come out, which it did.

I worked with Yogi, and Yogi has a very big musical knowledge, is a singer himself and a very good producer. He liked all the stuff I had done for the demos, he just had some great ideas on top of my stuff, which was the cherry on the pie, so to speak.

DB:  Please discuss any tour plans for 2018 and 2019.  

AM:  Well, like always, we will tour in Germany and Holland, Austria first at the end of this year. Next year we will definitely continue and play shows in other European countries.

As far as coming to America…  yes, that's also in our planning but when and where remains to be seen.

Markus Steffen (Guitars)
Arno Menses (Vocals)
Ralf Schwager (Bass)
Markus Maichel (Keyboards)
Dirk Brand (Drums)

Beautiful & Monstrous (2009)
Touchstones (2011)
Out There Must Be Something – Live in Mannheim 2012 (DVD, 2012)
Paraíso (2013)
The Blueprint of a Winter (CD-Single, 2013)
The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime (2015)
La Muerta (2018)


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