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VISIONS OF ATLANTIS: ‘The music world has faced one year with the virus – where do we go from here?’

The whole music world is actually quite stationary, as far as the LIVE part is concerned; we have seen some shows in streaming, but we all know that the true emotions will return when it will be safe again for everyone to get out of this lockdown, which, although more relaxed than in the early days, still re-quires many sacrifices and has made us a little more lonely.
On the pages of Verorock today we retrace everything that happened thanks to Visions Of Atlantis, a band well known to Symphonic Metal admirers, who will tell us about what they had to face when the emergency began and they were in the middle of a tour and also about their views on the situation in general.

Hello guys, how are you? I hope everything’s fine for all of you and your families.
Hi and thanks a lot for having us here on your webzine. Considering the worldwide situation, we’re all fine. Missing the stages and the life on the road we were used to before the pandemic and looking forward to getting back to it, but apart for that everything is fine and luckily, we are all healthy and safe.

With this interview I would like to talk about many things that involve all the bands of the world, right now, because of this damn Covid; I think it’s quite interesting to know about your point of view and how you’re organising yourself. So, let’s start doing the point.
We hope we can share with you as much as we can, especially considering that we’ve been suffering the beginning of this pandemic in a quite intense way and we’ve been affected by its consequences several times, not only in regards of our schedule but also considering our regular band-life, as we’re now split between Austria, France and Italy… and traveling through the borders is not that easy anymore.

Did you have to cancel any shows, and if so, how many?
When everything begun, we were on the road in the USA, supporting Dragonforce and Unleash the Archers. We had a tour that should have gone along for around 20 shows and right after we had a bunch of head-lining shows in Canada too. We should have gotten back from Canada and just a couple of weeks afterwards we had the second leg of our first European headlining tour planned in March/April. We were al-ready confirmed to some festivals this summer (Wacken, Masters of Rock, Metal on the hill & more) and the plan was to tour again in September. Together with this shows we had some unannounced stuff that will hopefully happen in the future, but that we will need to plan again when things will be “normal” again. As you can understand we’re talking about A LOT of shows, it’s quite hard to count them without a list in front of our eyes.

Did you experience travel cancellations during your tour?
Yes, that was the biggest issue. The US tour was forced to be stopped after only 6 shows and we found ourselves in the US with our flights back from Canada two weeks afterwards, with a touring-van already paid for the following 14 days and with nothing left to do. The flights companies started to fall into chaos: since our flights were not CANCELLED yet we couldn’t ask for a refund and the only thing we could try to do was to CHANGE the flights at our expenses… but no company could help us as they didn’t want to re-book tickets without knowing which flights would have departed and which ones would have been cancelled. In 24hrs the situation got critical as the US government forbid to all the Schengen citizens to take flights within the US territories, so we could only fly to somewhere outside of the US as we weren’t allowed to get connection flights either. We ended up going to Mexico where we performed the last show, as luckily, we had one festival there in the routing, and from Mexico we bought the last (super-expensive!!!) available tickets we found to Europe. We only found tickets to Paris, and once in Paris we bought another ticket to get to Vienna.
Crazy, crazy experience.

When did you start to realise about the real situation? I think each one of you, depending by his country/context could have realised not at the same time.
Honestly, after the experience above, we can easily tell you that we all realised together during that days that this pandemic would have been written in the future history books. While on the road we couldn’t really tell it would have gone that far of course, but when we found ourselves running around in the airport searching for a flight back, getting calls from friends and relatives from all around the world, getting asked about how we were and how we would have come back… we understood. It was just one week later that the lockdowns begun in Italy, Austria and France… so we were pretty much all in sync, even if at the beginning Italy was the country that suffered the most.

Many bands faced a big loss of contracts/money and so they started a GoFundMe campaign, but not all of them did it offering for instance a streaming-show, merch or something in return.
A big polemic raised-up for this subject, what do you think about it?
We’re one of the bands who actually started a GoFundMe campaign as we DID suffer a HUGE loss. We decided to be completely open and to tell everything publicly, to avoid any rumour or misunderstanding. We were not the headlining band in the US and it was our first US tour ever with this line-up. This means that we were not having the “advantages” of a headlining band over there and we only played 6 shows. We printed tour-shirts on our expenses, as for every tour we bought our merchandise from the US division of Napalm Records (it must not be forgotten that CDs/DVDs/Earbooks etc. etc are always bought from the label by the bands to be sold afterwards on the road), the VISA was on our expense (working visa, as the ESTA doesn’t work when you go the US as a performer), the tour-van for the entire period in the USA had to be paid in advance and in the end we “only” paid half of the fee (thanks to the company where we rent it that at least made us pay half of the price)…and all the flights back had to be paid from our pocket for us and for our crew. All in all, we lost around 20.000 €, that is the amount we set as goal on GoFundMe and we luckily reached. Just think that the flights back only costed around 10.800 €.
When it comes to the polemic in regards of the campaign that bands start in those days… one one side we think that some mechanisms are not clear to most of the people. Sometimes we hear someone saying that “bands get a lot of money from the labels” and it seems crazy that in 2020 people still don’t realise that no label gives away money for free: it is always and “advance” from the label, that means that the label loans some money (under certain circumstances!!!) to the band to achieve some goals. Money that are ALWAYS TO BE REFUNDED through sales, streams ecc. ecc. If the band don’t sell, the credit has to be given back by the band anyways. In our specific case this entire discussion has no sense anyways as we’re not talking about an album but about a tour where the label has very little to do with. Sometimes bands are helped for touring, but certainly not for a CANCELED tour, so we didn’t get ANY advance from Napalm Records for this tour. Everything was advanced from OUR savings, and this happened to us as much as for many other bands. Without selling at least the merch we prepared for the tour, we would have gone bankrupt, sadly it really is that easy. On the other side…we agree that when you ask for something, you have to GIVE something back. This is why we used the GoFundMe campaign as an “alternative web-store” as we don’t have one (all our merch is sold through Napalm Records). Those who supported us used the platform to purchase the tour-shirt, the CDs, the Earbooks and all our merchandise buying it directly from US in-stead of passing through the label, so that we could get the income directly and recover from the situation with direct purchases. We know that some bands didn’t offer anything, and this is not so cool, but honestly, if they suffered what we suffered, we can understand it. In the end no one points a gun to the head of the fans. If they want to support, they do it, if they don’t want to, they don’t.

Is this period showing you a different way to see the future of the music?
We would rather say that more doors have been opened. The culture of online shows has approached the world, not that before it didn’t exist but right now it seems to be “normal” to attend a concert online and maybe this can be helpful for the future too as many companies are focused on this technology now. Maybe in the future it will be planned that some shows of a tour will be streamed regularly. The venues might arrange a fixed control room for streaming the shows they host and this would allow people from other parts of the world to join the gig. Just imagine a band setting up a tour that doesn’t touch certain countries (or continents). If the venue streams the show someone from a different part of the world could still watch it from his/her place. It might not be the same but for a reasonable price it would would be worth it. And if it becomes possible to access to several shows during the same tour, everyone one could even choose the most fitting date in regards of his / her own schedule. What it is sure is that live music won’t cease to be as it is an experience that cannot be replaced with something else.

I suppose you’re going on with ideas for the next album. If so, how are you guys getting organised for the production?
You’ll soon know more about this topic. During the pandemic we worked hard on this aspect and even if we focused our promotion on the new live CD/DVD/BluRay, that we released in fall last year, we always had our minds on the new album that has now reached a quite advance moment in its process of creation. The songs are ready and everything is being refinished before entering the studio for the official recordings… but as told before several news are coming…just follow us through our pages.

Not all VOA members live in the same place; how do you see the situation in your respective countries? What do you think could be managed better by the government or, in case, what has been well managed?
Herbert for Austria: It’s complicated. The situation in Austria is somewhat OK managed, as far as I can tell. Some things could have been done better, and a lot of things could have been done worse. I guess this is true for every country, there is no perfect way to navigate something like this. But I am by far not an expert on these matters, so I can’t really say if our government is making the right decisions. This is one of the reasons I usually decline to comment publicly on political matters. I want to believe they have the best interest of the people in mind, but this is politics, and this whole covid thing is getting ever more political. So who knows?
Our leaders tried to be honest in their communication, at least in the beginning. One of the first things they said was something like “This is (going to be) a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t know much yet, we have to see how things evolve while we learn new information about this virus. But we can only get through this together, so please do your part.”
I have friends who work in hospitals as doctors and other staff, and according to them our health system was never close to collapsing, and we even had spare beds to take patients from other countries. Once or twice the situation was getting a little bit tense, but our government enacted new lockdowns early enough and the situation calmed down.
What I really don’t get are the protestors and the people who are against every little inconvenience like wearing a mask. If you want to speak your mind, please do it in a way that’s not endangering others. We have had and still have restrictions in daily life and lockdowns. This is justified in my eyes. I long to go to a pub and have a beer (or seven) with my friends as much as the next person, but things like that can wait a little bit. At the beginning of the pandemic, which now seems ages ago, there was a huge sense of unity going around in Austria, and people willingly tried to do their part. It somewhat felt like the whole country was going on an adventure. But soon, people started to complain, and to not do things anymore like wearing a mask or keeping a minimum distance. So the government made things stricter, which led to more complaining. That is perfectly fine, it is and should be a citizen’s right to speak their mind, although it seems more and more people are starting to lose the big picture. Again, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Unfortunately, covid will affect all our lives for many more years to come.”

Clémentine for France: Oh well… I don’t think anyone wants to be in any president’s and government shoes right now, having to handle something like this, unprecedented in modern times. Everyone has his or her opinion about how the politics leaders should have handled all this yet no one ever had the responsibility of doing this and facing the consequences. It’s always so much easier to judge from the outside, having no clue of what a political decision is about. Everyone suddenly became experts in biology, epidemiology, medicine and logistics. Social media giving a voice to whoever wants to express himself. We were flooded with opinions and the actual facts were buried under speculations and disinformation. I think all this really doesn’t help. France handled things better than other countries and other things worse. The same goes for a lot of European countries. Yet what I would have personally appreciated from scientists, media and poli-tic leaders is more humility and being able to say: “this virus is brand new, we know very little about it, we need to make research first before we can provide answers, we kindly ask for your patience while we are doing our best.” I would have appreciated more honesty and transparency over the things they didn’t man-age properly, instead of lying to the population. For instance, when France had no masks in store to supply the population, our former prime minister said “masks are useless anyway”, and then, they made them mandatory on the streets a few weeks later…. That’s how you lose credibility, people’s trust and feed defiance in our country…

Michele for Italy: I feel lucky of having the chance of answering to this question together with my band-mates from other countries. In general, I feel really lucky of being part of this band as this allows me to share experiences and look at things from other perspectives. Clementine just made us notice how she is living the situation in France, and of course this makes it so clear that every country is living this pandemic in the same way. In Italy a lot of people are accusing our government to be the worst, in Slovakia they’re doing the same, in UK they’re doing the same, probably in France they’re doing the same. At the same time many are praising the governments for having had the guts to face such a difficult situation with balance.
I believe that we’re all in the same situation. Everyone cares about his/her own business when it comes to hard times. If you’re angry you accuse your country and your government (no matter where you are), if you’re positive you’re happy of what has been done. Everyone has theories, everyone has his opinion. The sad truth is that this pandemic is out of our control. We would all love to have a magic wound to erase it and get back to our “normal lives”, but we can’t and we’ll have to be patience. No government will save us, because it doesn’t depend on them. Human mind needs to have a “guilty one” to accuse…and this isn’t possible here. This is driving all of us crazy. Even if we found out that the virus was spread by some crazy conspiring scientist on purpose…would that help? No. As the virus is here now, and even if we discover how it started and who’s to blame, it won’t go away. No politician will make it disappear.
We need time, we need patience, we need to understand that no political wings will make a difference here. Time will.

Has there been something that, in spite of everything, inspired you in this long period?
All in all we can say that on one specific aspect we’ve been lucky. We’re talking about our schedule. Been forced to stay home and far from our life on the road, we could really focus on the new record, as said before. We didn’t have to stress out to find time to compose it and record it in between this or that other tour or show. We had one year to be completely dedicated to songwriting. Is there anything more inspirational that diving into music? This is the reason why we strongly believe that our next album will be a huge, huge step forward for VoA.

What’s the first “normal” thing you will do when all this will end? Of course, we all hope as fast as possible, but I would like to get your messages of hope, for all your fans and our readers.
We’ve been writing a lot, so we will end up with such an easy answer: we’ll meet each other and jump on a stage. We can’t wait anymore to get back to the warmth of live music, to be surrounded by all the people we love from all around the world. We’re missing even the typical stink of sweat that only live shows can provide. We miss the atmosphere; we miss the look in the eyes of all the people in the crowd and the energy that is gathered up and down the stage. We miss music, the real music, and we will all get it back soon. Stay healthy, stay safe, use your mask and let’s hope all together that the next months will take us back where we belong.

Thank you so much for your time!
Hope to see you soon (and in a real live show!)

Interview Italian version: click here

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