Johannes Strate – Authentic stories & new sounds
Revolverheld became a German household name almost straight away when they released their debut album over a decade ago. A lot has happened for the band since then, including the legendary MTV Unplugged tour. Frontman Johannes Strate talks about the new album Zimmer mit Blick (Room With a View), the challenges of long-distance relationships and how important it is to recognise the political climate that surrounds us today.
After the huge success of their MTV Unplugged tour, Johannes Strate, Kristoffer Hünecke, Niels Kristian Hansen and Jakob Sinn of Revolverheld were ready to take some time off. The plan was to rest for a year, focus on other things and come back with restored energy. So far, so good. However, in the end, frontman Johannes Strate managed to relax and stay away from music for only four weeks before passion took over again.
“It was strange because I generally also play a lot of guitar in my free time, but then I kept thinking ‘Oh no – I’m supposed to be on a break’. And I realised how silly that was – I didn’t want to have a break from music,” Johannes Strate remembers. “It was nice to take time off from performing on stage, but writing songs was something I just had to continue doing.”
Johannes met up with his bandmate and fellow songwriter Kris, and it turned out he was going through the exact same process. They went to Amsterdam together and played each other 25 full new songs. That was the beginning of the new album Zimmer mit Blick, which was released in 2018. It is the band’s fifth studio album and shows just how worthwhile it was to get creative again.
New sounds, same spirit
So much had happened since the group last recorded in a studio, and the experience with the somewhat strict requirements of MTV Unplugged also nurtured a longing for breaking free from any musical boundaries. Tuning into the new songs, one can immediately feel that there is an ever so slightly different vibe to this album.
“Both Kris and I separately incorporated a lot more electronic stuff,” Johannes explains. “Starting with spherical guitars and beats, we both wanted to get away from the acoustic sound. As a result, the album features electronic sounds like never before.”
Truthful stories from the heart
Although the sound might have slightly changed, what always remains is the authenticity, the personal stories of the songs. The single Liebe auf Distanz (Love at a Distance), for example, examines the challenges of long-distance relationships and stems from Johannes’ own experiences.
“My relationship was between Hamburg and Cologne – which is nothing too dramatic I suppose, but a four-hour train ride is annoying. You cannot just come around in the evening to relax together,” the singer explains. “You have to solve big problems over the phone, which is incredibly draining. It really tests the whole relationship over and over again.” That was over ten years ago, but Johannes recalls exactly what it felt like back then and has captured that feeling in this beautiful song.
His advice for anyone in a long-distance relationship is not to create too much pressure – “a true challenge”, he admits. “I also think it is good to keep your own expectations in check for the time that you actually do see each other. Thinking that you have 24 hours together and that therefore everything has to be amazing… well, you might argue during those 24 hours and that is normal and okay,” he says. “But I do think that if you managed to have a successful long-distance relationship for a few years, chances are, you are a very good match in general.”
It is time to wake up
Another song that truly sticks in one’s head is the title track Zimmer mit Blick itself. With its socially critical lyrics, the song raises important questions about the complex world we live in and, in particular, about our own attitude towards it. Revolverheld makes it very clear that now is not the time to turn away and stay in our own comfortable bubbles.
“Five years ago, I became a father and although it might sound clichéd, your perspective shifts – of course, not just when you have a kid, but also when you are getting older. You see the world differently when you are in your late 30s than you did when you were in your 20s,” Johannes describes. “So many extreme things are happening at the moment. For example, I don’t think anyone can seriously argue about climate change anymore.”
He continues: “The consequences of a variety of issues are starting to show. Take political mismanagement or the populist frenzy which seems to be appearing across the globe at the moment. And in times of the internet, you simply cannot say anymore that you didn’t know – yet there are still so many people who actively look away. Who feel overwhelmed and therefore close their eyes to what is happening all around them.”
Recently, the crew of Revolverheld became WWF ambassadors to help raise awareness for the damage that plastic causes to our planet, and particularly to our oceans. “It is such a huge subject and I am happy that it is covered more and more in the media, especially during the last two years,” Johannes says.
“And regarding the consequences, it is the same again: you cannot say you didn’t see the plastic cup floating past you during a holiday. It is right there. And that’s also true for the manufacturers. You cannot produce 50 million plastic bottles each year, of which 30 million end up in the ocean, and then say ‘it’s none of my business’.” He points out: “Germany is actually quite the pioneer regarding this as manufacturers have to pay a fee for every plastic bottle they produce.”
Whilst being passionate about these important issues, the band never becomes preachy. They feel it is their responsibility as artists to use their voices and their place in the public eye to portray and reflect the current situation – and most importantly, to ask questions. Their songs make the listener think deeply.
Authenticity all the way
Expressing their feelings and thoughts is a key ingredient for the two songwriters Kris and Johannes, and the sound carries it through. Revolverheld has been hugely successful for over a decade now, and evidently there is a lot more to come from and for them. Following the credo ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’, Revolverheld is back on stage in March celebrating their new album during their Zimmer mit Blick arena tour.
“A good live show for me means that you can give it a somewhat personal touch,” Johannes explains. “It doesn’t matter if you are in a small or a large place – I am generally not a big fan of gigs that are completely rehearsed from start to finish. Instead, I like shows to be a little more spontaneous. Telling the audience about things that are relevant to me on that particular day is important and nurtures that personal bond.”
He laughs and adds: “We are known for talking a lot on stage – we just don’t shut up.” Lucky for us!
Zimmer mit Blick arena tour 2019:
14.03. Emden, Nordseehalle
15.03. Hannover, TUI Arena
16.03. Hamburg, Barclaycard Arena
18.03. Bremen, ÖVB-Arena
19.03. Leipzig, Arena
20.03. Frankfurt, Festhalle
22.03. Stuttgart, Schleyerhalle
23.03. Nürnberg, Arena Nürnberger Versicherung
24.03. München, Olympiahalle
25.03. A-Wien, Stadthalle
27.03. Köln, Lanxess Arena
29.03. Oberhausen, König-Pilsener-Arena
30.03. Berlin, Mercedes Benz Arena
TEXT: MARILENA STRACKE I PHOTO: BENEDIKT SCHNERMANN
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