RPWL Teases New Album 'Tales From Outer Space' With Video "What I Really Need" (premiere + interview)
German progressive rock veterans RPWL explore the strange and familiar on new science fiction-themed LP that adds further depth to an already staggering discography. Guitarist Kalle Wallner offers further insight.
Progressive rock veterans RPWL will issue the science fiction-themed Tales From Outer Space on March 22 via Gentle Art of Music. To celebrate the upcoming LP, the collective has issued a new video for the song "What I Really Need". As always, the music is a brilliant combination of traditional progressive rock in the vein of Pink Floyd while incorporating contemporary influences along the lines of Radiohead and even U2 while losing none of the trademark RPWL sensibilities. Impressive in its concept and execution there are also flashes of subtle humor and a sense that RPWL remains capable of reaching a wider audience than ever.
The record also comes on the heels of the acclaimed concert film, A New Dawn, and reminds listeners of the group's legacy as a musical unit that is as vital on the stage as in the studio.
Co-founding member and guitarist Kalle Wallner recently spoke with PopMatters about the origins of Tales From Outer Space as well RPWL's rich legacy.
When did Tales From Outer Space begin to shape up? Do you have a designated time to start writing new material is that ongoing?
Although not all our albums were concept albums, they still had a main theme. That was important to us from the start for designing an album, for lyrics and composing. After the last two concept albums and the extremely elaborate live performance for our concert film, A New Dawn, we had two options in our preliminary considerations: either we write after Beyond Man and Time or Wanted, the third part, or go a completely different way. The latter seemed a bit more exciting then.
A concept album just works differently. The story is above everything and you always have to follow it musically. The freedoms of simply writing single songs for a main theme seemed to us to be much more attractive, especially since we already had a song and some ideas about science fiction in the drawer. The final decision was made in early summer 2018.
It seems appropriate that the new album wouldn't be a concept record in the traditional sense but would instead have songs linked by a common sci-fi thread. It's like reading one of those classic science fiction magazines or a series of stories in the genre. Were there particular science fiction writers whose work you loved?
That's exactly what it was meant to be. I have read and loved the classic comic heroes as a child and as a teenager. From Superman, Batman to Perry Rhodan to everything else that was science fiction, comics. Star Trek and Star Wars were always present. I also loved the Dune series by Frank Herbert. The unlimited possibilities to create new languages, cultures or societies has always fascinated me. This kind of social criticism was also important to us.
It seems like "Welcome to The Freak Show" could just as easily be fiction as a statement about the world at this moment or any other.
That was our intention. Many of the classic science fiction stories are in the future, but they are a reflection of our current society. So, "Welcome to the Freak Show" is kind of a blueprint of our world. It's like a big circus show with people watching what's going on around us, but not acting. And both sides are freaky: actor and watcher.
There's a live feel to that and to other material, including "Light of the World". I can visualize it in concert hall while hearing it in my speakers. It occurs to me that RPWL is one of those bands that's spent its fair share of time on the stage. Do you think about how the songs will be presented on the stage?
Songs that come about because of jamming with the whole band often have this spirit. We love that and of course we cannot wait to play the song live. This jamming is something that RPWL has always been about. We will play this song live in an extended version. We've always been a band that has toured a lot and has always put a lot of emphasis on this special live experience. For the last two albums we also staged our concerts with an elaborate show, as you can see on our last concert film, A New Dawn.
"What I Really Need" is the latest single. I love the chiming guitar figures and accessibility of it.
This song is already the second single of the new album. The first one was "A New World" and we staged a UFO landing and our own encounter with the third kind with great effort. With "What I Really Need," we accompany an alien stranded on the ground on his day through everyday human life, which is often funny but also thoughtful. Ultimately, it's about what we actually need in our lives. The big companies drive us in the truest sense of the word and we are the ones who are only supposed to consume but too often forget to think about it.
"Give Birth to the Sun" has those gorgeous keyboard parts, in particular at the start of the song.
The song is divided in two. The first part was originally only piano and vocals. But for the sci-fi theme we wanted to implement that with more exciting and appropriate sounds. So we experimented a lot with analog synthesizers like the Memory Moog and finally dropped the piano in favor of this new sound collage.
The second part was, as you can clearly hear, from jamming over a few ideas. But the fine tuning resulted from the interaction of the individual instruments. I'm looking forward to playing that song live.
RPWL has been together for over 20 years now. What do you think has allowed the band to last this long?
Yogi and I are the only ones left over from the first cast (and the reason of the name, the first letters of the surnames). But one thing has remained until today: it always happens to be very special when I make music together with Yogi. Even after so many years, we complement each other in a unique way. I myself have never lost the desire to make music. This continues to drive me and I could not imagine anything better. We're going to play a big tour with 25 shows in one month. I'm looking forward to that and I hope that we'll add shows in the U.S. later this year.
It also occurs to me that you made a number of records at the height of the progressive rock resurgence in the early 2000s. That wave is still going. Many of your contemporaries are still making records in that style and prog seems to continue to attract new fans.
When we started with RPWL in 1997 and we got in touch with the progressive rock scene due to the release of our first album in 2000, we did not know that such a scene existed. Personally, I grew up musically with rock and metal in the '80s and became aware of this kind of music through the well-known bands like Pink Floyd, Rush or Marillion.
A scene is always a bit of a curse and a blessing. On the other hand, there are only a few bands from such a scene that can afford to celebrate huge commercial success all over the world. They are incredibly fantastic, great and incredibly loyal fans.
We appreciate any appreciation for our music and the band has been running successfully for many years. The motivation to make music comes to us primarily from an artistic and not a commercial claim.