Poverty’s No Crime – Nothing to Hide

Thursday, 29th April 2021

Active since the early 1990’s, Poverty’s No Crime have built a steady following for their brand of melodic progressive metal. With their last member changes occurring twenty years ago, it’s obvious this quintet possesses great band chemistry – put to the test in these pandemic times for their latest album A Secret to Hide. Unable to get into proper rehearsal situations prior to recording the new tracks, they would have to record remotely in their home studios – trusting each other to knock out a fine final product. Those who love the progressive metal genre and seek out stellar musicianship written in a palatable context will find plenty to enjoy front to back with this album.

We reached out to bassist Heiko Spaarmann and vocalist/guitarist Volker Walsemann, who were very happy to bring us into their world. You’ll learn more about the challenges of this record, memories surrounding a great tour with Psychotic Waltz, thoughts on the changing music industry landscape, working with Noise and InsideOut Music prior to their latest deal with Metalville, as well as some future plans with Heiko’s other bands Assignment and Bleeding.

Dead Rhetoric: A Secret to Hide is the latest album for Poverty’s No Crime – five years removed from your last outing Spiral of Fear. Where do you see this record sitting in the discography of the group – and what do you believe makes this distinctive compared to the last effort?

Heiko Spaarmann: Interesting question. I think the biggest difference in comparison to Spiral of Fear, is this COVID situation and the way we started working on this record. Actually we didn’t have the chance to rehearse as much as for Spiral of Fear, due to the songwriting process. We did all the songwriting and all the recording separately from each other at home. On the Spiral of Fear record we worked more in a rehearsal situation, from the creation of the record that’s the biggest difference. When it comes to specific details, it’s the tiny details when you listen to A Secret to Hide, there are so many small details to listen to. It’s continuing on a path of our music, it’s not that we left our way off the Poverty’s No Crime main style and sound.

Volker Walsemann: And for me personally, it’s really a big step forward from Spiral of Fear. Because it’s the emotional feeling of the album. More than Spiral of Fear, which was a bit more in the head, this album is more from the heart.

Dead Rhetoric: Now when it comes to your vocals Volker, there are a lot of layers and vocal harmonies that you emphasize. Is this something that you work out ahead of time and had planned for this album as well?

Walsemann: No, but we had more time at our home studios so we can practice a lot. I had enough time to improve my vocals and try a little more to put some harmonies on the vocals, put some interesting backing vocals in there. This album is my best vocal performance ever, I can say.

Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the challenges of developing this record without meeting up once in the creation phase due to the coronavirus? Do you believe the long-running history playing together now for almost twenty years helped you shape and mold this material in a unique way that may have come out differently if you were together in those initial phases?

Spaarmann: What has been different, definitely. We had more time, Volker especially, to think about the details. When you are working together in the rehearsal room on new material, there is a lot of stuff happening spontaneously. Then you come to a point when you rehearse something, play it over and over again, that there is an agreement between all the musicians. They say, this is the way that we want to have this part, and the part is done. You go onto the next song or take the next task in writing the song. When you are working from home, as Volker said, you have so much more time to think on your own, elaborate on different parts, and come up with suggestions also for the other musicians. It’s a little bit more elaborate. We have been going through more alternative versions of the songs. You are trying to have more alternatives.

Walsemann: When I write songs on my own, I always have my band members in mind. I think of them, this is a part where Heiko would play it like this or that. We are working together for thirty years. I know what the others would like. This time I wrote the drum parts for our drummer Andreas, and he did it very well. He thought they were very well arranged. I made everyone very comfortable.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs that came easier than others – and what song did you think was the biggest challenge?

Walsemann: There was no challenge. Some songs are easier to play than to write. “Hollow Phrases” was a song that was very easy to write, because of the structure of the song not being so complicated, but it’s always difficult to find the topic or theme for the song. That goes for every song. The most complicated song on this album was maybe the last song “In the Shade”, because of the structure. The longer songs are always a little bit more complicated than the shorter songs.

Dead Rhetoric: You chose to shoot a video for “Hollow Phrases” that appears to be a mix of outdoor scenery footage as well as including the lyrics. Did you have to adjust your visual clip because of coronavirus restrictions, and is it an easy choice to decide what would be the best single or two to give the listeners an idea of what to expect for the full record?

Spaarmann: The video is completely made of stock footage. So it’s not that we had been shooting it, but the guy who did the video found very good stock footage that was a perfect fit to our album cover. This guy spreading his arms on top of the hill, this scene fit the album cover. So it wasn’t filmed especially for us, the video guy had a very good hand in finding this and constructing it together.

The second part, when I was recording the album and going through the songs, it was immediate “Hollow Phrases” when I recorded it that stuck out. This is a little bit more commercial as the vocals start right in the beginning, about 20 seconds in. If you are a band that is interested in attracting new listeners, that has been away for five years since the last record, it’s always good to offer a song that has easy access for the listener. When the vocals start right at the beginning and you have a melody that can be easily remembered, it’s a service for the listener to re-enter the world of Poverty’s No Crime. I thought that’s what “Hollow Phrases” offers perfectly. Not so complicated or a very long song, it starts with an easy melody, and it was a hello we are back song.

The next song we will release before the actual album release will be the instrumental song. Maybe to attract some listeners into post-rock and instrumental kind of music. And that’s “The Great Escape”. And on the 16th of April we will release “Flesh and Bone”, a typical Poverty’s No Crime song. That one has a catchy melody, some long instrumental parts, the vocals don’t start before two minutes.

Walsemann: I didn’t intend on writing a commercial song, it just happened. Heiko was the one who said this is the single. It’s hard for me to decide. Heiko is from the business, and knows what to do, so I rely on him (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: You mention that the video ironically ties into the cover art. What can you tell us about the cover art this time?

Walsemann: The cover art I make by myself. I was responsible for the cover art for the last few albums. A Secret to Hide is the title, so the cover is also a secret (laughs). I’m just kidding. The cover represents a feeling, the feeling of powerful feelings. Somewhat like a superhero. When there is power in you and the power wants to get out, I think this cover shows very well the feeling while hearing the music.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the development of the progressive metal genre from your initial exposure to the style to how the movement has developed during the modern era?

Spaarmann: Volker may not be able to answer this because he doesn’t listen to new music. Volker is listening to Rush, older Deep Purple, maybe some older Iron Maiden. He’s the main songwriter, it’s not possible that he’s influenced by any modern progressive rock or metal bands because he’s absolutely not listening to new music.

I do listen to some new bands, but I always think Poverty’s No Crime is not affected by modern developments of new bands in this genre. Volker’s not up to date when it comes to music, it’s not positive or negative, it’s just the way that it is.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the trademarks of the Poverty’s No Crime style and sound?

Walsemann: Maybe we are a little old school in terms of songwriting, but we have a modern sound because of Simone Mularoni of DGM. He does a fantastic job in the final sound – even if we want to sound like Deep Purple, we are able to sound completely different. The sound does make the difference.

Dead Rhetoric: How did touring with Psychotic Waltz to support your last record give the band a creative or energetic boost to revitalize the outlook and output of the band? Because there had been a nine-year gap between 2007’s Save My Soul and 2016’s Spiral of Fear previously?

Spaarmann: This is a very good experience because the band wasn’t so active playing live. There was this good opportunity to join up with Psychotic Waltz, we like the band. And they are very successful in Germany and have a lot of fans in our country. It’s a good possibility to play in front of bigger audiences. We had at least 500 people in the audience per concert, and the reaction from the Psychotic Waltz crowd was incredible. I never had the feeling that we were the support band, we got so much positive reaction from the crowd. This was a very positive experience for all of us. It gave the kickstart for us, a lot of new energy to start working on a new album. Everybody was happy with an album out, we could play some gigs, we had support from the fans. Spiral of Fear was much more successful than the last album we did on InsideOut, Save My Soul. It was a real comeback in terms of record sales. It’s not that over the years some fans left the band and you aren’t interesting for the fans anymore- it was the complete opposite. After nine years, it was boom – Poverty’s No Crime is back, and people are interested in what we sound like after nine years. There was not a big surprise, we developed a bit. We are still very positive, and the reaction so far has been positive for the new record – especially from the press guys that have had a chance to listen to the whole record.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of the best memories or highlights of Poverty’s No Crime to date – specific albums, songs, live concerts, festival appearance, or other events where you knew you were making an impact with your music and reaching a higher level of respect?

Walsemann: The very impressive, big thing in my career is when Poverty’s No Crime got the chance to do a European tour with Virgin Steele and Angra in 1996 I think. It was my first real trip through Europe. I did it as a rock musician, it was unbelievable. The audience, the people that we met, it was super. I will keep that in mind until the end of my life, I will tell my children on and on.

Spaarmann: I know that was a very good experience, but I wasn’t in the band during that time. That was a couple of years before I joined the band. Even though I have been in the band for now twenty years, I am still the new member of the band (laughs). Everybody makes fun of it. Recently on the Psychotic Waltz tour, the concert in Essen, Germany. There was a big crowd, and everyone was so supportive to the band. That’s why we make music – to go out and play for the people, get their reactions. It’s the fuel for us to keep on working as a band.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the evolving nature of the music business – where there seems to be more of an emphasis on digital streaming and social media engagement versus the physical sales of the past?

Spaarmann: That’s really a change in the system. I work for a music distribution company. A couple of years ago I would have said about the music business that I am selling music. Currently I get the impression that this changed into much more technology. Nowadays I would say I am selling data and information. The people you meet, mostly a couple of years ago would be music fanatics and music lovers that supported music, worked at record shops and they would recommend new bands and new records. You’d have to try to listen to band y, and today when I talk to people in the business, it’s more like sending files around. The emotion is less. People are still interested in music, but it’s more IT guys that take care of distribution. They are not really from the music side, they are more from the technology side. IT guys are dealing with the music end, and it’s a change of course.

People are working differently with music. All the social media stuff, we haven’t been very active on Facebook or YouTube. We didn’t have an Instagram account. We just set it up a couple of weeks ago. Let’s start an Instagram account. We are a little bit behind, but it’s okay.

Dead Rhetoric: You have been a part of Metalville now for a few years after being with Noise Records and InsideOut Music previously. Do you feel that all of the record companies you’ve worked with have been fair and just in the treatment and promotion of Poverty’s No Crime, understanding your music?

Walsemann: I don’t want to say something wrong (laughs). To be honest, the first record company Noise Records, they don’t exist anymore. They did not do a good job with us. They didn’t treat us very well. They didn’t spend much money on commercials, advertisements. They gave us the money to make the albums and that’s all. InsideOut was much better for us, but in the end… Heiko said it, sales were not as good as we had hoped. Metalville is the best label that fits very well for us. Because they let us do what we want to do, they put a lot of money into commercials and advertisements. And they put out the new album, it’s okay.

Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn about the members of Poverty’s No Crime when they are away from the music? And do you have the consistent support from your families and friends with your music endeavors?

Spaarmann: I’m not sure what you will read about me when you write it. What would be surprising about us?

Walsemann: We are very normal people. That may surprise some people. We have jobs, our families, live in our houses, we are completely normal. There’s nothing scary or freaky about us. Maybe in the past, stories. Now today, we are so normal. Boring.

Spaarmann: When it comes to us, every one of us has families and kids. Just a normal working life. Poverty’s No Crime is maybe something to step out of normal life for everybody. The band is not of a status that we can make a living from just being in a band. We have our normal day to day jobs.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the following of Poverty’s No Crime within Germany and outside of the country? Where would you say you have made the most impact with your music?

Spaarmann: People that listen to Poverty’s No Crime, without any disrespect, it’s also normal people who are interested in music with a little more thinking man’s music. You have to dig a little deeper to get into the structure of the song. You should take the time with our music to get familiar with it. Everybody is willing to do this. You have to spend a little bit more energy to understand our music.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or two looking for Poverty’s No Crime to support this record – and how have the members been filling their time during this pandemic/ downtime?

Spaarmann: For me, we released the last Assignment album in August of last year. I was taking care of the Poverty’s No Crime record. Right now I am recording a new record with Assignment as well. We have a cover version album coming up, it’s a lot of fun. Afterwards the new Bleeding album is written. Andreas is also in Bleeding, he’s recording the drums for the next album. I keep myself busy. I didn’t really have to take a break during the COVID situation – I record at home, I have been working from home for over a year. I don’t have to leave my house.

Walsemann: I am still writing new songs. I can’t live without music, though the pandemic is hard. Someday I hope the pandemic is over and we can get back to normal ways, so we can play live gigs. I want to play the new songs live. This is my big hope for the future, that everything goes to normal.

Spaarmann: That’s the goal for 2022 – to be able to bring these songs on stage. In 2021 there is a lesser chance for us to play live.

Walsemann: Right now in Germany there is a problem with the vaccination, only 10% have gotten the vaccine. So I think we will have to wait until 2022 for live shows.

Poverty’s No Crime official website