-To begin with, I’d like to know the meaning behind the name of your band. How were your first years in the music industry?
Thanks for the interest in our music. Wucan is a song by a band called Black Mountain and back in the day, when we started out, we were desperately looking for a fitting name. We liked the song so much that we decided to use its title as our name. We liked the vibe of the song. Its eerie, groovy, yet catchy and relatable.
We only later found out about other meanings of the word Wucan. In Mandarin it apparently means “lunch” and in Old English it was the title of a ritualistic week- not sure what that was about. It’s been years since I dug up this information.
The first couple of years in this industry have shown us that it’s not really about music, but image, numbers, sales, and all that. People like to put bands into boxes and categories, which really broke my spirit in the beginning.
We’ve had to emancipate ourselves from unfounded comparisons to all kinds of bands, like Jethro Tull, Blues Pills and Blood Ceremony (those three names come up a lot). Although all these bands are just great, we’ve had to do lots of work to disassociate with them to be in our own lane and find our style. I am happy we have now reached that point where it’s become clear what we are about as a group.
-Besides Jethro Tull (and probably The Strawbs and Siena Root), what are your biggest influences?
Musical influences are a very personal thing. In fact, so personal, sometimes it’s hard for the artist themselves to explain them. That’s why I have been very particular with assumptions about our influences, and I am almost baffled by how ironic it all is.
People often just see the instrument and assume we’re copying someone, instead of truly listening to what we’re doing.
(I don’t know Jethro Tull or the Strawbs- I even had to look up the latter; Siena Root are our good friends, wonderful band, but we don’t share the same approach to songwriting.)
So, for Heretic Tongues we combined pieces of all our favourite styles of music which are Heavy Metal, Disco/ Funk, Psychedelic Rock/ Krautrock and early electronic music. It’s hard to make out bands as such. But we’re big fans of ABBA, Judas Priest, Chicago, Giorgio Moroder and Birth Control. But those are just the famous references… there’s too many more to mention.
-Your mix of lyrics both in English and German is quite usual. Was it something that you already had in mind since the beginning?
Oh, we were hoping it wasn’t usual haha. Dammit! But yes, I had that in mind pretty soon after starting to write songs together. I wanted something that was challenging for me as a poet and songwriter, because “Germanness” is sort of looked down upon by rock music fans in Germany. So odd! Why would you feel ashamed of your mother tongue? In a way, that was our way of paying tribute to the great Krautrock and Ostrock musicians, who didn’t really get the attention they deserve.
Might sound pompous or melodramatic, but I do kind of see Wucan as carrying the torch for these musicians… in a way. Without ripping them off.
-Francis started doing acoustic versions on YouTube, like Sign of the Wolf by Pentagram and No Angel or Demon by Witchcraft. Which platforms do you feel are the best to help artists to make themselves known? Was that previous experience useful for you to place the ad thanks to which the band was formed later?
I think YouTube is not the right medium (anymore). It’s crazy what you can do with a social media presence, though. I’d say Instagram is the best place for bands like us. For other styles of music TikTok might be better.
But you must make sure you got your stuff together: Don’t go on there and use Instagram as a thirst-trap if you have nothing to back it up. You need to have your music sorted. Fans can smell bullshit from a million miles away, so make sure you are serious about music, then you’ll grow a genuine following.
-When someone discovers Wucan, Francis’ flute feels striking. We’re interested in which model are you currently using and when did you decide to learn to play this instrument.
I play a Pearl 665RE.
I was in 7th grade when I started playing the flute. I had two years of classical training.
My mom couldn’t afford the lessons at some point and I had to stop. When I founded Wucan I brought my cheap flute to rehearsal and we went from there. It was good I only had two years of professional training. This way, I could forget about all rules and create a unique style of playing with Wucan, although I bet most professional flute players cringe when they see me play, haha.
-In addition to German krautrock, folk and progressive rock, we can notice a NWOBHM influence in your music proposal (you did a cover of Am I Evil? by Diamond Head). How have you achieved this blend of genres that characterizes your music?
We have never subscribed to genre restrictions. All of us consider ourselves musicians- and being a musician entails a profound love all types of music.
There’s so many true-to-genre bands out there; why another one? We just want to have fun and that’s the result of us pushing each other to our personal limits.
-In my favourite song by the band, The Rat Catcher, you talk about the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin. Can we find any other tributes to stories or literature in your discography? Who handles the lyric writing?
That’s me, Francis. I write (almost exclusively) all lyrics. The pied piper was the only fairy tale I referenced. Theres a bunch of archetypal, mystical stuff I reference, but no stories as such. Since I got a degree in philosophy, I sometimes incorporate my philosophical world views into the music. I little bit of Horkheimer here, a little bit of Descartes there.
And I read lots of romantic (in the sense of literary epoch) and post-war poetry, which inspires me a lot.
-This seventies revival you are part of is led by a lot of women: Elin Larsson from Blues Pills, Marcella Di Troia from Black Mirrors, Zubaida Solid from Siena Root or Caro from Grendel’s Sÿster. Do you think there are greater equal opportunities when it comes to getting notoriety in the musical field, compared to years ago? With which current acts would you like to share the stage?
Yes, I think the “70s revival rock” offers more of a welcoming place for women than, let’s say, Death Metal. You must be very consistent with your work to gain respect- it’s not exactly thrown at you. But you can make yourself a name if you keep improving your art.
We’d love to tour with the Vintage Caravan again, of course. And playing with Kadavar is much fun. We’re open to anything though, really.
-I’d like you to explain me about the meaning behind your album covers. On your first EP (Vikarma, 2014), we could find elements from Hinduism, which the great Ravi Shankar brought to psychedelic music.
Back then I subscribed to the idea of Karma, so that’s where the classic idea of “world music” and Hinduism came into play. I reference that a lot in my lyrics, actually. Even now, still. Spirituality plays a huge role in my life, so that’s why we used this symbolism. The cover was created by our good friend Tom Witschel.
-Since you started you’ve had several drummers in the band. Has it been difficult for you to find the right person for your style?
We have had a stable line-up for 6 years. All the other drummers before Phil were step-in drummers, so they weren’t really part of the band and it was clear for everyone involved. It wasn’t easy to find someone who believed in the potential of the band.
-In 2018 you played at the Duna Jam in Sardinia, Italy. This festival takes place on the beach and the crowd is seated very close to the musicians. Do you think these festivals try to recover the spirit of Woodstock? Considering on the other hand that it is a restricted entry event.
I think some festivals do, yes. Duna Jam is a different beast, though.
-You recently did a cover for Zwischen Liebe und Zorn, from the Klaus Renft Combo. This song criticizes the role of the GDR and its misguided implementation of the communist message. We are interested in how the rock scene was like during the East German period, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. What is your opinion on the rise of the far right around the world?
Oh gosh, that’s too much to talk about in an interview like this. But let’s put it this way: bands and artists were supressed. Lyrics had to be extremely cryptic to even be allowed for a release. Everything east German was seen as “hillbilly-like” and inauthentic because of the restrictions placed on the artists. After the wall came down, all the music was suddenly unwanted- so many musicians went unemployed and endless amazing recordings were left unnoticed/ disregarded. People wanted to see and listen to Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen, not die Puhdys and Gerd Michaelis. They weren’t allowed any western media for 40 years. You can’t even blame them.
Well, we made a song about the current political situation, called “Fette Deutsche”. Dresden is a hot spot for the far right in Germany and we’re not happy by how common it has become to agree with national socialists. I am very worried about the future and I hope more and more people will wake up and stand up to what’s going on.
-On your fantastic latest recording, Heretic Tongues, we can hear a more hard rock feeling and less extensive compositions (with the exception of Physical Boundaries). Do you also think that you’ve changed the direction of the band, in comparison to Reap the Storm, your previous double LP?
We haven’t changed in our core. We still love long songs, epic pieces, and psychedelic journeys. But of course, we had to re-evaluate our style and process of writing songs after “Reap The Storm” wasn’t as appreciated as we would’ve wanted it to be.
We’re very diligent with arrangements and production, so that’s very time-consuming. I’d say we have just found our style and we’ve become very secure in who we are as a band.
-In conclusion, I must say that I loved seeing you on stage during the last Barcelona Psych Fest. Something that caught my attention was the use of the theremin. Why did you decide to incorporate it to your performances? What can you tell us about your experience in this psychedelic festival?
Thank you. We decided to incorporate it into the band eight years ago. I wanted that certain something to top things off. It’s a great effect in some parts of the show.
Barcelona Psych Fest was great. I was very surprised we were invited to play and I’m thankful we had the chance to do so.
-Thank you so much for your answers! I’m eager to listen to some new music from Wucan!
Thanks for your interest.