“Freddie Mercury and Brendon Urie proved that singing without distortion can be cool” – interview with Felix Heldt of Dominum

Author Benedetta Baldin - 19.12.2023

Beyond the makeup and theatricality lies a visionary artist, weaving tales of valor, fantasy, and the human spirit through Dominum‘s music. Join us as we uncover the inspirations, aspirations, and the very essence of Dominum‘s sonic tapestry through the words and musings of the maestro himself, Felix Heldt, the charismatic force behind the persona of Dr. Dead.

Hi! How are you doing at the moment? 

Felix Heldt: I’m good. Thank you!

Awesome. This month you’re about to release ”Hey Living People”; I’ve listened to it and it’s a very well-produced and well-delivered record. So I wanted to ask you, how do you feel when your work is done and now it’s time for the people to enjoy the music?

Felix Heldt: First of all, it’s very relieving to have it done and when I first had it in my hands it was like, “All right, finally!” because it’s our first record. I think it’s always such a journey to define the style, to define the songs and everything. The process was long because we were thinking so much about this thing, which language were we going to sing in? Is it going to be German? Is it going to be English? What kind of music do we want to aim for? What are the zombies going to look like? Where are we shooting the videos? Where are we shooting the photos? Everything, all of those details that are so crucial. In the end, of course, you have to trust your guts and your feelings, if that makes sense. To see this finally in your hands, was just a perfect feeling. Right now, of course, we are super curious about how the world’s gonna resonate with it, and how the reactions are going to be. And if people can relate to that topic, if people are ready to let the zombies in their lives.

If you were to describe the band to someone who has never heard of Dominum, how would you describe it with just three words?

Felix Heldt: Queen meets Sabaton. 

You’re not only a singer, but you’re a multi-talented person: would you share with us your creative process?

Felix Heldt: I’m a very melody-driven guy; it mostly starts with a catchphrase. I remember this particular example quite clearly: I was driving my car, and then it just came to my mind, we all taste the same. So I drove to the studio and I was thinking, “All right, what could that be?” That could be something very monumental and majestic sounding maybe, I also enjoy the musical vibe a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in my life, so that’s kind of where I’m coming from. Sometimes it’s a melody or chorus idea that I have mostly during the nights, which my girlfriend hates super much because then I get up and get my phone out and record. She always wakes up. Sometimes it’s also here in the studio, then I just sat at the piano and I was playing around and then this melody came along. In this very particular case, it was written chronologically. I was having the piano intro and this weird chord progression which comes afterwards, and the verse. I was honestly working one week on the chorus for “We All Taste The Same”, there were 50 different melodies. I was playing and playing and then you’re not objective anymore, you are in the tunnel. I remember it because my girlfriend does not often visit the studio, but she was there fiddling around and at one point she said “Oh, that’s nice.” And I was like, “Yeah, I think so too.” I just get my phone out to record and play everything and as soon as you have the basic substance, this is basically where the real fun part starts because then it’s like a playground where you can do whatever you feel like doing. Then the hard work is done because finding good melodies and a good song title is to me the most difficult part. You just have to find the way that resonates best with you. I had this bizarre middle part idea as well. We were discussing a lot if it’s too much, but I was like, “How can less be more? More is more.” Too much is never enough. 

Here at Chaoszine, we are very interested in vocals and the inspiration behind vocals. So I wanted to ask you which artists have inspired your vocal style?

Felix Heldt: I’ve listened to a lot of Slipknot and Shinedown and all those very grunge-y sounding singers because when they have a clean voice, they still have a certain grunge or distortion in their voice. That always fascinated me but I was never able to manage to do that with my voice. I can shout to a certain degree and I also can do some growls, but those singing in very high registers with that distortion, that’s something I’m not able to do. It always influenced me also that I wanted to go very high and I trained for that. Then I discovered Queen and Freddie Mercury, and then I was completely sold. He sold to me that singing without grunge or crunch can be a cool thing. Because there’s so much energy in his voice, it’s just incredible. Queen is an evergreen. But there’s another singer that influenced me, and this is the not metal answer right now that you get from me. It’s Brendon Urie by Panic! At The Disco. He has such a broad and powerful voice, also in the upper register, which is fascinating to me, so I always wanted to achieve because I can sing very high and I always wanted to sing very high. When I was about 17, I had a gig with my old band and the voice didn’t work well. It was really frustrating because I wanted to sing and nothing came out. This continued to happen: you can feel that you’re healthy but it just doesn’t work. I was studying in Nuremberg to become a teacher with the main course of music and the main subject of singing. I’ve had vocal lessons at the university so I said, “All right, cool, I’m having vocal lessons. Everything will be better”. But nothing changed and I traveled to Berlin where a super famous vocal doctor has his practice. So I was telling myself, “If he doesn’t find anything on my vocal cords, I have to quit singing”. There was a famous opera singer before me, that was also very funny. He looked into my vocal cords and he said “No, there’s nothing. Let’s go over to the piano room. Let’s sing a bit.” We did the typical scales and he went higher and higher and higher. At some point he was like “You’re not gonna sing any higher than that.” I told him, “This is where I usually start. I sing way higher than this” and he replied, “Ah, then I know what’s wrong. You just can’t sing.”. “So what does that mean?” – “Your technique is just shit. Get a good teacher and everything will be fine.” I went to Nuremberg, and I researched for the best teacher. I was basically spending all my money on vocal lessons and it took four to solve everything. It was a very fascinating thing because I’ve had serious struggles and it gets mentally quite struggling when you want to sing and you can’t for two years. This is basically my vocal story; when you research a bit on vocal technique, you also understand how certain genres work and how certain singers can sing that high. I don’t want to say that I can do it because there are singers like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco that have a very broad-sounding voice in the upper register. It’s a matter of technique and it’s always great fun to work on this.

You will tour with Dominum this month and next year as well. Do you have any rituals before going on stage? 

Felix Heldt: We do have a ritual when the zombies are in a circle. Usually one of us does a little talk about the evening and what it’s going to be like. There’s a little motivation Wolf-of-Wall-Street kind of thing to get in the mood for the stage and push a bit and get everyone ready. Of course, it’s great to make music, that’s always the first goal. But if you are as gifted as I am and to be on tour with your friends, there’s nothing better. Because it’s always fun, no matter where we are, no matter how small or big the venue is, we always have a good time and this is what really counts.

Do you think that internet and the social media have impacted in a positive or negative way the music at nowadays?

Felix Heldt: I think in both ways. Change isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it changes the way we write songs, for sure. Because our attention spans get so low we don’t have time for intros anymore, for example. It’s very unlikely that an 8-minute song gets a few million streams on Spotify or YouTube. This is what is a bit frustrating, but as I am a bit more flexible on this, I think I have no clear answer to that. I think it’s just a process and it is how it is. Maybe it gets different on other levels. Obviously, there are very dark sides to social media, as you know. We’ve had a little kind of thing going on below the last video that we released, which is called “Cannibal Corpses”. I thought it was a funny twist to have these cannibal corpses, and everyone of course knows the band Cannibal Corpse, but they completely freaked out. It was like, “What’s that shit?”. They were assuming it’s a clickbaity title but it makes no sense because someone who likes Cannibal Corpse would most likely not be a fan of Dominum. People then got frustrated and wrote comments that were not super nice. There are very funny comments about this because I get the issue, like “Next Dominum single is going to be Slipknots and Korns”. When you take those things too seriously, you might get frustrated quickly and this is something that’s a very dark side of the internet. If you don’t like it, just don’t watch it, it’s no problem. In the end, let the people do their stuff, it’s fine, whatever makes you happy. There are also great things happening, social media connects us all very well together, it’s easy to have connections around the world. Most productions I do nowadays are also remotely because everything has gone so fast, and I can communicate with you not being in Germany very easily. We can stay in touch with each other. It’s a fantastic thing, but everything has its downs and upsides. 

What do you think is the most important quality that an artist has to have?

Felix Heldt: To me, it’s good songs, which is a very easy thing to say but not easy to achieve. I’m very convinced that the best concept and the best-looking band can’t go further. You can have a career to a certain point if you’re very good-looking. If you have a very beautiful voice, if the production is super duper, if everything is perfect, but if you don’t have a good song, you will not be successful in the long run, I think. There are a billion examples where you have a shitty-sounding production with not a super good-looking singer, but great songs and people still listen to that stuff. The music always is the most important thing. You are talking to someone who does a zombie band and that’s a very visual concept, but this is more as a cherry on top. Easy but very boring answer. 

It’s not boring at all! I wanted to play a little game with you, if that’s alright. If you could meet a fictional character for one day in real life, who would him/her be? 

Felix Heldt: I think it would be Dr. House. I’m interested in how he would react to me and what kind of talks we would have if we would get along well. I think I could get along with him quite well. But of course, he wouldn’t, so that would be very funny because he doesn’t get along with anyone. I’m Dr. Dead, though, so we have that medicine thing going on. I would be interested in what he thinks about the zombie thing and how he would improve it with his real knowledge.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add to the readers of Chaoszine?

Felix Heldt: No matter what the people say, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re big, if you are small… We all taste the same.