Eszter Anna Baumann of Ann My Guard
Metal Maven: The second written interview for Metal Maven features the mystical Eszter Anna Baumann, lead singer and bassist of Hungarian Alternative Metal band, Ann My Guard.
IN THE PURSUIT OF ONE’S GREATEST SELF
Who you are presently begins with those who came before you. Family holds a strong presence in your life, from both this current lifetime as well as the past. Can you speak about your ancestors in regard to the lessons they’ve taught you that led you to find your greatest self in the present moment?
Eszter Anna Baumann: I have a truly wonderful family story. I view my ancestors as warriors and survivors of a different era. Tendentious people who, with endurance and passion, never gave up their dreams. They wanted the best for themselves, and for their families.
Our rich history can be reviewed in the autobiographical book of Ádám Baumann (or as I call him, Uncle Ádám) which came out nearly two years go. Needless to say, either I was struggling with my tears, or my heart was filled with anger, when I was reading his story. “We Swabians, were good Hungarians.” I have often remembered this sentence since reading it. In the story, there was also a small section about my great-great-grandfather, Flórián Baumann, who with his orchestra, went to the United States. It was happening in the nineteenth century, and he was the bandleader. He was on tour, so to speak. How cool is that?
And somehow, while reading the whole book, I always wanted to measure up to who my ancestors had become. They survived horrific, cold winters in the village. They started a new life in Germany after watching communists take away their house and everything they had fought for all their lives. They survived the World War and then the Russian work camp, where men and women were taken simply because they were born Swabian.
My grandmother, Irén Baumann, although an excellent student, had to accept that she would not be admitted to the university, just because her family name is Baumann. My ancestors, including Uncle Ádám and my beautiful, strong grandmother, built everything from nothing, and in their lifetime became the greatest versions of themselves.
Because of them, I consider myself a perfectionist and will never settle for less. I am a long-life student, trying to enrich my knowledge either with a new study or new intellectual challenge at work. Also, spirituality has a big role in my life which I definitely got from my mother’s side of the family. When I think about it, I am so grateful to my ancestors and honor their spirit every day with what I am doing.
Metal Maven: Now that we know a little bit more about your lineage, let’s discuss who you are as an artist and the history of Ann My Guard. How did this musical endeavor begin and what ushered its pursuit?
Eszter Anna Baumann: I had an amazing childhood in my small hometown of Békéscsaba, where music surrounded me since kindergarten. I was singing tales, dancing like a little flower fairy in front of my family, and then I found myself in the biggest flute competition for the country’s best flutist when I was 16. Each year I was studying more and spending more time with music, so my family decided that after high school, I would go to masterclasses to study Classical music, especially the flute. My teachers told my mom and dad that I was so talented (am I?) it would be a sin if I wasn’t a professional flutist in the future.
Because my parents knew it was a risky road, I had to continue my studies at a very strict high school, and then I was allowed to go to music classes. Therefore my average day looked like this: waking up at 6:30, study, school, exams until 15:00; then in the afternoon: piano, music theory classes, practicing flute at least three hours per day, and choir. I would arrive home around 20:30 at night.
It is no surprise I didn’t have a boyfriend by that time, right?
Then, one day when I got home, there she was: my first bass guitar. I got it from my dad, who was a big Rock and Metal fan. He (I guess) saw my struggle with the bounds of playing Classical music and wanted to set my soul free. Not so much later, I joined my first band which was a Nu-metal cover band and my life changed forever. I realized that this was the genre through which I could represent myself and which I am the happiest doing.
Then I started to write my own songs, and one night I came out with the name Ann My Guard…
Metal Maven: What is the meaning behind your band name? For me, it seems to be quite personal, as Ann My Guard could refer to a warden; your higher, sacred self who protects and guides you through lifetimes.
Eszter Anna Baumann: Exactly. My mother told me that your second name is your guardian angel. I feel her presence every day, especially when I sit down to write music.
Metal Maven: You are such a versatile musician playing bass, flute, as well as singing and composing. Do you have a favorite instrument?
Eszter Anna Baumann: I am a Gemini and, ironically, the fact that I play the flute and bass guitar totally represents my multi-colored self. They are so different, yet, are parts of me. When I play bass, I evoke the most ancient, raw energies; I am like the murmuring sea, the sound of a thunderstorm, and I just simply love how I can move with this instrument on stage. Whereas with the flute, the musical experience is merely ethereal. I love them both, I embraced these two sides of me, although the Dark Feminine with her bass onstage is more complicated than the other consolidated, elegant Anna who is playing on her flute in a fancy room.
Metal Maven: Who are your musical inspirations? When listening to your work, I hear echoes of 90s Grunge and Gothic Rock.
Eszter Anna Baumann: Perhaps my own style has evolved so uniquely because I enjoy listening to everything from Classical music to Black Metal. In our music, you can feel the influence of Debussy and Bartók, as well as melodic “Scandinavian” bands like HIM. In addition, I would highlight the effects of 90s Grunge and Alternative Rock artists from which era I found my female role models in music. Just to mention, my biggest influence is Melissa Auf der Maur. And the band I’m most thankful for is Korn. Words can’t describe that otherworldly feeling whenever I listen to their tracks, especially the Issues album. Truly life-changing!
Metal Maven: Last summer you moved from your home country of Hungary to the Netherlands. Did the story of your ancestors inspire you to uproot and see what could be possible in life?
Eszter Anna Baumann: To be honest, I never wanted to leave my home country, but an amazing offer from a booking agency made me take this big step. And then, love came into the picture. It is so amazing to realize that I can only thank Ann My Guard for this change. It wasn’t my diplomas, nor my previous jobs – the path of my musical endeavors led me to where I am now. In the beginning, because I have been to many places on Earth (I spent months in Canada for example), I thought, “Yes, I am a Baumann, moving to another country won’t touch me emotionally.” I was wrong. I had some tough months, but I am fine right now. I have the most patient, amazing partner by my side, I am doing what I always wanted to do, and finally, I am not waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of, “I am in the wrong place.” Since moving here, I have never had that feeling. I have found my place in this amazing country.
OF MAGICK & THE MOON
Metal Maven: You’ve stated that composing and playing music are effective ways of casting magick. Can you explain this philosophy in more detail? What is your ritual for song creation? I definitely experience something otherworldly when listening to your music and notice the metaphysical and mythical themes you weave into compositions.
Eszter Anna Baumann: Thank you so much. It is such an honor to hear this, as I feel my message has been delivered. Art for me is not feral, so I cannot sit down next to my guitar and start writing a love song. Of course, love does inspire me, but I do deeper research on what about it inspires me. What does it do to me? Where can it lead me? Then, I try to recall a similar story in literature or history and put it into a mythological context. Whatever I can do, I do it to elevate my muse to a higher level and make it immortal. “Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm,” said my beloved Oscar Wilde, and I couldn’t agree more, as I always seek beauty and try to define it with my art.
The process of writing and recording music is true magick. I feel complete, strong, and divine after finishing a song with recordings. Then performing is a true ritual. I love being on stage and looking into the audience’s eyes. I want to have an effect on them with my music and with myself. This is not a show, it is a trance that I perform.
Metal Maven: In order to explain your newest single, “v0id” we should begin with Ourania (2017). Ourania speaks of ascension and elevating into the starry skies. Were these heights created to feel the sudden descent into your current — and much darker — album, Moira (2018)? How do these albums connect in terms of concept, theme, and folklore?
Eszter Anna Baumann: I like to refer to them as sisters: Ourania is the lighter, easier one, where Moira is the dark, more mature girl. However, I still like the song, “Callisto” – I can’t imagine how I could write a similar song now. She is so beautiful, so light and young… that was me a few years ago.
Then, my dad died, my grandfather died, my cat died, and I was struggling with a very serious disease that ended in surgery – so it wasn’t time anymore to reach out to the Titan Goddess of the skies. First, I had to dive into the Underworld and find my way back to the surface. I was reading so much about the Dark Goddesses, like Hekate or Persephone, and with their help, make it back a stronger person.
Metal Maven: How did recording your very first album, Innocence Descent, inform the concepts of succeeding albums? What did you learn about yourself as an artist and musician that carried over into these newer projects?
Eszter Anna Baumann: My aim was to make the most unique music I could ever write and stand out from other bands. I don’t deny that seeing those bands who chose the easier path, and become more successful within a short time, didn’t hurt my feelings. I was offered this path many times, to allow a producer or a big label to form my music and what I can say, but even at the age of 18, I refused. My music is what I will leave behind when I die, I want it to be 100% me.
Metal Maven: Do you have a favorite Ann My Guard song? If so, why?
Eszter Anna Baumann: When I wrote our song “Echo” and I first listened to it completely, I started to cry so loud. Still, when I perform the song onstage, especially the middle part with Hungarian lyrics that ends in a heavy riff and haunting melodies, it always gives me goosebumps. The other song I am truly proud of is “The Day I Die,” especially because of its lyrics:
— “The Day I Die” from Moira —
I have never been afraid of dying, but since I wrote this song, I am really curious about how it will feel and what I will experience (sorry Mom).
Metal Maven: Returning to the present — is “v0id” a bridge between Moira and the next album Ann My Guard will release?
Eszter Anna Baumann: Believe it or not, for the first time of my life, I have no special plan in connection with releases. After three albums, I have a loose feeling of, “we will see,” and I let myself write a song whenever I want and when something inspires me. So I don’t know whether this track will be a song off our forthcoming fourth record, or if we will leave it as a single.
Metal Maven: From “Preparation” to “v0id” there has been a huge evolution of the band, not only in style but technique and delivery as well. How do you feel looking back on your first single versus your latest and the path Ann My Guard has walked to reach this refinement?
Eszter Anna Baumann: Honestly? Like many artists, sometimes I would delete my first EP and album from every platform. They seem so childish to me. Then I realize that it is me – this is my path which led me to where I am now – and when I start to think about it like that, I feel gratitude. These years gave me so much, both art and reality formed me into a person I am finally proud of (although I wish it was easier of course, but I can’t change the past). The music is me, my personality, and until I get positive reactions from the audience, it shows me that I might do things in a proper way.
Metal Maven: Now to speak of the moon, as it seems to be a source of power for your Craft. In the Innocence Descent studio diaries, you made a point to note its phase in correlation with the recording process; a half-moon in the night sky halfway through recordings. You also have an online shop called HOLDKŐ meaning “moonstone” where the magical products you sell are created under specific moonlight. Why is the moon of such significance to your creative process?
Eszter Anna Baumann: In many cultures, the Goddess is often represented by the Moon, and its three phases are instructive to the nature of her being. With my art, I try to reach out to the Goddess within me, as well as honor the Goddess ‘outside,’ who I often associate with the Moon. The Moon governs the tides of the sea and rules as an inner cycle for women, so I am trying to re-discover this kind of sacred connection with my body, mind, and spirit through her. I love staring at her gaze in my window for long minutes. I find these times a perfect opportunity to meditate and become one with her universal power.
And what a beautiful sign: my mother gave me a wonderful moonstone necklace and ring for Christmas after she helped me get through the first difficult months in my new country.
I love that I am a woman in this lifetime. I enjoy every day of it, and with the phase of the Moon, I am not afraid of the dark, nor of changing. We are love and light, also mystery and darkness – that’s what makes us women, and this is what the Moon reminds us too.
THE FORCE OF FATE
Metal Maven: It’s very interesting that you’re a musician and traveling around the world, much like your great-great-grandfather, Flórián, as well as using the knowledge passed down from your grandmother to create products for your online shop, inspired by Ann My Guard songs. What a beautiful cycle of creation!
Eszter Anna Baumann: Yes, thank you. As I said, I got my warrior spirit from the Baumann side and the spiritual, witchy part from my mom’s. Since I was a little girl, I’ve felt a special connection with Nature. I always loved to learn about herbs from my grandma. She taught me the first lessons about Mother Nature’s remedies and powers, and afterward, I became an everlasting student in herbology. I love creating my products and how I develop my connection with Nature and the Craft. I wish I had more time to have a degree in natural therapy. Maybe that opportunity will also come in this lifetime, I already looked up a school in The Netherlands.
Metal Maven: Where do you want to go from here? What will happen next with your music? If you could wield the powers of Fate, what does the future hold for yourself and Ann My Guard?
Eszter Anna Baumann: One thing is certain – I will never, ever stop writing and playing music. I can’t live without it. I have power over Fate – I create the life I live in, it is my responsibility how I spend it. The other thing I learned and started to practice since living in the Netherlands is: try to be in the present. Of course, I have things to do in the near future, but no, I am in THE present and I don’t think about the future, spiritually. Technically, of course, it is not that easy (haha), so I started to organize our second part of the year, which will include a big tour and more songs of course.
Also, I am thinking about going more solo. The time has definitely come to perform an intimate and haunting set by myself. I’d like to re-visit my songs and record them in another instrumentation. That would add so much to my soul… just me on stage with some candles and incense, playing for a smaller audience.
Metal Maven: Anna thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m so happy to have connected with you and grateful for your contribution to Metal Maven!
Eszter Anna Baumann: It was my pleasure. Thank you.
To purchase Ann My Guard’s latest album, Moira, and peruse Anna’s handmade, bewitching items, visit her Etsy shop, HOLDKŐ.
For the band’s latest news and upcoming shows, follow Ann My Guard on Facebook.