By Carl Begai
Rumour has had it for over a decade that Gamma Ray frontman Kai Hansen isn’t a fan of touring, yet every time you turn around he and his Rayniac bandmates are on the road somewhere in the world either as headliners or a support act. He added to Unisonic to his to-do list in 2011, which put him on the international live circuit in between Gamma Ray commitments and personal life in 2012. And at press time – well before the release of the band’s new album Empire Of The Undead – Hansen was preparing to take the band through Europe for a month. You have to wonder if Hansen started the “Kai Hates Touring” rumour himself for shits and giggles, just to see how far the press and fandom would stretch it.
“The things is, I like touring and I liked it back then as well,” laughs Hansen, “but I didn’t like to be on tour for too long. Two or three months in a row is a bit heavy for me, but I think I can cope with the whole touring business better now than I did when I was younger. In general I don’t like long tours.”
Hansen also isn’t a fan of the constant push-pull in the metal world about who’s playing what kind of metal, whether an artist is metal enough, or if a band/album/song even warrants the stamp to begin with. Some fans, for example, raked Gamma Ray’s previous album To The Metal! (2010) over the coals for not being heavy enough. Going back for a listen to refresh the memory, it’s a ridiculous complaint
“It’s very hard to find a definition of what metal is,” Hansen says. “I never made a big distinction when I was growing up with glam rock and hard rock, and then later on heavy rock and heavy metal. In the end, for me, it’s all hard music with distorted guitars and attitude. Of course all these bands sound different, but to me it’s one thing. The spirit is the same so I don’t see the necessity to make a distinction, so I don’t.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: GAMMA RAY – Hellbent, Unbroken
By Carl Begai
“Whatever we do with Iron Savior, we have to have fun. If we don’t have fun we don’t do it.”
Which is the reason Iron Savior is still alive and kicking some 18 years since vocalist/guitarist Piet Sielck had the wild idea of clambering out of his producer’s chair and forming a band with pre-Helloween bandmate Kai Hansen and ex-Blind Guardian drummer Thomen Stauch, both long departed. It’s also the reason a cover of the Mando Diao pop hit ‘Dance With Somebody’ appears on Iron Savior’s new album, Rise Of The Hero. Not at all what you expect of an outfit that fills the gap between Primal Fear and Gamma Ray and started as a dead serious hammer-and-nails concept band, but Sielck and his merry men couldn’t give a damn.
“We were just really tired of doing rather predictable old classic metal songs,” Sielck says. “Basically that’s a case of just re-recording the song and maybe giving it better production. I think we did a pretty good job with the Mando Diao song; it reminded us of the work we did with SEAL’s ‘Crazy’ (for the Condition Red album from 2002) because the outcome is definitely different from the original. Our version has a vibe of its own, and that’s actually the main reason we decided to have it on the regular album. It was originally supposed to be a bonus track for the Japanese release. It’s not really metal, it’s kind of alternative, but I actually like the original version and I like the guy’s voice. When the song came out on 2009 in Europe, I thought it was a great alternative to all the Top 40 stuff that was out at the time. It definitely stuck out against everything else.”
“The video we did for the first single from Rise Of The Hero, ‘Burning Heart’, this is us and this is the vibe we’re carrying,” he adds. “Some people may ask ‘Are they serious at all?’ but we’re doing this basically for the fun of it.”
This lighthearted approach to their craft seems to be paying off. Shortly after its release Rise Of The Hero hit the album charts in Germany, which Sielck admits was completely unexpected.
“I think Unification (1999) is the only Iron Savior album that hit the charts until now, and 15 years later we’re back on the charts. It feels awesome, and I never thought we’d achieve this again with Iron Savior. It’s no secret that it’s easier to hit the charts during specific times of the year, and obviously this is such a period. So, we didn’t sell 30,000 records or anything like that, but from what AFM tells me the sales are significantly better than they were for The Landing (2011). That’s a bit of a surprise because The Landing was appreciated by the fans and sold well, much better than AFM or I expected it to at the time. Rise Of The Hero is selling even better, so we must have done something right (laughs).” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: IRON SAVIOR – Hero Warship
By Carl Begai
An excerpt from my recent interview with Piet Sielck, frontman and founder of Iron Savior, a band that should probably be dead and buried. In spite of some brutal odds, Sielck has succeeded in keeping things together and putting out a new album worthy of attention from the power metal legions. And from what he says, he’s getting it…
“The will to do this came back when I finally managed to solve the major issues with Dockyard 1. I sold the remains to AFM Records and (distributor) Soulfood Music in October 2010, and that was the point where I finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel. From that point on I definitely felt better, so I went in and cleaned out the studio, made it comfortable again. It was a good thing because it also cleared my mind. I was able to sit down and write music again. At the beginning I wrote the first complete song for The Landing, which was ‘Heavy Metal Never Dies’, and if you take a look at the lyrics and relate them to what I just told you about Dockyard you can say it was musical therapy for me (laughs).”
As Iron Savior albums go – seven in all – The Landing ranks as one of the strongest since the 1997 speed-happy self-titled debut. More metal-oriented than Megatropolis, the vibe and energy level is very reminiscent of Condition Red from 2002. Sielck agrees.
“It’s funny that you mention Condition Red because it was written under similar circumstances. I had a personal crisis to deal with before I started that album, but when it was over I went into writing Condition Red with a great attitude. It was the same thing when I wrote ‘Heavy Metal Never Dies’ for The Landing; it kicked my ass so bad that I was on fire (laughs). It felt like I could go on writing songs forever, to the point I was actually kind of sad when the writing sessions were over.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: IRON SAVIOR – From There To Eternity