|Interview with Tobias Sammet – EDGUY / AVANTASIA
Thanks for taking some time to answer our questions.
First some general questions i'd like to ask.
Which song by another artist would you have liked written yourself?
Bon Jovi, Living On A Prayer. Not only because it sold so well but also because it’s the ultimate Stadium Rock anthem.
Name three albums you would like to take to a desrted island?
Magnum - On A Storyteller’s Night, Iron Maiden’s Live After Death and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell part 2. They are great records but most importantly for such a case: they got great artworks.
Ad why exactly these?
On a deserted island there is reasoanble possibility I won’t have electricity to play those records, but just look at them, so it’s all about the look. Yet, my mood may vary and after a while I may need other stuff. Depending on how long I’d have to stay there. I’d need more details about the circumstances I will have to face, duration of stay, electricity situation etc. And then: Why just three? The rule makes no sense, and down the line I have to stress that I think it’s highly unlikely for me to go to a deserted island with three records I think. Have you ever been asked to do that? What’s the point?
What are your thoughts about the music climate these days?
Not many people want to pay for records, that’s why the quality goes down the drain. People are getting used to lousy quality, that’s why everybody dares to put out records, even those who maybe shouldn’t yet and as often as they do. The production industry has adjusted to masses of releases of bands without fans and budget. The lack of album sales results in the band’s need to make money from other sources to survive. Like touring for example. Great. Every band tours all the time, there is a stiff competition out on the road, while new generations of potential music lovers show not so much interest in the background noise they are surrounded by, as they prefer to pay money for video games, mobile phones, entertainment electronics and share their life on Social Networks. In a few words: You have to be a complete music loving lunatic to be a professional musician these days. But it’s still great fun. I love music, I love vinyl, I love artworks, I love writing songs and listening to songs, but it's a weird age for music that we live in. But to be honest, despite the whining, personally I can’t complain, artistically and ecconomically
Busy times i suppose with the new Monuments release coming soon, but before we get to that, lets first go for a journey back in time.
You play both piano/keyboard as well as bass guitar..
At what age did you start playing?
I started playing organ at age 8 I think.
Who or what got you started in wanting to play those instruments?
I switched to bass one year after we had started Edguy. We needed a bass player and all those we could find seemed to just have that instrument, but weren’t able to play. So I thought, I might as well buy myself a bass guitar and do it myself, I was 14 at the time...
Who were your idols back then?
On Bass it was Gene Simmons, Steve Harris and Markus Großkopf. On organ it was Jon Lord. In general it was Angus Young, Bon Scott, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. They were cool.
Back in the days you sarted the band still being in school.
Word goes the band name Edguy has something to do with a teacher.
Can you tell us the story behind this?
We were all school mates and we were looking for a name, all the words that we had thought of were a risk, because that was pre internet and you had to expect that one day somebody would sue you for using your name, in case we'd make it. We thought of Revenge and Grim Reaper and stuff like that. It was safer to invent a word, so somebody suggested Edgar, the name of one of our teachers. We adjusted that to Edguy. It wasn’t a big deal, he wasn’t a special teacher, it was just a word that worked internationally. Stupid, but that’s really all...
How do you look back at the early Edguy years?
We had a lot of fun doing what we did. I was always possessed of the idea to become a full time musician. But it was difficult as we weren’t from a huge city with a music scene. In our little home town there weren’t any bands with a record deal, not many venues to play, there were no music industry people, no music press, no scene really. But we were so naive and busy building castles in the sky that we didn’t realize how desperate our situation really was. And I guess that’s what carried us through those days. We were full of hope and energy and ambition and just did what we did.
If you knew back then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Nothing really, because I am happy with who I am now and what I have achieved. Maybe with a better band name we’d have been given chances a bit earlier, but then maybe we wouldn’t have been ready yet and ruined everything… You know, if you watch those old movies about someone travelling back in time and adjusting one little thing it changes everything. It affects every aspect of what happens afterwards, and in the big picture I am happy with who I am.
People around the world sometimes say Germans have no humor.
Edguy proves the opposite both on albums and also on stage.
Songs like for example “England” (a funny hommage to England and Iron Maiden's Steve Harris), “Lavatory Love Machine”, amongst others.
Can you tell me how important humor is in your life?
I don’t really think about it. I guess most people prefer having a laugh over being miserable. It’s odd that in Metal you shouldn’t admit it. There were times we were considered buffoons because we weren’t afraid of doing things our way. I just refuse to pretend to be someone I can’t be, on stage and off stage. I like to have a good time and this is one of the few jobs in the world where you can have a good time, confuse people and sell it as art. My heroes were Maiden, Kiss, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, AC/DC… They weren’t afraid of anything. They played kick ass music and did some really ridiculous things. The whole concept was called Rock And Roll. And to me humor adds quality to life. Humor goes hand in hand with excitement. There is such a thing as German humor, it’s just not funny most of the time as far as I think...
As Edguy became more and more popular in the powermetal scene, there was a point in your career when you started the Avantasia project.
Can you tell us how you came up with the idea and is there any meaning to the name Avantasia?
It was 1999, we were on tour with Angra in France and I was bored on the tour bus. I thought: I wanna write a Rock Opera and record it with all my heroes in the scene, people from Virgin Steele, Angra, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Magnum… Well, and I did it. It was a concept about a parallel dimension, about someone escaping to the spirit world to set a couple of things straight over there, that type of story that you write when you are a 20 year old Metal fan. Again, I wanted to create a word that didn’t exist, so I took Fantasy or Fantasia and the spirit world of the King Arthur legend, Avalon… And I combined them. That was the spirit world in my story. And it became not only the name of that opera but also the name of the project.
Sasha Paeth is a very big part of Avantasia and also for Edguy (as producer).
You both have been working together for a long time already.
Can you tell me why you both have such a strong band in working together.
It must be more than only the bombastic and crystal clear productions?
He is a great musician. He is a great guy. He is intelligent, funny and a guitar player that can virtually play everything. He is a partner you need when you wanna do something outstanding. I have great ideas, and he adds his ideas to translate my ideas to a finished production. He is the partner I need to unleash my creativity.
With Avantasia you have been working with a lot of different singers and musicians from the rock and metal scene.
Who are on your shortlist regarding artists you'd love to work with but wren't able to untill now.
(I know about Meat Loaf).
Well, there are some I’d love to work with but it’s not that I have a trophy list. It would be a dream to work with Bruce Dickinson and Paul Stanley. Yes, that would be amazing. Joe Elliott maybe, great influence of mine.
With Avantasia you attended the German National Songcontest final performing Mystery of a Blood Red Rose..
How do you look back on that media circus?
It wasn’t my world and it wasn’t a world I was used to. And that made it extremely funny and exciting. I mean, I was asked to play my music in an environment that is not really into music, even though that’s what they pretend they are. It was great, I met many interesting people and I was given the chance to play my music to a lot of people that hadn’t heard about Avantasia. And apparently, most of them didn’t really need Avantasia, but still: Great fun and highly recommendable. I mean, for some of those people, good musicians, it was all or nothing. They were to win or do something else. Record labels make decisions if they put out a record of those people or not just based on how far they make it within the realms of this contest. For us it was different: We had a tour to come that had already been sold out in many cities. We had a number two album out that had charted in 15 countries. We knew our fans didn’t give a shit if we lost, so it wasn’t a big deal for them.
Your influences are from 80's, glamrock, also bands like Helloween and Iron Maiden up to classical music.
Who are some other fav. Bands?
I love Falco, I am really into Journey, Foreigner, classic Rock stuff. It’s always been mainly classic Rock and then some Pop, Metal and classical music.
Back to Edguy.
In 2012 you fell of stage and you you has some severe injuries including a nose fracture.
(I call it Mystery of a blood red nose).
You went on performing, this must have been very hard.
How do you look back on it?
I didn’t have a choice. We were the headlining act and I fell during the third song. What can you do? Walk off stage and disappoint 15,000 people? Be called a chicken? My teeth were intact so I could sing. The adrenaline helped pushing back the pain. It wasn’t until ten songs into the show when it got really worse, but I knew I’d be taken to the hospital after the show and they’d take good care of me, so I went on. There was a doctor next to the stage who said: "Your organs are okay, if a rib would have impaled an organ, you wouldn’t be singing. Your nose is fucked anyway, it won’t get worse during the show, it's just gonna look like a potato tomorrow…“ Well, so I went on, but it didn’t feel too bad, that came after the adrenaline had gone and when I looked in the mirror later on.
25 years after the band started, now it is time for a monumentum release so to speak.
How hard was it to go thru the songs together and pick the ones for the upcoming release “Monuments”.
I mean you all have your own opinion i suppose?
We are a democratic band. Everybody’s got one vote, I got 5, haha! Seriously, we discussed it, but then it was obvious that after 10 studio albums and a couple of EPs we wouldn’t be able to pick all good songs. So we went for the obvious choices and made suggestions, our goal was to pick a good choice that represents our history and work as a whole.
Which of the previous Edguy albums are you most proud of and why?
Honestly, I am proud of every single one. Because every one is important and stands for who we are and who I am at a certain time of my life. Everyone is good I think. Not so much the very first one, but apart from it, everyone is important. I guess today I’d choose Rocket Ride as my favourite as it was the album when we opened up to become more diverse, and if we wouldn’t have done that we wouldn’t be here today. It was the album that prevented us from running on a treadmill. Another fave of mine is probably Space Police. But they’re all good. Hellfire Club may not be so good playing wise and not as diverse, but I also think it was a very important album I am proud of. It gave us an idea of how we were more than just a Speed Metal Band, there were 80s Rock songs like Piper Never Dies or a Rock’n Roll stuff like Lavatory Love Machine… It was produced very one dimensional but it was a harbinger of what was to come and what we’d be capable of.
What can you tell me about the different characters in Edguy, any strange habits?
Yes, a lot. We are very different but we’re still together.
Can you tell us how your songwriting process is like?
For example, do you start with lyrics first, or with a melody?
First is always the music, or an initial idea… Maybe a chorus, I am a very chorus oriented song writer, Desmond Child or Jim Steinman type of writer. I write chords, harmonies and melodies at the same time, as they belong together. I don’t understand how some people write a riff and say they wrote a song and ask a singer to sing on it. That’s not song writing, that’s layering things and painting by numbers… I think so at least, but if it works, then fine for those who do it. I think it all goes hand in hand and I think even the lyrics are very important. They add to a song, and they do matter a lot. Sometimes a song only works because of a certain lyric. It’s hard to describe, I think all aspects belong together and that’s why I prefer to write alone. Sometimes a riff is inspiring and you take over and it makes you wrap a song around it, there are always exceptions to my rules, but I prefer having a clear vision and do things myself.
How important exactly are lyrics in your music, are there any messages/topics you feel you need to share with your fans?
Lyrics are very important. If I hear a song and the lyrics suck I can’t stand it, unless I don’t understand th language, then the vocals are just an instrument. But lyrics matter, they can be funny or tongue in cheek or blatantly ludicrous. They can be deep, depressing, fantastic whatever. But they have to move me. I wanna write things that either matter to me or that make me smile at least. It can be Lavatory Love Machine and it can be Alone In Myself off of the last Edguy album, a very personal lyric. Ravenblack off of our new album is a very personal, very emotional lyric as well. They are important to me, they are sometimes just flowing out of me, and they say alot about me. I guess that’s what artists do.
You must be proud having a succesful band with a steady line-up for many years?
What is the secret in maintaining true to eachother?
We simply don’t wanna make way for someone else!
Next to the gathered songs from 25 years of Edguy catalogue on Monuments, there are also some new songs included, such as Wrestling the Devil.
What can you tell us about those songs?
They are new songs. We all wrote and threw our ideas in. I did two songs on my own, and three songs are collaborations, that’s why they sound so different. Dirk did one, one is from Jens which I took over and fucked around with a little. And then there is Wrestle The Devil, which is a song our bass player Eggi came up with, that Sascha and I forged a bit towards Edguy's style. Some of those songs sound like we could have done them many years ago, some sound pretty current. It’s very diverse material, as it’s many different writers. I think those songs are pretty solid.
What do you do to prepare yourself just before you hit the stage?
I plug in my micro monitors, do a few warm up exercises and then hit the stage. There is not a real ritual, most of the time you have to get focused and try to get that tunnel vision to go out and conquer the audience.
What is the funniest thing that ever gone wrong during one of your live performances?
(exept you falling off stage in 2012, which off course is not a fun thing at all).
We once played a show in Israel where everything fell apart, drums, one amp caught fire… It wasn’t funny and it isn’t funny to tell right now, but during that show everything went wrong, and there were 5,000 people who enjoyed the show. It’s not so much a problem if certain things go wrong, it’s how you deal with them. When you’re under pressure and you get uncomfortable, the audience feels bad about it. If you stay on top of your game, you’re invincible, and the audience enjoys it...
What can we expect after the “Monuments” release, will you guys take the world by storm again with an exrensive tour?
Right now we have only a certain amount of shows booked. I’ve done so many world tours recently, I wanna take things a bit slower. I can’t stand extensive travelling at this point. Being on a tourbus for 3 months, while you could be in a studio and create new music… No way, I don’t wanna do it at this point.
Can you tell me something about the band's future plans after the next tour.
Can we expect a new studio album next year?
We got this major release in front of us, a lot pf press is to be done and we got a couple of weeks of touring ahead. Then we’ll sit down and see, I guess at some point I’ll work on a new album myself, I got so many ideas. Right now I don’t wanna make plans, my life has always been dominated by plans, I lived on a calendar with months and dates and releases and tours highlighted… I enjoy being able to look forward to a time with a bit less stress… Mind you, I’ve done ten world wide tours withing 15 years, I’ve done 17 albums in 20 years… It’s quite a lethal pace. Not that I did more than I can cope with, but I think I deserve to take things a bit easier at this point… You know what Geoff Tate and Jorn lande and I have in common. We enjoy mowing our own lawn… And I will mow like I mean it, ha!
Which question did i forget to ask, a question you are hoping to answer in an interview but was never asked to you before?
I’ve been asked everything! You didn’t forget anything! Ha!
Thanks Tobias for taking some time answering these questions.
We at Melodic.net wish you guys lots of succes with the new release and on tour together!.