This month they're treating their fans with a new release called "Seven Seals" and already for "Devil's Ground" they recruited Canadian Randy Black from Annihilator to beat the "living" crap out of the drums. These Germans, Ralf Scheepers, Mat Sinner, Tom Naumann and Stefan Leibing have never played in Finland before, Black instead had his share of Finnish metal fans in 1991 while on tour with Annihilator, supporting Judas Priest with Pantera. So it was about time to get Primal Fear over here. This happened in the Tuska festival this July and eventhough the band played in a small tent, the whole show blew away their fans with the powerful act. RockUnited interviewed songwriter and bassist Mat Sinner and vocalist Ralf Scheepers to find out answers to questions like whether the guys have visited Finland on other occasions then since not playing here before, after all it ain't a long road from Germany ?
Mat - I was once in Helsinki, I think it was in 2000 or 2001, receiving a gold album by Stratovarius for the "Infinite" album. It was for my job in Nuclear Blast, 'cos I was connected to the band. I had a nice time here, it was very nice. But I haven't been playing here by myself as long as I've been in this business. It's the first show in Finland. It's always very difficult to come to Finland, 'cos you have to take the nightliner and the ferry and this is expensive as hell. But we're looking forward to presenting our show here to the people and hope they like it. We're excited to be here and we'll see what we'll think in the end of the day. We were in Poland for the first time also with Iron Maiden, it was also a very exciting show and now we're here for the first time, so we're looking forward to doing this.
Ralf - I was here when I was sixteen actually, on vacation with my family. We arrived with the ferry, Finnjet, and we did a whole tour in Finland up to Rovaniemi. My father just wanted to fish, but there's all these brown lakes and he didn't catch nothing. We had a very good time there.
RockUnited - What about the flies and mosquitos there ?
Ralf - It was a total attack ! Trying to fish there by the river and they attacked us.
RockUnited - I think you have some Finnish musician friends here ?
Ralf - We've made a lot of friends on our former tours, like from Children Of Bodom, also from Nightwish. So we have a lot of friends here, especially Mat, since he's working for the business. So we've made a lot of friends through the years. It's like in rock'n'roll you make lots of friends, 'cos you're sitting in the same nightliner and making the same shows each night and so on.
While the Finns Thunderstone recorded their "The Burning"-album, the working title for one song was called Mat Sinner, but it never made the album. Mat and Ralf were curious about this, asking whether that is good or bad and wanted to know about the lyrics. Ralf knew they were also playing in Tuska the next day, so he wanted to ask them about it. Guitarist Tom Naumann stepped in for a second in the beginning of the interview to join the chat about Thunderstone and the Primal Fear shows in Wacken and wherever the band has ever played in. Somehow we ended up noticing it's been years now since Ralf was still rocking with his long hair. Ralf's ex-band Gamma Ray was playing in Tuska the next day. What a coincidence, but they're doing great too, having a huge fanbase all around the world. Talk about a haunting history here, but Ralf was cool about their presence, so Primal Fear stayed in Tuska to see their show. Once they even played a Gamma Ray song live.
Ralf - We will be here tomorrow, 'cos we fly back on Sunday morning. I will watch the show, I have no problems with Kai Hansen and all the other members. We're still good friends when we see each other, we have a good time. But we don't call each other each week, 'cos we're both busy. But we get along with each other, no problem.
RockUnited - Here's a question from Henrik Nymalm, also a musician. How did Kai's visit influence the sound on your first album ?
Ralf - He just made one solo on it. We invited him and he said why not come and make a solo for you guys. But he didn't actually influence anything, he just played the solo. He was a guest musician, that's it. But it was nice from him.
RockUnited - You haven't been working with him after that ?
Ralf - Actually no, since I'm in Primal Fear. Before that we did the tribute to Judas Priest and that's it. It's also the long distance between Stuttgart and Hamburg as well and he's busy and I'm always busy. And I'm really happy to do just one thing as a vocalist, concentrating on one thing and that's it. We played "One With The World" (Gamma Ray) once in the beginning, because when you have one cd you collect some songs from your former bands. We did Sinner and Gamma Ray songs.
RockUnited - I'm sure your older fans would like to hear something from Gamma Ray.
Ralf - Could be yeah.
RockUnited - Going back to your "Devils Ground"-album, you shot the video for "Metal Is Forever" in Sweden. What made you travel over there to shoot it?
Mat - It was just the company. They seemed very interesting what they did before. And they sent us a good script of the video and we thought it could be a good thing to go there. And it was very interesting to work with them. It's always a fresh thing to work with some (new) people. They rebuilt the whole house and it was really nicely done.
RockUnited - There was this wall which was blown away. Did you kick that one down ?
Ralf - They did it for the video, they kicked it down and rebuilt the whole house and changed everything.
RockUnited - Did you by doing "Metal Is Forever" try imitating the feel of Judas Priest, your sound goes pretty much hand in hand with them anyway ?
Ralf - Actually the comparisons to Judas Priest are like a normal thing to me now and I take it as an honour, because it's nothing negative. And the whole song is for the metal scene. We're all coming from metal, we were fans, we became musicians and now we deliver the stuff again to other fans and maybe they're gonna be musicians, so that's the story for "Metal Is Forever". It's got nothing to do with Judas Priest.
Mat said the new album will sound very different, with a smile on his face, and we're all waiting for it. But another song with similarities to other bands is "Wings Of Desire", the beginning follows Scorpions' guitar intro on "Coast To Coast". The PF bunch who's in the hot room says they never noticed such coincidence and the band is no fan of Scorpions either. And like any other music fan, the guys think you can always find something to compare songs or their parts to. If such a coincidence was ever noticed, they wouldn't use the part. But then again they were smiling...The band hardly makes ballads either, "Devil's Ground" had none. So is their music mostly meant for male metal fans ?
Mat - What about "The Healer" ? Do you think it's too heavy for a ballad ? So we will change, the new album will be more for girls than for men...
Ralf - Equal.
Mat - More for girls, girl music. Love music ! But why do girls like ballads ?
RockUnited - I don't know.
Mat - Isn't it a mid tempo song, which makes the girls grooving, instead of a ballad ? I don't know. I'm not a girl, I can't follow this, but...(laughs) The new album will be a girl album, ok !
Well, let's hope not, we still love PF as they are, don't we ? I still had to continue teasing them guys about ballads for a while, since they were "enjoying" talking about them so much.
RockUnited - Personally I love the fast songs and the ballads, but the mid tempos are "ok". But I hear there will be a ballad on "Seven Seals" though ?
Mat - Yeah. It's a girl album, hah ! The ballad is a ballad, it's a nice slow song, we're all singing to only on guitar, very melancholic, very dark, very nice atmosphere and it's growing and growing with a big chorus. I'm very proud of this song and I think everybody in the band is very proud of it. It was a good thing to do this. The album is ending with this song. It's very, very nice, you will hear it.
RockUnited - What are the lyrics about then, are they dark ?
Mat - The subject of the whole album is orientated on the bible. It's a story about what Johannes said, it's about the end of the earth, armageddon. The earth is falling down, the whole subject is orientated around this, even the cover art is going to this direction and the booklet is very nice. It's like a book.
Ralf - The lyrics are very mellow with also a mellow feeling in it.
Mat - Not like too big rock'n'roll lyrics, like "I fucked this girl there and I drank this vodka there and I go to the bar there".
RockUnited - But the 80's are "IN" these days again.
Mat - Yeah, but we won't do this. I think what we wanna do is a little more. The songs are longer, there is more music into it, there are different kind of melodies, great vocal lines, orchestral arrangements and even the lyrics have to fit to the music. So you can't make a big orchestral arrangement and say "oh, I wanna fuck this girl", it's not possible. You have to go deeper into the story and tell a story which fits to this kind of bombastic arrangement. We worked a lot with an orchestra on the new album, which is on several songs. It's new influence to our music, it started with "The Healer" actually on the "Devil's Ground" album. But we rebuilt it and we did some very different stuff there.
Even with the bible theme the album will not be a concept album. It's without a red line with a mellow feeling with ups and downs. So the good thing about the album is it's big variety, says Ralf. Talking about the huge masterpiece, bible, which is familiar to masses through school, has the band actually read it ?
Ralf - I read about these themes I wrote about, but actually on-line. I don't have a bible, I looked at it on-line.
Mat - But it's about interpretation, it's about telling a story. It's how you interpret it and what your own mind makes out of this story. Is it true what is standing there ? We'll never know. I'm thinking of doing an own story out of this stuff and I think the story they tell is interesting.
RockUnited - This will be your sixth full length album. How do you feel about starting the work on each album and how was it with the latest ?
Mat - I think every album you record is like getting a new baby. So it's a new child and every album has it's difficulties and its great moments and I think this time I had maybe the best time in my career. I can't even count the albums I've been involved in. But this time we spent a lot of time in Vancouver in Canada with Mike Frazer, who did albums for AC/DC, Metallica, Aerosmith, whatever, a big name. A great guy. We were in Bryan Adams studio at The Warehouse. Our drummer Randy is a native from Vancouver who knows everybody, we were in everybodys guest list and every club and every concert. We had such a fucking great time. So this album was something really, really special for us.
The new Primal Fear album is on schedule with its European release date on October 24th. As Mat put it, they're good in timing since they're Germans. The same goes with Finnish people. The band had to be really careful with the album not to get it leaked out beforehand in the internet, so they finished the recordings only three months ago. Still the guys feel the album is already old for them, because they have to wait for the release so long. But even with all their albums they feel there was still certain magic in doing it.
Mat - I have to be very honest and say that the chance to work with Mike Frazer is very small, but we found a way to work around his schedule. So we recorded and mixed really early, so we had a lot of time in between the mixing and recording. Even the video clips were done two months before the release of the album. Everything was under control there.
RockUnited - How do you get into the right metal spirit while writing new songs ?
Mat - I think songs couldn't be done if you just sat down with the band and decided to write some songs. Me and Stefan sit together and maybe nothing comes out, but this story of "Seven Seals" is very creative, the songwriting session, a lot of great moments.
The normal version of the album includes songtitles "Demons & Angels", "Rollercoaster", "Seven Seals", Evil Spell", "The Immortal Ones", "Diabolus", "All For One", "Carniwar", "Question Of Honour" and "In Memory". The limited edition will include "The Union", "Higher Power" and the video version of "Seven Seals" and will look more like a book, something where they left of a bit unfinished with "Devil's Ground". But that's not all.
Mat - While touring between January and February with another Nuclear Blast band I will release a book, the story of Mat Sinner. It will also include "Seven Seals" and another cd with all the songs from the guys from Primal Fear, what they did before Primal Fear and other things with maybe some video clips. This will be the chronicles of Mat Sinner.
SHOOTING THROUGH THE NIGHT
RockUnited - You shot a video of the title song, "Seven Seals". How did it go ?
Ralf - We actually just recorded that last week. And again we made something totally special, different to us. People are gonna be so surprised. I don't wanna say so much about it, they have to look at it. But we recorded it last week and we don't know what's the outcome of it. We were shooting it from nine in the morning till 2.30 in the night, two songs actually. It's a lot of work to do that and we're looking forward to seing the outcome, 'cos it was the first time Primal Fear did something special. The song was already recorded, but it was just taking a step forward.
Mat - It takes a lot of concentration and as Ralf said, we started at nine in the morning and it was crazy, 'cos we had to do two videos, 'cos on the next day our sound engineer was getting married. So we have to go back to the wedding and shoot two videos on this time frame in the middle of the night. And if you shoot a video, the more you concentrate the less they have to film you. If you fuck up, they have to film you again and again and again ! But I have to give a big compliment to the band, everybody did a fucking great job, everybody was totally concentrating into doing it. I think we've gone one step further in the video thing, I think it will look very good. We will surprise some people with our looks on the video, 'cos we look very different (now) than on the video clip.
RockUnited - What will the second video be ?
Mat - It's a song called "Evil Spell", that's the fastest track on the new album. It's total metal mayhem, crazy track and I think even this video will be great. But the big surprise will be the title track. On "Evil Spell" we look like we look on stage tonight, but on "Seven Seals" people will see some totally new influences in Primal Fear.
RockUnited - How did you come across with Randy from Annihilator ?
Mat - We went on tour with Rob Halford and his band in America and our drummer Klaus Sperling wasn't able to go with us there. The other guys wanted to do this and Stefan knew Randy. I was more into asking Uli from Masterplan and Helloween to do it, 'cos Ralf and me have a good friendship with Uli. I didn't know Randy at all. He came to the practice and played and he played great. And we did this American tour and as we were so happy with Randy we asked him into the band and as he was happy with us he quit Annihilator.
RockUnited - Does he have any strange habits that Americans always like to mock Canadians from ?
Mat - No, Randy is great. And I think on "Devil's Ground" he plays good and on the new album he plays outstanding, fantastic. He was prepared, he was really playing his ass off. I would say we had a great time in the studio and I have to give a lot of respect for Randy for his work on the album. It's a lot more intense than before.
RockUnited - What is the difference between Germans and Canadians ?
Mat - There's not a lot of difference. We come along great with each other.
THE METAL ANTHEM BAND
Primal Fear should be nominated as the metal anthem band, having all what anthems require. They're catchy, powerful and attack straight at their listeners. With these structures and genre the sell-out and unintelligent label easily sticks to both the band and the fans. After all, it's a complitely different ballgame with progmetal, falling to the "intellegent metal" genre. The guys didn't agree the opinion of the masses, neither the opinion about reaching their success by intentionally keeping it simple.
Ralf - If you would say that, then everybody would say we're simple minded too, because it's our thing. Simple minded is total bullshit to someone with a different taste. If we would say you like fish and garlic and you're simple minded, it's would be just crazy.
Ralf has a point there. We all have opinions and intelligence is in every one of us. You could go on forever about this. Then there's the flow of opinions about Ralf's voice, it's either loved or hated.
Ralf - Could be. Of course I know that high vocals can sometimes go to your nuts, hah ! But again the new album is different and people will love it. There's deeper singing and we like it, although we also like the high singing. So it's good to set some notes and go down again. That's the thing we found on "Seven Seals", the first time we found you can listen to the whole album and start again without thinking all this bothers me now.
RockUnited - Your voice is very powerful. Did you ever take singing lessons ?
Ralf - I never did, but I got myself some hints from a lady in South Germany, who's educated all these musical singers. I went there when I had already been singing for like twenty years and told her that sometimes on tour I have some problems and could she give me some hints. She said I sing too loud and she knew I can't change that anymore, so she gave me some hints and some lessons I can do to make it a little better. But you never know, it's from day to day like mood, you know. You just go out there and give your everything, no matter if it's good or bad and you're gonna kick ass.
Ralf starts warming up his voice, so here goes the last questions, some which aren't meant to be taken too seriously. But then again, some of the answers from these guys aren't meant to be taken that seriously either ! Primal Fear presents an eagle on each of their albums, created by cover artist Stephan Lohrmann. Iron Maiden has their monster Eddie, so the eagle must have a name too. Looks like they're doing "The Maiden".
Mat - Our Fan Club had about ten or twelve names and they decided to call it the Chainbreaker. The eagle was not our idea, but it fits and the fans love it. The eagle will look totally different on the new album.
So copycat's in the trash, don't blame the band. The case of Brazilian Renato Tribuzy is also interesting. He released his "Execution" album earlier this year, which was written by Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Chris Dale (Bruce Dickinson), with guest musicians Bruce Dickinson, Michael Kiske, Roland Grapow, Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner. Renato Tribuzy and Mat met while Primal Fear played three tours in South America.
Mat - We met in Rio De Janeiro. He asked me if he could record "The Nature Of Evil" for his album, a song written by me. I said of course and then he asked if we could share the lead vocals and Ralf singing the backing vocals. We said yeah, if the money's right we will do this. There's a lot of guys, from Pink Cream 69, Angra, whatever, a lot of different guys with him. In the end the album sounds great, with Bruce Dickinson and Michael Kiske on it, a lot of great musicians. He will do some important live shows in Brazil. He invited me and Ralf to join him in November, we're going there for a week. He's a good guy.
Time to check out what Ralf was going to wear for the show. Metal enough, it was all black; black jeans with flames growing upwards and a black shirt with initials PF. Translated meaning Perfect Freak... Nah, another inside joke from the band. Ralf had them made by someone. He was already well warmed up in them before he even went on stage. Heck, I still went with a question eventhough the guys were already getting mad at me for keeping them on my grip for so long. Before I even got the question out, they were laughing like hell at my persistance. "Ok, one more", Mat said. The band wasn't doing that many shows this summer and it was all because of promoting the new album and getting it done.
Mat - We recorded the album. We didn't know the schedule with that, so we played six shows this summer and this is enough. So when the album comes out we have a lot of promotion work to do, we're flying around Europe. Nobody sees this officially what we're doing with the promotion work. We have to go to America, Japan and South America. We have to do interviews there, tv shows and whatever and it's a lot of fucking work. So six shows in the summer is enough.
RockUnited - Thanks for the interview and best of luck for the show. Kick some Finnish ass !
Mat - Hopefully you will enjoy the show. See you there !
And they kicked some Finnish ass. Read the Tuska 2005 report to find out more about their smoking show in Finland.
Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at] rockunited.com