Vanden Plas finally makes their magical breakthrough album…..

After 4 years of silence VandenPlas is back with a vengeance as their 5th studio album called Christ O proves to be the best album of Germany’s most important prog metal band. So now it is time for the final musical worldwide breakthrough as I can boldly state that with this album VandenPlas can easily compete with the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X. It is time to ask Stephan Lill everything about the new album and the World Championships soccer in Germany. But first of all I would like to know why it took 4 years to please the fans and the press with a new CD…..

Stephan: “We already had lots of great ideas for new songs and we actually had finished some songs already two years ago and we wanted to release this new album earlier than 3 April, but due to certain private circumstances and the work we do in the theatre in Kaiserslautern we kept on postponing the release date… We really worked very hard in the theatre on the Nostradamus and the Abydos productions and actually that is how we make a living, so the release date of Christ O was delayed several times. We are sorry for the fans if they feel that it took too long to make this album, but I hope that they will like it as much as we do.


So I am glad that the theatre productions are doing so well, but I hope that this will not lead to the same situation as with Savatage, where the Trans-Siberian Orchestra became more and more important and because of that we have not heard from Savatage since almost 10 years!!


Stephan: “No, that will not happen, I can promise the fans that. As I said before the song writing went rather well as we nowadays all do our “thing” on the computer at home – at least for 95% - and the rest is done in the studio, where all the compositions are mixed and the songs finally come together. This is our fifth studio album so we have all grown as musicians and we certainly know what we are doing. We are confident that the sound on this new CD is finally what the people expect from us and we think that it is a great album, so…”


Please, do NOT say it is our best album so far, which is so cliché….


Stephan: “You are so right, I would never say that. It is a wonderful album but I am still very proud of all our other albums as well. Why do you think that we still have 5 songs from Far Off Grace in our set list? That’s still a magnificent album too. I like the sound and the arrangements of the new CD, but again I would never say that it is our best album. Of course the band has evolved over the years. Time does not stand still for us as well and of course we have become better musicians and of course we are older and wiser, ha ha….. What I especially like on Christ O are the orchestral passages which are of course due to the work in the Pfalztheatre and the fact that most of the songs are so melodic. I think we also had more courage on this album to experiment with certain things and Andy’s voice is again outstanding.”


Speaking about Andy’s voice. In the past I had some negative feelings about his singing on previous albums and especially during live gigs. I always found his sound too nasal and I even called him the second Klaus Meine in a certain review. But on this album his voice is sheer magic, making this album the best VandenPlas CD ever.


Stephan: “I remember the Klaus Meine “incident” and I could not understand why you said that in the first place, but no hard feelings about that….. Andy’s voice has really come to life on Christ O, he has really grown and he became a better singer than anyone could have dreamed. This is also due to the fact that he does and has done a lot of theatre work.

The title of the new album is Christ O, what does it mean actually, has it something to do with Christ or with The count of Monte CristO???


Stephan: “In fact it is pronounced Christ Zero, which means that it is non-religious in fact. It has to do with something evil, something bad. Initially the album was based upon the story of the count of Monte Cristo, but it also deals with the phenomena of schizophrenia. Andy is mainly responsible for the lyrics, so you better ask him about that if you like.”


So the album has some religious aspects as well, is that the reason that as a bonus track you added the song Gethsemane from the Jesus Christ Superstar musical?


Stephan: “Not really, it has to do with out theatre work and the fact that Andy really liked to record this song. It is a super song and Andy did an excellent job.”


True, at least he did not try to imitate the original version of Ian Gillan….


Stephan: “You are right, that version is already 36 years old and you cannot imitate Gillan’s voice…By the way I wonder if Gillan could sing Gethsemane like he used to?”


Is Gethsemane a song that will be on the set list for the coming tour?


Stephan: “No, I do not think so, maybe sometime in the future, you’ll never know. I think that it would fit in perfectly if we did a few new acoustic sessions. We have so many songs that we like to play live and with any new album the choice of the set list gets more difficult. Rainmaker is a song that will probably always be on our set list, as it is the VandenPlas favourite by far. If we would be on stage for 3 hours or so, like some bands then we could play a lot more songs. However I do not think that people would like to listen to our music –or any other music – for 3 hours or more. I think that 1,5 hours is more than enough. I am really looking forward to play some new songs on stage.”


What are your personal Vanden Plas live favourites?


Stephan: “Again a very difficult question…. I still like Far Off Grace a lot, How Many Tears, Beyond Daylight and Rainmaker. From the new album I think that Postcard To God will become a real live killer track.”


January Sun and Silently are songs filled with orchestral passages and therefore probably difficult songs for the live set, or not?


Stephan: “Yes, they are very orchestral and we should probably play them differently live on stage. I like those songs and we should certainly try to play them live.”


Your guitar riffs, melodies and solos are again out of this world on this new album, how do you come up with those fantastic guitar components over and over again?


Stephan: “Thanks for the compliments. I really do not listen to any other guitar players a lot and I also do not get my inspiration from other bands as I do not tend to listen to a lot of music. I get my ideas under the shower, in the car and in bed. The riff from Postcard To God came to me while I was in bed, I got up – it was 02:00 AM – and I wrote down the riff and tried it on my guitar. I am also not so very keen on practising anymore, I teach and I give guitar lessons, but I do not play the guitar everyday. If I would name a few guitar players that I admire I would have to say John Sykes, George Lynch and Doug Aldrich. Have you seen the Whitesnake DVD where Doug plays his ass off?”


Yes, I did. Speaking of DVDs, when can we expect the first Vanden Plas DVD?


Stephan: “The ideas are there, but again I have to say that at the moment we are very busy with out theatre work and the new record and the tour, so… It will take some time, but there will be a Vanden Plas DVD somewhere in the near future, promised!”


Will we be seeing you on tour in The Netherlands or on a Dutch Festival this year?


Stephan: “Yes, we will be playing in Amstelveen on April 2. As for festivals we will be playing at the Sweden Rock Festival and I am really looking forward to that. It is still difficult for prog metal bands to play on festivals. In the year 2000 everybody thought that the prog metal hype was over and you see now that only the strong and really good bands have survived. So, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Evergrey and VandenPlas of course…. We have played on Graspop once and we would love to play there again, but there are so many bands that would love to play there and if there is one progmetal band on the bill, then most of the time the organisation does not like any other, so…”


The music competition is very keen nowadays and then there is that downloading thing. How do you feel about the downloading “industry”?


Stephan: “Please, do not get me started…. When I was young we used to tape new records and gave those tapes to friends who could not afford to buy the record. This was also “illegal” in fact, but it happened on a very small scale. Nowadays however if a new album is on the internet everybody in the ENTIRE world can download it, make copies and sell them illegally from China to Latin America. Those guys are stealing from the musicians. It is our music; it is our living, so, hands off, please! But these guys do not understand this, so I always give the following example: If I would come to your house and go the refrigerator and steal everything from it, just because I think I have that right and I am hungry, how would you react?? These guys are doing the same thing, they steal our material. So, my suggestion would be, do not put full songs on the internet, just 1.5 minute of every song on the album. And then if you like those bits then you can buy the entire album in the shop. That would maybe put an end to this illegal music downloading and copying.”


Yes, maybe, Not a bad idea. But now for something completely different, who will be world champion soccer as the tournament in your country is about to start in 2 months time.


Stephan: “I am a big fan of Dutch football. Just look at players like Van Der Vaart or Makaay, who really can play and add something to the team they are playing in. I think that the German team is rather weak as they only have one great player (Ballack) and the rest of the team is sheer mediocre. It is hard to say really, I truly hope that an outsider would become world champion, just for the sheer fun of it. But, I think that Brazil and will end up in the final. As a football fan I tried to get tickets to see at least one game, but you had to fill in a form with all kinds of personal questions and I did not see the point of that, so unfortunately I will not go to a live game, as it would be easy for me as I live in Kaiserslautern where 5 games are played, so sad but true….


Thanks for your time and good luck with the tour and the new album.


Stephan: “Thank you and I hope to see you in Amstelveen on 2 April.”


Interview by Martien Koolen.
(c)2006 RockUnited.Com
Band photo borrowed from
Official Vanden Plas website