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INTERVIEW – Tobias Sammet, Edguy – April 2014

| 14 May 2014 | 2 Replies

INTERVIEW – Tobias Sammet, Edguy – April 2014

Are Edguy power metal or glam rock, hard rock or traditional metal? Singer Tobias Sammet tells SHANE PINNEGAR that on latest album Space Police – Defenders Of the Crown, Edguy are just… Edguy.

Edguy 2014 Tobi Sammet 01

Tobi Sammet is feeling good when I get him on the phone at home in Fulda, Germany, about 100 kilometers Northeast of Frankfurt, enjoying the time of year and having the band’s tenth album on the shelves.

“I am doing so well,” he says gregariously, “it is hard to find words for it. It is getting Spring here in Germany. I am promoting an album that literally promotes itself and carries its weight only by reputation – word of mouth, I want to say. It is amazing, could not be better.”

Long having held the reputation for being one of heavy metal’s quirkier protagonists, Edguy combine traditional and power metal songs with bouncier hard rock tunes with a sense of humour more often seen from spandex-toting glam bands.

Tobi agrees that Space Police is a wild ride, with various songs running the gamut of hard rock through to very heavy metal, all with that sparkle of intelligence and sense of humour that Edguy are so well known for.

“It is very diverse,” the singer and primary songwriter explains. “I really like the album. It is really funny because a lot of people ask that question when you do interviews, “which song is representative for the whole album?’ or ‘if an alien would land on earth which song would you play to him to make him embrace the idea of Edguy?’

“Of course, first I think it is not very likely that an alien would land on earth just to listen to Edguy – it is a very unlikely scenario. [But] there is no one song that you could play to anyone that would transport the idea of Edguy, that is a good thing about it. Every song is typical Edguy but not one song stands for the full album because it is so diverse.”

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Before the album’s release a lot of people were debating whether Edguy would go in more of a power metal direction on Space Police, or make a more hard rock record. What they’ve done is up the ante in BOTH directions.

“Yeah. We do not really ask that question ourselves,” Sammet laughs. “I am not a donkey, I know that there is a lot of people out there to discuss that, whether we talk with fans, the record label, or industry people, people say, ‘is it really power metal? Is it hard rock?’ It is funny, people do not even know how to market us. What are we? What is the stamp they can put to sell us to a certain ‘target audience’? It does not work like that for Edguy.

“We have always been right between two chairs – that is what we say in Germany. It is really hard but we are just doing the music that feels natural to us. We have always played this kind of music. To me, when I grew up listening to music it was never really the question whether you were doing power metal or hard rock, there was no such an expression as power metal – that came only later.

“To me, every band was great that played great guitar, great music. Be it AC/DC, or Dio or Iron Maiden or Helloween or Metallica… well, not so much – I don’t like Metallica that much myself, but you know, anything from Slayer to Bon Jovi was that kind of music that we were listening to.

“That is why I never really asked that question,” he continues passionately. “It is a very colourful album. It is very powerful. It is very guitar and fast drum rhythm, but it is not… I do not know how to call it… it is just an Edguy album and it is a great one, I think.”

Edguy 2014 Tobi Sammet 02

Heavy metal has always had an elitist faction insisting on imposing rules on its flock. The ‘thou must not make fun of metal’ crowd have cried foul at more extreme examples such as Steel Panther and The Darkness, and Edguy have been subjected to the same ridiculous derision for the occasional tongue in cheek lyric.

“I don’t really think that EVERYBODY thinks that,” muses Sammet sanguinely, “it is just a very loud minority, because when we go on stage and you play festivals like Wacken Open Air and there is eighty thousand people and they all sing along to the lyrics, I think most of them are pretty metal people and they obviously do not mind, they just want to have a good time and listen to great music. Not everything we do is goofy. We hardly do goofy stuff, we do tongue and cheek stuff at times, but we do serious stuff as well. They go along together pretty well I think.

“Whenever we go on stage there is a lot of people in front of that stage in most territories, not so much in Australia [because] it’s just small clubs over there where we play, but people in front of that stage are, long story short, they are heavy metal people and they do not mind – for them it is cool. Some people are really… porous and some people just want to have everything tailored to their own taste, that is just the mentality of us… we order the notebook the way we want to have it, and we order a pizza the way we want to have it.

“In earlier days heavy metal music was music for outlaws in a way,” he continues. “People were doing what they wanted to do. They were breaking the rules of the music industry and they were not minding the do’s and don’ts of the music. They were shocking [people] and they did exactly what they felt they needed to do. It was a very honest and heartfelt music. That became commercialised more and more. Nowadays there are some people who really think they have to say anything about the bands, the way their favourite outlaws have to behave – [so] there is even a book of rules for being an outlaw!

“That is exactly what the Space Police lyric is about, it’s exactly about that. If you want to be an outlaw in space you can be, but the Space Police is going to make sure you are doing the right things in order to be called a ‘good outlaw’. That is pretty much what the Space Police song lyric is about. I don’t really think a lot of people really have a problem with what we do, especially not the fans – they know and the rest of the world… it is heavy metal, so the rest of the world can kiss our asses!” he laughs.

With such a diverse album on his hands, I wonder if Sammet knows, at the point of sitting down and starting to write a new song, whether it will end up serious like The Eternal Wayfarer or Learning Myself, or a bit more tongue in cheek like Love Tiger or Do Me Like A Caveman.

“Do Me Like A Caveman I didn’t know,” he says, “because Do Me Like A Caveman is a very melancholy song. I thought it was great to build up that melancholic atmosphere and then ruin it by just one phrase in the chorus.

“Usually you have a feeling for a song, and if you do something like Love Tiger, that is a very uplifting glam-rock anthem in a way, just like Lavatory Love Machine [from their Hellfire Club album of 2004] or something like that, when you have a lot of major chords in there and the major chord based chorus and that easy going riff, that Van Halenesque, ‘let’s go out and have some fun’ feeling.

“You probably won’t sing about the starvation of a certain species of birds somewhere. That would be a crime. It is a crime to bore your audience to death anyway but it is a special heavy case of a crime if you come up with a lyric like that in a song like that! It is a very uplifting, easygoing song and you get a feeling like that throughout the writing process.

“The Eternal Wayfarer was a very sophisticated song even, it has got that classic Led Zepplinesque 70’s big rock vibe and then it has got some, even art-rock elements. It has got a lot of Dio in there and some Maiden maybe as well, it is a nine minute epic, you do not necessarily write about being the Love Tiger in that song, you get a feeling it is a very sensational thing.”

Edguy 2014 03

Space Police is diverse enough and cleverly paced to impart the feeling of ebb and flow of a live concert, jumping from the dynamics of the serious songs to the more fun-loving and back with some considerable panache. Sammet agrees, to a point.

“[Well], it is like the first half of the concert before the band sets in with their hits!” he laughs, before joking self-deprecatingly, “usually it is the case, one hit wonders, but we are actually a no-hit wonder!”

Talking of ‘one hit wonders’, on Space Police Edguy take the bold step of covering none other than Rock Me Amadeus by the late Austrian pop star Falco. Sammet explains, going out of his way to remind me that although Falco was a one hit wonder in Australia, he sold more than 20 million albums during a long career, and was one of Austria’s biggest stars at the time of his death in 1998.

“I have always been a huge Falco fan and we wanted to do a Falco cover version because we [listen to] Falco. Believe it or not, he has got more songs than that! We are listening to Falco in the dressing room before we go on stage quite often. It was a great challenge to be doing a cover version because it was so odd and so unique. Especially as a German speaking person, I can tell you it is illegal to do a cover version of that if you do not speak with a Viennese accent. That is half of the magic for us Germans in that song.

“It was our producer, Sascha Paeth, he said, ‘well if there is a band that I can think of that can do it, and get away with it, it is Edguy.’ The song is tongue in cheek, the song is megalomaniacal, and the song is just flamboyant: it has got a great melody, but at the same time it is literally impossible to do a vocal cover version of that because of the accent. If there is one band that is allowed to do it, it is Edguy, so we gave it a shot and it turned out to be great… we did it! It is very odd, but it fit so well, it fits in the flow of the album.

“It is funny because the record company, they were like, ‘no, take it off of the album,’ but we have a contract that says we make the decision, it is our record. So we said, ‘no, it is going to be on the album.’ That is what is so special about Edguy, we can do whatever we want to do and pretty much get away with it. I have to seriously say though, this is not a pisstake – we are really taking it seriously, not ourselves, but the music. That cover version, I really like it.

“What is so funny about it is I just gave an interview three weeks ago for someone from Vienna and he said that there is a lot of tribute acts of Falco in Vienna because he is an icon, he is a national hero in Austria. There is a lot of tribute acts in Vienna and this guy said that he has never heard an authentic cover version like that from anyone. Not one Falco cover version, not even by official Austrian tribute acts of Falco. That is a huge compliment if you would understand how different their accent is from ours.”

Edguy 2014 Tobi Sammet 03

In a world where band members often travel separately, and struggle to be civil to each other a lot of the time, Edguy are an exception to that rule. Sammet has played alongside guitarists Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer for over twenty years now, and drummer Tobias Exxel and bass player Felix Bohnke for fifteen years. The singer reinforces the friendship that Edguy’s members share.

“If money keeps flying in you have to get over the hate,” he laughs, joking again. “You have to cover the hate in public! No, seriously, first of all, I always say it is lack of options – nobody of us has learned to do anything else than playing music and so nobody wants to leave the seat we are in. Nobody wants to quit because it is quite rare you find a job like that again. The truth is we have respect for each other and we have been together for so long.

“Most of us, especially the three original members, Jens, Dirk, and me, we did not even have another band before that, and even Felix did not have a band that he was touring with before. And I think Eggy had one band before that he was doing a few shows outside his home village with. Everything we have experienced in a very important place of our life, we experienced together. That ties it together. We have made our first baby steps together.

“We were on the plane together for the first time when we were flying to… I forget where, but it was the first flying show that we have done, going there by plane and going back by plane, it was 1998 I think. It was in that constellation and we have travelled, I would say, millions of miles together since then. We have played six hundred shows together. We enjoy what we do. We have respect for each other, and it works, we have success. We really get along very well. We have separate hotel rooms but it is not like we are coming with five different personal managers. Normally we beat up ourselves personally!”

Fans throughout Australia and North America will be hoping Edguy will be touring Space Police far and wide over the next year. Sammet hopes so too.

“Yeah, I hope so – I am very optimistic,” he says eagerly. “With Age Of The Joker [their last album, released in 2011] it was really a little bit sad that we could not do more than we did. We were just doing Europe and then we were going to South America and then we were going to Europe again and then we thought, ‘oh we should play European festivals!’ All of a sudden we got the offer to be special guests for Deep Purple and so we were touring Europe again and then there was a bit more of Europe.

“After two years we realized looking at our schedule and saying, ‘oh, yeah, we have done a lot in Europe but actually we did not play any North American gigs, we did not go to Australia, we did not even go to Asia!’ That is something we really want to change. I have a feeling that this album is [the one]… the reception of the album, so far press-wise and first reactions are so amazing that I have a feeling that we will be welcomed with open arms in a lot of territories.

“I really hope we are going to come to Australia,” he carries on. “I love the country. The only disadvantage of Australia is it is so far away from Germany, that is the only negative point. I am very optimistic that it is going to happen, not this year, but next year. All I can say is that I really want to come back and I hope there is going to be a chance to make it worthwhile. Australia – lets face it, this band is not really big in Australia. We have fans in Australia but we can not do the production we do here in Europe.

“It is hard to make everything work. I do not want to necessarily make money but of course I do not want to lose money going to Australia, and to places that are so far away. It is very expensive to get the crew and the whole stuff there. If there is a chance, and I think there will be a chance with this album… If there is a chance, we will be on the plane and come to Australia. I have been there three times now and I love it. Seriously, I think I said that on more than just one occasion and the first Australian tour was great, it felt so great to be carrying our music to the other side of the world, literally. There were people who were so much into it. I hope it is going to happen.”

Edguy 2014 01

Long term fans will know that Edguy is not Tobi Sammett’s only band, having formed Avantasia, the rock opera project featuring guest players and singers, in 1999. Despite having shelved the project more than once before, the story of Avantasia’s last album, 2013’s The Mystery Of Time, was clearly left unresolved. Sammet says fans can expect another instalment, but not just yet.

“Definitely. I said that from the very beginning… not from the very beginning, but when I wrote and delivered, so to speak, The Mystery Of Time, there will be a part two, there will be a sequel. There has to be: it is a cliffhanger. I will have to finish that story and I am looking forward to it because it is a great way to let out my creativity without any pressure. No time pressure, no others to please, no other band mates to please, it is just me, myself, my music, and my dreams, and my little model train called Avantasia. That is great and I will finish that, but I do not have a clue when I will have the time to do it.

Sadly though, with Avantasia concerts being a production on an arena-sized scale, it doesn’t seem likely Sammet will get the chance to tour Down Under any time soon under that banner.

“No. We had a stop over in the U.S. – I know that does not really help,” he laughs sympathetically. “It does make a difference for the U.S. then. As I said, what I said about Edguy, you know, bringing the stage and the whole production over, it is even more extreme for Avantasia because we were a traveling party of about 25 people. 25 people on the payroll. You have very acclaimed musicians there who I want to really pay and who I need to pay and it is really difficult.

“It does not work to bring that show into clubs with 800 or 1,000 people, it does not make sense because you will not be able to cover the expenses. That is why we were very careful when we chose the territories we played. We did some things that we had never done before, going to Costa Rica and Quebec, Canada. For us it was brave steps and I would want to do more of those but it is always you have to be careful if you do not want to go bankrupt on a tour like that.

“I hope that one day we be able to bring Avantasia to the USA and maybe to Australia as well, but I do not know if that will ever happen. I hope, and if there will be a chance, and if there will be a promoter in Australia who says, ‘oh we are going to do 2 shows and it is going to be a good success,’ we can really consider it… but it is quite expensive to bring 25 people and the whole production to the other side of the world for two shows.”
Space Police – Defenders Of The Crown is out now on Nuclear Blast Records

An edited version of this interview was originally published in X-Press Magazine’s 7 May 2014 issue


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