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Edguy: free metal!


“It was 22 years of offending people from the record industry, and the press, everywhere.” – that’s how Tobias Sammet and his legendary sense of humor sum up Edguy’s career. The band is still a group of kids who get together to have fun “sans limites et sans frontières”, because that’s what heavy metal is about! It also happens to be the very tangible theme of a crazy song called “Space Police”: how to work in complete freedom, without any kind of police to tell you what to do and what not to do. Let’s face facts: sometimes (often?), the safe-proclaimed rebels in our musical genre are the first to act as the metal police. But Edguy acquired their freedom against all odds, and they like it more than anything – more than success, even. That’s exactly the spirit of their new album, Space Police: Defenders Of The Crown, which features a few eccentricities under the band’s trademark style.

We talked about all these subjects with the band’s loquacious leader, Tobias Sammet. In truth, it’s always a pleasure to chat with him and to dissect his albums – especially this one.

« This is pretty much what Space Police is about: it’s about those people who try telling you what to do in a field where there should be nobody telling you what to do. »

Radio Metal: You declared that with this new album you « have focused on what makes this band unique ». So, more precisely, what makes Edguy unique according to you, and what have you focused on this time?

Tobias Sammet (vocals): Hum, what makes Edguy unique? I don’t know it’s really hard to describe. Everybody who has seen the band live, everybody who has listened to various records knows what makes this band unique. And I’m sure the people in the record company are struggling with what makes this band unique because for them it’s always hard to really label our music. It’s like, is it power metal? Yeah. Is it hard rock? Yes! Is it ballads? Yes! Is it speed metal? Yes. Is it Epic? Yes. Is it tongue in cheek and funny at times? Yes. We really are all those things that make a band hard to label. And I think if there is one achievement that we have come to those last 22 years is that we are Edguy: we are a band that it’s really hard to pigeon-hole, it’s hard to label. We are a power metal band, you know? If people understand the right thing about power metal, we are a hard rock band we are a heavy metal and speed metal band, we are all that. We are Edguy. So what makes this band unique is that it’s impossible pigeon-hole us. And at the same time, our fans know exactly what to expect from Edguy and still we are not a 100% predictable. I’m sure every Edguy fan knows what makes this band unique and the other people… Well we don’t care so much about the other people! [Laughs]

How did you end up with the space rock anthem called Space Police? Did you somehow want to compete with Arjen Lucassen who’s a big fan of space and old sci-fi stuff?

No, the thing is that space just leaves a lot of room for imagination. Space, to me, is a place of unlimited… eh space! [Laughs] Infinity, we turn to wide; wide beyond imagination, far beyond imagination, deep beyond imagination. It’s a place without rules, without gravity, without dos and don’ts, it’s a place where you can go absolutely go crazy and let imagination guide you. And Space Police is actually a song about somebody who started out to realms where there are no boundaries, and no limits. Just like a young musician who comes to heavy metal because he wants to do things his way and wants to escape and just live his live without limits and boundaries. That’s what young heavy metal musicians set out for. And all of a sudden you do your third record and everybody becomes… – first people start having certain expectations or people start telling you what they think you should be doing. And that doesn’t make sense to me. That really is a paradox, because we become a heavy metal musician and a rock musician because we don’t want to follow any rules, we don’t want to play by any rules. So this is pretty much what Space Police is about: it’s about those people who try telling you what to do in a field where there should be nobody telling you what to do. It’s like space; it’s a place without rules, without guidelines. It’s fully opened to your own interpretation. I like Arjen Lucassen but it’s not actually… – The tune itself plays with those words and all these connotations of space and science fiction but actually the message behind this song is a very very current and a very earthly message.

Did you think of any sci-fi movies or books in particular while writing this song, as an inspiration?

No. No, I mean I don’t need sci-fi books. Of course there’s stuff that I really like in old Japanese science fiction movies from the sixties, like UFOs Are Destroying The Earth, [laughs] which is a pretty good title because it says everything about the movie itself [Laughs]. So stuff like that, but I’m really not too crazy about science fiction. I just like to use imagination myself, I mean just look up to the stars and just try to understand the depth of space and the infinity and eternity of space and that definitely is what makes me get a hold of my imagination. I just have to look up to the stars and try to grasp what’s up there, and why, and what’s it like to be up there. I think that’s pretty much everything you need in order to come up with lyrics like on Space Police.

How the hell did you end up singing these nutty vocals at the end of the song?

[Laughs] it was really spontaneous! I was just standing there in the recording room and Sascha, the producer, was on the other side of the mixing board in the room next to me, looking at me through the window, and there was this long instrumental part and I did that [sings] “Space Police…!” those really dreamy vocals. And then there was this part where there were no lyrics for but still I had the feeling I to do something, some special effect, or some vocals. Of course, what would a heavy metal singer do? He would scream “yeaaah” as we always do as well. But I thought: “no, that doesn’t fit the song. It has to be something crazier, something more spaced out.” So it all happened spontaneously, we didn’t even try. It was running through the recording and I just started making noises, just like these special effects with my mouth, and we had a lot of fun doing it! And we said “Ok, let’s add some more of those and let’s keep it on the album” because it’s crazy but that’s what heavy metal is all about: it has to be crazy and it has to be weird at times and unpredictable, and strange. So to me it sounded more like something like Frank Zappa or Arthur Brown or David Bowie, some real weird 70’s art-rock stuff, but I liked it! [Laughs] It’s crazy but it’s cool!

« The performance should be there to serve the song; it’s not the song that should serve the performance. »

The album features a cover song of the FALCO classic « Rock Me Amadeus ». How did you come up with the idea of doing a cover of this song?

I’ve been a FALCO fan since 1985 I think, or 86, when it was first shown on German TV. I really liked the guy, he had charisma, he had personality, it was a great song and I was a fan. Originally we wanted to cover “Der Kommissar”, the previous hit single of FALCO but Sascha, our producer, said “why don’t you go for “Rock Me Amadeus”? It’s more megalomaniac, it’s more tongue in cheek, it’s more anthemic, it pretty much sums up what Edguy is all about. It’s a perfect Edguy track and there’s hardly another band I can think of that could have done a good cover version of that song.” And so we said “ok, we’ll try, we’ll try Rock Me Amadeus” and it worked! [Laughs] we tried to keep it as close to the original version as possible. In the chorus we added some heavy guitars and made the choir a little more epic and we made it a real rock anthem in the chorus but in the verse it’s a rap song and we tried to keep the spirit of the original version. It’s definitely a song that we would get a lot of critics for, especially in Germany, because it’s weird for a German audience to hear an English singing band sing a German song. But you should always do things that feel right to you and never what people would expect, and we knew that we would get some critics for this song from some people, but it didn’t really matter to us. We are who we are, and we can do everything. The record label wanted to take the song off the album but we said “No, it’s an album track and it’s not going to be the last song on the album, it’s going to be the number 6 on the album. We’re leaving that song because we definitely think it’s a good Edguy track.” It’s funny, I’m in Paris right now at Hardrock Café and right next to me there is this bus of tourists looking at me. Hello!

[Laughs]

I’m just waving with my hand, it’s really like… yeah.

[Laughs] Yeah, they are probably thinking “who the hell is this guy waving at us?”

No, they are thinking “What is this famous rockstar doing at the Parisian Hardrock Café?!”

[Laughs] Yeah, probably. So about the Falco song, did you feel close to its catchy choruses, its sense humour or maybe the cheap keyboards that appear on it?

Yeah, yeah definitely. I mean the keyboards back then were not cheap. We must think it’s 85, and back then they were state of the art, because it was all analogue. You know I’m a real fan of that era, I’m a real fan of Falco and I’m a real fan of that song in particular. I mean that was actually the song that got me into Falco. It’s so difficult to do a cover version of it regarding the vocals but we really liked the original version and that’s why we did not want to touch the personality of the song. We just wanted to make sure it was our song but we just wanted to add our touch to it without ruining the magic of the original. That’s why we stayed pretty close to the original keyboard sounds and the vocals and everything.

Actually, with this blend of rap and rock, your version of the song sounds very much like Faith No More from The Real Thing era. Is this a band you like?

It’s really funny because I have never heard in a long time people comparing us to Faith No More until I came to France! Yesterday somebody said the same thing. I like the band: I have got the record that has “Epic” on it. But yeah, I like the band, but it was definitely not intended. I like Falco much more than Faith No More. [Laughs]

There are rather strange vocals at the end of “Space Police” and you’re rapping on « Rock Me Amadeus ». Did you want to try out your voice on different registers through this album?

No. No, I’ve never understood music to be the vehicle for performance. It was always the other way around. I mean the performance should be there to serve the song; it’s not the song that should serve the performance. So I think I’ve become quite an experienced singer and I’m really happy and proud of the new album, I’ve done really extreme heavy stuff on the opening track “Sabre & Torch”, and then there’s classic, I’d say old style power metal singing on stuff like “Defenders Of The Crown”, and there’s soulful stuff on “The Eternal Wayfarer” and also on “Alone In Myself”, the ballad. It’s just great to be able to do all those things and to explore where your voice can go, but it was never because I wanted to explore my voice, it was more because I wanted to give the song what it needed. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

« Love Tyger » also sounds kind of glam metal. Would you say that you would particularly have enjoyed writing music in the 80s?

Hum, well you know I like a lot of 80’s music, definitely. I mean I like 70’s music as well, I think that’s been the most creative ages for this kind of guitar lead music, the late 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s. I’m a child of the 80’s I was born in 75 so towards the end of the 80’s that was my exciting time as a music listener. When I was ten, twelve years old, when I got my first own record, that was a very exciting time, so I have always had a very special relationship to that era. But it’s not like I would want to trade my life for anything else. I neither regret not being born 10 years earlier nor do I regret that I am not the pope or the emperor of China or whatever [laughs]. You know, I would not want to be in anyone else’s shoes and I’m just happy with who I am and the day and age I was born into. Well that might sound arrogant but it just proves how happy I am. I just don’t want to be anything but me, I’m feeling really happy to be myself [laughs], in my time.

« Be yourselves! Don’t let an image become bigger than a band; make the band bigger than any given image. »

This album goes all over the place, with a space anthem, a glam song, a cover version of a funny 80’s song, an 8 minute epic song, etc. Would you say that this is a risk only Edguy could take and that any other band doing the same would be regarded as odd or inconsistent?

Yeah! Exactly! I mean I don’t know if only Edguy can do that, but I think that we have achieved that over the years. In the 22 years of our career, we have always done things our way. We have always done things that we believed in no matter what other people thought, even in the record industry, people said “you cannot do this, mustn’t do that, you have to do this, you have to talk that way, you have to dress that way,…” people always tried to interfere but we never listened. We may not have become as successful as we would have become if we had a clear image that would be suitable for the market but what we have achieved is that we have the ultimate creative freedom. And nowadays, as I said in the beginning of our conversation, Edguy really has a right to do those things, and the fans expect us to do something that is not necessarily expected. They know what kind of sound this band has and I think the new album is no exception. I mean people will immediately hear it’s the band that did Age Of The Joker and Mandrake and all those albums. But it sounds fresh, and it sounds typical of Edguy and nobody else would dare to do something like that because other people… I don’t want to bad mouth any other band, but I think there are a lot of bands who are just busy playing a role and fitting into a label and trying to fulfil an image. Being sorcery related or being warfare related and everybody can do whatever they want to do, but it’s just that we don’t have that image. We have the image of being ourselves, and that’s the ultimate spirit of heavy metal I think. Be yourselves! Don’t let an image become bigger than a band; make the band bigger than any given image. I think that’s what we achieved, and that’s what I’m very proud of. It was hard work: it was 22 years of offending people [laughs] from the record industry, and the press, everywhere. 22 years of fighting hard and trying to get our own way of doing things, but it was worth it because now we are a free band. We’re not slaves, we may not be as successful as Metallica or The Rolling Stones but we are a free band, and when we go on stage we entertain the people the way we want it to be. We’re not slaves to an image.

Do you think that Edguy can go all over the place and still manage to make it work because you’re just doing whatever makes you happy without caring about anything else?

Well it’s a tough question: is it because of that or despite of that? I don’t know. I tend to think that people appreciate our honesty and people appreciate that we don’t come with an artificial image and I think that’s pretty much our secret. I think people can really tell if they are being bullshitted or not and they know that we don’t bullshit them. I mean what you see is what you get and what you get is really what you thought you would get. You get honesty and that’s the most precious thing you can give to people and I think some people really realise that.

Last time we spoke a year ago, you said that « Edguy is something I love to do, but of course there’s also a routine in what I do with Edguy. […] And Avantasia is the key to break out of this routine and make working on Edguy more exciting. » Could making this type of album, with all these different and fun songs, also be a way to break the routine with Edguy?

Well, I don’t know. It’s definitely good to have both things. Because you have two things that you love to do and by the time you have worked on one, you go back to the other thing. It’s like winter and spring, if you had winter for five years in a row it would get pretty boring I think. There would be a chance you’d get really bored. But after a hot summer it’s great to go skiing and after going skiing it’s great to lay in the sun and go to the beach. It’s really just… I don’t want to come across as one of those Ying and Yang people but it’s really great to have that balance and being able to go to the other side and do the other thing whenever one thing gets too big. And that’s great. It feels good to have those two things and those two projects that are both very dear to my heart.

« We may not be as successful as Metallica or The Rolling Stones but we are a free band »

Despite of everything, this album features what we could call some classic Edguy style songs. Is it important for you not to lose sight of this style?

Well I don’t know, actually we didn’t really think about the new album. I mean we just did the album and we did it in a very short time. We wrote the material within like 10 weeks or something and we recorded it in another 10 weeks. So there was no real time to second guess and to question things or to think too much about which direction we should go. I think all the songs just prove what is in the DNA of Edguy. It’s very natural material and it’s just been put together very instinctively so that’s what it is and it came together very naturally. The fact that it sounds like Edguy proves that there is a distinctive Edguy sound. [Chuckles]

You seem to be one of those artists who put a lot of effort in their albums, whether it’s with Edguy or Avantasia. Don’t you think that it is sometimes a bit in vain considering the context of the music industry and the way people consume music nowadays?

You could think like that, but the thing is you always have to remember that you play the music for yourself at first. Otherwise it makes no sense. You have to be happy with what you do. If I would be playing music just for other people in order to sell it, it would be in vain if sells drop. But if you do it for yourself, it is what you would do anyway, no matter how much you sell. If you sell ten thousands, a hundred thousand or five hundred thousand copies, it really doesn’t make a difference because at first you want to please yourself. Of course it makes a difference in your bank account, but that’s not the first reason why we started out. Really, if people say do an album for the fans and then half of the fans would turn away and not buy it, I would think “why did I do it?” but if you do an album for yourself, then there is nothing you can lose. I mean if you do it for yourself and if as many other people as possible hopefully share your opinion on it and like it, they will buy it, so that’s the best way to approach it I think.

Any news from Avantasia? Do you have ideas for the follow up to The Mystery Of Time?

Well there are some ideas but you know I’ve not really continued anything. I mean we did a couple of first demos back then when we did The Mystery Of Time for The Mystery Of Time part 2, but it was resting since we left the studio for The Mystery Of Time. So I haven’t listened to it or taken a look at it for the past year I’d say, and it will rest for another 1, 2 or 3 years… I have no idea. There will be a Mystery Of Time part 2, but right now I don’t think of it, because you should always be focused on one thing at a time. As I always say, I just want to be with Edguy now and not waste my energy thinking about something that is far ahead in the future.

Interview conducted on March, 21st 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Question and Introduction : Spaceman.
Transcription : Natacha.
Pictures : Alex Kuehr.

Album Space Police: Defenders Of The Crown, out since April, 18th 2014 via Nuclear Blast Records.



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