Edguy: Tobias Sammet self-aware of his own kitsch

Do we really need to tell you about the self-irony and bouncy nature of Tobias Sammet, frequently referred to in our columns? Little over a year after the release of Avantasia’s latest album, this little joker is back with Edguy, his main project, releasing its new album entitled Age Of The Joker on April 29th.

Together, we talked about Avantasia’s first tour, which was a particularly striking moment in his career in his opinion, and was immortalized on DVD. A tour so striking that he refused to release another DVD of the following tour, which was the band’s last. We also talked about his recent statements in the media, and mentioned the theme of kitsch and contemporary productions. True to himself, Tobias answers honestly and humorously.

As for the last question… No, I just can’t. It’s so easy and dishonestly catchy that I’m ashamed of it. But know this: this article has the word “d***” mentioned more often than any other article we’ve ever published. But that’s not our fault… not only our fault.

(Note : about Avantasia’s first shows) »That is a very memorable moment and I already had recorded many shows at that time. […] So I said: ‘OK, I am not going to be one of those bands that release a DVD after every album, as so many bands do it nowadays’. »

Radio Metal : So first of all and before talking about the new Edguy album, how do you feel about the Avantasia last tour?

Tobias Sammet (vocals) : It was a great tour! We didn’t know it will turn out to be that successful! I really didn’t expect it. It was a very brave undertaking to go all on the road and such a constellation, without knowing how much we will be paid! (laughs) To be honest, it was not easy as that because there were very high up front expenses! When you do a festival tour, it’s much easier because you know what you have and what you don’t have. When you do a tour of your own, it is really a big risk. It was so great to be on stage with those people! It was great to see that finally it worked, that many people were interested in the tour. For the first time we knew that Avantasia was really exciting for a lot of people because if you play Wacken it’s nice to play a headlining show in Wacken, but all those people are there anyway. But for this tour, all the people came for us and it was so great, and it was so great to have Kai Hansen, Micheal Kiske, Bob Catley, Jorn on stage together! It was an amazing experience … I think for me it was although something really outstanding. It’s a little bit different from doing a tour with your regular band. You don’t have the routine with a band like Avantasia. It was a great undertaking and a great experience to do that.

I’m quite surprised that you didn’t think it would be so successful. I mean, with all these guests it is just normal!

You never know, times are very difficult and you can’t really predict anything anymore. I mean in heavy metal it’s quite good because you know there is a loyal fan base. That’s something we all can rely on. But you never really know what the exact turn out will be and how many people will be there. You cannot just tell: “I hopped it would be successful”. If I would have seriously thought that it would be a complete disaster, I wouldn’t have dare to do that tour because it was a big risk like I said but you don’t know in advance if it would work good or great as it finally did ! That’s the difference. It was a big surprise for me that it was that great and it was great for me to see Michael and Kai on stage together, to see all those people have a lot of fun on stage together. We had great time on that tour and for that short period of time which was just 3 and half weeks, it was like we were all in one band together although usually we are not! That was a great experience.

Will you release a DVD to immortalize that last tour with the last Avantasia songs ? Because the last DVD that was released only features songs from the three first Avantasia albums.

No. It’s quite easy, I didn’t record even one show. I can tell you why I don’t want to do that: To me the first tour was a very important moment for me, it was the moment when Avantasia was not only one more life project anymore, it became a real touring, living entity, a real band. That is a very memorable moment and I already had recorded many shows at that time. When we did a second tour I already had a lot of shows from the first tour and the DVD was in the pipeline. I didn’t want to be tented to put a tour from a different age on that same DVD. We have worked so hard on that first DVD and back then when we did the tour we were about to finish the process and it was a lot of work, a lot of blood, a lot of sweat, so I said: “OK, I am not going to be one of those bands that release a DVD after every album, as so many bands do it nowadays”. I didn’t want to that. Back then, when I grew up, it was bands like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden or Kiss, whatever, they had one live video. That was it. In 10 years, 15 years! That was the document that you had to watch and listen to when you wanted to know what the band was live. I wanted to have that same feeling and situation for Avantasia. I wanted that first tour to be that captured moment. It’s sad that Michael is not on it but Andre Matos is doing the hell of a job, he’s a great vocalist. I think that this first tour, even if the last tour was great, the first tour was more special, it was something unique, it was the first time, it’s like an expedition, into unknown waters! And that’s why I didn’t shoot the second tour.

Even, you said it’s finish, are you tempted to revive the project?

Tempted… Not at the moment but you know, I will not say that I will never do it again. It’s just at the moment I don’t feel the necessity to think about it. Because I’ve just done an album with Edguy, we are doing the promotion, we will do a long tour… I don’t know what will be in three or four years. I have no clue. I don’t even know what will be in half a year! I will probably be on the road with Edguy. So… I don’t say “never” but I don’t know if there will be something, I don’t have to do it and if I feel the need to do it, I will do it. But I’m not sure if that will happen. And it will happen when it would happen.

Do you plan to create another opera of that kind? Same kind of thing, with guests etc.

Like I said, I don’t know what the future is going to bring. I don’t see the necessity to do the same thing and give it a different name, that would be stupid (laughs).

Yeah but a different story…

Well, like I said I don’t know. But if I will do something like that again, of course it will be Avantasia.

« We were never hired guns, we were never whores or bitches, playing in seven different bands at the same time. We have all basically started with that band and we’ve all became successful together. »

Edguy is one of the few bands that managed to keep its original line-up. According to you, what is the reason for this stability?

We don’t beat each other up! (laughs) I don’t know! It’s probably because we all love what we do, that we are intelligent enough to be nice to each other and we are friends. I think that’s probably the reason for such a stable line up. We all know what we have. I think none of us has ever been in a band before, or maybe Tobias, in Squealer. But we were never hired guns, we were never whores or bitches, playing in seven different bands at the same time. We have all basically started with that band and we’ve all became successful together. And that ties you together. We were there together almost from the start. Of course Dirk, Jens and me had done a little more work. Before the other two joined, the band already existed for five or six years. But we’ve all managed to grow together and we’ve all achieve that together and I think that ties you together. We are a real band and we know what we have in each other, that’s why we are still together. As far as I know, nobody has ever considered leaving the band! We are friends!

It’s look like you don’t like those “hired guns” playing in seven bands, just doing an album with a band and then another one with another band. You don’t like that kind of guy?

Well, I can’t say that because you know in Avantasia, I’ve a lot of those guys! (laughs) You know, for example, Jorg Micheal, the drummer of Stratovarius uses to say about him that he is a whore! (laughs) I understand, it’s great for musicians to do many different things but I think it’s a completely different approach and I just think that us five in Edguy, we never been hired guns. We almost all started in the band together and it’s just a different philosophy and it works really well! These guys make music to make a living, they play drums for whoever, for Stratovarius, for Axel Rudi Pell, for Running Wild, for Grave Digger and for Mekong Delta… Because that makes them feel that they are fresh. And that’s rightful, it’s absolutely ok, it’s just that with this band it’s a different thing.

Does it mean that the friendship in Edguy is so strong that if someone leave, the band will have to change its name?

Pfff… I have actually not thought about that. You know if the friendship is so strong that you would have to change name if somebody leaves, then the friendship would be so strong that nobody leaves! (laughs) I just haven’t thought about that and I just hope nobody leaves.

« There’s a lot of cheap kitsch in heavy metal […] A lot of kitsch in heavy metal has been trademark. I just don’t want to be embarrassing. I don’t want anyone look back at me and say: “Whooa that was really really bad. »

You declared about this new album: “When you record anthemic music, you tend to be dangerously close to kitsch, it’s a thin line and I think we bounce on this thin line pretty well”. Looking back to your previous album and at your whole career, do you think that the band already crossed that line in the past?

Yeah. Probably 125 times. (laughs) Definitely. For example if you listen to “Theater of Salvation”, I think there are a lot of kitsch elements there. If you listen to the song called “Tomorrow” or “Scarlet Rose”. It’s definitely kitsch. I mean heavy metal is supposed to be kitsch in some passages, that’s a very natural thing, it’s like that. I just want to get rid to the kitsch elements a little bit. Of course sometimes you have to be a little kitsch but only to a certain extend. I think that’s we managed to balance on that very well. We’ve always done kitsch things but I think there always were worse bands. (laughs) When they come so kitsch you know? Many. But if you’re recording heavy metal albums, you’re always on that thin line, it’s always a little bit “Spinal Tap”, there’s always a little kitsch on there. Take a song like “Robin Hood”. It is kitsch but it’s meant to be kitsch. Spinal Tap it’s a very thin line. We do it instinctively very well. We do kitsch things, that’s what heavy metal is all about, but we are still serious enough to be considering serious music.

So the important is to be kitsch on purpose ?

Not necessarily, it depends of what you want. For example if you take the melodies of Abba, there are kitsch too but it’s great! If you take the cover artwork of Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell”, it is kitsch in the greatest most perfect sense of the world! I mean, it’s great kitsch and that’s ok. What I don’t like is cheap kitsch, and there’s a lot of cheap kitsch in heavy metal.

Like ?

(laughs) I won’t mention any names! You know… 55 year old man, all oiled up, muscles, wearing a loincloth. I think it’s really kitsch but it can be also a trademark. A lot of kitsch in heavy metal has been trademark. I just don’t want to be embarrassing. I don’t want anyone look back at me and say: “Whooa that was really really bad”.

Some bands can do kitsch music but that wasn’t intended and very serious.

Yeah I mean a lot of videos from the early 80s, if you take for example the first metal video, where they are riding through the forest. But you know it’s a part of heavy metal history and it’s what it is. They have founded this piece of history of heavy metal so it’s ok but still sometimes you have to scratch your head and… Even I when I look back to what we have done in the past, sometimes you’re scratching your head and think:”Hmm… Maybe that was a little bit over the top”.

« It’s a dick waving contest. Everybody wants to compete with each other and everybody wants to be the loudest. To me it sounds almost like music is mixed and produced to sound ok and loud enough on an iphone, on a mobile phone or computer speakers. […] I understand that probably Metallica had done that album because they wanted to do that album and that’s ok. To me it sounds terrible, it sounds awful. »

Your criticized the tendency of recent metal productions to compete to reach the highest sound level. For example, Lars Ulrich from Metallica refused to cut down the situation of the album Death Magnetic despite the negative reaction of the audience. In your opinion what encourages bands to sacrifice dynamism for high sound level?

First of all, I respect everybody’s own decisions. But the thing is that to me, music is all about dynamics and today I see a tendency in the modern music world, especially in the technical industry, that everybody wants to compete. It’s a dick waving contest. Everybody wants to compete with each other and everybody wants to be the loudest. To me it sounds almost like music is mixed and produced to sound ok and loud enough on an iphone, on a mobile phone or computer speakers. That’s not my idea of high fidelity. I know that I’m really old fashioned when it comes to that and I know I’m quite aware that with our new production, which is very dynamic and not very loud, I know a lot of people would say… People who unlearn to hear music the way it was heard many people many years ago, I know that a lot of those people will criticize us. But I can’t care because I know what is right and I know what is right in my ears and that’s the only thing I want to do, to make it right for my ears. I think dynamics are very important. I don’t like those “match all” productions. It’s: “Louder”, “We want to be the loudest”, “We want to have the longest dick in the world”. It doesn’t make sense to me because it’s not a competition, it’s not the Olympics. It’s about feeling, and you can’t create a feeling just by making everything cranking, everything up on ten. It ruins the dynamics, everything is over-compressed and it’s just sold as it’s louder than the other productions when you listen to it on your iphone. That’s completely the opposite of what I think that should be done. I want to add dynamics. If you listen to Richard Wagner, the powerful elements are so powerful because there are a lot of low elements. It’s like the valleys and the mountains. That makes the dynamics, that makes it a beautiful landscape. If you just have crests it would be a plane just on a higher level, which does make sense to me. I understand that probably Metallica had done that album because they wanted to do that album and that’s ok. To me it sounds terrible, it sounds awful.

Is this observation that led you to choose the Peppermint studio?

That’s part of it. We wanted to have a studio with a big drum recording room because we wanted to have a real dynamic drum sound. Therefore you need to have a certain room, a big room to have a very natural acoustic. We placed microphones in the whole room, we put microphones on the drums and we don’t use any samples, we use the drum kit as it sounds. Because what you hear nowadays, when you listen to those albums, those [Tobias is doing a loud drum beat] power metal albums, I never heard a drum kit in my whole life that sounds like that. No drum kits sounds like that. A drum kit sounds like what you hear on Age of the Joker and that’s what we want to maintain. We didn’t want to give in to the hearing behavior of the current generation. We just wanted to do an album that sounds right for us, and that sounds real. Therefore we needed the drum recording room of the Peppermint Park Studio.

The album is called “The Age of the Joker”. The joker is a card that doesn’t belong to any family, that ignores the game’s rules and disturbs its normal development. Do you think that Edguy is that joker?

To be honest with you, that’s a great investigation, I never seen it that way ! (laughs) I never thought about it but yeah, that suits it pretty well !

That ruins my next question but I ask it to you anyway: Is it a way to say that we live in particularly troubled times which would be favorable to a great troublemaker like the joker?

No, we choose the joker because it’s not just a pure clown even it’s what he’s considered of. That’s not true. The joker, the jester are more than that. They have a way to rev up criticism in humor and say real true things in a real mean way, sell it with the smile and get away with it without being berated. That’s why the joker stands for and that’s why the album is called “Age of the Joker”. That’s a sign of our rage. Lot of politicians and great historical politicians has been troublemakers, I mean, I’m from Germany, I’m allowed to say that. (laughs) You never know what you get when you vote for certain politicians and there are all potential troublemakers. In general I don’t explicitly ask for a troublemaker to take the reins.

Do you plan to produce videos clips for one of the songs?

We are going to do two video clips: one for « Robin Hoo »d and one for « Two out of Seven ».

Edguy toured as a support band for Scorpions and you’re about to tour with Kottak as a support band. Kottak is actually a band founded by Scorpion’s drummer, did you joke about this turnaround with James Kottak?

Not really, but it’s going to stay in the family. The Scorpion tour was so great and it was such a great experience for us. We have one more show in two weeks. We have been treated really nice and we played to twelve, thirteen, fourteen, even fifteen thousand people every night. It’s just great to give something back because we have been giving so much from them. It was a big honor to support that band, we were treated like we were part of the family and we feel like part of the family. They have always said that we are the next generation of what they did and that we will keep the flying burning, things like that and it’s very big compliments. For us it’s great to have James on the road with us because he’s a nice guy, he’s a great drummer. Somehow it feels like it stays in the family and that was basically the decision. Kottak is a very interesting band, he’s not going to be the drummer of but the vocalist.

In fact, we have met several times with James Kottac and you have the same kind of exuberance and self-derision. Did you get on well him last year?

Of course! His dressing room was most of the time next to our dressing room. Most of the time it was: Klauss, Rudolph, Mathias, Edguy, James and Pawel. We were almost always in the middle so we were really welcomed as really family member and he was quite always next to us and he got along with Felix pretty well, the two drummers, talking about stuff that normal human beings won’t be interested in (laughs). He’s a nice guy and he’s insane. He’s insane. I think is a little bit more insane than we are but he’s a great guy, a great drummer and we got along very well with him and all of the Scorpions.

Do you consider to do a project with him?

We haven’t thought about that.

In the live DVD of Avantasia, you declared at the end of the show that Felix Bohnke, the drummer is “the man with shortest cock in the universe”. It means that you have seen it so I have to ask in what circumstances!

You know when you are in a band together which is almost like a family… Honestly speaking I don’t know if I ever seen his dick. I’m not really sure but I may have seen it of course. Because we are in a band together, we have taken showers everywhere, we have played in all different kind of places: small clubs, big clubs, and clubs with showers without doors. So I am quite sure that I was unfortunate enough to have seen it but fortunately I can’t remember it anymore. But it sounds much better when I say: “He’s got the shortest dick in the world” than saying: “I got the shortest dick in the world”.

Interview conducted on july, 6th 2011 in Paris, France
Transcription : Lucas

EDGUY’s Website : www.edguy.net
AVANTASIA’s Website : www.tobiassammet.com

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