Final fireworks for Avantasia

Radio Metal: Can you describe the whole process an AVANTASIA record goes through? In which order are things done? What do you do first? Lyrics, music, looking for the guests?

Tobias Sammet: It pretty much works hand in hand, there’s no fixed work order. Usually it’s the music that comes first, before the lyrics. Sometimes the music is inspired by the guests that I have in mind when I’m composing the music. When I knew Michael Kiske was going to be part of the album, all of a sudden I came up with a song called “Wastelands”, which has a melody with long, high notes. For Bob Catley, my subconscious was full of MAGNUM. It’s very inspiring. So sometimes it’s the idea of a singer that inspires me to write a song. But usually, it’s music first. Then you have the story, and the lyrics have to reflect that story.

The upcoming album is the most impressive in terms of the popularity of the guests. How difficult was it to manage the project? Were there some of the guests that had greater egos than others?

That was no problem at all. To be honest with you, I don’t think a single one of the guests had a big ego. Of course, they all had to deal with my own ego! More seriously, singers always have a big ego, but all the egos involved were quite reasonable. So no problem at all.

During these collaborations, did one of the musicians or singers ever bring a different colour than the one you’d imagined, or even a better one?

Jorn Lande is someone that always turns things upside down. We were in the studio, working together, and I immediately thought: “Oh dear, he’s changing everything… but it’s cool!” You give him a guideline, and he’s like: “That’s not really my voice, let’s do this another way. ” So yeah, it happened sometimes. Most of the time, though, people were pretty much delivering what I had in mind. I usually do demos where I sing and pretend I’m some other singer, then I give it to them and they do their own version – which is usually better because they’re the person I pretend to be on the demos! Of course it’s better than what I give them, that’s what I ask them, and of course they bring a new colour. But they didn’t change melodies or stuff like that.

Actually, Jorn Lande sings a lot on the new album. Why is that?

Because he’s got a key role in the story. In a way, he’s my counterpart, the Mephistopheles of the story, the king of temptation. That’s why he’s so prominent, there’s no other reason. Of course, Jorn is always a sure shot, he has a great voice.

When we listen to the work done by the guest singers on this album, for example Klaus Meine or Tim Owens, we realize that they’ve stayed true to their style while matching the atmosphere of AVANTASIA’s music. This type of chemistry must have been difficult to achieve. Did you already have the result in mind before beginning the recording sessions or were you unsure of the result until you could actually hear it?

Usually, you know what to expect. I have done so many AVANTASIA albums, I know how to transpose a voice in my head. When the recording sessions actually start, it’s always a great moment to finally have it confirmed. It’s great to listen to all those singers who inspired you so much and to have them recorded on tape – or on a hard drive, actually. When I heard Klaus sing, my jaw dropped and I was standing there with my mouth open.

Are there any other musicians or singers you wanted to contact but in the end didn’t because you actually thought that they wouldn’t fit in the record?

Of course you always think of some people… I was thinking about asking Tony Kakko, from SONATA ARCTICA, but I didn’t – not because his voice didn’t fit, but because he was already very busy with his record and I had to make decisions in a short time. In the end I thought it would be better to ask him again in the future. The record was so packed already! I had some vague ideas in the back of my mind, but it would have been too much to include another singer. But we have known each other for a long time, so maybe he will be there if I make another album.

During the whole AVANTASIA adventure, was there a singer with whom you’ve been dreaming to work with but couldn’t, just like Arjen Lucassen who tried to contact his idol Alice Cooper with no success?

Of course: Bruce Dickinson! That’s a running joke between me and Arjen Lucassen, because I got Alice Cooper and he didn’t, and he got Bruce Dickinson. I always wanted to have him on an album, but he’s always busy flying airplanes. He didn’t seem to be too interested in the project, which I can understand: if I had sold 60 or 70 million albums and spent half of my life on stage, I would probably want to do something in my free time. He’s 50 years old, he’s seen hundreds of stages, given thousands of shows… I can understand he wants to spend his free time in the cockpit of an airplane, and not on another record.

There’s a lot of guitar solos on the new album. Why is that?

There’s no real reason for it, it’s just that the songs needed it. Or maybe they didn’t really need it, it just happened. Very subconsciously, without thinking too much about it, it just happened – just like that. All of a sudden, we realized there were more and more guitar solos, more and more guest guitarists. We have three great guitar players involved in the album: Sascha Paeth, Oliver Hartmann and Bruce Kulick. In the end we realized that there were many long guitar passages in the songs, but we didn’t cut them short because these guys brought a story into each guitar solo. Sometimes they’re fighting each other on the solos, it’s very old school. Usually when you do these epic metal records, you use bombastic elements, which I love and I’m basically known for. That kind of music is not very guitar-oriented. Most of the time, it’s keyboards, big choirs, and lyrics talking about big dragons. I didn’t want to go for the big dragons. I have big keyboards and orchestrations, and epic choirs as well, but I didn’t want to forget where I came from – that’s heavy metal, not Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.

« Les racines, c’est bon pour les imbéciles qui cèdent à ceux qui leur disent qu’ils devraient y retourner. »
This album sounds like a mix between the first two albums of AVANTASIA and the third one. Was it intended as a summary of AVANTASIA’s career, something to tell the new listeners: “This is AVANTASIA”?

No. To me, it’s the logical continuation of The Scarecrow. The funny thing is that me and my best friend, who co-wrote the story of The Metal Opera back in the day, spent many hours playing PlayStation while listening to the material – and he said exactly the same thing. But I didn’t really think about it. Usually I don’t want to go back to the roots. Going back to the roots is for sissy idiots who give in to people who say they should do it. I don’t want to go back anywhere; I’ve been there, why should I go back? I know that’s not exactly what you were asking, and I understand what you mean. And it’s probably true, because my best friend said the same thing. He said there are many older AVANTASIA elements, like on “Blizzard On A Broken Mirror”. I never even thought about this myself. But if it’s the case, it’s OK with me!

The story is apparently over. Won’t you miss it?

Definitely. I’ve been asked recently if I’m happy it’s over, now that the record is coming out. It’s kind of OK now, because most of the pressure is gone. I’m not talking about pressure in terms of sales or expectations, but about creative pressure. The emotional pressure of letting something out to the public is gone. That’s something I’m not really sad about. What’s coming now is the post-production hole. For a long time I had something to do every morning when I got up, even if I didn’t have to actually produce anything. At least I could think about how I could do things, at least I had a target. All of a sudden, that’s gone. That makes me a little sad.

You once declared about this new chapter that it “may be the last big epic I will be able to afford, and I want it to be the biggest piece I worked on so far” Now that the album is ready to hit the shelves, do you think you’ve reached this goal? Is it your masterpiece? Do you have the feeling that you’ve put all the efforts you could into it? Is it somehow the achievement of your life?

Definitely. It’s been such an intensive and emotional process, I put so much work in this… I worked hard on every album, and I’m still proud of them. In some territories I didn’t do too well, but I’m very proud. On these two albums, what makes me the most proud is the fact that I’ve given my very best, as usual, but this time it counts double. There are 22 songs, and only one of them, “Promised Land”, had been heard before. The rest of the material is new, and it’s such a huge concept. People don’t have any idea of what it’ like to produce 21 songs – and I believe they’re all great. There’s not one song that I would throw away. If I’d felt some of those songs were not strong enough, I would rather have made only one album than throw some of them away. The amount of songs, the quality of the whole process… We had so many backing vocalists, so many keyboards arrangements… Whenever we needed a guest, we called this person. It was pretty much like: “Sascha, you need these vocalists? Get them, pay them. You want this studio? Let’s go there.” We spent two weeks on the mastering – not even on the mixing process, only the mastering. That’s insane!

So no regrets?

Absolutely no regrets. We wasted a lot of money, but no regrets!

So what to do next?

I don’t know. EDGUY, definitely: we’re gonna tour, and we’re gonna work on the new album. We’ll take all the time we need, we’re not gonna rush, we’re not gonna make an album in a few months. We’ll take our time, until I see the light at the end of the tunnel and have a vision and say: “Yes, that’s the right album to come after Rocket Ride and Trinitus Sanctus.”

Some artists or fans tend to think that after a band have released a masterpiece, they should just stop here rather than risk to release another album that would not live up to the expectations. What do you think about this? Isn’t it lack of courage?

I think it’s just stupid to listen to what other people think. I don’t tell anybody what they should do and what they should not do, as long as it doesn’t harm other people. I want to be happy, and stopping everything wouldn’t make me very happy. And stopping because someone thinks I should would be very stupid. Nobody should do what other people expect them to do. Do what makes you happy as long as you don’t do any harm to anybody. I would never stop because someone wants it. This is not the Olympics, I just want to spend quality time and produce new albums, enjoy the production process. Whatever I come up with, even if it’s a fusion-jazz album, hell, I’ll do it! Or maybe not, because I hate fusion-jazz…

When will we see a movie or television series based on AVANTASIA with Tobias Sammet as the main character?

Never! I hate shooting music videos, I hate being in front of a camera. Everybody thinks I’m so hungry for attention, but I don’t want to be in front of a camera, I hate it. The video we did for “Dying For An Angel” was cool, though, for two reasons: first because Klaus Meine was next to me in the video, and then because I was all dressed-up. I was wearing a top hat, I looked like Charlie from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory! It was no longer me, I had an alter ego. That’s why I accepted to act in the video. But as a rule I hate cameras.

We learned about SCORPIONS ending their career after the next tour. Since you have worked with Klaus, were you aware of it? What is your feeling about it?

Klaus never mentioned a word about it, I was informed by the newspaper. My girlfriend read the news in the newspaper, actually, and she told me: “Have you heard the news?” For me, as a fan, it’s very, very sad. But I respect their decision, because it wasn’t easy to make. I talked to Klaus about it, and he said the band members will remain friends, which you should not take for granted, even after such a long time. Carrying on forever would probably have ruined the legend of the band. Everything has to end at a certain point. I think it was a very brave decision, and I have a lot of respect for it.

Interview conducted on the 8th march 2010 by Metal’O Phil
AVANTASIA website : www.myspace.com/tobiassammet

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  • http://www.filmesonlinedubladohd.com/ i love final fire works <3 must talent for yong boy. great work heavy stuff america north i like it, letters, shows, for those who already had the chance to see in person and leave the fallen chin , getting better and will rise , thanks radio metal an optimal indication ! as always


  • i love final fire works <3 must talent for yong boy. great work heavy stuff america north i like it, letters, shows, for those who already had the chance to see in person and leave the fallen chin , getting better and will rise , thanks radio metal an optimal indication ! as always


  • A very enjoyable interview with Tobias. He has a talent, and a great work ethic which other young up and comers can learn from. I really like the Avantasia albums and the Edguy material. It’s fresh, and lively. Unlike the heavy stuff from North America that i out there these days, so dreary. Stay grounded Tobias and keep the music real.


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