Freedom Call: beyond the roots will you find Joy

German band Freedom Call classify their own music as “happy metal” – and “happy” is exactly what frontman Chris Bay is. You will never hear him sing about unhappiness in his band. To him, joy is everywhere; even sadness can be turned into something positive, and his art will therefore never be particularly dark.

Chris Bay is, to all intent and purposes, a happy man. The source of his happiness is to be found most notably in those little things that other people would see as a crisis, such as the latest line-up changes in Freedom Call and the return of one of the band’s original members – respectively drummer Samy Ali, a musician who’s apparently “full of surprises”, and bassist Ilker Ersin, who symbolizes in part a return to the band’s roots. And when he talks about the strength of women, far greater than men’s, there isn’t the slightest trace of bitterness or misogynistic resentment.

Joy underlines the whole interview, where the vocalist/guitarist talks about the band’s new album, Beyond, which comes in its limited edition with an acoustic live record – an isolated experience that he doesn’t intend to repeat, and explains why.

« I think I didn’t do that on purpose, I didn’t say ‘Oh let’s go back to the roots of Freedom Call’. It went there on its own dynamic. »

Radio Metal: You declared that on this album, you returned to a more traditional direction that a lot of your faithful fans from the band’s early days will appreciate. Do you think that, in order to go « beyond » your style – Beyond being the title of your new album – you had to find the original spirit and essence of your music?

Chris Bay (guitar, vocals): I think it’s just an impression of the roots of Freedom Call, because we didn’t try to do that in a synthetic way. We just started writing the songs for the new album and maybe the reason was the long touring in the last few years that brought us back to the roots of the traditional Freedom Call music. So from what I can remember from the song writing process of Land Of The Crimson Dawn maybe I was a little bit in between the rock ‘n roll and the metal style. I think it’s the usual development of an artist; you’re trying out different directions of your own musical horizon. And that’s what I did with Beyond again, and that leads me back to the roots of fast and happy melodic songs. I think I didn’t do that on purpose, I didn’t say “Oh let’s go back to the roots of Freedom Call.” It went there on its own dynamic.

Was the return of Ilker Ersin (your bass guitarist) a starting point to you getting back to your roots?

Yeah, maybe. It could be one of the many reasons. I can remember a while back when we had the first practice, the first rehearsal with Ilker there was a very strange feeling it was the first time after his six years break. It was strange when I looked over my left shoulder and I saw Ilker on the bass guitar again. And maybe it is one reason or one point of the inspiration to go back to the traditional music. I mean it could be.

By the way, why did your drummer Dan Zimmerman, who was here from the beginning, leave the band?

Oh, it was his decision. He quit the band quite early: in 2007 he didn’t play with Freedom Call anymore. And from 2007 – it’s a long time, seven years ago – Klaus Sperling at first he was the drummer and he played for Dan, but Dan didn’t quit. After 2010 it was the first time that we really started without Dan on the drums. But it was his decision so he also quit Gamma Ray. Now he’s living his life without the music business and he’s happy. He’s one of my best friends and he’s enjoying his time without drumming in the music business.

Klaus Sperling, who replaced him after that, was sort of a session drummer. Do you think that Ramy, your new drummer, will be a permanent member of the band?

Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of reasons. One of them is that Klaus usually works a nine-to-five job, and I think we had many problems when we toured late in the year because he didn’t get any free time from his work, so that was a very easy problem. So that was one problem and the other was that he also had his own band Nitrogods and he was very happy with them. I think for both sides it was the right decision to bring Ramy as a fixed Freedom Call member so that Klaus can go his own way. I am still in contact with Klaus, he’s a very very nice guy and I think he found the right way for himself, but what is more important for me [laughs] is that Freedom Call found the right drummer for the future, and Ramy is ready to play everywhere and always for Freedom Call.

« On every album we have found out some new processes, new directions of music and I never want to feel limited to try out new processes to find new experiences in music. »

Apparently Ramy is a long-time friend of yours. Can you introduce him to us and tell us about his past career?

Oh Ramy… I think he played for a lot of artists and he has been playing as a drummer in the music business for a long time. He has also played and acted in many video clips for Michael Kiske, or whatever, I can’t remember all the names. But maybe now is the right time for Ramy to settle down in a fixed band where he can find a real base for his inspiration, because he’s a brilliant musician. He’s not only a drummer he can also write songs, he’s a very good singer – it made me a little bit scared when he started singing [laughs] – and he can also play the piano. He’s full of surprises and I would have never expected this from a drummer! [Laughs] Because you know, it’s a drummer… [Laughs] No I’m kidding, I’m kidding. [Laughs] He always surprises me and I’m always finding out new things to Ramy’s talent, that makes him the right guy for Freedom Call.

Did he contribute to the writing of the album since well, you said he plays the piano and all?

Yes, he was a big inspiration for new songs and for example he wrote the lyrics of the title song “Beyond”. I was working with him very closely in terms of arrangements. But I told you, I’m still finding out new talents and I’m sure that you’ll find more Ramy inputs on the next album.

There are a few non-typical Freedom Call moments on this album like on the song “In The Rhythm Of The Light” where your singing and your vocals are very dark voiced and there are also a few hard rock influences in the album. Is it the result of your work on the album Legend Of The Shadow King where you tried new things with your voice and music styles?

Yeah, maybe there is a connection. You are definitely right; I tried out singing really dark vocals. I tried the deep vocals on Legend Of The Shadow King but also on Dimensions I think, on songs like “Blackened Sun”. I love it, singing to extreme different extents, extremely high and extremely deep; that makes it very colourful, especially live. Because imagine if I had to sing only the highest notes live on stage… phew! That would kill me! [Laughs] So yeah, it makes it more colourful, for everybody, not just for me on stage but also for the audience or the listener: they will not only be tortured with the highest notes [laughs] they can also hear the following deep notes. So it’s the variation of music that makes it worth listening to.

There are some African rhythms in the song « Dance Off The Devil », which is quite unusual for Freedom Call. How did you get the idea to include such sounds in the song?

Oh yeah, when I’m working in my studio I’m trying out everything on the new rhythm loops, the new samplers and the new keyboard sounds. Honestly I found one rhythm from Africa, and I loved it very much but it was not the rhythm I was looking for so I worked hard on this beat for hours and then I found out “eh, that is really cool and sounds like Africa”. But I think a song called Africa is not easy to connect with Freedom Call but it’s sitting perfectly together with the concept of Beyond because it’s not about Africa – the land Africa – it’s about the spirit of Africa, these beliefs in a better world and in the beat of life. Maybe Africans are closer to our attitude than modern European people are.

« We are happy to be able to live like this and we want to scream it out to the world: be happy, enjoy your life! It’s very easy. [Laughs] »

The title track is an eight minutes song and you said that it is a kind of a successor to “The Quest” from your second album Crystal Empire. While writing this song, did you listen to “The Quest” in order to get inspired?

On no, I didn’t listen to The Quest before and then tried to find a similar part [Laughs]. No, I just found some parts of the song, and it was very interesting so I tried bringing connection between these parts. I think I really worked 3 or 4 weeks on the song to find the right bridges and the right arrangements. But yeah, I think the only similarity with “The Quest” is that the song is also almost 8 minutes long. But I didn’t get the 8 minutes. I tried to do everything to get the 8 minutes but it’s less than 8. [Laughs] I tried to stretch it but it didn’t work! [Laughs] Fuck, not 8 minutes…

[Laughs] Maybe next time!

Maybe Next time! [Laughs] But yeah, I think “Beyond” is one of my favourite songs on the album because it’s so colourful. You have a lot of parts, it’s an almost 8 minute song but for me, when I listen to the song, time flies. It doesn’t feel like 8 minutes and it shows that it’s a good arrangement and it’s worth being the title song of this album.

Can we expect you going further towards more experimentation?

We have always done this: on every album we have found out some new processes, new directions of music and I never want to feel limited to try out new processes to find new experiences in music. I think that it’s one of the most important parts for every artist to feel free in your inspiration and to never feel limited. Press people saying “OK, Freedom Call is a power metal band or a melodic metal band or melodic speed metal band” shouldn’t be a reason to only do power metal music. I’m feeling free to do everything but it has to come from my inner feeling and inspiration of music. And that’s what the people who listen to Freedom Call music are expecting from a band like this. To be writing songs with inspiration and not according to what the press or people are saying is important as a band.

You’re a very optimistic band and you even call yourselves « the happiest band in the world ». That’s a pretty strong statement, since all metal bands try to be the darkest and heavier metal band of all time…

[Laughs] Yeah! Well it’s not a synthetically created statement, because we ARE very happy. Because we have to be happy, because we can do what we are longing for our whole lives: to be rock musicians, to travel around the world, to play on stage, to meet nice people, to meet happy people. For what possible reason could we be unhappy in this life? Because in our situation, the sun is shining! There’s light in the universe. There’s no reason for us to be depressive or whatever. So we are happy to be able to live like this and we want to scream it out to the world: be happy, enjoy your life! It’s very easy. [Laughs]

« I think unplugged is a very good thing for a special bonus […] Maybe for Christmas, for my parents, I can play unplugged. »

[Laughs] OK, it is often said that sadness and tragic moments are the most inspiring ones. I guess you disagree with that?

Yes, I think these are some of the deepest moments you have in your life. But all these deepest moments are making you thankful for your life, maybe for your situation in life, for what’s to change in your life… In my opinion, there is no connection to your bad feelings in your life. Your optimistic thinking and positivity that can help you turn from a tragedy into a positive thing for your own experience or for your own inspiration in life. You can use it for yourself. So I think a tragedy is not the point to take it from yourself to be tragic, to be disappointed, you can turn it into an extremely important experience in life but you have to learn how to change it into an optimistic thing and a positive thinking because it’s your life. You have to live your life. You have to live your life and nobody else can do that for you. But that’s the important thing; a tragedy is a part of your life: a lot of tragedies will happen but you have to learn how to turn it into a positive experience. But that is just my own opinion about this.

OK, many power metal bands are inspired by Tolkien literature, is it your case?

It could be that a lot of bands are inspired by literature, but it’s not my case. I like reading some books but not about fantasy style, not about things like Narnia or The Lord Of The Rings. I read The Lord Of The Rings, I did, but it hasn’t inspired me. All these lyrics, all these fantasies I’ve made by dreams, my own dreams, or day dreams or my imagination, they don’t come from the literature.

On the bonus disk of the album, there is a section called Unplugged And Masqueraded. I think it’s the first time you do something like that isn’t it? Can we expect more unplugged shows from you?

Hopefully not! [Laughs]

Why is that?

I think unplugged is a very good thing for a special bonus, which is what we did. We recorded one show we played last year as special guests for Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody in our hometown because they are friends of ours and we said: “Hey, come on, let’s do that in a special way and we will record the show and we can use it as a bonus CD”. That is a brilliant idea but I prefer the usual, normal, traditional concert with heavy guitars, loud vocals and double bass… that’s what I prefer. Maybe for Christmas, for my parents, I can play unplugged.

OK! [Laughs]

At least you asked the guy. [Laughs]

OK, so I guess you haven’t thought of doing an album with alternative versions of your songs just like Helloween did on the album ‘Unarmed’?

Yeah, I like this Helloween album. I think it’s very creative. I like it, but… eh never say no. I don’t know, but right now I prefer going on tour with real drums and real fast guitars and the usual way to play concerts. But as I said, never say no. Maybe someday we’ll have an orchestra, but before I’ll have to collect money. [Laughs]

[Laughs] OK, the shooting for the song « Union Of The Strong » music video took place in the vicinity of Nuremberg and Franconia. Why this particular choice?

Yeah, that was a very short term decision to do this video and our drummer has a music school and there, there was enough place to film this video. And then I had this idea to book some people, some fans, for the filming and that was so much fun while filming and everyone loved it. We were jumping and singing together and we had some very epic moments with some torches. Yeah, it was really exciting but I think you will see that video soon. Yesterday I saw the first finished version of the video clip. It’s really cool. It’s 120% Freedom Call.

Last time we spoke to each other it was in 2010 for the album Legend Of The Shadow King and you concluded the interview saying that “It is a fact that women are more intelligent, I am a man, it’s hard to say it, but anything more intelligent than you can be very dangerous: be careful when dealing with women!”


[Laughs] Do you still think that way?

Oh yes, I think I can underline that. I can underline that with a thick thick thick pen. That’s right. They are stronger than us; we got no chance [laughs] I’ve already given up!

Interview conducted by phone on January, 15th 2014 by Metal’O Phil
Transcription : Natacha
Introduction : Animal

Freedom Call official website: www.freedom-call.net

Album Beyond, out since February, 24th 2014 via SPV/Steamhammer.

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