Rage : Interview With Peavy

Strings To A Web, the album of the year ?
Radio Metal : Strings to a web sounds like the real follow up to Speak of the dead, it sounds much more ambitious than Carved in Stone. Would you say that Carved in Stone is a “safer” album for Rage and is this album a way to reassure your fans after Mike Terrana’s departure ?

Peter « Peavy » Wagner (basse) : Well… (laughs). I can’t say that we had really planned to develop the album this way. You’re right in saying that there is a lot more variation on this new album, compared with Carved in Stone. We never really saw Carved in Stone as a safety album; it was just the album that came out after the first time we did a session with Andre for the album. Now Andre -our drummer- is a lot more present in the band than he was at the time, so maybe this is why we have more complex stuff on this new album. He is much more into the band and into the style. So no, we did not plan to do it like this.

What is the meaning of the enigmatic title Strings to a web and its rather bizarre artwork ?

Well it seems to be working… We see it like society, as if we are all strings in a web that constitute our society.

Speaking of the dead, Carved in stone was made three years after Strings to a web, was this intended? Do you think this is a good rhythm?

We won’t agree that it was actually intended, but I think it is the natural rhythm that has grown from the band in the last three years.

Empty Hollow is a big ambitious orchestra composition, in the same way that Lingua Mortis Suite was. What motivated you to reattempt this?

Basically, Victor had the idea for the song.
When we started to work on the idea, we then thought: “This song needs some orchestration”. We started to record some orchestration, and recorded everything in Minsk before we had even entered the studio. This is how the
song started, there are no other reasons.

How different is your composing approach for these conceptual pieces compared with normal songs?

It’s just a lot more work, because it is more complex. It takes a longer to complete in comparison with regular songs. Besides, it is not that different to work on a very long track.

Lingua Mortis Suite opened the Speak of the dead album and Empty Hollow is in the middle of Strings to a web. Does this mean that we can expect another conceptual piece from you to close your next album?

(laughs) It’s just a coincidence that we put it in the middle. We just thought it would fit at this place. Obviously, I don’t think we will start an album like this in the future, and I don’t think that it will sound better at the end either.

Victor Smolski revealed that after 25 years, you discovered a lot of new possibilities and new elements, even in your vocals, with this album. How is that possible?

(laughs) Hum… We’ve probably gotten better after all this time, and we’ve tried to achieve some new challenges. Well, probably!

Some of the characterizations of your song techniques are impressive instrumentals and incredible solos by Victor Smolski without ever losing focus on your catchiness. This approach can be compared to bands like Mr Big and of course Rush, which are both known for their virtuosity, catchy melodies and chorus lines as well. Do you think it is essential not to lose the listener with too much of a technical side and put the focus on the melodies instead?

Yeah. Thank you very much for comparing us with Rush! They are one of my favourite bands! It is very, very nice to be compared with this band! And you’re right, it’s nice to show some technical skills, but you should not overdo it, otherwise the listener will lose the main idea behind the song.

« We are very close with Blind Guardian, they’re good friends of ours. We toured with them a couple of times in the past. Of course we don’t exactly know what we will do in the future, so we have to see how it fits in terms of time. The last few years it didn’t really fit. As for a project together, there is nothing planned at the moment. But who knows? We will see. »
Just like Speak of the dead, Strings to a web has a lot of progressive elements, is this something Rage wants to develop in the future?

We didn’t really talk about this! I think the kind of mix we have in the new album is really good. The songs are still upfront, they are still top quality and we only put a few technical elements in the album, so that it doesn’t sound too overwhelming. If people want us to do more albums like this, then we will do more and more. But we will have to wait and see what we compose in the future!

In order to record this album, you decided to go back to the Twilight Hall Studio, which is Blind Guardian’s recording studio. Hansi Kürsch, the singer of Blind Guardian, actually appeared at your Wacken Open Air 25th anniversary show and he also sings backing vocals on Empty Hollow. It seems like Rage and Blind Guardian are quite close, have you ever thought of doing something together, a tour or even a musical project?

Yes of course, we are very close with Blind Guardian, they’re good friends of ours. We toured with them a couple of times in the past. Of course we don’t exactly know what we will do in the future, so we have to see how it fits in terms of time. The last few years it didn’t really fit. As for a project together, there is nothing planned at the moment. But who knows? We will see.

You are the founding member of Rage, which has existed since 1983,
although it was called Avenger at the time, and Strings to a web is 20th album. Have you ever felt the need to try something completely different with a brand new band? Don’t you sometimes feel tired of Rage and feel the need to make something fresh? For example, Lemmy Kilmister did a side project with Head Cat… Do you feel the need for that?

Not really… I mean, we have some side projects from time to time. Victor Smolski did some solo albums that we participated on. We did this Nuclear Blast anniversary sampler together as a side project, and sometimes we do a quick guest appearance or so… I don’t need to be in a second band. I’m really happy with Rage…

OK, you’re “fulfilled”, with Rage…

Yeah, you could say so!

Looking back at your long career, what period brings you the fondest memories and why?

First of all I have to say that, at that moment, right now, I really feel very good with the band, with my buddies, Victor and Andre. It is a really good period right now!
If I think back in the past, I liked the period together with Manni Schmidt, in the late 80s up to the 90s very much. I liked to play with Manni a lot. I have good memories of this era.

These past few years, you’ve seen a lot of bands quitting after 3 or 4 albums, mainly because they felt like their popularity was stagnating. Obviously, as far as popularity goes, Rage is not Metallica, therefore, is growing a fan base something you long for? Or is your music all that matters to you now?

I’d like to extend our fan base, of course I wouldn’t mind if more people were getting into the band. But on the other hand, we have really top fans on the road, and they keep us growing. That’s why we keep going, I guess! Without the fans we would not be here anymore. And, I cannot see what would happen without our fans.

Rage played at the Bundesvision Song Contest 2009, on February 3rd, this year, and ended at the 3rd rank. What is this contest, and what pushed you to participate?

Yes, it’s like the Eurovision Song Contest, basically only pop artists participate to this thing. The reason why we did it is that the inventor of this show, Stefan Raab. Here in Germany, he’s quite popular. He’s a fan of Rage and already invited us a couple of times to his TV show. He just simply asked us if we would like to join the contest and do a song, so we spontaneously said « yes » to him because it was a fun idea. We had never done this before; playing for this kind of TV show and specially a popstar show! (laughs). We just thought it’d be a funny thing to do, that’s basically all. There was no deeper meaning to it.

That’s the last question. From a French point of view, Germany looks like a very “Metal” country, just like Scandinavian countries. French people think metal is popular in Germany and well represented in the media, whereas in France it remains marginal. What is the reality of how metal is perceived in Germany?

It’s a little bit difficult to describe. It is very popular and there are a lot of fans, so it’s very active. But of course, it is not in the media as much as it could be. It would deserve a lot more attention than it actually gets when you think of the mass of fans that we have here who love this kind of music. It’s completely under-represented on TV and radio.

Interview contucted on january, 2010 by phone.

RAGE myspace : www.myspace.com/rage

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