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Interview: Rockstad Falun 2012

Iron Savior @ Rockstad Falun 2012IRON SAVIOR haven’t played in Sweden since their gig at GATES OF METAL back in 2003, that’s ages ago! That’s why the roar was so big and loud when ROCKSTAD FALUN announced that IRON SAVIOR were booked for the summers festival. A bit risky booking thou since IRON SAVIOR doesn’t play live that often and the fear for stage rust were big. A fear that turned into a headbanging party instead. The concert was nothing than a 45 minutes long victory march where IRON SAVIOR proved that they stood the test of time and that German power metal once again prevail!

The day after the show ROCKNYTTs reporter Janne Mattsson met Piet Sielck (guitar and vocals) and Jan S. Eckert (bas) in the lobby to their hotel. The given time for the interview were 30 minutes but it turned out to be three times as long in the end. So without any further withdrawn, here you have it, slightly compressed for your pleasure.

Piet: Do you have any idea why I do this, why I still keep up with music after the last years setbacks? I do it because I love music, I love heavy metal! I don’t do this for the money. It’s never been about the money! If it’s been about the money I would do something completely different already years and years ago! This is all about having fun. I want to wake up every day and look forwards to the tasks of the day. As long as I work with music I hope that I’ll always will wake up with that feeling. Money is nothing, happiness is everything!

However, sometimes happiness and music don’t go along very well. That’s what happened to SAVAGE CIRCUS. It became too much job for me since all the members in the band didn’t contribute as they should.

Rocknytt: Yeah, I understand that the Swedish members maybe didn’t contribute as much as they would have had to to make the band work?

– You said it, not me! But hey, how did we get into this subject? We’re supposed to talk about IRON SAVIOR and here I sit and talk about SAVAGE CIRCUS. How did that happen? Bah, no need to answer, but let’s change subject instead, ok?

Sure thing, let me lead you into the right track again. Last week I met Joachim ‘Piesel’ Küstner (guitar) at the Swedish festival SKOGSRÖJET. He told me that he couldn’t join IRON SAVIOR for the gig last night so for the readers, tell me why he’s not here and who you brought with you instead.

– Piesel isn’t here because he’s busy with a big party he and two of his friends been planning for almost a year now. They’re supposed to have around 250 guest, food, drinks, live music and tons of other stuff as well. It’ll sure be a awesome party! That’s why he couldn’t join us. Since he planned this for such a long time it wouldn’t have felt right to force him do the gig either. Since my friend Jan Bertram from PARAGON could fill in for Piesel everything worked out fine anyways.

You could call it a temporary solution but since we want to play live more and more in the future and Piesel often is away on tour working for other bands maybe Jan will fill in once or twice in the future as well, who knows? The important part is that it worked out as well as it did.

(Jan who sits next to us in the sofa playing with his phone looks up from the screen, do a thumb up and smiles)

So the plan is to do more live gigs?

– Yes! We hardly played live during the last four years and the last proper tour we did was back in 2000 with Running Wild! It’s something we’ll have to change and we’ve got a few hooks out there. Hopefully we’ll be coming up with something soon. However, the biggest problem with IRON SAVIOR is that we all got jobs on the side. There’s no one in the band that can live on IRON SAVIOR so there’s tons of planning before we can book any shows. People tend to forget that we’re four different guys with four different jobs and four different bosses. There’s lots of pieces in the puzzle that have to fit before we can do anything – if I put it that way.

Jan S. EckertI get that. Jan, may I ask what you’re working with?

– I work with media tools. I rent out big LED-screens and stuff for different arrangements and occasions.

 That’s cool. I guess that the band count on you when it’s time for touring then, you fix the biggest available screen as a backdrop and such things?

– Sure thing, the biggest screen and the latest in animation technology. We’re going to take the world by storm, haha!

Piet: Haha, back to the subject now. There’s a risk that we maybe won’t be able to bring the “real” line up to IRON SAVIOR gigs. But in my opinion it’s better to have a guest play something than cancel or not even book the gig at all.

Absolutely! And bear in mind that since there’s not too much happening in the IRON SAVIOR camp people maybe even won’t recognize that someone’s missing for the moment?

– Haha, yeah you’re right about that. The fans maybe thought it was Piesel who played with us yesterday and just thought that he had cut his hair!

It’s been a four year long gap between ‘Megatropolis’ (2007) and ‘The Landing’ (2011), what took you so long and what did you do during those years?

– Well, approximately one and a half, maybe two years was spent on the second SAVAGE CIRCUS album ‘Of Doom And Death’ (2009). The rest of the time I licked my wounds from the Dockyard1 and Dockyard2 catastrophe. I won’t lie to you but that’s a really dark chapter in my life. It’s nothing can do much about now but to pay and look happy.

Somewhere in all that misery I however found some strength and was able to start to work on the new IRON SAVIOR album and that’s how ‘The Landing’ was created. I was at the bottom of the barrel and ready to leave the whole music scene. My studio turned into a warehouse and I couldn’t find the strength nor the interest to play more than one or two riffs on my guitar before I threw it away. But somehow the will slowly came back to me and after that I finished the first song, ‘Heavy Metal Never Dies’ the rest of the songs came quite easy to me. It was like open a flood gate and the music just came pouring out of me! It was the sweetest feeling I’ve had for years!

The problem with Dockyard were that some wanted the company to grow faster than we could handle. It’s off course good to have an artist rooster but you must be able to pay for it as well and the artist that got signed was paid with the money we made from the sales of the other bands. In the end there was no money left to pay the bands that sold the cds since the income was always spent or “invested” in other bands. It was a high gamble that in the end didn’t work out and that’s why Dockyard went bankrupt.

A major part of the money was my own and that lead to that me and two other guys went into a personal bankruptcy. Since the other two had no family nor children it was much easier for them to just disappear and to never be seen again. But that was then and today I’d say that around maybe 95% of the problems are solved or at least under control. It helped out alot that that AFM Records bought the whole Dockyard catalogue from me.

(Thomas Nack (drums) joins the conversation.)

Speaking of ‘Heavy Metal Never Dies’, how does your song creation process look like? Do you finish the song all by yourself before you show the others or do you show them a riff and Jan and Thomas can add their personal touch to it?

– Hmmm, how should I say this without hurting their feelings. It’s better if I do everything from scratch so I know it’ll be done correct.

Jan: Hey!

Thomas: He’s right, it’s for the best.

(All three of them burst into a giant laughter.)

Piet: Haha, no it’s not like that. But as a producer and songwriter I know already from the beginning what I want to create before I show the ideas to the others. They can of course add anything they want to but all in all the full picture is already drawn before I show it, if I put it like that.

Since I’m fortunate enough to have my own studio I can sit down and create a proper demo of a song already from the very first moment. It’s the same as when I later produce it, I’m lucky enough to already have everything in my studio to make it sound good. Thanks to the studio I already got the right guitar sound on the demo recording and can use the actual riff from the very same moment that I created it.

Usually the recording process can be divided in three parts, the songwriting, the demo recording and the real recording. Sometimes I get all these parts right already at the very first moment and the result is good enough to be used on the record. When that happens it just feel unnecessary to bring the others to the studio to record their parts, the we’re all happy with what I already got. Sometimes it’s also impossible to get the same vibe for a riff the second time you try to play it and then it’s really good to have a proper recording of it already. That’s something I think that all the musicians around the world will agree with. I know that at least Henjo Richter (GAMMA RAY) agrees with me. A couple of years ago we had a discussion and we both felt that sometimes it just feels like you play covers of yourself when you try to get it right in the studio maybe a few months after you first made that riff. The chance is that you won’t feel the same for it then and maybe throw away a perfectly good riff. In the end I say it like this, if you can make it right already at the first try, make sure to get it right then, your band mates will thank you afterwards!

(Piet gives Jan a look that says “agree with me, now! But Jan just smiles and laughs at Piet)

Jan: You can do whatever you want as long as you do it good Piet!

Piet: Haha, it’s great to have you back in the band again Jan!

Can you tell me a bit how an idea turns into a song? Do you first hum the melody into your phone or something to remember it or do you remember it long enough to record it at once?

– Na, I don’t hum or anything. My brain still works good enough to remember things, what was the question again? Haha, no, the ideas I get I usually remember without any problems until it’s time to sit down and record the idea. The only trouble I have is when I’m about to fall asleep and the most amazing idea can come to mind, then I know that it’ll be gone by the morning when I wake up again. I wonder how many amazing songs I lost that way, damn sleep!

Jan: Yeah, who knows how many great ideas have gone down the drain just because of sleep. You maybe had a few ‘Smoke On the Water’-classics lost there. We could have been rich if you just would have remembered them!

Piet: Yeah yeah, whatever. You can’t get everything here in the world!

Have you already started to gather ideas for your next album?

Jan: I have, but Piet says that the material don’t sound like IRON SAVIOR, haha!

Piet: Haha, that’s just how it is. No, seriously speaking. We’ve just started to look on the ideas we’ve got to see what we’ve got to work with. During the last few months I’ve started to write a bit more serious as well. The plan is to enter the studio again next year. We still want more to happen with ‘The Landing’ since we feel it’s such a good album and it deserves it’s chance to get more attention. But I do feel secure enough to promise a new album next year.

Piet SielckAnd what about your studio? Around ten years ago pretty much everything that Remedy Records, for example, released was recorded in your studio but a few years ago it became awfully silent. I guess Dockyard was a big reason why but what about now. Do you have the hunger and the will to work in the studio again?

– Yes. The reason was Dockyard, but also SAVAGE CIRCUS. SAVAGE CIRCUS took so much of my time that I didn’t even have time to run my main priority IRON SAVIOR and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be! Now when I don’t have to deal with SAVAGE CIRCUS any longer there’s time for lots of other things, for example record bands again. I’ll do the new PARAGON album and that’s something I look forward to. It’ll be a headbanging monster!

Something that used to be sort of a trademark for your productions was that you could be heard in every big chorus, choir and shout out. Me and my brother used to have a theory that it was a money thing but also that you just loved to hear your own voice, haha. But it was more or less a money thing I guess?

– Haha! You’re right, my voice is so unique that I just love to hear it all the time!

Nah, it wasn’t really like that but it was as you say a money thing. If I hadn’t done all the choruses or choirs the band would have needed a extra day in the studio which would have costed them at least 1000€ more. Since I often recorded smaller bands a extra 1000€ was more than many of them could afford, that’s why I did them all by myself instead. Things won’t be the same nowadays even thou I work the same way now as I did back then.

Jan: I want to add that we’re really happy with the choirs on the new album. I think there’s a bigger band feeling in the choir now, sounds a bit more live too I think.

I agree. But I must ask you Jan, why don’t you take more space in the recording? You have a great voice and to hear more of you in a chorus or maybe in a duet with Piet wouldn’t hurt. Maybe it’s something to think about for the next album?

– Sure, I wouldn’t mind that. But we’ll have to wait and see what Piet comes up with.

Piet: It’s out of the question! Haha!

No, but if we find the right song for us both I see no problems with Jan getting a few vocal lines here and there. Just as you say he does have a good voice. No doubt about that!

Jan: Thanks guys!

By the way, the next album, will it be released by AFM Records as well?

– Yes, I see no reason why we should change label. They’ve done a great work with ‘The Landing’ so far and I like the company of those who work there. I’m pretty sure it’ll be AFM Records or that’s at least what the contract say, haha!

Jan: What, do we have a record deal?

Piet: You don’t, I do. By the way, I’m getting thirsty, get me something to drink. It says in the contract that you should serve me drinks, haha!

AFM Records are happy with the selling numbers of ‘The Landing’ as well, I’m not. Things used to be better but we all know that the business don’t look the same today as it did maybe ten years ago.

By the way, I must say that I’m very happy by the response of the album! The reviews have been great and the fans really seem to love it. I didn’t really expect that since we’ve been away from the scene for quite some time now but it feels great to see all the kind words. It’s also fun that we can attract new fans as well as pleasing the old. For example, we recently played in Russia! We didn’t even get to play there when we were “big”!

Why did you decide to re-record ‘Coming Home’ (from ‘Unification’ ) and ‘Atlantis Falling’ (from ‘Iron Savior’) again, who’s idea where it? Did it have something to do with the legal rights of the songs?  

– It was my idea. I thought it was a fun thing to do, let the fans hear how old material sounds with today’s line-up. And as you say, it’s about the legal rights as well. The old songs were owned by Noise Records and now they’re owned by Universal Records and they will be the owners till the day the earth collapse. But the new version belongs to me and I own the rights to them. There’s more songs I think I would like to do the same with in the future. We have tons of stuff that I would like to have the right to again and this is a smart way to get them back. Nobody has died by a few bonus songs either, have they? Haha!

The biggest difference from the new and old ones are that now there isn’t a big wall of millions of guitars in the recordings, they sound more like they do when we play them live. A bit rawer, I like that.

Does these two also got something to do with the fact that the label wants bonus material for limited editions of the album?

– Limited editions, ha! The limited editions almost always outsell the regular ones so you can start to wonder which one who’s the most limited in the end. The  “super-ultra-mega-cool-and-limited” one with a bonus track or regular one with one or two songs less that few people will buy? I loathe bonus tracks and limited editions. In SAVAGE CRICUS I made it very clear that there would be no bonus material or limited editions recorded. I hate the whole thing with giving away new songs for such a purpose. Re-recordings however feel a bit better since it’s material the regular fan still got, they don’t need to feel that they’re missing out on something. It feels like a fair compromise in the end and I hope that the fans feel the same as I do.

It does, but then there’s the other compromise, the Japanese market. The Japanese version of ‘The Landing’ had a cover of ‘Underneath the Radar’ by UNDERWORLD as a bonus track. The collection of covers you’ve recorded during the years tend to be quite big now. Have you ever had the thought of doing a cover album?

Jan: No!

Piet: No. For what purpose would we do that, really? If you got all of our albums you can make your own cover compilation cd instead. Maybe if I somehow couldn’t come up with something and we really needed to get a album out on the market a cover album could be the solution but I highly doubt that it will happen. They make no sense what so ever and for me they’re just as valuable as a cdr with all our collected cover songs would be.

If it would be an acoustic cover album then? IRON SAVIOR present ‘Campfire Covers’ or something, what do you say about that, haha?

– Well that would be something completely different. Maybe it would also be our best selling album ever, haha!

No seriously speaking, I should never say never but it will never happen, haha. Something I on the other hand really want to do is a proper live album.

Jan: And dvd too!

Piet: And dvd too of course! That’s something that I feel is missing in our discography and something I really, really want to do as well!

Perfect, Jan can bring his LED-screens from work then. Imagine what a awesome show you could present!

– Exactly, it would be amazing!

The thing with IRON SAVIOR is that we’ve got fans all over the globe and there’s lot of places we’ll never get the chance to visit. For example, we have fans in Tibet, there’s sadly no way we could go there and play.

The thing with IRON SAVIOR is that we’ve got fans all over the world, places we’re never going to be able to visit. For exampel, we’ve got fans in Tibet and how are we supposed to get there for a gig?

Jan: Say what, the Tibet gig is cancelled?

Piet: Yes Jan, Tibet just got cancelled. That’s why we have to do the dvd right now to please the fans over there, haha! That’s what I feel, I feel that we must do a live album and a dvd.

Is there a budget for a dvd?

– Well yeah, it won’t be a super mega high tech blue ray dvd, we don’t have those kind of money. But a intimate recording catching the atmosphere on one of our shows would be possible. Something that will grab your attention and make you feel like you’re right there with the fans.

Would it included guests from the past?

– It wouldn’t be necessary since it’s today’s line-up of IRON SAVIOR playing and no one else. Sure it would be fun to include maybe Dan Zimmermann on drums for a song or maybe Kai Hansen on guitar or vocals but I don’t see it as really necessary. That was then and this is now and that’s how it is.

Finally, how far in the IRON SAVIOR future do you look at the moment?

– Ouch, saving the tricky one for last, are you? I think that at the moment we’re looking two years ahead in the future. Or?

Jan: Yes, a two year plan is what we’ve got at the moment-

Piet: Yeah, I think so too. The maine priority right now is to find gigs from now till march 2013 and then start to work on the new album.

Thomas: Sounds like a plan in my ears.

Piet: If I get to a point where the floodgate is wide open again maybe we could have a album out by May 2013 already but I doubt that. It would be perfect for the summers festival season but I think it’ll be tricky. But we would love to play at Sweden Rock Festival or Wacken Open Air but I don’t think it’ll be possible. Realistic speaking I think the new album could be out by end of August or during the autumn.

Well, that was all that I had. A huge thank you for the chat, I enjoyed it alot!

– The same to you, it was a pleasure meeting you. Make sure to make something good out of this interview now, haha!

Iron Savior & Janne (Rocknytt)Interview: Janne Mattson for Rocknytt
Photos: Janne Mattsson & Harald Krueger

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