Gotthard is a name still new to many despite the fact that they have had 11 number one albums in their homeland of Switzerland. Add 1 Diamond Award for 1 million albums sold in Switzerland, 1 Triple, 5 Double platinum and 5 Platinum to the list and it’s safe to say the band are a phenomenon. The last few years has seen the band set up a working relationship with Nuclear Blast Records – the latest effort being the very strong DOMINO EFFECT which should be blasting on radio’s all over the world right now. The fact that it isn’t is a crime and a good reason to hook up with guitarist Leo Leoni for an interview. Read on…
Written by Simon Lukic
Transcription by Mike ‘Fucking Hostile’ Holmes
Can you tell me a little bit about the new album, DOMINO EFFECT?
Basically the idea was to do a follow-up to LIP SERVICE. We wanted to get a new, modern kind of sound, with some classic rock songs. We wanted some rock tunes with great guitar riffs, strong melodies and I think that’s what we did.
You’ve got a great balance between the ballads and the harder tracks. As a band, what are you drawn to more?
Well, I think we like both. We like the ‘rockier’ side and we like the ballads. Gotthard has never been scared of melodies. I think the idea is to find a good balance between both worlds. Rock music has ballads and a lot of rock bands have become famous because of those rock ballads. Gotthard is one of those bands.
There’s a lot of material on the album. Did you have a lot of songs ready this time around?
No. We had a lot of different ideas that we had collected during the year. We brought in most of our material when going in to write DOMINO EFFECT, but didn’t have much time to write it and record it. We stepped into the studio straight after the last tour with ideas that we had collected during the tour and started working on them.
What did you want listeners to get out of the album?
An honest rock ‘n’ roll album with some good lyrics to listen to. We wanted lyrics that would lean towards rock ‘n’ roll and not have too ‘deep’ a message. Some of the songs have lyrics that should be read, like “Letter to A Friend” and “Where Is Love When It’s Gone”, which is a ballad, but it’s not your typical love song.
So, what about yourself as a guitar player, what were your goals this time?
Honestly, nothing new happened. I just plugged my Les Paul into my amps and more less tried to get riffs out of it that I haven’t done so far.
The band has continued to fly the flag for hard rock, is it difficult at times?
Well, in one way yes. We have survived over the years somehow and we play what we like and that’s the most important thing. If you like what you do, then it’s not considered surviving, it’s just going with your feelings. I think that is the most important thing and I believe that a lot of people out there are looking for that kind of music.
There are not many bands that play this kind of rock. At the moment it looks like it is coming back in a way. A lot of older bands are sticking together which I think is a good sign.
You spoke earlier about adding some modern touches to your sound. Why do you think that is the way to go?
I think that it’s the logical way to go like using de-tuned guitars, which isn’t really that new, but it gives a song a bit of a heavy touch. Led Zeppelin did that nearly 30 years ago so it’s nothing new. Blues guys always de-tuned their guitar, or used open tunings, which nowadays seems to be common. I think it was the right step for us to come up with more heavy oriented guitars and put some weight on the production.
So, the band doesn’t worry about sounding dated at all?
Not really, we are what we are.
The success in your home country of Switzerland is unprecedented, why do you think the rest of the world hasn’t caught up to the band?
Well, that is a very difficult question to answer. When we started, the internet was not that common at the time. You had to have a contract and a record company to push your product. At the time we first started, our record company wasn’t into the mood of promoting our records outside of Europe. But nowadays, Nuclear Blast is doing a great job and we have a chance to gain some ground which is a good sign. People will now have a chance to listen to the music that we do and maybe they will like it.
Does not having that worldwide recognition keep the band hungry?
Of course, I mean the will is still there. We like what we do and the last word hasn’t been spoken yet.
Very true. You mentioned Nuclear Blast. How has that been going?
So far, so good. Since we’ve been working with Nuclear Blast we have been able to sell some records in different countries which helps us a lot. This gives us the possibility to go and play live in those other countries. We can finally start to build up a good market and fanbase. It’s really great and I think they are doing a good job at it.
Who approached who, because it’s an unusual pairing?
(Laughs) That is a good question that nobody exactly knows the answer to. We had our experience with BMG, which is a big major and we just wanted to do something else and try out a different way. Nuclear Blast is considered one of the best independent labels in Europe so it was interesting for us, and it was interesting for them.
You also have your own label I believe?
Yeah, we have the G-Spot records.
What’s it like having greater control over your product, I assume your time with a major would have involved a lot of compromising?
Yeah, with a major you have to compromise. Having your own label puts everything on your shoulders. At least if something fucks up, you know that there is no excuse because you fucked up, not someone else.
I noticed that the U.S. version has a few extra tracks than the rest of the world, was that intentional?
It was kind of a request because of the price of the record. We wanted to add some extra material onto it. It’s the 2 singles from the last record I believe.
You’re obviously interested in breaking into that market?
Well we want to try, why not? We’ve been playing this music for a long time, so there are a lot of people that haven’t been exposed to our music. So far we have had a good reaction from America and Canada as well.
Is that still a goal? I know that a lot of musicians have that dream of breaking America.
I don’t think you can exactly call it a goal, but I think the American dream has always been the American dream. Now it seems that American bands want to come and play in Europe because there is acceptance for every kind of music. I think it if this happens to us that we would be very happy about it, if not then the rest of the world is big enough.
GOTTHARD LIVE AT SWEDENROCK 2006