Heart of Steel: Interviews

Brainstorm Interview with
Guitarist Torsten Ihlenfeld

Interview by Rick

With the release of their 5th CD, SOUL TEMPTATION,  Brainstorm has cemented its position as one of today's best metal bands. With the introduction of Andy B. Franck as their vocalist on Ambiguity, Brainstorm has become a powerful metal force which continues to gather momentum.  I recently had the opportunity to pose these questions about the new CD, and anything Brainstorm in general, to guitar player Torsten "Todde" Ihlenfeld.

It always amazes me that Brainstorm has been around since 1990 when you released your first demo HAND OF DOOM. How does it feel to be finally getting some recognition after 13 years of releasing material?

Well, in our opinion getting recognition started way earlier. But that obviously depends on the eye of the beholder. The way into the public eye was constantly growing since the first CD release in 1997 followed by the first tour and so on. But getting back to your question, it definitely feels very good when people like (and buy) your music.


Do you think that someday you might collect all of Brainstorms demos on one CD and release them as a treat to your fans?

This seems to be something we will do for our fan club someday, especially songs from the time of our first two demos, which have been about 25 songs we recorded.

All the songs from our 2nd to our 4th demo tape have been with our former lead singer, so if we someday will start seriously talking about re-releasing our first two albums, we will for sure give the fans some songs out of that as special bonus for the fans that already have the originals.



Brainstorm has just released a new CD called “Soul Temptation” on Metal Blade Records. Can you talk a bit about the CD? Where it was recorded? Who produced it and was the recording process different than the other CDs Brainstorm has recorded?

We recorded in different studios. The drums and vocals of the CD in the "House Of Music" Studios near Stuttgart, guitars and bass in our own "Storm Your Brain" Studios and the keys in the "Gate" Studios of keyboarder Miro. The album was produced by ourselves, Brainstorm. It have been the longest recording sessions ever, the pre-production started in December 2002 and we finished the recordings in April 2003, so we had much time to work on the details.



What if any is the significance of the title “Soul Temptation”?

It is related to the story of the trilogy called "Trinity Of Lust", which is the main focus on the new album and the story ends in that song title, starting with "Shiva's Tears", followed by "Forever" and the monumental title track.



Are you happy with the way that SOUL TEMPTATION turned out and what expectations do you have for the success of the CD? Do you think this could be the album that makes Brainstorm a household name in the metal world?

I am very happy with the result. We entered the German long play charts on #73 and is the most successful Brainstorm album so far. We will start touring beginning of next year and it looks like we will be on the road for a very long time. What is confirmed is that we will hit the road together with Primal Fear and Rob Rock and we are very looking forward to it. After that we will play some summer festivals before we hit the road again for some more headlining club shows.

We are very well known over here in Europe, so I would say it is time to come over to the US and let them hear and see what they missed 'til now.



“Highs Without Lows” and “Dying Outside” are 2 of my favourite tracks from Soul Temptation. Can you tell me a little how the band goes about writing songs and what songs if any on the CD are your favourites?

It is mainly me or Milan that bring the riffs or basic song ideas, before we start arranging the pieces altogether in our rehearsing room.

Some favorites are also "Highs..." and the complete trilogy, which I am very proud of.



Brainstorm has produced a video for “Highs Without Lows” which has been getting some airplay on the Viva Plus network in Germany. Can you tell us a bit about the video? Where it was shot? Who directed? And will there be any other videos from “Soul Temptation”?


We shot the video in Gerstetten, our hometown, in an old factory where we also rehearse and have our studio. There's so many cool locations and enough free space to be able to do such a project. The video was directed by Michael Schneider from "D2 Media" in Germany, a very talented, cool guy.

We will see if we will do another video, if there is time enough to do so, but we are right now preparing for the upcoming live shows this fall.



Do you think that video is an important tool to use in trying to gain new fans for Brainstorm?

It is a good chance when it gets enough airplay and luckily the "Highs Without Lows" Video gets a lot of airplay over here in Europe.



You seem to bring in some eastern musical influences on certain songs, “Shiva’s Tears”, on the new CD is one such song. Where do these influences come from and do you use them because they sound good or is there a deeper meaning?

No deeper meaning. We like that harmonies, the instruments and all that musical stuff behind it and we think it fits very well to the rest of the music.



The lyrics on all your CDs are not of the Dragons and Sorcerers type but seem to be a more a reflection of real life and sometimes the darker side of real life. Where do these lyrics come from? Do they come from your own personal experiences or just from observation of the world around you?

Both. Andy spends much time in writing the lyrics and is very much into it and naturally kind of reflects what happens around us or to him or us personally. But we are far away from being a political band as much as we are far away from being a sword and sorcery band. We do not want to limit ourselves on a certain topic. Neither musically, nor lyrically.



On Metal-Rules.com we currently have a poll where our readers can rank how important lyrics are to them and how they add to their overall like or dislike of a CD. How important are the lyrics on a Brainstorm CD?

They are also part of the music. But first of all comes the music. But without lyrics it won't be the whole picture and an important part missing.



Jan Meininghaus who also did the artwork for your last album “Metus Mortis” created the artwork for “Soul Temptation”. How did you get in contact with Jan and how did you choose that particular piece of artwork for the cover?

We contacted him some years ago, as we liked his style of doing artworks very much. The first time we worked together was for the Metus mortis album. We tell Jan our ideas and he tries to realize and visualize what we have in mind. And he does an amazing job on that, we think.

For the new album, we had that trilogy as main focus and wanted to express that in the album artwork and the album title.



The band released a limited addition DVD with the CD in Europe. Are there any plans to release that DVD for North American audiences?

Not yet, as far as I know. But we really hope to have it released worldwide sometimes in future. It seems to be available as import CD/DVD at specialized dealers and in the www, of course. Also, our shop on our homepage www.brainstorm-web.net will re-open soon.

It is a great DVD that shows our concert at the 2002 Summer Breeze Open Air in Germany and also contains our video-clip



“Soul Temptation” is the third CD with Andy B. Franck on vocals and the band seems to grow and get better with each release. What do you think he has brought to the band that you might not have had with other vocalists?

Andy is one of the best singers I know and always gives 100%. So, I don't think about how it would have been with other vocalists. Andy fits perfect in the band and it seems that it was the right decision to have him in Brainstorm.


Have there been any problems or conflicts with Andy being a full time member of Symphorce?

No. Andy is not involved in the basic song writing process, so he has the time to do something else, which is ok for us.



Does anyone else in the band have any side projects of interest? Anything that might be a little different than Brainstorm but of interest to the fans?

Our drummer played on the Tarot's Myst album some years ago, which was a project of former Stormwitch guitar player Lee Tarot and was a story about Odysseus.

I am working on something that will be called Beyond Pain, but I am not in a hurry releasing it before we have a little time off from the Brainstorm activities.



Since this is your 5th release do you think that you will have the opportunity to do a proper tour of North America? Or maybe even a few of the festivals like Prog Power, Metal Meltdown or Milwaukee Metalfest?

This would be very cool and we would live to do that. We get many emails from fans from America that would love to see Brainstorm playing live as soon as possible. We definitely will try to do our best to make it happen.



Brainstorm has just announced that you will be touring with Primal Fear starting in March. How did you guys hook up with Primal Fear? Ralf Sheepers was a guest vocalist on your first CD. Have you been friends since that time?

Our bass player had the idea to have Ralf as guest vocalist for the first album and we all think that Ralf is a great vocalist, so it was an honour to have him on our debut.

As we started making touring plans it was one of our first thoughts we had to go on tour with them and we are proud that it all works out.



This summer you played the Blind Guardian Festival. What was your experience with such a new festival and how would you compare it to Wacken Open Air or Bang Your Head?

We had a great time on the festival and it was very well organized and the fans seemed to have a great time also, so it is another great festival besides Wacken and Bang Your Head with a more personal touch. I liked it very much playing there.



What is your gear (guitar, amps etc) and do you use a different setup when you record compared to in a live setting?

My favorite is my custom made Balint guitar, which was built by a friend of mine exactly as I liked it.

I also use special active pick-ups to exactly get the sound I like, combined with an amplifier that works with 6L6 tubes which we modified a little bit.

That's the basic live set up and also part of the studio set up, where I work with different guitars and amps, depending on the song.



Many metal fans consider Brainstorm a powermetal band. How would you describe Brainstorm’s music? Do you have a problem with the “powermetal” tag?

I don't have a problem with it, but I don't see Brainstorm as a pure Power Metal Band.

For us it is metal music in general and we don't like to limit it that much on a single topic.



I see that one of your influences is Riot and they happen to be one of my favourite bands as well. What did you think of their last CD “Into the Storm” and what is your favourite Riot CD and why?

"Into The Storm" was a very cool album, kind of more relaxed than the previous albums, but still Riot. My favorite is the "Thundersteel" album.

I know that many people may not understand that, but for me, this is the best Riot album ever. Besides many many very good Riot albums, by the way.



What artist or bands do you think have influenced your music the most?

Judas Priest .... and sooooo many more .......



Do you keep up on the metal scene and do you listen to any newer bands?

Yes, of course. I am always interested in getting to hear and see something new.



That’s about it for now. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of Metal-Rules.com? 

Well, we hope all of you love the new album as much as we do and hope to see you all on tour, sometimes, someday, somewhere out there.

Take care and cheers - Torsten & Brainstorm

Brainstorm Website

Brainstorm CD Reviews

All rights reserved and contents ©2004 Metal-Rules.com
Keeping the Metal Faith Since 1995!