Heart of Steel: Interviews

Jens LudwigInterview with guitarist Jens Ludwig

Interview by EvilG
Thanks to Nick for the transcription. Promo pics courtesy of Nuclear Blast, all live pics provided by Metal-Rules.com.

As most are aware, Edguy are one of the more successful power metal bands from Germany. I spoke with Edguy guitarist Jens Ludwig just days before the release of the bands new masterpiece HELLFIRE CLUB. At the time I'd only heard the KING OF FOOLS ep, and that was enough to know that what the band had in store on their full length would be, as always, excellent. I've since heard the new album and it is everything a fan of Edguy could want. I spoke to Jens about the new album, the rising success of the band, tour plans, the band's image and humor, etc. So without further preamble, let's get on with it...enjoy! 


Your "King of fools" EP has been out for a while now, a few weeks. I was wondering, how is it doing for you so far?

Well, so far, much better than we expected. At least in Europe. I donīt know about the States too much how itīs doing there. Anyway, you know in Germany itīs sold as a single, for the price of a single, so we went in Germany to Top 40 of the single chart. Which is really uncommon for a metal band and for the style of music that we do. And the video has played on tv stations and weīve had a couple of tv appearances. So well, everythingīs set for the release of the album next Monday, so letīs hope for the best. So far we are really satisfied with the results.

 

 

Do you sell a lot of copies of these advance type EPīs and singles? And do you think they do their job hyping the album up before its release?

Well normally itīs like theyīre doing the job to promote the album, but… I donīt know why, maybe itīs because, or I think itīs because weīve done four non-album tracks to this EP and sell it for the price of a single. At this point, itīs been released now five weeks and as far as I know weīve sold six times as much as we did with the last single we released. So we can be quite satisfied I guess!

 

 

The last song on the EP is quite humorous of course, "The life and times of a bonus track". What inspired the idea to do a humorous song like that?

Well, we always do on our albums some songs that have a certain kind of humour. Not always people understand what we mean, but in this case itīs quite clear. The idea is just, Iīm sure you know what's going on with that the whole business, all the labels and the whole music scene is crying about the Internet thing that is going on with cd burning and mp3 downloading and all that stuff. Of course, sometimes itīs not too fine that people steal your music, but on the other hand we canīt change it anyway so it doesnīt make sense to us to break down and cry all the day because some people download our stuff on the Internet. So we tried to see it from another point of view. So this song doesnīt care if heīs downloaded or if heīs bought, he doesnīt care about anything. Basically, the main idea is to spread your music as good as you can and now that people are getting music for free, everybodyīs crying and saying that the sales are going down and stuff like this. But we as a band canīt do anything about that, so we just take it with humour and say "Ok, itīs people listening to our songs, itīs still ok with us".

 

 

I guess your sales have increased with every album anyway, havenīt they?

Yes, thatīs why I wonder why everybodyīs crying. But we are an exception I think. As far as I know from people from record companies, really the situation is that sales are going down. You can see it on the charts for example, nowadays you need much less copies to enter the charts than maybe three years ago. But in our case, we are still fine, weīre still increasing, so I donīt know, maybe we have just very nice fans who buy the album and not download it from the Internet. Thatīs a general thing in the metal scene, I think.

Yeah, metal fans seem to want own the cd.

Yeah, they are very loyal. They make up their own opinion and they listen to the music they want to listen to and donīt eat all that shit that is broadcasted on tv and stuff. But they are also very loyal fans, so if they like a band, they support the band and they want to have the cd including booklet and everything and thatīs good for metal bands, bad for pop bands.

Yeah, pop bands are about one hit song on the album and thatīs the only thing anyone wants to download anyway and the rest of the album is garbage.

Thatīs why I can understand why so many people download stuff for free, because when youīre talking about these one hit wonders, many bands or pop artists or whatever have one famous song and the rest of the record is just fillers to get a certain running time. Yeah, I can understand why people say "No, I donīt wanna buy the album, I just wanna listen to this one song and that one I can download". I can understand that itīs something different than talking about real rock bands or real bands in general, who are really working hard for the album, like being a year in the rehearsing room and a month in the studio and really get their blood on the record. Metal fans appreciate that and they still buy records instead of downloading them. Quite cool!

 

 

How did you get involved with the film orchestra on the "King of fools" EP?

For a long time itīs been a dream for us to work with a real orchestra, but before this recording, we didnīt have enough money to pay an orchestra, because itīs really expensive. But now that weīve signed a new deal with Nuclear Blast, we get pretty good advance money and we try to spend all this money on the production. It means we recorded in a bigger studio with other engineers. We try just to invest the money that we gather on the new records and that was the reason why we at this point asked the movie orchestra of Babelsberg to cooperate with us on the album. While the contact was quite easy, it was just calling the guy whoīs leading the orchestra and making a date, writing scores, that was not so easy, because neither of us can really write down notes. So we hired somebody for us to do this and then finally when they got the scores, they played all the stuff within one day. That was pretty impressive, because all these professional classical musicians playing metal songs, that was kinda weird. Well, it sounds good in the end and thatīs what counts.

 

 

The new album comes out in five days I believe. Unfortunately I havenīt received a copy yet, but Iīll get to hear it when it comes out. So I canīt comment too much on the album, but I was wondering about the title, "Hellfire Club", where that came from.

Actually this "Hellfire Club" really exists. It was in the 18th century and back then it was a kind of gentlemen's club in England where some royal people and philosophers met to have conversations. Well at least that was the intention, to meet in this "Hellfire Club" to have conversations about world problems and philosophy and whatever, all this important intellectual stuff. But those people who were in this club they really didnīt talk, they preferred to hire whores and to make orgies and to drink a lot of alcohol and just making nasty dirty parties. So we came up with the idea to call the album "Hellfire Club" since itīs a little more raw and dirtier than our previous releases. So we said, "Ok, this title sounds definitely like rock and roll" so it fit to the album and we just kept it.

 

 

Musically, do you think the album is a little rawer or anything like that because the title kinda suggests a little bit of a change in direction maybe?

You know, itīs not a big change like we completely changed our musical style. Basically itīs still the same kind of music but also a certain… I call it natural development. You know, a band should develop from each album to the other and for us this time since we did a lot of touring with the last album, we just realized that the kind of raw sound thatīs not so polished and sounds a little dirtier, a little more down to earth, a little more rock and roll, this fits pretty well for us and we like playing it. So the biggest difference to the previous releases is generally the sound of the album. Itīs not so polished, itīs more, well, itīs just more raw and dirty. But musically itīs still very bombastic, we still have choirs and the movie orchestra is playing so the musical style hasnīt changed. We have just included a few new elements.

 

 

One of the more interesting song titles from the album is "Lavatory love machine". Is there a story behind that?

Well, lyrically the song deals with what would you do if your plane will be crashing in two minutes. And the best thing to do is, well, fuck the stewardess on the toilet. Thatīs basically what the song is all about. You know, Toby (Sammet) was once flying to Brazil with an engineer from Germany called Sasha Paeth and Toby told me they were just talking about "What would you do if you knew the plane would crash right now?". Thatīs how the idea was born and Toby immediately made a song out of it. If you think of these lyrics, then musically the song goes a little bit into the 80īs glam rock direction. It fits to the title and it really was big fun for us to record it and to play it during the rehearsals.

Kinda reminds me of the idea of "Ten seconds till love", Mötley Crüe. Except itīs a bathroom instead of the elevator.

Yeah, something like this!

 

Another song on here that according to your website some have questioned the language of the song, "New age messiah". A lot of people took it literally as it was something about the messiah, but obviously if you read the lyrics itīs not really about that. Itīs about someone who gets it in their head that theyīre bigger than Jesus. Is that directed at anyone in particular or is it just a story.

No, not to anyone in particular. Itīs just a look at the nowadays entertainment industry in general. If you think of all these casting shows and the one hit stars, you know, they are produced like, I donīt know, like bottles of milk or something. Itīs just written about the nowadays entertainment industry where things can grow quite big very fast but still disappear even faster than they appeared. So itīs just a funny point of view of the daily entertainment and what it represents. Itīs not about a special person in particular.

 

 

Itīs mentioned on your website about the reasons why you re-recorded the 1994 demo track "Children of steel", so I wonīt go into that. But one of the comments that caught my attention was something along the lines of "This was before the huge renaissance of true metal". It was recorded in '94 and I donīt know what it was like in Europe, but for me here in Canada the re-interest in true metal happened in 1997 it seems. However, this was after you had already been on the go for a couple of years. Did you feel that you were overlooked for a couple of years before people finally started taking notice?

No, not really overlooked. I think we made it from the very beginning very slowly to where we are at the moment. As it said, this song "Children of steel" was from our second demo that was recorded in 1994, ten years ago. We started the band in '92 so weīre almost twelve years existing and we worked pretty hard. We released two demo tapes, nobody was interested in them. Then we did a self-financed demo CD, still nobody was interested in that. And then slowly, we got our first deal with a very little label, we played small concerts. Our first tour we did in a caravan, driving ourselves through Europe. So I donīt think that weīve been overlooked, itīs just took a while before people realized that this band existed. And besides that, of course, when we started the band we were very very young, fourteen years old, so we didnīt even know how to play our instruments right. But finally what counts is that from the very start of the band we wanted to play this kind of music. Even when everyone thought it so un-cool to play traditional heavy metal, when Nirvana were leading the charts and stuff. Of course you have to do some bonus tracks for a CD nowadays - as you can hear in "The life and times of a bonus track" - so we just thought his might be a good solution for having a bonus track and also to show people that we didnīt change our musical style through the years. We didnīt become successful because of a hype. Itīs been really hard work through the years and thatīs why we did this re-recording. As you listen to it, even in 1994 this song has the potential to be a good song, although we didnīt know how to arrange it. Thatīs why we wanted to cover our own song again, to put it as a bonus track on the record.

 

 

Are there any other old or unreleased Edguy songs from your vaults that you would like to re-record like this?

No. I canīt imagine one. You know we had… I think now theyīre not there anymore, but the last years we always had our demo tapes on the website for downloading. We also did this re-recording of "Savage poetry". There has been some rare unreleased tracks but besides that, everything we have done so far is on a record. There are no unreleased tracks - maybe some crappy live tracks like bootlegs but besides that we always try to concentrate on the songs that we want to put on the record. Itīs not like we are writing, say, thirty songs for a record and sort out afterwards which ones are good and which maybe not. So if we realize in the rehearsing room that an idea is not kicking in a certain way, we just throw it away and try to work on another song.

 

 

The band has done a number of recent TV appearances. I guess it was only on German TV, Iīm not sure if it was aired throughout Europe or not, but I was wondering how that went and is that kind of a new tool for the band for getting seen by people who probably donīt see metal on TV so often?

Yeah, exactly. Honestly we are pretty happy just to have the chance to perform on TV. This is not a thing that is very common for metal bands, at least if you are not Metallica. We took it as a chance, because as you said itīs true that people who watch this kind of major chart show, I think most of them donīt know this kind of music is existing. If we have the chance to convince some young teenager that this kind of music is worth listening to, then heīll start probably to listen to other metal bands as well. I think itīs a cool chance and I donīt understand why… Iīm sure you have realized on the website that there have been also critical opinions about appearing on major TV shows. But I donīt see it, because as long as you donīt change yourself or your musical style to get success I think itīs cool that people just see that thereīs a band that worked hard and has the potential to reach a major audience. Not that this will happen, but at least we have a chance and finally itīs the people still who decide if they like a band or not. But before they can decide they have to know about the band and itīs a pretty good chance if youīre playing on TV shows.

 

 

 

I think a lot of people here in North America are a little bit surprised to find out that true metal, or whatever you want to call it, is not as widely known as we think it is in Germany or parts of Europe, because in North America itīs very underground as well. You never see much real metal on TV, and if you do even here, itīs Metallica or something thatīs borderline metal.

You know, basically in Germany itīs the same. Metal is mostly happening in the underground and through magazines because metal bands donīt get airplay on TV stations or on music stations, so itīs all going through the magazines and performing live. But on the other hand, since all this all this CD burning stuff, what we talked about before, that the market and the sales are going down, you know, the metal fans are very loyal and they want to have the CD of the band they like and do not download the music. Thatīs why at least in Germany, all the sales from the pop bands are going down while the sales of the metal bands are the same as they were two or three years ago. Thatīs why some metal bands start to appear in the top ten album charts and stuff like that. The the people have to give you some airplay, either on TV stations or video stations, whatever. So itīs not that metal has become bigger, itīs just that with everything else the sales went down.

That works for your band anyway.

Still, all these TV things… itīs very exciting for us as a band to experience these kind of things. But on the other hands, the more important things are we are playing good on tour and that your fans who supported you all through the years like what you are doing. I think thatīs more important than appearing once on a major TV show.

 

 

How has the move to Nuclear Blast been and was there anything in particular that made you want to move and end your association with AFM?

It was just that after the release of the live album the deal with AFM Records was over. We just got offers from almost every company with true metal music. Of course we wanted to know what is going on and what can be possible with the band in the future, so it took us almost like one year where we met different people from companies and we visited the companies and we talked to many people in many meetings, just to sort out what might be the best solution for the bandīs future. And finally with Nuclear Blast, we just had the impression when we talked to the people working there that they had the same vision of the bandīs future that we have as well. And well, they made a good offer and we said, "yeah, maybe we could jump into the cold water and sign another record deal with a new company", because we have been with AFM for seven years. We are still in friendly contact with AFM and itīs a great label, but on the other hand Nuclear Blast just has better distribution ways and itīs just a bigger company. As far as I can say now, weīre pretty satisfied with the change of the record label, because communication between band and record label is pretty good. We are asked about everything, so if they want to do some promotion or advertizing they always ask us if we can confirm what they want to do and we have veto right. Whenever they want to do something we donīt like we just say no and it wonīt happen. Thatīs a very very comfortable thing.

 

 

Do you know what the plans are for the North American market and I know you will be playing at Prog Power again and I wonder what else might be happening in terms of exposure for your band on this side of the world?

Well as far as I know there are at the moment plans for playing a couple of shows in Canada right after the Prog Power festival. But itīs not a hundred percent confirmed, itīs just the booking agency working with different promoters to set up a concert for us. This probably could happen right after the Prog Power festival. Besides that itīs always difficult, you know. We as a band can only say that we want to play everywhere that is possible but still there has to be a promoter in a certain country whoīs willing to set up a gig with the band. So if you find people who will do a metal show with us, we will do everything possible to play at as many places as possible. Itīs always great to play in different countries, to discover new markets and play in front of different audiences. Last time we were in Canada it was really a blast audience-wise, it was really impressive. Hopefully weīll get a chance to come back, but… It can happen right after Prog Power festival.

 

 

When you guys started out, did you expect the kind of success that you have obtained now or do you continue to be surprised by the way things are working out for the band?

Of course we didnīt expect that. But of course we have dreamed about this and we always worked for maybe reaching this level, but that it finally happened, that we are where we are right now, itīs just nice, itīs like a dream come true. I can just remember when I started listening to this kind of music and when we started the band… you know, my favourite bands were bands like Rage and Blind Guardian, all these German bands, and if somebody would have told me like ten years ago that "wait just a few more years and youīll be playing on the same stage as your new favourite bands", I would think "that one is crazy". But of course, we donīt complain! Itīs a cool thing, but we also worked pretty hard for it, so it was not that we became like starts from one day to another. You know, this band is existing since twelve years now and we did our first tour in front of maybe twenty people and driving through Europe in a caravan. So everything went step by step and I think the main reason why we are still… Well, I would say weīre still quite down to Earth, because I have still the same friends I had ten years ago. Iīm still living in the same house where I lived ten years ago. Everything went step by step but of course we are happy that so many people like our music that we have the chance to play in countries like Canada or the States or Australia or Japan or whatever, itīs just great.

 

 

I guess for those people who havenīt seen you, or canīt, thereīs still "Burning down the opera". Are you are happy with how that whole package turned out?

Yes, definitely. What our intention was to do was to capture a whole concert from the moments when the lights go down until the encores and we wanted to have a live sounding album, so it shouldnīt be like a studio record with some audience between the songs. I think the fans did a very good job on this album, so we are quite pleased with the result, also with the booklet. We have lots of pictures in the booklet and I think itīs just a cool live album. And it doesnīt look like just a time filler between two studio albums.

 

Was there a plan, or do you have any future plans, to release something like that, only on dvd or video?

Yes, we will probably do that on the upcoming tour. At this point I canīt say when or where it will happen, but yes, there are plans existing and weīre going to do a dvd. At this moment everybody in the band is running around with his camcorder to record bonus material on each TV show or signing session or whatever we are doing. So yeah, there will probably be a dvd but I donīt know when. Maybe in the beginning of next year or something, I donīt know.

 

 

My closing section here for the interview is just a few little comments on a light note and that is with regards to something that we mentioned earlier, that is with the band and humor. Obviously you guys donīt take yourselves too seriously and it carries over into the band with some of your more humorous songs and titles. Is that a component that you think will always be a part of Edguy?

Well, as long as itīs a part of the members in Edguy it will always be in Edguy.

 

Is there anything ever that someone suggests and you might say "wow thatīs just too cheesy" or is it all good?

Of course, of course, it happens many times! For example with the song we talked about, "Lavatory love machine", at the beginning when we started to play this song, we thought in the rehearsing room "well, ok, stupid song that is going to be a bonus track". But finally in the end everybody in the band just liked that song so much that it came on the record. You know, this kind of funny aspect is a part of the network of the band. Weīre really close friends and when weīre rehearsing weīre having fun. When weīre on tour itīs just like a big kindergarten being on the road. So as long as we have fun in what we are doing, we try to transform this into the music as well and in performances.

 

 

I really liked the main picture after you enter the website, thereīs a shot of you that looks like itīs from an 80īs metal type of thing and you have Tobias going a big David Lee Roth jump pose. I assume that was deliberate nod to the past?

Yeah, we had fun with these clichés, if you want to call them that. It was always our attitude to do what we like and if we find people that like it as well, itīs cool. But we donīt want to pretend to be something that we are not. We just try to stay as we are and well, thatīs how the music is.

Are you a fan of Van Halen and that type of era of 80īs metal?

Oh yes I am! Big fan!

 

 

Is perhaps Eddie Van Halen one of your influences or do you draw from, like you mentioned earlier, Rage and Blind Guardian and things like that?

Honestly I always appreciated Eddie Van Halen, but he hasnīt been a big influence on me. Iīve been more into guys like Kai Hansen or Zakk Wylde and Al Pitrelli from Savatage. Those are people who really had an influence on me.

 

 

Do you still take influence from these guys? Do you still practice and learn new material or is it mostly when youīre playing guitar and when youīre not touring, youīre writing new material for Edguy?

Mostly itīs just playing for fun when weīre not on tour. Then finally an idea comes to my mind. You know, itīs like when youīre jamming around with your guitar you get a good part and then you try to work on it. Nowadays I couldnīt name any special guitar player who has a lot of influence on me right now. At a certain point even my teacher said "Well, technically, now you know everything so itīs up to you what you make out of it". I just try to do my best and what I like and Iīve never been too much into rehearsing scales and getting faster and faster. I think what counts more is a kind of feeling, especially in lead guitar, than just playing fast.

 

 

Ok Jens, thatīs pretty much everything I had. Are there any other things going on in the band or things that I didnīt touch on that you want people to know about?

I just wanna let the people know that we are really thankful to everybody who supported us, because itīs obvious that without fans we wouldnīt be where we are right now. And those are the people who made it all possible for us, that we can go on tour and record another album, and probably another album. I just wanna say a big thank you to everybody who supported us!


Official Primal Fear Site: www.edguy.nu

Label: www.nuclearblast.de

EDGUY CD Reviews in Metal-Rules.com