Interview With Tobias Sammet
Interview by Michael De Los Muertos
Transcription by Waspman
morning! Or, good afternoon I guess it would be for you.
Good afternoon! Yeah, it's about 3 p.m. here.
Where are you, in Germany?
Well, thank you for calling, this is great!
Well, thank you for picking up! (laughs)
(laughs) I've been a huge fan of Edguy for several years now, and
Avantasia is great.
Good to hear!
The new Avantasia album is out now?
At least in Europe, I don't know about North America. Is it out
I haven't found it around here. I do most of my ordering through
mail and Internet. It's tough to find in stores over here. You're happy
with it so far?
I can't complain about anything. It's been on the charts in several
countries all over Europe, it's doing well in Japan and in Europe it's
great. It's been on the German charts for four weeks and it entered at
#17, also in Sweden and Finland, Norway, France, Spain. I really can't
How does that compare to the debut for the first portion of
I think it's doing better than the first part. The first part was doing
bigger than what we expected, but still this part is doing even better.
I'm really afraid! I don't know where it all will go! (laughs) It's
getting better and better. It's against where the market goes to you know
because usually the market is going down because of the Internet and
burning problems and all that stuff. I don't know why, it's scary!
(laughs) Well, I think it's building off of the success of the first
part. I think people know what the concept is and they can respond to it.
Yeah, definitely. They have part one, and in the metal scene it's a big
advantage that we have real fans, who want to have the album with the real
cover and all of that stuff. This is probably one of the best facts of
heavy metal these days, and why it is becoming a bigger piece of the cake
in the music industry.
Could you tell us a little bit about the creative process for
Avantasia? Does it differ from the process you use for Edguy?
Some parts do, sometimes not. The musical writing process starts with
the same basic idea, you have a melody or riff, and most of the time I
just try to record it. When it comes time to be in the right mood to
continue, you sit at the piano or guitar and play along and try to build
up a song. Sometimes ideas appear, sometimes they don't and you go off to
play PlayStation or whatever. (laughs) That's most of the time how things
go. Then you have a rough idea of how the song should sound like and then
you try to arrange it. That's the big difference between Avantasia and
Edguy. For Edguy I just try to arrange for this band, I don't have to
think about which singer sings which part, and what character appears in
which song, what mood does it have to have for this part of the story.
With Edguy I don't have to do that. I just have a song and build it up.
With both at first, it's a feeling that flows out of your heart, and then
with arranging you switch on your mind. Here is the difference, because
with Avantasia I have to put the story onto the music and therefore you
have to change the music sometimes.
You've got a lot of diverse personalities involved with Avantasia.
Just to name a few you've got Oliver Hartmann, various other people. How
did you get them all to come together?
Actually calling them and asking! (laughs) It wasn't really hard to get
them involved. Some people it was hard to get in touch with, for example
Bob Catley. Rob Rock and those guys are known in the German metal scene,
members of the family. Everybody knows everybody and they're just a few
phone calls away. Bob Catley is from Magnum and this is the British hard
rock scene from the 70s! I went to the distributor, from there to his
Italian record company, and then to the English one, to his management,
and then to himself. Then it went all the way back to me, and then all the
way back to him! He wanted to hear some material, so I sent him a CD, and
then he directly contacted me. This was a little bit difficult. Then when
I had the people, it was just "yes" or "no", there was
nothing to lose. I just sent them material of Edguy because that is all I
had at the time. Most of them agreed and said "yes, we'll do
that". For me, it was a lot of people that I look up to, so it was a
dream come true.
Obviously with that going on, and the Edguy, you've been very busy
the last three years or so. Did Avantasia cause any conflicts for Edguy?
Basically, how did you balance the two?
I would say it didn't really collide nor have friction. The problem is
at some point you have to make some compromise. It's all a matter of very
tight organization and administration, which is a problem because I'm not
the most organized guy in the world! (laughs) Basically it was more or
less like this: in '99 when I decided to do Avantasia, we, the band, had
decided to rerecord the SAVAGE POETRY album. I had some material already
there, and I said, "OK, if we're rerecording, I could do the other
stuff", and that's what I did. I just made the decision. For awhile
it was a lot of running for me between studios, I think I did it with the
least damage done possible. It was not really a big problem. I've got to
say that the Edguy boys were very supportive. I was doing Avantasia's
first basic recordings and they started meeting to rearrange the SAVAGE
POETRY material without me. We had some basic materials where I gave some
suggestions, but it was mostly done. It could have been harder for me if
the others didn't have tolerance for Avantasia.
Let's talk to a minute about some of the ideas behind the Avantasia
concept. There's a lengthy story, a lot of characters, a lot of messages
in there. Where did some of these ideas come from?
Well, like I said, the idea is really hard to tell where they come
from. "Here I am, I am your idea" (laughs) "But you were
Helloween's idea 12 years ago! You can't be my idea!" (laughs). Some
would say we're using Helloween's ideas.
(laughs) That's not altogether a bad thing!
Well, it would be a bad thing if it were exactly the same. I don't
think we did. We never tried to rip off Helloween, but for a long time and
before you have some certain success, people always try to compare you.
Until you have four or five albums out and then they change to say that
other new bands are ripping off us. I'm sure that no one is ripping us off
either. It's not really ripping off anybody.
However, the idea behind the story is many different things that I was
interested in. First of all, I was wondering what was going on in the
world politically, interested in who might be pulling strings behind the
scenes. Why are we acting the way we are? Why are we seeing what we are on
TV? Are we doing what we should be doing or do we just get suggestions?
Just wondering what was going on around the world. I was reading some
stuff at the time about secret societies and things. I didn't want to be
paranoid, I was just asking questions. I don't know the answers and I'll
never know so I don't want to go crazy about it. For me, it was just an
interesting topic so I decided to write about it. I took my questions and
the whole topic and transferred it back in time to Medieval, 'cause I'm
really interested in that. Wherever there is an old castle, you'll find
me! (laughs) I thought this would be a nice environment to put my story. I
said, "OK, let's burn some fucking witches!" (laughter) Maybe
I'm sadistic, a pervert. (laughs) It's just the period that I was
interested in. That doesn't mean that I would like to live in that time
though! I'm quite happy with the Internet and PlayStation! It would be
hard to tour worldwide with just a carriage. (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, a company of Shakespearean players.
Maybe Richie Blackmore nowadays would be happy with that, but not me
Speaking of touring, Edguy played at Wacken this year, and it was a
You were there?
Yep, I was there. I was the guy with the long hair and the black
Oh, I remember you! (laughs)
Could you tell us about the experience, would you do it again? How
does it compare to other festivals?
It was a cool experience. It was our third time at Wacken. We started
in Wacken in '98 on the tent stage on the afternoon of the first day, as a
replacement of another band. We didn't get paid, and it was maybe 4 p.m.
In '99 we played on the main stage as openers, and this time was awesome!
I think the place was totally packed. I don't know how many people, we're
still arguing about that. However, I don't care! It was a great experience
to play there! At festivals it's great to go out and play to 30-40,000
people that know your songs. That's an unbelievable experience. It's a
dream come true, for sure. It wasn't the first festival we've played with
so many people. We had the Gods of Metal in Milan with Iron Maiden in
2000. We've played some other stuff to 15,000 people. It's always cooler
than on tour, playing in front of just 1000 people or whatever. Anyway,
when you go onstage and people scream, it's just cool! I would rather play
to 500 screaming people than to 50,000 who aren't interested. It was
great, I can't complain at all. It's been great everywhere.
Edguy is going to play the ProgPower festival here in America in
November. This is your first show in North America right?
Not in North America, we've played in Canada.
Oh yes, that's right. How do you feel about coming to the U.S. for
the first time?
Great, great. It's just too bad that it's only one show. Many people
said for a long time "forget about North America, this music isn't
Who said that? (laughs)
That's what many people say about a lot of places. That's what they
told us about Australia, Israel. Still, wherever we go, we always get a
lot people. Wherever people are living there are heavy metal fans because
this music has a self-dynamic. It doesn't depend on the great major media.
It's underground, it's everywhere. These fans take their music from
everywhere, from Internet, from friends, from imports. It doesn't need a
major media. Those bands like Helloween, or Gamma Ray, or Judas Priest,
even Edguy, we're selling comfortably everywhere. Those bands that sell a
lot with just one album, they might be gone after a few albums and not
sell at all. Those other bands that I mentioned, it's always there, and
always will be. With the United States I think it might be the same thing.
ProgPower is already sold out! It proves that there is a need for this
kind of music. I mean, this is the country where Dio is from, Kiss, and
Elvis too. If you want to be a real rock band you should have a good tour
in the States. I'm really looking forward to this, to play and see what
people are like, how it is to play in the States. I expect it to be a cool
I'm also going to ProgPower, and there's a lot of American fans who
have been waiting for what we call the "Big 3", Edguy, Blind
Guardian, and Gamma Ray, on the same stage, and to have it happen in the
U.S. is something that I don't think any of us ever expected. I think
you're right, power metal does have a presence here in the U.S. You're
going to play "Babylon" right?
We don't know yet, what we'll play. We'll just try to play as much as
possible. This is not only our first show in the States, but also in the
hometown of our webmaster, a long time friend of the band, Herman
Caldwell. It's really a great experience to finally play there. We just
want to play everything! We could play 3 hours, but Blind Guardian would
probably complain then! (laughs)
(laughs) I wouldn't complain!
I would! (laughs) My voice would complain after 3 hours. Two and a half
hours would work, we've done that before. Anyway, I'm really looking
forward to this, and I really hope that, see this kind of music depends on
live activities, this music thrives on it, it's the kind of thing that
happens live. Hopping onto a tour bus and traveling, we did so many tours
of Europe before things were going well and we sold any records. That's
the most important thing, and I think that you can do it everywhere.
Convince a few people who will bring friends, and eventually have a lot of
people. That's the one thing that I really hope on, that one day do a real
tour in the United States. A small club tour, but at least play
everywhere, like 30 shows.
Changing gears for a minute and going back to Avantasia, and Edguy
actually, they both have a lot of classical influences, particularly
opera. Could you talk about some of the influences that are not metal
Well, I've got so many which aren't metal! Whatever you listen to that
you don't hate, influences you more or less. I've got a wide range of
tastes. Basically hard rock and metal from the 70s and 80s, be it Deep
Purple, Rainbow, Scorpions, Iron Maiden. Of course, this is metal related.
It can be a pop album, whatever you call Bon Jovi. It can be Bruce
Springsteen, Starship or whatever, and when you go far from this music, of
course I really like classical, old folk music...it depends on moods. In
the car, the other day was sunny and I tried out King Diamond's THEM, and
somehow it doesn't really fit when you've got a sunny day outside.
(laughs) It's quite weird. That's the same case with classical music,
Bach, it's a matter of mood. Wagner for me is the king of building tension
and then letting explode after one minute. It's like sex. (laughs) OK,
after one minute. This was the revelations of the sex show live! (laughs)
Building it up, building up and it's over after 45 seconds! (laughs) You
know what I mean. That's what I really like in this kind of music. We can
learn a lot from Wagner about arranging music in building moods and
tension. Also, I wouldn't agree with Joey DiMaio's theory that Wagner
would be a metal musician if he were alive today.
That was going to be my next question!
I don't think so. This music is still a bit different. We've all
transported a lot of energy, in my opinion. In Edguy, we always try to
come down and make the music extreme in the mood. Same with Avantasia. If
you always play on 10, then there's no dynamics in the music, and the
heights, the peaks don't appear, because there aren't any. If the whole
world, except for the oceans, was four thousand feet over 0, the
elevation, you would not realize how high you really were. You need the
valleys to make the peaks appear higher. In my opinion that's what Wagner
does really well. Still, it's different. You can combine the two musics,
but in the base you can't tell it's the same thing. It's still art. If
this theory would work, there wouldn't be any violence nowadays because it
wouldn't be needed. Now we have electric guitars to destroy all those
woodwind instruments! (laughs) What do we need this other shit for!
(laughs) That doesn't make any sense I think. But I like Manowar anyway!
Let's talk about the future in general, I mean beyond the obvious
ProgPower and future shows. What's the future for Edguy and possibly other
projects like Avantasia?
I wanna reduce it a bit regarding the projects. With Edguy it all went
bigger, especially with the last album. We did the world tour, 22 or 23
countries by the time it's over, four continents. We have the option to
push it really far and perhaps push it even farther. This is a privilege
that you shouldn't take for granted by concentrating on too many things.
We're in a situation where a lot of people would love to be in, so that's
why I don't want to concentrate on too many things at once. In a long time
period, it might be not possible to work on 2 different projects. I really
want to concentrate on Edguy, when the tour is over, we'll finish the mix
of the double live album we recorded. This isn't going to be just a
release between two albums, it's going to something special, with a big
booklet and things. Plus, the songs are quite different from the studio
versions. We will do this in April and then slowly get back into the
studio in the summer, and take all the time we need to record the best
possible record, and then tour again, hopefully in the States too.
Cool. OK, I have to ask, where did you get the cow-skin pants?
I got them from a gay store in Finland.
Yeah, I didn't know it was a gay store, but even if I did know, I would
have bought them anyway. You don't have to be gay to wear them. Also, I
know that some people think that I am gay, but I'm not. (laughs) OK, the
second sexual revelation today! (laughs)
(laughs) OK, we won't go there!
(laughs) Yeah, I got them in Finland when we were mixing SAVAGE POETRY
album. I think their quite funny. I never thought too much about them, I
just thought, "Wow, they look ludicrous! Just buy them!".
They're so expensive, like $150 U.S. Well, buy them anyway. I wore them
onstage, the press in Germany, they all wrote, "oh, it was a great
show, they did a great job on stage, everybody loved it, the only bad
thing of the show was Tobias' pants." (laughs) I thought, "well,
if that's all they have to be negative about, it's a good thing! If
they're going to write about the trousers then I'm going to wear
them!". Then came the avalanche, everybody giving me presents with
cow things, cow hats, even cow slippers! (laughs) The most given present
from fans is cow related. It's really funny.
(laughs) That's so funny! You could decorate a room of your house
and have the cow room!
Living in a dairy!
Well, is there anything else that you'd like to say? Anything that
we haven't talked about that you'd like to mention?
I just hope that people will be nice to us when we come to ProgPower.
You can be sure of that!
Is it true that people throw their underwear on stage?
I guess it's been known to happen...
Just in the 80s right? They did it in Germany as well (laughs) When I
was a young musician there was never the talk of so much work, and so few
panties and bras flying on stage. (laughs) I imagined it would be quite
different! Ah well, we'll come anyway (laughs). Hopefully there won't be
cows flying onstage!
I wouldn't be surprise! (laughs) Well I want to thank you for your
time, this has been great. I really enjoyed the chance to talk to you
because I've enjoyed the Edguy albums for years now, and the whole German
power metal scene, as you referred to it earlier, has really been an
important part of my life, so it's great to talk to you.
Well, you're quite welcome! We'll see at ProgPower!
Edguy Website: www.edguy.nu
Avantasia Website: www.tobiassammet.com