PRIMAL FEAR - Ralf Scheepers
Interview by EvilG
There are a handful of bands that have come out in recent years who I
not only "like" but who I have added to the pile of bands that
I religiously follow. One of those bands is Primal Fear. In my opinion,
their latest album, BLACK SUN, is easily one of the best releases of
2002! If you love heavy aggressive power metal with ripping lead guitars
and top notch vocals, this should be a band you are already intimately
familiar with. Thanks to the people at Nuclear Blast Records I was
recently given the opportunity to talk with the vocalist of Primal Fear
about the new album and the band.
So how's everything going today? Busy with interviews?
Actually I'm injured. I have a torn ligament in my right foot, but
everything is okay. No problem.
Oh really? How did you do that?
I didn't really watch my step, and somehow when I was going down the
stairs, I fell up one stair and I was just bending over with my right
foot and I hurt myself pretty much. But it's okay, no problem.
As long as you don't hurt your voice.
let's get started. I wanted to start off by talking about the new album
"Black Sun", which is awesome.
First of all an obvious question that a lot people have probably
wondered why you traveled to Texas to work on BLACK SUN?
That was just some bits and pieces we fit in Texas in terms of
recording. But we did that because we just want to concentrate a hundred
percent on the mixing and not somehow stay at home and be surrounded by
maybe some bad things. Maybe the car would break or the refrigerator
would break or just some common problems like yelling girlfriends or
whatever (laughs). That's the reason we packed our stuff and moved it
over there. It's always good to be in the States and somehow also get
contact to the studio scene there. And also we invited Mike Chlasciak
from Halford, who became our close friend, and we let him play two
solos, one for "Fear" and one for "Controlled". We
had a good time too, it was great.
So would you do it again? Was it a good experience to do that away
Yeah it was a good experience. We already did that on the Jaws
of Death album. We went down to Florida in the Morrisound studio.
Sometimes it's good to do those things. Sometimes you just learn a lot
of new techniques and so-on, but on the other side you find out that we
are not from far away here with our stuff. We can really do it here as
well, but the thing is like I mentioned before, just concentrating a
hundred percent on mixing and you can do that in the studio, work around
the clock or whatever.
Were all the songs written before you did go into the studio there
Yes, we always do this. We had twenty songs together actually, and we
narrowed it down to thirteen songs and had a very democratic decision of
So obviously everybody is going to say "What about the
remaining tracks?" Did they get recorded, or will they be used for
Actually they are recorded just for demo versions for our pre
production and then maybe there's going to be one or two songs or
whatever, maybe more, for the next album. We are just very, very
creative now these days. Like I said, we are five people composing and
this is just very good.
So perhaps you can tell me a bit about the creative process in
Primal Fear and how it works, and how most songs are put together and
Well the good thing, the very big advantage like I said before, is
just everybody is collecting ideas and recording stuff, and we sit them
together in our rehearsing room when we're doing these pre production
things, everybody is invited to work and give his ideas for the songs.
This is the good thing that everybody is involved, and not only one or
two people are responsible for the songs. That's one of the reasons why
this album went so fast. It's just one year ago that we released Nuclear
Fire, it was generally 2001, and now in April 2002 there's Black
Sun. So after making a huge tour last year this is just a good
effort, I think.
What do you think differs "Black Sun" from "Nuclear
I think this time you can really hear that there's more work in the
solos and the guitar composing. You can really hear that Henny and
Stefan grew together from playing so much together live and they know
each others styles really good. I think you can really hear that
composing wise we went a step further in terms of guitar work.
Do you think that a band needs to continually try to sound
different on every album, or do you think that once you hit a good thing
you should stick with it?
Well I think it's both things. I think you should somehow stick to
your kind of thing. I think the good thing about Primal Fear is that you
can really hear it when you listen to the CDs, is that the style is
somehow a red line through all the albums. Sometimes you have your time
when you want to try out a little bit more, like for example on songs
like "Magic Eye" or whatever, we just want to try out
something new and it still fits very good into the whole thing and the
Do you have any favorite songs from the new album then?
Well yeah. I like each and every song of course because I have to
sing it haha. I think there's one or two songs I really like. There's
one or two I'll mention...maybe "Light years From Home" is a
pretty good track, and "Armageddon" and "We Go
Down." But like I said before, I like each and every song.
Since your bass player, Matt, is also a vocalist, he finally had
an opportunity to do a duet with you. I was wondering what took so long
for this to come about?
Well it was just the story of the song. It's the story of two
contrary opinions in one person, two contrary persons maybe in one brain
or whatever. It was somehow an angel/devil story and it was pre-fed to
make it for two vocalists. Matt did a great job on the pre-production,
and he sings so much live with me doing all the second harmony stuff, so
it was just obvious that he would do it more in the studio as well.
There was no reason to invite somebody else, he's doing a good job.
Do you think you'll do something like that again maybe?
Never say never, but maybe. Why not?
In terms of the line-up, you've had a stable line-up for two
albums. Has this been a benefit to the band? I guess it obviously helped
with the recording process because like you said, here we are just a
year later and you have a new album.
Henny, he fits just perfect into Primal Fear. He's coming more from
the Rock & Roll / Heavy Metal stuff from Thunderhead. He's a great
composer and a very good person and we have a good time when we're
together. There's no reason to change anything now.
One comment that some people make, and I was just wondering if
you're tired of hearing it, and that is people comparing Primal Fear to
Judas Priest. Or is it considered a compliment?
Both. It really does, because it's been a like red line through all
my career since I have been singing. Not only because of the vocals also
sometimes the guitars or maybe composing wise, reminds them of Judas
Priest. I can only say about my vocals when I sing, when I open my mouth
I just do what I want to do and I don't care about who I maybe sound
like. But it's a great honor of course being talked about Rob Halford
and Ralf Scheepers in one sentence. It's a great honor for me because
he's not the worst vocalist around! The thing about the music of Primal
Fear, maybe sometimes it does have a little bit of Judas Priest in it,
but coming from the background we are coming from, we were into metal in
the eighties and as metalheads, we loved bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon,
Judas Priest, etc. So it affected us pretty much yeah.
Do you kind of feel that your style of music has sort of carried
on from where Judas Priest left off with their Painkiller
album? While they don't sound like Judas Priest anymore really.
You know, really I think for us it's not somehow an obvious step that
we did that we now want to sound like Judas Priest because they don't do
it anymore. Maybe if we would have been earlier, wow, what a sentence,
then we would have done the same thing without listening to Judas Priest
or Painkiller or
whatever. You know, it's just like I said before it's our kind of thing
we love and we won't change anything about that.
Right. The last Priest-related question , I was wondering what
your thoughts are on Demolition.
I'm very sorry, but I don't like it so much but it's also not a fault
of Ripper Owens, he's a great vocalist doing a great job! I don't like
so much the change of style from the last two albums. I think it's not a
decision of the vocalist or whatever, it's the decision of the whole
band. They want to go that way. It's not up to me to judge that because
I'm not a member of Priest.
Back to Primal Fear, there's a storyline to Black
Sun. Can you briefly outline what the storyline is?
Yeah, no problem. We're going out in the universe, it's very obvious,
but it's not the first time for a band to go out there. The universe is
big enough for a lot of bands so if everybody would like they could
follow us. That story is a very "science fictional" story
about how in the future mankind cannot live on this planet because
everything is just wrecked up and everybody is fighting and are having
wars and unfortunately there's a little bit of reality in songs like
"Armageddon" and "Fear." We sent out our iron eagle.
We've had them for four albums now and this time they're supposed to be
spaceships combined with some biological stuff in there. We sent them
out in space in search of the black sun which should be another planet
for mankind to inhabit. And on this trip, on this journey, there's a lot
of adventures going on and basically that's what we're talking about in
the whole story.
Right. Was the storyline worked on by the whole band or did you
mostly come up with the idea for the story?
Yeah, I mean everybody is writing all of the lyrics and when we came
up with the idea of naming the album "Black Sun" it was very
obvious for everybody in the band that this time we write a lot of
science fiction things. When we were ready with these twenty songs and
narrowed it down to thirteen songs we found out there's somehow a red
line, and a couple fit together and said "well now we have a
story". So everybody is involved in the story.
Are you a big fan of science fiction? Has it been an influence on
your lyric writing?
Yes I'm a very big fan of science fictional stuff and actually I'm
also a very big fan of astronomical stuff.
Do you read a lot, or is it more movies you're into?
It's more really looking into the sky. I have a telescope. Actually
you don't see too much going on there of course but it's all a lot of
planets. It's all Jupiter and Saturn and Mars. It's nebula stuff so it's
pretty interesting looking up there. And also of course I'm a big fan of
science fictional movies.
Star Trek yes, and also Star Wars is pretty good.
Regarding the eagle that has been on all all your album covers,
would you call it your mascot?
You can really say that, yeah. Stephan was the designer of the very
first album. He used to draw natural eagles. When we came up to him and
asked him would he draw something for us he made this metal eagle for
the first album, and we really fell in love with this kind of eagle and
I actually have it on my arm as a tattoo. We want to really keep it
because it's a good label for us, for a Heavy Metal band. It has
aggression, it shows power and also liberty somehow so we think it fits
pretty good for a Heavy Metal band.
So this is something that you'll continue to use on each of your
album covers in different variations?
Yeah, we will yeah.
What does the eagle symbolize? It symbolizes like you said the
liberty and strength and all that kind of thing...anything else?
Yeah, it's that, exactly.
Do you have an idea already for your next album or have you
thought that far ahead yet?
No we don't have any idea yet. We just started to rehearse and to
prepare for some festivals and also for the huge tour we will do in
September and October this year, then we will think about another album,
another concept maybe for the next album.
year you played for the first time in the United States at the Milwaukee
and the New Jersey Metal festivals, and I actually had the good fortune
to see you in New Jersey, and I must say, Primal Fear was easily the
best performance of the festival.
Wow! thank you.
And I was wondering how did it feel to play in the USA for the
first time? Because not many metal bands get to come over from Germany.
First of all it was a hell of a stretch to fly there Friday and play
there Saturday and fly back Sunday, but it was pretty much worth it
because we had a good reaction as you also saw and we were very pleased
to have such a great response and we'll definitely come over there again
because it's just great and hopefully there's going to be more fans in
the future which will come. I think it's such a great, big land over
there so it's pretty hard to do a tour over there, but concerning
festivals...why not? It's always good to come there.
Do you have any hopes of maybe doing a festival or some kind of
appearance for this "Black Sun" tour in North America
Yeah, it would be great. If there was some interest, and I already
heard that there is some interest, we will just shortly fly over there
again and do some shows, whatever.
You also recently I believe filmed a video for
"Armageddon", right? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yeah, it was recorded in an old factory hall and it was fucking cold
in there, we were freezing our asses off! Actually it was filmed on 16mm
film so you can really see the faces because if you record a video in
that medium it's pretty hard with the lights an so on, so this time it's
pretty good surrounding and pretty good material and I think the song
"Armageddon" is a pretty good story too.
Do you use and ideas from the storyline incorporated into the
video, or is it more of a live performance?
No, actually it was more the line-up of the band and the background
with the real factory and so-on. It's pretty much a Heavy Metal scene we
have. We just thought it would be a little bit too much if we just
picked up a quick story because it's such a sad thing and we didn't want
to add some pictures in there concerning the 11th of September of
The last video you did was from the Nuclear
Fire album "Angel in Black" and it didn't get played
over here unfortunately on our TV stations. Did it get played much over
in Europe? Do the video shows play that style of music?
Yeah I remember that they played it sometimes in Germany, on a German
channel but unfortunately they really somehow deny Heavy Metal bands.
It's a sad thing because I think Heavy Metal bands deserve to be played.
They're going in the charts here actually, and I don't know why they
just don't play the Heavy Metal stuff so much. We just hope that we get
shown in South Europe and also we have the modern media right now with
the internet where they can see the video, and hopefully we're going to
be shown in South America and so-on.
Are you planning to put the full video online for people to check
Yes I think it's already online. The full thing.
The full thing is? I figured it was only a clip there but I wasn't
sure. I'll have to check it out.
Okay. Me too because I'm not 100% sure.
Regarding videos and things like that, is there any talk of the
band doing a DVD with your videos and some live stuff or anything?
Yeah definitely. We recorded so much live, for example Wacken we did
in Germany with a professional film team from the UK shooting the whole
show, and also we have a large thing from our own because our technician
has a handy cam and is shooting as much as he can. We have the making of
the Black Sun album, some
scenes from that event and also the making of the "Armageddon"
video, and a lot more live things coming on. Also some little clips from
the past like our bands like Sinner and Gamma Ray. It's probably an
interesting thing for the fans. And we're planning to release it
somewhere around January or February (2003).
Okay excellent. Looking forward to that for sure.
Yeah, me too.
I love DVDs. For every band that I'm into, I always buy their DVDs.
Yeah it's pretty cool. There's so much information an so-on. It's
It's also good for, like I said, a lot of bands don't come over
here, a lot of bands that I'm into, so I get to see them live on at
least DVD anyway. [Cool.] So, would you ever consider doing a
side project, or is that something you don't have time for?
Well first of all I don't really have the time for it and secondly, I
think as a vocalist I'm really concentrating 100% on Primal Fear. I
think as a vocalist it's pretty important to keep to the band you are
making music with because otherwise maybe the fans will get confused in
what you're doing because I think for example Jeff Scott Soto is a great
vocalist but in my opinion he's just doing too much. People get confused
what band it is. Of course I did one thing for Ayreon. He came up to me
some years ago and asked me if I could join for one or two songs on his
album and I said "Yeah, of course. Why not?", so I did it for
his album, Flight of the
Migrator. But I think in the future I will pretty much stick to
One other question related to that, and I'm sure a lot of people
have asked. Would you ever consider working in some form of capacity
with Kai Hansen again?
Well, never say never. I mean there's still a good relationship, but
I'm 100% sure that I'll never be the vocalist for Gamma Ray again. But
the thing is, maybe for a song or two why not? I have no problem with
So what are your plans for the coming months? Is there just
straight ahead touring or do you have some time off before you jump into
We have some time off until we play in Moscow at the end of June. And
then we go to Russia; I'm pretty much looking forward to that event. And
then we're just preparing for the tour in September which is going to be
around Europe and then we head over to South America, Mexico, Brazil and
Columbia. And we're talking about going to Japan again this year, so
it's pretty much more focused on the fall of this year.
Since this is your fourth album, do you find it harder to pick
your set list for what you are going to play live?
Yeah, we just started to rehearse this last Saturday and play some
new tracks which are pretty good. We didn't expect that because we had a
big break in the studio. So we just met each other, sat in and played
and it went pretty good for the first time. So we are just discussing a
set list. It's pretty hard to decide, but we'll find something so
everybody will be pleased and satisfied with it.
Is there any albums that you probably won't focus on as much? Do
you think you'll be playing more stuff from Nuclear
Fire and Black Sun?
I think it's going to be a great mixture from everything.
And besides the new album, what album would you say is your favorite?
I know you'll say you like them all but...
Yeah, you always like the last you did (laughs). So now it's like
BLACK SUN of course and before it was Nuclear
Fire, haha It's always the new one that you really like.
Yeah for sure. Well I think that's about all I wanted to ask you
about. Is there any other news going on with the band that you wanted me
to pass along to people?
No, not at the moment, I think you really know a lot of things as I
found out with your questions (laughs).
Ok, well I'd just like to thank you for your time, and for the
album and for the album.
-Transcribed by Ronnie-