Bj?rn Eilen of WARHEAD
Interviewed on February 22, 2000 by EvilG
Warhead are a fairly new band from Germany. Unlike many of the better known German bands, Warhead do not play power metal but just straight-up aggressive METAL. They have elements of thrash metal and traditional metal in their sound. I had the opportunity to speak with Warhead’s vocalist/guitarist, Bj?rn Eilen, just one day after the European release of their new concept CD “Beyond Recall.”
Hi this is Bj?rn from Warhead!
Hey, how are you doing?
I’m doing fine, thank you. A little bit tired.
Tired of doing interviews?
No, not tired of doing interviews but I was working all day.
So you hold down a job, besides being in Warhead?
Yeah, I’m a scaffolder.
Well, a lot of hard work then.
We’ve got to work because we have to earn money for living.
So the rest of the guys in the band are also working?
I’ve got a couple of background questions on Warhead. warhead is a three-piece, has it been this way since the beginning?
Yeah, Warhead was founded in 1993 and since that time we’ve played as a three-piece band with Peter Breitenbach (drums), Benjamin Zur Heide (bass guitar) and me (Bj?rn Eilen – vocals & guitars).
Have you ever had any trouble re-creating the sounds live as opposed to what you can capture in a studio?
No, never. It is no problem if you are a four-piece band and you have a singer and guitar player, bass player and drummer. But it’s no problem, or it should not be. Of course, it’s hard work to do on stage – playing the guitar and singing at the same time and that’s not all. You also have to headbang, play solos and talk to the people and entertain. It’s…..I can do that, it’s ok for me. It’s a bit hard sometimes.
So you don’t miss the rhythm guitar when solos are happening?
No, definitely not. We’re now looking for, and this is brand new, we’re looking for a guitar player for Warhead for me because I want to quit playing and just focus on the vocals. Because of the live thing, it’s just too hard for me. I can do it, but after a concert I’m always a little bit depressed (laughs) from all the work. Of course you don’t have a rhythm guitar under the solo guitar when you play live but it’s ok. The bass is fat enough to do it.
Can you tell me a bit about Inverness (the band), who from Warhead came from that and can you compare the two a little bit?
Where did you get this information from? (surprised)
Inverness is mentioned is on the Warhead website.
Ahhhh….but you’ve never heard any songs of Inverness?
No, I’ve heard the name but I haven’t heard the band.
Inverness was more of a local band in my home town. It was a little bit more melodic. When I quit Inverness, the reason was I wanted to make a little bit more of a simple music. At that time, when we played with Inverness, such things were successful like Primus or Dream Theater and my band members wanted to play this kind of music. A little bit more progressive, and I didn’t like that (laughing). So I was talking to Peter (drums) about making a simpler kind of music based on Black Sabbath or things like that. That’s the way that we formed Warhead.
So Inverness was the band you were in immediately before warhead was formed?
So what style of metal would you call Warhead – just heavy metal or do you consider it power metal?
It is not real power metal because I think for power metal you maybe need two guitar players. It is definitely metal and the lyrics are very important for this band. we always want to talk about things that are going on in this world and about REAL things. So maybe the best name for our kind of music would be real metal, but this doesn’t exist so just call it metal.
You mentioned Black Sabbath, so what other bands would you look to in the development of your style?
Megadeth very much, Testament, and for me – Anvil and Flotsam & Jetsam and early Metallica but not the latest albums…not the new ones.
Why are you laughing?
Well……because it’s crap.
I have no problem saying that. I do LOVE their early stuff too man, but they’ve went off somewhere else.
I like their “Master of Puppets” one.
Yeah, that is an amazing album.
What is the relationship between Warhead and Flying Dolphin? They are your promotional company or something??
Yeah, Chris Bolthendahl (Grave Digger) is our manager and he’s doing a very good job. He got us the deal with Noise Records and he’s a friend of ours because Peter played in Grave Digger from 1991, I think, until 1993. That’s the reason why Chris because our manager and we know the whole band Grave Digger.
You guys have opened up for Grave Digger in Germany a few times.
Yeah, in Germany and one concert in Sweden last month and on Saturday we’re going to play in Belgium for a concert as the opener for Grave Digger.
So is “Beyond Recall” your first CD for Noise Records?
It’s the second. The first was “Perfect/Infect.” This “Beyond Recall” CD is the third one for Warhead and the second for Noise Records.
Your CD was released yesterday on February 21 – was that the release date for just Europe or was that the world-wide release date?
Just Europe. I don’t know if the people in the USA will get the CD. I mean, definitely not in the record stores. Maybe through mail-order or something like that.
Yeah we are (sometimes) pretty deprived over here when it comes to releases. Things come out in Europe months ahead or in Japan months ahead and we have to order imports which is pretty shitty.
They wait to see if it’s successful here and then they put it out in the US. The other way around is also….if things are new in your country, they come out months later here.
Do you have high expectations for the success of “Beyond Recall”?
Umm…no. I don’t have ANY expectations. I know this business now for some years, and I know you should never have any expectations (laughs) because it always comes out the way you don’t expect. So I just stopped making expectations about the future and just hope that we’ll be making music for the years to come.
So let’s talk a bit about the album then. “Beyond Recall” is a concept album obviously. Did you decide from the beginning that you were going to do a concept album or did it just kind of lead in that direction when the writing began?
Right after the “Perfect/Infect” one we were writing new songs or had new ideas in our basement where we always write our songs. It was my idea to make an album about capital punishment, about the death sentence. I asked the other members if they though it was a good idea and they thought a few days about it and we agreed to do it because it’s of big interest to us and its a subject where we could really make something out of it. Then we made the story, just a short story from the beginning to the end. Then we wrote the songs and the lyrics came after that.
Why did you personally decide to pick the topic of capital punishment as the topic – is it something you feel strongly about?
Yeah, it is. I can just talk for “me” in this case because very often I think about death. Not in a way that it is glorious or fantastic, not like a death metal band – more in the way that it is real that I’m going to die some day and all around me the people are going to die. I can hardly believe (imagine) to die so it’s just…I’m just interested in that. We don’t have capital punishment here in Europe.
No, we don’t have it here in Canada either.
I didn’t know that I was calling to Canada? It’s not on the schedule here!
Well I’m in Canada.
So you asked me how we had this idea about making the album?
Yeah, I was wondering how strongly you felt about it…the lyrics don’t come off preaching for OR against really…It’s told from the point of view of someone going through that and I was just wondering if you personally felt one way or the other about whether this is right or wrong?
Yeah, it’s through the eyes of this protagonist, through the eyes of this man. For us it is interesting and very important to know how everything works in prison. In Germany, there was a book coming out last year called (ed note: Bj?rn says some German title I unfortunately can not attempt to type in) about a life and death on death row. It is very, very interesting. It’s from a journalist from Switzerland, a woman, and she has been in Texas and in Huntsville. She visited this prison and she was talking to the people and she wrote this book about the way it is there. This had inspired us very much.
You had read the book ahead of time?
Did you do much background research with books or watching documentaries or movies?
Yeah, we were influenced, we were inspired making this album by the film “Dead Man Walking” a little bit. I find it to be a very good film. Of course a lot of documentaries are here in Europe about the death sentence but you don’t get too much books about that, that’s a problem, because we don’t have capital punishment here in Europe. so were were a bit forced to have our own ideas about it, how it could be. We do not want to say that this is 100% how will be for one man, but it could be in some ways.
Do you believe in the “eye for en eye” philosophy or do you believe people like this deserve a second chance?
I definitely don’t believe in “eye for an eye.” I do believe that some people should get a second chance after a while. But I know that the way that they treat these people in prison is definitely wrong because they make them wait for I don’t know how many years, in like two square meters, you know they got nothing. That’s definitely not the way it should be. They sometimes should get a second chance. I mean, if someone killed 20 or 30 people and he’s running amok and he’s really definitely mentally deranged then we should think about what can we do with him? We shouldn’t let him out ever again, but killing somebody is not the solution.
Yeah, I agree. So were the lyrics difficult for you to write, to get into the mindset of what someone must be feeling when they are in this situation?
Yeah, sometimes I couldn’t write for weeks. Because you have to be in a mood to write these lyrics. If you’re coming home and you’re happy, you cannot sit down and write about this subject. But if you are really feeling down, then you can think about writing lyrics about that. So most of the time it was impossible and sometimes I wrote two or three lyrics in one day.
When you were recording the vocals there are places there where it sounds and feels like you are actually being spoken to by the guy in prison…for example when you scream out “Blackout” or “I’d swear, I’d never fail again.” It was like wow – I really felt that you were actually feeling and expressing the emotions that this guy was going through.
Thanks very much. I tried so. I’m a person that, I told you earlier, I often think about death. Maybe it’s a small problem for me, because I can hardly handle this problem. I mean, everybody’s got to die and everybody has to face their own death. When you know that you are dying like this man, it’s twice as hard as it it is normally. That’s what I think and I try to get into this person and I hope that the people feel that I got it sometimes. I can’t say I got into it 100% but I tried.
Well I think that you succeeded, especially in a few places on the album with the emotion in the way you were singing was really great I thought.
Thank you very, very much. That’s a real compliment.
I really liked the song “The Trial.” I like how it’s kind of heavy and then it goes into this melodic thing. The vocals there were more melodic then some of the other songs. Can you tell about how when you pieced this song together how you went from the really heavy into this section.
That’s a good question…it’s hard to tell. Especially in this song, we didn’t want to let this song end with this clean part because we wanted to show the ups and downs of this man. He’s in jail and there’s this jury and they say you got to die and all those things and you’re a cold-blooded man. Then it comes to this clean part where he has this hope and his hope goes away and we didn’t want to let this song end this way. To show that in the end that this mean has really got to die and that’s his fate. We just tried to show the ups and downs. It’s in my imagination, that if you are in this cell for all those years, you of course in the beginning you hope and you get hope all your life…but it must be hopeless in the end.
With regard to the song “Desert Trip” which is one of the other songs that I really liked on the album…
Yeah it’s one of my favorites.
The question I would have about the lyrics here would be do you think we have a choice or are well all doomed “dead passengers” on on a “desert trip”?
You mean in this situation?
I kind of got a double meaning out of it. This is where he is heading off to the desert prison and he is asking the question “Am I a dead passenger?” I was kind of thinking, are we like that, all dead passengers on a desert trip?
Ahhh….this is not what I meant to say. Now I understand, you can…
Maybe I read too much into that haha…
Maybe. If you do, then just do it, it’s ok it’s no problem but it’s not meant this way by me. But maybe I have to think about that and think for myself, who knows?
The first time I heard that song I though there was not much to it, it’s pretty simple. But after hearing it three or four times, it was a really catchy type of song. It’s kind of different from some of the other ones with the real thrashy type of riffs. was that a departure to write something like that, something a little more basic?
It’s one of the directions we got in our music. We’ve got some clean parts, some slow parts and the more fast parts. We never want to make an album where every song is about the same. So we try to be a little bit more diverse, to make some variations.
Are you happy with the way the album turned out sound-wise?
Yeah, very much. The first time that we worked together with somebody as a producer and he did a really good job.
One thing I was wondering when I first popped in the CD…my first reaction was I thought it sounded like a drum machine, is that because the drums are heavily triggered?
Yeah. We did the drums and then put them into a computer and put them right so they came out 100%.
Now that I’m used to listening to the album, I don’t put it on and say gee that sounds like a drum machine but that was my first reaction when I first heard it. The kick drums sounded very processed.
Yeah, they sound a little bit like that. Of course we worked with the sounds on the computer, also with the guitars and everything, yeah that’s definitely true.
A couple of questions about your tour plans now…you said earlier you were playing in Belgium for a tour or just one show?
Yeah, just one show.
Do you have any tour plans to actually go on some type of small tour?
Yeah we’re going to tour in April here in Germany, just ten or eleven days but only Germany and I think once concert in Switzerland. We’ll try to play some festivals here because festivals have become very famous in the last few years.
There are no dates set for outside of Germany for a tour?
So how popular is Warhead in Germany, are you well known there?
Ummm, no, we are not a famous band here. We’re a well-known underground band I think. We don’t sell to much CD’s…
Not yet haha…
In Germany the people like bands like, I don’t know if you know Iron Savior?
Iron Savior, Helloween, Gamma Ray all those guys yeah!!!!!
It’s different than our kind of music, it’s more melodic. It’s hard for us to get into the market but we won’t change.
That’s one thing I actually liked about Warhead, I love Iron Savior and Gamma Ray, when I got your CD – it was from Germany, it’s on Noise, I wondered if it was going to be another power metal band with the double kicks all over the place and the soaring vocals…anyway I popped it in and was surprised. Although I like both types of music, it was nice to hear something that wasn’t what I expected it to be.
Yeah, this kind of music is really the missing link here. If that’s right – the missing link?
Missing link as in it’s being ignored or it’s not played as much?
Yeah, there is no band playing this kind of music in Germany, no German band. Our roots are Black Sabbath and Megadeth and these kinds of bands we just wanted to make this kind of music because we think that it is missing here and we had the luck that Noise Records said they would take us.
What bands have you been listening too recently that you’ve really liked any new stuff?
Thin Lizzy for example…you mean new stuff?
New or old, whatever you’ve been cranking.
Yeah well I only have old stuff.
You don’t like ANY new bands???
No, not really (laughs). Testament, I like Testament very much but they are also older. Ozzy Osbourne and I like The Doors, Saga…they are from Canada, you know of them?
You don’t like them?
I know who they are but…nawww…I don’t listen to it.
(laughs) don’t kill me….
Testament though they are awesome. Do you like their newer CD’s?
No, I didn’t listen to it. My favorite is “Low.”
Do you have any final comments or other news about Warhead you can pass along to readers?
Yeah (our CD) is brand new, we are testing out a guitar player who is playing instead of me because I want to focus on singing. I want to go on singing and develop my voice. It’s hard to do that when you’re playing the guitar at the same time. I think we’ll have a fourth member for the next year and I’m very happy with that so it’s not as much work for me anymore. This is really brand new, and I can’t tell you who it is.
So you already have someone who you’ve been working with?
No, he’s unknown so it’s of no importance, it doesn’t matter (laughs). He’s a really nice guy, he’s younger than we are and he’s also fascinated by our kind of music so he’s the right person. This is the one we want to have.
I assume you’ll still play guitar as in writing songs and things like that, you’re not going to give up guitar?
No, I’m not going to quit playing guitar no, never. I’m just going to quit playing guitar for this band for live and of course I’m going to write songs.
That’s all the questions I had for you.
Could you mention that we have a homepage?
Yeah, it’s www.warhead.de right? – not a problem. Thanks for your time.
Thank you for your time.