Interview with Mat Sinner and Ralf Scheepers
Interviewed by EvilG
Live photos by Steve Sanders / Promo photos courtesy of Frontiers Records
For many years now, one of my favorite bands is Primal Fear. I finally found the time to squeeze in a long overdue interview with bassist Mat and vocalist Ralf on the eve of the band’s return to North America where they will be playing a number of shows throughout the USA and Canada in May/June (2010). Most of the discussion is about their newest album, the upcoming tour, and the latest news from both Ralf and Mat.
Does the new album title come from the Irish saying: "May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you’re dead"? What does the "16.6" part of this mean and related, what does it mean to say "16.6 all over this world" as in the song?
My last interview for this album is some weeks ago but everybody is asking this question. Well again – I will not tell anyone, because it’s so easy to find out…haha. There will be the first official a new Primal Fear LIVE album coming out in June called "Live In The USA" and the DVD is called "All Over The Word" – so what’s the meaning of 16.6?
You did a video for "Six Times Dead (16.6)", just wondering…will there by any other videos for this album?
Yes, we’ve already finalized a new video clip for the song "Killbound" – some kind of a mix of all continents we play with part of the new DVD and backstage jokes. Some kind of trailer for the forthcoming DVD too!
Even though I’m not a big fan of ballads and acoustic strumming styled songs, I must say that "Hands of Time" strikes a chord and really is an emotional song. I’m also glad you play it live, something I hope that will continue?! So where did this song come from? Since it is so different from your other music do you think you might do another song like this on the next album?
We spent two weeks at Magnus’ place in Sweden to write songs for the 16.6 album and the vibe was so cool – I had the basic idea for the song in my head for a long time and Magnus & Henny picked up the idea and we made a cool song this night. We really like the song and that’s why we play the song live on stage too and the fans are really surprised and love the song too!
I saw you in Montreal in September 2009 and the duet with Pamela Moore for “Fighting the Darkness” was amazing. My only ‘complaint’ – you should have had her sing more than one song with you….for her to travel all that way for one song a night…why not 2-3 songs? Ha!
Because we didn’t have more time to plan this thing. We just came back from an exhausting two week South American tour – there was no time to practice more songs with her, but on the next tour she will be with us on stage on more songs – but a Primal Fear show stays a Primal Fear show. Pamela is such a great character and good friend – it’s cool she will join us again, the chemistry fits!
After hearing her own this song, it makes me wish that the band would do a follow-up song like this and actually have Pamela record with you – since you have a working/touring relationship with her, could this happen for the next CD, has it been talked about?
She will appear on the DVD and the Live CD too and she will be with us on the next tour through North America on all shows – this shows faith, how much we like each other and we will continue this creative partnership in the future!
Will she be doing more songs on the upcoming tour with you?
What songs do you most enjoy playing live? Are there any fan favs that you are kinda tired of playing yet?
We’re not tired of our songs – we play a little more than ten years in this band – this is not a time to be tired of your own songs, but we have favourites of course! Final Embrace, metal is Forever, Riding The Eagle, Killbound, Fighting The Darkness….to name a few ……
Guitarist Alex Beyrodt filled in for you for a number of dates in 2009. This wasn’t the first he has been a Primal Fear fill-in, so, just curious, was he ever asked to join the band when a guitarist position opened up?
Magnus is still our guitarist and we’re adults. He and his wife became twins last year and he will always have an open door in Primal Fear. It’s great to have a friend like Alex who likes to play with Primal Fear and is 100% involved in the band. We really like to play with him and we both play together in Voodoo Circle too. Well, we will see what happens in the near future. Alex will play on the forthcoming North America tour. It’s not clear yet if Magnus will play the summer open airs in Europe!
Guitarist Stefan Leibing left the band because (as I recall?) he needed to spend more time with his family…then in came Swedish guitarist Magnus Karlsson, and you do the 16.6 album, then he can’t tour because of family reasons…kinda ironic eh? In any case, will Margnus be doing the remaining 2010 dates with the band including the North American dates?
Alex will play the North American dates and Alex will be on the main concert of the forthcoming DVD & Live CD. Maybe we should write in our band contracts that condoms have to be used for safety reasons, even at home? Haha!!
Despite having some changes in guitar players, the guitar sound and style have been fairly consistent in Primal Fear. Do you attribute this more to the songs and what you ask for from the players or do they all share a common sound/style that you looked for?
Primal Fear have their style – I’m producing the albums and Ralf’s voice is all over the place. That’s the foundation and Henny is the driving force on the guitar and understands very well what riffs we need!
Can you tell me something about the setup (amp/effects) you use for guitars for live vs. recording? I ask because the guitar sound you have is one of the best!
We’re using Marshall amps and Engl amps – live and in the studio, but it’s not only the amps – mainly it’s the playing, the energy, the guitars and the riffs!
Henny Wolter left the band after Black Sun but thankfully returned sometime in 2007 – in a nutshell, what was this about, why did he leave and then was asked to return?!?
He tried to save his family – as this failed, there was always an open door for Henny, one of the best guys in this business – a fantastic loyal character & killer guitar shredder!
Regarding the album Black Sun, do you have something against it for some reason? I ask because it seems like you don’t play anything from it live…not even the amazing track “Armageddon”!?!
Well, a musician has his favorites and albums he didn’t like so much for some reasons. I have some reasons, and we have 8 albums out now – it’s always tough to make a set list to please everybody. So far, the fans were always happy on the end of a Primal Fear show and that’s a good sign, we didn’t make too many mistakes with our set list!
What was the reason for the band leaving the metal label Nuclear Blast in 2006? Was it a band decision, the label, maybe it was mutual?
This was a private decision and I don’t talk about it in the public. We had a great time with Nuclear Blast and I appreciate every day we spend with this record company.
Since you’ve now been with Frontiers Records for a few years, how does the support they offer the band compare to what you had before?
We have a great partnership with Frontiers and they can sell albums. They’re working hard and are cool people. The vision of both record companies can not be related to each other, but we’re happy about the standing of our band and the level we can produce albums and tour all territories in the world!!
Your upcoming spring tour for North America is taking you to some places you didn’t hit on the shorter 6-date fall tour. Does the band pick the places at all, or do you just go where the promoters want you?
John Finberg is our agent and he decides where we play and we are100% loyal on his decisions. We are so far away from the US and Canada, that we have to trust some people over there!
Will you have the exact same setlist that you played for the 2009 fall tour or will there be a few changes for those of us that saw you on that tour?
We have some changes in the set list – wouldn’t be cool to play exactly the same set list and songs, but the classic tracks are prominent placed. We have a new start of the show too!
You have a DVD coming out in June – how long has this been in the making?
For 6 month now, it’s always killing me to produce these kinds of visual things. The last DVD nearly killed me – this one is close to the same object.
Will there be a blu-ray/HD version?
Don’t know at the moment exactly – we’re close to finalize the last parts then we will decide!
In the age of the iPod and digital music, do you find that you re selling less physical CDs and seeing more sales though iTunes and similar services? OR are sales down and people are pirating more? OR are CD sales up?
The physical CD is still very important – different countries, different users – we have to deal with all the formats out there and sell everywhere in the world to make this still a positive business. Pirates will kill the quality in this business and they don’t care ….. but guilty are not the pirates
Mat, as most know, you also front your own band, Sinner. Has Sinner ever played in North America? Is there any chance that might happen?
We played in New Jersey some years ago, but SINNER is a cool band that can’t come to the US and play because we like to. We had a fantastic response last September in South America. Played for the first time an unbelievable cool concert in Moscow!
What’s up next for Sinner touring/new album wise?
Our last album "Crash & Burn" was very well reviewed everywhere. In September we will go back into the recording studio and nail a new album "One Bullet left" for a release on AFM Records in january 2011. The songwriting is in full progress and we’re very – very happy with the songs so far. Then we will set up a new tour to support the album, wherever this will take place outside of Europe!
How do you manage to juggle time with Primal Fear, Sinner, Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville, Rock Meets Classical, etc… Do you ever have some time to just sit still, and relax? Ha!
I play in Voodoo Circle and in MY FINAL DAY too and I’m working with some more artists. My life is music, I enjoy my life as much I’m enjoying music – that’s the key!
Ralf, I’ve seen the press about you releasing a solo album. What can we expect style wise? Will it be metal, rock, power metal, or whatever!? Any surprises in store?
Metal, but with some journeys in other musical direction, but basically metal. We have most of the songs composed and we will start recording soon. of course it will be a little different from Primal Fear, but the voice and the metal riffs are the same. We have lined up some great guests for the album!
Ralf, I love your Gamma Ray material a LOT! Do you keep in touch with Kai Hansen? Any chance that maybe you might one day do a duet with him again on say a Gamma Ray OR Primal Fear OR your own solo album??
Kai played on the first Primal Fear album and we’re good friends, as I can say Gamma Ray & Primal Fear are good friends. We play together a festival in summer in the Czech Republic – we will see what happens there.
If you have any other news or things you’d like us to share with our readers, please let us know!
All is said – the new Live album and DVD will be released in June by Frontiers Records and we put a lot of sweat and energy in this project, like on the forthcoming North American tour. Check us out – we will bring some real metal to your cities!