Bandleader/drummer Soren “Snoppi” Van Heek
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack at Massacre Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing the promo pics.
If you’re into power/heavy metal music then you should check out the brand new Wizard album ….OF WARIWULFS AND BLUOTVARWES from the German act Wizard. The band have been active for 22 years so I thought it was time to get a hold of bandleader Soren “Snoppi” Van Heek and to have a long talk about the band, its history, the new album, and of course the future.
Hi Snoppi are you ready to take on this interview with me and metal-rules.com?
Hi, yes I am ready. Here we go …
Wizard recently released the album …. OF WARIWULFS AND BLUOTVARWES how come you named the album that?
It’s like the title of a book, I guess in fairytales the titles also start with “…”. And the title itself is about the concept story and what it’s all about. Of course wariwulfs and bluotvarwes are no English names but old German language. Perhaps that’s the reason why people have difficulties to pronounce it correct.
How long did it take to record the album?
I don’t know any more. I guess a few months. We do rehearsals in a studio so we could record it when we wanted. That was fantastic, we had no pressure to get finished. So we recorded when we had time and fun to record.
Who writes the music and lyrics and what are the lyrics about?
The main songwriter on this album was Dano (g.). But also Volker did a little bit and Sven composes the singing melodies. The lyrics are about the trilogy of Andre Wieslers novelles “Wolfsfluch”, “Teufelshatz” and “Hexenmacher”. This books are published in Germany and in Czech republic so far. I think at the moment they are not available in English.
Your previous album THOR came 2009 – what have you been up to in between releases?
What we always do between the albums: Preparing our live set, giving concerts and composing new stuff. Because we do not earn our (main) money with Wizard we are very free in what we do. More important than composing is preparing for live gigs because we want to present a good show.
When was the idea born to make a theme album about the author Andre Wiesler?
Volker (b) came around with this idea. He works together with authors like William B. Nuke (with his novel we did the Goochan album) or Wolfgang Hohlbein. 2 years ago he read the books from Andre Wiesler and thought they were great. Then he contacted Andre and he was very pleased to work with us together. That was it.
How many of your lyrics are based on his books?
All songs on the new album are based on the books of this trilogy.
Have you worked together with Wiesler? If so how was that? Have all of the members in the band read his books?
Mainly Volker worked out the lyrics with Andre. Together they wrote the songs. Andre also works as a translator so his English is good (in contrast to our English). So it worked out very well. Andre is a really nice guy and was very cool to meet him. We did one concert together with him where he read short snippets out of his books and afterwards we played the song to this text. That was very cool.
You also made a theme album back in 2003 called ODIN, why have you continued walking down the theme-path when it comes to your albums?
We did that very often. The albums BATTLE OF METAL, BOUND BY METAL and HEAD OF THE DECEIVER are about the four thunder-warriors. “Odin” and “Thor” were about north mythology. “Goochan” was about a book from William B. Nuke. So we like it very much to do concept albums. The great thing about that is, that you can write better lyrics. You don’t have to explain a complete story in one single song but you have time and place to explain everything in about 10 songs. That’s much easier, I think. And it is more interesting to read the lyrics, if it is one story.
Who has done the cover art-work and what do you think of it?
The cover was made by Steve Argile and I am very pleased with it. He made this cover by the details we told him. So he did exactly what we wanted. And I like it very much. Much more than the cover to “Thor” or “Goochan”.
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
No. In nearly all cases we compose a song and take it on the album. We do not have very much waste.
Do you think that the band have developed music-wise through the years? If so in what way?
Yes, I think that especially Sven improved a lot. If you listen to the first two or three albums he did not sing as good and as varied than today. Listen to him on the new album, e.g. the song “Taste of fear”. There he sounds like Mille Petrozza, on others like Eric Adams and on other like himself. So he learned to sing very varied and I love his voice.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Wizard plays?
I always think and say that we play Heavy Metal. Nothing less, nothing more.
Did you throw a release party for the album? If so when and where and did you perform live?
Yes, we did a release party in our hometown (Bocholt) this year (2011) in May (I guess …).
The album got a stunning 4.0 out of 5 in metal-rules.com, congratulations, how does that feel?
That feels very good. We also got very good critics from other sites and magazines. I listed a few of them (about 20) on our homepage (www.legion-of-doom.de). I am very satisfied with the reactions, it will be very difficult to top this album.
From what I have read have you over all gotten some great reviews and great response on the album, do you read what the critics have to say about your albums and do you care what they have to say?
Yes, I read this reviews. But I also take it not too serious because I know that it is in most cases the opinion of one single person. Of course I like it if there are positive reviews, but there are also some negative ones. I try to take it not serious because you cannot satisfy all people. And we don’t want to make music for everyone but in the first step for ourselves. WE have to like our music and if we are satisfied, nothing else matters. Sometimes I read facts about us which I cannot believe. That makes me a bit angry but that’s nothing new. What do you think Metallica or Manowar think if they read their reviews? I think in most cases they cannot be satisfied with them. But who cares? They sell millions of albums …
Have you had any reaction from fans on the new album? Are they positive?
Yes, we got a lot of reactions and they were very positive. The most positive reactions come from Germany. Outside Germany the ratings were a little bit lower. That’s what I found very interesting.
Are there any plans on shooting a video to any of the songs?
No, not at the moment. We do not have very much money for this so I guess there will be no video. And also advertising for this album is over so our label would say that it does not make sense to do so at this point of time.
Most bands and artists think that their latest album is the best one ever, do you agree with that?
In this case I have to say: YES. I love this new album like hell. I never heard an album so often like this one and I cannot stop it, ha ha ha. But I also think that ODIN is also as good as …OF WARIWULVS AND BLUTOWARVES. And THOR is also pretty close to it.
The books you was inspired are three, are you going to release two more albums inspired by Wiesler as well?
Not the next album. I wrote the lyrics for the complete next album (the first time I wrote something ever). But perhaps in the future, if he brings out another good story? You never know …
In which studio is the album recorded and where is the studio located?
We do rehearsal in Volkers studio “Magic circle”. This studio is in our hometown Bocholt. The album was mixed and mastered by Achim Köhler. I think he lives near Stuttgart in germany.
Is it correct that the band produced the album? If so isn’t it hard to stay objective when you produce your own stuff?
Yes, we did everything on our own except mixing and mastering. Who if not we knows how our songs should have to be? WE are the experts that understand what we want to bring out. So I see no reason why we should not produce the album. And this album is not our first one so we have experiences in producing our albums. We learned a lot during the years so we are no absolute beginners. And the sound is very very good on this album, I really love Achims work.
Have you produced any album before this one?
We always told the people behind the mixers what to do and how it should sound. But of course we also learned a lot from them. For example from Piet Sielck. When Sven recorded the vocals for the “Odin” album Piet gave very much new input to Sven. And Kai Hansen came a long and could also give very good hints how to improve singing and to compose choirs and so on. So we are very thankful for every help. But in the end we decide if something sounds good or not.
Were all of the members involved in the production process or was it just a few?
On this new album Volker did the most parts because he recorded everything. Beside that everybody records his instrument. Not more. And if all instruments are ready we sit together and arrange a little bit or say what we miss or like. And then we work again with this album. Everybody from our band who has time and fun is involved in this work.
Who’s done the mixing and mastering?
Achim Köhler, my favorite master-god did it.
How was it to work with Kohler? Have you worked with him before?
Yes, Achim also did the THOR album. Work with him is very easy. He gets the project files and than he mixes and masters everything. If he has one song ready he makes an mp3 and we listen to it. If we do not like it, we tell him what he should improve. This we repeat as long as we are not satisfied until every song is ready.
What makes Kohler so great to work with?
I don’t know. He makes something with his mixer that makes our music sound good. His feeling for metal is exactly what we need because it fits very very good to the sound of Wizard. I like that very much and I hope that we can work with him together for lots of more albums.
Do you think that you’re going to continue to produce your own albums in the future?
I hope so. Because it makes everything very easy. We have no pressure to get ready in time. It is much more cheaper, we do not have to spend so much money for studio work. And it’s great that you can change parts of instrument if you don’t like it any more after listening to it 2000 times, a few weeks later. We feel very free doing it that way.
You changed labels in 2006 to the current one, Massacre Records, why did you leave your old label?
Because small bands sell less cds nowadays, LMP could not offer us a new contract with enough money. It would not have been possible to record an album with the money they offered us. Only with loss of quality. And that was a thing we could not accept. Massacre made a good offer. Believe me, we don’t earn much money with our albums but for us it is important that the quality of our albums is good. And quality costs money. So we put as much money as possible in our productions. With massacre everything is very easy. They could do a little bit more advertising, but I think other labels also do not very much advertising for small bands. That’s the way it is, unfortunately I can’t change it. But as long as we can bring out new albums, everything is good.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the albums?
As I wrote above, in general we are happy. They could do more but we are thankful that they give us the chance to bring out an album. That’s great.
What’s the biggest differences between MR and your old label?
LMP was a one man show (OK, perhaps two men). Massacre is a little bit bigger. With massacre everything is a bit easier. When we signed the contract with LMP we had to sign about 50 sites of contracts. With Massacre we only had about one site, ha ha ha.
Is it possible to purchase your old albums in stores?
Yes, of course, I hope so. That’s the goal. But I also think that the most (younger) people download the songs than buying a CD. And if a store does not have our albums you can at least order them.
Are you co-operating with any booking agency or management at the moment?
Concerts are managed by Bart Gabriel from Poland. So if anybody wants to book us, please contact him. Address and Email you can find on our homepage (www.legion-of-doom.de). In Czech republic we are managed by Wenzel, his address is also on our homepage. In the Netherlands Martjo Brongers (from Vortex) does a lot for us. We are very thankful that all this persons care about us an do so much great work for us! A very big thank you to these guys.
When was the band founded and how come you formed the band in the first place?
I don’t know exactly the details of that area, ha ha ha. I played with a lot of metal guys during that time. It changed nearly every month. And at one point of time I founded the band Wizard. We did rehearsal in my room in my parents house so my room was the “headquater” of Wizard. Can you believe how it felt sleeping in my bed after rehearsals? It was in the cellar and we all smoked a lot and drank beer. It was like sleeping in a bar without windows, ha ha ha.
Was it hard in the beginning? how was the climate for Wizard’s music back then?
We never did care about that. We did rehearsal three times a week and we always drank a lot of beer while playing. From time to time we had a concert in our hometown and that was all. We were satisfied with that. We did not recognize that “metal was dead” until some people told so. I never felt that metal was dead because there was no time when stopping making and listening to metal. In my area it was always alive! So with every album we did a step forward, slow but constant. One step after the other. And now we are that what you can see. Of course we are no “rockstars” but I think we reached a lot if I look back and see what we did. You also need luck to get to the top. Quality is important, but not the only thing that makes a band big. So let’s see how things will develop for Wizard.
Have you released many demos through the years and what was the title of the debut album and when was that released?
We did our first demo in 1991, called “legion of doom”. I do not have one copy left (I was drunken very often and so I guess I lost my copy, shame on me) and I would pay very much money to get one of those original ones.
Our first album was “Son of darkness” from 1995. We first decided to record a demo (say: a cassette) but to that time CDs came more and more and was not very much more expensive to record a CD than a cassette. So we decided to record our first CD. It was a great moment for us.
Was it hard to land a record deal back then?
The first two albums were released via my own label “Bow-records”. Because we could not find a serious offer from “big” labels, I decided to found my own. And it worked out. After that we got a deal with “BO-records” who brought out the album BOUND BY METAL And after that we had the deal with LMP. So everything went great for us.
Where in Germany do you guys come from?
Bocholt and Borken, that’s about 120km north from cologne. Near the “Ruhrpott” where Bands like Sodom, Kreator, Blind Guardian are coming from.
In wikipedia it can be read that Wizard is the German answer to Manowar, what do you think of that?
Maybe? I don’t care very much about such comparisons. Of course people want to know what music a band plays. And than they compare it with bands they know. But that does not mean, that they think this band is as good as the original. It’s only for that you know what style a band plays. And I cannot deny that some songs sound a little bit like Manowar, hahaha. But we also have tons of songs which could not come from Manowar. There are also much differences.
Where in the world do you have your biggest fanbase?
I would guess: Germany, Netherlands, Czech republic
Have you had any changes in the line-up during the years?
No, not really. A few years ago Michael (g) had to make a break for 2 or 3 years and we decided to bring in Dano Boland as new guitar player. We know Dano from the very beginning on. Before Wizard Volker and I played together with Dano in one band so he was a half Wizard. After Michael came back into the band we decided that it would be a good idea if Dano stays in the band because he plays very very good, he is a very old friend of us and we feel very good when he is around. We are bound by metal! That’s what it’s all about. Without being friends Wizard would not be possible.
I know that you gained a new guitarist in Dano Boland has he been involved in other bands besides Wizard?
Yes, he played in a thrash band named “Vebrifuge”. They were my heros when I was young. Believe me, seeing Dano live with that band made him as big as James Hettfield (in my eyes and ears). They were so great! Unfortunately they also were very lazy and often very drunken so they did not care to get a contract or something. They made 2 demos and that was it.
Since 2007 are there also two guitarist in the band, what events led up to that?
As I wrote above, both are very good friends of us and we decided go on with two instead of one guitar player.
Did you do anything special to celebrate 20 years as a band back in 2009?
Yes, we did a special concert for that. We also wanted to record it but it was very difficult. The quality was not as good as we hoped and so we decided not to publish it.
How have you managed to pretty much maintain the same line-up for 20 years?
We are friends. You never kick off a friend, do you? Of course we also have times when we have different opinions like wife and husband, ha ha ha. But we always go through shit together and that makes you stronger and stronger. When I say “We are bound by metal” I exactly mean it.
You have played on two of the biggest metal festivals in the world, Wacken Open Air and Bang Your Head, how was that?
Of course that was very great. We enjoyed it very much and the audience was unbelievable. I hope to do that again! Let’s keep the fingers crossed.
Are you satisfied with the amount of touring the band have done or would you have toured more?
I am very satisfied with that. We do about 10 gigs a year and that fine. This year we traveled Ireland, Netherlands, Czech republic, Slovenia and Germany. Next year we are invited to the Netherlands, USA and Great Britain. It could not get better, couldn’t it? Beside that I would also like it if we would play some more shows in Germany, ha ha ha.
Is Wizard active on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace? Do you think it’s important to be active on the social networks?
Yes, I think that it is very important because (especially) the younger people use this media as main communication platform. I hate myspace (ugly design, long time for loading …) and I think facebook is much too complicated, but you have to be online if you care about your fans and if you want to communicate with them fast.
Why haven’t you toured much during 2011?
I do not think that is was not very much. As I mentioned above we visited a lot of countries this year.
Do you have any gigs booked for 2012 so far? If so where and when?
Yes, Netherland (2 gigs), USA (raknarökkr festival with Virgin Steele, Steel fist and Brokas Helm), GB (Hammerfest together with Amon Amarth, Anthrax, Exodus and lots more). I hope that there will be more gigs to come.
I read that you’re going to play in America have you performed there earlier?
No, that’s the first time ever we will play there.
Are you going to do any festival shows next summer?
At this point of time I cannot tell you more than I did. But I have something in mind which I hope come true. You will read about that on facebook or our homepage if this event takes place (in Germany).
How would you like to say what a live show with Wizard are?
Puh, for this you have to ask our fans. I have the impression that we always celebrate a big metal party so that everybody has fun, we and the fans. So we always enjoy the gigs very much.
Are you happy with what you and the band have achieved so far?
Yes, I am very satisfied. It can stay on this level forever, if you ask me. We are not professional (meaning that we live from the money we earn with Wizard) but also no beginners. I also like my “normal” job so everything is good.
Have all of your albums been released world wide?
I don’t know exactly. But through the internet our songs should be available worldwide. I know that the new album is also released with a special edition in japan. And of course in the whole of Europe and in the USA. One more thing to mention: You can download our first two albums complete for free on our homepage. The albums are sold out so you cannot get them new, only on ebay or sites like that. That’s the reason why I decided to give them away for free.
Are you working on any new material at the moment and when can we expect to see the next album by Wizard available in stores?
Yes, we are working on new songs. But I cannot tell you when it will be finished. Until now we bring out a new album every 2 years, so I think you should not have to wait longer than 2013
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy … OF WARIWULFS AND BLUOTVARWES?
Because it is one of the most heavy albums of this year! Give it a chance and I guess you will not be disappointed. There are fast songs on it (Taste of fear is near to thrash metal), slow songs (hearteater), progressive songs (Fair maiden mine), doublebass songs (title track), midtempo songs ….
What have you to say to the ones who haven’t discovered Wizard yet?
Öh, I don’t know … Just try it and if you like us it would be great if you could support us with buying our albums or visiting our concerts.
Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the fans and readers? I wish you all the best and thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions.
I made a lot of interviews in my life but I guess this one was the longest one, ha ha ha.
I want to thank you very much for this interview and also thank you very much for your support. More infos you can also find on our homepage (www.legion-of-doom.de). Hope to see some of the readers live in concert!
Always remember: We are all bound by metal!
By//Snoppi (Wizard, drums)
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