AXEL RUDI PELL
INTERVIEW AND PICS BY MARKO SYRJALA
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND PICS BY PATRICK CLEMENT
Axel Rudi Pell is a German melodic metal guitarist. Axel started off with the band Steeler in 1984 before leaving to start his solo career in 1989. During the years his band has included many well- known musicians like vocalists Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen Talisman, Journey), Rob Rock (Driver, Impellitteri) and drummer Jorg Michael (Stratovarius, Running Wild). However, today the band consists of Pell, vocalist Johnny Gioeli, bassist Volker Krawzak, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg and drummer Mike Terrana. This line up has been stabile since 1998. The band has released altogether fifteen studio albums and the latest CIRCLE OF THE OATH came out on the 23rd, March 2012. In June 2012, Pell returned once again in Swedenrock; this was the third time here since 2004. This time we finally had a pleasure to sit down with the man himself and discuss various topics including the past, the future, the Steeler years, as well as other interesting topics ….. Read on!
THE CURRENT TOUR
Metal-Rules.com: This is your third time at Sweden Rock Festival so this is kind of “home festival” for you… How everything went this time?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah I’m living here right now. Staying here until next year and then, no I’m kidding. I love the audience but today with the shitty weather it was a bit, yeah it was shit. But anyway I think the playing was okay. But the stage was so wet everybody told us, our crew told us before, don’t move so much on stage because you’ll slip and once I slipped and I went “uggh” oh my God. So I couldn’t now perform as usually.
Metal-Rules.com: “My Strato is going to pieces”… “Laughs”
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, normally I’m running around a bit more and doing some things but I couldn’t do it so otherwise I would have split up on stage “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: So, overall we have been fans of yours like forever, since the mid 80’s, but you have mostly been touring only in the middle of Europe and in Sweden. Is there any particular reason for that?
Axel Rudi Pell: Oh yeah, we have played more. We played in the UK. We played in Sweden, we played in Germany of course, we played in Switzerland, in Holland, in Belgium, we played in Italy and we played in France. We’re playing as long as we’ve got a good offer you know. We can’t do — people are screaming for us “Why don’t you come to Hungary. Why don’t you play in Greece?” I say “We would do if we get a good offer”. If there is a good reason of course we would love — we love to play you know. When they say: “Okay, you have this amount of money”. I say “Okay, the bus costs are higher than what you’re offering us so we can’t do it. We have to pay the musicians you know”. Sometimes we can’t do it so that’s the reason why unfortunately.
Metal-Rules.com: Have you ever been touring in Japan?
Axel Rudi Pell: In Japan? No, no, no because we have no deal in Japan any longer. The last record they put out was I think it was 2002 the SHADOW ZONE one and after that they say “no, the market is over” they say. They have their own rock music right now. Of course the big bands are still playing there you know, but there’s some bands – I heard about Yngwie Malmsteen, he’s not filling up this Budokan Hall any longer, it was only half sold or something. And I think 10 or 15 years ago he sold it out 3 or 4 times in a row. Finally it’s over. So this kind of music, maybe it’s over there? I don’t know.
Metal-Rules.com: How about the new territories like Russia and the Eastern countries over all?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, we got a lot of invitations to Russia to Ukraine and probably we’ll do shows there in the future. I don’t know, maybe in the second half of the tour. In October or maybe the beginning of next year, I’m not sure about that yeah. But I talked with the promoters there.
Metal-Rules.com: Also what is interesting in your career compared to any other band in your genre is that you actually do put out new albums almost every year. What’s the particular reason that you put out so much new material year after year?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, the reason — money. No, I’m kidding “Laughs”. I’m always a very creative guy. When I’m at home I’m not sitting there doing nothing. When the tour’s over I just pick up the guitar again after a week or two weeks’ break, and then I start to write new songs because you know sometimes the melody comes to my mind and, oh yes that’s great for the next record, I put it down. And after a few weeks I get or maybe I start to work on some songs and listen back to the melodies and say “oh yes that’s cool”. And I’ve got these ideas always coming to me you know. When I’m driving in my car or doing the dishes or something sometimes “uh da, da, da” and use my cell phone or my smart phone to record ideas. “Da, da, and da” you know sometimes I do it when I’m out for shopping to the supermarket you know. I say “I would to buy, um just a sec – na na… naaa yyy” and the people say “this guy’s nuts” you know? But anyway I do it that way. It works. I can’t sit down and say to myself, “now I have six weeks and now I have to write the next album”. That’s just not working. you know, so I’m catching the stuff all over the year.
Metal-Rules.com: Right. Many bands kind of collect things and ideas for years and then they put out an album every third or fifth year, if even then?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, but I have so many ideas normally I would say to a record company “Let’s release a double album, a double CD or something” But they’re always like “No, no, no” you know, it’s a business things.
Metal-Rules.com: But in a way you’re now working the same way as bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath or Uriah Heep did in the 70’s when they put out albums like on every six months?
Axel Rudi Pell: That’s right. And they were always brilliant. You have to be a genius you know “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Right! ”Laughs”
THE LINE UP
Metal-Rules.com: You have a very stable line up in your band. What’s the secret of its longevity since there used to be a lot changes there in the past?
Axel Rudi Pell: I think this is the most perfect line up I’ve had so far. So I think everybody’s different but everybody loves each other; I mean likes each other, we’re not gay but anyway, so it’s like we became friends all over the years and we’re on stage, we look at each other and everything’s perfect. I know what to expect from the other guys, they know what to expect when I write new songs go to the studio. No, it’s a perfect combination. The chemistry is right and always I force them to think money. Nah this is a joke “Laughs”. Probably the bass player is saying “Ahh, I’m underpaid”. I say “fuck you”
Metal-Rules.com: Almost all members of the band are also playing with other bands as well. Johnny’s having Crush 40 and Hardline, Ferdy’s having Rough Silk and it seems that Mike Terrana is playing with every single band in the world so…
Axel Rudi Pell: Oh yeah, very much. He’s a great drummer, he’s an animal.
Metal-Rules.com: Playing with other bands and people, does that help them bringing new elements and ideas for Axel Rudi Pell albums as well?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah sometimes.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you see that you’re going to carry on for years to come with this current band?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, because I don’t see any reason to change anybody. As far as its working it’s great.
Metal-Rules.com: On the — couple of years ago there were rumors that you had some health problems when you were forced to cancel several shows. What actually did happen back then and is everything now?
Axel Rudi Pell: I did? I didn’t have some health, I don’t know what you mean, or you talking about this tour we cancelled? We cancelled three or four shows. I felt sick in Spain. It happened during, we played a few shows in Germany and I think somewhere else, I don’t know, so we went to France, and went to eat something at a truck stop you know. I ate something it was in the middle of the night, it was bad food. Really, it looked ugly, it tasted ugly, I felt — I mean everybody else was like “oh fuck”. But this was the only place which was open at night in France, so we ate this. And I fell asleep afterwards, everybody slept and the next morning I was shaky, I was dizzy, my stomach was, I had thrown up. I was like “Ooh man I don’t know what it is” you know. We went to the venue, first show was in Spain, I think in Madrid I can’t remember. And I said to tour manager “I think I cannot do it because I really was like, I was like out of my mind really. I was like “It’s better to go to the hospital” and the guy checked me and said everything is okay. Maybe you ate something wrong and maybe it’s something with the nerves because the food or stuff nobody knew. They gave me some strong medication, it was really strong. He said “only do it once when you really feel bad because otherwise you will get addicted to it”. And I said “okay I’ll take it because I have to do the show tonight” you know. And I took that one hour before the show and I was like “ahhh ha hhaa. Wow this is cool” yeah. And it was really strong stuff you know. I did that show, I played the next show in Spain and the third show too but I really was sick all the time in Spain. And then we got back home and I said “sorry guys I won’t take this strong medication again I can’t do the rest of the shows”. But it was only three shows left, two in Germany and one in the UK. And one was anyway cancelled because the show in UK it was freezing on that day, it was raining snow, the airports were closed. The ferries were stopped and we had to cancel it anyway apart from my sickness. And after the tour was over I think it took me 4 to 6 weeks to recover myself. And afterwards I was like “now I feel okay again”. Nobody knew what it really was but I got rid of it … and I never had it again, any tour afterward. It was the bad food. Sometimes you know Mike says “oh it’s the food and ooh I feel bad” but I never did it again.
Metal-Rules.com: I remember when that thing happened in 2007 there were lots and lots of rumors going on and that you were going to cancel all the shows for that year including the show here in Sweden Rock but you did perform here then.
Axel Rudi Pell: No. I think it was the same year that’s right it was 2007 but we played here and before that we did play at the Rock Hard -festival, where we did shot the live DVD and stuff. I think it was like 2 months before or 3 months before Sweden Rock. There was nothing about any cancellation, you know?
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, but you know how the rumors work and spread in the web world….
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, of course, yeah everybody says something. He’s so drugged and he’s so drunk again, look at this guy. I’m clean you know. I never do drugs. I mean in the 70’s but that’s a long time ago.
Metal-Rules.com: That’s was a different time.
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah.
THE STATE OF MUSIC BUSINESS IN GERMANY
Metal-Rules.com: You mentioned that things are not doing too well for metal bands in Japan anymore but how do you see the state of power metal and heavy metal in Germany and the rest of the Europe?
Axel Rudi Pell: I think for Germany and for the rest of Europe it’s quite okay. You know this was a big thing in the 90’s before the grunge came over and so everybody said that this kind of music you’re playing is fucking over. And I said “I want to stick to that I don’t want to change my style because you can make more money or selling more records”. I did say “I’m true and I’m 100% this is the thing I want to do and nothing else” you know. So I kept continuing with this kind of music and now the records are selling okay. The record sales are rising so I did something right.
Metal-Rules.com: Overall what kind of numbers you are selling these days, if can I ask?
Axel Rudi Pell: It’s different, you know, from the Ballad records those are not selling that much compared to regular studio record because sometimes… these people say, “I don’t want that, it’s crappy or whatever”. “It’s not a real one”, you know? Sometimes… let’s say that we do sell between 30,000 and 75,000. This is about in between there but the sales in the whole Europe, not only in Germany. That would be nice but it’s not unfortunately on these days. So I think that the best sold record so far is still the OCEANS OF TIME which was the first one with Johnny. It did sell about 75 000 or something like that. Don’t know about the sales of the new one because it was just released a couple of months ago. Maybe it will be, when it’s been out for 12 years, maybe you can then say it’s been selling 86, 000 or 90,000 copies. I don’t know because it’s there’s a long time to wait still “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: How much are the sales of vinyl LP’s?
Axel Rudi Pell: We did just a limited edition of 1,000 vinyl records but we won’t do it again. We’re doing it once for each record. Only 1,000 and then it’s all over. They’re not putting another 1,000. I think everybody’s doing that because it’s just a limited edition for freaks who want to really have it you know.
Metal-Rules.com: Right, what’s also great is that you recently received a gold award from Sweden because the sales of the latest single “Run With the Wind”. What’s the story in here?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, it was great and the story behind that… I think it was part of the Sweden Rock Magazine and the people who buy the Sweden Rock Magazine, they bought it with the single inside so I think that’s the reason it was sold that good. So, yeah we were kind of surprised to say “whoa that’s cool”. We got a call from our record company which said, “You know what? It’s sold over 10,000”. I said “oh really!” I thought it was kind of shitty music in there I think maybe the people will return it after the magazine and say “whoa this is crappy. I want my money back”. They said “No, it’s true”. I said “Whoa, that’s nice”
THE OLD TIMES, STEELER AND THE INFLUENCES
Metal-Rules.com: Overall it’s been a long time since you started your serious musician career with band Steeler in early 80’s. What’s the biggest change in music business since those days?
Axel Rudi Pell: The biggest change? You mean you’re not talking about me only but the whole music industry. I think it’s always, it’s still the really big… its’ a shark tank. It really is a shark pool and everybody is really trying to be somebody who probably he’s not, you know. We have so many people in the music business which always have been and they’re still there and sometimes it’s really crazy you know. A lot of crazy people in there but there’s not really a big change you know. Probably nowadays it’s the record companies are not signing so much bands any longer. You know there are a lot of bands in maybe the 80’s there were a lot of bands that toured with the big hair and stuff and they’d say “oh man they’re not actually that good but we want to sign them because they looked cool”. And nowadays it’s certainly different. It doesn’t matter how you look; if you have long hair, short hair, no hair it doesn’t matter if the music is okay then it is okay. So it’s a different kind of scene. I think it is much harder now to have a band, which will be signed by any record company because you have to be really good, you don’t have to be like somebody else. Everybody would say he’s only copying that kind of band but he has original and that’s original and you are just a copy. So you have to build a reputation that’s not – nowadays it’s not that easy like it used to be.
Metal-Rules.com: Would you do something differently now compared to decisions you’ve done in the past?
Axel Rudi Pell: I wouldn’t sign the bad contracts I signed a couple of years ago “Laughs” The working is much more relaxed now and I always say that the Steeler years, they are my learning period because I learned everything about the music business. I learned everything about working with producers, with engineers, with other musicians and stuff and I think now I’m pretty – - I know everything now. I’m a wise guy you know “Laughs” Nearly everything, not everything, but I think when I’m close to retirement I’m going to write a book, “The Truth and the Whole Truth”. It would be out for maybe 2 weeks and then I would be shot! No I’m kidding “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Speaking more about maybe the old time stuff and your influences. It must have Ritchie Blackmore who was your main influence back in the day?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, and this guy too. That guy playing on the stage right now.
Metal-Rules.com: You’re talking about Michael Schenker, right?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, of course. Yes. These are the main guys who influenced me. There’s also a little bit of Jimmy Page, a little bit of Jimi Hendrix and a little bit of Randy Rhoads there but not that much. I was influenced by all these kind of guys who used to be huge in the 70’s and the early 80’s. For example when Deep Purple returned in 1984 as far as I remember with the PERFECT STRANGERS record I didn’t like Ritchie Blackmore. I’d say “this is bad, he played so bad” and shit because I didn’t like it. I was more into this new kind of British heavy metal. Like the Priest guys, KK and Glenn, they were fucking great. I was more in this kind of music and then it came back I think around the beginning of the 90’s. I think ’91, ’92 when Deep Purple released the BATTLE RAGES ON I was more into this kind of music again and I’d say “this old thing, no I don’t know I can’t listen to Saxon anymore. I don’t want listen to Priest anymore because it’s always the same”, and blah, blah, blah. I don’t know but it was only my personal taste. I still love them, Iron Maiden, I’m still a big fan and admirer of Bruce Dickinson and he’s one of the best vocalists in our work concerning this kind of music.
Metal-Rules.com: Now when you did mention Priest and Maiden, have you ever been thinking about having a second guitarist in the band like in the vein of Tipton/Downing or Murray/Smith?
Axel Rudi Pell: No, never because I couldn’t do that. I did it with Steeler and it was always a big fight. I’d say “who’s playing the first solo. Who’s playing the second solo?” I’d say “I don’t fucking like your song, its shit”, you know. So this is over now and I’m kind of proud of it I don’t have to work with any younger guitar player. I do like to have Ferdy on the keys. He’s great.
Metal-Rules.com: It’s like the old saying that the old dog doesn’t learn / doesn’t have to learn any new tricks, right?
Axel Rudi Pell: No, you know and there’s something like I’m practicing, you know. I do sing at home a little bit but I don’t want to change my style. It’s very hard to play with another guitar player and it’s very hard to play with an orchestra on stage because if you have another guitar player he has to follow you with the chords, with the notes and stuff and sometimes it’s — it’s even harder to play with an orchestra because they can’t improvise. They have the notes written down they play 1, 2, 3 and I play this 1, 2, 3; I play that part, and I really love to stretch the solos out on stage sometimes like today I did a little with “Mystica” but you can’t do it with an orchestra. They just play and “oh it’s over now”, and I’m like “no, no, no I’m just getting started here” “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: How much you actually do improvise your guitar playing on live situation?
Axel Rudi Pell: I have my fixed parts of course which are parts of the song, the melodies and stuff and I have to remember that. Sometimes I forget it but most of the time I remember that you know, but the jam parts always are totally free. So sometimes I play notes I never played another day or you know.
Metal-Rules.com: I think you have a great band for jamming?
Axel Rudi Pell: It is, absolutely, yes, yeah but it was strange when we first came together in 1998 and they did ask “how many bars are you playing” and I say “I don’t fucking care. Just look at me when I’m playing and I’ll give you a sign when I’m over doing this or doing this or doing that”… so it’s working like that way.
THE LAST QUESTION AND THE 25th ANNIVERSARY SHOW
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe now it’s time of the very last question here and… let’s pick up the easy one here. How is the future of Axel Rudi Pell, what’s going to happen next?
Axel Rudi Pell: What’s next? I can tell you exactly. On Sunday we’re playing Hamburg. That’s next. And so then we’re doing the second leg of the tour in October, November around this thing probably a third part in January or February. I’m not sure about that; let’s see how many gigs we can get for the fall. The next record will be recorded next year in the fall. So it will be out in 2014, yes. I think in 2014 I have my 25th anniversary and there will be probably one really huge show in Germany. It’s going to be in a bigger venue than I normally play. I normally play at in my home town in a venue which is the only capacity of 750 people so we sold it out three times in a row right now, but I want to do one big show in a big venue with friends and stuff and maybe Doogie (White) will come over and maybe Michael (Schenker) I don’t know, maybe his brother (Rudolf) too, Klaus (Meine) and Uli Jon Roth for sure will be there.
Metal-Rules.com: So this is going to be a really long show with so many guests there?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, exactly. This will be I think this will be a very long show 6-7 hours. I won’t be on stage every single minute of course I can’t do that but it will be a huge show, everybody coming some friends and do some things.
Metal-Rules.com: How about putting together Steeler for a song for two then?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yes, this will happen for sure but maybe for half an hour or something. We will do 4 or 5 songs or 6 songs with Steeler. You know, I already talked to the singer yes.
Metal-Rules.com: How about Jorg Michael and other former Axel Rudi Pell band members, is there a ny plans to invite them to join the event as well?
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah could be great, yeah, absolutely. You know maybe the other singers too. I don’t know?
Metal-Rules.com: Sounds great and then we only have to wait like six hour long DVD to be released from that one “Laughs”
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah, we will shoot it of course and it will be shot for the future Blue Ray and DVD release.
Metal-Rules.com: It will be great if you also have all the singers there.
Axel Rudi Pell: Yeah maybe it will happen.
Metal-Rules.com: All right 20 minutes. This is okay. Thank you.
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