Interview with vocalist/guitarist Piet Sielck
Interview by EvilG
Piet Sielck is one of those interesting guys who has been around and played and recorded with just about all of my favorite bands. Any opportunity to pick his brain about his excellent band, Iron Savior, and the German Power metal scene, is welcomed. The newest Iron Savior album, RISE OF THE HERO, is now upon us, and what a killer album it is! We start our conversation with Piet by talking about the new album.
RISE OF THE HERO
Welcome back Piet!! It’s soooooo good to have a new Iron Savior album!! I have to ask, did you plan to once again have such a long break between albums, because 3-4 years is a long wait for new material for us fan(atics)!
Thanks a lot for the great compliment on our new album! Actually the originally planed release date was November 2013… but setting the mark quite high with the previous album, I had to make absolutely sure to keep up with the quality of The Landing… which took a bit longer than expected. haha
Tell us a bit about the title “Rise Of The Hero” – what does the title represent?
The title refers to the continuing storyline of the “savior saga”. Though ROTH is not a concept album like in the early days, a couple of songs pick up that story. The “Last Hero” is a magnificent and legendary figure from the ancient and lost original civilization of Atlantis. Being something like an immortal – but yet not invulnerable – superhero, he is the key figure in the new storyline. When he finally got killed in an assassin assault his death marked the beginning of the downfall finally leading to the known events told in the earlier albums. But also ever since it was augured, that this guy will return from the dead some distant day to safe man and the universe once more. Some have thought, that this prophecy was already fulfilled by the return of the Iron Savior… wrong. Instead it is the organic component of the Savior vessel, the Bio-Unit, who finally embodies again in a sharp looking avatar as the reincarnation of the “Last Hero” leading man into battle against some really bad guys from very very far away ;-). The full story will be available on our website www.iron-savior.com soon.
What songs fit into the Iron Savior storyline? Does the ancient iron spaceship return once again?
Yes. “Last Hero”, From Far Beyond Time”, “Thunder From The Mountains” and “Firestorm” are part of the IS saga… and of corps the Iron Savior itself also is part of that.
Do you have a favourite track from the new album or a song that holds some special meaning to you?
Not so much… I love all my “children” the same way, haha. No kidding, it’s really hard to say, because I worked really hard to make all songs as good as possible without accepting “fillers” at all. Also lyric wise I really like them all a lot. Some do have a more personal touch while others just create epic pictures… I guess all in all it’s the variety of the songs in a whole what I like best about them.
Was all the material written new for the album, or were any parts and riffs taken from the Iron Savior vault?
No, the material was written all new… no leftovers. This wasn’t an easy task at all since the Landing mark was quite high ;-). I actually have been quite under pressure for a while which in deed blocked me for some time. For a couple of months I have been just to critical with the new material, rewriting stuff, recording it again, then going back to the original idea, throwing the chorus away… At one point this was getting so annoying, that I decided to force myself to forget about this pressure at all and just write music… and it worked ;-). After getting rid of this pressure things started to roll again!
I have to say, the second Iron Savior album “Unification” has always been my favourite of yours. The song “Coming Home” is sooooo good!! Do you have a fav album from your back catalogue or does it seem to blend together over the years?
Of course the debut and also Unification are still very important albums in the band history and still are represented well in our live set. But also Condition Red is a great album. The Landing being something like a comeback album and especially the great reception and the super warm “welcome back” from all around the world will stay in my heart forever. Let’s see how ROTH will be looked at in a couple of years. At this point I am really proud of the “new periods” albums Landing and ROTH. They stand for all what we have archived with this band so far, how greatly we have been supported by the fans and last not least for the very close friendship within the band.
You recorded/produced the album at your own Powerhouse studio. Are you working with any other bands at the moment there, or do you have plans to do so in the near future?
Yes, I am working on an album for Mercury Falling from Germany, mixing another one after that and if the guys are completing their songwriting soon also will do the next Paragon output. Also I recently did the mix down for our friends from Stormwarrior. So my schedule is quite filled, but hey, if someone is interested in my services, I’ll be happy to get in touch.
What is it like working with Felipe Franco Machado?
Just awesome. Felipe is one hell of an artist. Actually he is the first artist ever, who is able to catch my vision of a cover art almost instantly. I have been working with others and it always was … complicated… with not so great outcome some times, haha. Unification and Dark Assault have been really disappointing even though I really gave my best to make myself understood. Especially Unification… when the artwork was delivered I was on vacation visiting my mother in San Francisco and the file was transmitted by a 56k modem… building up on the screen bit by bit in torturing slowness… for almost one hour! Anyways, with Felipe it almost feels as if he does read my mind. So for this kind of artwork and especially for Iron Savior he is just the man!
Are there any plans to try to get on a tour of North American in 2014?
Would love to come and play the US again, but I have to be realistic here… a tour is rather unlikely. Even though we love to play live, it’s always not easy for us to make it happen. Most of us have straight jobs which do have priority… they fill the fridge. Being on tour on your own also in general is always a pretty risky business money wise… especially in the US where already thousands of dollars are spent for travel before the first note is performed… supporting is about the same situation. In both cases one can be lucky when all breaks even in the end… Having family with children at home, we simply cannot be away from home for weeks without any income… our wife’s would kill us and would be right in doing so ;-). That goes not only for the US, it’s the same over here. To “work around” this problem, we have decided to play on weekends only with a guarantied fee. Like this we are able to be on the road and keep the wife’s happy ;-). But of course one should never say never and if a really good opportunity pops up we will take it!
Has Iron Savior ever done a full on tour over here? I can’t recall seeing it happen unfortunately.
Not yet… as pointed out before, I don’t really see it happen either…
What areas are you planning on touring to in 2014?
On our “Weekends Only Tour 2014” we’ll attend a couple of the main summer festivals here in Germany, we just returned from 2 shows in Italy, Russia is on the list, we will go to CZECH, Switzerland and maybe UK and Scandinavia.
Have you considered any big plans on the horizon for the 20th anniversary of Iron Savior in 2016?
Not any specific plans, but we will do our best to have an album release in this very special year. One vision I have for a couple of years is to play a 20th anniversary show, stream this live to the internet (for all the fans across the world who never will,get a realistic chance to see us live) and – finally – do a live DVD from that. Wouldn’t that be something?
When are you guys going to do a nice big Double Live Album? Or even a DVD/Blu-ray…any possibilities of that happening??
As said, in 2016 this might be on the list ;-)!
Have you considered collecting all your rarities, cover tunes, and Japanese bonus tracks for a compilation or box-set??
Actually yes indeed. Depending on how well ROTH will do we have some planes for a similar project. For legal reasons we cannot use our original recordings, so we will have to re-record them in the same way we did on The Landing and also ROTH. I do picture a double album with all our classics piled up and nicely shaped up for the next decades.
Tell me about when you first decided to start Iron Savior. Former member Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray was involved from 1996– 2001. Did you start the band with him from the beginning?
Working as a sound guy for some years I realized that from time to time bands with record deals came to work with me, who weren’t necessarily better than me, haha. So I thought that I could at least give it try to come up with some stuff of my own. So as a “test” for that I wrote the song “Iron Savior” and worked it out like I would also do it for clients. After showing this to some friends I got a lot of positive reactions and decided to start making a complete album. At this point in my career my solo guitar skills especially for free improvised solos weren’t that great, so I asked my close friend Kai, if he would help me out with laying down some solo stuff. He liked the material right away and we enjoyed doing music together again really a lot. Also I have been very close with Blind Guardian at that time, so it was a logical thing to ask Thomen, if would like to take care for the drumming. And this is how the very first line up was established.
Were you surprised that Kai had any time for the band, or then surprised that by 2001 he no longer had time for Iron Savior?
To be honest when we started Iron Savior none of us was thinking about this at all. It was fun to do it and that was basically it. “Problems” started when I got a record deal for IS and the band needed to become “real”. In the beginning it in fact worked quite well with Kai, but after some years having to turn down various offers or touring simply without Kai, it became obvious that this will never change and somehow would always make things really complicated. So we decided to separate and let IS do it without Kai. Although this may have been an unpopular decision in the first place looking back now it was a wise one. During his years with the savior, but not being really on board, a lot of people kept saying, that IS needs the big name… as the little brother of GRay… so in the same way his popularity helped in the beginning it became more and more of a problem. I am glad, that after 10 years of interviews Iron Savior finally is accepted as an independent force not in need for big names!
He found time in recent years with a second band once again with Unisonic, and to be honest, I’d of preferred that he work with you again instead of doing a “rock” band. Haha 😉
Well, I must admit that Unisonic is also not really my favorite band, haha, but it does rock. Also we really like to keep things as they are. If we would start to collaborate with Kai again, I swear to god, with the next album I would be bombarded with Hansen questions again :-).
Another band you were in is Savage Circus. Stylistically it wasn’t that far removed from Iron Savior…what were your reasons for engaging in that band as it took you away from time that could of been spent with Iron Savior, and then finally for leaving the band in 2011?
At the time I joined the project I saw a lot of potential and therefore was willing to give my input aiming to come up with a killer album and turn the whole thing into a real band. All in all we had some great moments with SC, but in the end I realized that I never managed to make it a real band… It stayed more or less a casting project… with myself as the workhorse, haha. After doing that for 2 albums I just didn’t feel like doing this a third time… there was just too little – or none – contribution from the rest. And doing Iron Savior again after 4 years made me realize how much I have been missing this and how much passion I feel for it. SC has been an interesting part of my career which I did enjoy, but my heart – even though I did not realize this all the times – has been beating for the mighty Savior \m/.
If it’s not too much of a painful sore-point subject, what, in a nutshell, led to the downfall of such a promising label, Dockyard 1?
Incapability in the first place in terms of financial matters. The main problem was, that my former “partners” played something like a poker game. Signing on e band after the other did cost a lot of money which the company simply didn’t had at that time. Instead of waiting until money comes back from sales and doing the job seriously, all new signings have been financed by unpaid invoices… which piled up year by year… always in the hope, that this one great success album will pay for it all… which never happened. So in the end the company was looking at a good 150.000€ of unpaid invoices. My biggest mistake was to trust the people in charge and to never control them until it all went down the drain. Worst thing: they just turned away and left the garbage to me… the guy with a family who just cannot crawl under a stone… and because it’s not in my nature to run away I was facing this mess alone and it took me years to clean up behind those fuckers… and a lot of money. Anyways this chapter is closed and being a positive guy in general I rather look into the future instead of being tainted by the past ;-). But if my former “partners” decide to drop dead, I wouldn’t mind…
Did that experience turn you from ever wanting to operate such a business again, and what main lesson did you take away from the experience?
Yes. I am cured from that and I will for sure never do that again in my life. My lesson: trust is a good thing, but control is better…
OK……let’s go even further back….us fans LOVE to hear old stories of our favourite bands, so we’re hoping you can share a couple of stories with us and our readers. Firstly, back to 1982 and your band Gentry, which you were in with Kai Hansen. What is one of your fondest memories of your time with Kai playing in that band?
I still recall our very first show ever… I was 12 years, haha. We played in a local band battle. At that time we had no drummer and we weren’t happy with our voices, haha, so we “borrowed” a drummer and a singer from another band at our school and played that gig. Surprisingly we won! Actually we were quite cool, but the reason for winning was a different one… we brought a bunch of friends an my mother brought insane amounts of potato chips… too much to be eaten all by our selfs… So our friends started to trade votes for chips, haha, and we made it!
Gentry/Iron Fist/Second Hell came to an end; you had stepped down, and Kai basically continued on and Helloween was born. Back then, did you expect that Kai was about to become a part of what most consider to be the first full-on power metal band and become a power metal god/legend? Did you ever stop and kick yourself and think to yourself “damn it, I should of stuck around and maybe I’d of been a part of that band too”?!?
Not really. I was happy for him, when he showed me the first record they did with Helloween, but at that time I had not to much music on my mind… I was more interested in girls, haha. And no, I don’t feel any regrets about this. I have a career on my own which does fit to my life I’m in a lot better that Kai’s. Maybe if I would have not left I would be still together with Kai in Iron Fist being on tour 200 days per year, haha… which is honestly not desired by me. So I am happy in how things turned out for me and so is Kai. That’s all ;-).
I believe that your first album. where you are credited as producer, was for Gamma Ray’s debut HEADING FOR TOMORROW? What memories do you have from working on that album?
Actually it was more or less a coincidence that I started to work with Kai on the album. At the time I was based in Los Angeles where I just dropped my audio engineering school because there wasn’t much they were teaching me ;-). I just went back to Germany because of some family business ready to go back to a better school/institute. But during my stay Kai sort of talked me into to let go of that school and rather take the opportunity to work with him in Hannover on the first Gammaray album. So we took off to Hannover and stayed there for almost 5 months. I must say, that I really learned a lot during that time
I have to say, you’ve been around, played with, worked with, or are acquainted with, ALL of my personal fav bands (yes I’m a sucker for German Power metal: Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, and of course Iron Savior!!!). From your perspective, what is it about this scene and group of people that makes it so awesome?? haha \,,/
Well, all those bands have kinda the same roots. We are all about the same age and have been growing up with the NWOBHM… all named bands are somehow pioneers in taking that NWOBHM to Germany and in adding the speed factor to it creating a new style. So I guess in the end it’s the constant quality that is delivered and the originality
With all these connections and first hand experiences, you could surely write an engaging and insightful book on the rise of German power metal. As we are in the age of the metal biography, has writing ever interested you?
In fact, I do have an interest in writing… but at this state in my life I don’t have enough time to really focus on writing an entire book. But I could become an issue after my Heavy Metal retirement… sometime after our 30th band anniversary 😉
Thanks for your time, we hope to hear more from Iron Savior soon…..please don’t tell us that it will be 2017 before we get new material? I know you are just releasing the new album now, so talking about the next one is kind of early?! Ha! Cheers!
Haha, we will do our best to have a decent release in our 20th anniversary year 2016! Promised!!
Thanks for your interest and support! Cheers!