Piet Sielck of Iron Savior
Interviewed by EvilG in Feb. 2001
I was very excited to be given the opportunity to interview the true brain behind Germany’s sci-fi power metallers, IRON SAVIOR – Piet Sielck. Piet became a known name in the metal arena as a producer and engineer, working with bands like Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, Saxon and Grave Digger. After a few years in this role the desire grew to form a band of his own…and thus began the saga of the Iron Savior. Since their first self titled release in 1997 the band have recorded three CD Singles / EP’s and two other full-length albums. Their most recent, and arguably their strongest work to date is the magnificent album DARK ASSAULT. Released in Jan 2001, this CD continues the tale of the Iron Savior and has proven to me that this band is no mere side project but an entity that stands on it’s own as one of the finest true metal bands on the scene today.
First of all I’d like to say congratulations on the release of another CD, that is ‘Dark Assault’. Excellent album! (Thanks) And I guess the big news for IRON SAVIOR in the past few months has been the addition of a third guitarist, I believe his name is pronounced Pisel, is it? (Yeah, that’s right). Can you tell me the reason for adding another guitar player to the line up?
Actually we’re rehearsing just at this moment while I’m doing this interview, ha ha… (Right, ha ha) And well, I mean, the main reason is for the live stuff and for the live presentation of the material. Because if you look at the IRON SAVIOR song material, basically in every song there is an additional guitar, you know, like an overdub or an octaved chord that just fattens the sound and everything. So to bring the IRON SAVIOR sound on stage you definitely need a third guitar because if you do a live arrangement usually all these overdubs they are skipped or whatever, you just can’t play them with two guitars. Not too well. So that’s one reason, and to add the sound and more quality to the whole thing. And the other thing is…as you know I’m singer and guitarist and singing and playing guitar, I can do it. I gave some proof on several tours that I can play guitar and sing at the same time but there’s always a bit of a trade off, you know, either for the vocals or for the guitars. With this solution, when there is some heavy stuff to play where I rather wouldn’t want to play guitar now I can do it and focus on the lead vocals.
Ok, makes sense. I guess also it helps when Kai is unavailable due to GAMMA RAY commitments it helps to have another guitar player.
Well, yes and no. Even if Kai is unavailable that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that we’ll be on stage with two guitars. We just started rehearsing with three guitarists and man, I tell you, it’s great. I really love this. Even if Kai is not available I’ll definitely make sure we have three guitarists on stage.
So, how do you think having three guitarists is going to affect the bands sound or style or do you mainly see this as improving the live sound?
This is what the decision was made for but also, Pisel is a very good musician and guitarist and also he’s a good songwriter. And of course for the future I do have some hopes that also from Pisel comes some creative input for the band. I don’t think it will change the style of IRON SAVIOR. IRON SAVIOR has a third full length album. I think know we’ve found our style and we know what we want to do and we don’t intend to change that too much. But I think some new influences is a good thing to have. I’m looking forward to that.
How far along in the writing or recording process for ‘Dark Assault’ were you before Pisel was asked to join?
Most of the material was already written so there wasn’t too much left for Pisel to bring himself in. But I think for the next album…. he’ll definitely get his chance. I invited him to come up with some songs and ideas and to collaborate either with me or with Jan or Kai. So let’s see what turns out in the next album.
Were all the rhythm guitars on ‘Dark Assault’ recorded by you or did anyone else get to play rhythm?
Well, most of the rhythm guitars has been done by me. It’s the normal procedure that the one that plays one guitar usually also plays the other guitar. You know, you have a better doubling affect. But on “Solar Wings” Kai and I tried out the same thing that we did on the first album with “Watcher In The Sky” that he played the left side guitar and I played the right side guitar which actually worked out pretty well, I was quite surprised by this because for me it was a bit of an experiment for me I have to say (laughing). It turned out to be very good so I think we might do that a little more on the next album but for this one it was too late. Because ‘Solar Wings’ was one of the last songs we recorded, rhythm guitar-wise and I didn’t feel like changing everything.
It’s one of my favorite songs actually on ‘Dark Assault’.. “Solar Wings”, it’s really cool. How about yourself, any personal picks?
My favorite song is “Made Of Metal”.
Yup. Cool. Any others or that’s the main one? (laughing)
Well, If I had to pick, I mean, I really liked every song on the album otherwise I wouldn’t have recorded them all (laughter by both). If you asked me for what is an outstanding song for me on this album I definitely would say ‘Made Of Metal’.
I wanted to ask you a bit about your background in regards to producing and mixing. Where did you originally learn the trade from?
I started working in a sound studio when I was 21 or so, I started working as assistant engineer. And so I got my training by learning and by doing. That’s basically how I learned everything. A couple of years later I went to Los Angeles to visit a.. what is it called?… a school of video and audio engineering, well, to graduate they asked me questions which I could answer easily. In the years before I did pick up a little more than I thought. So I spent some time in Los Angeles which was cool but I didn’t study there very much. (both laughing) When I got back to Germany I had the chance to join Kai for the first GAMMA RAY album ‘Heading For Tomorrow’. That basically was my first professional production I did. From there on all I learned was by hands on.
So, Do you own The Powerhouse Studios in Hamburg?
Yeah, that’s my little studio. Basically It’s a nice little room where I have my Pro Tools set up. Today you don’t work with tape machines anymore, everything goes to hard disc.. and Macintosh computers and they don’t take that much space. It’s a nice little place.
Have you had many bands recording there besides IRON SAVIOR?
Yes. Last year in springtime I did a production with a French band HEAVENLY. I don’t know if you’ve heard about them. (Yes, I got that CD) That’s one thing I did. At the moment I’m working with a local band here also from Hamburg. You might have heard of them also. The bands name is PARAGON. (PARAGON? No, I haven’t heard of them) Well it’s traditional metal I think, really traditional metal. It’s good stuff. I’m working on their fourth album now and these are the things I do in between. Because I really have to say that IRON SAVIOR is quite time consuming for me. It really takes at least 80-90 percent of my time to do IRON SAVIOR. For me I think it’s a good idea to have a second existence and so I continue to do production but on very smaller range than I did before.
I wanted to ask you another related question and that’s with regards to your rhythm guitar sound. Whenever I hear IRON SAVIOR, instantly I recognize, you know, the IRON SAVIOR guitar sound… perhaps you can let the guitar players out there know a bit about your set up and how you obtain your sound maybe?
Well, ok, it’s no big deal, it’s no mystery what I’m doing.. (both laughing) I mean I did a lot of research, that’s true, I mean, before, with the process of recording ‘Unification’ I did a lot of research on which guitar sound I really do like. So I checked out various pre amps and a couple of guitars and equipment. In the end I ended up with buying a digitek and I’m using a Les Paul University with a finger coil Humbucker Pick Up. I have the Boss, I think it’s the OD1, no it’s the SD1. Super Distortion One and that’s important… this little yellow bastard is important (laughing) because it gives this touch of aggression. You don’t have to touch the drive. The drive has to be set to zero. That’s the trick. If you turn on the drive the sound gets nutty. Get the drive off and just play around with the levels. If you have a hot pick up then you don’t want to put in the level too much. If you have like me a Les Paul then you can crank up the level and you get this nice distortion. What I do and which gives.. what makes it sound special is I add a very thin filter at 15k. So that’s the trick. That’s how I do it.
Alright. Do you use different amps live or you use the same ones live?
Actually my recording sound I use it live. All I do is I use a Marshall power amp then to bring it to the box.
One thing that immediately got me into IRON SAVIOR was your lyrics. After reading them I always say to myself this would make for an awesome movie or book or something like that. Have you ever considered pursuing either of those options?
Having a movie would be great, I would love that. (laughing) No, but I think before we talk about the movie let’s talk about the book. (laughing) Yeah, I would really love to have the story in a book. This is something I really have on my list and it has high priority this year. What I want to do is.. I have to be realistic. I will not find the time to write a book myself because IRON SAVIOR is keeping me too busy. Writing a book is nothing you do on the side, you know, it’s something you have to focus on and work on it for quite a while. But what I want to do is through the internet find one or two writers who are interested in collaborating with me in writing this book. And then when the book is ready there are two options for me, you can either put it out regularly as a book if you get a deal somewhere and put it out. Or another thing which I prefer at the moment is to put it out via the internet. Maybe on the IRON SAVIOR homepage every two weeks you find the next chapter or whatever.
When you write the lyrics for IRON SAVIOR do you have the full storyline written out first and then you construct the lyrics from that or do you just sit down and create the lyrics and that’s how the story evolves?
Actually when I do write the lyrics I really work like if I would write a book. I have a storyboard and of course then the story is cut into bits and pieces which if you speak in terms of books would be chapters. Yeah, then I start writing the lyrics like this.
What kind of movies or books or TV shows…whatever have inspired your ideas? The Outer Limits? (laughing)
Yeah, I mean I started getting interested in Science Fiction I think when I was eleven or so by watching the original Star Trek series on TV which I loved right away by watching it from the first time. Ever since I was very much into Science Fiction. I really consumed a lot. I basically saw everything. I also read quite a lot of books. But I think what What inspired me most was Star Trek, old ones and new series. And definitely Star Wars.. Babylon 5 also is kind of nice here and there. Speaking in terms of books I think Frank Herbert with all the DUNE books. When I read them, I think I read them three times. What I really like about this story is the complexity. It’s amazing what, how detailed this society is described which he created in his books. This is something I really liked about it.
You obviously had the idea IRON SAVIOR You before you named the band IRON SAVIOR?
That’s right. Actually the name IRON SAVIOR goes back to when Kai and me had a song called Iron Savior. Somehow I….this was cool, you know I never forgot this. It’s in my head for years. ‘Iron Savior’ was the first song I wrote for IRON SAVIOR. Somehow I kept thinking about what is Iron Savior, a goddess of the sky. That was the initial idea of this Iron Savior story and then I had the next.
I know it’s been a few years for you now but for a while you were behind the scenes more or less in the studio helping bands like BLIND GUARDIAN or whomever create their own magic. I was wondering what prompted you to step up to bat, I guess, and form your own band and do that?
Basically it was two things. I have to admit I was starting to get a bit bored with what I was doing. It’s a bit like if you have a license and really enjoy driving a car. Driving a car is a cool thing. After a couple of years it’s just driving. It’s still fun. When you first get your license but it was a bit with me like this in the studio. The first years where really great fantastic and you get a routine. After doing this for a couple of years and I asked myself Pete, will it be ok if you do the same thing in ten or twelve years. That’s the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. So, I felt that I had to make a change, I had to try out something else. So I had the idea of doing a record.
What was it like the first time after the record was done, the first time IRON SAVIOR took to the stage, what did it feel like? Wasn’t your first gig at Wacken?
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It was our first show. And it was a great show. This show will definitely stay in my mind and I think I will tell my kids when they are old enough about this show because it was really cool. When I recorded the first album I had no idea what would happen to IRON SAVIOR.. if this would be successful or whatever. The basic reason why I did IRON SAVIOR is I wanted to prove to myself that I could write, produce and put out a record. I wanted to find out about if I’m capable of that. Somehow on the way Kai and Thomen joined the boat and well after everything was done we got a deal right away with Modern Music. Well, here I was with an all star German project or whatever it was called in the media. There was this request from Wacken if we were interested to play and I said “hmmm.. I never intended to play live but hmmm playing at Wacken was cool and maybe IRON SAVIOR is not a project maybe it’s a band”. So I had to make a decision. I had to make a decision so from now on it’s a band. We put this band together and we started rehearsing. I really wanted it to be good because it was our first gig. The last time I played live was maybe when I was 17. (Wow…laughing) That was quite a long… A couple of years passed by since I’ve been on stage the last time. So for me it was really exciting I mean, just before the show I wasn’t excited at all. I know we were well prepared and we did hard work in the rehearsal room. I think the show was good musical wise. (Right) I had no idea if anybody would be interested in seeing IRON SAVIOR. I expected a couple of people hanging out there and seeing the show (imitates concert attendee: “ooohh alright”) then go to the next show. When we were on stage we were really amazed. The whole thing was packed. Well, people obviously really loved it. A great entrance of course for me into the live sector. (Very cool. Better than most bands get I’d assume) Yeah, absolutely this was, it felt really good.
I think IRON SAVIOR by now and for the past few years actually has outgrown the tag that some people used to refer to the band as – and that is just saying that’s Kai Hansen’s side project. Obviously having Kai in the band at the beginning at least helped gather a lot of attention for IRON SAVIOR. (That’s true) Have you ever been disappointed when people still now will say ok that’s IRON SAVIOR, that’s Kai’s side project…and don’t think of it as it’s own entity its own band kind of thing?
Well, I mean, it would be a lie if I say that I don’t find it disturbing. Of course it disturbs me because.. but in the end at least 80-90 percent of the people who know IRON SAVIOR who know that this band exists do understand that IRON SAVIOR is not a Kai Hansen project, it’s my baby. Fortunately most of the people really do read the credits in the album. They do write the songwriting credits and they do write the production credits. For most of the people it’s clear that IRON SAVIOR is not just a Kai Hansen side project. Which of course is good for me. Of course in the beginning it was very helpful to have Kai in the band. It automatically gave IRON SAVIOR a certain quality standard for the fans. Of course this did open some doors easier as if I had done it alone. I think today in order to start with Unification because there’s a lot of problems that also go with Kai, you know, most of the time he’s busy with GAMMA RAY…of course there’s some people who do think I only have Kai in the band for marketing reasons. For me it is kind of hard to explain this. To make people understand this is not the case. I’m always in a position of explaining…explaining the Kai situation you know, and this. Of course on the other hand since Kai is of course very busy with GAMMA RAY of course in a way he’s blocking off things for IRON SAVIOR because I cannot act with IRON SAVIOR as I would if Kai would be perfectly free. We could do a lot more things with IRON SAVIOR. The same amount that Kai helps, the same amount his present is also not good for the band so in the end it breaks down to zero. (laughing)
(laughing) Ok. So what are IRON SAVIOR’s tour plans in terms of maybe if you’re going to be playing any of the European Summer Festivals or what countries you plan on visiting for a tour maybe?
Well, I mean we have a short tour coming right up in February, we play German tour dates with HELLOWEEN. This tour starts on the 6th of February and we play six shows in Germany. And in April we are planning our or doing our headliner tour. It starts on the 21st of April in Sweden and I think maybe two or three weeks we then will tour, we will of course play some additional shows as headliner in Germany. Not too much because we had been on the road with HELLOWEEN just two months before then. But I think two or three shows in Germany we will definitely do. We do a couple shows in Italy then we gonna go to France and well then Belgium and Holland. In the end we are talking two or three weeks of touring Europe. Then in the summer we do, would like to play or to be present in a couple of festivals but not necessarily only the big ones. I mean, Wacken would be great, to play at Wacken again or The Bang Your Head Festival. All in Europe there’s lots of other smaller festivals which also are very interesting for us. This year we really do want to play more festivals because in the last two years there wasn’t too much because of production and because usually the albums have been produced in summertime so there wasn’t time to do festival. So this is something we have on the schedule this year.
No festival has been confirmed yet has it?
No, not yet. But All Access, the booking agency, is now working on a couple of festivals. So there are a couple…we have a couple of festivals already confirmed outside of Germany. We’re gonna do a festival, play the Rock Machina in Spain and there are two festivals in Italy I think where we will appear which I have to say I forgot the name. (laughing)
Like most of my favorite bands I assume that IRON SAVIOR’s chances of coming to North America is something that isn’t going to happen any time too soon is it?
Yeah, I mean what can I say? (laughing) You probably know about the problems. (Yeah, I know). It’s always the same. I’m quite sure that if a German band would come to Northern America that there would be a couple of people. I’m quite sure you can play some good shows there but the problem is that the initial costs are so fucking high. I mean, we’re six people in the band, we’d need at least 4 technicians to travel with us so that’s ten persons you have to fly over there, you know? You have to hire extra people and everything. Even if you play good shows and I’m not sure we can play good shows there and with good money, fair money even but even fair money is not enough to cover all these costs. That’s always the problem. Flying has to get more cheap. (laughing)
Yeah, that’s right. We’ll see. I wanted to ask you about JUDAS PRIEST. Obviously you must be quite the fan of JUDAS PRIEST considering you’ve covered, you know, ‘Electric Eye’, ‘Delivering The Goods’ so on and so on. So I assume you are the one in the band who’s the big JUDAS PRIEST fan.
No, I’m not the only one. So yeah, definitely I am a big PRIEST fan. For me PRIEST, I have to say OLD PRIEST. The “Jugulator” album is not really my piece of cake I have to admit but everything they did until “Painkiller” is definitely for me. PRIEST is the ultimate Metal band, you know? With Rob Halford of course, I mean, for me he is the ultimate voice, you know, the prototype of a Metal voice. And so yeah, what can I say, it’s true.
So, besides the fact that PRIEST are the “Metal Gods” why have you chosen to cover so many of their songs. I know you did the KROKUS one ‘Headhunter’ but it seems like you keep coming back to PRIEST. Is that something you want to continue with and are you planning your next PRIEST cover as we speak? (laughing)
(laughing) I mean, yeah with cover versions usually we don’t think that much about cover versions because the cover versions, I like to call them bonus tracks for everybody not only for the Japanese people. It’s something that we put out for free and we do them just for the pure fun of it. Because usually IRON SAVIOR albums have enough of our own material so that a cover version isn’t really needed to lengthen, to extend the running time or whatever or to make the album more interesting. I’d say that every album, every IRON SAVIOR album could easily exist without the cover versions on it. So it’s something that for us is not really important which song or what we do it’s just something that we pick. If somebody has a good idea and then we just do it. Since we are, all of us, are big PRIEST fans. Thomas is a big PRIEST fan, Kai is a big PRIEST fan and I mean, PRIEST has tons of good songs. ON the other hand if we continue doing PRIEST covers like this maybe a couple of years we can come up with our own PRIEST compilation.
(laughing) There you go. So what was your take on Rob Halford’s “Ressurection” CD?
Great! I really loved it! (Yep, Cool) Yeah, for me it was the best release of the year 2000 I have to say. Definitely, yeah. I mean, I listened to sound files from the internet up front so I knew the album was going to be good but I didn’t expect it to be that good I have to say.
Not after “Two” (laughing)
No, not after “Two.” “Two” also wasn’t really my piece of cake.
No, it wasn’t mine either. I didn’t know what was going on there! (both laughing)
Last question. I posed a few questions on our forum saying I’m interviewing Piet from IRON SAVIOR so what would you want to ask him and the most amusing was and I quote “Ask Piet why he RULES so much” (laughing)
Why he what?
RULES so much. (laughing)
Yeah, you rule right? (both laughing) I thought it was a pretty amusing question.
I don’t know why I am ruling that much. I just do my stuff.
There’s no answer really for that I suppose. (No, not really) Yeah. That’s all the questions I had lined up so I’d like to thank you for all your time and the great band IRON SAVIOR basically.
Well hey Geoff no problem it was really nice talking to you. (Yep) Thank you for your time and interest.
Yes definitely. Ok then I’ll let you get back to your practicing or whatever you have to do tonight.
Yeah, we have to get back to rehearsal.
Thanks to Piet for taking the time to answer all my questions. Also thanks to Noise Records for setting up this interview for us. Finally, cheers to Skyklad from MetalGospel.com for her “transcriptionation” skills!