EDGUY – Guitarist Jens Ludwig discusses new album “Age of Joker”, the band’s past and more

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Interview and pics by Marko Syrjala and Arto Lehtinen

Edguy, the German metallers, have developed their sound from traditional German power metal more into the melodic hard rock approach. The band’s latest effort, AGE OF THE JOKER, is an excellent output and a testimony of the band’s skills and talents to create catchy metal with a hard rock approach. Edguy has always enjoyed a good following in Finland, but the five-piece haven’t visited that often. Therefore visiting the Finnish Metal Expo was a godspeed to the band and the fans. Before Edguy took to the stage, Metal-Rules.com had an excellent opportunity to talk to the band Jens Ludwig’s guitarist. So here we go.


With the latest Edguy album, AGE OF THE JOKER, tell us, what’s the basic meaning behind the album’s name?  AGE OF THE JOKER, is it just about the sense of humor, or is there anything about it? 

Well, before we had the title, of course, we started writing songs and making music.  The joker has been a kind of mascot of the band for many years.  We had it on the MANDRAKE album cover,   but we didn’t have any joker on the TINNITYS SANCTUS album.  But during the songwriting process, we were in the rehearsing room and playing the song. Before we had the album title, we had the feeling like “Okay, the joker has to return in some way on the cover artwork or the title or anything” because it just felt like going a bit back, musically. We then quickly came up with the name AGE OF THE JOKER because we produced this album with just all the Edguy trademarks with some new influences.  It was just a statement for us: “Here we are.  This is Edguy.  This is our new album, AGE OF THE JOKER.”

Yeah, but do you think that since humor has become a more important thing for Edguy nowadays? You add more humor to your lyrics and images like on the “Robin Hood” video, whereas in the past, you were more serious about playing “Metal.” 

Well, humor was always a huge theme within the band, and we started making music because we loved it and we are always having fun. We were good friends, and probably since we were always labeled as a power metal band, we still had weird ideas and strange ideas even back then, but maybe we didn’t dare to do it because we thought, “Maybe that’s not suitable for power metal bands?  What will the fans think about that?”  And that was a natural development that at certain points we said, “Okay, there will always be people who don’t like what you’re doing, so why the fuck care, and just do whatever we think is right, and if we’re having a good time then the people will realize it” and finally when they see an Edguy show, for example, there is no acting on stage, there is no acting in our songs.  We don’t come out with stupid themes.  It’s just being ourselves and not wearing any mask or anything like that.

AGE OF THE JOKER commercially did pretty well, and in Germany, it received the highest chart position you’ve ever had, so you’ve done something right here.

Yeah, especially Germany, of course, there might be other things as well since we did that Scorpions farewell tour last year that also helps, but yeah, it always pushes each other.

I guess you have sold something like 2 million albums worldwide?

Overall, but with ten records or something like that?

Which is your best-selling album to date?

I guess it could be HELLFIRE CLUB. It’s hard to say what is a good-selling album nowadays because nowadays if you can’t have… If you have the same sales with an album nowadays that you had with an album five or six years ago, then it’s a huge success; it means the band has become much bigger, even if the record sales are the same because all the downloading and everything, you know, of the music over the internet and all that stuff. So I would say, even if maybe HELLFIRE CLUB is the best-selling, the band became bigger.

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With your influences, when you started Edguy about 20 years ago, and you got out the first few albums like the KINGDOM OF MADNESS and VAIN GLORY OPERA, you did sound more like power metal stuff, but when I’ve listened to the latest albums, HELLFIRE CLUB, TINNITUS SANCTUS, and AGE OF THE JOKER… those are more like traditional hard rock.  Is that some conscious evolution you have decided to do here?

It is. When we started the band, our influences were typical. We loved things like Helloween and Stratovarius. Those bands were big influences for us, and during the years, we opened our horizons musically.  For example, Steered is a lot into 70’s rock music and AOR music, so there’s a lot of different musical tastes in the band.  First, it was a kind of natural development. When we started the band, we weren’t that good at our instruments. The good thing about power metal and playing fast stuff is that it’s like a workout, you know?  We don’t have to add a lot of feeling for drama; for example, playing fast bass is just a workout. It doesn’t have to do with feeling and getting a groove. It’s just getting faster and faster.  When we started the band, we already had ideas to do different elements, but it just didn’t sound well when we played it because we could not play a proper groove or play the slow solo with a lot of feeling.  That came over the years, and it was quite evolutionary, as I said. Still, it all came naturally as step-by-step we were able to try out different things by including different elements in our songs, which we just weren’t able to do in the earlier years because we couldn’t do it.  We didn’t sound right. Or it didn’t sound good, and therefore it didn’t sound right.  But through the years, we developed a little bit and pretty much…

I think changes started already with the MANDRAKE album. That was the kind of album that turned a stone in some way, you know?

Yeah, it did. It’s interesting if people say that because, as for me, I don’t have the feeling that there was a specific album where we could say, “Now there’s new influence coming.” For me, it was a constant process throughout the years.  So it’s very interesting if people say that, for example, MANDRAKE is the album where you try to include new elements” because for me it’s a process. I couldn’t match out a certain point where we were now able to do other things.

How much you still put time and effort into rehearsing together before the tour or studio sessions?

Of course, we always try to make a good performance, and I think it comes with a lot of experience.  We’re still rehearsing as a band. That may be one point. We talk before we go to the studio; we meet in the rehearsing room.  All the songs are done in the rehearsing room, so with just the basic lineup like two guitarists, bass guitar, drums, and vocals, maybe some little keyboards, but the basic thing is that the songs are done in the rehearsing room. You see that, okay, it’s going to work in a live situation as well. Even if we feel that the songs are sounding good in the rehearsing room, we bring it to the studio, and you can add something extra, some little arrangement here, but the basic song is done in the rehearsing room.  Maybe that’s the thing why all that stuff is pretty good live.  We have a very constant lineup, so that also helps if you play together with the same people over so many years, you will hopefully keep getting better.



You know, in a way, it’s a blessing or a curse to have the same guys in the band all the time, but most of you guys have been playing together since you were, like, 14 or something?  At one point, Tobias decided that he wanted to do something on his own, and he started this Avantasia project. Actually, in the early days, you were also part of the Avantasia as well. 

Right, but I was doing some little guitar solos on the first albums.

Still, I mean, at which point did he say he wanted to do something different and weren’t you other guys worried when there’s somebody of the band doing other things instead of concentrating only on Edguy?


Well, it was okay for us since the very beginning, since before he started all this.  We talked about this a lot because he was into historical stuff, writing a concept album with guests, and all that stuff.  He wanted to do that, but we concluded that it would be bad to do some concept album like this as Edguy because if he wanted to do this, like inviting an orchestra, what would come next?  We decided that he would do all the guest musicians and stuff with Avantasia and do the rock and roll stuff with Edguy. And it was always good because Edguy and Avantasia always pushed one another. If you say it’s two different bands, of course, they have the same main songwriter, but the concepts are different. By inviting so many guests to Avantasia, we also could get more attention for Edgy.  So it was both bands pushed each other with every album.

When Tobias is doing Avantasia and Edguy is on hold, it can take a long time before you’re working together again. How you guys get along with that?

Well, we do know that Tobias coming back, so it’s not how you think? Of course, he spends a lot of time doing Avantasia, but it doesn’t interfere with what we’re doing with Edguy.  When Tobias is doing Avantasia, he is doing some writing at home anyway, be it for Edguy or Avantasia albums, so that doesn’t interfere with our activities. Still, since, nowadays, Sasha takes over all the production and everything, it’s just for Toby to go in the studio twice a week for a couple of hours and sing something. Of course, he does the rest of the stuff at home, all the lyrics and all that, but that’s what he’s doing anyway. The only thing of Avantasia’s that interfered with Edguy was when he was doing the World Tour, and that was four weeks, so we can easily rest four weeks without getting bored “laughs.”

Tobias is the main writer of the band, of course, but when he’s doing his writing, how does he decide which song is going to Edguy and which one goes to Avantasia?

Well, if Toby writes songs, he writes them for the next coming thing. So, if he decides, “Okay, I’m going to do Avantasia now,” and he has all the ideas collected and puts into that project, and after this is done, everything else comes to the new Edguy. He keeps the timeline for things concerning the basic musical ideas, yes. But of course, there’s a lot of difference in the arrangements, because working with different singers is different from working with one singer. And it’s also how all the songs are arranged.  For Avantasia Sasha, the producer is making most of the arrangements. With Edguy, we meet in the rehearsing room, and the songs grow, and that’s the difference.

You also are doing some writing for Edguy?

Trying to, yes, “laughs.”

I was thinking: how many Edguy songs have you been involved with? 

Been involved?  Well, on the AGE OF THE JOKER album, it was one song where I was in the credits, but…… but “being involved” it’s…When Toby’s doing songwriting, he doesn’t make the whole arrangement; sometimes, it starts with a vocal line.  You know, it begins with a chorus and with some harmonies, and then we add some guitar riffs and arrangements in the rehearsing room.  So influence is on a lot of songs.  But it’s the basic idea, you know, the cue comes from Toby, and that’s why the credit thing is like that.

So basically, the band is doing the songs together. 

Yeah…Toby and the band are doing the songs together.  Let’s put it this way.

How much you other guys are playing in different bands and projects when you have some time off?

Well, Felix, for example — our drummer — is playing in Avantasia, and Tobias Exxel also had Taraxacum. He also played in different bands as well, but I don’t know any particular names.  He’s always involved in something. He was doing, for example, some guest appearance at Krypteria and things like that.  And, um…that’s it concerning projects.

How about you?  Have you ever been thinking about playing with another band or doing projects besides Edguy? 

No, but there will be something, anything someday. That’s for sure because I have many ideas and songs that I want to use somehow but cannot use for Edguy. After all, it doesn’t really fit.  Right now, we’re pretty busy with Edguy, but whenever I may find the time, I may start something, but I don’t force myself to do something.



How do you overall see the state of German metal? 

I think it’s pretty much alive, and I would call it that. I mean, it was never really gone.  It’s just that, you know, it’s just trends that say “power metal is dead” or trends and media that say “power metal is back” because they want to promote a new power metal band or something.  For me, it was never really gone.  There was a period when there were fewer bands, like the beginning of the ’90s; for example, there were fewer bands generally, so we just had bands like Running Wild, Rage, Grave Digger, Gamma Ray, and Helloween, and that was it.  Nowadays we have, like, 50 different, other bands. But that’s a development you can see in every style of music and every country in the world, that more and more bands are appearing and more and more bands releasing albums.

But you mentioned the old bands like Grave Digger, Running Wild, the older generation of German heavy metal, but I guess Edguy’s more like a modern-day band of the German metal.  But what do you see? Do you think that German metal bands are a little bit stuck in Germany because most metal bands that are breaking nowadays are coming from Sweden or even Finland?

Well, you’re right but are there so many really big new heavy metal bands coming from Scandinavia?

How about Nightwish?

But they have been around for 15 years already, haven’t they?  And they started off supporting Rage in Germany. So it’s not what I’d call a new band.  All those bands you’re talking about like Nightwish or like [us], we started when there was, at least the music industry wasn’t destroyed.  Do you know what I mean?  And there were much fewer bands back then, and it was just more comfortable…not easier…yeah, it was easier to get attention.  Nowadays, it isn’t easy to get fans’ attention, of media, of everything because there are just so many things going on.

Crematory tried to make some breakthrough, but they split up then they came back. 

Yeah, they did a reunion, I think, but it didn’t work.

How do you like — I have to ask you because I’m a huge fan of Michael Kiske, how do you his new band Unisonic?

I have just heard one song, and I liked it.  I thought it sounded cool.

His voice is still unbelievable. 

Yeah, he’s still a great singer—no doubt about it.

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Yeah, so you mentioned the Scorpions and the farewell tour, which you did with them.

We did the first part of it, right.

But I guess Tobias, and maybe you, are big fans of Scorpions, and a couple of the Scorpions guys have worked with Avantasia. Is that the connection of how you got the opening slot with the Scorpions? 

I’m sure that there is some connection since they already knew us before they did the tour.  But the cool thing is that they invited us for the tour, which was the biggest honor you can get.  I’m a huge Scorpions fan. I grew up with the band.  My first hard rock tape was the WORLDWIDE LIVE, so there was definitely…a dream come true for us to do the opening slot.  And we felt very welcome on this whole tour, so it was…from the band, the Scorpions crew, everybody was pretty friendly. We felt like we were welcome to be there.  It was a very great experience.

When did you actually see the Scorpions live for the first time?

I saw the Scorpions lived in 2007, I think? I just didn’t have the chance to…  It just didn’t match earlier. I don’t know why?  I mean, they had a period when they were not big even in Germany, not playing the biggest arenas there. They did not disappear but went a little bit underground. The first time I saw them was at a festival in Slovakia where we played together with the Scorpions.

Well, what was the very first metal concert where you went to?

It was a German band called Axxis, and that was in …89 or 90?  Or was it 91? They played in our hometown, and I was 13 years old.  So it was in ’90.  My parents did not want me to go there alone, so I had to convince my older sister to join me for this concert. It was a great experience. I was scared by all the long-haired leather-wearing guys there, but everything went fine “laughs.”

Did you ever get into the German thrash metal bands?

Yes. Kreator, they’re good friends of ours.

Did they ever inspire you to play faster stuff, like you say, at the beginning of your band? 

No, I don’t think that thrash metal bands have ever influenced us because that was always…nowadays I like some stuff from Kreator, for example, but besides that, it was never that I was a massive fan of any thrash metal band.  It was always too hard for me.

Were you more like a hard rocker? 

I was back then.  Nowadays, I’m more open-minded. “laughs.”

Like you mentioned before, Stratovarius was one of your biggest influences at the beginning of Edguy’s career. Tell us about how you managed to get Timo Tolkki to play as a guest on the VAIN GLORY OPERA album?

Well, it was the time when several bands, especially Stratovarius, started to record their albums in the Finnvox Studios, and we loved the sound of the VISIONS album, and we wanted to have this sound.  The story’s pretty funny because our record label back then, AFM Records, also had a fanzine, a little fanzine. They knew that Timo Tolkki was coming to Germany for a promo for the VISIONS album.  So Toby and we sneaked in his promo trip to interview for the fanzine of the record label, so we had an interview date with him.  And we weren’t prepared at all; we met him and asked the typical questions…” does Yngwie Malmsteen influence you?”  You know, all that stuff that a million other people have asked him.  And when he was doing the interview, and it was done, we said, “Okay, the interview’s done, but we’re here for a different reason.  We want to show you something,” and we showed him our record and asked him if he would like to mix or produce the album.  And he listened to it and said: “I can listen and see that you are quite talented.”  And he agreed.  And that was how it came together.  Yeah, sometimes you just have to risk something.  It was the same with Hansi Kusch, who was on the same album.  We just contacted him in very weird ways, like looking him up in the phonebook and trying to call family Kusch in the region he lived in.  It’s his mother or something who did answer and…Yeah.  It worked somehow.

You were fortunate then, “laughs.”  Speaking of record labels, at first, as you said, you were signed to AFM Records, but then you were turned over to Nuclear Blast. So, what was the main reason for that change?

AFM wanted to keep on working with us, definitely, but after the MANDRAKE record, we were in the situation that our record deal with AFM was finished, so we had no deal, and then everybody saw that we were a coming band uprising; we already had a lot of fans with the MANDRAKE album, and then we just thought that Nuclear Blast was the best opportunity for us because they were back then. They still are the biggest independent label for heavy metal. They just had opportunities that AFM didn’t have.  For us to take the next step, it was the decision to go to Nuclear Blast Records. Since now, they have treated us pretty well.

Well, it’s the time of the very last question. I read some old interview that you did choose the band name Edguy because of your old teacher, was it like that?

Yes. It’s a true, sad story. Well, not a sad story. We were 14 years old when we formed the band, and we came up with this mix of letters mixed with our teacher’s name, and we thought it was quite funny back then, and at a certain point, it was too late to change the name.

Do you have any idea if he has taken a compliment by it?

I think he knows, yeah.  I mean, we haven’t had any contact with him since then but… but thinking about how he experienced us being pupils, I’m not sure how he actually likes it?

Ok, Jens. It seems that our time is up now. Thanks a lot for doing this interview with us.

No problem, guys.




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