PEAVY WAGNER – discusses the state of Rage and the formation of Refuge

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INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA

Peavy Wagner is a German heavy metal musician best known as the lead singer and bassist of the band Rage, founded in 1984. The band is an important part of the German metal/power metal scene and names like Helloween, Running Wild and Blind Guardian. Rage enjoyed great success in 1988-1993 when the band released their best-known albums: SECRETS IN WEIRD WORLD, TRAPPED! and THE MISSING LINK. The lineup of this classic era Rage consisted of Peavy, guitarist Manni Schmidt, and drummer Chris Efthimiadis. Schmidt left the Rage in 1994, and Efthimiadis left in 1999, but that did not stop the band. The guitarist Victor Smolski joined the band in 1999, and drummer Andre Hilgers replaced Mike Terrana in 2007. This lineup released four studio albums until Smolski and Hilgers left the band in February 2015. Around the same time, Peavy contacted Schmidt and Efthimiadis, and they decided to start playing together once again under the name of Refuge. Wagner also announced that despite Rage’s dissolution in February, the band would continue with new members that will be announced in late June. It sounds more than a bit complicated, does not it? I met Peavy at the Sweden Rock Festival in early June, and we discussed Refuge, the recent lineup changes in Rage, and the future of the two bands.

 

THE BIRTH OF REFUGE

Metal-Rules.com: Peavy, it has been two years since you last appeared in Sweden Rock, and then you played an acoustic gig with Rage. Many things have changed since then.

Peavy Wagner: You are right. Many things have changed since then.

Now you’re here with a “new band” Refuge, which is not a new band because it consists of the former Rage lineup you, Manni Schmidt and Chris Efthimiadis, who played together between 1988 – 1994. When was Refuge founded, and where did the band come up with the name?

We just took this name because it’s one of the song titles from the classic Rage lineup between 1998 and 1994, Refuge. The old original lineup was grateful to us, and it was nice to us and brought us back together. There were a lot of coincidences happening, so last year, we just got back together. Friends suggested to us; why don’t you just play a couple of songs at a party? It was basically a backyard party, and it’s just about fun and good times. We used to rehearse together for 15 years. It was so much fun for us to play again and together again after all the 20 years that we hadn’t seen each other, we hadn’t done anything together. So we just decided that we have to do something more like this, it was just quality time, it’s just nice for us. It was never meant to be a professional band, a commercial thing. It was just our fun thing. We talked about like; let’s meet, like one or two times a month or so. Have some barbecue, drink some beers and play some of the old songs in our free time. It was the only intention behind it. Then there was a lot of interest worldwide, all the promoters from everywhere, lots of fans were excited. “The guys” play together again.

Were you surprised about the demand because, of course, longtime fans love the lineup of the classic Rage albums?

I have to explain. I’m an Internet idiot; I’m a technical idiot. I just got a smartphone a couple of months ago; I haven’t been on Facebook for all these years. When I opened my first Facebook account, it was, I think, last year, December, or so. So this was, for me, like an awakening. I kind of contacted all these fans, with all these people, this Internet community. I started to realize it, and it looked a lot different than what I thought it would be. I had no clue that there was so much interest in this lineup. I realized that people want to see us; we probably will play a couple of more shows like this. So at the same time, we got together with our management; we have had new management since January this year; we started officially in January this year on everything. Also, I changed the Rage lineup at the same time. So, everything is pretty much new in my life now. I started to grow into modern times. Now here we are. It was a fun side project. We had to give us a name.

Is Refuge now a side project or a real band?

Yeah. It was only a side project; we didn’t know how to call us. Because we couldn’t call us Rage, as there was already Rage, and it’s going to continue, of course, as Rage. A new album with Rage already; a new album is already pretty much finished. We just have to do the final recordings but demo wise everything is fixed away.

Who are the new members in Rage now?

We will publish this in two weeks, and we have a fixed date for the 18th of June. We are going to come out with a new lineup, a new tour.

Many fans, including me, were sure that the classic lineup is now back together, but it’s not.

This band is the classic lineup of Rage, but we call it Refuge now. It will be separate from Rage, but with Rage, we won’t play these songs anymore. With Rage, we are concentrating more on time after this, like got high time with Rage in the second half of the ’90s, BLACK IN MIND, and then later this development, we played together with ORCHESTRA XIII as well. Very successful albums at this time, and we will continue with Rage and concentrate more on this style and stay focused on this pure, power metal thing that we do with Refuge, and we develop it to sound, do this as Refuge songs.

Since you are now familiar with the Internet, what if you find out that people are more interested in this classic stuff than newer material?

I don’t think so, but I have found out from all these comments, from all that I was looking around, that people really like Rage. But of course, this old lineup of me, Manni Chris, I think what we developed then. We put out TRAPPED, THE MISSING LINK, and SECRETS IN WEIRD WORLD. Those are the albums that everybody liked. It was the beginning of this band, where we developed the basic style of the band. I don’t know if people are missing the era from BLACK IN MIND to GHOSTS or so, this second half of the ’90s when the band was still very successful. We can’t do this as a Refuge for this, two very important reasons.

Firstly, Refuge will always be a non-professional band because Manni and Chris both have families and regular jobs. They can’t go back to being a professional musician. So we’re going to do this like a hobby band, we can play in festivals on the weekend. Maybe when they get off from their jobs and stuff, we can also do a little tour. But we never came to do this professionally like Rage, so this was already clear for me because I live for Rage. Rage is not only my baby; it’s also my living. I make my living from this, and I have to continue, of course, making money; I can’t just do it like a hobby, or so Refuge will be our hobby band, and we are going to continue as a hobby band. Of course, we got some money when we played here today, but it’s not that much.

But is it out of the question to release some new music as well as Refuge?

We want to do something; we have three new songs already. But we’re kind of lazy, and of course, we don’t have the time to meet that often, so it’s going to take a while. We definitely want to do a new album, sooner or later. But maybe more later.

I was thinking of the name Refuge. Why didn’t you use the old name Avenger instead, which does have more “Rage history” than the name Refuge does?

Avenger was a different band and a different lineup. Our lineups from PERFECT MAN to MISSING LINK; this was an era of this lineup. We thlineupRefuge” is one of the surviving songs, one of the… It’s huge from this era. What is very good, Refuge has the same letters as Rage; r at the beginning and e at the end.

I know. I have seen the logo! “Laughs”

Exactly, so we took the same logo with just a different name, and it looks like the old Rage. So it makes it clear that Refuge is kind of connected with Rage. It’s a part of Rage.

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THE SPLIT WITH VICTOR 

Overall, the previous version of Rage split up in February, and Victor and Andre were both let go. What happened between you and them in the end?

The connection between Victor and Andre was more like working colleagues. There was never really a personal relationship. For all these 15 years we were just working mates, work colleagues. We’ve never really been in a friendship. We had some different persons and so completely different ideologies, a different way of living our lives. It never really happens, but over the years, we became much unlucky about this. It was a pain in the ass to be like, away with these guys. In the end, they were kind of not too cool anymore. It was like; hey guys, I brought you in my band. It’s not the other way round. They were treating me like I was that nigger over there, whatever bush. It was kind of weird; I don’t want to say this drastically. But it was not a nice treatment anymore.

Was it like a bad marriage?

Yeah. So it was a kind of working relationship, a professional relationship. On the musical side, everything worked pretty well. On the stage, it was all fine. But besides this, behind the scenes, it was just a hard time for me. I lost a lot of fun in doing this. I turned 50 last year in December. I started to think about; where do I want to go? Am I happy now? I just realized I’m not happy. Why? There is no reason. Why shouldn’t I be happy with doing what I’m doing? Because music was my love, this band is my baby. I started it; I brought it already to a really good level. So why do I have to go through this? I realized I have to change it; I just have to get back to a situation where I like it.

Who doesn’t like to do things the way they want, if that’s possible?

Yeah. For the fans, it may be, for people outside who don’t see this or don’t know of this and make no sense. It might have been not a clever business decision money-wise; maybe it was. But for me personally, it was a very necessary and very urgent decision. I had to change it to get back to having fun. I realized this when I started with the Refuge boys, and this wasn’t friendship again. It was like we liked what we were doing, and we liked to be with each other. We had quality time, and I just realized I couldn’t go on with Rage like I wasn’t doing it for all these years. I have to bring in a similar scenario.

To be honest, I am not missing Victor in Rage because I never liked his style too much. He’s a great player, but I never liked him as I liked Manni back in the day.

Yeah, and Mannis’s style fits just better to Rage, and Rage was already a designated style before we took on, and Victor came in the band. He kind of tried to change it all the time. He had no respect for what I developed in the 15 years before him; he always was talking about “the old shit.” All the old songs from the years before him were old shit, and he was not happy to play that stuff.

So maybe he thought that he was “too good” for Rage?

He sees himself not as a band musician. He sees himself as a solo musician kind of, and this is a big difference. He was already a solo musician before, and he always kept on being himself because, in his mind, he was a big guitar hero. As he was a part of Rage, he designated himself over Rage. Rage was just a vehicle for him to get more attention. He used Rage basically like a vehicle to push his own career.

As you said, maybe his heart was never really involved in Rage?

Exactly. I don’t want to blame him for this; I knew that he is like this, I knew this already pretty much at the beginning, and he’s not going to be a dedicated Rage musician. He’s always going to be his own star and his own, and he will always follow his own interest. Maybe this was stupid for me, maybe I kind of betrayed myself, I betrayed the Rage with this. However, it just happens, and I can’t turn it back, but I realized, last year, I realized that everything was on track; it’s not going where the band should go. It’s not going where the fans want the band to go. Like I said earlier, Rage was a designated style before, and the fans want to have this one; they don’t want this kind of; we pretend to be Dream Theater. But it is, of course, nice stuff, okay, but this is Dream Theater; it’s not Rage. It’s just a different pair of shoes, you know?

I agree with you since I’m a fan of the classic era and the 90’s albums. But how is your relationship with Victor now after he’s gone his path?

It’s the same life as before; there is no relationship. I never really had a relationship with him. He was just a working colleague. We were working together to make money. It was cold, and there was no personal relationship.

Overall, how did Victor end up in the band back in the day, and why did you decide to keep him that long if you never had much chemistry?

It was also a coincidence when the other guys left during the production of GHOSTS. I just needed a guitar player who could jump in quickly, and he was a studio musician. I just asked him, as a studio musician, can you please finish the recordings? It was all basically, and then; we also need someone to bring to tour, the upcoming tour. Would you also play the tour? Let’s see my schedule. Okay, it fits. I can play that too. Then somehow, I got stuck with him. I should have made a different decision. But whatever, I don’t want to blame him for this, he is what he is, and he did a professional job; he might have been in the wrong position. Because of the position that he took, we need someone else. Since his early years, the guy I have now in the band has been a dedicated Rage follower. Since he was 13 or so, he was a Rage fan. He’s a fantastic guitar player, and he knows exactly how the band should sound. We wrote the songs together within two weeks in service; it wasn’t just like bang or bang. One song is better than the other.

I understand 100% how important the friendship part is for a band.

It’s really like it is. A rock band is not like working in an Orchestra or so. A rock band has to have the sides of professionalism and connect between the people.

Victor Smolski, Peavey and Andre Hilgers
Victor Smolski, Peavy and Andre Hilgers

THE PAST TROUBLES

You had problems with Victor, but you also had trouble with the classic lineup in the past. If you compare those things on any level or was it something different back then?

Yeah. We were kids then, to make that. We were pretty stupid with some things we did in the past, just for a couple of; it was Manni back in ’94. If this had happened nowadays, today we much sure there wouldn’t be a split because it was just childish crap. We didn’t understand at this time what we had; we had a friendship going on. We just gave it away for bullshit. We all regretted it over the years. Same for Chris, now that Chris has been my oldest friend since we were in elementary school. We’re like kids, like seven-year-old. We have already made it now, really amazing. How can you give away a friend like this? We had been missing each other for all these years. We were always like shit, shit. What a shame that we don’t see each other anymore. Now we have fallen back together again, and we are pleased about this.

As you said, you were young when Manni and Chris split up with the band. If you think about that period now, was the split a necessary thing to do back then?

Yeah, it was not necessary. Due to being young, when you don’t have the experience, you are basically selfish, being stupid. When you are 20, something or so, you just see everything differently as you see them. It was not necessary. We could have easily formed a solution for the problems we had happening. But I remember this; it was like we did nothing. The problems we had, we did nothing—some crap in there, nothing else.

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THE NEW RAGE AND GETTING OLDER

Let’s go back to the current state of Rage. You have a new lineup, album, lineup in the works. Do you want to say anything more at this stage?

We’ll put everything out on the 18th, but I can just tell you that it’s no stars. They’re no well-known names, just unknown people. Two unknown guys, pretty much unknown but really in good positions and longtime friends with me. I have known them since the old Rage, it’s a couple of years, and we have a personal relationship. It’s already six years, and I got to know, it’s now… Actually, they really can understand this band ever, like a little family. It’s three bands; it’s Refuge, Rage, and Tri-State Corner, the band where Chris is drumming. And our manager Lucky, he’s a singer in Tri-State Corner. So all these together is like eight musicians working in three bands, it’s like one family. We share everything; we share our equipment. We share our rehearsal, and we help each other out. For example, two Tri-State Corner guys will pick us tomorrow; we will be playing Czech Republic as I couldn’t get flights back. It will take 10 hours to go back by plane, so they just pick us up by car. It’s like this kind of thing, and we help each other. Everything is now based on friendship, which makes life nicer. Of course, everything we do’s make some money with this, and we, of course, try to get our careers to working in whatever we’ve done. But first of all, it’s based on a friendship between each of us, which makes everything else…

The older you get, you understand, and you respect different things.

Yeah. You never know how long you can still do this, how long will the people want to see you. How long does your business, your body, is willing to do this. Maybe there are only ten years left or so on that.

You mentioned earlier that you turned 50 years old last year. How did it feel?

I don’t have a problem with getting old; it is okay. I don’t want to be 20 again because I know where I’m going now. I’m way cooler now, and now, there is an experience that you’ve made. So, of course, looks aren’t good anymore, and some things are getting a little bit harder as you grow, but still, I’m happy to be 50 instead of 20.

And you are still living the life you want and enjoying it.

Yeah. I’m still living the way I like and still doing the same things I did before. Maybe everything has been better. Everything has just been warm.

It’s funny, recently I had a long discussion with Andi Deris (Helloween), and apart from other subjects, we also discussed aging and stuff like that.

Yeah, and he’s also the same age as me.

He turned 50 last year, and we spoke about turning 50 in Germany, and he told me about how it was to be young and grow up in Germany. The only chance was to join the army or work in a factory, and he chose the other path, and nobody liked him back then. I think it was kind of the same thing for you?

Yeah, it was pretty much the same. I knew already when I was 12 or so. When I was 12, I had made up my mind already. I wanted to be a musician. Of course, I knew it was going to be hard, and maybe I’d never really had a chance to live from this, but I gave it a try. I just worked on becoming better; I worked at getting a good band together. I went there, of course, I had to work with this and this, but I never took this so seriously; it was just a necessary thing to get some money. As my parents didn’t feed me and my parents didn’t give me money, I had to make my living since I was 15 or something. I had to live with my own money that I made myself. But I always knew that all the jobs I was doing then were just a transition until I started making money many years ago. I really jumped in the cold water and gave it a try. It could have gone wrong. I know many other people who also tried this, and they didn’t succeed. They had to get back to other jobs later, but I was lucky. It was a good time, and it was the beginning of the ’80s; in Germany, a big metal wave was coming up. Maybe I was just lucky to get good timing, which was not my concern. It just happened, but I took the chance, and I’m happy, of course.

Manni Schmidt, Peavey and Chris Efthimiadis
Manni Schmidt, Peavy, and Chris Efthimiadis

THE LAST WORDS

About the future, you said that the new Rage lineup will be announced in two weeks, you’re going to have a new album and a tour, and also Refuge is also working on some new music. Does it seem that you’re going to be a busy man in the near future?

We have been planning for Rage because we got to announce a new lineup on the 18tlineuphen tour; by the end of the year, we will do a little tour. We’ve got 12 foreign shows all over Europe to introduce the lineup and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BLACK IN MIND. We will focus on the set-list of BLACK IN MIND, play like 85-95% of the album. Plus some all-time favorites. So these are going to be a kind of special show. We go to the studio to record our new songs’ final version in September, but the album is pretty much written already. We have ten new songs, which I’m very proud of. It’s this vibe of the middle ’90s, like BLACK IN MIND, END OF ALL DAYS, and more. It’s got a vibe in these, and it’s a lot more thrashy again, a lot faster, aggressive, more song-orientated. It’s not that many progressive elements anymore. It’s going to be a real killer album.

I’ll patiently wait for the introduction of the new Rage lineup and new music from you.

Thank you.


 

REFUGE OFFICIAL PAGE

RAGE OFFICIAL PAGE

Rage 2015
Rage 2015: Vassilios Maniatopoulos, Peavy and Marcos Rodriguez

[Editor’s Note: since this interview was conducted, it was announced that the new lineup consists of lineup Marcos Rodriguez (from the band Soundchaser) and drummer Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos (vocalist and percussionist of the band Tri-State Corner and also a former drum technician and apprentice of Chris Efthimiadis). A tour is scheduled for the end of the year, and a new album for 2016.]