INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA
PROMOTIONAL PHOTOS BY JULEZ BRAUN
Rage is a German metal band, formed in 1984 by Peter “Peavy” Wagner. Rage was an important part of the German heavy/speed/power metal scene, which emerged from the 1980s. The band has undergone several lineup changes during the years, but Peavy has always been a part of the band without ever giving up. After the last year’s departure of guitarist Marcos Rodriguez, the band enlisted Stefan Weber as the new guitarist. The second axeman, Jean Bormann, joined the band a bit later. The fourth band member is drummer Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos, who has been with Rage since 2015. The new lineup was seen and heard for the first time in the summer of 2020 when the band released the “The Price of War 2.0” video clip. It was a re-make version of the song from the classic Rage album BLACK IN MIND. Now the band is finally ready to release its long-awaited new studio album RESURRECTION DAY, which will be available through Steamhammer/SPV on 17 September 2021. A lot of things have happened in the Rage world, so now it was the right time to pick up the phone and ask Peavy himself about the latest news.
First I want to say this, there’s one sure thing in this world. No matter what happens in the world, Peavy always comes back. You are like a phoenix bird rising from the ashes, time after time. [laughter]
If you want so [laughter].
However, the RESURRECTION DAY is the Rage album number 26 depending on whether you want to include Avenger albums in it as well.
Yeah, 26 really [laughter]. With Avenger, that’s the first time I made music, so, of course, I count them too.
Tell me briefly about the topics and themes of this new album?
Actually, the album topics, this is like a view on the evolution of mankind from Stone Age to now. And especially with this turning point, 10 000 years ago, when humans turned from living with nature, being hunters and collectors, to interfere into nature when they became farmers. And this was a turning point in our history, where that causes, or this is the origin of all of the problems we have nowadays and the resurrection we have in our hands. If we now find the right solutions for all the problems that we understand where it comes from, we still have a chance to make a better future. That’s what’s the meaning behind everything.
Does the album theme have anything in common with THE MISSING LINK? That album lyrics also dealt a lot with these same types of things.
Yes, yes. I’m very interested in anthropology. But THE MISSING LINK was a bit more fictional. This is now a bit more realistic.
Before we talk more about the new album, let’s go back in time for a moment. The previous Rage album, WINGS OF RAGE, was released in January 2020. But just a few months later, guitarist Marcos Rodriguez left the band, and a new lineup was announced in May. It seemed like things were happening fast.
Yeah, this was unforeseen. The idea to bring a second guitar player to the band was already with Marcus by the end of 2019. And Stefan Weber was our first choice. He was at this time playing guitar in Marcos’ side band, Dio Legacy; he had this kind of Dio cover band, Dio Legacy. And so, the idea was to bring Stefan to Rage also. At this point, we just were close to starting touring for WINGS OF RAGE, so we decided to do this a bit later by the year, by 2020. And then, during the tour, Marcos had some serious private problems that forced him to leave Germany, move back to Tenerife in Spain, where he came from originally. And from the beginning then, when the lockdown came in March, we first thought we might be able to do it with, but there was this big distance. But he realized that his problems grew bigger and bigger, and he had no other choice than to leave the band and stop with everything. This was absolutely his private thing, and I promised him not to bring this in public. The friendship is still there, but it’s not possible for him to do all this anymore. So, as planned before, we brought Stefan into the picture and added Jean Borman as a second guitar player. Yeah, it worked out great. We became a really good team meanwhile and more than a year already. And yeah, we’ve — to say, we’ve been fortunate. But poor Marcos, unfortunately, had to give up his childhood dream. But that’s life. Sometimes it has different plans than what you might want.
As you said, the lockdown began in March 2020, and you had the split with Marcus. How much were you able to tour before you were forced to stop then?
We played a couple of weeks in Germany, and in February, it led us through Europe. But, of course, most of the tour we had to delay that or cancel — it’s not really canceled. Everything was delayed at least two times after this, and now finally, in November, hopefully, we will be able to continue touring.
Let’s now jump to the RESURRECTION DAY album. I have to say that the cover art of the new album is just incredible. For me, it looks like a Terminator version of the Phoenix bird rising that I mentioned earlier, but how would you describe the idea behind the cover art?
Yeah. This is Soundchaser again in its new reincarnation, created again by Stan Decker from France, who already did the WINGS OF RAGE cover. We just liked the reincarnation idea. I just had a rough idea about the Soundchaser coming out of a volcano with all the lost souls and just told him this rough idea on the phone, and he was like, “Yeah, that inspires me. I have something. Just let me do it.” And we gave him a more free hand to come up with this, and, yeah, he convinced us.
The first thing you released with this new lineup was a remake of the song “Price of War.” (Released originally in BLACK IN MIND -album in 1995). Did you do it because you first wanted to test out how the collaboration with the new band works before you started working on new music?
Yeah, but it was also the idea to show the new guys to the fans. Not just release a picture– “that’s the new band”. We wanted to show them a bit more, how they look and how they really sound. So yeah, it was just made to impact the fans of the new line-up better.
Would you tell me something more about the new band members?
As I mentioned already with Stefan, he was from Marcos’s second band, and he also worked for our management company, so he was already in the family. Jean we knew from — we played with his former band as support for Rage already several years before, and we remembered him as a good guy and a fantastic guitar player. He lives close to here. So, the idea was to ask him in. He was very pleased. We just tested it for a couple of weeks, and it turned out to be really good. So, we were just lucky. It could have also been a different way, and then we might have looked for even some former guys. But before we had to test other guys, we already knew it would be those two guys.
It sounds that everything went easy this time. [laughter]
Sometimes it is easy. [laugh] You never know before.
MORE NEW ALBUM TALK
I’ve listened to RESURRECTION DAY a couple of times, and my first impression is that the record is a bit heavier, and there are more thrash metal influences compared to the previous albums. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, in a way, of course. I mean, this was always an element in the Rage music. There are elements from thrash to epic and hymnic metal stuff. So, it’s nothing completely new for the band to get those thrash elements in our albums because we have done that before. Maybe it sounds a bit more fresh because the guys are younger; they have this kind of influence, especially Stefan. He’s a big thrash fan, a big Slayer and Metallica fan from the early days. So, he brought in some riffs, which remind me of that period. Also, they played a bit more in this style or so. Maybe all this together brings us a bit more fresh feeling there.
There are many straightforward and “thrashy” metal songs on the album, like the title track and “Virginity,” but there is also something new and different material. An excellent example of that is “Travelling Through Time.” Tell me something more about that particular song?
The song is inspired by Renaissance composer Giorgio Mainerio. There is a piece by Mainerio called” Schiarazula Marazula, with a wonderful theme that I often play at home on acoustic guitar. My first instrument was a classical guitar. And when we did sessions for new ideas, I just played it to the guys, and they asked, “What is it?” I said it’s something from the medieval. I’m not sure if this would fit for Rage? I had a chorus for it and some melodies and riffing ideas. And Jean was impressed and said, “Yeah, I like it very much. Show me what you have there, and I will do a quick demo,” because he was doing all of the programmings for our pre-production. And two days later, he came up with this thing, and I realized that he got something wrong from what I showed him. He mixed up the rhythmic phaser. But I even liked what he came up with, more than my idea, although the original came idea came from the composer. So, we decided to work from this one. And later, we got these nice orchestral arrangements from Pepe Herrero, our conductor and runs the Lingua Mortis Orchestra. He contained orchestral arrangements to four songs on the album,” Traveling Through Time,” Resurrection Day,” The Age of Reason,” and” Black Room.” We have worked with him many times in the past, and like always before, his amazing orchestration arrangements added a whole new dimension, more depth, and even more expressiveness to a number of our songs. He brought it basically back to the origin where the songs came from, the ideas. And, yeah, going back to the original question, now I think that “Travelling Through Time” sounds now like Rage is making some movie soundtrack music. “Laughs”
You mentioned the Renaissance influence, but I think there are also some elements of traditional Celtic stuff on that song?
Yeah, maybe. The Celtic stuff is more inspired from this medieval music, these kinds of harmonies and melody structures.
Another song that is very different from the rest of the material is “Black Room.” It’s a pure metal ballad.
Yeah,” Black Room” is quite an old song. Actually, the composition is from 1999 from when we had the sessions for the GHOSTS album. And during all the years, we never really find the right form to play it, and now Stefan picked it up and came up with these transitions in between the different parts of the song, which makes it to where it is now. And we finally thought it’s ready now.
SONGWRITING AND CORONA TALK
How much the new members were involved in songwriting on this new album?
I came already with most of the skeleton ideas; by the end of 2019, I played it already to Marcos and Lucky, and then we worked it out with Stefan and Jean from– when was it? The first time we did something must’ve been pretty much in the beginning when they just both joined the band, like May or June. And so, we had already the first pre-production of the songs.
Did this pandemic give you any extra boost or ideas for songwriting or lyrical side? “This is going to the be the end– the world is ending,” or whatever? Many bands have said that this situation inspired them a lot.
Actually, as I said, there were the skeleton ideas like harmonies, melodies, grooves, or rough riffs. Most of this stuff, I had already by the end of 2019. But of course, we had a lot of free time with nothing better to do than work on material, and we took the time to. It was a luxury that we could work that long on the material. So, we started recording by the beginning of this year, which was quite a long period to work on the material. Of course, it was a bit difficult sometimes with all these lockdown rules or so. Sometimes we could work on Zoom meeting and to– also the recording process. We planned to go all to Spain, to the studio to record everything there together but it was not possible in the spring because of quarantine laws and all these kinds of restrictions. And we were all not vaccinated at this time. So, in the end, only Lucky made it to record his drums over there. And we, others, we recorded our stuff here at home.
Because you missed most of the shows planned for last year, it means that you also lost a lot of money. How difficult is the situation financially for you and the other guys in the band?
You mean, how did we survive without touring?
Oh, this was not so bad. I mean, I’m pretty fine with money anyway because I have this huge back catalog of albums from the past. They still sell. And so, I make money with all of my heritage. I can survive for a while. And also, for the other guys we have—they work with the freelancing musicians or other artists, they got some money from the government here, which helped us sail through the longest time. And both Stefan and Jean, meanwhile, work together with Lucky and our management company. Lucky has his own management and booking company, which works for Rage and many other artists. And there was always something to do there. They were kind of– what’s the fucking English word? They had money, and they could make some money. It was not so bad. We were not helpless.
This is good to hear because many bands have suffered really badly. Some have even had to close down entirely because of this pandemic.
I know. I know. It could be terrible if you don’t have anything else, but we all have second work or jobs to earn some money. I have my back catalog, and the other guys have work in the company.
I must mention here that when I saw the new “Virginity” video, I noticed that you had grown a huge gray beard during the pandemic time. It actually looks pretty similar to Halford’s beard “Laughs.”
Yeah, I’ve been growing a beard a long time. Now I don’t have this kind of — what was it before? This kind of tail thing. I just let it grow openly. It started right after the tour for WINGS OF RAGE, the first part. We played in February last year. After this, I did some homework with a screwdriver and fucked it up with the screwdriver. And I decided, “Okay, look, I just cut it all equal and let it grow new because it’s going to be lockdown anyway for a lot of time. We won’t be able to play live. So, no one will see me besides my wife, and she’s okay with it.”
Yeah, but having a long gray beard seems like a trending thing now. Maybe it’s like a Corona fashion thing?
Corona fashion, right?” Laughs”
THE NEW TOUR AND SOME BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Currently, your plan is to start a new tour in November. What can fans expect from this tour?
A lot of new music. We have two hours to tour for. And yeah, we have a new stage design we are just working on right now. And yeah, just let’s knock on wood that everything works fine, and we can do it now finally after all these delays.
Of course, everyone hopes that the tour will take place, but it seems that you’re not coming to Scandinavia at all?
It’s not on this leg, but there’s going to be a special Scandinavian leg that we’re setting up for next year, February or so.
Oh, okay. Great.
Yeah, the concert’s coming.
Our time is running out, but f you don’t mind, I’d like to ask something from the past?
I remember that I have seen Rage in several different formations, and the first time was in 1991 when the band played in Giants of Rock -festival in Hameenlinna.
Oh, you saw that one. Oh, it was fantastic. I also remember this really nice festival.
Do you have any special memories from there?
I remember that Sepultura was playing, and everybody was completely freaking out. I also remember that Winger played after them and most people left [laughter]. It was a shame.
There was a little” Bottle Field” going on then! “Laughs.”
Yeah, and it was fucking hot. It was 40 degrees and just mosquitos everywhere. But it was nice, the first time for me to be in Finland.
Overall, what kind of memories do you have from that period, from that era of the band?
Oh, a lot of good memories. This is how we call it now, “the refuge era” – because we have reformed the band with Chris and Manni. At this time, I was playing with them doing Rage. And I reformed with those two guys again a couple of years ago, and we called ourselves Refuge now. We actually released a new album in 2018, and yeah, this is still going on. We are still very good friends, and we meet sometimes. At the moment, it’s a little bit put on ice, plus we are now busy with Rage. But yeah, it was a nice era, one of the nicest eras of Rage in my memory.
It’s good to hear that Refuge will carry on as well.
Yeah, we will continue with that as well.
So, anything else you want to say for your fans who eagerly await the new album and the tour?
Yeah, we hope to see you fans across on tour. We are looking forward to this. In Scandinavia, the tour should happen around February next year. And until then, enjoy the new album and stay all safe and healthy, I would say.
Right, right. That’s all Peavy. Thanks for your time.
Yeah, thank you for supporting us.