A Heavy Metal Breakdown with
Chris Boltendahl of GRAVE DIGGER

Interviewed By Waspman

Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I know that there are a lot of people that read our website that are really looking forward to the new album and are looking forward to reading this. How have things been?

Good, good. Very busy, doing a lot of interviews for the new album. Lot of work! (laughs)

(laughing) It's all worth it though, right?

(laughs) Yes, everything is fine.



Well, if you don't mind, we'll start with a little bit of history, starting with your previous guitarist, Uwe, leaving the band. What were the circumstances behind that?

After EXCALIBUR, we started to write new songs, Jens (bassist), Uwe, and I, and after we wrote nine songs together I thought that it was the same like before and in my opinion we weren't taking the music to the next level. Uwe wanted to keep on the epic stuff and all the songs like there were on EXCALIBUR and TUNES OF WAR. About this we had some personal problems, as well as the musical problems and then last November I decided to separate myself from Uwe. Then he started to fight about the name and all of this with lawyers. It was a stupid action though because he never founded the band and never played any tunes on the first three records. He joined the band in 1986 and the band was founded in 1980.



So I take it then that you and Uwe aren't really friends anymore. (laughing)

(laughs) I think no!



You mentioned that you were writing some songs with him when he left, did any of that material make it on to THE GRAVE DIGGER? Maybe in a re-written form?

No no no. It was the same as past albums and I wanted to do something a little bit more heavy than the other records. We started from point zero and developed all the songs in seven days together. It was a creative explosion! (laughs)



Let's talk about Uwe's replacement then. What can you tell us about him?

Yes, he is Manni Schmidt, the ex-guitar player of Rage. He was six years out of the scene and he worked in a record store and Jens had a little project with him during that time in the mid-90s. We gave him a call, without auditions because he was the first choice and we decided after two days and brought him into the band.



How would you compare this lineup to previous Grave Digger lineups?

I think it is now a very relaxed lineup because we don't have any fights in the band, no one wants to dominate anything. Now everybody knows that Chris is the boss because he founded the band. It is very easy to work because we have a lot of experiences in the band.



OK, now tell me, who is this Hans Peter Katzenberg character that dresses up like Death on stage?

He actually played for the first time with us in 1996 because he played keyboard on TUNES OF WAR. The first records with him we hid him in the backline but since EXCALIBUR we gave him the role of the Reaper on stage and he looks like a monk with a cowl. He is now a permanent member of the band.



With that confusion out of the way, let's go to the new album. Tell us about THE GRAVE DIGGER.

Yes, what can I tell you? I think it is a little bit different than the last few records that we've done and I think it is much heavier and more evil and more dark. We changed from a concept CD to a "normal" CD now and I think the sound is a bit more modern. I call it an old-fashioned metal album with a modern sound. Yes, I also think that the guitar work is much more flexible. Manni's style has a wider range and he can play more styles than Uwe. The lyrics are back to our old roots, more to the evil side of life, the dark side of human beings. For inspiration I took from Edgar Allen Poe, and also my fantasies. His stories with my eyes and my view.



What made you choose to self-title the album after 20+ years together?

I think for us it is like a debut album because we have a new lineup and a new record deal, and we have changed a lot in the last 12 months. We never had a song called "Grave Digger" or a self-titled album, and if you listen to the music and see the cover, it is a very complex production together. At first we were going to call it "Tales From The Grave", but after all, I think we have to show everyone that the Grave Digger is back after 2 years!



You've been around, as you said, since 1980, how do you still find inspiration to write and tour?

AlbumcoverI think it is because we just find it fun to play metal, it is not for the income, it is for the music. We are a lot like fans ourselves. We all grew up in the 1970s with Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad and bands like that and I think that once you have a little bit of success and see all of the fans when you are on stage, you have to carry on. You become a music junkie! (laughs) For me, I have the power and feelings that I can do it for another 10 years! After all of that, I'll just say that the inspiration is the fans.



Since you've been around for so long, has your opinion on metal changed at all? If so, how?

I think that metal has changed over the years. I prefer to return to the 80s, because there was a big metal community, and no fighting and not so many different styles. I don't know what all the kinds of metal are anymore! Today I see a lot of bands on the market, and when I listen to them I hear copies of copies of originals. I miss the originality. Most of the bands sound like bands from the 70s and 80s. I also think that metal is now more commercial now than in the 80s.


I think so yes. Look at Metallica, with Napster - what the hell is going on with them? That's a lot of millions! I don't know, but I think that a lot of people download the songs to test the albums.



But couldn't you argue that perhaps metal was more commercially successful in the 80s?

I think so yes...maybe in the 80s it was more commercial, not like today, but more that people bought more records more then. Because the price was much lower! (laughs)



Have you ever thought during your career that maybe it was time to pack it in, or "this isn't for me"?

No, never thought about that because I love my music. Unless something very big happens, or something bad happens, I will not stop playing music.



Having been around for so long, it sometimes seems that the band doesn't quite get the respect that it certainly deserves. Do you ever get that feeling?

No, I don't think so. We have the success...what can I tell you? We've got the success that we need. Everybody thinks that they could use more success, but we are happy with the commercial success we've had.



What I mean is, as far as the new bands coming out that we were talking about earlier, it just seems that not many of them mention Grave Digger. Do you think that Grave Digger could be more recognized for the contributions that the band has made to the metal scene?

No, I don't think so. No. Short answer! (laughs)

(laughing) To a new topic now, has Grave Digger ever played a North American show?

No, never, because we didn't ever find a promoter to book us and it is very expensive to do a show over there. I think that we are now in discussion with a promoter from Cleveland to play a show over there, a power metal festival. We'll see what happens.



Are you talking about the Classic Metal Festival?

Yes, we are definitely interested to play there. But right now, we need an offer, which we haven't seen yet.



With so many albums out, how do you decide what to play live? Do you just play "classics" or do you some times dust off some lesser known tunes?

Yeah, we do play some older, classic tracks, from the 80s. 40% of the show is new stuff and the rest is classics.



Sticking with the live theme, how was your experience at Wacken this year?

It was great! It was a day you'll never forget as a musician in your life - in front on 20,000 crazy German fans! (laughs) We also recorded it for a live CD and DVD. [Cool!] It was an amazing atmosphere because when we hit the stage, the sun came up and it was totally blood red. When we stopped, the sun came down, it was great!



Any funny stories from the day?

Actually no! I was in the bus all day because I was very nervous and I didn't meet anybody. I wanted to save my voice. But I know so many people in Germany so if I go somewhere I can't concentrate, so I sometimes I hide myself.



What is your involvement with Flying Dolphin Promotions?

That's my company. It's my promotion and management company. I work for some European labels, all A&R stuff. Next year we'll be promoting the new House of Lords and Hardline and Harem Scarem. It's my hobby, and if I don't do anything with Grave Digger then I spend my time with this.



Is there any plans to someday turn it into a full-fledged record label?

No. I think that there are a lot of good record companies and your have to have a lot of money. It's too expensive.



Other than your new album, what is your personal favorite Grave Digger album?

I think I'd have to say HEAVY METAL BREAKDOWN because we were young, wild, and innocent. We wanted to be big rock stars. The other one would be TUNES OF WAR, and also HEART OF DARKNESS.



Some more history. The band changed its name briefly in the late 80s to Digger. What was the reasoning behind that?

We wanted to make more money! It was our play at big money. The record company said "hey, if you want to make more money, change it to a bit more commercial style". OK, so we cut then name from Grave Digger to Digger and made the record called STRONGER THAN EVER, where we had more keyboards. At the end though, for the poseur fans it was to heavy and for the Grave Digger fans it was not too heavy. We were stuck in the middle and fans shot out the red card like in a football (soccer) game. They punished us into taking a break for 4 years.



So that was why the band disappeared then?

Unfortunately, yes.



There have been a lot of arguments lately on what exactly makes a band heavy metal. I was wondering what your thoughts would be on this, having been so involved in the scene.

I think the most important thing for us, is that we play honest heavy metal music. That is all.



I'll leave the last question up to you. Are there any last comments or words you have for the readers of Metal-Rules.com?

Yeah, I hope that we can get over one day to play for our friends in North America! We would like it because we've never appeared in that market with a live show. I know we have a couple of fans over there, not so many, but a couple. I hope that we can meet all of you one day!



Thanks so much for doing this interview!

Thank you, wish you a nice day! Hope to meet you one day!

Official Grave Digger Site: www.grave-digger.de

2001 Metal Rules!!

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Saturday, November 17, 2001