Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview With Tobias Sammet

Interview by Michael De Los Muertos
Transcription by Waspman


Avantasia6DuotoneGood morning! Or, good afternoon I guess it would be for you.

Good afternoon! Yeah, it's about 3 p.m. here.

Where are you, in Germany?


Well, thank you for calling, this is great!

Well, thank you for picking up! (laughs)

(laughs) I've been a huge fan of Edguy for several years now, and Avantasia is great.

Good to hear!

The new Avantasia album is out now?

At least in Europe, I don't know about North America. Is it out already?

I haven't found it around here. I do most of my ordering through mail and Internet. It's tough to find in stores over here. You're happy with it so far?

I can't complain about anything. It's been on the charts in several countries all over Europe, it's doing well in Japan and in Europe it's great. It's been on the German charts for four weeks and it entered at #17, also in Sweden and Finland, Norway, France, Spain. I really can't complain!



How does that compare to the debut for the first portion of Avantasia?

I think it's doing better than the first part. The first part was doing bigger than what we expected, but still this part is doing even better. I'm really afraid! I don't know where it all will go! (laughs) It's getting better and better. It's against where the market goes to you know because usually the market is going down because of the Internet and burning problems and all that stuff. I don't know why, it's scary! (laughs)



(laughs) Well, I think it's building off of the success of the first part. I think people know what the concept is and they can respond to it.

Yeah, definitely. They have part one, and in the metal scene it's a big advantage that we have real fans, who want to have the album with the real cover and all of that stuff. This is probably one of the best facts of heavy metal these days, and why it is becoming a bigger piece of the cake in the music industry.


Could you tell us a little bit about the creative process for Avantasia? Does it differ from the process you use for Edguy?

Some parts do, sometimes not. The musical writing process starts with the same basic idea, you have a melody or riff, and most of the time I just try to record it. When it comes time to be in the right mood to continue, you sit at the piano or guitar and play along and try to build up a song. Sometimes ideas appear, sometimes they don't and you go off to play PlayStation or whatever. (laughs) That's most of the time how things go. Then you have a rough idea of how the song should sound like and then you try to arrange it. That's the big difference between Avantasia and Edguy. For Edguy I just try to arrange for this band, I don't have to think about which singer sings which part, and what character appears in which song, what mood does it have to have for this part of the story. With Edguy I don't have to do that. I just have a song and build it up. With both at first, it's a feeling that flows out of your heart, and then with arranging you switch on your mind. Here is the difference, because with Avantasia I have to put the story onto the music and therefore you have to change the music sometimes.



You've got a lot of diverse personalities involved with Avantasia. Just to name a few you've got Oliver Hartmann, various other people. How did you get them all to come together?

Actually calling them and asking! (laughs) It wasn't really hard to get them involved. Some people it was hard to get in touch with, for example Bob Catley. Rob Rock and those guys are known in the German metal scene, members of the family. Everybody knows everybody and they're just a few phone calls away. Bob Catley is from Magnum and this is the British hard rock scene from the 70s! I went to the distributor, from there to his Italian record company, and then to the English one, to his management, and then to himself. Then it went all the way back to me, and then all the way back to him! He wanted to hear some material, so I sent him a CD, and then he directly contacted me. This was a little bit difficult. Then when I had the people, it was just "yes" or "no", there was nothing to lose. I just sent them material of Edguy because that is all I had at the time. Most of them agreed and said "yes, we'll do that". For me, it was a lot of people that I look up to, so it was a dream come true.



Obviously with that going on, and the Edguy, you've been very busy the last three years or so. Did Avantasia cause any conflicts for Edguy? Basically, how did you balance the two?

I would say it didn't really collide nor have friction. The problem is at some point you have to make some compromise. It's all a matter of very tight organization and administration, which is a problem because I'm not the most organized guy in the world! (laughs) Basically it was more or less like this: in '99 when I decided to do Avantasia, we, the band, had decided to rerecord the SAVAGE POETRY album. I had some material already there, and I said, "OK, if we're rerecording, I could do the other stuff", and that's what I did. I just made the decision. For awhile it was a lot of running for me between studios, I think I did it with the least damage done possible. It was not really a big problem. I've got to say that the Edguy boys were very supportive. I was doing Avantasia's first basic recordings and they started meeting to rearrange the SAVAGE POETRY material without me. We had some basic materials where I gave some suggestions, but it was mostly done. It could have been harder for me if the others didn't have tolerance for Avantasia.



Let's talk to a minute about some of the ideas behind the Avantasia concept. There's a lengthy story, a lot of characters, a lot of messages in there. Where did some of these ideas come from?

Well, like I said, the idea is really hard to tell where they come from. "Here I am, I am your idea" (laughs) "But you were Helloween's idea 12 years ago! You can't be my idea!" (laughs). Some would say we're using Helloween's ideas.

(laughs) That's not altogether a bad thing!

Well, it would be a bad thing if it were exactly the same. I don't think we did. We never tried to rip off Helloween, but for a long time and before you have some certain success, people always try to compare you. Until you have four or five albums out and then they change to say that other new bands are ripping off us. I'm sure that no one is ripping us off either. It's not really ripping off anybody.

However, the idea behind the story is many different things that I was interested in. First of all, I was wondering what was going on in the world politically, interested in who might be pulling strings behind the scenes. Why are we acting the way we are? Why are we seeing what we are on TV? Are we doing what we should be doing or do we just get suggestions? Just wondering what was going on around the world. I was reading some stuff at the time about secret societies and things. I didn't want to be paranoid, I was just asking questions. I don't know the answers and I'll never know so I don't want to go crazy about it. For me, it was just an interesting topic so I decided to write about it. I took my questions and the whole topic and transferred it back in time to Medieval, 'cause I'm really interested in that. Wherever there is an old castle, you'll find me! (laughs) I thought this would be a nice environment to put my story. I said, "OK, let's burn some fucking witches!" (laughter) Maybe I'm sadistic, a pervert. (laughs) It's just the period that I was interested in. That doesn't mean that I would like to live in that time though! I'm quite happy with the Internet and PlayStation! It would be hard to tour worldwide with just a carriage. (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah, a company of Shakespearean players.

Maybe Richie Blackmore nowadays would be happy with that, but not me (laughter)

Speaking of touring, Edguy played at Wacken this year, and it was a great show!

You were there?

Yep, I was there. I was the guy with the long hair and the black T-shirt.


Oh, I remember you! (laughs)



Could you tell us about the experience, would you do it again? How does it compare to other festivals?

It was a cool experience. It was our third time at Wacken. We started in Wacken in '98 on the tent stage on the afternoon of the first day, as a replacement of another band. We didn't get paid, and it was maybe 4 p.m. In '99 we played on the main stage as openers, and this time was awesome! I think the place was totally packed. I don't know how many people, we're still arguing about that. However, I don't care! It was a great experience to play there! At festivals it's great to go out and play to 30-40,000 people that know your songs. That's an unbelievable experience. It's a dream come true, for sure. It wasn't the first festival we've played with so many people. We had the Gods of Metal in Milan with Iron Maiden in 2000. We've played some other stuff to 15,000 people. It's always cooler than on tour, playing in front of just 1000 people or whatever. Anyway, when you go onstage and people scream, it's just cool! I would rather play to 500 screaming people than to 50,000 who aren't interested. It was great, I can't complain at all. It's been great everywhere.



Edguy is going to play the ProgPower festival here in America in November. This is your first show in North America right?

Not in North America, we've played in Canada.

Oh yes, that's right. How do you feel about coming to the U.S. for the first time?

Great, great. It's just too bad that it's only one show. Many people said for a long time "forget about North America, this music isn't popular there".

Who said that? (laughs)

That's what many people say about a lot of places. That's what they told us about Australia, Israel. Still, wherever we go, we always get a lot people. Wherever people are living there are heavy metal fans because this music has a self-dynamic. It doesn't depend on the great major media. It's underground, it's everywhere. These fans take their music from everywhere, from Internet, from friends, from imports. It doesn't need a major media. Those bands like Helloween, or Gamma Ray, or Judas Priest, even Edguy, we're selling comfortably everywhere. Those bands that sell a lot with just one album, they might be gone after a few albums and not sell at all. Those other bands that I mentioned, it's always there, and always will be. With the United States I think it might be the same thing. ProgPower is already sold out! It proves that there is a need for this kind of music. I mean, this is the country where Dio is from, Kiss, and Elvis too. If you want to be a real rock band you should have a good tour in the States. I'm really looking forward to this, to play and see what people are like, how it is to play in the States. I expect it to be a cool experience.



I'm also going to ProgPower, and there's a lot of American fans who have been waiting for what we call the "Big 3", Edguy, Blind Guardian, and Gamma Ray, on the same stage, and to have it happen in the U.S. is something that I don't think any of us ever expected. I think you're right, power metal does have a presence here in the U.S. You're going to play "Babylon" right?

We don't know yet, what we'll play. We'll just try to play as much as possible. This is not only our first show in the States, but also in the hometown of our webmaster, a long time friend of the band, Herman Caldwell. It's really a great experience to finally play there. We just want to play everything! We could play 3 hours, but Blind Guardian would probably complain then! (laughs)

(laughs) I wouldn't complain!

I would! (laughs) My voice would complain after 3 hours. Two and a half hours would work, we've done that before. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this, and I really hope that, see this kind of music depends on live activities, this music thrives on it, it's the kind of thing that happens live. Hopping onto a tour bus and traveling, we did so many tours of Europe before things were going well and we sold any records. That's the most important thing, and I think that you can do it everywhere. Convince a few people who will bring friends, and eventually have a lot of people. That's the one thing that I really hope on, that one day do a real tour in the United States. A small club tour, but at least play everywhere, like 30 shows.



Changing gears for a minute and going back to Avantasia, and Edguy actually, they both have a lot of classical influences, particularly opera. Could you talk about some of the influences that are not metal related?

Well, I've got so many which aren't metal! Whatever you listen to that you don't hate, influences you more or less. I've got a wide range of tastes. Basically hard rock and metal from the 70s and 80s, be it Deep Purple, Rainbow, Scorpions, Iron Maiden. Of course, this is metal related. It can be a pop album, whatever you call Bon Jovi. It can be Bruce Springsteen, Starship or whatever, and when you go far from this music, of course I really like classical, old folk music...it depends on moods. In the car, the other day was sunny and I tried out King Diamond's THEM, and somehow it doesn't really fit when you've got a sunny day outside. (laughs) It's quite weird. That's the same case with classical music, Bach, it's a matter of mood. Wagner for me is the king of building tension and then letting explode after one minute. It's like sex. (laughs) OK, after one minute. This was the revelations of the sex show live! (laughs) Building it up, building up and it's over after 45 seconds! (laughs) You know what I mean. That's what I really like in this kind of music. We can learn a lot from Wagner about arranging music in building moods and tension. Also, I wouldn't agree with Joey DiMaio's theory that Wagner would be a metal musician if he were alive today.

That was going to be my next question!

I don't think so. This music is still a bit different. We've all transported a lot of energy, in my opinion. In Edguy, we always try to come down and make the music extreme in the mood. Same with Avantasia. If you always play on 10, then there's no dynamics in the music, and the heights, the peaks don't appear, because there aren't any. If the whole world, except for the oceans, was four thousand feet over 0, the elevation, you would not realize how high you really were. You need the valleys to make the peaks appear higher. In my opinion that's what Wagner does really well. Still, it's different. You can combine the two musics, but in the base you can't tell it's the same thing. It's still art. If this theory would work, there wouldn't be any violence nowadays because it wouldn't be needed. Now we have electric guitars to destroy all those woodwind instruments! (laughs) What do we need this other shit for! (laughs) That doesn't make any sense I think. But I like Manowar anyway!



Let's talk about the future in general, I mean beyond the obvious ProgPower and future shows. What's the future for Edguy and possibly other projects like Avantasia?

I wanna reduce it a bit regarding the projects. With Edguy it all went bigger, especially with the last album. We did the world tour, 22 or 23 countries by the time it's over, four continents. We have the option to push it really far and perhaps push it even farther. This is a privilege that you shouldn't take for granted by concentrating on too many things. We're in a situation where a lot of people would love to be in, so that's why I don't want to concentrate on too many things at once. In a long time period, it might be not possible to work on 2 different projects. I really want to concentrate on Edguy, when the tour is over, we'll finish the mix of the double live album we recorded. This isn't going to be just a release between two albums, it's going to something special, with a big booklet and things. Plus, the songs are quite different from the studio versions. We will do this in April and then slowly get back into the studio in the summer, and take all the time we need to record the best possible record, and then tour again, hopefully in the States too.



Cool. OK, I have to ask, where did you get the cow-skin pants?

I got them from a gay store in Finland.


Yeah, I didn't know it was a gay store, but even if I did know, I would have bought them anyway. You don't have to be gay to wear them. Also, I know that some people think that I am gay, but I'm not. (laughs) OK, the second sexual revelation today! (laughs)

(laughs) OK, we won't go there!

(laughs) Yeah, I got them in Finland when we were mixing SAVAGE POETRY album. I think their quite funny. I never thought too much about them, I just thought, "Wow, they look ludicrous! Just buy them!". They're so expensive, like $150 U.S. Well, buy them anyway. I wore them onstage, the press in Germany, they all wrote, "oh, it was a great show, they did a great job on stage, everybody loved it, the only bad thing of the show was Tobias' pants." (laughs) I thought, "well, if that's all they have to be negative about, it's a good thing! If they're going to write about the trousers then I'm going to wear them!". Then came the avalanche, everybody giving me presents with cow things, cow hats, even cow slippers! (laughs) The most given present from fans is cow related. It's really funny.

(laughs) That's so funny! You could decorate a room of your house and have the cow room!

Living in a dairy!




Well, is there anything else that you'd like to say? Anything that we haven't talked about that you'd like to mention?

I just hope that people will be nice to us when we come to ProgPower.

You can be sure of that!

Is it true that people throw their underwear on stage?

I guess it's been known to happen...

Just in the 80s right? They did it in Germany as well (laughs) When I was a young musician there was never the talk of so much work, and so few panties and bras flying on stage. (laughs) I imagined it would be quite different! Ah well, we'll come anyway (laughs). Hopefully there won't be cows flying onstage!

I wouldn't be surprise! (laughs) Well I want to thank you for your time, this has been great. I really enjoyed the chance to talk to you because I've enjoyed the Edguy albums for years now, and the whole German power metal scene, as you referred to it earlier, has really been an important part of my life, so it's great to talk to you.

Well, you're quite welcome! We'll see at ProgPower!

Edguy Website: www.edguy.nu

Avantasia Website: www.tobiassammet.com