» Tobias Sammet - Avantasia
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Interview conducted February 05 2008
Interview published February 12 2008

Even though I've celebrated the presence of Tobias Sammet, while witnessing Edguy perform live, and longed to discuss his Avantasia project personally; unfortunately, I've never been provided the proper circumstances, until now. Finally, after relishing in his creation - The Scarecrow - a new dimension of sound and structure; I was given ample opportunity to toy with the master, and gaze into the looking glass of his twisted mind.

In all fairness, I was ill-prepared for this interview owing to a number of serious situations. Thankfully, my loving wife, an avid fan, did all the research and provided the basis for the conversation which ensued. She constucted the very rubric of interrogation which would carry me over into the gnosis of awareness. Now I ask you, "What kind of love, and dedication is that!" I had only actually played the CD twice, as she had absconded with it the moment it arrived, thus thouroughly enjoying it on all levels, while driving.

So join me as we return to Avantasia, reach out for enlightenment, get lost in space and time restraints, and voyage into the promised landmarks of true mettle; all the while seeking shelter from the reign of poor publicity!

MettleAngel: Hello Tobi, finally I get to speak with you about Avantasia. My wife and I have met you on previous tours with Edguy, but you were always exhausted after the show, so we never got to discuss this personally. My first question deals with the response by both media and fans, just a week after the release of The Scarecrow? How has everyone reacted?

  • Tobias: Well many people over the years have been asking when I would do this again. It was so easy for me, as I just loved doing it again. I'm so pleased to produce the best work which I've done so far, this is just becoming, for me, and my audience, a dream come true, and an experience on a scope beyond imagination. I mean with the Lost In Space EPs, the response by critics, you know was, "so, so"; now several feel that the final result - The Scarecrow is either, "not bad, or total crap!"; but it's selling well, overall. We are ranked #8 here in Germany, and #10 in Sweden, so people are still buying it!

MettleAngel: Critics can be so harsh. I love the new album; just like with every Edguy release, you improve and create such diligent diversity. You will never please everyone, all the time, that's life, a fact we all have to face!

  • Tobias: Paul Stanley said it best, "The secret to success is to offend as many people as possible!"

MettleAngel: I concur! I don't think you have really offended anyone, per se'; it's just that The Scarecrow is clearly not Metal Opera 3. Personally, I think this is a good thing. I feel it was a noble choice to resign to your own emotions, and surpass the thought processes prevalent on the first two Metal Operas.

  • Tobias: The story there is finished! I'm not really into that stuff anymore. Back then I followed all the conspiracy theories. I was on an endless quest for meaning and purpose. I thought to myself, "Should I follow God or Mammon?". It's like when you have something on your mind, you engage in an argument to resolve the issue.

MettleAngel: The Metal Opera albums, for me seemed to form the basis to epistomology. I always admired the philosophical content to the first two releases. That is what really drew me into Avantasia, and they re-introduced me to Edguy. I actually had purchased an expensive import copy of Kingdom Of Madness, when it first was released. Then as Power Metal became cliche with the advent of Hammerfall and her clones, I began to become more selective, ignoring so many cliche' bands being mass produced, and unfortunately, Edguy fell under that umbrella of my thinking at the time! Once Edguy signed with Nuclear Blast, they made a real turn around, and now I've been a dedicated fan ever since. So what truth is there to the song off the EP, The Story Ain't Over? Is it a new beginning, or a continuation of the basic theme?

  • Tobias: Well with Avantasia, this is no Star Wars Saga. There's no need for an Episode 1. Really, who cares what they did when they were kids? I've really progressed in forward thinking since then.

MettleAngel: Yes, I understand, you did all your soul searching, found your own path, and now you have moved on. I mean it's been almost a decade since that other fallen angel went down, right?

  • Tobias: Yeah, it was like 1999, when I decided to do this.

MettleAngel: And since then, so many metal acts from around the world have followed your lead. There's Epidemia from Russia basically doing the same thing with reknown Russian acts. Of course, there is Ayreon, as well. Incidentally, Ayreon also just released a new concept album which has been receiving rave reviews. For me it's too self indulgent. I mean 2CDs, with over ten minute songs; it's all a bit too much to delve into, all at once. I prefer his "Human Equation." Avantasia has a more commercial approach to songwritng, which results in more memorable songs which really captivate the listener, and suspend his beliefs. Honestly, I respect Ayreon and what Arjen is doing. He also had his own power metal two part Universal Migrator metal symphony release which featured Ralph Scheepers, Bruce Dickinson, Andi Deris, etc. just prior to the first Avantasia release. Although, I know you were already working on the Metal Opera Part One, and not following his precedent, right?

  • Tobias: Yes, it is funny you should mention that. It seems that there is really this Ayreon vs. Avantasia rivalry going on. I was not aware of all the competition until recently, so I actually contacted Arjen to see what was going on and why he hated me so. We've actually become really good friends, but he thinks the rivalry is good for us, publicity wise. He suggested we continue to bash each other in public, to feed the machine. So unofficially we are friends, but as far as the press is concerned, we hate each other! (laughs).

MettleAngel: That reminds me of the GWAR vs. Lordi conflict which Americans exacerbate. How could you not honour the work of Arjen, after all he was in Vengeance and Bodine. Forget about Ayreon for the moment, those hard rock proto-metal 80's acts were killer! So, even though The Scarecrow is not Metal Opera 3, I still see it as a viable Avantasia release.

  • Tobias: Yes it is, because the formula is still very much present. We really strive to capture the work ethic and the spirit of the first two albums. We just did not want to write another copy, that would not really be fair to the fans expectations. Too many bands write the same album again and again, and just give it a new name. To me that is not being honest.

MettleAngel: You mean Slayer and AC/DC fans don't want their heroes to deviate from their trademark sound. When a band tries to experiment, they risk losing their loyal following. From my personal milieu of metalheads, most feel that The Scarecow is your best effort yet. As for me personally, I will always be partial to the first Metal Opera; but I respect everything Avantasia does!

  • Tobias: Thank you Michael. To me, personally, writing the same formula over, is just not being honest! I don't feel the need to recapture that past vibe. I just maintain the spirit of the work. I'm free to make my own decisions about what I want to write and create. I guess everyone has their expectations of Avantasia. I just follow my own own heart.

MettleAngel: The essence and spirit of Avantasia is very much alive - just like the flow of rain on the The Scarecrow. It's been raining here all day, and the storms are frying our internet connections, so I can relate. I'm grateful that you have chosen to expand your horizons, really wrangling to reach beyond past limits; breaking away from the norm of expectations.

  • Tobias: I don't remain on the safe side when I write. I feel as an artist, that is being irreverent. Avantasia is not a pizza delivery system with a made to order fulfillment. I have a thick skin and do as I feel, no matter what others may say.

I truly respect you for this. Is The Scarecrow, then essentially another concept album?

  • Tobias: Absolutely! All songs follow a story; although, certain songs like What Kind Of Love of Carry Me Over do stand out on their own, as well. Each song has it's individuality, with a cohesive basis. All general topics follow a part of the storyline. Each vocalist assumes certain roles, same with the minor characters; but each protaganist ultimately contributes to the whole.

MettleAngel: So do you tailor the songs you create to fit the style of certain vocalists?

  • Tobias: That all depends; it's not all vague. When I write a melody for Bob Catley or Mike Kiske I know his voice; and I write from that standpoint. Mike's songs sound splendid, yet they still have certain kitsche.

MettleAngel: What about a song like The Toy Maker, did you know that Alice Cooper would be singing on that, when you initially wrote it?

  • Tobias: Actually, no; that song was almost completed before we even knew we could get Alice to sing. Once he committed to the project, the song had potential to fit his vocal style, so I rearranged it as such. I used more ideas to make it fit with more of Alice's style. This goes hand in hand when I write melodies. I immediately have a certain mood playing in my head, then I work with how the vocals would apply.

MettleAngel: Getting Alice Cooper is quite an achievement. What other artists did you consider for the Avantasia project?

  • Tobias: Brian May was going to play guitar on Cry Just A Little. Eric Singer got me in touch with him; sadly his time schedule would not allow this to happen! We had to finish the song, and this gave him very little time to deliver. He only had one and a half week to work with doing his solo.

MettleAngel: Wow, Brian May from Queen would have been a real treat, like having Rudolf Schenker play on I Don't Believe In Your Love. If you could select your dream line-up for future Avantasia albums, whom would you choose?

  • Tobias: Well for one, Freddie Mercury, he is such an underated songwriter, so is Paul Stanley.

MettleAngel: Wait just a minute, hold on! I guess if we use our powers to resurrect Freddie and suspend belief, or even actually travel back to Avantasia, then it's feasible that Freddie could perform. Who knows, given current technology, anything is possible: "Expect the unexpected!". Now, realistically, if you could get Paul Stanley, that would be awesome! What about Bruce Dickinson? The Brazilian act Tribuzy has managed to secure him for playing on their Execution CD and their Live Execution release.

  • Tobias: Of course Bruce would be wonderful, but he is so busy. I've contacted him on many occasions about this. I'd like to get Steven Tyler and David Lee Roth too. Edguy recently toured with Aerosmith. They treated us very well; they were so professional.

MettleAngel: Avantasia is your baby, do you feel you have become more proficient musically, since returning to Avantasia? You sure have come a long way since the Midgets Of Metal days!

  • Tobias: You know about that then? (laughs). Yes, I've learned a great deal over the years.

MettleAngel: Avantasia like Edguy is serious work. I know with Edguy, you like to have fun... "Helicopter!" Whereas, you pour all your energy into manifesting Avantasia.

  • Tobias: Exactly, Edguy is very tongue in cheek, so much that we may have gone too far on Rocket Ride, this is one thing I now regret. There is no redline demarcation between the songs. On The Scarecrow, every song stands out on its own, while still working as a whole; everything is diversified.

MettleAngel: I totally agree, and this is what makes it so appealing: there are heavy aggressive songs, rockin', commercial songs, and passionate melodies which really draw you in. After only a few listens the songs resonate in your head. This is why Wendy and I so love the music of the 70's and 80's, which we listened to when we were younger. Whether it's Queen, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Genesis, German Thrash, The Police, Reo Speedwagon, Maiden, Manowar, or Styx. The melodies remain and the catchy choruses linger.

  • Tobias: I agree, take a band like Van Halen or Aerosmith, they were totally having fun, and being tongue in cheek; at the same time they were serious about the music. The first Van Halen is an absolute masterpiece, but look at those band photos, they were laughing it up. The music is such high quality. This goes the same for Queen. They did not need to justify what they were doing, they had no need to explain themselves.

MettleAngel: Yeah, there was no need to be ostentatious, pretentious, or over the top. They literally let the music do the talking! Now, I assume the lyrics were very important to you when you sat down to write The Scarecrow?

  • Tobias: Definitely! There are just so many metaphors I had to get off my chest. With Edguy, a song like Sacrifice is so emotional and personal, whereas, Catch Of The Century clearly shows that I'm bitter about being wronged by some woman. I flip her the bird as she tried to take me down. Then, Fucking With Fire is just silly; but Return To The Tribe expresses the feeling of going home after a long tour. Queen embodied the ludicrous, yet they still played serious music.

MettleAngel: So whether you sing about getting laid on a plane, the search for inner wisdom, or the struggle to survive, all this contributes to the true spirit of mettle?

  • Tobias: Actually, I'm still waiting to do that, I have not been successful with the Lavatory Love Machine motif, in reality.

MettleAngel: What - no "Mile High Club"!? I'm shocked! No seriously, that's what makes it so exciting, it's all a show, a celebration of fun and games, rooted in experience and the vainglory pursuit of happiness. What do you think has been the most challenging music to create, so far Edguy songs, or Avantasia melodies?

  • Tobias: It's not a challenge when it all feels natural to me, because I enjoy doing this. I mean, sure, there is always the frustration of how to arrive at certain songs, to go from chorus to bridge, etc. For me writing is letting all these feelings out, and expressing my inner worth.

MettleAngel: Tobias, sorry for taking up too much of your time, I know it's getting late, and you still have a few more interviews to do. On behalf of the wife & I, we sincerely want to thank you so much for dedicating your soul and spirit to us. We so celebrate the music you create. We are so pleased to honour all your work. Check out the Edguy interview at Metal Covenant and the Rocket Ride review at www.metalcdratings.com.

  • Tobias: I will go to Metal Covenant! Thank You Michael for taking the time to speak with me, and for being so knowledgable.

See also: review of the album The Scarecrow

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