Interview conducted April 27 2010
Interview published May 13 2010
With two albums released at once
- entitled The Wicked Symphony and Angel Of Babylon - the Edguy front
man Tobias Sammet's 'side project' Avantasia
has now reached five in total. These are the last two parts of the story
that started with The Scarecrow. If there will be any future stories within
the Avantasia frame is yet uncertain. So is the possibility of a new live
tour. But let the main man tell in his own words. Metal Covenant recently
had a chat with Tobias Sammet, and this is what he had to say
David: Congrats! Avantasia did fairly well
on the Swedish charts during the first week (box: 14th place, AoB: 37,
David: Do you know the numbers?
That's right. Do you have any anecdote to tell from the recordings?
Tobias: It has been a very long span of time.
The first drums were recorded already in 2006, when we did The Scarecrow.
We have worked on and off so there are countless of anecdotes. But
nobody got killed and nobody got seriously injured. It has been a
tremendous journey, to travel around and work with all those different
David: Did you have time to socialise with
the guest musicians, or was it just work?
David: When did you decide to do two records
Tobias: A lot of the material was written already
when we did The Scarecrow, for 'The Scarecrow Part II'. I think we
had about ten tracks left back then for the backbone. We finished
The Scarecrow and after the tour and all that, and after the Edguy
album and tour, we went back to finish the material. Meanwhile I had
got a lot of new ideas and thought 'lets make another song', 'lets
make two more songs', 'let's write four more songs'. We kept writing
and all of a sudden we had 22 tracks. We found out that there was
too much material to put it on one album. I didn't like the idea of
a double album. I mean, I wanted to make it all accessible for people
to buy as a package, but I wanted to separate the albums. Each one
is so great that I wanted them to be considered as two separate albums
and give each one the attention they would give a single album.
David: Isn't there a risk that you keep
a few fillers that would not have made it on a single album?
Tobias: No, there is no filler on those albums.
I know that some people may think that there are two or three fillers,
that is what they think about every album. The funny thing is that
everybody comes to me and says that there are two or three songs that
they don't like, but they will not agree of the same songs. That's
a good thing. It happens to me as well. I could easily pick out three
or four songs on Number Of The Beast that I don't like as much as
the rest. These albums have a very wide range, from extreme heavy
metal, to AOR, to hard rock, to bluesy passages
So I fully expect
people to prefer one or more of those aspects. And there are black
metal fans out there who think that all the 22 songs are complete
shit - and I fully respect that. So, to cut a long story short, for
me there are no fillers.
David: You did a new version of "Promised
Land". Why is that?
Tobias: It's not a new version, it's actually
the original version. We needed one more track for the Lost In Space
EP:s and I thought this would work perfectly. So we made an alternative
version of it with Michael Kiske. The intention was to keep the original
version out of what was then meant to be 'The Scarecrow Part II'.
But in the end
we could have left it out and Angel Of Babylon
would have been a ten-song album and it would have been 55 minutes
instead of 60, but I kept it because it is needed for the story.
You are pretty much in charge over everything regarding this project.
Can [the co-producer] Sascha Paeth hold you down when you get too carried
Tobias: Well, puh
When we are asked who
is responsible for what we always look at each other and say: 'Ok,
who is responsible for what?' I got the full power. I can really say
I wanna have this and I don't wanna have that so much. For me there
is the chance to have the final say, and I know that and that makes
me feel very good. Very great for a big ego. But usually there is
a consensus. It is so big that we never have serious discussions.
It's almost scary.
David: You invite a lot of singers for Avantasia.
How do you decide who will do which parts? Do you write with someone particular
Tobias: Most of the time I have a certain character
for a certain part of the story and I write the character into the
music. But then of course you need a certain voice for it. For example
I knew that songs like Death Is Just A Feeling or Scales Of Justice
would be perfect for Jon Oliva and "Ripper" Owens respectively.
It's a gut feeling. You have an instinct for what would work. You
think of a singer that could portrait a feeling that you think is
suitable for a certain passage. But 'picking' singers doesn't sound
appropriate. I decide on which singer I ask and hope that he agrees
on doing it. It's not that I'm picking everyone I like, that I can
have just anybody. I'm really, really thankful that those great singers
agreed on working with me.
David: Any hurtful turndowns?
Tobias: It always happens. I always wanted
Bruce Dickinson and it hasn't worked out so far. I wanted to work
with Sebastian Bach on this record. He didn't really turn me down.
He was interested, but for some reason it faded away and didn't happen.
He was meant to sing the lead vocals for The Edge, which I finished
up singing myself - and I think I did a fairy good Sebastian Bach
David: Is there someone you have been afraid
to ask in case he would say no?
Tobias: No, because the worst thing that could
happen is that somebody could say no. I learnt that from Eric Singer.
Because when we did The Scarecrow I asked Eric if it would be appropriate
to ask Alice Cooper and if he sees any chances, 'I don't know if I'll
And Eric said: 'Look Tobi, quite easy, we ask - Alice
says yes or Alice says no. Worst case he says no - you won't die.
What do you have to lose?' So we asked Alice and Alice said yes. So
Eric taught me that asking would not result in sudden death.
David: Do you have a future dream guest?
Tobias: Bruce Dickinson is still somebody that
I would like to work with, but at the moment I don't even think of
the continuation of Avantasia. It can happen, it may be possible that
it won't happen. I just finished two albums and I won't spend any
minute at thinking of a new Avantasia album the next months.
Is it hard to direct all those legendary voices?
Tobias: No, you approach it as a fan of those
voices and you are grateful and thankful that you can write the songs
and passages that you want to hear from those artists. It should be
any young rock musician's dream to write a song for Klaus Meine. The
opportunity really beats the difficulties. It's your own little model
world that you've designed and you get a chance to hear it sung by
Klaus Meine or Michael Kiske or Bob Catley. I don't perceive it as
work, I am a fan and I feel like a child in a toy store. When you
do something that you enjoy it's no stress.
David: How would you describe yourself as
a boss in the studio? From easygoing to tyrant
David: You managed to bring Avantasia to
the stage a couple of years ago. How do you think that turned out in retrospect?
Did it live up to your expectations? Is it possible to do it again?
Tobias: It was great travelling around the
world with all those people that you usually don't hang out with.
The turnout was great and it was great to be headlining some of the
biggest hard rock and heavy metal festivals. We said to ourselves
that we would definitely do this again. That was under the impression
of just having left the stage with 100 000 people in front at Wacken.
It will be hard to get it together again, with all the people having
to be available at the same time. Unfortunately I don't think that
it's gonna happen.
David: Isn't it sad to write a lot of music
for Avantasia that you maybe never will be able to perform live?
Tobias: You know I'm only 32 years old and
I hope that I still have a long, long journey ahead. First it's a
gift just to be able to compose the music. And every now and then
we play Avantasia songs with Edguy. The good thing is that I've composed
those songs and we've recorded them and that's what counts to me -
so I have a half-full glass, not a half-empty one.
Do you feel that Avantasia has given you recognition beyond the metal
Tobias: I have no clue. I don't think so. Of
course I've reached new people from different genres of heavy metal
and hard rock, and fans of Alice Cooper, Scorpions and Kiss who maybe
wouldn't have paid attention if it weren't for the participation of
Alice, Klaus Meine, Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick. When we did a song
like Lost In Space some of the traditional heavy metal fans said it
was too poppy, that we did it just for mainstream purpose, which is
stupid. I did not write it for commercial reasons, I wrote it because
I think it's a great song. It hardly got played on the radio, but
when it did people just thought it was old-fashioned 80s heavy metal
music and 'too heavy' anyway. So I think that heavy metal and hard
rock always will be a kind of conspiracy music for a secret society.
Sometimes it sneaks out of the underground but here in Germany it
is very rare that a heavy metal album lands high on the charts. We
have widened our horizon but I don't think that we have reached out
to a new scene in the big scope.
David: In interviews you almost sound a
bit bitter that the old Edguy fans don't totally embrace the evolution
of the sound. But you must be proud of the band's history as well?
Tobias: Definitely. It depends on how people
approach me and quote me. When people say that the new stuff is shit
and badly played and the old stuff is great and well played I have
to disagree. I was there when all those albums got produced and I
can judge exactly what is right for this band - much more than anyone
out there. Of course I get a little bit picky when it comes to that.
But of course I'm also proud of the past. If I had a time machine
and could go back in history I would not want to change anything.
Vain Glory Opera was a very good and important album at that time.
All I can say is that now I'm a better singer, a better songwriter
and I've just developed. I know that I can do better now, which doesn't
mean that you cannot enjoy those albums, because I think that they
were extraordinary well done for what they were. When we did Vain
Glory Opera I did not want to copy Kingdom Of Madness. When we did
Theatre Of Salvation, which I think is not the best Edguy album at
all, I did not want to copy Vain Glory Opera. But I want people to
accept that I know better what is right for me now. Because I feel
it, I sense it, I can judge from my own point of view and whatever
makes me happy is the right thing. That is the only measurement. If
the artist is not happy, how can he expect the music to make anyone
else happy? Therefore I sometimes really get pissed of when people
say 'go back to the roots'. I don't go back to anywhere. I don't go
back to wearing diapers, just because people thought I was cute when
I was one year old. It doesn't mean that I don't like our old albums
- not at all. I just don't listen to them anymore myself.
David: You are a bit sarcastic sometimes
about not being 'metal' anymore. Have you ruled out screaming speed metal
like "Nailed to the Wheel", "The Final Sacrifice"
Tobias: If you listen to songs like Speedhoven
or The Pride Of Creation you can hear that a part of the roots is
still there, and it will always be there I guess - as far as I know
now. I haven't ruled it out, I'm just as you said a bit sarcastic
because I know of course that some people - and I think this happens
with every band - think that we are selling out and becoming pop.
It's just a funny thing to overdo it: 'Hey, here is our new sell-out
and commercial ballad!' The secret of being happy is to not take yourself
too serious. It's just music