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Interview conducted January 14 2014
Interview published January 22 2014

With Primal Fear's 10th album, Delivering The Black, coming up, Metal Covenant got on the phone with bass player, founding member and producer Mat Sinner to mainly talk about the album and the plans for 2014. The German has a wide interview schedule and he felt a little tired, yet he still laughed a lot and he was in a good mood during our 25 minutes. He also had some fun with my questions and called some of them impossible.

Tobbe: Hey man, how are you?

Mat: Doing good. Day-and-night interviews. I've done a lot of them now and it continues afterwards, but everything is cool.

Tobbe: We will mainly talk about your new album, at least to begin with. Then there's a couple of questions in general.

Mat: No problems.

Tobbe: So what do you think differs the new record from your latest one, Unbreakable?

Mat: Unbreakable was chart-wise the most successful album for Primal Fear. We got a lot of good feedback from the fans, they liked it and the tour was great. So our target with the new album was not to find a new way for Primal Fear. Why should we, if the last album was loved by the fans? So we tried to be a little bit better in every kind of direction, in every detail. We tried to have better riffs, better melodies, work on the production and the sound, and every single performance. That was our target and that was our point when we started the songwriting.

Tobbe: Why did you pick When Death Comes Knocking as your first video off the album?

Mat: I think the groove was different and we wanted a song that showed a special side of Primal Fear and not like a typical mid-tempo song. We wanted something different, with a different vibe and a different groove. That was the idea behind choosing When Death Comes Knocking as a single. And I also have to say that the single version is like half the time of the album version.

Tobbe: Yes I know. The album version is over 7 minutes, it's a long one. This is Primal Fear's 10th studio album and what do you think this album will add to your future career?

Mat: It's too early to answer this question. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Yes, I know.

Mat: In the end, the fans decide if they love the album or not. Let me just say that I'm pretty much sure that a Primal Fear fan will love this album. But I will have to wait. I don't wanna answer this question and say that we did our best album of our career or whatever.

From my side, my personal opinion is that the album is really strong and I'm really proud. We did some new things, like working together with Jacob Hansen from Denmark on the mix. It's was kind of a new situation for us, after we did the last 2 albums with our friend and engineer Achim Koehler. It was absolutely the right thing and the work with Jacob was fantastic, and in the end I'm really proud of that album, because we all fulfilled our targets and we matched everything we had talked about before we started the songwriting. So mission fulfilled, everything is cool.

Tobbe: Even if you have a new working partner in Jacob and there are some definite nuances comparing to your past work, this is still very much a Primal Fear album.

Mat: Yeah, but that was the way we wanted it, with the songwriting and the sound of the album. So it was not our intention to find a new musical way or something.

Tobbe: But if your last album had failed, would you have tried something new, you think?

Mat: Oh, also this question is heavy to answer, because it… [Laughs]. How should I know what we would have done in the last 2 years? To be very honest, I don't know how to answer this question.

Tobbe: Why did you decide to call the album Delivering The Black? Any meaning behind that title?

Mat: You know, rock bands sit together in the tour bus and drink, and have some titles on the table and decides for one. So in the middle of the night, with a lot alcohol, there was a point when we chose Delivering The Black. We wanted a very powerful album, we wanted strong lyrics and we wanted to have a darker approach on the album cover and so on. We thought at that point that that title would fit and we wrote a song with the same title. In the end we kept that title and thought it was a good thing.

Tobbe: You know, a Primal Fear riff is rather recognizable. So what do you do to minimize repeats from your past work?

Mat: We're discussing everything very much in detail. If one of us finds out that we repeat ourselves with something, we get rid of it. To be honest it has happened. I wrote some vocal melodies and Ralf [Scheepers, lead vocalist] said to me "Fuck, this is so close to blah blah blah". And I said "Oh, Jesus"!". [Laughs] I was sitting down for 6 hours and I was singing my ass off and then gave it to Ralf and he told me that this sounds very much like this and that, and I said "Oh fuck, you're right.". That's not good, that's sucks. But we're taking very much care of it.

Also all the musicians in Primal Fear are very respected and for me they are very great instrumentalists and also Ralf as a singer. We need to be careful that we're not making bullshit. We really, really like to work with each other and the vibe in the band is very special and good. We had a lot of good time in the studio to record this album. An album is a very special thing, because it stays for your whole life.

If you play a show for example and the show is shit, what could happen? On the next day you have a chance to play a great show. With an album it's different, it's like forever. This is the point where every musician should think about what he is doing. At this point in our career, we would like to have a great album, instead of an average.

Tobbe: I was thinking a bit about repeats and in the last song, Imseminoid, I can hear tiny bits of the song Nuclear Fire.

Mat: Could be. This is no problem for me and I think you also could call it our trademark.

Tobbe: I wanna talk about the album's second song, Rebel Faction. It has very speedy drums and is overall a fast song. What about it?

Mat: I think we started with things like that on the album Nuclear Fire. And also the song Nuclear Fire was the first song in that direction. Since then, on every album, I think we have one of these songs.

Tobbe: I disagree a little, because the drums are so fast on this one.

Mat: Yeah, and now we came to a point where we wrote an even better track.

Tobbe: Yes, I know. I love that track.

Mat: That's why we prominently placed it in position 2. Everybody was so happy with that, in every direction. The drums are better played, the guitars are really killing, the vocals are really on spot and the sound is cool. With that song, we really have the peak of writing and producing songs like this. So now we have it in position 2.

Tobbe: A kind of speedy song, King For A Day opens the album, so with song number 2, I was expecting perhaps a mid-tempo track or something. Instead you kill, so that was a cool move to do I think.

Mat: [I can hear him smiling and sense his relief, and he honestly says] Thank you very much. That was the idea behind it and if it works, it's cool.

Tobbe: Yes, it works. In your opinion, what are the best moments on Delivering The Black? Now when the album is fresh.

Mat: Oh, I have so many. It's all our own babies. I think I worked so hard on that album and I'm really happy with what we're doing here. Also the songwriting had a very different approach and everything was so cool. I wouldn't pick out 1 or 2 songs and say "These are my favorites". I can't do this.

Tobbe: It's up to you, man. Let's leave the album for a while. Most of you guys in the band have one or more projects running besides Primal Fear, like yourself. How are you able to combine your schedules? It must be a tough job?

Mat: Yeah, but when a new Primal Fear album is coming out, and it was recorded and produced, that is the main priority for everybody in the band. We [Mat Sinner Band] are annually doing a tour with Rock Meets Classic with a symphonic orchestra and with legendary singers and that is another priority. When talking about other projects, which are producing bands or songwriting for other artists, or our other bands like for example Sinner, who will always be there and will never be cancelled from my side. It's like a solo project for me. I can have a lot of fun and a lot of inspiration at a point when for example Primal Fear is not working. And Voodoo Circle is a fantastic band, it's a great project, and we will find the time to do another Voodoo Circle album when the time is right. But 2014 is the year of Primal Fear.

Tobbe: You know, you resurrect, like you said, Sinner from time to time. Do you have any plans to play more outside of Germany?

Mat: We have just set up, I think 2 festival shows and I think another 5 shows between Christmas and the new year. So the band will be active this year, not doing a big tour or something, but we will play shows and continue to play together.

Tobbe: About touring. What about Tom Naumann [former guitarist and founding member] being back in the band as a touring member, filling in for Magnus [Karlsson, guitarist].

Mat: Yes, it's your Swedish colleague. He has 3 little children and he is not able to go on tour for a longer time. This is the compromise we made to have Magnus Karlsson in the band, which is a good compromise, because Magnus is a really great partner and a wonderful human being with a great character and we totally support his family situation, totally. We know that when we're going on tour, there is a possibility that Magnus can't come, so we sit together and ask what we can do.

As we have a good communication with Tom again, he is living in the same city as Ralf and me. We said "Why bring in a new face?". I think it has a good charm to bring in a founding member as a substitute for Magnus. Also playing-wise, Tom and Magnus have quite the same kind of feeling. So I think Tom could replace him very well in the live shows on the forthcoming tour. We will see what time will tell. But Magnus is not only a partner for me in Primal Fear. He's also a partner in forthcoming projects and projects in the past, so he will always be my partner on that board and there will be no question about it.

Tobbe: I spoke to Magnus last June and he really praised you guys and he was immensely grateful that you would let him come and go, in and out of tours.

Mat: I think we did all the crazy things 20 years ago, so now we are a little bit calmer, and grown up and we know all the stuff. I know his situation and I was visiting him at home and it's all cool for me.

Tobbe: I had a look at your touring schedule and you had over 60 gigs planned in Europe and in Northern America during late January through May. Will Tom play all of them?

Mat: Most of them, sure yeah, but you don't know everything yet. It will continue after some festivals in the summer, but we have not announced everything. We will go to South America in August and we will go to Japan. We will also do a whole UK tour and more dates in Europe, hopefully we will come to Sweden. Finally we will play Australia.

Tobbe: So will you have any spare time this year?

Mat: I have booked a holiday in Italy in June. After the American tour I will definitely need some time to relax.

Tobbe: Yes, you have many gigs in a few months. I remember asking Randy [Black, drummer] this question a few years ago and now I'm asking you. How come Primal Fear isn't a bigger band than you actually are? Do you have an answer for this?

Mat: Maybe we have to tour more, but we do that now. I don't really know. We did our best. We write the best songs we possibly can, we produce an album old school and expensive in big studios. Well, we were happy with the success of for example Unbreakable and we hope, that even in these difficult days in the music business, to sell records. We hope to sell more albums with the new album and we do everything. The touring schedule is huge and we'll play everywhere. We will see in the end what will happen. If we can raise the sales of our albums in these difficult times, I think it's okay. You shouldn't complain.

Tobbe: No, you shouldn't. Where do you see Primal Fear in 10 years? Do you have any thoughts of that.

Mat: Well, I can tell you. In our recording contract we have another 3 albums. I don't know how fast we are, but at least in the next 5 or 6 years, you will have the name Primal Fear in the metal scene. But what will happen after that, I don't know.

Tobbe: You know, Ralf's voice is very strong still. But what would you do as a band if Ralf couldn't perform as strong in the future as he does now?

Mat: I'm a positive human being. I don't waste my time to think about what could happen if. I don't think about somebody getting sick or losing his voice or dying or something. I'm thinking positive and I think Ralf is in great shape. His vocals on the new album is, in my view, very good. I love his singing, so what can I say? I'm looking forward to tour with him. And that he doesn't fuck up.

Tobbe: When you started to play a long time ago, did you have any goals in music or did you play just for fun?

Mat: In the beginning I thought it was cooler to play in a rock band than to be a football [soccer] player. I was quite a successful football player in my youth, but then I thought it was cooler to be on stage. That was a goal, but I had nothing in mind to be a professional player or a record producer. I am very thankful for what has happened in my life, you know playing music and writing songs together with a lot of artists.

Tobbe: All right. I've got 2 final questions for you. Which is the best song of your career?

Mat: Ah, also a difficult question for me. Because I think I have written so many songs that it would be impossible for me to say which is the best song I ever wrote. I think I could do a nice best-of album with all the songs I like the most, my top 15 or something. But to choose one is impossible.

Tobbe: But if you had to choose the best musician you've ever played with. Would that be easier?

Mat: No, because I would make some other people angry. [Laughs] I have to be like diplomatic in this point of view. I would say that the current Primal Fear line-up is the best of all times. I'm going that far. Magnus Karlsson is very special. Alex Beyrodt on guitar is very special. Randy Black is one of the best metal drummers in the world, just like Ralf is one of the best singers in the world. This line-up is very special and it will be a little bit spiced with the comeback of Tom Naumann on the tour, who is also an absolutely outstanding guitarist and a founding member of the band. So at the moment, seeing the characters and the kind of players, we're in the best position ever.

Tobbe: About having Tom back. That will probably be very cool for the fans, to see a familiar face in your band.

Mat: Yes, we got very good feedback on that one.

Tobbe: Well, I guess that was it. I wanna wish you the best of luck with the new album and your coming interviews.

Mat: Yes, it will go on for a few more days. No problems for me. I hope the answers were cool, even if I didn't give you an answer to everything.

Tobbe: No worries, man. That was very cool, Mat. Thank you for your time.

Mat: All right. Thank you very much and have a nice evening.

See also: review of the album Delivering The Black

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