First of all, congratulations on your new album, 'Force Of Destruction', which is absolutely KILLER! But before we get more into that, 2010 actually embarked your twentieth anniversary, and I (and I'm sure many fans), expected a special release to celebrate this event. But we didn't hear much about it at all! What happened after the release of 'Screenslaves'?
Andreas Babuschkin: As you know; not much hahaha. I was very ambitious to do something special but I realized that I was becoming a strange kind of a “ lonesome fighter”. A thing that started already during the recording sessions. Everybody appreciated the result ('Screenslaves') but nobody was bursting with activity. And everything that we were trying to do was ending in a disappointment.
For 'Screenslaves' you had switched labels from Remedy to Massacre Records. Yet you have again switched labels to the bigger Napalm! What was the reason to end the relationship with Massacre after only one record?
Andreas Babuschkin: It's always the same story; the record company wants us to do something that we didn't want to do. And we wanted the record company to do something and they refused. Nothing to be angry about for the rest of your life but enough reasons to part ways. At the end it's obvious that we took the right decision to have the album and the artwork exactly, really exactly as we wanted.
There is period of four years between the new album and previous record 'Screenslaves'. There has never been such a long period between your albums. What took you so long to come with 'Force Of Destruction', apart from the fact that you changed labels?
Andreas Babuschkin: As I mentioned before there was a strange mood in the band. I didn't want to bury everything. So me and Martin thought it would be cool to bring back the old guys into the band. We wanted to re-animate the spirit that we had especially in the 'Law Of The Blade' days. We convinced Jan to come back but then we realized that the other guys were, well substandard. We asked David Wieczorek (Ex-Stormwarrior) to follow us, kept our very good drummer Chris and then Martin told us that he would leave the band. We quickly found a jewel in Wolfgang Tewes, started to write cool songs, did some shows and went into pre-production. Everything looked fine, we were ready to enter the studio and then we found ourselves in trouble with the record company. But the old Paragon fighting attitude was already back; we choose to record this songs, in the way that we want and with the people that we want no matter the price. Unfortunately we had to part ways with Dave and it took us another year to enter the studio, although 90% of the songs were ready to record in April 2011.
The album has been received very well by the fans and the press so far and it's obvious that the scene has not forgotten about Paragon and still embraces the band. Of course nowadays the amount of bands and releases has become so big that bands need to keep themselves on the frontline. Did it concern you guys at all that the new album was taking maybe a bit too long to be done, and that the band may be forgotten somehow?
Andreas Babuschkin: If there's one good thing in the Heavy Metal World then it is that a band can come back after years of absence with a killer album and it's suddenly like they've never been away. I believed in the songs and this album would be really great. Even if nobody would have remembered us, the it's a perfect album for a newcomer haha. And with just a minimum of luck we can talk next year again; about another new release.
Although 'Screenslaves' was absolutely a Paragon album, it was also slightly different, maybe even a “progressive” for Paragon standards at some points. 'Force Of Destruction' however is Paragon at its best and goes more back to the traditional approach of albums like 'Law Of The Blade', 'Revenge', etc. What did you have in mind for the record when you started the songwriting process?
Andreas Babuschkin: Exactly that. We wanted to do something like 'Law Of The Blade' again. This was our aim before even start to write songs. It was clear that Piet had to produce the album, he didn't just agree he was really burning for this idea of creating a new Paragon album.
Even the album cover is again “old-school” Paragon and fits better to the band's evolution that 'Screenslaves'. By the way, the cover also reminds me a bit of the movies “The Expendable”! Was that a coincident or an obvious choice?
Andreas Babuschkin: To be honest: I've never thought about that until someone pointed that out on Facebook! Dirk Illing did a fantastic job with the artwork and when I first saw it I just went: “COOOOOOL!” The artwork is not only good for a CD it will be great looking on a shirt or a patch. This is really Heavy Metal.
About the “The Expendable” reference; those movies go back to the old-school 80s action movies, but with a modern touch. Come to think of it, the same can be said about 'Force Of Destruction'! I mean, both musically and visually the album grabs back to a more old-school approach, but it doesn't sound outdated. In how far can you agree on this?
Andreas Babuschkin: This is some kind of destiny. You're right. Absolutely. And the album is for sure a fist in the face of those people telling you Heavy Metal is dead. A thing that I hear for more than twenty years. Bullshit.
Time proved that Heavy Metal's here to stay.
What can you say about the lyrical part of the new record? At some points I get the idea that there is a red line between the songs, mostly dealing with the end of the world and post-apocalypse. There is also a sci-fi feel to a song like 'Bulletstorm', with the sound of laser guns etc. near the end of the track… Please explain a bit more about the lyrical concepts…
Andreas Babuschkin: 100 points for you hahaha. There is a red line. From the first song 'Iron Will' about the power of the universe, the creation of life and the power in the sparks of life. The 'Tornado' about the electric signals taking all our life, memories, creativity and freedom away into a non-existing forever. The madman in 'Gods Of Thunder', destroying the web with a killer virus. Mankind that is fighting and killing themselves afterwards in the chaos of a 'Bullet Storm'. The struggling existence of man in 'Blood & Iron'. The arising of new warrior clans in 'Blades Of Hell' and 'Dynasty'. The fight between them and mutated man-machines in 'Rising from the Black'. The revelation in finding a kind of back-up to re-start the civilization again and the still open question to do it or not in 'Demon's Lair'. 'Secrecy' is a song about the power of life in general and closes the circle back to 'Iron Will'
The sound is also more old-school (yet contemporary) than 'Screenslaves'. Uwe Lulis did a fantastic job on the last album, but although the album definitely had all the Paragon trademarks, it took me a while to get into. For this album you have chosen for the great Piet Sielck who has definitely seen to a powerful and even more recognizable sound. What can you say about the change of producers again and why Piet was the right man for the job?
Andreas Babuschkin: Uwe was the right man for what we wanted to do with 'Screenslaves'. We wanted to have a different more direct and hard sound for that album and he did what we expected. This time the aim was different. People were telling and asking us to go back, to do something like 'Law Of The Blade' again. Okay, this is impossible, but it's not impossible to write songs in that vain and choose the right
(in this case) the same producer to do that. So the producer is there, waiting for us. To take another guy, trying to copy the sound of Piet Sielck is more than stupid. And just to point out again; we've never had trouble with Piet or whatever. It was just the feeling that, after doing four records, in five years together, we needed a little rest to prevent us of just copying old ideas.
Another striking point about 'Force Of Destruction', to me at least, is that the band sound more alive and kicking since 'Revenge' actually. There seems to be a new-found energy and youthful enthusiasm in the band, as if you are living a new start. In how far can you agree, and how do you explain this?
Andreas Babuschkin: It really feels a little bit like it. We have the band feeling of sworn brothers. From the moment on we choose to do this record. No matter what others will say. Working title was 'Iron Will'. It is a little bit like in the old times when you first started out with a band believing in every single note as the best thing since the invention of beer. And I can't wait to hear all the new ideas for the next album.
As far as I could see you don't have many gigs planned yet, only one with Iron Savior in January. Is there a chance to see the band more often across Europe in 2013?
Jan Bünning: Of course we hope to do more shows but nothing is fixed yet. The best would of course be a support slot for a bigger band and also festivals all over the world.
How difficult is it for a band like Paragon to get gigs nowadays? I mean, with a history of 22 years and ten full-length albums, you do belong to the league of long-running bands nowadays. But still it seems harder to get tours planned. Is there a particular reason for that?
Jan Bünning: It´s really a pity but that is for sure not untrue. At present I have the feeling that many bookers are not interested in the music of a band at all but on what big label they are or how sexy their outfits are. And I really don´t get it because in the end it´s all about music or am I wrong??? We just released the strongest album of our history with 99% positive to very positive reviews but it´s still hard to get booked for a festival. The other thing is that some bookers still think that we play a show for free or for some bottles of beer. We still have fun playing live but we are also putting a lot of money into Paragon for the recordings, instruments, strings, backdrop etc. So at least we need the money travelling, sleeping, food and drinks. Some people still think even that is too much…
I guess the question now is what can we expect from Paragon next?
Jan Bünning: The next project we have is to do a video for our song 'Iron Will'. It will be made by a professionell director and hopefully be released before XMas. We also hope to do more shows/festivals and maybe a support tour and we also already working on new songs for the next album.
What ever happened to the plans to release a DVD and a live album? Maybe something to think about for the 25th anniversary, with the DVD covering the band's history and recording a special 25th anniversary concert? Hehehe!
Jan Bünning: We never had official plans to do a live CD/DVD so far. Record sales are not as god as in the past and making a live CD/DVD costs a lot of money. So we would have to sell a lot of DVD/CD to recapture it and live DVDS/CDs are even selling less as studio recordings. If we ever do such a thing we would also need something special like a special location, setlist, stage show or a show in front of a lot of people. At best all of it! We are thinking about performing 'Law Of The Blade' in its whole some time. If we get a good offer we could maybe record that show.
Well, I guess we can wrap it up for this time. Unless of course there is anything left that you'd like to mention…
Thank you for the Interview Nima and cheerz to our fans in the Netherlands of all over the world. Metal is the law!