I know that before joining Gotthard you were in a band called Forsale. What kind of band was this and did you record any material with them?
Well, Forsale was little more than your typical school band. We did a few concerts a year and we got no real help whatsoever. We had to do everything ourselves. In Forsale I started out as the drummer and when our singer left the band, because he was tired of all the empty promises in this business, I had to sing a few concerts and that was more or less the start of my singing career. We did one album with Forsale entitled 'Stranger In Town'.
Why did you decide to leave Forsale and start up Gotthard in the first place?
Leo (Leoni) played some guitar solos on the Forsale album (he was mentioned as an additional musician on the album sleeve) and I had to redo the favour to Leo for some of his recordings. So as a result of this we started to work together and that proved to be the start of Gotthard.
Now that you've released eight albums so far excluding your new live-album, Gotthard is really seen as a recognized name in the melodic rock scene. Did you expect this to happen at the time that you started up the band?
We had to fight a lot along the way, since in the nineties our musical style was not really appreciated. I must say however that during this period of hard work we've had great times with this band. Now even after fifteen years of Gotthard's existence, we're proud that we're still able to release records and get appreciation from our fans.
Your latest studio album 'Lipservice' got rave reviews and was voted “album of the year” by many journalists and melodic rock fans. Why do you think that this album in particular got this huge amount of praise comparing it to your previous albums?
'Lipservice' kinda meant starting a second life for us as a band, we wrote a new chapter with this album. We changed management and decided to start up our own record company. Especially our new management company did a great job, because they opened quite a few new doors for us in new countries outside of Switzerland.
For 'Lipservice' you changed record companies and decided to go for Nuclear Blast. Did that have anything to do with the positive outcome of the record in the media?
Nuclear Blast certainly contributed for a great deal to the success of 'Lipservice'. Of course the record by itself it a good one, but they were able to get us a lot more publicity than we previously were getting. We really had the feeling that we had a well-oiled machine working for us.
Why did you decide to go for Nuclear Blast in the first place, since they are more of a heavy/power metal label and not really a melodic rock type of label?
Nuclear Blast as a company also decided to do something different at a certain stage and broadened their musical spectrum. They sort of wanted to expand their reach with new music and Gotthard fitted perfectly in that strategy. With their help we were also able to reach more countries like North and South America, Russia and so on, so it really proved to be a win-win situation.
The second album that you do for Nuclear Blast is a live-album (with bonus-DVD). Why did you decide to do a live-album as a follow-up to 'Lipservice'?
A lot of songs from the 'Lipservice' album just seemed to ask to be played live and this combined with the fact that we never really did a live-album before made us decide to go for it. Because we wanted to do something special we decided to record the album in the mecca of rock and roll in Switzerland namely the Hallenstadion and that proved to be a good decision.
When the announcement was done to do a live-album, I was very anxious to get a hold of it because I believe that Gotthard is an extremely good and tight band on stage which showcases excellent musicianship combined with a lot of enthusiasm. What makes you such a great live band?
That's a good question. One of the things that really helps is our extensive experience on the live stage. We played many, many concerts in our lives. Furthermore it's very important to have fun on stage, because that's radiated across the audience. I guess this combination makes us the live band we are.
One of the reasons might be the stable line-up that you've had over the years. What the reason that you only had one line-up change in your existence while a lot of other bands are changing band members as fast as men's underwear?
(Starts laughing)There is really a strong friendship among the band members and that's vital for staying in the business as long as we do already. In Switzerland we live a little bit in the Italian style where respect for one another and having a great time together is very important. Even outside the band we hang out together, so we've become really close over the years. We feel that we have a winning team, so why should we change things?
Speaking of that one line-up change, which happened about two years ago and brought Freddy Scherer into the band as a second guitar player. Can you tell me something about his musical background and the reason why you decided to get him in the band?
Freddy and Marc used to play together in a Swiss melodic rock band called China so they already knew each other quite well. Mandy decided to go back to Krokus, so we needed to get a replacement for him, we knew we wanted to get somebody with a lot of experience so that we didn't need to teach somebody how to play our songs. Just a few weeks before we were in need for a new guitar player, Freddy had just left his band so Marc asked him if he was willing to try Gotthard. We met, we jammed and we had fun together. We did audition two or three other people but Freddy proved to be the perfect man to do the job.
The album was recorded in your home land Switzerland, more specifically in the Hallenstadion in Zurich. Why did you choose for this venue and why did you decide to go for a one concert performance for the album?
Since we wanted to do a DVD together with the CD, we wanted it to look impressive and so we decided to record everything in the biggest venue in Switzerland which could host the biggest crowd possible and therefore we ended up at the Hallenstadion. The gig that we recorded was great so we knew we didn't need to do other recording anymore.
Being in Switzerland caused you to do some announcements during the concert in the German language, which might not be appreciated by the true international music community. Why didn't you do your announcements in English, knowing that the record will be released worldwide?
It's just natural for me when I'm in my home country to talk German. I want to be honest and when playing in my home country for a lot of people of which a lot of them I know personally it just seemed strange to do my announcements in English.
The concert was also filmed. Was it the intention from the start to add a bonus-DVD to this record or was this decided after seeing the actual material?
Just a few days before the concert I mentioned to Marc that it was a shame that we were not filming this gig and our mutual feeling was we should do it. We immediately stated that when it proved to be good enough we would give it to our fans as a bonus-DVD. As stated earlier the concert proved to be great so that's why the DVD is included in the package.
Why did you decide to do a bonus-DVD release instead of releasing a stand-alone DVD?
We didn't want to do a separate double CD and DVD because that would be too expensive for our fans. This created a problem however because we had to cut some tracks from the audio CD to make the eighty minute mark, so a few songs will only be on the DVD. We decided to put our main tracks on both media.
Since I don't have a promo-copy of the DVD, can you tell me what bonus material will be on there and why you choose for this?
You don't have a promo-copy of the DVD? Well, that's strange because we requested to send out the complete package for review. I will check what went wrong there. Going back to your question, we've added some video clips ('Anytime, Anywhere', 'Lift U Up', 'Dream On'), we've included a “making of the Hallenstadion show” and some very interesting interview pieces.
Why did you decide to include so many cover songs, since your own material is strong enough?
We've always included a cover song on our studio album, except for our latest album 'Lipservice'. It more or less starts in the rehearsal room when we're jamming well-known cover tunes just for fun. Some of them sound so good that we then decide to include them on the next studio album, although we always try to make something special of that song. Furthermore it is also a nice way for the young kids to learn great songs from the past. Since these covers have become a part of the Gotthard back catalogue and because it's just plain fun to play them live, we've included them in our set list.
I really like the album cover, which got a big smile on my fact. It is however not quite your typical hard rock type of cover. Why did you decide to go for this one? I can't imagine that there is a deeper meaning behind it?
We don't take ourselves too seriously and we wanted to make people smile. We didn't want to go for the typical rock type of cover and because our album is called 'Made In Switzerland' we have to Swiss cows in a certain position making something if you know what I mean.
Normally when a new studio album is out, a band is promoting the album via interviews and (if possible) a tour. You don't have a new studio album out now, but do you have any touring plans for the next couple of months?
Yes, absolutely. We are and will always be a touring band, although it is tough and you really have to stay in shape to be able to perform well. We will be going to North and South America, which is new territory for us, so we'll see how we are received there. This will keep us busy until the October time frame. In the mean time we will start to think about a new studio record.
Speaking about studio-releases, are you already preparing for a next studio-album? If so, what are the things that you've already done so far?
We started with certain ideas already and this is the very first time that we actually wrote while being on tour. We don't feel any pressure now and when good ideas pop up we just record them for future use. However, we will really start the writing part after the tour so somewhere in October 2006 for possible 2007 release. As I can see now, it will be in the same style as 'Lipservice'. We will include some good ballads and I expect that it will rock a little more.
We talked about the current and short-term future things that you've got planned but what are the more long-term achievements that your are looking for with Gotthard?
We're not really thinking about any long-term achievement, we more or less take it day by day because a lot of unexpected stuff can happen in life, both good and bad. We're just trying to spread the music and let young kids discover classic rock.
In conclusion, any famous last words from your side?
I would advise everybody to have fun, because it's a very important part of life. Furthermore I would like to thank you Sjak, for taking the time to talk to me and let me explain the situation concerning Gotthard. Remember, what we do comes from the heart!