Let's start with the fact that it is quite unusual that a tribute-band actually gets signed to a label. In the case of Roxxcalibur it is understandable. But first things first, when did you guys form the band and why?
As some may know, Alexx Stahl (vocals), Roger Dequis (guitars) and myself (Neudi, drums) play in a band called Viron since 2005. We are on the US-Metal side, style wise, but we are definitely into old school metal. Guitar player Kalli from the German thrash band Abandoned was interested in getting the job as a second guitar player in Viron when we were looking for one but back then he couldn't make it. But we stayed in contact since then. Bassist Mario helped us out on two or three gigs when our bassplayer wasn't available. So this is how we all met. Besides forming a great friendship, we also noticed that we love the NWOBHM and when we talked about doing something together the idea of a NWOBHM-Tribute band came up. And here we are...
How did you actually get signed to LMP?
I know Limb for years and looking at his bands on his label LMP I thought he would just be into symphonic metal or prog-metal. We met at the Keep It True Festival in 2007 and while talking about this and that I mentioned my new band Roxxcalibur. I was very surprised when he immediately said that he wanted to do a CD. He knew Viron so he was sure that we wouldn't sound crappy. The months went on and things got more concrete. After he saw us at Headbangers Open Air in summer 2008 we fixed the deal and started recording. We are very happy to be with a label who really likes what we do. It would have been difficult to explain our idea of the band to a labelboss who is not into this stuff - for sure!
Knowing that the NWOBHM has a vast array of bands I can imagine you can record multiple albums. Did you sign a deal for more than one album?
Besides the fact that whatever happens we would go on working with LMP, we also have a cool deal with him. Of course we have to wait and see how 'NWOBHM For Muthas' will be accepted outside the small die-hard-NWOBHM-fanatics-scene. The whole CD, production and cover, was pretty expensive for these days. The first reactions from fans and the press are very, very positive and the gig at the Keep It True Festival one day after the release was like a gift. Nevertheless most of the reviews will appear at the end of May in the print-magazines here in Germany and this may be the “real” release-week then.
I think it's great you have chosen quite a few unknown acts, at least to the majority of metalfans, as well as some more known songs. You stayed away recording Maiden or Saxon songs though. How did you choose this set of songs? Are these songs the same ones you have in your live set as well?
There's a small difference between Roxxcalibur as a live-act and as a recording-act. Our live set contains a song of Maiden and Saxon each and we also do some of the songs Metallica have already released as a B-Side or on Garage Days (like 'Blitzkrieg' and 'Helpless' from Diamond Head). When it comes to recording a CD we decided not to include these kind of songs. This has several reasons. We don't want to bore the metalheads with another version of songs they already know. This works live, but not on CD. Also we have chosen the songs on the CD because it is so difficult (in some cases impossible) to get the original versions. They are great songs and in most cases the reason why they stayed unknown is that the band was just a regional act back then. They went into a small studio for several hours (!) and then released a 7" single of it, which was sold at their shows and maybe at some record shops in their area. So a lot of great songs seem to be lost forever and there are just a few maniacs who are willing to pay hundreds of Euros for a vinyl by them these days. It is not the fault of the song but of the bad circumstances. And if a young metalhead somehow gets a CDR-copy of one of these songs, he maybe won't like it because of the sound quality. Many rare or obscure NWOBHM-songs are like a rough diamonds and not everybody out there is able to notice how great they are. (hear hear-PB) So let's say we make these songs (or some of them) available again and suitable to genre fans and “regular” or young metalfans. That's a great thing!
Seeing acts like ARC, Chateaux or JJ's Powerhouse amongst the chosen songs at least one of you must be a die-hard NWOBHM fanatic right? So who's the collector within the band?
I guess that's me! :-) I am 38 years old and I started being a hardrock-, then metalfan when I was eight or nine years old. The first years I didn't care of the origin of the bands I like. It was in the mid-nineties when I started getting interested in the history of Heavy Metal in general, especially the NWOBHM. And at some point I started getting kind of addicted. When the more known vinyl wasn't enough I started exploring the second row (Neat-Singles etc.). The most expensive part was when I went down to the locals acts. I spend several hundred of Euros each year for singles and LPs. I wrote articles about the NWOBHM for magazines and started getting good contact to many bands. My collection is now the source for the Roxxcalibur songs. I still am a NWOBHM-maniac and a metalfan in general but I added 70s hardrock to my interests now. I fear that I will reach the 60s in a few months. I already started listening to The Monks and The Blues Magoos. I am scared about myself *lol*
How do you choose the songs? Does one of you suggest songs? How does it work?
It can't be more relaxed and easy like in Roxxcalibur! Our first 90 minutes of program was a result of two BBQ's at my house, combined with a long listening-session each. We had a piece of paper and wrote down the songs at least three of us like and then I created a CDR for each member. Except of 'Gates of Gehenna' we just needed one rehearsal for each song! :-) Of course we need to check if a song fits to our personal style. Each member has his personal style and you can't switch that off. But it is not a bad thing as we are a band and no project. So while doing covers we sure want to keep something like an own identity.
When you should start recording a second album what songs would you like to include?
When we rehearsed for the Keep It True Festival where we were joined by many original singers and instrumentalists from the NWOBHM (yes, this was a dream come true for us!) it lead to an expansion of our live-program. And what I can say now is that we definitely will include 'Don't Break The Circle' from Demon. For now the rest (Samson, Girlschool, Satan, Maiden, Tygers and some more) will first remain in our live-set when we are booked to play really long shows. This was a cool side-effect of that Keep It True show (fans can check out pics of it on our myspace www.myspace.com/roxxcalibur and yes, there will be a DVD of this special show!). Well, so far we just talked about 'Music Power' from Oxym which is one my favorites. And we maybe will do a song by Saracen...let's see. :-)
Would you record a Judas priest or Motörhead song?
No, never! We keep the definition of the term NWOBHM very serious! (Now that's the answer I was looking for!-PB) If I someday will have a 70's coverband I would definitely do the Priest track 'Run Of The Mill' from 'Rocka Rolla'. Too bad so many people aren't able to accept 'Rocka Rolla' as a great 70's hardrock LP! When I talked to Rob Halford he agreed with me. So I use this opportunity to say: “Everybody should check out 'Rocka Rolla' again!!”
You're all active in other bands as well and it seems Roxxcalibur is getting quite some attention now. Could you introduce your other bands in short to us and do you think being in Roxxcalibur will affect the plans you might have with the other bands?
Okay, let's start with the band of our guitar player Kalli: Abandoned. They have two CD's out on Dockyard 1 and they play pure Bay Area Thrash. They currently are in the process of recording their third CD, which will be really great. Their current line-up is so strong that they will blow away many of these recent Retro-Thrashbands! It's kind of Annihilator on 45rpm! With Viron we did two CD's now, the first one has the title NWOGHM; even most people say that we would sound like US-Metal acts like Jag Panzer or Vicious Rumors. From the summer of 2008 to exactly last week we took some time off because the two other guys in Viron needed to finish their studies. So we had enough time for Roxxcalibur. In future we just have to schedule our recordings and gigs.
You recently had quite some cool gigs with Roxxcalibur and some extremely interesting gigs coming up. Can you tell us a bit about the past and upcoming shows? What can we expect from a Roxxcalibur show?
Like I mentioned before there was this unbelievable NWOBHM-Anniversary Show at the Keep it True Festival 2009 on April 25th. It really felt kind of untrue having legends like Brian Ross, Jess Cox, Enid Williams, Dave Hill and Harry 'The Tyrant' Conclin with us on stage. We also had a chance to perform 'Rainbow Warrior' (Bleak House) and 'Seven Days of Splendour' (Jameson Raid) with the original singers. Plus there was Thunderstick from Samson, Lee and Russ from Cloven Hoof and both guitar players of Tank. And all that in front of over 2000 people who later called this show the festival highlight (if you have a look at the great festival-billing you may understand why this makes us really happy). Besides some smaller club shows, which we enjoyed a lot, we played Headbangers Open Air in 2008 along with Praying Mantis and Sweet Savage. And they already booked us (on a way better position on the billing) for 2010. In the meantime our booking agency will shop for more.
Is it important to play live for you guys?
It was the main reason for the band before we did the CD! Yes, playing live is as important as recording albums - definitely. Performing these songs is pure fun and we infect the audience with that. Many songs are easy to play for us, which gives us the opportunity to concentrate on the pure energy of our playing.
Have any of the bands you play covers from already contacted you in any way? I mean I'm quite curious what the original acts think of a tribute band like yours.
I could tell you many stories about that but I try to keep it short. :-) As you can imagine it is not easy to locate bands/former band members in Great Britain who just put out a 7" vinyl between '78 and '84. They were regional acts. Most of the guys are no active musicians anymore and have their day jobs and families. Playing in a band was just a short period of their lives. With the help of some people from the scene we got some contacts and we started writing mails (if available). The feedback was overwhelming. Not just that these guys like the idea, some of them were totally amazed that somebody remembers their “small little band” from years and years ago. So even before we were able to send them our version as an mp3 they were totally happy. Some sent us lyrics; others helped out with some parts with which we weren't sure what to play due to the bad sound quality of the original versions. The best part was when we sent out mp3s of the final mix to the original bands. They all love it! Speaking of the CD we weren't able to locate ARC and Dark Star. And we still have some problems getting in contact with Savage and Chateaux. If some you these guys read this: We have a free CD for you!!
On the album you stay close to the original versions of the songs but you do have an own sound. Of course you can't sound like Witchfinder General one minute and then sound like Savage the other minute. You did try to sound authentic when talking about the production, right? Tell us a bit about the recordings?
Like I mentioned before we are a real band with an own identity, no matter if we would do own songs, NWOBHM-covers or US-Metal covers. With “own identity” I don't mean the style of Roxxcalibur, but each musician. Both guitar players are experienced in Power, Speed and Thrash Metal for years. Of course the way they play sounds different to others who have a blues or rock background; they even haven't changed the arrangements of the original versions. Same with me as a drummer. My play is a mix of rock- and metal drumming and some people even know that it is me playing when I do breaks. And there's Alexx who has his own voice.
Recording the album was easy going and a lot of fun. I never experienced a more relaxed studio atmosphere! What you hear are real amps and real drums. Some songs are even recorded without a clicktrack! All this was very close to the way of recording back in the days of NWOBHM and we wanted it that way. The difference is that we did that old-school way of recording in a modern studio. The mix of the album was a pain in the ass though. The first version was so good that most metal bands would sell their mom to have it on their album. But it didn't go well with Roxxcalibur, so we met several times listening to really good sounding 80's records like “Powerslave” and “British Steel”. We did an in-depth analysis of what is different to today's metal CD's and we notice a lot of small details which we wrote down. One example is the drum sound and you can check that by yourself: Today the bassdrum is the leading instrument within the drumset while the snare is somewhere in the mix. Listening to the 80's records, the snaredrum is up-front while the bassdrum is in the second row. And of course most recent productions contain two or three rhythm guitars on each (!) channel, while in the eighties you often had just one on the left, and one on the right channel. Maybe this sounds like some unimportant details to many who reading this right now, but believe me, they were important to do the second and final mix of our CD with which we are more than happy now. A final thing I have to mention is that we did just a little mastering. Most recent CD's are too powerful and simply too loud. I am missing all the dynamics on it and I really hate it! Maybe you need turn the volume knob more to right when listening to “NWOBHM For Muthas”, but at least we give you the chance to use it again. *lol*.
Alright, that's it from my side. Any last words you might have?
We thank you for this interview! Usually I support the term “let the music do the talking” but in case of Roxxcalibur it just can help when people have some background information. When I find an old metal record somewhere and buy it, I start browsing the web or check my many metal-books for some information about the band, the record and the recording. After that I first listen to the record as it may appear different after you got some information first. In case of Roxxcalibur some people could say that we are just another coverband, but it really gets hard for them when they want to add “I prefer the originals”, ha ha. When I read a review about our CD and somebody wrote that I feel the urge to write to the journalist “so you have the vinyl of ARC, Jameson Raid, Trident, Bleak House and JJ´s Powerhouse?”. The reply would be really interesting I think...