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Wizard

Ik ben al jaren lang een enorme fan van de Duitse heavy metal brigade Wizard, en de onvervalste heavy/power metal waar ze al vanaf het begin garanderen. Deze band heeft de gave om niet alleen met ontzettend pakkende klanken te komen, maar ook om elk album anders te laten klinken, zonder de Wizard- identiteit, sound en magie te verliezen. In juni kwam het kwintet, vier jaar na de over het algemeen duistere ’Trail Of Death’ met de opvolger ‘Fallen Kings’; wederom een sterke en vooral typische Wizard plaat die zelfs meer teruggrijpt naar het oude werk, maar tegelijkertijd fris en relevant klinkt. Zanger Sven D’Anna vond de tijd om ondergetekende te woord te staan over de band, de plaat en meer…

Door: Nima | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

First of all, hails and congratulations on your new studio album, ‘Fallen Kings’! The album has been released for a while now and so far the reactions haves been quite positive. Are you satisfied with the reactions so far, and still satisfied with the result?
Hi Nima, thank you very much! ‘Fallen Kings’ has been on the market since June. For the first time ever in our over 25-year career, we have entered the German charts. Also on Amazon we are always in the top of the sales charts. We are very pleased with that. The reactions of the fans and also of the press were and are overwhelming. Of course you can not make everyone happy. But that's how it is when you make music. One likes it, the others hate it. 95% of reviews are great and this is good. For me ‘Fallen Kings’ is a cool metal album. But of course you need a certain spirit in your heart to understand that.

Ever since the release of your debut album, ‘Son Of Darkness’ you have released a new album every two years. This time however, there is twice as long between the new album and its predecessor, ‘Trail Of Death’. Why did this album took longer than “normal” to be realized? And yes, I do realize that you released a DVD in 2015, haha…
Yes, we had a lot to do. After the release of ‘Trail of Death’ we were on tour with Grave Digger and played on many festivals after that. Unfortunately we were missing the time to write new songs. But we enjoyed it very much and it gave us strength and inspiration for the time following the concerts. In the end, we only needed two years for the album, we just begun working on it later, haha.

Before we discuss the new album, let’s go back to ‘Trail Of Death’. Although that record was a high-quality, and more or less a typical Wizard album, it was your most experimental album until then, and it still is. How do you look back on ‘Trail Of Death’ and the approach you took on it?
I think ‘Trail of Death’ is still a great album. But to be honest I don’t feel that we have experimented on that album. We wrote the songs the way we always do, and that’s just how the album turned out. Music always is a moment is time, a witness if you will and the circumstances and feelings play a role in how an album turns out at the time. Somehow that was the time for an album like ‘Trail of Death’ album. The album is not typical, but still fun and a good album.

I’ve said it before and I still stand my ground on that matter: Wizard is a band that has always remained true to its original old-school heavy metal roots, but also one that has never made the same record twice. ‘Fallen Kings’ is no exception to that rule, and is a tyoical Wizard album, and yet a bit different. Having said that, I must say that this album is more “back to the roots” and more traditional in general. Was it a thrashier approach that you took on ‘…Of Wariwulfs And Bluotvarwes’ and a more progressive approach on ‘Trail Of Death’, the main focus on lies more on traditional heavy metal, though being more epic…
As I said, it is not possible for us to think about what kind of song we should write. Most of the songs on ‘Fallen Kings’ are by me. I laid a foundation and then we worked out the songs together. To write songs without Volker (Leson – bass player in Wizard for almost 25 years before he left in 2013 – Nima) was a new situation for us. Volker used to be very involved in the songwriting. So I put myself in the cellar with a few bottles of Jack Daniels and I started implementing my ideas for the songs. With a bass in my hand and my voice I began composing the first ideas. Together with the rest of the band we worked them out. But you’re right; a Wizard album never sounds like the other. This is also good because no one wants to buy a copy. So every new album remains a surprise to our fans, haha.

Is the musical direction and the more traditional approach something that was done intentionally? Because to me it’s almost as if you have left the experiments and the “urge” to do something different aside and have concentrated on what you love the most and what you do best, which is traditional heavy metal. I really feel the old passion and the enthusiasm on this album more than on ‘Trail Of Death’…
It is always our intention to make a good metal album. Wizard consists of five members and each member loves a different type of metal. Sören (van Heek, drums – Nima) and Dano (Boland, guitars – Nima) are more thrash-oriented, Massi (Michael Maaß, guitars – Nima) is more on Van Halen and co and Arndt (Ratering, bass – Nima) is the Overkill lover. This mixture has made Wizard stand out for years. I think that our new album goes back to the roots since I was very deeply involved in songwriting this time. I personally stand on epic hymns and beautiful melodies. My metal heart has spoken on this album, haha.

In previous to the precious questions, ‘Fallen Kings’ is the first album with your bassist Arndt Ratering, who joined the band shortly after the last album. In how far was Arndt involved in the songwriting for this album, and the more traditional direction of the album?
Arndt was very involved in the songwriting. He has cool ideas that we have implemented naturally. The fresh wind of Arndt came to us very well, haha. ‘Live Your Life’ for example, is an idea of Arndt, which we then implemented together. A great song in my opinion. Arndt fits very well to the band and you can also hear it on the new album. I don’t think he is the trigger in relation to the traditional vibe of the new album, but he was and is in any case an enrichment for the band.

A striking point about this album is that the lyrics are quite positive in general. At least that’s how I interpret them. To me it sounds that while you are keeping to the glorious typical Wizard and heavy metal themes, you are also putting the emphasis on the positive things in life and the general feel is quite uplifting...
I am very proud of our band and the friendships that have existed over the years. Gladly I sing about it because the whole world has to know how cool it feels. Otherwise, I am very reluctant to write about my texts. The lyrics leave enough room so that everyone can find themselves there again. Everyone can interpret my lyrics as he experiences them. Fantasy stories, heavy metal lifestyle, friendship… These are roughly the themes of my lyrical collection on ‘Fallen Kings". And I think every metal fan can well identify with these themes; the things we love and affect us all.

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You have been in this business for a long time and Wizard alone it’s been years. Needless to say that both the scene and the business have quite changed over the last three decades. What are the biggest differences (apart from the technology of course) and more importantly the obstacles a band has to deal with nowadays compared to when you first started?
Of course, a lot has changed, and not just in the scene… When we started, we were drunk all week and made Metal. Today, we are married, have children, so you have to screw back a few things. Nevertheless, we still have everything under control and look forward to every party. Actually, we never really paid attention to what was going on around us. We've been doing our thing for years and that's good. Sometime somebody wrote the metal is dead. Well, I have never noticed that; the metal is still alive for us in any time.

Nevertheless, today there are many metal bands, festivals and small record companies. The album sales have fallen drastically. Everything is available online nowadays. But we can live well with that. We still have a good record company and the concert bookings are also running well. What more do you want? If you start making music today you will have a hard time. It is very difficult to get away from the masses of the bands. Getting a decent record contract is certainly also difficult. We have built up a good fan community over the years, so we are in the happy state to ignore these problems. But don’t forget that we have already put a lot of work into Wizard.

When we look at the technological differences, it is course a lot “easier” to record music, as equipment is a lot more accessible nowadays. And if I’m not mistaking you have done all of the recordings by yourself, and Achim Köhler this time was only responsible for the mixing and mastering. What are the advantages and disadvantages for recording on your own?
So, in the past it was certainly easier than today. We went to a recording studio for three weeks and only had to look after our music. The rest was done by the producer. Of course, we paid a lot of money for it. Since the last three albums we are recording in our own studio. Of course you have more time to record and once you have the equipment it is much cheaper. However, you must also deal with the recording technology etc... Everything has just advantages and disadvantages. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the times we were in studio. We had a lot of good parties, haha.

Although you are to be found on stage from time to time, you haven’t been that active on the live front in the past years, and you have mainly played in Germany. Since the release of ‘Fallen Kings’ you have done a few festival appearances already, but the promotional tour starts later this month as you hit the road in Germany, Belgium, and two shows in the Netherlands! Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming tour?
Well, maybe we haven’t done a lot of tours, but after ‘Trail of Death’ we have played many shows. We were in France, Belgium, the Czech Republic and of course also in Germany. After the release of ‘Fallen Kings’ we enjoyed a summer break. From September onwards it will go on with concerts. We start with the German festival Metallergrillen where we will share the stage with Tankard and Battle Beast. We will continue a small tour with our friends from Steel Shock. Four gigs in total in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Looking forward for two great weekends with those guys. I have already ordered a Jack Daniels container, haha.

Speaking of gigs, it is of course no secret that it’s getting harder and harder nowadays to get decent gigs and tours. How does that work for a long-running like Wizard, both nationally and internationally?
We really can’t complain. Sometimes we organize concerts on our own. But mostly we get asked to play. Sometimes you become more requests, sometimes less. It is also a matter of money and time. Many requests we have to pass because of bad deals. A band is entertainment and that costs money. The times when we played for a box of beer or gasoline money are long gone. Overall, we are very satisfied. Since April we have been working together with the concert agency Nowntown Music. The first concerts were secured for 2018. And again this year there are still some surprises.

Before we call it a day I’d like to ask about something else if you don’t mind. Last year you also joined the band Feanor, with whom you released the ‘We Are Heavy Metal’ album. How did you end up being an official member of a band based in Argentina?
Initially I joined Feanor as a guest musician and was supposed to do only a few songs for the album. Then Gustavo (Feanor bassist - Nima) asked me if I want to sing the whole album, and somehow I ended up joining Feanor as a permanent member. How exactly, I can’t say, haha. It was definitely a great collaboration and a good experience for me. I'm looking forward to the upcoming album and working with the guys again. Gustavo has been a good friend and a Wizard fan for many years. We simply had to do something together.

As far as I know you are the only one in Wizard that is also active in another band. How did the rest of your Wizard mates react to you joining another band? I mean, Does your involvement with Feanor sometimes interfere with Wizard’s schedule?
No, there is no problem at all. The problem is that Argentina is a little bit far away. So if we want to do something together it costs a lot of time and a lot of money. So after the release of the Feanor album we got the chance for only one live show. But for sure we will handle that for the future.

What can we expect both from Wizard and Feanor next?
We are currently planning the release of ‘Fallen Kings’ in South America. A South American tour will follow in 2018. We also want to release the album on vinyl. If everything goes well, later this year. Regarding Feanor – a new album is in the planning stage. Let's see where the journey leads.

Alright then my friend, I think we can wrap it up for this time, unless of course there is anything left that you’d like to mention …
Nima – thank you very much for this interview and your support! Thanks also to all our fans out the for the great support over the tears. Hopefully we will meet us at a Wizard show! Keep an eye on our official website for the latest news and information about concerts, the band, etc.

WIZARD UNTIL THE END!

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