First of all, hails and congratulations on your new album, ‘Raised On Metal’? But before we get more into that, there is even more reason to celebrate. The last time we did and interview with you guys was shortly after the 20th anniversary and for the ‘The Fourth And Final Horseman’ album. 2017 embarks Lonewolf’s silver anniversary. How do you look back one 25 years of Lonewolf?
It is bizarre somehow, as it is more than half of my life! But most of all I am very proud of it and of what our French underground band achieved. I guess all this and music keeps me being a child somehow, and it's very easier for me to look at the world through the eyes of a child, as I try to make everything negative disappear very quickly. So those years even have had a psychological influence on me and my way of life, in a very positive way. To come back to Lonewolf, I think that – even more for a French band – we have reached a lot, whether it’s releasing albums, touring Europe or whatever. And one thing I am the most proud of is that Lonewolf gave me the opportunity to write about my daughter (the song ‘Viktoria’ which appears on ‘The Dark Crusade’ album – Nima). I guess a lot of fathers would love being able to write for their children, I see it as a privilege. You know, of course 25 years is a lot of work, sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears, but in the end only the good memories and experiences remain. And the good is worth every bad.
Lonewolf – fortunately – quite an active band and you keep the pace of releasing new material. Especially since 2012 and ‘Army Of The Damned’ there is no more than a year a half between the albums. And more importantly, each album is a step forward. Anyway, the coin always has two sides and there is an advantage and a disadvantage to everything. On the one had, in a time like this where there is so much competition, it is of course important to stay in the picture. On the other hand, exactly because there are so many albums coming out, following albums up in a fast pace may also be a disadvantage, because the listener may not get a chance to get used to an album, and so a good album may not get the recognition it deserves…
I understand what you’re saying but look at the 80s; even all the big bands released an album every year. And I don't think that it was a problem to get used to the albums. Of course the times have changed, but I don't see it as a negative aspect, especially for the fans as they get what they expect and don't have to wait for some years again to have a new product.
Musically the band – again fortunately – hasn’t changed that much since ‘March Into The Arena’. You have only perfected your arts and especially since ‘Made In Hell’ you have found and established the Lonewolf sound. Even though you have “experimented” from time to time, you have always kept your course and remained loyal to your sound and style. And that is something I admire a lot about Lonewolf. This may sound as a stupid question, but how important is that for you and for the band to maintain the sound and style?
It is more than important because the fans expect a true metal album and nothing else. When they buy a Lonewolf album, they know what they will get. For is the most important thing is not to deceive our fans. It's because of them that we are still alive and kicking as a band. Some have been with us and have supported us since the beginning or for a long time already, and I would feel really shitty if I’d sell them something different than Lonewolf but still under the Lonewolf banner. They trust in us and are loyal and know that we'll always be loyal to the true metal that we love. It's also a respect we show towards our fans. It happens sometimes that we throw away a riff that we think would not be the kind of idea our fans want to hear from us. And, I have to say that I would not be able to play something else anyway. This music is in my heart, and I play and compose with my heart, so as long as I'm in the band our path will never change. And I speak for the other guys as well for that matter. We share the same passion with our fans and that's an oath that cannot be broken!
As mentioned the last time we spoke was in 2013 and a lot has happened in the Wolf pack since then. You have released the excellent ‘Cult Of Steel’ and ‘The Heathen Dawn’ albums. But you have also welcomed Elvenstorm guitarist, and fellow Running Wild maniac Michael Hellström to the pack. Michael is obviously the perfect match and I’m glad you realized that as well, haha. Please tell us a bit about Michael joining the band…
I have known Michael for a long time, as he is a huge Lonewolf fan for a very long time. In the beginning of his own band Elvenstorm he sometimes asked me for advice. We soon became close friends and he often came to see our gigs. In 2012 he already helped us out in Germany and Austria for gigs that Alex (Hilbert, Hellström’s predecessor – Nima) couldn't play. So I knew how well it worked with him already. And when Alex quit the band, Michael was the first on my "wish list" for the job. So it is the first time that a true fan who grew up with our albums joins the band. You can imagine how his motivation kicked our asses. You hear it on the album, I guess!
Michael joined the band shortly before ‘The Heathen Dawn’ and also appeared on that album. In how far was Michael involved in the songwriting for that record?
Michael wasn't involved in the writing process of ‘The Heathen Dawn’. I actually wrote the album with Alex. Alex quit the band shortly before the album's release and Michael jumped in, that's why he's on the pictures of the album. Some people thought he wrote for the album, but that is not the case and Alex is in the credits. Maybe we should have explained this better in the booklet, because it wasn't very clear. Michael also doesn’t play on that album.
Your new album ’Raised On Metal’ is again a true and typical Running Wild record and has everything the band has characterized since the beginning. Again the progress on this album is continued and in my opinion you have created one of the strongest albums in your career so far. Are you satisfied with the result and the reactions so far?
Thanks a lot! I'm happy you like it that much! Concerning the reactions I cannot really say as it has just been release for a couple of weeks now, so we'll see what the fans feel about it a bit later. As for the reviews; we only had a few so far. But the first reactions are very good, but too few to be taken as a generality. But what I can say is; yes, I am really satisfied with the result. This album is a new chapter in our career. And of course, with a new writing team some things change a bit, so for this reasons I really was aware that we had to work hard to show that Alex' departure would not have a negative impact on our hunger, motivation and style. And I feel that we have managed to do this. I know some rumours that said that after Alex quit, we'd stay on our knees. This motivated me even more to work hard, so I guess the exact opposite happened as what some people expected. We're standing proud and maybe stronger than ever, with an album I’m really proud of. That's why what you say about the album really pleases me as it shows that we did it right. We put sweat and tears into this album; it was very important that the fans had no fall of quality – even after such an important line-up change.
Even though the album is utterly Lonewolf, it again shows a different side of the band at the same time. As mentioned before, you have “experimented” in the past and especially on ‘The Fourth And Final Horseman’ the love for epic doom metal was revealed a lot grander. For this album you have also taken on an epic approach, but this time it is the name Bathory that comes into mind at some points, and especially songs such as ‘Through Fire, Ice And Blood’ and ‘Evil’, but also the chorus in ‘No God, No Master’. In how far can you agree on this? Was that a conscious decision, or something that came naturally?
I totally agree! Both Michael and I are more than huge Bathory fans, and with ‘Through Fire, Ice And Blood’ it was indeed a conscious choice to capture this feeling, this epic vibe a la Bathory. I am really proud of this song as it mixes this epic stuff and German influences and works pretty well in the end. I have to say that I have often used some Bathory influences in the past as well, but as I digested them in a true metal way it didn't come out that clearly. But for example ‘When The Angels Fall’ from the last album was such a song where I typically gave course to my epic/Viking metal influences. The same goes for, for example ‘Guardian Angel’ from ‘The Fourth And Final Horseman’. The spirit of Bathory often roamed around my compositions. This was all in a very conscious way. Concerning the chorus in ‘No God, No Master’, which I wrote, I didn't notice it consciously, but now that you say it I think that it is true, but as said that one came unconsciously!
In how far was Michael involved in the songwriting this time and what are/wear the most important ingredients he brings/brought to the table?
Michael and I wrote the entire album together. We both brought an equal share the album. So his contribution for the riffs is very huge – even more considering that it's his first album with us! I immediately knew how motivated he was to enter Lonewolf, but I didn't expect that he'd bring that much already for his first effort with us. When we worked on the album it was really fun and exciting, ideas came from everywhere. We tried a lot of things, talked a lot about song structures, riffs etc… and in the end we noticed that we both brought the same amount of ideas/songs. So Michael is already 100% involved in the deal, haha! He brought this typical Paragon/Grave Digger in-your-face style on the album, such a ‘Skinless Smile’, which is a good balance to my style that is more oriented in a melodic way a la Running Wild and Stormwitch. Both styles work perfectly together of course as both are German-influenced anyway. He also brought some fresh blood with his youth and motivation of course, that may be the reason why – at least for me – the album sounds more straightforward, more direct, and more live-oriented.
’Raised On Metal’ is in any case a high-quality and a very energetic album, and the current line-up is the strongest and most dedicated and most determined so far. More than ever before the material radiates unity and it is clear that you share the same goals, but more importantly the same passion for heavy metal. All in all it seems that a new era and a second youth for the pack has arrived. In how far can you agree, and in what way do you think you will continue raising hell?
Again, thanks a lot for your words! If you have managed to hear this through our new album, then it means that we have reached our goal! It was important for us to show how alive we still were after such an important line-up change. Because it is exactly a new era for us, and of course we only wanted to be even stronger. Show that the passion and fun are intact, show that the new team is also a strong composing team. It was also a huge personal challenge for Michael. To replace such a talented guy like Alex is not an easy thing. And it was important for us to show that he was the right man for the job. And when I read your words and the first reactions I dare to think that we reached the goal we had aimed for with ‘Raised On Metal’.
Lyrically the album of course has the total-metal-anthems, but according to the info sheet I received with m promo it is stated that “main inspiration for ‘Raised On Metal’ was today's world, and the evil and terror that surrounds us. Please explain a bit about these subjects, and how they are translated through music and the lyrics…
The more time passes, the more I am convinced that those who rule us are not the ones the media shows us, but that there are some "super powerful" men hidden in the dark who tell them what to do – all with a financial background. When I see how stupid some of our rulers are, how you get the impression that they do everything for clash of civilisations/religions I say to myself that it is not possible to be that stupid. Then I ask myself who profits from the crime and remember that wars are a huge money maker and a great way to earn and establish power. Songs like ‘Evil’, ‘Dark World Order’, ‘Souls Of Black’ and ‘Skinless Smile’ deal with those subjects.
After 25 year, nine albums and lots of shows, what is there left that you still wish to achieve with Lonewolf’?
Honestly for an underground band – and for a French band even more – we have achieved more than we can dream of. We play around Europe, sell enough to have a good support from a strong label and to be able to release albums regularly. We have played with lots of our youth heroes and more importantly, all this brings us to the fact that we're still alive after all those years and have a hell of a lot of fun. I don't know what I'd still like to achieve, but what I know is how lucky I am being able to do what thousands of others would love to do!
You already have a number of shows planned for this year, and a few for 2018. These are however “loose” gigs and as far as I could see there aren’t any touring plans. Are there plans to take the band more often on the road for this record?
Yes, absolutely! We will do a European tour this November with Vicious Rumors through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland. The tour is official, and the details will be announced one of these days. Besides that, a lot of shows/festivals should be announced sooner or later for 2018.
Speaking of gigs, it is however no secret that it’s not so easy to get a decent gig nowadays for underground band. How is the situation regarding shows for a veteran band like Lonewolf? Both nationally and internationally.
No, it's not that easy, and it rends of being more difficult as money lacks everywhere. But we cannot complain as we still play Europe and most are quite decent gigs. It is more difficult for us in France. But all in all when I hear from some bands about how it's difficult it is for the, we really cannot complain.
In continuation to the previous questions, for the past two years you guys have been organizing and hosting the Skull Crush Fest, and the line-up for next year is already announced as well. Can you please explain a bit more about this festival and how the whole thing came to be?
An important precision is that it is not the whole band who rules this festival, but only Rikki our bass player. We, the other guys may say our opinion about this or that band if Rikki asks for our opinion, but that’s it. Rikki decides which band plays and he organises everything, with support of Headbang, a local promoter. Headbang gives Rikki a certain budget, and then Rikki is able to put the festival on feet each year. In fact it was a long time idea of Rikki to make his own festival. We played several times for Headbang in Colmar, France at a venue called Le Grillen, which is also where the festival takes place every year now. Headbang saw that there was always plenty of metal maniacs coming, so they were at ease with the financial question. And finally he talked with Rikki who dreamed of organising a true metal fest each year in France and they agreed to give financial support. Next year will be the third edition, the two first ones have been a success. And as it is Rikki's festival Lonewolf will often be on the bill, haha.
So far the festival has been relatively small. Are there plans to expand to, let’s say, Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air proportions?
Yes, it is a 250/300 people festival at the moment. I know that Rikki would like to begin earlier to have more bands to play or to make it happen on two days, but new problems appear for this cases. Because then the French law forces you to employ more security guys, and this messes up the financial possibilities. This and other problems force that for now it will stay as it is. But in the future… who knows?
To make it fast with one last question, what can we expect from Lonewolf after the release and in the new future?
Of course the tour we already talked about, and believe me that we are eager to show the new line-up live! And also to defend the new songs because we really believe in them. I hope also a new album again in a not too long time. Maybe more with this Bathory influences. I don't know how it will be yet, but I know that Michael and I maybe will explore more of this epic Viking side. Let's see what comes.
Well then, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
I guess we covered very much of our actualities! Thanks for this cool and interesting interview ,man! And thanks for your support! Hope to see you soon. Cheers to your readers – stay hell bent for metal!