Before we go into the new album ‘The Sacrament Of Sin’, let us pick up the thread where our last conversation ended, when previous album ‘Blessed & Possessed’ came out. What can you say about what happens after that release in 2015?
A lot. First of all; I’d like to say we enlarged our touring activities. We left this path of releasing a new album every two years and said: come on, let us do more live shows, but on the other hand we also released ‘The Metal Mass – Live’ DVD, because it was our first live release it was about time to have a live registration out. It was also a big project. We did not expect that, but it demanded a lot of input as well. It was a document that showed our live capacity, but you also got more insight about what we are doing all around. We had more time for the song-writing, for collecting ideas in our heads before going into the studio. We started writing new songs right after the touring with Epica last year. It took us one year and then the preproduction, so there was more time for creating this and I am sure you can hear that on ‘The Sacrament Of Sin’.
Indeed, you instantly hear that it is Powerwolf, but on the other side I think there are elements that have broadened your musical horizon this time…
Of course it is typical Powerwolf. There is no need in telling your readers that it is an experimental album (chuckles), but there is for instance the first ballad we have dared to make ‘Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone’ and this is a little bit hardrock cheesy stuff, but it is also going back to the roots in a way. It gave us the chance to do more variation. That was also the reason why we chose Jens Bogren for the production. It does not mean that we did not like the previous ones, we all love the production of every album we have made, but it gave us small opportunities to look different at certain approaches. He was the right guy at the right moment to encourage us to do it. It was a productive production, because we had a lot of orchestration and choirs with us from preproduction with Joost van den Broek. We have a very strong vision about what we want in Powerwolf and Jens said: ‘no, we should skip some layers’, mostly in the orchestration and it appeared to be essential. It was a new approach for us and that was very exciting I have to say.
Orchestration and keyboards, that’s your part of the job. Wasn’t it hard to give up?
That was important for me indeed. I was always the one who demanded more organ on previous albums, but in this case we could miss the organ in some of the songs. They just work better without it. It feels good for me. If you leave your comfort zone, you have a development. That is important after six albums. It is good for every band. Every band should try something new from time to time, but for us within the trademarks of Powerwolf of course. When you start listening to the album and it kicks off with ‘Fire & Forgive’, you only need one second and then you will say: yes, this is Powerwolf. That is what we wanted to achieve, but later on the album something new. We have three familiar songs and then in ‘Incense & Iron’ some folkloristic flavours come up. In this case the bagpipes of course and a bit medieval tinge. This melody screamed for bagpipes and it gives the song a proper flow. It was great to do something you would expect from In Extremo, but in this case it totally suits the song.’
Did you record the organ in a church again?
Yes, like always, but not so much as before, because I also used keyboards in Orebrö at the Fascination Street Studios, but as always I went to France with a recording theme. It is a very small church and I have the key from it. It is very important for me to hold on to that tradition. There is a concept behind what we are doing, but there was not a certain plan since the beginning. If you see the guys on the first album, there is so much difference in the stage acting and clothes if you compare it to our current outfit nowadays. And of course we are like actors in a theatre. When we hit the stage, we become something totally different from what we are in our common lives. That is entertainment and people need entertainment in these sometimes hard times. But our props and stage act has developed year by year. We certainly take the opportunities when playing bigger stages and venues now with using more fire, more props, etc… However, what has never changed since the beginning, is that we always wanted to interact with the audience. We like to entertain the audience, but we also laugh when the audience entertains the band. Then it is a good live concert and we do not want to hide us behind light effects or so. We always want to be focused. Look at Iron Maiden, even nowadays. Bruce Dickinson is running around, waving a flag. He is making contact with the fans. Everyone does something with the audience. Always interacting. And that is important for Powerwolf. Probably that is one of the reasons why people like our live shows.
Indeed, you are one of the only keyboard players who’s making so much contact with the audience!
That is kind of a funny story. When I was young I was playing church organ. Around the same time I became fan of heavy music. At that time it was not the time for so much keyboards in heavy metal music, except for Deep Purple. Nowadays it has changed. Now keyboards are back in heavy music, besides guitars and drums. I am super happy to have that, because I never switched to guitar or playing drums.
In the meantime, what is the most far and most exotic place you have been with Powerwolf?
Oh I don’t know, there were so many experiences during the years. The most or the best thing I have experienced over the years is that in the beginning it was a bit hard to be accepted, with the make-up thing and the wolves image. But little by little the acceptance grew. Now we are given people a great time. They are laughing and that is important in this world. In the end we have created our own trademarks.
When talking about the evolution of the music, you can hear it properly in the last three songs. Matthews guitar playing is different from the style we are used to in Powerwolf. Do you agree on that?
I am not the guitar player in this case, but I also recognized that. It goes more in the direction of Scorpions and Michael Schenker. He likes the solos of these guys. The last song is not a slow or epic one, it could also be the start of the record. A powerful song, we did not want a fade out to end. Another track ‘Nighttime Rebel’ is also inciting with special rhythms and piano. That one is a bit influenced by Savatage I would say. We recognized that from the cover album we did with the previous record.
When you purchase the special edition of the new album, you get a bonus CD with bands all covering a Powerwolf song. How did this idea come into being?
When we were touring with Epica, one day they played ‘Sacred & Wild’ during their soundcheck. We ran out of the backstage and asked what they were doing. But it sounded great! We asked if they could record it after the tour and they were eager to do that. Then we thought about asking befriended bands to cover a Powerwolf song and that was a huge mission as well. It is not so easy, because every band has their own schedule. But every band we asked, did it. We have Mille from Kreator, we have Epica, Heaven Shall Burn, Chrigel and Eluveitie,… We said to the bands they could do it in their own style. It is amazing that we can do that in the scene. It is not just each band, it is a family. Perhaps this might be a starting point to have this more and more. It is great!
Did you have idols on keyboards or organ when you started to play?
Not really an influence I would say, that’s more the case with guitarists having guitar heroes, but I like to listen to a lot of music and sometimes I even like melodies in pop music. In the meantime I dare saying this, because they really stick into your mind. You can hear a lot of influences, but there is no sole keyboard or organ player that stood out in my influences. I am influenced by a lot of music, that is the summarize of it.
Tell me about your plans for singles and video clips?
We already did a video clip for ‘Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ and later a video will follow for ‘Fire & Forgive’ and probably the ballad ‘Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone’. We are such a visual band, there are so much elements, we decided to do more music videos, because we have a lot of things to show. People will like to watch it and perhaps more people will follow us in future for the live concerts.
When you are not busy with Powerwolf, do you have important hobbies you like to share with us?
Well, Powerwolf is always in the back of my head, but of course we have some privacy from time to time. There is one thing I like to do: watching football games. That’s a way to switch off the button for me and relax. Sometimes I need this, but the only connection could be that it is a little bit sport when we go on stage (laughs).
Anyways, it is amazing that you can live for the band now…
This is truly a dream come true. As a child I had always in mind: how would it be to travel around the world in a bus and that’s why I am still grateful for every concert and say thanks to God that I am able to do this.
Let us occlude with some words about the artwork…
I am also fan of this artwork. It shows the good and the evil and the wolf is behind them, holding them in his hands like marionettes. Matthew had the idea for it, but we met a young girl from Bratislava (Slovakia) and she drew it. And that is amazing. She also did illustrations for ten other songs on the album, so it means we have eleven illustrations. She did a great job. It also proves that it is not only a business thing. It is nice that unexpected things can happen in our career. We saw her paintings at first on YouTube or Facebook and this was so amazing that we contacted her. She was inspired by the song ‘Let There Be Night’. We contacted her and the rest is history. We also had it with the stage outfits. We have met a girl from Hamburg on a show and she said: ‘I have some ideas for stage outfits’ and now we are working together with her for almost five, six years. That means it isn’t necessary to have only these business relation things, it can also be a fan/band relation. That’s great!
What are the plans for the near future and for touring?
In Summer we will play several festivals and late October and in November we have our European Wolfnächte tour 2018 with Amaranthe and Kissin’ Dynamite. It is possible that we will enlarge the Wolfnächte tour again and again next year. We will enlarge the tour activities again and I am really looking forward to hit the road again!