Interview

AVANTASIA (2013 - English Version) - Tobias Sammet (Vocals)

Forced to cancel his promotion in Paris, I had the honor to have Tobias Sammet on the phone several days later. It’s now time to talk about “The Mystery of Time”, to talk about music and of course, to laugh together!
It went a little bit like this:


Tobias: Hello! This is Tobias, how are you?

SBM: Hey Tobias! I’m fine thank you! What about you? How do you feel? Better than last week I hope…

Not this better but yeah… A little better, thank you.

Ok I hope that everything will be ok.
So we’re here to talk about “The Mystery of Time”, the brand new AVANTASIA album… First of all, when did you start working on it?


I think, on purpose, I started to work on it in January, or February… January I think, 2012. But I already had some song ideas and first parts, beats and pieces were written maybe in November 2011 or maybe in October 2011. But during that time I didn’t know it would be another AVANTASIA album, so I think in January or February I made the decision to do another AVANTASIA album.

And will “The Mystery of Time” be the first part of a new story, like you did on “The Scarecrow”?

Yes, there will be just two albums, not a trilogy but two albums.

Ok so we can expect another album in the years to come…

Yes but I don’t know exactly when… Maybe in three years or something like that, but I really didn’t make up my mind about that yet. The thing is that I don’t even have songs left over. Maybe two or something but not really a record, and those two songs are not recorded yet. I will work on another one and I have to, the story is not over yet and it needs to have another album.

And can you tell us a little bit more about the concept or the story?

Yes… I can…


Short Silence… Then laughing…

Ok… Very funny I know… (Laughing)
Yeah it’s about a young scientist, an agnostic scientist, who senses that people around seems to have less and less time, everybody’s lacking time. And everybody’s running faster and faster and people don’t really know what they are looking for and where they are running. And it seems that everybody’s in hurry and it seems like nobody’s got time anymore and it seems to that young scientist that something sucks out people’s time and people don’t have time to think about what’s really important anymore.
So people keep running, get tired and don’t even know what they are running for, and he starts to investigate that lack of time and he finds out interesting things about a secret lodge of scientists who try to manipulate peoples’ perception of time, maintains people’s pace of life and turn it faster.
And the story portraits this scientist personal development and he becomes more and more spiritual, whereas he was an agnostic in the beginning. And it’s an exciting journey; he tries to explore the coherencies of his professional convictions as a scientist and spirituality, which is the other extreme. And he explores those coherencies and he also explores the effect that time has on his spirituality, so that’s an exciting journey, a fantastic journey.
The story takes place in the 19th century in an old English Victorian small town, it’s very creepy, and yeah I think it’s an interesting story.

How was this idea born? Has some observations in your life inspired you?

Yes, yes… You just have to look around, everybody’s running and running and nobody knows exactly where we are running to and what we are running for and it’s like we’re all slaving ourselves to death without thinking “What for?”.
And I think our society loses more and more its connection to our spiritual roots and to our spiritual nature of human beings. People don’t really think about that anymore, people just enjoy the race, the rat race, and people just enjoy running, embracing, chasing material vanities. It’s really unreal what’s going on right now because we’re all defining ourselves, every day is so noisy and fast, and we don’t have moments anymore to focus on what’s really important and to listen into ourselves and find out who we are and why we are here. It’s very scary and I just wanted to write a story about that but I didn’t want it to be too negative; I wanted to write something enchanting, something that will take the listener on a journey, on a fantastic journey and that would maybe make the listener ask his own questions about spirituality because questions are the first step on the way to the answer.
And that’s what I wanted to achieve, I wanted people to ask questions and just think a little and at the same time enjoying a fantastic, inspiring journey.

OK!! Thank you for the explanation!

Oh you’re welcome! Thank you for asking! (Laugh)

(Laugh) And as usual we have a lot of guests on the album, Ronnie Atkins, Eric Martin, Michael Kiske etc… How do you choose them? Do you write songs for them or do you look for the voice that fits perfectly to the songs?

Hum… Both! (Laugh)
For example, vocals like Michael Kiske and Bob Catley; I had them in the back of my mind when I had the ideas for the songs. I remember, “When Clock Hands Freeze” that I wrote under the shower, and Michael Kiske was there with me… (Laugh) In my head! (Laugh), not in the shower actually… But when that melody came to my mind, Michael Kiske was already singing the melody in my mind, the first moment I had the song idea. That was the idea, I knew immediately it would be Michael Kiske singing “When Clock Hands Freeze”.
But other songs like “Black Orchid”, I knew it had to be a voice a little bit like Biff Byford, in that direction. But I didn’t know exactly it would be Biff you know, I had that voice in the back of my mind, and then you go through own record collection and say “Oh it has to be Biff!”. It’s a very natural thing; it’s a very subconscious thing: you have a kind of voice, you have an idea, but then of course you have to think about who’s going to sing it and how it happened.

And concerning guests, what happened to Jorn? You worked with him on the whole Scarecrow trilogy but he doesn’t appear on this album. Is there any reason?

The true reason is a very boring reason. The reason is that Jorn wanted to focus on his own schedule and he didn’t want to join the tour, he said he has got so many things to do, so it was his decision actually. I asked him at the very first moment, I said “Jorn, I’m doing this: I’m gonna do an album and there might be a tour coming up” and he said “Yeah but I can’t do the tour for sure because I got a lot of things to do”. So I said that this time it would be different solution. Everybody knows Jorn as a great singer and a great person, I like him, but the thing is that it’s also a chance to do something new and you have to always see the good aspect, and the good aspect is: I’ve done something new! And it sounds great.
The bad aspect is: If you love Jorn’s voice, it’s not there this time but there are some other singers this time so it’s a win-win situation in a way. (Laugh)

Yes the fact that Jorn is not there is a chance for us, the fans, to discover other bands. I’ve discovered Ronnie Atkins and Pretty Maids with the “Mystery of Time”…

You didn’t know them?

Well no… I mean, I’ve heard a song once, but I never focused of it. But now I’ve heard the latest single and that’s pretty good! I like it!

Mother of All Lies!

Yeah exactly!

Yeah yeah!! You know I’ve always been a huge fan of Pretty Maids I have to say. Are they successful in France?

I don’t think so… really it’s quite unknown in France…

In Germany they are quite known I used to listen to them from when I was really really young, I always used to be a huge fan of Pretty Maids and I wanted to have Ronnie Atkins on the “Metal Opera” and Ronnie didn’t do it! (Laugh)
So he didn’t want to do it back then and twelve years later I met him again in 2012 and I talked to him about it, not about this, when I first met him we just had a regular conversation about all sort of things, we played the festival show together. But then a couple of months later I got in touch with him and I said “Ronnie, why don’t you sing with Avantasia this time?” and he agreed.
I think that “Future World” and the other album “Jump the Gun” are some of the most heard albums of my teenage years. Yeah… “Future World” and “Jump the Gun”… I’m really into those albums.

OK I’ll try to listen to it!

Yeah! “Future World” and “Jump the Gun”… “Jump the Gun” was produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple and it’s one of the greatest heavy/hard rock albums of all time I think. “Future World” is a heavy metal record, I mean, that’s based here, that’s where we stolen our mid tempo, up tempo songs from with Edguy. (Laugh)
We’re really inspired by Pretty Maids.

Yeah, when I’ve heard “Mother of All Lies” the first time I really heard some Edguy stuff. And I remembered that this band inspired you so I said “Yeah I can hear it”.

I have to say, I didn’t know back then when I wrote “Another Angel Down” but if you listen to the song “Future World” by Pretty Maids, there’s really some similarities, it was not happening on purpose but it must be influenced by Pretty Maids.
And I think that Pretty Maids has really inspired songs like, for example, “Falling Down” that was on “Theater of Salvation” or “Another Angel Down” from AVANTASIA and stuff like that. Or “Breaking Away” from the first AVANTASIA album, all these stuff has been influenced by Pretty Maids, by songs like “Future World”.

Thanks for sharing it!
And does each singer play a character in the story?


Definitely… It’s a true rock opera!

And is there any artist you’d dream to work with?

There is one! For many years: Bruce Dickinson! (Laugh)
He doesn’t do it for some reasons and I didn’t ask him this time I have to admit, because I knew the answer he would have given me, because he is so busy with air planes, writing albums, touring with Iron Maiden but one day… One day… He will be 70 and I will be 50 and we will work together!

I really hope so! He is my favorite singer; I’m really a big fan of Iron Maiden so… Yeah!! Bruce Dickinson on an AVANTASIA album will be such a great thing!

I’ve met him a couple of times but you know… I’ve never met him in the studio unfortunately.

Maybe another time…

Yeah!

Tell me, we have the chance to have a lead female vocalist on “Sleepwalking”. Can you tell us her name?

Cloudy Yang…

Oh that’s Cloudy? I haven’t recognized her…

She was on tour with AVANTASIA and she also sang on the album “Angel of Babylon”.

Yes I know but it seems very different.

Yeah she’s very diverse, she’s the Hell of a singer I can tell you, and she’s an amazing singer. She can sings classic, soprano stuff like “Symphony of Life” but she also can sing full pop stuff like… “Sleepwalking”! (Laugh).
Yeah she’s a very versatile vocalist…

I really like this song, the female vocal and the duet you’re doing with her. Why do we have so few female vocalists on AVANTASIA?

Like I said in a question before, and I have to make up my mind about the answer myself but I think it’s because AVANTASIA has always been inspired by my personal private tastes, by my personal record collection, I’ve always tried to work with the people who have inspired me and it’s supposed to be like that, without being chauvinistic it happened to be like that, that most of the bands; I would say 19 out of 20 bands, even more: 29 out of 30 records that I have in my collection have a male vocalist on it, so it’s a reflection of taste and I think it’s just because, by the time, I was growing up listening to music and there were very very few female hard rock and heavy metal vocalists.
There was Doro Pesch, Gianna Nannini who I really like, it’s an Italian one, and there were only a few, Jennifer Rush and Tina Turner, and of course rock singer, Lita Ford, but we had 100 male singers for one female singer and that’s just a reflection of my personal musical journey as a fan, how I grew up, that’s why I think that subconsciously I’ve always rather worked with man because I feel more related to male voices I don’t know… Maybe because I got a male voice.

Yeah maybe! (Laugh)

But you know I always have my favorite female voice, it’s Andre Matos (Laughing together)
No seriously he is a terrific singer and I really like it. But when he sings “Wuthering Heights” it’s such a great great vocal performance, it’s unbelievable and one day I have to work with Andre again, it’s really… It’s a great idea actually! He’s not on the record but I should work with him.

And for this album you’ve worked with a real big orchestra. How was this experience for you? Was it a kind of experimentation?

I’ve worked with an orchestra before, on the Edguy “Hellfire Club” album and actually it’s the same orchestra. The reason why I decided to work with an orchestra was that when I wrote “Black Orchid”.
Black Orchid” had this distinctive keyboard lick and I thought “This needs to be played by an orchestra”. I don’t know I just had the feeling that I should ask to an orchestra to play that lick. And then I said “Ok, if we have a full orchestra on one song, why don’t we play most of the keyboards in many songs by a real orchestra”.
And so Miro made the arrangements and we had a real orchestra on the full record and it’s an amazing difference, it sounds so much more organic, real and natural and I did not expect it to be a so big difference.

And that’s something I wanted to ask you: We can hear a lot of piano on this record, so I wanted to know if working with an orchestra has influenced you in this more classical way?

Well I don’t know… I think I just wanted to do a true piece of art and I wanted to do something that is not modern; I wanted to do a winter record… I don’t know how to translate that… A winter record, I wanted to make an enchanting fairy tale, it’s just elf-like you know the material came like that; it was a winter reason for some reasons! (Laugh)
I would almost say a Christmas record, and for some reasons I was really into a classical mood when I wrote it… That’s a good question actually, I never thought about the piano, that’s maybe why a Japan record label told me that the album actually goes back to the roots of the “Metal Opera” days, I don’t really know why they said that, but it’s cool because “The Metal Opera” record was a good record.
Maybe it’s because of the piano part added in songs like “Inside”, “The Tower” and especially in “The Seven Angels”, I think there’s a lot of similarities when it comes to that.

And actually these orchestrations remind the fantasy of the “Metal Opera” but still with this rock and hard rock mood that we have on the “Scarecrow”.
How would you describe “The Mystery of Time”? Is it a melt between the two previous cycles?


It was not meant to be that, I have to say. Once again I have to quote the Japanese journalist I talked to; she said: “It seems like it’s a perfect summary of what AVANTASIA has done”… From 2002 to 2010 so it’s the best of AVANTASIA and when you mix all those things together something new comes even out.
So it’s maybe true but to be honest with you I didn’t want to go back, and I didn’t want to move away and I just did it, I didn’t really think about it. But now you’re saying this too, there might be something true! (Laugh)

(Laugh) Yes, we have this typical mood of the Scarecrow and this epic side given by the orchestration, this winter compositions like you said. So yes it’s really a kind of melting…

Yeah there’s maybe a melting of those styles and different things, but as I said it was not meant to be that, on purpose I was just trying to not think, I didn’t want to record a modern album, I didn’t want to record a poppier album, I didn’t want to record a trendy album, I didn’t want to fulfill any needs and leave up to any expectations, I just wanted to do it, and to follow my dream and my vision and just let music that I had inside of me out.
And that was AVANTASIA, a lot of long tracks, of orchestral arrangements and classical big heavy metal melodies and rock melodies; sometimes it sounds a little bit like Helloween, but in the end, even the “Metal Opera” sounded sometimes like Helloween…
And I think about songs like “The Seven Angels” and stuff like that. You can find it on the new record and again, I didn’t think about the piano aspect, but maybe it’s what they meant, you might be right I never thought about it that way, but the piano harmonies and the orchestra that support the piano and the big choirs, I think it remind a little bit “The Seven Angels” in a way, and yeah it is maybe true!

Thank you! And now you’ll go on tour in a few weeks and an AVANTASIA tour seems to be such a big thing, so how do you organize that?

Hum, it’s pretty much the booking agency organizing it (Laugh). I just have to make up my mind about the musical part and the booking agency does all the organizing, but I’m really comforted, it’s going to be the biggest AVANTASIA line up ever, we’re going to come with a lot of singers and I’m really looking forward for that tour because it’s like a school excursion: 25 classmates and completely different people hopping on a plane together, flying around the world and playing for sold out crowd… What can you ask more? I mean, there’s nothing better than that.

I’ll be in the first show in Pratteln…

Oh yeah… come to see me!!

Yeah I hope we could meet! The indoor shows will last about three hours, so can we expect something special on stage?

There will be a lot of musicians on stage and every AVANTASIA show is special. We do not need explosions, we do not weird effects, and we have a big stage set. We don’t have explosions, we don’t have Eddie but we have eight lead vocalists! And that’s something that even the Rolling Stones don’t have (Laugh).
So it will be special, you can count on that, we’re going to play a lot of “Metal Opera” stuff, we’re going to play a lot of “The Scarecrow” and “The Wicked Symphony” stuff and also a lot of the new stuff, I mean, three hours you can squeeze in a lot of song material.

Oh yeah! I can’t wait to hear it…
And can we expect a video clip from the album “The Mystery of Time”?


Yeah we’re going to release “Sleepwalking”, because it’s a poppier song, it’s a shorter song and we have done the video clip actually already but I haven’t seen it yet. So we shot it and it’s been edited right now, it was a very exciting atmosphere, we were shooting it in the forest, in a snow storm, there was a castle, it was very enchanting pictures and it reminds a little bit of Sleepy Hollow… And we wanted to have this real enchanting atmosphere.

So it’s totally in the mood of the album…

Yeah totally!

Well, one last thing: you seem to never have a rest. I mean, with Edguy and AVANTASIA you never stop. What are you plans for the rest of 2013 or even 2014?

I have no idea about 2014, I don’t even know that I’m going to do tomorrow, so don’t ask me for 2014! (Laugh)
But I know what I’m going to do tomorrow: I’m going to do interviews.
We’ll do this tour, we’re going to meet with Edguy, and we’re going to start working on a new Edguy album but very very slowly and very relax so I will not stress out.

Ok... And I think we’ve reached the end of the interview now, so I let you conclude of you want to say something to the French fans?

I just want to say “thanks”, for supporting me and AVANTASIA and I hope to see you all in Hellfest, we’re going to bring AVANTASIA in France for the first time. And for those amongst you who can’t make it to Hellfest, we’re going to play in Switzerland, that’s where the tour will nearly start, in April. So if you want to see the three hours show, you have to come to Pratteln. The first show is sold out but there’s another second show and, well, I hope to see you all there! We’re going to come!

Ok, so I'm hoping to see you in Switzerland or Hellfest. Or both!

Yes I’ll be there! (Laugh)

Thank you so much for calling me back, I wish you a really great evening, a good health and thanks for this moment!

Thank you so much. I wish you a great evening!

Thank you! Good bye Tobias!

Good bye!
 
Critique : SBM
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