Interview with Alex Guth (guitars)
Interview conducted by MetalMike
Date online: October 23, 2011
MetalMike: First, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions; I'm sure you guys are busy with the new album, Heathen Warrior. It is hard to judge here in North America because the scene is much more underground than in Europe, South America, etc. How has the album been received worldwide?
Alex: Hi there! The feedback so far has been very positive. We took a few steps forward with "Heathen Warrior", we grew as songwriters and instrumentalists. People are recognizing that, which is a great thing for a musician, you know. The reviews have been good, as well as the reaction by the fans. What more could you ask for? ?
MetalMike: How does Heathen Warrior differ from its predecessor, Heading Northe?
Alex: I guess "Heathen Warrior" is a bit more varied, a bit more sprawling and more atmospheric than "Heading Northe", which is more straight-in-your-face and uncompromising. The new album allows more time for the listener to let the music develop in his head. There's a lot to discover sound-wise and in terms of songwriting. The predecessor is more like a steam roller, it's taking no prisoners. I'm pleased that we didn't do "Heading Northe Part 2", and from what I hear the fans appear to acknowledge that we wanted to move on.
MetalMike: What is it about Norse mythology that appeals to you? When did you first become "aware" of that part of European history?
Alex: We are all from the northern part of Germany, and Yenz is actually Danish, so we can relate to Norse mythology on a personal level. Our hometown Hamburg has been in parts under Scandinavian occupation. It has always been around us, so there was no real key moment when we became "aware" of it. I guess the sense of freedom and independence is appealing, as well as the bond between northern cultures and their geographical roots and nature. Our interest has nothing to do with being trendy or something like that. A lot of bands are using this imagery by now, but when we started out in 1998, no one was talking about it. It always felt right to include those topics, and it has always been a strong part in the entity we call Stormwarrior.
MetalMike: Do you find sticking with the Viking theme limits you lyrically? Do you ever just want to write a song about motorcycles or something? LOL!
Alex: Haha, we actually have some lyrics which have nothing to do with Vikings, like with songs in the vein of "Metal Legacy" or something. However, the Viking theme is a very strong image in itself and it just fits our music perfectly. As I said before, we feel connected to northern mythology on a personal level too, so we don't get bored by the subject as there us so much to explore and sing about. Actually, when I think about it, you just gave me an idea of a Viking sitting on a motorcycle riding through Valhalla full throttle, maybe we should think about that for the next CD, haha ?
MetalMike: I first became aware of Stormwarrior, in part, because of your early collaborations with Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray. How did you meet him? I'm sure that was a great boost to a band starting out!
Alex: It sure was, since he was kind of our idol when we started out as a band. I think Lars met Kai at a local metal club here in Hamburg, and he was nagging so long until Kai agreed to take a listen to our first demo tape. His advice was worth a mint, and he agreed to produce our first album. Everything else is history I guess. Kai wasn't involved with our last two albums though, as there were haters saying that we couldn't do anything without Hansen's help. Well, we proved them wrong and showed that we are able to stand on our own feet. We're still very close friends with Kai and the other guys in Gamma Ray, and we just recently did a live show with Kai as a guest singer performing some classic tracks from the "Walls of Jericho" record by Helloween. The exposure we had being connected to the name Kai Hansen is great for a young band of course, but we want to make clear that we can do stuff our own. "Heading Northe" and "Heathen Warrior" are good examples for that.
MetalMike: I think it is safe to say the early Helloween and Gamma Ray have influenced Stormwarrior, but who else did you listen to as you were first picking up your instruments and later are you started to play live and record demos?
Alex: Obviously we were into stuff like Running Wild and Helloween when we started. Don't forget the classics like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest! Actually, we all have pretty different musical backgrounds, but our love for classic heavy metal is our lowest common denominator. I really enjoy all those shredding guitar stuff obviously, being a guitar player. When I started playing guitar, I was practicing death metal songs to be honest. I tuned to the low b I think two weeks after I received my first guitar. That must have been my rebellious stage as a teenager, haha. When I became more proficient on the instrument, I turned to the more melodic and demanding stuff and tried Maiden and Gamma Ray songs as well as all that Yngwie-stuff. Everything else just basically developed from there.
MetalMike: As musicians, playing the same songs while on tour must be difficult. How do you find time to try out different things and improve, as players?
Alex: I guess the real challenge is not just playing the songs live, but also doing a good stage performance. Mastering both at the same time can be demanding, especially since our songs are not the easiest to play. We have a lot of fast picking, differing harmony parts etc., so you have to be aware of what you are doing all the time. However, no one wants to see a musician just staring at his instrument. People who are attending the shows want to see some action on stage! So you have to play well and act well simultaneously, a double duty which is not boring at all ?. Perhaps it will be when we are 60 years old and played those tracks for 40 years ?. I like to improvise a few things on stage however, especially with the solos, to get some extra spicing. Sometimes it's working out (and sometimes you're biting your butt thinking "why didn't I record the solo that way when I was at the studio?"), sometimes you fail. That's a bit of an extra challenge I like to add to make things on stage interesting.
MetalMike: Where have been your favorite places to play live? Is there anywhere you haven't played yet that you would like to? Where will fans be able to see you next?
Alex: There have been numerous cool places where we have played. Tokyo was very special, and we played there two days in a row. I had goosebumps throughout those shows, and the Japanese fans gave us such a warm welcome. Playing the Progpower festival in Atlanta last year was pretty special, too. It was our first time in the US, and it was cool to catch the vibe there. Sweden and Finland have always been good for us as well, so I'm looking forward playing in Scandinavia again. We've never been to Russia our South America yet, which is a shame really. I hope we will make those places anytime soon. I guess our next stop will be our European tour in the beginning of 2012, so please check www.stormwarrior.de for more details.
MetalMike: You've had the opportunity to play many of the large festivals over the years. How different is it getting ready and playing for thousands of fans vs. maybe hundreds in the smaller clubs?
Alex: I guess it's more or less the same from the technical point of view. We know what we need to prepare a decent show, so it's more of a routine no matter if there's a large venue or a small club. We know how our instruments work, and we know what sound we will need. Maybe you'll have to prepare differently on a mental level though. It's more personal to play in smaller clubs, as you are obviously closer to the audience and it's easier to catch attention. Interaction is much easier. At large festivals, the scale of the stage and the distance between the audience and the band makes it harder to connect with the fans. So you have to animate a lot more, until you'll get something back from the crowd. Being aware of that is quite essential. However, if you get a large crowd moving, it will blow you away!
MetalMike: What do the guys from Stormwarrior like to do when not playing/recording/touring?
Alex: We like to do a decent barbeque, hahaha ?! Lars is our chef at the charcoal grill when we meet up at his house and he's delivering one hell of a hot sauce together with all that meat and sausages?. Besides, we all have quite different interests and commitments, so we don't do as much together as we would like to when we're at home. Yenz is busy with his other bands and producing bands as well, and I spend as much time as I can with my family. My son is crazy right now about wooden toy trains, so we are building railways in our living room until no one is able to put a foot anywhere, haha. I have a passion for video games too, but I don't get to play very often.
MetalMike: Is there anything else we didn't cover that you'd like fans to know about Stormwarrior and Heathen Warrior?
Alex: We actually went to hell and back recording this album. There were so many obstacles we had to deal with, from technical difficulties to health issues, from personal drawbacks and family matters to financial breakdowns. Sometimes we thought of a plot to prevent us from finishing the disc. We had to push release dates to times I think, which was unpleasant not only for the fans, but for us as well. I'm really happy that we got "Heathen Warrior"done after all, and I sincerely hope that the next album will see the light of day on more pleasant way.
MetalMike: Thanks again for taking some time to talk to us here at The Metal Crypt! Congratulations on Heathen Warrior and hope to see you on tour.
Alex: Thanks for the chat, and thanks for supporting STORMWARRIOR! See ya on the stage (and at the bar, haha!) ?
|Other information about Stormwarrior on this site|
|Review: Heading Northe|
|Review: Heading Northe|
|Review: Heathen Warrior|
|Review: Thunder & Steele|
|Review: Thunder & Steele|
|Video: Heading Northe (Live)|
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