Interview with guitarist and vocalist Freddy
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 14, 2012
"Invictus" is German thrashers Necronomicon's 7th studio album in 28 years and the band's first for their new home, Massacre Records. Just like with almost every other German Thrash Metal band outside of the 'Big 4 of German Thrash', Necronomicon haven't really made it that big for themselves yet due to many different things, about which one of the founding members of Necronomicon, guitarist and vocalist Freddy wanted to share a few thoughts of his with the readers of The Metal Crypt. "Invictus" is, however, a great German Thrash record - and certainly may well bring more positive things into the Necronomicon camp in the coming months. That remains to be seen though...
Luxi: So Freddy, how does it feel to have your 7th studio album out (first for Massacre Records), titled "Invictus"? Looks like you have done a pretty good work on it according to some reviews that I have seen... You must feel pretty darn satisfied and happy about the final outcome, correct?
Freddy: First of all, I have to say thank you for your interest for the band. It's an honor for me to answer these questions. Well, I wrote the songs for "Invictus" in the spring of last year. After a very successful year touring across Europe, I finally found the time to write the songs for this record and produce it simultaneously. That was a new experience for us because we didn't get the time to practice each song for a long time. I basically acted purely on gut instinct as to how to make each song to sound like. It was really cool, allowing me to come up with a very authentic atmosphere for the record. It sounds simple and coherent, without us losing the Thrash roots we have had since the very beginning. In addition to the outstanding work by the soundmaster Achim Köhler, the album kicks ass.
Luxi: Would you mind sharing a few thoughts about the title behind "Invictus"? What is there hiding behind the album's title?
Freddy: Oh man, we experienced so many setbacks with this album but luckily managed to get back to our feet over and over again. Anyway, "Invictus" is a perfect album title for this album in my opinion. This is a recurrent theme throughout the album. Unconquered, unbeatable. Never give up... before the curtain falls!
Luxi: Without a single doubt, "Invictus" is perhaps the most mature and thought-out album from Necronomicon, having a top-notch production on it. There are 9 new songs plus one remake of a very old Necronomicon song on "Invictus". What made you re-record "Possessed by Evil" from the "Blind Destruction" 1985 demo for this new record? Did you kind of want to hear how it sounds like with a slightly improved and updated song arrangement and today's production? Or did this idea for re-recording that classic Necronomicon song come from your fans?
Freddy: This idea was already crossing our minds during the production of the "Construction of Evil" album. We have a song called "Insanity" as a live version on that record and from the "Revenge of the Beast" album, we all already knew that "Magic Forest" would also have been re-recorded for "Invictus" as a bonus track. The fans are hungry for the old stuff - and "Possessed by Evil" is a classic Necronomicon song and of course we thought that we could get some extras included for a special edition of "Invictus" - just as a kind of tribute to our loyal fans who love our band, and also love these old songs of ours. I also wanted to know how they sound today... with a modern sound. Sure thing, the original versions have got this nostalgic touch to them and with every song you cannot do that, well, not that well at least. We felt like these two classic songs were predestined to be re-recorded again.
Luxi: After your previous album, titled "Revenge of the Beast", which came out on the Spanish label Xtreem Music, you inked a deal with German label Massacre Records. Would you kindly tell something more about this, signing to Massacre instead of not continuing your cooperation with Xtreem Music? Did something go wrong with them, making you look further in order to find a label with which you could be 100% satisfied with in the future?
Freddy: Well, at first it was so important for me to go back to a German label. So I sent a promotional CD to Massacre Records. The rest was a formality and all happened very quickly. Massacre was also on my favourite list of labels and so I'm really happy that the deal worked out between them and us. About the situation with Xtreem Music, I have to tell you that we got a very cool time with Dave from Xtreem Music but it was agreed that we were working for only one year with them. This meant that the rights go back to us again and we are free. It was like a really fair deal, and for us a big advantage because we derived benefit from the financial situation very much.
Luxi: How has your cooperation with Massacre Records been going thus far? Any conflicts or fights them?
Freddy: No, everything went very professionally and personally. Massacre Records was thrilled about the production and as I told you, they were one of our favorite partners of choice. The rest was only formal. I'm very happy how things have evolved since then with them.
Luxi: How much would you say recording "Invictus" was different compared with the recording sessions of "Revenge of the Beast"? Since the recordings of "Revenge of the Beast", both your longtime drummer Axel Strickstrock as well as bassist Jürgen "Jogi" Weltin were replaced by two new guys. The drummer's position has been taken by Klaus Enderlin and Andreas Nagel took a 4-stringer in the Necronomicon lineup. What happened in between these two albums as far as the recording lineups of both albums are concerned? Did both Axel and Jogi lose their interest for the band, and did they both leave under peaceful lights?
Freddy: Well at first, the difference from the past albums is predominantly in the "natural maturation process" of the band. That's not to say that it has now become somehow commercial or soft for us. No, I believe every one of us has made some development, which must be regarded positively. In terms of personal circumstances: I formed the band in the 80's and I'm the last one left from this early years of Necronomicon. Nowadays I have got fantastic guys in the current Necronomicon lineup, who are helping me bring the band where it belong. Andre, my second guitarist, Klaus Enderlin on drums and Andi Nail on bass. It's an honour for me to work with these guys really. But of course, the memories are still attached to Axel and Jogi. We still have very close contacts and tend to hang out together from time to time, too.
Luxi: Necronomicon's so-called comeback album was called "Construction of Evil" and came out in 2004 on Remedy Records. If you think some years back, how easy (or difficult) was it for Necronomicon to make this comeback and to start recording new songs for your 'second coming'?
Freddy: Well, Necronomicon never split up for good and therefore could not have made a "comeback". We got a horrible time after the split with Gama Records because we lost all the artist's rights plus the Necronomicon name to use it in public, for more than 10 years. With "Construction of Evil" we kind of reported "back" - absolutely, and the media interest towards us was amazing. The ranking was 6th for "Construction of Evil" on Greece Rock charts, 12th on Dynamite / Rock Hard and so on and so on. That record was just a great success for us and made me even more convinced that we should never give up, no matter what. The song material was great and the album was selling very well. Unfortunately, Remedy Records didn't support the band as we had hoped for. So we decided to move on and sign a deal with Xtreem Music.
Luxi: Four years before that, you had recorded a 4-track demo called "... Possessed Again!", which obviously brought enough interest toward Necronomicon, as all those 4 songs on that demo also appeared on the "Construction of Evil" album, four years later. Was the main purpose of recording that demo to give it to some record companies mainly, just trying to convince all of them about the grand return of ancient German evil, only this time for good?
Freddy: We produced this demo in our rehearsal room without any frills and even mixed it by ourselves. We wanted to somehow keep it just as authentic as possible. That was our main requirement. We wanted to get deal with our name Necronomicon but not with some over-produced demo. This worked very well for us and then we signed to Remedy Records.
Luxi: From my point of view if we talk about German Speed and Thrash Metal bands in general, the German 'Big 4 of Thrash' always seems to be these four names on people's lips: Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard: they at least are the most known German Thrash names of all time. But then again, the German Metal scene has also had many other names to offer for the worldwide Metal scene. Holy Moses, Violent Force, Deathrow, Minotaur, Vendetta, Iron Angel, Angel Dust (their early stuff), Assassin, Protector, Exumer, Living Death, Paradox and many others - this pack including of course Necronomicon as well; they all made quite a recognizable amount of name for themselves during the heydays of German Thrash Metal - some bands splitting up and reforming again (like Exumer and Necronomicon did). Why do you think Necronomicon kind of never made it to this 'top 4 German Thrash bands' list but mostly stayed - more or less - in the shadows of these 4 most known German Thrash names, along with other potential Thrash troops at that time? Do you think this is more like a 'being in the right place in the right time' type of matter more than anything else really?
Freddy: All of these bands got indeed justified amount of success and even undoubtedly deserved their success. But I think we don't have to hide behind anyone. Sure, we were not quite as successful as some other German Thrash Metal bands during those days, but we have increased our popularity steadily from one year to another. The best proofs about this are still the written reviews that have been published about our albums during the last few years or so. We have always been there in the forefront of German Thrash Metal. Also, I do not like these constant comparisons to some other (German) bands. We have got our own style. We are Necronomicon - and not like some little brother of Kreator, Sodom, whatsoever.
Luxi: Necronomicon got their self-titled debut album out in 1986 on German label Gama International. Can you remember whether that record got all the promotion it needed when it came out? I mean, if you had landed a record deal with some bigger and better-known record companu from those days - like with Music For Nations, Noise Records or Roadrunner Records, instead of signing to Gama International, do you believe it might have done some miracles for the career of the band? I know this is only speculation, but still...
Freddy: Gama Records was the most horrible thing that could have happened to us. This label ripped off all the bands who signed to them. We never got our money and lost our songs and name rights for over 15 years. Only with a lot of money and legal fees I was eventually able to get the rights back from them. Maybe it would have been better for us if we had waited for some other offer back then, yes. Afterwards I can only say we are always smarter and more careful when it comes to labels. But back then we were young, naive and believed in the people of this fuckin' label. We only wanted one thing - and that was making music: only fuckin' Thrash Metal music.
Luxi: What are your some of your best experiences from the 80's with Necronomicon? I believe you made quite a bit of gigging as well, and as the whole world's attention was directed to the German Speed and Thrash Metal scene during the last half of 80's for being one of the true hot spots for Thrash, undoubtedly also Necronomicon got its own slice out of all this 'being under bright spotlights' phenomenon, correct?
Freddy: We have always gone our separate ways. We realized quite quickly that especially the eastern European market is something special for us, similar to the South America one. One of the most imposing highlights was a tour that we did across the eastern Europe; we played at some big football stadiums. I can still remember our show in Budapest, our knees were shaking with fear. The stadium was so fuckin' big... it was just amazing to play there and for me personally it's one of the best experiences off the 80's I ever had with this band.
Luxi: You are the only original member left from the first known lineup of Necronomicon. Also drummer Axel stayed in the band for a long time, until he was replaced by Klaus on this new album. How important do you see it for bands to have at least one or two original members in some certain bands so that they could be allowed to use their original band names in the first place (think of a band like Sepultura nowadays)? Or, does it matter to you that much who is in a lineup of some band if the music they do follows some of those deep musical traces that made them known among people in the past?
Freddy: I only can tell you from my experiences with Necronomicon. I founded this band with Lala, Axel and Jogi but I wrote and produced all the songs during all this time (with a few minor exceptions). Necromonicon songs are of course also produced with the whole band, and I think that our musical style is unique and individually recognizable. It is still Necronomicon and it will always be this way. What I'm trying to say is that the band will always sound unique and original.
Luxi: Would you say that you have enjoyed Necronomicon's so-called 'second coming' a tad more because you have certainly gotten more perspective on how things should get done - even from the business perspective - when perhaps in the past, you didn't really care much for how well the band got promoted, or whether you got the promised royalties from your previous labels up to the very penny - or whether your ex-merchandise guy was trustworthy enough to pay you for what belonged to you, and so forth?
Freddy: Of course I do enjoy the current success of the band. Especially our new record beats all expectations. And of course there is this great satisfaction for me to show to all the critics and those people who envy us that we are still here and making things to happen for us. But let me tell you that I have always believed in Necronomicon, right from the very start. I know how good and strong this band is gonna be and we don't need to hide this band behind anything. I do not mean to sound arrogant, but I'm just convinced how good a band Necronomicon really os. But the fact is also that we are no longer expecting to receive our past royalties that rightfully should belong to us. I'm actually kinda ticked off about this matter. However, I think it's just better for us to aim toward the future and fully concentrate on the band instead of worrying about what happened to us in the past. Let bygones be bygones.
Luxi:Did Necronomicon get ripped off severely in the past, how exactly did it happen?
Freddy: Like I already said there, we got a lot of setbacks in the past. Gama Records was one of those most negative experiences for us. This label ripped us off - just like so many other bands as well that sadly decided to get signed to this label. And of course some personal problems happened too. Lala left the band, Jogi got tinnitus, Axel got some health problems, etc. However, people should remember that we have more than 25 years of dedication toward this kind of music; we experienced a slice of heaven and some slices of hell during our existence and believe me, but only this fuckin' music kept us alive for all these years. As things are looking for us nowadays - or at least for the time being, they seem to look really positive for the band. Hence the name of our new album "Invictus". NEVER GIVE UP!
Luxi: On January 2002, Kreator, Sodom and Destruction did this tour across Europe called "Hell Comes to Your Town", which as an idea was great and relatively successful in my opinion. This got me thinking why Necronomicon couldn't try to arrange something like that together with some 'less known' and 'less popular' German reunited Thrash acts - like getting Necronomicon, Assassin, Minotaur and Protector on the same tour with a concept: "The unholiest 4 of German Thrash - Evil Comes to Your Town"?
Freddy: This is interesting because I currently am working on with a live package of 3 or 4 bands from Massacre Records for the European tour. I hope we can make it happen because I really am fascinated by this idea and concept just like you are.
Luxi: Will there be an official Necronomicon DVD on the way any time soon? I'm quite positive a lot of people have inquired from you this already, so perhaps you do have some news to share with us regarding this?
Freddy: Absolutely, I have got some plans to do this. We will certainly produce a live DVD in the near future but this should be as a part of some big tour so that we could get a sufficient enough amount of material for this release.
Luxi: German High Roller Records did just a brilliant job some time ago by re-releasing Necronomicon's debut album as a luxurious looking gatefold double-LP, limited to 666 copies with four different colors (the whole edition is almost sold out by now). As it came out so great, do you have any similar type of plans to get the band's 2nd, 3rd and 4th albums out in such a deluxe format in the future?
Freddy: Yeah, that was a great idea and very successful too. Like you said there already, the vinyls should be completely sold out by now - and I happen to know that some vinyl collectors do offer exorbitant sums of money for different versions of that HHO release in the internet. But it will remain a unique edition because that first Necronomicon album seems to be just simply fuckin' cult and a target of worship.
Luxi: By looking at your gig calendar I noticed there's so far only date, booked for May 5th 2012 when Necronomicon will play at Sküll Session festival in Belgium. Are there some more gigs in the works for you and if so, would you already reveal something about them for the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Freddy: Unfortunately in terms of festivals, we are a bit late with the release of "Invictus". However, I am certainly hoping to get this band to one or two major Metal festivals. Currently we are working on with a possible tour through South America, Africa and Canada as well.
Luxi: What do you expect from 2012?
Freddy: Having fun and playing live around the world. I hope we can achieve something like this within 2012. All booking agencies of the world: just give us a call or contact our management. We are ready and are "possessed again"... beware the beast!
Luxi: Believe it or not, I think that's for it this time. At last I would like to THANK YOU Freddy for your time in doing this interview, plus wish you all the best with all the future endeavors of Necronomicon. May your ways be successful and full of amazing rewards. The last words rightfully belong to you...
Freddy: I wanna repeat myself here a bit if you don't mind, eh? We have got more than 25 years of dedication toward this kind of music; we experienced a slice of heaven and some slices of hell within our existence - and believe me, but only this fuckin' music kept us alive for all these years. Well, perhaps not for the next coming 30 years or so (*grins*)... but still for a long long time anyway. Thanks again for giving your interest in us. It was an honor for me, really. Thrashing greets to all of you guys and thanks for your support. (Freddy / Necronomicon)
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