Interview with vocalist and guitarist Charly Steinhauer
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 19, 2021
German powerhouse Paradox, formed in 1986, has traveled a long and sometimes rocky road and survived lineup changes, health issues, etc. as true warriors. The band left its mark on the international metal scene when they released their debut album, Product of Imagination, back in 1987, and their follow-up album, Heresy, continued the band's victory march. Sadly, the band broke up in 1991 until they decided to give it a second chance in 1998. This was followed by their third album, Collision Course, which has kept them on their well-chosen path ever since.
Five albums since the reunion, the guys have been working hard on the band's eighth full-length studio album, titled Heresy II – End of a Legend, which is a continuation of the story they started with the Heresy album.
Why was Heresy II such a long time in the making? We contacted the band's primus motor Charly Steinhauer, who kindly gave us some answers...
Hey Charly! How are you doing these days?
Charly: Hey Luxi, my friend! Hello to all the readers, too! I'm fine - thanx! I cannot complain. As a musician, it's always a good time when you have a new album on the way and only waiting for the release date.
THE STORY CONTINUES - HERESY II
We are here to talk about Paradox's eighth full-length album, titled Heresy II - End of a Legend. You mentioned to me it was a pretty tough and time-consuming album to make due to its huge concept. Could you enlighten us about this concept a bit more? We are curious to know more...
Charly: The original text writer, Peter Vogt, has returned to Paradox. He wrote the first Heresy story. Once again, he did a great job and the collaboration was great and uncomplicated. He's a longtime friend and we kept in contact over the years.
In contrast to Heresy, which is based on a true story, Heresy II is a fictional story. In 1244 at the siege of Montsegur, two groups of Knights were tasked with removing the Cathar Treasure.
The story tells of the dangerous journey these two groups endured and through visions they are told of the myth of Jesus Christ and that the real messiah was, in fact, John the Baptist, a disciple of Jesus. In fact, our modern Pope wears the ring of John, the Fisher of men.
It was pretty tough and by far the most time-consuming album I've ever made. It took my last nerve but now I'm proud to have created this monumental album.
Having heard the album about a half dozen times now, I must say my sincere congrats to you as the album is a very strong and highly enjoyable work of art which will surely please tons of metal fans once they get to hear the album on September 24th. What are your personal feelings about the material on this new opus? Do you believe there is some of the best material you have ever written for the band on it?
Charly: It is the most versatile and greatest material that I have composed so far. My personal masterpiece. I know that many hoped for a pure old school album, but then I would have had to copy myself. I have managed the balancing act between old and new school well, I think. There are countless riffs and harmonies on this album and something for everyone, but not an album for one run. This is a journey into fear, which grows over time. You have to listen to it often to enjoy the whole atmosphere, because there is always something new to discover in the background.
You have a completely "old-new" lineup of musicians on this new record. May I ask what happened with the previous lineup that recorded the Pangea album?
Charly: The Pangea lineup consisted only of Tilen Hudrap on bass, who joined U.D.O., and me.
Gus Drax (solo guitar) and Kostas Milona (drums) were session musicians and friends who did a great job, but they were not permanent band members. After Tilen joined U.D.O., I had to look for new members.
What kind of a process was it to find motivated and skilled musicians to form the lineup for the band after the Pangea album? It surely helped that each of them had already played in the band earlier, so obviously it was a no-brainer for you to convince them the band was worth at least one more try, right?
Charly: Actually a reunion was planned of the original lineup from our debut album Product of Imagination (1987), but after Axel Blaha had to quit for health reasons it was no longer a real reunion for me. From the beginning, we said that if we do it, then only all four of us. Shortly afterwards there were differences of opinion between me and the rest of the ex-members and so I called off the reunion.
I was still in regular contact with Olly Keller and, in the meantime, got in contact with Chrisian Münzner again. Both were interested in returning to Paradox.
Meanwhile Axel Blaha had undergone treatments and he was feeling better. He really wanted to be part of it again. After all, he is a co-founder of Paradox and my best friend from youth.
This is how the lineup came together. We get on very well and have been working together successfully for three years now.
What was it like to start writing music for this new album, knowing that you worked your ass off with the previous album, Pangea?
Charly: Fortunately, I have the talent that I will probably never run out of ideas. I take a guitar in hand and play it for a while until the good parts come together and then I start working on them.
When I have a part, it runs in a loop through my head until I figure out the next part that fits with it. Since I can do everything in my head on the guitar, it naturally makes my work a little easier.
To come back to your question, I approached the songs without a concept. They just arose in my head. So, I composed one song after the other until I had worked through all the titles that the text writer Peter Vogt had given me for the concept.
By the way, Peter Vogt, the writer of Heresy I, has returned with an exciting story after more than 30 years.
OF PRODUCING AND MIXING
You wanted to produce the album fully by yourself. What was that process like? Were there any obstacles in your way to finding the best possible soundscape for this record? For example, the bass sound on this new opus seems to be exceptionally fat, meaty and heavy, so I guess it's safe to say you really took the time to get the album to sound as powerful and cohesive as possible, sort of marrying the old school with modern production techniques. Your thoughts on all of this?
Charly: It is the fifth Paradox album that I have produced, but the first international production that I have also mixed. Considering that, it sounds very good. Of course, there is still room for improvement, and you will certainly hear that on the next Paradox record.
With a little distance from the work, the guitars could be further in front, but no one is immediately the master in the mix. you have to work on it to make it even better next time.
Right now, I'm very happy with the result for my mix debut.
To me, it seems like you always set the bar for the songwriting process very high, wanting to top everything that have you done previously. Is that the case and how do you handle all the pressure that may come along with that?
Charly: Since I start composing songs without a concept, there is no pressure at all. The reason for this is, as I mentioned earlier, my never-ending ideas.
But I also agree with you because I always try to do better. I want to compose songs that I would like to buy myself. I also don't want to disappoint the fans and stay true to my style. If it says Paradox, there is Paradox inside.
There is also no band that sounds like Paradox. If you start playing a Paradox song, you immediately know which band is playing in it.
SMITH'S MAGIC ON THE COVER
The album cover was done by none other than Travis Smith. Do you think that Travis managed to capture the album's core idea in the way you originally had in your mind?
Charly: The idea for the front cover also came from Peter Vogt. It should represent an original location. The implementation by Travis Smith, of whom I am a big fan by the way, was perfect. I didn't want skulls on the cover. That is totally out and clichéd.
I didn't want a typical thrash metal cover, but rather a picture that fits the story.Travis Smith is a real professional and I got to know him and he is a very nice person. He had contributed many ideas for the artwork.
You have put videos for "Priestly Vows" and "The Visitors" from this new album. Why did you choose these two songs?
Charly: Our first single from the new album was "Priestly Vows". We chose this song because it contains everything that sets Paradox apart in terms of music. Maybe not the best song on the album, but a very good one. The second single was "The Visitors." We chose that because it's a more typical Paradox track.
The third and final single before the album is released will be "Mountains and Caves." A very thrashy song. Fast and straight to the point.
Christian Münzner, the band's second guitarist, is also involved with several other bands besides Paradox. Did this cause any issues with his involvement with Paradox?
Charly: Christian Münzner is the perfect musician. He is very busy but still has time for you when you need him. He is also a very sociable person and has become a real friend. He is a great guy, great human and a professional musician.
He is one of the best guitarists in my eyes. He has extraordinary skills. He managed to improve my songs. I was able to take over every version of a solo that he had delivered without any complaints.
Every band should be lucky to have such a great guitarist in their band. I also advised him to come back to Obscura because I'm a fan of it and because he should do what he enjoys. That doesn't interfere with Paradox. There are no temporal conflicts. We work together in a team.
THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY IS THERE
Would you go as far as stating that this time you have a "dream lineup" to work with? I bet the chemistry between each of you couldn't be any better, knowing your history in this band...
Charly: Yes. I would say so, without offending the other ex-members, this lineup is the best Paradox lineup I've ever had. The mood among us couldn't be better. The chemistry inside gorgeous. The only concern we have right now is Axel's health issues. He's struggling with depression, and we hope he stays strong. This is a terrible disease that I would not wish on my worst enemy.
As you can see, even if everything is in order, there are always new things that have to be mastered.
Your work ethic seems to be ambitious from year to year when it comes to making new music for the band. How do you balance between band activities and other things in your life? It can be tough mentally to be a musician 24/7 and that may lead to a premature burnout (or several) if you don't balance the important things in your life, you know.
Charly: Christian and I are only busy with music. Axel and Olly have full-time jobs. Since I manage everything there is to manage at Paradox, everyone else still has enough time for a private life. I also take the time I need, but I have to admit that the last two years have been hell. My burnout came after I finished mixing the album, not before, fortunately. But now I'm doing reasonably well again.
Axel asked me again and again how I managed to work nonstop day and night. I fought my way through until I finally couldn't. My batteries were completely empty.
We have all been living through the semi-Apocalypse of this pandemic outburst that started in early 2020. How much has this affected the future plans of the band, especially concerning plans for live appearances?
Charly: We hadn't thought of live activities. We just wanted to make a really good album again and see how the reactions were. I think the pandemic is not over yet and it will take a while before the world is the way it used to be.
It's important to play live in order to support your new album. What do you guys have in store regarding your forthcoming live appearances in the coming months (if the Covid-19 just allows playing live)?
Charly: In general, it will be difficult to get Paradox back on stage again. I don't want to give too much hope for that. If we are offered something very special, we will think about it, but we will definitely not tour any more. We cannot make up what we have missed in 30 years.
I think that platforms like YouTube are even more important when it comes to success. You can reach a lot more people there. However, I am missing a personal contact with the fans. I want to talk to the fans and be there for them. I will definitely go to a lot of concerts to be approachable there. We'll see what happens.
35 YEARS OF PARADOX
OK, here comes my last question and then I am gonna free you from my torture chamber of The Metal Crypt. Paradox is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, do you have any special plans for the fall to celebrate this huge milestone?
Charly: First I will have to answer tons of questions and do a lot of promotion in the form of interviews, whether on the radio, in writing, video conferences or on the phone.
Then we will sit down and discuss the future. We have already planned some ideas for the next Paradox album. That could make the old-school fans happy. But it could also happen that I will do a solo album one day, which will sound completely different from Paradox, otherwise I could do a new Paradox album right away.
We will come up with the right thing to make the Paradox fans happy. And what could be better than new great music!
We can't reach every fan in the world. But with a new album we can. That is why this will always have top priority for Paradox.
I want to sincerely thank you, Charly, for your time and wish you all the best with the future comings and goings of the band. May there be another 35 years ahead of you. You are entitled to the final closing words to wrap up this conversation properly?
Charly: Dear readers, listen to the album often and only then form your own judgment. You will find out that Heresy II has become a masterpiece, which will later enjoy a special status. Thank for your support! Cheerz!
|Other information about Paradox on this site|
|Review: Collision Course|
|Review: Collision Course|
|Review: Riot Squad|
|Review: Riot Squad|
|Review: Tales of the Weird|
|Review: Heresy II: End of a Legend|
|Interview with Charly Steinhauer (guitars and vocals) on October 13, 2009 (Interviewed by Daniel DGYDP Guerrero)|
|Interview with vocalist and guitarist Charly Steinhauer on October 25, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Charly Steinhauer on November 13, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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