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17/03/2008 – Interview with STORMWARRIOR

German Speed Metal, in the past offered by bands like BLIND GUARDIAN and GAMMA RAY, nowadays it's STORMWARRIOR (official website) that keeps the legacy alive. Three albums so far, with the latest one, "Heading Northe", being released in February this year. The review of the album can be found at this location.

I liked this new release a lot and there's still "Northern Rage" that I need to add to my collection. Because of the new album I was very much interested in the what, when, where, how of STORMWARRIOR and for that I sent some questions to the band. Vocalist/Guitarist and co-founder Lars Ramcke was kind enough to take the time to answer my 'shortlist' of questions.

Stormwarrior logo

Congratulations with "Heading Northe". Although I had heard of you/STORMWARRIOR and even checked "Northern Rage" (only briefly in the shop), the new record is my real first acquaintance and as you could read in my review, I'm glad for this. "Stormwarrior" and "Northern Rage" have in the meantime been ordered. Since you did a good to very good job on both first albums, did you feel a certain pressure to do even better on no. 3?

Hi, glad that you like the new album. Of course there has been some kind of pressure, because it is the third studio album and the third one is always something special and very important for a band. But we didn't think about that too much during the production. We just wanted to make everything as perfect as possible for us, so everyone gave his best for this album. But actually we always did the best we could for every recording (even for the first demotapes), I think the rest just improved and we developed to real musicians in the meantime.

Stormwarrior bandOn the first two albums you had Kai Hansen (and Dirk Schlächter for the first) helping out with the technical side (production, mixing, mastering, ...). For "Heading Northe" Piet Sielck mixed and Tommy Hansen mastered. A few questions:
1) Was Kai too busy or was it planned to get someone else?
2) Is Piet Sielck for you the only or one of the few alternatives if e.g. Kai isn't available to produce a Heavy/Power/Speed Metal album?
3) How did Tommy get into the picture?

Yeah, Kai had been very busy with the last GAMMA RAY production and the tour with HELLOWEEN afterwards, so we saw it also as a chance to learn from someone else with this new album. Since we learned enough from Kai during the first two productions, we were fit enough to record now completely on our own. We knew Piet actually for the same time as Kai, so it was no problem to call him to do the mix then. Looking back I would even say that it was good for the album to let Piet do the mix. Because the soundmaterial has a lot more atmospheric and epic parts it was very important to have a clearer sound this time than we had on the first album.

Tommy has been a longtime friend of our new bass player Yenz, who is also from Denmark, so when Yenz called Tommy to do the Mastering, Tommy of course liked to do that and it was a great experience to meet him and work together with him. Maybe we will do more together with Tommy in the future, but I don't know yet. We will have to see how the songs for the next album will turn out to sound, then we will think about with whom we will work together next time. But for this album I think everything and every constellation has been right the way it was!

"Stormwarrior" and "Northern Rage" were released via Remedy Records. Looking back at those years, what was it like under their wings? Did they support you enough, were you free enough to do/create what you wanted, ....? And what's life like under the wings of Dockyard 1, even though it's not that long yet?

Of course we were free to do what we want (and we also still are now with Dockyard). Remedy Records did a good job in what they could afford to do, but for this album it was better for us to move on to a label with more power and more connections worldwide to push the band to the next level. Especially in the outside of Germany we are still very unknown. But I think Dockyard 1 is a good home for us now. They really do a lot for us right now. So far we have more than four times more distribution countries worldwide and more than twice the interview requests than before with both the first two albums.

Is there a connection between the three albums, besides the Viking theme? Do all three form a trilogy or does each album stand on its own?

No, there is nothing like a overall concept or a trilogy with all three albums. Each one has to be seen as single output, marking each a different level of the band.

Captain Morgan's Revenge coverWas it again Uwe Karczewski who did the cover art and did you give some guidelines?

Yeah, the artwork has been done again by Uwe. As soon as we had the title track written and decided for "Heading Northe" to be the title of the whole album, we directly saw these dragonships on the wild stormy sea in our minds. So we gave him some advices, but we didn't expect the artwork to look that brilliant in the end. We were really surprised again and I even think this is the best artwork he has ever done so far!

There is/will be a digipack version of "Heading Northe". What extras will it contain? Bonus tracks, a 10-year Anniversary DVD, ...?

I think on the normal digi-version there will be a video-clip of the title-track with some scenes from the Wacken show last year, taken from the video material of the "Live at Wacken" DVD which will also be released in summer this year. Else for the japanese version there will be a bonustrack as usual...

Where do you draw inspiration from for the lyrics? Websites, books, documentaries? And do you care about the accuracy?

Yeah, I care a lot about that! Before I did my audio engineering courses I was studying northern archaeology and history and also some scandinavian languages at the University in Hamburg for about two years. So I spent nearly all the time with the available books back then. Many other bands read some stories in the Edda and then they built some lyrics about that theme. But they always seem to forget that the Edda and the stories about the pre-christian time had been written down by christian monks some hundred years later, so of course there has been a lot of christian influence inside the stories and one has to compare things with the historical and archaeological facts first before writing anything concerning that. So, everything you will find in our lyrics is based on facts!

Every album is Viking-themed and I guess you'll continue on that path. But would you ever consider writing about other things? And in such a case, would you release it under the name STORMWARRIOR or form a 'new' band?

I don't know, so far I didn't feel any necessity to write about anything else. But of course, if I would feel like being forced from my innerself to sing about dinosaurs or something like that, it would probably be a good idea to not call it STORMWARRIOR then...;-)

Talking sales: which album or release (incl. EPs) has been the most successful and how well will "Heading Northe" sell, in your opinion?

Both of the first studio albums sold nearly the same. With the second one we sold a bit more in the outside of Germany. But I definitely think that "Heading Northe" will sell a lot more, due to the good promotional work of our new label and because it simply is the best album we have done so far.

Any tour plans besides the festival appearances? With whom would you like to share the stages?

Of course, it would be a dream to share the stage with JUDAS PRIEST or MANOWAR on a tour some day. But so far there is nothing like a real tour confirmed. But we are working on that and there will hopefully be a lot of gigs for us this year. Either we will do a smaller tour or some single gigs in many european countries, but we will wait for how things develop in the nearer future. Maybe we will also have the possibility to jump on a bigger tour, who knows... But so far there are only some festival shows in Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary confirmed.

The last couple of years you played at Wacken, Magic Circle Open Air and other festivals. What was this like as experience? Furthermore, did you apply for a spot at the MCM festival or did they contact you?

Playing on these great festivals is always a great thing. You can reach a lot of people and always meet some long-not-seen maniacs from all over the world. I think for last year's Magic Circle everything went through our booking agency. This year Joey and the guys of Magic Circle were inviting us to play again this summer, so it seems that they like the band. ;-)

STORMWARRIOR celebrates its 10th Anniversary/Birthday anno 2008. Looking back to how it begun and to where the band stands today, what stood out for you (both positive and negative moments) and if you could start all over, would you follow the same path or alter a few things here and there?

Generally I would do everything the same way. I would still start again releasing the first demos on tape only and then continuing with 7"s etc... The whole underground time has been really important for the band and still is, because it made the band strong and gave a home and roots to the band. We will never forget where STORMWARRIOR comes from and it's good to have a foundation like that to have everything built upon...!

If I could have influence on it from now on, I would have watched out longer for the right line up at some times. ;-) But still, even these line up changes made the band stronger everytime and we always had some great times anyway though.

How do songs get born in the band? Does it always start with you/Lars or can everyone contribute with ideas after which you see what can be combined and what not?

This time Alex also had some great riffs which we could arrange in some songs. Mainly I still write most of the material, but it is not that important for me that everything is written by me. If next time maybe Alex and Yenz would have written 10 perfect songs for the album, then it would not be necessary for me to write other songs and that would still be ok. (Or we would release a double album. ;-)). But how the songs come to life, it is very different from song to song. Sometimes you have a guitar riff or sometimes just a single vocal line and then you build everything around or maybe sometimes you only have a great title of a song which you then start building a refrain and the rest of the song out of it.

How often do you practise as a band?

Not regularly. ;-) It is always the same procedure. About two weeks before the gigs we usually start rehearsing everyday in the first week and then 3-5 times during the week of that gig. Directly after the shows everything is forgotten again. ;-) (...well, not really. ;-))

Over the years there have been a couple of line-up changes, even now with Yenz on bass. Did it affect the songwriting process in any way?

Not really the songwriting process itself, but this time Yenz could bring in a lot of great ideas for the bass lines which brought some more new sound aspects into the songs. He also wrote some lyrics for the album and we did the whole backing and choir vocals together. So he already took his part in this production (more than any other bassist before him. ;-)).

Speaking of line-up changes: Yenz recently joined on bass. Did you ask him or was he sort of 'pushed'/suggested by, say, Piet Sielck?

Yeah, we asked him to help us out for the festivals last summer and he liked to do that since we already knew each other from some shows with Iron Savior before. After the Wacken show we sat down together and it was quite clear for everybody that he would be the perfect guy to complete the horde again. So he joined us as a full-member then and it is really great to have him on board, since he is a real great guy and good musician and he also takes his part in pushing the band to the next level.

What else keeps you occupied, besides STORMWARRIOR? (jobs, hobbies, interests, ...)

At the moment nothing, because there is so much work to do that there is no real space and time for anything else right now... But if there is some time, I like to read books about Scandinavian history, mythology etc... (which I also use for STORMWARRIOR then...;-))

Stormwarrior band picture 2008What's your view on Metal today? Alive, stagnating, ...? In a way, it's alive, but with all those releases I think it hurts the credibility of many bands, no?

Well, I actually have been about a whole year in the studio being busy to the bone with songwriting, pre-production and the real production, so I honestly couldn't really follow the releases of other bands, so I cannot really say anything about what kind of bands came out in the last times and if they were good or 'untrue' or... I will have to get a picture about everything again at the festivals of this year. But generally I have the feeling that the whole Death Metal stuff is on the rise again (at least it seems to be that way for some of the bigger magazines), but I can't imagine that it would be able to push away the traditional style again... I think the scene must have learned from the nineties.

While being busy with music can be great, taking a break now and then is not to be neglected. How do you relax, be it after a series of gigs, a busy day at work, anything else...?

Just staying in bed and watching tv or simply sleeping. I would love to take a real break for some holidays but that has not been possible for years actually. ;-)

That's it for me. Many thanks for replying and good luck with the gigs and future albums. If there's anything I forgot to ask, or just a thought you want to get out, post away.

I wish all of the readers great fun with the new album and hopefully we will meet at one of our shows or at one of the festivals this year! And watch out for the "Live at Wacken" DVD this summer...! Heavy Metal is the law!!!

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