Hard Talk

Interview with Avantasia’s Tobias Sammet

The mastermind behind what many of you out there may call “happy metal” band Edguy, is back after five years of silence. Well with his side project Avantasia that is. It was great talking with Tobias about his project and a little about Edguy. Here is a bit of what went down in our conversation.

TS: Hello John. How are you doing today?

JH: Great. Just enjoy the new ‘Live After Death’ DVD that came out today.

TS: That’s funny. I was just talking to our guitar player a little earlier who was doing the same thing. It’s so funny because it’s been released 25 years ago as a VHS and everybody seems to go and buy it again and enjoy it as never before.

JH: Yep, I have it on VHS, cassette, CD, vinyl….

TS: Okay, sounds like you’re a Maiden fan.

JH: Yes. I was at that tour a couple nights after the recording in San Francisco. I was like 14 at the time. I never forget it.

TS: I too have the double album of it. It’s a good live document. And of course, the number one heavy metal band, in my opinion.

JH: Yes, me too.

JH: Okay, Avantasia. Let’s talk about you for awhile.

TS: Yes, sounds good. (Ha, ha)

JH: Tell us a bit about the project Avantasia and how it all got started.

TS: Well Avatasia is a project of mine, project sounds a little bit strange, usually projects are things singers do on the side of their main bands in order to fulfill their dreams. It’s the same in my case. But usually little projects are just funny noises. In my case I was always having the dream of recording an album with some friends of mine and heroes/idols of mine. In ’99 I remember we were on tour with Edguy and I was being bored so I started writing a story, a fairytale, and started to compose some music to it. I had this dream of recording this huge conceptual piece with different singers. A rock opera or metal opera as I called it back then. We just did that project back then and I said never again when we were done with it. It was so much stress with so much hard work that I had fulfilled my dream. I was close to having a heart-attack like a dozen times, so I said never again. And never again is like 8 years later. Some how I think that time makes you forget the negative aspects and you only remember the positive. So I was not afraid of doing it again. Now I’m very happy I’m doing it again. Here I am with a new project with 9 or 10 lead singers singing a conceptual story. I wouldn’t call it a rock opera, but I’d say it’s a very epic, bombastic Metaloaf-ish, Queen-ish, Helloween-ish, Iron Maiden-ish album.

JH: Now, you created this as a side or solo project in the beginning. So is/has it become a more serious band for you now?

TS: Of course my first band is Edguy, and we are still willing and trying to conquer the world. So there is still a lot of work to be done with Edguy. Apart from doing a few festivals with Avantasia, my life career is reduced to Edguy only. And that’s a very natural thing because, it’s probably the biggest and most expensive and extensive production that I have ever done. That I’ve ever been part of. Everything we have done has been very top-notch. The best studio. I worked it so Eric Singer was the drummer on every track. Rudolf Schenker and Alice Cooper and all those names. But still, it’s everybody involved has got his main band outside Avantasia, so basically it’s a very serious all-star project , but the difference between this all-star project and other all-star projects is the song quality is pretty good on this one and it’s not just dependant on the big names. It’s as much band as possible but there’s not so much plausibility and so much room for calling it a band with 20 musicians involved who all have their own band.

JH: How have/are the other members of Edguy been towards this project?

TS: I think there is no problem. We all remember the first time I did Avantasia way back then, of course the little lead singer with lead singers disease fulfilling his dream. The little big ego. But the good thing is there was a good side effect. It really was a boost for Edguy’s career as well. We just had released, ‘The Theatre Of Salvation’, album and had done a couple of support tours across Europe. And then we did the Avantasia album and it really went out of the roof-top. It was much more successful than we had dreamed. And that really helped to boost Edguy’s career because the first album we did after the Avantasia album for Edguy went to number 19 or 17 or something like that on the charts. And the same everywhere. We ended up do a worldwide tour. I think that’s what they all remember. It never did any harm to Edguy. It only helped. So that’s why they are really positive towards the project.

JH: So it’s just going to be something that is done in you Edguy downtime?

TS: Well it doesn’t hurt Edguy at all. Of course it may have a little here because if I hadn’t been on the Avantasia project, we would probably be through with the new Edguy album by now. Okay so now I did the project, it’s gonna be a cool thing for me. I have done an album that I will not have to follow up with a world tour, just a couple festivals this summer. It’s not really hard work. Tomorrow I’m going to have rehearsals with Edguy. We’ve already written three new songs, and everything is very easy and the mood is very good.

JH: All around, this is a pretty good new album by Avantasia. Can you give us a rundown on it?

TS: Of the storyline?

JH: That’s my next question about the concept behind it. Uhm, you can blend ‘em both together.

TS: Okay, well it’s easier to do them both separately. There is a story in there that is not squeezed into the tight corset of pedantry. In terms of content. Each song is a part of the story. It’s not like a once upon a time fairytale story where you can say this is the passage where the dragon fights the dwarf. Or the passage where the king fights the dragon. Or the passage where the queen fucks the king. This is something completely different. It’s a more abstract story of a guy with a distorted sensory perception and he receives audio signals more intensely because he’s sort of a weirdo. He’s a bit freaky and that’s what other people perceive of him as well. And because of that he lives emotionally isolated from his environment and his big, so-called handicap is a gift for him as well because he ………………(some audio interference over the phone)……………escapes into a world of sounds. He get lost in sounds and he starts to create his own sounds which we would call being a composer or something like that. And all of a sudden he get all of the appreciation/approval from the people around him that he has never been given. He gets it because he creates sounds and they are so honest that it reaches other people as well. Reaches right into their heart and due to that he starts to climb up on the social ladder. He becomes sort of a new aged messiah to the people. It’s kind of an Icarus kind of story. The higher he climbs, the higher he flies, the closer he get to temptation and the more more he explores the inner depths of the human nature. I’d say there’s a little bit of Edward Scissor Hands in there and a little bit Faust in there. It’s all of that it’s a human tragedy. There’s a little bit of myself in there as well. Well that’s the story. Now if we run down with the songs, it’s like with ’Twisted Minds’, it’s now very difficult to squeeze the story down into the songs…..

JH: No need to do a play by play. How about an overall, general rundown? Although, I believe you’ve pretty much answered it already.

TS: Okay, good.

JH: I’m not going to have you go track for track on this interview. When you’re writing music, how do you know, or do you have the thoughts of like “I’m gonna use this one for Edguy, or I’m gonna use this one for Avantasia”?

TS: It’s basically, it’s like that. I write for whatever I need the stuff for. I really don’t do the math when I’m writing. It’s just something that whenever I’m in the process, whatever I needed for Avantasia, I took for Avantasia. Of course there’s a little exception I have to make. This story was very tragic and very serious. I can’t include funny passages. In fact in “Toy Master” there’s this Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of choir after the solo which is really, really sort of not funny but it has a black humor to it. As funny as Alice Cooper can be. But, usually Edguy is a band that we include a lot of humor. Not on purpose, it’s not forced but it just happens because we do whatever we want to do. I would say that we’re a rock-n-roll band, I think we’re more heavy metal/hard rock band as well, but it has that rock-n-roll feelling and rock-n-roll can be sometimes funny. Take for the fact Van Halen. That’s funny. If you take Poison, now that’s funny. Twisted Sister. They even have tongue-in-cheek moments. That’s what we have with Edguy and Avantasia just does not have that.

JH: I have a couple buddies here who call Edguy “Happy Metal”.

TS: Yes, okay. I think the last Edguy album was a little too funny as well. We ended up venturing off into a conversation for about 15 minutes or so on the fact that I was not that big of a fan of ’Rocket Ride’. I liked it, but like Tobias said, it is what it is and I, at the time I did not praise it like everyone else in the media. I suppose I probably still wouldn’t. But still like the music of Edguy. Understand? He really liked my honesty and it was something that was sort of bugging me going into this interview. We had lots of laughs about it.

JH: All that being said, I’m not saying anything bad about Edguy.

TS: Okay, (ha,ha) you better not.

JH: I Swear.

TS: You can. Really it’s your own opinion, but don’t!

JH: It was all a timing thing. A little bit of burnout syndrome. Also a bit too much of the same sounding stuff around the same time.

TS: Okay, honestly I wouldn’t want to switch jobs with you.

JH: Well you’re smart. There’s no pay in this. Just the love of the music.

TS: Oh wow! Really? It’s like if you love something and you really love something and you have to review like 70 times a month, it’s really, really hard to keep the enthusiasm first I think. That’s what I told a journalist from a huge German print magazine as well, I said like, I don’t blame you for actually having absolutely no taste and hating my album. I really don’t blame you. How can I expect you to really judge the album fair if you have to judge like 75 albums a month? She really was a nice journalist, I just pulled fun. But, I understand that it’s really hard.

JH: I did that in the beginning, but no more. I may not be that great of a writer or reviewer in terms of my journalistic approach, but I’ll be about the most honest. And I seriously listen to every disc I get several times before I do a review. That’s really the only way to let it sink in a bit. This album is not going to be a hard one to review. Now, do you feel it’s necessary to have all these guest musicians on the album? Or is it more of a band of you friends and influences you’ve invited along? I think you may have already answered this in another question.

TS: Well, if I didn’t have all these guest musicians, I’d have an album with just vocals and bass on it. No really, of course when you think about who you can invite to play, you choose the ones who influence you the most or who you feel would be right for the song. At the end of the day, I’m a fan. I’m a lover of music as anyone else as well. People don’t believe it that I’m not really into it for the money, only, it’s just you really, really want to have an album that you can enjoy for yourself. One that I can listen to in 3 or 4 years and have a big smile on my face. And with being such a big fan, it’s a dream for me to work with someone like Rudolf Schenker or Alice Cooper. Not saying that it’s not cool to have a singer that lives right down the street, but it’s sort of self-satisfying I guess.

JH: So how’d you get Alice Cooper to sing a track on the album?

TS: Well, we sort of have a mutual drummer.

JH: Yes, I suppose so. (duh?)

TS: So I asked Eric if he could possibly ask Alice and he said yeah sure. What was the worst that could happen. He’d just say no, and that was worth the risk.

JH: He’s a busy guy anymore these days.

TS: Well it’s tough winning all those golf tournaments,

JH: Car shows, a syndicated radio show on nightly….

TS: I haven’t been invited.

JH: I think it’s more along the lines of classic rock.

TS: I’ve gotta check it out.

JH: So you stated before that touring wise, there will only be a few festival dates. Will there be ever be any other sort of touring down the road.

TS: No, I’d say not. Only because everyone else has their other bands including myself and it is near impossible to line something like that up. The problem is also the size of the ensemble that would have to go out on tour. We really just can’t afford it. We were asked to headline at ProgPowerFest. It’s just too expensive to do something like that in front of 1500 people. I really wish we could.

TS: Hey, I think I have to go for the next interview. I did not realize the time. I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Got another quick question?

JH: Uhm, what can we,……Is there any,……. What would you,…….. No.

TS: Not one more?

JH: What’s up next for you? Edguy or Avantasia wise.

TS: Well, we’re going to have rehearsal tomorrow with Edguy and start writing for the next album. Then, well, it’s very calm right now. Just doing some promotional things. Most of the promotion stuff is done. Then we’re going to work on Edguy material and closer to summer, do some rehearsals to put on a good Avantasia show and then back to Edguy.

JH: Your turn. Anything you want to add?

TS: Yes. Everybody go and check out ’The Scarecrow’, because I think it’s a very great album and,…..well just check it out. You will miss out on something very, very good if you don’t.

JH: I agree. And I look forward to catching one of these Edguy shows I’ve been hearing so much about.

TS: Yes, yes. We will see you then. You call when we are close near your area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.