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In Words: Gotthard

- Mark Lynn - April 1994 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Marc Lynn - Bochum (Germany) - April, 26th 1994

The Swiss rock export made his last stop on the German tour on April, 26th in Bochum. In the early evening I had the chance to talk to Gotthard's bass player Mary Lynn. Marc told me a little bit about the past of Gotthard and even more.

Tell me a little bit about the past of Gott­hard!

I'll start at the real begin, everyone played in small bands before he joint. We were spread all over Switzerland and I met Leo and Steve when I was in the South of Switzerland. I played on an open-air festival and there I met them first. We jammed together, a month later I moved and lived with them. We worked together to start the project. We been almost five 'members', we had a keyboarder and a drummer. After our 3rd concert we found our manager Marco Antonini. We prepared to record the 1st album. Self-financed! To get a kind of safety we talked to Chris von Rohr. First Chris wasn't interested. After awhile we talked him over and he came and visited us. He recognized the friendship and that we had the right chemistry in the band. We all wanted to make it and he joined us. Chris helped us to become a 'finished product'. Then we went to Los Angeles to record our 1st album. In the beginning in L.A. we hadn't a drummer. We wanted a studio drummer and so we found Hena! Hena just finished the PIT, the music institute. He finished and was off, he enjoyed working with us. That mean that he visited us after we returned to Switzerland. We talked about everything and soon we knew that he was the right one. He also felt that this was the band he was looking for. We continued working together and the album was released in 1992 by BMG. We got in touch with BMG, coz Chris worked with them in the past. That was when he was still in Krokus. We gave them a head start, they had 10 days before we started sending out the tape to other companies. BMG likes it from the first second and offered to take over the tapes. Until all contracts, deals been signed it almost took a year. After the release of the album we started touring. We had a tour package with 3 Swiss bands and the first success been perceptible after 3 months. In Switzerland we went Gold and also Germany worked out very well. Later we toured Germany for a month with Victory. We learnt a lot from them, later we played a couple of open-air festivals in Switzerland. There Gotthard been sup­port for Bryan Adams.
The second tour took 2 months, that was with Magnum. The tour led us through England, Scandinavia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. After that tour we started working on the material for the 2nd release. Dial Hard been recorded at the same place with the same people, again L.A., again Hollywood. Now we are on our 1st headlining tour.

Where are the differences between the albums for you? For the band?

For us? The cover is different, the CD round and silver with a hole in the middle. *laughter*

I wanted to know if there are differences musically?

The new songs are the continuity of the first.... The band characterized more. We played about 120 shows that let us develop musically. We started working on the second record and we realized that we had to be better. We couldn't write another Why Care For or Fire Dance. We would have do a copy of the debut then. That wouldn't be very smart, if you want to be better than in the past, then you have to leave the past behind. You have to go back to The Beatles, the blues, to the origin of this music in general. The new album is bluesier, also harder, more straight ahead. The mystic we lose a little bit, less keyboards... There are still keyboards, but now it's guitar rock with keyboard which is the playground. The songs are easy to get, catchy...

The kind of music more and more bands return to these days....

The trend of what have been. You know, one day the people want to hear a good voice again, a good song.

That seems to be confirmed by the public acceptance, if that kind of bands go on tour. The busi;ness is doing well for them. It's better than two years ago, for example.

That's right. The recession is decreasing, the people want more quality. Perhaps they got too much headache from head banging. I don't know we always did what we wanted to do. Not fol;lowing any trend.

That's the better way.

I didn't wear a baseball cap or have a goaty, that's not me!

That's more honest and the fans recognize, if a band do what they want to do and not jump on a bandwagon. A band which stick to their own style and which also develops in their kind of music, will be longer in the business and have more success.

Bands who are really successful, are the long time ones like AC/DC, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and so on. Because the fans know what they get, what kind of quality. The fans know what to expect live and the band stick together, you can believe in the band. They are here today and won't be away tomorrow.

Normally that are bands which grown together, not build up from a management or label.

It has to be fun.

The chemistry in the band have to be okay, otherwise you will recognize the problems inside.

I'm glad when I talk to the fans after a show and hear "It's great to see that you guys enjoy it. You still can laugh!" That's the biggest compliment, coz it's hard for everyone on stage. You have to have fun, when the people feel that you almost win.

People should go to a concert with the intention to have fun.

Later you will see, exactly that happens.

What's about song writing? Is there a kind of team, or is it changing?

All possibilities. At the first record almost Steve wrote the words and Leo worked out the ideas. At the second one Chris Von Rohr joint who been integrated in that phase. He is a good friend, not just our producer and he helped us to climb a higher level. He designed the album cover and is part of the management. He is kind of a non-musical member and a vigilant viewer from the outside. They bring up the basic idea and than we jam together until we all are satisfied with the track. Everyone give a piece and we work it out together. When you read: song writing - Von Rohr, Lee, Leoni, it's right, 'cause they had the ideas. But from the constellation it's the whole band.

It's better for the band.

Sure, everyone has to put a bit into it.

There are still bands which try it in another way.

Yeah, but they won't try it for long. The motto of Gotthard is team work. Danny, our sound man, sits beside me, he works for us for about 140 concerts now. We keep him, coz we know he is the one who give us the final kick. He critics us before and after the concert, give us a hint where to give more or where it's better to do less or what to change in the guitar solo. Things like that... It's a team where everyone has to know his place, for about 120 concerts we work with the same road crew. So it works and we all can enjoy it. We have lots of fun at this tour, the crew and the band harmonize. We are all together in one nightliner, at the moment 16 persons live and sleep in this bus. We haven't any problems.

That the way it have to be, if you live to­gether in a tiny place like this.

New ones have to fit in.

You didn't just check their qualities, you also check, if they personally fit in.

Abilities you can work out, everyone can learn, but character you couldn't learn. Today it's the last show in Ger;many, it ain't really is the end of the tour, but we just play a few festivals in Austria and there we couldn't do jokes like we plan for tonight. Our light engineer will leave, the catering is here for the last day and so we want to have a party, on stage and off stage. We had a fantastic atmosphere. At the begin it was difficult, coz we as headliner had problems, too. Light and sound co-ordination work on the set and so on. Until this problems are solved you have less contact to the support. Then it slowly build up and right now it's great. It's Alive always say they would go on tour with us again. They had 100% sound and 100% light, just miss special effects. They had their sound check. We become friends on this tour.

Did you make other experiences when you were support? For example with Magnum or Victory?

With Victory we had no problems, Magnum a little. For Magnum we been to strong in Germany. They gave us a sound which been all right, perhaps Danny could say a bit more.

Danny (sound): The sound was okay, some problems with space on the stage.

As support you have not that much space, that's always the same. But there they try to push us even more. They put their drum kit more in front and gave us less space and we react like: "Okay, if you push us more to the front, we will take our boxes and stuff even a little more in front. If someone try blame us, we blame them."

It's nothing new.

In general they be very friendly and fair. Really blamed we just been once! That was years ago, at a time before Gotthard when we were still Krack. Leo, Steve and I, we got blamed by Udo. After 25 minutes, 30 minutes were confirmed, they turned off the power when we were still on stage. We didn't know that, we stand in the limelight without sound. We already planned to play one more track. The question is who is blamed. Are we blamed, standing there without sound or the headliner is the one who's blamed?!?

I don't think that you've been blamed...

We had luck almost. We been treat very fair as a band and we also want to be fair to other bands.

I think that is the basic for everything, someone who ain't fair couldn't expect others to treat them fair.

It depends, if a band need to blame the support to present themselves a little bit better, they should better return to the rehearsal room and work on themselves. One day they will be support of someone and than they feel it themselves. If someone of us, of our band would start to blame our support, I would leave the band and the others feel the same. Even the manager or the crew would react that way.

What are your plans for the future? After this tour?

After the tour we play the festivals like Rock am Ring and so on. Then we do, as far as I know two or three open-airs with Whitesnake. End of July we head off to Japan to do there a few shows.

How are the reactions for Gotthard in Japan?

Very good, we have sold about 14,000 copies! That's great!!!

Many German bands been successful in Japan. Many see Europe, parts of Europe as a their market.

Germany is a rock music country. And Germany is at place no. 2 of the markets. It's a huge market. Only America is bigger, at this time it is the biggest market for rock like Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. When you look at Bon Jovi, they sold more then 7 million copies of Keep The Faith. But just 300,000 in America. America is in the grunge fever. We let them grunge and after a while ...

One day it will be the past...

Right, grunge ain't bad. It helped lot of young bands which are good.

It is made big by the industry.

And too many bands been presented. Motto: Signing - releasing - promoting - that's it. Too many bands of this genre are on the market. The fan couldn't know all and has the problem what to buy. Grunge in Germany is as big as in America, but here are people who are older and they didn't sow wild oat's, these ones like to hear a good voice. It's the same with America, but there are other bands of our genre, simple rock music.

Are there play to join the Eastern Europe markets? Russia?

It depends on the label. At the moment we sold less copes compared with our 1st album. The labels have a successive supply. We have success, after one week we went gold in Switzerland and after 8 weeks we went platinum. Germany we sold about 40,000 copies, Japan 14,000 copies and sooner or later they have to take us. We will continue and I know we played 40 shows, every night we had an enthusiastic audience. In Switzerland we have an advantage that it's our home. But in Ger;many we thought we will play in front of 300 fans, our intention was to check out where we are. We had an average of 600 each concert.

I think often it's a lack of promotion. But Gotthard been promoted well.

Not everywhere. As support we made a good job and we were so good that the headliner came in trouble. Victory, Fargo Peter, said: "Boy, if you have a band like you as support, you have to go out every night and give 150% and even then you have no chance. You guys are young, fresh. You have the power and you have a good singer and you have fun." We have no chance, he said. It's good form me and I regret for Victory. They are fantastic, but you can't limit yourself, just to make it easier for them. We had our changes, we used them and now you see the fans coming. Yesterday we had a sold-out show and the chance to do the same tonight are very good. We play in places up to 1,000 seats. No larger and we just had 3 concerts with less than 300 fans. We are very lucky. Look at German bands like Kingdom Come they had to be satisfied with 200 - 400 fans.

They had catch a bad time for a tour and they had been out of focus for too long. Gotthard have been present all the time.

That's right, I won't do cheap talk about Kingdom Come. I saw them and they have been good.

I saw them in Dortmund, but at the same time were lot of tours in this area. The people had to make a decision. More problems had Sargant Fury. In Cologne they played in front of 23 fans.

In Völklingen we had problems. We had been in Kiel and had to go to Völklingen. Two days ago we just sold 45 tickets and we decided to wait one more day. We thought about cancellation of these show, coz we had to go 11 hours during the night. The truck will be there too late. A day before there been 100 tickets sold and we said "Com' on, let's go!" And there been 500 fans. Every day the fans been happy! Satisfied! To say we had a bad evening tonight, is totally wrong. We had just fantastic gigs. It couldn't turn out better for us.

Good timing.

I hope so, we received reactions after releasing Dial Hard and this reactions been great. We have a good video clip and the promotion on MTV. I think we could name ourselves a good band. People came up to me and said "I pay for a huge show about 50,- DM and to see you, I pay half of it, but got even more." I just can say "thank you, that's great." The fun, a smile and that's it. Kick ass and enjoy to see the fans rocking with you. You got back the power.

I believe that a band which shows that they have fun, got a positive reaction from the fans sooner. The people don't want to see a good band which just waits for the end of the show with a woeful look.

One day on this tour I felt that way, the keyboard fucked up and I took it and threw it on the ground. The next day I had to buy a new one, that been out of order through vibrations. At that moment I was so angry, could do noth;ing and I thought what to do, go away like an idiot or what. I took it and smash it, my roadie said I look like I want to kill somebody. I step backward on stage and the stagehands put their backs to the wall, coz they expected that I'll thrash the place. Later fans told me, "Wow, you made a hard show, a face like a devil." It was great, I haven't been angry about anyone, just about the equipment. The people accepted it and I could smile again. I needed two or three songs and I felt good again. Someone had to make a joke and I have a great monitor mixer at my side of the stage. He loosen me, if he recognize I'm cramped and we are joking. One show we played chess together. We play very often chess, I like mental exercising and that evening I step in the back, made my play, next song, next play and so on. We always joking, it's fun. I'm a little bit depressive, coz the tour is nearly finished. Time is running, we played about 20 shows in Germany and 20 in Switzerland and the last two months been gone. We had a lot of parties, partly with It's Alive. We had many birthdays to celebrate, the mixer of It's Alive, the tour manager, Peter (bass) and Igor, our guest guitarist had birthday. Leo and me had also our birthdays celebrated on this tour. Lots of fun.
I would love to play the Eastern European market, Russia, etc. The people there are real fans. The problem is that the business and industry there didn't allowed everything.

I think the main problem is that the record companies not based there right now, I know that many are planing to build up offices there. Copyright is the name of a problem, too, coz the copyright law didn't guarantee what the label need to break into the market.

The economical situation isn't very good. The costs of a tour had to come in through record sales. And the labels don't want to agree to it at the moment.

The sales figures would be okay, if the fans could buy the albums regularly.

That's right, but I think it I'll take a couple of years until we are really break into the market.
We should play in Italy, but we had to cancel it for the support slot we got for Bryan Adams. The show was more important, there we could play in front of 40,000 people and instead of us the band of Leo's girl played there. Igor played with them there and he played in Russia. He was very impressed from Russia... From the people. I would like to go there. I'm interested in so many countries and cultures, I would like to go everywhere one day. This year we'll play in Japan, I'll make a trip to Hong Kong, coz I want to see it while it's part of Great Britain. In 1997 it'll history. Russia is wonderful as far as I know. You feel it when you go to Hungary, it's different. I like the people there for their simplicity.
I could imagine when I made it big to warm up there. Warm up for the tour, I don't mean it in the negative way, to play there cause your not perfect and the people even cheer. Partly I will say it in that way, otherwise I don't. Positive for the people, they didn't need the absolute perfectionism to be satisfied. They enjoy the music, have fun. They appreciate it even, if you make a mistake. Here the 'musician police' standing in the back and do cheap talk about you, if you make just one mistake. There it s fun, but they don't mind, if something don't work out the way it should be.

Personally I prefer a show with little mistakes, where I feel the band enjoy it, instead of a band which try to be perfect and don't have space for spontanity.

We don't do so. Okay, the set is the same every night for about 30 shows now. It's always the same running order, but in-between we change.

That's all right. Thank you for the interview and all the best for tonight and the festivals.

Time was flying and too soon the 30 min. slot for the interview was over. Actually we talked longer, but then he had to do one more interview. It was a nice conversation and I think Marc told things which you might not read in every magazine...

Claudia Ehrhardt


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