Chris Boltendahl and his band Grave Digger are one of the first band who came out of Germany in the mid-80's and took the metal world by storm. They are around for many years and it seems that they are still not tired of the music biz. Read what mastermind Chris Boltendahl has to tell...
Is a fact that Grave Digger alongside with Rage, Running Wild, Sinner and Helloween established what we may call the Teutonic school of metal and also settled the basis of power metal. How do you feel being a pioneer band? Which was the main contribution of Grave Digger to heavy metal?
It really feels wonderful and it also feels good, to know, that we'll be alive for more albums and tours in the future.
What do you think about today metal scene with bands who had follow the school that you helped to create like Primal Fear, Brainstorm, Angra, Iron Savior, Mob Rules, Nocturnal Rites and Hammerfall just to name a few? What do you think about this bands?
It's good to have all these bands in the back, what makes the whole metal scene stronger.
Which are the differences between early Grave Digger from the 80's and today's Grave Digger?
The more modern sound is in my opinion the only difference. And the more professional behavior of the whole band.
You have now Manni Schmidt on board as a guitar player, this is an old news by now, but it's a fact that if there is something able to change the style of a band is a new singer or a new guitar player. Is Manni Schmidt in a way changing the style of the band? Which are his contributions the band's sound? You have spend a lot of time with him since he join the band... How do you feel with him today?
We feel wonderful with Manni. He's the same age like the whole band and he fits perfect. He changed the tune of the guitar. We play on the The Grave Digger a deeper guitar-tuning.
You may be tired to talk about this subject and I know that is not so pleasant to talk about what happened with Uwe Lulis, I mean he gave a new air to the band on early 90's and he seemed to be very involved, so what happened?
It was like with an old marriage. I was tired of his star-behavior. And it was not only him, who gave new wind to Grave Digger in the early 90's; I was the same important. I'm really tired of his stupid try, to get the name Grave Digger. I founded the band and I founded the name. Nobody in the world would doubt that. He has absolute no rights on the name. It was really satisfying, to see, how he fucked up, together with his lawyer, when he tried to fight for the name...
Is Manni Schmidt doing more or less the same that Uwe did on early 90's? I mean the joining of Manni Schmidt represent more than a new air to the band, he is a powerful guitar player and with a dark vibe that fits perfect on Grave Digger.
It's now the third period of Grave Digger and Manni plays his own style and is no copy of Uwe. Manni plays ten times better and more emotional than Uwe.
You have released by now like 14 albums, all of them may a have a different meaning to you, but… Which are your favorites albums and why?
Naturally Heavy Metal Breakdown and also Tunes Of War and The Grave Digger. But basically I love 'em all.
You are an excellent live band, I mean, you are great on the stage, your show is very spontaneous. Which was the favorite gig of your career?
Chris, you said in an interview for the Spanish Metal Hammer magazine that your live album Tunes Of Wacken didn't catch very well the sound of the public... Why is that? Are you happy with this live album? In my opinion is a great live album, the strength and the power of the band are in a 100% and in my opinion you can feel very well the feed back of the audience.
I think, this is a big misunderstanding. I said, the live-takes from Bochum, which should be released after the Excalibur tour as our first live album, had no audience on tape, because Uwe forgot the open the microphones. So by that, we couldn't use these takes. But with Tunes Of Wacken I'm 100% happy.
There is a band from Spain that you know very well, this band is Tierra Santa, they sing in Spanish and even so you shared the stage with them and you feel respect for their music... What do you think about their music?
I like the band very much and they are very good, that's why I wanted them as an opener in January 2002.
Your last album The Grave Digger has the same name of the band, this is usual, but for the 1st album of a band. So why did you named the last album with the name of the band? There should be an special meaning?
Because a kind of beginning happened to Grave Digger with this album... The 3. period.
Chris the way you sing on the last album is also different, so technically speaking how do you work with your voice to make this changes?
I don't see a big change in my voice. Only the guitar is tuned deeper and so my voice maybe fits better with the music.
I had followed your lyrics and to me you are a good writer. I like the way you talk about the death and the way you create epic stories, but talking about your dark side, when I took the first look at the lyrics of The Grave Digger I realize that you have inspiration from Edgar Alan Poe. And this is a good combination, he is a dark writer and you like to write about dark matters. What do you think about this fact? Any other reason to use Edgar Alan Poe as a source of inspiration?
I love Edgar. A. Poe and you're correct, the mixture with his dark stories and our music was on purpose.
When you write and compose material do you write the lyrics first and then you arrange the music according to the lyrics?
There is no 100% strategy. One song has first the lyrics and the other song has first the music.
Chris, you are an open-minded person, you can write about epic matters, mankind, religion and you can also talk about the typical subjects of classic heavy metal. This is curious, because the musicians into classic metal do not like to talk about kings, knights, fairies and so on, so what do you do to be connected with different subjects and ideals?
I'm a very interested person in everything, that's very important today. But I have no idea how to explain, how I find the perfect mixture, sorry.
Is easy to realize that Chris Boltendahl has a special link with mediaeval times and knights, you like a lot this subject, so... Are you a modern knight? Many metal fans say that metal musicians in a way are the modern knights. What do you think?
We are really modern knights, because we have to fight for the rights of heavy metal in the public. Our music scene is really secondary compared to others. Best example is MTV, how they treat heavy metal, really sad.
Every time that I listen to Tunes Of Wacken I admire your power and your charm as a singer and as a frontman, you are not the usual high register singer, but you know very well how to add personality and feeling to your voice, so how do you do that? How would you describe a good metal singer?
Thanx for this compliment. I don't follow a plan when I enter the stage. Everything is spontaneous. In Wacken, for example, the whole band including was very nervous, why ever?
Any plans for touring in South America, there you have a huge amount of fans and there are many bands with the same feeling of Spanish bands like Tierra Santa, so you will enjoy to play here sharing with our fans and our bands.
It is our biggest wish to come back to South America, but there are no promoters there, who see, that Grave Digger has a big fan base. As long as we can't find someone in South America, who believes in Grave Digger, we can't go on tour there.
Chris, I know that you are a busy guy, but here on South America there are loyal fans to your music and would like to have your opinion about their music so, would it be possible that you receive some high quality demos and give your opinion and advice?
No problem, just send me the demos and we'll see what happens. I wish all the best to you and all south American heavy metal fans, want to see you on tour!
I hope that this was interesting for you and that it shows a different side of one of Germany's leading metal front man.