A few weeks ago I got the CD of the German band Rebellion. I already heard about the project and when they were confirmed for the tour with Running Wild, I wanted to take the chance to do an interview with them. On March 27th I met the guys at the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed and so the whole band showed up for the interview! Even drummer Randy came, but only took a passive part. But that doesn't mater, coz for typing an interview four people who answer are more than enough. Ain't easy to identify everybody... Anyway, it was very interesting and funny. Hope you enjoy it!
CE: How came that the debut album is a conceptual one? And how did you find the rest of the band?
Tomi: The label had the idea to do a conceptual album. They wanted something on a demanding level and quality of Tunes of War. They said: "Listen, you wrote the songs of the Tunes of War album and that sold very, very well. Please try to do something like that again. An album which is almost perfect.." We said, "Okay, we give it a try." The final result is beyond our own expectations and imaginations. It was a natural progression. It was good to let it develop and we are satisfied with the final result.
CE: But it's different to Tunes Of War. Here you have spoken words, real characters, protagonists, so it's very demanding for a debut album, right?
Tomi: First, we did the album the way we felt it should be and not from a technical aspect. Second, we took the original script in the center of the project and cross-checked again and again, if the songs fit to the original. Through that cross-check we came to the point where we had to use spoken parts to fill in the gap between the songs, coz there are parts which can't be involved in a song. So, we had the spoken words and came up with the idea to use a narrator which build the bridge between the songs. At least we had a few very good tracks which we didn't put on the album, coz they didn't fit into the whole concept.
CE: On the other hand, isn't it hard to put such a complex story on just one CD?
Tomi: Sure, we had parts which we couldn't use. But we used the "red hands", the bloody hands which are like a red fathom of the story. Other symbols we had to leave out, but it's impossible to use metaphors on up to 10 levels, so we had to decide which metaphors are important and which we can omit.
CE: For many it's a lesson about Shakespeare!
Tomi: I took my profession seriously and during the presentation for the media I taught the journalists about Shakespeare. I'm a teacher and so I had to use this chance.... *laughs*
CE: and through the PISA study we all get aware that it's necessary!
Tomi: Okay, but the PISA study... That's something different! I have to correct you!
CE: Correct me!
Tomi: The study isn't requesting a better instruction, it's demanding to give the kids a better advice to acquire something themselves and to gain this with self-discipline and joy. It should also give the possibility to make mistakes and to learn from it. To make mistakes, but to know the consequences. To resume, the kids should work more freely, perhaps in all-day schools, coz they are sitting in front of their computers anyway. At the moment that's often not very productive.
CE: But the teachers have to give guidance to learn how to learn with fun!
Tomi: That's connected with the organisation of the working material and also with the organisation and structure of education in general. It's hard to work on a subject and to impart knowledge and fun at the same limited time. It's almost impossible to do that within 45 minutes! To reach that aim, we need a reformation of the educational system in Germany, also in other countries. Through the PISA study a discussion about this started, but we just began!
CE: Okay, but that's not the topic we are here to talk about. Mainly you're doing music, right?
Tomi: No, at the moment I have two professions! I try to arrange it which ain't easy. It's all about organisation. Ain't easy, but it works.
CE: You recorded in your studio which you built while you were in Grave Digger. I think that gave you the possibility to work on the material, the album without pressure. How long it took to record the album? And again, how do you found the other band members? A question which didn't get answered yet...
Uwe: It took about a year. But partly I worked on other stuff during that year, projects which just took a week or so. That also means that I worked between and at the same time on this and on other projects. How I found the band members? Okay...
CE: How you and Tomi got together isn't hard to figure our, but what about the others?
Uwe: About a week after I left Grave Digger I got a call from Tomi. How I found the rest was funny...
Tomi: That was totally different! About a week after he left Grave Digger he was visiting me and told me: "You are in my band!" I denied and told him that I don't want to see him anymore and to get out of my life. He didn't want to leave, then he put a gun to my head! I shouted "NO!", but it was too late. No chance to escape! In Frankfurt he tied me at the studio and I couldn't leave. He detained me and just gave me some water and bread until I agreed to play in his band! *laughter*
CE: Okay, that's a possible way! You did it the same way with the rest of the guys?
Uwe: Right! I put a gun to Tomi's head. Björn followed me all the way from main station Frankfurt... *laughter*
Tomi: He had a poster saying "Work for food!" *laughter*
Uwe: And Micha, that's the singer, right?... *laughter* Micha was a charman and actually he still is, but now he's singing sometimes... *laughter* Okay, seriously! I know Micha vor about 10 years and we worked together again and again through all the years. It was the typical thing, Grave Digger had a rehearsal room and Micha was next door with his cover band. That's how we met and so I ask him to join. About Björn... I produced the last release of Warhead and during the recordings we found out that working together is easy. Fun. Randy I saw in 1995 when he was in Annihilator and toured with King Of The Kill. He was the kind of drummer I was looking for! We had the idea to work with him while I was in Grave Digger, but it was impossible. He lived in Canada and we were in Germany, the costs would have killed us! About 3 years ago when we played with Grave Digger in Berlin he showed up. We chit-chat and I learnt that he was living in Berlin for a while. So, I ask him to join.
CE: For the fans it's an interesting thing, coz since he left Annihilator nobody heard anything from him. Now after all these years he's returning with Annihilator and at the same time is in the papers with Rebellion!
Uwe: Right, we already made jokes about it. In many magazines are reports / interviews of Annihilator with a band picture showing Randy and on the next page there is Rebellion and there he is again. Kinda funny, isn't it?
CE: So many might think that Rebellion is just a project. But it sounds to me like it is a band?!?
Uwe: Right, during the recordings the project developed into a band. Everybody took part and contributed something. But what happens in future, we don't know. It's to wait and see. But I believe that this constellation will go on. Let's see what happens.
CE: On you homepage it was written that you work on two projects. One was Rebellion, so what happened to the other one?
Uwe: Right, actually the project I started with Björn was planned to be the main band. Rebellion was planned as a side-project initially. Little by little Rebellion got bigger and became the main interest. But that doesn't mean that I won't continue working with Björn! We will continue writing songs and there he will be the singer! We have to wait and see what will happen, but for the moment it's just the side-project. These days Rebellion is my main band! It's impossible to put the same energy into two bands / projects...
CE: For many it'll be difficult to understand Rebellion as a band and not as a project...
Uwe: Sure, but after awhile the fans will accept Rebellion as a band and the other one as a project... Give us time to grow as a band and in about a year we can talk about it again!
CE: How were the reactions so far? Reactions for the live shows and for the album...
Uwe: We have to fight every night, coz in the beginning everybody is standing there emotionless, coz they didn't know what to expect.
CE: The CD wasn't or was just released, so it wasn't easy for the audience. They didn't knew the songs, even if there is the chance to find songs in the net... But for most of the fans it was brand-new!
Uwe: Right, it was an interesting experience for us to enter the stage as a band and to present our material. The people didn't know the songs and so the first impression they got from the band was a live performance. They found out, if they like the band or not!
Björn: We tried to give 150% every night, to do the best we can. The fans were there and gave us the chance to convince them with our songs. We did it every night the way will do it tonight and the fans had a good time. In the past I had to fight even more to convince the people. The fans are there to see the headliner, to see Running Wild, but if you talk to some afterwards they say "Running Wild I saw several times. I'm here to see Rebellion live!" That's amazing. We got a fantastic feedback!
CE: Many might have come because they know your by name, from the stuff you did in the past. And they have a certain expectation about what to see from the articles they read about Rebellion.
Björn: I think we can fulfil the expectations. You will see it tonight, there is a special magic... A certain kind of energy... It’s just fun to be with these guys and to play
CE: But it's still unusual to tour.
Micha: the release of the debut. You got the offer to support Running Wild which is musically fitting. You are attracting the same fans, share a fan base, but still it's risky?
Uwe: Sure it's unusual...
Tomi: It's also unusual to release a concept album. Unusual that 5 old, but known musicians get together as a band and be called newcomers. But it fit and worked out well so far.
Uwe: On the other hand we are no newcomers, we don't need to have success. We do what we do, coz it's fun. Nobody can tell us what to do or how to do and that's how we want to continue working. If someone tells us to do it this or that way, I replied, that I do it my way or I won't do it! They can like or dislike us. Pretty simple! I'm in a position where I can take this album and put it on a self and I guess everyone agrees that we can be proud of what we have done! I gave everything and did it with all my heart. I can listen to it again and again and I can be proud of it. How the reactions will be? Wait and see...
Björn: When we started working together, Uwe and I sat down and talked about recording the guitar parts together. At the same time, coz we figured out that we have the same vision about how it should sound. We gave it a try. We played together like we do live and recorded it. It worked!
Uwe: That meant that if one of us made a mistake, we had to start again.
Björn: To be honest, usually we had to restart coz I made a mistake...
CE: A few fans might wonder that you playing guitar again, coz in the end of Warhead you put the guitar aside and concentrated on the singing. The fans thought that you will continue as a singer and now you are back on guitar!
Björn: I played guitar on all Warhead albums, but after the release of Beyond Recall I gave up playing guitar live. I wanted to concentrate on the singing, coz it was too much to play guitar, bang, sing, doing solos and to entertain the people. Too much to handle for me, but I just did this small club tour, the one headlining tour where nobody showed up.
CE: Not much people, but a great show!
Björn: >For the first time just as a singer which was a new experience for me. Then Uwe called me up and said: "Listen, during the recordings of Beyond Recall we got along very well. What do you think about joining Rebellion on guitar?" I wanted to think it over. I thought about it seriously. I finally decided to take part because of Uwe, coz when we worked together there was a certain energy or magic. There was no pushing each other. It was friendship and that was for me the reason to give everything. Partly I was nerve-wrecked, but I made it through and I'm really proud of it!
CE: What will come after this tour?
Uwe: We will play Wacken open-air. And when we have the number of sales from Germany and other countries we can make plans. Then we will destroy Europe! *laughter* I guess that we will fly down to Greece and perhaps Spain and Italy to do a few shows there. It depends on the amount of copies we'll sell in Germany, we might come back in January for a headlining tour. If we do so, we will bring actors and make a spectacle out of it, but that's a question of money... To do that will be expensive...
Tomi: All this is speculation, coz it depends on the sales! Sure, we can imagine that the World is calling us and that we tour the whole World for about 2 years. But we won't be unhappy, if just Germany is calling us and when we can just play a headlining tour here. It's okay, we take it the way it happens. Sure, we could tell that we plan a MacBeth world tour with 598,000 shows in 20 countries. Actually I would like to go to Korea! But I have no idea, if they want me there...
CE: Would help if the album is out there...
Tomi: A question for our record company. I guess they still check the list of where it's distributed. They try to get Timbuktu.... Seriously, I haven't a clue!
CE: But Europe-wide?
Tomi: That's the heavy metal madness...
Uwe: It's not our aim to do a world tour and as many shows as possible, everything depends on the sales and on the feedback we get! For us it makes no sense to push it to a certain level, like Grave Digger did it, just to give an example... There is an interest and now we have to wait and see.
CE: Grave Digger have a certain success, but they have a kind of problem... There will always be fans who like the music, but not Chris voice. Your advantage is that Michael has a much more flexible voice!
Uwe: Right, for me it was a kind of liberation. I worked with Chris for about 16 years and it limited me. There are songs on the album which are about 8 years old and which we gave Chris to listen to. We tried it with Chris, but it didn't work out. This kind of breaks and riffs didn't work for his voice. Chris has to have this straight metal riffs with a certain scheme of accords, where he can show his limited vocal range. Don't get me wrong, what he's doing, he's doing damn well. But for me the musical creativity was limited and with a singer like Micha who has much larger vocal range, is great! Micha is able to sing really high pitched notes as well as the low key ones. He can do everything! When I'm writing songs I don't have to think about any limitations. A larger variety which is listenable on the album. He gave me more freedom while writing songs.
CE: Still a surprise to have a debut which has such a demanding concept. But many will give it a try, because of the involved musicians...
Tomi: We gave our best and we tried to put all our creativity into this band and into this album. MacBeth isn't the easiest task, but even a scientist can proof that it's good work. We tried to combine the music and the scientific approach. We didn't want to do this rock shit, it was planned to be heavy metal and it is! We think that we did well and that band is presented very well from the creativity we do have. It would have been easy to give less, but that would be a limitation and kind of castration of our creativity. We gave everything, if people will like it, time will tell.
CE: Luckily you found a label who liked it and wanted to release it....
Tomi: To be honest, it was a little different...
CE: Oh, you assaulted them as well?
Uwe: No, I was still signed on GUN Records. But there was some legal action, coz Chris wanted to get away from GUN Records. I always ask him "why?" Then we started arguing and I left the band. But that also meant that I was still under contract with GUN Records. I wanted to do another album and so we talked it over and finally worked it out. But Rolf Funk of GUN Records told me that they can't handle it easily. That they have signed bands like HIM and Guano Apes and that they have no longer contacts to promote, to handle a metal band. He also told me that he had talked to Boggi of BMG and that they would sign us.
Tomi: Actually, we didn't want a contract, but they wanted to make an offer.
Uwe: Contractually I wasn't free, so they made an offer and we had a laugh on it. Then we hired a guy who wrote several books about this topic. His name is Bob Link and he's in jurisprudence, specialized in music. For about 6 months we battled with BMG, then I told them that I wasn't hot in signing with them, that I don't need to sign with them! But they really wanted to sign us. Meanwhile the concept was getting bigger and better and they heard the first recorded stuff. So they realized that the band has a lot of musical potential and that we still in the process of developing. And finally they agreed on some things we requested. We signed. And as soon as we signed the dotted line they told us what they need from us and gave us a deadline! So at least we got under pressure and it was really stress. Nobody left in the studio.
Tomi: Actually, Uwe owns 2 studios and so he was doing the final mix of the music while I was recording with an engineer the spoken words. In the end we were working 18 hours a day and got 3 hrs. of sleep, then have short stop at the toilet and starting all over again. We had bad conscience about wasting time to take a piss. I guess you can imagine the intensity of working and how we felt. But I think it was worth it! Personally I'm really satisfied with the way it turned out! Beside that it's not just a band who had to find a label which wants to sign them, the label has to find a band which is worth to sign it as well! In the end there are 2 business partners and both want to get the best out of it for themselves. The band don't have to say thank you as well as the label don't have to, coz both want to make a great deal. If it'll work out, perhaps...
Björn: Another story to tell... About a week before tour start we started rehearsing in Frankfurt and Micha had to get medical treatment in an hospital. Michael was in hospital until the Wednesday before the tour kick-off and we couldn't rehearse with him.
Micha: Actually we haven't rehearsed at all!
Björn: It's even more amazing that he is entering the stage and blows away everyone and everything! Honestly, I was stunned! Hats off, he is going out and it seems that nothing happened before the tour, that he hasn't any difficulties to fight, he's singing God-like!
CE: Luck was on your side! Good timing!
Björn: No doubt about it! That could have turned out badly.
Micha: I really wanted to do this tour! I would have done everything to make it happen! Even if would have to walk on stage with crutches!
Björn: I believe he would have. If necessary he would have come on stage in a wheel chair...
CE: That would have been something people would never ever forget!
Micha: Sure, but I really want to do it and therefore you accept almost everything, just to make it!
CE: I think it's obvious that you put a lot of energy into it. Especially live! Fans recognize if a band is into it or is just doing it for the money.
Tomi: That's what Uwe mentioned before, no one of us is doing this for living. It just happened to us. We did a lot to achieve it and it's fucking cool, but it's what we are doing in our spare time. We spend a hell lot of time on doing this, but we do what we want and we have fun! I want to have fun and I want to play live! If it won't be fun, I could have stayed at home, got me?
CE: Not that much money to make in this genre, only a few big names make money... Like Kiss.
Tomi: That's what Micha said and we totally agree, we do it for the fun and because we want to do it.
Micha: We are no longer teenager with the attitude of stars. We are grounded and we know exactly what is possible and what's not. Money is a different story.
Uwe: If it's enough for another golden Rolex...
CE: There is one more thing which is unusual. The cover artwork and the pictures in the booklet are done in oil by a painter. How came?
Uwe: We know someone who has a friend from the States, this guy James (Woodward – the editor). James came to Germany about 1½ years ago and had no possibility to put up his studio, his equipment. I told him that he can use a part of the studio, just a corner of a room. That's it in a nutshell. He got his place there and started painting. Then we started working on Macbeth.... I can't recall who came up with the idea that we need to have an oil painting...
Tomi: It was Jim who had the idea! It wasn't just the corner of a room, it was a whole room. We, the band, was sitting and discussing the concept when Jim joint us while having a coffee break. He ask what we are working on and when we told him he was enthusiastic about it and started to recite! We were surprise that he knew MacBeth and he questioned us about how we want to realize it cover-wise. And so he was part of it. Immediately he started doing sketches. Whenever we made changes in the concept he tried to transport that into the sketches. He was there all the time. We developed the concept and he contributed ideas for the artwork. Changes in the lyrics he made in the sketches at the next moment. So the whole thing was growing homogeneous. That was a lucky incident, but I think it's obvious when you look at the results. Within the next weeks we will link his homepage from ours. On our homepage we will comment the tour and a lot of other nice stuff. There is a guest book, but there will just be positive comments, coz we delete the negative ones and pay people to write positive about us. *laughs* Just a joke! On the page you'll find almost everything and there we will link James' page where you can find all the sketches he did and he also explain his work.
Uwe: It's pretty interesting to see the progress from the sketches to the final oil paintings. That guy is killer! He's kind the 6th man in the band!
Tomi: He did the cover and all the other paintings in a size 1 metre to 1 metre in oil! They are huge! Boggi called us up a little later and said: "Are you crazy? I got a bill from the studio which digitalized stuff. What the hell you're doing?" I just replied "That's for the oil paintings." He was asking "What paintings?" which I just answered "The cover artwork!" The label called us crazy when we told them that we let the paintings digitalize. And Boggi ask, if it was for the cover artwork in general and I explain "No, it's just the digitalisation of the painting!" He answered "Göttlich, we don't do a book, we do a CD!quot; At that time the booklet had about 20 pages and finally we got 24 pages after pushing the label a little! In the beginning they just wanted a booklet of 12 pages. That's something you should mention!
CE: So, this was the first round-up about the band so far. Thanks a lot for giving us the opportunity to do this interview and good luck for the future!
Finally I should mention that there are parts where the band was joking, so don't take everything seriously! Hope you got it right.... Whenever I should get another possibility to talk to these guys, I'll take it and continue this conversation. Beside that I think it would be interesting to talk with drummer Randy Black about his part in Rebellion and his experiences as well as about his part in Annihilator. Perhaps there is a possibility when he's touring with Annihilator...