Tobias Sammet (vocals) arrived in Finland on a Thursday evening to promote Edguy's "King Of Fools" mini-album and the forthcoming "Hellfire Club" album as well. RockUnited caught Tobias the day after at Hotel Helka, which was the terrible car-bomb scene for finns about one year ago. This time the only bomb was the still energetic Tobias, who had been doing interviews from early afternoon already, but with the energy of the juices he'd been drinking he was still very much present and smiling a lot. Read here about the future of Avantasia, how Tobias found himself from a gay-shop, Steel Penis and other interesting stuff.
RockUnited - You could say that Finland is the second home for you guys, you've been here a lot. Can you say what are the things that you like here and the ones you don't ?
Tobias - Actually what I don't like is the weather right now. But it's not much worse than in Germany, 'cos in Germany it's cold as well. I like about many things here, it's nice people here and many good memories. I like the Finnvox-studio, that's the reason why we came here for the first time and that's the reason why we come here every year. And it's just a nice place, I don't feel like home here, but when I arrived here yesterday the first thing was going to the kebab near this place. And going to Corner-Bar and stuff like that. I just like the place, it's cool and kinda familiar to me.
RockUnited - You played in Finland's Tuska-festival last summer and before that you played an indoor show in Helsinki in 2001. How was the experience playing outdoors now for a bigger crowd here ?
Tobias - They were both good shows and we got great reaction from the audience. The main difference was that in Nosturi we played only for the people who showed up for us, who knew what to expect and who they were there for. The Tuska-festival was something that, well, we didn't exactly know what to expect. We just knew we had a decent following here in Finland, but there were many people who had never heard of our band. It's a challenge, but also a risk as well. I think it's more a challenge though than a risk, 'cos on a good day you can win those people, or most of them, who are just watching curious what would go on now. But I think there weren't that many people who were familiar with the band.
RockUnited - And did you see the finnish band Lordi there ?
Tobias - Yeah, I saw them when they were dressing there.
RockUnited - You also held a signing session here after the show. What kind of feedback did you get from the fans about the show and otherwise ?
Tobias - As far as I remember I think the feedback was quite good, but I was "absent", hah hah. We only had four or five shows last year and when you play so rarely and see friends only for a short time after a while again, of course you're having a party after the show and that's what we certainly did. So I don't remember too much anymore from Tuska-festival. I'm just honest !
RockUnited - What has Edguy been up to since then, other than recording the albums ?
Tobias - Basically nothing other than recording the albums. Especially writing the albums and that was really a lot of work. Not bad work, but it was hard work. It was just going to the studio and the rehearsing room every day, five days a week. And rehearsing, rehearsing, arranging, arranging, etc. So there wasn't much time for anything else.
RockUnited - As long as I've known you and followed your career, you seem to like having fun, of course who wouldn't like having fun, but you go out much at least. You had a little mishap with a door guard in Stockholm before you arrived here, what were you thinking when you opened your mouth to a two meters tall guard, since you're so small ?!
Tobias - I like challenges, that's it. "Will I make it out alive, let's see". I don't know actually what I thought. He was just an idiot and I told him so. Unfortunately most of the time I'm quite honest, sometimes I'd better shut up, but I didn't want to shut up, 'cos I thought he was an idiot and I wanted to tell him that. An idiot to this day and hopefully he's gonna shit brick tomorrow. It's like a little dog, they know that they're gonna be squeezed and that they will be eaten up, but they bark loud and the more afraid they get the more louder they bark.
ALBUM AFTER ALBUM
RockUnited - You're a hard working band. Do you think it's better to release material each year or like Def Leppard has done, keep a long break between albums ?
Tobias - It depends on the material, because if you release some shit every year, it's better to release a classic album every five years. Or in our case releasing a classic every year. Nah, I mean Def Leppard took so long and then they came with "X" and it was a disappointment for me. And the album before "Euphoria" was ok and "Slang" was a disappointment as well. So the last good Def Leppard album was probably "Adrenalize". So it depends on the material, if it's good then you can come up every three months.
RockUnited - What's the idea behind releasing a mini-album, is it one step further from a single before the album "Hellfire Club" comes out ?
Tobias - Record companies are always asking for singles, it's just a normal thing when you've reached a certain size as a band. And we had so much material, that we had an option for putting out a real ep or a mini-album instead of a single and sell it for the prize of a single, because there was so much first class material. So there was eleven songs written for the album and for b-sides it was fifteen songs which were strong. Afterwards we just had to sort it out which songs would make it on the album and which ones on the ep. And that's what we did. We asked them hey, why don't you put out an ep and sell it as a mini-album for the prize of a single. It's better for the fans, 'cos many die-hard fans have been waiting anxiously for the new material. And they will go into the stores and buy it. And they will buy it no matter if it's just one song and two live songs or if it's like five new songs. That's what they will find on the album and they will probably be quite happy about it. I think it's just good value for money and I'm really happy about this ep, I think it's something really, really strong.
RockUnited - Where do the titles "King Of Fools" and "Hellfire Club" come from ?
Tobias - "King Of Fools" is just talking about nowadays entertainment industry. We're talking about creating a popstar artificially, you probably have those shows in Finland too (Idols, Popstars, Fame Academy, etc). And it's not just talking about that, it's talking about us as a heavy metal band being different. And when you're a heavy metal band people are always looking strange towards you and they're looking at you like you're from another planet. So it's just a statement that ok, maybe we are rock people, maybe we are different, maybe you think we're strange, but we don't care, we're proud of being different. Fuck you. That's basically the message and it's speaking probably for many people these days, who aren't into all those fashion things on tv that are going on right now. As for "Hellfire Club", the first working title for that was "Mysteria". But first of all it sounded more like "Hysteria" and it sounded so obvious. It was a name that was too obvious and too predictable for a heavy metal album. I wouldn't say it was a boring title, but you know every metal band could've called their album "Mysteria", it was kinda cliché. And we said that our new material is much heavier than our past material, it's really good stuff and it's got some new rough and heavy elements in our sound. I think we wanted to reflect the new elements on the title as well. That's why we came up with "Hellfire Club", which was a secret lodge in England in 18th century. It was a secret society of young, high society men. Officially they were into philosophy, they had their secret meetings and in reality they were just having their parties, drinking and having their orgies. That's what they did in real life, while they were pretending to be very high society. I just read about the lodge and thought the name of the club "Hellfire Club" sounds angry, mean, rough and raw and I think it fitted for the material quite well.
RockUnited - Which reminds me of the lyrics on "King Of Fools". Is there some kind of a theme here, 'cos you curse a lot here ? There's a lot of "fuck this" and "fuck that". Is there any meaning to that ?
Tobias - Really ?! Using that many fucks...well, I just like fucking around, hah...actually there's just two songs. "we don't give a fuck" and one says...
RockUnited - "I'm the motherfucking new messiah".
Tobias - Yeah, but that was just a joke and it fits quite well to the lyrics. And if you've fallen to sleep, up to that passage you will certainly wake up. No, but seriously I don't know. Oh, and the bonus track.
RockUnited - Tell us about the funny "The Life And Times Of A Bonus Track".
Tobias - There's an easy story behind that. Again we had been asked for another bonus track. These days it's really strange to me, because I got the feeling that record companies are always asking more and more bonus tracks and one day we'll end up recording only two songs for the album and 750 bonus tracks. So I was having one of those endless discussions with the label again. Basically I just sat down and wrote down my thoughts about that bonus track, a topic about that whole bonus track thing. And what came out what that song. The music was actually never written. It was just the lyrics and when we came to Finnvox to mix the album I just told Mikko Karmila "hey, can you just please record for ten minutes, just plug in the piano and let me just play". And I put the lyrics on the piano and started playing and singing along. And I didn't even make up my mind what I would like to play, I was just singing and playing. It was recorded as original as it is. In the middle I interrupted and asked Mikko if I should do it again and he told me to go on. So you can hear everything as it is. We just thought this was so funny that we left it as it is.
RockUnited - Tell us about the other songs on "King Of Fools".
Tobias - Songs like "New Age Messiah", "Savage Union" and especially "Holy Water" were first class material. And now it's hard when people talk about the B-sides of the single, when they were A-sides and Jens (Ludwig, guitarist) didn't want the songs to go on an ep. But I don't know which other songs we should've taken from the album, we just tried to make two good products. It was not a decision which songs are better and which are worse, as I think they're all on the same level. We just thought we have too many fast songs here, so we take one fast song from there and do it like that. We tried to figure out which set list would do well on the album and on the ep. And that was the way it went. Especially "New Age Messiah" and "Holy Water" are very great tracks. "Holy Water" was for a very short time planned to be the single off the album instead of "King Of Fools". And up to this moment I still think that it would've made a good single as well. I think everyone will get shitloads of value for their money with the ep, I think it's something really outstanding.
RockUnited - Is "Hellfire Club" along the same lines compared to the mini-album and what inspired the writing process ?
Tobias - It's in the same direction. And as I said those songs on the ep are excerpts from the album. They were all written for "Hellfire Club" at the same session. The overall impression might sound a bit heavier. Some songs are really much heavier than on "King Of Fools". There's totally different things that inspired me, like some songs are really serious, some are serious personal situations that I've been through, philosophical things, some funny nonsense like "Lavatory Love Machine" for example. It was just a funny joke. I was on the airplane when I thought what would you do if you'd crash now ? So I thought ok, we're at an altitude of 10,000 meters now, so it would take three minutes to go down and smash on the ground. So I was looking at the stewardess and thinking three minutes would be enough to have sex with the stewardess on the lavatory. And that was such a stupid idea that I had to laugh by myself so much, that I wrote this song. I said this is the real topic, a great topic for eighties poser-cockrock song, like Mötley Crüe or Poison. This was actually planned to be a bonus track, but it turned out to be so great that we took it on the album. Every song is about a different story. It's not a concept at all. Although I've got my meanings in the songs, many people can read them on their own and interpret them on their own.
RockUnited - How does the new material and the recording process differ from your old ones ?
Tobias - Songwritingwise it's much heavier, it's got more balls and it's more down on earth, it's more into the face, more straight, more direct. And straight doesn't mean it's less complicated, it's just not beating around the bush. I think even the "Mandrake" wasn't that. I think we even went one step further from the "Mandrake". That album was a good step to the right direction, but this was a very steep step even further. It was a break free album and I think it could be a breakthrough album. I don't know businesswise, but certainly stylewise I think this is an album I'm 100 percent happy with and for me it's a classic. What the fans will think I don't know, but I hope they like it as much as we do. And productionwise we've improved in many ways as well. So for the first time we did the drums and bass analogue after a long time at low recording. We wanted to keep the brilliant found of "Mandrake", the brilliance and the good sound, but we wanted to have it more dirty and I think we achieved that. That's what I'm very proud of. And it had to be like that, the album was three times more expensive than "Mandrake". We had to do that. We had big drum recording facilities and good microphones and stuff, a very good mixing desk for the recording. And that was very important, because we just wanted to change little things, but those little things were quite expensive. But we said we've got a bigger budget, so let's push it to the limit. We mixed double time compared to "Mandrake" and instead of keyboards we used a real symphony orchestra, which was not cheap either. So we did many things to get more out of the result.
RockUnited - Which songs do you think will be the fans favourites ?
Tobias - That's hard to say, I guess "Mysteria", "Piper Never Dies". Off the ep I guess "Holy Water", "New Age Messiah" and "King Of Fools". But everybody's got a different taste, so they shall surprise me. There's not a song where you can say this song is weaker than the other song. That's what I guess and it's gonna be the biggest compliment. I'm sure everyone's gonna have a different favourite. It's great and exciting.
RockUnited - Did you ever have a good guess about which songs will work best with the fans ?
Tobias - Not really. At a quite early stage we were very convinced with "Mysteria" as well as "New Age Messiah", because at our rehearsal place "NAM" was immediately recognized as a heavy metal anthem. Dirk (Sauer, guitar) said it's his favourites, he said it's really cool and bombastic, rock'n'roll, heavy metal, whatever. It's uptempo, fast, it's got aggression and power, melody and bombastic elements and the orchestra. So we knew from the beginning that this would be a very great track. Don't ask me why it's on the ep, 'cos here we are again with the problem which song should be on the ep and which one on the album.
RockUnited - The record labels, as far as they have a say in the order of the songs, usually tend to have a scent for the best rocker. At least in my case they usually put the best song first on the album.
Tobias - I think most of the time it's not the record labels who are responsible about that. We decided everything on our own, Nuclear Blast got the finished product. We said "here, this is the album, please press it and send the check too". So that's actually the way we worked. Record labels don't know shit. They just sell the record, that's what they do well. We are responsible for the order and everything, for the art. Some things don't go together, record label has to sell the album and promote it, that's what they have to do. And they do it well, that's why I trust them. But they shall trust us when it comes to the art, to the music and the photos and artwork. That's our responsibility and that's what we need to do, what we want to do and what we certainly will always be responsible for.
RockUnited - But there are artists who don't have their say and the record label decides about everything.
Tobias - It depends if you have success you can even tell the boss of the record label what kind of a car he has to drive if you want to stay with them. Or if he wants you to stay on their label. It depends. If you're succesful, you can do everything. And when a band starts selling less, the less influence you have. That's the sad thing about the whole thing. But I think we've found a very good company in Nuclear Blast and even AFM as well. Both of them weren't trying to have any influence on the art, on the artistic part. That's important I think, because that's what the record label signed us for. So they might've been happy with our work in the past and so they will probably be in the future as well, that's why they signed us for. They really have to trust us and that's what both of our record labels have done. Some labes maybe try to have an influence, but some artists need that, because otherwise they're gonna just burn the record companies money and do something really stupid. So it depends on the artist as well.
RockUnited - What was the reason why you changed your record label ?
Tobias - We were happy with AFM, but it's quite a small company. I think we have new possibilities and options in Nuclear Blast. It's a much bigger company, it's bigger administration and they've got a bigger distribution and got more promotion possibilities. They were after the band for seven years now, so we just thought this would be the best thing to do. I can't say that AFM did bad things you know, but it's a different level now. And it is more money as well of course, but money is not paid just because they're so nice and they have so much. That's not the thing, they expect bigger sales as well, because they have a better distribution for example in the USA and South America. They have other possibilities and another distribution net. Money is a nice thing, but they don't spend it on you if they don't get it back. They don't spend something just because they are so nice and they really want to have you. That wouldn't make sense from the business point of view. They have to get their money back from the sales. So in this way the money they spend on you in advance is money what reflects what they expect from you. And from the sales they could have with you. And in that way we knew that Nuclear Blast would expect more records sold than AFM. They were offering us more promotion and leaving all the decisions for the art point of view, for the music, to us. We did the production, they just got the tape, the mastering and the artwork and transferred the money. That was everything. Everybody would do it, if you'd get more money from somewhere else and you can do your art and they support you in the same way. It would be stupid and it would be a lie if I'd tell you now that I don't give a shit about money. Of course I care about it, but I wouldn't do everything for money. But I didn't have to do any compromise. They were just saying "ok, we can sell 50 percent more and we're gonna offer you 50 percent more than AFM", if it's like that, you've got nothing to lose.
RockUnited - You've released the "Burning Down The Opera" live album as well. How well was it received by the fans ?
Tobias - I think it was received very well. Not as well as I thought it would, because we did a really big package, a real big booklet and spent a lot of money on art and recording it. And there's a golden rule which says that a live album sells 50 percent of the studio album released before that. We thought we would break that rule and we didn't. But still I think it's a very good live album, I'm happy that we released it and the fans have bought it, I'm happy about it. And those who didn't buy it or didn't see us live, they don't know what they've missed.
RockUnited - Some fans didn't like the idea of "BDTO" being recorded mostly in France. You were personally happy with the outcome of course ?
Tobias - Most of the stuff was recorded in Paris, but there's some things from Budapest as well and so on. I think 80 percent is from Paris. But why are they mad ? "Live At The Lyceum" by WASP was recorded in the US as well and "Made In Japan" was recorded in Japan only. I think the live album gives people a good impression what an Edguy show is all about. That was the goal and that's what happened. I never made up my mind about if it's a problem that most of the stuff is recorded in France. Best stuff could've come from anywhere, I think that's not worth arguing about.
RockUnited - What about playing in a small club that takes only 50 people ?
Tobias - It can be quite funny. I mean Dream Theater did "Live At The Marquee" and I think Marquee doesn't take much people, about 400. So it can work actually. I've never thought about it, you know. First we have to show how BIG we are. Maybe when we've been together for 38 years we can make a little one to show how we don't need to play those big halls anymore, hah hah. And you know the big stages are too big to move on, the distance from one side to another is so long to a fat singer that we'd really have to play small clubs...right...
RockUnited - Everyone has been wondering are you going to release a DVD ?
Tobias - Probably yes, but we don't know when. Maybe after the next tour. We have a lot of material gathered already, even vintage stuff from Edguy, meaning from the first year of our existance from '92 when we were 14 years old. And when our singer was lightly chubby...over-nourishment we call it. But we've got videos from those times. And we're gonna put all those things on the DVD, but the most important thing on the DVD I think now is to have a live performance as the core, the center of the DVD. And we have to shoot it first and maybe it's gonna happen on the next tour. But you never know, I don't know exactly what will happen. We haven't actually thought about the DVD at all, so I don't know what's gonna be on it.
RockUnited - Can we expect a third album from Avantasia ?
Tobias - No. I just want to concentrate on one thing at the moment. Avantasia was from the very first moment planned to be only two albums and nothing more. Now Avantasia is over and I really don't want to concentrate on too many things now. It's really hard enough for me to manage, write songs, promote, record and do all those things with one band on such a level, when you're touring around the world for months. And doing an album in the studio for four months, that's enough work and I don't want to lose energy on concentrating on too many different things. I think that wouldn't be fair to our fans and the quality would really suffer under that. So I'd rather do one thing and do it with all of my passion, all of my heart and all of my power.
RockUnited - But MAYBE someday you might record Avantasia ?
Tobias - No. (that's a very strict and confident no from Tobias)
RockUnited - No ? No way ! Oohh, too bad !
RockUnited - Tell me about the Aina-project where you sang on two songs, what was it like doing it ? There were many famous people involved like singers Michael Kiske and Glenn Hughes.
Tobias - I went to the studio with my friend Sasha Paeth and he was asking me about it for a long time, but I said I can't do it, I did too many things in the past and I don't want to be on that album. And he accepted that. The song that Glenn Hughes sang had some high voice missing in the end and the other song was supposed to sing by Michael Kiske. He got sick, a cold and he couldn't do it on time so Sasha was calling you gotta fill in, you gotta jump in for Michael. So I thought I'd do a favour and went there for four hours, sang, did my recordings. It was only me and Sasha in the studio and Amanda, one of the producers, and I went back home. So that was it. I don't know anything about the story, I just went there, sang and went home.
RockUnited - I read a funny interview with you recently, so please tell me all about Steel Penis (a "band"), what's that about and are you still doing that ?
Tobias - No, we've never done it, actually it was all fiction. There was this one weird guy whom I've known for a long time who was appearing in magazines, one of the bigger german magazines. I knew him even before he was in the magazines and we had an interview together and I said "you're doing the interview with me ?" and he was starting to bullshit around and I was totally getting into it. And there was nothing serious anymore in the interview. The whole interview was done bullshitting around and our fans were really pissed off about it. But it was legendary, everybody in the business laughed about it. But the fans didn't think it was so funny, because there was no information. We were talking about my former band Steel Penis from the eighties with our guitar player C.C.Malibu and the other called Bill Ballfreak, everything was fiction. I mean I didn't have a band in the eighties, I was born in '77, so I would've been ten years old if the band would've been founded in '87. It was just a joke and he printed the interview exactly how it was. It was funny, I was reading it and thought "oh, he's not serious ! This is the finalinterview", it was only shit. There's a lot of bullshit in that interview.
RockUnited - You played a secret gig in Cologne, Germany, how secret did it stay and did you use your own name?
Tobias - We used our own name and it wasn't that secret, because we announced it on our website. It was just that it didn't appear in public at all, it wasn't in the magazines, nowhere. It was a tv show that invited us, so we agreed to play there, but only if they gave us 200 tickets. Or basically all the tickets that they sell, they sell to us and we sell them only to our fans. And we gave away the tickets to the fans over the website and it was nowhere else announced. Many people didn't realize that we were playing that show. And that was really great, such a small house and it was shot for a tv show. It was fun doing that, it was so small and intimate. But I do like playing to 35 000 people as well, but it's got its own magic playing to 250 people, it's totally different, it's more closer to the audience. It was very nice.
RockUnited - Can you still go to the front row fans and shake hands with them ?
Tobias - Of course. They're nice. They're Edguy fans, they have to be nice. And no, they don't tear my clothes, they're nice lovely beings who like the same music that we do and like the music we play. And that connects us, that's it.
RockUnited - You only played ten songs, howcome such a short show ?
Tobias - They were limiting us, because it was for the tv. We wanted to play longer, but they said no, just 60 minutes. Sad but true.
RockUnited - People have been wondering who's that Ed Guy anyway, but I read that you got it from your old teachers name, Edgar. What did he teach you exactly and did you hate him ?
Tobias - We didn't hate him, but he didn't teach us a lot. He was the math teacher and he was a bit strange. I think he wasn't a good teacher, but he was a nice person. And it was at that time when we were at that age when we tried to cheat and fool our teacher all the time. We were like 13 or something. But he wasn't an idiot, he was a nice idiot...but he wasn't really teaching something, he was really bad in educating us.
RockUnited - Did you get the idea from Lynyrd Skynyrd who did the same thing with their name ?
Tobias - No, not at all, but I've heard about that as well.
RockUnited - You seem to have some kind of a fascination towards cows, can you tell me what's the story behind your cowpants ?
Tobias - It was just a coincidence, because I don't have a fascination towards cows. But I have to have a fascination or people think I better should have one, 'cos they give me cows all the time as presents, all sizes and materials, I get cows from everyone. And it all actually started here in Helsinki, when I bought my cowpants. I just went to a normal shop, which wasn't really a normal shop but a gayshop, but I didn't see it from the exhibition window. I just saw that there were some great cowpants and bought them. They were quite expensive, I took them home and thought they're cool enough to wear on stage. It was Bang Your Head festival in Germany and all the press were complaining about the pants. They said "oh, he was a great singer, but the pants, they sucked big time". It wasn't a big deal, it was just funny cowpants. Nothing else. And since then fans were showing up with cow t-shirts and everything at the show. It was kinda weird, but I like it somehow, it's really funny. But I ain't got special relations to cows. But half of my living room is full of cow things, because I get cow presents from fans all over the world. I've got a cow hat and cow pants, little cows, big cows, whatever.
RockUnited - So the lesson here is you should be careful what you do.
Tobias - Yeah.
RockUnited - Some two years ago finns almost had you as a dj in Helsinki at the local Corner metal bar, but you just partied that night. Could you someday do that and surprise the local metal fans ?
Tobias - Of course I could, but I don't remember that. But I never get drunk. But of course I could be a dj.
RockUnited - We'll be seeing Edguy on tour and in Finland in May. What kind of a show can we expect ?
Tobias - I just hope we get all the shit in Nosturi (Helsinki, also playing in Tampere), because we've got so much things with us. We have to come with our own production, the stage is gonna look like a big temple, we have sculptures on stage that will move and stuff. So we are prepairing something really, really big. I just hope we get it into the club. The concept was made for a bigger hall. But I hope we're gonna have a lot of fun and no matter what we will get to Pakkahuone and Nosturi, we will kick ass even without PA ! So it doesn't really depend on that stage show, but we will bring it anyway.
RockUnited - Do you have any last words to the readers of RockUnited and your fans ?
Tobias - Thank you for supporting us, give the new album a chance. Just give it a listen of one minute in the beginning and I'm sure you'll love it. And we hope to see you all in Nosturi and Pakkahuone. And stay as you are and don't let the idiots get you down. Hah hah.
Interview by Satu Reunanen,
by Kari Helenius,