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ARP's Axel Rudi Pell: "I don't see a guitarist who has enough personality to eventually be recognized as a guitar hero. I don't think they want that anymore either..."

Interview with Axel Rudi Pell from Axel Rudi Pell
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 01 May 2022, 8:59 PM

It is about the world not just anything in particular, so why not look at the macro rather than micro. It is true that there are things in our world that need a chance, occurrences beyond our recognition or knowledge, yet, it is possible that eventually those will fade without us knowing or dealing with. Axel Rudi Pell, a German guitarist with a strong heritage in Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, has always been concerned in what has been going on in the world, not just the pandemic or the current war in the East. His songs portray events in a person's life, yet also about the troubles of the world. Coming in with a new album, "Lost XXII”, an emotional journey is revealed. Steinmetal had a talk with Axel about the experience.

Hello Axel, it is amazing, and once again an honor, to have you sir for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have things been on your end?

I have been doing well, thank you

It has been nearly two years since the last time we had a little chat, which was surrounding the “Sign Of The Times” album. Since then, a lot of things have happened worldwide, in particular the pandemic that continued to spread, and of course the war in the East. Talking about the pandemic, did it have any effects on your mentally? Were you able to find yourself writing new material with a fresh mind bound to the process?

No, luckily the pandemic didn't affect me or the songs. Of course we would have loved to have played live at that time, but of course that wasn't possible, so in the end I had more time to compose.

How would you say that this last phase of the pandemic in 2021, which included a lot of lockdowns, made its mark on the ARP lineup? Were there considerations or deliberations about the integrity of this fine unit?

NO, no effects at all.

The introduction of your new album, “Lost XXII”, other than being a prime milestone of being your 21st album, holds your opinionated thoughts over the state of the world. In a way, even without being directly connected, I believe that the war in Ukraine channels your concerns for the well being of our world. The title “Lost World”, as you put it, making it “Lost XXII” provides some insights. What is your take on that? Is it only the environmental connection at play here?

No, it's the state of the whole world in general. There are smaller and larger trouble spots everywhere, it's not just the war, but also general things such as climate change, different religious views and a number of other things.

Being lost means that there might not be hope going forward. In relation to your personal belief system, do you really believe that there is no way out or are we too blind to see that there is an answer out there, but an effort has to be made for it?

There are always ways out! In every situation! I personally found all my solutions…but hey… I´m a musician, not a politician!

With “Lost XXII” being a deeper record, sinking in beyond the borders of music, what are the main morals that this record provides to its listeners other than mainly portraying the problems so to speak?

There are no morals. First and foremost, we want to entertain and not draw attention to certain circumstances with a raised index finger!

Leaving the philosophical discussion aside, “Lost XXII” has another cause for celebration, and in a way, I found it quite surprising. This album marks one of the longest relationships between an artist and a label. Your ongoing, and fruitful, relations with Steamhammer Records is something else, and in an ever shifting market no less. What is the label’s secret on that matter, to preserve artists? What do you find in Steamhammer that tells you, time after time, that this is your home to be part of for as long as possible?

Steamhammer has always allowed me to record whatever I wanted! The label never gave me any instructions and never asked for any demos. So, I have my freedom in all matters. In addition, only experienced and competent employees work at Steamhammer, who are also very nice!

As a long-time follower of the band, including your Steeler years, you never cease to amaze me. It is true that I found a lot of connecting dots between your records, and your songwriting style, however, I think that “Lost XXII” displays several differences. How do you find the diversities made in the record? Was it necessary to spice things up other than trust a working formula?

I never think in advance if I need or should change anything about the style. For me, all of the songs come about in a natural process, and this is also the case with this record. If I were to think about it, I would deprive myself of my freedom.

We mentioned the album’s songwriting, would you say that your perception towards writing songs, based on that amazing mixture between melodic Hard Rock and traditionally styled Heavy Metal, changed in a way?

No, I still write like I always did. Only sometimes it comes out better… ;-)

When I listened to the touchy balladry, “Gone With The Wind”, I didn’t even consider the thought that it was about the relationship between a person and its best friend. Prior to understanding that, by reading the dossier, it felt to me quite personal. Is there a personal nature to this track? How did you come up with this theme?

The text refers to a true story. There's even a movie that deals with the same subject. I found this story very sad, so I used the subject as a ballad. But it has nothing to do with me personally.

Musically, what makes “Gone With the Wind” a kind of ballad that is different, in its own special way, to a lot of 80s driven AOR steamy balladries, and of course your own previous ballads? What is that game changer that made it unique in your opinion?

This ballad in particular is performed very sensitively and emotionally by all the musicians. It stands out from my other ballads for its complexity and many emotional swings and is easily one of the best ballads I have ever written.

When it came to the crunchy Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal, tune, I favored “No Compromise”. It is an ARP song no doubt about that, it has the right hooks and these tasty riffs and vocals that are benevolent. How do you view this track? I guess that the sort of habit of writing such rockin’ crushers never dies right?

I write a lot of riffs and melodies. "No Compromise" has everything that makes a typical rock ARP track. My inner self wants to write these kinds of songs and as long as the flame burns inside me, there will always be tracks like this. I love this track too! ;-)

 “Freight Train”, with its vintage inclinations, shares an amazing atmosphere, driving around, feeling free in a way, on a course of an amazing main riff that is pure classic, melodies that are right on the spot and a chorus that is a powerful moment of truth. What can you tell about the inspirations behind this particular track?

Sorry if I have to disappoint you, but there's no specific inspiration behind it… it's just because I'm a genius! Hahahahaa…..:-)

If there is one thing about your albums that I have been waiting for, other than the heavier tunes, and just today I listened with my son to “Unchain The Thunder”, it is your epic tracks. “Lost XXII” is one of your richest, and varied, tracks to date. It might not be complicated, but it nails those Arabian scales, reprising the intro of the album, leaving the listener to wonder around. What can you tell about the creative process of this track?

In fact, I had lots of work with the title track! First, I had this slightly Arabic sounding riff that keeps coming back in the song. I knew this song was going to be very long because just that riff alone says it must be a "masterpiece" and not a short song. In the studio we searched for a suitable keyboard sound for the small Arabic tone scales in the chorus for a long time and luckily, we found it. I am very proud of this song! One of the best epic songs I've ever written.

Going a little general, as a way to pick your mind once again. Earlier on, Whitesnake’s singer, David Coverdale, said “A lot of new rock bands don't really have guitar heroes”. Since you have been a kind of a guitar hero, at least for yours truly, do you think that it is actually the case nowadays?

First, I have to tell you that I don't see myself as a "Guitar Hero", but as a guitarist who is able to write reasonably good songs and play them in a way that serves the purpose of the songs. I never put my guitar in the foreground of a song, the overall composition has to be convincing and not just the guitarist's playing. I don't write my songs around a guitar solo either… Hahaha… But David Coverdale is right anyway! With all the new bands, I don't see a guitarist who has enough personality to eventually be recognized as a guitar hero. I don't think they want that anymore either… so you all have to deal with all the old farts who still have style I´m afraid… Hahahaha… ;-) J

You have been a beast on the road for many years, and since now it is possible to actually tour again, how is your schedule looking in 2022? Will you be going for two legs again?

Yes, after all those reschedules, we finally will hit the road in September of this year for the first leg of the Tour. We will continue next year in the spring and then hopefully will be able to play leg 3 and leg 4 during 2023… but we´ll  wait and see…

Axel, kind sir, thank you so much for making the effort again for this interview. I wish you all the best possible, you enriched me once again. All the best

My pleasure, thank you!


 



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