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Harry Oellers (Axxis)

Interview with Harry Oellers from Axxis
by Grigoris Chronis at 05 November 2007, 4:35 PM

My beloved German metallers AXXIS just released their lastest album, Doom Of Destiny. An excellent follow-up to their Paradise In Flames (2006) release, indeed, and we grabbed the chance to ask the band's keyboardist/songwriter/co-producer Harry Oellers a few questions regarding this new album. Harry, thanks a lot!

Harry, Doom Of Destiny is released as the follow-up album after the success of Paradise In Flames. Was it a stressful period to compose the songs for this new album, in order to preserve the same AXXIS quality in Doom Of Destiny?

It was stressful because of two reasons. The first was - as you already said - the quality of the previous album, Paradise In Flames, and on the other hand we had not so much time after it was clear that we had the OK for playing with HELLOWEEN on their upcoming tour. The timing for the production needs to be perfect and it was a hard piece of work. But everybody in the band was envolved and hard working so that in the end Doom Of Destiny became what it is.

My initial thought - listening to the album the first couple of times - is that the same recipe was used, as in Paradise In Flames. Then, I gradually concluded that Doom Of Destiny is heavier and kinda more ’mystique’ than its predecessor. What’s your opinion? How do you see the songwriting period for the album (ideas, sources of inspiration)? Who handled the production in Doom Of Destiny?

As for the last album, Bernie and me were responsible for the production. The mixing was done by Dennis Ward (ANGRA, PINK CREAM 69). Doom Of Destiny is indeed heavier. Our new guitar player Marco Wriedt did a very good job in the studio and so we put the guitars more in the front. To keep everything in balance then sometimes the keyboards overtake a part and give a mystic touch to the music.

Female vocals seem rather friendly in our days for Rock/Metal fans. What came first for both Paradise In Flames and Doom Of Destiny? The songs themselves or the decision to write songs requesting atmosphere provided by vocal lines of a singer like Laconia?

For Paradise In Flames Lakonia was planned from the beginning on. Then we started producing a solo project with her and she wasn’t planned on Doom Of Destiny. So Bernie did all the vocal tracks since we got the offer to go on tour with HELLOWEEN. That seems to us to be a great chance to make Lakonia European-wide well known, what would have been great for her solo project as well. Then we changed some of the vocal tracks with her voice.

Doom Of Destiny features a new kid in town: Marco. Does he fit well by now? What was your motive for hiring such a young musician?

When Marco came to the studio for the very first time it was clear that this he is the new guitar player of AXXIS. His style is formed from the same bands that we listen to (IRON MAIDEN, KISS, QUUEN) and when Marco starts playing he puts the guitar sound to the new songs that we needed. The feeling to play with Marco is so as if he would have been in the band from beginning on.

The cover artwork is rather representative for what an AXXIS fan is about to hear. Who came with this artwork idea?

We always have the basic ideas (like the vampire girl, for example). The cover should represent every song. The artwork is done by Derek Gores who also did the last two covers as well.

Since the promo CD does not include the songs lyrics, would you like to share with us some info on the stories accompanying the music? Is there a general idea/concept ’lurking’ in?

There is no general concept but being critical. The title track Doom Of Destiny deals about the conflict of the different cultures between Europe and Arabia.

Astoria, for example, is about that virtual state with own currency but without land. Then, fantasy in songs like Blood Angel or love in the only ballad The Fire Still Burns.

To tell you the truth, I ’see’ AXXIS capable of writing some strictly concept album some time in the future. You know, with characters, a scenario etc. Have you though of this possibility?

We already wrote the songs for a Heavy Metal performance called Prometheus Brain Project in which Bernie also plays as an actor. During that time we learnt a lot about that ’concept’ thing. We’re discussing very often the possibility to do something similar with AXXIS. My opinion is that, if we  have the right idea, we will go for it.

By the way, what’s the Prometheus Brain Project all about? There seems to be not a clear picture for many fans regarding this opera(?).

It deals about the progress of mankind. Prometheus was the one who created mankind and brought them progress by giving them fire. Everything under the aspect of advantage and disadvantage of globalisation.. A very critical discussion with that theme was the result.

Doom Of Destiny sees the band on the road this autumn, along fellow German metallers HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY. Do you see this billing will be a good case to promote your new album?

For us this is the biggest tour after BLACK SABBATH with our first record. AXXIS is not so well known in the foreign countries as it is in Germany and this is a great chance to become. We have the chance to get in contact to the press people, the promoters and the fans directly.

Harry, Laconia won’t follow you on tour, though. And we recently read there’ll be a ’guest’ lady joining you on the road, right?

Yes. It will be Ana Mladinovici of the Romanian band MAGICA. We found that she could represent the new songs perfectly on stage.

Out of curiosity: AXXIS will not be appearing in some selected dates (e.g. in Greece). Is there some particular reason for this decision?

We had to make some compromises with the budget that we had. We wanted to play as many shows as possible and so we figured out a plan that works. I’m not so glad about this but there was no other possibility.

Doom Of Destiny sees AXXIS carrying on their collaboration with AFM Records. Are you satisfied - so far - from the labels support? Do you have contract for more albums to come via AFM?

Yes we’re happy with AFM. They support us very well, but I think this depends on our good sales!. I think we will do one more album after D.O.D. for AFM and than we have to take a look if all the investments we did (e.g. the tour now) are worth to go on in the future.

Is there any possibility we’ll be seeing a DVD release from AXXIS in the near future? You know, e.g. a combination of live performances plus the promo videos the band has released so far?

We have tons of material and many good ideas but not so much time to work with it. But we’re getting closer, since we have some very good recordings from the Masters Of Rock festival in Czech.

Really, are there any plans to shoot a video for any song off Doom Of Destiny? Do you feel it’s worth the try (and money) to shoot a video in our days?

A video is always a good promotion tool. We did a small video of the bonus track Engel Aus Hass that was sung with german lyrics. So you can see the band working in the studio etc.

I always believed (me, and hundreds of thousands of fans) that the supremacy of the Kingdom Of The Night debut album is difficult to be surpassed by some other release. Many people say that a successful debut album is - sometimes - like a ’curse’, since the fans compare every other album you release with this one. Your opinion?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We are very proud about that success. But when someone is coming up and says do the same again! I must say no. You can’t plan that. We always give the best we can in songwriting and producing. But you can’t compare it to what we did in the past.

Harry, Doom Of Destiny is the 10th AXXIS ’normal’ studio release. It’s now been 18 years the band is (in terms of official discography) alive, delivering really high-class music. I was wondering if year 2009 could bring something like a ?th anniversary’ grand gig (in Germany, I guess) with the band performing for 2+ hours and - why not - film and release a DVD afterwards!

GOOD IDEA! Oh my God, such a long time.

Deriving your influence in AXXIS’ music: which bands/styles were inspirational for the band back in the late Kingdom Of The Night days? In addition, after all these years and albums you have definitely developed your sound/style. What’s the difference - in your opinion - between ’evolution’ and ’selllout’?

AXXIS was influenced by bands like KISS, QUEEN, JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. We never wanted to do the same album twice and so you have to find always new things to go forward. That makes the AXXIS style of today.

Doom Of Destiny surely is an album AXXIS fans (both ’old’ and ’new’) will like. But what about the ones not familiar with the band till now? Which elements you think are good selling points for someone to purchase the album (and then dig for the band’s history)?

It’s hard but always with good melodies. It’s fast but sometimes smooth with the female voice. It’s bombastic but always true.

In an decade of rather ’aggressive’ music, there are many bands still looking for melodies in their sings. Is it too old-fashioned or there always be space for melody in Rock/Metal music?

What is a good melody?! I think if you have one, everybody(!) will like it. The aggression in the music today is the same as in our world today where no one takes care of each other. It is like a mirror. In times of globalisation everything in life is getting harder and harder and so the music did. This is not a world of milk and honey.

Harry, thanks a lot for your spare time. Really hope all the best for Doom Of Destiny and AXXIS’ future!

Thanx too!


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