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Interview - Lars Ramcke (Stormwarrior)

Interview with Lars Ramcke from Stormwarrior
by Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 02 March 2014, 2:47 AM

Back in 1998, in Hamburg, Germany, Lars Ramcke and Andre Schumman formed STORMWARRIOR, a Speed Metal band, after being influenced by 1980's Heavy Metal bands such as HELLOWEEN and RUNNING WILD. Their debut album took 4 years to release and their next followed up 2 years later. Our own MettleAngel got to sit down with Lars and get the story on this legendary band!

 Hey Lars, I am so glad to be able to do this interview with you. I live in America, and in my experience you are not so well-known here, which is such a pity. I have followed the band since your debut in 2002. I have met Kai Hansen and interviewed him concerning your band. Ultimately, it was Denis Gulbey from Sentinel Steel who helped me to discover your band.  Although, if my feeble memory serves me, I think I once saw you on some Metal VHS comp. that I watched back in the '90s promoting your band. I could be mistaken, but I think it for a Australian 'zine. Anyway, you worked with Kai, and he helped you to revivify that super fast "Walls Of Jericho" sound epitomized by early Helloween. Now, over a decade later, the songs are still fast but the music has developed and matured, such that now you have your own recognizable sound, how would you personally describe the style you play?

I would just call it "Barbaric Heavy Metal" as it already was called during the period of our first demo tapes and the intention still is the same as it was back then. Maybe in a way you can as well call it something like the essence of Hamburg Heavy Metal if you want as we tried to pick the best from the typical Heavy Metal style from Hamburg in the beginning and just continued the line.

 I just got the new album, so I am not as versed in this as your other albums, but obviously I prefer the earlier material. That being said, one of my favourite songs that the band has written is "Holy Cross" from 'Heading Northe'. I understand the band embraces a number of Pagan or Heathen ideals, but you would not consider yourself to be Satanic right?

What have "pagan or heathen ideals" to do with being "Satanic"? Isn't Satanism just another form of Christianity? So, no, we're neither Christian nor Satanic. I just hate the fucking church and what has happened throughout the centuries to pagan people and pagan cultures. And I just can't understand how people, especially young people still can believe the shit these bastards are preaching.

 Are you familiar with the History channel's new series called "Vikings"? I just finished watching the first season on DVD with all the extras. I was so impressed with its utter authenticity. I also appreciate how they do not overplay the sex and violence like with other shows such as "Spartacus" or "Game Of Thrones". Would you consider the depiction of the Heathen warrior in this show, an epitome of the attitude and mettle for which the band strongly promote?

I am sorry but I didn't watch any of it. Maybe Yenz would have been the better address right here as he is a total movie junkie. He even has statistics and his personal ranking list about movies sorted by year of release etc… Always interesting reports from him about what has changed since the last time being on the road, so we are already looking forward to the next tour… haha!

 Speaking of “Game Of Thrones”, are you a fan of the books or HBO television series? I ask this because I thought perhaps the new song “Ironborn” might have been inspired by this.

As I said, I never saw or read it. Maybe I should find the time someday for it…

 I only have a digital promo for the new album, but after a few listens some standout tracks that I enjoy include: “Sacred Blade”, Steelcrusader”, and “Die By The Hammer”. I have two close friends who already purchased the music digitally when it was released. I can honestly say that they are both diehard fans. The younger one gets complements every time he wears his StormWarrior shirt which he ordered from your site, the other more mature and highly selective brother cherishes your old school speed direction. He even wanted me to tell you this, “never use keyboards and always keep it true!" Personally, I have no problem with keys, but I too like it heavy, fast, and loud, and SW have always answered my iron prayers.

The thing is I had the same opinion in the beginning. I hated everything with keys and faked choir patterns etc… But it was mainly because most of the bands that were using keys were just sounding too soft and polished. But you can use some keys here and there in a good way as well… to create some ancient epic atmospheres… be it just in the background where no one notices it as key-sounds at all or obviously in the front if you don't overdose it and you have some really good sounds. Normally it is not the small little atmospheric keyboard parts that make the overall sound polished, it is the overall package that fails.

 I too am a dedicated supporter. I bought the first three albums on CD, the rest I acquired digitally. The disheartening thing is that they were both disappointed to discover "post facto" that there exists a special edition with a cover of "The Enforcer" by Warrant. Is that only available on the vinyl pressing, or can it be purchased digitally?

To be honest I really don't know… haha! I don't know if Massacre wants to keep it as a special vinyl one or if they plan to sell it digitally as well. I never cared a lot about this digital selling system.

 Why did you choose to honour this act? Did you know those guys from back when
you were a member of Minotaur? Have you ever considered covering any older Minotaur tracks?

I was just part of Minotaur for a very small period like 1 or 2 years or so. I am no original member of Minotaur and while I was joining them we actually only did 1 single show with Sodom if I remember correctly. I am as well way too young to have been with them in their early period though… haha! But those guys were cool and they are still around.

There are always some songs on the list that you want to cover one day. I still have a lot more and this time it was time for "The Enforcer". I always loved this song as the German Warrant have been part of our influences as well somehow. So actually it seems not to be only "Hamburg exclusively"… haha!

 I have not heard the cover, but I so admire many of your other attempts to celebrate the Metal Gods. It seems that you have a knack for bringing to light more obscure bands for which many younger Americans are ignorant.

I don't know so many younger Americans… But I don't think it is necessary to cover "Breaking the law" for the 800000 time… So of course it makes way more fun to discover an old classic song from an extremely underrated band and pay tribute to them instead. Nothing against Judas Priest of course… haha! Still one of my faves…

 Oz from Finland played a handful of dates in U.S. last May. A number of younger fans first heard your take on "Turn The Cross Upside-down", and then researched Oz after hearing your rendition. It is like what HammerFall did for StormWitch or Picture, who incidentally will be playing the same “Ragnarokker Festival” this year.

Yeah, maybe. But I am not even sure if the OZ guys ever listened to our version. But I still love this song and it was a great thing to cover that one. I remember it was a hell of finding the lyrics anywhere… Even through German Rock Hard Magazine's Götz Kühnemund it wasn't possible to get anything… but finally we got them in the end.

 You came to the U.S. to play a short mid-day set at Prog Power a number of years ago. Is there a chance you will be coming back to the U.S. for a small tour? A venue in Chicago like “Ragnarokker” would be perfect for you.

Of course that would be awesome and we are well aware of all the comments in Facebook wanting us in the states. But you know, this is not really depending on us since a tour on our own would be way too expensive. I guess this is up to the promoters. If there are a lot of people coming up to the promoters demanding STORMWARRIOR then maybe there is a chance someday. We enjoyed the time we had at ProgPower to the fullest and of course we would love to come back again, but as I said, it's all about the costs… But on the other hand there are a lot of European festivals with a lot of U.S. bands showing up every year, so why not thinking in the other direction…? Should be possible… right? So, promoters wanting to book STORMWARRIOR can always contact us via our Facebook page or our normal website….

 Speaking of Prog. Power. Pretty Maids recently played this as well. I was very impressed with you take on "City Light". The thing is that these covers you do for the albums are always bonus tracks and more difficult for us U.S. fans to get without paying higher prices. Paragon put out an album of all their covers, is this something SW might consider, so we can get those cool bonus tracks, as well as hear the Running Wild cover of "Under Jolly Roger"? Which other bands besides Helloween, Saxon, & Motorhead have you paid tribute?

I guess that could be kind of problematic as three labels would need to arrange something together then and honestly… it is always hard enough to deal something out with only ONE company… haha! I remember we did "Warchild" from Running Wild as well, but right now I don't really have in mind if there were more than that… maybe I should look it up someday… But I like the idea… maybe in a few years with some more songs… why not…

 I would love to hear you guys attempt “Back To North” by Merciless from Sweden.

Then I should have a listen to this song as well…

 I am sure you have been asked "ad nauseum" but why do you choose to use an "e" on most songs and album titles? Is this to set the songs apart, is it kitsche, or rather is it to underline the more medieval aspect of language? Surprisingly, other than the title track and song itself - 'Thunder & Steele' – it appears that you have abandoned the abuse of the superfluous "e". Did you decide that this gimmick has finally run its course?

This was basically used to underline the medieval epic side of the lyrics and should present everything in a older frame. I don't see what is so weird about it, just read some Shakespeare or other older English language… there are other bands using that way of spelling as well for years… maybe not that intense.. ok…. haha!

For this album it was just that most of the songs on the album don't deal with ancient and epic times so we just kept it a little bit simpler this time. But who knows about the next one… I still like these historical spellings…

 When did you decide to drop the "names" like "Thunder Axe" and why?

Don't remember when it was but it had something to do with all these whole line- up changes back then. I just didn't have fun any longer to think about a new fitting pseudonym for a new band member every half a year or so… haha! It was cool when we started with the band in the original line-up and it actually belongs to the earlier period of our career. We continued that for quite some time but some day it just didn't have the original spirit anymore as a band always changes a little bit with new members involved.

 Other than your new drummer who is well-known for producing other German acts, you have same line-up with Alex and Yenz, do you feel like you all work well as a team?

Yeah, actually the three of us have been building the main musical part for quite a long time right now. It is for sure the best working core the band ever had so far and with Jörg on the new album it works great as well. It was the best and easiest drum recording session we ever had. Uncomplicated, without any discussions, injuries or ego problems and so on… haha! So, yeah, somehow it works and I hope this will last as the older you become the more tired you get of searching for a replacement for anyone…

 Congratulations on another quality album. I am grateful the band takes time, and never rushes to release anything. Maybe someday, you will make those original demos more accessible too, as I have never had a chance to hear them.

You don't really want to hear those tapes… haha!!

 Thank You!

THX to you Michael for this interview and for your support through the years…!!! \\m/


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