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Lars Ramcke (Stormwarrior)

Interview with Lars Ramcke from Stormwarrior
by Grigoris Chronis at 21 March 2008, 12:32 AM

It's widely known that Vikings themes - and epic/myth themes, in general - in Metal music do attract the interest of many metalheads. Not widely known is the fact that German Heavy/Speed/Epic metallers STORMWARRIOR do combine excellently these lyrics concepts with some terrific in-your-face Metal holocaust. with a new label and a brand new 'killer' album, Heading Northe, it was a matter of time to contact Lars Ramcke (or Thunder Axe, if you prefer!) for a brief interview. Hence, heading Hamburg!

Lars, greetings from Metal Temple magazine! First of all, congratulations on your newest album, Heading Northe! I got the impression this release can as well be the finest STORMWARRIOR effort to date!

Hi Greg, thanks for your congratulations and of course I’m glad about what you think about the new album!

First of all, how did you come in touch with DOCKYARD 1? Was it prior to or after writing the songs for Heading Northe? I mean, was the songlist a case where the label said OK, the album kicks ass, let’s have a deal?

No, they didn’t hear anything except of one song of the pre-production before we gave the final master to them! We had all the songs mainly written when we got in contact with them but they gave trust to us from beginning on. I think even they have been a bit surprised somehow about how the album turned out to sound in the end!!! Since the Dockyard 1 guys are also from Hamburg, we knew each other for quite a while when we sat down together and finally talked about the deal and things like that. So there was no real search for a new record label going on for this album.

Having Piet Sielck (plus Tommy Hansen!) around for the contract/CD production, was it a sort of a ’dream come true’ to cooperate with people that have written their own part in the German Hard ’n’ Heavy history?

Well, we have worked before mainly together with Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlachter, so working with big names has been actually nothing new for us. We also knew Piet before and we also played some shows together with IRON SAVIOR, so there had also been no problem with getting him on board for the mix. For the mastering we went to Denmark to Tommy Hansen and that had also been no problem with him, since our new bass player Yenz is also from Denmark and knows Tommy for a real long time.

But of course it was a great honour to work together with these guys and to learn some different ways of  professional working.

Heading Northe’s cover is more ’travelling’ now. I initially – looking to the cover for the first time - thought things would be more ’epic’ in regards to your previous releases. Then, after listening to the album for a dozen of times in a row, I figured out there’s a multi-dimension in Heading Northe’s atmosphere. The speed is here, the teutonic (sic!) Metal is here, there are lots of epic/’legend’ moments throughout the album plus there’s enough of classic in-your-face Metal, too. What sources of inspiration did you use for these compositions, this time?

We just wanted to open our sound-spectrum a little bit to have some more variations and different atmospheres throughout the whole album. I cannot really say what kind of inspirations there have been. It actually just happened during the songwriting process when there had been a lot of different ideas and we tried to combine them all for the whole album. But of course I think the whole sound had been added with maybe some PRIEST, W.A.S.P., MANOWAR and also BATHORY (Hammerheart) sound elements…

Lars, did you start writing the new songs directly after Northern Rage? It’s been nearly four years this album was released, now that I recall! Why did it take you this much to release a new album, anyway?

No, I sadly didn’t have had the chance and the time to start writing new songs directly after the second album. When we finished the Northern Rage production we were rehearsing in the same bunker GAMMA RAY had their studio in and we started building up our own studio in there. When we had completed the studio, the whole bunker had been sold to a different owner who had other plans with the building than having rehearsing and studio rooms inside. So we (and also the GAMMA RAYs) were forced to leave the bunker and that whole thing really threw the band back for about two years (concerning time, but also financially). Than we had to search for new rooms for the studio and for the rehearsals and even in a town like Hamburg this is not an easy thing!

Gladly we always had a possibility at least to rehearse for the summer festivals, else I think the band would have been dead already. In 2005 we had the chance to go on a Japan tour together with GAMMA RAY and afterwards, because the tour went so unexpected overwhelming and the fans were welcoming us so greatly, had to do the mix of the live album on our own with the tapes of the Japan shows which were recorded during that tour anyway. So, I finally had time again for thinking about new material in the middle/end of 2006. But of course one has to get the right feeling for songwriting again after such along time, so, including the whole songwriting process, then the recording of the pre-production and then finally the real production of the album, we were working on the new release until autumn/winter of last year!

It really took a lot of time, but of course we wanted to make everything as perfect as possible and we really spent a lot of time and energy into the arrangements of nearly every single part. We actually recorded up to ten different versions of some single parts so it was also really hard in the end to decide for the right ones…But listening to the album now I feel some kind of proven right that it was worth spending so much time and energy into it!

Heading Northe also features the first album with bassist Yenz Leonhardt. Did he also perform in the At Foreign Shores - Live in Japan  live album?

No, Yenz joined the band during the summer festivals last year. Jussi had to decide to concentrate on his job and his studying so he simply wouldn’t have had enough time to invest into the band the way it is necessary to reach the next level. So Yenz helped us out for the Wacken show and also before for the show at MANOWAR’s Magic Circle festival. After the festivals it was very clear for everyone that Yenz would be the perfect guy to make the band complete again, so he became a full member then. During the album production he also had great ideas for the bass lines so we just left him nearly ’free hands’ in what he was playing. I also did the whole backing vocals together with him, so he already had great input in this new album.

Really, how did you decide to release the live album, based on a show in Japan ? Was it initially planned to be released, or you had a great time over there and decided to capture the whole vibe on audio?

The whole tour went just so great for us, what we absolutely haven’t expected before, so we were totally glad that the whole tour had been recorded anyway. So we just had to sit down and listen to the tapes and combine the songs of the four shows to a live album afterwards.

Of course we also knew that normally it would have been way too early for a live album after having just two studio albums released before, but first of all that tour had been the first real tour for STORMWARRIOR in general and since the Japanese fans didn’t actually treat us a support band, but they were really making party during and after the gigs, and the whole atmosphere had been so overwhelming for us, we just decided to release the tapes as a live album; also for ourselves, to always have something in our hands to remind us on the first (Japan) tour of STORMWARRIOR!

Is there a chance there’ll be a DVD with this gig, too, in the future?

No, we only got the tapes as audio tracks and the tour has not really been filmed somehow, so there is no material for a DVD of these shows. But this summer another show will be released as a live DVD! That will be the show of last year’s Wacken Open Air where we also played some songs together with Kai Hansen performing some old Walls Of Jericho tunes!

Back to Heading Northe: bearing in mind enough metalheads thought STORMWARRIOR was an ’only Speed Metal’ band in their previous works, do you think you’ll now have the chance (with this album and new – better - label) to broaden your target group?

Yeah, maybe. But we always had some songs in the mid-tempo style before, so we always understood STORMWARRIOR as a mixture of Heavy Metal and Speed Metal! But of course I think with the variety of the new material and also with the promotional work of our new label we will probably be able to get some more crowds to have a listen on STORMWARRIOR. For sure we will have more ears on our side in the outside of Germany, since the first two albums haven’t really been released in many countries so far and in many parts of the world we still have been completely unknown. And since the guys of Dockyard have way more connections worldwide than our previous record label, I think it was the right decision to sign with them, to push the band to the next level…

For new/juvenile Metal fans, who do see 80s-based Metal as a ’relic’ sometimes: how do you think you can attract their interest? I’m in my mid-30s and have grown up in this style/sound, but I wonder in what followers of bands like DREAM THEATER, PANTERA, TOOL and NIGHTWISH can be trapped in STORMWARRIOR’s music? Or, on the other hand, you do not even care to attract such an audience?

I honestly don’t think that any fans of these bands could find anything they like in our sound! But there have been a lot of younger metalheads joining the Metal scene during the last years having their hearts addicted to the traditional Heavy Metal sound again! So we gladly don’t even have to care about the others!!!

Already having a couple of favourites off the new album – talkin’ ’bout The Holy Cross and The Revenge Of Asa Lande – I’d like to ask if there’s any particular tune you do feel more deeply?

At the moment I would name The Revenge Of Asa Lande, Into The Battle, Metal Legacy and Remember The Oathe to be my favourites. But I also love the rest of course!!! But what I really like the most about the album is that one can listen to it all the way through and it never gets boring. In my mind there are no ’fillers’ on the album and one can directly start the album again after the last song and the outro, because everytime there is something new to be discovered…If I would not get free copies from the label I would buy it on my own!!!

Since we got a promo copy for review: is the lyrics thematology (again) in the familiar STORMWARRIOR field?

Generally seen, yes! This time not every song is dealing with the whole Viking theme. We have also some lyrics about our beloved Heavy Metal lifestyle again (as we had before on the first album), but there are also some songs dealing with the Christian church and what they have done to the pagan cultures (especially the Northern one) during the past 1000 years. Another song (Lion Of The Northe) is about a Swedish king who invaded the German ground during the 30 Years War and fought against the Catholics of that time. But all in all the lyrics continue in the same line of the first two albums, so we are not singing about love songs or aliens or dinosaurs or something like that in the meantime…

Lars, have you lined up any dates by now? I know you’re playing in Greece ’s Up The Hammers fest in Athens in mid-April, but what about other live appearances?

Yeah, we are finally playing in Greece this year for the first time and we are all really really looking forward to it! Else there are some more festival shows confirmed so far, such as Magic Circle festival again, one show in Slovenia and I think Sweden Rock will also happen this time. But of course there will be some more to follow…At the moment our label and the booking agency are working on that and maybe we will also have the chance to jump on a bigger tour as a support act this year. But at the moment we will have to wait and see what happens…

Really, your website seems of somehow ’inactive’ right now. Are you on the works of designing a new website in the near future?

Yeah, of course we are. I am sorry that it seems to be not really available and up-to-date right now. But Alex and our swedish webmaster are working on that at the moment and in a few days there should be a new functional website online. Honestly, I don’t have any clue about that whole thing so I don’t really know what they are exactly doing there and how everything works concerning that, so I cannot join them in that work!

Thanks a lot, Lars, for your time! Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks to you for your support and for this interview. To all the readers, I wish you a lot of fun with the new album and I’m sure we will have one or more beers together at the great Up the Hammers festival in April! See you there and Yia Mas!!!


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