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Oliver Hartmann (Hartmann)

Interview with Oliver Hartmann from Hartmann
by Angela van der Kreeft at 05 August 2012, 3:39 PM

The phone went and when I picked up it was Oliver Hartmann. The connection was a bit weird but this was my very first phone interview and nervous as I was, I thought that I could hear him good enough for the interview. Well that was until he answered the first question. Did get partly what he said and he was wise enough to disconnect and call back on another line. Oliver turned out to be a relaxed guy who didn’t mind to call back and start over again. So instead of starting with the messy beginning, I’ll start with the first question to Oliver about himself

I have learned that you started playing guitar at a very young age, but what or who made you want to sing too?

I started at the early age of 10  to play the guitar. On the guitar of my uncle, which wasn’t used by my female cousin. So I picked it up and I was hypnotized by playing guitar, but I started to sing very much later at the age of 17/18 and that happened when I had in my first semiprofessional band. We had a great singer called Götz  Mohre. He’s a German singer a very talented guy, he was also doing records with Iron Mask for example. So I was more interested in singing because I was always a fan of these bands who combined great singers and guitar players, bands like Whitesnake or Dio or for example Journey and many other bands from the 80’s and 70’s, so I was always interested also in singing and that was when I started to practice and I did my first professional moves as a singer at the age of 20/21 when I was joining a professional rock cover band where I had some time left to practice for a few years.

I have also seen that you have quite a list of impressive projects you did cooperate with, next to your solo albums. Which of the projects did you enjoy the most, besides your solo albums?

The project that I enjoy most of course is Avantasia because I’m part of Avantasia since the first album. We started that project in 1999, where Tobias Sammet called me and informed me about a new project and if I was interested to be part of it and sing a song on that album and do some choirs. I really liked the music and the project, but nobody expected it to be that successful as it ended then with more than 200.000 records sold from the first album and also now going on tour with Avantasia, which was never planned in the beginning, because it was always difficult to get all these artist together on stage, touring with this band is absolutely amazing, we always have a blast going on tour.
You’ve done a lot on your own too, but did read that you’ve written not all songs alone for the new album Balance. Can you tell something about how that went and what did you like the most about co-writing and will you be writing more songs together with the band in the future?

Of course I will write more tunes together. This is now our fourth record and until the last record 3 I was the main songwriter who wrote like 95 % of all songs, and for this album I wanted to involve the other musicians more than before, because I just wanted to have more different input than just my stuff. Because also on the last record our bass player Armin also arranged a few songs, rearranged a few songs so I said it would be a good chance to have some new influences on the songwriting and with “Like a River” and “From a Star” he wrote some really cool tracks and which fit perfectly to Hartmann so of course everybody is welcome to write songs for this band and I’m looking forward to have more of that cooperation in the future of course.

About the title of your new album Balance, how did you come up with that title?

Well we were thinking about the title of the album and looking for a fitting title, our guitar player Mario came up with that idea to call it Balance and we liked the idea because on one hand I think the musical balance on this album is absolutely in the right balance. We also had more time than for the last 3 albums to spend more time on the songwriting. It took us close to two years, but it was very good to have more time left so we could really sort out just the best tracks to have the perfect musical balance on this album. This is one point and the other point is that most things in life is all about your inner balance. I mean many things in life happen, good and bad things, I think to move on forward and to make your plans come true and to do the right moves you need the right balance because that there’s always maybe from the outside, that maybe the search on your way forward and sometimes life is just really like a dance on a wire, you know. Always many things happening so you have to always stay in balance not to fall down.

Which of the songs on Balance did you experience as the most difficult song to put together and why?

That’s hard to say. Of course there are some songs that when you have the whole idea of how a song should be just in 10 or 15 minutes so you just need the time in the studio to complete your ideas and to record the whole song and sometimes it takes a bit longer to find the right arrangements for a song or to find good lyrics for a song or that you maybe change the arrangement of a few songs a different times. A song that was maybe a bit more difficult was “Fall From Grace”. When you look at the arrangement it’s a little more progressive than maybe the other songs. It took a longer time to find the right arrangement for this song, it was already planned to take this song on the last album 3, but then in the end we said: We leave this song open for the next record to find some good arrangements. There are also some other songs, can’t really name, where sometimes it takes a bit longer to get it into the right direction that you want it to have them. Another example maybe is the cover version of  Shout. We had Shout as a cover version already finished in 2006 for the album Home, but it wasn’t really fitting to that record so we left it and we were also not really satisfied with the whole arrangement and we worked it over and over again and now found the right mix of arrangements to make it really fit to the new album. This is also maybe a song that took a bit longer even it’s a cover version and not an original song.

Which of the songs on balance did you experience as the most difficult to sing and why?

In the studio I don’t recognize it too much which song is maybe hard to sing, this comes when we play the first live shows where you have to sing maybe 15 or 20 songs on a row where you then recognize which songs are maybe a bit more difficult to sing and which others are maybe a bit more easy. A song that’s really pretty hard to sing on a live show is “Save Me”, not because it’s very high but because there’re lots of lyrics in a short time period and it’s maybe sometimes a bit difficult to take a breath for example.

Which of the songs do you experience as the most fun to sing and to play and why?

I have always fun playing live and singing my own songs so there are no songs where I don’t have fun. Songs that I really liked to sing is the opening song of the new album “All My Life” it’s a great song, also “Like a River”, song written by our bass player, it’s a very cool song, but there are also other tracks that I really like to sing for example “After The Love Is Gone” or “The Best Is Yet To Come”, so there are many songs so yeah.

Can you tell me more about stories behind the songs on the album Balance?

Of course there’s a story to every song that I write, it doesn’t have to be a personal story, it can also be something that happened to friends of mine, people that I know or something that I just see in the news or read in the books or that I make up my mind about, maybe that theme, it’s always different, you know. It’s never the same, so of course there are songs that really have a story that really happened to me, like for example on the last album “Lost in Havana” which is a really true story from a holiday that I did in Cuba with my girlfriend, where I ended up in a bar with a gun at my head, so in that moment it was no fun at all, 10 minutes later I was laughing about it, lots of money was gone, but we were still alive and safe so that was really true and so of course then I have to put that somehow in a lyric. Of course there are many other songs talking about, personal relationships like having a relation to a woman. In every relationship there are good and bad times so many songs express the feelings about things like that. Like I said, when I just see something happening to friends when maybe relations split up or something else happens where I think that it’s worth to write about it, because it’s in my mind to think about this, but you cannot believe everything.

You’ve used different music styles on the album. How would you describe your music, in which genre(s) would you place the album Balance?

If you have to put it into certain words for a style I would maybe call it  Modern Melodic Rock or Modern AOR Rock. Of course I have my roots in the 70’s and 80’s, which is easy to hear, but it’s more modern than many bands that you normally call Melodic or AOR bands. That’s what I like about Hartmann, I like this combination of my 80’s and 70’s influences, combining them with modern styles and a modern approach.

Is there anything else you want to share about your new album?

I’m absolutely happy about this album and like I said balance is really the right title for this album because everything for us, during the whole production and the songwriting and the mix, everything was really in a very relaxed mood and everything was balanced, so we didn’t have to rush we had lots of time to write songs because we didn’t have the pressure of the record label to release the album on a certain date. I think that’s what you can also hear on this album, that everything is sounding really relaxed, we didn’t have that kind of pressure that we had with the last record 3. And yeah we’re also happy to have a new label Avenue Of Allies, the last record was released on our own label, which was at one hand a good decision, but on the other hand we had so many things we had to take care of like distribution, promotion and everything else so the main thing, the music, went more and more in the back ground, now we are able to concentrate more on the music again, also because thanks to the management who is taking care of us and I think that everything is going into the right direction.

Anything else you want to share with the readers?

Yeah of course, we’re looking forward now to play more live shows. We also did some single shows the first ones here in May and June and now we’re looking forward to a support tour in August for a bigger rock band, it’s still not confirmed so I can’t say who it is, but we’re looking forward to that and we’re planning at the moment to tour more in the autumn like September or October and hopefully also outside Germany so maybe also outside Europe. Right now we are planning to do something in South America, which would be really cool for us to play with this band to have some time in South America. Of course hopefully we can come to the Netherlands and other countries too.

I want to thank you very much for your time to take this interview with me. 

Maybe the last thing I can say is: I want to say hi to all readers of Metal Temple and looking forward to the tour and for everything that is upcoming.

I’m wishing you the best for your new album and a great time on tour.


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