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Oliver Hartmann (Hartmann)

Interview with Oliver Hartmann from Hartmann
by Grigoris Chronis at 22 June 2005, 5:00 PM

I love Oliver Hartmann's debut solo effort,Out In The Cold! The ex-At Vance singer really struck hard with a release rather distant from the usual Germans' Teutonic/Power sound; a great melodic Hard Rock album unveiling the essential voice of a great - again - person to talk to! (Extra: I knew the guy loves Paul Rodgers & Free, I'd bet my liver on it!)

Oliver, greetings from!

Hi, thanks a lot!

Congratulations on your first solo effort, Out In The Cold! Before an in depth look, does the album title depict on any specific inner feelings at this time? You know, it’s a little bit sad…

No, I didn’t choose the title because I’m depressive; I’m anything else than that! But I think it describes a little the lyrical content of this album. A lot of songs talk about personal feelings, the abuse of trust like on The Same Again, How Long, Who Do You… and on the title track. Out In The Cold is a good description for the feeling you sometimes have in this world recognizing that it’s just you that you can trust with 100%. In your life and especially in the music business it’s hard to find real friends and truth just shows up in the bad times when you see who you can count on or not. But there are also a lot of positive tracks like Alive Again, What If I or Into The light. So life has always at least two sides but I’m really looking out for the better one!

It was a great surprise to witness a different approach from Oliver Hartmann, since you’re mainly known as the (ex) voice behind a remarkable band, At Vance. You know, more melody, a more hard Rock sound. Had you been thinking about releasing a solo album for a long time?

I had the idea of a solo album since I left At Vance in 2002 and even if I was involved in many Metal bands and projects I wanted to write a Rock album. Not that I don’t like Metal anymore but for my solo album I really wanted to do something different. Out In The Cold is more into the direction of melodic radio oriented Rock/Hard Rock, even if I didn’t make up my mind too much about the definite sound and style it would be in the end. I just wanted to write good songs without the limitation of a certain style so I combined my own 70’s and 80’s Rock and Hard Rock influences with modern elements. So this is a 100% me and as far as I can see people like it very much which makes me very happy.

Can you give us a little help regarding the Out In The Cold album? First the entire lineup…

In the studio lineup Bodo Schopf played the drums. I met Bodo at a show that we played together and I gave my demo recordings to him, which he liked very much. I like him very much as a drummer and he’s really a nice and friendly guy with a great experience. So it was an easy choice for me. I contacted Armin Donderer for bass cause I’ve known him for a very long time now from different bands where we both used to play. With Jόrgen I locally performed a lot of times and he was a great choice for additional organs and keys. Additional choirs were sung by me and Ina Morgan. During the mix Miro Rodenberg - the production partner of Sascha Paeth - helped a little to work over some of my string arrangements.

How was the recording session? Did you feel stressed, as you were now the main man in your own band?

It was a little difficult during the final recordings, to take care of everything and I really felt a bit stressed! I was working on that material for over 2 years writing, recording, arranging, mixing, etc. So, sometimes it was hard for me to decide changes cause I was used to the stuff I did.

I guess you got lots of help from Sascha Paeth also!

Yes, absolutely. Like I said, after being the main and only person for over 2 years it was good to have somebody in the mix who could be much more objective than me. I’ve known Sascha for a long time now and it was the right thing to choose him for that production.

Were there times you thought you would not last to see your solo effort being released? Are you confident enough about what your voice can do?

Was a little afraid that many record labels maybe wouldn’t accept the musical change but I was confident and sure I’d find one sooner or later who would accept that because of getting good music. But I was happy that Frontiers was one of the first labels I contacted.

What do you think now for your years in At Vance? Are you still in contact with the band?

I’m still in contact with all the members who already left the band!\[Laughs] When I decided to leave At Vance there was no good relationship between me and Olaf (Lenk) and it’s still like that now. There were a lot of bad and strange things going on during that time and some things still hang over from the past that maybe have to be arranged in court. Very sad. But let’s talk about the present and the future.

Of course! Really, Oliver, have you heard the band’s latest Chained album?

No, not yet, but I will give it a listen next time.

Mats Leven is a great vocalist, as great as you were (no offence)!

I know his work from the days with Yngwie Malmsteen and I like him very much, as singer. I didn’t listen to the new record but I know The Evil In You. I think it was a good choice  to take him as the singer even if it’s maybe different now. But I was very disappointed with Olaf when I heard that he used some of my choirs for the album ‘cause most of the tracks were already sung by me and he never asked me for that and he knew why. But that’s not the only thing I don’t understand!

I think that At Vance’s music was melodic, anyway, even if the band was mainly focused on European Power Metal. Offline: did you get a little bit bored with this sound? \[Laughs]

I didn’t really get bored but there wasn’t much space to try something new; that I was missing, for sure. Also I didn’t have much influence on the songwriting except for some single songs done by me. So the musical situation is much better for me now because with this solo project I’m not bound to a band’s sound or limited by a style even if many people define this album as melodic Rock. Listening to all kinds of music I’m open to everything and that’s what I wanted to transport into my songs.

Really, what’s the feedback you‘ve received from both the Media and the fans for Out In The Cold so far?

It’s 100% positive, really and I’m very happy about that. The first sales figures seem to be quite good at the moment and hopefully more and more people will listen to this record in time.

Frontiers Records: I think we’re talkin’ ‘bout THE premier melodic Rock label during the last years! How did you come in touch with them?

We first got in contact because of the production of Genius where they showed interest in my work. After they got my demo they told me that they really appeciated what I’m doing and made a prompt offer. I’m very glad to be there and our relationship is fine.

I guess you must be feeling proud being in the same label with great bands/artists like Journey or Joe Lynn Turner! Really, which singers would you mention as your influences?

Frontiers has some real big names on their list which are my favourite musicians so it really feels good to be on their roster. Besides the ones you already mentioned I was influenced a lot by: Dio, Coverdale, Paul Rodgers, Steve Walsh, Bon Scott, Glenn Hughes and many more. But also by other artists like Stevie Wonder or female singers like Joyce Kennedy of Mother’s Finest.

And bands? You know, as a fan?

I’m influenced by all the great Rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s like AC/DC, Free, Pink Floyd, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Kansas, Van Halen and many others from that period - maybe too many to mention them all. But they all had one thing in common ‘cause they had incredible singers and guitar players combined with the ability to write great songs. Nowadays I try to listen to everything I can - no matter what style it is. It’s just a question of quality and nothing else. I listen to old Blues and Soul records the same as I listen to great songwriters like Billy Joel or nowadays David Gray, Roachford, Coldplay, Bonnie Raitt or Nora Jones.

I see… Do you feel satisfied enough by Frontiers’ support so far? Are there any confirmed tour plans? Festivals?

Besides a release concert on the 26th of May in Aschaffenburg/Germany there’s nothing planned at the moment but hopefully there some festivals can be arranged during this summer and maybe a support tour in autumn - we’re already working on that!

You’ve been a hard working man lately: Magic Kingdom, Edguy, Aina, Empty Tremor, Genius. Some brief demonstration of what you were (or still are) up to? Many fans may know nothing!

I’m open to all projects, maybe in the same way I listen to all kinds of music. I did a lot of recordings during the last 3 years so maybe there’s a chance for people who know my work from there to listen to my solo project and vice versa.

Do you keep up with new bands/styles in Rock/Metal music? Any band that drew your attention lately?

I like Coldplay very much because of its intense music and they have a very special sound. I’m not really up to date with the newest Metal releases but I like Freak Kitchen and Slipknot because they also have a kind of a new sound and they are very creative bands.

Germany seems to be in great shape lately! Numerous bands, great festivals, strong labels and Media… Do you think that German Rock/Metal bands can now pull the strings in specific styles/sounds; the way Britain or the U.S.A. did in the 70’s/80’s?

I’m not sure ‘cause on one Hand Rock and Metal bands like Ramstein are very popular in Germany as well as in other countries but - on the other hand - the market is full of bands and the sales are going down due to many reasons. But there will always be good bands around here who’ll have the chance to form new styles and maybe also be able to  influence the whole worldwide market.

Oliver, thanks a lot for the chance to talk to you! All the best for your latest release, you really deserve it!

Thanks a lot!

Links: # Oliver Hartmann’s Official Site


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