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Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear)

Interview with Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear
by Erika Walberg at 14 November 2010, 2:11 AM

On a cold and rainy Wednesday afternoon in Gothenburg Metal Temple got the chance to sit down and talk to Ralf Scheepers, to check what’s been going on during the tour and find out a little bit about the future for PRIMAL FEAR as well as fish for some information about Ralf’s solo-album which soon will be finished. Ralf is an utmost jolly and sociable dude and he gladly shared his view of the scene and other small and big things.

You’re about half way through the tour…
Actually, It’s more than half, 75% or so.

How has the tour been this far? I mean, everybody would say awesome and stuff but of course, it could have been more people there but we’re very satisfied because we know the amount of people that comes to other concerts so we’re still very satisfied that the people like us and come to the concerts. I mean, there could be more but it is fall and there are so many bands around, so many bands are touring now and… Like I said, we’re very happy with the people, the number of people that come to our shows.

Has there been some really high or low points?
Actually, the lowest point is today because we got to know the news about Steve Lee from GOTTHARD had died two days ago in America and we woke up with this message and everybody was really shocked. The highest point is that we really have a very good mood in the band. We have a party each night which sometimes also really may be exaggerating but we really have a good time and as long as the soul is free, the shows are good we’re happy.

You have had different bands supporting you, you’ve had ELEVENKING and KISSIN DYNAMITE, now you have MARYA ROXX and CIRCLE II CIRCLE. Do you have any input in the bands coming on tour with you?
Actually, Matt is really taking care of that business and stuff, Matt and Frank Suepfle from the management, the ITM management. They take care of it, I’m not really aware of it. I didn’t know until the tour that bands changed through all the time but it’s ok. I mean, it was just a matter of cost for the bands to come with us and there’s also a matter of where they want to play. And of course, MARYA ROXX wanted to have the Scandinavia part and also CIRCLE II CIRCLE so… It was management decision of course in the end.

What do you think would be the ultimate Tour Package for PRIMAL FEAR, first for yourself and then for the fans?
Tough to say, really tough to say! We had a good time with BRAINSTORM last year which was a really good package for the fans. I think it’s like those bands that suites us. I think, speaking as a vocalist, I don’t like so much if there’s a vocalist who’s screaming his ass off an hour before PRIMAL FEAR goes on stage because then the people might have heard enough high tunes already. Not to say that might not be good enough but to say that people might find it annoying to hear those high screams and high frequencies just before a PRIMAL FEAR show. That’s the reason why I like BRAINSTORM so much, I mean he’s belting it out here and there also and he’s a very good singer but he’s not exaggerating like some other of my fellow colleagues do.

Then Zak and CIRCLE II CIRCLE must be good for you as well because Zak and Andy B Frank is about in the same range.
Exactly, we just did two shows now together with CIRCLE II CIRCLE so we first also really got to know each other music wise. I listened to them yesterday for the first time and I really liked it. So yeah, they also suites us very good!

You released an album “Live In The USA” earlier this year. How come you decided to record it in America? Actually, we recorded the live DVD in Switzerland and the live show in Atlanta. We did the Prog Power Festival and the live CD was recorded there and just because we thought it was about time to bring out some live material with this line up you know but then, all of a sudden Henny left so it’s not really actual anymore but anyway, it’s a capture of the time. It’s a capture of the state of the band at that time and it’s a year ago already. And I think it was about time and also I think it’s a good product so one can be proud of that. Sometimes you have to release live albums. People actually were asking us; “why don’t you release much more live albums?”

There’s a lot of bands recording or filming at the Z7 venue in Switzerland. I guess that’s a good venue for a DVD?
Definitely it is, yes it is. There’s no doubt about it, there’s always crowded. Always much people coming, it’s a good atmosphere there.

Have you received good response on the live album? You said it was asked for at least…
Yes, especially in Japan we had really good review, 86 points in the Burrn! Magazine which is a really good thing. We’re happy about that. And I’m very proud there’s, you know, the live records aren’t really live anymore but we tried to keep everything as live as possible. I mean, if there’s wrong notes of course we overdub them here and there but I can say it’s 90% live from the guitars, from the vocals and drums of course you can’t overdub so they’re all live.

About that with backtracks and overdubs you have had quite a lot more of that on you’re latest releases, for keyboards and choirs and so on, how do you feel about that live?
We don’t have a keyboard player so that’s the reason we have a Mac standing there. I mean, Randy also plays per click. He’s getting the click from the Mac and of course, songs like “Fighting The Darkness” starts with the intro of the piano, you rely to that. It wouldn’t be possible to carry another musician for that. We just take the Mac today (laughs).

It’s cheaper to travel without a keyboard player!
Also, yes! Somebody has to take care of the techniques, it’s me (laughs)!

Last year you released “16:6”, it differs quite a lot from your previous releases. But also, “New Religion” and “Seven Seals” differ from the ones before them. How come this change in style?
It’s not a big change of style in my opinion, it’s just one or two songs that’s maybe a little bit different. You know on “Seven Seals” and “New Religion” we really tried out those things we spoke of the before, like lots of bombastic stuff, orchestra, keyboards here and there. And on “16:6” we came back to make a little bit more heavy riffs and stuff and that’s what we will continue with on the next album again. So in those experimental years we did with synthesizers, strings and orchestra and stuff, sometimes you have that as a musician that you just like to add it you know and that’s what we did and I think we’re over the hill now with that theme, but we never say never that we will use it again some day.

Metal fans can be quite unforgiving about bands changing their style over the career, how was the reaction on those last three releases?
As I said, I don’t consider it as much as a style change. The fans still has songs as “Riding The Eagle”, “Under The Radar” and stuff. And that is really typical PRIMAL FEAR stuff so. “Killbound” is heavy riffing and stuff, it’s not so much change of style. Lets take these one or two songs, one of the song is called… Fuck, I don’t remember my own songs… Just one or two songs that’s a little bit different. Anyway, as I said, it’s not so much change of a style. And there were no real bad reactions on it either.

PRIMAL FEAR has released an album every, every second year since the start. So statistically we can reckon with a new album next year then?
Exact! We’re now to produce my solo album Matt and Me, 60% is finished, I have to sing two more songs and then we’re going to mix the whole bunch of things and then we start to write new songs for PRIMAL FEAR which we will start with around April and we think about a release in fall next year.

You mentioned your solo album. You have a lot of cool musicians on it, can you tell me a little about that album?
I’m really happy about it. My buddy (Metal) Mike Chlasciak from the HALFORD band is playing two solos for my songs. And Ripper Owens the ex JUDAS PRIEST vocalist, we’ve become good friends in the last two years, got a really good connection so we might be doing something together in the future, even make something like a battle album, something like Lande, ALLEN/LANDE things. We’re still thinking about that, it’s just a thing going on in our minds but it will be a good thing. The start is now on my album, he does a lot of guest appearances now and he’s also on my album and I’m very proud of it. Yeah, and Snowy Shaw is playing the drums. Uli Kusch was intentionally the guy I wanted to do it had an accident with his hand and he couldn’t do it so we asked Snowy Shaw, he’s a great talent from Sweden and he’s a great guy and he did it really fast and good. I think Kai Hansen will appear too, my old buddy from GAMMA RAY.

What can you say about the style of the album?
It’s more variety so, you can maybe bitch about that, that it’s not the style of PRIMAL FEAR but this is my solo album. Of course you can hear there are still parts that can be used in PRIMAL FEAR, especially the song with me and Ripper together could be a PRIMAL FEAR tune. And of course, I’m the vocalist of PRIMAL FEAR so people will hear somehow, oh this is PRIMAL FEAR’ish. But I have mellow ballads on it and I have fast songs on it, I have long tracks on it and it’s basically the things I’ve been collecting over the years which I didn’t use for PRIMAL FEAR or we didn’t use. You know we sometimes have 20 to 30 tracks to choose from for an album and if you got 12 tracks on the album there’s songs left and there was also songs from TYRAN PACE I use for my solo album.

You mentioned Ripper, he joined you on stage on a show a few days ago. That sure would be something to see, two screamers on one stage.
We did that in Warsaw actually, he did a whole set before and then we did the “Metal Gods” thing together and I’ve been singing two hours already so we both were a little bit “brohohoh” (coughs) but we were screaming our asses off. On Youtube it really came out bad in my opinion. I don’t really like these Youtube cell-phone clips, it just came out “kschhhrschhh” and I don’t like that so much. And people always takes things so serious, I mean it was a party thing. We just had a good time, didn’t care about if one or two notes were wrong. It was just fun and he’s a great guy. We met a few times, the first time I met him he was still with PRIEST, we were chatting a bit and then he was at the Ferry in Frankfurt once doing a thing with Yngwie Malmsteen. And I met him and we drank beer together. And then at a Festival in Spain we met. And now in Warsaw, we had a good time. He’s a nice guy.

PRIMAL FEAR releases albums every, every second year. That’s quite a lot and a lot more frequent that most other bands. How do you find inspiration to come up with another great album every year?
The good thing in PRIMAL FEAR is that there’s not just one or two guys who write the songs, everyone has got ideas and that’s a good thing that we come up with ideas pretty fast. Magnus is a major songwriter for other bands as well so he’s more like, you know, a company, a writing company, a writing factory or whatever you want to call it. And that helps a lot that we have good composers in the band. Matt, and Alex is also very good composers, now it’s the first time we’re going to compose together with him and I have my ideas so we’re a good team and that’s the reason we come up with many ideas all the time.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the songwriting process?
Actually, I can tell you something about the last time. Everybody’s collecting ideas at their home studio things which is pretty easy nowadays with Pro-tools and Cubase and so on. But last time Magnus, Henny and Matt and… Yeah, those three guys met up in Sweden actually at Magnus house and collected ideas together, about 60-70%. They sent me the playback to have my ideas on it. Some songs already had the full lyrics and singing melodies on it. So that were the time they were together. Sometimes songs are being created in the rehearse room as well, you know, when the band is together and just jamming around a little bit. But basically nowadays people are mainly collecting ideas at home in a small studio you know, nowadays you don’t need a drummer anymore with the software. Just for demo, of course in the studio you need a drummer (laughs).

You mentioned earlier that Henny left the band, was that a surprise for you?
Yes! Yes it was, because it was all of a sudden. It was from one day to another. The guy totally changed and we had no chance to speak about issues he had. I mean, of course there are sometimes issues but if you’re a grown up person you speak about your problems. He was just blaming us for something and we couldn’t say something to him. It’s just like in the middle ages where witches were burned you know. “Yo, witch, you’re gonna burn!” We didn’t like the way he did it.

He stated, it did no longer feel like a band. But what you just described regarding the songwriting process, then his statement feels a little strange…
It felt a band for him one day. On Friday we were a band, Saturday it wasn’t a band anymore for him so. I don’t know if it came up over the months and he was just lying to us. I don’t know how it came you know. Of course it’s going to be… PRIMAL FEAR was founded by Matt and me who are now the members that are in the band, then Stefan and Klaus and also Tom at the time. But those guys are not in the band anymore so in the end the leftovers are Matt and me from the original PRIMAL FEAR so we are the company and we have to take care about business and stuff. Maybe some people didn’t fit so well anymore. Henny was offered to join the company but he didn’t want to take the financial risk you know so in the end, bitching about everything is easy but to take responsibility for something is also something a person should do if bitching about others. Sorry, I mean, it was a shock for us. Personally, mostly personally!

There’s a lot of things going on in the music scene, the whole business is changing, how big a difference is it nowadays compared to when PRIMAL FEAR first started out about a decade ago?
I just compare… Things are not so easy anymore because the record companies don’t have money anymore, the bands don’t have money anymore because of companies don’t pay them. Because fans are downloading, internet, mp3 and so on it’s all a long, long story, which is because, in my opinion, the industry has slept for twenty years, when all these mp3 files came up on the internet. So that was the start of the disaster and now we have bands touring because that’s the only way to earn money, touring… But, you also have to calculate because it’s not so easy to earn money you know. Sometimes so many bands are on the road and not many people are showing up. You really have to calculate to do business. And that’s the reason nowadays, for a new band with no name it’s pretty tough. And I compare that to mid 80’s, 90’s it was a little bit easier on that term. But back then it was hard to compete against IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON and all those other bands. It was always some kind of a struggle. Nowadays it’s really much more the business thing, the money thing from the companies, which aren’t paying so much anymore.

Is there a big difference in the number of sales?
Yes it is because of the downloads. If you go to Brazil for example you have thousands of fans watching you which didn’t buy the album. Because they’ve copied it or downloaded it and you can’t even blame them because they don’t have the money, they have a monthly salary and can maybe only buy one album with that, even if. There has been a big mistake somewhere in the business.

Do you thing downloads has damaged Heavy Metal as much as the rest of the music scene?
Yes, well I think so yes! And I still think the industry slept. To be honest I get my stuff here and there too but I get it from music-load and I pay my one-euro-twenty for it or what ever and then in the end the musicians get paid. So, but I also understand those guys that are downloading it for free because they don’t feel like they’re do something wrong. It’s just as “everybody does it so I do it too”. But you don’t go to a supermarket and just grab everything without paying. In the end somebody suffers and here it is the bands.

What is the biggest moment of you career?
I think that’s still those big Festivals. It’s not only one moment; it’s just like those big Festivals like ‘Wacken’ and ‘Sweden Rock’. It’s really amazing when you stand in front of 20-30.000 people, that keeps you “pfffff” like addicted to adrenaline, it’s awesome, really good And of course, personally for me is meeting those which I always dreamt of meeting like Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halfrod, the PRIEST guys which are really nice persons and I wanted to find out how they are personally and they’re really nice persons.

I also read that you had a slip and slide with the tour bus in Norway on the last tour, what happened?
Yes, it was on the BRAINSTORM tour, exactly. I remember that, I was awake and I saw a blinking light, a yellow blinking light because there was another truck already sliding off the road. So our bus stopped and breaks and started to move backwards. He wanted to go backwards, back down the hill. But all of a sudden he’s slide and was going to the side, over the shoulder. And I screamed “Fuck, get out of here”. And everybody was like “oh, what’s wrong?” And we were going out there in our underwear, it was minus 5 degrees or so you know. We had to get in and get pants and so else we would have died by freezing. The bus was just lying on the shoulder, on these barriers and that’s the reason why it didn’t fall over down into the forest. One kilometer ahead, it was mountains and if it had been there we all would have been dead now. So it was really lucky that we didn’t loose our lives then. You saw the picture on internet, it was a tough thing. And the fans were bitching that the concert didn’t take place. I mean, I’m sorry but we’re happy to still be alive.

Do you have any other tour-stories to share? Maybe a little bit lighter ones…
Just like I said in the beginning of the interview, having all these parties every night is really great.

Maybe I should catch up after the show and ask what happened?
We go back to Stockholm right after the show to catch the ferry to Helsinki actually. Hopefully it’s not sinking… Outro: What Ralf said about the music scene, with all downloads, no bands coming up anymore because they can’t afford it is terrifying. I doubt there will be bands as iconic as IRON MAIDEN, BLACK SABBATH or JUDAS PRIEST ever again but the rock star dream must be kept alive else the Heavy Metal scene will go the same way as mainstream radio, only the products chosen by the few companies who survived the crisis instead of a broad variety on styles and bands. Arena gigs or not, it’s still very nice to see bands with a little bigger production than the night-clubs standard set of lights. It might be too late already and then it’s even more important to point out it’s necessary to buy records and support the bands when they tour to keep the scene alive!


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Edited 06 October 2022

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