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Velvet Viper's Jutta Weinhold: "…it was 1984 when I founded Zed Yago, the daughter of the Flying Dutchman. I found out what I had to do: Make Music That Means My Own Mentality"

Interview with Jutta Weinhold & Holger Marx from Velvet Viper
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 30 October 2019, 10:48 PM

Louder, heavier and stronger. No matter time, the spirit to create honest Heavy Metal is generated in one's veins, with plenty of motivation and an endless will to take the ultimate music forward. Stepping up to the plate, after their comeback, Velvet Viper unleashes “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart”, a strong emblem of pure German Metal fire that doesn't show signs of weariness. Steinmetal had a chance to talk with the vocal mistress, Jutta Weinhold and guitarist Holger Marx, about the album, being a part of nowadays Metal scene, songwriting and more…

Hello Jutta and Holger, it is quite an honor having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Jutta: Thanks for your interest in Velvet Viper and myself. Well, everything is on a good way these days. We have a new album, we play shows, we have fans and friends, that’s all we need -smile-

A little less than two years ago, Velvet Viper made a comeback, and since then, you guys have been rather busy, and here we are, with a brand new album, “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart”, signed to a new label. Was it the natural order of things to produce two albums in such a short period of time, or you simply wished to cover for lost time?

Jutta: Holger Marx and myself, we have to forge the iron while it is hot. Seriously, what is better than to write songs and try out new stuff?

Holger Marx: The making of our last album “Respice Finem” took a lot longer than originally planned, because our long-time drummer Bubi the Schmied became ill and passed away during the production. The songs from that album were mostly written in 2015, so when we began working on “The Pale Man…” we already had been collecting new ideas for almost three years.

As mentioned, for the release of “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart”, you signed with the local Massacre Records. What do you make of this signing? Were you approached by the label or was it the other way around? How do you see the label’s contribution to the promotional efforts of the new album?

Jutta: We had a contract with the Swedish GMR Music Group for “Respice Finem” and we thought it would be easier to have a label in Germany because we live here. But we have worked very well and on good terms with GMR and they will release a vinyl version of “Respice Finem” in 2020.

Whether it was Zed Yago, or the early incarnation of Velvet Viper, traditional Heavy Metal, the Teutonic kind, has always been in your veins. “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart” displays a musical edge that resembles those golden years of the late 80s and early 90s. Would you say that the old school magic has returned to Velvet Viper or rather it is the course of the band’s evolution and what can be heard on the album is pure freshness?

Jutta: I think both are right, the old spirit and the new young band. I am the way I am, and am very happy to have found a young guitarist, Holger Marx. We are both the basis; we compose the songs. You are right, as you say this music has always been in my veins.  Nowadays we have become a little bit faster with the Zeitgeist.

Holger: For the last album we consciously tried to recreate the slow-grooving spirit of Zed Yago, but the more shows we played, the more we enjoyed also playing faster songs like “Percival” and “Ice Breaker” from the 1991 debut album of Velvet Viper and I guess that had an influence on our songwriting

Over the years, the leading themes of Velvet Viper have been Fantasy / Legendary / Sci-Fi driven. Other than paying respects literature heroes, would you say that the written lyrics also share a modern meaning, a kind of message that is related to our very own reality?

Jutta: I always tried very hard to get away from this rock 'n roll fast food. I guess Metal is a strong music and needs strong lyrics. I love the themes to sing about. Poetry, literature., you know: I don't sing only a tune, this tune has a word and this word is the message. Music is much more than commercial or consuming, much more than party or entertainment, music needs the spirit of ROCK. Without it will fail. I believe that any kind, any style of music should touch people in their heart and soul.

After all these years in the industry, seeing the fast evolving Metal scene that surrounds you, what is the source of your motivation to continue pressing on producing Heavy Metal music in its traditional form? Think about “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart” as a drop in a sea of albums, whether of the same musical direction and contemporary Metal albums, does Velvet Viper have what it takes to survive the test of time?

Jutta: To be honest, it was 1984 when I founded Zed Yago, the daughter of the Flying Dutchman. I found out what I had to do: Make Music That Means My Own Mentality. This is my common thread that leads me to poems, literature, sagas, legends, and things that I had to tell my friends, because why did I look so passionately when I should not tell my friends what I found. I am now 72 years old and we know that in rock music you will die young or never. The first thing cannot happen to me anymore - smile - I just do not know if we will survive the test of time. Holger, Micha Fromm on drums and Johannes Möllers on Bass and I play our shows and we have friends and fans coming to see us, so let's just keep going.

Holger: When “Respice Finem” came out after such a long break we didn’t really know what to expect as a reaction from the metal scene, but every time we go to sign merch after the show we see many, many happy faces and we know that our style of writing and playing still has a lot of supporters, so we kind of stopped thinking about how much success we might have.

Which musical aspects on this album were provided better attention as the material was being written?

Holger: Since we had the experiences of our live shows promoting the last album, we had a better idea of where we would like to go. I think the guitar parts are a bit more sophisticated this time and we also spent more time on the drum arrangements, but the songwriting process has in principle been the same. Jutta’s lyrics and vocal lines are always the starting point.

How would you describe the songwriting on “The Pale Man Is Holding A Broken Heart”? I know that both Holger Marx and yourself carry most of the load of the songwriting, yet perhaps things changed a bit on this album or it remained the status quo?

Jutta: We're getting closer with each album production; I've only known Holger for four years, so the future is ours. We have a new producer for "The Pale Man" CD. It's always a dance with fire. Will he understand our songs and bring them over properly?

Holger: Jutta and I recorded demos with programmed drum tracks, which we then rehearse with the band before we record them in the studio. In that way we get a better idea if individual parts really work or make you bang your head. But the actual writing is done by the two of us.

Do you think that the songwriting process, and ability, of Velvet Viper is a step forward in comparison to the previous album?

Holger: Yeah, definitively. As already laid out, the sessions for “Respice Finem” were not easy and not a very smooth process. This time we could work more structured and I think the album has become a bit more homogenous.

One of the tracks that truly sent electricity through my being is “The Wheel Has Come Full Circle”. Maybe it is its slow tempo and heaviness, or merely its powerful, well produced, chorus that screams inspiration. It sounds like the perfect track. Can you shed light on the making of this tune? Do you find it as one of the album’s finest?

Jutta: I like "The Wheel Has Come Full Circle" very much. It has some drama and poetry inspired by Shakespear's "King Lear". A theme that fits in our time: which of the children cares about the old father: the favorite one or the not so well loved.

Holger: I remember playing the intro riff on the guitar for the first time and Jutta could sing to it immediately, that was a great moment. I love the rhythmic changes in that song, the fast shuffle, the fast double-bass part and then this majestic stomp in the chorus. It will be a lot of fun to play “The Wheel…” live.

Connected to the previous question, though you are proud of each of the songs on this album, which of the tracklist can you refer as the one that made an impact on you? A title that ended up being beyond the expected. Please elaborate on your pick

Jutta: Ok, I'm not proud of the songs that's not the endeavor. There is always a song that did not come out as you had imagined. I think that's quite normal the moment you find out it's usually too late -smile-

For certain, the production work of Tommy Newton, as mentioned, made you sound heavier and tougher, a sort of polished sound, yet crunchy and simply great to listen to. How do you see the improved sound of Velvet Viper in comparison to previous years?

Holger: You might call the sound more “modern”, since it has a little more punch in the low end, and the guitar sound is little less old school than on the last album. But it still sounds like us I guess.

Once again Michael Ehré recorded the skins, Michael’s abilities in some of his bands Gamma Ray / The Unity / Primal Fear, have been tested numerous times, simply an explosive drummer. Were there any talks about asking him to join the band as a full time drummer or his schedule is just too busy to handle another band? What is your appreciation of his drumming input on this release?

Jutta: I have known Michael Ehré for many years, we worked together in 2007. Bubi The Schmied was in the band. But he was already too ill before he died, so I asked Michael to play the drums. Michael plays in several bands and therefore he was unable to commit himself exclusively to Velvet Viper. But he still plays shows when our Michael Fromm is not free for an appointment. We have a good relationship. And really good temporary help for drums and bass. It's very difficult to find musicians who are exclusive to a band. Everyone tries to get through as well as possible.

It would be interesting to know; have you been listening to some of the newcomer bands or rather sticking to the classics? If newcomers came across your ears, which can you recommend?

Jutta: I like the old ones, Iron Maiden, Manowar, Anthrax, Judas Priest and of course Led Zeppelin, Dio, Black Sabbath and so on. Holger knows a lot more about what's going on with new bands nowadays and sends me suggestions from time to time.

Holger: Hahaha, I sometimes send Jutta YouTube links to check out newer bands like Dragonforce or Sabaton or Powerwolf, but most of the time I don’t really find songs she likes. I personally enjoy Arch Enemy and Nevermore (R.I.P. Warrel Dane) a lot. Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis are killer guitarists and a real inspiration.

Have you played some of the new material live? If so, what were the reactions of the fans?

Jutta: On the 21st of November we have our first show promoting “The Pale Man…” at the LOGO in Hamburg. We are curious how people will react.

Holger: We already played “Confuse and Satisfy” in Wacken this summer and I got over really well.

This year marks three decades' anniversary for Zed Yago’s sophomore album, “Pilgrimage”, were the considerations or plans to perform a series of special shows to commemorate the classic album with you as guest singer?

Jutta: Massacre Label will release "Pilgrimage" and "From Over Yonder" next year both as CDs and vinyl. A really good sounding remaster. I think that makes all Zed Yago fans really happy. Other live activities are not planned. We play Zed Yago classics in our live set.

Last year was a somewhat tragic for you, as you have lost an old friend and musical partner, Claus Graf-Reinholdt aka Bubi the Schmied, who died from an illness. Would you care to say a few words about Claus and what he meant to you?

Jutta: Bubi was a friend and the only one who earned the name Schmied. We know each other since 1985 from good and bad times. I miss him every time we play our Zed Yago songs with Velvet Viper. Yes I'm so sorry and it makes me sad, Bubi rest in peace.

What are Velvet Viper’s plans in terms of supporting the new album? I noticed that you have several dates closed for 2020, which is of course great, yet are there any other shows in the works? Perhaps festivals in the summer etc.

Jutta: Of course we will play. Clubs and festivals such as "Fullmetal" "B.O.A". This year we went to Wacken and Headbangers Open Air so we have to pause for a year to get those festivals back.

Jutta and Holger, I can’t thank you enough guys for this interview, it was an honor having you. I really enjoyed listening to the album, this is how a German Heavy Metal album should sound like. Many thanks.

Jutta: Thank you, Lior, tell your readers that they need to go to the local clubs to listen to bands playing their own material. So that the clubs, the artists and our unique music stay alive forever.

I couldn't agree more ma'am, thank you



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