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Wizard's Sören Van Heek: "We all are not very religious. We only love heavy metal. To feel the power, the emotions, the atmosphere, the strength: all ends in the will to make a great party!"

Interview with Sören Van Heek from Wizard
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 22 December 2020, 10:34 PM

After so many years to remain devoted and true, always inspired to create under the same rising sun, now that is a cause for pure admiration. Metal music has been changing constantly, plenty of sub-genres created every once and a while. However, classic Heavy Metal will forever be there, like a watcher, always reminding what started it all. Over three decades, the German Metallers, Wizard, has been out there, fighting in the name of Metal. Call it cliché, but they are honest and true about it. Coming forward with their new "Metal In My Head", there is no place left for interpretation, they are what they are, bound by Metal, steel and good times. Steinmetal had a talk with long time skinman, Sören Van Heek, about the pleasures of the album, the band's continuity and more… 

Hello Sören, it is an utmost honor to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

I am doing well today, thank you. We finished recording the new album, everything is mixed and done, cover is ready, videos are produced. In addition to that we manage and rearrange some new things in our band, so of course I am very excited about the next time to come!

I can only assume that this pandemic hit you like a powerful fist due to the closedown of everything that is dear for you as a musician and of course the cultural scene altogether. Furthermore, there are many people that lost nearly everything. How do you observe this situation first hand?

Yes, this is a hard time somehow. We are lucky because none of us or our families got ill or was infected to date. So the “hard” thing for us is that we can’t play live. We miss the fans, the adrenalin, the metal party with you all. But this crisis also had something good: We found the time to make a new album. That would not have been possible if we were on tour this year. I am a positive man so I try to see the good things and I prefer being happy with all we have done. All my best wishes go out to all people suffering from this shitty virus.

With Wizard being an active band on the live scene, constantly looking out for opportunities to conquer stage after stage, this new situation forced a standstill in the band’s journey towards becoming even greater. Do you foresee any comeback to the stages any time soon, in particular due to the upcoming vaccinations? Have you tried other methods for the time being to keep yourselves in your fans’ memory like via live stream perhaps?

We had to move our concerts to the year 2021 and I hope that we will return. Hopefully all the clubs will still exist next year. I keep my fingers crossed for them, they have really hard times! Of course we are very looking forward to our first “after crisis” concert! It sure will be a very special feeling, hahaha.

No, in the meanwhile we concentrated on making “metal in my head” so we did not have the time to produce much other stuff like live-video-streams. But we are still alive and more active since ever! You will see!

Similar to many the bands that cannot tour or perform locally, Wizard focused its efforts on forging its next message of steel, and here we are with its 12th album, “Metal In My Head”. Since the situation surrounding the album is different, what was the general feel while working on the album, perhaps a sort of a last resort or was the album already planned ahead?

We always plan albums, hahaha, but we are not the fastest people. To be honest, we wanted to record this album last year, but the songs were not ready. And this year it was a good time to do this project. We did no rehearsals and concentrated only on the album. We made a very long pre-production and worked hard on the songs, the choirs and so on.

I know, hard to believe while listening to these 10 short metal songs, but it is really hard work to get all this thing done. But we love it, we love heavy metal and especially this album!

The last time that I remember Wizard putting its main attention upon Metal as a theme was back in the late 90s with “Battle Of Metal” and “Bound By Metal”, with one of your most beloved crown jewels of a song, "Heavy Metal Will Never Die". What made you return to uncompromised worship of Metal this time around on the new record?

Hmm, that is hard to say. Perhaps it has to do with the fact, that Dano (guitars) left the band this year (or end of last year) so he was not involved in composing the songs. Dano likes thrash metal (like I do) so on every album he did with us there were also a few “thrashy” songs on it. Now these songs were gone and only Sven (most songs) and Arndt (with a little support of Tommy, Marcel and Gustavo) made the songs. So they all have the same style, you know what I mean?

When it comes to Metal music, it has been regarded by many as more than a musical genre, but as a movement, even a religion, a way of life. Do you believe that this notion is still strong nowadays or has Metal music of the present lost its way in a manner of speaking?

We all are not very religious. We only love heavy metal. To feel the power, the emotions, the atmosphere, the strength: all ends in the will to make a great party!

I don’t know if metal music is not as strong as 30 years ago. This each and every one has to decide for himself. I never stopped listening to metal and never stopped going to concerts. So for me the world is ok and fine! There is always metal in my head. Always. Right in this moment I listen to Slayer and Virgin Steele, hahaha.

Do you find “Metal In My Head” as a sort of escape from all the hardships that have been consuming us for the past year?

What do you mean with that? We want to entertain you, us and every single Metalhead! That is our mission ;-)

Don’t think too much! Put the album in your player, have a nice drink by your side, lovely people around you and press Play! And then you only have to enjoy listening to the music! Be happy! Mosh and bang around! Drink and kiss your friends! Just have a good time!

In your opinion, what is the main message coming out of “Metal In My Head” other than the fact that you are a Metalhead as fuck?

There is no other message, hahaha! You got it! We are Metalheads as fuck, that sounds damned good to me!

One of the major things that can be said about Wizard is that it is a band that remains utterly loyal to its own created heritage musically, never letting go of what is true and of course sacred to preserve the power of the music. “Metal In My Head” is no stranger to this ethic. On the other hand, even for a band that is constant, there is always something different. How do you find the band’s development on the record?

Since 15 years (if I counted right) it is the first album without Dano Boland. Recently, we welcomed Tommy Hartung in the band. I did not like it, that Dano left the band. But I also saw, that he was not happy anymore. He did not want to play live so much and he also did not like studio work. And beside that he made a side project “Vebrifuge”, his band where he played in his youth and which was reanimated last year. So he liked to hang around with them, playing all the old thrash-stuff. And he is lucky with that. So this is the most important thing, to be satisfied with what you are doing. We, the rest, were looking forward. Being stronger than ever!

As you said, “Metal In My Head” introduces a new guy in the band’s lineup, guitarist Tommy Hartung. How would you say Hartung influenced the end result of the record? How much of a role did he have on the songwriting?

Tommy is working very hard and he is so full of power and everything is so exciting for him. You can write him at 2 o’clock in the morning to make a new riff and on 3 o’clock you get your riff, hahaha. So he worked with us on a few riffs, but in the end he was a little bit too late to compose complete songs (too late meaning: he came in the band to late). We did not play live with him due to circumstances but I hope that also this will be fine!

With Wizard being a veteran band, clocking more than 30 years, do you believe that the band still has something to prove with such a record as “Metal In My Head”?

After thirty years we don't have to prove anything to anyone. It is and has always been important that we as a band are happy and stand behind what we do. Everything else is a nice aftertaste.

In any form, do you find this record to be a sort of a game changer for you in regards to the Metal market, in particular in Europe?

You never know what will happen after a release. The album "Metal In My Head" is a very strong Metal album from our point of view. We are definitely ready and open for anything. It remains to be seen what the future will bring.

What can you tell of the alcoholic support of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 over in the studio while recording the album? Any fun moments worth mentioning that made this experience stronger than ever?

Jacky is always by our side! For me as drummer alcohol is forbidden in the studio while recording. But for Sven it is essential, hahaha. 2 weeks before his recordings he (strong smoker) started to smoke e-cigarette. The first day in the studio was a catastrophe. He could not reach high tunes and it was very hard to sing. So at the end of the first day he decided to get back to John Player Special, smoked a packet of this, drank half a bottle of Jack Daniels, and believe it or not: the next day everything was fine, hahaha! No joke! Martin Buchwalter (our producer) was angry with him: You cannot stop smoking 2 weeks before the studio, you motherfucker!

One of the chief aspects that I admire about Wizard is the ability to create powerful anthems, similar to the old Manowar style of the 80s. On this record, we have the opening catapult “I Bring The Light Into The Dark”. I have to tell you it is quite an inspiring tune and the vocals, guitars and rhythm sections are over the top. What is your personal appreciation of this track?

Sven wrote the text after seeing a fantasy film (don’t know what film it was, but it inspired him). I think this is one of my favorite songs on the album. It has everything a good metal song should have: power, atmosphere and a good refrain! I like it very much and I think it is a typical Wizard song. I am very looking forward, what the fans will say about it. We also did a video with this song because we all love it.

On “30 Years Of Metal” I believe that you are summarizing the band’s career up until now. Is this a sort of a motivational song for yourselves and your fans?

Yes, you can see it like that. Wizard exists over 30 years now and if we look back, there are so many uncountable great memories we shared with the fans (and other metal heads). Of course we want to give this feeling back to them! We want to tell them, that we see them and that we like what we see and love what we do together! First we wanted “30 years of metal” to be the album title. However, in the end we decided to switch to “metal in my head”, because it should not sound like the title to a “best of” album.

Turning a somewhat melodic pattern is “Metal Feast”, turning it a little NWOBHM with ounces of energy. What can you tell about the creation of this galloping horde of steel warriors tune?

Oh, to this song I cannot tell you very much. Sven composed it and he was done with it very fast (in my opinion). The creation of this song was no highlight for me. Don’t know why. It did not kick my ass; you know? But when listening to it after we recorded it, I now like this song very much. Perhaps we only had a bad sound in preproduction. This song you have to hear loud with a super sound and then it kicks your ass like hell! A song that is similar to this is “we fight”. That one I love minimum more. It reminds me to simple powerful Manowar songs like they did a long time ago. I am still a big fan of this metal style.

Have you thought about the possibility of a best of kind of release in order to properly summarize the last three decades of the band? Perhaps unreleased material from the past that could come in handy?

Our label Massacre records released something like a “best of” called “Taste of fear”. But it only contains songs published by Massacre and is also only available as stream or mp3. Of course one could think about a best of album, but that would of course be a very long album, hahaha.

We also could, e.g. re-record the “Magic circle” album with which sound we are very very unsatisfied or our first demo “legion of doom”. Don’t know, if we find the time, perhaps we do something like that. If you want to have a summary of our last 30 years, I recommend you the videos made by Mathias Hacker filming a very long video interview with us. Because it is so long, he cut it into 5 or 6 pieces.

Sören, plenty of thanks for this interview and loads of thanks for your unending motivation to come up with True Metal as it should be played. Cheers sir.

I thank you and the fans out there for your time! We love what we do, and to say it with song titles of us: Heavy metal will never die, we are bound by metal since metal is in my head!

Visit us on Facebook, get in touch with us, and we hope you will like our new album! In the sign of the Wizard. Snoppi


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