Wizard - 18/03/2009

WIZARD is a German power metal band that was formed in 1989 by drummer Sören van Heek. The band is often referred to as "Germany's answer to Manowar" with lyrics that often narrate battles, metal, war, steel and such subjects (with the exception of the album ‘Odin’, which is a concept album about Norse mythology). Wizard does play a lot faster than Manowar though, and they have a high-pitched vocalist among their ranks.

 

After longtime guitarist Michael Maass quit the band in 2003 due to health problems, the band recorded two albums with guitarist Dano Boland: ‘Magic Circle’ (2005) and ‘Goochan’ (2007). After a three year hiatus, Michael Maass returned to Wizard to record a new album and it was decided to keep Dano boland in the band too. The new Wizard album is their eight opus and is entitled ‘Thor’. The album was released on January 30 through Massacre Records.

 

 

It appears there is plenty to talk about and drummer Sören van Heek (Snoppi) was available to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

Congratulations on the recent release of your new album ‘Thor’!

Snoppi: Thanks.

 

First of all, can you give us a small update of what happened after your previous album ‘Goochan’, for instance what made guitarist Michael Maass decide to come back to the band after a three-year break?

Snoppi: It was clear that Michael would come back after his break. He had to study during that time so he had no time for rehearsals. After completing his master, he is ready now to play with us again. From the ‘Goochan’ album we got a lot of positive reactions, especially from the Netherlands. It was new for us to receive so many mails from there. Some people thought that ‘Goochan’ was a little bit too “modern”, but I cannot agree with that. So we gave a couple of concerts and composed the songs for the ‘Thor’ album which was released in january. There was nothing more to happen.

 

How did you launch into writing material for ‘Thor’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?

Snoppi: Oh, every time we meet for rehearsal (once a week) we play old songs (the ones we play live) and then we compose new songs. Some songs were nearly ready in the mind of Volker (bass) or Dano (guitar) and then we would finish them together. So we always spend half of our time preparing ourselves for live-shows and the other half on new songs.

 

Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

Snoppi: Yes, in most cases Volker or one of the guitar-players or Sven (vocals) would have an idea and we would all work together with that idea. Often this was done very fast, in two or three rehearsals. If we need longer for a song, it will usually not be a good song. It has to come from the balls, not from the mind, if you know what I mean. Sometimes songs are a bit complicated for us, so we have to practise them more often than others.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started recording ‘Thor’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

Snoppi: No, we have been composing the same kind of music for so long now, we do not want to change our style. What was very important to me was a good sound. My favourite producer was Achim Köhler and I wanted to work with him on the ‘Goochan’ album. But during that time he was not available so we recorded with Dennis Ward. This time we could successfully book Achim and he did a very good job. I am very satisfied with the sound, the guitars sound killer!

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?

Snoppi: Hu, yes, I think a lot of our songs quite basic: Intro, Text, Refrain, Text, Refrain, Solo, Refrain, End. Sometimes we put in a break, but alltogether we are not very progressive or complicated. But for our skills this is right, there is no need for more technics. Wizard is known for Sven’s voice. This voice is very unique and if you like it, the rest is secondary. I myself like metal with great guitar-riffs. Sven and the other guys like it more if a song has a good chorus. So we have different opinions of what Wizard songs are “good” and which are “not so good”. But that’s ok.

 

This was the first time you recorded an album with two guitar players, were there any difficulties you had to deal with and did you work differently than on previous albums?

Snoppi: I don’t really know because I was absent while they recorded. Of course they had to see what they really play (and what the OTHER guitareplayer plays). In our rehearsal room there is always a very loud noise when playing. You cannot hear every single note you play. So sometimes there are differences in playing that you do not hear in the first moment. If you record right then, you will hear that they play different riffs. But I think that was not a big problem for Dano and Michael. The recordings were ready in 5 days.

 

Who was responsible for writing the songs and lyrics on this album and where do you get your inspiration from?

Snoppi: The songs on ‘Thor’ were composed by Volker, Sven and Dano. The lyrics were written by Volker and Meldric, a good friend of Volker’s who has the same religion as he has and who knows a lot about the religion that is ‘Thor’.

 

 

Lyric-wise the concept is clear, but what made you decide to make an album about Thor?

Snoppi: Because Volker believes in these gods. It is his religion and he wanted to make an album about it. In the past we also did one album about Odin. That was the beginning, and so an album about Thor fits very well in our themes and with our music. Perhaps in the future we will do an album about MY religion, I am christ and believe in Jesus. So for Volker these are not only mystic stories but he really believes in this.

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

Snoppi: In most cases the lyrics are ready when we start composing together. If Sven has no lyrics, he cannot compose new melodies. So in most cases we first write some lyrics for a few songs and when we compose the melodies, we take one of the lyrics.

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

Snoppi: For me it is not very important. For Volker it is very important. That’s why he also writes liner notes in the booklet where people can read more about the songs and their backgrounds. In most cases I don’t read the lyrics. As I told you before I am more keen on the guitar riffs. But that’s only my opinion, other people may see that differently.

 

Did you guys spend a fair amount of time working on the record before heading over to record the album? How much time did you spend in the studio for ‘Thor’?

Snoppi: We did a pre-production before entering the studio. In our rehearsal room it’s so noisy that you can’t hear what you are playing, hahaha. It’s not bad, it’s a lot of fun and metal from the balls, but for preparing the studio work it is not very good. So we recorded a pre-production in Volker’s studio and everybody could listen to it and change things. The whole album was recorded in about 2 weeks. Drums in 3 days, Vocals in 3 days, Guitars in 5 days. And after this Achim worked on the sound which took another 2 weeks.

 

The album was produced by Andy Horn, what made him the perfect man for Wizard? 

Snoppi: We only recorded the drums and the vocals with him, he did not produce the album. We did not know him before, but our label told us to record with him. He is a very nice guy and it was a lot of fun working with him. On this album I could play and record all the breaks I wanted to play for the first time. On all the other albums there was not enough time, or something went wrong so I had to leave out breaks or play them less fast than I wanted. With Andy I could play everything the way I wanted, that was great. Sven also enjoyed recording with him because he is very experienced in melodies and the theoretical side of music. His experience was very useful for recording more than one choir.

 

In which things/songs on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?

Snoppi: On no song. As I said, Sven did all the singing on the pre-production and this was so good, that he ended up singing the same thing as on the pre-production.

 

What do you think are the main differences between your previous album ‘Goochan’ and ‘Thor’?

Snoppi: The sound is different. ‘Goochan’ had a very good sound, Dennis did a good job. But the ‘Thor’ sound is more aggressive! For me that sounds more metal. I love this. The songs may be a little bit more simple where the drums are concerned. But in general I think they are both Wizard-like.

 

Do you have any favorites on ‘Thor’, songs that you think are somehow above the others?

Snoppi: Yes, for me there is “Utgard II” (false games) and “Resurrection”. My ultimate faves. The guitars are great, they go just through my stomach, hahaha. When I listen to them, I immediately want to start drinking beer J

 

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

Snoppi: Yes. Mostly positive, but there were also a few negative critics. I think the more people know you, the more people are out there who do not like you. But that’s ok, a lot of people who write critics about our album don’t listen to heavy metal. So I always ask myself why they do that. But a lot of critics are positive, for example we reached the third place in the Soundcheck of German metal magazine Heavy!. That was great! And also in RockHard and Metal Hammer we got a good place in the soundcheck.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

Snoppi: Yes. We don’t earn money with our music, so we can do what we want. We don’t care about labels or fans what our music style is concerned. If we would do that, Wizard would not exist any more. And of course for me it is important that I like the music. I have to play it every week, so I would stop making music if I had to play songs I didn’t like. I am not in a fucking Top 40 band who has to play all kinds of shit. So the only important thing is our own mind.

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

Snoppi: No, absolutely nothing. Everything about the album is fine, I would do it again like this.

 

 

How would you describe your own music and what are your musical influences, are there any particular bands that’ve been a big influence in your song writing, metal or otherwise?

Snoppi: We just play heavy metal, nothing more and nothing less. In the beginning I practised a lot on my drumkit and I also had idols: Ian Pace, Dave Lombardo, Charly Benante … But after a few years with the band the others would tell me that I would play things too complicated and that this often did not fit to the songs. So I played stuff more simple and the last 10 years I did not practise or improve very  much. I don’t have idols in drumming any more, because I know I will never be as good as they are. But that’s ok. I am satisfied with that. I am no professional drummer and my skills are enough for Wizard. I think that Wizard is influenced by more than one band. Some people listen to van Halen, Rush etc., some to Manowar, Kiss etc. and some to Slayer, Anthrax etc. So I guess there is more than one influence in our music. But in the end we make Wizard-music.

 

What do you think is the difference between Wizard and other bands in the heavy / power metal scene?

Snoppi: We have been playing together for over 20 years in the same line up now. That’s very unique in my opinion. We are bound by metal and that’s great. We live the metal. That’s perhaps the difference. Besides that I think there are thousands of bands like Wizard. Tell me one band that is still unique? For every band, millions of other bands exist which play the same kind of music. There is not very much new music nowadays. But that is not bad. There will always be interesting good songs, doesn’t matter if another band recorded it 20 years ago with another sound and a different voice and different lyrics.

 

What is your opinion on the heavy / power metal scene these days, what do you think about the overload of bands at the moment?

Snoppi: Oh, I also answered this question 15 years ago. I think there was never a time where this overload was not there. I always had the impression that every month there are millions of new albums. Not only nowadays but also in the past.

I don’t care about that. I play my music and that satisfies me, no matter if other people listen to it or not. In my opinion every metalhead should play in a band, it feels very good, it’s pure fun!

 

With several albums under your belt, how far has Wizard surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

Snoppi: I never thought that we would reach such a state with our music like we have now. We are the oldest newcomer band from Germany, hahaha. Of course we are not as famous as Manowar or Hammerfall (allthough the music is nearly the same). But that is ok. We have no management and we do not have a lot of money, so we cannot become famous. It’s business, nothing more. I have a very good job which I like and so I would never become a professional metal-drummer, hahaha. Most of your time at concerts you have to spend hanging around and waiting for something. For that my time is too expensive. Sometimes have to spend a whole weekend somewhere to play only one hour. During that time I could go and do other good things. So I would never be happy if I had to wait the rest of my life.

 

What were the highlights and low points throughout your career up ‘till now?

Snoppi: Highlights were our gig at the Wacken Open Air and of course our European tour with Grave Digger. It would be great if we could repeat such a tour every year. Two weeks are enough. That was fucking great, we had so many funny stories and also the people at the concerts were amazing. Low points always have to do with trouble in the business. When the label does not pay or a concert booker does not pay or advertising goes wrong and so on.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?

Snoppi: I don’t write anything for our albums. Perhaps I will write a text for the next album. I don’t compose songs either. I am too lazy for that, hahaha. I can only hit the right place at the right time. That’s all.

 

What can we expect from Wizard in the near future, any touring plans?

Snoppi: Yes, we will play a few gigs this year. Confirmed are concerts in The Netherlands, Tschechai, Poland, Switzerland and Germany. I hope that there will be some more, and also some festivals. Let’s wait to see what will happen. Besides that we will start composing new songs for the next album.

 

Where do you see the band going within the next couple of years, and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?

Snoppi: I think there will be no change at all. We cannot compose another style of metal. And I also don’t think that we will have a breakthrough and become famous from one day to the other. So everything will be as always, no big changes.

 

Any last statement?

Snoppi: Oh, my fingers are aching, this was a vey long interview, hahaha. I hope that your readers will read it to the end and that my answers are not too boring for them. I also hope you understood everything I wrote, if not, just ask me. For more info about Wizard please visit us on the net under www.legion-of-doom.de and thank you for these questions!

 

 

Members :

Sven D'Anna - Vocals (1989-)

Dano Boland -Guitar (2004-)

Michael Maass - Guitar (1989-2003, 2007-)

Volker Leson - Bass (1989-)

Sören van Heek (Snoppi) - drums (1989-)

 

Albums:

Son of Darkness (1995)

Battle of Metal (1997)

Bound by Metal (1999)

Head of the Deceiver (2001)

Odin (2003)

Magic Circle (2005)

Goochan (2007)

Thor (2009)