With Avantasia’s upcoming album ‘Mystery Of Time’ just a few short weeks away, RAMzine spoke to man behind the magic, Tobias Sammet, to find out a little more about the making of the new album and what it takes to make an Avantasia concept album.
The new album is expected to be released March 30th via Nuclear Blast Records and features collaborations with some top musicians such as Biff Byford from Saxon, as well as the return of Michael Kiske from Helloween and Bob Catley from Magnus.
RAMzine: So you got a new album coming out in a couple of weeks, tell us a little bit about that and what we can expect from it.
Tobias: “Well you haven’t you heard it yet, no?”
RAMzine: Yes I have and I really enjoyed it!
Tobias: “So you know what to expect (laughs) well y’know it’s another concept short story. I wouldn’t know how to describe it but I would describe it as a trip, as a journey and an adventure more than just a regular heavy metal record. I’m really happy with the outcome of the album and how everything turned out to be. It’s ten songs with eight singles with everybody singing a different role like in a rock opera, like in a musical and y’know anyone who knows the concept of Avantasia pretty much knows what to expect and it’s something new we got a full orchestra on there. It’s a real real big epic piece of music I would say.”
RAMzine: How do you mix things up and make sure each album is different from the next?
Tobias: “I don’t really think about it. I don’t push it anywhere y’know I just don’t want to make something that’s extraordinarily different; I don’t want to make something that goes back to the roots and I don’t want to be something that takes over where something is extremely successful and I just want to be extremely creative. And to be honest I did not plan to do another Avantasia album at all and it was a very, very instinctive thing; a natural feeling that I had. I just wanted to be creative it was not so much thinking “oh I have to do another Avantasia record” it was just more like every man has a hobby and other people when they want to recharge their batteries they screw on their cars or tune their guitars, or paint little tin soldiers or build model trains or weird kind of things. I just sneak into the basement to recover from a stressful day and I was creative, and that’s how everything came together and in the end I had a vision to do a new Avantasia album. So I did not really try to push into a certain direction I just wanted to seize the chance of developing a new world of its own; a new Avantasia era; a new concept; a new fairy tale; new characters; new musicians; new vocalists and just do what I can do best of the only thing I can do and write music.”
RAMzine: It sounds like the whole writing process is kind of spontaneous then? As its concept albums, is that the way it usually goes, you don’t sit down and think about it, it has to come naturally?
Tobias: “It comes very naturally, of course I think about it but I try to just let it happen. I mean the story, the concept itself is influenced by what goes on around me like the lack of time in our society and how the weed of time seemingly accelerates and y’know wrapping that up in a fairy tale I think is the initial point when I started to write the story or phrase the story. It actually happened here in London when I toured for the last Edguy tour in support of the last Edguy album and I enhanced my stay for a couple days and started to write the album concept, I think it was March or February 2012. And I think about it of course but I try let as much as possible just happen. I just go with it and just let creativity go crazy and take me away. I get sucked into a world of its own and I don’t think so much about it and that’s what makes it really spontaneous. But I would say it’s also not so much easy to market for record industry people at times because you never really know how to call it because I don’t think of those labels. Some people say its power metal, is it heavy metal? I don’t know its Avantasia its heavy bombastic speed music. I can try and push it into a certain direction and I can certainly try to deliver something that is appropriate for a certain “target audience” y’know it’s very spontaneous I would say.”
RAMzine: So you have collaborated with other musicians on the album and you have done on pretty much every album with Avantasia, but we have some new names on this one such as Biff from Saxon, so why Biff?
Tobias: “The question should be why Biff only now. I mean why not Biff after such a long time and not earlier and I could not answer that question. It’s been overdue y’know Biff is one of the true legends of heavy metal and so he was there when heavy metal was founded and invented. I wouldn’t say he was one of the driving forces because I cannot say I was not there but Saxon and Biff they belong to one of the most important heavy metal bands of all time. They were there where and when it was starting the whole thing, just like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, those were the bands. I’ve known Biff for such a long time and he’s such a great guy; he’s got a great sense of humour; he’s got a great voice and he’s got a very distinctive voice and we’ve known and liked each other for so long that I think it’s been overdue. And those songs, especially Black Orchid, I was going through that song and trying to find the right voice for that role that he was singing and particularly on this song and all of a sudden I thought of Biff, yes it’s got to be Biff because I have to admit with Edguy one of the first songs we did a cover version of was Saxon’s ‘forever free’ in 1994, that was when I was 16, so I can’t deny that Biff has been a huge influence for me and that’s how y’know. I would consider it to be overdue and Biffs great, it was great to be here recording with him in Brighton, South England, because Biff is such a class act, he’s an original and he’s just funny and nice and all that.”
RAMzine: So how much of an influence do your collaborators have on the actual writing process? Do they bring anything new in to what you’ve already written?
Tobias: “I hope so, I hope they bring something new in because otherwise there would be no point in asking them. You don’t invite someone like Biff Byford or Bob Catley to just reproduce what you have in your mind, they are more than just hired guns, they are originals that bring in a lot of original sounds for example when you have a song like ‘The Great Mystery’ it’s a lot of Avantasia but it’s also a lot of Magnum and that’s thanks to Bob Catley. So I hope they have a huge influence on what I do because I really ask people to participate that have something to deliver. I want that to happen. But the original song writing itself that’s just my thing they get a finished play back and they get a finished song with all the drums and the chords and everything already being there but when it comes to their performance somebody says “oh we could try it a little differently here” or Biff says “well you’ve only major chords here it sounds very European, I’m not used to singing those major lines” and then you give others something that is fine for them and me as well. It’s just great. I’m never really married to my ideas, and if in such a rare case I am really truly married to my ideas, they are absolutely right and we have to go with that (laughs). But usually everybody is entitled to bring in their own personality.”
RAMzine: So one of the things I find most interesting about you as a person is you started at the age of 15, that’s a very young age to be starting a band, how has the industry changed since you started?
Tobias: “Well, in relation to everyone else we have become a little taller (laughs). The faces we talk to are not so much above our level anymore. Usually I can’t really judge because back then I wasn’t in the position I am now. So now we have an established band and I am lucky to have established that and it’s a different situation even if the music business would have been completely the same twenty years ago I would have perceived a huge difference between now and back then. But what I can say is it’s harder to sell records because everybody downloads that and I think that ruins a little bit of the myth. As a fan I can say that the music business has changed because when I was a kid and if I wanted to hear about the new KISS record I had to wait until the release day and y’know eight weeks after some news had to be spread. I had those news in a magazine, in my favourite magazine and nowadays little people know about your own stuff before you yourself so everything has changed and everybody wants a piece of the cake and everybody wants to have some exclusive news even before the news has been told. And that ruins the whole myth of rock n roll, because it’s not also about the things that you see it’s also about those things that you don’t see, just like in horror movies. The most effective things are those that you don’t see and in music it’s the same thing. Everybody is so boring and so squared and everything is so see through.”
RAMzine: It’s the same in music journalism! So when I was listening to your album earlier I couldn’t help think that it sounds like a movie soundtrack. I don’t know whether you’ve thought about putting Avantasia into a movie or writing a score for a movie, but would that be something you’re interested in?
Tobias: “Well I like movie soundtracks, definitely and I think it is also a movie soundtrack because when you write music that follows a concept or fairy tale or whatever you put it, subconsciously you will put it as kind of a soundtrack at least. It’s not a soundtrack to a movie in that case, you don’t have the pictures that a movie delivers in addition, you have to create those images in the mind of the listener all you have is a booklet in a case with 28 pictures telling a story and trying to help the listener jump into that world, but it’s a little bit like a movie soundtrack I would say that yeah.”
RAMzine: You could turn your entire catalogue into a movie; it would be really cool if you did! Is there anything you would like to add or anything you would like to plug?
Tobias: “I just want to thank everybody for your support and all your readers for the support. And I would highly recommend you check out ‘The Mystery Of Time’ if your fed up on fast food music and your really in for an adventure and your into diving into a different world, then check out ‘The Mystery Of Time’ it’s a great album and of course it’s the best album of the year!”
RAMzine: Well actually it does sound like a fun and happy album so it coming out in spring is perfect really!
Tobias: “Well it wasn’t meant to be a party album but if anyone wants to take it and party I’m really fine with that!”
Thank you Tobi!