AVANTASIA/EDGUY mainman Tobias Sammet was interviewed this past weekend by his webmaster, Harmon Caldwell. The question-and-answer session follows in its entirety below.
Q: Tobias, the day has come: Your two new AVANTASIA albums, “The Wicked Symphony” and “Angel Of Babylon”, have hit the record stores. They seem to be considered the “most ambitious project you have ever done.” Are you excited or even nervous now that your fans can hold the albums in their hands?
Tobias: As far as the “most ambitious project” goes, I have always been ambitious and very enthusiastic with whatever I did or am doing. Only this time around we’ve got two albums and a running time of 120 minutes. Everything was twice as intensive, it has taken twice as long to record, twice as much sweat, twice as many sleepless nights and of course: Now I am twice as happy.
Q: The list of guest musicians is really impressive once again. Klaus Meine, Jon Oliva, Russell Allen, Jorn Lande, Ripper Owens… At some point, weren’t you afraid that you might become just another guest on your own albums? Not as a composer, of course, but as a performer?
Tobias: When you put such an epic together, you don’t put your own performance front and center. You focus on the project as a whole. Of course, I wanted to perform my vocals as good as I possibly could. But I didn’t do this project to boost my ego, I did this because it makes me feel like a kid in a toy store. Believe it or not, when you’re in the studio with all these great performers, you are nothing but thankful and happy. It’s all for the sake of creating music together, music that I love. You don’t start a dick-waving contest. I am just happy to create music I want to listen to myself. This is not the Olympics. It’s all about the joy of doing it and listening to the final results afterwards!
Q: Everybody talks about the great guest vocalists’ performances. How would you rate your own singing? How has your style changed over the years in your opinion?
Tobias: I am much more happy with my voice nowadays. When I listen to some of the stuff I did on early albums, I scratch my head, haha! I hate my vibrato on those old albums. Mikko Karmilla (engineer of EDGUY‘s early albums — from “Vain Glory Opera” to “Hellfire Club”) once said that it sounds like somebody is shaking me while I try to keep a tone. Thank God my producer Sascha cured me from it. Whenever I start to sing with high clean opera vocals, Sascha throws up on the mixing desk. At some point I couldn’t stand the smell of his vomit in the studio anymore. I don’t wanna be in a fucking Alessandro Moreschi tribute band (laughs). The range is still there, which feels great, but I would rather focus on feeling and emotion than competing with the sound of a sharply braking freight train. If you listen to the new AVANTASIA material like “Your Love Is Evil” or the chorus of “States Of Matter”, without blowing my trumpet, I guess that’s not too bad. But, of course, there are so many outstanding singers who did a great job on AVANTASIA, it would be out of place to speak about my performance in that context. If you listen to the last EDGUY album, “Tinnitus Sanctus”, you can hear the essence of my singing. This is just me on vocals. Having enough distance from that album now, I can rightfully say that it is the strongest EDGUY album. It’s a killer album, maybe some people didn’t understand it, but “Sex Fire Religion” or “Pride Of Creation” are killer tracks. That’s what metal has to sound like, in my opinion. On “929” I think I gave my best vocal performance in ten years, maybe. The album didn’t have the success it deserved in all territories, but that’s the price we are willing to pay in order to follow our hearts. “Tinnitus Sanctus”… What an album! Wow, off topic. Back to AVANTASIA (laughs).
Q: I really liked “Tinnitus”, but the two new AVANTASIA albums seem to be a little more epic and some people even think you are going back to the roots with those albums. Was that intentional? Some people have even said or implied that you put more work into AVANTASIA than EDGUY. What is your counter argument to that claim?
Tobias: It’s bullshit! “Tinnitus Sanctus” is the perfect EDGUY album, even if some people hate it or not. I can judge, I am IN this band! It’s funny, whenever I speak to the press or fans I get the feeling that a lot of people out there know more about our insidious plans and intentions than we do. I have heard it all: commercial sell-out, back to the roots, burnt out, you name it. But we don’t think about it, we’re just out to have fun and play the music we love. Again, “Tinnitus Sanctus” embodies the essence of EDGUY, it has got some of the strongest songs we have ever done. It kicks ass, it’s mean and dirty and yet bombastic and it’s got some of the most anthemic melodies. And it’s got great songwriting, the greatest performance of each musician in the history of EDGUY. I know it, I am actually a member of this band (laughs). I respect every opinion, but I am in the position to eventually judge! As far as selling out goes, we didn’t even release a single. If we would be out for a hit single, it would be rather dumb to not release one at all.
Q: Okay, back to AVANTASIA: If an alien came down to earth: How would you describe the two new albums in your own words, briefly?
Tobias: I think it’s just a magnificent piece of work, but in press language I’d tell the alien it’s a six-point-four out of a six-and-a-half-point-two. And the deduction is only because it sounds like BON JOVI (laughs)! If the alien didn’t understand what I meant, then nobody would. Sane music lovers surely don’t understand the music press. I’d say it’s great and epic music. I’d tell the alien: Listen, parts of the drums have been played by one of your kind! Now give it a listen or two and you will hear how honest we were and how we constantly tore down limits and boundaries. The honesty, the diversity, the elemental force and the grandeur will drip out of your stereo… And finally melt your spaceship!
Q: You produced two albums at once; it must have been a lot of work. Was there a point during the production, that you regretted recording such a massive amount of material?
Tobias: No, when I realized how much material it was, it was already produced! The secret is quite easy, it’s like a life motto to me: “Do what you love!” I focus on things that make me happy. On the two new AVANTASIA albums, for example, all I want to do is play the music I love and seize my time on this beautiful planet with something that fills me with joy. And believe me, I live the happiest life on the planet. So it’s my duty to pass it on. I know I have had a lot of luck, more luck than talent for sure. And I know that many people can not live by that motto 24 hours a day, seven days a week (me neither, by the way.). But if we really want it we can optimize the happy aspects in our lives. Just take a look around: There are so many people who waste their energy on giving someone else a hard time. Take music journalism: Some people look out for music they love and some people wait for bands they can hate and bash. You have to be perverse to choose to be miserable and surround yourself with such a negative, angry, and unfair vibe. Or neighbours: Some people call the police and complain about noisy couples in the flat above, and others take the opportunity and fuck themselves. Relax! Follow your dreams and enjoy life! Wasting your energy for something negative is disrespectful towards those who really need your support and energy. I try not to waste precious time and energy: I seize the day to make people smile, me included. You’ll be surprised of how much you can work out if you live by that motto.
Q: So what are the future plans of Tobias Sammet? Any new dreams to dream?
Tobias: I don’t think about that right now, I just enjoy having recorded two amazing new chapters in my personal discography. Life is what happens to you while you are making plans. 20 years ago I had the dream of becoming a rock musician. I wanted to record my own albums and make just enough money to earn a living. Today I am looking back on chart-breaking albums, a tour with AEROSMITH, stadium shows with IRON MAIDEN and the SCORPIONS. I was given the great opportunity to start AVANTASIA and to work with Alice Cooper, musicians from KISS and the SCORPS whose posters I had on my wall. I have been given the chance to play various world tours, travelled from Israel to China and from the USA to Brazil. I still can’t believe this is all true, so please don’t wake me up! And all my life I have just worked on future plans. Now is the time to recall the past, enjoy it, and relax. I deserve that after these two new albums, I really deserve being able to not think about the future for a few weeks.