How did you start your musical journey?
Well the very beginning was a long time ago, I was 12 years old and I heard Status Quo for the first time. It was the mystery song that I got from my Mum, that was a magical moment for me and soon after that I got The Who Live at Leeds, after that I was completely transfixed! I had a teacher at school and he was very good at guitar and he sold a guitar to me for a few hundred marks and I was only in my room practicing guitar in front of the mirror and everything and a friend of mine wrote some chords on a piece of paper for me, that was all I had, and that was when everything started to come around to influence me, bands like AC/DC, The Scorpions then I went to Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and all the blues rock stuff.
When was the moment you realised you wanted to play guitar for a living?
Well that was a bit later after school, I was in my first job and I always told my boss “It doesn’t matter what I’m doing here because in the future I will be a musician!” I didn’t know at that point about the facts and reality of being a musician, I just wanted to be a musician at that time. Then I was 19 or 20, I had been in bands for a few years since 16 years old, they had been in a small city far away from where all the big bands would come and tour. Everyone was playing but nobody was really driving and pushing to be a professional musician. Then I got a call from a friend and he heard that RAGE is looking for a guitar player, he put my name onto a list, he called the band and said “I’ve got the guitar player for you, he can play like Jake E Lee!” Soon after I then got a call from the band asking me to go for a rehearsal session and they invited me to join the band. I went back home and couldn’t believe it, wow I thought, I am in RAGE! That was when everything started, they had a record contract and I was in!
How do fans in Germany differ to fans around the world?
Fans in Germany are very lucky, they get everything, all the bands come and play and the market is very packed, they can make a choice to see a band every night. That makes me feel that they’re not hungry enough these days. When we go to foreign countries like Greece or Spain, even South America, people are really hungry to see the gig because not so many bands tour there and you have to wait a very long time to see your big favourite band.
Why do you choose Laney?
My first experience of Laney was when I joined Gravedigger in 2001, I had the Laney GHL, I really liked the amp, at the time the leader of the band wanted a different amp for the band as he thought it was ‘right’ for the band at the time. I asked why because the Laney sounded great and really fitted the sound of the band, but he was the boss and I didn’t have a choice but to use something else. Then during the time I left that band I wanted to get that brutal Iommi style sound, I returned to my Laney and remembered how great it sounded, I then went on the search for more of that Iommi sound, I have always been interested to see what component gives such a heavy sound, is it the pickups, the strings, guitar etc, but I realised one key ingredient to such a heavy sound was the Laney amp. I tried a lot of different amps but I can feel what I am playing with the Laney. The Ironheart I simply plugged in and my sound was there, I didn’t have to search for it.
What is your signal path?
My set up is easy, I go from my LTD Viper, to my Wah-Wah and then to the amp. It is really that simple. The amp has so much to give and it works perfectly for the sound I need in REFUGE.
Most memorable gig?
Well I have played a lot of shows, but one of the more emotional ones we played was in Russia last year. We had never played there before, we first played in Moscow and I saw people in front of the stage, the first three rows had tears in their eyes. When I left the stage after the gig I was crying, I was shocked I thought “What was that?!”. That was really moving you know, I had a similar feeling when we played in Sau Paolo, Brazil it was incredible, really really amazing. The fans are crazy because they have to wait so long, when they eventually get to see the band they go wild!
What is one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
Usually I always have my wah pedal with me, but my set up is so minimalistic, guitar, wah and amp so perhaps the guitar cable because without that I wouldn’t be heard at all! I used to have a huge effects rack and big pedal board and sometimes I would miss a cue to one part of a song, then one day I decided to remove anything I don’t use, slowly over a small period of time I got rid of everything except the wah pedal.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
I like to relax, I go on stage as I am dressed right now, as I turned up to this festival and how I will go home. It is honest and real, I don’t feel the need for gimmicks or illusions because if I am false to my fans then I am not being the purest form possible for them. I have a beer and move my fingers a little bit and that is it, show time!
When was the last time you read a user manual?
Oh my… NEVER! It is all about trial and error! Plug it in, see if you like the sound and mess with it from there.
What was the last album you bought or listened to?
The new album by In Flames, I really bought it and listened to it, I love it.
Any tips for aspiring musicians?
This is what I told my son, he is 20 years old… We have plenty of guitars at home on the walls and I said to my boys, if you like to play any guitar, pick it up and try it. If you have any questions just ask me. Do whatever you want with it, he came and asked me to show him some Avenged Sevenfold and In Flames, so I played him some, but he found so much from YouTube. I said to him, with a guitar in your hands, it’s good with the girls, then he came and asked me to show him more. So I showed him a power chord, he couldn’t believe you can play a whole song with just the power chord. I also said how important the right hand is, if you want to rock you need to take a lot of care for both hands, the one you’re strumming and the one you’re fretting with.
Everyone who asks me when they’re a beginner for advice I say to have fun with the guitar, take it in your hand and feel good with it. Get a position you’re comfortable with but then look good with it!
You said about YouTube, do you think it helps or hinders the future of music?
I love it, I love the internet and Youtube and Spotify, I can listen to a lot of music and get ideas from lots of bands, but then on the other hand there are too many bands that think too business-minded and they just want to make money from it. The internet and YouTube is good and if people like it or not well we have to learn to live with it, we can not pull the plug and start from zero, it is here to stay. It’s cool because on Facebook I have met so many other fans of music that I love too, and when you meet them in person it feels like I have known this guy for such a long time, purely because we connected via the internet. Can you imagine that happening 20 years ago? Could you imagine the kid in a country that doesn’t have a metal scene not having the internet? He now has a connection with people from all over the world and I think that is really positive. It creates a feeling of community that I don’t think we would have on such a world wide scale without the internet.