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Herman Frank

Herman Frank
The Devil You Know


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Even the most active musicians tend to slow down when they're about to reach 60 years of age, and even though a lot of them continue touring until they can’t stand on the stage anymore, their new music tends to be rare and seldom on par with their classic releases. That’s not the case with German guitarist Herman Frank, whom most of you know via his participation in Accept and Victory. Having quit Accept a couple of years ago, he assembled a killer line-up for his solo project and just recently released his third solo album, “The Devil Rides Out”. Apart from that, the veteran of the German metal scene still continues with Victory and seems quite open to other ideas and projects. Here’s what he had to tell us about his recent and not so recent undertakings…

For you personally, how does it feel to be a solo artist? Does it feel any different from being in a band?

As I said in a couple of interviews so far, this is not a solo project. It should be a kind of band. I mean, my name is written on top of it, because I started this thing as a solo thing. But Rick (Altzi, vocals) is for the second album with me, and I hope that the other guys will also stay for a couple of years.

What is your approach to songwriting? Do you write with a specific band or album in mind, or do you just write songs as they come and afterwards decide where to use them?

If I should start writing an album, I don’t think from the start, “Oh, this should sound like this or that”. I just write music which is in my heart, it comes out of the soul. I’m lucky that the three albums have the same style. But I don’t really have a plan to write something, it just comes out.

Can you explain the album title “The Devil Rides Out”? What does it supposed to mean?

I mean, you have to call your baby by a name, and I came up with “The Devil Rides Out”. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing, but there’s always this little guy sitting on your left shoulder, who tells you every morning, “Get up. Practice guitar. Write a new song. Do something”. This gives me a kick for the day. There’s always a little devil sitting on your shoulder. You can go for the meaning word-wise. Every situation is pushed by a little devil – in a good way or in a bad way, mostly in a bad way. (everybody laughs)

As you said, you worked with Rick Altzi already on your previous solo album. But how did you start cooperating with Michael Muller (bass) and Andre Hilgers (drums)? How much do they contribute to your songs?

It’s an easy story. For the demos I used computer drumming, but when I started working with Rick, we couldn’t use a computer, and I said, “Now we need to look for a real drummer”. I had met Andre a couple of times in the previous years, we would come across each other at festivals and talk to each other, then I visited a show that he played with Rage, and stuff like that, so he had really become familiar to me. He’s a really nice guy, first of all, and he’s a really fantastic drummer, there’s no question about it. So I gave him a call, and he said, “Hey, I would be very proud to play in your band or record on your album”. Thus, we had a drummer, and then the question came: who should play bass? Rick said, “I know a guy called Mulli, he’s good looking and plays bass very good”. I called up Mulli, we met once or twice, and it was clear as a day that I want him to be in the band. In general, it’s like somebody knows this guy, and he knows the next guy, and so on.

Apart from the regular CD and vinyl versions of the new album, there is also a limited box set edition with a bonus CD. Can you say a few words about it?

That’s a really special thing for the fans, record companies do this nowadays. When it came to the bonus CD, I said to myself, “We should have something special for the fans”, and I gave them (the label – ed.) a CD with five or six tracks which are demo versions of album songs. They are recorded with computer drumming, I played the bass, and the most special thing is that I sang all the titles, I put down my vocals on them as a guide to show Rick what my vision of the song is. That’s really funny for a few fans, they might start smiling when they listen to it, because it’s very raw. All in all, I wanted to give fans a picture how a song is created.

As far as we understand, it’s the first time you’re presenting yourself as a vocalist. Do you plan to do something more like that in the future? Do you like singing?

(laughs) Actually my voice is a little low. I’m good at backing vocals, but not at higher ones, and compared to Rick, it’s… okay (everybody laughs) But I do like to give… If I write a song in the studio, I always have a certain melody in mind, and I put it down, so the boys see that this song is like this or like that. If you have a chance to listen to one of these tracks, go for it! It’s not that bad. It’s just more brutal than Rick. I did just two takes of tracks, because after the second take my head was about to explode, because I really had to push hard. (laughs)

We were looking for tourdates on your Facebook page and on your official website, but did not find any…

Me neither. (laughs) I’m looking at this site every day, and I can’t find them. It’s very tough these days to get proper shows. It wound be no problem to play a small club around the corner, but that’s not the way I wanna promote the band. Let’s sit down and keep waiting. We are working on a couple of different things, maybe two headliner shows, or some festivals, but nothing is written in stone yet. I’m so sorry about that. I’m also excited, and I can’t wait to play these songs live, but these days it’s tough. I mean, I would love to come to Moscow tomorrow (laughs), but my grandma is dead already, so I can’t borrow any money. So many bands are on tour, so many concerts are taking place…

It has just been announced that you are no longer a member of Panzer. What happened? Why aren’t you continuing with Stefan Schwarzman and Schmier?

(sighs) Let’s make a long story really short: I couldn’t stand the attitude of Schmier anymore. That sounds brutal! I really liked doing that album, but… (sighs) it became clear very soon after we started that this formation could not stay forever. I love to do music, but I can’t handle… I mean, I left Accept because of somebody, and Panzer turned out quite the same way, so I told myself, “I’d rather stop it right now and do my own thing”.

What is currently happening with Victory? The band played live for the last time nearly a year ago. Do you plan any further activities with it?

Actually we had to stop for a couple of months, because Jioti (Parcharidis) got real problems with his voice. We had to wait with doing shows or an album. I have already written the whole album, but I wanna wait for Jioti to sing on it. But in the meantime – it’s good news – I’ve just finished 23 tracks we recorded two years ago. We recorded some live shows, and I have put them together, and they will be released as a double live CD in a week. Just a small amount will be printed for special fans, it might be a limited edition or something. There are really cool songs on it. The title will be “Two Years And A Few Beers Later”. (everybody laughs) That’s a rock’n’roll title!

Yeah, and Victory is a rock’n’roll band, so it suits Victory very much!

I was thinking, “How should I call this thing? ‘Alive Again’, ‘Double Gonzo’ or whatever?” Then I came up with “Two Years”, because it took us two years, and then with “A Few Beers Later”. And if you turn around the CD after playing it, it will be “Two years and a few beats later”. (laughs) It’s just a little gimmick.
Actually I think Jioti is on his way to getting better now, he sounds healthy again, and maybe we’ll start recording the new album in January or February…

Oh, we’re looking forward to it, it’s been quite a while.

We’re looking forward too, I was waiting for such a long time, but it’s worth the wait when it comes to Jioti, because he’s an excellent singer. I wanted to give him time for healing, not putting him under any pressure.

The latest Victory line-up does not include most of its original members. What happened to Tommy Newton (guitar) and Fargo-Peter Knorn (bass)? Why aren’t they with the band anymore?

I mean, we talk to each other a couple of times in two or three years. I feel so sorry for Tommy, he’s got a heart attack a while ago. Some people are getting older faster than others, let’s put it this way. As to Fargo-Peter, he didn’t want to play bass anymore. But all the fans asked me when I was on tour with Accept, “Hey, what’s gonna happen with Victory? Why don’t you play some shows? Don’t you wanna do an album?” Eventually I said that I would go on, and Jioti has already been eight years with the band, so we decided to go on.

We’re really sad to hear that about Tommy. Is he OK now?

He’s OK, but I think he feels more like working in the studio. It’s more comfortable. (laughs) We’re not 30 anymore, you know. It’s kind of like a lifetime. He told himself, “Hey, I wanna stop, I wanna work in the studio, that’s it”, and that is fine with me.

As far as we know, Victory were very popular in Germany in the 80s and early 90s. But we have no idea how successful the later albums were. What goals were you setting for the band when you brought it back together in 2003?

First of all, I wanted to play live. Victory is a fantastic live band. If we show up for a show, people are happy when we finish it, they go sweaty, and, as you said, it’s a rock’n’roll band. I really do like to play the classic stuff, and we put a couple of new ones in the set, so it’s really exciting to play shows. That was my primary goal.

And about the commercial side of it? Are the newer albums successful?

The future is wide open, we will see. (laughs) If they don’t put it on Spotify that fast, they might be. These days nobody sells that amount of CDs anymore. That’s the sad truth, but that’s the truth.

You also have a band with your wife Martina called Poison Sun. We’re not sure many people have heard it. Can you say a few words about the band? Are there any plans to make a second album with it?

That was originally planned like a project, which I set in mind, because she’s a very good singer. Whenever I had time, I’d write a song, and we’d record it in my studio, so it was an easy way to record. So we put together this Poison Sun album, and I really enjoyed working on it. But lately I’ve been so busy, so if I find time, maybe we’ll do another one.

Earlier this year, AFM Records have re-released both of your previous solo albums – “Loyal To None” (2009) and “Right In The Guts” (2012). Do you think they did not originally get the attention they deserved?

Exactly! These two albums were released by a smaller company. They did a good job, but they had limited distribution and stuff like that. You couldn’t get them in South America, you couldn’t get them in the U.S., you could only get them in Europe, let’s put it this way. When I signed to AFM for the new record, they said, “Hey, don’t you have the rights for the first two albums back? They didn’t get enough attention”. I said, “Yeah, I do have the rights, do you wanna re-release them?” They said, “Yes, we would like to”. I said, “Cool, do it!” I really like this idea, because now there were so many emails and Facebook questions, “Hey, where can I get your first two albums?” And I had to answer, “No, I can’t tell you”. Now they all have a chance to buy them.

Have you considered also re-releasing the album you did with Hazzard in 1984? It’s been out of print for years…

Oh my god! (laughs) Actually the Mausoleum guys re-released in on CD. Actually it’s a funny story. A friend of mine was working in South Africa, and he said, “Hey, I’ve just bought you a Hazzard CD! Do you know about it?” I said, “No, I don’t”. I called the record company and said, “You don’t have any rights to this anymore”, because the rights stop after 10 years, you know, license rights. They said, “Yes, we know, but we released it. If you wanna sue us, our holding is in New York”. (laughs) I said, “OK, that answered my question”. I mean, you can’t sue in America. I would be a nice idea to re-release it in a big box with Hazzard, Moon’Doc and a couple of my new ones. That would be a great package!

In the 80s you went through quite a lot of bands in a relatively short period of time. How do you look back on your time in the 80s? Do you agree that it was the golden age of heavy metal?

Definitely! I’m thinking back, and I feel sorry about it, about switching from that band to this band and so forth. But I’m not responsible for other people’s acts. I would have loved to have a band that started in 1982, and still have the same guys with me, that would be my heavenly dream. But it didn’t happen, and I had to jump from one band to another.

But do you agree that it was the best time for metal bands?

Musically-wise, I do like the present time. Selling-wise or promotion-wise, it was much better 20 years ago, because they didn’t have any other media than CDs. There was no unlawful downloading, file-sharing and stuff like that, and that kills bands. That also killed the golden age of heavy metal.

How did you personally start playing guitar? Who were your major influences in the very beginning?

For the first two weeks it was my older brother. (laughs) Then I started practicing, and very soon I was a fan of very early days of Ted Nugent, a really big fan. That was the time when “Double Live Gonzo” came out, and I tried to play the whole album. Then the first Van Halen album came out, and it was mind blowing. Of course, I was also a fan of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and stuff like that. These days one of my heroes is Steve Vai or Uli Jon Roth.

Everybody is asking you about Accept, and we also have a question about it. We saw you in Moscow with Victory back in 2004, and we also attended your press conference. We remember when someone asked you whether you would consider working with Wolf Hoffmann again, you firmly said no. But next year we saw you in Moscow again, and this time it was with Accept. What made you change your mind?

He gave me so much money! No, just kidding! (everybody laughs) Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to people, and then you might solve a couple of problems. But as you see now, I was wrong back then.

How do you remember Moscow and Russia in general? Did you enjoy your time here?

That’s a really impressive town! And people are going crazy at concerts. I’d really like to do some shows there. When you go on tour to Moscow or Russia in general, it’s different. It’s still a different world, but in a good way. And the people there do like the band, when they show up they’re real fans.

What are your best memories about Accept? You have spoken in other interviews about the negative sides of it, but what were the positive sides? What did you enjoy the most when playing there?

To play the old classics. These songs are still on my mind. The stuff from “Restless & Wild” and “Balls To The Wall” era - I still enjoy playing every chord and every single note of it. I’m still a fan of it, and I miss this. (laughs) Quite honestly I still miss this.

Have you thought about putting one or two Accept song in your solo setlist?

I’m not sure about it. Maybe I’ll put in “Rolling Thunder” (the only song written by Herman that Accept have ever recorded – ed.). Other people are already doing Accept songs.

Dirkschneider, of course. They’ve just played in Moscow.

I mean, he’s the voice of Accept. It’s all right for him to do this show, and I wish him all the best. But if I do a couple of Accept songs, what will people say? I’ll leave it up to Udo and Accept. They’re doing it in the original way, the way that it should be.

You did quite a lot of production and mixing work in the 90s and later on with Saxon, Messiah’s Kiss and other bands. Now that you are not involved in massive touring, do you intend to do anything like that again?

I would like to, I would wish to, but actually I wasn’t thinking about it, because I was really busy writing songs and doing my own stuff. I had been so busy over the years, and I took it a little slow this year. I’ll probably start doing it next year. If there’s an offer from an interesting band, I would love to, because I like to produce.

In general, what are your plans for the future? Do you already have any ideas for solo album number four, or do you look for any new collaborations?

Not yet. As I said, I have just finished my solo album, I have just mixed the Victory live album, and maybe in January I’ll start with a couple of new songs for the next Herman Frank album. I don’t wanna wait for four or five years again to do another one. And I’m still working and phoning people to get some live shows. I’m expecting that we’ll start with something in early summer. And the months in between I think I should use to practice the songs I’ve recorded! (laughs) It’s a different thing to record something in the studio and then to play it live.

Herman Frank on the Internet: http://www.hermanfrank.com

Special thanks to Irina Ivanova (AFM Records) for arranging this interview

Roman Patrashov, Natalie “Snakeheart” Patrashova
December 15, 2016
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