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Voodoo Circle

Voodoo Circle
Things Are Too Easy For Younger Bands


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Alex Beyrodt will always be special for the HeadBanger.ru team: he was the very first musician we interviewed specifically for the webzine at its very early stage in February 2007. Back then Alex was promoting "Walk The Earth", the then latest album of his band Silent Force, which turned out the last one with singer D.C. Cooper (now with Royal Hunt). Fast forward 11 years - in February (again) 2018 we are back on the line with Alex, who is now promoting "Raised On Rock", a new record by his other band, Voodoo Circle. These German hard rockers have recently welcomed singer Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Sinbreed) into the fold, which gave them a strong push in terms of popularity: a few days after this interview the record hit #43 in the German charts. However, when talking to a person like Alex, who has many bands and activities going on, it is impossible to cover just one of them. Thus, we also covered his involvement in Primal Fear, Rock Meets Classic, Jorn Lande's solo band, as well as his interests outside music.

You have played in Moscow a couple of times with Primal Fear. What are your impressions about the city and the fans?

Actually the first time I was in Moscow for only 21 hours, not even a full day. So my memories are very limited, I remember only the show we played at this festival (“Moscow Metal Meeting”, August 29, 2015), and the dinner we had at the hotel. But I had a good impression. The second time was last year, we played in St. Petersburg and also in Moscow. This time I could see a little bit more, and it was a great adventure. Somehow I liked the overnight train ride from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and the fans were fantastic. I had a really good time there. In Moscow I was a little bit upset at the end of the show, because my amplifier wasn’t working right, so I kicked it from the stage. But hey, shit happens! (everybody laughs)

When we talked last time, you said that you wanted to be the master of your own career, and to be the only guitar player on the stage, but a couple of years later you joined forces again with Mat Sinner in Sinner and in Primal Fear. What made you change your mind?

Oh… happiness, friendship, success, adventures, the music. The thing is that I go back with Mat and Sinner a long time. We met for the first time in 1985, and I joined Sinner in 1988. My very first Primal Fear tour was in 1999 – I wasn’t a constant member of Primal Fear for a long time, but I was always touring with them and helping them. For me it felt like family. To be honest, to play with Tom Naumann in Primal Fear gives me so much joy and so much fun, because it reminds me of our early days when we were young, back in the 80s. When I joined Sinner in 1988, Tom Naumann was the guitar player. We were young, we challenged each other, it was a great competition, because we learned from each other and we tried to overdo each other. It was good for the music, for our guitar playing, for everything. Now in Primal Fear, when Tom had his comeback and I was there, it just felt like things came back together. Me and Tom play like one guitar player; when we play together, I always have the feeling that this sounds like one massive big guitar. Actually this is so much fun, and I really enjoy it. I understand your question, and I do enjoy being the only guitar player on the stage – because then you have a lot of freedom, you can do whatever you want, you can play solos longer, you can improvise a lot, and I love that, but on the other hand, to play a perfect show with two guitar players – and I mean perfect, this kind of music, heavy metal /power metal, has to be played perfect, otherwise it doesn’t sound good - is also a challenge that I enjoy a lot.

Now let's talk about Voodoo Circle. First of all, when David Readman quit the band last year, was it a big surprise for you, or did you see anything like that coming?

To be honest, it was a big surprise. Both the moment he left and also how he left. When I received his message, I had just landed at New York, at the JFK airport. I turned on my mobile phone and I picked up my emails, and there was an email from David saying that he wanted to leave the band. This came to me totally out of the blue, totally. I had no idea, and I was also disappointed by just getting an email. Until today I don’t know why he left the band, I have no idea. Have I been upset about him joining Almanac and me learning about it on Facebook without anybody telling me? Yes. Have I been upset about Victor Smolski stealing my singer without talking to me before? Yes. And I’m still upset about it. Victor and I go back many years, we had great times and great adventures. But I think if you approach such an important position as the singer, and this singer is the singer of your friend, honest to God, I think you should talk to your friend first, and not behind his back. Sorry, I know you guys are Russian, and he’s a big guy in Russia, but for me that was not cool. It was a shock, absolutely.

How did the addition of Herbie Langhans influence the music of Voodoo Circle? How much did he contribute to the songwriting?

A lot. There are so many vocal lines and melodies that came from him. He had total freedom, he could do whatever he wanted. Of course, we also worked together a lot on vocal melodies, but the way I see Voodoo Circle and the way I run Voodoo Circle is that every musician in Voodoo Circle should be free and should be able to offer whatever he wants to add to the music and to be himself. That’s the most important part in Voodoo Circle – that everybody is happy and can be himself. So Herbie could do whatever he wanted, and I actually really surprised because almost every melody he suggested was perfect. Of course, we changed little things here and there, but from the very beginning the way we work together has been very good.

What happened to your keyboard player Alessandro Del Veccio?

That’s a good question, I have no idea! (laughs)

Did he disappear somehow?

He disappeared into darkness! (everybody laughs) No, Alessandro is still a friend, he’s a super-cool guy, but Alessandro, as you probably know, plays in 500 bands and produces 700 bands. He’s so busy, and things came to a point where there was just too much stress, and it didn’t work anymore. But we’re still friends, and we still talk to each other. We’ll actually go on tour together next month with Rock Meets Classic, where he’s still in the choir, doing choir work. He’s still one of my buddies, and everything is cool.

The album is called "Raised On Rock", which is obviously a very strong statement, but we don't quite see the connection between the title and the cover artwork.

There’s no connection. (everybody laughs) I wanted to have a cover that looks very cool, that you can see from afar when you’re in a record store, and that makes a great T-shirt. You know, merchandise is very important, and this cover looks great on T-shirts, jackets, cups, underwear (laughs), everything. This was the main reason why I chose this cover. And also - before I forget I wanted to have a cover where the “voodoo” element is more visible. On the very first album we had some voodoo influence on the cover, but after that I was more into the guitar thing and showing a band picture. This time I said, “This is a new beginning", we have a new singer, and we also have a new keyboard player – by the way, he plays with Saxon and Uli Jon Roth, he’s a very good guy (his name is Corvin Bahn – ed.), so I wanted to go back to the voodoo element. That’s the idea behind the cover. And “Raised On Rock” was just a statement that I found very powerful. It fits the music, it fits my personality and each and every personality in the band. When I thought about that statement, I found it pretty cool, and that’s the idea behind it.

We haven't found any tour dates in support of "Raised On Rock" on your website. Do you have any touring plans with Voodoo Circle?

We are planning a tour, we are working on a tour right now. But to be honest, it is not that easy. These times are really tough, and this is also true for a band like Voodoo Circle with all these famous guys. The problem is that the promoters are really shy and they tend to book a cover band or a Top 40 band before they book a band with original songs. It is not that easy. And before I play for 20 people like the other band that stole my singer…

Yeah, we know, we’ve been to their show in Moscow…

I don’t know anything about Moscow, I was hoping it was better over there, but here in Germany it is very sad. I don’t wanna do this. I don’t wanna play in front of 20 people. But we are trying to put a tour together, and let’s see what happens.

Speaking about live shows, Jorn Lande has scheduled a few gigs for this year. Will you play with him live, as you did on his latest studio album (“Life On Death Road”, 2017)?

Unfortunately no, I can’t. I would love to be able to do that, but my schedule is so full it just doesn’t fit together. I’m really proud with the album we did together, I think it’s one of his strongest albums ever, Alessandro, Jorn and the other guys did a great job at songwriting, and I was very happy and honored to be able to deliver my guitar on this album. It’s among the best work I’ve ever done. But I do Rock Meets Classic, Voodoo Circle, and with Primal Fear we are playing all over the world, so there’s a lot of work I have to do, and I have to be careful about what I do. My day is only 24 hours, like yours. (laughs)

Why aren't you involved with Sinner anymore?

For the same reason. I had to make a decision because it was getting too much. When you play with so many bands on such a level, it looks pretty cool, and it is cool, but it takes so much work and so much time. I had to make a decision to start focusing more on Primal Fear and Voodoo Circle. Apart from that, I have my own company, Guitar Slinger Products (http://guitarslingerproducts.com), and this is also something I love to do. I deal with parts of electric guitars, vintage guitars and stuff, and this also a great thing to do, I love everything about guitar. I have to be careful about what I’m doing. Even now with Rock Meets Classic, Voodoo Circle, Primal Fear and Silent Force here and there, it is already too much work and too much time. I don’t have time for a hobby. I would love to play golf again, because I love playing golf, but I just can’t because I don’t have time to do it. I’m not 24 anymore, I have to select and choose wisely.

Last time we spoke when you were promoting "Walk The Earth" by Silent Force, and that album turned out to be your last cooperation with D.C. Cooper. What is the reason?

The time wasn’t right. D.C. is… how can I say that… a very nice guy, I really admire him, and I love the work we’ve done in the past. But by the time I started to work on the last Silent Force album, he was not ready, and the timing was not right for him to sing on that album. I hope in the future we will find the right time so that we could do another album with D.C.

For that last album with Silent Force, "Rising From Ashes" (2013), you reconnected with Michael Bormann. How did this collaboration happen? We know that you and Michael worked together in The Sygnet back in the late 90s…

Exactly! Actually The Sygnet became Silent Force. The first Silent Force album (“Empire Of The Future”, 2001) was supposed to be the second album by The Sygnet, and Michael Bormann was supposed to be the singer on that album. But we couldn’t agree on the musical direction. I was totally into Queensryche and Symphony X, and I had this dream about a concept album, I had this story I wrote. We couldn’t agree on the terms and everything, and that’s why I was searching for a new singer. Thankfully I found D.C. This time the timing wasn’t right and I couldn’t agree on the terms with D.C. (laughs), so I went back to Michael Bormann. I kept it in the family.

What do you now think of "Rising From Ashes"? Do you think that change of style towards a more melodic direction was the right thing to do?

Well… I think if D.C. had sung a song on that album, the direction wouldn’t have changed so much as you maybe feel. I think that was typical Silent Force songwriting, just with different vocals. For me that was not that big of a change in the sound, to be honest.

What is the current status of Silent Force? Do you plan to continue working with this band someday?

Like I just said, I hope in the future we will make another album with D.C. You know, never say never. I’m totally open to do this.

On his latest album, Jorn Lande paints a very dark picture of the music business and the effect it has on musicians. Do you agree with Jorn in this matter?

Absolutely! The music business is at its end, it’s totally destroyed, nobody makes any money anymore. It’s a nightmare, don’t even get me started! That’s the reason why every band in the world is trying to play as many concerts as they can, otherwise you don’t make any money. If you sell 2,000 albums in one week, you go to number one in America – come on, something is really wrong here! In the rock music business it is not as bad as in other musical directions because the fans are still very loyal. But on the other hand you have 100 new releases every month, and, of course, nobody can buy all these albums, I also understand that. Then you have Spotify, and this is the biggest scam in the music history. People think, “Oh, Spotify is good for the musicians, they get paid”. Forget it! If I have one million listens on Spotify, I get 60 euros. Come on, if you paid an electrician like you pay a musician, there wouldn’t be any electricity in the world anymore. It’s very sad, but there’s nothing I can do. I love music, I love doing albums and writing songs. Fortunately I have my own studio and I can do what I want, but… (sighs) Whatever. It’s very sad.

Voodoo Circle is a band that started in the 21st century. Based on your experience, what are the main difficulties in the way of a new band nowadays?

Well, in my opinion, many bands release albums way too early. On the other hand, today every musician who has a computer is able to make a record, and even if your playing is not right, you can fix it on the computer. Things are too easy. Back in the 70s and the 80s you had to fight for your success, you really had to win it, you had to work on it for years and years. Record companies invested in you, they knew, "Maybe we will have to invest for six or seven years before we make any money". This all has changed, and not in a good way. You have people that make a YouTube video, and they have millions of listeners and followers, but in my opinion, this is not success. I'm oldschool, I wanna have a CD or LP, I wanna be on stage and entertain people. I think it's much more difficult for younger musicians to be really successful. What does success mean? For me it also means that you can make a living off music. In my opinion, this is almost impossible for the younger generation.

Now let's recall a bit how it was in the 80s: you played in a band called Wild Axes back in the day. What are your best memories from that era? Why did this band never make it beyond the demo stage?

I have very good memories about Wild Axes, my very first band. In fact, we were all neighbors and school friends, we grew up together, like all garage bands in America. Aerosmith and all these bands, they grew up together, and so did Wild Axes. We were friends, and one day we decided we were gonna start a band. Actually in 1985 we won a very important contest in Germany, there were bands like Axxis, Destruction and a couple of others, but we won that battle of the bands. After that we got a record contract and started working with a producer, but we were very young. Some of the guys decided to go in different directions, they wanted to have a nice job and make money, another guy married very early, and his wife became pregnant. It's basically the same story as in the famous song of Bryan Adams, "Summer of '69". (laughs) "Me and some guys from school / Had a band and we tried real hard / Jimmy quit, Jody got married..." - that actually what happened to Wild Axes. We were very young, and we went different directions. But to me it was always clear that my path is the music business and becoming a guitar player. I never gave up, and here I am, talking to you.

Are you still in contact with the Wild Axes members? Does any one of them still play music?

Absolutely! I actually received a message two hours ago from the other guitar player, Mike Hassen, he congratulated me on the Voodoo Circle album. I am still in contact with these guys, but apart from the drummer (Franz Schmidt), they quit music business. The drummer still plays in a blues band, but he's actually a very famous painter, he's got paintings here in Germany, and he's very successful with that. It's kind of cool.

We remember from our previous interview that you have a daughter, and she is now supposed to be 12 years old. Is she into music nowadays? What does she think of her dad's occupation?

Well, my daughter and also my son live in Japan. I am divorced, and my ex-wife and kids live in Japan. And I actually live in France, I moved from Germany to France in the beginning of last year. It is not so easy to have contact with them because of the language barrier, but of course, I try to be in contact for Christmas and birthdays. My plan is to bring them here to visit me in Northern France and spend a couple of weeks together in the near future. Let's see if this happens.

What inspires you nowadays? What bands or artists do you find inspiring?

When it comes to music, I really like Joe Bonamassa. That's a guitar player I admire, I think he's really great. But apart from that, I'm more interested in other personalities, like guys who work for a better future of this world. These are the guys who expose all the problems we have with politicians and their lie and the way the United States are trying to rule the whole world - they start wars everywhere and nobody can stop them. There are politicians, especially from the U.S., who try to put Germany and Russia into a war, which is totally stupid. I'm really into politics these days, I really try to understand what is going on in the world, and there are some interesting guys, like Daniele Ganser, he's a guy from Switzerland, and he really tries to come up with the truth behind all this. This is something I find inspiring. Also there's a writer, his name is Paulo Coelho, from Brazil, this is a guy I follow, and I admire his work. Like I said, for me this is more important these days than music. The times are really difficult and very dangerous, and there are so many right-wing problems, people go Nazi, and there are so many... ah, I could now talk for two hours. I try not to make it too difficult. But to me the friendship between Russia and Germany is very important, and honestly I think the Russian policy is way better than the American one. (laughs)

Oh, if we meet in person some day, we can discuss this in more detail... That's a lengthy topic, indeed.

Yeah, I know, and it's very interesting. And the media are telling so much lies, also here in Germany, it's impossible and unbelievable. But the mainstream people, normal regular people, they believe what they see on TV. And this is a huge problem, because most of it is lies. If you go to YouTube and start checking what the truth is, you will be surprised with what's really going on... Alright, back to music!

Well, we don't have any questions anymore. It was very nice talking to you again after all these years. Thank you for your time, and hope to see you again in Russia with Primal Fear or Voodoo Circle maybe...

Thank you for having me! I'm totally looking forward to coming back to Russia. I really want to know more about your wonderful country.

Voodoo Circle on the Internet: http://www.voodoocircle.de/

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

Interview by Roman Patrashov, Natalia "Snakeheart" Patrashova
Photos courtesy of AFM Records
February 15, 2018
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