This phone interview with the bassist Tobias Exxel of Edguy was done by Alexa Kasparek on March 10th, 2004.

Edguy has been one of the leading forces in the lighter school of European power metal for many years now. After having been loyal to their label AFM Records since their debut album "Savage Poetry" back in 1995 they now release their first full-length album for their new label Nuclear Blast. Bassist Tobias Exxel took some time off to talk about "Hellfire Club" and other things.

Hi, how are you?
Fine, and yourself?

Nothing to complain about! Well, on Monday (15.3.) your new album "Hellfire Club" will be released, will you celebrate that day?
Yes, on Monday we'll be in Hamburg, as far as I know, first doing an autograph session during the afternoon, and afterwards we'll have a little release party in the Headbanger's Ballroom, a famous pub there. We're on the road anyway, doing some other autograph sessions all over Germany during that week. I'm looking forward to it!

That sounds quite busy...
Yeah, we just returned from France where we had that autograph sessions, too - indeed we took our acoustic guitars with us and played some offhanded acoustic sets, which really were great! We played ballads like Scarlet Rose and Forever from the new album, or even Lavatory Love Machine, which is a rock song actually, but we adapted it to work with acoustic guitars, too. And then we covered songs by Europe and Gotthard, which was totally new for us... yeah, and after two weeks we'll start touring through Europe - how time flies!

The single "King Of Fools" was already published - are you surprised that it hit the German single charts on such a high position - at 39? That's not bad at all!
Yeah, that's great! At the moment we're still on 60, and I think we'll even remain in the charts a bit, that's incredible - I mean, we got used to enter the charts just for a week and then to get the boot! Surely, our new label Nuclear Blast has more opportunities to finance advertisement for everything and we worked our butts off, you know, with a hell lot of additional concerts and so on. Inevitably the charts are affected by that, and that's great to see, because just some years ago we didn't dare to imagine that, we just played our music, that was all. I mean, we're still doing that, and on the one hand it's fantastic that we finally enter the charts and even play in a chart show in German TV and so on - but on the other hand it has been alarming that we have to justify ourselves because people ask if we turn out to be commercial now. That's a pity, because I think that if you listen to Hellfire Club, you'll notice that we completely continued our direction!

Yeah, that can be noticed while looking at Hellfire Club's cover: the last ones are a bit more colourful - this one reminds of Vain Glory Opera and Kingdom Of Madness!
That's right! I read in our forums that people there take it as a sign that we want to go "back to the roots" - funnily enough that wasn't planned at all! We had this idea of a cover with a mask quite a long time; we had different ideas and in the end we got stuck to this one and of course we like it very much, especially our logo: it's a bit frazzled and not as neat as usual. "Back to the roots" is a silly thing to say about Edguy because we've never changed much - we just have advanced and tried out some new sounds. Mandrake for example is quite more rocking than... Theater of Salvation - and I'm sure Hellfire Club even caps it all, the production is rude and heavy - and a song like Mysteria right in the beginning - many people will swallow, because that song is quite heavy - but already the second one will calm down a bit, due to its Seventy-influences, which I like very much!

Yeah, what do you enjoy most about the new album?!
Uh, our opinions are quite different - surely, we're five people after all! My favourite Edguy-songs generally are the heavier ones, because... well, most people are surprised, but my favourite band is Slayer and therefore I like those songs like Mysteria or Under The Moon. And for example from Jens, our guitar player, I know he likes Holy Water the most, that song from the EP, which is quite untypical of us, because we worked a lot with bass and drums and the orchestra got scope for development - that was fun! It was a lot of work, first developing the sounds on keyboards, just to get the impression how it will be like, and then working together with the orchestra for the first time... that was unbelievable: Tobi and me stood there in a huge hall in the studio in which the orchestra with 72 people was recording and our jaws drooped, we have been that awestruck- incredible, you can't describe that while talking via telephone!

What quite few people know: on the EP there is a short making-of, an mpeg-video, which can be seen on computer! It's about 15 minutes long and shows us working in the studio, with the orchestra and so on. Due to any reasons it isn't said in the booklet, it's like an insider-tip. So here's an appeal to everybody who has the King Of Fools EP: put it into your PC and it try it out!

Who got the idea to film a studio report? Did Nuclear Blast make the suggestion or was it your own idea?
No, that was kind of self-evident; it's so great that we worked in a new studio and with an orchestra, so we filmed it also for ourselves, we want to remember that, too! And also if we already knew that we produce the next album within the next one and a half year and produce it similar to this one - every album is a great remembrance and so we collected some material and decided that we could cut together 15 minutes and put it on the EP - there was enough space anyway!

Concerning the EP - was it hard to convince Nuclear Blast to publish a complete EP for the price of a single? I mean, it's not usual to record something else than some b-side rubbish - and those songs really could be on the album!
That was the reason why we wrote all songs as a package - we wrote 15 songs that we liked very much and afterwards we wondered which of them we could put on an EP and which on the album, and that was not a matter of quality but what songs fit together, you know... In general we didn't need to convince Nuclear Blast about anything - after all it was our work! Some people seem to think that's kinda easy, but it's annoying when your label asks if we could just swiftly record two ... b-sidetracks to have anything for a single, but we didn't want that at all, so we said: "okay, we put on this 'single' as much as possible, so that it officially, in commercial point of view, still can be sold as a single!" And now we have that EP with five tracks, a video and a booklet containing 8 pages with pictures and lyrics - quite a few singles offer that today, right? That was very important for us because we aren't used to publish singles and we're still fans by ourselves and we didn't like our favourite bands to publish singles when you have that expectation "there's only shit on it", see? So we created that EP and because officially it's a single, the stores aren't allowed to sell it more expensive! It's great that we can control the price a bit and you should think of that, too - you can see how people complain in a legitimate way about fan-twitting, and we wanted to show that it isn't necessary! Many bands claim that it's the fault of management, label and in general and all others and so on - or there's that nice band that claims that concert tickets have to be that expensive because the management wants money, too - and now we want to make an example to show that it can work in a different way: nevertheless we will have lots of pyros during the shows, little surprises, moving figures on stage... and of course we're there, too, all five of us! (laughs) I mean, we could use tapes and video... no, rubbish, nonsense! As I said before, it's important to show people that it works also in a different way!

It's stressing that you used the word "fuck" quite often on the EP!
(giggles) Yeah, that should be asked to Tobi instead! But I can say that... there's that song "New Age Messiah" with that "who the fucking fuck is Jesus", right? And I really had to laugh because in France a guy said to me: "ah, that's kinda blasphemy, that's a bit too much, you shouldn't have done this..." and so on! I mean that guy was not really annoyed, but he complained about that! And I had to laugh because Tobi just wanted to complain about these new pop heroes and idols - especially King Of Fools with that "We don't wanna be like you" deals with that topic, but also New Age Messiah in a certain way - in which Tobi exaggerated that way, that he calls them wannabe-Jesusses; he just acuminated that with all that fucks and fucking Jesus and so on to wake up those people - but we didn't think that the shot could off target, that people come and say: "Nah, that's too much, you shouldn't say fuck and even Jesus, no, now you exaggerated, that doesn't fit to Edguy!" (laughs) but I think most people got the message! It was meant as a joke and although the album is twice or even thrice as long as the EP - there are not thrice as many fucks!

Your joke-lyrics - are they planned or does it just happen?
Anyhow that just happens, yeah. I would say that's because we're so busy in making silly jokes that there are so many of them after the time that is always between two albums. And afterwards we say: "Yeah, let's put it on the record!" you know... For example at the end of Theater Of Salvation - there's that extremely stupid thing, you know what I mean? There are those two guys, talking backwards - that's nothing more than the chef of our old label AFM Records, who once said to his girlfriend: "Ich brauch noch Senf für die Wurst!" ("I still need mustard for the sausage!") That was so funny that moment, that we went to the studio and recorded things like "Maaannooooo, ich will mehr Wurst! Mehr Senf bei die Wurst!" ("I want more sausages! And more mustard for them!") "jaja, ich komm ja sofort, ich bring dir ja gleich deinen Senf, aber hier hast du Ketchup!" ("yeah, I’m coming, I'm bringing you the mustard, but here you have some ketchup!") "Ich will keinen Ketchup, ich will Seeeenf!" (I don't want ketchup, I want muuuuustard!") - that are the lyrics, just backwards, that's all! Actually we should request the people to put that album into the PC and to listen to it backwards - they probably will get shocked! What I wanted to say with that example: stuff like that just happens, we just enjoy making nonsense! And also other stuff occurs on stage, all bad jokes of Tobi, for example, hihi...

Blind Guardian for example collected "outtakes" of their live album, things like mistakes or stupid announcements, and put them on their homepage - wouldn't that be an idea for you? I mean, all those bad jokes, that Tobi does..
(laughs) Yeah, maybe, that would be stuff for a DVD, I think... No, we didn't plan such a thing yet - I mean some mistakes and so on already are on our live-CD because we did it nearly without overdubs, but that are things that aren't that remarkable, as long as it's fluently. No, we didn't think about that yet.

DVD - what a great catchword. Is anything planned for that purpose now?
We're still thinking, we have no fix ideas yet - we will film a bit, backstage and also on stage and then we'll see what kind of stuff we have. We still collect ideas and we can't say anything, but of course we wish to publish a DVD; that's a great remembrance of touring and so on for us - we really would like to, yeah!

You'll have this huge tour now, but I noticed that you haven't announced any festival-dates up till now - why that?
That's because we have so much tourdates that we can't guarantee to be here in Europe at that time. We are touring through Europe for 8 months and then... the booklet and all tourdates say "first part" and the second one is already planned - because there are still so many countries in Europe left we've never been to before; then we got a request from South Africa for the first time; in June we're in Australia and Japan; then there'll be at least 18 concerts in South America and apparantly even more to come; we plan to visit America in September where we definitely play the ProgPower Festival and then we want to tour a bit there, too; and we want to visit Canada - last year we've been immensely successful there so we can't wait to return... well, and then maybe Russia... and the year's nearly over, you know? Nothing's for sure now, but maybe we'll play at Rock am Ring and Rock im Park - that would fit, because just one week later we'll fly to Japan. So I think Wacken and so on are quite unlikely for this year because there are too many other things to do and other countries to tour in. So it's way more possible to play some festivals in 2005!

Many bands complain about boredom before concerts - what do you do then?
Uh, what do we do? We tease one another a bit, all those usual silly jokes, then we eat a lot and get fatter and fatter (laughs)... Well, we have a busy schedule this time and on free days we'll also have to travel 1000 or 1200 kilometres. I'm glad to be able to play the guitar during the afternoons, I really enjoy practicing and evolving! And it will be the first time that we'll try that everybody - including band and crew - takes a notebook on tour, so that we can play some nice LAN games - but I have to admit that I'm not a computer freak at all, so I'll take my notebook with me, for sure, but I think I'll be bored by that after three days.

It's striking that your drummer has a bad hand - he's teased with strange names or funny song lyrics...
(laughs) Yeah, that's such a thing of us... we'll enjoy that anyhow, I know, hihihi... but Felix always does some things that makes us pick on him again. But that's all nothing but fun, he's able to defend himself, he's not as poor as it looks like! (laughs again) Yeah, Tobi loves such jokes!

What happens if you do mistakes on stage - do you tend to do so? What do you do then?
(giggles) Yeah, surely it happens! But we try not to confuse the others then. Normally we're in eye-contact because we often make bollocks or bullshit on stage, and so such occurrences happen quite seldom. But yeah, sometimes you grab at the wrong strings, especially when you're making bullshit with the others - or when you're standing near to the edge, near to the fans and making bullshit with them and so on. You can hear things like that on the live-CD, too - well, maybe we inconspicuously turned down the soundintensity a bit, hihihi! So we laugh at each other and maybe the audience notices that - or it doesn't notice it at all, but that's not important at that moment; it's just the fun that comes to the fore! We - God forbid! - don't consider ourselves as such Dream Theater-guys, who think that they have to play everything really accurately and therefore stand on stage like pinned down! There's no need to be like that - you must enjoy the show and let the audience know that you enjoy it - then they'll enjoy it by themselves, you know... That's what we think about that.

Let's change the topic: In one of the last interviews one of you told how you made Timo Tolkki participating in Vain Glory Opera - but he wasn't the only well-known guest musician! How did you make Chris Boltendahl and Hansi Kürsch help you?
Well, Chris... yeah, that was kinda funny, too! Tobi asked him when Grave Digger played here in Offenbach - he took some time and a can of coffee and then he persevered there until he came along! Then they talked a lot and later they recorded it. Tobi planned before how that song should be like anyway, so Chris already knew what he should sing and that's great, of course, better than if you say: "Weeeeeeeeell, could you please play guest musician? In fact we dunno what you'd do, but do something, please! Just that our album will be sold!" and Tobi already had his visions concerning that song.

I don't know how exactly Hansi... ah, surely - that happened due to AFM, or old label, they already had some contacts. Hansi should help Tobi a bit to arrange all those choirs that they sound really broadly based, with different voices and all - Blind Guardian surely know how to do so, hihihi! They really got on with each other and worked together a bit until it suggested itself that Hansi could sing some lines. We learned a lot from that and according to this it was fun, too! Well, and of course you can hear that, I really like it, especially "Out Of Control"!

What do you think about downloading - especially mp3's? I noticed that your promo has those funny comments that Tobi spoke to every song - did you do that to avoid any leaking via internet or for other reasons?
We thought that our promo should be a bit different - that certain people wouldn't be seduced to let it leak and other people won't download it! And we didn't want to shorten the songs or to worsen the sound - that would have been the alternatives we didn't like at all. There are also some people who include some static noises and stuff, but that's daft, too. At last we got the idea that Tobi should say something about every song, a form of making-of and some comments; that could be interesting to journalists and also people who afterwards download it. We hope that after they say after downloading the promo: "Well, I'd like to have the real album now!" Oddly enough some journalists of different magazines already complained about it, that this isn't a real promo, that they can't review it and that they can't judge these songs at all because you can hardly hear them - but we considered that to be ridiculous. I mean you shouldn't forget that Tobi didn't babble through the complete song, but just in some passages! Most striking is that our distrust in journalists and other people was justifiable for exactly this promo version can be found in the internet! That's really meagre, in my opinion! Well, but on the other hand you can download those songs with originally spoken comments of Tobi now, and we hope that it will make people curious to hear the real album which isn't compressed as mp3 and has a real booklet and so on. Thus we still are convinced that this was a good idea after all and I think we'll do the same or something similar again - we won't be folded flat by any magazines!

Now the ultimate last question: Is there anything left to say to our readers and the potential Edguy-fans out there?
Buy our record, make us shitty rich and... (laughs) to be honest, I hate that question! I'm not very creative... I just can say - and I also really opine it that way - that we're really glad to be on the road again and that we're a band that takes some time, whenever it is possible, to chat with fans - it's fun to talk to them personally about stuff like this promo, about mp3's or about those fucks... we enjoy to - how can I say? – to stay in touch with our fans!

Well, so thank you very much for the interview!

Links of interest:

Nuclear Blast