This phone interview with the vocalist Chris Bay of Freedom Call was done by Alexa Kasparek on May 28th, 2004.

Freedom Call have quickly established themselves as one of the leading bands on the European power metal stage. After only three studio albums their record company Steamhammer Records / SPV decided that the time had come for a live album as well. Vocalist Chris Bay took some time off to talk to our own Alexa Kasparek about the album and other things. [The Editor]

Hi, how are you?

Nothing to complain about… and yourself?
Well, summer wouldn't be a miss... I'm a child of the sun, I need warmth!

Well, I like it that way! Yeah, what about your livealbum, what were the reactions like?
Yeah, pretty cool! Well, I've been on the phone for quite a while now… Well, it's just the question whether journalists really say what they think of the album or if they just want to be polite, hehe... but the reactions of the fans are really cool! Well, we've received a hell lot of mail and emails so far and actually more than we've expected, because a livealbum isn't something new at all, it's not a big surprise because there aren't any new compositions - the reactions are extremely good and concerning the press I've read a lot of reviews of some magazines and they're even better! I didn't expect that cos normally a livealbum doesn't get so much attention and it's often overseen, so we're really proud of it.

It's strange that it took you so long until the album was finished - it was recorded during the tour with Blind Guardian, two years ago!
Yeah, it delayed a bit. Charlie Bauerfeind wanted to mix it, too, but he was busy in providing Blind Guardian, hehe... they always do such mammoth-like things and therefore it delayed that much. Eventually we took the initiative and let somebody else do the mix, because Charlie just hadn't had the time. So it delayed more and more... but we consciously took our time because it isn't reasonable to publish the studioalbum in 2002 [Eternity] and then just a few months later already the life album. It's okay, it's exactly between both studio albums [Eternity and his follow up], and all people shall see that Freedom Call is still alive and kickin'

Did you have to work with a lot of overdubs?
Yes, we really had to make some corrections because there were some mistakes - we couldn't choose songs out of a conglomeration of 20 or 30 shows because we only had two shows, Munich and Stuttgart, at our disposal. Unfortunately we couldn't use the recordings of Düsseldorf - we had some technical problems, some cables were damaged which caused a lot of dropouts. So we just corrected some things here and there, but we didn't record any additional tracks like background vocals or guitars; we took exactly the ones we recorded live and didn't play them completely new, we really just fixed the mistakes.

You attached the “Taragon EP” as a bonus disc to the album - was it planned to release it as this special edition?
We had this back in mind for some time in case we'd get such a possibility. It's nonsense to release it with a studio album since this live album isn't a typical double album like the ones from most other bands, eg Blind Guardian or Gamma Ray, which recorded a whole show of 1 ½ hours to put it on the CD. So we thought we could add the Taragon EP and those additional two songs, “Hiroshima” and “Dr. Stein”, which were recorded during the Eternity period. So now everything Freedom Call had ever recorded is published and there are no recordings left around that we didn't put on any album, hehe, we made a real spring-cleaning!

Of course we are curious about the new studioalbum - do you have a rough release date for it?
Yes, sure, currently we are in the final phase of the songwriting process and have roughly in mind to enter the studio in the end of July to record the first drum tracks, and yes, we're going to sacrifice the summer to the production and we plan to finally publish it in January. Of course we want to attach a huge tour, this time as headliner. We already headlined 2002 in France and Scandinavia which worked incredibly well, and this time we really want to try it alone.

What about the lyrics? Will your album again deal with the story of Taragon, which was the main theme of your last albums?
Nay, we want to do a bit different stuff for the upcoming album. We already spent three albums with this theme - but of course we don't want to leave the path of fantasy and start to write social critic or political texts, but what we still want to do it is a bit different now, well, we want to have a bit more diversity that allows us not to follow this story implicit. Surely there will be a bit fantasy amongst it, but it could be a bit more linked to reality, hehe… It's just that you run out of ideas after a while and it's better to start something new before you convulsively try to think of strange things. And, as I said, we will stay allegiant to our style, but the story of Taragon should be completed now.

You have been on the road with the Wacken Road Show lately…
Yeah, it was cool! It was really fun for there wasn't any specific reason for us to tour because the live album was a bit late and we didn't have a studio album to present, so it was more of a just-for-fun-tour. We also had a lot of fun with the other bands, with Primal Fear and especially Dark Age... and with Metalium! It really went great and also the audience enjoyed this special package with all the different bands. Dark Age for example surprised me with their mix of blackish, hehe, metal and also our style of Heavy Metal - it went down pretty well, yeah.

I saw the show in Nordenham, which is more of a village - the day before you were supposed to play in a similar village, I heard, but the guys of Dark Age told that it was cancelled!
Yes, but we didn't notice much of it, except that the people there were really nice and extraordinary well-prepared with catering and stuff... but then they had equipment which was supposed for entertainers, like for weddings and stuff, and then our technicians protested and said that it wouldn't work that way and they reached that other equipment was supposed to arrive. I wasn't involved in that at all so I guess that the new stuff didn't arrive in proper time so we weren't able to play. Well, it's not like that we demand any special high quality equipment to play, but there has to be a certain standard and I heard from the technicians that there was electricity on the stage which means that the earthing wasn't ensured, so we could get bad electric shocks if we'd touched any metal. That's what they told me and all the other musicians, and under those circumstances the tourmanagement had finally cancelled the whole show. We really wanted to play there, but we couldn't knife them, get a special treatment and play anyway.

Why did the Wacken Road Show happen to take place in two such small towns? I took a look at the tourplan and noticed that they really were off-beat among cities like Gothenborg, Oslo or Hamburg.
Well, I really didn't play in cities like… how was it called? Wesselingen and Nordenham in my entire life, hehe... but it was nice to be there and I think those dates were arranged privately, but it's okay, it was fun! And hey, I don't have any problem or any profile-neurosis that I just want to play in big cities or something as long as the people there like it and enjoy it. Well, there could have been more people in the Nordenham's show, but I think more wouldn't have fitted in the hall, hihi... but no, it's absolutely okay!

You were supposed to be headliner, weren't you? Primal Fear was confirmed quite late...
Yes, that was why Primal Fear was planned to join the Iced Earth tour, but that didn't happen at all [the tour was cancelled], so the organizers of the Wacken Road Show thought about that other possibility and finally decided to ask them to join us. For us it was a bit... well, unfortunate because we had to shorten our set of course, but after some shows and the tour I have to say that I really enjoyed it that way, for also because of Primal Fear surely some more people found their way to the shows and we still played during a nice time, which isn't ensured when 4 bands have to play because it isn't that easy - people use public transport and need to leave the show early if it takes too much time. And afterwards I have to say that it was quite goof for us, even in spite of the headlining Primal Fear - but most of the advertisements also said that we were co-headliner, and we could live with that fact.

Some of your bandmembers also have other bands they play in - aren't there any difficulties to manage it, especially with Gamma Ray?
Nay, that didn't cause any bigger problems yet that we had to stamp anything. Of course you have to take care a bit when you have something planned, but Daniel manages it, of course and also Cede isn't away so many times that we have to set up a huge coordinating plan or something like that. We also spend quite much time with Kai [Hansen, Gamma Ray] because he uses to record the drums in his studio [Hansen studios] and there's of course the possibility to play some festivals together, like we did several times before. I can look at it quite placidly and if really something collides we surely will find any rule, but I'm sure it won't cause any bigger problem.

So you enjoy festivals more than clubshows?
Hm, well, touring and playing festivals are quite different. Of course I like festivals, especially when they're bigger and there are many people, of course that's more fun... but that's similar to a tour for me because I don't have any problem to play in a small club, 'cos the atmosphere is completely different if you're closer to the audience and as band you play quite laxly, and that might be the best shows we've ever played - in small clubs. But generally we enjoy festivals a bit more. I don't believe in this thesis "well, I enjoy playing a club more and I don't want to play a huge hall at all", that's more of a smooth-talking if the advance sale was bad! (laughs)

It seems that you mainly play in France…
Well, our very first tour started in France so the reference to that country was quite close and also we have a separate promoter in France. It works pretty well in France due to the promoting agency which we have there as well so we rather had some opportunities to play there. At this moment we played in France and Scandinavia in equal shares, there we played the most up 'til now. And we played in Germany, but we just didn't headline so far. Well, there was a show that happened in Bochum and for the next album we want to make it up on the tour promoting the next studio album - we want to make a huge round and to try to play all over Europe, and we also want to try South America, Canada and generally the "other side".

Let's change the topic: Does metal runs in the veins or how did you get around to playing it?
I don't know if it runs in the veins, at least for me it doesn't, haha... I didn't grow up with metal at all! I listened to those poprockbands more, like INXS, Simple Minds, Supertramp... well, of course I also listened to Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, so I indeed had this crossover, but I was not and still am not such a "true metal fan" who only has metal records at home and listens to them - it's more of the opposite. I seek my inspiration out of other kinds of music. I like listening to different radio stations and rock- or popmusic - but it's fun to play metal, especially live, because it rocks - I don't want to play popmusic! I've already tried this and have to say that your feet doze up in no time! So I rather play solid, loud music – METAL!!!

Can one live on music at all?
Well, if you try to concentrate on one specific band and do nothing else, then you have to be extremely successful and have to sell a shitload of records! I mean we cannot complain about the record sales of Freedom Call but you have to notice that we spent a lot of money in tours that we played up till now, from which we didn't earn a single cent because as a support band you don't earn any money, you even have to pay for it! So you have to do different things - either you have a normal job like many people do and music is more of a hobby, or you come out of the closet on being a professional musician, but then you have to see if you can do different things at the same time. I play in a professional coverband [Lanzer], for example, with which I play about 100 - 110 shows per year and further I can run a recording studio [FC studios] because I'm firm in all this equipment and things like Pro Tools. This combination guarantees that I can live - well, I don't get rich & famous, but I can live!

Many bands try to extend their audience by performances on TV, like for example Edguy or Nightwish - what do you think about that?
Yeah, at any time, if certain money is granted - I mean nothing works without money in the TV business, but if you have a financially strong record company which is able to invest enough money that TV broadcasts it, then we would do it as well, of course. Maybe we can manage it, but that will emerge when the production is done and we can see to which direction the music tends and if you could release some songs as singles - then I'd like to do it, too!

So it isn't true that TV destroys "good metal", like some people like to claim?
Why destroying? It's nice - I mean if metal is broadcasted on TV, it's popularised. Right, it's a commercial thing of the TV - those people want to heave their quota. But if many people watch it and like it, then they buy lots of records, and so the metalbands get richer and can play more music and attract more people or "convert" more people to metal. It's just positive! I think maybe that's a complex in the metal scene generally - metalheads want to be a small, accompliced group and everything which is a bit different becomes untrue and negatively rated. I think that's quite conservative and relatively close-minded, especially if I hear statements like "yeah, this band played on TV so they are untrue, they are commercial, it isn't metal any more". That's quite insolent and very stupid. I often noticed things like that - they're extreme fans who are very intolerant, concerning for example TV. I think it's more positive - more advertisement means popularity for metal and the more bands have the opportunity to survive in the metal scene. If they had to play in clubs in front of 30 people, the bands wouldn't survive, you can't live on that.

What do you think about file sharing and such things? Is it a chance or more of an abhorrence?
I think concerning metal, if you don't consider powersellers like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or maybe even Blind Guardian, whom it indeed could harm... -if you rather think of middle-class bands to which I count Freedom Call, too, it's more of a chance. No matter where something is written or said - if it's internet or radio, if something's given away in the streets, no matter where the name Freedom Call appears or where our music is played: it's advertisement for us and that's why I consider it to be a quite good thing. But well, billions upon billions of records are sold like Madonna or Michael Jackson and then it might be that downloading's bad for economy, because those artists rather sell singles instead of full-length albums. And if those are available for free it can harm, of course. But I think especially the metalfans want to have the product for the covers, all the artworks are quite extensive, so I don't think that metalbands are harmed due to that.

You're a really merry band - is it difficult on stage sometimes and some days, or does it just work that way?
Nay, absolutely not. I never needed to force myself to be in a good mood with Freedom Call. Of course there are days when you're a bit groggy and maybe inhibited because you don't know if the evening works well - or you simply have a hangover from the day-off or something, hehehe... but as soon as we enter the stage, I feel like doing it! It's just fun to play our music, especially with our current line-up - that's why we spend our time together when we have day-offs or go in for something because we have a friendly mood within the band. We know each other for a while now and therefore quite well so we don't have any time to be in a bad mood. There isn't something to discuss, because it's just fun, so it never happened to me!

And the other side? Calling totally unknown people to answer silly questions at 7 pm?
Nay, not at all - it belongs to making music, that's why I do it! If I wanted to play music just for me, I could do it in my cubby-hole and wouldn't badger other people with it by touring or something! That belongs together and I like talking to people, and when the questions are proper, I gladly take the time and answer in detail. The only thing I don't like is when people are badly prepared, hardly know the bandname and ask questions like how Freedom Call took form. Then I'll get a bit nervous and point to our webpage, where they can get information. But that doesn't occur regularly, most of the people are well-prepared so it works and then I enjoy it.

Well, I think that was all… do you still have something to say to our readership?
Well, just that all are invited to see our show in Kristianstad in July!

So thank you for the interview!

Links of interest:

Freedom Call
Steamhammer Records