Primal Fear


10 Février 2016


Blaster & Evanessa

Interview Ralf Scheepers (face to face)

Hi Ralf, it’s great to finally see you back in France. How are you?

Thank you. Great! We started the tour a week ago so we’re still in a good shape! (laughs) Now the flu is in the bus so I hope I will keep away from it…

So, God it’s been a long time, I think the last time I saw you play in Paris was in 2005 with Helloween… you were promoting “Seven Seals”… Why did it take you so long to come back?

Well, I mean, sometimes it’s not only the band… It’s the promoters. We have to have good conditions. It’s always a matter of market, promoters and stuff… it’s not up to the band, you know. We’d love to play everywhere. It’s the same with England actually, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass to get gigs there, because of the promoters.

Let’s talk about “Rulebreaker”… Same team as before, except that Tom has come back and you’ve got a new drummer, we’ll come back to that... you also worked with producer Jacob Hansen for the second time…

Yeah, absolutely. When “Delivering The Black” was mixed in Denmark, we thought we would go there for the next album to record the drums… because, you know, everyone records their own stuff at home. I record my vocals at home, the guitars are recorded home, the bass, etc. But when it comes to the drums, you have to find a good room and a good engineer exactly like Jacob. So as we thought we would mix the album there, we thought it would make sense to record the drums there as well… because Jacob would put everything together and, once again, he did a great job. We’re absolutely happy with the sound of “Rulebreaker”.

Has the fact that Tom has come back and that Francesco Jovino has taken over the drums changed the way the record was made?

Well, you can hear there are new musicians, of course. And you can hear the upgrade again. Not to say that the previous musicians were not good enough, that is not my intention… It’s been great to work with Tom again, you know, he’s an original member of the band, it’s always good to have him back… and Francesco is just a terrific drummer!

How did you find him, by the way?

We have known him for a long time since he played with UDO and our bands toured together in the past. We just knew he was free when we needed a new drummer so we checked him out after it turned out that Aquiles did not really work out because of the distance… So we asked Francesco and he was interested.

So, with Aquiles Priester, it was mainly a matter of distance… What happened with Randy Black who also played the drums for quite some time in Primal Fear, just before Aquilies?

There were personal issues, you know. It’s not really official. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about personal things… We both agreed that we would not talk shit about each other so I’ll just respect that agreement.

Let’s talk about the artwork for “Rulebreaker”. Have you ever considered releasing an album with no eagles on the cover?

We did. But eventually, the eagles always came back (he smiles). We have always thought it was the best thing to do. It almost happened with the artwork for “Seven Seals” but finally we thought that the seal with the shape of an eagle would be cool. And we try to keep it because it’s our symbol, you know. The eagle is the mascot of the band. People can just see the eagle on the cover and say “this is a Primal Fear album”.

You’ve released a couple of videos recently. Is this an exercise you enjoy?

Yes, we always enjoy doing that but this time, it was very cold! It doesn’t look that way on the videos but it’s a lot of work and we were actually freezing our asses off when we shot those videos…

Do you plan to shoot more videos for this album?

No, not now. But we’re collecting material on the road for a possible DVD coming up… we’re collecting audio and also video.

Great, I was about to ask you if you planned on releasing a new live album…

Yeah, absolutely. "Live In The USA" was released in 2010 and we’ve had three new albums since then…

And you’ve actually never released a blu-ray… that would be great.

Yes, exactly. It would be cool to do that.

What new songs do you enjoy playing the most on this tour?

I’m really happy that the new songs turned out so well live. It’s hard to say which one is my favourite… “In Metal We Trust” is a great kick-ass song live… but so is “The End Is Near”, ha ha…

Talking about “In Metal We Trust”, this song is a bit of an exception on the new record for it seems that the musical direction favours more mid-tempo heavy songs than double bass driven fast songs. Are you getting a bit tired of this kind of songs?

No, not at all… It’s just coincidental. It was not our intention to play slower songs… and you know, “Angels Of Mercy” is not slow either… it’s not as fast as “Nuclear Fire” was, of course but still… It’s just that the collection of songs we had for this album really worked well together. But you never know, it’s possible that we’ll have faster songs next time…

What would you say if I told you that “Rulebreaker”, as solid as it is, plays it a little safe as it’s very close to “Delivering The Black” which was also close to “Unbreakable”? Do you consciously favour tradition and efficiency over the element of surprise?

What should I say? It’s our style. This is Primal Fear. You get exactly what you read on the cover… it says Primal Fear and you’re gonna get Primal Fear, nothing else. We tried things on albums like “Seven Seals” or “New Religion” and you still have that on the new album and we combine metal and lots of orchestral stuff on “We Walk Without Fear”… So I always say “Why should we do things that aren’t Primal Fear?”. It’s all I can say, really.

Alright. The band now officially has three guitar players but only tours with two. Is a tour with all musicians something you’d like to do in the future?

Never say never… That can happen. Maybe some time at a festival or whatever… But so far, nothing is planned. No negotiations, no dates… We are very busy this year touring the world. Maybe at the Sweden Rock Festival one day, if Magnus is available, that could happen. But you know, it’s also a matter of rehearsing together in the end and bringing everybody together and finding the time to do that properly might be difficult.

Would you like to record a sequel to Scheepers?

No, not so far. I’m way too busy doing what I do with Primal Fear at the moment… I have no time and no thoughts about doing another solo record for the moment.

You recently sang on an album by the band Blackwelder. Did you enjoy this experience?

Well, it was purely coincidental. Andrew Szucs asked me if I could help with writing songs, he was looking for a label and it was supposed to be only five songs. So I did it bit then I was busy with Primal Fear, touring and stuff… and Andrew found a label and said “I have more material, I need you now”. So I told him I was busy with Primal Fear and that it would always be my top priority… So doing this was not necessarily easy and fair sometimes but I did it in the end, and they’re my lyrics and my melodies on the album and I still like it. I really like the music but I have to say that the way it was done, the way of working was sometimes not the way people should work with each other, I think.

So, is it fair to assume you won’t record another album with Blackwelder?

Well, yes, I don’t think so.

And would you like to be part of other projects?

I offer this as a part of my business, you know, to sing for other bands. So yes, if people want my voice, they can have my voice. I just check if I like the songs and if it’s the case, I sing in my studio… Which is not going to happen this year because I’m singing my ass off live with Primal Fear. But sure, it will happen again in the future.

Talking about your voice, how do you keep it going after all these years? You’re fifty-one years old now and your singing abilities seem to be as great as ever... it must not be easy, right?

It’s not easy but I find my way by warming up a lot. I’m also a vocal teacher and I do the exercises I teach my students, so it really helps, ha ha ha… I also use different things like a humidifier, I also drink a lot of water, I also have some massages because, you know, it’s a muscle inside (he shows his throat) so if you train your muscle well, it will work… well, so far, it works, ha ha.

Obviously, you grew up in the 70s and 80s, listening to bands like Saxon, Judas Priest, Accept, etc. What are the most recent bands that pick your interest?

It’s not so easy because when you’re busy with your own stuff, you don’t have that much time to listen to a lot of other things… I can’t even tell you what my top ten for 2015 would be, I simply have no idea. Disturbed is an interesting band, I think. The problem is that I’m not really aware of many other recent bands. Sometimes, I see a band on youtube and I like it…

Isn’t it a bit frustrating, you know, as a music lover, not to be able to catch up with a lot of new music?

No, it’s not frustrating, I mean… Even when I sit back sometimes and have some time for myself, I don’t put loud music, you know, because my ears are full of that music all the time so I try to relax. But if a good band comes up and I have the chance to hear it, I’ll enjoy it, sure.

What’s next for the band right after this tour?

After Europe, there’s North America. Then there’s Japan, Australia, South America… and festivals. So, it’s only touring this year!

I realized recently that the band has almost been around for 20 years now (it was formed in 1997)… So, in a year or two, do you intend to do something special to celebrate this anniversary?

Nothing is decided so far, nothing is settled but there’s gonna be something. Maybe a special DVD for the anniversary with a special set… We’ll see.

Thanks Ralf. The last word is yours :

I would like to thank the fans for accepting our new album so well. The reactions and reviews have been fantastic so far. It’s very important for us and we’re very happy about it. It’s also great to be back in France and reconnect with our French fans… The show is going to be fun.