Grave Digger

Interview date

11 Avril 2011


Blaster of Muppets


Interview Chris Boltendahl (face to face)

Hi, glad to see you, last time you came, I think it was with Therion four years ago. Is it difficult for a band such as yours to come to France on a regular basis?

Yeah, it’s not too easy. You have to find a promoter that invites you more or less… and this time we have two shows in France, one in Paris and one in Lyon. We are proud, because we like France, we think the French audience is great. Our shows in the past, in Grenoble in 2001 or with Therion a few years ago were really great. So we wanted to come back.

Last summer, you celebrated thirty years of Grave Digger at the Wacken Open Air Festival. How did it make you feel?

It made me and the band proud. To look back on thirty years of career, and spend an amazing evening with 75000 people there… We had a good playing time and cool guests like Hansi Kürsch, Doro Pesch, Van Canto and the bagpipe orchestra… Everything fit really well together to present the complete “Tunes of War”. And it’s an experience in a lifetime that you can never forget or that nobody can ever take away from you. It makes me proud of my life and my career.

Watching the DVD, I had the feeling that each guest represented a different decade. Doro would stand for the 80’s, Hansi Kürsch would represent 90’s metal, and Van Canto would stand for a more recent period, the 2000’s… Is this a way to illustrate that Grave Digger has been relevant from the 80’s until today?

No, I never thought about it… but it's not stupid, you could be right. However, it was not our intention, you see, Hansi and Doro are very good friends of ours, and we had met Van Canto when they made their cover version of “Rebellion”… We all have very good relationships. Bastian, the drummer of Van Canto, is also playing with Orden Ogan tonight. So, it’s just good people together, like friends.

For this show, you played the “Tunes of War” album in its entirety. Was that the plan all along to celebrate your thirty years or had you have something else in mind?

No, we wanted to give our fans something really special… and one thing led to another, you know we were planning the new album about Scottish history so everything fit really well together, the Wacken Show, the new album about to be released, the concept about Scotland was good for the DVD too. It’s like a complete work.

Is there another album you’d like to play entirely?

Hmm… there are records which could be played live like “Rheingold”, you could do a lot of things with that. But I don’t know how we will celebrate our thirty-fifth anniversary or our fortieth anniversary… You know, maybe one day, an idea will spring in my mind like “Hey, let’s do the complete Excalibur live with horses and knights fighting on stage!” or something like that (laughs).

Since then, a new album has been released, a new EP… and a new DVD (the 30th anniversary concert we’ve just talked about). You’re flooding the market with many releases! Are you going to have a break or is there something else in store?

No, there is one song that’s going to be released in a couple of weeks. We wrote the new hymn for the new Wacken Open Air… but that will be the last release for this year. Still, we won’t rest for too long, we are planning a new album for the middle of next year.

Your latest album “The Clans Will Rise Again” is a return to Scottish history and is, consequently, a sort of revival of the “Tunes of War” era. What interests you in Scottish history?

The complete history for sure. It’s about fighting for independence and freedom which is something I like as I’m a very independent guy myself.

This album is the first one with Axel Ritt on the guitar. What’s the story behind his recruitment?

I’ve known him for so long you know, for more than twenty years. He’s a good old friend of mine. At first, we needed a substitute for Manni because he left very quickly and we still had a couple of shows to play. So I thought about him and we said “Hey if you’re doing a good job, you can join the band”. It’s as simple as that. And you’ll see tonight, he’s doing a great job, now there’s more energy on stage than before.

On the previous album, you briefly tried having two guitar players at the same time, but it didn’t last… Is Grave Digger bound to be a one guitar player band, or would you like to try that again later?

No, never again! We will stay a one guitar player band. I only want to work with one guitar player in the future, that’s enough for the band and has worked really well in the past. I’m not interested in working with two different guitar players, it doesn’t work as well for me.

What are your favourite songs on the new record?

I like “Paid in Blood”, “Hammer of The Scots”, “Highland Farewell” and also “Whom The Gods Love Die Young”… These are all the songs that we’re going to play tonight, that’s the reason why we play them! (laughs)

What would you say to recommend this album to potential fans?

I would say: “If you like pure classical heavy metal, go and buy this album! It’s only heavy metal with cool guitar riffs, choruses and vocal lines”.

Looking back at thirty years of career, what makes you proud? Do you have any regrets? Are there things you’d do differently if you could?

No, I wouldn’t change a thing because all the things that happened in my life or career made me the person I am today, and I feel good. I don’t have regrets or trouble with anybody, I don’t feel jealous of other bands who are more successful than we are… I stand for myself and it makes me happy and proud, that’s the most important thing.

“The Clans Will Rise Again” put apart, what is (or are) your favourite Grave Digger album(s)?

Every Grave Digger album was composed in a special atmosphere… It’s a difficult question to answer because I’m obviously connected to every album in a special way… One of my favourite is “Excalibur”, I love “Tunes of War” for sure… but it’s difficult for me to choose which Grave Digger album is the best or the worst.

We know you have loved and been influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Accept, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden… Now, what are the bands that inspire you or challenge you these days?

I like new bands for sure, but I’m not influenced by them. What inspire me are really bands from the 70’s and 80’s, these bands are my influence, my experience… But yeah, more recent bands like Edguy or Sabaton are cool but I wouldn’t say they inspire me.

And what are you listening to, apart from Metal?

To everything, every kind of music, classical music, rock music, pop music, sometimes jazz... eerrr not techno, R'n'B or stuff like Lady Gaga or things like that.

Some of your earlier albums are hard to find. Wouldn’t you like to re-record an album like “Heavy Metal Breakdown” for example? Some bands do that nowadays…

In the past, we picked up some older stuff like "Yesterday" or "Rebellion" and made new versions of them but we want to stop doing that now. We are going to write new songs and not record old stuff again... it's over now.

To be honest and with no disrespect, I was a bit confused the first time I heard some Grave Digger because of your voice which is very peculiar. It's a true original trademark of Grave Digger and quite different from other band's singing. Was it deliberate to sing that way, to make a difference, or is it just the only way you can sing?

It's just the way I sing. Some people love it, others hate it. It has always been this way since the beginning of the band. As you said, it's a remarkable trademark of Grave Digger... It's one of the reasons the band is famous, and on the other hand, it's also responsible for its lack of success. We're not as big as Helloween or Hammerfall because people love or hate my voice.

You’ve made music for thirty years, you’ve toured the whole world and shared stages with great bands… Is there a dream or a wish that hasn’t come true yet? And how long do you picture yourself playing with Grave Digger?

The dream is to stay healthy. That is the most important thing. If you're not healthy, you can't write new music or play on stage... and that's what I want to do as long as possible. As long as the fans listen to Grave Digger and as long as I stay healthy, I will continue.

I’ll let you choose the final words to end this interview.

France, we're back! Enjoy the show, I hope you'll like it... and be sure that Grave Digger will play Heavy Metal for at least another ten years... Thank you for your support!

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