October 5th is the release date of Axxis’s new album Monster Hero. This will be the bands fifteenth album. With a career that includes touring with Black Sabbath, surviving the 90’s and returning with a bang in 2000, the band is still going strong. PowerMetal.no had a talk with vocalist Bernhard Weiss about the past, the present and the future.

Hi! How has the summer been? All work or did you have some time off?

Bernhard: I was on Fehmarn, a little wonderful and sunny island in Germany. It was great! I love the sea, the seafood and barbeque. So, it was the best place to be!

Axxis started up in 1988. That’s 30 years ago! Did you ever think that Axxis would still be around 30 years later when you guys founded the band back then?

Bernhard: To be honest? No! We just thought the record deal [with EMI Electrola] would only last for one record and that’s it. So, we didn’t stop studying because we expected that nothing more would happend. And today we really appreciate this «30 years of living from music» very much!

You started with a bang! 100.000 copies sold of the debut album, tour with Black Sabbath etc. How was that?

Bernhard: That was a blast for EMI! Nobody expected such huge amount of vinyl sales. Before EMI released «Kingdom Of The Night» [1989] Helmut Fest (1949-2018), the EMI boss, told us: «Give me one album to make your name more well-known in Germany, a second one to get you guys on tour worldwide and with the third release, I want all my money back – with profit!», haha! He was talking about sales around 10.000 copies for the first, 20.000 for the second, and 40.000 for the third.

But the first album was so successful – nobody expected that! We were greenhorns and we thought these kind of sales were normal for a major label band. And when talking to the press, a lot of German Magazines didn’t believe that kind of sales. And as EMI paid for the tour with Black Sabbath we got an image of an EMI hyped band! But «unfortunately» we did get the sales and the band was really successful!

How has the journey been? Do you recommend it? Haha!

Bernhard: The journey has been wonderful, and it’s still wonderful! I really would like to recommend it, but times have changed. These kind of people, like Helmut Fest for example, are gone. Today nobody believes in a band for more than one record. I cannot see somebody who wants, and is able to invest in, a band for a long period of time. The bands need to promote themselves, but the good thing is: today that is possible! In 1989 I didn’t have the chance to print 100.000 flyers for about 100 Euro, to get in contact with the fans directly via social media, or to produce a video and release it. The TV spots, printing costs, advertising etc. have been so expensive during that period. So, that’s a big advantage for the bands today. But, unfortunately – everybody can do it! Even untalented people are able to release music, so the market is flooded with crap! It’s difficult to find cool bands.

How would you describe the 90’s? Are you satisfied you «survived» as a band? Personally, I think II (1990) is one of your best album. How was that album received?

Bernhard: Sure, I’m really satsified to have survived that period of time. And we made a lot of experiences! But, for us it started a bit later. The «Matters Of Survival» [1995] and «Voodo Vibes» [1997] albums was our toughest time. And not only for us, but for a lot of bands.
I remember Rob Halford left Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden and so on. The words «metal», «heavy metal», «hard rock» changed its meaning. It was a bit chaotic for a lot of musicians, and for the fans as well.

The AXXIS II record did also get another problem. After the big success with «Kingdom Of The Night», the expectations was much higher. The business people expected much more sales. The management, EMI, the Publishers; everybody was flipping out! Only the band stayed cool! And like I said, we were just greenhorns and we didn’t understand these expectations. And you’re right: AXXIS II is a great album and a lot of the songs from that album is still very popular. The album have sold approximately 165.000 real copies over the years. So, not really a flop, haha!

The late 90’s and early 2000 is, in retrospectiv, the period where things started to change regarding metal music, and maybe specially for power metal. With power metal bands popping up everywhere and with new fans and followers. And it was in that period you released Back To The Kingdom (2000), described as your return to your classic sound. How was that time for you? Did you feel a change in the scene? Back To The Kingdom was maybe the perfect album at that time?

Bernhard: «Back To The Kingdom» was the perfect album for us in 2000. Before that release Walter [Pietsch, guitars] left the band after the Voodo Vibes tour, Harry’s [Öllers] wife lost her child, the band lost the EMI deal, and it was just a chaotic time. But, on the other hand: if you’ve lost everything, you’re getting stronger! First of all: you have nothing to lose! Secondly: you can come back without any expectations. And thirdly: you can start directly writing songs from the bottom of your heart – this time without any producer or A&R manager. In other words, without any influences!
Harry and I came back with «Back To The Kingdom» and with the idea of total independence, so we formed our publishing company Phonotraxx Publishing.
«Unfortunately», the advances of the record labels were still high at that time, so we didn’t have the courage to work without that save money. But after the AFM time, we did make ourselves independent from the business: we formed our own label, Phonotraxx. And today we have our own studio, Soundworxx  as well. So, With our own studio, label and publisher, we’re really independent from evreything that could disturb the development of a band!

So, «Back To The Kingdom» was the perfect album for us: the first move into independence!

How would you describe Axxis today, musically? And how has Axxis devloped as a band?

Bernhard: Music is like a photo. You need the magic of the moment to get the best sound or song that’s possible in the moment. We always try to make something special to challenge ourselves, but also to make every production interesting – even for us! I hate to copy myself and I hate to produce music like it is on an assembly line.
Sometimes we have used a female lead singer to make the songwriting and the sound different, or we have changed the English lyrics into German. We have also used, and use, elements from different music styles and incorporated that into our own music, or just a new instrument like we did on «Monster Hero» (The Berny Dark Custom Deniz guitar).
On «Retrolution» [2017] we really liked to play and record with old equipment that is still in our studio. Others got plugins to emulate vintage hardware – we got the hardware, haha!

So, what I’m trying to say is that the Axxis sound is always in a kind of development, and that makes it interesting for us to write new songs. Basically, we don’t need to play faster, louder or whatever; that’s for the circus, and everyone can do it! Writing good melody lines, that’s the real challenge!

What can you tell me about the new album? Is it a concept album?

Bernhard: No, it’s not a concept album. But a lot of the songs deals with the Monster Hero issue. What we try to capture with the word «Monster Hero» is a kind of strange political development (Trump, Erdogan etc.) and the prosperity and freedom on the other side. Why do a lot of people in our countries (in my opinion rich countries compared to others) put their cross to radical parties?
Then a sentence came up: «Yesterday he was a hero, today he’s a monster!» You can put this, not only on politicians and on movements, but on Facebook, Google, artificial intelligence, algorithms etc. too. Even a former developer for Google wrote that he’s a bit scared about the development of his «data monster». The Terminator is coming closer, haha!

So, the Monster Hero title was born and we also got a song with this title. On the cover you can see a robot dressed in an expensive suit, with a kind of «holy» shining power in its hands, surrounded by a destroyed world. Even our Retrolution car is integrated!

How was the songwriting for this album compared to what you usually do?

Bernhard: Usually we ask the band to give us som input, or to do some songwriting rehearsals, but this didn’t work this time. So, Harry, me and my new Deniz guitar started the songwriting in November 2017. We love to play riffs on this guitar, and it was really an inspiration. The songwriting was quite easy this time, and we didn’t spend much time writing. Mabye we got a lot of input from the news in the world, haha!
But generally we only use an acoustic guitar for the songwriting. The idea behind that is basically that a song must work being played with only one guitar. Sounds, production etc. doesn’t matter. Just a guitar and a voice. This time we played more on my Deniz guitar and maybe that’s the reason why we got a lot of cool riffs on this album! 

Your last album came out in 2017 (Retrolution). How do you find the time to write new music?

Bernhard: Good question, haha! The release was in the beginning of 2017, and «Monster Hero» will be released in October 2018, so it’s almost two years. As I said, the songwriting went really fast this time. And that’s because we had so many ideas, a great guitar and only Harry and me. A cool team player!

Does it get easier to write new music during the years? Where do you find inspiration?

Bernhard: Like I said, we’ve got a lot of inspiration during the years from our environment, our families, our own tragedies, a new instrument, new musician, new musical development like new plugins or new hardware, and so on, and so on. I’m sure I could go on forever, haha!

Axxis has already planned some shows, will there be extra shows added? Will you come to Norway/Scandinavia?

Bernhard: Sure, we’re going on tour in Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Spain, with great support bands from Germany. Unfortunately we don’t have any invitations from a Norwegian or Swedish promoter. Maybe we’re too expensive, haha!

How would you describe the (power) metal scene these days? As a veteran in the game, what has changed? Do you manage to find new and interesting bands?

Bernhard: I think a lot has changed; more playback on stage, fake musicians and fake bands. But they are successful and a lot of fans don’t care. We were really proud of playing real instruments and to develop songs in a rehearsal room. Today I just send files via Dropbox. The technical possibilities are on one hand a threat, and on the other it’s wonderful to use and to play with all these new digital features.

In the business the real labels are gone; sometimes fans are working in record companies; million releases in one week, and to find really cool new bands is gonna be very, very difficult! For our label we found Dawn Of Destiny, a very enthusiastic German band with millions of ideas. And we’re still looking for cool bands! But about 90% of the demos are with growling singers and really boring songwriting.

The new Axxis album, Monster Hero, will be released October 5th. Buy the album here.

 

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