This year Wizard celebrates 30 years as defenders of metal. Being founded in 1989 and having released 11 albums, Wizard is truly one of the few remaining classic power metal bands out there. PowerMetal.no had a chat with founder and drummer Snoppi about the thirty years in metal.
Wizard was founded in 1989 by four friends: Michael Maaβ, Snoppi, Volker Leson and Sven D’Anna. And that is – according to the bio on Facebook, the same lineup that exist today. But, there has been some changes, hasn’t it? You have now two guitarist; Maaβ and Dano Boland, and also a new bassist in Arndt Ratering?
Snoppi: Yes, that is right. Dano joined the band when Michael has to leave the band for a 3-year break. After Michael came back we decided to play with both guitar players.
Arndt came in for Volker, who played together with us for nearly 25 years. Volker became very ill so that he could not play live any more.
We miss Volker a lot, but Arndt is also a very good friend of us since ever, and makes a fantastic job in the band! Glad to have him here!
Let’s go back to 1989 and when the band was founded: was Wizard you first “real” band? And what was the idea back then; did you want to conquer the world?
Snoppi: Yes, of course we wanted to conquer the world, hahaha. It was my first real band, but of course we tried out other constellations with other musicians.
Sven and Volker played in a band called Mandragore. In the end I found the perfect line up for Wizard with Michael, Volker, Sven and me.
More important than to conquer the world was our friendship and having a great time. We did rehearsals 3 times a week what meant that we played metal and drank a lot of beer.
In the late 80’s the metal scene was at its peak, and a few years later the metal genre wasn’t as popular as it had been. How did you experience that, being in an unsigned metal band and ready to hit the big stages?
Snoppi: We were not aware of the fact that metal should be dead in the 90s. No, for me the metal was always alive and never dead. I enjoyed rehearsals, I enjoyed all the other metal bands on the scene, old and new ones, like Hammerfall for example.
I was never disappointed because every single day I listened to metal! It was a great time! And also, old bands were still good, like Iron Maiden and Metallica.
In 1991 you had your first release, the demo Legion Of Doom. What do you remember from that demo, the songwriting and the recording?
Snoppi: The songwriting was easy; Volker did most of the songs. Recording was much more difficult. I had to play every song in one take. If I hit one false tone at the end of a song I had to repeat everything.
I hated it. But I managed it in the end, hahaha. Today it is easier, thank god!
We were very excited when the demo came out. There were only a few copies – I guess around 100.
I don’t own one today, I would pay for it! It’s very rare.
After the demo you released two self-financed CD’s: Son Of Darkness (1995) and Battle Of Metal (1997). With those two releases you gained new followers, and a “big underground buzz was created”. How do you remember that period?
Snoppi: We had no label, so I decided to make my own [Bow-records]. I had very much to do, like give interviews for magazines. Mostly by hand, so I had to write very much.
Internet was not existing, so we sold CDs via mail-order. So, again: a lot of writing! We sold a thousand of CDs, so you can imagine how much work it was.
The times were great! It was always very exciting to read reviews about our albums. There were a lot of good reviews, but also bad ones. But fuck it, we did what we wanted, and nobody could get us down!
Did you notice how the music scene changed during the years from 1990 and up till the release of Battle Of Metal? I’m thinking about how the grunge genre took over as the popular genre at the beginning of the 90’s and how the metal genre slowly, but steady, fought its way back in the game during the 90’s.
Snoppi: No, I do not remember. Of course, there was grunge. But there was also heavy metal! We went out o the pubs to take drinks and make party, and in most pubs they played pop music. So, you couldn’t have been happier if they played something with electric guitars: Nirvana or something. That was ok! But that does not mean metal was dead!
After the release of Battle Of Metal you were signed to B.O. Records. I’m sure that felt like a big reward having existed since 1989 and released two self-financed albums? How was the party that nigh?
Snoppi: We had more offers before that, but they were all shit. And I already had my own label. So, we were a little bit used to have contact with labels. But of course, we were very happy to get that contract.
I don’t remember the party for this event, but I am sure that we gave our best, hahaha! And the deal with B.O. Records was ok! They had Edguy, Brainstorm, Paragon and so on.
Bound By Metal (1999) was your first official release. How was the change from releasing self-financed CD’s to release an album on a label?
Snoppi: We recorded the album in a big studio with Heimi Mikus [Risk, Faithful Breath]. We got money before selling CDs and there was advertises in magazines. So, there were very many differences compared to everything we did before.
And as result we got very good reviews and sold more and more albums.
At that time, around 1999, the metal genre, with bands like Rhapsody, HammerFall, Sonata Arctica, Edguy etc., was starting to gain new fans and followers. The timing with the release of Bound By Metal was in that regard perfect?
Snoppi: Yes, that’s right. Especially Hammerfall did very much for the metal scene. They had a rocket start with Glory To The Brave and I thought it was nearly the same music as on our Battle Of Metal album.
So, I felt very much bound to them and their music.
After one album on B.O. Records you signed with Limb Music. First: what was the troubles you had with B.O. Records, and how was it to be signed on Limb – one of the best metal labels out there?
Snoppi: Hm, we got this offer from LMP and so we changed the label – as far as I remember. We did not have trouble with B.O. Records.
LMP was a little bit more professional. And Limb was run by Helloween’s former manager, so we had very much respect to him!
The first album on Limb was the successful Head Of The Deceiver. As I mentioned that album was a success, and also considered your best. Why was that you think?
Snoppi: Our best? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I also like Odin, Thor, Trail Of Death and Fallen Kings very much. I don’t think that Head Of The Deceiver was very different from the Bound By Metal album.
We recorded it in the same studio (ok, we had to record it twice because we made too much party the first time; Uwe Lullis recorded the second try), and the music was the same style.
I guess that we became more and more famous and because of that we had more success.
After the release of the classic Head Of The Deceiver, Wizard has released another seven studio albums, and two of the albums is conceptual albums about Odin and Thor. First of all: how would you describe the lyrical themes of Wizard, and secondly: what is it with the Norse mythology that you wanted to write two albums about it?
Snoppi: Volker, our former bass player, believes in Odin and Thor and all this mythology. It is his religion. So he wanted to write about that.
Volker did a lot of texts, he likes fantasy stories very much. So he texted the concept stories to Battle Of Metal and so on. He also worked together with the author William B. Nuke for the Goochan album  (which also was released as a book) and with author Andre Wiesler for the … Of Wariwulfs And Bluotvarwes album .
The rest are simple heavy metal texts about friendship, music, party and woman!
I wrote most of the lyrics for the Trail Of Death album. Death was a very concrete theme for me and I had very much thoughts about it, that and religion. So I wrote some texts to it which was a new experience to me.
It shows some private sides of me and I wanted to make a good job. So I also tried to rhyme everything,haha!
As I mentioned in the beginning the lineup has been very stable, but in 2004 Michael Maaβ decided to leave the band. How did the band react to that, and did it in any way affect the music of Wizard?
Snoppi:Yes, it was hard and I missed him. We dedicated the song «Don’t say goodbye» to him, from the Magic Cirlce album . We got Dano in the band and continued playing metal! The door was open for Michael all the time.
And a few years late: tataaaaa … he came back!
Later on you have also hired a new bassist, Arndt Ratering, after the departure of V. Leson. Why do you think that, apart from that, the lineup has been so stable? That is not so common these days! And how has that affected the band as a whole?
Snoppi: Wizard is based on good friendship. We have known each other since childhood. We are like a family. Can you imagine what it means to share the stage with somebody for 30 years now?
It’s unbelievable and it makes me proud that we made it! I love the guys. Of course we also had bad and difficult times, like you have in every family or marriage, hahaha. But we are still here!
Ready to continue and to conquer the world, haha!
You last album, Fallen Kings, was released in 2017. How has the band changed musically since the debut in 1999 – or maybe since the first demo back in 1991?
Snoppi:I think that we always have had «our» style: pure fucking heavy metal. When Dano joined the band, he brought some thrash-elements to the sound, something I like very much. Sven prefers more «solid» and melodic songs, and because he wrote most of the songs on Fallen Kings, it sounds like «back to our roots». It is a party album! Just start drinking beer when listening to it, it’s perfect!
We still play our first song «In The Sign Of The Wizard» live, and it fits very well in our setlist. So you see that we haven’t changed too much.
Thinking back on your career: what has been the highlights; what are you most proud of and what do you remember the most?
Snoppi: Hey, I’m an old man, hahaha. There are so many great moments to look back on! Great big festivals, like Wacken, Bang Your Head, great tours with Grave Digger and other bands, and we also have been so lucky to be invited to all these countries. Especially USA was fucking great! But also Greece, Ireland, England, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France, Spain, Belarus and so on.
I don’t want to miss one single second of this all! What a great life!
How has the music scene changed during the 30 years; how would you describe the (power) metal scene these days, compared to the earlier years?
Snoppi: Hm, that’s difficult to say. When I was young, even my own home town, that is quite small, had a very big metal scene. Nowadays there is nearly no metal scene left, as far as I know.
That’s shit! I don’t know why. I have the impression that the kids don’t play instruments any more. They prefer playing games on mobile, PlayStation etc.
Because it is not easy to learn an instrument; you need the will and the power!
That’s something I miss very often when I have a look at our youth – my sons included!
I can only shout at them: Go out! Play metal! Create your own songs and music! Play concerts! You will have the best time of your live!
And what about the business side of it all? We all know it has changed a lot, but how has that affected you as musicians and band? And was everything better before?
Snoppi: Everything was better when we were young, hahaha. No, I won’t say that. Business is always shit. You have to be very careful what you sign and what you do.
We still get offers to play concerts, but we must cover all the costs. For that we have to say: NO, thank you! Search for other fools!
But I can also say that working with e.g. Massacre Records is very easy. We know each other, we know what we want, and we are professional. So, everything is good.
The same with LMP.
What’s different is, that you don’t sell so much CDs. Today only downloads count. And you get nearly nothing for downloads. So, if you want to earn a little bit of money you have to play concerts and sell your merchandise there. So, if you, the fan, wants to support your band, go to their concerts and buy shirts!
You are now celebrating 30 years as a band: how will you celebrate it?
Snoppi: I think we will have some great concerts. We released a Wizard documentary which you can watch on YouTube. There you get impressions what it is all about! I love that film!
We will also throw a great party, invite friends and certain fans to celebrate what we love so much: Heavy metal!
Thinking forward: what do you think about the future of Wizard; what are your plans?
Snoppi: I hope to record a new album soon. I can’t wait for it. I must kick our guitar players and our singer in the ass to compose a little bit faster, hahaha.
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Hope to see you live on a concert around the world!