The rising of Grave Digger - Chris Boltendahl speaks Out.
One of Germany's finest Power Metal band's 'Grave Digger' are one of the surviving acts from the early 80's to still stand the test of time and with so many bands been influenced by the mighty Grave Digger the band have passed the test of time throughout the years. With the bands debut album 'Heavy Metal Breakdown' in 83 which was released on Noise Records was a pretty good album and soon followed the bands 2nd album 'Witch Hunter' in 85 which was yet another step up the ladder and for me the band released their best 3rd release 'War Games' in 86. After the bands 3 albums the band went for a slightly more commercial approach under the name of 'Digger' and released 'Stronger Than Ever' in 87. It wasn't long before Chris realized that the band need to get back to their roots and do what they do best, good old classic old school Power Metal. They soon returned with 'The reaper' in 91 which featured ex Rage and Running Wild drummer Jorg Michael now with Stratovarius. A further 11 albums would follow before this new release 'The Clans will rise Again' in 2010 through Napalm Records. Front man Chris Boltendahl speaks out about the new album and what the future holds for the band. Here is what he had to say.
OK Chris let's start by asking you about your company 'Flying Dolphin', how is it going for you?
"Well I have now stopped the company, I want to concentrate more on the band and out 100% into what really needs doing. Flying Dolphin was a good thing to do but it was taking too much of my time up and the band really needed to come first."
As the last interview we did was for 'The ballad of the Hangman', how well did that album sell for the band and was it a success that you thought it would be? Also did you do much touring for that album?
"Yes it did really well to be honest, we entered the German charts and and we are very happy that our fans supported us throughout that album. The new album has entered the German chats at 28 which is really good for us. Yes we did a lot of touring for that album in 2009 which included some Russian dates, and 1 or 2 in Brazil and with the new album we intend to tour a little bit longer and now everybody is focused on the bands music we will have more energy within the band."
What's the audience like in Russia? Do they really appreciate your music?
"Well the Russian's love heavy metal and just like in Italy, Spain and Brazil they go crazy and they really do appreciate what we do for them. (Ed: What's the best place for Grave Digger fans?). Well I would have to say it would be Brazil & Russia and Germany for sure and also a couple of countries in southern Europe too."
You released 1 DVD from San Paulo Brazil, do you think the next DVD maybe filmed in Russia?
"Well the next DVD is going to be released from Wacken which is our 3oth anniversary of the band and it will be released in February 2011 which was recorded that this years 2010 Wacken festival."
Recently you have changed guitarist, with Manni Schmidt (ex Rage) guitarist leaving the band recently, so what happened there? Also how did you find new guitarist Axel Ritt?
"Well Manni and I had a personal problem with me and money, so he was replaced Axel Ritt formerly with Domain. Alex is a an old friend of mine and we last September I asked him if he wanted to join the band and gladly accepted and he was also on my lost when I was looking for a new guitar player. Axel was very interested in joining the band and jumped at the chance of joining the band. So we did some rehearsals and they went really well and it just seemed right for him to join the band, the chemistry was just right between us all. I am not friends with Manni anymore."
Whilst we are talking about old members, do you see anything of the older line-up members you had from the early years? Also did any of them appear on the Wacken DVD you are putting out next year?
"I don't really see any of them anymore. I didn't use any of the old members on the forthcoming DVD, I want to promote the current line-up and show the crowd and fans what we can do now as a tight unit. I am a guy who is looking into the future and I don't want to put old members on stage with me for the next DVD. The reason behind this is because they have a history with the band in the past and that is the reason why they are no longer playing in Grave Digger now. Some of the reason are not very good ones, so that is another point in which I don't want to include them on the DVD."
Besides Alex, who else did you audition to replace Manni?
"No one at all, I just called Axel and asked him if he would be interested in auditioning for the band and he gladly accepted. At first he was just standing in for the band after Manni left but after a while we all became more comfortable between each other so that is why he joined the band on a full time basis."
Well all know that Iron Maiden have Eddie, Judas Priest have the bike as their mascot, is the grim reaper you mascot too?
"Yes he is for sure, he has been our mascot now for some time and he is also a very important part of the band and live he plays the keyboards for the band."
I have noticed that the band are very much influenced by the Celtic history, is this something you feel very strongly about?
"Yes I am very much deeply influenced by the Celtic Scottish history and the country and I have a very good friend who works at the university in Edinburgh and we talk a lot about what is going on in Scotland and the history of the land. It all started with the album 'Tunes of War' and it soon became a very interesting topic for me, so I got all in history information together and started writing the new album."
Would you ever consider moving to Scotland? Is it a place you would like to live or just visit?
"I have been their twice with the band for promotional work and also for my private life and we have never played in Scotland which is a pity, we would love to play there. I guess sometimes dreams do come true so we will have to wait and see."
Chris have you actually ever worn a kilt?
(Laughing) "Well I wore a kilt at Wacken show were I we played the complete 'Tunes of War' album live and I wear a kilt like 'Brave Heart'. (Ed: Have you ever eaten a Scottish haggis?) Yes I have tried it and it's a very special food which I didn't like."
So let's talk about the new album 'The Clans Will Rise Again', so why the title for this album? Did you ever consider having any other titles?
"Well I think it is on one side about the history and the legends of Scotland and on the other side after the line-up change it is also about how Grave Digger is coming back even stronger than ever and the Clan's will rise again!! We did not have any other titles for this album, that was the 1st one we choose and it suited the album very well."
Earlier we talked about the Scottish theme, is this something you will continue to do or are you now finding it hard to carry on writing about this subject?
"Well that we do in the future I have no clue about. It could be about Scotland, or other things, we will just have to wait and see."
Where was the current album recorded and by whom? Are you happy with the end results?
"Well it was recorded at Axel Ritt's studio and also at 'The Principle' studio were we record all the records since 'Heart of Darkness' and all the guitars were recorded at Axel's studio and the rest were done at 'The Principle' studios. I produced the album which I am very happy with the end results."
Do you find it hard to produce a record as well as been the singer?
"No not really, I know how best the music and band should sound and that is the way I do it every time and that is the reason why I produce ti every time and nobody else."
Are the songs wrote by yourself or as a team?
"Well we all write the songs together and I like to know how the guitar riffs have to sound, and the other guys bring their ideas and I tell them which I think is best for the band are which are not. It works really well between Axel, Jens and myself and the intro's are done by our keyboardist Hans Peter Katzenburg. (Ed: Do you play the guitar at all to come up with some ideas?). I play a bit, but I'm not that good."
For those people out there, can you please explain what a producer actually does?
"Well been a producer is to actually bring all the points together, the music, the album cover, and everything around the whole project. It is like a movie, you have to have the final product been put together. You also have to say what you like and dislike on the record. I really do enjoy this kind of work, it's something I have done for some time now as a profession."
As any other bands approached you and asked you to produce their albums?
"Some smaller bands have asked me yes, but I don't like it because I only like to produce Grave Digger's music."
Briefly what are the songs about on the new album are they just based on Scotland?
"Yes pretty much so, the history of that country and it is great to write about."
Is the album a concept album or just the theme based on Scotland?
"Well it is kind of like a concept, but not like 'Tunes of War', which was a concept album about the history and the new album is just about Scotland in general."
How do you see the album differ from previous albums?
"Well this album is more metal influenced more directed towards the 90's of Grave Digger. (Ed: I still think that 'War Games' is still the best album). Thank you Jason."
Have you ever thought of re-recording some of the older songs with today's technology?
"No not at all, this will not happen with Grave Digger, no re-recordings or re-mastering the older albums. We have however done a re-recorded song of 'Rebellion' & 'The ballad of Mary'."
Moving on who did the art work for the new album, was it the same person who has done the previous albums?
"Well it was done by guy from Hungry who has done the previous albums and he has worked with Destruction and Annihilator but he has always done a great job for our band too. He has been working with the band since 'The last Supper' release. The artwork always comes with my ideas and I also give him the concept of the album and he follows my advice and sometimes he has his own ideas but mainly he is following my ideas. All the ideas are done on the computer which takes about 2-3 months."
Does the artwork and title entwine together?
"Yes I do think they entwine well together as they are one unit and I think it is one of our best covers we have done.
Which songs from the new album do you like and why?
"Well I do like 'Pain in Blood', because it has plenty of power and energy. I also like 'Highland Farewell' because it has a commercial chorus and I also like 'Whom the Gods Love Die Young', as it is a dark song and I also like 'Valley of Tears' which is a mid tempo metal song."
Does the album come as a digi pack form with any bonus tracks?
"Yes it is released as a digi pack and contains 1 extra song called 'Watch me Die', which is for the European market."
Have you done a promotional video for this album if so which song?
"Yes we have, we did a promo video for the song 'Highland Farewell'. This video you can watch on 'you tube' and the internet."
Looking back at the 'Digger' album, do you regret making that album?
"Well it was the record company at that time idea, it was something I wasn't really happy about doing and now I want to talk about the future and not what we have done previously. It was a ok album for it's time but it wasn't Grave Digger."
How are thing with you and Napalm records? Are they looking after you well with promotion etc...?
"Yes they are looking after us very well thanks, we are very happy with them and they are a great record company."
Well Chris, thank you for taking your time out and for doing this update interview, like always, do you have anything to ad before we finish?
"Yes thanks to our fans for their loyalty, we hope you like the new CD & I hope you check out out live."
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