ROXXCALIBUR – Reign in Classic British Metal Glory
- by Matt Coe
- Posted on 20-07-2011
Bringing the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement to multiple generations of fans, Germany’s Roxxcalibur have hit the ground running with their two studio albums filled with deep cuts from the rich tradition of the late 70’s and early to mid 80’s UK scene. Drummer Andreas "Neudi" Neuderth came up with the idea to start this tribute to those fervent years, and as a result have been playing at some of the more prestigious ‘true’ festivals in support of this music as well as other bands from the 80’s scene.
His passion for metal runs wide and deep, as you’ll quickly see through this interview. This has been one of my more enjoyable talks through the years, as it gives me more of an insight into how the German scene came to prominence in addition to Neudi’s feelings about the current digital versus physical product debate.
At what point in your life did you decide to pull together a NWOBHM tribute band? And are you surprised you were able to get a record deal quickly with Limb Music?
Oh well, the idea was in the early 2000s. The more rare records I got the more I have noticed how many amazing songs have gotten "lost" in time. Most never had a chance because not many people outside the area the band came from ever had a chance to notice those bands. Or some were not the best musicians or singers but wrote one or more great songs. Many reasons. I thought it would be a good idea to grab these songs and give them a second chance. Our singer Alexx knew about that idea since 2005 and he was willing to form such a band with me, but it took three more years until we found the right line-up with Mario, Kalli and Roger. It makes no sense to play these songs with young musicians in their (early) twenties, no matter how good they are because they are influenced by the third or even fourth generation of Heavy Metal. We got our record deal before (!) the first rehearsal. I told Limb at Keep It True 2008 that we have just started with a NWOBHM-tribute band and he said: Ok, I will release a CD of that. He liked the first Viron CD so he simply trusted in us and that we would do it in a good and respectful way. From this point on we never checked any other labels for Roxxcalibur because we were sure that he was the right guy/label to do it. There´s nothing better than a label boss who is a fan and business man at the same time. Later on some companies told us "what- we would have signed you too" but we didn´t and don´t care. We are happy with Limb Music, especially with all the bonus stuff on the new CD while the price is still that of a regular CD. But of course we were surprised, because we knew Limb Music from all his symphonic metal and prog metal releases and I knew him as the first manager of Helloween. So I was really positively shocked that he owns a huge NWOBHM vinyl collection and that he is a real fan.
Is it tough to maintain a balance between the bigger artists that a majority of the metal community know from this movement (Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, etc.) and the more obscure artists who may have only appeared on a physical single or in demo form?
Our balance may be the difference between Roxxcalibur on CD and Roxxcalibur live. When we play a show in front of "regular" metalheads we have Saxon or Maiden with one song each in the set. Also some other non-CD tracks. We don´t think that it makes any sense to record well-known songs for our CDs. We did Hellbound (Tygers) on our new CD because the original was recorded with the same producer who did our CD, Chris Tsangarides. Otherwise we may have chosen a more obscure song. But when you ask metalheads who are not collectors or visitors of those retro-Festivals like German Keep It True or Headbangers Open Air, then you will see that they don´t know Tokyo Blade (…maybe now because of their new CD) or Grim Reaper. So even those songs, that appear to be "famous" to fans like you, are unknown to most. And we don´t need to talk about Oxym, Sparta or ARC (laughs).
On the other hand we don´t look at rarity price-lists to chose the songs. We just care about the song and if it´s good and if we can play and sing it properly.
What process do you have to go through to gain permission from a lot of these bands- especially the ones who have been defunct for close to 30+ years? Have there been times bands or artists have said no to you?
Well, they can´t because the law says that you are allowed to cover anything you want as long as you don´t change the arrangements and the lyrics. But it wouldn´t be a problem if it would different. All the bands we are in contact with since our first CD are happy that we did a song of theirs. Believe it or not, meanwhile we get mail from old NWOBHM-bands who ask if we want to play a song from them. Unbelievable!! On the new CD we needed at least one permission: Saxon. We asked Biff and Paul through their management if we are allowed to finish a song that I found as a one-minute fragment on a strange Saxon compilation. They agreed and so we did a full version of "Lift Up Your Eyes".
There are other reasons why we spent hours and hours to locate members from the bands we have songs on our CDs. We always want to include some words from the originals to our booklet and of course we want to get these guys to be able to listen to our version of their song. Regarding business we try to find the original authors so they get some money from our CD sales (GEMA in Germany, I think you have BEAM or STEMRA). Mechanical royalties is the word I think…
You are very strict with the production techniques and types of technology you use when making these recordings- in keeping with the old school spirit. Tell us what is acceptable and unacceptable to you for Roxxcalibur- and why?
Well, whatever captures us as a band is what we call acceptable. Analogue recordings are very expensive these days, especially because of the really high prices for the 24-track-tapes. Also not many studios still use this great technology. We have learned that pretty fast and agreed on using computers as recording machines (Pro Tools or other programs). But what we do is using this modern (or meanwhile usual) way of recording like it would be analogue, 24-tracks tapes. It starts with the fact that the basics (drums, bass, one guitar) are recorded live, partially with click track but not all the time. The rest are overdubs. Even in the days of the NWOBHM the studios worked like that – basics live and then overdubs. If a take was good but there was a little mistake, then we decide to keep that take and live with that human touch. Just listen to that one drum-break in the last chorus of "Day to Day" – I played total bullshit but the rest was so great regarding performance and feeling that we would rather live with that not-so-perfect break. Usually the producer/engineer would later fix that mistake with Pro Tools, but we don´t do that. Nearly all metal-CDs from the last 10 to 15 years appear to be perfect but when you listen closely you will notice that many parts are not real anymore. I miss "the band" on most recent CDs, it is getting a little better during the last months. It seems like it started to be a topic in the scene and the days of faking without anybody noticing it may be over really soon.
A band has its sound – in the rehearsal room and on stage. So why not transfer this, only sounding better, on CD? Isn´t that the essence of rock music played by three, four or five individuals with their own instruments? I am very happy with my drum set so why should I exchange the original sound with samples? And that´s what thousands of drummers do these days. It´s a shame. Even we wouldn´t be a NWOBHM tribute band if we would work the same way. We did that with Viron too.
As a live band you’ve also been able to back up some reunion artists such as Savage Grace and Griffin at festivals like Keep It True and conduct small European tours. Is it a case where you work with the promoters and artists to learn their material for these situations- which are obviously dreams come true for the long time fans who haven’t seen this material performed for decades (or ever)?
This started after we did the "NWOBHM Anniversary Show" at Keep It True Festival in 2009. For this gig the organizer Oliver Weinsheimer was able to book some original singers and we performed their classics with them. Everybody knew that we weren´t able to rehearse with all those guys (and one female, Enid from Girlschool) and it seems like people were impressed that it worked that good. So the first was Volker Raabe from Swordbrothers Festival. He wanted to book the Canadian band Thunder Rider but singer John Blackwing replied that he has no band anymore. So he asked us and we did that show. Again people loved it…and Oliver (again) found Chris Logue from Savage Grace who – what a surprise – didn´t have a band anymore. So we were Savage Grace for Keep It True, but also for a European tour in the spring of 2010. And around that time a french journalist was able to locate Griffin singer Billy McKay…and so it happened again: We were Griffin at Keep It True 2011. The strange thing is that we have never tried to find any singers without bands to play a show with them. I just got a mail from a Greek organizer who has another US-Metal-Singer and we should play a Festival in 2012, but I don´t know if we will do that again. We want to go on with Griffin and maybe record the third album which the band has already written in the late 80s. There are just some demos. Well, some people really keep us busy *lol*. By the way: There were two US-Metal bands I always dreamed of seeing live: Savage Grace and Griffin… and I still haven´t seen them because I was on-stage * ha ha*
How did you gain the chance (and approval) to record an unfinished Saxon song "Lift Up Your Eyes" on the latest Roxxcalibur album? What’s the story behind its origin and time period of the development of this song?
Actually this song was from the band COAST who later became Saxon, along with the Son of a Bitch members. So it must be really old. I talked to Biff about it but he was not sure about when this fragment was recorded or for which album- it may have been an idea or pre-production. Fact is that Nigel Glockler is not playing on the original fragment so it must be Pete Gill. Nigel was in the band after "Power and the Glory" so you can say that it was in the early 80s. I have always loved this tiny little thing and I think our guitarist Kalli made a good job with writing the rest around it. The original was one verse, one chorus and a short improvisation – then it faded out.
Which is more important to you: quality or quantity when it comes to metal music?
That´s an interesting question because I would have replied totally different in the late eighties then now. Back then I was happy about every new LP and I remember giving those records many many chances when I didn´t like them first. But again the modern studio techniques did something bad for the scene: Now every band can record an album, no matter how good they are. There are ways to make them sound good. As recording got way cheaper than in the 80s (because nobody needs to play until the result is good anymore…) and even home recording is possible (mostly when drum computers are used) for CDs that are not demos, but real products in the shops. And there is this strange thing in the European scene that many bands do everything for free. They pay for the studio, even for the band photos or cover artwork and the labels just need to release that stuff. That´s why we have so many CDs each week, each month, each year. And to be honest: I am sick of it! So regarding actual CDs and new bands I just watch out for those who are unique within traditional Heavy Metal (which means metal, doom, speed, thrash, epic or a little prog to me). And there still are some! Slough Feg, In Solitude, Realmbuilder etc. And I still love to explore the past. I am happy about labels like Shadow Kingdom or Stormspell because I love their re-releases or rare stuff much more than 95% of all recent bands… Mostly these bands were unique and that´s what counts to me…meanwhile. Unfortunately unique often means "no success" but as a fan I don´t care. I am very happy that bands like Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol have more attention now than in the eighties. They deserve it for being unique, something really special.
You are thoroughly involved in the metal scene with your own video show on Strike television beyond all of your band efforts. What are your views on the movement in 2011- are you happy with the quicker fan interaction through social media and what other changes do you think we can expect in the next 3-5 years?
STRIKE is the name of my metal-show and it is on www.streetclip.tv, which is a 24/7 music-channel (Stream). We´ve started in 2006 and the station really runs well. We will have a huge upgrade in the fall 2011 and I am sure that it will have an impact. During the last months we have specialized more and more on live-recordings with 4 to 6 HD-cameras and 24-track-sound recording (the latter became my job beside hosting the show). You can watch some of our work on www.youtube.com/StrikeOnStreetclipTV. Of course we still play video clips but as they are released everywhere you need exclusive footage to make people happy. I have done tons of interviews with bands since 2006 and it is a lot of fun. I did that before on local-cable-TV between 1985 to 1992 and these shows became "cult" to some. So I got that job with streetclip.tv.
But…even I am using Facebook and Myspace to promote my band(s) and streetclip.tv (and of course to have some fun) it is frustrating the same. Again there´s too much of everything, too many bands who send you links "Please listen to my band" and too many other activities. Sometimes I think that every fan also needs to be an active part of the scene. No wonder that there is too much of everything…. Myspace was ok when just a few bands used it. I know, that sounds pretty egoistic, but I wish some of these "active people" (musicians, journalists, organizers, fan club owners etc.) would return to being "just a fan" and a consumer. To me this is all a total overdose and you can´t stop it. I remember talking to some labels who used to send out thousand (!) of promo copies of new releases because there are so many online-magazines. No need to say that they stopped doing that after the sales of the CDs got lower and lower. The miracle: The people who would have bought the CD got them for free all the time *ha ha*.
What are your feelings on the whole digital music age where young consumers seem to fill up their portable Ipods and hard drives with music that they didn’t really spend much time, effort or money to possess? Is it harder as you get older to keep up with the changing technology times where things seem to be moving from physical product being a collector’s item instead of the preferred product?
I can understand this mp3-stuff when it comes to "mix tapes". I have done many mix-CDRs to listen to them in my car. But a LP or a CD is product all over. There´s the cover, the booklet with photos or lyrics, all the credits. This is the way I still enjoy new releases, CD or LP. An album as mp3s has no worth for me. It is nice for pre-listening of course but that´s it. Ok, I often visit those rarity-blogs where you can download old and ultra-rare records that were never released on CD. But after the download I take these mp3s and do a proper master and convert it back into WAV-files in the end. I print the cover etc. I am happy about these forums as they offer stuff you will never see on sale anywhere. Metalheads usually are not too much into downloads, legal or illegal. Maybe if they think the album is just "ok" they do that but if they like it they want to have an original – at least I hope it still is like that. Just take our new CD with bonus DVD and the huge booklet with all the information about the original bands, our thoughts, photos etc. All this content is a part of the product – not as important as the music of course, but at least enjoyable or informative. And when I think that we needed a month to find a perfect order of the songs then it gets even more clear why I am no fan of downloads.
Who would your favorite non-NWOBHM band that you’ve followed their entire career? Also, what’s been the best show you’ve witnessed as an audience member through the years?
Definitely my all time-metal-faves are Manilla Road. And they have been since Open The Gates. This band is so unique and amazing and I don´t say this because I will play drums with them as long as their drummer is not available, which could be months or years. If you own their catalogue you have not just unique music, you also have nearly everything in one: Epic stuff, doom, speed, even some thrash, ballads, long songs, short songs…. I don´t know any other band offering this since the late 70s. Beside that I love CCR and John Fogerty solo, even it may sound strange as it is not metal at all. I still buy every new pressing of the CCR albums and I visit as many Fogerty shows as possible. Well, regarding proto-metal I think "Pagan Baby" or "Commotion" even would please some metal heads who are interested in really early stuff like Sabbath, Heep or Zeppelin. There was much more than "Bad Moon Rising" or "Green River"!
Well, I love both Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air. So I would name both yearly events instead of the show of one band.
Does it amaze you that many NWOBHM artists gain more support and appreciation outside of their native UK these days? For instance in a recent Eternal Terror interview with Jaguar, guitarist Garry Pepperd told us that the market for older, traditional styles of metal is much more popular in Germany, Holland and other places in Europe than it is in the UK. What circumstances do you think make this so in your home country? The media, the bands, the live market, or a combination?
In the sixties and early seventies German rock music was just a rip-off from US-acts or British bands. Krautrock gave us a little identity then and maybe Kraftwerk were something important for our musical development. The Scorpions and early Accept were two bands that have played metal or at least heavy rock very early and so Germany got international attention. There was something that "we are good in" and maybe this was the base for metal as a constant scene here. Nevertheless from the early eighties on the fans always looked at the USA or Great Britain to find new metal acts. And if you compare the performances of the early US-bands and the German acts you know why. American bands had better shows and they were acting more like rock stars (people love that even they don´t tell…) while the Germany mostly played their music with some friendly "hello audience" here and there. No "hey you crazy mother fuckers" or something like that. So even we had a strong scene it was always hard for German bands – except for the big ones like (later) Warlock or Helloween. It changed when Thrash came up, because there was again something "that we can do really good". Kreator, Destruction, Sodom or Celtic Frost (from Switzerland) changed something and these bands were and are respected by the German fans. And even if the nineties were dark days for any form of traditional metal, the scene kind of survived. Now there is the new generation of metal fans who weren´t old enough to know much about the eighties. So they are glorifying the "good old days" and are totally into traditional metal. And even they sometimes have strange thoughts about "how it was back then" I really love that fact because they go on with that old tradition. Of course we don´t talk about a whole country, even we have Festivals like Wacken with (close to) 100.000 people but I would say that the scene is pretty healthy right now (beside the negative facts I already talked about). Also the metal-scene has proven to consist of really nice and mostly intelligent people, caring people and really socialized people. Before everybody thought we would be barbarians or something.
The print magazine market for metal still thrives in the UK, Germany, South America and the Far East- but appears to struggle in North America where computers and cell phones have seemed to take over with instantaneous information needs. What are your feelings on this- as I am surely jealous of publications like Rock Hard and Heavy magazine in your home country?
To be honest, I just visit online-mags when I find a CD- or a live review from Roxxcalibur or other bands I play in. I saw that many are really good and offer great content, but I remain a print mag lover. I still read mags in the bath tub, on the toilet or late in the evenings. And I have my routine. First the reviews, then live reviews, then news and finally the interviews. Rock Hard, Metal Hammer, Heavy, Break Out and several classic rock mags are available everywhere here in Germany and during the years just a few gave up while there were many new mags on the market. I never thought it could be any different and the internet is not able to kill all those mags here. And you can see that the mags still have a lot of power. Good reviews often mean better sales.
You released two killer traditional/power metal albums with Viron before forming Roxxcalibur. What happened with the dissolution of this act? Do you have the desire to create your own original music again with another band- or possibly incorporate that aspect on future Roxxcalibur efforts?
Thanks for the kind words about Viron. I still love the first one and some songs off the second album. It is strange, but it appears that I talk more about Viron now then when we were an active band. A few fans think that the success of Roxxcalibur was the cause for the split, but that´s not true. We simply have noticed that our third album wouldn´t have been a good one. The ideas were not very good and we were in a dead-end-street with our songwriting. I have talked about the age of the Roxxcalibur members before and that it fits really well. That wasn´t the case in Viron and may have been a part of the problem that lead to the split. People change when they are young and they get jobs after they have finished university etc. I think you know what I mean. We are still friends and we often write e-mails, but it was better to split up.
We definitely will start a band with the Roxxcalibur line-up, writing our own songs but then we will use another name. Roxxcalibur will remain a NWOBHM-tribute band and we have no plans changing that. Right now we are too busy for that but one day we will start with it.
Tell us one of your favorite fan encounter stories through the years…
Maybe I am a bit strange here because you maybe think I would name the big names like Judas Priest or Gene Simmons…but I don´t. It always was the guys from whom I was sure that I will never meet them because the bands they are or were in never were "big". Meeting Terry from Jameson Raid and Graham from Bleak House was really something special (sharing the stage with them even more). Also meeting Mark Shelton from Manilla Road for the first time (Bang Your Head, I think in 2004…) was something really special. Playing the 7" single from JJ´s Powerhouse at Headbangers Open Air with two original members was also amazing. I know that most are nervous when they meet really big stars but not me. I am excited to meet real underground heroes.
Who were your drum influences growing up? Have you ever had the chance to meet your biggest drummer inspiration- and if so what did you say to him/her?
I would say Les Binks from Priest was a huge influence, along with Neal Peart from Rush. While Neal is named very often, Les Binks still is totally underrated. I was shocked hearing the drums on British Steel and Point Of Entry as I have missed that great drumming. I have never met both drummers but when I was 16 I was on an "end of tour party" from Black Sabbath and I met Cozy Powell. I had a great and sensible conversation: Hello Cozy, I play drums too! And him: Cool! That´s it, but at least I met him. Through streetclip.tv I have met many of my favorite bands. Regarding drummers it was great to talk with Nigel Glockler about the sense of having many toms, from very small to a huge floor tom. On another occasion I met Bobby Rondinelli and he played some stuff for me at sound check. That was amazing.
All my favorite drummers are old school. Carmine Appice is amazing but also Ginger Baker. In metal I love the drumming of Randy Foxe from Manilla Road. It is so creative and (I know I love this word…) unique. His drumming is a part of each song and not "Just" the rhythm.
What other hobbies/ interests do you pursue outside of music when you have the free time to do so?
Oh well, somehow everything has to do with music and I am used to it. My girlfriend is editing the live-footage and my shows here in our house, so even she is a part of the metal-world. I enjoy watching a DVD-movie when I find the time, mostly criminal stories (old Agatha Christie or TV-stuff like Columbo or CSI). What is definitely something to mention is that I support fat-acceptance as well as I can (even if I am not looking like it). 20 years ago I was with a girl who was bulimic because of the pressure of society to be skinny or perfect and that changed my life. I always tended to love bigger women (you call them BBW I think) but after this experience I have decided to talk openly and in public about my taste and that there are way more men like me out there with a similar taste – without being a fetishist or something. Still some think that lovers of bigger women are strange guys while 40% of the women in fact are overweight. Isn´t that strange?
Name the best non-metal cover song turned into a metal song you’ve ever heard?
"Summer Night City" (Abba) from Therion and "D.O.A." (Bloodrock) from Manilla Road.
How big of a record collection do you have between albums and CD’s? What would you consider the top 5 bands and albums you can’t live without?
I started doing TV-shows and writing for magazines since 1985 so it wouldn´t be fair to be proud of that unbelievable amount of stuff I own. Everybody who has bought at least 10% of the LPs and CDs I have in my house should be the hero as I got so much for free. I stopped counting my collection in the late 90s and it was about 10.000 items back then… But it´s good that you ask that second question because that´s the essence of a good collection: Having that stuff you really like along with those "Must haves". To name favorites is hard, maybe I would reply with something different tomorrow or in a week, but I’ll try.
Manilla Road – The Deluge (no need to say that I wouldn´t live without most of their other LPs and CDs…maybe I could live without "Out of the Abyss"…but, no, I wouldn´t want to…)
CCR – that´s easy, because I name the box-set with all their albums *ha ha*
V/A – Lead Weight – My favorite NWOBHM LP is a compilation…
A Double-CDR with my favorite NWOBHM 7" songs like Jameson Raid, Bleak House, Oxym, Sparta… – no official product, but one 7" would be too short:)
Status Quo – Live – This was my very first record and I still listen to it at least every three months or so!
Thanks for the interview! I hope everything is ok:)