PARADOX – Levelling the Metal Field
It’s not enough that an album released in the final month of the years blows my ears back in joy, but the latest album from German power/ thrash act Paradox did so this year. "Tales of the Weird" possesses all the attributes I desire in a band: stacking together great riffs, memorable vocals, furious drumming, and soloing that is out of this world. If I didn’t know any better, I would think vocalist/ guitarist Charly Steinhauer studied with the greats of the Bay Area scene- his technique solid, crunchy, and full of energy.
While other bands would have broken up numerous times due to the trials and tribulations of health problems and record label changing of the guard, Paradox continued on strong- and the fans will be rewarded with their best album easily since "Heresy". Firing off some questions to Charly, he willingly answered my thoughts on his personal journey behind the band and the creation of this album in particular.
What was your childhood like growing up? Do you remember your first albums or bands that caused you to gravitate to metal music?
"I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up with my parents and my sister in Würzburg, mid/south Germany. My first record I bought was Black Sabbath – "Paranoid" in 1970, when I was 7 years old. I came into rock music because of my sister. She is 6 years older than me and heard bands like The Who, Rolling Stones and later on the upcoming Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. I knew very early that rock music would be my music style."
You started in cover bands in the early 1980’s- playing covers from bands like Overkill, Venom, and Warhead among others. What were some of the early songs you learned, and at what point did you decide you wanted to start writing original material as Paradox?
"No, I never played in a cover band, but when we started under the banner of Overkill (1981 -1983) and later on Warhead (1984 -1985) we played a lot songs from our heroes, like "Breaking The Law" (Judas Priest), Iron Maiden ("Iron Maiden"), Saxon ("Princess Of The Night"), Motorhead ("Ace Of Spades"), Accept ("Fast As A Shark") and later on Metallica ("Whiplash") etc. Actually we started very soon with original songs. I guess it was around 1982."
What caused the first prolonged inactivity of the band following your second album "Heresy" for almost 10 years? It must have been frustrating to record your third album "Collision Course" in 2000- and have another setback while dealing with a serious intestinal disease. What exactly did you contract, and are there any worries about this health scare returning again?
"I had written most of the "Collision Course" album in 1990, but Roadrunner Records no longer believed in Thrash Metal. They liked to sign grunge metal Bands and as a result we got fired. We were shocked by this and lost most of our motivation. A few months later Axel Blaha, my founding brother left the band and stopped playing drums. We saw no chance anymore because we knew we had written great songs, but we found no proper use for them. Yes, it was frustrating.
After the release of "Collision Course" I had a big fight with my health, caused by medical botch. I’m not in fear about my health scare returning. I shouldn`t really think about that. In this case I have to think positive and look forward."
How do you view the six albums you’ve done with Paradox to date? Could you give us your opinion on the highlights and what you wish could be maybe done differently with each in retrospect?
"Each album writes its own story. It starts with "Product of Imagination" in 1987. The first record experience- we had the best start a band could imagine, to be "Record of the Month" in the biggest magazines. In my opinion "Heresy" (1989) was a classic in that time period. I guess it still is a classic. With "Collision Course" (2000) we celebrated a great comeback. I really like the songs on "Electrify"(2008), but in our opinion the production was not good. "Riot Squad" (2009) showed that we found our way back to our thrash roots with a much heavier production.
"Tales of the Weird" is my personal favourite. Not cause it`s new. I guess it`s a combination of great songs, better production, vocals, lead solos and lyrics.
We are really proud of this masterpiece and excited about what we´ve done."
It has been three years since your last Paradox studio album, "Riot Squad". You’ve obtained a new drummer in Daniel Buld, who played in the thrash act Hatred for 14 years. Tell us about the development of the new material on "Tales Of The Weird"- how long the songwriting and recording process takes, as well as what Daniel brings to the table as far as ability and his drumming style in comparison to ex-drummer Roland Jahoda? Also- why did things not work out with Alex Holzwarth in the drum slot (is it due to his full time duties with Rhapsody Of Fire?)?
"Sadly it came to the break up between our guitar player Kai Pasemann and drummer Roland Jahoda a short while after the release of "Riot Squad". It was the worst moment you could think of. Instead of promoting our album, we had to cancel all our shows, including our first US-Show at the Progpower USA-Festival. That caused a little depression and for a few months nothing happened. Finding two new musicians that match in a personal and musical way is not always easy and took also a while- in the meantime I started to write new songs in Summer 2011. In the fall of the same year I got in contact with Daniel Buld. His attitude and style fit exactly with what I had in mind. His straight forward ‘to the point’ drumming has that aggressive Bay Area-feeling that Paradox needed. In the beginning of 2012 Daniel asked his old mate Christian Muenzer that also played in Hatred from 2001 and 2002 if he would be interested to join the band as well. It turned out that he was a huge Paradox fan for many years and he was really happy to come aboard. So the new line up was complete and the new members had time to add their parts to the new songs. We started recording "Tales Of The Weird" in April 2012. That took until the end of July and four weeks later Victor Bullok had finished mixing and mastering.
The intention that I had when I started writing new songs, was to have more diversity on the new album than on "Riot Squad" which was a straight and aggressive thrash-album. On "Tales Of The Weird" there´s everything that´s essential for the sound of Paradox: straight and fast thrashers, mid-tempo songs and more progressive and epic stuff.
With Alex and Oliver Holzwarth we had the problem that it seemed more like a project than a real band- we’re still good buddies and band mates in Blood Icon, formerly Brutal Godz."
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on speedy riffing- tight and slightly intricate- as well as some killer solos on display from new guitarist Christian Muenzner. Were there any distinct events going on in your life or world that upped the excitement and energy when writing and recording those riffs and solos? Or are there distinct influences that you can look at as inspirational for Paradox?
"There were no special influences and nothing happened in life to write those riffs n solos. It`s just me and Christian Muenzner`s personal style. It works fantastic together. We´re very close to your musical taste as well. It’s just the perfect cooperation between us. May we are a little bit influenced by knowing how hard life is and how fast it can change."
You also said this is the most ‘sweat’ you’ve ever put into an album- and your vocals also seem to be taken up a notch. What songs are you most proud of on this album- and which ones do you think took the most effort to achieve the exact results you wanted- either in terms of sound, production, or performance?
"The whole album is a complete package for itself. I`m proud of each song, but the most difficult tracks were "Brainwashed", the Japanese Bonus Track "Drowning In Lies" and the title track "Tales of the Weird".
I worked a lot on my vocals and I guess I did my best performance ever, but in that time I had big problems with my back. I went to many doctors, but nobody found anything.
Now it`s getting better and better. There were days I thought I never could go back on stage again. Most of the time I recorded this album under major pain but now I’m really proud about the result. It was worth it."
What types of topics did you decide to cover lyrically on "Tales Of The Weird"? And who came up with the idea to include your version of Rainbow’s "A Light In The Black" as a bonus track? Have you always been a fan of Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore through the years?
"There are several types of topics which you are faced with every day if you watch the news or walk through your life with open eyes. The unscrupulousness with which weapon traders make money and don´t give a shit about the lives that will be deleted. Only profit count- the same with the environmental degradation. Mankind’s only goal seems to be making big money and for that we´re abusing mother earth! One song ("Brutalized") reflects the disillusion, aggression and brutality of many young people today. It can´t go on like this or we´ll end up in the stone-age again. And there are many more different themes on that album. Have a look at the booklet. It´s worth it!
The idea of covering Rainbow´s "A Light In The Black" came from myself, cause I’m a big fan of Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow since the 70s. This is our tribute to the master! RIP Ronnie!"
You’ve had many critically acclaimed efforts in the metal press- especially in the early years of the band with "Product of Imagination" and "Heresy". Do you feel that in Europe it’s especially important to still get high marks and reviews from the in print metal magazines- that these writers are still trusted as a good barometer for whether bands are creating worthwhile albums? And how do you balance writing what you want as Paradox versus what the fans expectations are of the band?
"Yes, I guess not only in Europe it`s still important to get high marks and reviews from the print metal magazines. It shows the album must be good and fans are getting more interested to buy the record. It is also a matter of taste. If somebody doesn`t like the music but should do the review for the album, then you could have bad luck getting a low rank.
When I start writing a song, I don`t think about expectations. I know it will sound like Paradox. It comes from my inner self, it’s my own unique style."
I think Paradox these days has similar parallels to bands like Heathen, Forbidden, Artillery, and Cyclone Temple that incorporate outside power, speed, and traditional influences to their thrash based style. Do you find this a fair comparison- and does it make Paradox more of an outsider in terms of acceptance to other thrash bands in Germany like Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom for instance?
"We also see those parallels and we really like this comparison. We always loved that more melodic Bay Area thrash style. It´s not that typical German thrash, but who cares? Its music and as music it does not sound like where you come from, it sounds like how you feel. We also love those bands in Germany and some of them are good friends. We don´t think this make us to outsiders over here… hehe."
I know that you have a project band called Prophesy going with Heathen drummer Darren Minter and ex-Vicious Rumors singer Brian O’Connor – but in 2011 you also joined a project act Brutal Godz with former and current members of Blind Guardian, Rhapsody Of Fire, and Rebellion. What are the two bands like in terms of sound in comparison to Paradox, and when can we expect to hear material from both these acts?
"Darren Minter and myself left Prophecy before the album came out in 2011. Now we talk about how we can pull together a live package of Heathen /Paradox for some shows here in Europe. We will see. Prophecy played more power metal style like Vicious Rumors.
About Brutal Godz- we changed the name to Blood Icon. In 2013 we will record a full length album. It’s a different kind of style than Paradox does. You will find some Iron Maiden, Metallica, Queensryche sounding stuff on it, but also progressive songs- a combination of some great metal styles."
What will it be like to go on tour with this new album? How are you able to sing and play these songs on guitar in a live setting- do you find you need to separate your mind to be able to do both adequately?
"We are more partial to single shows and festivals. Here in Germany we have so many great festivals and it’s the best promotion for the band, because you have the chance to play in front of a bigger audience. Paradox never did big tours. If we would get a good slot to open for a big band, then we would talk about.
To sing and play these songs it’s just possible with learning by doing. It’s not easy. You have to separate your mind and most of it is an automatic process in the head."
Where do you see the metal scene heading in the coming years? Do your embrace the digital age or are you afraid that the movement is in a state of flux as musicians try to keep studio and business costs to a minimum in order to be able to sustain a living at this?
"Tough question! It’s like with everything in life, nothing is only good or bad. And the question is not if you are afraid of it. The digital age has been marching on for 30 years now. And it will march on whether we like it or not. The question is how you handle it and what will the people make out of it. In general I think it’s a good development that you can communicate with everyone around the world. For instance it’s never been easier to get in contact with the fans for a band. And the people can easily share their favourite bands, so it´s a good thing to promote your band. I don´t think that the sound quality has gotten worse in the last ten years. Of course, the record sales went down big time but doing a good recording is way easier and cheaper as well. We’ll see where the new possibilities will lead us to. I´ m sure the metal scene is strong enough. And if the quality goes down, the people will recognize that a good recording and a good layout is worth a few dollars."
What would you consider the most important aspects a metal musician should concentrate on in order to be the best at their craft?
"I don´t think that it’s so important to be the best. What is important is to be honest to yourself and to put feeling in your songs and your play. If you do the music strictly to earn money, the people will recognize that sooner or later. There are two main rules: having fun and doing a lot of rehearsals (that’s an over the generations proven way to get better and better)."
Tell us your top 5 bands of all time- and the best concert you attended as a fan through the years?
"All time faves:
Exodus – "Bonded By Blood"
Metallica – "Ride The Lightning"
Forbidden – "Twisted Into Form"
Flotsam & Jetsam – "Doomsday For The Deceiver"
Metal Church – "Metal Church"
The best concert as a fan – good question. There were a lot I went to. I decide a 1979 show for AC/DC with Bon Scott- support provided by Judas Priest. The best Paradox concert was in Athens, Greece, 2008. I never saw a moshpit like that in my life before. The audience was totally excited for us."
What would surprise people to know about Charly Steinhauer the person outside of his work within Paradox? What do you like to do in your free time to recharge the batteries so to speak?
"I guess nobody would be surprised a lot. I like travelling, sightseeing, photography, spending time by walking in nature, meeting buddies, I should do a bit more sports and quit smoking. I also like Playstation games, movies, or just relaxing and listening to metal music."