SILENT FORCE – Melodic Metal Resurrection
If you want to make a career as a metal musician, one band or job is not enough. Take the work of German guitarist Alex Beyrodt. Currently writing, performing, and recording with at least 4 different acts (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, Sinner, and Silent Force), plus running his own guitar parts company means that he is surrounded by music- and I think he wouldn’t want his life any other way.
I reached out to Alex following copious playbacks of the fifth and latest Silent Force album "Rising From Ashes" – their first in over 6 years. With three-fifths of the band new to Silent Force (but not newcomers to the industry: bassist Mat Sinner, keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio and vocalist Michael Bormann) the impact of this melodic metal band should be second to none.
Struggling to get an adequate Skype connection (Alex commented humorously on my kitchen ‘hell-frigerator’), we finally got things straightened out on the phone and had a great conversation about the band and his general thoughts on a host of metal topics.
The question you probably are going to get asked most: why the 6 year layoff between Silent Force albums? I am aware of the fact that you haven’t been idle between Voodoo Circle, Sinner, and Primal Fear records/ tours occupying a lot of your time- plus your work on the Rock Meets Classic tours…
"Yes that’s true. I moved down to the Canary Islands in 2008 I think. Over there things didn’t go so well, I made a couple of wrong business decisions and I lost a lot of money while I was down there, got divorced. So my private life was really screwed up. My priority was to move back to Germany, and I had to start a new private life from zero. That actually took longer than expected because I was really in a dark place. Like you also said, Sinner, Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, and the Rock Meets Classic tours- that kept me really busy and it is really good. The timing just wasn’t right for Silent Force. I felt that now I had to write some material and had the power and time to do it, that’s why it took me almost 7 years."
Were there other singers under consideration before Michael Bormann took over? I’ve always loved his voice since the early Letter X days, and I know he played with you in The Sygnet.
"Wow- you know Letter X and The Sygnet? Amazing, that’s cool… I thought that would only be known within Germany and Europe."
I had a German friend who I met at a party in the early 1990’s who sent "Born Into Darkness" from Letter X with him to the United States…
"Yeah, that is a great album- that is how I discovered Michael actually. Michael Bormann was the original singer for Silent Force, nobody really knew about that. We worked together in The Sygnet, we recorded one album and while touring we were working on the second album, Michael and I couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the second record. I wanted to do a concept album like "Operation: Mindcrime" and he was in the totally opposite direction. That was when we decided to go our separate ways- because we also had a really good friendship going. We didn’t want to get the friendship crushed because of our musical or professional differences. I still have demo tapes of Michael singing the material that appeared on the first Silent Force album, "The Empire Of Future" – that was supposed to be the second The Sygnet album. He was always my first choice."
How does your personal songwriting process work? Do you find particular times of the day better for creation versus editing and refinement?
"I’m a day guy- I am not so good at recording or composing stuff in the evening. I don’t know why. I like to get up, have a nice breakfast, and start working at ten o’clock in the morning. That’s when I have the most power and ambition, have the best resolve. When I am in bed sometimes and can’t sleep I have ideas that I can record in my iPhone- but I will work on them during the day."
Infatuator really made a strong impression upon me back in 2001, did you feel like the band was moving in a special direction with that second album- which included a cover of "All Guns Blazing" that originally appeared on Painkiller from Judas Priest?
"Yeah- as you probably know DC Cooper was also one of the finalists for the job in Judas Priest. "Infatuator" was Silent Force’s statement that he would have also been a good pick for that job, we tried to be as heavy as we could and write songs in that direction. It’s also why we did that cover, as you can hear DC is an awesome singer- he can nail down the high material."
Tell me your thoughts regarding a recent Facebook post you put up on your own page regarding your preference for doing interviews with journalists live face to face or by phone/ Skype over e-mail features? It seemed to stir up quite a debate in the comments section…
"Nice, I like that! You did your homework, I like that. When I put out a new album, I get 200 or 300 e-mails for interview requests. And I am not playing the champions league, I don’t have the time to answer 200-300 e-mail interviews. There are so many webpages from guys that just start a page because they want to get a guest pass, get back stage, or get free albums. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, I’ve been in the business for over 30 years. What we are doing now, I can see you and this is a much better feeling, an interview goes back and forth. It is communication and I totally miss that. A lot of the e-mail interviews ask the same questions, I want the reporter to understand me and communicate with me with feelings and get my personality. I think that is really important. In my opinion that’s really important because everything nowadays goes too fast and there is not so much value in interviews anymore. I’m trying to work against that. In my personal life, that works."
If you had to name 3 essential albums for up and coming hard rock/ heavy metal guitarists to use as their gateway to becoming more proficient at technique and craft, which albums would you pick and explain your choices?
"I have to think about this, that is a tough question. Sorry if it takes a while, I want to make this right. Personally speaking, the albums that impressed me and gave me a lot of influence is "Long Live Rock ‘n Roll" from Rainbow, because that is some of Ritchie Blackmore’s best work ever. Black Country Communion’s second album- "2" – because Joe Bonamassa is not a heavy metal guitar player, but heavy metal does come from the blues and classical music, and every heavy metal guitar player should know the blues through Bonamassa. And then Jimi Hendrix "Axis: Bold As Love", there are thousands of albums and I could pick a lot from the 1980’s too like Dokken "Under Lock and Key" or Ratt- "Out of the Cellar" -we could go on for hours about this."
How do you feel about the difference between the four singers that you work with in these bands- Mat Sinner from Sinner, David Readman for Voodoo Circle, Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear and Michael for Silent Force?
"First of all I am a lucky guy that I can work with these great singers. The main difference is the range. Ralf in Primal Fear has a totally different range than David in Voodoo Circle. David has more of this bluesy voice, dark and deeper timber and Ralf is the typical heavy metal singer with a lot of loud screams and power. Michael can do both, that is also great- they are all great singers and I am very lucky to work with them."
Will there be any chance for Silent Force shows in 2014- even if it’s in a festival setting? How would you decide what the set list would be given 5 albums worth of material to choose from?
"The set list is a tough one, I would spend all day going over one. Unfortunately I don’t think there will be any shows with Silent Force this year, I am so busy with Primal Fear. The next week I go on tour for 4 weeks in Europe, I come back home for a week, then I go on tour with Rock Meets Classic where I play guitar with Alice Cooper and Joe Lynn Turner among others- that goes for 5 weeks. I’ll be home for 3 weeks then I come to the United States with Primal Fear for 4-5 weeks in America. I come back for 2 weeks then I go to South America with Primal Fear, come back for one week and then go to ProgPower with Voodoo Circle- then Australia/ Japan with Primal Fear, the festival season- it’s not realistic, unfortunately."
In a recent interview I read with you online, you mention that you get more nervous in front of a small crowd of 50 people versus a festival setting of 80,000 – any particular reasons why the more intimate setting rattles you?
"Intimate, yeah that’s the right word. Don’t get me wrong, I love that- because I play a lot of sessions that people don’t know about in small bars and clubs with high quality players from Germany- in famous German bands in front of 50-100 people. On my side of the stage I am the guitar player and the audience is 10 centimeters away from your face! I love that so much, it’s so much fun- the smaller the crowd though, the more nervous I get. When you go on stage at Wacken, you raise your fist and yell and the response from 80,000 people makes it easier. I think it’s the quieter aspect that can be a bit nerve-wracking. I love the sweat and feel of a small crowd though. The worst thing you can do is give me a guitar on Christmas evening in front of my family and they ask me to play holiday songs- then I get very nervous (laughs)."
How do you handle the work, life, personal time balance? Are there special things you do to re-charge your collective batteries, especially when travelling time zones on the road?
"On the road I try to sleep as much as possible, try not to play as much which is not too easy. In my private life I talk a walk, I go into the woods or forest and take a walk with my girlfriend and British bulldog. I love that, I can take a walk for 2 hours and after that I feel great. I also like going to the gym, but taking a walk is the best thing."
Where do you see the hard rock/ metal scene heading in 2014? If you could change any particular aspects, what would you like to see handled differently?
"That’s a good question. Götz Kühnemund from Rock Hard magazine, I heard he got fired. There are 2 or 3 other important writers for the German metal scene that also left. I am sure they will find work in other magazines or establish their own magazine. Where will the metal scene be in 2014 or 2015… I am very critical about all the releases every month. There are too many releases and bands in this market. Nobody can buy all these albums anymore, and it seems easier for bands to make their own music than ever before. I think that’s a problem- when I made my first professional recording, I was already on the road for 10 years and I played all over Germany in the G.I. Army clubs, every night for 5 hours a night. And then tearing down equipment, driving home, and going to school the next day, totally without sleep, stuff like that. That made me the guy I am today because I had the fire in my heart and I wanted this so bad. Nowadays with the technology, the younger generation… they don’t have to really go through this. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, not only in music but a worldwide thing. Things are too easy nowadays, and the whole scene misses characters, really characters. Where is the next Lemmy? Where is the new Rod Stewart? Is it Justin Bieber? I don’t think so. I think there is a lack of charisma, not only in the acting scene but also in the music scene."
What have been some of your favorite musical moments through the years- either in the studio or on stage? And what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received when it comes to the music business?
"Best musical moments- there are too many to pick. One just popped up in my mind- when I was on stage with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple. I started playing guitar because of Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple- so 30 years later I am on stage playing "Highway Star" with him singing. We went on tour for 2 months over 2 different years. The first time I played the guitar solo in the song, Ian Gillian is in the center of the stage in a huge arena, I am on stage left starting the guitar solo. I said to myself I had to do something really special and impress him somehow, so I took the guitar behind my head and I started playing the solo that way, and I turned over to Ian and walked in his direction. His eyes went wide open, like ‘wow- what the hell is he doing?’. After the show he took me on the side and said- ‘Alex, I have to tell you something!’ and I was like ‘uh oh- I am in trouble.’ He told me that he loved it and wanted me to do the solo like that every night. You can’t buy something like that, it’s priceless."