Axel Rudi Pell



I'm always more persuaded that in this world the most respectable and worthy people are also the nicest and kindest. This thought of mine was confirmed by this interview with Axel Rudi Pell, great axeman and gentleman who's been deligthing us with his music since 1980, firstly with Steeler and then with his own solo project. Enjoy metalheads!

R&MimB: You've been playing as a professional musician for thirty years up to now, and you've released 14 studio albums: the next one, "Circle of the Oath", will be released on 23rd March. It could be said that ARP is part of the metal main history by right, couldn't it? What do you think about?
ARP: Probably yes!!! I'm a solo artist since 1989, when the first ARP album was released, and much stuff has been released since that moment, including studio, live albums and compilations. So it's possible to say that we are part of the history of metal, at least the German one!

R&MimB: You released "Ballads IV" just a few months before the upcoming new album. Would you explain us this choice? Was it meant to remember all your fans some previous stuff before releasing new material?
ARP: Actually they're two different things. We released the first "Ballads" in 1993, and we release a new one every six or seven years, there are always some ballads in our albums and we add new ones every time. There's 3 of them in "Ballads IV"; it's just something that we do between every new album and the previous one.

R&MimB: A live version of "Temple of the King" by Rainbow is the bonus track of "CotO" digipack version. It is obvious to say that you've been influenced by this band. Would you tell us the reasons why this background is so strong in you? What did the passing of such a legend as Dio mean to you?
ARP: Yeah!! This connection actually began a long time ago... I grew up listening Deep Purple, Rainbow, UFO with Michael Schenker, so these bands influenced me very much, but I have to say that Ritchie Blackmore was my real greatest inspiration, the one who made me start playing guitar. I saw him for the first time in TV, I think it was 1971, and I said: "This guy rocks!", I want to do the same thing! It was a very important influence to me, and I'm still a great Rainbow fan. It often happens that we play some of their songs, but I don't actually believe we're going to play "Temple of the King" in our upcoming tour, though we did in the previous one and it was a great success! We always have a great feedback from the audience when we play the song, as we also did last year at "Bang Your Head Festval", so I thought it would have been perfect as a bonus track.

R&MimB: What did the passing of such a legend as Dio mean to you?
ARP: The news caused me sadness and shiver. I knew Ronnie very well and we worked together many times, this way we became friends. In 2009 we toured together in the last Heaven and Hell tour, we were the guest band, and we used to go for a drink just after the show... So you can imagine the shock when we learned he passed away! He was really a good guy, always kind and nice. We wanted in some way tribute him with the "Holy Diver" cover on "Ballads IV". It's so sad he's no more with us...

R&MimB: Yes, we all miss him? Now let's talk about the new album. The lyrical themes of the new album shifted from a more fantasy-oriented to a common life-related ones. What does stand at the basis of this change? Is there any connection to your own personal life?
ARP: Not at all! They're invented stories, they have no relation with reality. Many times people wrote us: you always talk about kings and queens, wizards, castles, why don't you change a bit? I honestly think it's a good idea! I always wrote lyrics about mystical topics, I guess it's time to have a change! I wrote something new for this album, but I still write about fantasy themes. The idea was working on something new, like "Run in the Wind": it speaks about a man who is sick of his life and decides to do something completely different like, I don't know, marrying another woman or move to another country, wants to turn the page! But the mystic influence is still strong on me, as shown by songs like "Circle of the Oath", "World Confusion" and "Ghost in the Black".

R&MimB: This album features great rock musicians: Johnny Gioeli, Ferdy Doernberg, Volker Krawzac, not to mention the earthquake drummer Mike Terrana! Do you feel each one of them has given his own particular sound to the songs or did you decide in advance what were they meant to do in terms of style, sound choice, patterns and so on?
ARP: I think every musician has left his mark on the album, and also on the previous works. Since however I write the melodies, I know from the start what vocals write down because I know Johnny's tone, what sounds better sung by him, and how it's going to sound when he sings. I write the songs in advance at home, by myself, and maybe Ferdy has a good idea for a keyboard solo: we have a try on it, and it generally sounds perfect!

R&MimB: How did you choose the musicians for such a long lasting lineup?
ARP: They're all friends of mine! Volker is an old friend, we know each other since we were playing in Steeler (Axel's band before starting up ARP project), and I've been knowing also Ferdy for a long time. I was desperately looking for a keyboardist who would be able to do hard rock, but not every keyboardist can do such heavy music, while Ferdy plays anything, he's even able to duel with the guitar, really heavy stuff! I heard a solo album of his, I called him and you all know the rest! I came in touch with Mike "Animal" Terrana thanks to Roland Grapow, former Helloween guitarist and now Masterplan leader. He told me there was a new drummer in his solo project, he had moved to Europe from the USA and wanted to stay, thus was looking for another band to play with. I called him, kept in touch, had a rehearsal together and then we decided he would have been the new drummer! He was the last member to join the band, in 1998, when we were working on "Ballads II". As for Johnny, I've been a fan of his voice from the very start! Since I heard him on 1992 album "Double Eclipse", I've always been thinking he's a great singer, I followed his career with Hardline and when the split up thought he would've been the right vocalist for my band, if I ever would've needed one. So when Jeff Scott Soto left ARP I had no hesitation and called Johnny!

R&MimB: In the age of modern-designed guitars, meant to advantage the player in speed and sound solidity, you still play with a Strat. An instrument which reminds me of some great axemen of rock history, especially Blackmore. What feelings lets this guitar grow up in you when you play it? Do you play it in some ways customized?
ARP: Yes indeed! When I play a Strat, I don't change almost anything. I practically have the same gear as Malmsteen, we both play on scalloped guitars, switching standards pickups with DiMarzio HS-3, they give me a special feeling. When you use a standard Strat, with single coil pickups, they make a strange noise if you don't change them. I tried many guitars in the past, from Gibson Les Paul to SG, I tried almost everything, but I stay faithful to the Strat, it gives me a special feeling by playing it and I like the shape!!!

R&MimB: Good choice Axel! How does an ARP song come out? How does your writing methods work?
ARP: Surely I don't sit saying: "ok, now I should write a song"!!! What I try to do is collecting ideas through the whole year... You know, I always bring my mobile with me, so if I'm at the supermarket and a melody comes to my mind, I can record it. Sometimes I pick up the guitar after some days, and I say "this could be a good riff" and I record it too. In the end it happens that, about four months before going to the studio in order to record the album, I collect again all these ideas I have on the mobile, on the recorder, everywhere, and I begin writing notes about the pieces, like "idea n.28 on the mobile sucks!!!". Ahahahah! Or "Idea n.73 on the phone is fantastic", then maybe I put it together with another piece I have on the recorder and a song is born.

R&MimB: What mood brings you to write a song? Do you compose more when you are happy or when you're sad?
ARP: Doesn't matter what mood I am in. Sometimes I write when I'm happy, sometimes when I'm sad. What matters is that the melody sounds good and I catch it!

R&MimB: Except from the opening intro, all the songs are really long! Was it a choice or did it simply come out form writing the songs?
ARP: It comes out from my songwriting method for sure. Some songs must be a bit longer, like the title track which lasts for 9 minutes long, and it couldn't have been shorter. The acoustic intro announces and opens an important song and creates a good atmosphere! I like writing and playing long pieces because they require a particular mood to be listened to. By the way there aren't only long songs on the album! "Run with the Wolf" and "Before I Die" for example aren't much long. Let's say I love to vary...

R&MimB: In spite of pirate file sharing, you sold "1,5 million records worldwide", as said in your bio. What do you think about file sharing?
ARP: It depends on what kind of files you share! If you only share "snippets", that is 30 seconds of a song, it's ok, because you use the internet as a platform to spread your own music and let people know it... But sometimes it's bad, especially when a new album comes out and the same day someone shares it for free, and on the long run this is going to kill the music industry and the artists... I think, if this thing is going to go on, in three or four years there won't be any music more, because everyone will share albums for free, and so music labels won't exist anymore. But many people don't understand that, or at least don't want to...

R&MimB: "Heavy metal", considering the word in a very wide meaning, seems to be passing through a long steadiness and lack of new ideas. After some years of great success, even the "core" genres appear to fall into clichés and have lost their innovating energy. What is your opinion about renewability in this genre? Is there any more place for new ideas in heavy metal?
ARP: There's always place for new ideas!!! We saw an evolution of the genre through the times, and in my opinion this evolution is still going on, though at a slower rate than before.

R&MimB: You come from a legendary Country for heavy metal: together with UK, USA and Scandinavia, it's not a shame to consider Germany one of the homelands of metal. What can you say from your point of view about the German metal scene nowadays?
ARP: I actually don't know! In the Eighties there were plenty of bands, one round each corner! Nowadays only the best have survived, I don't know much about the German scene, except from the most famous bands like Accept, Helloween, Scorpions, Kreator, which are all fantastic.

R&MimB: When are you going to play in Italy? You are known as a fantastic musician here!
ARP: Thanks! I'm honored! I really hope to be able to play in your country, since I played there only once, in 2005 for the Tradate Iron Fest (metal festival held in Varese from 2002 to 2005, ndr) along with Gotthard. Anytime my German agency tries to contact Italian promoters, they never make us a good offer! By the way I hope things are going to change very soon! We're going to do "Circle of the Oath" tour's second leg in autumn, so I hope we could plan at least one gig in Italy.

R&MimB: Let's talk about the songs. "Ghost in the Black" reminds me of some Deep Purple guitar-keys fierce solos. As a matter of personal taste, do you prefer the Morse version or the Blackmore version of this band, keeping clear that both of them are terrific players in their own styles?
ARP: Blackmore, no doubt! They're all excellent musicians, and still they're Deep Purple: there's Roger Glover on bass, Ian Paice on drums and Ian Gillan on vocals, though I prefer the classical line-up, no matter if Mark II or Mark III! You know, what I now miss is just the interaction between Lord and Blackmore, especially live!

R&MimB: I think Blackmore is more passionate when he plays...
ARP: Exactly! It's evident, or better say "tangible". When he was on the stage, his music had the kind of magic you miss nowadays.

R&MimB: The mid-tempo "Circle of the Oath" is one of my favorites from the album. Would you please tell us something about this particular song?
ARP: It's also one of my favorites! It's musically very influenced by Led Zeppelin, it starts with the acoustic guitar and the goes on with a typical Zeps riff. When I completed it, it was the time I used to listen to Led Zeppelin, thus the songs has been influenced by this kind of sound. Lyrics on the other side talk about the circle of life, the inevitability of death, the destiny of every living being, men and animals, and with "oath" I exactly refer to the final doom of man. But these lyrics are not pessimistic in their view of the world, they open the door on an unknown but fascinating world.

R&MimB: "Hold On to your Dreams" is one of the last songs of this album. Does Axel Rudi Pell have a dream to realize?
ARP: Yes he has!!! I dream to be headliner at the Gods of Metal in Italy some days!!!

R&MimB: It's not so impossible to realize! We're at the end of our interview, would you mind saying something to our fans?
ARP: I hope you'll enjoy "Circle of the Oath" as we did! I'm really looking forward to coming over to Italy again and seeing many of you! Goodbye Rock and Metal!!!

Lucia Rossi and Paolo Ribaldini