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Dirk Schlaechter – Bass for Gamma Ray

Date: 01/02/08
Interviewed By: Rich Catino

Gamma Ray Band PicGamma Ray - Land Of The Free II Cover
1. Before we talk about the new album “Land of the Free Pt.2” I wanted to get your thoughts on the last release “Majestic” because I really liked that record. And did you try to bring any of the heavier vibe from “Majestic” to “Land of the Free Pt.2”?

DIRK: Well actually, its so good to hear you liked it, many of the European fans really didn’t because they are more into the speedy more upbeat and positive Gamma Ray. But actually we really didn’t feel that way about “Majestic” when we recorded it. I mean maybe lyrically it is darker and it is a heavier album but the music was still upbeat and energetic in typical Gamma Ray fashion. I know when we started composing and recording for this new album we didn’t go into it with the idea of doing a “Land of the Free Pt.2”. That just came when we wrote the first four songs and when we rehearsed them that the first ideas came to do “Land of the Free” again because it was going more into this positive energetic direction that was captured on the first “Land of the Free”. The album first had a working title like blah blah blah but then we wanted to fit this theme of following a free spirit and that’s how we got to Part 2.

2. Even though some fans didn’t find “Majestic” a traditional Gamma Ray record say, do you still enjoy it?

DIRK: O yeah I do but it was the situation at the time of production when we recorded that album because we had to leave our old place which was an old war shed bunker and we did everything ourselves, there was no chance to stay their. Plus the personal lives of the band members were changing as well but I do really like those songs. Many people who like that album were still into the more happy metal type stuff but I really can’t agree with that because “Majestic” is still very melodic like I said earlier. It is still very much in spirit Gamma Ray so you know sometimes you can’t please everybody Hahaha.

3. What do you think made the first “Land of the Free” such a pivotal point in Gamma Ray’s career?

DIRK: Well that was the first Gamma Ray record where Kai (Hansen) took over lead vocals and you also had Charlie Bauerfeind as producer with us. He really took care of the vocal recordings with Kai I remember that because it was the first time Kai had really sung since he did in Helloween and we had a high level to reach for the production. Plus at the time after a search for a style with “Sigh no More” and “Insanity and Genius” we finally ended up with the Gamma Ray style. We also wanted to work towards coming up with a concept for the songs on “Land of the Free”. Not a complete concept but definitely a theme. So those are all the things that makes “Land of the Free” such a milestone.

4. What is the Land of the Free and can you tell us what some of these songs are about?

DIRK: Well at first we all came together and started to put in ideas and then the first song we played together was “Into the Storm” which Kai wrote this riff for that at the time was very ruff and live sounding. But out of that we got the inspiration to play again. Then “From the Ashes” followed and Daniel came up with the idea for “Empress”, the point is everyone had these guidelines for these songs which was to be very positive and for the lyrics and story it leaves you all the freedom you need because that is the Land of the Free” (laughs). For the lyrics everyone had their own story. For example Henjo Richter (guitars) had this song “Rain” which at first was kind of a depressive song and dark so at that point it changed a bit to fit into the album. “Mother Earth” was an idea actually Kai had for “Majestic” and when he played the demo version it was not finished maybe it only went up to the chorus or solo part at that time and it really didn’t fit into the ‘Majestic” feeling. So now it fits, see how the mood changes?

It all depends on what everyone comes up with when we meet together. Some songs we put on ice for the future, some maybe three or four songs fit in one direction which will go onto an album and everyone has then a guideline to follow for that album.

The songs I mean I really don’t have to go into what each one is about because the lyrics are pretty quite clear but you get the idea of what direction we took them in.

5. Tell us about the artwork and what part the Gamma Ray mascot Fangface plays in it?

DIRK: Well you know Fangface came from the early days of Helloween (“Walls of Jericho”, the first E.p.). On “Land of the Free Pt.2” he is breaking out of his chains, its like a break out to be free fighting for freedom and all this good stuff Hahaha. The artist is a French guy who did our last two covers for “Majestic” and “No World Order”. Kai was on the phone with him at few times and gave him the idea for the “Land of the Free”, we talked again with him but in the end it was quick because of the whole situation with the record label at the time. But it came out good anyway.

6. When the four members of Gamma Ray write songs are they based on a riff, a vocal, or melody line?

DIRK: Its different for each of us. With Kai I know since he plays guitar and sings and is more directly connected with lyrics and the guitar riff where with Henjo and me we start with a theme or feeling we want to create with the music. Melodies, Henjo has melodies which are sometimes too simple. With me I sometimes change things as I hear the guitars and the vocals but when I compose I do record the vocals with my voice first. Daniel just does some things at home with the computer and he doesn’t even use guitars sometimes he will just use some guitar sounds from the keyboard haha just to get a basic melody. And he comes up with lyrics too but in a different way than Kai does.

7. How has this tour with Helloween been going and when do you plan on coming to the States?

DIRK: This tour started in mid November here in Europe and it is going great. We are just taking a break right now for Christmas and New Years but it is really a nice relaxed atmosphere. I knew we wouldn’t have any problem because we have known those guys for so many years but this package is really cool because when we go on stage at the end of Helloween’s set to do a few songs together the fans just love it. Its a lot of fun for us.

Friday we are heading for Paris for the second half of the European tour, in February we go to Japan and Korea, and April we go to South America, then summer festivals. North America will be after the summer I think. We are just working on the whole financial end of it but I think it will happen after the summer.

8. Since it is Helloween and Gamma Ray do you think you may have the opportunity to play bigger venues in the US?

DIRK: We think this is possible it is what we are hoping for. It all depends on the promoter really. There are so many cities where you have to play small clubs but with the bigger cities like New York it would be nice to do a bigger nicer place. But coming to the US with two bands and a complete crew our cost is expensive. We want to do it but I think a lot depends on cost but I am pretty confident it will happen.

9. Gamma Ray always includes a Helloween song in the live set. Do you ever make changes and throw in a surprise or two from time to time?

DIRK: Usually we do “Ride the Sky”, “I Want Out”, and “Future World”. We use to do “Victim of Fate” and we did “Save Us” on the first tour in the early years, I think we did “Metal Invaders” once. I know we have talked about doing a different Helloween song or two but we have so many Gamma Ray albums to pick from at this point we usually do the same two or three which I mentioned. Those are the ones the fans really look forward to anyway. But we are open to changing them in the future.

10. I know you have a DVD coming out this year called Hell Yeah! The Awesome Foursome (And The Finnish Keyboarder Who Didn't Want To Wear His Donald Duck Costume) - Live In Montreal. Can you tell us about some of the content?

DIRK: Yes we are finally releasing it later this year. The plan is though since we are on a new label (SPV), and we will be touring behind “Land of the Free Part 2”, is to record some new footage from this tour to include it on the DVD. The label didn’t want to promote the new album and the DVD at the same time because it would be too much at once. We will be recording a show in Barcelona and songs we did not perform from the “Majestic” tour we will add on to the DVD.

It may be a triple DVD set depending. The show we taped in Canada for the initial release was like two hours long of all the hits. We even did “Dream healer” which we haven’t done in a long time.

One DVD will be the full Canada show, the second will include a HistoRay which will include studio footage, behind the scenes, a road movie from the States plus all the promo videos. Its going to be well packaged.

11. Are “Heading for the East” and “Lust for Live” which were previously released on VHS, available on DVD?

DIRK: Yes they are. There is no extra content just a straight reissue. I have a copy of them somewhere haha. I know I held them in my hand one time.

12. What does the future hold for Gamma Ray?

DIRK: A lot of touring I know that. When we come back from this tour we have two weeks to mix this extra show for the DVD. The our keyboard player who plays with us on tour, he is in a band called Flashback Of Anger from Italy and I am producing their debut album so I have that to do also. Gamma Ray will also go to Russia after the summer and maybe do some more European shows. And then the plan is to do some composing for the next Gamma Ray album so it could come out in autumn 2009.

I know Kai was supposed to do this interview but his mother is elderly and can’t be alone and the person who usually watches her was not available because of the holiday so Kai had to. But Kai had a nice gathering for New Years at his place and she was doing fine.

Official website: www.gamma-ray.com
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