The offer to do this interview caught us by surprise, for just two years ago Domain, one of Germany's best melodic rock bands, seemed to be long gone and forgotten. However mastermind Axel Ritt finally gave up to the fans' letters and calls and decided to reunite his band for the recording of a new album called "One Million Light Years From Home". Moreover, Domain are about to release another new album, and it was a perfect reason to get in touch with Axel by e-mail. Before you scroll down to the interview, let us offer you a brief history of the band. Domain was founded by Bernie Kolbe (lead vocals, bass), Axel Ritt (guitars), Cliff Jackson (guitars), Volker Sassenberg (keyboards) and Freddy Friedrichs (drums) in 1986. Before Domain Bernd Kolbe (this is his original name) and Jackson played in a band called Red Roosters and formed Fagau's Epitaph with James McGillvray (guitars) in 1970. Some time later the name was shortened to Epitaph, the band signed with Polydor Records and after adding Klaus Walz (guitars) released the debut album "Stop, Look And Listen" in 1972. The music of Epitaph was hard/art rock in the vein of Uriah Heep. Through the years Epitaph released six successful albums, changed their line-up several times (in particular, famous German drummer Fritz Randow (later in Victory, Sinner and Saxon) played on three albums of the band) and split in 1982.
After the split Kolbe and Jackson joined Ritt, Sassenberg and Dietrichs to form a new band Kingdom. The newcomers caught attention of Eloy singer and producer Frank Bornemann, who helped them to record their first demo tape. The tape found its way to the leadership of Teldec/Frontrow company that signed the band. After several months of hard work in Horus Sound Studio (Helloween, Steeler, Gamma Ray, Victory) Kingdom released its first album "Lost In The City" in early 1988. It's hard to describe the scale of success they got with it! "Lost In The City" was a classic hard rock record with amazing keyboard parts and the band was listed to follow the success of Scorpions which was something unbelievable for a band with only one album out!
Everything seemed to be perfect but right at that time German singer Lenny Wolf (ex-Lenny Wolf's Germany, Stone Fury) released the first album of his new band Kingdom Come in the United States. In order to avoid confusions Kingdom changed its name to Domain and re-released "Lost In The City" as "Our Kingdom" still in 1988. In early 1989 the new song "Hearts Of Stone" written for the second album "Before The Storm" was included in TV-series "Bastard" and was released in several variants including a CD-single. Albert Boekholt, who worked earlier with Magnum on "Wings Of Destiny" and Treat on "Dreamhunter", stepped in to produce the new album to which Dietrichs' successor Torsten Preker (18) contributed drums. Specially for promotion purposes "Teldec" released a sample with four tracks from the new album and a huge interview with Domain members in both German and English languages. The third album "Crack In The Wall" produced by Kalle Trapp (Blind Guardian) came out in 1991. Right before the release Dietrichs left the band and Bodo Schopf (ex-McAuley Schenker Group) played all drums on the album. The disc was not a big success mostly due to the fact that the whole rock scene was literally paralyzed by the rising grunge wave in the United States. In 1991 Kolbe, Ritt and Jackson also took part in the recording of the song "Let Love Conquer The World" made by German Rock Project which was a kind of response to Ronnie James Dio's Stars thing. But nothing could prevent the fall and in 1992 Domain split up. In order to cash on the band's history their record company released a compilation album called "Collection 86-92" with hits, single tracks and an unreleased tune "Walk On".
For many years only guitarist Axel Ritt kept the Domain reunion deep in his mind. In 1994 he joined the all-star project X-Ride with ex-members of Sign and Foxx but it disappeared from the scene really soon. That's when Ritt came up with an idea to form his own company Humbucker Music and released a new Domain… compilation "Collection 86-99". In general, it wasn't much different from the 1992 "Collection" but caused many rumors about the Domain reunion. And finally the dream came true when Ritt announced the long-awaited reunion. People were waiting for the original line-up to get together but it proved to be impossible for other musicians refused to participate (for example, Jackson has now nothing to do with hard rock and plays country music with a female singer). The brand new Domain consisted of Carsten Schulz (lead vocals), Axel himself (guitars), Dirk Beckers (bass), Erdmann Lange (keyboards) and Edgar Schmidt (drums). The new album was symbolically named "One Million Lightyears From Home" and was released on February 15, 2001. It turned out to be a classic Domain record with the typical sound that the band used to have in the 1980s. After a short tour the band went to studio once again to release the mini-album "New Horizons" in autumn same year. A mini-album only? Well, that's right if you call seven acoustic tracks with Badlands cover "In A Dream" a mini-album. By the way the "lizard only version" of "In A Dream" is Shulz singing the song alone ('lizard' is him nickname). In early 2002 Domain went to studio to record the new album "The Artefact" scheduled for release in June.
MetalKings.com: When and where were you born?
Axel: 13.03. in Cologne / Germany.
MetalKings.com: Why did you start playing guitar? Who were your influences?
Axel: I always wanted to play an instrument and the guitar offered the best of both worlds, playing hard rocking music, but also the melodic stuff. Behind the human voice, the guitar has the most possibilities of expressions to transport the musical feelings and the emotions behind the sound. My influences were a mixture of the early classical technic-hereos like Gary Moore, Paco de Lucia, Eddy Van Halen and the "big boys of tone" Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Walsh and Billy Gibbons.
MetalKings.com: What bands existed before Kingdom? What happened to Epitaph?
Axel: Kingdom was my first band you can call "professional", everything else before was more like "we wanted to, but we couldn't" (laughs). Former bandmembers tried to reform Epitaph for so many times, but I don't know if it has even happened. To be honest, I don't care about it, these guys lead me so many times up the garden path, it's a shame!
MetalKings..com: Who and when started Kingdom?
Axel: Kingdom started in 1986, featuring myself (g), B. Kolbe (b,v), C. Jackson (g), and V. Sassenberg (keys).
MetalKings.com: Why did it release only one album?
Axel: Because of the similar name of the band "Kingdom Come", there were too many confusions around the band. Too many times, journalists and press-people made mistakes and so we decided to start all over under the new sign "DOMAIN".
MetalKings.com: What made you stick to hard rock when the whole German scene played heavy metal?
Axel: I've always been a fan of great melodic lines and big harmony choirs like, for example, the band Queen used to arrange in many of their songs. Likewise, I'm a fan of great rocking guitars and heavy drumming, so hard rock was the only solution to put both parts together. The best thing for me is playing a melodic pop-song as hard and powerful as possible. That's great (laughs)
MetalKings.com: What songs were on the first Kingdom demo tape in 1986?
Axel: Sorry, I can't remember (it was pretty long ago), but I think there must be 4 or 5 songs which found also their way on the debut-album. Fuck, I'm getting old (laughs)
MetalKings.com: How did you hook up with Frank Bornemann?
Axel: Frank knew some bandmembers from the "good old days of German Krautrock". Bands like Eloy (the former band of Frank), Jane or Birth Control inhabited the charts of Germany, so everybody knows everybody in this scene. Frank mould to a businessman, he established his publishing company and he introduced the record-deal with Teldec.
MetalKings.com: What is that Teldec company?
Axel: It's the former name of the record company EastWest, a sublabel of Warner Bros.
MetalKings.com: Speaking about Kindgom Come, do you know Lenny Wolf in person and what do you think of his music?
Axel: I think he knows about our problems, because he had the same trouble with our name anyway, but I never met him personally. I liked the first Kingdom Come album a lot, they were a great Led Zeppelin-cover band. The sound of the album was brilliant, particularly the drumsound, although the album is not mastered, so it hasn't the loudness of modern albums. The album is still one of the reference-sounds in my record studio.
MetalKings.com: How did you hook up with Albert Boekholt? Do you know what he is doing now?
Axel: He had a good reputation resting on his work with Def Leppard and Magnum, but unfortunately, his best abilities were drinking the (real great tasting!) Dutch Heineken beer. He drained a complete box by himself in one day. All in all, he did the good job, but it could have been done better. Sorry, Albert (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Why did you name the second album "Before The Storm"?
Axel: That was an idea of the record-company. In these days, the artists didn't have any possibilities to decide about artwork also. It was a good name, but to be honest, I don't why they've chosen this name.
MetalKings.com: Do you plan to re-release the first three Domain albums? They are VERY hard to find and out of print.
Axel: That's a dark chapter of the Domain history! I tried to re-release the first albums for many times, but the former bandmembers demanded perverse sums of money for their permission, so it's impossible to release the first 3 albums, although the fans asked me so many times. There are no economic reasons for it, they only want to harm me and try to destroy the good name of Domain.
MetalKings.com: Why did Volker Sassenberg and Thorsten Preker leave the band?
Axel: They didn't believe in the band anymore!
MetalKings.com: How did you manage to engage Bodo Schopf in the band for the album "Crack In The Wall"?
Axel: He was a musical friend of the band and a well-booked drummer for studio work. In this time, we didn't have a fixed drummer, so he did the job for the album.
MetalKings.com: How was the band involved in the German Rock Project? Who organized it and for what purpose?
Axel: In the early nineties, Germany had a small tribe of about 30 bands who worked professionally in the melodic hard rock-style. It wasn't a problem to give them a call, cause everybody was a friend of parties, making music and working for noble aim. The organization was done by a guy called Thomas Hagen, I think.
MetalKings.com: You say thank you to Michael Flexig (ex-Zeno) in the booklet of "Lost In The City". What is your relation to him? Was he somehow involved in the album's recording?
Axel: Michael was booked as backing-vocalist for the very high vocal parts on the first record. An amazing voice, you can hear him solo on the adlibs at the end of the song "Sign From Your Heart" on the first Domain album "Our Kingdom".
MetalKings.com: Why did Domain split in early 90ies? And what did you do up to 1997?
Axel: It was ridiculous, the guys who had the business contacts in these days gave up working for the band! Everybody started to talk about money and stood beside and I couldn't believe it. I didn't have the experience in the music-business those days, so I had to bear the decline of the band. You can imagine what I did after the experiences above! I learned as much as I could about the other side of music, the business! It took almost 10 years to become as independent and well-grounded as I'm now.
MetalKings.com: You have your own company Humbucker Music. What bands does it work with and what does it do?
Axel: At the moment, Humbucker Music took it's whole energy to manage the Domain activities like recording the albums, consulting the record-companies also, but Humbucker Music and I did releases in the last ten years of the bands Maghazi, Luzifer Sam, Reissfest, Zonder and Gasville.
MetalKings.com: In my opinion Bernie Kolbe is a unique singer. What does he do now and why did he refuse to participate in Domain's reunion?
Axel: It's a mixture of time, money and age. He told me that in his age, he wouldn't have the liking to start it all over again and that it's not profitable for him to work with a band like Domain. I believe, he's working as a bass player in several showbands at the moment.
MetalKings.com: I've heard about your involvement in a project called X-Ride with members of Sign and Foxx. What was it and were there any recordings made? Is it possible to find them anywhere?
Axel: X-Ride was a great band with brilliant musicians in the Mr.Big/Extreme-style, but unfortunately, we never got an official record-deal, so no albums went into the market. Foxx was a cover-rock band of our bass player Dirk, I've never been in this band, but the guitar-player was called "Axel" too (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Were you involved in other projects in the 90ies? Any recordings from those times?
Axel: I was involved in the German band Zonder and did several studio-jobs for the Humbucker Music artists.
MetalKings.com: What made you resurrect Domain?
Axel: Right time, right place! I've been asked by the fans for almost 10 years about the Domain reunion and now there was the right time to resurrect the band. It's the time behind the Grunge-hype, the people are open-minded again.
MetalKings.com: What did your new singer Carsten Schultz do before joining Domain?
Axel: He was the singer in two bands called Mr. Hate and Forever and he did several studio-jobs.
MetalKings.com: Why did you decide to cover the Badlands song "In A Dream"? Was this track an influence on you or is it just a cool song that you enjoy playing?
Axel: This was the decision of our singer Carsten. Ray Gillen was a big influence for him and he always wanted to sing this song live. By the way, I believe he's the only rock-singer who's doing a-cappella rock song live on stage.
MetalKings.com: Can you explain the meaning of the new album title? As far as I know the word "Artefact" has several meanings.
Axel: It's only about the artwork of the cover, the title has no relation to the songs.
MetalKings.com: What can we expect from "The Artefact"? Do you continue in the vein of "One Million..." or have you made any changes to your style?
Axel: Domain has developed its style, so the new album concentrates a little bit more on the word "hard" in the hardrock-style, it's the most powerful Domain album ever, never forgetting our roots of the melodic and epic arrangements. If you like "One Million...", you'll love "The Artefact".
MetalKings.com: Is there any hope to see you live in Russia one day? Please say a few words to your fans in Russia.
Axel: We'll be on European tour through 11 countries in September this year and I hope, our booking company will arrange some shows in Russia too. I've contacted our record-company CD-Maximum, be expecting that they can arrange something. To our Russian fans, it's a great honor for us to be released in Russia for the very first time in the DOMAIN-history. We'll do our best to entertain you in the best way a rockband can do! See you on the road and visit our website: http://www.domainband.de
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