Actually, we should have done this a few months earlier when Freedom Call supported Edguy on their one and only Russian gig. However the band arrived in Moscow just a few hours before the show and we never actually managed to arrange a proper interview. Now as Freedom Call are about to release their third album proudly titled Eternity, once again on Steamhammer/SPV, we got a chance to discuss a few things with drummer Daniel Zimmermann in a telephone conversation. In case someone doesnt know, Daniel is also involved in Gamma Ray, and, in my humble opinion, hes one of the very best drummers on the German metal scene that only Jorg Michael can be compared with. This is how the conversation went.


MetalKings.com: As usually, lets start from the very beginning of your career. How did you start playing music?

Daniel: A cousin of mine, he is three years older than me, played drums too. And when I was eight years old and I saw his drumset I fell in love with this instrument. So I was torturing my parents to buy me a drumset and finally when I was 11 years old I got it. I was so happy! I played in several school bands and then when I was 14 years old I saw Tommy Aldridge playing with the Ozzy Osbourne band and it was like a spell on me. When I saw Tommy moving like an octopus, he was so fast and powerful, that was the key event. And from that point I rehearsed a lot and it was my dream to go out in the world, play, do records. And when I was 20 after I left the gym I played in several cover bands in the south because in Germany there's a big cover scene. You can make some money with that and you can play live. That's the most important thing for me to do because if you wanna grow as a musician and you wanna build your ability to play you've gotta go on stage. In the rehearsing room you can play almost everything but if the audience is there and you have adrenaline in your blood than it's a little bit different, it's a different experience. So I played for some years in cover-bands... Without those cover-bands I wouldn't be on the level that I am now, I wouldn't be with Gamma Ray. And then I played in a cover-band called Lanzer and we made one album with original songs called "Under A Different Sun" in 1995. And then I met Dirk (Schlaechter) first at that time, then Kai (Hansen) and so the contact was there. So in January 1997 I heard that Gamma Ray is searching for a drummer and I thought, "This is the chance!" I rehearsed a lot, I was at the audition and I was pretty upset. (laughs) But somehow it helped me to burn like hell and to give my best and so it happened. I was the happiest person and I still am!

MetalKings.com: OK, let's go a little bit back to Lanzer. You say that there's a big cover-scene in southern Germany. Is there such thing in the north?

Daniel: No, there's no cover-scene in the north. There are some cover-bands, like, me and Henjo (Richter, guitarist of Gamma Ray) played in a Uriah Heep cover-band called Easy Livin'. And there's a cover-band which only plays Toto songs, another one plays only Saxon songs and there's a Judas Priest cover-band but this stuff exists mostly in the south because in the south you have a lot of Top-40 bands. They play everything. Some of them play Cradle Of Filth, some do real pop music like INXS, all this nu metal stuff so it's mixed. And in the south it's very professional. So you play about 120 or 140 shows a year, you play every weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can make a lot of money and you can play so much and there are some guys, some managers who organize this and who coordinate all the bands and all the dates. So it's very famous in the south.

MetalKings.com: And are there any cover-bands of Helloween or Gamma Ray?

Daniel: No. Some of the bands play Helloween and Gamma Ray stuff like from "The Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums, I mean, "Future World", "Dr. Stein", "I Want Out" and stuff like this. And people like it a lot.

MetalKings.com: Did you know Gamma Ray songs before you joined the band? I mean, could you play them?

Daniel: I could play some of them. But not the real fast ones, I had to develop this. And when I played with Lanzer, with them I didn't play real fast, we played Manowar, Iron Maiden... and it was cool somehow. But I had to really rehearse this, it was something new for me to play songs like "Man On A Mission" or "Somewhere Out In Space". But I had the abilities to do it! I just had to build up my legs 'cause I had the technique to play this fast. The problem was that I didn't have the condition, after one minute I was tired. So I had to develop this. I practiced a lot, I practiced eight hours a day only doing this fast rhythm with legs. And when I was going to Hamburg to have the audition they told me, "You gotta play when we rehearse! You gotta play "Somewhere Out In Space" and the new songs. You gotta play "Ride The Sky", "Man On A Mission", "Land Of The Free". I knew songs from the album "Land Of The Free" but I didn't know the new ones like "Somewhere Out In Space" or "Valley Of The Kings" so I thought, "What the hell is this?" But I thought, "OK, do your best, play as fast as you can, hit as hard as you can and... hope!" (laughs)

MetalKings.com: : Another question about cover-bands. Do they play original songs in concerts?

Daniel: Some of them do play original songs. You see, it's like this, you play 5:5 sets, you play about 50 songs during one concert because you start at 9 p.m. and end at 2 or 3 a.m. So you play the whole night. And you see, if you play five sets then you can perform three or four original songs while the rest is only covers.

MetalKings.com: What company released that album "Under A Different Sun"?

Daniel: The company was called First Milestone Music and they went down. There were three brothers playing in Lanzer including one on keyboards, it's a kind of family thing. And they built a record company of their own, I don't know, it's called Re Musik or something like this. But the copies I have are of First Milestone Music.

MetalKings.com: And is it possible anyhow to buy the album now?

Daniel: I don't think so, I've never seen it in a record shop. Well, Lanzer is still playing covers and they sell the album during their shows.

MetalKings.com: OK. About one year after joining Gamma Ray you started Freedom Call. Who came up with this idea?

Daniel: Chris (Bay, singer/guitarist) and me, we know each other for so many years, we met in the 1980s and played together in various cover-bands. One was called China White, the other was called Lanzer. And we were always talking about once having our own band. So when I came back from the "Somewhere Out In Space" tour there was so much time for me, I had some song ideas, Chris had some song ideas and in the beginning it was like, "Lets just try it! Try to work together, write some songs and see where it goes!" After one meeting we had three songs ready, in the end of January 1998 we had the first demo. We knew Charlie Bauerfeind cause he originally comes from a town near Hamburg, we asked him, sent him the demo and he loved it. He said, "OK guys, lets work together, I'll try to get a deal for you, you make rest of the songs." So in September 1998 we had the deal, we started the first production in January 1999. Then we had the first tour with Angra in France and a tour with Saxon in Europe. In the end of 1999 we started recording the next album "Crystal Empire", it was released in January 2001. At this time we were on tour with HammerFall and Virgin Steele. And then we started writing songs again. So it's always the same! (laughs) And in between there's Gamma Ray for when Gamma Ray is finished Freedom Call starts. We're always busy! (laughs)

MetalKings.com: I know that before Freedom Call Chris was in a band called Moon'Doc. Did he leave it or did the band split up?

Daniel: Chris left the band together with Ilker (Ersin, bassist) because Moon'Doc was the band of Herman Frank, former Victory guitar player. The way of singing was not Chris's one because Herman always forced him to sing like Fernando Garcia (former Victory singer). And the Moon'Doc music was more like Victory, more rock'n'roll, it was not melodic and fast speed metal so it was not Chris's style. I always told him, "This is not you!" because he likes to sing clean melody, high and clear, he has a really nice voice. But in Moon'Doc he was just shouting. He didn't feel good with that, then Moon'Doc lost the deal, the band split up, their drummer was gone too. So Herman started again with other guys whom I don't know. I only know Fritz Randow (drummer, Sinner and Saxon). But I think that Moon'Doc still exists. I don't know really well but I've heard that the band still exists. And the thing was also that Moon'Doc never played live, in four years they did one (!) live show on a festival. But it was not a metal festival, it was something else somewhere in Duisburg

MetalKings.com: But as far as I know Chris and Herman were in Japan with a promo tour for the first Moon'Doc album and played something there...

Daniel: Right, but they didn't really play there. It was a little bit strange that they never played in Japan or Europe.

MetalKings.com: The first Freedom Call album "Stairway To Fairyland" had a bonus track in Japan called "Kingdom Come". A song with the same title was released on the "Taragon" EP. Is it the same track or a new version?

Daniel: It was the same track apart from the vocals. Chris did the vocals again because we had some ideas about it and we weren't satisfied with the result on the Japanese version. And that bonus track for Japan, it was just one time and we said, "OK, but why should the Europeans not have the track the Japanese have?" So we decided to put the re-sung version on the "Taragon" EP. But then again the record company crossed our plans and said, "No, we don't want it here." So only again the Japanese released the mini-album as well as France. And we're still working on releasing the "Taragon" EP in the rest of the world. We talk with our record company but it has strict business arguments because the single usually sells 1/3 of a regular album. But we recorded a live album during the tour with Blind Guardian and we might release the "Taragon" EP on it in about January 2003.

MetalKings.com: As far as I know your French company NTS released a promo mini-CD with several acoustic tracks. Who came up with such idea and how was it recorded?

Daniel: Well, Chris and me did two songs "The Quest" and "Hymn To The Brave" as a fun thing. And then the boss of the French record company said, "Oh, we need a special thing for the promo company! Do you have anything to put on the CD like leftovers or demos or something?" So we decided to give him those acoustic tracks which were recorded in our rehearsing room.

MetalKings.com: What was the reason behind recording the cover-version of Ultravox "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes"?

Daniel: It was a simple reason because we talked about having a cover-version on the "Stairway To Fairyland" album too. But everybody is doing it and I hate it. All of them say, "Oh, we need a cover-version! What should we do?" This is bullshit! But when the "Taragon" production was coming up Chris came up with the single of Ultravox "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" and said, "Oh, I wanna do this as a cover-version". So we tried it and it worked. In my opinion a cover-version should fit to the band and to the singer. If he can't sing it really good, then leave it be. It's senseless to do something just to have a cover-version. And we played the song to many people who liked it a lot and we said, "OK, lets put in on the "Taragon" EP"!"

MetalKings.com: Is the sound of your first demo different in comparison with the album? And what about the demo track called "All Glory Units"?

Daniel: "All Glory Units" became "We Are One", it was just a working title. And yes, the demo is different because it had a drum computer while on the production we had real drums and it's very basic but somehow it has its own spirit.

MetalKings.com: : The first Freedom Call guitar player Sasha Gerster left the band some time ago. Why?

Daniel: Yes, Sascha left the band right after the HammerFall tour, he told us he doesn't want to play metal anymore, that he wants to do something different, he cut his hair and he is running his own band now. But somehow it was not hard to understand because Sasha is a very young and very talented guitar player. So when he joined Freedom Call in January 1999 he was like... one day he said, "Oh jazz! I want to play jazz!" Next day he said, Fusion is cool! then he said, "Oh, funk is cool!" And he is still in the learning process, he wants to learn to play everything because he really can do it. But one day he has to make his own way, he has to choose and use his imagination to understand what he wants to do and what he can do, he has to find his own style. And it's not easy to keep a guy like him in the band because he always wants to learn. So this is normal and we didn't have any troubles when he left, we wished him good luck. I hate line-up changes but I couldn't keep him in the band and convince him to stay. So we had to find a new one and found him in Cedric Dupont from Switzerland. And the big difference between Cerdi and Sasha is that Cerdi comes from metal music, he knows that he can do and he wants to do it. He is also a good performer on stage, we made a lot of festivals together last summer, he does 50 percent of the guitars on the new album and so it was a good teamwork with him and we have a good chemistry in the band.

MetalKings.com: How did you find Cedric?

Daniel: Well, I told a lot of guys from other bands, record companies and press that Freedom Call is searching for a guitar player. And then Tossini Stefan from Sanctuary Records came up with his phone number and I know that he plays in the band Symphorce too. But we had seven guys who showed up so we held some rehearsals and auditions and Cerdi was the first to join in and he was the best. All the other guys played well but with Cerdi it was just the chemistry. We liked his kind of humor, he was really relaxed and pretty cool so the choice was easy.

MetalKings.com: Let's talk about the new album Eternity. In my opinion is sounds not so progressive as the first too ones but more metal and more melodic. Do you agree?

Daniel: Yeah, it is true, especially with the fast songs. First of all I have to say that the album sounds very tight, very powerful. And this time there are also some keyboards, some classical influences but the arrangement is clear, there's not too many samples, I mean, if that's guitar that's guitar. That's one of the biggest differences arrangement-wise.

MetalKings.com: : What language did you speak on the intro to the first track "Metal Invasion"?

Daniel: It's Latin language, it's taken from the Holy Bible. We had to do something like this and we had that intro in an English version but we didn't like it, we thought it's boring. And we were searching and I thought about this Latin language. Though it is dead I know that it exists but I don't know any words. So somebody said, "Try the Holy Bible!" because in the Catholic church they sing a lot in Latin. So I found some words which are very positive.

MetalKings.com: As far as I understand the first two albums were concept ones, right?

Daniel: That's right. But it's not one concept because on every album we have a little fairytale and all those three parts are connected. The whole thing is called "The Tale Of Taragon". It's just a fantasy story, nothing new. Because during the first production we thought that it's easier to make the story because the music and the lyrics get inspired from that. I mean, we write something positive, fantasy and this is what we like. And people who know and listen to the lyrics they can interpret them in their own way using their imagination and this is very important for us. Next time we're gonna do something different. We will see where it goes but for now the fairytale is over.

MetalKings.com: So "Eternity" is the last in the tale of Taragon, right?

Daniel: Yes, it ends the trilogy.

MetalKings.com: Can you tell me how does the story end?

Daniel: The story is based on the fantasy book I've read and it tells about four stones which are the eyes of the world and they stand for four elements which are water, fire, earth and air so it's a little mystic story. And the story of Taragon starts on the album "Stairway To Fairyland" and on the second one "Crystal Empire" the main stone was stolen by the bad ones 'cause it's always the fight between good and bad. And we have a hero called Ramses who comes from the Egyptian mythology. This is the good one and the bad one is called Torgan from Pandakor. And on this last album Ramses is searching for the last stone, it's his last odyssey. He finally brings all four stones together so it's a positive ending for sure.

MetalKings.com: Maybe it's my very personal opinion but do you think that the song "Land Of Light" reminds Europes "The Final Countdown"?

Daniel: You're right! It's the same kind of groove and the theme is a little bit like this. But we had this song from the very beginning and it took some time to figure out that it sounds like Europe, pretty similar. So the song was there, we loved it and why not put it on the album? It's a really mainstream song in general.

MetalKings.com: And what's your opinion about Europe?

Daniel: It had unbelievable musicians, a great singer, great guitar players. I mean, John Norum was great and the next one, Kee Marcello, he is an amazing guitar player. And they had so many really great songs. I've seen them many times when they were big like on the Out Of This World tour in 1989. Somehow they influenced us too.

MetalKings.com: I think people in Russia would be interested to know what you think about the Freedom Call concert in Russia.

Daniel: I'd like to say that the whole trip to Moscow... Moskva (laughs) was very exciting. We didn't know what to expect and so the audience was the best thing, they were burning like hell. And when I was thank-youing them in the end they were holding me, it was unbelievable! And the organization was cool, the sound was good and equipment on stage was good. And the next day they took us to the Red Square, the Kremlin, GUM, and there was one guy from the promoters who could speak German. He told us a lot about the history and we're really looking forward to come back with Gamma Ray.

MetalKings.com: Yeah, you're supposed to play a festival here in June...

Daniel: Yes. I told Kai (Hansen) about Moscow and we're really looking forward to play.

MetalKings.com: A quite trivial question but well What do you think is the main difference between the music of Gamma Ray and Freedom Call?

Daniel: Well, Gamma Ray comes more from the way of composing, from a guitar riff. The riff is there, I mean, Kai and Henjo are great guitar players and on the latest album ("No World Order!" (2001)) it went more back to the 1980s, to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Freedom Call is more classical-influenced, there are more keyboards and we have a lot of phases like in the song "We Are One". So with Freedom Call we first have the melody and then we build the rest, and we take whatever fits to the melody and that's a little bit different to Gamma Ray.

MetalKings.com: Dan, many German musicians have day jobs not connected with music. What about you?

Daniel: No, I don't have any. I'm always busy with both bands and sometimes I do studio job like Iron Savior, Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come and I played an album with the Austrian band called Murdok. They are pretty new and the album should be released this year. Mainly I do it for friends or for guys I know really well. Sometimes I give lessons, I have some students and with all of that I'm totally busy... That's enough! (laughs)

MetalKings.com: Well, Dan, I think maybe that's all I wanted to know and let me tell you that in my opinion you and Jorg Michael are the best German drummers ever!

Daniel: Thank you! It's a very nice complement to me!

MetalKings.com: : OK, see you in Moscow in June with Gamma Ray! Thanks a lot for the interview!

Daniel: Thank you! It was nice talking to you! Take care! Bye!

Dead Ripper

Freedom Call Discography:
Stairway To Fairyland (1999, SPV)
Taragon (2000, NTS)
Crystal Empire (2001, SPV)
Eternity (2002, SPV)

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