Iron Savior is the legendary name. The band founder, Piet Sielck, used to play along with Kai Hansen in early formations of Helloween. Then he moved on to become a famous recording engineer on albums of Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Grave Digger and many many others. But it was not enough so he took the chance and formed his own band with the very old title of Iron Savior. The new album "Battering Ram" is about to come out soon and Mr. Sielck was kind enough to talk to us about his metal life journey. Join this space and time travel! Hello, Peter, it's great talking to you! Thanks for calling!

Piet Sielck: No problem at all! OK. The new album of Iron Savior "Battering Ram" will be out soon but let's go back to the very very beginning. Tell me, how did you get into rock music?

Piet Sielck: Well, when I was a kid I was listening a lot to the British rock. Even before the New Wave of British Heavy Metal I liked The Sweet and all other glam bands from the U.K. I called it rock and roll. Then came power rock like AC/DC and Motorhead. And finally the heavy rock, which consists of those bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and bands from the NWOBHM. Were there any bands in Germany that influenced you? Kraut rock or something?

Piet Sielck: I was never a big fan of that kraut rock. In Germany I think Scorpions and Accept. Also UFO was a huge influence. Well, they are not exactly from Germany but Michael Schenker was there and he is German. As far as I know Gentry was the first band you played in and Kai Hansen was there as well. Did you play in any bands before Gentry?

Piet Sielck: No, Gentry was the first more or less serious band. I know that Kai played in the band called Ancient Call before Gentry but for me personally Gentry was the first. I heard a very funny story that you won some newcomer bands contest in Hamburg with Gentry because of giving chips to people who later voted for you. Is that true?

Piet Sielck: Yes, that's true! (laughs) You know, by the time we were about to play at that contest we didn't have a bass player and drummer. The band was always about me and Kai. So we just borrowed members from other bands. And when the contest was on my mother came there with lots of potato chips. We gave them to people in exchange for votes and they all voted for us and we won. Why Gentry changed to Second Hell? And why such a dark name?

Piet Sielck: About the name, we just wanted to have something powerful and heavy. The change was simple. After we won the contest we soon found a new bassist and drummer but had to fire the bassist very quickly because he didn't understand our music, he wanted something more funky. So we decided that Gentry had run its course and changed the name to Second Hell. What songs did you play? Were they all originals or all covers?

Piet Sielck: I'd say half were originals and half covers. We played several songs that later wound up on Helloween and Gamma Ray albums. We already had "Metal Invaders", the first song that Helloween ever recorded. It was the song that started it all, it was on the "Noise" sampler ("Death Metal" (1984)). We also played "Phantoms Of Death" and "Gorgar". Oh, there was also the song called like the band "Second Hell". It later became "Heading For Tomorrow" of Gamma Ray. Well, "Heading For Tomorrow" is about 15 minutes long. Was "Second Hell" that long too? How much of it was transformed into the song "Heading For Tomorrow"?

Piet Sielck: Yes, the song "Second Hell" was that long, about 10 minutes. It had the same melody, almost the same arrangement and riff as the song "Heading For Tomorrow". The lyrics were different, of course! (laughs) Talking about "Gorgar", why did you decide to insert the melody of classic composer Edvard Greig into the solo part?

Piet Sielck: The background for it is the following. When I was a little kid I had an LP with some fairytale in German. I loved that fairytale and the music on it was written by Greig. I fell in love with that melody and when we were writing "Gorgar" I decided to insert that part into the song. That's how it happened. I read once that you also played cover songs of Sex Pistols. What songs exactly? What do you think of Sex Pistols music in general?

Piet Sielck: Yes, we played... I think we played "Anarchy In The U.K." and that's it. Well, Sex Pistols is a great band. I never considered them to be a punk band. That album "Never Mind The Bollocks... Here's The Sex Pistols" is not punk at all. It's a very straight rock music, very simple but there were lots of great ideas inside. Do you think that that Sex Pistols album was a major influence on the whole metal movement?

Piet Sielck: Definitely! Tell me why you were not credited on those three songs in the sleeve of "Walls Of Jericho"?

Piet Sielck: I gave all the rights to Kai and he was free to do whatever he wanted with those songs. The way they were played on "Walls Of Jericho" is the same way they were played in the days of Second Hell. Is that the main reason why you played "Phantoms Of Death" on the Helloween tribute album "Keepers Of Jericho"?

Piet Sielck: That's right, I tried to re-create the original atmosphere. OK, you finally left Second Hell and started the sound engineering career. Why did you decide to go to the United States?

Piet Sielck: Well, I was young, about 18-19 years old. We played around for two years and nothing happened. It was very frustrating for me and finally I gave it all up. I decided to become a recording engineer. At that time there was no really professional scene in Germany although I worked for two years in a studio as a recording engineer. So I decided to go to Los Angeles because the whole rock music scene was concentrated there. But when I came I found out that I knew more than people there! (laughs) So I spent about nine months in L.A. doing surfing and mostly having the fun of life. Then I returned to Germany and started working in "Karo Studios" with Kalle Trapp. Piet, you are a big friend of Kai. Can you tell me was the situation in Helloween in 1988 so bad that Kai had to leave? You know, Kai said he couldn't stand long tours, some people say Michael Weikath was to blame for everything. As a good friend of Kai what can you say about it?

Piet Sielck: Well, I'll try to make the long story short. Yes, Helloween was very popular at that time, the success was enormous. BUT being in the band is like being married. You know, just because you have kids it's not the reason why you should stay together if you don't like each other. Diplomatically speaking, that's what happened in Helloween. The band had three strong and very individual personalities: Kai Hansen, Michael Weikath and Michael Kiske. And relations between all of them got so bad that it wasn't fun anymore. That's why Kai decided to leave. He couldn't stand the whole bullshit. He left and formed Gamma Ray. That's how it was. So some years passed and you finally decided to start your own band. Were you considering it to become a band or was it just a project in the beginning?

Piet Sielck: In the beginning yes, it was just a project. I wrote down the story of Iron Savior. I came up with it during the production of a Blind Guardian album. And the whole concept of robots and stuff was influenced by the cover of the Queen album... You know, that one with "We Are The Champions"... "News Of The World"?

Piet Sielck: Yeah, right, "News Of The World"! Oh, I am getting old! (laughs) You remember that robot on the cover? That's where it came from. So I invited Kai and Thomen to play on the album. But when it was released people started asking me to play some festivals and record more albums so the project became a band. And the song "Iron Savior" itself goes back to the days of Second Hell. But it was totally different then. I have a bootleg video with the Iron Savior first concert at Wacken and should say you looked great!

Piet Sielck: Yeah, I liked it a lot! It was a great show! Also the first more or less professional live show I played since the days of Second Hell. The experience was terrific! The first album had the Japanese bonus track, the cover-version of Judas Priest...

Piet Sielck: Yes, "The Rage", my secret favorite track on the album "British Steel". (laughs) I heard that you used the drum machine on the song. Why?

Piet Sielck: Well, the song was recorded after the whole album and it was impossible to track down Thomen Stauch to record the drum parts. So I simply sampled his drums and inserted them into the recording. Another interesting cover-version was the song of Nazareth "This Flight Tonight". You liked the song?

Piet Sielck: Yes, Nazareth was that band of the movement I call power rock. I liked their songs a lot and "This Flight Tonight" was always one of my favorites. OK, but did you know that another German band Heavens Gate recorded "This Flight Tonight" on the debut album back in 1989?

Piet Sielck: No, I found it out later. But their approach and arrangements were different. After the album came out your recorded the second one "Unification". Before it there was a single "Coming Home". The single had another version of that song "Iron Savior" than the one on the album. What is the difference?

Piet Sielck: Generally speaking it was the same song. The only difference was that instead of Kai Uwe Lulis (then-member of Grave Digger) played guitar solo on it. How did you engage Uwe in the song?

Piet Sielck: Well, we became good friends when working on the Grave Digger rebirth album "The Reaper" and I was also engaged into the production of the following EP "Symphony Of Death". Since then me and Uwe are friends and I just asked him to play a solo and he did. What songs did you play on the first tour apart from the Iron Savior tracks?

Piet Sielck: We played the stuff written in times of Second Hell that later came out as Helloween. We did "Gorgar", "Metal Invaders" and the medley of two tracks together "Ride The Sky" and "Heavy Metal (Is The Law)". I have the bootleg recording of that medley and it's great to hear your performance of those classics!

Piet Sielck: Yeah, what can I say? The song "Heavy Metal (Is The Law)" was written by Kai and Michael Weikath together and it's the classic song, the classic title. "Heavy Metal (Is The Law)" - nothing can be added to this statement. The next album was "Unification" and it had the song of the Swiss band Dragonslayer...

Piet Sielck: Do you know why? I heard there was some contest...

Piet Sielck: That's right. When we went on tour with Iron Savior for the first time we played mostly with Edguy but we also wanted to take some totally unknown and unsigned band to help it rise. So after hearing all those bands we decided to let one of those bands appear on our next album. So we and journalists from various magazines like "Rock Hard" and "Metal Hammer" listened to those bands and finally settled on Dragonslayer. Why choosing "Neon Knights" as a cover-verison of Black Sabbath? Do you prefer Ronnie James Dio era or Ozzy Osbourne era?

Piet Sielck: Definitely Dio era. I like his singing a lot and his lyrics are just great. I think Dio was a much better singer for Black Sabbath than Ozzy. So out of all albums of Black Sabbath "Heaven And Hell" is my absolute favorite. The songs "Heaven And Hell" and "Neon Knights" are the ones are like the most from the album. "Never Say Die" is a great song as well. Next there came the half-live/half-studio album "Interlude". What was the idea behind it?

Piet Sielck: To tell you the truth, I don't think the album got the recognition it deserved. When making it I thought, "OK. We gotta release a live recording. But what's the sense of doing a simple live album?" I mean, when you play live there's almost nothing new you can add to the song, people already heard it on the album. That's how the idea came to record several new songs and add them to the live part. But most of the people misunderstood the album anyway. OK, let's switch to the album "Dark Assault". When I listen to it today I think it's a bit weaker than its follow-up "Condition Red". What do you think?

Piet Sielck: Well, yes, I agree with you. Now that I listen to it I also don't like the sound of guitars and drums, it could have been much better. So how did you happen to engage former Gamma Ray drummer Thomas Nack into Iron Savior?

Piet Sielck: The whole thing took me about 1,5 years but it finally worked. When I asked Thomas for the first time he said he didn't want to play metal anymore, blah, blah, blah. (laughs) But I invited him to play at Wacken at that first concert we talked about eariler. You know, Daniel Zimmermann of Gamma Ray failed to perform there because he had a broken thumb and Kai played together with Mike Terrana. And I didn't want to play with Mike too. So I asked Thomas to perform with us. He agreed and then for 1,5 years I was after him asking to join the band. And like I said he finally did it. Before the album "Dark Assault" there was a single released with the cover-version of Krokus...

Piet Sielck: Yeah, "Headhunter". I always loved Krokus. They were from Switzerland, they started when we were young and we all loved the band. I considered them to be heavy rock. The song is my favorite. Piet, a silly question but anyway - where did you get the lyrics to "Headhunter"? I mean, the original Krokus album "Headhunter" does not have the lyrics in both LP and CD.

Piet Sielck: Yes, I know it. It was a big problem for me. I tried to write the song down as I heard it in the original. But some lyrics you can understand and some you can't. So I managed to get the Japanese edition of the album and the Japanese always have lyrics inside the booklets. That's where I got them from. Piet, let's talk about the artwork of albums. Can you comment on each album?

Piet Sielck: Sure! On the first album I wanted the plain artwork with the Iron Savior itself on it. The second album "Unification" and EP "Coming Home" was just a big trouble. The guy who did the artwork sent me paintings and they were completely different from what you can see on the album and EP. But the problem was that one of those paintings wound up on the Internet and it was too late to change anything since it was very close to the release date. I would have changed it if I could but... You know, the artwork of the new album "Battering Ram" is very close to what I originally wanted it to be on the "Unification". OK, the artwork of "Interlude" was very simple again and the one on the album "Dark Assault" was just pretty close to the debut album's one. On the album "Condition Red" I wanted to create a big explosion on the background and that's what you see. So the artwork on "Condition Red" and "Battering Ram" is my absolute favorite among all the albums and EPs. I also like the one on the EP "I've Been To Hell". How did you come up with the idea for the cover-version of Seal "Crazy"? Are you a fan of Seal?

Piet Sielck: No, not at all! (laughs) You know, I heard the song on the radio in a car. When I came home I took the song, worked on it with my computer and finally decided to record it on "Codition Red". It also fit in the concept more or less. Why "I Will Be There" and "Crazy" were limited edition bonus tracks? You didn't like those songs?

Piet Sielck: No no, I like "I Will Be There" a lot. But the record company said they wanted to release a limited edition. And of course, the limited edition should have bonus tracks. So those songs were thrown in as bonuses. The new album is called "Battering Ram". What is the meaning?

Piet Sielck: "Battering Ram" is a very big musical instrument. And since the album is made in the same vein like "Condition Red" with the same power and might the title fits it the whole concept. At the same time the album is not concept at all. You mean the story of Iron Savior is over?

Piet Sielck: No, not at all! But "Battering Ram" is the first album in the history of Iron Savior that is not concept. Only three songs fit in the original story of Iron Savior. They are "Tyranny Of Steel", "Time Will Tell" and the epic "Machine World". The rest of the songs have their own topics. Will there be a bonus track for Japan?

Piet Sielck: Yes. This is the balled written by Piesel and it's called "Living On The Fault Line". The ballad is great but if we wanted to take it to the album the record company would take one of those 10 tracks away. And there was no way to throw out even a single track from that album. So the ballad will be only on the Japanese version. Tell me about the line-up changes. Why Jan-S. Eckert is no longer a member of Iron Savior?

Piet Sielck: It's very easy. He joined Masterplan. He tried to be the member of both bands at the same time and succeeded for six months. But Masterplan has a very tight schedule and we needed to record the new album so we had to find another bass player. So how did you find the new one, Yenz Leonhardt?

Piet Sielck: Yenz is a good friend of Thomas (Nack). You know, Yenz worked as a producer for a while, he was engaged in the making of the Anesthesia album that featured Thomas and Jan Rubach (ex-Gamma Ray). So Thomas invited him to join and that's what he did. And you know, Yenz is a member of Iron Savior for about a year so he doesn't seem like a new member to us like he is to all the others. OK, what happened to Anesthesia then?

Piet Sielck: Basically they failed and the band split up. The album ("The State Of Being Unable To Feel Pain" (1997)) was released in Germany on a small label that went out of business soon as well as in Japan. But reviews were not that good and the band split up soon after the release. And what happened to Andreas Kuck, the keyboard player?

Piet Sielck: Well, there were not too many keyboards on "Condition Red" and only one song on "Battering Ram" has very little keyboards. So we decided to split because we do not really need a keyboard player even at our live shows. OK, Piet. Thanks a lot for this great interview and hope you come to Russia some day! And please, since you are good friends with Kai ask him to come to Russia with Gamma Ray as well! Lots of people want to see him here!

Piet Sielck: Like in the whole world! OK, we will both try to do our best! Ride on, man!

Dead Ripper
(May, 2004)

Special thanks to Christine Stephan from "Sanctuary Records"
for her enormous assistance and support in making this interview possible.

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