This interview cost us a lot of nerves. First the legal situation with the distribution of Metalium's albums in Russia was unclear, then there was this conflict of schedules, and finally, after a few weeks of negotiations when I sat at the phone and dialed the number, in the receiver there was… silence. Shit like that continued for 20 minutes, and in the meantime I managed to utter all that I think about Mr. Bell, his mother and father and other inventors of things that don't work. Suddenly a miracle happened - when I was just about to give up I heard the voice on the other end of the line saying "Hello, this is Lars". This was, of course, Lars Ratz, Metalium's founder and bass player, the perfect person to tell us everything about the band and its new album "Hero-Nation - Chapter Three" due in late February 2002 via Massacre Records.
MetalKings.com: Let's start with the question that came to my mind when I saw Metalium at Wacken Open Air last year. I really enjoyed the show, and another thing that impressed me was that Metalium energy drink that you distributed freely at your signing session. What was the idea of that move and who came up with that?
Lars: Do you know our first record? The concept of that album is that a regular metal fan got from other metal fans a liquid chrome potion to drink so that he would be able to go through the circle of fate and become Metalian in the end. And this chrome liquid was called Metalium. So that energy drink was the perfect marketing idea.
MetalKings.com: OK, let's move on to the new album "Hero-Nation - Chapter Three". You know, I downloaded the samples from your homepage (www.metalium.de) and I got an impression that the new record is a bit slower than the previous two. Is that right?
Lars: No, only some songs are slower, not all of them. We still have very fast songs, but for the first time on "Hero-Nation" we got the chance to fill in some mid-tempo tracks. Have you heard the song "Odin's Spell"? It's something new for us, we never did anything like that before.
MetalKings.com: Let's speak about line-up changes a little bit. You only have one guitarist on "Hero-Nation", why didn't you invite a second one? As far as I know, Metalium has always been a two-guitarist band.
Lars: Well, live, yes, but not in the studio. We had one guitarist on "State Of Triumph - Chapter Two" as well, and the core of the band has always been me, Matthias Lange and Henne Basse. Of course, it's great to have two guitarists live, but in the studio, we don't really need a second guitarist, you know. I feel very comfortable with a four-piece band.
MetalKings.com: Are you planning to work with Tom Naumann (ex-Sinner, ex-Primal Fear) again in the future? (Tom played guitar at Metaium's live performances in the summer of 2001, including at the Wacken Open Air gig.)
Lars: That's possible. Tom is a nice guy and a good guitarist and a friend of ours, so that's possible, but we don't know yet. It's very important right now to find a solution to that problem.
MetalKings.com: Well, a question that everyone wants to know the answer to. Can you tell me something about the concept of the new album?
Lars: Well, the first two records had a fantasy theme, and now on the third record we're getting a link to the reality, our own reality. We have one song for each country, that means that Metalian's soul is getting reincarnated in the most dramatic historical bodies. Every song pictures the most dramatic moment of this person's life. Have you heard the song "Rasputin" on the website?
MetalKings.com: Yeah, sure, that was going to be my next question.
Lars: And we have songs like that for other countries.
MetalKings.com: What inspired you to write "Rasputin"?
Lars: We wanted to cover every country with one song, and we were looking for a good theme for every country, and we thought that for Russia the Rasputin theme is interesting. It's one of the best songs on the record, really. Basically, it's one of my favorite songs on the album right now.
MetalKings.com: Can you tell me something about the song called "Heart Of The Tiger"? As far as I understand, it's a cover version, right?
Lars: No, it's a song written for the boxer, the most famous and successful German boxer of our time. It was composed by a piano player and we were asked to play the song in the rock style, because, you know, the original version was on the piano. But it's an original song, we are the first to publish it. So, it is an original, but not written by us.
MetalKings.com: Oh, now I see. So it's not a part of the concept, is it?
Lars: No, it's not. It's actually even a hidden track, you cannot jump to it on the CD.
MetalKings.com: You have some guest keyboardists on the record, I mean Don Airey (ex-Black Sabbath, ex-Deep Purple, ex-Company Of Snakes, etc.) and Ken Hensley (ex-Uriah Heep). How did you manage to get in contact with them?
Lars: Ken and me are friends, and the same is with Don Airey, we know each other.
MetalKings.com: I know that you were planning to release a DVD in November 2001, but I've never seen it in stores in Russia. So was it actually released?
Lars (slightly surprised): Why, yes, it was released. It went to number 2 of the DVD charts in Spain. The Locomotive company from Spain has the exclusive rights for it for the world, and they've been a fine partner, so I don't know…
MetalKings.com: Another thing that I've heard is that there will be a double CD edition of "Hero Nation". What are you going to put on the second CD?
Lars: Metalium always wants to offer value for money, and that means that we want to do great music, great artwork, great packaging and a lot of stuff for good price. We did this with the DVD already, the DVD contained a 40-page full-color comic booklet which shows all our concept story and a CD with six live songs. We did the same on "Hero-Nation", we have one record with the music and the other CD with the live video of the song "Fight", two live songs in the audio format, three screensavers, wallpapers, an interactive section where you can hear Don Airey's keyboard all alone without any other music, it also has Ken Hensley's keyboard and the voice of Karolin Fortenbacher, the guest singer, totally isolated, these are very rare tracks, so it will be again good value for money. The booklet is 20 pages this time, it is done by Markus Mayer, so we're really, really happy to offer this to our fans. And it costs only one dollar more than the regular version.
MetalKings.com: I'd like to ask you some questions about your career before Metalium, do you mind that?
Lars: No, no problem.
MetalKings.com: Some sources on the Internet say that you played in U.D.O., is that right?
Lars: No, that's a big, big misunderstanding. There's a German artist who sings in the German language and sells millions of records. His name is Udo without dots, and I don't know how it got into some biographies that I played in U.D.O. Of course, I know Udo Dirkschneider, but I have never played with him in a band.
MetalKings.com: Another thing that I've heard but had no confirmation of is that you played with Joal, is that right?
Lars: Yes, I played with Joal in the studio on her second record ("Who's Got The Feeling", 1993), but before the record was done I was asked to play with Santiago and I left my home city with Santiago and came up to Hamburg this way.
MetalKings.com: Do you know what Joal is doing at present?
Lars: She's a nurse.
MetalKings.com: Isn't she playing music anymore?
Lars: Not that I would know. It's funny that you know it, I had no idea that she's known in Russia (laughs).
MetalKings.com: Another question goes about Velvet Viper. As far as I know you had two records with this band in the early 1990s. What happened after that?
Lars: After that I started my own company (Monster Productions - ed.), which is a management, publishing and booking company. I met Ken Hensley and Don Airey that way, because I was their agent in Germany. Then I thought that the time was right to start Metalium, and the rest is history. The first album was one of the most successful debut albums in Europe, it went into the charts directly, and now we are three records later (sighs). Now we can explore different continents and countries like Russia and also South America, we're getting into a lot of different territories now for the first time.
MetalKings.com: Isn't Jutta Weinhold (the singer of Velvet Viper) singing on the second Metalium album?
Lars: Yes, yes. She's basically singing all the female vocals there.
MetalKings.com: But there are several female vocalists indicated in the booklet.
Lars: Yeah, but singing live is only her. Speeches [on the record] are not hers, but all singing is hers.
MetalKings.com: I'd like to ask a question about your guitarist, Matthias Lange. Where did he play before joining Metalium?
Lars: In several local bands that never made any records, but I've known him for 12 years. When I founded Metalium I wanted somebody who is really, really good, but not known, not a star, so I took him, he's very talented and a good writer and a nice guy. Also, he's easy to communicate with because he hasn't been anybody before.
MetalKings.com: And what about your new drummer (Michael Ehre)? Did he play in any famous bands before?
Lars: No. The same is with Mark Cross (Metalium's previous drummer -ed.), nobody knew Mark Cross before he joined Metalium…
MetalKings.com: Actually I knew him, he played with Nightfall.
Lars: Yes, he did one record with Nightfall ("Diva Futura", 1999), but in Germany, nobody knows Nightfall, so he became a name overnight. The same is now with Michael, I didn't want to have a name, I don't need names, I need good musicians, and then they become names.
MetalKings.com: John Osbourne from Dr. Butcher played several shows with Metalium in 2000. Why didn't he stay with you any longer?
Lars (choosing words very carefully): Well, we played a tour, and before recording "Chapter Two" I had to decide what to do. John is a good drummer and a nice guy, but his style is more hard-rock-oriented than double-bass-heavy-metal oriented. And I wanted to play faster on the second Metalium record than on the first one, so I knew that even if he was a good drummer, he was not the right person for "Chapter Two".
MetalKings.com: Does anybody in the band have side projects?
MetalKings.com: But as far as I know you played in a Kiss tribute band, is that right?
Lars (laughs): Yeah. Everybody in Hamburg has a tribute band for fun - Roland Grapow, Uli Kusch, Henjo Richter. Roland covers Uriah Heep, and Uli has this Rainbow cover band where Henning is singing...
MetalKings.com: Catch The Rainbow?
Lars: Oh yeah. Matthias plays in Judas Priest and Van Halen cover bands, and I play in a Kiss [cover band] when I have time, I'm a big fan, but we don't play often, this is more for fun. This is more like once or twice a year we jump on stage and feel like real rock stars (cracks). You cannot even consider it a side project.
MetalKings.com: OK, if you don't like the next question you can skip it. Do you know that you are mentioned in the booklet of the latest Tracelords CD ("Sex, Money, Rock'n'Roll", 2001)?
Lars (puzzled): No.
MetalKings.com: You know, you're on "The Top 3 List of People who Better Never Call us Again". What happened between you?
Lars: I don't know (laughs). Actually, I have no idea.
MetalKings.com: I've been told at Monster Productions that you start producing a band for Massacre tomorrow. What band is that?
Lars: It's a new band called Seventh One. I found this band in Sweden, they have a great potential, I arranged everything so that they got signed, and now their record will be released through Massacre. We start the production tomorrow.
MetalKings.com: OK, we're about to round up with interview. Is there anything that you would like to tell your fans in Russia?
Lars: Yes, of course, we wanna come over to Russia as soon as possible to kick some asses really seriously (laughs).
MetalKings.com: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it, I've seen your show at Wacken and I think it was great.
Lars: We're not at all excited about the show at Wacken…
MetalKings.com (surprised): Really?
Lars: No, not at all. We had some technical problems. If you think the show in Wacken was good than we will just destroy everything when we come over there (laughs). Sooner or later, but the Russians cannot get away from us (laughs).
MetalKings.com: OK, Lars, thank you very much for the interview and good luck with Metalium and Monster Productions!
Special thanks to Stephanie from Monster Productions for making this interview possible.
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