In addition to our massive interview with the three Primal Fear musicians that we have published a while ago, we have on offer a separate conversation with the band's guitarist Henny Wolter. The man has been on the German heavy metal scene for ages and played in a few very famous bands, but it makes no sense to retell the whole interview in the opening passage, read on and you'll see for yourself. Let's just add that the interview was also done at the House Of Music studio in Winterbach in December 2001 when Primal Fear were recording their new album "Black Sun".
MetalKings.com: Let's start from the very beginning. I'd like to know how you started your career, what were your influences and first steps into the music.
Henny: Well, I started playing guitar at the age of 14 and back then I was a big Kiss fan. I was very much into Kiss, I liked their albums and all that stuff, I mean, the original line-up...
MetalKings.com: I guess, Ace Frehley...
Henny: Yeah! Ace was great and that's why I'm still playing (Gibson) Les Paul guitar 'cause Ace always used to play Les Paul guitars. So that was my teenage influence. I kind of took it from them, you know, at the age of 14 you see fire and bombs going on, you're all impressed, you think, "That's gotta be the greatest band all over the world!" And then you find out more when you play guitar. I also like various guitar players, I kind of got into UFO, Michael Schenker, which I still like. I'm not too crazy about him now but I think he did some good stuff with UFO, also some great solo albums back then. And like Mat said before we were very much into Thin Lizzy which I very much like, also their live shows when I saw them in 1979 on Chinatown tour. I also liked Van Halen when they came out with first and second albums, great stuff. And that was basically the beginning of my career, my influences. And then going along with the first bands that I played with I kind of got into blues kind of stuff. I got into Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, rhythm'n'blues playing so that all very much influenced my style, my taste. And the first professional band I was playing with was the band from my hometown, Hannover, which was called Viva. It used to be around in the mid-80ies, in 1985, I guess.
MetalKings.com: And was it that Viva with Barbara Schenker (keyboardist, younger sister of Michael Schenker and Rudolf Schnker (Scorpions))?
Henny: Yes, that one. That was my first professional band.
MetalKings.com: So did you play on all four albums of that band?
Henny: No, I didn't play on any album. I joined after Marc Pagannini, the singer, has left (to pursue successful solo career) and there was that Scottish singer, Chris Thor. I got in the band after they recorded the album "Apocalypse" (1983) and then the band split up. So I was in it for like a year and nothing happened. So after that I founded Thunderhead in 1988 and that was the first recording band which kind of did tours and recorded albums regularly. And Thunderhead existed from 1988 to 1996. So that was eight years of touring, albums every year. I don't know if you know them, I mean, with Ted Bullet, American singer. We had three guys, four guys in the band, I mean, with a singer. Well, Thunderhead was my baby, it was my idea and mainly my songs. So Thunderhead is a very rock'n'roll- and blues-oriented hard rock like Motorhead, in that kind of vein. And I've always been into AC/DC, and like I said before I kind got into that blues kind of thing. So after Thunderhead broke up in 1996 I had no job as a guitar player so I did some guest appearances and some albums. I played on the Japanese live album and tour with Fair Warning which is like an AOR melodic type...
MetalKings.com: I guess it was "Live And More" (1997) album...
Henny: Well, I am not so familiar with their albums. I played on the tour for the "Go!" album (1995)... Then they record "4" (1998) and after that the band broke up. Their singer (Tommy Heart) is doing his own stuff...
MetalKings.com: Yeah, he's got the band Soul Doctor!
Henny: Exactly! So my old bandmate from Thundehead, Ole (bassist) plays in the new band of Helge Engelke (former Fair Warning guitarist)...
MetalKings.com: Oh, you mean Dreamtide!
Henny: Yeah, you know them, great. And since I was working with Mat 10 years ago, we've known each other for more than 10 years, he always came to Thunderhead shows and I always went to the Sinner gigs. And he's always been going like, "Oh, that's a great band, great guitar player!" But I always said, "OK, great but I'm not gonna join your band." So that is how I got the deal in 1994 with Sinner on that "Bottom Line" album (1995). I played guitar instead of Alex Beyrodt and when they had trouble with Tom Naumann in Sinner and in Primal Fear they called me and said, "We got a job. Would you like to have it?" So I said, "Sure! Let's do it!" So here I am.
MetalKings.com: So I always wanted to ask German guitarists about their opinion on guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen and others...
Henny: Personally I'm not crazy about Yngwie. Concerning the guitar playing, I think there were three revolutions. The first one with Hendrix when everyone was like "Oh! I didn't know we can do that noise on guitar!" The second one was with Eddie Van Halen who had that tapping and everybody was "Oh, how can you do it so fast?" You know, he played with his back to the audience and nobody knew how to do it. And the third one was I guess with Yngwie and his picking style. But like I said before I am personally more into blues guitar while Yngwie comes more from the classical side like violin or so. And first I didn't like him at all, I kind of disliked Yngwie. And when I saw him last year when we played Sweden Rock Festival...
MetalKings.com: Was that the one with Dokken...?
Henny: Yes, exactly. So we checked out Yngwie and I didn't like him. He treats his band very bad. So to me, I've always been more into band style like it was with The Beatles, Kiss when everybody is a star in the band, everybody is important. Also I've never been into that solo type of songs...
MetalKings.com: You know I always thought that German metal is very different to the American one...
Henny: I think so too. You see, I always had a theory about Germans, you know, we have a march type of music. So when a German average audience sings the song they clap on the one beat like 'na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na' which is a very typical element of march. So if you would play the same melody to Americans they clap on the back like 'na na na na, na na na na, na na na na na na na' like swing. So it's a very different feel. And this is my theory, I don't know if it's true or not. So that's why we have typical German metal which to me is Helloween and Helloween always had a German style which is 'na na na na na na na na na, la la la la, la la la, la' (going faster and faster) So that's like a trademark for German metal. It has not so much to do with the American style and stuff like that.
MetalKings.com: And you see, many times I thought that German musicians are very much influenced by the classical music...
Henny: That comes from Yngwie too. Yeah, classical and march type of music. I'd like to think that all those licks of Primal Fear are something between classical German metal and American-oriented hard rock. Well, I also like Accept-type which is not so typical German. Their music might be like an American band of the 80ies or 90ies. And obviously, we're all influenced by Judas Priest which also had a line-up of very interesting musical background, the American-British oriented one.
MetalKings.com: OK, you had a really great career with Thunderhead. So why did the band brake up?
Henny: It was personal problems. We could not work together anymore, Ted had drug problems, we always beat each other up. So it was no good work, I can't work that way. I thought, "Oh, I'm gonna write some songs tonight with that guy who punched me in the face" and all that physical relationship like 'Fuck you!' So there was no sense in working together 'cause we disliked each other so much. I don't have any contact with him, I don't talk to the guy anymore and all that I know is he is releasing an album called Thunderhead which I think is bullshit. I don't want to talk or work with him again... But we had a good way to work together in the past, we came up with some good songs and I must say after all I still think he is a great singer, great performer on stage. But the guy is too much an asshole to work with, to put up with all that shit. And everybody was of the same opinion, they all said 'Fuck this! We stop!'
MetalKings.com: As far as I know Ted came to Germany from the USA and was going to join Victory. So how did he end up with Thunderhead?
Henny: Yes, that's true. He auditioned for Victory as you said but he didn't get a job because Fernando Garcia got it. They really wanted a poppy kind of high voice but Ted was different with all that tattoos, rough voice so he didn't fit. So I've seen him on that day when he auditioned for Victory and I went to Peter Knorn, Victory's bass player, and said, "I gotta have this guy for my own band."
MetalKings.com: So you know the guys from Victory. Do you know what happened to them after the "Voiceprint" album (1997)?
Henny: Yes, they broke up because nobody wanted them anymore. I think their best album was "Culture Killed The Native" (1989) when Fernando was brand new in the band after Charlie (Huhn) left. So that was the best time for Victory. During the tour for the Thunderhead first album ("Behind The Eight Ball" (1989)) we were together with Victory who supported their "Culture Killed The Native". And we played on the average at 2,000-people halls.
MetalKings.com: I know that your first albums were released by the Intercord company...
Henny: Yes, it's from Stuttgart. As far as I know they went through some changes like got hooked with EMI and I don't know if they're still called Intercord. But the company still does exist because the people are still there.
MetalKings.com: You know there's a thing about German rock musicians that they don't like to talk a lot about drugs, alcohol and groupies. What do you think is the reason for it?
Henny: Yeah, right. I think it's a guy music, I've never seen too many girls at our shows unfortunately. It's a very hard driving music, especially when you go to a show. You might be punched, sweaty all over and look like shit but you have fun, it's loud, it's no chick music.
MetalKings.com: But does that groupie thing exist on the German scene?
Henny: A few, not in metal. Mostly in pop, rather the young girls. And we have some young guy fans at some latest shows that make me confident that younger people are starting to listen to heavy stuff again. So it's mostly 30 and up people but it shows that metal is still alive.
MetalKings.com: And about drugs and alcohol... that's not typical for the German scene as well...
Henny: Yes, that's true. Maybe that's because if you want to reach success you have to work for a long time like 10 years or something and if you managed to keep the band together for 10 years you can't carry on alcoholic or heroin addition for 10 years. It was a problem with Thunderhead; after 10 years we were like, "Fuck you!"
MetalKings.com: Well, all Primal Fear albums were recorded in this House Of Music studio. Did you ever think about building your own studios, I mean, Mat or you?
Henny: We don't have that much money. Also we like to record here, it's a nice place to work and relax. I mean, we all have our own home studios but only for pre-production. And in order to record the proper album we need to have the best equipment possible. The real studio sounds different.
MetalKings.com: And why exactly this one, in Winterbach near Stuttgart?
Henny: Because the band is located in Stuttgart.
MetalKings.com: So you also live in Stuttgart?
Henny: No, I'm from Hannover.
MetalKings.com: Hannover? But that's much too far. It's almost the north of Germany! So do you travel all the time here and there?
Henny: Yeah, every time. I travel 560 kilometers here and back. Every rehearsal, every recording, every tour I travel this way. It's like Ralf said, I don't wanna give up my relations, home, friends but I wanna be in this band so that's OK, I can travel so far.
MetalKings.com: And do you have a family, I mean, wife and kids?
Henny: Yeah, I have a family, wife who is not gonna move to Stuttgart. But that's OK with me, I just take a few days off and say, "Well, I gotta record an album"...
MetalKings.com: And do you have any day job?
Henny: I do, I work part time because when Thunderhead broke up I had no money at all so I had to find a day-time job. So when I was looking for a job I always wanted to know how much holiday I can get. (laughs) I work as a sales account for "Yellow Pages" telephone book.
MetalKings.com: So do all German musicians have day jobs?
Henny: It depends on how much money they make. I don't think Rammstein needs a day-time job (laughs) but the rest of metal guys sure have it. Maybe except Kai Hansen who has a studio of his own and makes enough money to live off his music.
MetalKings.com: I've never met Kai in person. Do you know him personally and what do you think of him?
Henny: Well, he's always very funny, nice, very good businessman. In many cases you know how to write songs and record albums but are not competent enough about the business side. So you have a manager but he fucks the band. But some people know about business and they survive, like Kai, for example. He's the guy who knows how to play and do business. You gotta know both things in music business in order to exist.
MetalKings.com: OK, I'd like to know your opinion on some bands. The first is Gotthard.
Henny: Gotthard? It's a good, solid, heavy rock. It's not typical German, rather American-oriented which I like.
Henny: It's also a big size German band, still around. I think I like it, it's good.
Henny: You mean, Swedish band Europe? (thinks for a while) Too soft for my taste. It's too poppy. Hey, you're kind of taking it downstairs starting at Gotthard, to Bonfire and then to Europe... OK, Bonfire is OK, I can take it but Europe is not, too many keyboards and high voice...
MetalKings.com: OK, the last one of that 'downward line' is Modern Talking.
Henny: (laughs) Well, it's a good money machine. Funny, funny people, beating up their wives (laughs) But anyway, Dieter Bohlen is a good example of how long you have to be around. Because everybody is like, "OK, this guy, he started playing music and then he was a number one" which is bullshit. He's been doing this shit for 22 years. His first success with "You're My Heart, You're My Soul" was in mid-80ies but he's been struggling for more than 12 years before it. And everybody was laughing at him, everybody said, "Oh, this idiot, ha ha ha ha!" So there's nothing bad that he can say now, "Oh, I have the nicest women, fastest Ferraris, lots of money..." because everybody was putting him down for 15 years! So you can't blame the guy for it.
MetalKings.com: Really? 15 years?
Henny: Yes, that's true. It's amazingly long. You know we have a very ancient German TV show which is called "EuroTops" which is a kind of "Top Of The Pops" and I don't remember how many times I've seen Dieter Bohlen there alone before he hooked up with Thomas Anders. He was trying with some shit and never made it in the charts, trying to make a break. You know, he's been working on his success for more than 12 years before he came up with Modern Talking. So you can't blame the guy that now he tastes his success. It's like with American punk or something. People think those people just sat, played some guitar parts and came up with number one hits which is bullshit. Those guys are professional musicians for 15 or 20 years, trying hip hop, grunge, fighting their asses off. Mostly it comes down because you gotta work on it for years, years, years and years, just keep trying and then you might be lucky one day.
MetalKings.com: OK, another band is Metallica.
Henny: Oh, Metallica is a great influence for many metal bands. Like it or not, Metallica is the sound of the 80ies, their guitar sound influences generations of guitar players. So albums like "Kill 'Em All" and "Ride The Lightning"... that's heavy shit, classic heavy metal shit. But I don't like their recent albums like "Load" or "Reload", it doesn't ring a bell for me. I think Metallica goes pop which should be alright for new generation of pop metal fans but I think that typical stuff that Metallica is famous for is "Fight Fire With Fire", "Ride The Lightning", that sound of drums and guitars...
MetalKings.com: OK, last band is Sex Pistols.
Henny: Well, it's a big time influence. I like AC/DC and Motorhead so I have to like Sex Pistols, it's pure rock'n'roll. Great rock'n'rolling stuff!
MetalKings.com: You see, many people claim that Sex Pistols even didn't know how to play...
Henny: No, I think they knew how to play. Steve Jones has got some great guitar solos, some better guitar solos than many metal bands now have... tasty, rock'n'roll, good stuff.
MetalKings.com: OK, Henny, did you ever think about releasing a solo album?
Henny: Yes, I tried to do some solo stuff in between Thunderhead and Primal Fear from 1996 to 1999. I was just a guest musician with Fair Warning, had enough time and tried to do some solo stuff, it was with me a singer. So I wrote tons of songs but it wasn't metal that's why I got turned down by record companies 'cause it was rather blues, pop-oriented stuff, very mellow, ballads and so on.
MetalKings.com: Yeah, but we now have mail orders, Internet. Why not a self-produced CD?
Henny: OK, I tried that and I got some response. But even the fans were like, "Henny, why did you turn mellow? We're expecting heavy shit from you. That's nice but not what we expect from Henny Wolter!" But that's OK, mostly people see the man for what he's known. So in me everybody sees the metal riff and that's the reason why Primal Fear called me; they needed a metal riff guitar player and songwriter. Personally I think you have to develop, for example, I like to sit down and check some blues and rock'n'roll stuff.
MetalKings.com: OK, Henny, thanks a lot for the interview. It was really great to talk about your career, your influences and German scene stuff!
Henny: No problem, Michael. You're welcome!
Henny Wolter Discography:
- Behind The Eight-Ball (1989)
Questions asked by Dead Ripper
thanks to Henny himself and the guys from House of Music studio
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