Room Thirteen takes time out from the chaos of London for a chat with Freddy and Steve from Gotthard.
R13: How long is Steve going to be? Do you want to start - you must be bored of sitting around conducting interviews!
FS: He shouldn't be long, but we can start... It's a bit of a routine doing these interviews...
R13: So if we blindfolded you and only said half the questions, you'd still be able to answer?
FS: Yep! Why don't we try!
R13: Not today!
R13: What else have you been up to in the run up to your new album being released?
FS: The album is out on the 6th June so we've been up to a lot of interviews in loads of countries. We've been concentrating on seven or eight countries though, like the UK, France, Germany... The bass player and the other guitar player went to Madrid. We do two or three weeks of promotion. Our open air season starts on June 3rd in Milan. We're playing 15 or 16 open airs including Bloodstock. The real tour starts on October 13th and that's through Germany, Switzerland and Austria. After that, we're going to see what happened. In a lot of countries, it's the first time a Gotthard album will have come out. We'll be looking to see how many records we've sold. We're hoping we'll be able to tour everywhere though!
R13: What's the variation like on your size across the world?
FS: Well, America... the album is out in October, so we don't know about there. In the UK though there's a different sort of mentality. In Europe we're already big, so they're doing interviews with each album release. They're nice- very nice- but they've followed the whole career of Gotthard. We're a new band in the UK so people ask more to get to know the band. When we're playing gigs, it's a totally different combination of songs. Over in Europe all the albums have come out, but here I think the first album came out... in '91?.. 14 years ago... and then the new one, which is out soon so we'll play most of the stuff off the new record. In Switzerland though, they want to hear at least 50% of the old stuff. We have to find a balance between it all. It also means we're going to have to learn more songs!
R13: It must be nice to chop and change what you're playing though..? The difference in audience size must be refreshing as well for you.
FS: Yeah, after years of touring Germany, Japan and Switzerland, it's a new beginning for us. It's very exciting having those new territories being opened up to us. You don't know what to expect. In Switzerland, you can always fail... but our last album was double platinum. There's less chance of failure. We're very excited about the chance to play new places. We want to tour Brazil next year. You're not sure what to expect or what's going to happen or what the people are going to be like. It's the same with our show at The Garage in London soon. We don't know who is going to turn up... are there going to be two people there? Or 100? Or 200? So, it's an adventure. It's good to have a change in routine.
I think this has a lot to do with the change in record company as well- Our contract with BMG to Nuclear Blast. That's the main reason why everything is opening up for us. BMG could do a lot more for smaller bands...they're very calculating.
R13: So you have more freedom now... more opportunities?
FS: Well, less freedom, but we are doing a lot more. We wanted to be able to say we've not played there, there or there... and we want to. Some won't work, but some will. The plan is worldwide. We're big in Japan, but we want to be big in South Korea, Vietnam, Peru, Chilli, Australia... Brazil. I want to go to those places anyway, so going with the band is even better. We only really get a chance to look around the shops for a couple of hours though.
SL: Here I am! What are you talking about?
FS: I was just going to talk about Japan, but you probably have more to say about it...
SL: Japan is a strange place. It's magic. Everyone is so polite over there. You feel like a superstar over there. They appreciate everything you do. I remember our first concert over there. It was totally dark. And you could hear a pin drop. I wondered if there was anyone in there. Then as soon as we struck the first chord, the first guitar lick, everyone roared. It's the first time I've experienced anything like that!
R13: Is there a difference in fans reactions to you in different European countries?
SL: I'd say it's pretty much the same! They're the same in Italy, Switzerland... but Japan is different. We've not played all over the world, but Japan is different. I'd like to live there; it's a great place to be. They're more related to this kind of music than other things... they're very traditional.
R13: I dunno, some of their music is a little insane...
SL: Yeah, they're opening up a little more. Their cars though, they started off like everyone else's then they branched off and did their own thing. Maybe that's what they're doing with their music?
R13: As a band you've stayed together with the original line up for a very long time now. How have you managed to do that without killing each other?
SL: Because everything works the way it is! We've known each other for a long time now and we're all coming from the same directions. It's important to know each other well. Why change your winning team if everyone has the right mentality and the right instrument? This is the first time we've wanted to work with someone extra from the beginning. We said to Freddy, "You're the new one. You're not a guest, you're part of the band." I think it's an exception here. The other guys were different. Freddy has already played with us. Maybe it's a little selfish of us...
FS: When I went out with them for the first time, I thought there must be something about this band- after this amount of time there must be something good about the band. When I went down there, I could see they still looked each other in the eyes. I thought to myself "Maybe it's because it's their first day recording. Perhaps there is something they don't want me to see. Are they just behaving themselves?" Even now, 14 months later, and still nothing happens. They're still friends.
R13: Who is in charge of writing in the band then? A diplomatic task or...?
SL It's the best of both worlds. Everybody comes with ideas. Leoni (Guitars) and myself have written over 100 songs in 14 years, but with the addition of Freddy the three of us have written a lot of songs. Everybody in the band can bring ideas. It's nice to bring in ideas and then decide what's best. It's not as easy for a drummer to write songs or melodies so it's normal for us to write.
R13: Surely writing in that way causes arguments in the band?
FS: Yes, but that's normal. Of course we're going to have arguments. So long as no one is punching each other. Most of the time the arguments are over which songs are going on the record. You have plenty of ideas, but at the end of the day, you can't put all the songs on the album.
SL: We're fair though, if something doesn't sound right, we'll say. If it doesn't fit the album we'll talk about it. I really like the new album though. The newest is always the best though! I have a great feeling about it though, This is a band production... the whole band worked on it. It's the first time Leo Leoni took most of the production work on it along with Roland. It was a fun album to record- more so than the previous ones. There was less pressure and the new producers were good. This time was fun and this is the one I like most. It's got melody and more power. It's got more emotion. We can recreate this live.
R13: How will the new material fit in with your old on stage then?
SL It's going to be very different. Older, polished recordings sound different live- we have to get rid of a lot of the effects like keyboards, so it instantly sounds more rock'n'roll. It all sounds a lot more 2005 now! The songs sound like they do on record because of the way we recorded it. In two or three days we were pretty much done with the recording of the new album!. There was a time when we experimented. We tried out different sounds- strings and stuff. It was very complicated to recreate live it was difficult though without a orchestra .I remember having to change amps and guitars and detune just to play one song.
R13: What kind of influences do you have? What do you listen to?
SL: I listen to stuff from the 80s- Zepplin, Deep purple... all those older bands. Then I discovered newer things like Van Halen. Classic rock bands. My heart is beating nowadays towards the Whitesnake style bands. It's nothing new, but it's bands plugging in and having fun. I do listen to a lot of things though... Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails... I do like the old school bands. What I listen to doesn't always influence me though.
Everyone in the band comes from a different angle though. At the end of the day, what influences you most is what you listened to between 13 and 20. That's the period which influences you most of all in all aspects of your life. The older you get the less influenced you become by music. I think a lot of younger people are starting to get bored with music at the moment and are now looking towards older bands like Deep Purple. The music industry is like a circle- the new stuff is influenced by the old and it' keeps moving round. Some people are not aware of the influences in their music. If you look at Jet for example, that's very, very close to The Who for example. To the young kids, it's something new though.
R13: So with the circle in music at the moment... how have you as a band managed to stay 'cool'?
SL: Good question! I think people felt there's a quality to our music... and nostalgic people of our age can see our influences. We always play live as well. Some bands can't recreate their music live. They're not big enough to recreate their music. Some bands can't recreate the size of their sound. Itís a matter of getting a band together that works and finding the chance to play live in new places. We used to play what I called the Bermuda Triangle- Germany, Switzerland, Japan...That's where every tour covers. Now though, we're starting to break into new countries. I'm very proud the record is going to be released in over 40 countries. Hopefully more people will see the quality in our music this time round!
Gotthard can be seen live in the UK at Bloodstock Open Air and also at their own date playing at the London Garage. Room Thirteen will keep you posted.
Room Thirteen takes time out from the chaos of London for a chat with Freddy and Steve from Gotthard.