Primal Fear is one those bands which brings to metal its “lettres de noblesse”. Razoblade’s guitars, pounding drums and high vocals, the PF trademark is well known in the metal world. I was really waiting with impatience for the call from Germany on this september the 27th 2005, when suddenly the bell rang. The great guitarist Tom Naumann answered to my questions…
You will release in a month your 6th album now, the grandiloquent « seven seals », one of the most wonderful albums i have in my record collection. Can you give us any datas about the feedback of the fans of ?Devil’s ground’?
Tom Naumann : We had excellent feedbacks from medias and fans. After ?Devil’s Ground’, we did some touring in Europe and South-America. We did a lot of Open Air Festivals in the summer time, then we started writing songs for the new album. We had about 30 songs and, in February this year, we decided which songs will be recorded on the album. It has been done so fast and we finally mixed only 10 songs, the ones which are on ?Seven Seals’. We said that after ?Devil’s Ground’ we wanted to have a music change and this reason why we took Charlie Bauerfeind as a co-producer and sound-engineer. This appeared to be very helpful. He is a nice person and brought us many fresh ideas. It was a truly a pleasure to work with him. Then, we let the album be mixed by Mike Fraser, who is also a cool guy, well known for his work with great bands as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Metallica, and many others. I think, all the work done both by Charlie and Mike added to our little musical changes made of ?Seven Seals’ a different album from the preceding one. There is a new power, a certain freshness injected in the band, even though we have still our trademark. This surely will sound fresh to the ears of our fans?
Me : Was the tour successful?
Tom : Ah, yes, it was. It was great to play with many talented band, to travel over the world and to meet a lot of fans and friends on tour. It was really fantastic. It was also interesting to meet new friends and fans and to experience new cultures while visiting cities where we never have been before.
‘Devil’s ground’ was really heavy and ambitious. But with ?Seven seals’ you almost reached the perfection, by adopting a ?progressive? way, which will please to all, not only to the fans who prefer faster songs but also to the others who rather like slower songs with epic and more aggressive aura, experimentating some new elements as the orchestral ones, for example. Did you come with the idea to do so or was it a sort of natural feeling you felt to do some longer and compound songs ?
After we recorded ?Devil’s Ground’, which was successful, thanks to its heaviness, we thought it was the time to do some small musical changes, as we recorded already 5 albums in a same direction. So, that’s why we decided to try to do something else and to add some new musical styles into our songwriting. We brought some orchestral parts, for example, that the Ralf’s voice shouldn’t be so high anymore?It all came naturally as we needed to do so. We’re pretty satisfied with the new album right now.
You recorded the entire album in Stuttgart?
Yes. The album was recorded in Stuttgart at the House of Music studios, where we have already recorded all the preceding Primal Fear’s albums. The only difference was that we didn’t take our long time friend Achim Köhler as an engineer this time. Instead of him, we engaged Charlie Bauerfeind, who also worked with Saxon, Blind Guardian and Hammerfall.
You played the album in Stuttgart during the listening-session’s show before hundreds of reporters from all Europe the last july 30th. I guess it was your first time playing under the falling rain?
Oh, yes. It was a really funny experience, because it was the first time that we decided to make an open-air listening session. We thought the weather in the summer time could surely be good, but it was rainy?it wasn’t so rainy, only some time to time. Anyway, we have played and everybody were probably satisfied with the party. The bad weather didn’t bother us at all at the end. We played all the album and we watched the videos we shot, we did some interviews and all the listeners and journalists were really surprised by the album?
Wasn’t it too hard to play in these conditions?
Not really. We had drinks, something to eat and we also met couples of friends. The atmosphere of this listening-session was nice and friendly. It wasn’t rainy all the time, only about one hour. Otherwise, the weather was warm and pleasant. This day was okay.
The new album is definitively based on the choruses, strong and thrilling. Songs as ?seven seals? (my favourite one), ?Carniwar?, ?Rollercoaster?, ?In Memory? and ?Question of Honour? are really confirming this tendency?
?Seven Seals? is, in my opinion, one of the most melodic songs on this album, not very typical ?primal fear?, even though it sounds like it. It all starts with a different groove which sounds like a Jennifer Lopez’s one, although we changed it into Primal Fear’s stuff. It has a very intense and melodic chorus. After that we recorded the video to this song and, I think, it’s the favourite song on this album of the listeners. Then, we have ?Carniwar? : it’s a very hard song with a strong guitar and pounding drums. Really heavy. ?Rollercoaster? is a song which we already played live before. It was really cool to play it as the fans’ reaction was incredible. There are a lot of different songs on the album. For example, we have ?In Memory?, which is a ballad, the first one we have ever recorded for a PF album. We also have very long songs as ?All For One?, what is a song about 7 minutes’ long, ?Diabolus? : a great epic metal opera. In this song, there are lot of strings and opera lines. Then, ?Question of Honour? is also a quite long song. ?Evil Spell? is the fastest song in the Primal Fear’s repertoire, with its old-school thrash metal riffs and structure and cool vocals from Ralf. Finally, we can tell there is a good mixture of different kinds of songs on the album. But it, without losing the Primal Fear’s trademark (razorblades’ guitars riffs and Ralf’s vocal lines).
What is your composing process? Who writes the lyrics?
The composing process is very simple, you know. Everyone know that Ralf, Matt, Stefan and I are writing all the songs. Sometimes we have ideas when driving our car, when sitting at home watching TV?I get a new melody in my head, so I catch my guitar and begin to play and record it. Sometimes, you’ve finished a song and, then, play it to the guys or sometimes you only have a part of a song line and you go by the other guys, for example, I had an idea for a song and went to Ralf to ask him : ?Hey Ralf, there is a melody line missing. Can you help me to fill it?? and he came back to me some time after and told me : ?I have the melody line completed!?. So, the song-writing is a team effort and we work all together, putting our personal influences into the songs and to work this way is good. We also write together all the lyrics?
The most impressive song, according to me, is ?Seven seals?, especially the chorus (?The Final Day, The Sky Will Fall Down??). How is this song born?
That’s a question you should ask to Mat, because he wrote the lyrics to that song. But, in my opinion, it’s a very depressive song with words from Bible. There is a religious idea that the world is going down and that if the seven seals break and if we don’t care of the Earth, we will all also going down after a couple of years by devastating the world and civilisations and everything?
The second element which gives more power to this album are the orchestral parts. Did you have recorded them with a real orchestra? And if yes, who did the arrangements?
We didn’t use an original orchestra. It would be too expensive. We recorded it all at home and we arranged it at home too, then, it was easy to go to the studio to check the right sound to combine all the different instruments so that it sounds like it sounds on the album right now. But, when we composed all the stuff, we had everything in mind how which all should have to sound like and that’s why we took all our pre-production into the studio and we changed the sound, then we mixed it together in the right way. But, it wouldn’t be normally nowadays, it’s almost impossible to use an original orchestra in the studio : it takes so much time and cost money. I guess it’s 90 or 95% of the albums with orchestral parts are not real?
Me : but it sounds more powerful than some keyboards?
Tom : I think it has to be. As choosing the right sounds to mix them together in a right combination. So, it’s all about using the right sounds and the mixing stuff.
Who did the video for ?Seven Seals??
It’s a guy from Nürnberg called Volker Hanawald and we know him because he already did the video for ?Armageddon? on the ?Black Sun’ album. So, we decided to make another video with Volker. Did you see the video?
Me : yes.
Tom : It was a very nice experience to make a video like that. We tried to make the make-up and the video sadder and darker.
When I saw the ground was falling down under your feet, I believed you would fall or something?It was scary?
Tom : (laughs) Hahaha, yes, but we are still alive! (laughs)
Ralf is singing better than ever on this album. That’s not surprising, then, that he was one of the chosen candidates for the Rob Halford’s replacement in Judas Priest. I think he should have been chosen because he’s hundred times better vocalist than Tim Owens?
Yeah, but I’m happy that Judas Priest didn’t take him because if they would have taken Ralf, there wouldn’t be any Primal Fear. So Primal Fear exists and this is fine like that.
The guitars parts are really explosive and the rhythm section is as precise as swiss’ clock. The harmonies are wonderful. But, as a guitarist, do you prefer to work on riffs, harmonies or arpeggios?
When I write songs, I just try to make them sound good with those melodies and I try to combine them with the heaviness of playing really strong guitar. I was never really an arpeggios guy or I try to play that with feeling. To combine melodies and fast shredding?
You’ll play as a support on the Helloween tour this year?
It’s not really a support tour, we are like special guests. So, it seems like we will play more than one hour and that we’ll have the same stage size as Helloween. I feel very honoured to play with one of the biggest metal bands in Germany and I know Helloween for a long time, I know all the guys and it will be a great tour. We are really impatient to make this tour together.
Some rumours say that you’ll play not only in Paris, but also in Bordeaux. Is that true?
I don’t think so. For the first time of the European tour, we will only play in Paris, but after we’ll finish that tour with Helloween, we will play another tour and it can happen that we will play some more dates in France. It’s not sure we’ll play in Bordeaux. I know only one metal club in Bordeaux called the Koslow?is that right?
Me : yes.
Tom : I’m not sure we will play there?
Me : there is another good club here, but in Toulouse : the Havana Café. That’s a great and pleasant club?
Tom : cool!
What is the origin of the name of your band (except made of the song)?
When we started to write some songs, we thought about using the song which expresses heaviness and the brutality, if I can say, of metal. And I think a title as ?Primal Fear?, or only the word ?fear?, sounds, at least for me, very scary. Then, we needed to have something special like a mascot, a symbol, as the Iron Maiden’s Eddie. That’s why we took an eagle, because eagles are strong and majestic. An eagle just fit perfectly to the name ?Primal Fear?.
Me : like the music?
Tom : Oh yeah! Thank you very much!!
What is your musical background? Your personal influences?
My personal influences are?I started to listen to the Beatles when I was young, then I listened to Judas Priest, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and a lot of stuffs. I was literally influenced by so many kinds of music and I am still today listening differents kinds of music. I’m not only into heavy metal but also in rap music, jazz, and everything. It’s wrong for me to listen to only one style. Even if metal is still my favorite kind of music.
Me : who gave you the will to become a musician?
Tom : I started playing music after I was at a Judas Priest show. I was a huge JP fan and I was once in the 2nd row and after the show, Glenn Tipton clapped and touched a lot of hands of the fans, mine too, and I said : ?I wanna do this in my life!?. I began to practise guitar and now I’m on the stage and I come to clap and touch the hands of my fans. That’s f*cking cool! This was the main point of my decision. It was an amazing event for me and I still have the ticket hanged up over my bed in the sleepin-room. I can touch it with my end. So, it was a very important scene in my life. Without going to this concert and touching Glenn Tipton’s hand, I guess I wouldn’t be a musician?
Me : So, I have to say a big thanks to Glenn Tipton!
Tom : Definitely!! He ever was for me a big influence. I never had the chance to meet him personally, but I would like to have the opportunity to talk to him once in my life and say how proud I was when he touched my hand and that he made my musical career to start?I saw Judas Priest playing several times but I never had the chance to meet Glenn even though I talked to Rob Halford. But, I hope I will meet my idol someday.
Me : I wish you that because I know how it’s important for a fan and a musician to meet his idol. That’s the same for me with Iron Maiden?
Tom : Oh! That’s very nice! Thank you very much!
What is your opinion about the today’s metal scene in Germany?
I think we have a good metal scene and a lot of good bands and a strong metal fanbase. We have a lot of huge festivals in Germany as the Wacken or Bang Your Head festivals. The thing is that heavy metal is banned from the medias : no metal in theradios or on the TV, but we still have a lot of fans and we still do a lot of shows and festivals. So, there is a great popularity of metal. But, we have definitively a good scene in Germany.
Do you have some side-projects?
Hm, no, because I hardly find the time to have a side-project : too much things to do with Primal Fear and PF is the most important for me, actually. Otherwise, my girlfriend would go crazy and she would leave me! (laughs)
Do you have a last thing to say to the fans?
Yes. Thanks you for the support since 1997 and I hope that we made an album that you will like and listen to. I hope to see you somewhere on tour. Stay heavy! Support metal! Be respectful to each other and party on!!!
- Stratovarius : Nemesis
- Nightwish : Imaginaerum
- Trillium : Alloy
- Steel Panther : Ball’s Out
- Jerusalem (SWE) : She
- Dream Theater : A Dramatic Turn of Events
- Destruction : Day of Reckoning
- Hell (UK) : Human Remains
- Ratzinger : 2012
- Mayan : Quarterpast