Faith Healer's... Jutta & Holger Speak Out.
Out of the ashes of 'Zed Yago' came 'Velvet Viper', a great band that captured the true essence of fantasy metal music, which is fronted by Jutta Weinhold, a very powerful female singer that has the power just like Ronnie James Dio in her voice.
This band have come a long way and with the struggles of the Zed Yago behind them the future is looking bright for this band. Having recorded 4 previous studio albums, 1 EP and the re-mastering of the 1st 2 Zed Yago albums of recent under the name of Velvet Viper, both 'Far over Yonder' and 'Pilgrimage' are now officially re-released with bonus tracks.
I managed to catch up with Jutta and guitarist Holger last week (16.3.21) to find out more about Velvet Viper and of course talk about the new album which is the heaviest album they have done. Here is what they both had to say. In the meantime check out 'Cosmic Healer' soon to be released on Massacre Records in April 2021.
Hello Jutta & Holger, thanks for doing the interview, I hope you are both well under these hard times. I would like to ask you firstly about what singers inspired you Jutta to become a singer?
(J) "Hello Jason, nice to speak to you again, to answer you're question I grew up with so many talented singers, I liked in the 60/70's bands like 'The Faces', 'Yardbirds', 'Led Zepplin' all of the bands and later on I was inspired by Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, all these great metal and hard rock singers.
I try to make the music to the best of my ability, and try to be myself. It is hard trying to be yourself as a singer, finding you're own voice and style. Holgar as helped me bring back Velvet Viper back to the stage.
(Ed: You certainly have your own voice Jutta, very powerful and strong, you remind me of a female version of Ronnie James Dio). Yes I agree, 50 years now I have been singing, I do the vocal excises and I don't smoke or drink. I safe my voice for this great music."
OK Holger, who are you're guitar influences?
"Well when I started it was people like Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wylde, Gary Moore, Mike Amott, Jeff Loomis, (Jutta: Holgar shows me all these guitar young guitarist and I can see and hear how the music has evolved today & I think the band are all younger than me, so it all goes really well together been around younger musicians. Rock & Roll has nothing to do with age, it's about power and passion and if you really want it then you can do it!) "
Jutta what was you're 1st band you joined after leaving school? Was it Zed Yago?
"In school I had a band called 'Special Voices' (Laughing), and my 1st song was 'House on the Rising Sun' by 'The Animals' in 1964 and I guess you weren't born yet? I was also playing Blues / Rock before Zed Yago formed and I am glad I started singing in a metal band because I wanted to make music with stronger lyrics with passion, I was sick of the Rock & Roll middle of the road lyrics.
I just wanted to sing about legends, fantasy, mythological stuff. I like to read books and then write lyrics and I love the English language and I would like to speak better English, there is always time to learn. I did however in the 90's take piano lessons for a short time but I didn't pursue it."
Jutta when you look back at the debut Zed Yago album 'Far Over Yonder', what happy memories do you have?
"Back then the whole music business was good, we were signed to a big company 'SPV' and we got paid, which was a great bonus for us. We rehearsed everyday for 3 hrs from 12 till 3pm and that is the reason why we became a good band.
In later years with Zed Yago things didn't work out, bad things started to happen, people started to have attitudes within the band and so I wanted to go forward with other musicians and we had a company and I didn't have any rights for the bands name, and so I left the band and formed 'Velvet Viper'. We made 2 albums with the band and in 2015 I met Holgar and I knew we could carry on writing new songs with Velvet Viper."
So what songs from the debut Zed Yago & the 'Pilgrimage' albums are your favourites and why?
(J) "I like the song 'United Pirate Kingdom' as it has a lot of atmospheric sounds, I also like 'Revenge', there my 2 favourite songs from this album. As for my favourite songs from the 2nd album I would have to say 'Pilgrimage', 'Black Bone Song', we made a video for this song with a English director and a English actor."
Did you ever hear Zed Yago after you left the band?
(J) "No not at all, it was a sad thing to leave the band, but I had no rights to the same and it ended badly. All the press here in Germany and Europe didn't like the music or singer, they liked Velvet Viper."
So Velvet Viper formed back in 1990, is that correct?
(J) "Yes we formed back then and we were actually on tour with Zed Yago and I was informed that I was not allowed to keep the name or say their name and this was on the 1st day of the tour.
So that is why I chose the name 'Velvet Viper', the whole situation was so sad, you create a band and you put everything into it and in the end it all goes sour and you never think of the copyrights and the 1st Velvet Viper album was suppose to be a Zed Yago album."
The band have recorded 4 albums prior to the re-release of the 1st two Zed Yago albums, they were 'Velvet Viper' in 1991, then 'The fourth quest for Fantasy' in 92, which was followed by 'Respice Finem' in 2018, which 1st featured Holger. What does the title 'Respice Finem' mean?
(J) "Well 'Respice Finem' is Latin and it comes form the Greek Mythology which means 'What ever you do, do it wisely'. (H) Yes I joined the band on that album and Bubi played drums on the album but he passed away during production sadly. He died in 2018 sadly"
How do you see the bands music progress over the years?
(H) "We try to capture some of Zed Yago music bad in the early music but we moved away especially with the new album 'Cosmic Healer' which is more far away from Zed Yago music. This new album has more double bass and more Power Metal riffs and its more directed to my influences and I love the German Power Metal like Helloween, Gamma Ray.
(J) "I think it is good because we are no longer repeating ourselves we have moved on with the times. I think the new album is good, and I'm not a bad singer for a 73 yr old (laughing). We did the new album with Johannes on bass, Micha on drums and we have done a few shows together and we sound great live.
(H) "Our 1st album with this line up 'The pale man is holding a broken Heart' was more like sessions musicians and we had Michael Ehre from Gamma Ray on drums but now we are a stabile line-up."
Why did you decide to re-release the 1st two Zed Yago albums under Velvet Viper? Where these albums hard to find and that is why you re-released them?
(J) "Well as I told you I lost the name Zed Yago but I never lost the rights to the songs. People were asking me why don't you re-publish the songs again, because a lot of fans don't even know about these songs or albums. So we spoke to Massacre Records about re-mastering them and re-releasing them and they thought it was a good idea but they had to be made with the Velvet Viper name.
Alex Krull from Atrocity did the re-mastering of those albums and they sound great!!"
(H) "Yes I think it was like 30 yrs since you could buy them and that was the main reason why Massacre thought it was a good idea to re-release them."
I like the way you have re done the artwork for both albums, one with the dark Blue and the other with a light brown colour.
(J) "The artwork wad done by Manfred Smietana who also did the new cover, he did the last album too."
Moving on let's talk about the new album 'Cosmic Healer' who came up with the title and what does it mean?
(J) "It is about the Egyptian Mythology and the 1st Goddess who was called 'Isis' but we changed the name because of the terrorist group that is why the the title is called 'Cosmic Healer'. It is about the goddess 'Isis' but there is a song on the album called 'Osiris' not to confuse anybody (laughing).
The song 'Holy snake Mother' is about Cleopatra who died and was buried in a pit full of vipers, She committed suicide and there was one viper who didn't bite her and that became the Velvet Viper. That is a real story and the velvet viper took her crown. We will record a video for that song which will come out in April.
(H) "We had several songs on the album that could of been album titles, I certainly wanted a short title for the album that's for sure, and the last title was too long."
I guess the cover was the only idea you had for the new album?
(H) "I think we wanted to have just one snake and I an idea of a snake skeleton and Manfred painted some ideas for us, one with red eyes and tongue, but the one with the green background was something that we all really liked."
I am guessing the whole album was recorded during lockdown? How long did it take to record the album?
(H) "Well it started in last summer and we had very few cases of the Cronovirus here in Germany, basically everything was open and so we go down to the studio near Hannover and we all had our won separate rooms to record our parts. All drums bass and guitars were recorded live and a month later we were all in lockdown again.
We last did the demo in last spring and we did some rehearsals to hammer them out and get to know the songs before we actually recorded them. We did the album in a bout 12 day in all and we wanted a live feeling to the album so we could edit it at a later date. The songs sound really great in a old school way which was mixed by Ralf Basten and mastered my Alex Krull."
From the new album which songs are your favourites and why?
(J) "That is a tough question to answer, we chose the song 'Holy snake Mother' for the video, we also like like 'Let metal be your Master' is a great song, 'Cosmic Healer', 'Sassenach' is a great song. (Ed: what does Sassenach' mean?) It's an old Scottish word which a word for a woman from England. I saw it in a movie on Netflix. The last song on the album 'Gotterdammerung' is a Nordic word for 'Ragnarok' which is 'Twilight of the Gods'."
How do you see this new album as a progression from the bands previous albums?
(H) "It's a lot heavier and fast album, Jutta sounds a lot better on this album, we did the vocals in a shorter time period and some songs in 1 day and we did not do too much editing for this album. The album has shorter songs and faster songs too. I love it a lot, we all do!! I think fi we make another album it will be more in the direction of the new album."
Do you think the band will be touring in 2021 or 2022?
(J) "Well we had to push back some dates from April till June and they could be pros-pond again because we don't have any vaccines here in Germany. So time will tell."
Well I'd like to thank you for the interview both of you. Be safe and keep in touch. Do you have anything to say too the readers?
"Yes thank you for the interview Jason, stay safe and I hope we meet again soon. To the fans thanks for your support, we hope you like the new album and will come and see us live when tours start up again. Stay safe and keep listening too Heavy metal music.
Thanks to Anja @ Massacre Records & Jutta & Holger for the interview.