The Flying Opera - Tobia speaks out
Tobia is not stranger to the underground scene, after all his is the front man for German Power Metal act 'Edguy'. Edguy have been around now since 92 but didn't actually record their debut album till 97 with 'Kingdom Of Madness' through AFM Records. The band have done several albums since then and in 99 front man Tobia decided to do a side project under the name of 'Avantasia' and released 'The Metal Opera' in 2001. This was only meant to be a side project but before the end was up a further album was recorded entitled 'The Metal Opera - Pt.2' which then became a more of a serious band more than a side project. In 2008 Tobia released the next chapter in Anastasia's career with 'The Wicked Trilogy' in 2008 were a further 2 more albums were recorded 'The Wicked Symphony' 2010 & 'Angel Of Babylon' in 2010. This super group has featured such musicians as Markus (Helloween), Timo Tolkki, Jorn Lande, Bob Catley, Tim Owens, Sascha Paeth, Eric Singer, Kai Hansen, Oliver Hartmann and so on... With the release of the debut live DVD 'The Flying Opera' which has just been released I managed to have a chat with Tobia about the new band that so many are talking about. Here is what he had to say about the previous albums, line-ups and the new DVD.
OK Tobia, this is the 1st interview I've done for Avantasia, but not the 1st for Edguy. So lets clear a question up that some fans maybe still confused about. Is Avantasia a band or a project?
"Well Jason, the Avantasia is somewhere in between a band and a side project. A side project always sounds like what the guitar player does or drummer in order to use the songs that were not used for the main band. So this is not the case, so the name side project outs it a the wrong direction and it is something I do in my free time but it is certainly more than a side project. It is a band with 1 steady member and a lot of guests its just Avantasia (laughing)."
So why the name Avantasia? Were there any other names in mind?
"I started the band back in 99 as a one off thing as a project with 2 chapters with 'The Metal Opera' and the bands name is referred to the other world and in the story it was a fantasy type of story and the bands name was created which were 2 words molded together 'Avalon - Fantasia' which is the Italian word for 'fantasy'. So I wanted a name that described that fantasy of 'the other world' with that title & I thought it was so beautiful and it gave people the right idea subconsciously to what the music could sound like. It sounded like fantastic, epic heavy metal so I thought it was a proper ate name for the project. In 2006 when we when we revived the project to do a new album and era I thought that the title was so strong that people would have the right views of the music I thought it was a smart move and defiantly the right decision to go under the name of 'Avantasia'."
OK Tobia, how do you compare the music with this band compared to that of Edguy?
"I really don't know, it is hard for me to say as I can't judge it from an outside point of view. My view on it is based on been the composer and the producer of both bands so basically when I compose music I really don't make a big difference and I just want to write the best music I can at that time. Avantasia is based on a concept story wise and I have the limitations and freedom that go along with creating a musical. It is a story line that you have to be aware of that fact that all the songs work together to tell one story musically and lyrically were you can do all kinds of weird kind of things. You can bring in the people that can actually transport them with ideas the best possible way and so you can work with different singers, like if I need a song that can be sang by Alice Cooper I get Alice Cooper which was amazing for me. So basically you are limited to telling that story but you also have the freedom to bring in whoever is needed to really shape a certain song. With Edguy it is just a band thing although I do the biggest part of the song writing with the production and I'm properly having the final say to certain decisions but it is a band thing, 5 musicians creating music in a rehearsal studio and producing an actual album and we have some humorous lyrics in our music in Edguy and I think it is very healthy right now. I see too many musicians that take themselves too seriously and so I don't want to make myself guilty of taken myself too seriously. Song writing wise I think it is pretty much the same way I go down with both projects because I always want to write the best melodies and memorable riff with a great riff and melodies and I just want to write the best possible song I can at that time. I usually write a song when I'm at the keyboards and try to out the best into it with energy and I never do 2 things at the same time. Right now I am working on the new Edguy album, and every single song or idea I have had in the last 12 months was either put into the bin or used for Edguy. I have never thought that there was an idea that was good for Edguy and so I just want to write the best possible song for the band or either Avantasia."
What is your favourite Edguy album? Mine is Hellfire Club' because the songs are catchy and there's some awesome guitar riffs and powerful singing.
"Yeah I do like that album a lot, its certainly one of the top 3 in my mind, I do like 'Rocket Ride' or 'Tinnitus Sanctus' because I still feel close to those albums and of course 'Hellfire Club' had a orchestra on that album that also has some great riffs and melodies. With the 'Rocket Ride' & 'Tinnitus Sanctus' we went a little further in terms of exploring new territory and it is not for me to judge if we went too far and you just do what you believe in."
The 1st album by Avantasia featured Bob Catley from Magnum, how did the whole thing come about with Bob?
"Well Bob wasn't involved with the 1st one, but he was involved with the 2nd one in 2002 'Metal Opera - Pt.2' and he has been involved with every album ever since. He is very happy to be part of this band, even on the tours and I am very happy he is involved with the band, I love Magnums music, I'm a big fan. His voice sounds so calming and so mature and he is a dream of every producer of a bombastic fantasy fairytale rock opera. He is the kind of character that needs to be in a rock opera, he is the wise man all in one voice and the album 'The Story Teller's Night' was the 1st album I had heard from Magnum I was blown away by it."
You have had a lot of famous singers involved with this band, such as Jorn Lande, Tim (Ripper) Owens, Alice Cooper, and many more so how did you get Tim involved in the band?
"Well I was writing the song 'Scales of Justice' and whilst I was writing the song I was thinking I needed somebody like Tim to sing the song, I thought he was the best singer that Judas Priest had and I know I'm not going to make many friends now for saying this, but I think the song writing wasn't too good when Tim joined the band and it has nothing to do with him. I thought that the songs weren't right for Judas Priest to perform and I thought 'Jugulator' was a brave step for the band but I didn't think it was the right move for the band. Tim had to take the footsteps of Rob Halford, that is a massive leap for Tim and he was delivering the goods and technically he was a young guy with an aggressive voice and a great screams and that is what Heavy Metal albums are made of. So when I was writing the song 'Scales of Justice' I remember having Tim's voice in the background as I was writing it and I knew he would be the perfect singer for the song. I never had Halford in mind, I wanted Ripper to sing the song and I am not a massive fan of Judas Priest. When I got the final results I was blown away. Tim is a very nice guy and he was certainly up for doing the song so I sent him the song and he agreed to record it for the album. He sent me the recorded files of his vocals when they were done. I hooked up with Alice Cooper through Eric Singer (ex Kiss) who is the drummer for the band on the last 2 albums and we were in the studio together with Eric, Sascha and me in Hamburg recording the songs and we said we should get Alice to sing on at track. Eric said we could ask him but I said do you really think he would do it? Eric said the worst thing that could happen is he says 'No'. Eric also plays drums for Alice Cooper, so he set the whole thing up so Alice wanted to listen to the song which he did and it had to be a song that Alice could do that suited his style of voice. I was shocked when Alice agreed to do the song I was totally blown away. Well Jorn Lande is a vocal machine, he is a great vocalist technically and he was picked to do the Heaven & Hell tour at the Ronnie James Dio memorial show with Glenn Hughes. Jorn is a singer with an amazing voice who is very strong and with a perfect pitch. When he agreed to do this with me ever since the 'Scarecrow' album it was even easier to write songs and it helps when you have a certain voice on your mind and to write in a certain direction which made me write in a different way from my own voice. he is a perfect mix between David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio I think but at the same time he is Jorn Lande. He certainly helped to put the album out on a new level."
Lets talk about the live DVD 'The Flying Opera', this features Jorn, Bob, Oliver Hartmann (ex At Vance) Sascha Paeth, how did you hook up with Oliver? His is also a great vocalist and guitarist right?
"Well there's a funny story behind Oliver, I heard him sing on 1 of the At Vance CD's about 12yrs ago and I thought this guy would be a great musicians to have on the Edguy albums doing backing vocals. He started out doing backing vocals for 'Metal Opera' and I wanted to have Ronnie James Dio back then to do his vocals, but back then he didn't do it so I had a slot left and so Oliver said he could try to be Ronnie James Dio so I said ok give it a go and it worked out really well. He ended up been the lead singer on that album. When we did the tour in 2008 we were looking for a 2nd guitar player and the 1st guitarist had to be Sascha Paeth because he is the producer and my partner in crime and he had produced a Oliver Hartmann solo album and he recommended Oliver to play live with us as he is a great guitar player and it was true!! I didn't know he was such a great guitar player, I knew he was a great singer and I was amazed by his playing that reminds me of Jake E Lee (ex Ozzy/ Badlands), a really good blues type guitarist."
Was Tim Owens asked to do the tour with you too?
"Well back then when we did the 1st tour in 2008 when the band became a very important era in my life because the studio band became a live touring act for the 1st time and back then I had not even worked with Tim and so I wanted to get a good pick of musicians and singer for the tour. I wanted to have not as many singer live as I had on the studio albums as I didn't want everybody to show up for just one minute and them come back 10 or 20 minutes later. So I stripped it down just to 4 singers, different voices so we could have a variety of styles of vocals on stage. By the time we did the 2nd tour in 2010 that is when I finally knew Ripper, I just wanted basically almost the same vocalist on the tour because I knew that line-up worked so well during the 1st tour that you can see on the DVD. I thought it was the best choice to go with almost the same line-up. Anders Mathos (ex Angra) was also on the 1st tour and a good friend of mine and I had sang for his band both live and in the studio (Shaman) and he has sang for us so we have known each other for 12yrs and it would of broken my heart not to have him on the tour."
So why was the DVD recorded at Wacken? Was there any other places you wanted to record the DVD? Are you happy with the way it turned out?
"Well we had recorded many shows, but we left that 'Wacken' & 'The Masters of Rock' which is a combination of 2 shows on the DVD because we left that those 2 performances were the strongest and it is 2 shows that are combined into 1 and we did not want to have 8 shows combined into 1. We filmed Sweden Rock, a show in Switzerland and we felt that the 'Wacken' show was the strongest along side 'The Masters Of Rock'. Yes I am happy with the way it has turned out but there are always things that could of been better."
Why didn't the band play in the UK for that tour? Will you ever play here in the UK?
"Well with Avantasia we have so little time and the time frame that we have is not always a long time frame because everybody is involved with their own bands. So you can only squeeze so many shows in the time you have when everybody is available and of course this time was just playing the big festivals and the 2nd tour in 2010 we only played for 3 wks. We only went to the places were we knew we could play arenas and make it worth while. We had to play in front of 3000, 4000 people who we knew we would all get paid, it was pointless playing to a smaller audience when we have so a big production. Maybe we could of drawn that many people in the UK but I am not sure."
Have you been approached to play Bloodstock here in the UK?
"I am not sure to be honest, I think we may of done in 2008 but we couldn't of even paid for the hotels back then and a project like this needs a lot of money to cover only the expenses. We are not a regular band and we need 4-5 times more money that you need for a regular band. I want to pay them a decent amount of money for the people who are playing on stage with me."
Well Tobia thanks for doing this interview, do you have anything to say too your fans reading this?
"Yeah thank you for the interview Jason, pleasure speaking to you again. To the fans thanks for your support and I hope you like the DVD, check out the next Edguy CD which I'm working on right now."
Thanks to Nuclear Blast &
Tobia for the interview.
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