Do you want to be healed by Metal??? Chris Boltendahl tells all.
Up from the ashes rises Grave Digger, German's premier Power Metal demi-gods who are certainly no stranger to the world of metal. Having formed back in November of 1980 by front man Chris Boltendahl along with Peter Masson (guitars), Willi Lackman (bass), and drummer Albert Eckardt who came together to create a powerful band that would soon become German's top Power Metal band.
Chris is the only founder member of the band that has kept the spirit of the band's name alive, despite the band having changed their name and direction in the late 80's under the name of 'Digger' in 87 and released 'Stronger than Ever'. It wasn't long before the band realized that they need to go back to their classic roots and carry on playing true Power Metal.
The band have released as Grave Digger 17 albums to date, so the bands really speaks for themselves. I managed to catch up with Chris once again to put the flowing questions to him, here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out their awesome new album 'Healed by metal' thought Napalm Records.
Yeah Chris great speaking to you again, hope you are well. Last time we did an interview was for the last album 'Return of the Reaper', how well did that album sell for the band?
"Hi Jason, good speaking to you again, to answer you're question, that album sold really well actually. The new album 'Healed by Metal' is selling really well too. I think we are back on track after all these concept CD's and it is really cool. I think the spirit of Grave Digger will last for some time yet. I think the 'Return of the Reaper' album sold 25.000 copies world-wide which is really good in these days of internet downloading."
I remember interviewing you once and you spent a lot of time in Scotland writing songs for the albums, as the Celtic vibe was a big thing for the band, have you now stopped that concept idea?
"Well after the 'Clash of the Gods' I said to myself that I would not do another concept album like that. I wanted to go back to the stuff I appreciated when I was a young boy full on metal and that is the most important thing for me right now, doing straight 80's metal. I think I have some ideas for the next album already, and I think it will be the same as the new album with ideas."
As a singer I don't think I have ever asked you before, but who are the rock and metal inspirations as a singer?
"My 1st big inspiration was David Lee Roth from Van Halen, I was a big fan of Van Halen back in the day and I liked his style and I also like Dio, Robert Plant, a lot of 70's and 80's singers to be honest like Ian Gillan, Lemmy, Biff Byford and Rob Halford. (Ed: Would you do a Van Halen tribute album?) No not really, but if the right song came along then maybe yes (laughing) and it would be 'Hot for Teacher'."
Talking of the last album, which songs from 'Return of the Reaper' do you like and why?
"Well since we last did an interview I would have to say I really like 'Tattooed Rider' as it is a typical metal song. I also like the song 'Grave Desecrator', and after a couple of years since the album came out those songs really grew on me."
With the band having had some line-up changes in the past, would you say that the line-up now is the best you have had since the rhythm section with Jens and Stefan have been with you the longest.
"Yes you are right, I think you can hear it live as we are a unit together now. I think the albums have got deeper and deeper with the music over the years and we are old guys that respect each other now and we have a good relationships within the band."
Do you see anything of the old band members and are you friends?
"(Laughing) 'No not really friends with Uwe, it is good that he is in Accept and he is only a side man for the band. He did bring a lot of shit for me when he left the band, in 2000 as he tried to steal the bands name and he tried to make this rebellion band thing and said we are the real Grave Digger. (Ed: come on there is only one Grave Digger and that is you) and they tried to bring a law suit over me which was totally stupid. It cost me a lot of money in the long run and for what?
I had a really good time with Uwe but in the end it when we made the 'Excalibur' album we started to write songs and they sounded like shit. If you start to write songs that sound like shit it could spell the end of the band. When we made the 'Hangman' album together with Thilo it was much better but when he left the band I had the same situation as before. I do see Manni from time to time and we do chat and we do respect each other."
How many videos did you record the the album 'Return of the Reaper'?
"I think we only did the one video, and videos cost a lot of money and we didn't have so much money at that time. With the new one we did 2 video 'Healed by Metal' and 'Lawbreaker'. The song 'Lawbreaker' was supported by the whiskey company 'Ziegler' and the idea came from Axel who the company came to him and asked what his thoughts would be to make some kind of partnership and to create you're own whiskey.
So Axel drove down and they made their own choice and I don't drink for 17yrs but I heard it is a good whiskey, it called 'The Grave Digger' whiskey and we have the 2nd addition now which is called 'The Bruce'."
So let's now talk about the new album 'Healed by Metal', why the title?
"Well that's a funny story behind that Jason, 3yrs ago we played a big festival at 'Gorky Park' in Moscow and besides this festival area there is a hospital and after 8 hrs of metal I said to my manager 'I wonder how the patients are felling after 8hrs of metal music?' He said 'I think they are all healed by metal' and so the title came from that idea. So next day I created the chorus for the song with Axel and and then we composed the record and it's 80's metal but we love it!! We had no other titles for this record."
That is what I like about you're band, you so very 80's and I have to respect you for that, you can't beat the 80's metal.
"Thank's you are right, we love the 80's it's the best times for music. That is the magic about our music, we live in the 80's like 'Number of the Beast' which is all very cheesy but we love it."
So where was the album recorded? Also by whom?
"Well it was recorded at the same studio as before here in Germany at the 'Principle Studios' since the 'Dark of Darkness' album was released. We use the same sound engineer it is all the same, never change a winning team that is our saying."
How long did it take to record this album? Does Alex come up with the ideas and riffs 1st?
"Well for this album we wrote all the songs together in a 1 week session and then we did a pre-production with Alex and myself and we program the drums until we take the recordings into the studio to record as a full band. Stefan will play to the original guitar tracks and that is the easiest way for the band. I think it took 3-4 wks to record the album, and if you do a good pre-production as we are very fast working guys and I did all the vocals in 5 days."
Where there any guests on this record?
"No there was not, be to honest I am pretty bored with having guests on the albums now, you see having a guest on the album is also fishing for compliments with a different name or famous name and I don't think we need that now. We did it in the past with Doro and lots more people,."
Could you tell me briefly what the songs are about on the new album?
"Well all the songs are dealing with criminals and it is not a concept album, and songs like 'Lawbreaker' are cleshade with bikers riding into town that make a party there or 'Healed by Metal' is a metal Jesus scene and songs like 'When night Falls' is about a couple in the second world war going to a concentration camp and some songs are very serious topics and also some cleshade topics."
Do you have any favourite songs on this album and which ones are they?
"I do like 'Lawbreaker' and 'Healed by Metal' as they are typical Grave Digger songs."
I noticed that one song which is great called 'Free Forever' has a certain Saxon 'Solid ball of Rock' riff, why did you try to almost steal the riff haha!!
"Yes you are right, we did compare it to Saxon song and we wondered if we could record it or not and it is pretty much in the same style as Saxon but not the same riff or rhythm. So we decided to do it (laughing). Everybody says that 'Tattooed Rider' sounds like Judas Priest's 'Turbo Lover' but it only the intro. I hope to see Saxon at a festival and I want to ask Biff if he has heard 'Free Forever' and his opinion on it."
The video for the song 'Healed by Metal' is pretty funny with the grim reaper driving the Hurst, tell me a little bit about that video
(Laughing) "Well we had worked together with this producer and he came up with the idea for the video to use this Hurst. All of our videos are funny, we don't take it too seriously."
Are you totally happy with the way the album has turned out?
"Yes most defiantly I am for sure so is the band, and there is no progression with this album, it's just 80's metal all the way. We will not change as we love this type of music and we do it at our best."
How long have you been with Napalm Records and are you happy with them
"Well we have been with them for about 9yrs now and yes we are happy with them. We have another 2 albums to record with them, totally satisfied."
Do you intend on doing a live DVD in the near future?
"No not this year but maybe next year we will have to wait and see."
What about touring are you doing any festival this year?
"Yes we will play Graspop and Wacken, Sweden Rock."
Well Chris thanks for the interview do you have anything to say before we finish?
"Yes stay METAL!!! Speak soon Jason cheers.
Thanx to Chris and Mr T for the interview.