PRIMAL FEAR's Mat Sinner Talks Current Tour, Rock Meets Classic, SINNER - "We Really Want To Rock!”
May 31, 2016, 2 years ago
For both Mat Sinner and myself, seems like ages, since the German Commandos kicked off their co-headlining trek with Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. Checked them out early on (second night of the tour, in NYC: see here.
Now in the tour's final week, over a beer, we sat in Pho Cali, a Vietnamese restaurant (with some of the cheapest beverage prices in Philly!) across the street from the Trocadero, to catch up on all matters Primal, as well as the band's outside interests. Asked about any memorable concerts in the past month, the bassist begins diplomatically. “It's the 25th show of this tour and for me, the 63rd this year! I was, for the first time, in Las Vegas. It was impressive, but that one day was enough. Know what I mean? I went to Sammy Hagar's Cobo Wabo, had a tequila. We went to Hard Rock Cafe. We were on the Strip. We went to the old Strip. It was 'whoosh'. Impressive, but too much. In Vancouver, the area of the venue was the worst place I've ever been. Sorry for the people living there, but it was The Walking Dead. The gig there was fantastic, but people said, ‘Be careful,’ then you see this. It was really sad. Vancouver show was really good, Anaheim, Texas, even Miami. People said Miami was really difficult, but it was a well-attended show, good feedback. The club in Orlando was nearly sold out, Ybor, in Tampa was a really nice place to hang. The feedback is so good that (this tour) was worth it. We sold a lot of shirts. In the end, it was a cool experience, even if the strategy we had, failed. Primal Fear proved we have a (North American) fanbase. Not the biggest, but very loyal, very into it, so it was worth doing this really long tour. Maybe next time we won't do such a long tour, but it's always worth it to come back. I'm going onto my fifth month (in a row) on the road. I'm in a good mood, not sick. It's all good. Knock on wood, it's the same for Japan and Australia. I can't remember when the band was in such a good mood and playing such good performances. This is very satisfying.”
Elaborating on the aforementioned "strategy," Sinner contends, "In the beginning, everyone thought, 'Wow!', even the (booking) agents, promoters, thought it was a great idea (double bill, with Rhapsody). The Rhapsody guys are cool and I like what they do and how they're doing it. Luca (Turilli) is the original, wrote all the songs, but the strategy, that they'd draw a lot of people, since they are doing this, for the first time, in that intense way, is a little difficult." Sharing a bus and flip-flopping headliner status, on any given night, the package is scheduled to be repeated, this fall, for 13 or 14 dates in ten South American countries, Sinner admits, “We could play longer. We've been rehearsing for Japan and Australia, where we'll play a longer set, but we stay fair to our partners, even though they are having a little harder time than we are. We have a nice partnership. We enjoy playing in the middle.” Asked why, he deadpans “Earlier finish,” before elaborating, “More time to breathe. At soundcheck, you're second, but the first band on, of the two, and we're merciless. We go onstage and we kill, it doesn't matter where we play. For us it's not that important. If someone's like, 'Who's headlining tonight?' I don't give a fuck. I'm not interested in that. We both play the same set length, have the same (stage) set. It doesn't matter.”
In Philly, as throughout the tour, the band are all adorned in black, with a semblance of shredded jeans/leather. The opening trio of "Final Embrace", "In Metal We Trust" and "Angel in Black" are delivered rapid fire, when not punching the air, or lofting high pitched vocal missiles, the bearded Ralf Scheepers repeatedly circles center stage, counterclockwise. However, the ultra-piercing notes are reserved for "Sign Of Fear". There's a conviction behind his fist thrusting, unlike some wimpy onstage punchers. However, his demands for all hands to be raised, even the bartenders, is met with his admission that he can't even see that far back. Guitarist Alex Beyrodt churns out some tasteful licks, akin to his Voodoo Circle side project, to start the ballad, "The Sky Is Burning". Elsewhere, he and original guitarist Tom Naumann lay down some blistering leads on mainstays like "Nuclear Fire", mosh pit inviting "Chainbreaker" and the proper set closer, "Metal Is Forever".
About his compatriots, Sinner says, "Ralf is mainly concentrating on Primal Fear, which is good for the band. He's the singer, the voice. If he's appearing in five bands and 12 albums a year, it might become boring. It's good for us that he's not over presented, on albums and projects or whatever. Alex has his Voodoo Circle, where he can showcase himself, as the only guitarist in the band. It's important that he can do this, to show his skills, in a different kind of music. It's good for his ego. For me, I like helping Alex out with Voodoo Circle. I write some of the music and I'm involved with the business (end). I like to play the different type of music. It's nice for my musical horizon and view.”
That expansive musical landscape include Rock Meets Classic, an annual European Spring tour. "I'm working on it daily," contends Sinner. "Even over here, on the road, I'm phoning, mailing, working on the 2017 line-up. It's a three hour fun, positive, entertaining show. We have a 42 piece orchestra and conductor. We have a huge stage production, big LED walls, great guests. It's a really challenging project, for me as musical director and co-producer of the show. It's a huge challenge, every year, to prove I can do it. I play with some of the biggest names in classic rock. So far, in the eight tours we've done, it's worked out and some of these people have become friends. Playing onstage together is one thing, but becoming friends, in regular life, is something else. 2017 will be a big production, with a lot of Americans involved, which is always more difficult than with English people. Sorry for that American.”
Many fans wonder about the continued involvement of guitarist Magnus Karlsson, listed as a member, even in promo shots, but absent from the live arena. What gives? “You don't even know if he exists for real,” toys Sinner. “He's a phenomenon. We're together ten years. We're grown-ups. We're middle aged. We're not kids, throwing people out of the band. We stick together. He has his family life, where his wife has the good job. He's concentrating on his music school, his writing and his producing. He has own little studio. He has three little kids he takes care of, so from a social position... I hope it's not too complicated, I sound like a politician, but social factor is important to us. Everyone in this band has kids and understands Magnus' situation. So far, everything is cool and everyone knows their position. He's an important part of our musical strategy.”
That includes the creation of Rulebreaker, an album heralded, even by detractors, as one of (if not THE) strongest albums in the Primal Fear catalog. “The guy who is not on tour with us did a lot with me, on that one, so his position makes sense. After Delivering The Black, where we also did a long tour (not as long as this one), we thought about what we wanted to do. I sat down with Magnus and we had so many ideas. It came so smoothly. We didn't know where it would go, but if you write five songs that you think are killer and match the old album, that was a success, maybe it gives you and extra push and the rest of the material was just flowing. We had five more songs that we didn't use. It just all came together. Having Tom back too, I wrote the final song on the album (‘Raving Mad’) with Tom, to have a bit of the old Primal Fear vibe and maybe a look into the future. The songwriting was flowing really nice. With all the breaks, I think we worked six months on the long song (‘We Walk Without Fear’) until it was finished. I think we had 20 versions of that song. I like my job. I like writing. I like to produce and fool around. In the end, it was the version we all loved. For me, I think it's a milestone in my writing career, to make eleven minutes interesting. You listen and think, 'That was cool.' We could play it live, but we're already doing 'One Night In December' from Delivering The Black on this tour. We play 'the new' ballad, instead of 'Fighting The Darkness', which a lot of people miss, but we're not a ballad band. In the end, we want to have 75 minutes, no drum solo, no guitar solo, just in your face, rock ‘n’ roll. Give the people what they want. We really want to rock!”
That includes his own adopted surname outfit, Sinner, who are overdue for something new. However, as part of the collection of Noise Records compilation reissues, there's currently No Place Like Heaven, a two CD package, containing 30 songs initially released by the label between '84 and '87. "Finally they were fair and asked me about some stuff," begins the bassist/singer for that band as well. "Malcom Dome, who is doing the liner notes interviewed me. Even though my contract and royalties are on the weakest side ever, I have a responsibility to the people who are buying it. It's better to be a little bit involved, telling them, 'Come on, get rid of this song. Put in that song because it was more played at this stage, or was never a favorite of ours.' The people who buy this album get a little bit of my brains.”
And what about new Sinner material? “So if I find the time in summer, I have 20 songs written. I'd want to have a nice 'holiday,' producing a new Sinner record. It gives me the freedom to do something different. I'm thankful that AFM Records and a lot of other people believe in and really like this act. Every live show for Sinner is like a big party. I try to keep it alive.”
In the meantime, he'll finish out the year with Primal Fear: after Japan and Australia, it's summer festivals, South America, then a couple of weeks in Europe, this Fall, with proposals coming in for Russia and others, after October. "I don't know if we've improved," he says humbly, "but I've never had such great feedback from people reviewing the shows."