Few names invoke as much majesty in the world of melodic death metal than Swedish …
He’s power metal’s Mr. Bombastic, he’s Tobias Sammet of Avantasia.
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For those not in the know, Avantasia is Edguy vocalist Sammet’s “metal opera” project. Entire galaxies of guest stars, full orchestras, and a gestation period that would give an elephant the absolute shits. Some of Avantasia’s work is so grandiose in scale it pops Tuomas Holopanien’s top-hat straight off his eyeliner smeared crown. In metaldom, Avantasia has only Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon as a rival in scope—and many claim Avantasia to be the superior product. Talking to Mr. Sammet from his Victorian-style abode somewhere in Germany, he discusses his new opus Moonglow, and how exactly he’ll cram the now 20 year old kit and caboodle into a (three hour!) Aussie show this May.
Another huge album for you Tobi! This one has some massive names singing on it: Alice Cooper, Hansi Kürsch, Jørn Lande – how do you come up with a list of singers for the songs?
In general, it was just a I write a song, I write a concept. A lot of it happens subconsciously, I want to have the right voices for the right song. Sometimes you have a particular name in the back of your head. You write with that voice and that singer on your mind. I have something on the back of my mind, and I write for these people. They are members of the family.
Sometimes you just write a song and you have a different type of voice in your head. You just have to think of who is the person that belongs to that type of voice. Everything I do, based on my intuition and on my personal taste as a music lover, I have to say. Basically my record collection is my roster. It’s my pool of possible candidates. It’s also like a giant model train, because of course, that’s the beautiful thing about Avantasia.
That you can work with your heroes? Was that a goal of yours?
With Avantasia, nothing is pre-set. It’s just like a toy store with infinite possibilities. Of course, when I was a kid, I would have never dreamt that one day I would work with Claude Minor or Alice Cooper. It proves nothing is really impossible, you just have to dream big. Because of course, there is always an occasion when I want to have singers and they can’t do it. I wanted to have Meat Loaf, which never really happened.
With Avantasia, nothing is pre-set. It’s just like a toy store with infinite possibilities.
It’s interesting you’ve got Mille Petrozza from Kreator on here, which doesn’t seem like a usual choice for you.
Yes, of course, he’s not exactly the nightingale or the operatic singer that you would expect on an Avantasia record. Then on the other hand, Mille is a good friend of mine, Mille is an original. He’s got a very, very primal way of singing. Everything about him is so authentic. He’s a real, true artist. I really like the raw energy of his music and his artistic approach. As I said, we’re good friends. It was overdue. We always spoke about him being part of Avantasia for many years.
With Hansi Kürsch, a similar story. He had been a guest singer and a very, very good supporter, I have to say of that guy in the early days. We’ve always been in touch. I already wanted him to be a guest of Avantasia [since] the first Avantasia record.
Do you get face time? Do you actually get them in the studio?
Yeah, with some of them. Some of them we did. For example, with Geoff Tate [ex-Queensrÿche] another legend, I have to say, that I would have never envisioned myself working with when I was a kid. I had listened to Operation: Mindcrime back and forth. All of a sudden, you work with Geoff Tate. Last time I worked with Geoff on a previous album, we were working. He was sending over files. Then we played a show together in 2017 or a few shows.
We met in person. How great it would be to actually hook up in studio together and working on the material and just producing it. Maybe he try the passage a little differently, because I think sometimes magic happens when you are in one room. You can say maybe that passage worked. Sometimes people want to do their own passage again. You say, no, that was perfect. Just give people feedback. Sometimes that’s a great way of creating magic in a studio recording music.
With so much going on musically, would the ideal experience for Avantasia be on a big hi-fi? Or see you guys live, if possible?
Well live is the best experience, but of course, it’s a completely different experience to listen to an album. That’s why I would never afraid of a feeling that a band has another feeling that the demand that a band has to jump live every time on the album. That never said something about the quality to me, because live is a completely different experience than listening to an album. Of course, I am really into your hi-fi stuff.
I don’t believe in the magic and the hocus pocus that is attached to the hi-fi stuff when people think about golden tables and all that crap. I never understood how people can listen on a train or on a subway and entertain the whole environment with the amazing sound of their little cell phone, which I never understood that whole thing. Can you imagine a great painter of the 19th century painting a picture imagining what it would look like the size of the stamp. No, you don’t give a fuck. It’s a painting, take it or leave it. I probably would record music for people who appreciate music. That doesn’t mean you have to have a stereo for thousands of dollars, that’s not the case. But still, it’s made for proper listening devices. Good headphones are a good compromise.
As for your Aussie tour, what can fans expect?
A great show. We’re going to be all musicians that we have on the European tour. We’ll be another trip down, our show will play approximately three hours. We’ll play old stuff, we’ll play new stuff. We’ll probably going to play most of the new album. Two more hours of the best material of our career. There will be great vocalists, there will be Ronnie Atkins of the Pretty Maids, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Bob Kelly, Jørn Lande, there will be Geoff Tate. There will be Adrienne Cowan, a great female vocalist with amazing abilities. She can sing any kind of style. It will be a great experience. I’m really, really proud because I always loved touring Australia. I’m extremely proud that we can bring this juggernaut to Australia.
Moonglow is set for a 15 February release via Nuclear Blast.
AVANTASIA: LIVE IN AUSTRALIA TOUR
Sunday 12th May // Metro Theatre // Sydney
Tuesday 14th May // The Forum // Melbourne
Tickets available from Avantasia.net