GRAVE DIGGER are back with a new album. Axel Ritt of GRAVE DIGGER answered my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2019
Did you ever think that you be here some 40 years later? What kind of feelings does that bring out, that there are people like me that have been there from day one?
-It’s a great honor that our fans kept us alive for four decades now. To be honest, I started my career with the aim of composing and performing music until I’ll fall off the stage, so the 40th anniversary for a band is a big thing, but not for me as an artist.
Is there a difference in people’s attitude towards you if you don’t come from a cool place like LA or NY or London?
-In the early days, yes. If you wanted to get famous, it was pretty helpful to live in a place which fits to the kind of music you’re playing. Today, because of the internet, these points are not important anymore, you can live and work whereever you want, the fans don’t care anymore about it. You’re a lucky guy if you find some guys around your place to start a rehearsal. In regular cases, the band members are living somewhere on this planet, recording their files somewhere at their place and showing just up for live shows. Band actions have become office business stuff.
What can you tell us about this new album of yours?
-The last album of the GRAVE DIGGER Scottland triology, so for the very last time real bagpipers and real historic drummers. It was a real challenge for me to arrange the songs around the bagpipers, because they have a real unique tuning and the notes, the can play for the melody lines, are pretty limited. But the result was awesome.
What is the biggest challenge in the creation of an album? How do you write the really cool songs?
-The biggest challenge is not doing the copycat of your own songs, not going the one step too far regarding new elements. but putting some new stuff into your music nethertheless. We know, what the fans love to hear, so it’s up to us to put their favorites together with our ideas. The easiest way to write songs is the behavior of bands like Airbourne by copying a worldwide knows band down to the very last tiny bit of sound, arrangement, lyrics better than every tribute band and call it your own songs. In regular cases, they are not allowed to claim any credits for their albums, espacially the last one, but put the names Young / Johnson in all lists.
I saw Dave Grohl’s documentary about Sound City and it made me wonder what it is about analogue recording that you don’t get with digital? Have you ever recorded analogue?
-Of course we did in the early days. Indeed, the character of an analogue signal path got more depht, a smoother compression and a different resolution of the waves, but you have very limited abillities to edit your recordings and the main thing, none of the consumers is able to hear the difference. So working with pure analogue equipment is a nice little hobby for ambitious recording engineers, but regarding the economic aspect, you loose money. For example, just the power supply of a vintage SSL console eats up to 500 $ a month and you can’t switch them off, because in this case, the temperature changes in the console and you have to call a technician who’ll fix the problems. Well, I do have an analogue console in my studio as well … so I work with best of both worlds.
What is it like to sit there with a finished album? Do you think much what people will think of it?
-No, we take care about of what people think, before (!) we record the music. Chris (Boltendahl, vocalist) and I sit together before every new album, to work on the image of the new album regarding, sound, arrangements, lyrics, attitude and so on. When the album has been finished, we take a break of about 2-3 months and start with the ideas to the next album. So indeed, Chris and I have already collected new ideas for the successor of „Fields Of Blood“ although this album will be released in about 2 weeks.
How important are the lyrics and what message do you want to purvey?
-For me as the composer, the lyrics are part of the song to perform the melody hook. For Chris as the writer, the lyrics do have a more important status of course, because he’s the one to present it to the fans. I think the music, the arrangement, the vocal lines and the lyrics, every part got about a quarter ot he final value in the end.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-The artwork is very important for GRAVE DIGGER, that’s why we keep an extra eye on it for the last 10 records. On the other hand there were some, let’s say „special“ artwork and fotoshooting in the early days 🙂
When you play live do you notice a degree of greater recognition from the fans with each new time you pass through town?
-It depends on the success of the actual album. It’s still like it always has been, more promotion, more advertising and better reviews make the name bigger and fill up the venues. And it helps a lot, if you do have an attractive female singer with strange hair color for the YouTube googler. In this case you’ll get millions of clicks, but unfortunately the guys in the band simply are not just completely uninteressting, they even bother.
What do you see in the future?
-More great GRAVE DIGGER albums and countless Corona-destroyed careers of colleagues, because the goverments worldwide give a shit about culture. They prefer to save corporations who will give them a job when their political career is over, because they have been vote out by their incompetence.
Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt