As we knew of the opportunity to interview Tobias Sammet we almost fainted with happiness! Maybe because we've been huge fans for many years, but chatting with one of the most brilliant musicians of the last 15 years made us extraordinarily happy. Toby has also proven to be a great professional and an amazing conversational partner. Enough with unnecessary preambles, enjoy this wonderful interview!
Interview: Fabrizio Tasso, Daniela Patanè
RRM: Hello Toby.Thank you so much for calling! How are you first of all, I heard you had a little accident, what happened?
TS:Yes I had a really stupid accident in a hotel room in Paris! I was on a promotional trip and I had to go home because my foot swelled, but I feel much better now, everything is fine!
RRM: let’s start talking about Avantasia’s latest release “the Mystery of Time”. It’s an amazing piece of music as always, perhaps it’s a little different from the previous as it's a bit more melodic and symphonic, is that the right impression?
TS: It’s really something I can't say myself as I try not to think too much, but just do it. So whatever comes out of my heart, I try not to analyze it too much. I heard different sorts of comments on the album. In Japan they said it's a coming back to the roots, some people say it's very close to The Metal Opera, some people say the opposite, it's crazy! It awakes so many different feelings. If you played it to five people and you had to ask their comment on it, they would say something completely different from each other, so I think it's a very melodic and a very anthemic album, very classical, because of the orchestra and everything. Yes, it is what it is. It's Avantasia and it's magical!!
RRM: two of the tracks that impressed us most are “The Great Mystery” and “What’s Left On Me”. The latter in particular features a duet with Eric Martin which is absolutely awesome. Where did you draw inspiration for these songs?
TS: well, I just did what I always do, I just wrote the songs! (laughs) The Great Mystery has a lot of Meat Loaf and Magnum inspiration. It was getting longer and longer and it's a very complicated song actually, the arrangement has a lot of slight tempo adjustments. The tempo changes slightly here and there, in different passages, so it's a real tricky song, but it's so epic. The choirs for “The Great Mystery” took six hours to be recorded, only the choirs! That's amazing! It's a little opera within the opera!
What’s Left On Me is just a very classic ballad and what I really liked about the performance of Eric Martin is that Eric has a different background, he comes from a soul and blues background, and it was so great to have him involved in a European neoclassical ballad, it was a clash of different worlds and they worked so well together. Eric's American way of singing and my European songwriting were a really exciting combination.
RRM: as usual you’re surrounded by great artists, how do you choose them? Do you write the song first, and then think of the best possible interpreter, or is it the opposite, you write the song already knowing who’s going to sing it?
TS: It's different from case to case, for example when I wrote songs like “Where Clock Hands Freeze” I had a mental image in the back of my mind and it was already sung by Michael Kiske, already when I had the melody in my mind for the first time! With “The Great Mystery”, when I wrote the song I was already inspired by the magic of Bob Catley's voice, so that inspired me really to write that song. But with some vocals, for example the song that Biff Byford sang, The Black Orchid, I was writing it and I had a sort of voice in the back of my mind, but without exactly knowing who would be the singer, so I did a very intuitional thing, I went through my home records collection, in my mind, through my favourite singers and my favourite bands and then at one point I knew: “oh! This is the voice that perfectly matches that particular passage and character and role in the story”. So sometimes I know the singer from the start and sometimes I write the song and then I have a kind of voice in my mind, but I have to go and look who it is.
RRM: This is your first album featuring Arjen Lucassen (with the exception of the “Ayreon vs Avantasia” EP) Do you feel you’ve been influenced by his music?
TS: er...no! (laughs) Seriously, I love what he does, but its' not something that I was really hugely influenced by. The thing that I find really inspiring is his way of approaching art, and I think he is really an exceptional artist, because he's got the right work ethics, he's an artist from head to toe, and it's quite a distance from his head to his toe!!! I wasn't inspired by any record of Arjen in particular, not at all, but I think his work ethics are really inspiring and he's a true artist and a music lover, and that's what I am. That's inspiring and it's great to know that there are other crazy people like me out there who compose their rock operas and make something amazingly crazy!
RRM: You never had an Italian singer on any Avantasia project, have you ever heard singers like Michele Luppi, Alessandro Conti or Fabio Lione? Do you think there will ever be a chance for one of them?
TS: I know Fabio Lione very well, he's a great guy and he's an amazing vocalist. We talk to each other whenever we meet somewhere and he also recorded a lot of staff in Wolfsburg with Sascha Paeth. I also sang backing vocals on one Rhapsody album, so of course we know each other.
You know? That is a good idea for the future! I will think about it! You know, it's a very subconscious thing, it's not only a chance for Fabio, Fabio is an established, well-known, famous and very skilled vocalist, he doesn't need Avantasia. It's just that I've never thought about it in the past, when I'll have a passage that I think would be appropriate for Fabio's voice I should ask him, so maybe it's a good idea for the future!
RRM: Getting back to the beginning of your career, when you recorded “Savage Poetry” with Edguy, had you ever imagined you would have such a great success?
TS: No, you cannot imagine it. I'm very thankful that we are so successful and I'm very thankful that we sell a lot of records and I'm very thankful for being able to travel around the world and work with Alice Cooper, Klaus Meine, Rudolph Schenker, Joe Lynn Turner, Eric Martin, Michael Kiske. It's an amazing journey that I'm on and you cannot imagine something like that, it's what you dream about! And it has become much bigger than I even had dreamt, so, no, I didn't imagine that.
RRM: talking about the tour that will reach Italy on April 16th, can you anticipate something about it?
TS: it's gonna be the biggest Avantasia’s show ever, because we're going to bring seven vocalists, or even eight vocalists, I'm not sure, let's count: Amanda Sommerville, Oliver Hartmann, me, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Ronnie Atkins, Eric Martin, Thomas Rettke from Heavens Gate. It's eight vocalists, we're gonna play three hours, it's gonna be a bombastic show!
RRM: what does it take to bring around the world such a huge and sophisticated production? I suppose it is totally different from touring with Edguy, maybe more difficult under certain aspects?
TS: It's very difficult for the travel agency!! It's just great because with Avantasia I played 25 shows in my whole career, whereas with Edguy I played more than 600 shows in my career.
With Avantasia I see it more like a school excursion! A funny vacation trip, there's a lot of musicians involved that usually don't tour with each other, so it's very exciting, it's something really new.
RRM: one last question Toby, among your many works, what’s the most significant to you?
TS: uh, that's very difficult, maybe I would say the first Metal Opera, that's when everything went through the roof, when everything took off. After that Edguy became big and that is pretty much the album that brought my name in the heavy metal world in Asia, in America, in Europe, in Russia, nearly everywhere. That album gave me the chance to build up from there, it was the foundation of my career, I think.
RRM: do you think you have changed, as a human being, since the beginning of your career?
TS: I hope so! Well, “changed” sounds very harsh, I would say I've developed, I grew up, I hope I have learned something from this, but I don't think I have become a different person, I've just developed, at least I hope so! If you don't develop in the span of 30 years there's something wrong in your personality I think!
RRM: is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
TS: I want to thank each and everyone for supporting us, I would kindly recommend to check out “The Mystery of Time”, it's a great album. I really put a lot of sweat and blood, not actually tears but a lot of sweat and blood into the album! I hope to see you all on the 16th of April, in Milan. And I hope people will know the lyrics by then and can sing along. We will play a lot of old songs and a lot of new songs, we're gonna make three hours, so there's enough space for The Metal Opera, and enough space for the new album, so I hope people will know the lyrics by then and we're gonna have an eventful night!
Thank you so much for your time, Toby, it’s been a pleasure, we’ll see you in April!
AVANTASIA "The Mystery Of Time" Nuclear Blast - Release date: March 29th 2013
Much time has surely passed since Tobias Sammet's debut in 1995, with the album “Savage Poetry” by his main band Edguy. The at the time eighteen-year-old singer, (as he himself admitted with us in a wonderful interview), would never have thought he would achieve such a great success. The turning point of his career was..[READ MORE...]