Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Brainstorm

BRAINSTORM

20 years into their highly successful career, Brainstorm have released what is probably their most complete album yet that brings together musical elements from all stages of their existence.  Roland Oei talked to founder and guitarist Torsten Ihlenfeld about the band’s latest release, ‘Memorial Roots’ and to find out more about the bands history.

 

How long has the band been together?

We started the band back in ’89 and we released our first album in ’97, ‘Hungry’, and now we have released 8 albums to date and we have toured a lot, played a lot.

 

Why did it take so long to put the first album out?

There was no Heavy Metal in the 90s because of Grunge but we grew up with Heavy Metal so we never did anything else.

 

Didn’t you feel like challenging the grunge scene at the time?

We would have but we didn’t get a record contract at that time.  Heavy Metal was what we always wanted to do so we waited.

 

Can you remember your first gig as Brainstorm?

It was an unofficial first concert in what was our rehearsal room and so we printed flyers and had about 150 people in the rehearsal room so it was really packed and we had the drums set up on beer cases so that was the beginning.  It was first of January in ’88.

 

Andy joined you on vocals 10 years ago.  What was it about his voice that you liked?

I knew him before and we talked about doing something together someday and so when we had our vocalist leave I phoned Andy and he was the perfect choice.  I like almost everything about him.  He has a very powerful voice and he can sing whatever he wants so there is no limit to lows and highs and he is an amazing live performer and I think especially for Heavy Metal this is very important.

 

He is also part of Symphorce, and vocals make bands unique.  How does he keep that separate from what he sounds like in Brainstorm?

It’s not that difficult.  In Brainstorm it is me and Milan that write the music and I think even his voice is a little different when he sings for Symphorce compared to Brainstorm.  Definitely his main focus is on Brainstorm.  Brainstorm is the bigger band so every time we take a break or we do song writing he is free to do something with Symphorce.

 

Have you ever thought of doing a tour with Brainstorm and Symphorce together?

No.  We won’t do that.  Even Andy won’t do that.  There is no reason for it, that’s how we see it.  It makes no sense going on tour and having the same vocalist on stage the whole evening.  First off it is very challenging and I don’t think it would work out well especially for the people.

 

Do the two bands share the same fan base?

I think they are the same fans but the music is different enough to have different listeners.  I think Symphorce is a little bit darker and more progressive and we are more traditional Heavy Metal and we have more melodic influences than what Symphorce do.  So I think the difference is big enough and Andy has been in Brainstorm for over 10 years now and so we never had any problems or issues with fans or whatever.  There are always fans that ask why don’t you go on tour with Symphorce opening for Brainstorm.  I don’t think it would work, I haven’t tried it.  King Diamond tried it with Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and I love both bands but I don’t think it was the right experience for the band.

 

The new album is called 'Memorial Roots'. Where does the name come from?

There are several meanings for the title.  First off we wanted to have roots in the album title because everybody has roots where we come from but we are building new roots with a new record label and so we thought about something that makes a whole picture for us and Memorial Roots does express exactly what we wanted to with the album

 

You mentioned you changed labels, you went from Metal Blade to AFM.  Why did you make that jump?

We were with Metal Blade for 8 years and 5 albums so the record deal was over and of course we were free to look at the offers that came in and AFM simply did a very good offer and so we decided it was time to start something new.

 

In these days of Myspace etc, did you not think that you could self release the album and go it alone?

No.  Why should we?  Having a label in the back that supports you is important especially in a band of our size and status.  It is more helpful than to do everything on your own.  I think when a band is smaller and not as established as Brainstorm is, it could be helpful but it is important when you go on tour and you need tour support but to do everything on your own it has to be way bigger than what Brainstorm is, especially to have the financial backing.

 

What do you feel are the highlights of the new album?

The whole album in total I would say because almost every song turned out the way we wanted them to turn out and I think 'Memorial Roots' is a very good reflection of what Brainstorm is all about.  It’s got heavy riffs, big melodies and fast songs, epic songs and I think there is everything in this album that defines Brainstorm.

 

Your DVD release called ‘Honey From the Bees, Beasting Around the Bush’ is a weird title.  How did you come up with that and what is on that DVD?

Well we had been thinking of doing a different title than what people expect from a regular Brainstorm album and so especially the front covers, you often have monsters on the covers so we are well known as a good live band that has a lot of fun when we go on stage and we enjoy ourselves a lot when we play and we wanted to express that with the DVD, that’s why we did the comic paintings for the DVD and that’s why we searched for an unusual title and we thought 'honey from the bees' is something like a gift for the fans like honey is for bees. 'Beasting Around the Bush' was added because we like it very much, the expression, so that’s why we used it.  The main focus is the honey.  There are many live shows on the DVD.   We have Wacken 2004 in front of 30000 people and we have a headlining show from the Liquid Monster tour in Budapest and also the Progpower show from Atlanta in the USA from 2004 and some small bits of concerts from the very beginning.  Its two DVDs that run for 5 hours and we have new clips on there as well and an overview of some festivals where we did 2 or 3 songs to give the fans a big overview of what Brainstorm is all about.

 

What do you like and hate about touring?

What we like of course is to play live every evening, meet the fans and this is the greatest thing a band can do and there’s not that much to hate.  Of course you are away from home but that is the price that you pay.  We are very lucky to have such a dedicated and loyal fan base and it is always a big pleasure to meet them when we go on tour and do club shows because they are more intimate than when you play festivals so usually when time allows it we hang out with the fans after the show, because that’s how we are and what we are.

 

How does your profile and popularity compare in Germany, the UK and the US?

I think Germany is the biggest market for Brainstorm.  The albums do get in the National charts.  The first album that was in the charts was ‘Soul Temptation’ in2003 which was 73 in the official album charts and Liquid Monster was 72 and the last one was at 53.  Even in Switzerland and Hungary it is usually top 10 for us.  We are in front of Madonna when we release a single over there.  The last single we did, ‘Fire Walk with Me’ was #1 in Hungary in the singles chart.

 

What else do you want to achieve with Brainstorm?

We take it as it comes.  We do it with all our heart and a lot of fun and as long as we can do that and the fans love it we will go on.  We want to write and release good music and go on tour and then we will see what happens.  Of course if it goes up we will not say no.

 

Any message for your UK fans?

Yeah, it feels very good to be back in the UK.  It took us a long time.  I guess 2006 was the last time and now we are here and we are looking forward to it because we had such a warm welcome the first time we were here.  We played at the Astoria opening for Nightwish and that was great.

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