German power metal kings Grave Digger delivered one of the outstanding albums of 2010 and are set for their biggest year yet. I caught up with frontman Chris Boltendahl for rushonrock.
rushonrock: Firstly, what made you choose the name Grave Digger?
Chris Boltendahl: It was the funniest thing because in 1980, we sat one night with a beer and we thought about a name and we couldn’t call ourselves Iron Maiden or whatever. So we took a dictionary, looked into it and thought oh wow! Grave Digger! That wasn’t exactly a spectacular story!
rushonrock: Is The Clans Will Rise Again a theme continuation from the album (part of the middle ages trilogy) Tunes of War?
CB: Yes, it’s a loose sequel because Tunes Of War was a very successful record 14 years ago. So we thought we’d do a second part to the album more or less. We thought it’s dangerous and difficult, but after some discussions and finding the concept of it, we thought yeah it’s a good idea. It’s is different but the atmosphere is similar to Tunes Of War. But in the end they are two different records and two different concepts.
rushonrock: And Tunes Of War is a concept album?
CB: Tunes Of War is more about the history of Scotland and the new one is about the legends and the spiritual things what happened at the highlands, all the things about the people living there and how they are connected to their own country. Not really the historical aspect.
rushonrock: I’m intrigued at the fact you’re a German band singing about Scotland. What is it about the highlands that inspires?
CB: First I have to say that Germany has lots of interesting history. But if you think about your own history, like the second World War and the first everyone called you a Nazi you know. So we’re in a difficult thing. On the other side, I’m really addicted to the Scottish Highlands and to the lakes, and I have a good friend who is a teacher there at the University of Edinburgh. He told me a lot about his country and I’ve travelled a lot there in my private time. It’s something like a second home for me. I have a lot of knowledge about this land, of the might and legends, so it wasn’t so difficult to find the new concept of the new album.
rushonrock: I think the atmosphere would be electric if you came across to Scotland. Would you like to do that? Do you think it will happen?
CB: It would be a dream for us to bring both albums live to Scotland. I think our fan-base in England is ok, but in Scotland I don’t know how many fans we have there. But that is a plan perhaps for the 35th anniversary, to bring both albums live directly to Scotland so we’ll see what happens.
rushonrock: Where is your favourite place to tour, and why?
CB: There are so many places. We have good reactions over here in Europe, Russia and also in South America. There are some countries where we are not so popular like in Japan or the US and also in the UK but we are working on it.
rushonrock: You have covered many different themes in the past. Do you think you’ll continue the Scottish theme or will it be something else?
CB: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know yet what we are doing on the next record. We are to discuss a lot of topics within the band, but I think we will carry on with some kind of concept CD. We have a good feeling with the new record doing really well, so let’s see. We know that we will be releasing April 2012 but we don’t have any idea at the moment what we are doing with that album.
rushonrock: I know that The Last Supper may not have been a concept album as such, but what is it about religious themes that you feel is powerful?
CB: I’m not so addicted to the Bible. I grew up in a very religious home-place, my parents are very religious but it hasn’t affected me that much. I think there is a force somewhere else, somewhere in the universe but I don’t know if it’s what we call Jesus or God. I think also the Bible is a very interesting book. There are some good things and bad things inside and it works to write some lyrics about that.
rushonrock: I suppose being captain of the ship you have to have the right crew. It must be a big responsibility being the driving force, right?
CB: The force behind Grave Digger is the love to metal. We put all of our energies, motivation and it’s coming from our creativity. We are very creative guys. We are old, mid to late 40s, but over the years we never thought to stop because we’ve so much energy and creativity. I think we have a couple more records to do before we step out of the scene.
rushonrock: Manni Schmidt left, was it a case of differences in direction?
CB: It was a complete personal thing between Manni and me because he didn’t like how I lead the band and he didn’t accept a couple of decisions I made. The last few years he was really not satisfied with the atmosphere in the band and then he decided to leave. From this time, the atmosphere has completely changed. Now it is relaxed and a respectful atmosphere in the band and that’s very positive for us.
rushonrock: What are you listening to at the minute?
CB: I listen to so many music styles. One time in the morning I listen to jazz, in the midday I listen to world music and in the car I listen to heavy metal. It’s really different. I’m an open minded guy and I like a lot of different styles.
rushonrock: Does this allow you to bring different styles and different mind-sets to Grave Digger?
CB: We always try to bring different styles of music in a limited way. Now it’s the bagpipes, but in the end we are playing heavy metal and there’s not so much space for other styles. But we have some new ideas for the future so let’s see what the future holds.
rushonrock: It’s been nearly 30 years in activity, how do you still enjoy touring the way you used to?
CB: For sure because there’s two sides to a musician, one with studio work and the other side’s with touring. And with touring you can get people directly and it’s very important to say hello to the people and present your own music. Touring is a great part of a musicians’ life.
rushonrock: What message would you give to anyone starting their own musical project?
CB: Believe in yourself and find your own identity. That is the most important thing.