||MAT SINNER: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT PRIMAL FEAR
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
The German Heavy Metal act have now amassed ten studio albums, all of which carry a punch to the guts and deliver on promises of primitive and straight forward Heavy Metal values.
The concise package has been getting better and stronger as their career has gone from year to year allowing two of the main characters in the band to become highly respected and valued purveyors of the scene; Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner. Both of these musicians have successfully broadened their output by collaborating on other projects and working with other bands while always finding their way back to their mutual love of Primal Fear.
It is time to salute these mighty Metal warriors as they embark on the promotion of their latest studio release known as 'Delivering The Black', incorporating epic monsters in the shape of 'One Night In December' and the single 'When Death Comes Knocking'. There are surprises in the shape of a ballad called 'Born With A Broken Heart' and there are the more traditional belters like 'Alive And On Fire' or 'Road To Asylum'. It is the sound of a band that has really become confident and comfortable with itself without compromise or doubt creeping in to the equation.
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I was given the glorious opportunity to speak with Mat Sinner who handles the duties of bassist, vocalist and producer on the new album and discuss aspects about the band in general. On the evening that I was granted an audience with the good man, he was caught up with his rehearsals as Primal Fear prepared for their imminent touring schedule.
It was of little surprise to me that he was late for our appointment, but he was very humble and gracious nevertheless. He calmly went about answering my questions clearly and directly without stumbling or losing the plot. His interview technique mirrored his approach to the music of Primal Fear as a matter of fact. Would I come out of this interview without a scratch or a bruise I pondered?
"'Unbreakable' was chart-wise our most successful album, we charted in nine countries and there was no big reason to change a lot of things. We started with the target to make the details better; try to write better songs, better production, better single performance of everybody, and better riffs, better melodies and maybe a better sound on the whole thing."
Mr Sinner is precise as he details the approach and attitude towards 'Delivering The Black': "Started with the song writing so mostly I wrote the basic tracks with Magnus Karlsson (guitarist and keyboardist) and we started to write and it was very soon, very clear that we were on the right track. We loved the first tunes we wrote and that was a good feeling, it took away a little bit of pressure off the whole thing."
The calm exterior portrayed by this Metal hero was sustained as we discussed this latest studio offering: "We booked a nice recording facility and started with the drums, and had a very, very great time with Randy (Black, the drummer) in the studio. I think Randy played for my view the best album in his career and he's played on a lot."
He explained how the various aspects of the recording came together during the recording process and wrapped up his thoughts on the new album: "Slowly, the whole picture was nicely getting together and now I have the final copy of the CD in front of me, I'm very happy about this."
Liv Kristine provides a fresh and subtle dynamic on the track 'Born With A Broken Heart' and is familiar to those who support and appreciate the output of Leaves' Eyes: "I always had the idea we need to open up the chorus, so I need a crystal clear female voice for that chorus. Ralf knows Liv very good, she and her husband are living in our area and they have their own recording studio, so Ralf was going for them and tried out her vocals and I really liked it. We made a deal and I have my female vocal here." With his German accent adding to his personality, Mat lets out a hearty chuckle after realising how he had delivered the obvious conclusion to his tale.
I recalled reading how Mat had joined the ranks of Silent Force who recently released their album 'Rising From Ashes', and then pondered to him how this would fit in with Primal Fear related activities and promotions: "Well the problem is that have a massive Primal Fear schedule for 2014. We have so many territories lined up for touring that it is very difficult to do something with another band."
He then explains their touring schedule and reiterates how Primal Fear is the priority right now. During his list of continents and countries, he says that as he stands there now, there are six dates lined up in the UK too.
"So we will start in Europe and then we will see what is going on. We'll start with five new tracks in the set and ten best of songs. So we mix our best of from the first to the last album with five new tracks."
Having established the thinking behind their set-list for the upcoming shows and understanding that despite the other pies Mat had his fingers in, I was curious to know about his thoughts when producing bands and what he gravitated towards? "It depends on the song, and it depends on the band. From my view and what I personally like, I like the more raw edge. Not too polished. There are some polished stuff that I said wow, that is fantastic!
"I can still listen to 'Hysteria' album by Def Leppard and say wow this is still great; or the first album by The Police – that was raw and I like that. It depends on the band and the players. I'm not against a polished album but I prefer a raw album."
I found myself analysing their album titles during our conversation, and this brought about some new thoughts and things to share: "I think with for example 'Delivering The Black' we had first the album title and then we wrote the songs. We wanted to have a black album with the eagle on it and the colour black was the leading colour for this album.
"But there were other albums where we just named the album on a title or we had a story for example. 'Devil's Ground'; there was a spoken thing at the end of the album, it depends."
After some discussion about cover versions, the relaxed and warm tones of Sinner continue as we get back to specific tracks from their back catalogue and what might or might not be included during their set-list: "We'll play the complete version of 'Fighting The Darkness' (which is in three parts on the 'New Religion' album) and we'll play 'One Night In December' (from the latest album 'Delivering The Black') so we have two very long songs in the set. I think it's a challenge for a musician to play 'One Night In December' in an exciting version but we're not scared of that and we're going to do it!"
Acknowledging the friendship and partnership with Ralph Scheepers, I asked why the two had remained working together such a long time: "Respect, friendship and always a possibility for a good compromise." I asked him to elaborate. "The point was, we were both singers. So we never could play in a band together because we were both lead singers.
"Then came the point where Ralf thought about joining Judas Priest and leaving Gamma Ray for the position of the lead singer in Judas Priest. That didn't happen and they chose Tim Owens. Ralf was a little bit frustrated about the decision and wanted to quit the music business. But he had a nice offer from his record company in Japan who wanted to hear some demos from him, and he asked me if I could produce some demos and write with him So, that was not a point for me to say I could not sing or whatever.
"We sit together and write some songs and did some demos. The chemistry was really, really, really good. I think that was the point in me where I said; maybe it's the right time to step a little bit back. I can produce, I can sing backing vocals and I can write, so let's try it out with Ralf as a frontman and see what the future brings."
Mat sounds truly sincere at this stage of our chat and rounds off his thoughts about his relationship with Scheepers: "In the end it was absolutely a great decision. Its 15 years now and we're still together and we're still happy and it was a great decision to do this."
Witnessing the upward trajectory of Primal Fear and recognising the commitment and conviction behind the music of the band, there's little doubt that fans have anything to fear. Keep your eyes on their touring schedule as it will grow and grow, taking in a great many varied locations throughout the course of this year.
Metal is forever!