Rustyn Rose of Metalholic recently conducted an interview with AVANTASIA mastermind Tobias Sammet about the band's forthcoming "Moonglow" studio album. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On how he maintains such a high level of creativity for AVANTASIA:
Tobias: "I think the foundation of everything is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and conviction and following your conviction and trying to listen to your intuition and do things for the right reason, which is not to be flavor of the week or deliver anything that suits or fits a certain market or target audience. The thing is, you really have to be a little bit stubborn and old-fashioned in a way. That's what they told me. When I tried to get a record deal with this record, some of the record companies — mainstream, major record companies — said, 'It's a little bit old-fashioned. It's not really fashioned.' 'Yes, exactly! Thank you very much!' It's not fashioned; I'm not flavor of the week. You have to do what you believe in and you have to have a certain capacity for suffering and you have to be well-prepared that you will get some flack for doing what you do. You have to be ready to take that flack. I think that enthusiasm is the core of everything. I try to be enthusiastic about things and if they don't really excite me, I do it either differently or don't do them at all. Some people would call it stubborn, but I think it's the most honest approach you can have as a musician. Do what excites you, otherwise you will fool people and people don't want to be fooled. That's pretty much my work ethic. I'm honest, and if I fail, I honestly fail, and if I succeed, I honestly succeed, but it's always heartfelt and stubborn in a positive way, I think."
On whether the creation of "Moonglow" was "cathartic" for him:
Tobias: "Yeah, absolutely. I was writing about things that I had on my mind and it felt good. Just like sometimes, everybody knows it, everybody's got a driver's license, you will sit in your car — I don't know, maybe I'm abnormal. I will sometimes sit in my car and I will talk to somebody, I don't know who I'm talking to, but I'm talking to myself to get things off my chest, to phrase things, to let them out and put thoughts in the right order. I think art is about all that. Not only the words, also the music, sitting at the piano, I'm playing and just playing around with it and not playing a certain song, just playing around and letting things come out of my fingers or mind or whatever, that's also getting things off your chest. That's what art is all about. If you deliver something bite-sized just for the plain reason to deliver something in time for a certain purpose to make a certain amount of money, to recoup a certain budget, to appeal to a certain group of fans, I think, to me, it doesn't really work. To a certain extent, it may work, but to me, that's what I think my art is supposed to be, I think, in a way. I want to play things that mean something to me and I want to get things off my chest. Of course, music is therapy in a way."
On getting the likes of Mille Petrozza (KREATOR) and Hansi Kürsch (BLIND GUARDIAN) to guest on "Moonglow":
Tobias: "Mille is a good friend of mine and, of course, people may think KREATOR is a different world and they're probably right, because, I mean, we're more of this epic, rock or old-school heavy metal in some passages. KREATOR is thrash metal, old-school, German thrash metal. Of course, it seems like it's a different world, and musically it is a little bit different, but Mille and I have been friends for very, very long — I think, probably 20 years or something like that. We've always spoke about him being part of AVANTASIA, but there was never the right song. But this time, I had the right song. I knew immediately when I had that part and I was mentally going through certain names and trying to find out who could be the right vocalist for this. It happened real fast that I knew it's going to be Mille. Yeah, I wrote the passage, I sent him the track, he went into the studio and recorded it. No big deal. With Hansi, it was pretty much the same thing. Hansi Kürsch of BLIND GUARDIAN and I have been friends since '97, I believe, when he was contributing vocals and also, some arrangement skills and advice he gave me for the EDGUY record 'Vain Glory Opera'. I wanted to have Hansi for the first AVANTASIA originally, but back then, he wasn't unavailable, he was doing something with Jon Schaffer [ICED EARTH] with DEMONS & WIZARDS, they had a project together. I think they still have that project these days. They were working together and he was quite busy, so it didn't happen, long story short. I always knew at one point I may want to work with Hansi again. I have that song 'The Raven Child'. I called him up and said 'Hansi, now's the time. Do you want to or could you imagine?' He listened to the track and he immediately agreed. It wasn't really a big deal.
"I'm really happy, of course, also about all the guests I've worked with before. Sometimes I get asked, 'You've brought in so many people, but have been working with AVANTASIA before. Are you running out of ideas for new guests?' The truth is, it's not about the gimmickry. It's more about the quality and just things that are really close to us and people that are close to, we sometimes tend to take that for granted and I don't want to take that for granted. I have had the chance in the past to work with some of the greatest vocalists and most legendary vocalists in heavy metal and rock music. Some of my all-time idols. I don't want to take that for granted. I'm really thankful for people like Jørn Lande or Eric Martin of MR. BIG or Michael Kiske of HELLOWEEN or Geoff Tate. These people have worked with me before and they agreed to work with me again and there's friendship between us. It's just great and stimulating. You're sitting at the piano and you have a song in mind and it sounds like an AVANTASIA song and all of the sudden, you have Geoff Tate in the back of your mind and 'Operation: Mindcrime' and 'Rage For Order'. It's too good to be true. All of the sudden, it stimulates and tickles my imagination and I write a song. When I wrote the songs 'Alchemy' and 'Invisible', for example, I knew Geoff would sing them because he had agreed to being a part of the new AVANTASIA album and tour. That's an amazing, uplifting feeling because first and foremost, I'm a fan myself. That's the foundation of composing and producing music that will have an impact on others. It has to be something that excites yourself, not only as a music producer, but also as a fan. There's nothing like being in a studio with Geoff Tate and having that legendary singer that inspired hundreds of thousands of heavy metal singers to have this guy next to you and do his magic with a song that you wrote. That's amazing."
"Moonglow" will arrive on February 15 via Nuclear Blast.