RAGE Guitarist Talks About Making Of '21' In New Interview

On March 5, Metal Discovery conducted an interview with guitarist Victor Smolski of German power metallers RAGE. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metal Discovery: What came first — the song title "Twenty One", which is obviously about the gambling kind of thing or the album title "21", because it's your twenty first album release?

Victor: Yeah, at first it was just a number because we counted how many CDs we did and 21, yeah, and then we started talking about this number because I was on a solo tour in America and I was in Las Vegas, and we played a little bit just for fun. I told Peavy [bassist/vocalist Peter Wagner] that 21 is a game, blackjack, and we were talking about making a song about this. And all this gambling compares to real life, you know, because it's a risk sometimes and you lose. You can compare the game to real life a little bit.

Metal Discovery: A lot of the material on the album has to be amongst some of the heaviest RAGE stuff ever recorded, or that I've heard from RAGE anyway. Did you plan from the very beginning that "21" would be a much heavier album?

Victor: We toured pretty long with "Strings To A Web", the last CD, and we played some orchestra shows also, and the last show was at the Rock Hard Festival which we headlined with an orchestra, a great show. After the show we talked to the record company that maybe we can split this because we have so many old fans who like the heavier stuff from RAGE, like RAGE as a trio, but also we have a lot of new fans from our orchestra time with orchestrating songs, and it's very difficult to combine at times. When we go on tour with an orchestra, our setlist, it's not so easy to put together. And also for me as a producer in the studio it's very complicated because when you split it, like half/half, you have very powerful, aggressive, thrashy songs which I like to make sound really heavy but it's not possible to do with an orchestra because an the orchestra needs dynamic… so finding a compromise. It's very difficult and I don't like compromising! [laughs] So we tried to do two different, separate CDs so we were planning to do a RAGE CD that's pretty heavy, and we have so many heavy ideas so it was very easy for us to prepare this.

Metal Discovery: Throughout the album, there's a really good balance between all the different styles because you've got the heavy riffing, some rockier parts, a bit progressive as well in places, tons of cool melodies, a bit of thrash, a bit of power metal. Did you have to spend a lot of time on the arrangements to make all those different elements fit together?

Victor: Yeah, for sure. I was really taking care of arrangements because we decided no orchestra, no keyboard, so you just make arrangements with drums, bass and guitar. And I spent a lot of time to find really interesting arrangements; I don't want to make this boring so I tried to give every song a special atmosphere and special arrangement, and make it as tight as possible and, yeah, I was really working hard. We were in the rehearsal room and working old fashioned — we don't do any demos. I don't like all those kind of modern demos on computer and so on. I like old style, like pure rock 'n' roll, go to the rehearsal room and just playing, playing, playing until we like it and just try everything. And I always do a live arrangement, like when we can play this live and it sounds good then it's good enough for the studio. But, yeah, it was really hard work. I tried a lot of stuff with drums and try to find the perfect balance between guitar and drums and all scales mixed together. Also in the studio it was very hard work for me to find the right sound because…for me, it was important to not just make a good hi-fi sound but to find the right sound for the songs, for the energy. And, yeah, we like it very much.

Metal Discovery: Also, the album has a classic RAGE sound but it has a very modern edge to it as well in certain parts. Is that something you were aiming for, to mix the old with the new?

Victor: Yeah, we always try to find something new and RAGE, I think, is a very special band because when you look back to the long history, like twenty eight years already, you never find two CDs sound similar. It's always we try to find something new; we make a lot of experiments. It's very interesting and that's almost the reason we all still have so much fun with the music because we just play what we like and just enjoy every songwriting process and every recording so it's always a lot of fun for us. It gives a lot of energy, you know, it's never boring; we don't want to repeat. Some bands look back and are like — "Oh, the last CD was very successful, let's do the same." We always do just what we want in this moment; what we like… [laughs]

Read the entire interview at Metal Discovery.

"Twenty One" video:

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