PRIMAL FEAR "Metal Never Breaks"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

In 1997, traditional metal in the style of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden was on the ropes. Except for those venerable masters themselves, only a new Swedish band called Hammerfall was starting to fly the flag for "true" metal again. So it was an uncertain time for a new German band known as Primal Fear to make their debut.

Needless to say, Primal Fear made their mark, led by the remarkable glass-shattering vocals of ex-Tyran Pace vocalist Ralf Scheepers. Ralf had missed replacing Rob Halford in Judas Priest by a hair, but in hindsight, that might have been the best thing that ever happened to him. He became the undisputed voice of Primal Fear over the course of all nine of their albums, including the latest, "Unbreakable". Priest, as we all know, returned to Rob Halford as the leader of Judas it should be.

"Unbreakable" is closing the circle for Primal Fear, in many ways. It returns them to their style of "Priest-meets-Helloween" power metal that they established early on, after dabbling in a more melodic style on "16.6".  It is prime headbanging material for sure and the Good Doctor felt it was high time that he connected with the band. So I hopped aboard the Nuclear Eagle (or Robot Hawk or whatever you'd like to call the Primal mascot) for a chat with the voice of Primal Fear himself, Ralf Scheepers. Good news...the band is headed to America in 2012!!!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Hail, Herr Scheepers!  2012 is the 15th year of Primal Fear's existence. Does it seem like a long time ago since the band started or has the time flown by really fast?

RALPH SCHEEPERS: Hi there….well, on one hand ,it flew by like nothing, that's true in fact. On the other hand ,we did so many great things together live and in the studio that the time was very entertaining! :-)

WC: What's been the biggest change in Primal Fear from 1997 to 2012?

RS: We evolved a lot! Not only in terms of writing but also in respecting each others as team members and equal personalities. You can hear all this in our songs and our music. The vibe is outstanding and it is more fun than ever to perform with the guys who are involved right now.

WC: Your roots go back to Tyran Pace in the 80's. What was the feeling like back in those glory days and do you get nostalgic for that period?

RS: It was not very different from now, apart from the clothes and the inexperience. We were hungry and we still are now, otherwise we couldn't do what we do with full conviction. I am pretty much looking into the future rather than thinking how good or bad the times were back then… It was great to collect the impressions and experience but there is much more to come! :-)

WC:  When Primal Fear first hit the scene, traditional metal bands were just starting to come back to life. Was it your intention then to bring traditional melodic but heavy metal back to the forefront...or were you just playing what you felt in your heart?

RS: Exactly! We were doing what we love to do and never cared about trends etc…. We have done this kind of music long before the second little wave came in the late 90's,  in different bands like Mat in Sinner and me in Gamma Ray.

WC:  "Unbreakable" is a very traditional Primal Fear album. Was that what you were after following "16.6" or did it just naturally happen that way?

RS: Both. It came naturally as we never did anything else. On the other hand ,it was our full intention to turn back the time a bit and to write songs which could be easily on our very first until the Nuclear Fire album. We have just added a bit more modern vibes to it.

WC:  "16.6" was quite a different album for Primal Fear. Was the reaction to it all that you hoped? Did you take that more melodic style as far as it could go?

RS: In our mind it was totally cool and we still love what we did on "16.6". The reaction was different ,of course, but if we would take care of every single opinion out there, we could never do what we want to do….it is our decision in the first  place if it comes to conclude a tracklist… Only when we like what we hear, we release it! :-)

WC:  You're known for having one of the strongest voices in heavy metal. After all the years of screaming, is there anything different you do to keep your voice strong?

RS: I'm  starting not to worry about that too much anymore.  It makes you crazy to set yourself too much under pressure. I mean,  I am still a perfectionist but if I will lose my voice all of a sudden, I can't change it.  I try to be as healthy as possible but sometimes I need to relax and party, too!

WC:  You made a big switch in labels several years back from Nuclear Blast to Frontiers. Many would say that was a daring move. How do you feel the change has worked out?

RS: Simply great. We can still do what we want to do and are free to write whatever we want. We get full support and the guys at Frontiers love what we do and they support us as good as they can.

WC:  Your American profile has not been as strong since the switch to Frontiers. Are you now concentrating mostly on Europe and the rest of the world?

RS: No. We take care of the entire world! There is a American office of Frontiers now, too……no worries, we will always come to the US again!

WC:  Is America in your touring plans for "Unbreakable"?

RS: Yes!

WC:  What's been your favorite place to play around the world and what's the one place you would like to play that you haven't been to yet?

RS: To be honest, it's South America and especially Argentina, that really rocks! Which doesn't mean that all the other countries aren't nice to us! :-) We would love to go to Australia soon!

WC:  Is there one particular track on "Unbreakable" that you enjoy the most?

RS: That's a tough question and hard to answer… I really like every single tune on it!

WC:  Ignoring the new album, what other Primal Fear album would you say is the best representation of the band?

RS: "Nuclear Fire".

WC:  Did your solo album meet your expectations and will you be doing another one?

RS: I am quite satisfied, yes.  I don't know so far if there will be another one. Focus is now on PF 100% this year!

WC: . If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?

Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford

WC:  What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

RS: TYR - "The Lay of Thrym"

WC: What was the last live gig you saw just because you wanted to check out that band?

RS: Thin Lizzy - Paris

WC:  In the long history of Primal Fear, is there any kind of "Spinal Tap" moment where things went wrong that you could share with us?

RS: There are some things like long distances to the stage which reminded us of Spinal Tap, yes….:-)  But nothing in particular to share right now….

WC: Any last words for the American Primal Fear fanatics out there?

RS: It sounds like a cliche but it's the truth:  we would love to come again soon to rock the house in the States! Don't forget to bring your buddies!