Paradox: «We still have fire in us to go on» (part 2)

Covering the years 2000-2016 in the first part of the interview with Charly Steinhauer we left historical part for a tidbit. This time Charly’s band mates Markus Spyth (guitars), Axel Blaha (drums) and Roland Stahl (bass) joined to talk about the reunion of the original line-up and classic period on the history of Paradox. 

The original line-up of Paradox reunited at first just to record some back vocals for the album “Pangea”. How was it to return to the studio altogether in many years? Who was the first to say “Hey, that was awesome, let’s do it and bring that line-up back”? Was it an easy decision for everyone?

Charly: It felt like coming home. It was easy to bring them together to do some backing vocal tracks, rather far more difficult to bring them together as a band. They all have family & jobs. Axel stopped playing drums 25 years ago. Nobody knew whether he is able to play all that stuff again. Nobody said from one moment to the next «Let´s do it again». It took time. We met a few times and hung out together. I was the driving force who started talking about a possible reunion. Markus were interested as well, but Axel said that in general he is not able anymore to play drums. Sometime in October 2016 we decided to figure it out what is possible and what is not. We went to Markus` rehearsal room to check out 3 songs. («Heresy», «Death Screaming And Pain» and “Pray To The Godz Of Wrath»). Our first rehearsal went great and Axel did a great job. He made it. Far better than we expected. Then we did a few rehearsals before we made an announcement for a official reunion on December, 21st,  2016.

Markus: After so many years, there was a little excitement, but the pleasure of seeing the band mates again after such a long time was overwhelming. After a few minutes, we felt as if we had not seen each other for just a few months. Later on, Charly came up with the reunion offer and we were all interested into doing that.

Roland: It was Charly`s idea. First i was a bit surprised, but in the same time i felt honored to get the offer to be a part of the album (“Pangea”), even it was just for backing vocals. All four together had not seen each other for several years and we were very happy to meet each other again. We had so much to talk about that we first forgot the vocal recordings in the studio because the time passed so fast. Thus a second appointment was necessary (laughs). I don`t know, but i guess that Charly had at this time already a hidden agenda for a reunion. We have a cordial friendship and i guess everybody had the same thoughts, but it took time and several meetings until we started talking about a possible reunion. i did a gut decision. I had not long to think about.

Axel: Charly and I had never lost contact in the 28 years, but i haven`t seen Roland and Markus for a long time. It was a special feeling to see all 4 of us singing the backing tracks. I can`t describe. It was like we never parted ways. Great! When Charly came up with the idea to reunite and play some selected shows with songs from our first two records, i was not sure if I could play drums again… It was a huge challenge for me. So from this perspective the decision was not easy but now it makes fun. This is the main reason why we do it and It works quite well.

Charly, what was your personal motivation for this reunion? Did you try to get stable line-up with your old mates after all these changes in the band during the last years?

Charly: I have always tried to get a stabile line-up, but many obstacles under different circumstances have prevented this. My personal motivation for this reunion is to end Paradox someday with the original line-up.

Axel, as far as I know, you were completely out of metal music since a while. What made you change your mind again?

Axel: After the split with Roadrunner Records in 1991 i sold my drumkit and stopped playing drums, but i did not get far from the metal music. I still listened to bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and of course Paradox. Last year i changed my mind. I knew all were interested to do the reunion. Then I started playing drums again. It was not easy for me to get a start. I still have to work hard. I´m one of that guys who are never satisfied with them-selves. I`ll give the best I can and I`m proud to be a part of Paradox again.

Question to Markus and Axel: did you keep an eye on what was going on with the band after your departure? What albums of particular songs of Paradox from 2000—2016 would you like to play live?

Axel: I’ve had regular contact with Charly during all these years. I visited him almost every week and he always showed me the latest songs he had composed. So I was always up to date. Also as Charly wanted to quit due to his illnesses and line up changes… As for the songs from 2000—2016, we have not made any thoughts about what songs we want to play live from other Paradox albums.

Markus: I must confess that I lost a bit the sight of the band after my exit. Sporadically did I know what was going on. This has changed in the Facebook times and I have also gotten more information about the happenings in the Paradox camp.Actually we decided to  play just songs from our first two records but i also like  the albums «Pangea» and «Electrify. We will see.

What are your plans for the future? Are you going to record new music with this line-up? Would you like to do something like “Peavy” Wagner did with Rage/Refuge and play with Paradox (all new members) and with the original line-up (let’s call this band Heresy)?

Charly: No, we want play under the original banner of Paradox how we started in February 1986. After the reunion shows in the summer we are going to work on «Heresy II» and play some selected concerts as well.

Overkill, 1981

And now let’s get back to the time of Overkill. Can you recall who played in this band? What were your most important experience and achievements with this group? Did you record anything with this band?

Charly: On the 18th of November 1981 we started our journey under the banner of Overkill — our first experience as a band. The line-up consisted of Charly Steinhauer (vocals, guitar), Volker Hartmann (bass) and Axel Blaha (drums). Nobody of us knew how to play an instrument. Axel started playing drums on a few bongos which he has attached to a barstool (laughs). I started playing guitar with one string. Maybe that`s the reason why I started playing left. You know, with one string it`s equal how you turn the guitar (laughs). Later on when I put 6 strings on I felt something was getting wrong! From that moment on I was forced to play left with right handed strings. We had our first show in May 1982 at a streetgang party. We played 7 songs which we wrote together before in our rehearsal room. From the beginning we wanted to play our own music. The second show was in a perish hall. Admittedly the pastor was not very amused about us. During our last song I came up on stage wearing a hangman mask to destroy a bass drum with an axe. This was definitely our last show at that venue (laughs). I still own songs like «Dead End Street», «Do It Good» or «Headbanger», which we recorded in our rehearsal room in 1982.

Axel: We didn`t played very long under the banner of Overkill cause we knew there was already a band from the USA with the same name. For the same reason we changed the name Warhead (there was another band from Belgium) ‘til we started as Paradox.

Maniac, 1983

By the way, were there any real differences between Overkill, Maniac and Warhead? Were they just a steps in evolution on the way to Paradox or were they really different bands with different styles and images?

Charly: There were just steps in the evolution on the way to Paradox. Axel Blaha and me performed under different names and with different musicians.  5 years later we were able to play our instruments better and we also had a bunch of decent songs in our repertoire. Markus Spyth (guitar) and Roland Stahl (bass) joined the band in early 1986. Short after we signed a worldwide record deal with Roadrunner Records which was the biggest Heavy Metal label on Earth at that time.

Axel: There was no big difference, except a lot of line-up changes.  We’ve always been strongly influenced by Bay Area bands. Under this influence, Paradox has developed his style with the line-up as it now exists again.

Warhead, 1984

As far as I understand, Charly wasn’t into singing in those days. How did it happen that he became a frontman eventually? Was it just a least-evil solution?

Charly: It`s wrong. I’ve always been forced to sing. From the very beginning until now. Sometimes we looked for a singer ‘cause i had trouble with my vocal cords from time to time, but we never found a permanent singer for Paradox. To play guitar and sing at the same time disturbed me as well. It still does.

In 2014 Stormspell Records released the demo collection. Was it a conciliatory gesture to the label or did you really want to make these demos available to wider audience? Tell me please about bonus material on this collection and songs like “Victims of Hell”, “Beware the Darkness” etc.? Why weren’t they included in 1986 with the ”Demo # 1” back in the day? By the way what are your best memories about those recording sessions?

Charly: Stormspell Records were interested in release of our demos. We never thought somebody want to listen to our old stuff. The quality of the sound is not the best. Nowadays i see it as a gift for the fans, cause a die hard fan want to own everything he can get from his favorite band. It`s also great to have this double CD in our personal archive. Back then we recorded all of our songs in the rehearsal room that we have something in hand to listen to them. We didn’t know that these recordings will be a part of our first demo. Later on we chose the best songs for it. We thought the playing time would be too long if we put all the songs on the demo. By the way, «Victims Of Hell» should be on our debut album “Product Of Imagination». Kalle Trapp, our producer, liked this song a lot. In his opinion it should be an opener of the record, but we refused. The song structure reminded us too much of Metallica. As for our best memories, once we made a live show in front of 40 people at my parents’ house who were on holidays. The after show party was so heavy. Someone fucked in the bed of my parents and others walked with dirty boots through the house. The carpet was dirt. Empty beer bottles everywhere and I had a lot of troubles with parents when they came back (laughs).

Was your demos (“Demo # 1” and “Mystery” successful in tape-trading circuit or did you record them just to have something to show to promoters and labels?

Charly: Both demos were successful in the tape trading scene. In several magazines we were “Demo of the month/Demo of the year”.  Actually we recorded the demos to proof ourselves how far we can go. We recorded our first demo «live» at our rehearsal room just to listen to our songs. «Mystery» was our first studio experience, which we recorded after we signed our record deal.  It was meant for preparation to record our debut album «Product Of Imagination» (1987).

How was it to tour with Helloween and Overkill in 1987? Were you into what Helloween did on “Keeper of the Seven Keys”?

Charly: We just supported them in our hometown Würzburg, Germany. It was our first show in front of a bigger audience. I’ve never been a big Helloween fan. With respect, I’ve always said we play heavy and not happy metal. We were more proud to play with Overkill our namesake of the early 80`s (smiles).

Axel: It was just one show with them. According to the opinion of the stage manager of Overkill our setlist was too long. He had threatened us twice to pull the power plug (laughs).

You had a chance to play at famous Dynamo festival in Holland in 1988. How was it? Did you become friends with Toxik, Laaz Rockit, Exodus or Sabbat? By the way, who won in that football game with Exodus?  

Charly: Well, nobody won this game. It was a street kick just for fun. A day before Dynamo Exodus and Lääz Rockit had a show in Essen, Germany. Then i asked Zetro whether he want to sing a song with us we wanted to cover. It was “Over the Wall” from his times with Legacy (Testament) and Zetro said, yes would be great, but the manager of Exodus didn’t allowed it and said the band needs to sleep enough. Then we played “Whiplash” from Metallica for our soundcheck. People thought the concert started. But it was just soundcheck… And then we started our Dynamo open air set with the song “Paradox”. Hell yes, Dynamo was like a dream came true. Suddenly we played in front of more than 20.000 fans. We talked to Exodus, Toxik and sahred our chanmging room with Candlemass. One of that unforgettable moments in my musical career.

Markus: Oh we were very, very excited, after all, it was one of the most important metal festivals of his time.

Axel: Dynamo was an unforgettable experience.

Roland: This day proved that we had already achieved a lot.

As far as I can see, you toured quite a lot with the band Last Descendants from USA. What are your best memories about those shows?

Charly: They were cool guys. I will never forget the show in Italy when the organizer wanted to stop the concert cause of enthusiastic fans who entered the stage. He was in fear for his equipment.

Markus: They were very cool and sympathetic buddies. Kind contemporaries and technically experienced guitarists.  Most of all I can remember the discussions with the two guitarists who at that time made a strong impression on me.

Axel: As far as i can remember we had just three or four shows with Last Descendants, but they were awesome.

With Kalle Trapp, 1987

How was it to work on the first album in Karo Studio with Kalle Trapp? Were you satisfied with his job? I know that some people like Andy Erguen from the band Grinder weren’t happy with his work as Kalle wasn’t into thrash metal.

Charly: Well, I don`t have bad words for Kalle Trapp. He was our first producer and we learned a lot from him. I don`t really like the production of «Product Of Imagination» and i also agree that thrash metal was something new for him, but «Product Of Imagination» became a record of the month in several magazines, what proves  that he did a great job and did something right.

Axel: I remember we had a video rental shop in the same house of the studio.
Charly was watching a lot of porn movies in the evening after the recordings.

Charly (laughs): Who watched?

Roland: Charly and Axel (laughs).

Axel: Blind Guardian visited us ‘cause they also booked the studio short after us to record their debut album with Kalle Trapp.

Charly: I guess we also played table tennis with them in the cellar of the studio.

Markus: Great times!!

Were you involved in the making of the cover for your debut album? It was done by famous Joe Petagno but did he consider your opinion or did he make everything himself?

Charly: We were not involved in the making of the cover. Joe Petagno did everything himself. We were just excited to get the same cover artist who did all those great Motörhead covers. «Product Of Imagination» should be a Motörhead cover as well but Motörhead refused this picture cause they changed their album title to «Rock`n`Roll» (1987).

I guess that on the album “Product of Imagination” you were heavily influenced by Metallica. Some of the songs like “Kill That Beast” sound really close to “The Four Horsemen”. Was it something that the press used to knock down the band in reviews?

Charly: Oh yes. Everybody compared us to Metallica. Not only here in Germany. The big Kerrang! magazine in England wrote an article with a headline «Here they are…the new Metallica». Also Roadrunner used it for our album announcements.
Sometimes we were a bit ashamed about it, but on the other hand Metallica was our biggest influence at that time. It is not uncommon that a band sounds a bit like their favorites.

Markus: Metallica was a very big influence for many bands from this musical direction.  It is not surprising that we were and still are great fans of this band. By the way, their new album is really good.

Axel: Yes, Metallica, of course, had a great influence on the songs of the first album. Also on “Heresy” the influence of them is still can be heard, but not as strong anymore as on «Product Of Imagination». We started to create our own style . It was not a problem for us when the media compared Paradox to Metallica —  it was an honor for us. Influences just happen automatically if you are a big fan of a band. We still love Metallica.

By the way, what is the story behind the song “Kill That Beast”. Is it about USSR?

Charly: I`m still a bit confused about the lyrics of «Kill That Beast» but i really like the song.  «Kill That Beast» should be an antiwar song. The message of this song is ”Stop killing, stop war, otherwise it will end in a nuclear assault and we all will be sentenced to death”. The song is not about USSR. Peter & Nigel Vogt wanted to take just an example to symbolize the message NO MORE WAR. They could also write about the U.S.A. or China. For us as a band it was most important to have lyrics on our songs in general and we were focused on the music. We were happy to have our lyricists.

Roland, why did you quit after the first album? Is it true that you work in a jail?

Roland: Well, with the release of our first demo it was some kind of a overnight success. At one go! The time between 1986 and 1988 was eventful but exhausting as well. We were young and i guess with this assignment I was some kind of overloaded. After a while it was just too much for me. It was time for me to leave. Nowadays we became more mature. Every one of us made his experiences and it should not be a topic anymore. In today’s world it is not easy to make a living from the music. Therefore everybody of us is forced to do a fulltime job besides the music, but without exception we all carry the virus of a musician in us. It´s our passion. If that were not the case we would not go on. By the way right now i work as a male nurse in a hospital.

How did you get in touch with Matthias «K.ter» Fries (Schmitt)? Tell me more about him please. What happened to him after the second album?

Charly: Matthias was a kind of a compromise. Most of the bass lines on «Heresy» was recorded by myself ‘cause he was not able to record the stuff well enough. We fired him short after the recordings. I must admit that it was not his mistake. It was our fault to invite somebody who plays his instrument on a low level and let him join the band just to complete the band’s line-up. We have no contact to him anymore. He was a kind guy but that’s not enough.

Many people consider the album “Heresy” as your best effort. I won’t claim this but I think that with “Heresy” you became more matured both as performers and songwriters. Would you say you were inspired by the success of your debut album and wanted to overcome it with the second release?

Charly: The production of «Heresy» is way better than on «Product Of Imagination». The story concept is something special as well. On «Heresy» we were more inspired by Forbidden and Anthrax rather than Metallica. Both albums have great moments, but I agree with those fans who say that «Heresy» was our masterpiece, even if I miss a song like «Product Of Imagination» on it.

Axel: We are not very surprised that the fans consider «Heresy» still as our best effort. I totally agree.  Every song has a high recognition value. With «Heresy II» we`ll  try to get back to our roots. Our claim is very high, but we know what we are able to do.

Peter and Nigel Vogt were responsible for the lyrics on your first two albums. How did you get in touch with them? Did you consider them as a part of the band? Were you able to change something in their lyrics if you didn’t like it?

Charly: First we get in touch with Peter & Nigel Vogt at a party here in Würzburg in 1986. I never sang  lyrics before. If you listen to our first demo you just hear fake vocals. No english. No concept behind. Isn`t that crazy?! Roadrunner Records took a band who had no lyrics Haha. As we signed our record contract we were forced to write lyrics for the songs who will be recorded on our debut album. Peter & Nigel told us at the party that they write stories for books. We asked them whether they would be interested to write lyrics for a band. They had agreed. Unexpected we found the right lyricists. It was more a kind of coincidence. We were always be able to change something, but we trusted them and they did it very good (except «Kill That Beast»).

What happened to the band after the second album? Did you tour in its support? By the way, there was a singer Stefan Haller who briefly joined Paradox in 1989. Why was that? Was Charly disappointed with his singing abilities or did you try to change your style?

Charly: After the split with Roland Stahl and Markus Spyth we did a lot of wrong decisions. As i mentioned there was a time i was done with singing and playing guitar at the same time. We did one Show with Stefan Haller. He did a good job, but he did not fit to Paradox. We did one show together in Andernach, Germany. It should be the last show for Paradox in 10 years and the only one show were we promoted «Heresy»!

Did you try to work on the third album? At what point you understood that it’s all over? Was it a logical step for you to disband Paradox or did you have any regrets that you wasn’t able to reach everything you could with this band?

Charly: I started to work on our third album but in July 1991 Roadrunner Records did not extend our record contract caused they were more interested in upcoming grunge bands. Back then Axel and me saw no chance anymore to go on. He has stopped playing drums, sold his drum set and went completely out of music. I made a big break til Paradox came back with a new line-up in 1999.

A lot of bands have “a brand song” so to say, the song which brought them success and is the most wanted by fans during live shows. So what would be “a brand song” of Paradox in your opinion and why?

Charly: «Pray To The Godz Of Wrath» is definitely a brand song of Paradox. Like a hymn. Traditionally the song were the fans jumped on stage to bang with us. Our first ever song we recorded on vinyl for the «Teutonic Invasion Part I» sampler in 1986.

Markus: In my opinion it is «Pray To The Godz Of Wrath». May cause it is a straight-lined, melodious and tight track with a huge recognition value. The fact that «Pray..» was also broadcasted on german television has also contributed to popularity of that song.

Axel: It`s difficult for me to say. I just can speak for our first two albums… I guess «Pray To The Godz Of Wrath», «Product of Imagination» , «Heresy»…not easy to choose cause actually all songs are great, haha. Well if i had to decide i would vote for «Heresy».

Roland: «Pray To The Godz of Wrath» There is no doubt about.

Feel free to share everything you want with you fans and readers here!

Charly: First of all i want to thank each individual Paradox fan in Russia for his support. I really would like to play in your beautiful country. I have many Russian friends here in Germany and i love their mentality and hospitality! Thrash til death!

Markus: We hope that the fans have not forgotten us to celebrate our shows with them. No matter where. Greets to our Russian friends and fans.

Roland: Do not dream your life but live your dream. It`s never too late to rock.
We can`t wait to get back on stage. Metal greetz!

Axel: Big thanx to all our fans in Russia for their faithful support! Be prepared for «Heresy II”.

Paradox official Facebook page.

Konstantin, March 2017