Paradox: “We still have fire in us to go on” (part 1)

The story of the German thrash metal legends Paradox lends evidence of the idea that a band’s name can be fateful. They were considered as one of the promising bands in German metal. Two brilliant albums released in the 80’s lived up these advances but the band wasn’t able to nail down this success. A paradox? A big one! Even after the comeback in the late 90’s the band continued to face unexpected twists of fate: incredible albums and cardinal line-up changes, serious sicknesses which almost sent Charly Steinhauer, the mastermind of Paradox, to skies and his wins over the Grim Reaper. One of the latest paradoxes in the career of Paradox is another line-up change after awesome release “Pangea” (2016). This time Charly decided to team up with the original members of the band and put out the sequel of the album “Heresy”. Enough reasons for an interview with Charly I guess. In the first part of the interview we spoke about the years of 2000—2016 and the second part with questions about 1983—1991 will follow!     

 

Hi Charly. Let’s start this interview from the moment when you announced plans to release the album “Heresy II — A Lasting Treasure”. What happened to these plans? Did you ever start to record this album?

The idea for “Heresy II — A Lasting Treasure” grew up during the songwriting process for «Tales Of The Weird» (2012). The title track was the first song which I wrote for this album and the acoustic intro reminded me about «Heresy» (1989). At the same time, the original «Heresy» lyricists Peter & Nigel Vogt asked us whether we would be interested in a follow up story concept which is called “Heresy II — A Lasting Treasure”. The story was written and it’s really exciting, but as more songs I wrote as more the music went too far away from the concept. Then we moved our plan backwards. Nowadays If you listen to «Tales Of The Weird» you will hear that the music doesn`t really fit to «Heresy». Just the beginning of the album reminds on it. If I do a record under the banner of «Heresy» it should sound 100% old school «Heresy».

Is there any hope the album will be released? I heard the Vogt brothers are looking for someone who will write music to their concept.

Yes there is hope cause the story is still on our table. With the reunion in the original line-up and the 30th anniversary of «Heresy» in 2019 it makes double sense to work it out.

Now let’s speak about the making of the album “Pangea”. Did you start writing songs for this album from scratch or did you use any of the ideas and riffs from “Heresy II”?

All songs included on “Pangea” is completely new stuff. I adopted no ideas from «Heresy II»/

What happened to the line-up which recorded the album “Tales Of The Weird”? I heard you were dissatisfied with Daniel Buld and there is some bad blood between you and him

Well, there was a kind of a communication problem and a bunch of misunderstandings between us. I don`t hold a grudge against Daniel Buld or other former Paradox members. Some things end well and some are not. I´m not a vengeful human, I look forward.

You decided to work with Gus Drax once again on this album. It wasn’t worked on the previous album so you just decide that Gus would be great as a studio musician. Did you have any plans to tour with this line-up?

Gus did a great job on «Pangea». It was clear from the beginning that he will not be a permanent member of Paradox. We knew each other for years and I wanted him to record leads on the album. The collaboration with him was great, also from human perspective. I really appreciate his work and for me Drax is one of the best and fastest lead guitar players in the scene.

As far as I understand Gus was more involved in the making of this album – he recommended Kostas Milonas as a drummer and I guess you got in touch with Panagiotis Katsaounis through Gus as well. Would you say that you stepped away a little bit this time and shared your powers with other people? 

Gus was not involved in the songwriting process but he suggested Kostas Milonas for the drummer position and Panagiotis Katsounis for mix and mastering.
Kostas is one of that great drummers who play for the song. No ego. No overdrumming.  I´m proud to have him on the album. Panagiotis (Panos) also did a famous job with mix and mastering and he is strongly recommended. The communication went really good as well. Back to your question… I could record all solos myself and work with drum applications like I did on «Electrify» (2008) and «Riot Squad» (2009) but on «Pangea» I preferred to work with other people to have some influences from outside. As well I wanted to have real drums on the album.

How did you get in touch with Tilen Hudrap? Didn’t you want to ask Olly Keller to rejoin you?

Tilen and I are longtime friends on Facebook. We talked a lot about music and I knew he really likes Paradox. During the songwriting process for «Pangea» we decided to collaborate. We are really close friends now and «Pangea» shouldnt be the last collaboration between us. Tilen rules! Olly Keller did 3 records with Paradox on bass guitar and I always said he is the best bass player I worked with. Outstanding.  It´s an honor that I got the chance to collaborate with Olly, but adverse conditions didnt allowed us to go on.

You said that this time you concentrated more on the sound production and especially the drums. What was wrong with them on “Tales Of The Weird”?

I´m not very happy with the drum production on «Tales of The Weird». Especially the snare drum is horrible. It`s all well played, but the mix is wretched. The record would have much more power if the drums would sound like on «Riot Squad» (2009).
How did you work on the album this time? Did you record everything together in the same studio or did all musicians worked separately?

All musicians worked separately. Kostas did the drums in Athens, Greece. Gus recorded the leads in Larissa, Greece. Tilen recorded his bass lines at his brother’s Studio Domen in Slovenia. All rhythm guitars, overdubs, samples, my lead parts and all vocal parts were recorded at my own recording studio in Würzburg, Germany. Tilen, Gus & Kostas got finished demo with all songs to know what to play. As main songwriter and producer of «Pangea» I knew exactly what I want. If there was something unclear we worked out details via Skype and Facebook. They also sent me different versions to choose. Nowadays it is possible to do a record with musicians from another countries, even if you never meet them or sharing the same rehearsal room.

You had this ugly guy in mask — a kind of Paradox mascot — on the three previous albums but this time he isn’t here. What happened? Didn’t he fit to the idea of “Pangea” or did you decide to refresh the image of Paradox?

Ahh it seems you mean the bald guy who appeared for the first time on the «Electrify» cover.
Well, be aware… He can always return, but you`re right. He just didn’t fit to the concept of «Pangea».

A lot of bands released albums with almost identical covers which show our planet under attack our exploding or something like this. Why is that in your opinion? Is it just a coincidence or is it a kind of expectation that something dangerous is coming?

The end of our planet will come but nobody knows how. A big question mark. Same like what will happen after we died. A big topic for every human. The «Monster» on «Pangea»’s cover symbolizes the «Alien God» Theory. Most of all humans believe in god but who really knows whether this god is good-natured or does he may have evil intentions. In this case he is an alien who re catch the Earth.

Now let’s discuss the lyrics — my favorite topic! Would you say that this time Daxx achieved a new level with the lyrics? By the way how do you work with him? Do you come and say “Hey, I have a music, can you write some lyrics about certain subject?” Or does he have some freedom and can express himself?

As on «Tales Of The Weird» the collaboration with Daxx was excellent. He can express himself, but before he starts writing, we both gather ideas for topics and song titles. Then I let him hear the songs with some kind of fake vocals on it to let him know exactly how many words he needs to write. We also have an opportunity to meet and talk about details cause he lives not far away. I know Daxx for more than 30 years when he played with Vendetta. We are really good friends. He is a great lyricist and a wonderful human who is open to write lyrics for other bands as well. So if you are a band that is interested in lyrics do not hesitate to drop him a line on Facebook.

Can you explain the idea behind “Ballot Or Bullet”? What is it about?

We live in a world where politicians make the laws. After each election people must accept their decisions over a full legislative period. After a while not all the people are satisfied with the development of the country and the big question is how to change something. You have to choose. Taking the slow step to wait for the next election or running the rough way by violent revolution.

Is there any story behind the song “Manhunt”. It sounds like it was inspired by some movie.

No it`s about hunting criminals and with which methods and tools it happens.
Various posts in the fight against the crime are occupied with sadists; see also in prisons like Guantanamo, because certain jobs simply do not allow conscience. In the worst case they even have fun controlling other people with violence.

And what about “Vale Of Tears”? Is it about your personal feelings?

«Vale Of Tears» is based on the text by Mike Rohland who is a big friend of mine. We both had the same personal experience at the same time. It`s about the end of a love — a relationship that was very special. The abandoned person is deeply disappointed but does not feel hatred. Nevertheless, he must first learn to live and to recognize happiness or to feel happiness at all.

The song “Rage & Anger” is available as a bonus on Japanese version of the album. Why is that? Did you feel it was not good enough to be on the album?

In retrospect this song should be on the album. «Rage & Anger» is as good as all other songs but Japanese record companies demand a bonus track. It´s part of the contract. It is not always easy to choose the right song for. Also the word «bonus» shouldn`t mean not good enough. «Rage & Anger» is a killer track and also the first complete song which was not written by myself. The rough version of this song is written by our great lyricist and friend Daxx. I didn`t have to change a lot. The whole structure is composed by him and it fits very well to Paradox.

You recorded the song “A Light In Black” in memory of Ronnie James Dio on the previous album. Didn’t you want to make something in memory of Lemmy or other musicians who died in a couple of years?

«A Light In The Black» was dedicated to Ronnie James Dio — one of the big singers in Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, but the reason to cover that song… It was one of my favorite songs in my youth. I still love and listen to Rainbow`s «Rising» album. It`s a masterpiece. Right now there are no cover versions planned.

Tell me a few words about your collaboration with Brutal Godz. There was a lot of buzz around this project but nothing has happened since then. Is there any news about the album?

No. We recorded a demo with’ 10 songs. It seems they will never be released, but it`s some very interesting stuff. The bands line-up was Uwe Lulis (Accept, ex-Grave Digger) on guitar, Oliver Holzwarth (Blind Guardian) on bass, Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire) on drums. I did the vocals. After a while Uwe left the band because of personal disputes with Oliver. I followed him short after and Brutal Godz was brutal past. Sad for the good and innovative song material we had

And what about another band you work with — Exochrist? How can you describe it?

«Exorchrist» is a project with Daxx — it´s his baby. We did a demo CD together were I recorded the lead guitars and some overdubs. It sounds very old school. A thing between old Vendetta meets old Paradox. Daxx told me he has written some more songs. May we do a full album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=270&v=yjv2-ciwTG4

Now let’s get back to the year 2000. Can you recall your motivation to bring Paradox back? Was it your own decision or were you influenced by the whole movement when a lot of thrash metal bands came back and started to play straight-forward metal?

Well it surely had something to do with the movement when a lot of thrash metal bands came back. I remember when I`ve got a phone call from Andy Siry (A&R at Nuclear Blast Records) in 1998. He asked me for some unreleased Paradox material from the 80`s. Most of the songs from «Collision Course» (2000) were written in 1991. So I had enough material for a whole album in my archive but no band. I called up my friend Kai Pasemann who joined the band on guitar. Short after I went to the Bang Your Head festival and met my old buddies Alex Holzwarth (drums) and Oliver Holzwarth (bass) from Sieges Even. They both joined Paradox and suddenly we were complete. A few weeks later we got the offer from Wacken to play our reunion show. More motivation wasn`t needed. I didn`t plan a comeback at this time. It happened unexpectedly and fast. Later on we signed a worldwide record deal with AFM Records and released «Collision Course» in August 2000.

How was it to work on the new songs for the album “Collision Course”? Did you use any old ideas which you had after “Heresy”?

Yes. «Decade Of Sorrow» (Intro) «Collision Course», «Overshadowed», «Path Of Denial», «Blamed For Nothing», «Rearrange The Past» and «Shattered Illusions». In 1998 I wrote «Prostitution Of Society», «Saviour» and «Sadness».

Can you say a few words about your collaboration with Kai Pasemann? Were you equal partners in terms of songwriting and arrangements? Would you say he was your most reliable and easy to deal with partner?

Kai Pasemann was not involved in the songwriting process, but he wrote the lyrics for «Collision Course» (2000), «Electrify» (2008) and «Riot Squad» (2009). We did most of the decisions together. In that way he was my equal partner. He is a longtime friend which I met first in 1987 when we shared the stage with his old band Cronos Titan.

There is a very harsh statement in the song “Prostitution Of Society”. Do you still share the same ideas?

The line «The lies — produced by government» is one of that statements I can still sign. We vote to be free!

I know that you were forced to fight with intestinal sickness after the “Collision Course” album. Was it the only thing that caused the break from 2000 to 2008?

No. It was also lack of motivation. I had no mood anymore to form again a whole band after the split with the Holzwarth brothers. I saw no chances for a second comeback but again it happened unexpected and very well.

Would you say that the album “Electrify” was your real come back?

No. It was just our second comeback. «Electrify» were really successful and went to #1 Import Charts in Japan. The real comeback will come NOW. In 2017 with the original line up who play after 28 years together at the Bang Your Head festival in Germany.

Kai Paseman wrote the lyrics for this album. Are you satisfied with them? Why don’t you write lyrics for your songs? Is it just not that important for you or do you think you’re not good enough for that?

Of course I`m satisfied with Kai´s lyrics. Otherwise I would not release them.
I just don`t have the skills and talent to write lyrics. Also I`m busy enough with writing and producing the music. I do all the business stuff for the band as well. Even if I could write lyrics it would be too much for me.

How do you view the album “Riot Squad” today? Are you still satisfied with its sound production and songs’ quality?

I`m still satisfied with the drum production but the rhythm guitar sounds totally scratchy. If I could, I would like to re-record it. «Riot Squad» is my secret favorite. Songs like «Rise In Rank», «Riptide» (a song which I also wrote in 1990 and should be on «Collision Course»), «No Place To Survive» (written in 1984`s Paradox pre Line up), «Planet Terror», «Dream Hero», «Suburban Riot Squad» and especially «Hollow Peace» are killer songs.

What about DVD? I guess Paradox really deserve to have a good and solid DVD-release with live shots, archival stuff and extensive interviews with different band members!

My biggest goal was to end Paradox one day the way it was started — with the original line-up. The last ever Paradox release will be a historical DVD, but right now we still have fire in us to go on. We don`t have to but we want to. «Heresy II» is waiting!

Visit Paradox on Facebook.

Konstantin, March, 2017