Here at Rocknytt we were a bit confused but also highly interested in the new cover album by Axxis. Some of the songs on the albums are so wicked ones to cover that we had to have a chat with Axxis mainmen Bernhard Weiss and Harry Oellers who’s been with the band since day one. Also joining us are the guitarist Marco Wriedt.
So, first of all, why on earth is it only you two, Bernhard and Harry, on the promo pictures for the album? Is this more ‘your’ album than a new Axxis album?
Bernhard: Because we did it without the band. Harry and I produced all these songs in our Soundworxx studio.
Harry: Yeah, you can take rediscovered as a kind of side-project from me and Berny. It’s more a “producer cd” than a “band project”.
Bernhard: As a producer team it was a challenge coming close to these very successful and famous world productions. Working on the songs with respect and without any restrictions in our mind was another challenge.
Secondly, did the album come out as expected or is there anything you maybe feel that you should have changed?
Bernhard: No, everything went away very well. We wanted to get a very polarized release – even for us! And we got it, haha!
Harry: It is exactly what we wanted it to be. We did everything on this release including recordings, mixing, the cover artwork and all the label work. We did it completely on our own and so we had the full control on everything all the time. And as our earlier release, the DVD ’20 years of Axxis’ ‘reDISCOver(ed)’ also is released on our own label Phonotraxx.
Bernhard: I wanna add that the main reason for this release is that we hate covers! But on the radio, in the live scene, everywhere we have to listen to old stuff and it’s cover bands everywhere, and it’s a horror! The bands that were writing their own songs back in the day were fucked over because of illegal downloading and so on. If the people want to get the next copy of a copy.., okay, we accept that.
And another interesting situation that comes to my mind, why do we get so much radio airplay with ‘reDISCOver(ed)’ now?
Why didn’t bands, not only Axxis off course, get the chance to have some airplay with their own stuff? I’m talking about the situation in Germany now.., the radio situation is terrible!
I understand what you mean there.
Bernhard: Yeah, the bands that were successful in my youth are still on rotation in the radio and I can’t keep myself from wondering where is the next generation? It’s mainstream everywhere even in the rock/metal scene.
Oh, something I must ask is how on earth did you come up with this odd selection of songs for the album? I know you had a voting on your page, but before the voting, how did you pick the songs?
Bernhard: Sure, we picked the song for the voting on our webpage. But we don’t want to choose metal songs, that would be too obvious.
Harry: I agree with Berny here. We didn’t want to do the same songs as any other metal band out there. Covering songs of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Rainbow, Judas Priest or AC/DC, it’s been done so many times already. We wanted to cover “great hits” from the time when we grew up!
Bernhard: And so we did, haha..!
Right now a lot of bands doing this very successful with the attitude of an insurance company. But I became a rock musician to try and check out something different, to play with ideas and to learn from other producers and musicians without any restrictions.
And I always try to critically analyze my own taste.
Let me give you an example, at first sight songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On’ or ‘Life is Life’ look really strange in our selection.., but why do we all have problems with these successful songs? If they would be so “bad” how could they be so successful?
Harry: These songs were running in every radio station, in every club, in every pub or disco worldwide at that time and we were influenced by it in a way. We were already listening to metal-stuff at that time but it was not possible to get rid of those songs!
Bernhard: So we decided to choose songs not from the fan point of view but from the producer’s view and again with the one important rule, no metal! We offered these songs to the people on www.axxis.de and to be honest to you we didn’t expect that they voted so much for Celine Dion & Opus.
On the other hand we choose Opus for the project since our former Drummer André Hilgers played this drum intro hook just for fun during a soundcheck and everybody realize this song directly! That’s a real hook made by drums only. It’s always a fine line between clever and stupid and if you look on yours or mine bank account compared to the Opus ones, who’s clever and who’s stupid now? Haha! Other songs on ‘reDISCOver(ed)’ are very important for us because we grew up with them. You have YES or Jethro Tull, Police or Billy Idol, Kiss and Jefferson Airplane. We didn’t want to change these songs too much but we want to ask ourselves how close we’re able to come to these productions. Other songs for instance ‘Roboter’ or ‘My Baker’ are perfect for a new interpretation á la Axxis. So all in all that’s the reason why this selection of songs seems to be a bit strange.
Marco, the most of the songs on the album are from Bernhard and Harry’s youth, what’s your connection to those classics?
Marco: Well, I grew up in a very musical environment in the early 90´s. When I was younger I got in touch with all kinds of music like Queen, Abba, Chopin, Megadeth, Aerosmith, ELO, Bee Gees, Meat Loaf, Iron Maiden off course, Barry Manilow, Genesis and Pink Floyd and so on. So even back then, It didn´t matter to me if a song was brand new or twenty, fourty or even hundred years old!
If I really liked something, I liked something, you know?
Yeah, I agree with you. A good song is a good song no matter what!
Marco: Yes, it’s that simple and it´s the same way these days. I’m open for many styles of music and I´m also influenced guitar-wise by different styles and sounds. So that means when I grew up, I also listened to the same bands and songs like Berny and Harry. There’s never have been any boundaries age-wise for us. I also pretty much studied every decade of the last fifty years of rock and pop history because I love music so much! Right now I´m really into classical music from the late 19th century.
Is there any song that you have any extra special relation with? Maybe you hooked up with a nice girl to ‘Stayin’ Alive’ or maybe you had the party of your life to ‘Ma Baker’?
Bernhard: Especially Kiss was very important for me. I remember when they came up with this “disco lp” and a lot of people were shocked, me too! Today I understand that a good song is a good song and as a producer I have to learn that I have to listened the song not to the image of a song. Imaging if Guns N’ Roses or Whitesnake would have performed ‘My Heart Will Go On’?! I’m pretty sure we then would have another picture in our mind.
And what about you Harry?
Harry: Well yes, for example the band Opus was managed by our former Manager Uwe Block (R.I.P) at the time when they released their Hit ‘Life is Life’ and that feels a bit special.
And you Marco? In your case maybe it’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ who’s the song with big memories?
Marco: Oooh, I think ‘My Heart Will Go On’ is truly a masterpiece! Not because it sold millions of copies. The harmonies and chord structures of this song always blew me away. Especially at the end of the song, those gives me the chills and the big climax, wow! I believe that “amazingly amazing” is the right meaning for that and of course Celine Dion is a goddess. And haha, yes, I remember it really well when it got released in 1997. I was in seventh grade and played ‘Formula One’ on my Playstation every day, haha!
Haha, almost the same as for me then. Although I think I played NHL ’98 more than anything back then.
Marco: Haha, that’s cool.
How was it living in Germany and going to discos and clubs in the early 80’s when they were playing these songs?
Bernhard: Oh, it was different! Everywhere young people belonged to different groups. The punks, the posers, the rockers, the disco dancers etc. They wanted to be different or special. So the clubs were a bit more diverse. Today these groups doesn’t really exists anymore, only very small groups, metal, gothic. But all in all it seems to me that the people get lost in a kind of mainstream, no revolution, no extremes, that was the real difference.
Harry: And these discos, those were the places where the nice girls used to be… So you needed to go there to get some contact but I was always glad to come home again and listen to Iron Maiden or Deep Purple again!
Haha, that’s a nice little story! But over to my next topic, of your cover versions, which one are you the most happy with?
Bernhard: ‘Ma Baker’, ‘Roboter’, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, ‘I Was Made for Loving You’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive’, I like these versions the most.
Harry: My favorites are ‘Ma Baker’ and ‘Locomotive Breath.
And of course, which is your favorite of the original ones?
Bernhard: Kiss & Yes.., I love them!
Harry: ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ by Yes, no doubt about that!
Where you happy with the fans decisions or did you ever feel “ah, come on. why do you keep voting for this crappy song XXX instead of the awesome song YYY”?
Bernhard: Like I said before, Celine Dion and Opus was not really my decision. Harry put these songs into the poll and we have had a lot of discussions…
Harry: There are 13 Songs on the cd, the 10 best from the voting and at least 3 that we decided. I think that it was ok that way.
Bernhard: Yes, and by the end of the day I understand that these songs were interesting for ‘reDISCOver(ed)’ and the result of the online voters seemed to underline this aswell.
Did anyone of you have a song you really wanted to do, but none of the other guys found it good or interesting enough?
Bernhard: Kraftwerk! When I came up with this song I just saw into incredulous shaking heads, haha!
Harry: Yes, ‘Roboter’ was very low in the voting..
Bernhard: But I was really satisfied when they all listened to the result. To put an electronic song into a metal cover was not easy.., but I think it works fine!
I agree, it’s my favorite song from the album!
Bernhard: Really, that’s cool, I’m glad to hear that!
Marco, which song was the most challenging for you to play? I guess ‘Roboter’ must have been quite tricky?
Marco: Well, every song had something special so you can’t just take the guitar and jam around. We cared about small details of each song but at the same time we also wanted it to sound like an Axxis Song. That was the difficult part but I think it turned out great.
And just as you, ‘Roboter’ is one of my favorites aswell!
It sounds pretty heavy now with the down-tuned guitars and I love Harry´s singing on it.
Harry: Yes, it’s me singing on it, haha!
Oh, I had no idea about that. But from Harry’s singing over to your singing Berny, the same question for you, which one demanded the most from you as a singer?
Bernhard: You can imaging ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was strange, haha.
I took a long time to dive into this feeling without getting lost into this Titanic image/felling, it was a fine line to walk down. I think now we got a good rock ballad but if you keep the Titanic version in your mind the song won’t work at all.
No, it’ll be very hard for anyone listening to this and not hearing Celine’s version in their head.
How have the press and fans reacted to the album so far?
Bernhard: The press have been all cool about it! A lot of people understand the main reason for this release. Because they know that “we hate covers” like I said before. But on the other hand we wanted to get a good sounding and interesting release. We’ve expected very extreme opinions regarding ‘reDISCOver(ed)’ and we got it, haha!
Harry: I think that they reacted very different. The press seemed to have a problem problem with that that there is nothing new of the band on the cd and in my opinion, they take it too serious!
Bernhard: Yes, some people are not able to listen to only to the song/music. Sometimes the image of a song is more important. Using buzzwords like “disco” means that some of the press people will kill the album directly without even listen to it! They just assume it’s must be bad and others are skeptical too but they listen to the cd and they are surprised in a good way.
Harry: Play it and have fun is the better way to listen to it! And that’s how our fans do it. They like it and that’s what important. Then it’s also fun that there’s a few radio-stations that likes it aswell.
Will you tour anything with this album or will any of these covers end up in your live set from now on?
Harry: No! As we both said before it is a side project and there is no plan to go on tour with it. Axxis is NOT a cover band!
Speaking of the next ‘real’ Axxis album, how’s the plans going for that one? Have your started to gather ideas yet or maybe even made some demos?
Bernhard: Yes, we’ve started with some good ideas and I’m sure we’ll be good for another surprise.., but if the situation regarding downloads and everything around it will go on, maybe we’ll have to release another cover album. No, haha, I’m just kidding, I hope!
Harry: There are some ideas and already some songs that we have for the next album. It is planned in spring 2013 but that’s pretty much all I can say so far…
That was all I had, thanks for taking the time with us guys! Hope that the new album will sell well and that we Swede’s will be able to see you again in Sweden soon!
Bernhard: Thanks yourself for doing this and I agree, hope to see you in Sweden soon!
Photo: Dirk Schelpmeier