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Primal Fear – Interview met Ralf Scheepers

Ralf Scheepers (vocals): “I will never say that I am a person without mistakes, and that is exactly what I miss from other persons too, to admit that I could be a person who wasn’t right and I apologize and that is what I am missing nowadays.”
Primal Fear bestaat intussen ook al sinds 1997 terwijl we hen altijd als één van de nieuwere traditionele heavy metal bands in het kielzog van Judas Priest beschouwden. De band bulkt echter van talent, met drie gitaristen en producer Mat Sinner in hun lederen. Zanger Ralf Scheepers is echter de man van de dynamische vocalen die ons nog steeds kippenvel bezorgen en met hem hadden we een fijn gesprek om het nieuwe album ‘Code Red’ toe te lichten.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 6 oktober 2023

In 2020 ‘Metal Commando’ came out. Of course that was in the middle of the covid-19 crisis, so what actually happened with that album? What could you do?
Nothing (laughs). No, that was the sad thing, we could not tour. With ‘Metal Commando’ we had never had the chance to play one song live after the album came out, but now we did last year the Metal Hammer Paradise in November and last weekend in Spain. We played ‘Hear Me Calling’ and it was working fine, but of course we need to play and rehearse these songs in the rehearsal studio to check out how we are going combining new songs from the new album ‘Code Red’ and from ‘Metal Commando’ and of course from the older albums. It is not so easy to pick a setlist now; but we are always finding it out in the rehearsal studio how things are working, because sometimes songs work when playing them live and sometimes they don’t. It really depends. Some songs we have to adapt a little bit in the rehearsal studio and that is what we are going to find out soon before we are going to do a tour in September.

The album is compared with a phoenix, rising from the ashes. How do you see that?
From the ashes of the pandemic maybe yes. I mean, we are positive people. Musicians are let’s say 90% positive persons. Whatever something happens, we only think about the good things. Making the best thing out of it and that is what happened. I can speak for myself. In the pandemic I said: ‘well, what can I do? I have two options. I can sit there and being depressive or be creative and write stuff.’ So first of all I bought new studio gear and this was anyway inspiring for me. I got brand new stuff with brand new saddles, it is really kicking my butt to ride and that is what I did. So coincidentally that happened during the pandemic and I was very creative. I still have many songs from that era. I am happy that I really bought the stuff and I am so creative now since I have it. And I had the time during the pandemic, so that was what I made out of that time.

I guess sometimes it made you think about things and you could do things you never did before because it was always a rollercoaster… Now it was time I think to be a little bit reflective…
Yes absolutely. It is a struggle anyway. With or without the pandemic, you always have to be very positive about the future, because you don’t have a regular income. You are struggling always, in the end that keeps you going. I mean, because if you make a living out of your passion, sometimes people think all of a sudden the passion is changing into a must. Luckily it did not happen to me. I still have that very hungry person in me to create music from my inner conviction without having the feeling that I have to do it. No, it is always there, because I love to do it.

I think ‘Code Red’ is more than ever about the situation in the world today. Can you go a bit deeper into that?
Absolutely, yes. ‘Code Red’ is somehow a condition we are not happy with, so we are of course being critic on this album here and there, but we also have some positive sparks here and there, because we want… like I said, we are positive people, but we don’t want to lift our fingers and make the world a better place. We count on that anyway, but maybe we have the chance to kick some people’s minds and make them think about what is happening. If you listen to ‘Cancel Culture’ for instance, the entire way of discussing with each other is without respect nowadays. The world does not accept another opinion without cancelling it out somebody being rude or aggressive and that is pretty much what came up since these social media world was born. People are somehow writing things anonymous and think they can really pour out their darkest soul bashing other people, which is… I think we have to learn to be respectful with each other again. Like I said, I don’t want to be a teacher or somebody who is knowing everything, I will never say that I am a person without mistakes, and that is exactly what I miss from other persons too, to admit that I could be a person who wasn’t right and I apologize and that is what I am missing nowadays. We are talking a bit about that on the album, especially in ‘Cancel Culture’. Same shit in ‘Another Hero’. This song – and also ‘Cancel Culture’ – those songs were written in the pandemic time and got nothing to do with actual situation with Russia, just to make sure and clear that it is not somehow written down for one person. It is really common situation. We don’t blame or we don’t want to point our fingers to one person or one side or one country, whatever… it has been critical thinking about what’s happening all around the globe now. It is really condition code red. We are really close to a big bang and that is difficult, right?

That is true because sometimes I wonder the kids from today they must have been taught by parents who were free in the sixties and rather not narrow minded. How can they be so narrow minded now?
You know what? Exactly what you say! Sometimes I am really wondering, because I have a boy too and he is 21 and we raised our kids with respect and we have been friendly. We always in our education said please ‘can you do this or that’ on a friendly tone, not commands. That is the reason why I don’t understand why it is not given to this generation to be more friendly to each other. Maybe sometimes – sorry to say, but – sometimes maybe they miss a hard approach. Not beating or being aggressive or whatever, but sometimes they would maybe need more rules. They miss that, you know what I mean?

Indeed, I totally agree. Maybe going to the army wasn’t so bad. Most of the people hated it, but afterwards they loved it too.
You learn, I think the keyword is discipline and that is what is really missing now here and there. There are always certain different people and there is always different characters in the end, but unfortunately I think it really is obvious that discipline is missing really hard.

The album was recorded in Kempten in the studio of your live mixing engineer. Was that different for you?
It is not the entire album Vera, it was the drums and the guitars. That was really very interesting. That is always the part I am looking forward to on an album, to see Michael drumming while the songs have been playing. The guitars I followed for a while, but then I had to go home because of other duties, but that is what I always recommend: ‘go back to the studio, guys and record there.’ I understand that home studios – I recorded my vocals for the last fifteen CD’s in my studio here where I sit and I wouldn’t want to miss that – but there is also this part we are handcrafted. We are still doing stuff like playing a guitar, playing the drums, of course there are floggings out there nowadays, you can do it technically, but you can tell of some things whether it is handcrafted or being plug-ins you know. But we are really proud that we are still handcrafted. There are certain tools out there we can really use for polishing, but that was there in the past as well. I remember when we recorded with tape machines, we also had to compress. There was always the chance and the possibility to polish stuff. Nowadays it is just easier, because you are in your own studio. You have a lot of time. You don’t have to pay studio rent, you can use that time to be creative and do the best out of your job. But still you have to have that talent of recording it and that’s what happened the last albums as well with Primal Fear.

I was really shocked when I heard that Mat was so ill. Is it going better with him, because at the listening session he was still a little bit silent, isn’t it?
Yes he is slightly striking back. You have to think about it that this man was dead three times and they brought him back. So it is with my biggest respect for somebody who standing in life again after all he has been through and he was in the video playing the bass and everything and that was taking a lot of energy from him. He has my biggest respect and I am really hoping that he is striking back. He does everything to be back on that stage. It is still not possible now, but he is working on it. So let us keep fingers crossed that he will really be back 100% soon and we all support him whenever we can.

But the new Primal Fear ‘Code Red’ was the first album he was involved in after his health problems, because he does a lot of side projects too…
We all do Vera because we are self-employed. You have to look what you can do. My priority will always be Primal Fear, but other projects like Avantasia for instance, I love to do that as well because it is great and it is also successful. So I am always happy to be there as well. And whatever, if somebody comes up with ideas and I have the time and I like the music, I say never say never. Let’s do it.

‘Another Hero’ is the first single and ‘Deep In The Night’ is the second one. Maybe you can tell something about the making of the video clips?
We did both videos in one day at a location where we also going to play live in September, the … in Stuttgart. We had the same video team like we had the last time for ‘Another Hero’. They did a great job for us. They also wrote down a script, how things were going to be handled and one live performance, like we had on ‘Another Hero’, the other live performance was also for ‘Deep In The Night’. I saw the video already, it is great again. Yeah we just came together again and everybody was giving all his best to make it a good video.

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