Rage Ė After 25 Years Still Tying the Strings of a Web
Interview with Peter ďPeavyĒ Wagner (Rage) [January, 2010]
From the melancholic feel of Through Ages to the melodic roughness found in Purified or the musical strength of Empty Hollow to the elegance found in Fatal Grace, Rage takes us through Strings of a Web, a landscape of melodies and powerful lyrics.
After 2009 marked this German trioís successful 25th anniversary in the metal world, their latest creation proves to be another Rage masterpiece. When listening, you discover an album full of thunderous heavy metal melodies with touches of progressive and thrash, without leaving behind a softer side of Rage which in past albums has not made an appearance. If to this musical combination you add the powerful lyrics found in the album, it is no surprise that Rage continues to thrive as musicians.
After being unable to coincide with the band during their 25th anniversary tour, I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Wagner, Peavy, over the phone right before Christmas. Peavyís down to Earth personality made for a great interview. We talked about 25 years in the business as well as their latest album and other interesting band issues. . .
Nerissa: First of all, Iíd like to thank you for taking time right before Christmas for this interview.
Peavy: Thank you very much.
Nerissa: Letís start with Rage, 25 year anniversary, what does that mean to you?
Peavy: Yeah. I have to say I am very proud of it and it was a good life, the longest part of my life, Iím doing this music, Iím doing this band. I know that I belong this to the fans, you know, Ďcause without the fans we wouldnít have been able to do this. So, I am very grateful, a great gift, and Iím proud of it, of course.
Nerissa: Yes, it is something to be proud of. After 25 years in the business, is the excitement of bringing out a new album, of touring and all that, still there?
Peavy: Yes, surely. I mean, the driving effect for us is the music, we still love this music and we like to write and perform stuff. So, we are always very much skilled when we go to the studio, we want to achieve the best we can and when an album turns out to be good, we are satisfied with the results, so itís a very great feeling for us. Also, to be on stage and to play the new songs to the audience and you get reactions, this is really amazing. Itís one of the best things you can do in life. (soft laugh)
Nerissa: That is nice. OK, in these 25 years, if anything, what would you change or what would you have done differently?
Peavy: Of course you make mistakes, after such a long period, but I think itís only human, I think you often learn from your mistakes. So, if I think back there would be two things, maybe, that if I would have known before, I would have tried to avoid it. Perhaps, at the very beginning we signed with the wrong record label, when the band was still called Avenger, we signed to a very, very small, independent label, a one man label, and we really couldnít distribute our albums all over Europe like we expected. At the same time we had the offer already from North Records but it took us one year later, which gave us a bad start, I would say, but I donít know, (soft laugh) itís long ago. Also, I wouldnít have integrated this Greek guitar player in the mid 90s in the band if I had the choice today, because he turned out to be a real asshole. He is responsible for the split of this line-up later in 1999. And at the same time, when I put him to the band, I already had the chance to get Victor Smolski into the band, like five or six years earlier, but I didnít do it at this time which was a mistake I have to regret today. Anyway, everything happened like it was and, you know, thatís life, so I donít think about these kinds of things.
Nerissa: Well, when you are starting out, it is more difficult to bring out an album so you have to adapt to what comes along.
Peavy: Yes, sure, and you have no experience, you really donít know what is important and what is not important, so you have to fins out everything on your own. (soft laugh) Also, the only thing is that you donít give up. If something goes wrong, donít get too frustrated, just look in the future and try to avoid the mistakes next time. You always have the chance for a new start. But, of course, you have to try to still have fun with everything that you are doing. If you lose the fun in everything, then, maybe, itís better to stop.
Nerissa: Yes, Iíd agree with that. Talking about difficult situations, which would you say has been the most difficult moment when you almost gave up?
Peavy: This is what Iíve already mentioned before, in í99, the former line-up before Victor Smolski joined the band, when it all broke up during the production of the album Ghost, then, this was really a very difficult and it was a really frustrating situation for me.
Nerissa: It was that bad?
Peavy: Yes, it was very, very bad at this time. First of all, I had the problem to finish the album, to find musicians to finish the album and to do the tour that was already booked. This was only one thing. The other part was, you canít imagine when you believe that these guys you work with for such a long time, for many years, you believe that they are your good friends and then you just realize from one day to another that they just turn around and stab a knife in your back. (laughs softly) This is professionally frustrating.
Nerissa: Tough, yes. What kept you going at that moment?
Peavy: The music, I have to say (soft laughter) and the fans. I know there were a lot of fans who were expecting the album, that had already bought tickets for the tour and stuff. And I was really lucky at this point that I found Victor Smolski to join in. First of all, he was just hired to finish the guitar tracks and then he agreed to stay in the band, you know, heíd like to work with me. So, in the end, from this disaster it turned out to be really good for me. Iím really happy that we met and that we can do the band like we do today.
Nerissa: After 25 years, over twenty albums behind you, what is left for Rage to do?
Peavy: I am really happy with how the situation is right now. I really feel very good, I really like very much what we do music wise and how we work with each other. Itís very much fun, itís very satisfying to work like this. And I just wish right now that we can continue doing it this way for a long, longer time because this is a really a good life that I am leading with these boys, with this band.
Nerissa: Letís return to the Rageís beginning. As we all know and you mentioned earlier, the band was originally named Avenger and since the name was already in use you had to change and you decided on Rage. Do you think that was the best fitting name? After all, the word is harsh sounding as well as having a ruthless meaning. Was this really reflecting the band or what exactly was behind it?
Peavy: Oh, well, itís a good question. Actually, the name was given by the drummer at this time, JŲrg Michael, the drummer in Stratovarius today. He invented this name and suggested it. So, I really donít know his idea behind it, but we liked it and we picked it.
Nerissa: Which would you say is your most personal Rage song?
Peavy: My most personal Rage song. . . There are a lot, I think itís more than 400 songs we wrote. Uhmmm. . . There are very many songs that are very personal to me, so itís very hard to pick out one, you know, Ďcause I always like to use my song lyrics for a kind of diary for me, so they are very much very personal songs. So, I canít really say which is the most important for me. (laughs)
Nerissa: To continue, which would you say is your most personal experience with Rage?
Peavy: It must have been when we played together with an orchestra in the Dynamo Festival in í98 or so, or í97, I donít know. We played late at night after Type O Negative and all the people were so freaking out. Before we didnít know what to expect and then we had such good reaction that we played the whole set twice. (chuckles) This is one of the best moments I remember.
Nerissa: Most important life lesson.
Peavy: Most important life lesson that Iíve learned?
Peavy: Uhm. . . Mmm. . . (chuckles) A weird question for me. I donít really know how to answer this.
Nerissa: OK, no problem, you can think about it and tell me later or we can drop it.
Nerissa: Continuing, as part of Rage you donít have a regular nine to five job, how does this affect your personal life?
Peavy: First of all, I can sleep longer than most of the people (hearty laughter and then, serious tone) I think one problem is that relationships with friends, and especially with girlfriends, are not so easy sometimes when you are constantly gone, there are a lot of things that you canít really share. So, Iíve had a couple of relationships that have broken because of the musicianship.
Nerissa: Is it really that difficult to maintain a relationship?
Peavy: Uhm. . . It depends who you are with, you know. (chuckles) Meanwhile, Iíve found someone that I think is worth and is OK for her. But in the past I sometimes had girlfriends that couldnít understand a lot of these things and that were jealous and stuff like this. I think itís easier when you have a nine to five job, you come home every day, this is a more regular life style. You have more possibilities to live a relationship more easily.
Nerissa: Iíve always thought that the beauty of your situation as a metal musician, is that the person you are with respects and admires the effort you take to keep up what you are doing.
Peavy: Whether you find someone who admires you as a musician and when they later find out who you are in normal, then they might be disappointed (laughs) or if confused because you are with someone who does not care about this music business. Itís a lot of strange things you do and regular people donít understand, you know.
Nerissa: Fine. And now I would like you to describe the current members and then, if youíd like, you can tell me about any former members.
Peavy: (Mischievous laughter) Now, Victor is a fantastic genius musician and heís a very talented person. Heís helped me. Heís fighting a lot and working hard. I respect him and like him a lot as a personal because heís really a good friend. He stands to everything he says, you know, heís not telling lies and stuff. Andrť is a very funny guy. Heís always responsible for the good mood we have when we meet, when we work together. Heís really funny, making a lot of jokes. Heís like the good spirit in the whole thing. (He laughs good-heartedly) And so what other musicians should I describe?
Nerissa: Any of the former musicians if youíd like.
Peavy: The only guy with who I still have good contact to is Manni Schmidt and I still like him very much. I also respect him very much as a musician, heís a brilliant guitar player, I think. Heís also a very fine guy and a good friend, someone you can rely on, I mean, he says something, he will also do it.
Nerissa: OK, describe yourself.
Peavy: Myself? (Laughter) Uhm. . . I donít know how to describe myself. (More laughter) Iím just a crazy that likes metal and likes bones. (Laughs again and again through his reply) Plays metal music and collecting bones! And I love my girlfriend. You know how to describe myself? I like to have parties sometimes too much, drink too much, I have to get rid of some bad habits from the past, otherwise it could affect my health, I guess. These are just all the things Iím thinking about right now that are part of my life. I had my 45th birthday yesterday and Iím. . .
Nerissa: Oh! Happy birthday Peavy!
Peavy: Yeah, thank you! And I want to change some of these bad habits. But, I mean, everybody has these kinds of bad habits. Itís nothing special, I donít see myself as very special, you know.
Nerissa: It seems to me you see yourself as a very normal guy.
Peavy: Yeah. Thatís how I see myself too! (Laughs again) Well, I donít want to see myself as too important because I know Iím not. Nobody in this world is important (chuckles) and I donít like these people that think they are something special or whatever, no one is special and these people are suffering of some shitzophrenic disease or I donít know.
Nerissa: Let me go back to an earlier question see if you have an answer this time, life lesson.
Peavy: I donít know. I donít want to give advice because I think everybody has to learn for themselves and everybody has to find its own conclusions, you know.
Nerissa: That in itself is a good lesson.
Peavy: I donít see myself as a teacher or as someone who can tell others about lessons.
Nerissa: But as someone who writes lyrics, donít you see yourself as somewhat a bit of a philosopher?
Peavy: Nooo! For sure not, Iím not a philosopher. Iím just writing some comments to life, about life, and threading and knotting it in a form that fits my vocal tracks. I think Iím a good musician, Iím a good lyric writer, but Iím not a philosophist. No, no.
Nerissa: OK. What words would you leave for the fans to finish up this interview?
Peavy: What I would leave for the fans? A big, big, big thank you! Because we love the fans and there would be nothing for me, I wouldnít be sitting here and talking to you. I always know this, I am always aware of this, and I can just say thank you.
Nerissa: Well, you are welcome. Iíd like to thank you for this latest album and for this interview.
Peavy: Thank you!
So as 2009 ends and 2010 welcomes us into another year of good music and amazing live gigs, letís not forget that among all those we will find Rageís latest Strings to a Web as well as another live experience in their upcoming tour!
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