Perzonal War, Weert - 20-11-2005

On a special press day in the Bosuil in Weert we are given the opportunity to chat with Perzonal War about their new album ‘When Times Turn Red’. We talk with vocalist “Metti” Zimmer and drummer Martin Buchwalder who has also produced the new album.

First of all, can you give us a brief history of the band?
Sure, we started the band in 1996 and up till now we have recorded five albums, ‘The Inside’ in 1998; ‘New Time Chaos’ in 2000 and ‘Different but the same in 2002. The first two albums were released via our previous label and due to contractual obligations among other things we had to change our name from Personal War to Perzonal War. At this point we have recorded the third album through AFM records which is titled ‘When Times Turn Red’ for which we have different interviews planned today.

When you hit the Studio for the previous album ‘Faces’ you had actually just found a new bass player, and so he had not been able to co-write the Faces album. What was the difference in recording ‘Faces’ and the previous album?

Before our bass player Sven joined the band we didn’t have a very good bass player, he played the songs and that was it, there was no real teamwork with the other band members. So we decide to find a real bass player before we recorded the Faces album. We had already known Sven for a while. He was in a deathmetal band but had decided that he didn’t want to play metal anymore. Still when we were already in the studio to record the Faces album we managed to persuade him to come over and be on the album. We knew this was our chance to convince him to join the band if he liked the songs, and surely this is what happened. After recording the album we did a European tour with Blaze and it became clear that Sven would stay with the band. He came up with some ideas for the album, he played a relatively small part but he did what he wanted to do on it. Of course he joined in more in writing the new album as we had got to know each other much better also on a private basis. We had spent a lot of time together playing shows and the atmosphere was real good.


How do you go about writing new songs?

Everyone in the band comes up with their own ideas and riffs and then we put all this together and create new songs in the studio. We just keep working on the songs until everyone is satisfied. We live by the rule that everyone in the band should get the chance to do their part in the way they want and that really works for us.


Do you make many changes to the songs when you are in the studio?

Yep, there’s always many small things that we change, but the songs have generally been written before we go into the studio. About seventy percent of the songs will be already completely written but if a song doesn’t work for us when we’re recording then we’ll change it of course. Also in the studio you get better acoustics than during practice so that is often a reason why we change stuff too.


Who is responsible for the lyrics on the album and could you tell us more about them?

“I’m the singer in the band so I write the lyrics” Mattias tells us as if this is the rule, then drummer Martin interrupts: “I drink all the beer but I didn’t brew it myself!” Mattias decides to ignore him and continues. There is actually a running theme throughout the whole album, the title “When Times Turn Red” announces this. It’s about the whole situation we are in at this moment, we have big problems with unemployment and politics in Germany and the problems just keep getting worse and the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Every day when you turn on the news you are confronted with these problems, hundreds of people that have been fired etcetera. I think it’s like this for most European countries, but we can’t be too pessimistic about it all. You always have to try to make the best of the situation. You can’t just say “Okay, I don’t have a job so there’s nothing I can do”. You have to fight to change your own situation. The album is not really a concept album but the title of the album kind of describes the red line that runs through it.


Was there a larger budget for this album and, if so, did this influence the recording process in any way?

Nope, we had the same budget for this album but we are of course content with that. The album was recorded in the Gerhart studio in Siegburg, Germany. We all have jobs besides the band, Martin works as an engineer and producer in the Gerhart studio so he produced this album himself. This gave us the chance to spend more time in the studio than most other bands because we had access to the studio whenever we wanted.


How did the recording process in the studio go?

We booked the studio for four weeks and we had access to it for twenty-four hours a day if we wanted too. We didn’t do that though. There was less pressure as we had more time to prepare for the recordings and so there was no stress. Four weeks may sound like a long time but time flies when you’re in the studio. We had a pretty tight schedule: first three days for the drums, then a couple of days for the bass guitar parts so that we had a solid basis and then we recorded the rest of the album.


Wasn’t it hard for Martin to work with his own band?

No, on the contrary, I found it easier. I have gained so much experience working with so many bands that I was able to use all the good stuff that I had learned in order to make this a real good album.


Does the album ‘When Times Turn Red’ have a special meaning?

Yes, it’s about the general position of humanity. Times are getting darker. The whole social situation seems to have deteriorated rapidly in comparison with ten years ago and not just for the German people, it’s like this everywhere. Times are rough for people and we all have to work harder for our money, that’s about the gist of the title.


Are you satisfied with the result on the new album?

Sure, we have to be. When you finish recording then you’ve done the best you can at that moment, otherwise you shouldn’t bother recording an album. This time we were well prepared, better than for the Faces album for which we had to touch up some songs in the studio in order to get them up to standard. For this album the compositions were much better. This time we just went and recorded everything in a row; drums, bass, guitars and vocals and it worked well because we’d just done a lot of live shows. Of course if you look back on an album one year from now you’ll see things differently but at this moment we are very happy with the album and we can’t wait to get out there and play the songs. Of course when I listen to our first album I hear things that really make me laugh but hey we did it and that’s what counts.


Your previous album ‘Faces’ has only been in the stores since may 2004 so this new album has followed it up swiftly. Is there a specific reason for this?

After the release of the Faces album we got really good reviews and a number of large European magazines started to show an interest, so this made us feel we should release a new album soon. We couldn’t afford to wait another two years and risk to be forgotten again. Right now we’re receiving excellent reviews mainly from German magazines and the new record is doing well in Holland and Belgium too. We were under some pressure to make another solid album but I think it worked out real well for us. The major magazines are giving us the attention we deserve.

After listening to the new album I find there are still vocals that remind me of Metallica’s James Hetfield, don’t you get tired of being compared with him?

Of course I get tired of that, but we really tried to avoid that this time. We tried to write the melodies and vocals in such a way that there would be as little similarity as possible but I can’t change my voice, that’s just the way I sing. In a way it’s a good thing when your band is compared with Metallica but on the other hand I don’t think Metallica fans will buy our album because of this comparison, they are usually more mainstream metal fans. A couple of years ago we really sounded like Metallica but with this album and all the different influences on it I think we really found our own sound. I also believe that it’s very important to be open to new ideas and different kinds of music in order to grow as a band and to avoid repeating old stuff on new albums.


What kind of bands do you listen to yourself?

We all listen to different stuff, I tend to listen to classic like Priest and Maiden but actually I like anything that has to do with rock music. I also listen to new stuff like Godsmack and Nickelback, but also bands like Gorefest, Slayer, Nevermore and Fear Factory. Our guitarist Sacha listens so Porcupine Tree, the Gathering and Opeth and Sven likes jazz and bands like Primus. We all love Anthrax but we’re not very positive about the reunion with Joey Belldonna, to us John Bush is the best singer for that band. We’re also really into bands such as Over Kill, and Testament, classic eighties thrash bands generally.


How do you feel about illegal downloading of music?

Our latest album was available on the internet two months before the official release date. Our record label sends promo’s to different media and apparently there’s people among them that placed the album on the internet. Still this way a lot more people will hear the album and discover our band, but we hope that our fans will still buy the album. On the other hand all the downloading is really killing the music industry at the moment and many bands are kicked off labels and the prices of concert tickets keep getting higher. I also think that nowadays people really have to think before they decide what to spend their money on. Nearly everyone has a computer and people have to choose between buying cd’s and games. And so bands are putting a lot of special edition cd’s out there with extra songs, video clips and live registrations so that people will buy them sooner. Downloading has become so easy! Back in the day we used to tape albums on cassettes. Right now there are so many bands around that you just don’t know what to buy, that’s why it has become important for bands to sell their stuff via the internet to reach a larger public.


What can we expect from Perzonal War in the future and is there anything you’d like to say to the readers and fans?

Next week we’re going on tour with Destruction and Candlemass, we’re looking forward to playing the new songs live. We love going on tour and we always hope to make new friends on the way. We’d like to recommend to everyone to give our new album a listen and to come to one of our shows! And thank you for this interview.

After this drummer Martin lets us know that he thinks Anthrax should kick singer Joey Belladonna out of the band and let John Bush back in…

(Martina Schouten / Eugene Straver)