I recently had the chance to interview Axel “Iron Finger” Ritt from Grave Digger about the band and the new album.
TDM: Thanks for taking the time for this interview with That Devil Music. Personally, I credit Grave Digger’s song Twilight of the Gods as the one responsible for getting me back into heavy metal after a bit of a hiatus. The band and song have a special place in my catalog. I had the chance to review Clash of the Gods and the album seems to fit right in with the more recent Grave Digger catalog. I thought it was a solid album and worthy of the Grave Digger brandname. How does the band feel about Clash of the Gods?
AR: We all feel absolutely great about the new album. In our opinion, everything‘s perfect, sound, songs and the mood within the band.
TDM: Since Tunes of War, most of Grave Digger’s albums have essentially been concept albums based on historical events. Although this isn’t necessarily something I would call a gimmick, it is consistent. How does the band decide on the concept, whether it is the last days of Christ (The Last Supper) or Scottish history?
AR: Before we start the songwriting process, the whole band is doing a brainstorming regarding the style of the upcoming album. Everybody will put his ideas in the pool and together we decide which direction it will be for the upcoming album.
TDM: At least four of your albums have paid tribute in some way to Scotland. What has driven the band to almost worship the Scots and their struggle for independence?
AR: It happened by accident. To fight for your rights is a main theme for everybody in this world and the Scottish history was a perfect hotbed for a mixture of drama, fear, honor and battle. The perfect breeding ground for a concept album.
TDM: Since The Reaper, the band has cranked out a dozen albums, better than one every other year, and each one very consistent in your style of metal. How have you managed to not make the same album over and over again?
AR: We try to develop ourselves every time we start to write songs, doing the arrangements and record the albums. The constant will to get better and better is the secret behind the variety.
TDM: It seems that every decade or so the band changes primary guitar players – Uwe Lulis in the 90s, Manni Schmidt in the 00s. They were involved in some of my favorite GD albums, Excalibur, Rheingold. Riff writing is so critical in power metal and clearly you have filled the gap nicely. How did you come to be in the band and has your contribution increased over the last couple of years?
AR: I felt perfect within the band from the very first second. Great guys, friends meanwhile, great musicians and a professional behavior in the business is all you can expect an artist. Now that are 3 years behind us, everybody found his final place in the cooperation and you can hear on in the new album. It sound very powerful, varied but also familiar vocals, harmonically sophisticated bass work, featured keyboard solos and the best drum work I‘ve ever heard on a GRAVE DIGGER album speaks for itself. And my guitar work, well, get your own opinion 😉
TDM: Let’s talk about touring – specifically the United States. As far as I know, Grave Digger have played the US only a handful of times – Arizona in 2004, New York in 2007. Maybe others? I have thought that you would be a perfect fit for the ProgPowerUSA festival in Atlanta and hoped you would appear on the bill. What is the band’s view on playing the US and how likely does a full tour look in the future?
AR: We‘d love to tour the US, but it depends on the local promoters. We‘re in contact with different booking companies, but it‘s not in our hands. If you call, we‘ll be there as soon as possible 🙂
TDM: Now for some “off topic” kinds of questions: What musical situation has given you the greatest satisfaction?
AR: The Wacken Open Air Show 2010, containing the recording of the „The Clans Are Still Marching“ DVD. The pure blast!
TDM: Do you make a living from making music? If so, what would you be doing if it wasn’t music? If not, what is it you do for a living?
AR: 1.) Yes 2.) Born to be a musician, no left, no right.
TDM: How does your family feel about you being in a heavy metal band?
AR: They are pretty proud, showing live video at their iPhones at family parties 🙂
TDM: How much longer does Grave Digger have as a band? Another 10, 20, 30 years?
AR: As long as we‘ll be able to move our asses and the fans are willing to come to our shows.
TDM: Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to seeing you live in the States and for many more years of Grave Digger Metal!
AR: You‘re welcome and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.