Friday, November 09, 2007

Roger Staffelbach of Angel Of Eden interview

Roger Staffelbach is best known as the guitarist in prog metallers Artension. However, with the band seemingly on hiatus Roger took this down time to form a band based around his own musical vision with Angel Of Eden being the result. Home to an impressive line up consisting of Carsten "Lizard" Schulz, Ramy Ali and Mistheria the band have see their debut album "The End Of Never" released on November 16th through Lion Music. We caught up with Roger to get a great insight into the making of the album and his new band, the state of play with Artension and much more.

Roger, congratulations on the debut Angel Of Eden release. Can you tell us what led to you forming the band and how you went about selecting the other musicians on the release?
Thanks a lot Andy. Ok, here we go. 2-3 Years ago I found myself facing many personal issues do deal with, besides going through the break-up and the divorce of my marriage, which pulled me down really heavily, I was time and again close to getting involved in other band situations, this for whatever reasons then never worked out at all, (having to deal with too many promises etc.) or the way it should have and the way I expected it to happen. I then realised I had to do something, I wanted and I had to move forward. I also decided that I wanted to work with people I hadn't worked with before.

So I decided to put together my own band. What I was not interested in was a project, as I had to deal with that issue way too long before. I was then contacted by Carsten, I was checking out his stuff and I totally liked what I heard from his previous works and from then on for me it was clear I wanted to work with him. Furthermore we get along very well and became close friends so we were ready to move on. First we were talking about Carsten to sing on 3 tracks, and we had the idea to work with different singers, but then I realised that this would limit the whole thing to a project and I did not want to be limited to this. Ramy as well as Ferdy who played on the 4 demo Tracks, who I also used for the final record, were recommended by Carsten and I was checking some of their stuff and also liked big time what they were doing, besides this Ramy and Ferdy are easy to get along with, which for me was equally important for all the guys involved in this, it makes everything so much easier, and I also think it shows if you listen to the final product.
Then getting the keyboarder was a bit difficult, it just didn’t work out for various reasons. To make a long story short, I simply never got any tracks, and as I was under pressure from the label regarding the deadline, I had look out for someone else. So I figured that Mistheria would be the guy, and as you see it worked out just great. I love his playing and furthermore we got along great from day 1. Furthermore I know Steve (Di Georgio) for some years already and I really wanted him to play on this one and he agreed to do it. So, at this point I'm really glad how everything has turned out for me.

What's the state of play with Artension and did this push you to forge ahead with a new band?
Regarding Artension, I of course would love to make another record, but whether this happens, I don’t know, but I do hope it does. Maybe there will be another one, but unfortunately I don’t know yet. And yes the current status of Artension of course was one of the reasons that led to the decision of forming my own band, that’s for sure. I just didn't want to sit home and wait for a call to make another record; it's a simple as that.

The album is a great mix of neo-classical, power and melodic metal. Does the music encompass all of what you like to hear in a band format?
Pretty much so. I'm heavily into Power Metal, Neo-classical and Melodic Rock, that’s exactly what I wanted to do with my new band.

When did the initial seeds of the tracks form and which songs came first?
For example Towards the Light is a track I wrote and recorded 3 Years ago in Memory of Shawn Lane and for the Shawn Lane Tribute, I just re-recorded this one. Lots of ideas were around for many years, but I never put them together as songs, and this was the heavy part for me. The first song besides Towards the Light I have finished was Into the Black, and then all the pieces came together step by step.
Over what time scale was the track written and did any songs undertake any changes through the writing/recording process?
I took me about 1 year to finalize all the songs. Once we had the Drums recorded I have not changed anything at all.

You have Carsten Schulz on vocals, what made you offer the gig to Carsten?
As I explained before I was checking the stuff he did with his other bands Domain and Evidence One, and I was heavily impressed especially with what he has done on the Tattooed Heart record. Furthermore I think he has a unique style, which makes him stand out. Besides this, Carsten as well as Mistheria and me share the same taste and passion of music.

The opening track "Angel Of Eden" has a great vibe and sets the tone for the album, how did you go about choosing this track to open the album?
This was the first track we recorded the vocal tracks for and I was just blown away how powerful the song sounded with these big vocal choirs, it had to be the title track, this was sure from this very moment.

"Dreamchaser" and "Into The Black" are rampant double bass drum assaults, what was your aim with these tracks?
I just wanted to do the music I always wanted to do, and this is straight forward, powerful metal. I always loved songs like 'Let it Ride', 'Into the Blue' and the really melodic songs like 'Into the Eye of the Storm' we did with Artension, I wanted to go somewhat this direction.

They should go down a storm live.
I definitely think so.

"Keys To Avalon" sees the tempo drop back for a melodic treat and it’s a great groove over which Carsten works his magic. What was the inspiration for this track?
This again was a track I was writing for another band I was meant to get involved with but again this cooperation didn’t work out, it's more in the Hard Rock Vein. So I figured this must be the song for Carsten, as he has this Hard Rock background way more than I have and I just worked out great.

The track is home to one of my favourite solos on the album, what did you look to get across in your solos on the album?
I basically didn't think about this too much. I knew the feel of the songs so it was obvious for me in about what direction I had to go for each track. Usually I go in the studio jam over the solo part and start to work out ideas, and then I record it.

"Return Of The Pharaoh pt.I" has a strong Yngwie slant to it, is it safe to say that Yngwie is an influence on you?
Yngwie is the reason I play the guitar. After listening to his Trilogy record the very first time, I was 14 years old, nothing would ever be the way it was before, and it changed my life. This is probably the song I’m most proud of; I really think it came out great.

What era Malmsteen do you like best?
I like his early stuff like Trilogy, the first Rising Force record, and then I’m totally into the Eclipse and Fire and Ice records. I also admire his works his done with his concerto and I also find some great tracks on the 'Unleash the Fury' record. This man is a legend, that’s simply the way it is.

"Stampede" hits you in the face like a sledgehammer, how did this track come together?
I was noodling around this opening riff for quiet some time and again I put it together piece by piece. It demanded this sledgehammer groove.

"The Battle Of 1386" is superb, great atmosphere with orchestration from Mistheria, I sort of see it as your version of see it as a cross between prime Metallica mixed with Holst's "The Planets".
I was inspired by this as I am very much into medieval history. I love sightseeing old castles, museums etc. This song is about a battle which took place close to where I live and I often go to this site to see the old paintings in the Battle Chapel. However, I wanted it to sound somewhat like a Movie soundtrack and I guess we got pretty close. I'm into Metallicas 'Ride the Lightning' record, especially because of the guitar sound and the riffing and I had this vicious riff and again I put it together piece by piece, it just had to bring over the character of a medieval battle from the start to the end. Mistheria did a terrific job on the intro and the whole orchestration of that tune. He, and this was the case on all the tracks he played on, always understood a 100% what my vision of each of the tracks was.

What led to you using Artension band mate John West on vocals here as opposed to Carsten?
This song simply demanded John’s voice and he did an outstanding job on this one.

There is a nice guitar/keyboard solo trade off here, did you and Mistheria discuss what you would do on sections like this or did you just "go for it"?
We just went for it, it has an aggressive touch to it and this is exactly what the song demanded.

How did the writing for the title track happen?
“End of Never” was the third song I have finished, and it didn’t take me that long to finish it. Also this was the first song we put the vocals on and I was blown away by Carsten's performance on this one, it was simply magic.

The closing instrumental "Towards The Light" is a nice showcase of your skills yet retains a purpose and has a strong classical edge. What does this instrumental say to you?
As I said before this track I have re-recorded and I think its showcases my abilities best from all the tracks on the record. This song means a lot to me as this is the first song I have recorded under my name on the Shawn Lane Tribute, and most importantly I wrote it in honour of the great Shawn Lane.

You have a great sound on the album, what guitars/amps/fx did you use and what were you looking to get from your sound this time around?
I use for many years now the Engl Savage 120 Amp. I have been searching for my sound for many years and I was trying dozens of tube amps, but still they never satisfied me a 100%, till that day when I came across Engl Savage 120. It just had everything I was searching for. Modelling Amps are not what I’m into, I miss the dynamics. They're fine for practising etc. . I own a Pod for working at home, but not for recording. Furthermore I got an Endorsement with DEAN Guitars and I really like the guitars I got from them. I got an ML Dimebag Tribute as well as a Vendetta. They play and sound great.

Regarding the sound I was going for a full and heavy sound, the rhythm sound is very important to me and I’m really happy how the whole thing has turned out in the end. Here and there are some balances I would do slightly different now, but all in all I’m more than happy how it has turned out.

The last few Artension albums in many fans eyes saw you taking a back seat to Vitalij's keyboards. Was this something you wanted to put right with Angel Of Eden?
Maybe, I liked all our records, but I missed a little bit the heaviness in the final mixes.
What's next for the band and yourself?
Let’s see what happens. I will try to play live with this band, I think the raw power of these songs are written to be performed live, I hope this works out. Besides that I’m already in the song writing process for record number two.
Anything else you would like to add for the readers?
Please check out the record, I hope you like what we've done and I hope to see you live.
Roger many thanks for your time.
Thank you Andy for your support and for having me here. Keep rocking on!
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