Kissin’ Dynamite – Explosive EcstasySunday, 8th July 2018
Yearning to bring stadium rock back, German act Kissin’ Dynamite are a rare breed in today’s melodic hard rock/metal landscape. Releasing five studio albums and a live double album/DVD set over the past ten years, there have been no member changes since their inception during their school days. Admittedly morphing from more of their heavier roots into a sound that contains more melodic/pop elements for hooks and choruses, these gentlemen aim to prove to the current generation that good music is good music, regardless of what style appears to be in fashion.
Their sixth album Ecstasy represents a shift in record label deals, signing with a major Sony/Columbia for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland while being a part of the Metal Blade roster for most other territories- including North America. From ballads to anthems, the fourteen songs should keep the Kissin’ Dynamite faithful beaming and swinging – while hopefully attracting a few newcomers to the fold. Reaching out to drummer Andi Schnitzer for this conversation, you’ll be brought up to speed on the new record deals, the boost they received from Udo Dirkschneider in the early days that helped them gain a foothold in the market, thoughts on social media and live shows, as well as the special chemistry that develops when you’ve been a band that has known of each other since those pre-teen years of life.
Dead Rhetoric: After completing your deal for AFM Records with the Generation Goodbye Dynamite Nights live album/DVD set, you have signed new deals with Sony Music for Europe and Metal Blade for the US. What factors come into play at this point for Kissin’ Dynamite to divide and conquer so to speak with different labels in different territories?
Andi Schnitzer: Yes, as you said the deal with AFM was done after that live Generation Goodbye Dynamite Nights album. It was just a logical step for us to look at other labels because while we were all fine and good with AFM, we just thought we needed some fresh inspiration or a fresh team with a new passion. We just found it with the guys in Sony/Columbia in Germany, Austria, Switzerland – and for the rest of the world, Metal Blade. This will help for us hopefully to be able to come to the US, because we’ve never been there (as of) yet and I think after 10 years this should change.
Dead Rhetoric: Because in the early days of the band, you were also on a major label, do you notice any differences with being on a major label versus an independent for a band of your level?
Schnitzer: It always depends on which kind of people work at the label. With EMI back in the days it was a case at first we were very young and a smaller band, and we did not have so much experience. EMI on the other hand was very busy dealing with their own problems, they were running out of money and trying to look after themselves, so it was an unhappy deal back there. For us it was much better to go to AFM, the people were there for us and knew what to do with us, and they wanted to work with us. A major label of course has more power and a little bit more money, 20-30 years ago more money, but a major label has more power than an independent one. In the end it’s all about the people, and the hope that their brains are clear with which kind of ideas they have.
Dead Rhetoric: Ecstasy is the sixth Kissin’ Dynamite studio album. Where do you see this record sitting in terms of the band’s discography – do you go in with a game plan album to album or just go based on feel, intuition, and collective experiences that you’ve developed over the years?
Schnitzer: Of course (we go with) intuition and how we feel at the time. We don’t think of how the next album will sound, I have no idea – because now it’s the time of Ecstasy. In this case it was all in the name of not thinking too much about something, lyrics- especially in terms of lyrics, it’s very different than the last one. Generation Goodbye – I really wanted to say something important to people in terms of social criticism, mobile things, etc. with “Hashtag Your Life” because it was important for me to say it. We recognized those things and we wanted to say something about them. This time we just said in the end, a rock band like Kissin’ Dynamite is made to entertain, and not talk too much about making people think. People end up thinking all day, they want to come to a concert and have fun and not think – like rock and roll mediation. This album is more about fun than anything serious.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you decide upon the guest appearance with Exit Eden’s Anna Brunner for the title track, as well as the special edition box set with the A Road Paved with Gold book?
Schnitzer: In terms of Anna, Hannes (Braun) our singer is a producer for other bands as well. He produced Exit Eden, and he got to know Anna and he thought, as well as the rest of us, that she has a very unique and great rock and roll voice. We just decided not to do a ballad as a duet but a real in your face track like “Ecstasy”, I think it’s really cool. She’s almost more powerful than Hannes. I think she’s got balls, although she’s a girl.
In terms of this book, this was an idea of our guitarist Jim Müller’s father. Because I wrote the book, last year he asked me to write a biography of the band. It’s 10 years of Kissin’ Dynamite, we’ve experienced a lot of funny and memorable stories. I started without any plan, and I wrote it and felt it would be very cool to put it in a box set for the fans, some fans of bands do not get this every day. It’s entertaining for my first book- unfortunately it’s only in German, but you never know if it will be released in other languages.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve done a lot of special guest appearances through the years on your albums- including early on with Udo Dirkschneider, as I heard he was an early supporter and advocate for the band. What types of advice or help do you believe he’s given that you’ve gained insight from?
Schnitzer: He was the first one that picked us up as a support act in 2009 for three support gigs with him. It was a big honor for us to have him on our album Addicted to Metal. He believed in us from the very beginning. After some years, he would say that our sound is a little bit more pop or cheesy, but it’s alright because if you listen to his style, it’s in your face heavy metal, and back in the day with Addicted to Metal we were more metal too. He didn’t give advice that I remember now, he was just there and that he appreciates that a new band is around waving the flag for this style. He gave us the power to continue and carry on, it was an honor.
Dead Rhetoric: Developing catchy hooks, melodies, and harmonies from song to song – is songwriting an easy or difficult process for the band, and does the material go through many modifications and transformations from that initial spark to final outcome?
Schnitzer: Of course it’s difficult, because you have to come up with something that has not been in existence yet, which is not just average. Over the years, we’ve developed a system that works. We don’t write for example forty songs and pick the best ones, that’s what we used to do a few years ago. This time, we are very focused and write song after song, with a high perception of the quality so we don’t waste time. Maybe one song took a little longer to write, but then this song is also a good one. We wrote these 14 songs, because we were really focused, and that was it. The rest of it is just wasting time if you do average material- we get better every year with every album, we are learning by doing. Also in terms of what’s a good hook, you feel it. You learn to switch off your brain and go by feel and not think. That’s all the ability you need to have- switch off your brain, the rest of (it) is based on feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve expressed an interest in bringing back stadium rock. Do you believe that in today’s marketplace, we can get bands like yourselves back up to arena/stadium rock level, given the struggle to attain major media attention in certain markets?
Schnitzer: Of course, we live in difficult times in terms of the music industry today. The cliché of stadium rock was during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and it’s not to be taken too seriously to bring back stadium rock. We mean it seriously of course in terms of how the songs sound, they are hymns that are supposed to be played in stadiums. Of course we would love to play in stadiums because it’s a huge and big cliché – and I would be sad in 30 years if there are no huge bands anymore. It’s always been a magical thing to have 100,000 people together singing along to one band, they are almost demigods for (the band).
You are right, the newer bands are not as big today. We will see, we have bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, the Rolling Stones, the Foo Fighters are still active today. You cannot say – but I would be happy if stadium rock would never die. It’s almost as if you are going to a church service, the pilgrims are going to their gods. That’s the magical thing about stadium shows.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you get that feeling when you are playing larger festivals?
Schnitzer: Yes, of course. It’s a little bit different playing the festivals versus playing in clubs. In festivals, you show yourselves to so many people that have not only come for you, it’s cool to see if you can (convert) them (as fans) or if they are not interested. If you have a sold-out gig in a club, probably everybody came for you and they will be easier to understand you live than at a festival where people may not know of you at all.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ll be touring in the fall across Europe as special guests to Powerwolf along with Amaranthe, even though you’ve reached headlining status in many territories. Can you explain the reasons behind stepping back a bit, because it feels like you are hoping to broaden your fanbase to a certain degree for the longevity of the band’s career?
Schnitzer: Yes. We are doing well in Germany, because we are from Germany, but we need to broaden our standing in the other countries, therefore we decided to do another support tour. I think Powerwolf is very huge all across Europe – we’ve met them a few times and I think they are lovely guys. I think we are going to have a lot of fun, we will have the opportunity every evening to play in front of 2,000-3,000 people, which we would not have if we toured alone. This is cool, and then we can present ourselves to new people like in England for the first time.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you see have been some of the key moments or breakthroughs in Kissin’ Dynamite’s career, where you knew you were making an impact and building things up to another level of success?
Schnitzer: I remember one show in the very early days when we still did not have a record deal. That was when the two bands we were in for the early days came together. Jim and myself had a band, and the rest of Kissin’ Dynamite had another band – I remember the first gig when I played with Jim and Hannes and it was memorable. It was a little gig in our hometown, but it was something that people could feel in the air and it was a cool lineup. Half a year later we had the record deal. And last year was a big highlight, playing Wacken for the first time. A really completely full tent with over 10,000 people. To play at Wacken is a little bit holy for every metal band. It was a very good and huge gig. And now we will see what’s happening with the new label and the new album.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve embraced social media quite well, and always made very entertaining video content as well. How do you maintain the balance between promotional duties as well as engaging in real time with face to face, human contact – is it a difficult process to not be overwhelmed by technology?
Schnitzer: Oh I have to be really honest. I am so glad that I do not do this very much. The other guys care more than I do. I don’t even use Facebook until recently – my manager says I should. It’s work that has to be done, and it’s important to show the fans what they want to see. They enjoy a little bit of the bonus content, because we are fans ourselves and we remember when there were some special documentaries about Iron Maiden or so, we really could not wait to see it. It’s always cool for the fans to see something additionally, but you should never forget that it’s more about being on stage, rocking out, and have really good songs. It’s a different thing to look at the people from the eyes on stage, meeting them after the show, signing autographs. So social media is important these days, but it’s not the ultimate (goal) I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the musicians you’ve had the pleasure of touring with and meeting, what are some of the key pieces of advice or wisdom that you’ve learned that you’ve been able to apply to make Kissin’ Dynamite even stronger as a unit?
Schnitzer: We’ve played with so many bands. It’s the other way around – we played with a band, this was more like they were workers, they got paid, but it was not a real band. We noticed from that there is something different to us, we are friends from the very beginning since we were 10 years old. Our lineup has never changed, and we value our lineup that has never changed. With the other band, we saw the differences, they were not interacting with each other as a band. They were really good musicians as such. For a really good band there must be something that you cannot touch – and that comes off from the stage.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been together since high school – do you believe this places you at an advantage because of the time together to gel, getting to know each other’s personalities, and the teamwork necessary to achieve your musical/career aspirations?
Schnitzer: I never did it the other way – the only band that we have ever been in is here. It’s very valuable – I’ve heard from many bands bigger than us that we can be proud of ourselves with the same five guys and five friends, it’s not something that we take for granted. It’s good to know each other, and still we get to know each other more and more. We can develop our character, our personalities. It’s still changing, it’s always getting easier the longer that we know each other because when you have to say something to trigger somebody in a good or bad way. Somebody said to me last week, I have wisdom and to be old is the same as to be young, just better.
Dead Rhetoric: Who were some of your drum influences growing up, or people that you admire?
Schnitzer: I always have been a fan of drummers that play in bands. Because there is this other type of drummer that is a fan of technique, and drummers that have a good technique, independent drummers. I think they are great, and it’s also important to have technique, but I think it’s also about the spirit of a band a drummer played in. My influences, two of the most important are Phil Rudd and Nicko McBrain. Although they are completely different, they are really cool guys at their instruments. Phil does not think about playing something, he just nails the solid groove as nobody else. If it is cool, you can do something on top of that – but he doesn’t have to prove anything. Nicko is really cool, he has a unique style. You can hear what he does out of a thousand drummers. There’s this cliché that every metal drummer has double bass and plays at almost 300 beats per minute, and I respect that even though I cannot do it. It tends to sound too similar and machine-like, and the old school thing that Nicko has possesses a little bit of swing element. It’s still heavy metal, but you can swing anyway.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the hard rock/metal industry today – if you had the ability to change things in any aspect, what would you change and why?
Schnitzer: Hard rock and heavy metal. We’ve tried to change in the fact that we do what we think is great- and not many bands make this kind of music anymore, especially younger bands. I don’t know if you agree- but it’s sort of old school in what we do. In terms of listening to new bands, I only get touched by some, and those are the ones that are inspired by the old bands. It’s important to have a singer that’s got a powerful voice that can also reach high notes. You need to be able to be a good screamer – and there are too many bands that growl or sing low, Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch, who are also good bands – but for my personal tastes I need someone like Bruce Dickinson, a higher voice.
If people think it’s out of fashion, we know that this is the music that we want to do and we will do it and hopefully it will be alright. There’s no other chance because if you do something you don’t like, you should stop right away. I also wish that people would be more aware of paying money for music. It doesn’t matter if it’s with streaming or other media. Just to be aware of the fact that this is really work, and it’s not for free. The music industry will not go on forever with the way things exist now.
Dead Rhetoric: You originally had family members on your management team, and you’ve now moved on to other management. How do you feel that this is going?
Schnitzer: It’s really important. We’ve got a new manager from Greece, and he’s doing a great job. We didn’t have a manager for three years or so, and during that time Hannes was trying to do this job besides being the singer, the producer, and the songwriter- he did it well, but it was hard. It’s very important for the band to have a good team around them, so the band can do their job and have their heads free to do what the band should do first, playing and writing good songs. These days I think, there is not so much money and everybody says the band should do everything and can do everything, but I think if it’s too much than the quality of the music could suffer. You just have one brain, if this one brain is free to just do music than there will be other brains who can manage and produce. It’s the professional way it has to be done.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for the next twelve months for Kissin’ Dynamite beyond the summer festival appearances and Powerwolf tour? Any special guest appearances or surprises to look forward to?
Schnitzer: One thing I can say of course is we will not do a break next year. We will do the Powerwolf tour, our album Ecstasy will still be fresh. We will tour and do festivals next year. Full power ahead!