Sascha Paeth’s Masters of Ceremony – Another Added DimensionSunday, 22nd September 2019
When you have been involved in the music industry for thirty-five plus years as a musician, a producer, and a songwriter – it’s obvious that you find new ways to keep interest alive, otherwise you stagnant and then withdraw from your passion. For Sascha Paeth, that’s why it was so important to find the right time to develop his own project again, away from the work he’s done from Heavens Gate on through to Avantasia – beyond his guest appearances on a slew of other records. Masters of Ceremony aligns his love of metal, melodic hard rock, and other influences in an organic manner where the material should be easy to transport itself from the studio to the stage.
Reaching out to Sascha days on Skype, you’ll find he’s very excited to discuss how the ideas and musicians came to be for this effort – as well as tackle his musical career, some specific memories regarding projects/albums that are special to him, and thoughts on how he views his varied roles through the years he’s had as a producer.
Dead Rhetoric: This project finally came to life after four to five years of discussion with the label president at Frontiers Records. Tell us how you finally got the wheels churning and ball rolling, as well as the process of deciding who you wanted to assemble for the players to execute your ideas?
Sascha Paeth: Of course. It was not really a discussion, Serafino (Frontiers president) was calling me every once in a while and I was never really ready for something to be like this in the moment. In the beginning he wanted some kind of project, something more like Avantasia, and I never wanted to do a second Avantasia. I am already doing one and it doesn’t make any sense to do it again with other people. And then I thought about it over the years, and suddenly last year I thought why shouldn’t do this? It would be really good to show how I would approach metal nowadays after doing so many albums for other people where I don’t try to push my taste. I take the stuff from the bands and amplify what is already there. I wanted to also show the people or myself, how an album would sound if I do it the way I do it exclusively. That was interesting for me. To build up something that later on I can have one more thing in my future for playing live. If I don’t do it now- when should I do it? And I decided last year to do this – and in the end I was super happy to do so because in the end it turned out wonderful.
I met some of these people before, like Felix and André, we are already touring together for years in Avantasia. I wanted to work with friends and people that I like. I know they are good and that was easy to find, it’s very practical and handy because we have the same tour dates. When we don’t play with Avantasia, we can play with Masters of Ceremony so it will be a little bit easier. Everything together was obvious – I’ve played with André since I was 12 years old in a band I had with him together. Corbin came into the game, even after Adrienne. Adrienne I knew because of working with her in Seven Spires, and I was looking for a very specific kind of singer, in your face and versatility and a little bit dirty if possible, not so super clean. I didn’t think about her in the first place because I thought about a guy. It came to my mind that she would be the right choice, we tried it out and I recorded a song for her that she could try some singing. It was super obvious I had to take her and I am very glad I did. Corbin came in last. He covers the keyboards, and he played in a couple of projects I recorded. The first thing was a Uli Jon Roth thing we did together – a couple of the Full Metal cruises we played on, he became a good friend. I have my perfect band together.
Dead Rhetoric: Signs of Wings contains a wide array of styles for the listener to absorb. Did you have any specific game plan or criteria for the choices you made – or did you just let the songwriting flow and pick the best material from there?
Paeth: I just let it flow. Everything was done in a very short period of time. My criteria was I wanted it to be a little bit rough. Not overproduced and over-arranged. I wanted something that is honest and easy to recreate live. There is a little bit of rock and roll inside of heavy metal, I would say.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve known Adrienne Cowan since she reached out to you years back for mixing/mastering assistance on the Seven Spires’ debut EP back in 2014. What have you seen in terms of her growth personally and professionally, and how important has it been to have a voice that can not only achieve a clean, melodic grace but also convey some extreme elements when necessary?
Paeth: It brought another dimension to the music that I didn’t think of in a way. For example, it’s a hard way of singing and I wouldn’t have thought about this before, but once she was singing, I thought we could try it out on my music. The first thing we did was “The Time Has Come”, where we put her vocals in and it fit perfectly to our music. Everybody is standing behind it, and in the end, Adrienne did cowrites on four of the songs. I want to have more influences from the people inside of my band in the future. The way that she sings gave me a lot of possibilities for vocal lines. A song like “Die Just a Little”, it’s a half-ballad with a heavy mid-part and she screams like bloody hell! It’s amazing, and the most hard rock song on the album, but she turned it into a beast in a way. It just gave the whole (album) another dimension.
Her growing is hard to say – I think she sings differently on this album. I had a certain demand for a certain voice that we tried out in the beginning. After we found it, it was kind of easy to do the recordings. But we tried a couple of times to go into the right direction. She says of herself that she had to go back to an old way of singing, a little bit less trained in a way and let the emotions out regardless of what is happening technique-wise sometimes. It’s a different way of approaching things. When she does the screams for example, it’s not screams in the sense of how you think of it nowadays. You see all these classes about how to scream – but for this she is screaming right in your face and you think ‘wow – what happened? Will she kill me?’ (laughs). It’s really emotional, and I think the whole album turned out to be very emotional – and part of that is through her vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: Depending on where people discover you, they may know your work with Heavens Gate – or your roles as producer, engineer, musician, and songwriter with acts like Kamelot, Epica, Avantasia, and Rhapsody to name a few. How have you handled the many transitions and shifts your career took within the music industry?
Paeth: I was always interested in the production stuff, even in Heavens Gate I was the one doing the demos. I was always a musician at the same time, I played on a lot of albums, I had a lot of guest appearances. I’ve been both at the same time – but I didn’t do as much live work, just as a guest (appearance) here and there for a couple of years. Now I’m playing live again and that’s the difference. I’ve always considered myself a musician and a producer in the same way.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the more important elements to your role as an engineer and producer that maybe other musicians or the consumers when listening to the final product take for granted?
Paeth: It depends on the product or the band. Some bands, my role as a producer can be very different from one to another production. One production, I could do everything – I play all the instruments and arrange everything, like a one-man band. Up to productions where I sit there and say ‘play a little more like this, play a little more like that’ and everything is already written. It totally depends on the band and the demands of the artist. Sometimes a single artist will come to me and say they want to have an album, and I’ll do an album on my own if I want to. Sometimes I’m rehearsing in a rehearsal room – I did this for example with Shaman, in Brazil we rehearsed so I took a guitar in the room so I could dive in and become a part of it, make suggestions. We would play together and something develops out of this. Sometimes people don’t want to have big time artistic opinions, and want more technical support if things are out of tune. It differs from project to project, so I am always working in a different way.
Sometimes my role is very big, sometimes it’s a little bit smaller. It’s hard to say in general.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to studio work, do you think the older musicians are more well-prepared then some of the younger musicians – or do young musicians have an advantage due to the access to home studios to prepare in a different way?
Paeth: Let’s put it like this. Younger musicians nowadays try to record the stuff themselves. If they come, they are maybe prepared but not prepared to record things in the old way. I mean approaching the song as a song and not as a technical piece that you have to master. Some people would already come with this opinion – okay we do the first bar of the second verse now. This is not very musical in a way, it happens because lots of people are working with laptops and recording small pieces of music. The music is let down in a way, this is the tendency. The older musicians are more into the whole performance. It’s just a different approach, it’s not that one way is better than the other. This is individually depending on the person. As a musician when I work on an album, I’m usually very unprepared because I don’t like to prepare myself. I’ve recorded for so many years I don’t really- basically make up everything I’m doing and as an instrumentalist as I’m recording in the studio. This makes it more spontaneous so it’s not necessarily bad to not be prepared so much. You have to know what you are doing and what you want to achieve, but it’s good sometimes to not be stuck on a super specific thing. It depends on the individual.
Dead Rhetoric: Has it been surprising to you the level of success and growth that Avantasia took on from those initial The Metal Opera albums in the early 2000’s to the recently worldwide tour the band undertook to support Moonglow? What factors do you believe contribute to the project’s sustainable appeal?
Paeth: Of course, back in 2007 or maybe 2006 when we just talked about it. I talked to Tobi about it, and he thought this was cool, but it’s never going to happen again. I said, why not- let’s just try it? If you have an idea, just send it to me – the first song we did was “The Scarecrow”, and I arranged it and sent it back to him, added my parts, and he was like ‘okay – this is something’. I thought it was a project where we can really do some cool stuff, music that we love, and didn’t really think about the possibility of success. But when it was done, the reaction was very good, so why not play this live? Again it was like, can we really do it? So we just did it, and it happened. I’m astonished how much it has grown in the last few years, live. In Germany we play really big places now here. It’s amazing how much the growth of this band is, to see there is still potential. We never really thought about this, and we are very happy. And now we have it like this, we try to take it one step further, if possible.
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