Stallion – Rise from the DeadMonday, 11th September 2017
Traditional metal never dies. Legacy bands live on through multiple generations, the exposure deepening as first and second generations pass on their records and memories to their offspring – inspiring a next generation of artists creating and unleashing their work upon the world. Forming only four short years ago, Stallion from Germany hope to keep the spirit of heavy metal alive for more old-timers and younger people – fortunate to play prestigious festivals like Keep It True and Bang Your Head already, plus tour across Europe with Bullet, Skull Fist, and Striker among others. Their second album From the Dead comes three years after their Rise and Ride debut – keeping the mix of speed metal, anthems, and fist waving choruses alive and kicking, along with a healthy love for melodic hard rock from time to time.
Hours before our Skype interview, it turned out that vocalist Pauly would not be available for our interview- but his co-founder, guitarist Äxxl would be there to answer these questions. Which was just as well – beyond being friends they are also roommates, so he would have plenty to share regarding the beginning days of the group – the furious activity that took place once solidifying their final lineup, and the reasoning behind the longer wait time between records. In the interim, track down these records if you want some solid Teutonic steel with boatloads of energy and good times.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories regarding music in your childhood, and what pushed your interests into metal to eventually start performing in bands?
Äxxl: My first memories. I think my mother played Worldwide Live from the Scorpions on her record player. I was maybe five years old, I remember this quite firmly. Also some ZZ Top, that then brings me to metal. I had to find myself before I listened to proper heavy metal, when I was 12-13 I was listening to Limp Bizkit and Staind style bands. After some time, I was more into the traditional kinds of metal, Helloween and Metallica. That’s when it all started for me, the old school heavy metal thing, and it never really went away. I still listen to (this) every day.
I started out as a drummer actually, when I was six years old, mostly playing for orchestras, not so much rock music. When I was 15 or 16, I discovered old school Metallica with Master of Puppets, and that’s when I wanted to play the guitar. It sounded so cool, and that particular song “Master of Puppets” is still my favorite guitar song. I just wanted to sound like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you end up taking any formal lessons, or just learn by picking things out on record and relying on your ear?
Äxxl: I took lessons when I was a teenager for two or three years. It helped me a lot on the technical side of things. When you get a little older though you aren’t as interested in learning what other people play, you want to do more of your own stuff so that’s when I quit taking lessons.
Dead Rhetoric: Stallion formed originally with Pauly and yourself as you were friends and roommates for over six years. Can you tell us about the special concept you had for Stallion from the start, and why you recorded your first EP Mounting the World by yourselves before assembling a full lineup?
Äxxl: Yes, that’s a long story. When we both started with college, we moved in together and were roommates for many years. We always had a dream of making our music in the first place, putting out a vinyl record was a goal we wanted to reach someday. We tried to find people to make that happen- it turned out that we decided to do this together, it was the right time and that was in 2013. I have some basic knowledge of recording, that’s why we did it together with a drum computer- I did all the other instruments and Pauly did the vocals, so that’s how the first EP turned out.
Dead Rhetoric: Rise and Ride, your first full-length, came out in 2014 – making a strong impression for your brand of speedy-oriented traditional metal. What are your thoughts on those writing/recording sessions, any special memories or challenges that came up and how do you reflect on this release now that a few years have passed?
Äxxl: 2014 was (a) really busy (year) for the band. We didn’t have a full lineup at the start of the 2014, and then we started to get everybody together for the first shows in February 2014, the Metal Assault festival and then we played Keep It True. In between all the rehearsals for those shows, we had to write the entire record. I was finishing with college the same year, so it was really challenging to make sure everything could happen together. It was very exciting, it all started off, we were playing for audiences that we could never have imagined before – so my memories are all relating to the excitement while being busy.
Dead Rhetoric: From the Dead comes three years after the last album. Was it a conscious decision to take your time when it comes to the songwriting and recording this go around – where do you see the major differences between the two?
Äxxl: Yes, of course. We wanted to give ourselves more time on this one, because as I told you before we did a lot of work in 2014 and time was very compressed. We didn’t want to rush it too much, take the time we needed. We went back to record and engineer everything by ourselves, and that takes more time. Those are the reasons why it took a little longer. The concept of the songwriting, and how we do things, didn’t change. We have input from all the band members still- musically I arrange the stuff at home afterwards. There’s a consistency between the two records mainly because of this. We just took a little longer to produce it this time.
Dead Rhetoric: “Waiting for a Sign” contains a significant keyboard hook – was there any fear about adding this element to the Stallion sound, especially considering what some people feel is ‘true’ or ‘traditional’ regarding heavy metal?
Äxxl: Yeah, I know what you mean. No, not so much because as long as Stallion exists there are still a group of people that question how true we are and our music. We are used to that problem, so it’s not difficult for us to play with it a little bit. Maybe it’s a little provocative, but we felt like it. I think it fits the song- if it’s a cheesy song, why not add a little bit more cheese on top? (laughs). We didn’t care so much about what people would think about it afterwards. The interesting thing is the feedback that we get- there are two kinds of people, the ones that hate it and the ones that love it. I guess that’s to be expected.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been fortunate to tour with many up and coming bands in a similar style as yourselves, from Skull Fist and Striker to Bullet as examples. How would you describe Stallion when it comes to your live performance and philosophy, and do you feel like you are consistently learning and growing from touring with these other acts that you can apply some ideas to your craft?
Äxxl: Absolutely. You learn so much just by hanging around with more experienced bands and more experienced musicians than yourselves. You get so much input- Bullet and Striker had so much input, I changed everything about my equipment and how I think about performing. But that’s a good thing, you learn and you grow over the years. Especially with Striker, those guys are so professional and you can learn so much from them.
I think when we play live we always give 110%. I love playing live, I want to see the crowd, I go to all the places on the stage and go full speed from the first minute to the end- as long and as far as it takes me. A high energy, heavy metal show.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance out what your fans expect from you in terms of your recordings and live shows versus appeasing your own personal desires?
Äxxl: I think the secret is to not worry too much about what people might expect. Just don’t think too much about it- for our fans they just like that we are doing what we love. That was always the concept we’ve had- we make the music how we wanted to listen to it, and hope that other people would love to hear it like that. That’s my philosophy about it, and I think that’s what other people like about us- at least I hope so.
Dead Rhetoric: What makes the European festival circuit so engaging and exciting from your point of view? What have been some of your favorite memories in this regard- either as a fan or while in Stallion?
Äxxl: The good thing about Europe is that there are so many festivals, and that they are a lot of people going to the festivals. There are also a lot of underground, niche-type festivals that are not too small- like Keep It True, people are coming from all over the world and it’s just three hours driving for us- that makes it easy for a German band for us to get there and promote our music. For me, Keep It True was the real highlight. Pauly and I have been visiting that festival for over ten years, so we always joked about someday playing on that stage. Suddenly we were standing there, the place was packed, and it’s really hard for me to remind myself that we really did it. The same goes for the Bang Your Head Festival last year, which is also one that we’ve been visiting for many, many years. That was the biggest stage we’ve played ever, it was amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the other countries that seem to be gravitating towards Stallion’s music outside of Germany?
Äxxl: Mexico, if I was honest. Germany, and the USA surprisingly. We have attention from that part of the world, which is great. Spain has gotten some attention, but it’s mainly Germany.
Dead Rhetoric: Pauly has a very high range – was that something that always impressed you from the start, his ability to hit those high falsettos?
Äxxl: Absolutely- that’s why we had him do this. When we recorded “Canadian Steele” which is the first song we ever recorded, I remember we were thinking about how he was going to sing, and which style. I knew he could do the falsetto thing- but it was never the plan to make it the main, fundamental (element) of his voice. We tried something and I said in the end ‘let’s do this entire song in your high voice’. And that’s how it turned out, and that’s how things have stayed.
Dead Rhetoric: Pauly has a day job as a social worker and works with kids who have previously been in trouble with the law. Are they aware of his metal endeavors, and how do you balance out the day job/band life workload?
Äxxl: The kids may not know, but I think his co-workers probably do. It’s a difficult question, how to handle the balance the workload with a job. For myself, I work a job 80% of the time- so I have Fridays for the band, we play a lot of shows on Fridays and I can’t take those days off for holidays, which works out great. That’s a compromise you have to make – the 80% is fine, and I balance things out with the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering your affinities with the latest Canadian metal brigade, are there plans in the pipeline for some North American touring – even if it’s only a few one-off festivals? Or is it a situation where finances and proper time off from day-jobs pushes things more in building the band on European soils?
Äxxl: We would absolutely love to go to the United States one day to play. As you said, it’s more about the organizing part that keeps us back – we have to have the right visas, flights, finances. We always have that in mind, if the right opportunity comes up we will do this, hopefully sooner rather than later. Nothing is certain at the moment. We have to build our following in Europe.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the importance of imagery and merchandising for Stallion? Do you think this is a constantly changing model from album to album, tour to tour, as you gaining more seasoning and experience?
Äxxl: Merchandise was important from the beginning, Pauly has always been a real collector and he’s into that, he loves cool merchandise stuff- he’s absolutely passionate about it. That was there from the beginning. I’d like to have a new concept for every album, for the shirts, and so forth.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the cover concept for From the Dead?
Äxxl: It was made by our old friend Ben Pehl who made our other album. This time he painted it on canvas, really hand-made – because that was the concept for the entire album, do it old school and make it real by hand. That went for the artwork, I’m really happy with how it turned out. For me cool artwork is absolutely necessary to connect the entire package.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve read in other interviews your thoughts about the metal scene and people who seem consumed with hate for certain metal styles, when you preach unification no matter what style of hard rock, black metal, thrash, or so forth you play. Where do you see the state of the scene today, is the categorization and breaking down of things hurting more than helping things in your opinion?
Äxxl: A difficult question. I would say no, because if you are talking with musicians they wouldn’t say such things. It’s more (the) people on social media, they enjoy writing negative comments about other bands they don’t like. I never understood why they would take their precious time to write negative stuff on social media. Does it hurt the scene? The scene is really strong, stronger than ever- and people like that just are more visible today.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your favorite records of all-time, and what’s you most vivid memory surrounding a show?
Äxxl: My favorite record of all-time, I have to think about it. It’s probably Master of Puppets– it’s connected to my memories, to this day I love the songs and the sound of it. There’s no other record that’s touched me that much or really continues to do so. From the Dead contains the guitar sound I’ve always tried to do a little like Master of Puppets, but it’s really, really hard to do. I don’t want to copy it, but it’s always an inspiration for me and always will be until my last breath. Favorite concert memory… hmm, good question! There is so much, because if you go to the Keep It True festival every year, there is some band that reunites after 30 years, and you stand there, everyone knows the songs. Now I know one- it was Medieval Steel playing at Keep It True, the entire concert hall was singing along with the chorus to their namesake and I will never forget that. The people were so loud, they were louder than the PA. There’s a video on YouTube of that, you’ll have to check it out.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Stallion over the rest of 2017 and early 2018? Will there be any special limited-edition vinyl or tape recordings to aid the promotion of the record? Any video plans?
Äxxl: Additional releases are not planned- we want to do a video but that might take a little bit longer. We want to get things organized. We will play more shows this autumn, including France in September, the Warriors Open Air festival- which will hopefully be a cool thing to do. We have two shows coming up with Space Chaser in Germany as well. We are working on more riffs and rehearsing for the next record, but the main process hasn’t started for songwriting. We won’t force things to come. I enjoyed recording this last album – probably for the next record though we will rent a studio and have somebody else do the tracking and engineering so I can focus more on the music side too.