Rage – Back to LifeSunday, 25th September 2022
A victim of multiple scheduled tours that had to be cancelled while the pandemic took away live performances during 2020, 2021, and parts of 2022, Rage has successfully been back on stage during a series of summer European festivals – bringing their veteran power/heavy metal style to as many people that could attend these dates. Preparing for a fall co-headlining tour with Brainstorm, the band has released a special six-song EP with Spreading the Plague. Half new songs, half special bonus cuts – it’s another solid outing for the quartet. We reached out to bassist/vocalist Peavey Wagner recently on Skype for this quick update on the new EP, bonus tracks, playing live again, book plans, thoughts on physical/digital media, chart positions, plus future plans including more Refuge shows.
Dead Rhetoric: Spreading the Plague is a special EP release for Rage consisting of three new songs and three bonus tracks. Can you discuss the thought process behind this EP – especially in terms of rewarding the long-time followers who have had to wait patiently for the world to get back to a level of normalcy through this unprecedented pandemic?
Peavey Wagner: It didn’t have technically anything to do with the pandemic. The thing was when we recorded the last album Resurrection Day, we had a couple of more songs written than would go on the album. At this point, SPV our record company suggested that we spare some songs for an EP that we would release this year, letting people know that we are still here, and it would be a good promotion for the upcoming tour this fall. We sorted this out, we decided on these three new songs, but it has nothing to do with the pandemic. It was just an idea to use some special material for an extra release.
The acoustic version of “A New Land”, also happened during the recordings. We were jamming on the guitars and that was the result just for fun – it was never planned to do something. And when the others heard it, they liked it very much, so we decided to use this for the EP. Then we have “The Price of War 2.0”, which was recorded when Jean and Stefan joined the band. We recorded this in a live situation to introduce the new guitar players to the fans. SPV had released this two years ago, but only as a digital release. We wanted to put this on a physical release. SPV asked if we had more material, and we got the idea to use one of the live tracks from the Wacken worldwide steaming show we did in 2020. And that’s where “Straight to Hell” comes from. We recorded it in our own cave, without a live audience.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked on these new songs during the Resurrection Day sessions – how do you work out the final decisions as to what would appear on the album and what was going to be held back for a future release? Is this a group consensus issue or do you seek out other opinions from the label or management?
Wagner: I sorted this out already when the label mentioned what they wanted. Two of the songs have no context to the other songs lyric-wise that appeared on the album. We covered different topics. And the title song “Spreading the Plague”, is a summary of the whole album thing. We knew we could take that one out because all of the message was there in the other songs. That is why it was my decision to sort them out before we actually went into the album recording.
Dead Rhetoric: The first video is “To Live and To Die”, produced by BOB-MEDIA and directed by Jörg Tochtenhagan and Jörg Scheuer. Even in a band performance setting, how do you feel the shoot went and what are the keys in your eyes that make for a strong, impactful looking video?
Wagner: We recorded the video right away at the same time we recorded the other two videos for Resurrection Day to keep the costs a bit lower. I like the result. Of course, if we would have a million dollars for a budget, we would be able to do some sort of fantasy or movie-style thing. In this case, I think a performance video, it’s okay.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you enjoy the special camera angles – a lot of back-and-forth action as well as reverse and upside-down things going on?
Wagner: Yeah, it fits a bit to the tempo of the song. There is some fantastic camera action that the director of the video did there.
Dead Rhetoric: After numerous cancellations, Rage will finally be going on a co-headlining tour across Europe this fall with Brainstorm. How will it feel for the band (and the audiences) to finally be able to embrace this solid power package live again, do you believe there will be more of an appreciation for live entertainment considering the shutdown of shows over the past couple of years?
Wagner: Yeah, the fans are really hot for these live shows. We’ve already played a few festivals this summer, we’ve done 15 shows or so. We see the audiences are really going for it, they really want to have concerts. We will see how things work out in this autumn. In October/November, that’s when the virus season starts back up again, when it’s getting colder. I hope that the venues and the politicians have mercy when it comes to entertainment, with the bands and the concerts, so they don’t do another lockdown. We are looking pretty optimistic for this. I know that the audiences want this.
Dead Rhetoric: How was the response during the festival shows you played this summer?
Wagner: Fantastic. We had great reactions; the festivals were really well-attended from the fans. This is making us very optimistic for this next run.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to designing a Rage set list, even in a co-headlining situation, how difficult of a process is this considering the number of albums you have at your disposal?
Wagner: (laughs). A good question. With nearly thirty albums, over hundreds of songs in the pipeline -we decided to do like four to five different set lists so we can include more songs, and not play the same songs every night.
Dead Rhetoric: Last time we talked, you mentioned working on the Rage story that may be ready for release as a book in 2024. Have you been able to get more work done on this project during this extended downtime – and if so, what type of direction do you see the book taking?
Wagner: I wrote nearly most of what I originally intended to do, there’s only one chapter left that I still didn’t do. Most of the material is there, and we are getting into the production phase. We are trying to make a cohesive book out of this. It’s looking pretty good that everything is going to be ready during the next album cycle, which we plan to have come out also in 2024 for the 40th anniversary of Rage. We will be able to release both of them together. We will try to bring this out in German and in English, both versions.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been back with Steamhammer for the second time in your career since 2020 – how do you feel about their staff and reputation in the scene in comparison to your time with Noise, GUN, and Nuclear Blast over the years?
Wagner: The relationship with Steamhammer and SPV, especially with Olly Hahn, the label guy there, is very personal and we are good friends. Like it was with Nuclear Blast with Andy Siry, but then he left the label, so we had time to go to someone else. We think it’s very important to have a very close, personal relationship to the people you work with. Otherwise, you are just a number among loads of others, you know?
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel now that the lineup has been a four-piece for a few years that things are stronger chemistry-wise within the band as well as the options now when it comes to the songwriting?
Wagner: Yes, very much. The lineup is very strong. We work really well together, all four of us live in the same area here. Within twenty minutes or so, so we can meet together very regularly. It’s very fruitful when we write together. It’s a lot of fun. This is a very convenient situation to do a band like this.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you enjoy the fact that with every release the labels now put out multiple versions, and special perks for limited edition releases beyond the normal physical and digital media?
Wagner: This is a sign of the times. Physical products are getting harder and harder to sell, that’s why the record companies bring out all these different versions. To get the most possible numbers that are still possible. The times have changed drastically, since everything has been converted to digital.
Dead Rhetoric: Is that why the chart positions matter more – especially when it comes to the business side of things? Does it affect the bands as well?
Wagner: The chart position is basically a promotional tool. It doesn’t really say anything about the real numbers in the end. It’s always the position in the charts, a shot in the foot for the moment. A comparison between the releases that came out in that week. If there was nothing really big coming out at the same time, you’ll get a bigger position. When you release it the same week as a superstar act, you won’t chart as high. This doesn’t really say that much about the real sales figures.
The Spotify streaming numbers are getting more and more important. The whole business is changing, every year it changes more to the digital (side).
Dead Rhetoric: Has your outlook and approach to the bass changed from your foundation of your style in the 80’s to today? Outside of Lemmy as a main influence, who else do you admire or appreciate when it comes to bass?
Wagner: I used to be a really big fan of Geddy Lee; I still like what he is doing. A lot of good players, Billy Sheehan, he’s an artist, a sports guy on the bass. In the end, I found my own style. I play an ESP bass, that’s my favorite. It’s good enough for me. I need it for my music. I don’t want to copy anybody else.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like you have a good relationship with many of the German power metal bands like Grave Digger, Helloween, Running Wild, and Blind Guardian?
Wagner: Definitely. They are all my good friends; I know all of them. There is no animosity or competition with any of them as far as we are concerned. At least not from my side.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like there have been shifts in the scene as far as power metal in Germany – are there younger bands that fans are gravitating to that help push the older bands more?
Wagner: There are a lot of good, young bands coming up. I like this development; it brings younger fans to the scene, and it allows them to explore the older bands. It’s all fruitful for everybody.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn about Peavey the person when you have downtime away from music? Do you feel like your personality and energy shifts when in work mode or live performance mode compared to how you would interact with people off stage?
Wagner: I’m pretty much the same. I’m not too different on stage versus off stage. It’s not really a big difference.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for the next year or so – will Rage be making up for lost time with more touring globally, festival action, or has work begun as well behind the scenes on the next proper album follow-up?
Wagner: We will try to play wherever and whenever possible. The situations are just starting again, we are going to try to get ourselves into countries outside of Europe, which is impossible due to border restrictions. You can’t get into Japan right now for an example as a foreigner. We will try to get to these territories again. We plan to play a couple of shows with the Refuge lineup – as the albums Trapped and The Missing Link have their 30th anniversary coming up. We are going to play a couple of special shows with this material.
We have already written more than twenty songs for the next album, at the moment we are in the pre-production phase, just starting to record some of the material, working on the arrangements. We are pretty far along with this.