Rage – Ready for ResurrectionTuesday, 28th September 2021
An institution of the German metal scene, Rage may not necessarily be as well known in North America as they are in other parts of the world. Do not discount their vast discography though – fueled with a mixture of speed, power, and thrash influences, they’ve been creating a multitude of fine records since the 1980’s. Expanding back into a quartet for the first time since 1999’s Ghosts album, Resurrection Day features two younger guitarists willing to wield axes of fire – developing catchy riffs, twin harmonies, and counterpoint aspects that fill out the sound of the band like never before.
We reached out to bassist/vocalist Peter ‘Peavy’ Wagner to give us more insight into this latest lineup, the lyrical content and musical viewpoints of the new record, thoughts on the German metal scene, favorite memories in the Rage career, plus what we can expect down the line in terms of a possible Rage book and touring situations once things open back up safely.
Dead Rhetoric: Resurrection Day is the latest Rage album – and first to feature newest guitarists Jean Bormann and Stefan Weber. How do you see this record sitting in the long running discography of the band, what were some of the key aspects you wanted to focus on with the songwriting, performances, and production this time around?
Peavy Wagner: We’ve been following a similar formula for Rage over the past couple of albums. We had the intention of bringing all the trademarks of Rage all together, combine them logically. I think we managed this pretty well on the new (album). This is the first album in almost twenty years with two guitar players, two new guys and we’ve developed well with them. They came in just when the pandemic started – fortunately we were forced to stay home and couldn’t go on tour, so we used our time to work on new songs. We finished recording this album, and we are still waiting until we can get on tour again. We don’t know what’s going to happen the rest of this year, the pandemic situation is still a bit weird over here. I don’t know how it is in the states, but people over here are still a bit insecure about concerts right now.
Dead Rhetoric: In the states right now, there are tours starting to happen. Some people still go to the shows with masks, and there are some venues that require proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test.
Wagner: So, it’s pretty similar than here, I guess. A lot of shows and tours have gotten cancelled. The new restrictions come and there are new rules every week, for the local promoters it’s very hard to fulfill all the requirements. So, a lot of stuff is just delayed into the future.
Dead Rhetoric: You had originally planned to have a tour with Grave Digger and Orden Ogan across mainland Europe that got cancelled. Is there hopes of rescheduling that down the line?
Wagner: So far, I know that both Orden Ogan and also Grave Digger have scheduled new tours alone, with other support bands. We also have a tour set up for ourselves in November and December, for Europe. None of the bands are really sure if we can play this yet. Let’s knock on wood and wait and see.
Dead Rhetoric: Why was now the right time to expand Rage into a quartet, two guitar attack? What qualities do you see in Jean and Stefan as players and people that works well for the sound of the band?
Wagner: Why we decided right now, this is hard to answer this question. We could have done this a while before. For more than fifteen years I was playing with this Russian guitar player Victor Smolski. He always refused to have a second guitar player in the band, so I forgot about this topic. After he was out in 2014, for 2015 I just didn’t think about coming back to a four-piece lineup. And three years ago in 2019, we started thinking about bringing a second guitar player to the band. We had Stefan Weber already in mind, as Marcos (Rodriguez) had a side band that was a Dio tribute, Dio Legacy. Stefan was a guitar player there, so we brought him into the band. We always had an issue to properly reproduce the arrangements of the songs. One day we just did it, there was no problem with Marcos having a problem with a second guitar player. Marcos unfortunately had to leave the band due to serious, private problems that made it impossible for him to continue working as a musician. We had to replace him, brought Stefan in and brought Jean for the two-guitar lineup.
You can have a better situation live, introduce more complex arrangements and the sound is very full. Also, it gives you more freedom with twin guitars and harmonies. Both guys are pretty good players. I’ve known them for a couple of years. They live in my area, the mid-west area of Germany. Describe them as guitar players – Stefan is more a Stratocaster guy who plays all these Yngwie Malmsteen, fast solos. He also brings in some thrashy influences, a big Metallica and Slayer fan from the early days. Jean is compared to him, more of a Zakk Wylde guy. He has these squeaky, heavy metal riffs. The combination is pretty good. They like each other and work very well together. It’s important when you have two guitarists in the band not to have any ego shit, like I am the better guy. You don’t need that in the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss reaching out to Pepe Herrero for atmospheric orchestral arrangements on four of the tracks for Resurrection Day? How does the process work with him to achieve the ideal final results on these songs?
Wagner: It’s really easy. Pepe has been a friend of the band for a couple of years already. He works for us as a conductor when we play orchestral shows for Lingua Mortis Orchestra. He grew up with this music. He wouldn’t be who he was without hearing our album XIII, which is fully orchestrated and one of the first metal albums together with an orchestra. When I asked him if he wanted to contribute to the new album, he was very pleased. I gave him full freedom; I gave him the demos and he orchestrates as he thinks they should sound. In Spain he works with all the big artists there, he works for television and radio production. He’s one of the guys when it comes to classical music and orchestration. There is nothing I should tell him about doing his job.
Dead Rhetoric: Lyrically you wanted to tackle the history of mankind from a philosophical and psychological point of view. What are some of the topics that have been front and center in your mind that you wanted to get across – and have you always felt that the style of metal Rage delivers is perfect for working things out in a cathartic environment to express those thoughts/emotions in a proper way?
Wagner: Yes, why shouldn’t the music be good for expressing these kinds of topics? You can express whatever you want to do in whatever kind of music, I guess. A topic like this wouldn’t work as well on happy disco music. But that’s not the point with our music. It’s dark enough that we can transport the more serious topics. I’m a big fan of anthropology, I have a big collection of Stone Age artifacts, bones, which inspire me to write about this. I got the idea from the Old Testament in the Bible, the picture of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of Paradise Lost. This picture is described ten thousand years ago, when people changed their behavior from being nomads hunting and collecting to living with nature. They began to breed cattle and farm. This is the origin of all the bad developments that happened in our world, from the climate crisis, wars, overpopulation – go back to this turning point in man’s history. I thought that this would be an interesting story to talk about.
Dead Rhetoric: You made a guest appearance on the latest Brainstorm album Wall of Skulls for the track “Escape the Silence”. How did it feel to be asked to contribute to another long running, veteran German metal act, and what did you think of the final song with your performance?
Wagner: I like the song. I have known Andy and Seeb from Orden Ogan was producing the album, both are good friends of mine. Why should I say no? I like to do this, this was a special spot and it didn’t take me too long to sing on this. It was nice, a lot of the German bands are very strong on the scene and enjoy helping each other out. If I would ask Andy I know that he would be happy to sing on a Rage album.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about the Stan Decker cover art this time around – it definitely has a very vibrant picture?
Wagner: Yeah. I like his style – we all like his style. We had him engaged for the last album and we thought it would be nice to continue with this kind of stuff. We had a rough idea of the guy coming out of the volcano with all the lost souls at his side. We gave him the free hand to come up with his own ideas about it.
I believe cover art is more or less important. It was very important in the older days, how you recognize a record. Maybe not back in the 60’s when you had a lot of band pictures for the cover art, but at least when the big time of the albums started at the end of the 60’s into the 70’s, it became really important and I think it still is, even if the time of the album is slowly fading out due to the internet and more modern way of consuming music just by streaming. For an old band like Rage, I think it’s still important to have cool album covers, at least I like it.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m curious to know your thoughts on the German metal scene over the decades – do you believe it’s still the mecca for the genre across mainland Europe, especially given its rich history and thriving touring/festival scene?
Wagner: We have a couple of cool festivals here, that’s for sure. Wacken is maybe the most important here in Europe, but I don’t think Germany is the metal mecca for music now in Europe anymore. In Sweden and Scandinavia in general, they have more bands that are way more active nowadays. The German scene is still there, there are still new bands coming up in the scene, but they don’t play the typical German metal. They are more like metalcore bands coming up, they don’t sound typical. There is still an active scene, young kids starting with bands on a high-quality level, nothing can go wrong I would say.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the great memories you’ve had in your musical career with Rage – specific albums, tours, festival appearances where you knew you were making a major impact with your work that will stay forever embedded in your brain/body forever?
Wagner: (laughs). Now this is nearly forty years, so there are loads of memories. Recording albums, this was exciting in the 80’s and 90’s when you are working with analog, and everybody was in one room playing together. More of the band performance, nowadays you do everything on digital recordings alone, record on the computer and send the files to mix things. We try to avoid this as much as possible, at least we record our drums in a live situation, guitar and bass are playing together with the drummer to get more of a band feeling into the tracks. That is old fashioned, I guess.
We have really good live memories. The most exciting stuff for me is when you do things for the first time. The first time you play in front of a hundred thousand people. The first time you play with an orchestra on stage. The first time you play in some weird country you have never been before. After forty years touring around the world, I have probably seen most of the countries and gotten to know most of the fans. The future always looks bright, there is always new stuff to experience.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you changed your mind about the most over the past five years – either when it comes to your life or within the music business – and why?
Wagner: Hmm. Most things that I’ve noticed that have changed with me, I try to see things as a bit more cool, more relaxed with everything. Nothing is so important that you should break your balls about it, I would say.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the world coming out of this pandemic – do you believe there will be a newfound appreciation and rebirth for the creative arts, due to being held down over the past couple of years?
Wagner: At least I hope so. Music, the arts, all the cultural sides of life have been going away. There is a need for the people to have this. It’s a big downer, especially when it comes to making money with this. I know people are still afraid to go to shows or whatever cultural events are going on. The more that time goes by, people will realize again that things are okay. We may have a couple of years of less income, things being smaller, but sooner or later it will come back again.
Dead Rhetoric: Do younger musicians seek out advice from you as a veteran, and if so, what do you talk to them about?
Wagner: (laughs). I don’t think I am so wise about the music business. I made a lot of wrong decisions over the years and had to pay for a lot of bad decisions. I wouldn’t call myself a pro for this. Before I tell the kids to do this, watch out for this. If someone asks me, I tell them about my own experiences. Things have been different over the years about what you need to do. We have two new guitar players in the band – Jean is 26 and Stefan is in his mid-30’s. We feature the young boys in this way – both guys also have their side bands which we help out a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Rage and any other musical endeavors over the next year or so?
Wagner: This touring, we are just waiting to go. We have substitute dates for next year, spring. We have prepared an EP release for the next year when things get back to touring. Besides the album, I am writing the Rage story that may become a book to be released for the 40th anniversary of the band, maybe in 2024. This is stuff we are doing right now. Right now, there are no plans for a second Refuge album. We meet each other from time to time, play a few songs, have a beer or two. Chat a little bit. It was never meant to be a touring act, just more a sentimental, friendly little thing.