Stallion – All in for MetalSaturday, 4th April 2020
Certain bands embrace the traditional metal mold – creating material that speaks to the heart of the genre. German act Stallion are one of those bands – intertwining songs that can be speedy one minute, but then very mid-tempo and anthem-oriented on the other. They deliver albums that make people throw their fists in the air, proudly display the band’s artwork and back patches on their favorite denim and leather jackets, going out to the shows to hear this band at peak volumes. Their third and latest album Slaves of Time is probably the most mature effort to date for the group – including everything from a moving ballad to solid headbanging efforts that assuredly will keep the faithful satisfied, and hopefully gain some new converts to the mix.
Guitarist Äxxl took the time to talk to us through Skype regarding their latest album release. We delve into the second guitarist shift, thoughts on their record label High Roller Records, plus insights on developing your own style as a younger band and what the Coronavirus means to their impending tour/festival plans.
Dead Rhetoric: In between the last and latest album for Stallion, you lost guitarist Olli Gee and have added Clode Savage (aka Claudio). Where do you see the difference in terms of band chemistry and guitar styles between the two players?
Äxxl: Wow, that’s a nice question. Olli is more of a death metal guy, and with his main band Fleshcrawl, they play death metal and it’s another style he is playing. It’s the main reason why we went our separate ways, Fleshcrawl has a new album out and they are going to tour so it was very clear that we needed somebody else. Claudio was a friend of ours already for some years, and he’s totally a different player. He (has) more of a fluent, soloing lead style – and he’s a nice addition to the overall sound, I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Slaves of Time is the third Stallion album – and appears to be the most solid and mature set of songs to date. How would you assess this set of material against the first two albums- and were there any specific goals in mind when it came to the songwriting, production, and performances?
Äxxl: Thanks man, much appreciated! I am also very happy with the album in general. The main difference was this album felt more natural, organic, more fluent and somewhat easier to make than the other records. Maybe this reflects with what people say about the better quality of the songs. When it comes to the goals – our goal is to make a better album than we have done before, and I think we have done that.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in our last talk that you wanted to have an outside producer possibly work on this record so you could focus more on the songwriting and performances- is that why you went for an outside ear?
Äxxl: Yes, absolutely. The producing part was still mainly with me – the mixing where we put the tracks together we gave to Marco Brinkmann, who produced the last Vulture record. It was a huge relief for me and gave me more room to be a musician, rather than a technician who makes the record happen. It definitely helped in the creative process, for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: Has it always been important for Stallion to balance out the speed/heavy tracks with occasional bluesy-based hard rock anthems like “Time to Reload” as well as the longer, Scorpions-esque ballad “Die with Me”?
Äxxl: Yes I think so. I like to have a balanced record. It just so happens that we write the right amount of songs in each style, that you just have to put them in the right order and you’ll have that basic balance. It was the same this time around. I don’t know if I instinctively know if I have to write some more groovy songs, I think it just happens every time we do a Stallion record. This happens naturally.
Dead Rhetoric: What was the thought process behind the cover art with the hourglass, scales, and mythical creatures that adorn the front?
Äxxl: It’s more dark times to us, at least darker than it used to be. The hourglass is a metaphor for what’s going on with the planet – we feel that it’s melting away in our hands. That’s represented as well as the weighing of the heart, shows that decisions that we are making now may very well affect the future. This is a crossroads. It was the overall feeling we had about the album. It’s not a concept album, but suddenly it feels a little bit like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the darkness within the video for “All In” – how did the concept come about and was everyone safe with all the flames, burning guitars, and flamethrower action?
Äxxl: (laughs). I don’t know if it was safe. The concept shifted several times. We went with a little bit of a “Breaking the Law” kind of vibe. The guy we shot the video with, it was his style to shoot it in a dark, moodier style. We didn’t think too much about the concept behind it.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that the band has been together for three albums, how would you assess your status and the brand of Stallion – do you believe you’d established a solid following and will continue to move up the ranks hopefully through more touring/ festival appearances?
Äxxl: I think we’ve established ourselves, but we are still an underground band due to mainly the niche that we are in – as traditional heavy metal, there are many people who like it but it’s not in the mainstream, right? In this context where we are an established band, we hope to improve even further with some more touring, maybe (become) a staple for the bigger festivals, go overseas sometime. We are happy in the pocket that we are in now and we just try to establish ourselves even more there.
Dead Rhetoric: What makes High Roller Records the ideal label partner for Stallion?
Äxxl: They are super nice guys to work with. They give us free hands, they never tell us what to do. They know we are the artists and tell us to do what we like – surely this is a luxury against a major label who want to move you in some direction because they can make money. It means a lot to us to be free.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the metal scene, what are some common mistakes you see younger musicians make that you wish they would avoid?
Äxxl: Maybe copying too much of a specific style, just trying to be somebody else. For example, we are not trying to sound like somebody else, we are trying to sound like Stallion. That’s what we get a lot of feedback about, not so many bands sound like you. I think it would be better if the younger bands had more self-esteem to do their own thing.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the most memorable fan encounters you’ve had with Stallion followers over the years? And have you personally ever been star-struck meeting some of your heroes in the music industry?
Äxxl: Wow, that’s a good question. I have to think about it for a moment. A guy came to me and said he met his girlfriend at a Stallion show and they are together now for three years. That’s really emotional, and crazy because I’m doing what I love, and people meet and stay together, I think that’s great.
We met Udo Dirkschneider at the Bang Your Head festival, and being big Accept fans that was a really big person to meet. That’s the most memorable for me right now.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the events relating to the Coronavirus, will this affect your touring plans?
Äxxl: Personally worried, not so much – but it does affect us a lot. Things are getting cancelled right now. Our release tour which was going to go through April, most of the concerts won’t be starting. It affects us a lot- this is what worries me more than the mental and physical health. It’s dangerous for the high risk groups, so it’s probably best to be safe than sorry. Maybe music is not as important at this time.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe the band chemistry has been important for the success of Stallion?
Äxxl: Absolutely. I would also say, you should be friends in a band. I think Eddie Van Halen said that once, we are just four people, friends making music together. And I would like to keep it that way. I would never hire someone from far away, go with them on tour and make time with them and hate that.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Stallion in terms of shows, festivals, and promotion of the new album?
Äxxl: Right now there is a lot of uncertainty. We had some festivals planned, Headbangers Open Air for example, Metalheadz Open Air – but I can’t tell you if they are going to happen. There are touring options in foreign countries, but I can’t tell you much about that at the moment. If the record is done, I immediately start writing new material and I already have four or five songs ready. (I am) always writing.