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THE METAL OBSERVER - Interview - RA'S DAWN - Online May 2004

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Ra's Dawn - METAL LIVES FOREVER! (John Schmitz) - Online May 2004

Hello John,

first of all congratulations for your new CD “Unveiling The Grotesque“. I was able to get a first impression of your new material on Saturday (June 5th ’04 Release Party in Koblenz) and I have to say that I liked it very much.

After the first two tracks you played I already had the impression that you have become way sharper respectively that you have put the melodies into the background a bit. Where do you yourself see the differences between “Unveiling…” and your debut “Solar Force” and what do you think are the strong points of the new record?

First of all thanks for the compliment. In most cases the sound comes along more heavy and raw live. I don’t think we put the melodies into the background on the new CD because a good melody always has priority when composing. But what is definitely appropriate is the fact that the songs of the new record are better at making their point and have more power because of the production. On “Solar Force” we decided to record songs that contain the typical elements of RA’S DAWN and offer a certain range. We did not break our style thereby but we showed our sound that is rich in facets. On the one hand we had the heavy, slightly doomy “Forlorn Dream” but on the other hand the confounded, break-dotted “In Memory” and of course the venture to throw a 24-minutes monster track on it in the form of “The Dawn Of Ra”. The recording sessions for this one were quite adventurous by the way…

On „Unveiling The Grotesque“ we intentionally paid attention to pursuing one musical thread. I think all tracks sound like of one cast. As for the composition even the two bonus tracks which we recorded and produced in Cologne within just one day fit into it perfectly. I’m really satisfied by the result. You must not forget that we had to finance everything ourselves and thus couldn’t feast.


Lyrically something has been done, too. “Solar Force” was about Egyptian mythology, what are the new lyrics about? Is there a concept behind them or could every song stand alone for itself?

The Egyptian mythology will always be a part of RA’S DAWN even though we intentionally renounced an “oriental touch“ this time. We wanted to pursue a new lyrical concept and took on the short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Of course this is not really a new idea but I don’t care about things like that. It’s most important that I find inspiration. And as Poe’s stories have always had a special effect on me, it was a downright obvious choice. Basically however it’s not a concept for the whole CD. All songs can stand alone. However a common thread runs through the record as we tell about people and experiences in life. This area can be found in all six tracks. By the way I was inspired to do the instrumental “Passage to the moon” when I sat on the terrace with our vocalist Olaf at night, drinking a case of beer and talking about the infinity of the universe.


You produced by yourselves together with Fabian Zimmermann again. I think the sound in general has more power and is tuned better than on your debut. Are you yourselves satisfied by the result?

At any rate! As for the production “Unveiling...“ is a step forward. All instruments can be recognized nicely differentiated and especially the drums have more kick. Furthermore “Solar Force” sounded slightly hollow which is not the case with the new CD anymore. Of course you always find aspects (concerning the sound as well as playing) which you could have done better but we are satisfied because we were able to improve ourselves.


For how long did you work on “Unveiling...“ altogether?

The recording process took about five months. That’s damn long but during this time we were in the studio only for a short time at times. Altogether we recorded for eleven days of the five months. As we all have a job and as our producer is temporally harnessed as well everything was horribly stretched. That took nerves! At least we were able to create and complete a cover concept in calmness with Kathrin Schneiders in the meantime. I like the art work of “Unveiling…” really well.


Your line-up changed, too. Thomas Stach, your guitarist and keyboarder, is not with you anymore, how come your ways parted?

Thomas was and is a very good friend of ours. The problem was that because of his job he wasn’t able to do the necessary things for RA’S DAWN anymore although he would have liked to do them. He thought about it for a long time and decided to leave the band to not hinder it. This was very hard for him and I really respect his decision.


The two new guys are called Marek Schoppa (guitars) and Phillipp Nörtersheuser (keyboards). Have you already known them for a longer time or how came it was them who joined RA’S DAWN?

At first we contacted Marek who has always been with us at our gigs, shaking his hair in front of the stage. Although we didn’t know him personally we knew that he liked the music. Furthermore we knew that he played guitar. We invited him to a rehearsal and played a track with him. It worked instantly and thus he joined us. Marek took on guitars and keyboard, just like Thomas had done it. At some time or other Marek brought Phillipp to the rehearsal room who actually just wanted to listen to us. It seems like he liked it as shortly after that he called us and asked if he could join us as keyboard player although he’s actually a Black Metal guy ;-)


By the way, did you already play in other combos and record albums before you founded the band?

Of course. All already have band experiences. Especially Martin and I have already been doing mischief referring to this for a long time, although never together. Personally I’ve already played with BLIND GUARDIAN as support. But back then we were really horrible. To this day I can’t understand why the people went really crazy instead of booing us off the stage. But none of our previous bands was really remarkable. Something comes to my mind: the band I was playing in before RA’S DAWN was called GIANT’S CAUSEWAY. We played a similar sound and also participated in the finals of the “Rockbuster-Nachwuchs-Festival”. Our drummer at that time is a member of FRAMELESS today, the Pop band which wrote the song “Black And White” for the European Championship 2004. Things happen…


This Saturday you mentioned that you haven’t sent any promos to labels yet but that you want to do so now. Do you see the chance that the band could become more than just a “hobby” and by what do you earn your money at the moment?

It always depends on the circumstances. As everybody knows the economic situation nowadays in the area of audio tapes is quite retrograde. The labels don’t want to spend respectively invest money anymore. This affects the deals of the bands. So what can we reach with a deal? You have to weigh precisely what advantage and/or disadvantage a deal would offer. Purely musically we already work professionally. Referring to this it would be great, of course, to work professionally in organizational and economical scope, too. We’ll let us be surprised because we don’t want to do anything by hook or by crook.


What about live appearances at the moment? Do you already have fixed dates when one can see you soon here in Germany?

You can always look up our gigs on our homepage. But the booking of shows definitely belongs to the above-mentioned organizational things that have to become more professional. A label would self-evidently be helpful here. I can also imagine a good booking agency. We will work more on this area.


In June you are coming to the Bang Your Head Festival as visitors. Would it be a dream of yours to perform at such a big festival one day or do you prefer the smaller setting?

That would be a life dream of all of us. Being allowed to present our music to several thousands of metal heads would be fantastic. I can only tell you whether I prefer to play in a small or a big scope when I have experienced both ;-)


What about the private musical tastes within the band? Do you all listen to Metal exclusively or do other musical styles interest you as well?

In general we all listen to a lot of Metal. Marek is very flexible there. He listens to everything from MAIDEN to CRADLE OF FILTH. Philipp is actually a typical Black Metal fan. Martin has his roots in 70’s Prog Rock. Marco is quite into Prog Metal a la SYMPHONY X or DREAM THEATER. Olaf and I are the typical traditional Metal fans. I already listen to Metal since 1980 and I’m stuck in the 80’s. But besides classic Metal I also love Blues and good Rock’n’Roll groups like THE BLACK CROWES.


Everybody has an idol or a musician somewhere that has influenced you. Which musicians or bands had the biggest influence on you guys and especially on you as songwriter and guitarist?

As guitarist Joe Satriani is definitely my biggest influence. I love his melodies and his fluid way of playing. Besides Satriani I especially appreciate our Yngwie. As for composing I’m influenced by everything that inspires me. Especially FATES WARNING and SYMPHONY X but also MAIDEN and PRIEST belong to it. Furthermore I appreciate bands that create immortal hymns by simple means. So TWISTED SISTER and AC/DC (only with Bon Scott however) belong to my absolute favourite bands.


During the last years you often heard the opinion that Metal is dead from very different circles. What is your opinion on that? Does Metal and especially the underground flourish again or are you concerned that the slogan “Metal Forever” won’t come true?

Never!!! Metal will live forever. Metal is one of the biggest energies I can imagine. Who is once addicted to this sound can hardly break free from it. METAL LIVES FOREVER!


If you had the chance, with whom would who prefer to have a nice conversation: with Bruce Dickinson, Gina Wild (ex porn star) or the pope? And what would you absolutely want to know from this person?

Gina Wild drops out as otherwise my wife would make trouble. I have great respect for Johannes Paul II because he’s a really fascinating man. However I would prefer to talk to Bruce Dickinson, although I would prefer Dee Snider. From him I would simply want to listen to stories from his treasure of experiences. This would probably be better than a cool movie…


Your instrument is the six string. Are there any instruments you absolutely don’t like and that should be banned?

On principle I appreciate all instruments. It always depends on what you make of them. As for guitars I would never play seven string guitars. I once had one and the frequencies completely disturb the sound of the band. Nothing for me.


Above I asked about your private musical preferences. Which musical style can you absolutely not enjoy?

Hip Hop and all Metal bands that have elements like that in their sound. Furthermore Techno makes me puke horribly. Jazz also demands a lot of nerves from me.


Please tell me your five favourite records?

It’s impossible to define this exactly. It also depends on the respective situation. I own about 2000 CDs and I recently tried to list my ten best CDs. I simply couldn’t do it. Finally there were 16 CDs that formed my Top Ten ;-) To give you an answer I now mention the following treasures: JUDAS PRIEST: „Defenders Of The Faith“, DIO: „The Last In Line“, TWISTED SISTER: „Stay Hungry“, Y&T: „In Rock We Trust“ und MÖTLEY CRÜE: „Shout At The Devil“.


The Metal Observer is an internet magazine and I know that you also work for a webzine yourself ( Do you get your knowledge about the scene mainly from the internet or do you also look into normal paper magazines?

I read “Rock Hard” regularly. Furthermore I often buy “Heavy oder was?” As I’m completely involved in the scene I just hear about a lot of things.


Let’s get back to RA’S DAWN. Do you have a favourite song by your band that you like to listen to and especially to play?

I like playing “Terrified“ from the new album best. That thing has energy and classic Metal riffing. It’s difficult to name my favourite song but “The Dawn Of Ra” means very very much to me. When we completed the song the first thing I did was smoking a fat cigar.


At your release party you performed some cover versions and I was surprised about how close you always were to the original. Is it easy for you to learn such famous songs or do you spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room for that?

That’s quite easy for us. When you know how to handle your instrument to some extent you can play the covers quite easily. It’s much more important to be able to create the mood of the song. We have already rehearsed many other covers but then rejected them because it simply didn’t fit. Olaf is challenged most with the covers as he has to do justice to the different vocalists. That’s difficult but in my opinion he does it very well.


As a band you experience a lot together and at best you go through thick and thin. What’s the nicest experience you had together as a band and what was the most negative one?

I can’t name a single positive or negative experience. Of course it’s bad when you have a bad day and play a bad show. The departure of Thomas was sad as well although we then found a great replacement, musically and human, with Marek and Philipp. What’s always positive are great gigs or also the trip to Balingen together. That’s fantastic. The completion of a well done song is great, too.


As closing you now have the possibility to make RA’S DAWN savoury to our worldwide circle of readers! Why should the bangers of our planet absolutely check out your music?

You should absolutely check us out live because we always make a huge party and the first rows get beer poured into their throats by our vocalist. Furthermore our songs are honest and played with passion. Those who like classic Metal with a progressive touch will find their costs repaid by us. Metal on, dudes!!!


2003: Solar Force (CD, Self-production)

2004: Unveiling The Grotesque (CD, Self-production)

Patrick Weiler

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