About Me

Interview with Firewind

Twenty-five years in the music industry is a remarkable thing nowadays. But Firewind did it, with their self-titled album “Firewind”. Words to describe it: amazing, fresh and many more. Gus G. talked with Metal Imperium about it, the new singer, Herbie Langhans, inspirations, Tobias Lindell and more. 

M.I. -  Hi there. What an honour to do this interview with you! How are you feeling?

I’m feeling tired. I’ve done fifteen interviews today. So, you’re the last one, tonight. Besides that, I’m really good.

M.I. -  Oh, really??? Let’s start, so you can rest.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

M.I. -  “Firewind” will be released on the 15th May, this year. How would you describe it and why?

It’s a very special time for us, right now. This album is a self-titled record. It’s basically a statement, because it’s like a rebirth of the band and a new beginning. A new start of the band. We have a big lineup change, a new singer and also our keyboard player quit. So, we are continuing as a four-piece band. It’s a pretty big change for us and a very important period. I think we came up with a very solid album. I’m really happy with the results. There’s a lot of elements from our past albums combined in this record. It’s a variation of keyboards in this album. You hear a lot of tradition stuff from Heavy Metal to Hard Rock and Power Metal. So, there’s a lot of stuff there for the listener. 

M.I. -  Many bands decide to release a self-titled album as their first release but you decided to do it after a twenty-two year old career and eight albums. What took you so long and why now?

Now it seemed the best time to do that. Because, as I just said, we have a big lineup change. So, for me, when the keyboard player Bob quit and we decided to change singer, it was a very important time for me. I have to say, it was a very stressful period, but it made me think a lot of my future. If I was going to continue with the band or not. At some point, I decided that I should continue. I wanted to start fresh again. Sure I could’ve changed the band name but the album already sounds like Firewind as I’ve been the primary guy and song writer of the band. It makes sense to have a self-titled record, if I was given a chance to start again today. This is how I would do it. 

M.I. -  We can clear hear a more Power/Heavy Metal sound in this album, especially a different type of guitars. How did you choose the best guitar or other instruments?

To be honest with you, for me, it was just business as usual, you know. I played with my own guitars like I always do. I have my signature models, from Jackson guitars, that I play. It was the same procedure I always do. I’m not sure if it’s different than any other records I’ve made. It is different, but the tone is like it has always been.

M.I. - Gustavo Sazes is a brilliant and amazing designer and has worked with many different bands, such as Amaranthe and Dynazty and record labels (AFM Records, Nuclear Blast), just to name a few names. He’s the responsible for your cover and logo. Who contacted him? You or the record label?

I’m going to tell you a little story about this album. Gustavo’s first international job ever, outside of Brazil, was Firewind, in 2007. He contacted me, back then, on MySpace (laughs). He told me: “Hey, man, I’m from Brazil. I would love you to give me a chance to design a website for you. Please, give me a chance.”. So, I said: “Yeah. Sure, man. You can design a website!”. We became friends. He developed a great website. A lot of people were asking back then: “Wow! Great graphics! Who did it, who did it?”. The first cover he did for us was “The Premonition” album in 2008. Since then, a lot of bands were impressed by him. He got a lot of jobs for a lot of premiere bands since then. He’s been our main guy for thirteen years. 

M.I. -  Herbie Langhans, who has previously worked with Avantasia and Sinbreed, was the clear choice for vocalist. You’ve said that: “Herbie is a hell of a singer and his powerful style breathes new life on our new material but also on our back catalogue.” Do tell us what criterion you were looking for vocal rage speaking, please.

First of all, I have this thing where, when I listen to a singer, I instinctively know if he’s going to fit for what I do, musically or not. With Herbie, I heard it right away. It was like an instinct. I knew this guy should be the Firewind singer! I’ve listened to many singers in my life and I know what my back catalogue sounds like and it’s not easy to sing our songs. We’ve had different singers. Herbie reminded me a little bit of our first singer, Stephen Fredrick, from the first two albums. He had a much wider range as well. He could do all kind of different stuff with his voice. The first thing we did, was to ask him to sing an older song of ours. The second thing was to send him something new to try out and see if he could write some new ideas with me. The first song we wrote together was “Devour”, which is the second track of the album. When he sent me those vocal lines, it was pretty obvious that this should be the guy. This is the guy for the band.

M.I. -  It’s very clear that with this new album and vocalist, we can hear a more dynamic and remarkable sound. What are your thoughts about this statement?

Yeah, thank you (laughs). I think it’s a fresh sounding album for Firewind. I think there’s elements from the past albums like I said. But there’s something fresh about this. Partly because of the variation on the record and musical varieties. Also, partly because of Herbie’s vocals, because I think he grasps the old era with the new era perfectly, with his performance. It’s also partly because of the mix. Tobias Lindell did the mix for this album. He gave the band a very modern punchy sound, with a very loud mix. I think it sounds great, it fits perfectly.

M.I. -  These songs are fresh but tough and melodious at the same time. What influences can we hear on this album?

My influences have always been Classic Heavy Metal, 80’s Heavy Metal, from Black Sabbath, the 70’s up until Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and all that stuff. I hear a lot of that. Accept, Scorpions, like all that stuff is part of my Heavy Metal education. Other than that, there’s also an influence from our past from Firewind records. Your past is inevitable and influences you. You cannot escape that. You hear a lot of the elements from the past records as well here. 

M.I. -  Between “Immortals” and “Firewind” there was a hiatus of three years. Why?

I think it’s normal. We were on tour for two years (laughs). By the time you release an album and you go on tour for almost two years, twenty, eighteen months or something, you need a few months to write and record a new album. It’s normal to release an album every three years, if you tour a lot, which we did. If you don’t tour so much, then you can make it sooner. We were touring all the way up until last December. 

M.I. -  Swedish sound engineer Tobias Lindell (Europe, Avatar, H.E.A.T.) mixed the album, in Lindell Audio Studios. How was it working with him? Do tell us how you’ve prepared for this album?

It was an interesting situation, because the album was supposed to be mixed by Dennis Ward, who mixed Immortal’s album and also my solo record. But Dennis was busy with another production and he couldn’t deliver the album in time. So, there was a bit of panic there and I reached out to a friend of mine, in Sweden. I asked actually a few friends of mine, in the business that I know, if they knew somebody, who could help in the mix. And this was happening at the last minute. My friend from Sweden said: “Hey! How about Tobias Lindell? He’s great!”. Of course, I knew him from the productions he did for Europe, H.E.A.T. and Avatar. I loved his mixes. They put me in touch with him and I said: “Hey, man. Can you start like today? Right now?” and he was like: “Yeah! I can do it now!”. He got the job right away. He did a great job. He provided a killer mix.

M.I. -  “Rising Fire” was released on the 20th March, this year. “This song is about overcoming difficulties and situations that one might be stuck in. We've all been there at some point in our lives.”. Can we say that this is associated to what’s happening in the world, due to Covid-19 and the problems it will bring, such as hunger, poverty?

To be honest with you, when I wrote the lyrics for that song, I did not write it with that in mind. I was not thinking about a pandemic (laughs). It was more about problems that we go through as people. Situations that we go through, because everyone goes through difficult times, whether it’s personal relationships or other. It’s a song that maybe has a broader meaning. Can you relate it to what’s happening now? Sure. You can, if the song speaks to you that way, then it’s fine with me. I want people to interpret it whatever they like. 

M.I. -  “Kill The Pain” has a magnificent sound and your guitar, Petro’s bass, Johan’s drums and Herbie’s voice are pure perfection to the ears and soul and help killing the pain or something worse. What is its meaning? What was the idea for the song?

I can tell you what the music is about, because I did it. Actually, it’s interesting you mention the song, because this is the song that contains the oldest idea that I’ve written and the newest, at the same time. So, what I mean by that, is this idea started when I discovered this old demo of mine, from 2005, from the “Allegiance” album sessions. I recently discovered on an old computer of mine, and I said: “Wow! This is a lost demo. I’m not sure why we never recorded that!”. The main two riffs were from an old demo, from 2005, and I took it, rearranged it, added more stuff and, basically, made the song from scratch again. Then we had this big solo part, in the middle, and I didn’t know what I was going to do there. When we were recording the drums, I wrote this middle solo part, right there in the studio with Johan. It’s a little bit like a full circle. It’s the oldest idea, chronologically, and the newest one in this record. Lyrically, I think Herbie and Dennis did the lyrics. It was about a guy. I think the whole concept was about a guy, who’s depressed and thinking about ending his life, but then finds his inner strength and picks it up to continue. The meaning of the song, lyrically, is to accept how you are, and that’s what you accept. So, the situation is, what you accept defines who you become. That’s the meaning behind the song.

M.I. -  Do you have higher expectations for this album than you had for the other albums? Which are they?

I wasn’t sure what to think about this album, when I finished it, because we went through so many changes and so much stuff, but I’m getting really positive feedbacks so far about this album. I think that this can be the album that can take Firewind to the next level. Honestly, I think this is the one and a lot of people have been telling me that as well. It’s just a little bit unfortunate that we can’t tour now to promote this album properly, to do what we were supposed to do. Hopefully, the music will do the work itself. I hope people can enjoy the record and give it a chance. 

M.I. -  “The 25th Anniversary North American Tour 2020” in America and Canada is postponed. Will there be another date? And will you visit other countries, for example Portugal?

The tour is postponed now and supposed to happen next year. I don’t know which month yet, because this is a “Symphony X Tour”, with special guests. I’m waiting to find out the new dates from the booking agent. I’m not sure exactly when, but it will happen next year. Will we play n iPortugal? I do not know, because we haven’t been there in twelve years, I think. Somehow, Portugal is really hard to get to and play. We were pretty close, last Summer, as we played in the border of Spain and Portugal, but we haven’t been to Portugal in many years. I hope that, maybe next year or the next two years, we can go back.

M.I. -  You’ve collaborated with Apocalyptica. How did you come up with this collaboration and why this song called “Edge Of A Dream”?

It’s just a ballad, that we had back then. I remember listening to the ballad and Bob had this piano thing and he told me: “It would be great to have some cello here. Some violin!”. I said: “Yeah! It would be great if we had Apocalyptica”! (laugh). He goes: “They would never do it. I don’t think so!”. “We could just ask! All they can say is no!”. I think our manager at the time reached out to Apocalyptica and asked them, if they wanted to do it and they said yes. We sent them the track and they sent us back their tracks, with the cellos, and we have it! That was the song.

M.I. -  One demo, nine albums, two live albums, fifteen music videos and one DVD. How would you describe this journey, from the past until now? And where do you vision the band’s future?

It’s definitely been a hell of a journey for us, with many highlights, ups and downs. It has not been easy. It has been a lot of fun, but we had also tough times. I think we are a very troubled band but, somehow, we always overcome, and I always continue. As long as I feel, I have something to say creatively, I will keep on doing it. To me, it’s simple as that. Of course, I have my dreams for the band. I’m hoping the band can grow and be a bigger act at some point. We’re working on that.

M.I. -  Thanks so much! It was a pleasure talking to you. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us and the Portuguese fans?

I want to say hello to all the Portuguese fans and thank you for supporting us all these years. I hope they can check out the album. I hope everybody stay safe, though. This is more important right now. I really can’t wait to come back someday.

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Raquel Miranda