About Me

Interview with Iron Savior

Power Metal is alive and getting stronger. “Skycrest” was released on 4th December, via AFM Records, and this time, we had the opportunity to chat with Piet Sielck (guitarist, vocalist and producer). 
A very passionate interview, where he talks about one of his best friend’s disease, how it affected the band, friendship, composition, Kai Hansen and more.
It’s worth reading!

M.I. - Good afternoon, Piet. I must say that I’m honoured to talk with you and do this interview. How are you and the rest of the band?

My family and I are great, thanks for asking. The rest of the band is fantastic. Jan is great, too. Luckily, he had a cancer, that was quite well treatable. He went through chemotherapy. By now, he’s 100% healed and free of cancer. So, that’s all good. Of course, that was the biggest and the best news this year, for us. In terms of Corona, I think just like everyone, Corona sucks and it’s not fun. We hope it’s over at some point and we can go out, play shows and meet fans.

M.I. - “Skycrest” is the new record, that was released on Friday (4th December), via AFM Records, which was in fact Jan’s birthday. Why this name? Did you have more or was this an easy choice?

Yes! That’s indeed a coincidence. What’s not a coincidence, is that the album is quite fast, following the previous album. “Kill or Get Killed” was just released last year, in March. It would have been some more time to wait for this album. Maybe, let’s say, March next year or Autumn next year. But the album was ready and I hate to hold the album package. But what’s done, it’s done and needs to come out. The other main reason, is that we all wanted, maybe on a psychological basis, that this album would happen in the same year that Jan was diagnosed with this cancer and won his fight. And so, with the very bad news and the great news of the album coming out and happening on the same year, that was kind of a good thing for us. The third reason was Corona. We thought that, since Corona was obviously not over, then it was quite clear to us a couple of months ago (laughs), that it would be nice to have, in all those depressing and down bringing moods, something uplifting, like an Iron Savior album, this December.
There’s no specific reason. I think it’s a very cool name. I think it sounds great (laughs). If you hear the name “Skycrest”, it sounds majestic, epic. It’s quite fitting to the whole Iron Savior “thing”, to the story, and also for the combination with opera, I think “Skycrest” is an awesome title. 
For a couple of weeks, I was thinking of naming the album after another song: “Hellbreaker”. It was a great choice too. It might not be super characteristic for this album, but it is a very strong and special track, which definitely shows the epicness that is Iron Savior. So, “Hellbreaker” was a very good title for me, as well. But now, that we started with “Hellbreaker”, it was very complicated, because the story would be quite complex in a cover art. We figured out this would be really too complicated. So, we switched to this “Skycrest” thing, which I think is a great idea, because “Skycrest” works on much better as the album title and also with the artwork. But nevertheless, the original artwork, which started out for the original idea: “Hellbreaker”, has worked as the booklet of the CD.

M.I. -  Was it difficult to write these songs? What kind of struggles did you have to face?

Initially, it was not very complicated to write the songs. After “Kill or Get Killed” was over, I saw an headlining ongoing energy. So, I came back to songwriting pretty fast and before Autumn 2019, I had already headlined 4 songs, all of them composed and, during the Winter, I had a couple of more ideas. Then, in January and February, I wanted to start bringing it all together, write a couple more songs and finish up the album, but then of course, things came differently. We talked about the cancer thing and once the good news came that Jan would be well in the end, and then came Corona. In January, February, March, April, I really didn’t work on the album at all, because I wasn’t in a very good mood and to do an album like this, a classical, typical Iron Savior album, which in my point of view is positive, you have to be positive. I just wasn’t very positive. After getting used to Corona and, the first fear and the shock of Corona was gone, things were going back little slower and super magnifique news for the album came in. That he would be 100% cured. Well that, of course, lifted my spirits up quite a bit. I finished the songwriting really fast, I must say. I started with the production. I was facing actually no problems, because all went really smooth. The production sound was quite easy. There were no problems or any stupid things happening. All went really well. That’s why the album is ready so fast, so fast in the market (laughs). Despite being so fast, I think it’s one of the best albums we ever made with Iron Savior.

M.I. - Sorry to ask you this question but do you think that Jan’s (Eckert – bass player) illness, made your friendship and brotherhood stronger and has helped in this record?

Oh, yes! Of course! This record definitely is very connected with all the bad things that we are experiencing this year, but also all the good things, you know? Of course, when something serious like this happens, it brings you closer. We’ve been friends for 25 years now, and Jan is one of my closest and best friends. I was really shocked about this. Our friendship was there before, but was lifted to another lever. It was so cool, having him back in the studio, playing his bass guitar, on this album. 
A lot of emotional things have been happening on this album, which you probably don’t realize right away, when you listen to it for the first time. If you are a little bit aware of the history and you listen the album with speakers, you might feel it.

M.I. - Are these songs a metaphor for what we are living? Is it a way of trying to ease the pain of what you personally experienced, such as Jan’s disease?

It’s a very personal album as a whole, about very personal stuff, not only “Ease Your Pain”. “Ease Your Pain” is very clear and emotional about what Jan has, but, if you look at the lyrics, there’s lots of tiny stuff here and there, which are personal.

M.I. - Tight guitar solos, catchy choruses, and the exceptional vocals. How did you write the instrumental parts?

I never looked into myself as a very talented solo guitarist. I’m a pretty good rhytm guitarist and I’m good at arranging stuff like that. I’m not the kind of guitarist, that instantly sounds like Eddie Van Halen, who plays something that comes into mind and sounds awesome. That’s not happening with me. I like to call myself the “BB King of Heavy Metal”. I can play a couple of stuff, which really sounds cool. If I sit down and work on a solo, compose it, then something decent comes along, I can reproduce it and it sounds pretty good on stage, then it’s mission accomplished.
That’s the way I really have to work out my solos. So, I’m not improvising. Of course, I do that in the very beginning. I play some stuff and then, I hear the solo, but I would like to play what’s in my mind and then, I have to bring it to the fingers. That’s a problem sometimes (laughs). 
But, usually, I find a way to bring it down, somehow. That’s how I arrange the solos and I really like those double beats. Those really trick guitars. That’s kind of a trademark of Iron Savior. I really love it. Those tiny little melodies, within the song, when comes a new part… it’s not much about these melodies, but they bring a shine or a little sun is rising, you know? It’s something I always like to work with, somehow.

M.I. - Did you have any help mixing, recording and mastering the album or did you do it by yourselves? Was it difficult? And can you tell us about the place where the magic happened, please?

No! I do it by myself! By now, I’m working as a sound engineer for over 25 years. So, I think I know what I’m doing but I’m not sure (laughs). But if I compare my work to other stuff out there, it’s OK. I don’t have to hide myself. I think I’m quite capable and know what I’m doing, in terms of recording music and mastering. 
No! Actually, as I just said, other things really happened. When you record well, you don’t have problems on the basis, like what happened on this album. I always try to work like this, you know? Because I hate this thing: “We’re going to fix the mix”. It’s not working for me. You have to fix it right away, because if you fix everything in the mix, then you stop fixing what needs to be fixed in the mix and all you do is fixing stuff that was done properly. I think it’s very important to have really decent recordings with good sound, good quality and then you don’t have problems with the mixing. And if you do the mixing right, then you have no problems with the mastering. At least, that’s my experience, after 25 years of studio recording. It starts everything with the first turn you lay down.
Magic is not happening, you know? You can’t force magic to happen, it just happens, you know (laughs)? So, there’s no recipe to bring out magic. All you can do is be prepared, if the magic is happening, to somehow catch it. That’s the way I work, because I have my own studio, where I can sit as long as I want to, so I don’t have to go out and pay for recording studios and then clock is running and you have to get finished, because otherwise, you “crush hit” (laughs). There’s no other way. That’s a luxury I have here, with my own studio. To give you an example to what I mean, there’s always some bands who make pre productions, demos and then they go to real studios and do everything for real. Sometimes, not all the time, but I had this in my career a couple of times that: “Oh! The demo was better than the album!”, because if you record something and then you record a second time, you may not be able to get this magic you’ve just mentioned, again. That’s why I stop recording, when I do songwriting right away. In my studio I have this ability, in order to catch this magic right away, because, when you’re working on a song, all this side of how great it is and how awesome it sounds, the riff… then you have this magic. Not necessarily all the time, but when you come back a couple of weeks or months later, you might not have this energy before. You can play the same riff technically correct, maybe even better with better sound, but it’s just not happening, like it did when played for the first time.
This is what I always try to do, to capture this very first moment of awesomeness, when I compose something (laughs).

M.I. - How did AFM Records react, while listening to the new material? Did they give you their approval? 

Yes! Of course, they gave me their approval and they’re used to Iron Savior’s stuff to be good (laughs). They don’t expect anything else from me (laughs). I’m just kidding. I never have problems with AFM Records, accepting my master tapes. 
I just sent the master, they listened to it and said: “Yeah! Great! Let’s do it!”. No, I mean, I’ve been working with AFM for a long time now, we know each other really well. They know how I work. They also know that I always deliver quality, so they don’t have to really check on what I’m doing. They trust that what I do will be good. If you look at my career, this is something I’m really proud of that with Iron Savior, we never delivered a bad album, ever. We always delivered really high class Metal. Some albums, maybe better. But there’s never really a bad release with Iron Savior. And AFM knows that. They trust me and what I’m doing.

M.I. - You even have a ballad and who better to sing it than Jan himself? Do you think that, due to what happened to him, singing “Ease Your Pain” could make him “sing his heart out”?

Yes! That is a song about Jan’s disease. He composed the song and he also performs on this song. I’m not singing on “Ease Your Pain”. It’s completely acoustic. He talks about his relationship and how it affected his relationship. The general theme of the song was for him. The hardest thing for him, was, obviously, not himself, but to see his girlfriend suffer, from being so depressed and so down, crying all the time, because of him, you know? So, that’s why the song is called “Ease Your Pain” and, of course, because he wrote it and it’s his very personal story, he’s talking about, that’s why he’s singing it.

M.I. - We hear a splash of synths in one music: “Welcome To The New World”. How did you create them?

I have a good collection of keyboards here. That’s a sound I thought was interesting and sounded cool. I thought: “Maybe we can use it for a song!”, because “Welcome To The New World” is different than the other songs. I wanted to create a different atmosphere. I think it’s a good song. I really love it, specially in terms of the lyrics.  

M.I. - “There Can Be Only One” appears to draw its lyrical inspiration from a film franchise. Have you ever seen one, to create it? If someone wanted to use this song for marketing and asked you for permission, would you say yes?

Yes, of course! The lyrics are based on “Highlander”, the first movie. The second movie, not so cool. The series is kind of OK. But, for me, the original movie, is the very first one with Sean Connery. That’s the “Highlander” I know, like and laugh. That’s the “Highlander” we’re talking about and there can only be one.
It depends a little bit on the product, you know? If somebody wants to use my song for a product, which I really hate or I think is disgusting or does not fit to Iron Savior, then of course, I will not allow it. It’s maybe a little bit like not allowing Donald Trump to use some songs, you know (laughs). For example: if Donald Trump would ask me if he could use a song from me. I would say: “No, you can’t!”. 

M.I. - “Our Time Has Come” is definitely heroic and is the best single to introduce the album, in terms of lyrics, riffs, solo, everything. Are we the heroes?

This is one of the few songs, which is connected to the Iron Savior’s story line. “Our Time Has Come” describes the events, just before Atlantis got destroyed. It’s nothing that is happening in our world. It could happen in our world as well, but the lyrics I had in mind are fiction, within the sci-fi concept of the Iron Savior story. In this album, I think that only 3 songs (“Our Time Has Come”, “Welcome To The New World” and “Hellbreaker”) are connected with this Iron Savior story line and the rest of songs are about whatever else came to my mind (laughs).

M.I. - “Souleater” was made by yourself and directed and produced by Gestaltungskommando Buntmetall. Tell us about the idea, please.

Yeah! The concept was quite clear for us. Since we have never done that before, I thought that this time would be a good idea, to have a really, just simple, fast, straightforward, performance video, where we just performed the song and nothing else (laughs). Because we have never done this before, we were looking for a good location, where this would happen. We also had already in mind, that it would be in black and white. This Buntmetall guys did a lot of videos, within the Metal world and they actually did a decent job. We shot the whole thing in one day. I think the outcome is very cool. It’s pretty much exactly what I had in mind. I’m very happy with the video, unlike others (laughs). The video for “Kill or Get Killed” was OK, and the video for “Titancraft”: “Way Of The Blade” was just really bad. I hate this video. I think it’s ridiculous. “Souleater” is a really good video. It reflects what Iron Savior is about. 

M.I. - Japan is very important in the market and Japanese people love Metal. Why did you decide to make a Japanese version of “Souleater”?

The Japanese market is constantly shrinking, to be honest. The importance of Japan, is becoming more and more minor, because the sales are very bad in Japan, not only for Iron Savior, but for everybody. The whole sales are going down. For my taste, it’s home-made, because they are doing something really wrong in Japan. I mean, the CD price are double as high as in Europe. Then they ask themselves, why people are not buying CDs anymore? The answer is simple: they are too expensive. Nowadays, you can just go to Spotify and listen to this album, without buying the CD. 
Japan is, honestly, not a really important market for me, anymore. I do this, because I have a contract over there, with a local Japanese record label and, in the contract, it says that I have to deliver a bonus track. So that’s why I’m doing it, not because Japan is a very super special market. 
The most important market for me is Europe and, maybe then, secondly, the USA and not Japan. Japan is OK. We sell a couple of albums there, as well, but not as much as we used to. The Japanese market, as I just said, is quite down. Let’s see where it’s going to be in a couple of years.

M.I. - Felipe Franco is responsible for the album cover. How did you meet and what essence were you looking for, when he showed you his work?

I met Felipe, the very first time, when I was doing the artwork for my band. I used to be in Savage Circus. He did the artwork for the second Savage Circus’ album: “Of Doom and Death”, because, even though he might say that the first Savage Circus album cover is classic, I never liked it, it is OK. It’s not the worst artwork in the world, but I always had something very different in mind… that’s also another different story (laughs). But I was very happy with the artwork of the second album: “Of Doom and Death” and then it was actually the first time I got in contact with Felipe. 
Creating this artwork together with him, was really super fast. He really understood extremely well what I had in mind. So, I’m working with him as a artworking guy and craftsman ever since, because the communication is so simple with him. I don’t have to explain things a hundred times. When I have a vision, he is able to pick up this vision and visualize it. It makes things very easy for me, because I have a lot of graphics gaps before, and the biggest problem always was to describe what I had in mind and, most of the people, didn’t really understand what I wanted.
Felipe has this ability (laughs). Sometimes I think he reads my mind. I think I would continue working with him forever (laughs).

M.I. - Do you think that, with Kai Hansen’s departure, the band’s future was compromised? Were there any regret between both parts?

No! Actually, I think it was a very good thing, that he left Iron Savior. Of course, at the beginning, it didn’t help Iron Savior to gain attention, you know? Become popular. But then, of course, he helped, in the same way, Iron Savior to become popular. He always was a big break for Iron Savior, to be honest, because he was focusing, not on Iron Savior, but mainly focusing on his own career, with Gamma Ray, for money. For many people, in the early years, Iron Savior was just something that Kai Hansen was doing on the side. Not so important, you know? With Kai leaving the band, many people thought, because it’s kind of natural, because he’s the “Big Kai Hansen”, that he was doing all the things with Iron Savior, you know? That, of course, was never the case. He did a little bit with Iron Savior. He played a couple of solos and composed one or two songs and that was it that he contributed with to two albums. It was a strange situation, because in the beginning, I was quite naive. I was like: “Well! I’m just making music with my buddy Kai!”. There were too many problems, coming from his popularity and the other obligations he had. Iron Savior always was in the shade of Kai Hansen and Gamma Ray. When Kai was gone, this was lifting, I mean, not immediately, it took a while, a couple of years, to get rid of this “Ghost Of Kai Hansen”, so to speak, of Iron Savior. I think with the “The Landing”, we finally made it and actually, nobody is talking about Kai Hansen anymore or the pre “The Landing” era or any connection with Kai, because it is quite clear that Iron Savior is a totally independent force, within the Heavy Metal universe and is not connected to Kai Hansen anymore. His presence in the band, is really limited to the very first albums and that’s it! And people know this by now! Honestly, I’m happy about this (laughs).
No! No, because both parts realized that there were too many problems, coming from the fact that he is in both parts, you know? He was doing Gamma Ray and Iron Savior. Of course, he always wanted to do more for Iron Savior, but his priority always was Gamma Ray. When we were planning things, for example: we had to go on tour two times without Kai and those things, because he was unavailable, he was busy with Gamma Ray. Of course, this was something that the fans started to not understand anymore. For me, I was at the point where I actually decide: “Well! Do I really want to achieve a little bit more with Iron Savior, with what I have now? Or do I still want to remain in the shade of Kai and Gamma Rai?”. For me, I honestly decided: “No! I don’t want that!”. We both decided it was best to go separate ways, in terms of music and professional music, so we remain friends. We are still friends. It did not affect us in a personal level, but this was a business decision and it was a good one.

M.I. - Since Facebook doesn’t allow bands to play there for fans, where fans could support them, bands have other strategies. One of them is live streaming concerts and fans have to pay, as if they were in a concert, but at home. As a musician and music lover, I’d like to hear your thoughts about these.

Unfortunately, this is the only possible way concerts can be performed at this time. Even though I’m not a big fan of this, we’re doing one of this shows now, as well. We’re going to play an online streaming event live in January. I think we’re doing a second one, in January as well, which is not confirmed yet, but is quite safe, the date is not fixed yet. In Corona times, this is the only way to get in contact with the fans again. So, we’re going to do that as well, but we hope to get some, at least, a little of interaction with the fans. Our idea is to play the show and not only to have the people sit at home and watch it on the TV, but they also can watch it on their smartphones, the social media and somehow interact with us, so we can say: “Make a short movie of you singing along the chorus of ‘Atlantis Falling’, post it on Facebook and later, after we play the song, we can watch it and have it on the screen, or whatever!” There are a couple of ideas how to make this a little bit more interactive, you know? I think that’s the biggest problem for an artist. If you’re on stage and you have no audience at all, only cameras, it’s like performing in a TV studio. Let’s see! For ourselves, it’s kind of an experience, as well. Let’s see if it goes well. But I think It’s going to be a very good Iron Savior show (laughs). I think the people who really miss us, because we’ve been out the entire year, at least can pick up on their Iron Savior’s dolls, a little bit like this, even though they’re at home. So, January it’s allowed to have more people at home, from different households, so we can have, at least a little party, we can meet some fans, have a couple of beers, play and see Iron Savior. 

M.I. - Ten studio albums and one live CD/DVD. Which one of them was more difficult/easy to record?

We never had big problems with recording. So, I can’t really say. We never had any huge technical arrows, failures, lost data or something like this. So far, wide, small, huge Iron Savior productions went well. Maybe because I’m German and I’m German organized (laughs). 

M.I. - How does it feel to have an anthem that can unite generations, like "Heavy Metal Never Dies"?

Actually, it feels very good, because I love this song. Even though it is ten years old and we played it countless times on stage, I think we have to play it forever (laughs). It does matter, because it is an awesome song. I really love the song and every time we play this song live, it is one of the highlights of the show. If you see the reactions of the people, everybody really loves the song and they are enthusiastic about it. I don’t know what it is about this song, because it’s not a very complicated song, it’s quite simple. It’s a great way for Metalheads to connect, to be together and party together. That’s what this song is all about (laughs).

M.I. - Favourite bands/singers?

It’s obvious that I’m a Judas Priest fan and one of my favourite singers is, of course, Rob Halford. A singer I always look up to and always have a lot of inspiration from is Dio. Of course I also like Bruce Dickinson. There’s Rob Halford and Dio, which are more raspy and there’s Bruce Dickinson and Eric Singer and those kind of singers, which are the other side of the coin, so to speak. I have always been on the Rob Halford and Dio side, never too much on the Dickinson and Kiss side, even though they are great singers. No doubt about it! My taste always has been a bit different.

M.I. - You would play at Milagre Metaleiro Open Air this year in Portugal but, unfortunately, it was cancelled. Will we see you here soon? Have you decided about tours already?

It was postponed to 2021, so we will play there next year. 
The schedule for next year is that we have a lot of concerts, which means we couldn’t play this year. They have been postponed to next year. We really hope, that in March or April, it will be possible to play shows again. We have a couple of festivals, gigs, that we are about to play. For our live schedule, we are well known to be on the road very extensively. So, for us, it’s good. 2021 is the 10th anniversary of the very successful album: “The Landing”, also a very important album for us and we’re going to do something about this 10th anniversary, of course. The topic project of 2021, most of it is to do another album of the “Reforged – Riding on Fire”. It’s set that we’re going to do another one: “Reforged: Vol.II”, like this. It’s going to be the next 20 songs, that we are going to pick from the Noise early days’ catalogue. We’re going to rerecord them and put them all on the “Reforged: Vol.II”. All is being prepared for 2021.

M.I. - Thanks so much for doing this interview. Any words for the Metalheads in Portugal and fans?

I really would like to say that, and I speak for myself and the band, Iron Savior is always very thankful to the fans, for their great support, that we get from them, because without the fans, we just wouldn’t be where we are now. So, thank you for that! But this year, we are very thankful for all those really great uplifting, cheering words, comments, reactions on social media, who really helped us, specially to overcome the crisis. So, thank you for all this positive energy, even if it was just a little post saying “Get Well” or whatever, it all helped. That was great. This was really heartwarming and so we say: THANK YOU FOR THAT AND HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL SOON, SOMEWHERE, SOMETIME, OUT THERE!

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Raquel Miranda