Not too long ago the one and only Tobias Sammet, mastermind of both AVANTASIA and EDGUY called into A&GS HQ to talk about the upcoming U.S. shows for AVANTASIA in support of new album Ghostlights (Nuclear Blast Records). While I had him on the phone I also got a glimpse into how these songs and albums take shape, as well as how he always manages to corral so many great guests for each record. To be totally honest I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but when all was said and done this turned out to be one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in a while, so much so that I’m now seriously considering driving up to NYC for the show in April. Have a look:
Amps: How do you get such a star-studded line-up of singers? Does Tobias just whistle and they all come a-runnin’?
Tobias: (Laughing) you just nailed it! The truth is that a lot of those people I’ve known for years. I know I LOOK like I just turned 21 but I’m 38 years old and I’ve been in this business 24 years already. I have quite an address book and you just get in touch with the people you think are right for the songs. Some of the people I already knew, and some of them are just, getting my heroes from my record collection to sing on my albums. You just do a song and approach people and see what happens. I can tell you when people like Geoff Tate or Dee Snider agreed to be a part of AVANTASIA that was mind-blowing.
Dee has been one of my real heroes. How could he NOT be for a 12-year old kid, you know? Dressed like a woman, eight and a half feet tall, and throwing a teacher through the window in a video all while making millions! I was really, really happy when he agreed. Of course there are always incidents where you ask somebody and they can’t do it.
I was trying to get MEAT LOAF and his management was at first interested but then they didn’t want to for some reasons. I think they had other plans, so I had to sing the song myself, which turned out to be “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” and you can tell immediately that it sounds like MEAT LOAF, or it’s a blatant rip-off (laughs)!! Hey, I wanted to write my personal Bat Out of Hell, you know? Sometimes you get your favorite artists and sometimes not. But in this case I’m really, really happy; it’s a killer line-up! Sharon den Adel from WITHIN TEMPTATION, Marko Hietala from NIGHTWISH, and of course Michael Kiske and Geoff Tate. Even Michael Kiske, who is one of the most accomplished singers in the genre, was influenced by Geoff Tate. Now that I’ve got Geoff Tate, I wonder who HE’S been influenced by. Elvis, maybe?
Amps: “Ghostlights” with Michael Kiske was my absolute favorite along with “Babylon Vampires.” What are some of yours?
Tobias: I don’t have a definite favorite. Of course, “Let the Storm Descend Upon You” is a special track because it’s 12 minutes of great music.
Amps: How excited are you to finally bring AVANTASIA to the U.S. and how hard was it to get this all set up?
Tobias: It was very hard to get it set up. It is amazing to bring it to the U.S. A tour shirt is incomplete if there are no U.S. shows. There are certain cities that you have to have on the back of it, otherwise it’s not a proper world tour. You have to play Berlin, London, Tokyo, and Paris, Mexico City, and São Paulo. And you HAVE to play Los Angeles and New York, you know? It’s NOT a world tour if it’s not on there. So I wanted to bring this over forever, and now it’s gonna materialize. I had trouble believing we’d be big in the U.S. Eric Martin from MR. BIG kept trying to talk me into a Las Vegas residency on the tour for The Mystery of Time when we were both shitfaced on the plane (laughs). Seriously, I know that we are not a big name in the U.S. and we are bigger in other territories, but I still believe in it. Some local promoters were hesitant so I told them, “Let me take the risk and bring this over.” It’s only two U.S. shows, but I believe the fans will travel and appreciate us coming over. Maybe I’m naive but I have blind faith that it will work. And I don’t take that for granted.
Amps: After the U.S. shows what does the rest of the year look like for you?
Tobias: We’re gonna do all of Europe, then Tokyo, then to you guys. Then we’re hitting Mexico, then South America. Then we’ll have a little break before doing the summer festivals in Europe. it’s insane and I’m afraid I love it!
Amps: When you’re writing how do you separate what would make a good AVANTASIA song from what might make one that’s more suited for EDGUY?
Tobias: I separate them based on WHEN I write. I think a great melody is just a great melody. Of course it will sound different when Michael Kiske sings it than when I do. There’s some things he can do that I can’t and maybe some things I do that he’s not used to.
When I write for EDGUY it’s pretty much the same approach but it will turn out differently because there’s different instrumentalists and vocalists involved with AVANTASIA. But I simply have that mindset that if I were to have a great song idea tonight I would automatically write it towards that EDGUY direction. And subconsciously I would be saying, “This is going to be sung by me” simply because I know that the next record will be an EDGUY record and not an AVANTASIA one. And that’s the way to distinguish for me. Any idea I have for the next two years is going to be an EDGUY idea. But, a great song is a great song. When you listen to Tinnitus Sanctus there’s a track called “9-2-9”. This song was written for AVANTASIA, and didn’t fit on The Scarecrow, so we took it for EDGUY. We had the riff for “Love Tyger” during The Mystery of Time, but it was too light for that album. But basically, any song that is great for EDGUY is great for AVANTASIA and vice versa.
Amps: Mrs. Amps doesn’t listen to a lot of the same music you and I do, but believe me when I tell you she was running around the house going “Love T-T-TYGAAA!” for about three days after hearing it!
Tobias: (Laughs) you know, even the stuttering on that song is so cheesy that it kind of gets you addicted, like this BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE or DEF LEPPARD “Foolin'” thing. It was ridiculous, but a GOOD ridiculous, you know?
Amps: If you weren’t juggling these two powerhouse bands what do you think you’d be doing?
Tobias: I don’t know. I would be maybe a music journalist. As a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist simply because I loved dinosaurs. I have no clue what else to do.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the fans of AVANTASIA and EDGUY out there?
Tobias: I want to thank everybody for allowing me to do this and I want to thank them for the support. I also want to command you to come to our shows and witness the awesomeness of AVANTASIA and EDGUY in live and stereo full color!!
Tobias Sammet knows how to rock hard, have fun, and not take himself too seriously, all while writing some great anthems and majestic rock operas. Pick up the latest AVANTASIA album Ghostlights and see for yourself. You can grab tickets (IF any remain) for the shows HERE. Hope to see you guys in NYC!!