Here’s what you need to know about guitarist AXEL RUDI PELL right now: He and his eponymous band have a new album coming out on January 22 titled Game of Sins. It is their sixteenth and it will blow your goddamn doors off. So when the opportunity arose to chat with the axeman about that, along with a few other things, I jumped on it. He was a lot of fun to talk to, quick with a joke, and he gave me an in-depth look into his creative process. Check it:
Amps: First off, this new album is fantastic. I gushed all over it in my review recently.
Axel: Thank you very much, that’s very nice. Thank you!
Amps: Bobby Rondinelli is a monster on drums. This is his second album back there and the energy is infectious. Sounds like you guys are really enjoying being in a band together.
Axel: Oh yes, absolutely. You know, he’s my favorite drummer. He’s a very talented guy and he’s all over the place. Sometimes I think he’s my brother (laughs). When we first entered the studio two and a half years ago for the Into the Storm record he just walked in and when I explained the riff he’d say, “Yeah, man. I know exactly what you want me to play because this is my kind of music. I love it!” He’s been perfect.
Amps: We live in a time where band members come and go all too often. How have you managed to keep this group of guys together so long? What’s the secret to longevity here?
Axel: I force them with big money (laughs)!! I’m kidding, I actually put a gun to their heads- no I’m kidding again! We just became friends over the years. Johnny (Gioeli, vocals) has been in the band since 1998. Everybody’s friends with each other. We don’t see each other that often, and that’s a big part of the success, I think. We’re friends first, and when we get back together after a period of several months of not seeing each other everyone is so excited. We’re all telling jokes and telling stories and it’s one big family.
Amps: When you do regroup, do you already have a bunch of riffs, ideas, and demos written?
Axel: I write all the time. I usually write by myself. We just closed the door on Game of Sins and two days later I picked up my guitar and was playing a little bit at home.
All of a sudden a riff comes through my mind, and then another one. I have the cell phone with me that has the voice recorder on it so I’ll say, “Whoa, this is cool for the next record!” and record it. So I’m writing little bits and pieces over the years and when I put everything together I’ll say, “Okay, idea 33 fits perfectly with idea 127” and I record demos at home on the digital machine. I’ll put all the rhythm guitars and the solos, I play the bass, and keyboards. I’m searching for the right notes on the keyboard, you know? I get a melody in mind on the guitar first, then I’ll play it on the keyboard. Then I’ll come up with a vocal line. And when the musical side is done I start writing all the lyrics.
So when we get back together in the studio the first guy to come in is Bobby. I’ll show him the riff and the chorus and he gets it right away, so we start to play a bit and maybe change things here or there. Most of the time he nails it in one take and I get goosebumps. And even if they don’t write, the other guys all have special input. Johnny for example, when I go over songs with him he might say, “Axel what do you think about me going down for this last note instead of up?” and if we like his idea, we do it that way.
Amps: Even though I’ve only gotten into the band in the last couple of years I have to say that Johnny Goeli has quickly become one of my favorite singers alongside Ralf Scheepers and Urban Breed. I’m a huge admirer of his vocals.
Axel: I see, thank you very much. I will be sure to tell him that when I see him.
Amps: As far as this record goes, for me “Fire”, “Game of Sins”, and “Till the World Says Goodbye” were my immediate favorites. Do you have any or are they all your babies?
Axel: They’re all my babies. If I pick one the others will cry (laughs)! I think there’s not really a bad track on the record. Bobby is always telling me what he thinks right after we record a song. He’s like, “Another great track, Axel! What about the next one? How do you do that?” I say, “I don’t know, because I’m a genius?” I’m kidding, of course!
Amps: You’ve been playing for a long time. How do you fell you’ve evolved and maybe changed as a player and performer?
Axel: I’ve developed over the years. I tune the guitar very differently now than when I started. I’ve made some progress for sure. I’m not a very technical-oriented player. I don’t give a shit about playing one hundred million notes in two seconds, you know? I don’t fucking care. The main important thing for me is to write a good song, and the solo of the song has to fit to it perfectly, not the other way around. There are a few guitar heroes, or whatever you call them, who are writing a great solo that’s three minutes long, and they build the rest of the song around that. I don’t do that, I don’t like that. That’s not me.
Amps: What do you to unwind when you don’t have a guitar in your hands?
Axel: I enjoy spending time with my wife. I’m also a junkie for Facebook games like Mafia Wars. It relaxes me, and I’ll play it for 15 minutes before I pick up the guitar again. This band is a full-time job as well. I am my own manager, and I have to also think about merchandise and things like that all the time.
Amps: Are there any plans for a U.S. tour? And do you have any summer festivals lined up?
Axel: Unfortunately, I really can’t. We have two American guys in the band and I asked Johnny a long time ago if he thought we should play a few shows there and he said, “Axel, don’t do it, you will lose money.” The times for this kind of music on a big scale are pretty much over in the States. That’s what he told me. Bobby told me the same. He said, “We’ll play clubs and be lucky to get 100 people in there, maybe 120.” And that wouldn’t cover my costs. I’d definitely lose some big bucks and that’s not my intention, you know? We’ll play Wacken Open Air this year but I’m not sure which day.
Amps: Can you tell me one thing about you that most people don’t know?
Axel: I can’t really think of anything. I’ve never acted in a porn (laughs)! I don’t have any secrets, really.
Amps: What would you like to say to your fans all over the world?
Axel: That I hope they enjoy our kind of music. I hope they dig it and I hope that one day we can play all over the world and reach everybody. That would be nice.
So there you have it. More than 25 years in the game and AXEL RUDI PELL is still cranking out great records full of great tunes, and there’s simply no stopping him. So be sure and pick up your copy of Game of Sins on Steamhammer/SPV Records and crank that bitch LOUD!!