AVANTASIA's TOBIAS SAMMET: 'I Certainly Don't Intend To Retire Any Time Soon'

May 14, 2019

AVANTASIA vocalist Tobias Sammet recently spoke with writer Clay Marshall in conjunction with an OC Weekly story about the group's upcoming performance in Anaheim, California. Some select "outtakes" follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On AVANTASIA's new album "Moonglow":

Tobias: "It's not trendy. It's not flavor of the week, but it's put together with a lot of love for detail. If you like MEAT LOAF and you like IRON MAIDEN and you don't have any disdain for QUEEN, check this out. There's a bit of Wagner in there, and Hans Zimmer, you can hear that we're coming from the same region in Germany. [Laughs]"

On how the album's cover of Michael Sembello's "Maniac", which was featured in the 1983 film "Flashdance", has been received by AVANTASIA fans:

Tobias: "Mostly good. Some of it's terrible, and that's good — we get a reaction. Nothing's worse than getting no reaction at all. Some people really hated it. Most people really love it, and sometimes, if you're convinced about something, you have to shove it down people's throats [laughs], because as an artist, you would be a very, very poor artist if you would just do what people want to hear. You have to be convincing — you have to give people something that is of value, and that is honest, and not just give them just what they want to hear. The radio is full of stuff that people want to hear, tailored to a target audience. I always liked the song. I know it was overplayed in the '80s, and it was overdone, and it was on the radio, and people have those pop connotations when they hear the song. It was covered for no other reason than pure hedonism. I just had the idea — 'Let's do a cover version. If we don't use it, we can afford producing the song and just listening to it ourselves and not releasing it.' That's the luxury of artistic freedom, but we produced it and it turned out to be so great, so we said, 'Okay, let's put it on the record.'"

On why he plays bass on AVANTASIA albums himself instead of recruiting famous musicians to do so:

Tobias: "I sometimes enjoy doing it myself, but I have to say, I'm losing more and more interest in doing it myself. I do [almost] all the bass on the records. Some of it has been done by Sascha [Paeth, producer and guitarist]. Whenever it gets complicated... I'm a lousy bass player. I think I have the feeling for it, and I used to be the bass player in EDGUY as well, and I used to take that instrument very seriously. You have to if you want to be a good bass player, but down the line, the bass is a very, very... it has to fill a certain purpose, but still, it's not a very important instrument. It has to play a certain role in AVANTASIA, and that role is not a very dominant role. That's why I don't want to get one of those bass stunt men into the game that would say, 'Oh, we should turn the bass louder and I should play all these crazy licks here.' If we have those crazy licks, Sascha can play them. He did a slap solo in 'Requiem For A Dream'. I talked him into doing it, because he's not a show-off at all. I said, 'If I was a bass player, I would love to do it.' I mean, I am a bass player, but I can't do these kinds of things. I don't have the patience, to be honest, to rehearse when it comes to an instrument that nobody really takes note of. [Laughs] Lead singer's disease!"

On whether he has a "bucket list" of singers that he'd like to have participate in AVANTASIA:

Tobias: "I try to get Bruce Dickinson every single time. [IRON MAIDEN manager] Rod Smallwood, he's always very, very protective. He always turns down my request in a very polite way, I have to admit. It's always a very, very nice 'no.' I try not to have a bucket list, because a bucket list always seems very, very nerdy — like somebody's just making check marks behind something that he wants to do to impress other people, or that he's left to do before he passes away. I try not to have a bucket list — I try to enjoy myself and do things that make sense in a musical way. I want to be happy, and having a bucket list of artists would be disrespectful to all the people that I work with, that I have around me at this very moment. Those great singers, if there was a bucket list, they are on that bucket list. I have made my check marks, and yet, I want to continue working with them, because they are amazing. Of course, if Paul Stanley, if that would happen one day, or Gene Simmons, I'd love it — I'm a huge KISS fan, and they've been very influential to me. Meat Loaf would have been great. It didn't work out, but it 's not that I have this huge bucket list or something like that. I try not to think in those terms."

On SAVATAGE's Jon Oliva, who sang on AVANTASIA's 2010 song "Death Is Just A Feeling":

Tobias: "Jon is such a great musician, and a nice guy. I remember we got to know each other — it was in Spain, actually, when a flight got canceled. There was a festival, and we were stuck at the airport. It was EDGUY, HELLOWEEN and Jon Oliva. We were stuck at the airport for hours — 12 hours, then eventually, the flight got canceled. We hung out together and we spoke all day. We were in a taxi together going to another city. It was all paid by the airline. We got to know each other, and that's when we became acquainted, and later on, we worked together. He's a great guy, and he's a great, great musician, and a very intense personality. You can hear that by the way he sings, by the way he puts his soul into the music. We're brothers in mind, so to speak, because he's one of the founders of the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. He's up there with the very, very, very best, I think."

On whether he's reconsidered his past comments hinting that AVANTASIA wouldn't continue:

Tobias: "I've always tried to be careful and not put too much pressure and weight on my own shoulders. Whenever I've perceived, 'This can't be any better' [or] 'This can't get any bigger'... The early records, they were a lot of work, and I was a young guy. I jumped in at the deep end and did that project, worked with all these musicians and didn't know what would come out in the end, and if I would probably not lose a whole fortune with it. Once I had accomplished something with it, I thought, 'Wow, great. I got away with it. How can it be any better? This is as good as it gets. Leave me alone. That's it.' I believed it, but I don't want to call it quits because I don't know what the future holds. Nobody knows, and I don't want to be a cog in the machine. I just really want to do what I feel, and I want to go step by step and not think in very long terms. I have a contract for another album, I have to say. I signed that, and there will be another album. I don't know know if there will be another world tour or not, but I hope so. I don't know what the future holds, but I certainly don't intend to retire any time soon. It's just, I want to enjoy what I do, and I think that when you become a part of the machine — which a lot of musicians become in the music business — you lose the excitement for it. It becomes a burden; it becomes a routine. When you lose the excitement, you can't expect to come up with something great. I just want to go and see what the future holds, but I don't intend to stop."

"Moonglow" was released on February 15 via Nuclear Blast. The album debuted at No. 1 in Germany and also cracked the Top 10 in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Spain.

AVANTASIA's six-date North American tour kicks off May 17 in San Jose, California.

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