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It's German for Power Metal - Gnarly Charlie’s Exclusive Interview with Guitarist Henny Wolter from Primal Fear

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Wednesday, July 7, 2010 @ 3:56 PM

"...we want to win a bigger attention here, so we plan on coming here more often."

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Germany’s Primal Fear has been delivering a fierce, guitar-driven brand of metal since its inception back in 1997. As far as popularity in the States, it has been a slow ascent for the band, due to the sparse amount of touring they’ve done here.

I caught guitarist Henny Wolter after Primal Fear blew the roof off the House of Blues in Hollywood. They are true “power metal,” and deliver a sound that fills arenas and stadiums all over the world. America will be catching on to this band soon, as many true metal fans already have. Just like bratwurst and sauerkraut that makes you bang your head, Primal Fear is an acquired taste.

KNAC.COM: In addition to this tour, you’re promoting the new CD, Live in the USA and also the new DVD, 16.6 All Over the World, right?

WOLTER: Exactly. We recorded a few shows with cameras, so we would have enough footage to choose something for a DVD. And on our DVD we have material from Atlanta, from the ProgPower Festival, but the main material on the DVD is a concert in Switzerland. We recorded four shows in Germany and one show in the U.S. The CD is from Atlanta and the DVD is footage from Atlanta, Switzerland, and the South America leg of the tour. Mexico. Argentina, Colombia, and I forgot…there’s one more.

KNAC.COM: What did you think of the audience tonight? They were really enthusiastic, yet you only had a couple hundred people on the floor.

WOLTER: Yeah, it’s a phenomenon that keeps following us on all shows. We have small, but enthusiastic crowds. They sing along. Obviously, all the people that come to the shows know the words and sing along and really celebrate. But we want to win a bigger attention here, so we plan on coming here more often. Next thing we’re going to do is head back to Europe and play the big European festivals. Then we do a European tour in September and October, then we start writing for a new album. If that one comes out next year we’ll be back here.

KNAC.COM: It was a great surprise to see Pamela Moore onstage tonight, not to mention Roy Z getting up there to play “Metal Gods” with you guys. Has Pamela been doing a lot of guest appearances on this tour?

WOLTER: Actually, we did a shorter tour last year in September, and she was on half of that tour. We agreed that it would be great if she could do the whole tour. So she’s been singing on all the shows since New York, for about two and a half weeks now.

KNAC.COM: I didn’t know until tonight that Terri Nunn, from Berlin, is her cousin.

WOLTER: Me neither. I freaked when I found out, because everybody knows the song (sings take my breath away…)

KNAC.COM: Oh yeah, “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun. I was thinking of one of her Berlin songs, like “Metro.”

WOLTER: She’s up there, getting drunk backstage.

KNAC.COM: Is she? Tell her to come down!

WOLTER: She’s cool. She’s very cool.

KNAC.COM: Your last studio release, 16.6, did very well, didn’t it?

WOLTER: In Germany it did, yes. In Germany our most successful album is still Nuclear Fire. The second most successful album is the last one, 16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). It was almost as good as Nuclear Fire, considering back in the time people would rather buy CD’s than download stuff. We think that 16.6 is as known, or as big, as Nuclear Fire, which is still our classic album. And people judge us by that. We are aware of it.

KNAC.COM: Do you guys stay with the same formula each time you make new music?

WOLTER: This metal crowd, especially over in Europe, is a very loyal group of fans, but they don’t forgive you if you ever change your style. You know what I mean? You are forever fucked if you leave them alone and you do something totally different. If they don’t like it, then that’s just too bad. You are at the end. So in Primal Fear it’s kind of a difficult thing for us to go somewhere else or move. We can do new stuff, but within limitations. And we always have to be aware of the fact that we don’t scare off our most loyal fans—the metal fans. If they have the impression it’s not true metal, they will let you know. We will not ever take that risk. 16.6 is a modest approach to a little more of a Rammstein-type of riff. On the album before, we had the duet with Simone Simons from Epica. But we stay within our range. As we play this, I believe the crowds will become bigger, slowly. We have no high expectations, like we’re going to sell out the next tour. But we plan on coming here regularly, and we feel that that is the best and only way to get some attention here.

KNAC.COM: Primal Fear has always been a straight-ahead power metal band.

WOLTER: No bullshit. Just straight metal.

KNAC.COM: Your singer, Ralf [Scheepers], was being considered as Rob Halford’s replacement in Priest before Ripper [Owens], right?

WOLTER: Yeah, Ripper got the job. Lucky for us, you know? Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be Primal Fear. To be the singer for Judas Priest is like an unsolvable…you can’t compete. You know what I mean? Whoever comes in—if it’s not Rob—people will always say, “Oh yeah, but you know it’s not the real thing. That’s like putting Paul Rodgers in Zeppelin.” The guy in Journey—he’s so great. Everybody’s like, “Hmm, I would like to see Steve Perry back in the band.” It’s really a job that can never be a success, so you cannot blame Ripper, because he’s a great singer. Technically and vocally capable of doing it, but you can’t fill in his shoes. No matter how strange Rob might sing one or two nights, it’s him.

KNAC.COM: And when he’s on, he’s spot on.

WOLTER: That’s right. And that’s what people want to see. They want Rob. Me too, I must say.

KNAC.COM: As a guitarist, who or what got you interested in becoming a rock and roller?

WOLTER: I’m old school. I like AC/DC, Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Kiss, Priest...early Priest. I was born in ’66, so I’m 43.

KNAC.COM: Generally bands like yours spend a whole lot of time touring. Has that always been the case for Primal Fear?

WOLTER: This is a non-profit thing for us, but it’s a no debt thing, (too). We can be proud and say that we paid our bus and crew and not go home with less money that we started out with. So we really want to be here. We want to be here in the U.S.A. and we want to make a mark and we want to gain a larger audience. If it takes two more tours, no problem. We’ll do it. We’ve done it in other countries. We are patient enough to pull it off this way. This is not bad. Being here, playing this venue is nice. This is not a stressful situation.

KNAC.COM: What do you think about Hollywood?

WOLTER: Oh, it’s great.

KNAC.COM: Are you going over to The Rainbow tonight?

WOLTER: Actually, tonight we’re taking off right after these guys are done unloading. We’re taking off for Tucson, Arizona.

KNAC.COM: But you went there last night?

WOLTER: Yeah, of course. We went to see Steel Panther.

KNAC.COM: Did any celebrities show up?

WOLTER: I’m not precisely sure. There might have been. I didn’t recognize anybody.

KNAC.COM: Did you see any girls’ breasts?

WOLTER: Oh yeah! Plenty.

KNAC.COM: It’s usually off the hook at their shows.

WOLTER: There were ten girls onstage constantly. They were actually talking more than playing music. But, I take it’s a comedy show, right? A parody, right?

KNAC.COM: Sort of. But the guys are very good musicians.

WOLTER: Oh, the guitar player smokes! I heard him play and the guy is serious shit. We played with them last year at Loud Park Festival in Tokyo. But they played more and talked less, because the Japs don’t understand the jokes.

KNAC.COM: They probably had to be walked out by security!

WOLTER: I thought they were funny. It’s a great show. It’s a guy’s show, but the girls are there, too.

KNAC.COM: Are you the riffmaster in the band?

WOLTER: Yeah. I don’t want to call myself riffmaster, but I write a lot of catchy riffs for the songs, like “16.6” and stuff. The guy that usually wrote (riffs) was Tom [Naumann]. I jumped in and replaced him. In my old band I wrote all the songs. I think Mat wanted me for the riffs, so that’s basically my main thing I focus on when I write.

KNAC.COM: Do you have any new material in the works?

WOLTER: We started writing for Sinner. Mat’s got a solo band since ’82; it’s called Sinner, that’s a metal institution in Germany. So, when he tells me, “Write Sinner songs.” I do it. Now we’re in the process of finishing Sinner which will be recorded after the Primal Fear tour in October. And then we’re going to take it from there and start writing stuff for the new Primal Fear.

Photos by Charlie Steffens

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