An amazing 22 albums fill the back catalogue of German metaller’s Rage going all the way back to the mid 1980’s and their latest album “The Devil Strikes Again” will be released June 10th. We spoke to founding member Peter “Peavy” Wagner about the band’s career, the new album and the revitalised new lineup.
Andrew: How’s things with you and the band at the moment?
Peavy: Perfect, couldn’t be better!
Andrew: Obviously you have a new album coming but will you guys be on tour very soon?
Peavy: Yeah when the album comes out, the festival season starts here in Europe. We’re going to play a couple of festivals over the summer and we have our own tour by November or end of October, we already have 20 dates put together and there’s still more offers coming so the promoters realize we have a good album coming out soon. So there’s still some dates to be added so it will be good.
Andrew: So the new album “The Devil Strikes Again”, what can you tell me about this one?
Peavy: It’s the new one that we did with the new lineup of the band. We changed the lineup in the beginning of 2015 and I think this new one is really good. I’m 100 percent behind it, in my opinion it has the essence of the band so I’m really happy with the result.
Andrew: I had a bit of a preview of the album before and you are right, it does capture the trademark sound of Rage. I guess that’s what you were trying to go for on this album?
Peavy: Yeah exactly, that was the idea. It’s also the reason why I had to change the lineup because it wasn’t possible anymore with the old members to get into this direction, they wanted to go more and more into progressive stuff which was not my wish in the end. Rage is known for a very specific sound, a typical vibe and energy which I had already developed long before these guys ever joined the band. I know a lot of fans were wishing we would play more old songs and go more and more in this direction so I felt I had a responsibility for my band and I had a responsibility for the output of the band. So I wanted people who would play this style with me which I found in Marcos (Rodriguez, guitars) and Lucky (Vassilios Maniatopoulos, drums), both who are longtime friends and both who grew up with the band and diehard fans of this style. so they were perfect to record in this style again.
Andrew: Yeah it’s obviously beneficial to already know who you are working with as opposed to working with someone new I guess.
Peavy: Absolutely, it was the main idea behind it. I’ve worked with people who were not my friends for 15 years, it was always just a kind of professional collaboration. Which was OK, I don’t want to say anything bad about the guys, they did their job. But they never really understood what Rage was about I guess and they never really cared that much because they had their own styles, they were trying to drive their own career with Rage and in the long run it just wasn’t working. It was all OK as long as there was enough respect for each other but this has changed over the last few years, it was more and more painful to be with them especially when you are on the road and you have to hang out with them for 24 hours, with people who don’t like you and that you don’t like [laughs]. It can be a pain in the ass, like I don’t want to do this anymore. I just realized that the band and also the music would take damage, so I had to change something and that’s what I did consequently.
Andrew: Well obviously it’s had a positive effect because these new songs have a very high energy to them, the chemistry with you guys now seems to have really worked. I guess it was important to get back to that classic sound of Rage.
Peavy: Exactly! Lucky has been a friend of mine since 1988, Marcos has been a friend for 8 years and we would also work together even if we didn’t do this band. We actually did, I had done stuff with Marcos before so it’s good to have both guys in the band.
Andrew: Did you try to get these guys in the band at another stage before?
Peavy: Actually I was thinking of adding Marcos as a second guitar player before but we realized that Victor Smolski the former guitar player, didn’t want another guitar player on his side. But I think the way it is now, it’s just the best way.
Andrew: I was reading your bio earlier and I realized that you now have 22 albums which is just amazing to me! You guys have been pretty prolific in putting out new material, are you conscious of the fact that you have so many songs to go through?
Peavy: [laughs] Sometimes it’s a problem, especially when we want to put together a live set, we have endless material [laughs]. It’s very hard, always has because we have to sort it out, it’s getting too long. We now need 90 minutes, well 90 minutes isn’t a long enough show as we have 10 times as much!
Andrew: [laughs] Well how do you go through the process of picking out songs you want to play on a new tour? And how do you go about taking out some of the older ones?
Peavy: We’re adding a lot of older stuff now with this new lineup because both guys have said they are die hard fans of the band and they want to play all this old stuff. Same with all the fans who want to hear all this stuff so we have rehearsed a lot of the old stuff so we have to change a little bit, like not play the same set every night. We make changes every 1 or 2 shows to just include more and more stuff to make it possible.
Andrew: There’s a bonus CD that comes with certain versions of the album and I noticed there’s a couple of cover songs on there including one from Skid Row, “Slave To The Grind”. Why did you decide to cover that song?
Peavy: When we realized we needed a bit more material and we were already recording in the studio, we just said ‘OK let’s play some stuff that we just like’. And everybody had a wish so “Slave To The Grind” was a wish of our drummer Lucky, I was wishing a song from Rush, “Bravado” and Marcos wished a song from Y&T. So we we recorded them quite spontaneously, there wasn’t any real big philosophy behind it [laughs].
Andrew: I’m a bit of a Skid Row fan so thought I would mention it as we just saw them recently so to play “Slave To The Grind” is very cool.
Peavy: Lucky is also a diehard Skid Row fan [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] Some of the songs on the album are really good though, there’s a lot of thrashy stuff, a lot of mid-tempo groove stuff. “Deaf Dumb And Blind” is probably my favorite song at the moment, do you know which songs you will be playing live at this stage?
Peavy: Not a hundred percent, we will probably have to change them a little bit. I think the title track and “My Way” is going to be in the set, I would like to play “Dark Side Of The Sun” or maybe “Spirits Of The Night” but we’ll have to decide this. But like I said, we’re going to change them like with the old stuff, not play the same stuff every night.
Andrew: Well speaking of touring, do you have Australia on the cards?
Peavy: Actually we have offers from Australia and it depends on whether we get offers from other countries. For example if we could play Japan at the end of October or so, then we could combine this and come over to Australia which would be great and I would really love to come over there. It’s the last continent that I haven’t been so far in this world and I would love to come over and see how the scene is over there and play some songs. But we will see what happens, hope it works out.
Andrew: Yeah there’s a lot of fans here who love this kind of music. We had Helloween come over just recently and I know you guys had just toured with them recently as well but there is a market here for this kind of stuff.
Peavy: Hopefully, it would be great!
Andrew: We mentioned before that you have so many albums to go through and have had such a great, long career, how did you get into music in the first place? What inspired you to pick up the bass and start singing and be in a band?
Peavy: I started learning the guitar when I was 8 or 9 years old, first on classical guitar and then on Spanish composes. Back then I was a big fan of the Beatles which was my first inspiration [laughs]. In one of my very first bands I was one of the guitar players and then Motorhead were becoming very big here in Europe and I just loved Lemmy’s Rickenbaker bass guitar that he was playing and so I just needed to get one of those bass guitars because I loved the instrument so much. I never played the bass before but when you’re able to play the guitar, it’s not such a big deal to switch over to bass.
Andrew: Obviously we just lost Lemmy recently, what are your thoughts on that?
Peavy: It’s a shame, it’s sad. I knew him, we toured with Motorhead in 1992 and it was a great experience for us and like I said, he was my very first idol as a bass player. To be honest it wasn’t really unexpected that he would go sooner or later, he looked a bit bad in the last few years. But his lifestyle was programmed for all this you know [laughs], with all the alcohol and drugs so I wasn’t surprised when I heard it but of course it’s sad when a guy like this goes. A real icon and the metal scene definitely has lost one of the biggest names, one of the most important faces.
Andrew: Absolutely. How did he influence you on the bass? Do you play the bass as a guitar like he did and do you play with a pick? How do you approach it?
Peavy: I prefer to play with a pick like he did. Of course he wasn’t the only influence but in the beginning it was him.
Andrew: Aside from Motorhead, who were some of your biggest influences then?
Peavy: It’s always different, different people. For singing, back in the 80’s I liked Geoff Tate very much or on bass for example, Geddy Lee from Rush, I’m a big fan of Rush too. Lots of other stuff too like Megadeth, Metallica, bands which I still like very much. A lot of thrash bands like Testament as well, I really like the way they do it. I like the brutal vocal style which influenced me a little bit nowadays, bands like Opeth so I’m always open to everything, I’m open to getting influences from other bands I like but I don’t think it really shows in my music. I found my personal way to compose long ago doing it this way.
Andrew: Music has changed a lot so much, especially in heavy metal. Going back to when you first started listening to music back then and looking at the bands that are doing this stuff now, what do you think has been the biggest change aside from the fact that it’s gotten heavier than what it used to be?
Peavy: One thing that we have nowadays is that we tons of categories where there is tons of different metal. In the beginning it wasn’t even called heavy metal [laughs], it was hard rock or something. Some bands were called punk and Motorhead was seen as a punk band.
Andrew: Oh right! I guess they have a punk attitude in their music so that makes sense.
Peavy: Yeah and when this term heavy metal came up, everything was heavy metal from Bon Jovi to Slayer, it was all the same [laughs]. But it’s different nowadays.
Andrew: Not to focus too much on genres and all that kind of stuff but what do you consider your music to be then?
Peavy: You mean what category our music is? I think this is not my job to catagorize my music, this is up to the journalists to put us in a box [laughs]. I don’t know, I just do heavy metal in an individual way that I like it to sound like, that’s why I formed my own band to make my music exactly the way I want to hear it.
Andrew: As long as you enjoy it, that’s the main thing! Congratulations on the new album “The Devil Strikes Again”, fantastic stuff. Hopefully one day we will get to see you in Australia, it’s something that should happen.
Peavy: Yeah hopefully it works out. Like I said, we have an offer and maybe we can get over. That would be great!
Andrew: Absolutely! Thanks for your time today, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and have fun on the tour this year.
Peavy: Yeah thank you very much and thank you for supporting.