0:00 - Angels Cry (overview)
4:00 - Angels Cry (living conditions in Germany)
6:30 - Angels Cry (meeting Sascha Paeth)
7:45 - Angels Cry (working with Kai Hansen and other guest musicians)
8:30 - Angels Cry (drummer replaced by order of Charlie Bauerfeind)
10:00 - current albums - prevalence of special guests
12:00 - Angels Cry (firing the original drummer)
13:30 - The Turn of the Lights (recording process, producer, etc)
19:00 - Symfonia (inception)
24:00 - Symfonia (recording the album)
29:00 - Symfonia (release and touring)
30:15 - Symfonia (proposal of second album)
31:15 - Symfonia (Timo Tolkki pulls the plug)
34:30 - Thoughts on Timo's current work
36:30 - Avantasia (first two albums)
38:45 - Avantasia (touring)
41:15 - Andre's plans for 2013 (Angels Cry Anniversary)
44:00 - Andre's current relationship with Angra
Recording Angels Cry (1993): The album was not easy to be done. It was like a difficult birth, because we were very inexperienced and we were very young. And suddenly we were flown to Germany, which was back then the center of this power metal scene, where everything used to happen. We saw ourselves suddenly working with some of the best producers around. The funny thing is we brought along with us some kind of music that also those producers were not so familiar with. We were not an European power metal band, so there were classical influences. There were Brazilian influences, Caribbean rhythms, and everything you can imagine, so it was not easy to fit all this together. I used to say the recording of Angels Cry felt more like an exile. We were there for months old until the album was taking a final shape. And it was kind of creepy also. For me, it was my very first time in Germany (later on, I've been back to Germany many, many times and even lived there for a while. I think it's a wonderful country, a perfect country). My first impression when I came…we were recording this album at Kai Hansen's studio in Hamburg, the Gamma Ray studio. And it happened that the studio sat inside a Second World War bunker. There were no windows, there was no air, there was no light. So it was a strange atmosphere for this first album that we did in Germany, but in the end everything went out okay. And we had some problem also with the drummer, our original drummer, that had to be replaced on the fly there because something didn't go right with him during the recordings. So it was sort of a heavy time for us. If there was something I could learn out of it, it was how to be professional and how to be patient, and how to stand through everything that has been testing us all over those months that Angels Cry had been produced.
Meeting Sascha Paeth and recording in Germany: I remember clearly the moment I met Sascha, the first day. We had back then a German manager called Limb Schnoor, and he was the one who was organizing the whole thing, the whole recording budget. There were some particular things about this production. It's very funny to remember. We didn't have a very comfortable life, I have to say, when we were moved to Germany suddenly to record an album there. They just put us in a filthy old pension, and it was very funny because the whole furniture was from the 60s or 70s, or something like that, and the owner of the pension was this old woman that survived the second World War, and her husband was living there as well because he was a war injured. And the funny thing was I had this room, and when I used to open the window of the room, it gave a sight to the backyard of the house, and it was a small place, a small backyard. But they had some cages, and they were breeding some pigeons, huge ones, like the size of a cat almost. And then one day (I could speak some German back then already), I came to her husband, this injured soldier from the Second World War, and I said, 'But why do you create those pigeons here? I never saw big ones like those.' And he said, 'I like it, and well, sometimes we eat one of them.' So I mean, there are these kinds of anecdotes or curiosities about this whole production.
But Sascha, yes, I remember the day I met him at our manager's office, and there came Sascha and Charlie Bauerfeind, who was the main producer back then. Sascha was his assistant, although he did a lot in the album anyway, as usual. And it was very strange, because when we saw each other, we kind of felt like friends already forever, and we're still friends forever, that's the point. I just talked to Sascha one week ago. Our careers and our lives always matched somehow, and we did so much together. So that was just the very first time, and I completely identified with that guy, and he was my biggest friend during the recording of Angels Cry and the whole process. He was the guy I used to spend my free time talking about music, and already back then, we had the idea of doing some project together one day because our musical taste used to match a lot. So he is one of my best friends in music, absolutely.
Kai and Dirk from Gamma Ray appearing on Angels Cry: We used to see them always passing by and doing things in the studio. And of course they were idols for us. I was even shy. I didn't dare to say 'Good morning' to them or something, full of respect to them. But within the time, they were showing up to be really communicative and nice guys, and suddenly they were taking part on the album as well.
Drummers on Angels Cry: This album had a lot of different participations starting from the drummer, who we had to swap quick, with some urgency, who is Alex Holzwarth, the one who used to play in this Rhapsody band for a long time. Amazing drummer. That was basically a producer's decision. The producer came to us and said, 'Look, for what I want on this album, your drummer is not, unfortunately, going to be able to deliver it. So, you have two choices: we use electronic drums, or we hire someone I know who can do it in a week. It was a difficult decision, because our drummer was good friends of us, and he was one of the co-founders of the band, so it was very, very hard to take this decision. Once we were all there, and there was no point of turning back, we had to go for one of those options, and Charlie said, 'Otherwise, I'm not going to put my name on this production.' And that was our only choice. We had a different drummer just to play that cover song, that version from Kate Bush, 'Wuthering Heights', that was a different drummer. It was the Gamma Ray drummer back then [Thomas Nack], who was a big fan of Kate Bush and could play those lines perfectly. Then we had, yes, some of those people who were around, you know, taking part in the album.
On firing the original drummer of Angra: That was hard. I think it was all of us, but I think the closest friend of the drummer back then was the guitar player Rafael [Bittencourt], and it was more due to him to take the difficult part. We did all we could. We knew there were problems before we even boarded the plane to Germany, and we said to our drummer, 'We're going to give you the chance. Do the best you can, and we stand for you.' But when it clashed with the producer, and it was a professional producer, one of the best ones back then in time, there was no excuse. There was nothing we could do, and all of us suffered a lot with that, and that was one of the first sad and ugly lessons that we had to learn right from the start.
On Symfonia's short lifespan (looking back from the beginning): It was almost like a meteor. I didn't expect this. I was really caught by surprise. Like I said, for a couple of years now, I'm sharing my time between Brazil and Sweden. Actually, my real family lives in Sweden, and I'm living there, but I still have my band in Brazil, and I have my main audience in South America, so I've been bouncing back and forth quite often. In the beginning of my stay in Sweden (I don't know how, but Timo got to know that I was living there, you know), one day I got a phone call from Timo. Of course, I knew Timo for, I don't know, 10, 12 years. We have toured together, Angra and Stratovarius, a long time in Europe and Japan, everywhere. So we became good friends. We have been always good friends. Not only Timo, but everybody at Stratovarius was very good friends with us. And then Timo said, 'Look, Andre, I know that now you are living here in Sweden, and it's just around the corner. I mean, why don't we do something together? I have some song ideas that I would like to show you. And I would like to invite you to stay a weekend at my place here in Helsinki. Why don't you come?' And then I thought, 'Well, why not? Timo is a nice guy. We always had a good relationship together. He's a great musician. There's no doubt about it. He's one of the best in what he does with the guitar and composing also.' So when I had this spare time, I actually took a plane, and in one hour I was there. Then he started to show me some songs. I started to show him some ideas of mine also. We didn't have anything fixed back then or developed or anything. We didn't know even if it would be a project or a band or who would be part of it or not. It was just the first meeting to see what comes out of it. But it was quite positive back then. And then, he was very excited about it after we met, and he said, 'I'm going to start to think about who could complete this team.' And by coincidence, there were other musicians who were kind of free. When I say free, they were not playing fixed on any band, and also living in Scandinavia. One of them was Uli Kusch, the ex-drummer of Helloween, Masterplan, and other bands, who is living in Norway now. Another guy living in Norway was Jari Kainulainen, who was the former bass player of Stratovarius and he also played in Evergrey and other bands, one of the best bass players I've ever played with. There was a keyboard player from Helsinki, from Finland. He's the former member of Sonata Arctica, Mikko Härkin. Splendid guy, splendid musician, very interesting person.
Timo was organizing all by himself, I must admit, because that was my condition basically to him. I said, 'Look, I can take part of it. I can do interviews, I can do pictures, I can sing, I can compose, I can do everything as normally I would do for a band. But I don't want to manage this, because I have enough to take care of. I still have my solo band, and this I'm not going to give up. So it is something nice for me as long as I am in Scandinavia, and I have something to do when I am here.' So that was the basic idea. And first of all, we just talk about, 'Yeah, it's going to be like a project to reunite those super musicians, so it was supposed to be like a super band. And then it happened, it just happened. We met again, a couple of months later in Helsinki, and we started to rehearse some songs. I knew Jari already from our tours before, and I knew Uli Kusch also from some tourings before. I didn't know Mikko personally. But it was the first time we had the chance to meet all together and exchange ideas and talk about the future, and we were quite happy and excited. It was a light atmosphere, I must say. And then we took the chance to make some photo sessions and stuff like this, record some interviews. Then, continuing the story, the record was started to be planned. Timo and I composed most of the songs together. He came up more with the music, and I came up with the lyrics, and sometimes we interfered a little bit on each other's parts. But there was this confidence between the both of us, like 'Okay, I can talk. Give me some idea, and I can try to manipulate this idea. And I give you another idea, and you can also change it the way you like. You know, we are open for anything, and we can do the whole record the whole way, the both of us composing the record. And the other guys, for now, for this first moment, would just accompany us in the whole process, which, for practical reasons, was the best decision. So when we had the basic demo done, and all of the songs basically written, we booked the first studio and then Uli was recording the album in about two days only, amazing drumming. I didn't know he was such a good drummer. And then, the rest was done in Helsinki. The guitars, and bass, and keyboards. Then Timo came to visit me in Sweden. I remember, it was high winter time. He came on the 31st of December. It was New Year's Eve. First of January, it was the day we started recording. And we did a very usual thing. We rented a cabin, a wood cabin, on top of mountain, where no one could reach us. There was no internet, no telephone. It was very hard to reach there. Sometimes, even if we had a car, we would be stuck inside, and it was a complete insulation feeling, which was cool actually. So the whole album was recorded like this, and then it was mixed in Italy and mastered by Timo himself. It went out, and from the top, from the beginning, one thing that I always said on interviews, whoever wanted to ask and to know about it, was the following: 'Symfonia is not supposed to be a band or a project that was meant to reinvent the style, or to reinvent the wheel, so to say. What we wanted was to get all those famous musicians together who somehow had their highlights in this specific musical field and see what comes out of it. See when those people are together, and if they deliver their best, what kind of power metal comes out of it.' So this was the proposal of the album, and we never denied it. So if someone came with some criticism like, 'But it's more of the same, and it brings nothing new. It just sounds like Stratovarius and Angra.' Well, that's exactly what we wanted. That was the idea from the beginning, from the top.
Tolkki pulls the plug on Symfonia: When everything was set to start, and to start recording demos, and the record labels were already warned we were beginning new work with Symfonia, with composing and arranging, all of a sudden without notice, all of us (the other members) received an email from him, where he stated like, 'Look, I think Symfonia didn't reach the level that I expected it should have reached. Therefore, I must say to you all that there's not going to be a second album. Therefore, I must say to you all that there's not going to be Symfonia anymore. And therefore, I also would like to let you know that I'm intending to quit my musical career forever.' And that was wow, kind of shocking for everyone, like we didn't know what to say. I knew stories from Timo. I had been warned before, because I am friends also with the other people who have worked together with him. But I mean, we had been working on this Symfonia thing for over a year, and nothing really weird happened before this very day. So yes, it was a big shock, and I said to him, 'Look, I have to respect your decision. It's your life, it's your decision. I still have my solo band which I will dedicate back again. I will go back to it. The only thing I would like you to do is to justify your attitude together with the people who are already compromised with this new record and a possible new tour, because I don't think it's really fair.' And ever since, we haven't been in touch again. He just disappeared from all of us and also from the business people who were involved in the band. So it was sort of a tragic end for something that started in such a good vibe. Yes, I'm kind of lucky that I saw it more as a side thing, although in a certain moment I started to feel like, 'Oh, this starts really to feel like a band, you know. It's not just like a project. It might have a long life.' But anyway, it didn't affect me like an atom bomb, because I still had my own things to take care of, and I was just giving a pause on my solo project. Then, right after this, I started to focus back again on this third album, and it was a good motivation to keep on working.
On Timo Tolkki's return to music: Look, the point is, we never know if it's going to happen or not. He has done some fuck-ups before, and he has done it with us, and I wonder who are the people who are going to trust him in the future. I feel very sorry for him. I think this is really a sort of a mental disease. The person is never satisfied. The person has never taken the responsibilities…Personally, I don't really care what Timo is doing or not doing right now, and I don't hate him at all. I just feel very sorry for him. And by the way, it was a great opportunity to work together with all those 5 musicians if we include the last drummer we had who replaced Uli Kusch, Alex Landenburg. He's also amazing and a great guy. So for me, it was just positive in the end, to share those moments with such great musicians and then I feel honored to be part of them in a certain moment. Even Timo. I include him in this. He is a very talented musician, so I'm very happy to have had this chance in life. It's just a pity that for whatever reasons, this thing didn't survive.
Working on the Avantasia albums and tour: I have of course been involved from the very first album. It's a funny thing, because when Toby came to me to invite me for the first Avantasia album, we were on tour in France, I remember. It was still Angra and Edguy. Edguy was the newcomer, very young band, young boys, and Toby was funny already with his character and personality frontman. I remember he came to me, and he said, 'I have a lot of influence from your work, and I have listened a lot to Angels Cry and Holy Land and blah blah blah. So I am planning a rock opera with some of the best metal musicians in the world, and I would like to ask you if you would like to take part on it.' And I looked at that boy, and I said, 'Of course, no problem. I take part on it, no problem, it's a pleasure', but I thought inside to myself, 'He's nuts, you know, he's never going to make it. He's one of those who just dreams about it.' And he made it. So this is a joke every time we meet. I always tell him, 'You're never going to make it, Toby.' So it was cool. In the beginning, I had my parts. I particularly like a lot of the first two albums. I think they are exceptional albums, and they came in a moment when metal was stagnated, and they brought some new life to metal at that precise moment.
Future touring possibilities with Avantasia: And recently I have been talking to Tobias and to Sascha also, and it seems it's the same kind of problem. As Kiske is continuing there, it looks like he took my place over for a while, so we'll see in the future. It's nothing that I depend on or that I count on, but I miss the good atmosphere that we had in the very first tour, and this is something I would like to live again if possible.
Current relationship with Angra: I wouldn't say that things are not good. I would just say that things are not, not at all. It's a different thing. When we were talking about Viper, for instance, Viper is the band I was born with, I grew up with, and we kept our childhood friendship forever. So when we were back on stage playing together, it was a vibrating thing. It was like magic. With Angra, I cannot promise it would be the same. It was a different story, it was a different way the band split up, so it doesn't really ring the bell the same way as Viper did. Therefore I think the solo band is pretty much able to perform the Angra songs very likely and very faithful to the original arrangements, even because some of the musicians who are playing together with me were at Angra at a certain point of their career also, or have some direct connection to Angra's history. So what we want to do is play it to perfection. Once the band is playing it to perfection, and the original voice is there, I guess the audience is going to be more than satisfied.