First of all, I would like to thank again mister Ralf Scheepers for this amazing interview! He was a wonderful interlocutor, with a great sense of humor, intelligence, kind manners and I was really pleased to hear that he speaks some Greek! We talked via Skype and unfortunately, we had some issues with the connection, so some parts I had to connect the dots to write them down! So, I apologize for any mistakes Mr. Scheepers and of course dear readers! Grab a drink or a snack and I hope you enjoy the interview!
-I am really happy that we have you at MusikHolics!
-Thank you very much! (in Greek)
-I was born in Germany in 1965, such a long time ago wow, and I consider myself as a normal person, whose just loving music and whose loving to sing, who loves heavy metal and who is really happy to play in a band called Primal Fear! That is pretty much it! (laughter)
-How were you involved with music? What music means to you on a deeper level?
-Music is something, which is really like painting a picture! If you are listening to music in certain moods, it maybe can give you another caption for the mood you have and it even can give you some amplify to your feelings! Whatever feeling you are into if you listen to a certain style of music or a certain atmosphere of music, it is always amplifying the feelings you have and music is also linked to memories! So if I listen to certain songs of my youth, it is always linked to memories and that’s a great thing about music that we are always linked to the situation which we are when we listen to the music the first time or a period of time, you know, and that’s what is happening to me and I think that’s also happening with any new music which is being released, that it always reminds you to a certain era of time you were in, whether it’s a good time or not, but it doesn’t mean that if you had a bad time that the music is bad because sometimes the music helps you also out of the bad situations! So, basically, I am so grateful to have it on the planet!
-Judas Priest is your favorite band, according to your page. Can you tell us why and what other influences do you have (or idols)?
-Yes, I mean it pretty much says that I am linked to the new wave of British heavy metal and I mean Judas Priest, but there is also the German bands Scorpions and Accept, so it is not only the new wave of British heavy metal but there is also some German heavy metal. Anyway, I mean Judas Priest as a senior, absolutely just really stood out because of how British is just amazing but you can see I was a fanboy back then and now I am doing my own music, which is not copying of a band or a style, just doing the music with my mates from Primal Fear which we love to do and we do not copy somebody! I do not have to justify it, it is just something that I always like to mention, I am a massive fan of Judas Priest and I am still very happy to know them but I am not that fanboy anymore, you know!
-When we hear the name, Ralf Scheepers, the first thing that comes to mind is your voice! Your voice is also influenced by Rob Halford, from Judas Priest, when you use a shriek that is reminiscent to his. What’s the feeling of having a voice so memorable and unique? Do you believe that people thought that your voice was so special when you first started and was that something that helped you at the beginning?
-Yes, it did! I mean, of course, I was a young boy when I started, fifteen years old singing (fifteen or sixteen years old) it was pretty much still like a young boy, sounding like a boy, but yeah! I was maturing over the years and also got a lot of experience later on from singing live and that is exactly what most of the singers should do, sing as much as you can and that’s the best training. But, as you said, every vocal box is different, it is not somehow like….like it is a style when you scream and hit the high notes, it is a certain vocal style and vocal technique. So, I mean Rob Halford and also some…, pretty much like Eric Adams. Eric Adams when he hit the high notes, it is pretty much the same technique and that’s why it sounds so similar but you can still distinguish the vocalist behind it so, because every human vocal box is different and that is absolutely the same thing with my vocal box.
-I know that you provide instructions about music and singing (and of course we will talk about it more later on)! My question is, what makes a good artist in general?
-A good artist is someone who is composing good music and to “get” the people with it in the end, with the spirit and the idea, the emotion behind! To have, somehow, releasing a good melody, a good harmony, a good rhythm and all the time it is also matter of taste of the people! So, in the end, the taste of the artist has to somehow be the same with the listener’s! For me, a good artist, no matter what kind of artist (you can also be a painter), has to have some kind of talent which is appreciated by the people! A good artist always, somehow, gets the people with whatever he/she does, whether is singing, playing guitar, painting a picture, whatever in art!
-Primal Fear was born in 1997, although in the song “Along came the Devil”, we were born in 1998 but that is just better to sing (laughter). In the end, our album, our first album, came out in 1998 so that is still a match! Anyway, Primal Fear is the name of an American movie, that’s called “Primal Fear”, and we thought that’s a strong title for a band because it’s Primal Fear! It is something like, somebody who is fearing about…my primal fear, for instance, is war and death and so forth. There is a certain kind of primal fear in every person and we also thought it is a strong expression for a heavy metal band!
-Tell us more about the story of the band, through the years!
-We came together in ’97, like I said, and I was not in Gamma Ray anymore because of my application for Judas Priest which never happened(we all know the story, I never auditioned), Tim “Ripper” Owens got the job and in the end it was good because Primal Fear now is there, and the other guys are Tom Naumann and Mat Sinner( we met in Esslingen which is our hometown) and Mat and Tom said “lets do some music together”, they were recording a studio album in the studio and they asked me to some quires for the new album! That’s what I did and we sat together and the guys asked me if we could do some music together! That’s what we did and the first four songs were born and we sent them out to the record labels, they were still waiting for me in Japan( to get music from me), so I sent out those songs and they immediately wanted to sign me! And then, a competition started, in Europe, from the record companies to sign us and we were in a very good position to start back in the day! These are the initial times of Primal Fear!
-In the past, you also sung in Gamma Ray, Tyran’ Pace and done guest vocals for F.B.I., Scanner, Shadow Gallery and many more! What’s the best collaboration you had? Would you like to share some funny incidents that you had during these collaborations or even while performing?
–Gamma Ray was a band, as you know! I was in for 5 years and we did 3 albums and that was just great for me because it was a very good learning period for me! I learned about the lives, I learned the works in the studio and so forth! So that was very important for my career in the end and I still love the guys very much and we get together once in a while and we are good friends still, that’s a good part of my life! And funny parts, oh my God, so many things which I always forget in the end, you know, so yeah here and there! I always forget those funny incidents when we are touring, some things are happening which I always forget because it’s just really fresh back in the days and then you forget over the years!
-Heavy metal, power metal and speed metal are genres that have a lot of fans but also metal, in general, is being accused for many things like being satanic. What is the thing that draws people into metal and what is your opinion about the accusations towards metal and the metal community, of course?
–I mean, if you are a heavy metalist, you are driven by the force and the energy from the music! That’s what happened to me, I never cared about the lyrics at the beginning! When I started to read some lyrics, it was just even more underlining of the story of heavy metal, the dark theme that I see and I hope that people too see as kind of entertainment, which is not meant to be so serious that we are really a Satan adorer or Satanic adorer or whatever you want to call it! It is just a genre which is somehow speaking a lot about the Devil, we also do, but the Devil doesn’t always have to be a person or something! (The Devil) It also can be a synonym, it can be a synonym for dark times, for bad times and that’s how we use the word Devil, as a synonym once in a while and maybe some other bands do that as well! They can also take Devil as the opposite of God, of course, but once again for me it is just entertainment, because basically like 99.9% of all musicians who are standing behind that are really nice people!
-What are the differences that you can pinpoint between Ralf Scheepers in 2020 and Ralf Scheepers in the early 2000’s, as an artist but also as a person! Is there anything that you regret or would like to do differently?
–Not so much in terms of music, because everything went well! Private, a little bit yes, but let’s forget it and let’s move forward, let’s look positively into the future! But music-wise, like I said, I would do the same thing again because it is just, like I said before, running into things makes you more mature and you are at the position you are right now because you were going through shit sometimes! I am a person who is always focused on the positive things! So, we forget about bad things and in the end, it is maturing and growing out of it! And, in the end you end up as a wise man! (laughter)
–Well, it already happens these days and I can’t tell you but there are so many idols out there! Why not be together with some American guys, like The Bolds of Las Vegas these people are pretty amazing vocalists and also musicians, of course! Yeah, jamming around a little bit would be funny, maybe also with Iron Maiden once in a while, but you know, we know the guys already personally now after all those years! We always have a different perspective when we know the people personally, its just getting easier and much simpler to do that, if there is the time! But there is always a matter of time, which is not bringing us together in the end!
-You have an amazing career, with a great band and you were able to make your dreams come true! But, of course, they should have been bad times along the way! Was there a time that you wanted to quit and stop everything? Is there any advice that you were given, that you always remember and helps you move forward?
–Yes, of course! What I said before, when I was out of Gamma Ray, because it was a dark time for me and I did the application for Judas Priest and they did not audition me (the Skype call was cut there so I assume that this is what mister Scheepers meant, do not shoot the messenger), I thought about maybe to quit because it would not make sense anyway anymore but, like I said before, Mat and Tom got me out of this blackhole and I am really happy that I continued! And that’s what I want to tell to somebody who is down on his/her knees, that I was down on my knees music-wise , not personal-wise, but if you are also down on your knees personal-wise NEVER surrender! Always continue to do what you love to do and see the things in a positive perspective, because things will turn out better again! There is always some kind of a path out of the valley, if you want to call it that, up to the mountain again and the sun will shine again! There are a lot of phrases here but it is just the truth! There are going to be bad times, there are going to be light days!
-How did fame affect your life and your mindset? Did it change you in any way?
–No, because I don’t see it like I am famous! Yeah, I mean there is always a perspective, from which angle you see it! I don’t consider myself as “so famous”! Of course, I am for many fans and for some people but, like I said at the beginning, I am a normal guy because I was born and raised in the mid-class of Germany and I know that there is always a downside and there are always happy times and also some bad times! I can consider myself as a grounded person, who is always aware of things that could happen which are not so positive!
-What would you like to achieve in the future with your life and your career? Is there a dream that you would like to accomplish?
–Yes, if it is getting a little more successful, I would not deny it! (laughter) So, yeah, it is like <<always look up until you look down>>! There is always more to achieve and as long as you are still hungry in terms of achieving your goals, then I think everything is going in the right direction!
-We know that you provide instructions for all around singing, music, studio and recording/processing techniques at R’s Vocal Works, in Germany! Could you give us more information about this? ( For the people that are interested check www.ralfscheepers.com )
–First of all, you are really well prepared! You really know a lot!
-(laughter) That is my job!
-That’s great! Wow, you are well informed! That’s great! Yes, I offer vocal lessons on Skype, also here in my studio but for people who are coming from Australia and South America it’s not possible so in the end I am doing this on Skype as well! I don’t only give vocal advices, I also give technical advices in terms of microphones, compressors, studio work, recordings and so forth! And that is also something I offer to the people out there if they want to know a little bit more about recording and stuff, like I said! And everything around the voice, I mean breath techniques, intonation exercises, maintenance of the vocal chords, which is a very important thing if you are a touring artist and if your voice is wearing out a lot I have a lot of tools in terms of massages and also bubbles and whatever you have nowadays! I show to my students and help them!
-Bubbles? What do you mean bubbles? (I am not a musician)
– (proceeds to show me) Did you understand? (in Greek)
-Yes, I did! (laughter). So, this year, you released your new album with Primal Fear, Metal Commando! Tell us about your new album and what more can we expect from Primal Fear this year and the next year?
-We are really happy that is out since last Friday (17.07.2020) and the album is, in my opinion, very alternating so you have a lot of variation! You have the groovy-tempos, you have the melodies on it, you have the up-tempos, you have the epical/atmospheric stuff, you have the ballad and I think is pretty much very interesting for the fans as it is for us because we release what we love first and then, of course, we think about our fans and that they love it too! And in terms of touring, nothing is happening you all know with the pandemic, which is a petty! We do not do streaming concerts, that’s not our kind of thing! In our opinion, it is not really delivering the energy which heavy metal music has! The same thing in terms of, playing cinema full of cars (car cinema), it is strange! You have to have the interaction with the fans and that’s our approach when we play live! When we don’t have the interaction live it is just like a show business, it is not somehow like just sit in a car, listen to the music and the shit existed you know! But, that is only our opinion and I totally understand colleagues who are doing it and I wouldn’t say that I would never do it because I am also invited for an event, which I can’t tell you right now but you may find out soon, and I am doing this but it is an exception and it is only for a certain show! So that’s my opinion about the live playing and the live streaming and cinema-cars! So this year, pretty much nothing is happening in terms of live for Primal Fear but we will also release another video again and then we are going to have an extra candy for people around the Fall, the Autumn, so that’s how we try to make the time worthwhile waiting for us, until we play live!
-Are you discussing anything for 2021?
-Yes, we are! Our booking management is already negotiating with certain promoters, with the hope that they survive this pandemic which is really bad for a lot of concert halls and promoters out there! We will see how many will survive, let’s hope all of them! Our booking management is working on it, for a schedule for next year in Europe and we also do the American tour, that we postponed this year, with Symphony X we will do it next year! So, there are going to be many live activities next year!
-So, hopefully we will also see you here in Vienna!
-That will be a pleasure! Thank you very much! Thank you for accepting our invitation and hopefully we will talk again, in the future!
You can find Ralf Scheepers and the band Primal Fear on the links below:
Do not forget to check their tour with Symphony X. You can find everything on the link below!!