"Be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow"
Medieval Metal or Mittelalter-Metal is one of those rather obscure metal genres that often get lost by the way-side. Granted it's the likes of Subway To Sally who were early pioneers of the sound i.e. mixing traditional German folk / medieval sounds with the solidarity and steeliness of metal music. Quintessentially German, Medieval Metal to the German Metal scene is as what Oriental Metal is to the Middle East-North Africa metal scenes, reflecting their culture and becoming a product of that area. Leading the wave going forward is Feuerschwanz (lit. Fire Tail) whose 15 year career is bristling with 8 albums until the 26th of June when album #9 drops... "Das Elfte Gebot" (The Eleventh Commandment).
GMA interrogated vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hauptmann Feuerschwanz about the band's origins, how Medieval Metal became a thing, the excitement at signing with Napalm Records, what new fans should expect at a Feuerschwanz concert and what plans they have going forward.
This was their first interview with a UK metal media.
For those who have not heard of Feuerschwanz could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Feuerschwanz was founded in 2004 and originally played in the German Medieval / Folk Rock scene. In the beginning we were playing at markets and then year after year we entered the rock stage of the career; becoming heavier with each passing year and reaching the Hard Rock sound. Since 2012 we headed towards a rock sound and since the last album "Methämmer", we went into the metal scene, embracing this awesome transformation into a very heavy rock sound. So now we are a Medieval / Folk Metal band."
Medieval Metal / Rock is an interesting genre, arguably Subway To Sally were one of the pioneers of the sound, so what is it that makes Medieval Metal stand out uniquely?
"That's a good question, I think Medieval Metal is a really 'special-German-thing'; this kind of music I think is a little bit kind of like a lifestyle, so a little bit between metal, between old instruments, Folk, castles in Germany; we have many castles and they are very romantic, the time of the knight... this is a mixture of all of this."
So generally would a Bavarian Medievial Metal scene / band sound different to that say of a Hamburg Medieval Metal scene / band?
"OK! In former times the differentiation was between east and west, so Subway To Sally is a good example for a eastern band and they had a very special style, but now it's not so important from the north or the south, there are many bands with very good and interesting styles... there is no direction from the north or south. Feuerschwanz in former times made funny Thrash Metal music; a little bit like Alestorm, but now we're more epic with Thor and Odin (the gods) with us, but also we drink the special drink of Odin, mead, the honey wine."
Now the biggest news was that you signed with Napalm Records, surely this has to be the biggest news since Feuerschwanz started?
"Since the last album "Methämmer" our progression to metal music involved us finding our sound and this became a very good step to go to Napalm Records. In former times we were on a smaller label in Germany (not a rock / metal label), so we are very happy and proud to go with Napalm Records for the future."
Tell us what a typical Feuerschwanz concert is like, what goes into it, etc?
"Our idea is to bring people energy and a good example of this is the song "Metfest", we have pictures online from our last tour, you can see a little bit of the power; the idea is to celebrate the life, drink and have fun."
What does album title "Das Elfte Gebot" mean; how long did the recording process take?
"It has a very deep message, you be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow - this is the message.
We have a two year album cycle, we make our pre-production - we are self-made musicians, we make the production for ourselves and have all of the songs on the computer, then we go to the studio with our producer and make the last pieces, the vocals and so on. So we need a year for production.
We have one song that's not on the album, but it's a very good song and will come on the next album, because we wanted eleven songs on this album and so one song had to go."
Given that most of the internationally successful German metal bands have had to switch to English to gain more exposure (except Rammstein), will Feuerschwanz create English songs for the non-German speakers?
"We have a second bonus track album with cover versions and we cover some metal songs from the likes of Powerwolf ('Amen & Attack'), Sabaton ('Gott Mit Uns') but also the pop song 'I See Fire' by Ed Sheeran. We try to explain our idea of music with some cover versions, but it's the typical Feuerschwanz sound being used."
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what has Feuerschwanz been doing at home and have you been doing any hobbies / interests?
"It's a hard time for us because we tried to promoted our new album and with no festivals or concerts, it's not going to be easy but we had an idea that we have started via crowdfunding, we stream a concert online for the day of our new album's release - we have a concert on a castle, now we have a lot of work to realize it and know where we stand at this time."
At what point during your life did you decide that you wanted to become a musician? Who did you get into first?
"Oooh! Very good question. During my childhood we founded a rock band at school, firstly I became a bassist and then I progressively go step-by-step to become the vocalist of the band. I listened to the likes of Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, etc., then I started with the 'Ride The Lightning' tour with Metallica... I loved many metal bands from the 80's and in the 90's I explored folk music, the Medieval folk scene, now I come back to metal."
What does your family think of your music? Are any of them musicians?
"We have some singers in the family but I'm the only one who has a band, every time my brothers are asking me 'hey how's it going with Feuerschwanz?', it's also nice to have some nephews come to the concerts - I have a very big family."
For metalheads visiting Erlangen, what bars and venues, sights or attractions would you recommend?
"Erlangen is a city with a big university with many students, the bars are not so high-price and are more for students. It's a very cosy city of which I love to ride my bicycle through and around it, have some beer in the student pubs. There is one club in Erlangen with a 1,000 capacity, the E-Werk kulturzentrum (old power station) has many concerts... but not today (laughs)."
Speaking of which, Germany is known for it's beer and so what are your favourite brands of beer?
"We come from Franconia, this is a small part of Bavaria and we have many breweries... so we are specialists in beer. We have a special kind of beer which tastes a bit like English beer in a typical Franconian style, in fact I love to taste the beers from the small breweries.
Of course you would have heard of Oktoberfest, this is the hardest festival in Germany and it's a little bit 'too much', too many people although it's an international gathering... I don't like it. In Bavaria all towns and cities have it's own beer festival, so in Erlangen we have the Bergkirchweih fair, our special ale fest... but not this year (laughs)."
After the COVID-19 pandemic, would Feuerschwanz look to play in the UK? Are you concerned about Brexit? How are people coping with the lockdown?
"We are very curious about the reactions of some regions and countries, especially of the UK the godmother of music, but we know it's hard to have concerts in the UK - you get a can of beer and oh, now play. It's very hard to go to the clubs in the UK, so we are very curious at the fans reactions, we hope that there is a good reaction and that they love our music, and then we could go with Powerwolf or so, I don't know hehe.
As for Brexit, in a music context I don't think there will be much changes in music - most of the time we've played in Germany and only once in Russia. We hope it's not so difficult to come to the UK to play.
Russia involved playing a special concert in Moscow in 2009, it was a great experience to play internationally and gave us a taste of playing overseas.
Well the weeks have been quiet, the people are familiar with the regulations and are disciplined, now there are murmurings going around saying it's too long, we wan't more freedom and now it's bubbling a little bit; as a psychologist it's so clear that people are overwhelmed with the feeling of staying at home, to isolate also.
What do fans at your show's tend to shout, is it true that fans say the second part of the band name after the band says the first?
"Shouting is in many Medieval concerts, so the band would shout out the first part and the audience replies with the second part e.g. 'Feuer' 'Schwanz'. One fan in the crowd shouts first and then the whole crowd shouts out the other part of the name. It's all tradition, like a football song.
It is quite euphoric, our goal is to increase the energy and raise the roof, it's our job, it's our profession to 'blow up' the audience."
All things considered, what plans does Feuerschwanz have left intact for the rest of the year?
"That's a good question too, it could be we make one or two more videos of the new album, presented after the release and leading into the 2nd half of the year it could be we start writing for the next album, it's very hard this time."
Have you got any hello's, thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Greetings? Ok, well this was my first interview with a person from the UK and I'm very proud to have this interview, greetings to the UK and we hope you enjoy our next album. Many thanks also to our fans."