Interview: Circle II Circle

mit Mitch Stewart und Henning Wanner vom 15. Mai 2013 im Rock'n'Roll Warehouse, Hamburg
Für viele ist die Band Savatge der Inbegriff für die Verschmelzung von Power und Heavy Metal mit einem signifikanten Einschlag neoklassischer Elemente. Titel wie Edge of Thorns oder auch Gutter Ballet gehören dabei zu den wohl bekanntesten Produktionen der Truppe um Mastermind Jon Oliva, welcher mal in einem Interview lässig behauptete über die Jahre mehr als eine Millionen Dollar in das kommerziell weniger erfolgreiche Überleben der Band gepumpt zu haben.
Und doch, trotz des angeblich fehlenden Geldsegens, kam es nach der Auflösung der Band sogleich zu mehreren Nachfolgeprojekten, die bis heute vom Sound der Achtziger und Neunziger zu zehren wissen: Jon Olivas Pain, das Trans-Siberian Orchestra - welches im Grunde schon parallel zu Savatge als Nebenprojekt existierte - und natürlich Circle II Circle. Doch wer von ihnen ist der "legitime" Nachfolger? In wem lebt die Stilistik und die musikalischen Ideen von Savatge weiter? Eine Frage, die sich wohl auch viele Fans stellen ...
Bassist Mitch Stewart und Keyboarder Henning Wanner sprachen mit uns kurz vor ihrem Auftritt im Warehouse in Hamburg darüber, wie sie das Fortleben von Savatge in Circle II Circle empfinden, was die neue Scheibe "Seasons Will Fall" zu bieten hat und natürlich sprachen sie über die kurz vor dem Interview gespielte Show beim Full Metal Cruise, dwelche wohl zu einem der wichtigsten Meilensteine in der Geschichte der Band geworden ist.
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The Interview:

Maria Camrath: Hey friends! I'm here with the guys from Circle II Circle. How is the tour going so far?
Mitch Stewart: It's going great! You know, after a really good start we played a very, very cool and intimate warmup show in Wuppertal. Then we went right to the Full Metal Cruise and ... wow! It's always a pleasure and a hell of a time. Anytime, when we do anything with the Wacken Promotion, it's just great. And then of course we met up with the guys from Nightmare and Eternal Flight and it has been a really great start.
Henning Wanner: So yesterday it was like getting together and packing the gear in the bus the right way etc. It was just a good start and toady in Hamburg it's gonna be a great show of course. But the weather sucks! [laughs]
Mitch Stewart: It seems to always bee raining, when I come to Hamburg! [laughs]
Henning Wanner: ... like me coming to Florida! It's raining and there's a hurricane!
Maria: As you've said, you recently played the Full Metal Cruise. How has it been?
Mitch Stewart: It's always an honor and a great time to get to interact. There's no backstage area. It's so intimate!
Henning Wanner: It's so far my best experience in my music career, to be honest. This is just THE thing over all festival shows etc, but being on a cruise ship with the people, with the audience and the other band guys, with the crew guys is just to cool. If this is the system we go on forever, I would promise, it's gonna to sell like hell for the future.
Mitch Stewart: It's great to be sitting and eating and all of the sudden you'r sitting next to the Sabaton guys, surrounded by fans as well. And everybody is just having a great time. To know that that many people can get together and just coexist without any problems, is like an energy blast. I'm looking forward to more of these ...
Henning Wanner: Me too, of course!
Maria: So nobody got sea sick?
Mitch Stewart: No, no time for that!
Mitch Stewart: You just drink a lot and then all of the sudden you feel normal. [laughs]
Henning Wanner: Usually we don't drink in this band so much anyway. To be honest, this is not a big drinkers band. Mitch, your laughing, but that's true ...
Maria: Do you think, that this festival tours might be the future of live events?
Henning Wanner: As I've said already: Absolutely! I can only say "Yes, that's the future", because it's not that expensive actually, when you just compare it to a festival weekend, which you spend on drinks and parties and food, on rain shelter or what ever. It's everything there, all included: Fresh drinks, fresh juice drinks, etc. It's just to cool. That's the future, absolutely.
Maria: This tour is based on your latest album "Seasons Will Fall". How did the press and the fans react about the new album?
Henning Wanner: The reactions are amazing. The response we get so far is one of the best you can just imagine, because this is the missing link in between like the Savatages old history, which Zak brought on board of course, and the new material, which goes much into this new direction. Most of it actually goes back to Mitch, who wrote most of the songs. But when you just for example take the song „Diamond Blade“, that's the opening track of the album and we're gonna play it tonight of course, it's a killer live-track. Even if the people don't know the song yet, out of a sudden the chorus turns into a big radio arena song and everybody is singing along. But with the wrong words, because they don't know the lyrics, but want to sing along. It's just to cool ... [laughs]
Maria: So there is a lot to expect from that song tonight!
Henning Wanner: Yeah, but not only from this song, of course. Our very special song, Mitches and my favorite is ...
Mitch Stewart: ... it's "Epiphany"! We get that one to do tonight and for me this is in my opinion this could be the greatest song in the library of songs, that I've done. I'm the most proudest of this song. It goes so well live. We only played a handful of shows with this song and you know, you would think, that we've played it already for ten years. The crowd loves it and a lot of people are singing it a long with the Diamond Blade people.
Henning Wanner: I can't actually wait to play it for ten years! [laughs]
Maria: Have this new songs developed during the live situation?
Mitch Stewart: They are gonna always be familiar, because I have been with the band for nine of ten years and Zak is a founding member. I mean, we've tried to keep true to our Circle II Circle, Shlash, Savatage kind sounds here and there. But we remain Circle II Circle all this years. Instead of putting out an album one year after the last, this time we actually took some time and really put a lot of thought and a lot of feeling into it. Instead of having just a couple of songs on the album, that actually are this way, we set for twelve. And It think we did it.
With songs like Diamond Dlade, which is the most phenomenal opening track, I think we couldn't have asked for. From the very start you're already like: Hell yeah, this is just epic. But I think because we took so long, and we've got a whole new line-up, which contributed with phenomenal material and did some incredible work, we could produce this album. There is some really great work on the keyboards and the guitars are just phenomenal. I think this is just as "Epiphany" I feel is like my best moment, this whole CD is my Circle II Circle favorite moment. This is our moment, right here ... to this date.
Maria: Some reviews said, that this album is missing the final spark. What do you think about that?
Mitch Stewart: This album is missing what? The final spark? Spark in the dark?
Henning Wanner: Maybe something like „Fuck Off“?
Mitch Stewart: I don't know ... I can imagine, what it could be missing.
Henning Wanner: Maybe they complain because the last song, which is kind of the ballad on this album. That's the final spark.
Mitch Stewart: Well, the last song on the album is a tribute, so to speak, to our fallen brother Matt LaPorte. So I don't regret one single minute of that and I would defend that any day, because I loved that man with all of my heart. Man, he was just a great brother and that was a horrible, horrible tragedy loosing him so soon. And this was our good bye. Say what you will about having a ballad as the last song that was just our way of saying this good bye. And that's what you do, the very last song is a good bye and we kind of felt that way.
Maria: There's nothing wrong about a ballade! But let's talk about "obvious Savatge reminiscences" ... what do you think about that? I mean you get to hear that a lot, that you sound a bit like them.
Henning Wanner: We don't sound a little bit like them, we pretty much sound like them! [laughs]
Mitch Stewart: It's Zack! Of course it's gonna sound that way, because Zack established himself years before Circle II Circle. And why would you fix something, that's not broken? He has done so well with it and the fans love Savatge. Why would we take that away from him?
Henning Wanner: That's what people wanna hear and we wanna hear it in between and we're putting this puzzle together. That's it.
Mitch Stewart: That's why we do this tours.
Maria: Is Circle II Circle a band, that tries to fulfill the fans expectations?
Mitch Stewart: Of course. We don't go out of our way, this is just the way we are. This is the way I write and this is the way Henning writes and plays. This is us. Of course we always try to please the fans, but we just do what we do.
Henning Wanner: On the other hand, the two of us may at the same time have song ideas, which sound like completely different, so then we don't want to bring it in Circle II Circle, because people maybe don't like it. That makes no sense in any way. So, just feed the people with that what they like and we can do it. We love it too, so it's very easy.
That's a side project then: Come up with some Slayer sounding stuff. Well, I don't do this now in Circle II Circle then of course.
Maria: Another point, that has been criticized a lot is, that almost every song now is circled around Zak, that you guys are just the "instrumental guys". What do you think about that?
Mitch Stewart: I think this kinda goes to what I've said. I mean, he established himself the way he is. Could you imagine Ronnie James Dio - rest in peace - to sing Neil Diamond things in a Lounge? No, because he is Ronnie James Dio. From beginning to end you know what to expect from him. That's the same way with Zak and every other singer who has been around this many years.
Henning Wanner: Of course we did, we lived and we love it. Everything is about the lead singer and his voice. But the band isn't called Zak Stevens. And he is not that kind of diva guy, that you might expect or not expect. He is just a band member as everybody else is in the band. That's cool, we're brothers. It's not like he's the boss and decides everything.
Mitch Stewart: A great humble guy. We're like a big family, we're very much brothers. You can hear that from a lot of bands, but with this band I can one hundred percent promise you, that we are brothers. You know, this is us.
Maria: That's awesome! Can you tell us something about the artwork of the new album?
Mitch Stewart: A friend of ours from Brazil, Jual Dorte, who has been a friend of ours for a while and who is a fantastic artist, did all of this work. Based on communications between him and Zack, we had a vision. He just did an incredible job. We've got a lot of good compliments on the artwork and the album. We will be working more with him in the future. He is just a great guy, and as I've said a friend of the band and a fantastic artist.
Henning Wanner: But to say it in different words: Mitch, what is the concept behind the burning fallen angel?
Mitch Stewart: Oh, I don't know any of the concepts behind that stuff! [laughs]
We just think it's a cool picture and Seasons will fall is a cool title. You can pull what yo want from it, that's so cool about it. There is so many things you can get from it. I'd just say: Draw your own conclusion from it. that's basically it.
Maria: With the latest album you've also changed your label. How is it for an American band to work with an European label?
Mitch Stewart: That's all I have worked with with European labels during my career and I've got nothing bad to say about any former labels or anything. We got a good relationship with our label these days and we're looking forward to a long career with them.
Henning Wanner: The thing is, that I can only say it in German, because I am German and I am European at the same time, of course. So I know how it is to work with Germans and European guys. And the thing is, that some Americans like the way business is handled in Germany and around Europe. My friend puts it in some nice words. It's the German "Ordnung muss sein". That means everything has to be in the right order and that's it. Maybe some American colleagues can not deliver that as good as Germans can. I'm not sure, but that's an idea ... [laughs]
Maria: You played at the Wacken Open Air, last year. How did this push your career over here in Germany?
Henning Wanner: It was a great start and it was the first show with the new line-up and the new concept. It's gonna continue forever from now on and of course we hope to be part of the next Wacken next year in 2014 with kind of a similar concept. It's gonna be a big surprise for everyone and it will be great in any way. So this was the big start for us. Hopefully we'll be part of the Metal Cruise line-up, too.
Mitch Stewart: I can't say enough, how well they treat us. Great stuff, and a lot of people say, that the bands were good, but the crew was great. That's just the pinnacle of all festivals! I just love everything to do with Wacken and were very much looking forward to the next festival.
Henning Wanner: It was always my dream, like fifteen years ago, once I wanted to play at Wacken. And I did already. [laughs]
Maria: So, what's up next for Circle II Circle?
Mitch Stewart: Well, hopefully some more touring. We go to Brazil in June and we've got some things in the States lined-up, we're working to try and get back to do by.
Henning Wanner: This year is still pretty busy and let's see what's coming next year. It's gonna be kind of a „Seasons Will Fall Tour Part II“, because we can't bring in a new album within the next half year or what ever. And then the new concept with the new surprises ...
Maria: Sounds great! Do you have any final words for the fans?
Mitch Stewart: I would say, thank you so much for your support. It's kind of hard these days and we appreciate all the effort and all of the love, that we get all around the world. We hope to keep bringing what we do to you.
Henning Wanner: So everybody come out, see us, meet us, get autographs, get pictures with us. We don't bite ... [laughs]
Thanks for supporting us over the years. And from now on, promise, this is gonna be a stable line-up in Circle II Circle for the next years. See you out there on the road. Thank you and danke.
Maria: Thank you so much!
Moderation: Maria Camrath

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