Interviews

Lots of bands easily fall into one genre or another. Then again some bands don’t cause they simply encompass everything there is about metal. Titan Steele ( AKA Ritual Steel ) is one such band. At times they sound like Doom, sometimes Power metal and then suddenly they sound like something old school and underground. No matter what genre these metal chameleons are imitating its always metal to the core. Thanks to vocalist Sascha Maurer I get to get a step closer to knowing the mind of this metal beast.

 

Damian: Can you give me the reader who never heard of you or Ritual Steel a brief history of how the band was formed and how you got to be the vocalist?
Sascha Maurer:

Hi Damian, of course I can, I am happy to do. Well, my friend Martin and I got the idea of forming a kind of obscure sounding 80s type of metal band back in the year 2000, when the situation with our then bands (Forgotten North (Folkmetal) / Carpdiem (Progmetal) for me, Red Fire Rain (Powermetal) / Third Teeth (Biker Hardrock) for Martin) became stressing and dissatisfying for both of us. We were friends, we loved the old american underground metal from the 80s, especially the music made by the bands that only got to release just a private 12". And to recreate that spirit was our main goal, play totally obscure metal with such a private feel for the vinyl release. We wanted to give ourselves english pseudonyms, put swampy band pictures (b/w) onto the back cover and create a pseudo US 80s private 12".Just for the fun of it. Well, this idea was dropped quickly as we saw how much potential there was in our band, in our spirits.

We got together after I quit my band Forgotten North due to girlfriend issues with my then drummer in early 2001. With us the following warriors sharpened their swords: Timo Tippmann (still wielding the axe) on guitar, Benny Beck on second guitar and Oliver "Zülle" Zühlke on bassguitar. With this line up we recorded our first two songs ever written, the up tempo heavy metal burner "Liquid Steel" (which we still have in our set) and the more hardrocking and earthy "Orchid Queen". Since then we always had a more hardrocking track on our albums, but this is another story. These recordings were done in August 2001, which caused my departure from Carpediem among other reasons (I was too powermetal from my vocal style for them, they wanted a more death / thrash / core oriented voice, so the bassplayer took over the vocals then, the music is still very good, kinda Voivod meets more straight ahead Dream Theater). Both songs got released on the "Orchid Queen" 7" on Metal Supremacy records in December 2001. A great little label, run by a totally enthusiastic and dedicated lady, Andrea, who is my colleague at Hellion Records and a great friend. After we did the 7", Martin had already worked out a deal with a southern german record label, which fell through due to many reasons. Our friend Rich Walker, guitarist for UK doomlegend Solstice and epic metal force Isen Törr then backed in and took over the deal to the Miskatonic Foundation, which resulted in the recording of "A hell of a knight" (my quirky idea, a tribute to Demon for sure) in Spring 2002. Even though this might have been a bit rushed, since we were not really ready to enter the studio, our last song has just been completed one rehearsal before we started the recordings. Well, after we finished the recordings in and the mixing April 2002, we had to wait until January 2003 to get the album released.

In the meantime we did a recording of two more songs in our rehearsal bunker with our then current leadguitarist Dirk Johannsen, who came in after Benny had to leave us in January 2002 for his playing skills did not develop with the rest of the band. Timo had been out of the band for a short while for he had to sort out some private problems. Both songs we recorded later on became the bonus 7" for the vinyl version of "A hell of a knight", also on Metal Supremacy. Well, when the album finally had been released, Dirk was gone due to trouble with Martin, just three months later Zülle had enough of the situation in the band that seemed to lead us nowhere and also left. Benny came back into the picture for he had become slightly better but later on was kicked because we got Torsten "Todde" Lang as our constant guitarplayer, formerly leadaxeman of a local metal band called Valpurgisnight (early Savatage style, with a helluva singer). Todde brought in ex Stormbreeder (Nevermore style) frontman Jesco Wolter who was also a very good guitarist and bassplayer. From this time on we became a real force of metal, tighter than ever and still fiery and furious. We recorded two songs for two split 7"s with that line up in 2003, "Death in spring" for a split with mighty doomsters Reverend Bizarre (released on Metalcoven Records) and "Voice of the young" for a split with fellow metal warriors Metal Inquisitor on italian Dream Evil Records. We did not play alot during those years, 5 times in 2002 including a slot on the famous Headbangers Open Air in summer, 2 times in 2003, one gig to support Doomsword, which was a blast. Then 3 times in 2004, one gig at the Keep It True II Warm Up, one at the Headbangers Open Air in summer. That was fun to do but you can see the misery, in four years of existence we only played about ten times live, more to that later.

Well, 2002 and 2003 were hell for many of us, financial problems, unemployment and stuff hit us really hard and it caused alot of tension within the band due to the lack of funds for further steps. This and other reasons lead to conflicts that reached a first peak in early 2004 when we were about to record our second album "Blitz Invasion". Martin then had trouble with our former label due to financial depts. It became clear later on that he had ripped off our Rich Walker very badly. During those days when we recorded the second album it became necessary for us to take a break. Martin wanted to follow his "solo project" Z - Iron then. Well, we played quite a few "last" shows, haha. The people began to laugh about this habit. In 2004 Martin got more and more into personal trouble, lost his relationship to reality and became more and more paranoid. Finally in November the split was inevitable.

Damian: What exactly happened between you guys and the drummer Martin that lead to the Ritual Steel name getting changed to Titan Steele. If he wasn’t going to use the Ritual Steel name why didn’t he let you guys use it?
Sascha Maurer:  Well, the name, Martin had registered the name to himself very early on without telling us. So when we split, he told us that he owned the name, that he would carry on with this band and he got back our former bassplayer Zülle. The reason for the split was Martins loss of view for reality. When we started we wanted to have fun with the band, play a few shows, get a record deal maybe but first of all play the music we love without any pressure. That pressure came when Martin wanted the band to be a professional unit, which was not possible. We could not rehearse five times a week as he would have loved it for I was living about 75 kilometres (50 miles) from the rehearsing room and did not have the money to drive more than two times a week without getting the money back somehow.

Well, he never really understood why not everybody could show such a dedication to the band as he might have done due to our jobs or the long distance between us and the rehearsal room. It got worse with every month we played together and I cannot tell how many arguments we had. Martin is a guy who lives in his own world, where he is the true metal paladin, the man of honor. Paranoia grew on him, he also could not control his addiction for new records and even spent money that he did not own, money he should have paid to our former label, claiming he had sent the money and the former label was just a rip off, trying to fool us with the sales figures, which was nonsense. Well, finally I had arranged a concert in my hometown where we were supposed to play as support for french killer band Malediction. Opening act should have been Variety Law, the band where his then girlfriend Maike sang in. To understand that situation, Martin is still married with a child and Maike, that was November, has been in a relationship with her guitarist. First of all our Jesco had trouble playing the gig for he had another commitment for the day with his second act Redamntion. I even organized someone to play bassguitar instead but we could not work him in for Martin finally backed out telling us he did not want to meet Maike's boyfriend face to face. Finally I lost 110,- Euros, which is quite much for me, I could not even fully pay Malediction for I had to get a substitute for us to play and they were not cheap. Well, the public attendance was lousy, so it all became a desaster. Then finally when the show was over, Todde and Timo, who were there for the evening, a friend on drums and I played one song from our second album, well, we jammed it actually. That was the reason for Martin to kick out Todde for he thought Todde had already planned to take over the reign and sack Martin. Oh dear! That and Martin's gratitude to let me and Timo play in HIS band Ritual Steel if we wanted to (he said this to Todde) made us all decide to leave Martin behind. We had a new drummer, Florian Tabbert, formerly with Redamntion, about one week later and did not repent that step for Flo is not only a helluva blast master, he is also a natural and totally funny guy, great to hang out with. That was not the end of the trouble we had with Martin ,but in the end, he is totally lost right now having ripped off and disappointed every friend he once had.
Damian:  Why the name Titan Steele? Why not keep the Ritual part instead of much used Steel part?
Sascha Maurer:

 Maybe we thought of a mixed name, a cross between Titan Force and Virgin Steele maybe, I dunno, we all liked the idea of the name. I am not even sure who came up with the name but we all liked it.

Damian: What is the present lineup of Titan Steel? How does the new lineup compare to the old one?
Sascha Maurer:  The present line up is Sascha Maurer (your's truely) on vocals, Torsten Lang and Timo Tippmann on guitars, Jesco "Bernd" Wolter on bassguitar and Flo Tabbert on Drums. So it is just the drummer position where we changed. And as I said, Flo is way better and more relaxed than Martin, more loose, more violent, whatever, he is a great person to hang out with and technically overwhelming. He's our kid, 10 years junior to Timo, at least 8 years younger than me. This is the best line up we ever had and definitely most fun to play with.
Damian: Is there a new album in the works? Any label interest? Got a title for it yet? A release date?
Sascha Maurer:  Well, we are writing songs, that's for sure. Some will appear on 7"s along the way, some will be kept for the next album. We have at least one song for the album, "The Force", which is some kind of "patriotic" song. No rightwing stuff for sure, it is about our part of Germany, Schleswig Holstein. We once were danish and would not say no if we could get back to Denmark sooner or later. I don't feel related to the criminals we call government, so that's where the lyrics come from. New songs might appear sooner or later, I have written some more epic stuff with surprising elements and our other members are getting their ideas ready as well.

No release date for an album therefor, I think it will be recorded and released in 2006. We are in no hurry. For the label interest, we will see who wants us. Of course there has to be an option for a vinyl issue of the album, we wish to keep this great tradition. With or without a new coverartwork, but the vinyl is important.
Damian: So how did Randy from Tyrant’s Reign end up doing vocals on a new song? Is it a duet or does he do a whole song? Will it be on the upcoming album?
Sascha Maurer:  We were recording two songs for an upcoming 7" while Randy and his two guitarists were at the Hellion shop for the afternoon, they were staying in Germany for about one more week after the festival. Since our studio was just down the street, we invited them to come over, jam a bit, drink some ales with us and have a good time. Finally we all got the idea to have Randy sing some backing vocals on the chorus of our song "Red Steele". We had a good time doing this, drank lots of beers and Jägermeister. As I said, this song was for a 7", soon to be released by Metal Supremacy. The circle gets closed again. We are back where we belong.
Damian:  To me a lot of the uniqueness of Titan Steele is your brilliantly odd vocals. The closest person that I can compare you to is Hansi back in the “Follow the Blind” days but in my opinion you do way more interesting stuff vocally then he ever did back then. What records did you sing along with the most to get your present sound? How the hell did you come up with the vocals harmonies for “Where shall I Sleep” they are so odd but so damn addicting.
Sascha Maurer:

 Thanks for the compliment, mate, well appreciated. My voice is really a love it or hate it theme. Many folks, even the most die hard underground metalheads, just cannot listen to it while others really love the sound. Actually I can really sing, if I want to. Hmm, my earliest influences were definitely Lennon and McCartney for their brillant vocal harmonies. Then David Byron from Uriah Heep, Rory Gallagher, Greg Lake, Ian Gillan and Mick Jagger as well. I am more influenced by the classic rock vocalists it seems. For metal I dig John Cyris, Mark Shelton, Ski, especially early Harry Conklin, Tim Baker, but I can say that Beatles and Rolling Stones really were the earliest and most important influences. About "Where shall I sleep", I am not sure how I got that sick stuff to my mind, I guess I wanted to sound like Tim Baker and in the end turned out to be a 1 : 1 Udo Dirkschneider clone, haha, with a touch of Brian Johnson maybe. Anyway, I love the song, it is sick as hell and it rawks and deserved a special vocal treatment. I try to keep variation in my vocal style, experiment with some dark and heavy vocals on the new song "Fallen Star", where I got inspiration from Carl Mc Coy (Fields of the Nephilim). I could not only stay to one style, one level, this would bore the hell outta me.

Damian:  So how is the reaction to you guys when you play the Swordbrother’s fest and Keep It True warm up shows? How do the two fests compare? What does a usual Titan Steele set list look like?
Sascha Maurer:  No comment on the KIT II warm up, that was...well, let us leave that without comment, don't wanna get in trouble with anybody, I can just say that the the circumstances were not too great but we gave our best and many folks liked it. Swordbrothers was awesome, we were totally loose on stage, hit each other with our heads and instruments but it was just fun. From the treatment a band gets I will always prefer Swordbrothers, I just can't say anything about the usual treatment of a band with the KIT for we did not get any treatment at all due to our beloved ex drummer's negotiating skills. Anyway, playing for Volker Raabe and his Swordbrothers festival was great, he is an honest and dedicated metalhead and great friend. So I can only recommend playing there. Well, Titan Steele live, that's mostly material from the second album plus "Armageddon Symphony", which became our "Paranoid" or "Satisfaction", then "Liquid Steele" as an encore and as many new songs as we can play. Maybe one or two covers, currently we have "Sirens" and "Red Sharks" to play. We love to keep it varied.
Damian: What equipment does everyone in the band use live?
Sascha Maurer:  Oh dear, technical stuff, I cannot really tell about that, I am just the singer. We use our own guitars and tops most of the time and Flo at least his own snare and cymbals. I cannot tell what kind of equipment the others have, I still have my 6 years old Sennheiser microphone in the rehearsal room and sing over what ever I get on stage.
Damian:   What does the future hold for Titan Steele?
Sascha Maurer:  Tits and beer, well, who knows. We can all be dead in a year or a day when the devil's been put to the test. At least I hope we will get some more recognition, play alot more and not always to pure true metal audiences and get some more albums out which I would buy myself if I was a customer. Of course my dream is to play the Wacken Open Air, saturday afternoon in between 5.30 and 7.30 on the mainstage with 10.000 cheering people. Maybe this will be happen, I dunno. I am happy if it does, I won't kill myself if it don't.
Damian:   Since I would love to see you guys play live, I might as well ask this. What US metal bands would you guys love to see play live and why? Any US “metal” fests you would like to see?
Sascha Maurer:  I would love to see Brocas Helm and Manilla Road again for both shred supreme and belong to the greatest bands alive. Then I'd love to see Saint Vitus and Pentagram live, gods of doom. For the metal fests in the US, I would love to be at the Kalamazoo for at least one time, even though there is no big audience. I don't know about any others. There are a few cool doom events, my mates Reverend Bizarre and The Gates of Slumber (Hail to both!!!) have done a tour following one of these events. Should have been great fun to watch.
Damian:   Well a lot of underground metal fans in the US dream of seeing Wacken. Call me crazy but I would rather see bands like Titan Steele, Wizard, Paragon, Sacred Steel and Wolfs moon play the Headbangers Ballroom. What is it like? Is it the metal paradise I am picturing or is it something else?
Sascha Maurer:  Wacken is big, too big for my taste as a fan with not enough bands that interest me. I prefer playing the Headbangers Open Air, which is a nice location in the middle of nowhere at the countryside with a great atmosphere. Well, the ballroom, it is an okay club with a lousy acoustic. We played there about a week ago with Attacker, Black Majesty, Maverick and Rival and it was okay. Could have been better. But I don't like to play Hamburg anyway, don't like the city. HOA is great to be if you want to meet like minded underground fans. If you go for the commercial heavy stuff, go to Wacken. I stick to my HOA. Been there since 1999, played there 5 times, it is a giant, an overwhelming event.
Damian:   What do you think the best albums of the year are so far?
Sascha Maurer:

 Reverend Bizarre - Crush the insects,

Burning Saviours - same (70s type doom from Sweden),

Blitzkrieg - Sins and greed,

Manilla Road - Gates of fire,

Candlemass - same,

Witchcraft - Firewood (Swedish 70s type of rock / hardrock, I love that so much),

Rising Dust - same (french doom),

World Below - Maelstrom (more swedish doom),

There are tons of cool albums already actually. 2005 is filled with highlights for my taste.

Damian:   What do you think of the trend of all these bands that quit playing metal after one or two albums (so most of them could jump on other trends or cover bands) reuniting and getting headliner spots when underground bands who have more albums and usually better albums are still fighting for warm up party spots or daytime opening slots?
Sascha Maurer:

 Well, what shall I think? I don't make up my mind about them, I am sure I would never have given them any notice.

Damian:  If you were a big metal labels what bands would you sign on the spot without thinking about it? Why them?
Sascha Maurer: I would immediately sign Reverend Bizarre, one of the most intense, most spiritual bands in the world. Of course they are some of the nicest people I ever met as well.

Then I would sign Falcon with Perry Grayson (ex Destiny's End / ex Artisan / Isen Törr) and Greg Lindström (ex Cirith Ungol), who do a helluva great 70s style heavyrock like Budgie. I would sign Ogre, another young band doing 70s style heavyrock with doomy and epic tendencies. I would sign Manilla Road and Brocas Helm, both for their ability to write metal songs far away from the ordinary scheme and still stay real metal, I would sign Pentagram, the only true successor for Blue Cheer and early Sabbath since 1972, there are actually tons of bands I would go for.

Music I would sign to my label would have to be natural, it would have to be inspired, it would have to let the magick flow. I would sign many italian bands like Wicked Minds (Uriah Heep / Deep Purple style), I would sign Orange Sunshine, some dutch youngsters with a portuguese drummer who also sings, they go for a 1 : 1 copy of Blue Cheer somehow but with an authentical feel and they even put fake release dates like 1969 or 1971 on their albums. Ah, well.
Damian: Thanks for your time and energy. Any final comments?
Sascha Maurer:  I thank you very much, Damian, I love interviews, haha. Well, hope you are satisfied with my answers, since I am doing this stuff myself, I hate it when musicians give only very short answers and do not even hit the topic. Anyway, thanks for your support, Titan Steele will never disappoint you and our other troopers from the Hellbrigade.

For those into hardrock and metal: explore! Don't stop exploring, search for the real stuff and listen to it. Down with the plastic music out there. Alreet, bonny lads, that's it for now.

Visit our website www.titan-steele.de

cheers!
    Copyright 1999-2005 Damian "Prof. Manic" Smolko