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Freedom Call

Freedom Call
Happy People Who Make Happy Music

29.04.2013

Архив интервью | Русская версия

It’s been 15 years since Chris Bay put his finger in a glass with a cocktail and started writing on the bar-table. The result was the F&C symbol that you see on the seven studio album covers of his band Freedom Call. A lot of beer has gone under the bridge since then. Dan Zimmermann, the second founding member of the band, has left, the line-up has changed several times but two things remain the same. First of all, it is the happiness, the positive style of the music which is what the fans love so much about the band. And, naturally, Chris Bay himself is always there: the vocalist, the guitar player, the main songwriter, who is also our today’s guide throughout the 15 years of Freedom Call’s history. 
The band is going to celebrate its anniversary with a best-of album called “Ages Of Light” consisting of two CDs (the second is, perhaps, the most interesting). So we grabbed the opportunity to congratulate the guys and ask Chris several questions, which he answered gladly, though we kind of ran out of time in the end of the conversation and had to call it a day a bit too soon. However, it still leaves you with half an hour of talking, joking and laughing. I really doubt it could have been the other way with Chris.

Hi Chris, how are you doing?

Hi, everything’s fine, except for the weather. It’s not summer yet in Germany, but I think you’re in the same situation.

I’m sure it’s not as cold as it is in Moscow nowadays.

Oh, yeah. I forgot that I’m calling to Russia. (laughs)

Ok, let’s get started. First of all, congrats on the anniversary! Do you think 15 years is a long way for a metal band?

Thank you! Yeah, I didn’t notice it’s been 15 years already. The time is really flying. My record company told me, “Hey, you have a 15-years anniversary coming!” And I was like, “Really? Was it 15 years ago? I can’t believe it!”

Could you imagine it would last for so long?

No, I didn’t calculate anything when we started. We just were very proud of our first record contract and full of energy and motivation to change the world. I didn’t think about the future, about what would happen in 10 or 15 years. Generally, I’m proud that we could exist these 15 years. Not all the bands manage to survive for such a long time.

Is there any exact date you can call the birthday of Freedom Call?

No, I don’t know. It was only Daniel Zimmermann, our former drummer, and myself when we started to write the first songs. It was in the end of 1997, the first ideas, and then in 1998 we built up a line-up with Ilker (Ersin) on the bass and Sascha Gerstner on the guitar (now he’s playing for Helloween, he’s making a big career , heheh). But I don’t know the exact time. It was around the end of 1997 and the beginning of 1998. And hopefully we’ll exist much more time. Maybe, the next best-of album will be released in next 15 years.

I hope, I’ll have a chance to congratulate you with that one! (both laughing) So how did you choose the songs for the current best-of album?

That was a hard decision. I was thinking about it over weeks, I listened to all our previous albums…  And then I made it just according to my gut feeling. I think one of the reasons for this choice is that these are the songs we played over the years live on stage. All the time the fans have the same favorites. I think the name of the album is “The Best of Freedom Call” so I put in the songs which all the fans have been always asking for. And hopefully I found the right choice of the songs.

Why didn’t you ask fans to help you? Maybe do some sort of voting on your web-site or something?

That is a good question. Actually, I did it one time, when I asked the fans for the opinion regarding our setlist for a tour which we played years ago. And there were some really crazy ideas. I think if I had asked the fans about this collection they would have suggested me to put in all the songs we have ever written in these 15 years. So it was better to decide by ourselves.

Did you do anything to the songs? I mean, remaster or re-record them or something?

Our record company wanted just to put the songs from the previous albums on this best-of collection, and we didn’t re-record or remaster anything. But you have this bonus CD, called “Masqueraded” and that is a totally new recorded and new arranged production.

There are some really crazy songs versions on that bonus part. Where did the ideas for the CD come from?

Generally, I think if you are releasing a best-of album, there is not a big innovation in this idea, because it’s just a collection of songs which have already been released. That is not new material. So in order to make it a little bit more attractive for the fans, we decided to re-record some Freedom Call songs in a totally different style. We don’t only like heavy metal music, we are open-minded musicians. It was very funny to record songs in reggae or swing style, for example. Perhaps, it was a good opportunity for us to free our minds for the next heavy metal production.

By the way, could I hear some of these versions on your DVD “Live In Hellvetia” (2011)?

Yeah, that’s right. I think that was the point when the idea was born. Because the response of the fans about these camp fire versions was huge. A lot of fans were asking me by e-mail or via Facebook: “C’mon, Chris, it is so brilliant! Can you, please, release a songbook or a CD in this style?” Maybe I managed to give these fans a little bit more of this style with this album “Masqueraded”.

One more question about the DVD. That bonus movie was great, by the way. I really enjoyed it. But at some point there Lars Rettkowitz (guitar) is in the metro and he says he’s in Moscow. Well, I know for sure that’s not how Moscow metro looks like…

(laughs) It was a joke! Our Lars is from East Germany, so maybe he’s very close to Russia in his mind. Maybe that was the reason he said that he’s in the tube in Moscow. Anyway, that was a joke.

Ok. Did you record this “Masqueraded” CD with the help of your former bandmates?

Yes. We had three drummers in the studio: Daniel Zimmerman, who is the founder of Freedom Call together with me, Klaus Sperling, our current drummer, and Ramy (Ali), who helped us many times when Klaus was busy with his job and couldn’t join us. On the bass guitar we had Ilker Ersin and Samy Saemann, who are the former bass player of Freedom Call and the current one. And… Yeah, on the guitar there were Lars and me and Cédric Dupont, I think he was in the band from 2002 to 2005 (from 2001 actually – ed.). I tried to find all our friends and former members of Freedom Call to show the people that we didn’t part with troubles. As you can see, we are a big heavy metal family.

But you didn’t manage to gather all of them. Why Sascha and Armin (Donderer –ex-bass player) were not on the list?

Well, Sascha is very busy, he’s on tour with Helloween so he couldn’t do that. And Armin… I think he’s out of heavy metal. I don’t have any contact with him anymore.

How did you like to work with your old friends?

That was a fantastic time, I had a very good feeling working with all these members together. It felt very familiar and it was very comfortable to work with them. It gave me a very good feeling of life.

What is Daniel doing now?

He’s still working as a musician and he’s playing heavy metal in a cover band in Nuremberg, our hometown. He is very satisfied with this work, ‘cause he has more time to spend with his family and to do some private things. I’m in good connection to him and he’s fine, he’s feeling fantastic.

As far as I remember, the main reason why he left Freedom Call was that he was too busy with Gamma Ray. He is not in Gamma Ray anymore. Are there any chances he may return to Freedom Call?

Heheh, he did, during the recording of this “Masqueraded” CD. (laughs) Maybe he’s a little bit tired of being on the road. He was travelling over the years and he played all around the world. Maybe he needs a short break for himself and his private environment… Maybe he could come back in a couple of years but I don’t know, there are no plans. We didn’t discuss it. It’s more important to me to be good friends with him than to play together in a band.

What are your plans for touring with the album?

In the beginning of May we are starting our “Ages of Light” tour. But you see, it’s a little bit far away from Russia, ‘cause we’ll be touring in Germany, Italy, and in France. In summer we’ll go to South America, to Chile. Hopefully, we’ll come back to Russia again. The last and only time we played in Moscow was in 2002, so probably it’s time to come back. You have to write to your readers, “Please, vote for Freedom Call!” Then we will come. (laughs)

I’ll do my best. Could you tell us about the cover? It looks like a sort of amulet or something…

I don’t know the exact meaning of this sign but it’s like a calendar from the Mayan. It should show the period in between 1998 and 2013, these 15 years. There are also the covers of our studio albums on it. It’s looking brilliant, I love this cover very much.

Didn’t the Mayan calendar end last December?

(laughs) No, it’s just that an era ended, the first 15 years. So the next calendar is starting now for the next 15 years. You see, we have a 15 years calendar. (laughs) But it’s not that we have some Armageddon or the end of the world now.

Do you think this album is made for your old fans or new ones?

Hopefully, for new fans. We have released seven studio albums, so it’s a good possibility for new or young fans to get a good collection through all these years and albums. I think with this “Ages Of Light” album we can explain what Freedom Call is, what music Freedom Call is presenting.

Yeah, let’s talk about this collection step by step. I picked a song from each album to ask you a question about. Let’s start with first album, “Stairway to Fairyland” (1999), and the song “We Are One”. This song is about being together, being united “until the end of time”. Now you are the only one left from that lineup. How do you feel about that?

I think, it’s only natural that the lineup has changed during these 15 years. The reason is that with Freedom Call we do not earn enough money to live so it’s hard to keep all these people in the band ‘cause they have families, they may have a baby or want to build a house or have troubles with their regular job. So it could happen that old members start looking for new paths or new ways in their lives. For me personally Freedom Call is my passion; and performing this music is the source of energy for me. So I have never lost energy or motivation to make new albums or going on tour. I don’t have any troubles with the former members of Freedom Call, so I don’t feel strange now. I think we are on the right way and all the current band members are totally convinced about this way, so I can’t see any problem with the fact that I’m the only founding member in the band now.

Ok, the song from your second album (“Crystal Empire”, 2001) is “Freedom Call” itself. Did you feel any special responsibility giving the band’s name to a song?

Yeah. In the beginning, when I wrote the song, I didn’t do that on purpose. I didn’t intend to write a song that would be a kind of our brand or trademark. I think it was fun and great and the words “Freedom Call” were fitting perfectly in this melody. There was no other special meaning behind it. And the song became very successful, all the fans are longing for the song especially when we’re touring and playing live. I think it has turned out to be the hymn of the band and it shouldn’t be missed at any set list we play live let alone on our best-of album.

The next one is “Warriors” from “Eternity” (2003). You have a lot of songs about warriors and heroes. Does this theme have a special meaning for you?

You know, we do not take ourselves too seriously with writing lyrics. Usually every song is written in an eye blink. But I like these lyrics about heroes or warriors because they fit perfectly with this kind of music. These fast drums and guitars require something very epic and huge and I think it’ll sound very ridiculous if I write a song… I don’t know, about a baby or a bicycle or whatever. I think “warriors” is a very good word to express this kind of music.

Did you have any heroes in your childhood?

Not really. I didn’t have any heroes or idols. But as a child I wanted to become a football player. (laughs) This was my first decision; I didn’t want to become a musician. But it’ didn’t happen, I was too small and too slow.

Thank you for changing your mind.

You’re welcome. (both laughing)

Ok, here comes the album called “Circle of Life” (2005). You picked only one song from this album for this collection, though it contains a lot of my personal favorites. I mean, “Mother Earth”, “The Circle of Life” itself are really great songs…

I agree. That was a tough decision because at first I wanted to put 25 songs on this “Ages Of Light” album, so it had to be the same amount of songs from each album. And then I got a message from my record company that we have maximum of 75 minutes for this album. That’s why I had to cancel a lot of songs, to delete them from my list. It was a very, very hard decision. Now I’m three or four minutes over the maximum of 75 minutes, but the record company said, “Ok, we can do that”. I had to choose between cancelling “Warriors” or “Freedom Call” or whatever, and… I’m sorry for your personal favs, but…

Never mind. I still can listen to them any time. Let’s continue with "Dimensions" (2007) and “Far Away”. Is it about the touring?

Definitely. We’ve a couple of songs about the time when you are on the road. For example, this “Far Away” thing and “Power and Glory” from our current album (“Land Of The Crimson Dawn”, 2012)... These songs are written over being on tour. I think touring is the aim of our work in the studio. I like to record and produce albums, but the harvesting is made on tour, when you meet fans, talk to the audience from stage. Generally, the reason to produce the albums is to go on tour.

Is there any country you’d love to come to, but you haven’t had a chance yet?

Yeah, it was South America, but we’ll go there in August, for the first time. We’ve only played in Europe so far, so there’s a lot of countries left. I think it would be a long journey to visit all of them, heheh.

Is there a show that somehow sticks in your memory? The best, the worst, the strangest…

Oh, there were so many great concerts… And I think that concert in Moscow with Edguy was very brilliant, too. That was a very good experience, a great show. Also, one of my biggest memories is the show in 2003 in Wacken. We played a very good slot, late in the afternoon, for more then 45,000 people. Yeah, it was a huge one.

Thanks, and here comes “A Perfect Day” from the "Legend Of The Shadowking" album (2010). Why did you choose a live version for this compilation?

I think especially this song has always a very good atmosphere and a lot of energy when is played live. For some songs I prefer the studio version because you can hear all the instruments clearly and in better quality, but “A Perfect Day” is definitely a live song. I think with this version we got a brilliant capture of the song and you can hear that the people doing a party with us.

You know, It’s one of the most joyful songs of Freedom Call, though you do have a lot of such songs. How do you manage to stay positive for do long?

Well, all the members of Freedom Call are positive thinking persons and we have a very, very great life. We can do what we want, we can do our passion, we can do the music we love. So there is no reason to be depressed. We are happy persons so we have to make happy music. (pause) Sorry, I have the next interview with Italy in two minutes…

Ok, it’s the last album and the last question. Does the fact that the closing track is called “Back Into the Land Of Light” mean anything?

Well, yeah. That means that we are ready to go back into this land of light. I think it’s a reference to our “Eternity” album. And maybe a little hint to our next studio album.

Freedom Call on the Internet: http://www.freedom-call.net/

Special thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for arranging this interview

Ekaterina Akopova
March 28, 2013
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