For me it’s still a gift to be doing what I like the most
It seems that for such people as Mat Sinner there’re many more than 24 hours in a day and definitely more than 7 days in a week. This man is always in action and to be honest, it’s a kind of hard work even just to observe what he’s doing in professional area day by day. I was very happy that Mat found an opportunity to talk to me face-to-face right after the incredible performance with SINNER at Knock Out Festival in December last year where they performed with great success in front of 4.500 people. Last year SINNER released “Tequila Suicide” that was the first album with completely new stuff after a six years break (and after four years if we count “Touch of Sin 2” with re-recorded classics), also the band celebrated 35th anniversary. “Tequila Suicide” was quite a nice surprise offering diverse material which is sometimes really far from pure metal attitude. We also talked about the past and the future and it was really exciting to get to know about the plans for 2018 with forthcoming Rock Meets Classic tour in April, the new Voodoo Circle release, work at the new Primal Fear album, and so on. What maybe impressed me the most, were not even the details of this rock’n’roll routine but the whole attitude to the profession. Outstanding dedication, a wish for being diverse and readiness to keep learning even having found a good “formula” of success and being a person who seem to know everything about this music and business as no one else.
Mat, thanks for this interview. Actually, my first question was not planned… But I noticed that you’ve had really hard days right before this festival working on Primal Fear new songs, having meeting concerning Rock Meets Classic project, a video shooting for Voodoo Circle and last but not least you’ve just played a great Sinner show. All within few days! How is it possible?
It works because I love music. If you like your job you can easily do it. For me it’s still a gift to be doing what I like the most. It’s really different: if you’re doing what you like and that’s your day-time job and it’s much easier to do a lot of things while other people work in an office, for example, or even on a factory doing things they don’t like. So, a lot of people keep asking me how can I do this and that and where do I take my power and the time and the energy. My answer is: the love of music!
I have to admit that yesterday for example it was a horrible schedule for me and it’s been stressy and hectic before this show, so it’s really not easy just to get down and relax after… If I’m home tomorrow I will really try to relax for a couple of hours and it’s important because I feel that this week was really tough. But on the other side the feedback from the fans tonight was really really nice. Most of the people inside the venue (I think there’re around 4.000 people tonight) chanted for an encore and I think this was great. These are the moments that give me a power. During the show I was sometimes like grrrr… ‘cos there were some technical stuff and I tried to stay cool but I felt that people liked it and this was great. Sinner doesn’t play very often on such big festivals, so for me tonight it was very special. And I’m leaving this place saying that it was good.
And what about your plans for 2018? The tour is finished but I’ve heard you will play at Masters Of Rock, for example?
Yes, we will play in Czech Republic and I’m looking for doing it because I rea
lly like the place, I really like the festival and I believe we can also make a very nice appearance with this kind of music at this special event. I think our music is really cool for the festival and for people to get a good party.
You took quite a big break between “Tequila Suicide” and previous studio album with completely new stuff (‘cos “Touch Of Sin 2” that was in between included mostly re-recorded versions of classic songs). Will we have to wait for the next studio effort for such a long time again or even longer?
No, I don’t think so. We’re recording a new Primal Fear album right now. In January we’ve tracked the drums at Jacob Hansen’s studio in Denmark and the album will be released in August on Frontiers Records. The current plan is to go on tour in Europe in September. I will have to find a space for Japan, South America, North America and hopefully we will come back to Australia & Russia. In the meantime I will find the time to write new songs and to record a new Sinner album in the same direction as “Tequila Suicide”. The album was in Top-50 album charts in Germany. For us it was a very nice success. And people like us and the tour with Sinner was doing great. Japan is asking if we can play a double show with Primal Fear and Sinner and let’s see if we can manage it. It would be nice to do it. For me, Cesco and Tom it’s a hard work to play two shows but I think Japan would be a nice place for Sinner to rock, so would be Russia to do a double show :-) - but first we will finish the Primal Fear recordings.
How do you feel with a nick name “Sinner” nowadays when it became more real than your real name?
But it’s a real name. It’s in my passport. I had to do it because of America: in case of American embassy if you need a working visa this is the problem. I mean if you have your artist name in a contract you won’t get a working visa. So, I can choose between two names now, I have both officially now.
Over the history SINNER band has passed various style changes starting with heavy metal, power metal, later more hard rock and nowadays it’s more like classic rock with blues rock parts, etc…
Yes, absolutely… and it was planned because for me it just makes sense if I do something different. There were time when we released “Black Sun” of Primal Fear and at the same time “There Will Be Execution” of Sinner and musically it was like… the same music with two different singers. I think “There Will Be Execution” is a great album for those who love the more metal way of Sinner, and we love this album, I think the songs are great, everything is great but I was sitting down and said “stop! this is wrong. I need to make a break now and think it over and start all over again and do a kind of… let me say… to re-direct the band to a more classic rock way”. If I do both like heavy metal I don’t think it’s exciting. So, I had started again to learn how to make classic rock with Sinner writing songs, making albums. And “Tequila Suicide” for me is exactly the right option to make music aside of Primal Fear because it’s something so different and it makes a real fun and it’s a different attitude… totally different. And this is the way I want to continue.
Was it really necessary to LEARN to create and to play classic rock?
Oh, yeah… If you write so many songs, you really have to re-invent yourself back in the classic rock and throw away the metal attitude for some minutes for going back to... It doesn’t need to distort and get loud guitars… some acoustic guitar is nice for the moment and this kind of little things, so don’t push it, it just has to come organic and it has to get the flow but I think the latest Sinner album was really… After that long tour with Primal Fear it was a really nice experience to do a different kind of music.
“Tequila Suicide” has very strong bonus tracks. Actually, actually they are among my favorite songs. Why did you decide t
o put them aside the jewelcase edition?
Because they are not my favorite! (both laughs) No-no… It has to be a clever business move: if you’re releasing an album on a regular CD and then you have a special edition with three more songs which are quality wise as good as the others I think it’s a nice bonus for fans who always buy the limited edition. And this was the plan behind that. Maybe it’s also a key why it was charted in Germany so high ‘cos everybody was buying the limited edition.
Well, maybe it could be difficult to have in the main track list two ballads such as Monday Morning and Sinner Blues at the same time…
I’m really proud of both songs. They are different from my metal attitude, they are very different and I like to be different from time to time. For me it’s always a challenge also to produce this kind of atmosphere which is totally different than heavy metal songs. And another point is to sing these songs as a lead singer. As the lead singer you have to find the right dynamics and the right feeling to make this cool or to make a fool out of me and I don’t like to make a fool out of me, so it was a big challenge for me and at the end I’m very proud of it.
So, it’s definitely YOU who sang Monday Morning, right?
Yeah… I’m singing all the songs.
Really? Because I saw a big list of guest musicians and I keep guessing because it’s VERY different from your style, even of other songs on the album and very bluesy…
Mainly I’m singing all the songs. Sascha is one of my closest friends and we’ve met since 10 years at Rock Meets Classics, he was singing a part of Dying of a Broken Heart and of Battle Hill and there’re no other lead singers. That’s all me.
Great, my congratulations, because it sounds very authentic! Not metal but bluesy…
That’s why I’m doing this! I have to tell different stories with Sinner than in
Primal Fear. The lyrics are different, the atmosphere is different but for me the more I separate these bands the more it makes sense.
Before “Tequila Suicide” you released “Touch Of Sin 2” with re-recorded classic songs. Do you have any intention to do the same with any other old stuff?
No, if I have time and songs I will do a new album with new songs, with these guys and with new attitude. We need NEW stuff. We are very happy together like a young couple and we need to write new songs.
The Sinner line-up has never been stable. Right now it is, but in the past… What was the reason for so many changes?
I think that for everybody it’s more like my project. And I don’t wanna have too much focus on with the other guys. The point is that if I feel that people are for 100 percent backing me up and having the attitude and wanna do it with me which is not always an easy way, I will never change the line-up. If I feel that the people are having a feeling that it’s more a job than a dedication, I have to do something. If I’m coming home after eight month of touring with Primal Fear I wanna go to the studio with Sinner and people are telling me: oh, I don’t know if I… blah blah chum… Bye-bye! Very easy!
What is the ‘stable’ fact is that you’ve always had great guitar players. Who is your favorite one?
Oh, it’s difficult to say! At the end of the 80’s we had maybe the most spectacular guitars with Mathias Dieth who was later in U.D.O. and Angel Schleifer. They were a SPECTACULAR team! But I think now with Tom who is my closest friend in my private life and Alex Scholpp who is a little bit different player, he’s not a typical classic rock guitarist, we have a wonderful team. Very nice and very diverse and differ
ent. Not the typical 80’s guitarists, or 90’s guitarists, they are different. Alex is more a modern guy, Tom is still a classic rock guy and it works. For me they are very nice to each other, there are no big discussions who is playing what and why like we had before. No. We don’t have it anymore. It’s easy.
Are you not angry with Udo Dirkschneider who took some Sinner guitarists for his line-up?
(pause) I don’t care. At that time at the end of the 80’s it was really not easy to find the stable line-up. We had a big success there and then it was really like: oh… not again! another guitarist… oh, Jesus! Today for me I don’t care anymore. I really don’t care.
You have an album “Back To The Bullet” that was released not like the Sinner band work but as your solo album. Why?
It’s because a record company which was a major record company BMG they wanted me to do this album. And at that time I was a little bit frustrated with what was going on with Noise records, and the contract was over and I didn’t want to re-sign it. And BMG gave me that offer, and I said “ok, let’s do it!” but they didn’t want a Sinner album, they wanted my solo album.
I remember a video for “Every Second Counts” and you’re without bass guitar there, as a typical frontman with a microphone…
I was a singer. Well, I was learning by doing it, I have to try out some things… for example, there was a Sinner show where I played the guitar. I tried it out what is the way for me when I have the most enjoyable moments on stage. And I found out that it’s better for me with the bass rocking it out and it’s better than only singing.
I think it’s quite a common thing for you to record covers for your albums…
Why did you choose the track “Go Down Fighting”? At the fist sight it could be referred as a sequel of “Coming Out Fighting” but it’s not, it
’s a cover version of Jimmy Coup song who also a Thin Lizzy fan…
He is my friend! We are big friends. We have the same background, we have the same attitude and Jimmy and me we hang out together. His parents live in Pennsylvania and he came visiting our shows with Primal Fear in America and I was in Dublin where he’s from time to time, he’s playing there with one of the great accepted Thin Lizzy performance and we have such a nice connection and we hang together and it was like… go on Jimmy, let’s do a song together!
I was growing up with a punk, I was not growing up with a classic rock but with punk rock… And he played that song to me and said: Mat, how is about we’re doing this song together? And I was: Jim, I like this song, let’s do it. For me it’s not a cover version. For me it’s just a song we both decided to do. And Jimmy is a great guy. He was a guitarist in Andrew W.K. Check it out. It’s a brilliant maniac! So, we decided to do this song. I always do quick decision of the running order. I don’t sit for days or weeks… “Go Down Fighting” comes with rock attitude. Let’s go!
Are you still in touch with some old band members?
I think, with everybody. For example, Angel Schleifer lives in Arizona. When we go there with Primal Fear we always meet each other and have a great time together. Good friends. And I’m really like if you’re staying in contact and stay friends and be peaceful I like it.
Are your very first albums “Wild’n’Evil” and “Fast Decision” a part of the official discography?
For me, no, because we were young, we were doing demos and some record company released the albums after they heard that we signed to Noise Records. And even Fast Decision was not ever finished. We were just in the middle of doing demos. Some guy I don’t even know mixed that thing and they released that all. For me it’s not that friendly! Not that cool because I never give permission for that songs, nothing, it’s jus
t demos of a young band.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult nowadays to find a part of your official discography, neither on CDs nor on digital sources…
Well, I don’t care! I’m living at the moment or I hope for the future and who are looking out to find the old stuff they will find it anyway. The internet is unlimited. But that’s also a point why we re-recorded “Touch Of Sin”. Because so many people asked and we don’t have the rights we can’t release it and the point is that original CDs if you find them on eBay it’s about 150 euros… So that was the reason.
And which one sounds better?
I think the new one! Because the drums and the whole sound were horrible.
I suppose that recording conditions of nowadays are much better…
Absolutely! Maybe, not even the recording conditions but know-how and the equipment.
There are albums like “No More Alibis” or “No Respect” that seem to be underestimated. Do you think that there were not as good or maybe they appeared not in the right time?
No, it was just a moment when we did that. It was in the beginning of the 90’s till the mid of 90’s when it was really hard for regular rock bands to compete with grunge rock which was very hard at that point. We did that and then we came back with “Bottom Line” album which was in the right direction and from that point we did well.
When Ralf Sheepers first co-operated with you? Maybe “No More Alibis”?
I’m sure he appeared on the “Judgement Day” album doing the backing vocals because he has a much higher voice than I have and he did the high parts to make it more metal.
Do you know him for a long time?
Not exactly… Well, I know him for a long time but as we are both singers for all the time it was no need in doing anything together, it was not a right magic. The magic ca
Do you think is it really possible to be a great musician, songwriter and at the same time a good organizer as you are?
It’s all about talent. If you can do it, you can do it. If you can do both, you can do both. If you can do nothing you’re nothing. I don’t care.
Do you have any kind of method how to switch from one to another?
No, it’s learning by doing it. It’s like if you rely on other people and something is going wrong you learn. Why is it going wrong? So you learn. Then you make it better if you’re doing it by yourself. But if you’re doing by yourself and you fuck up you can kick your own ass. If there’re other people you pay for, they fuck up it’s done.
I’ve heard you worked at Nuclear Blast…
And it was organizing work as I understood?
Label manager. And 90 people were working there. I was there for the Human Resources and the Label manager.
Did you like that job?
Yeah but it was exhausting because I don’t wanna stop making music and music was still my priority No. 1 - I don’t want to go much into details, but at a certain point you have to make a decision, if you want to be on a stage and in a recording studio or full time in an office.
Do you have an office nowadays to manage all your projects or is it a studio?
Both. I have a big room which is bigger than this one (laughing) and I have there my studio where I can record whatever I want and there are my office where I make my business. It’s the same place.
What do you like more to work at home and what do you prefer to work at the office or at home?
I really like working at home! And I’m doing it last 12 years, since my company exists for now. And I can decide when I want to stand up, when I want to shower,
when I go out with my dog, when I stop working, sometimes I’m working in the middle of the night and nobody cares. It’s my decision and I feel better like this.
How did your co-operation with AFM Records start?
That was when I stopped with Nuclear Blast and the owner of AFM Records Jochen is a good friend of mine, he is from Swabia. He moved to Hamburg and over the years we always had a good connection. I think he is one of the most trustful guy in this business. I really like Jochen a lot, and he’s a really cool person. And so in the beginning I was skeptical of what I’m gonna do, it was nice that he contacted me, we refined a relationship and so. At least, he signed some bands I’m working with and Sinner is for seven years with AFM Records, it’s a long time and Voodoo Circle is on AFM Records and I think it’s a nice company and I really appreciate to work with.
Could you tell about your project Rock Meets Classic? It’s not well known in Russia. I’ve also noticed that it’s is called “original”. Does it mean that you’re the first RMC and there’re more of such projects exist?
Yeah, but it’s not about the first one it’s about if something is successful, on every corner some people appear with rock meets classics and blah blah blah.
How did you decide to establish it?
It was in 2009. One of my friends, Manfred Hertlein which is one of the biggest tour promoters in Germany he had an anniversary of his company and he was the first manager of Sinner. And he asked if I could play an acoustic set on the anniversary. And it was a midnight and it was a really nice moment. And then he said to me if we could do something together. And then he asked me about if I could take over the Rock Meets Classic for me an
d it was something like: Ooops… I never did anything with an orchestra! First, I was learning by doing it and now, ten years later I say I’ve never expected to play with these great guys and making friends with Alice Cooper, with Ian Gillan, with Joey Tempest, with Steve Lucather, Paul Rogers… whoever. They were with me on stage on the whole tour and it’s such a great thing to do this! I have really fucking great years, it is really-really nice! Now I have Francis Rossi from Status Quo, the guys from Supertramp, The Hooters, Michael Sadler from Saga and the guys from Gotthard. It’s gonna be a real event. And we could expand this year to Prague and playing two shows in Poland. For me it’s always a very huge event. For example in Munich we play over 6.000 people and we are backed by an orchestra, it’s something really different. For me it’s a huge job to do this and it’s a big challenge, and it’s good for me to have his challenge.
And now you have your own orchestra, if I’m not mistaken…
Yes. I put together our own orchestra because we thought that it would make more sense. We worked together with an orchestra from Czech Republic and we were always in tension with the boss of the orchestra who wants to conduct his own orchestra and we said no, we want a different guy to conduct and it was always a fight and we decided to stop these fuckin’ fights. We need to have peace and a very creative partnership and not just always war. And two years ago we started thinking about creating our own orchestra and now we do it. Let’s see what happens in April.
How many people are involved in?
I think, 100.
Wow, and how do you travel?
With a nice bus, nice hotels, good crew, it’s very good organized.
Is it difficult to involve rock stars to participate in?
Well, it’s always. If they don’t know what is going on… Mostly it’s easier to talk to people from Engl
and, America. Sometimes it’s a really hard job to put together a great line up. I think for 2019 which is the next line-up we will try to put together a line-up of singers which are not always around the corner. Which are really hard to tour and let’s see what we can make.
Would you like to record a DVD?
That’s not possible. Managers, publishers, record companies. The royalties will be higher than you can recoup.
I’ve just heard a new Voodoo Circle album "Raised On Rock", congratulations, it’s really great! And the first that I can emphasize it’s vocals… really different!
Of course, we didn’t want to have a guy who just sounds like David Readman. David Readman was such an important factor in Voodoo Circle band and if we change the singer there’re two ways: to stop the band or to find a singer who is different. We have found a singer who is different. We know Herbie from Avantasia, and he was with us when we played at Wacken with Rock Meets Classic and we gave him a chance to do this album. So, let’s see what the fans are telling us. Most of the fans are always telling “oh where’s David Readman”, and other fans say “wow it’s great what you’re doing”, so it’s a new start!
This is more of Alex’s project, are you involved in songwriting too?
Yes, of course.
Is it comfortable for you to be the leader in Sinner and not the main person in Voodoo Circle?
I don’t care. I’m always the guy who is not in the back. So, if I’m working in Voodoo Circle, I always have a worth what is going on and what is not going on… except that Alex is my friend for 30 years and we’re doing music together, we are friends which for me is the most important factor. We are friends and I’m supporting him.
What do you think of the market of nowadays with illegal downloads and legal streaming and downloads via Spotify, iTunes etc. Does it help
the bans, maybe younger bands…
Well, it could be very helpful to find young talents, it’s helpful if you find other music you like but for me it’s like… starting with mp3 format, going on the other stuff like to Spotify or download… for me it was annoying. But I didn’t like to change the vinyl to CD and now I have a lot of CDs and I have a lot of mp3s. I think the best way FOR ME as a person is not to discuss about Spotify or whatever. I can’t change that. I have to take the challenge and make the best for me out of it. Even if I don’t like it I have to accept it.
Have you ever thought to stop Sinner forever?
No, why should I? I can do whatever I want. I can stop for three years and I don’t care and then continue with something, so for me it’s no need in making any decisions.
By Irina Ivanova
Thanks to Philipp Degtyaryov, Alexx Froloff, Yaroslav Seleznyov, Dmitry Dasov for their help