Metal-Rules.com Interview with Producer Sascha Paeth

Interviewed By EvilG

If you don't know the name Sascha Paeth, then you haven't been listening to the same albums as me, or if you have, you haven't read the album credits. The production team of Sascha and Miro is quickly becoming legendary for producing such fine melodic and symphonic metal albums by bands like Rhapsody, Angra, Kamelot and Luca Turilli. Some of you might also recognize Sascha's name from his time spent as lead guitarist with the German band Heaven's Gate. The interesting thing I learned about this is that this style of music is not even Sascha's forte! I spoke to him about that and about how he manages to poll together so much talent into an album. This is a fairly lengthy interview but I'm sure anyone who is a fan of the aforementioned bands or anyone who is interested in a behind the scenes look at what a producer's role is, will find this quite interesting.

  Listen to the interview in MP3 format 
(42mins long, 9.8mb)


Sascha PaethA lot of people see the name "producer" listed on a CD but they donīt really know what a producer does, can you tell me in a nutshell what your job as a producer entails?

You can see that basically like a director in a movie for example. You basically try to keep the things together in a musical way, the artistical overview, you have to keep an overview of all the things and try to make one finished product out of it. So you are basically directing the whole stuff and try to keep an eye on everything that is going on  but itīs basically about the artistical work.

 

When youīre working with a band can you describe what a typical working day might be like for you?

It depends on recording. Iīm also an engineer. So usually we start recording drums you know that means you set up the drums and place the microphones...and start recording (laughs). That's the normal way these days. People donīt record live anymore. Usually itīs not happening like that. Sometimes we do pre-production before that, you know, so the producer goes to maybe the rehearsal room or maybe he goes to small studio. Rearrange a little bit...go in the studio and set up the drums do the drum recording. And then you normally do bass later or maybe play that together with the drums already. You do that with all the instruments and then, of course, in the meantime you also always talk about the arrangements to see what's been changed in the recording because it comes out different. So itīs also varying a lot. Sometimes can be very good artistically, sometimes can be very bad. Sometimes it takes a week of sorting out stuff you can use or sometimes you just decide this song is not good and we have to re-record everything. We have to do it in a different key because the singer doesn't sound good in that key...all these things, you know.

 

So is a typical day I donīt guess itīs 9-5 but itīs pretty much when the band is ready I assume?

Yes and usually a lot of before and after. Also these days there is a lot about editing and this modern sound that everybody wants to have. Itīs not only like setting up drums. Thereīs a lot of work behind it that sounds like it sounds today. From fifteen to twenty years ago you could listen, you hear songs completely different. Usually weaker.

The older stuff is weaker?

Yup.

Itīs not as rich or full maybe?

Yes. It is pretty modern to have a lot of things going. But that also means you have to take a lot of care about the sound, work on it more to the detail. Itīs a lot of work. So most of the time... for example if you want to have a heavy sound you donīt get around with working with samples. This is also for example part of this job.

 

Right. Do most of the bands you work with use Triggers on their drums these days?

I decide that later. I never record triggers. If I need it. Usually I use a trigger on a snare but only on top to fill it up with what it needs. If I need some bottom from the trigger and the same goes for the bass. I donīt like triggering everything (laughs) Itīs just a lot of work. So thatīs really one thing. [They want the sound maybe] Yes, they want the click and we just... actually really unnatural. Can't have that punch anymore plain so this is one of the reasons.

 

Iīve read some people criticize RHAPSODY and say that their first album "Legendary Tales" is a drum machine and not a drummer. Is that true or is that just the way the drums sounded or maybe you donīt want to comment on that?

(laughing) Listen and judge yourself.

It sounded like drums to me! (laughs)

Yeah... sometimes you have to work on that stuff (laughing). This music, you canīt even tell if itīs through your drums, the way you present it later on. Itīs so extreme sometimes because there's no space left for the natural sound because itīs really full. It wouldn't really matter if it's real drums or not. I think it also doesn't really make a big difference for the fans because the result is what is counting. If you can get the result with sampled drums then do it you know. JUDAS PRIEST did that too, you know. But everybody should listen and judge for himself. (both laughing) I donīt tell anything.

 

Yeah, thatīs ok. Your studio Gate Studios; Iīve read that itīs out in the country located like in a farm area. Do you find this or do the bands find it strange that they come there to create some of the greatest metal recordings in the world.

First of all I donīt think they come because of the studio itself. We just set up a studio there to record HEAVEN'S GATE. I just decided to do something more there. We did a lot of recordings there. Itīs not like the most convenient, nicest studio in the world. And the people usually donīt care so much. Itīs just like if the atmosphere... If they care, we can just go somewhere else.

 

So roughly how long have you been producing albums and did you learn the art by doing or by taking specific training courses or working under someone?

Yes. I was actually never planning to do this job. I was only recording records with my own band, and taking over some recordings here and there. Starting out with machine handling and stuff. Ten years ago in the old days...[Old days, ten years?!]. Yeah but the time is running fast these days. When we started out with HEAVENīS GATE there was no a-dat, there was no digital machines except the big Sony ones or Mitsubishi ones like something out of space and not normal. So I did some tape handling and learned it here and there. One day Charlie, the producer at that time for HEAVENīS GATE, asked me to take over production for him for a couple of days. And I was just jumping into cold water (that's a German saying) and said "Ok Iīll do it". I was like zero to a hundred and right away. So I was sitting in the big studio with the whole sound studio, with fucking no clue what Iīm doing and just doing it (laughing). From that point on, that day on, we worked together because it worked out somehow and we just did productions together. There was like one day and I did it alone and I donīt know, I never planned it. I wanted to be a musician originally.

 

Your band HEAVENīS GATE was not known for having big symphonic type productions so how did you end up becoming known as a producer for these grand orchestrated productions by bands like RHAPSODY or KAMELOT?

I donīt know. (both laugh) Actually it started out I think with the first ANGRA record. We did the... I was also doing a lot of keyboard programming and orchestration at that time. We just had this idea for the first ANGRA record to just put a lot of like symphonic stuff in this music and thatīs what we did. It was really a big success, this record with gold in Japan. Somehow bands like RHAPSODY came and they were fans of ANGRA. So they listened to this stuff and they decided to do it. It was just because we basically tried that with ANGRA and from that day on the people were coming and asking for that because they liked it somehow. I was also never planning this actually I come from a complete different direction of music. I also donīt come from the Heavy Metal field basically before I joined HEAVEN`S GATE. Also I joined HEAVEN`S GATE because I was usually playing solos on the record. They asked me to play solos, it was a hired position.

 

So what style of music would you say is your background?

It was a big variety. When I was young I basically played, I was in almost starting to study jazz guitar. I didnīt do that then. I played some jazz and fusion stuff, funky stuff, bluesy stuff also rock, always rock music at the same time. I always liked that, you know, the dirty stuff. But really heavy metal I basically didnīt play until I joined HEAVEN`S GATE which was two months before the actual recording of the first record. So then I stuck to that scene somehow. This is how it happens. This symphonic stuff I was not doing that until the ANGRA record with just this idea we tried that, I donīt know (laughter).

 

So you donīt only produce but on a number of albums you contribute some guitar, bass and backing vocals. Is this usually the case what happens with all the bands you work with?

Not with all the bands but Iīm invited kind of often to play on the record. I did some RHAPSODY string stuff. I played Mandolin and what is this Russian instrument. A lot of strange things. The Turkish instruments, I try out a lot of stuff. People like it. When I have something weird or something special I just try it myself if itīs possible at all, if Iīm able to do it.

 

Many producers are just responsible for "producing" but youīre known for also being able to bring in guest musicians like choirs, opera singers, string musicians that the bands themselves might not be able to track down. Does having this advantage make you more sought after or more popular with bands who are looking for those elements in their music?

Rhapsody + Guest MusiciansI donīt know, maybe it is. I was never thinking about that. I usually donīt think about what Iīm doing, I just do it. I have a lot of contacts a lot of friends of mine. This one friend who has appeared on the Rhapsody record a couple of times. He was studying classical guitar and then lute, classical lute / Baroque lute. So he did like both and he knows a lot of people and I basically ask him a lot of times. You meet people here and there and check it out and in the end of almost ten years you know a lot of people. Itīs just, usually I get along with the people fine, you know, so thereīs never a problem with working with people so I can always ask them again and after awhile you have a pool of people. And plus I have a couple of friends here in this area which are very good musicians. For example Robert the bass player from HEAVENīS GATE, but heīs a very good drummer as well. Basically heīs a drummer and a guitar player. Heīs only playing bass because we didnīt have a bass player for HEAVEN`S GATE. (both laugh) I use him a lot of times for drums. Itīs just very nice. Miro does keyboards a lot of times. A little bit of luck that you know good people.

 

I know youīve worked with a number of Metal bands like weīve mentioned RHAPSODY, ANGRA and KAMELOT have you also done any work with any non-metal bands?

Yes I do that quite often.

Can you give me some examples?

Yeah, thereīs this German band called WIDE MOUTH, you probably donīt know itīs called HYPER CHILD. Their in the charts right now. Thatīs more pop rock. I worked with SISTERīS OF MERCY for example and they had some number one hits, actually in the eighties with this dark kind of pop music, originally produced by Bruce Steedman. You know this guy? [Bruce Steedman, you say?] He did the MEATLOAF stuff, all the MEATLOAF recordings. I did some programming on this one and I also did Punk. I did everything already. Having fun in basically every kind of music.

 

Do you prefer working on these orchestrated type symphonic albums more?

No.

Theyīre more difficult I assume?

No, actually my personal taste is more, I like more this vintage kind of recording. I tend to look for like natural sounds and if you go for this extreme Heavy Metal you have to go down to sounds that aren't natural anymore. I prefer to actually try around with more sounds, guitar sounds, different drum sounds. You know when you listen to Heavy Metal records you usually have one drum sound going all the way through, you know what I mean? You have double guitars all the way. Itīs like a different guitar song. So then of course if you try to do the symphonic stuff because it needs something that changes the same. But basically Iīm more into the vintage kind of recordings. If I choose between LED ZEPPELIN and any modern speed metal band I would probably go for LED ZEPPELIN, not because of the name but just talking about production and how much I can put myself into there. Itīs also fun to do the other stuff. Basically I work with these people because I like the people. If I like the people I donīt have to really love the music. I can still go into it and like it but it doesnīt have to be my passion.

King Of The Nordic TwilightRight. So, you must like RHAPSODY a fair bit, or LUCA TURILLI , because you played bass on his solo album, correct?

Thatīs true, yes.

Will you be playing on his next solo album again?

Probably, yes. Itīs just like you know he asked me "can you play the bass" and I say "yes". Why not? Just do it and thatīs it.

 

Does the successes of bands like RHAPSODY that youīve seen them obtain in the last couple of years made you ever think, "hey, I should have my own symphonic metal band" or that is not your "passion" as you would call it?

Not at all, no. Of course HEAVENīS GATE is kind of over.

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that too...

Itīs kind of over. Over the years we just basically split in a natural way because it just didnīt meet anymore. I have a new band and this is more Rock orientated. A little bit like in a QUEEN direction maybe and this is what I want to do.

Whatīs the name of the band?

VIRGO. VIRGO like a virgin,  Itīs together with André Matos from ANGRA (Ed. Note: He's ex-Angra now and has his own band called Shaman). Itīs more like a duet, duo.

What's your plans?

We just recorded an album. This is the one.. all together in one room, anticipate recording. Our clique. Just like one, two, three, four letīs go. Of course all this sounds different.

 

I assume you played guitar in that?

Yes. Also played bass on a couple of tracks because we have seven songs recorded that way and four songs that were recorded here. On this one I also played the bass.

 

So do you get more satisfaction from producing as opposed to playing in a band or is it two completely different worlds?

No, itīs one world for me. Everything is really connected. So like you already said it can also happen that I play some stuff in the production so itīs really connected. I donīt prefer this or that. Itīs just like when I am doing one thing for too long time I would like for there to be other things. You know what I mean so Iīm always changing, Iīm producing more than Iīm playing of course. I like both actually.

 

HEAVENīS GATE actually contribute a song to The Keepers Of Jericho: A Tribute To HELLOWEEN you chose the song 'A little Time'. [Yes] Was there any significance in why you chose that particular track?

It was leftover. (laughing)

The ones you wanted were taken??? (both laughing)

No, there was a couple of course for choosing. And you know I knew this HELLOWEEN stuff from when I was 16, you know. It was actually the only Heavy Metal album I had on tape. I liked this song. This was the one song that I remembered and this ballad one and I just said I like this song, "letīs do this one". And also Thomas, the singer, liked the idea and we just did it. It was possible... we didnīt want to have this speed song with extreme metal bass and extreme arrangements. We just wanted to have like an easy song thatīs a little bit "funky".

 

So was that the last recording that HEAVEN`S GATE has done? [Yes] Thatīll be it for the band now?

Seems like it.

Seems like it... (laughing) Would you like there to be something more?

Yeah, maybe yes, but not now. I really want to do this other thing now. I think itīs over. Weīll see. Actually, we still have a contract. Actually, the record company doesnīt even know (both laughing) that weīre going to split up basically. It just doesnīt make any sense if you never meet and thereīs not this band feeling anymore. You donīt have this idea together so why do it, it doesnīt make sense. Maybe if we have the feeling like in three or four years again we think we have to do this kind of music again we just do it but for now itīs over.

 

KAMELOT are one of the, in my opinion, better bands that have come out of the United States in the past few years. Can you talk a little bit about the band and how you came to produce them?

Ok. I think the same. First of all I really like the band because they sound different. I like the way Roy sings for example. Itīs completely different, totally atmosphere. This is one of the big points for me that I like it and they are very open to influences. They would just like try everything out, you know. Theyīre easy to work with and very nice people so I just like the people. It was just happening that Thomas (Ed. Note: Thomas Youngblood - guitarist for Kamelot) was calling me, he was listening to, I donīt know, LUCA TURILLI or RHAPSODY and he was just calling me and asking to do the record. We decided I go over to America so Iīve gone to Florida for two weeks. We did a kind of pre-production there like nice pre-production in the sun on the balcony. (both laugh) That was cool! We worked on the songs then they came over to Germany with the recording and everything worked out fine. Thatīs it and then they liked it and so we continued working together. Just the normal way. So you are right, itīs something special with me. Same with RHAPSODY actually. I really like the people. Itīs like we became friends, also with KAMELOT. Itīs most important to me I would say.


Kahn, Sascha Paeth and Thomas Youngblood

 

I noticed on KAMELOTīs new CD "Karma" it runs for 55 minutes and 55 seconds. I read that or heard on the KAMELOT web page that you did this kind of as a joke for the idea of, the album is kind of like the fifth legacy? (laughs)

(laughing) You know, I did a couple of interviews today already and youīre the second person telling me this now. I didnīt know this was my idea. (more laughing)

Well, what were you thinking when you extended the length of the last track?

We were talking about that. Maybe Iīm wrong in telling you this but it wasn't my idea. It was like somebody else's idea. I think Thomas maybe. They just write it down on the web page to make me responsible or irresponsible (laughing). Fooling the people for seven minutes. The initial idea was actually started with the fifth album and thought itīs funny to put it in at four times five this play. Thatīs all, you know. Just had the idea in the very beginning. If it had been twenty seconds more it would have also been 55 minutes. You talk about it...

 

So have you ever done anything like that on anyone else's album? Have you been asked to do one of those tricks where the CD ends or you think it ends?

We do these things not only when it ends but also in a song hidden stuff. Miro and I, we like this kind of shit. (laughs) We did that with HEAVENS GATE with the "Menergy" album. There was like this vocal track that Thomas would sing, like our singer for example he was doing, this is not funny for English people actually, because he was doing this thing called lower Saxony accent. Which is like from the Eastern part of Germany. Itīs a very extreme accent. Itīs like the countryside of America, really extreme. But he was singing English with this German Eastern accent only for fun in the recording. And we were haha and laughing and we kept it. We just put it on the recording without telling him, so he was listening to the record and heard him singing this lower Saxony accent. You know sometimes we just do this. Fun is also getting all into this.

 

Here's a question that I guess applies to RHAPSODY more than some of the other bands you have worked with. Iīd be interested to know what in your opinion makes a band sound "epic". Is it their style of writing or is it something that you can do with the production sound that kind of makes the band sound a little more "epic" in flavor? 

Both I would say. Basically itīs the composition. You can hear that with the melody. Basically, epic, first of all you have to define epic. What is Epic for you? I think if it sounds big and mighty, [Yeah] no?

Yeah, well RHAPSODY defines epic in many aspects for me.

Sascha (second from left) with RhapsodyYeah. Epic for me would not be if you have this like, if you have this parts that has this sound, this film score feeling. A soundtrack feeling, you know? Not necessarily epic to me. Epic to me is like a chorus in every song. [Right, an epic sounding chorus, yes] Also without the big choir it would be epic because the melody is epic. Also the rhythm should not be too complicated. It should be easy going. I think itīs more of a matter of for example, the Italians, a couple of Italian bands do this kind of music. Italian folk music is also kind of epic. The roots of Italian music is very epic. They have this mentality. These RHAPSODY people, they really have have this mentality. They sing for me like very loud like a typical Italian. Itīs also a matter of mentality.

 

Right. I know RHAPSODY have expressed a kind of musical kinship with big Hollywood epic productions like Braveheart and Gladiator. Have they ever asked you to help them sound more like the way those movies look and feel, and if they have, what kind of suggestions do you give to them?

Ok so first of all. They ask for a similar sound. It is very hard to achieve because they also want to have like double bass that is blowing your head away at the same time. Of course like this film score soundtrack this lives for dynamics. Dynamics you donīt have in Heavy Metal so they just ask me if there is any possibility to have everything at the same time. And we try and work it in the songs here and there. I think it needs more care still. It maybe is for the next production we will do it a bit more extreme make it more dynamic and get everything for the same time. They ask for big sounds, big things and big everything. (both laughing) We just try to do it.

 

RIght. Do you feel these types of symphonic metal type productions are breaking new ground and are possible attracting fans who are not the typical Heavy Metal / Power metal fans?

Thereīs a very strange thing about this music that was already with the first RHAPSODY that we did. Some people who didnīt listen to Heavy Metal at all liked it. So itīs somehow opening the market a little for other people. There are a couple normal people that would never listen to this type of music and thatīs because of basically good melodies. They care about the melodies in the first place. Melodies that you can remember, sing along. This is opening also for other people. I forgot the question (laughs).

Maybe a fan of Classical music can listen to a Rhapsody album, even if they are not a metal fan?

I think a fan of Classical music would have a hard time because I think they would miss the dynamics. Maybe itīs too saturated some how. I think people listening to normal pop music find it interesting. Maybe some people are seriously into Classical music will find that a little bit too much. But they also wouldn't ever listen to heavy metal.

 

I guess the same goes for someone like me who listens to Heavy Metal. Listening to RHAPSODY is almost like listening to Classical music. I donīt listen to very much straight Classical music except for some of the movie scores. Listening to RHAPSODY opens up doors for people who only listen to metal to maybe get into something different.

I have a lot of contact with journalists when we do this presentation for the RHAPSODY records. This is sort of a trend now of people listening to film scores. I have to say that was not there before. I think it ever started with this thing somehow. They were always talking about film scores here and there and somehow it became popular. I think they are a little bit pioneers with this direction. [Oh yeah! I think so.]  It also means they open up people's heads to other things. For once you are open for more different sounds or more atmospheres you might go  ok, now I'm going to buy this record for the soundtrack with only this type of music that RHAPSODY has included in their music and suddenly they are open to other styles and would also go for something else in the end. In the end variety of music people listen to is going to be .. which is always good.

 

So what are your plans or your working plans for the rest of this year and what bands are you planning to be working with?

Right now Iīm doing work for this Dutch band called Helloise. At the same time I am basically doing part of the mix for a Brazilian project. I have one guy sitting next to me right now. [What band is that?]  It is a project of 15 bands.  I can only say itīs a classical theme. I donīt know ... already talking about it, I just donīt know it. Like I said this Dutch band thatīs going to be finished next week. Then next week, Thursday actually, RHAPSODY will come here and weīre going to start the next record. Then I have to go on a promotion tour with my own band, with VIRGO, which will be in the middle of the RHAPSODY  production.  This I come back and finish the RHAPSODY and work on LUCA TURILLI and work on, do the mix for SHAMAN along with their vocal and guitar recording. SHAMAN is the other new band with Andre Mateos (ex Angra). It's a heavy metal band. And a lot of stuff you know. Alex Staropoli from Rhapsody is planning to do a solo album. Iīm basically booked until next year in April or I donīt know.

 

So I guess you are so booked you had to turn bands away or a lot of times, do you?

Yeah, I did that a couple of times. Sometimes I take too much. That would just happen to me these days. The reason these Brazilian people are here and I just have to cancel at the last minute because I wasnīt done mixing. It was a pity because they had booked their flights and everything. Fortunately Miro took over the mixing they were happy with the solution. Now I'm only doing two of their songs and Miro will do the rest. So this happens often. I donīt know.

 

Where do you find time for a personal life amongst all this?

Basically I mix a lot of records. Itīs also about like doing overdubs or vocals recordings. I do that in my small studio at home. I do all the mixes at home and all the editing. Basically Iīm home all the time. I work a lot but Iīm always there. My personal life, my life is basically music. In my private life I do music as a hobby. It doesnīt make a difference if I work all the time or follow my hobby. Iīm not the type of person that can sit in front of the TV set and watch that TV all night. Itīs impossible. Itīs just like driving me crazy. I can do that for ten minutes when I eat something but thatīs it or go to bed when Iīm totally wasted.

 

So is there any other things happening that youīd like me to let people know about or have we covered just about everything?

I donīt know. Uhhmmm...

Maybe you can tell me a little bit more to end off about VIRGO and when this will be available and things like that?

This is going to be released in the end of August beginning of September and itīs going to be a simultaneous world wide release. 

Do you have a label for it already?

Yes, itīs going to be released with SPV exclusively. Ok, in Japan they did a deal that it was JVC. I think itīs set up for the whole world already except like some small countries. I think South America isnīt 100% set and also we wait for North America as well. We have a possibility to release it there too but we want to wait a little bit. Whole North America with this kind of music... well, actually itīs not this kind of music because itīs not Heavy Metal this time but itīs not so easy to get a release in North America. Before we do a very small release we thought we'd just not release it at all. We try to find someone who we can work this music a little bit better. This is a cross over thing. It can be be marketed in the pop market as well. This is what we planned to really work on this and make it happen. We'll also go on tour in the Autumn. So we basically go on a world tour.. not really a world tour but like South America, Japan and whole Europe.

Of course North America gets left out as usual...

Yeah... the problem is itīs a very big country and without big time promotion you canīt also really play there. You have to find somebody for doing that promotion. You canīt go over there to play for 10 people. It doesnīt make sense if you only pay for playing. We would love to do it of course but things have to be prepared well. Weīll see what the future brings. If you can arrange that for us?? (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah. Well I guess thatīs all the questions I have. It was a pleasure to talk to you. [It was also a please to talk with you.] All the best with VIRGO and all your work that you are very busy with.

Thank you very much!


Transcription kindly provided by Skyklad from
The Metal Gospel!!!!!!!

Thanks to The Swedish Rhapsody page for some of the in the studio pictures.


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Saturday, June 16, 2001