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Interview with Gotthard

Interview with GOTTHARD at BANG YOUR HEAD 2012

(interview by Julia Braun)

I really have to admit that interviewing Leo Leoni and Nic Maeder at this year’s BANG YOUR HEAD festival was the toughest and simultaneously one of the most impressive conversations in my young life so far. As Steve Lee has always been a hero for me – in a humanly and musical sense - his death tore out a piece of my heart. Sitting in the green grass beneath a birch tree - while a huge rock festival is going on - and talking to two unbelievably strong, humorous and passionate guys talking so honestly and sharing a lot of laughter with me, still feels surreal.

It’s so great you lend me some of your time, guys. It’s great to have you here! How do you like the festival so far?

Leo: You’re very welcome. Oh, we’ve just arrived with the bus, we’ve seen the stage, seen the catering and the backstage. Then we were picked up for a photo-shooting and for this interview. That’s all I can say.

To be honest it has always been a dream of mine to sit face to face with Gotthard. Being here with you now after all this tragedy and heartache means so very much to me and I still can’t believe it. So, how are you in the meantime?

Leo: Yeah, I mean, we’re back in the saddle, we’re doing what we had to do and go back on stage and rock all over Europe. Not only Europe for sure. We just came back from Southern America and I can just say so far, so good and we keep moving forward.

After Steve’s tragic death which made a lot of people’s hearts break, you’re now back on the road. I bet it’s hard to be asked about this sensitive topic again and again, mostly because I guess you were asked about all this a thousand times within the last months. Well, I don’t want to bother you with my questions but I’d be so glad if you’d answer just honestly and straight from your heart. Nic, you are taking on this tough legacy and trying to fill the gap Steve left behind. Would you mind to tell me how that feels like and most of all what it means to you?

Nic: We try to be as honest as we can. Well, uh … honestly I would never say I’d be a replacement for Steve, no one ever could be. It’s a new chapter for the band. We’re just continuing with the second chapter of this band at the moment and going other ways, you know? And it feels fantastic: the response from the fans has been amazing and we’re just working very hard for continuing.

I am truly scared to see you on stage together later on for the very first time and I guess a lot of fans feel the same. Where you actually scared of the fan’s reactions at any point?

Nic: Of course I think about that a little bit! But for me the aim is just to focus on what we’re doing at the moment, to have fun and try not to think about that too much. Otherwise I’d go down, yeah. So we just work through it [laughs].

Leo, I would like to ask you how you made the decision whom to chose as a new singer and how to go on at all.

Leo: That was the only thing to do, right? I mean I really believe that if somebody else – instead of Steve - had passed away we would have made the same decision. We all said if we found the right person to go on with what we did in the past we’d do so. We found that person and here we are!

About one and a half years after Steve’s tragic death you’ve now started a new era for GOTTHARD by having released your first album with Nic, called ‘Firebirth’. How did you actually work with each other during the songwriting/recording process and how would you describe the new album, how did it grow?

Leo: Actually it felt pretty similar to how it was in the past. Working with Nic doesn’t feel so much different compared to working with Steve. I mean, we went through the auditions before and one step of that was writing songs together. Four of the songs we wrote together with Nic during the auditions made it to the record in the end, so yeah, as easy as it was before.

Nick: ‘Firebirth’ is a very raw sounding album. The band really wanted to go back to basics, back to where it all began. This was what we pushed to do from the beginning. I’m pretty sure we managed to find our way.

Now that you’re back on the road you have to solve the important challenge to present the “new GOTTHARD” to the world. What can you say about the shows so far, how does it feel like to play together?

Leo: GREAT! We played our first shows in Europe, Southern America, Japan and Russia and start our European tour this fall. It almost feels like being back to where we’ve been before. I think this is a fact, what else can I say?

So, huh… how to ask about this…

Leo (interrupts me): U wanna know if Nic’s married? No, he’s not [laughs].

Now we know something else about you, Nic! But let’s become serious again: I do absolutely respect you from the deepest of my heart that you’re keeping the songs and GOTTHARD alive with the help of your voice and your personality. Isn’t that a pretty heavy cross to bear from time to time, Nic – as well talking about singing the old songs?

Nic: It’s like I said in the beginning: I just try not to think about all this too much and just go ahead and give my best. Actually so far it’s just pretty good fun to do all this. Just before I go on stage I do feel like “Oh, oh, oh…” and become nervous. But as soon as we’re on stage and the machine starts it goes forward.

Leo: And it feels just great to play the old songs again. There’s only this road to take and like I said we just keep on doing what we had to do. We said if we found a guy being able to share the feeling of those songs with us we’d do it. With Nick we definitely can. The songs sound different of course, with a different voice, different interpretation of the songs but we’re happy. There’s nothing worse as if we just couldn’t play those songs anymore I think…

Let’s be honest: isn’t it pretty exhausting and hard for all of you to get used to each other?

Leo: Yeah, Nic’s always stealing my soap in the shower, haha!

Nick: As long as it’s only the soap…

Leo: Yeah... that’s the only thing that’s left for me…

‘Firebirth’ is a great picture for the Circle of Life. You’ve chosen a phoenix as the new symbol, re-rising from the ashes to the sky. So why did you chose this?

Leo: I mean the phoenix is just the perfect symbol for the situation we are in. We’ve been through hell and back. Back from the ashes from everything that was burnt we have that spirit of the phoenix. The symbol for our rebirth. It’s the basic idea of what we are doing now.

Please tell me about the most touching, fascinating or horrible moment on this tour so far!

Nic: A lot of moments were great so far but one of the more memorable ones was the show in Locarno. This was probably the longest show we did as well … playing there where the band started, where everything began… and ended. Playing in front of these fans who were all having fun and enjoying themselves. Most of all we were really being accepted. About this show we all said that we had a lot of different moods while playing and our highest and lowest emotional moments, you know. I think for me that is the most memorable moment.

Leo, if you could make one big wish come true at the moment, what would that be?

Leo: I think you know the answer to that question, Julia. I just don’t want anything to change! Sure, I wish Steve would be here as we’re all missing our friend. To have him here would be the wish. But as it’s not possible I’m just so happy about the way it is now. I’m here now, we found Nic and I’m very happy that we can go on with our story. So one wish cannot come true, one wish came true. One is gone and now we got a new wish: that Gotthard can keep on writing that book we started to write 20 years ago from now on with Nic and it’s gonna be great!

Is there actually anything special you would like to let our readers and your fans know?

Leo: Oh yes, that we are definitely still HERE! [laughs]

What I would like you to do as a final “question” is to give me short associations for the following words – to get to know you even better.

Nic: Ahhh, I hate this! Haha.

Poor Nic, let’s try it though. First Leo: Love.

Leo: God, there’s nothing left without love…

Memories:

Leo: … too many to mention…

Faith:

Leo: Absolutely important!!!

Nic, let’s try it! Life.

Nic: Uhhhhhhhhhh…. God, I’m really bad at this… Life: I would say live it the best you can like it’s your last day.

Dreams:

Nic: DO come true!

Okay, short interruption here. I have to ask if when auditions for GOTTHARD started, it became a dream for you to sing for this band?

Nicc: Oh yes, absolutely!

Okay, so one last word then: music.

Nic: Pheewww, I mean music has always been in my life. It is the way of expressing oneself.

Okay guys, I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart that you took your time for me today, it was such a pleasure! I wish you so much fun today at BANG YOUR HEAD. What do you expect for today?

Leo: It was a pleasure for us. I think today we expect a cool rock concert.

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