Into The Power Metal Realm of Mentalist
Into The Power Metal Realm of Mentalist
Mentalist unveil inspiring power metal in the grand tradition of Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian. Exactly one year after their critically acclaimed debut Freedom Of Speech, Mentalist returns with a powerful new endeavor! Entitled A Journey Into The Unknown, the next great chapter in the Mentalist saga will be available on August 20th via Pride & Joy Music.
Highwire Daze recently had the honor to interview the amazing Mentalist drummer Thomen Stauch, best known for this tenure within the ranks of the legendary Blind Guardian. Topics of interest include discussing the many exciting songs contained within A Journey Into The Unknown, his final Blind Guardian album A Night At The Opera and what he thinks of their music today – as well his thoughts on Hansi (Kürsch) of Blind Guardian’s other band Demons & Wizards and comments on the recent Jon Schaffer incident. Read on…
Is there any overall story or concept behind that CD title ‘A Journey Into The Unknown’?
Well, it’s not really a concept behind it. Every song has its own story and we have songs that are funny like ‘Dentalist‘. We have things like Modern Philosophy that is about finding the truth in the news that you get delivered day by day, and that between old times and nowadays, all that information flow totally changed from, let us say, thirty years ago or nowadays – and that it is more complicated to find out the truth between real media lies that we get presented sometimes and the real truth that is standing behind it. So, you have to find your own way to find this truth. That is the point about Modern Philosophy. ‘A Journey into the Unknown’, for example, is about the liberty that nobody knows where our life will lead us to. So, it is a pretty simple thing, anyhow, but it is a global thing that we are talking about. ‘Dentalist‘ is a funny thing. It is about a crazy dentist, that is why it is called ‘Dentalist’, and we were doing a funny video about it also as the 4th release to this album now, as a single release.
‘An Ocean So Deep‘ is about evolution, as you might have seen already in the video. ‘The Soldier Without a War’ is about a conspiracy theory. Where people think that they have to fight a war that does not even exist, especially now with the Corona, COVID shit, you know? There are a lot of people that think they will all put us a chip in our arms. I mean, I don’t believe everything that they tell us in the media, but I think that is just a step too far, you know what I mean?
What was it like writing and recording this album in the middle of the pandemic and all the social unrest in the world?
Well, let us say it is not easy. On the other hand, it was even more positive than maybe in most stressful times for us. We could take the time to use it for creating new songs pretty fast for a second album. As you know, we will release ‘A Journey Into The Unknown‘ now on the 20th of August. We will release ‘A Journey Into The Unknown‘ exactly one year after the debut release we had with ‘Freedom of Speech‘.
Rob Lundgren, his vocals are incredible. How did he become involved with Mentalist and what is his background?
He got involved with Mentalist with the first album and he was suggested by Peter’s (Moog – guitarist) vocal trainer, a vocal teacher. She is a female good friend of Peter living in Saarbrucken where Peter is from too and Kai (Stringer – guitarist) comes from there too. Alex Landenburg from Kamelot comes from there too. He is a good friend of Peter and Kai too. And our guitarist for Dawn Of Amber, my other power metal band, Bene comes from Saarbrucken too. They all come from Saarbrucken.
And Rubina, she is called Rubina, the vocal teacher of Peter. She suggested this guy to Peter because she knew him from YouTube videos, and from the cover versions that he did on his Patreon channel, and she said that, “This guy is so talented. He is so great. You have to check him out.” And then we listened to him, and we said, “Fuck, why did we not see him before?” And then we asked him, and he was totally overwhelmed from the songs we had at that point already and said, “Of course, let’s go for it. I would like to join. Let’s try it out.” And we checked it, and everything worked fine, and he said, “I’m in.” and then we said, “You’re in!” We did not want to miss him. Believe me, he is our nightingale.
Has Mentalist ever played live yet, or do you have any planned?
No. We never played live yet. Because of the pandemic shit. Otherwise, we would have for sure. We would like to jump on to any great tour with the first album already. But then the pandemic had its hardest time, its toughest time for us all when this should have happened. And so we said, okay, we will use the time to compose new songs for a fast new album with great songs on it. And I definitely have to say, I hope it does not sound arrogant, but I’m 200% convinced of this album we did here and I think it is a big step forward compared to ‘Freedom of the Speech‘ which was already really good, I think. But this one is more unique, it is faster, it is even more melodic. That’s what I think. I’m completely happy with that album, and I can’t wait anymore to bring that shit finally on stage with the guys. It is incredible, really. I’m hungry now for stages.
Let’s talk about the final Blind Guardian album you did, A Night at The Opera. Tell me what do you think of that album when you look back on it now?
I think it’s really a great album that has really great songwriting on it. The only thing that I noticed at that time when I was still in the band is that after thirteen months of recording and we included mixing, okay? But thirteen months in total, for me, the album sounded and was just a little bit overproduced. I thought that we could have left it a little bit more rough, raw. Do you know what I mean? We have the complete building of the album, but we were so in love with all these little details, and I look and there are little bells, and there’s this and this. And I think later, it was so much. There were so many tracks that Charlie (Bauerfeind) had to mix that we had to combine two big pro tool systems because he could not handle it anymore. And Then There Was Silence – there were just the orchestra tracks, without the instruments, just orchestra. I think it was two-hundred twenty tracks or something like that.
And I must say it is a really great album. And now after this long period of time, almost twenty years now, I must really say it is a great album. But at that time, it was a little bit over the top already, I think. From the complexity.
Nowadays, Blind Guardian, in general, they work much more complex. So, ‘Beyond the Red Mirror‘ is so complex in my ears that even I don’t get along with that album anymore. And I told the guys. I told Hansi (Kürsch) and Andre (Olbrich), they did not understand. They said, “You are crazy.” I said, “No! I’m sorry. This is not what I expected from my old band with the style I started growing up with.” It is for sure from the musical side, a very intelligent and high-level album, without a doubt, but it is not what I expect anymore and what makes me happy about Blind Guardian. Because I miss the big choruses that I hear one time and tomorrow, I sing it all day, you know what I mean? And this is not anymore on the new album.
But this is what Hansi told me, he said, “Yeah, you are not completely wrong with that tone because we build our choruses differently nowadays.” It is like two or three choruses built together as one, and this makes it more complex. And I said, “Yeah, and this is maybe exactly what I personally don’t like anymore or don’t understand anymore.” I don’t mean it in any bad way and the guys know that I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s just a different opinion, a different taste that I like. So, you see, they are still extremely successful so they must have done everything right. That is without a doubt.
What do you think of Hansi’s other band? Demons and Wizards with Jon Schaffer…
Yeah, it’s a great band for sure, without a question. For me, it was always good, what they did. I didn’t like every song always on it, and it’s completely different to Black Guardian or even different than Iced Earth. I like Iced Earth a lot, too, and that’s it. I mean, the story about Jon, I really don’t want to talk about that. Jon is really still a good friend to me. We toured a lot with them and we had a great time. Jon may be a little bit different in this way. Things were different, very complicated.
We have this song Soldier Without a War on our new album. It is the same shit. What should I tell you? I like Jon. I know that he is a very kind guy but, in this way, he is strange, different than other people. But I cannot tell him “you are a fucking asshole because you did this.” I don’t say it was correct what he did. I totally disliked what he did but I will anyway not quit my friendship with this guy. If I see him, I will say, “Hey, Jon. What the fuck did you do?” What I really hate is I have read a lot of things in magazines, fanzines, and online web pages, Facebook. Horrible, man, really. I’m sorry. Please let me tell you this way. I don’t want to protect Jon now. You know what I mean?
I’m not confirming what he did or supporting what he did. Absolutely not. But what kind of character is this? To lick the fucking ass of this guy years long because he’s such a great musician. “You are the best. Oh, Jon, you are my hero.” And then when he does this, they are like, “Fuck him. I will burn all my albums from you.” Man, this is totally over the top. And then they even expect Hansi that he puts out a statement because he is friends with Jon. I’m sorry. This is fucking wrong to do this. You cannot expect this from Hansi. Hansi is a person by himself who thinks in his way, and Jon thinks in his way. But that doesn’t mean that they will hate each other now because he did this mistake.
I’m sorry for that. You know what I mean? I was really pissed so much with the people outside about this and they were pressing Hansi. They were really forcing him to put out a statement. “Now you have to stand in for the split between Demons & Wizards between you both persons, otherwise, I will even burn all Blind Guardian CD’s.” And this is such a big bullshit for me. I’m sorry. I know that Jon, for example, is a guy where when he notices at any point that he did a big mistake, he will sit it out and he will stand in for his mistake. I know him as this person. Jon is a guy who will not stand there and say “What do you want you fuckers? I did this, take it like that and that’s it.” But he will recognize someday that it may be not the smartest way to act. And then he will stand in for that. I’m pretty sure about that.
Let’s go back to Savage Circus and Dreamland Manor. What do you think of that album now in retrospect?
A great album, a really great album. That was the follow-up of what Blind Guardian did for years ’till I left them. I think that would have been the style that I would have liked Blind Guardian to go for, still on ‘A Night at the Opera‘. And I mean, the reactions of Savage Circus’ first album were pretty easy to see, that people liked it a lot, and a lot of people were screaming, like, “Oh, that is what I wanted Blind Guardian to sound like, still“, the ones that didn’t like ‘A Night at the Opera‘.
I mean, of course, also there under these people that just tell you to put honey around your mouth, you know what I mean? Of course they exist too. But I can definitely say that I really liked this album. That was really a great album. And Piet Sielck had a big part on that album to make the songs that great and to let the album sound that great. He did the production recordings at the mix. That was definitely a great album, without a doubt. But the problem happened just after when there was a split between us where I really don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to throw mud at anybody, you know what I mean? So, let’s just keep it as it is. Savage Circus is done for me, and that’s it. So, I have my new baby now with Mentalist. It’s Peter’s main baby, of course, but he asked me and I’m a big part of that band. So, I can call it my new baby too.
For fans of Blind Guardian who have not heard Mentalist yet, how would you describe your music to them?
I would say we found our own trademark, meanwhile, after the first album. For sure, with the second one ‘A Journey Into The Unknown‘ now. But still, let’s say the styles are still present in this music that we all have been big Helloween / Iron Maiden fans. I was a member of Blind Guardian, but the other ones are big Blind Guardian fans too. So there’s no doubt about that these styles are really present in the music. It’s melodic, fast power metal with very emotional ballads on the album too. I think we are really progressing with the times now. And I think the third album, I can tell you that we have already a lot of songs for the third album in a bigger, far working process. They are really far already, the songs in the process. So, you can expect the next album to be released, again, around that time where we released this year for next year.
Florian Hertel – Bass
Thomen Stauch – Drums
Kai Stringer – Guitars
Peter Moog – Guitars
Rob Lundgren – Vocals
(Interview by Ken Morton)