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Into The Cosmic Race with Scanner

Into The Cosmic Race with Scanner

Into The Cosmic Race with Scanner

The mighty Scanner has returned after nearly a decade and are ready to rage!  The Cosmic Race has just been released via ROAR – Rock of Angels Records – and it’s a sci-fi, power metal magnum opus that is well worth seeking out!

Highwire Daze recently interviewed guitarist and founding member Axel Julius to discuss the sonic adventures found within The Cosmic Race, the classic albums they released on the legendary Noise Records in the 80’s, this latest and greatest Scanner lineup, and a whole lot more!  Read on…

Is there any overall story or concept behind that title, The Cosmic Race?
Yes, there’s a concept album and there’s a story behind it. Some people left the planet to inhabit another planet in another galaxy and they expect to have a better world there and what they have to do to get it. And that’s the story about this album.

Are you a big science fiction fan?
Yes, of course. I’m a big fan since the first album we made in the 80s.

It’s been almost 10 years since the previous Scanner album. Why the long wait and how frustrating was it to wait all that time to do a new album?
Sometimes it’s like you see it’s a long time but if you see that their people are leaving the band, etcetera for some personal issues and we had the corona crisis, etcetera. Then at the end its nine years, we were finished after eight years but now it’s nine years because the release coming one year later. So, everything in addition it’s nearly a decade. But if you see it in the normal line, it’s normal for all circumstances because we always are a band who’s not making one album per year.  And so, we expected to do it in five years, but after all this it became four years more. So for us it’s normal.

Did the pandemic influence the writing of the album at all?
Yes, it did. It did a lot because, when we started to start to record the album, the pandemic started. And then we could not meet as a band, we just were at home, and we were doing what the news was telling us we have to do. And then we were in progress writing the songs and so the news was becoming more depressed. And you can’t write happy songs in this area, and you have to think about what’s happening with the world, etcetera. And all this was coming into this (music).

You do have a few new members in the band who started as recently as last year, Sasha and Dominic who are also in Task Force Toxicator. Tell me how they became involved with the band.
Yes, when we recorded the album, we were just four people. The recording was still Boris Frenkel, our drummer, and he told us he wanted to leave the band at the end last year. And so, we said, okay, we have to find a new one for the next generation. So, it was Sascha Kurpanek. Dominik Rothe was two months earlier in the band because we needed a second guitar player for the live session. For recording, it was okay with me with the quartet. But at the end, we always need a second guitar player for the live thing. So, we asked Dominic if he would join the band as a real member. He said, yes, I would like to. And then we made the decision to get the fifth member in the band.

You do have one kind of longtime member, Efthimios Ioannidis on vocals. He’s been with the band a little over 20 years now.  What do you think has made you both work so well together in 20 year’s time?
We had a lot of trouble in the 80s and 90s with our singer, because there were some kind of, I think you may call it egoism or something. And so we have a lot of changes with the singer. And at the end, when Efthimios joined the band in 2003, then it was a steady point, he was totally different than the other ones. He said, okay, tell me what I have to do, I will do that. I like that. And he was really working on the stuff, and not having all this egoism and all this what was with the singers before. And I liked it very much. And so this is how it’s functioning, you can work together, everybody knows what he has to do. And so it’s a kind of teamwork, you know.

Give me a little background on your bass player Jörn Bettentrup and how he became involved with the band.
When we lost our bass player six years ago, he was studying graphics and graphic design. And then he had to change the town, he had to come from this area to Hamburg.  And he said, I can’t come to rehearsals anymore, etcetera. And then we had to have to try to wait for him, maybe one, two, three years, but it was not possible. So, we decided, hey, we have to have another bass player. And then Jörn came into the picture. And I found him and one evening we talked, I think, two hours on the phone. And I said, oh, this is the right guy. And so, he was in the band.

What has it been like to play live shows again with this lineup?
Yeah, it was our first shows together this last weekend. It was all fine.

Has Scanner ever played out here in the States? Or is that something you’d like to do in the future?
Yeah, we tried maybe four years ago, five years ago. But we had to have a P1 visa, and we did not get that because the promoter didn’t provide it. And so, we stopped our gigs there. It was in Chicago, and we dropped that because we could not risk that we get returned at the airport. So we were on the posters, etcetera and it was already done with these contracts. But at the end, we had no P1.

And now it’s super expensive to tour well anywhere these days, but especially in the United States.
Yes, of course.

Let’s go back to Hypertrace and Terminal Earth which were released on Noise Records in ’88 and ’89. When you look at both those releases and working with Noise Records, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
Yes, the first album was all right. The second album just was compromised, because we were already done with this Noise at that time, because we were promised a video. This sounds more MTV and all these channels with music videos. On the first album a video was promised to us that was not done. And then our singer – he left the band because he was totally angry about the record company. And he’s telling I’m not making anything for these assholes anymore. And he was out. And so, we had no singer anymore. And then we prepared the second album, and we had no singer anymore. So then coming the second singer was totally against the concept. He was totally against what we meant before.

And he was telling us, hey, you have to do it like this, you have to do it like this, like I told you, like some egoism, and you have to deal with all these aspects. And you can’t concentrate on your creativity in the band. And yes, that was a problem. And then we made the second album that this singer was against totally. It was shitty against the record company. So, they fired him. And I was told, hey, you have to find a new singer otherwise, you won’t do an album again with our record company.

So yeah, that was album one and two. And then I had to find a new singer. And this was a break of two or three years. And I started again with Massacre Records. It was a totally other label not as big as Noise Records.  It was a new beginning as you would say. It was not the reunion because we always existed as a band.  But it was a new beginning, because if you were with Noise Records, you had all this recognition. And respect to Massacre Records!

Will we have to wait another 10 years or longer for the next Scanner CD?
No, I expect to start maybe in the summer with writing the new songs, then expect to record something early next year. So, this is how it’s planned.

Well, let’s cross our fingers and hopefully that happens.
Yes, I do as well.  There should not be no pandemic. No wars anymore. These shitty wars are all also something that makes me paralyzed. Because if the world is like this, you can’t be creative. Because these are important things happening in the world and it makes you all depressive, that’s what I feel, and I don’t want to have all these wars coming more and more. That’s awful!

With so many band members and label changes over the years, what do you think has kept you so passionate about Scanner after all of this time?
It’s because that’s my life, music is my passion. You do this not because you are getting rich or something – you do because you have to do it. I could do other things, but if I just concentrate on other things, I miss the music. And I tried it. I said, okay, let’s get rid of all this stuff because it’s making you nervous. It’s breaking your nerves. But at the end, I can’t do this half a year. And after half a year, then I have to do this again. I am going to say it’s passion and you have to do that.

Do you have any messages for Scanner fans out here in the States who are reading this now?
Yeah, I think they will like the album because it’s like the Scanner from the 80s. I think they will like this album very much. And I hope you will see us.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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