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Axel Rudi Pell presents Risen Symbol

Axel Rudi Pell presents Risen Symbol

Axel Rudi Pell presents Risen Symbol

On his twenty-second studio album, Risen Symbol, Axel Rudi Pell shows why he has been a longstanding legend in the world of melodic hard rock. Backed by former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli, and longstanding ARP members Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Volker Krawczak on bass, the group is fronted by the ever captivating vocals of frontman, Johnny Gioeli (also in Hardline)! Hearkening to the glories of Sabbath and Zeppelin, Risen Symbol is a perfect mix of catchy rhythms and power riffs, even including a mesmerizing version of Immigrant SongHighwire Daze recently caught up with Axel Rudi Pell to discuss the making of Risen Symbol, anniversaries in the band, working with past vocalists Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Sons of Appolo) and Charlie Huhn (Victory, Foghat), and other topics from an epic career in music!  Read on…

We’re here with Axel Rudi Pell, and let’s talk about the new album. Is there any overall story or concept behind the album titled Risen Symbol?
I actually, I had a record out in 1996 called Black Moon Pyramid, and you see the top of a pyramid on the cover, with some crazy birds flying around. And, when I wrote the songs for this record, I had this oriental kind of feeling in most of the songs. And I said, maybe it’s good to put a complete pyramid now on the cover, just to get the feeling back. And when you look at the cover, you get the feeling, you go into the right mood for the songs, that was my intention. Risen Symbol is nothing else than the resurrection of the pyramid.

You have a new single coming out, Darkest Hour. Tell me a little about that song and the inspiration behind it.
The magic was right in the air when I wrote the track. Actually, darkest hour, is when you’re feeling sad. For whatever reason, don’t give up. That’s a message behind it.

And then Guardian Angel. Tell me a little about that one. 
Guardian Angel, I think it’s the most commercial track of the album. I really like it. It’s a typical ARP style track, and the people love it. And, yeah, the message behind this, you need a guardian angel in this tough times. There’s many crazy things going on in the world. Wars and criminal, whatever, and it’s all about that. Don’t give up. It’s a message for all the songs. Don’t give up and look smiling into the future.

You covered The Immigrant Song. What made you decide to cover that particular song by Led Zeppelin?
That song followed me since it came out in 1972. I always loved that song but think it’s only 2 minutes and 45 seconds or whatever long. And I said one day I want to do a cover version of it. But in the past, I never felt that was the right time because I didn’t find anything to make it more interesting. But this time, with the oriental kind of feeling to a whole album. I suddenly had great ideas to make a great introduction for that song. Another middle part to extend it, I think our version is, five to six minutes longer. So, I think it was the right time to cover it now.

Is there any chance of Axel Rudi Pell, making it out here to the States to tour for Risen Symbol?
Unfortunately, not, because I always keep the same answers. I have 2 Americans in the band, Johnny Gioeli and Bobby Rondinelli are both living in the East Coast and I always ask the guys, “What do you think about a US Tour?” And both telling me the same kind of story. “Axel, this music is over in the States. When you play there, you are lucky you get 100 people.” So, I will lose money, and that’s not my intention. I would love to play in the States, I’ve been there, several times in New York City.  I love it there, but it’s not happening.

Bobby Rondinelli recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Axel Rudi Pell, I think last year.  What has it been like working with Bobby for 10 years and counting?
I have to tell you, this is one of the nicest guys in the music business I ever met. He’s very friendly, he’s nice, he’s a great drummer. He plays perfect, and we are on the same musical wavelength. We like the same tracks, we like the same artists, and it’s very easy to work with him. When he entered the studio, he flew over from JFK in New York to our studio here in Germany. And when he’s there, I play him all the tracks and he says, “I know exactly what you want me to play there.” And he starts hitting the roof, and it’s always perfect. I love him.

You’ve got some interesting anniversaries that have come up. Let’s just talk about a few of these albums. Into The Storm, is 10 years old. When you look back on Into The Storm, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
There’s some great tracks on it. Not every track is cool, but actually when I wrote it, it was the first album with Bobby in the band, and Bobby after every track, he said, “Whoa! That’s a great track, man! That’s a great track!” And the next thing, “Oh, that’s even better.” He was right at the time, but he it has some strange, little weaker points. But anyway, I still love it. I love all my babies.

Let’s talk about a baby from a 20-year anniversary, Kings and Queens.  Tell me a little, about that one and the fact that it’s been 20 years.
Oh, yes. Jesus, Mary and the Holy Ghost!  (Laughter) It’s 20 years ago, I can’t remember shit, but I know I love most of the tracks. Got some really cool songs on it, and I think it’s a great album. It’s a great artwork, and, it was perfect for that time.

And then 30 years ago, you did, Made in Germany, with Jeff Scott Soto. What do you think of that one, and do you still keep in touch with Jeff Scott Soto?
You know what? I meet Jeff every now and then, when he’s playing as a solo artist, at a festival somewhere. The craziest thing about Jeff was, when he was in my band, he didn’t smoke, we went on tour with a night-liner, and every night the same thing because I used to smoke in the night-liner, and the curtain. He opens the curtain and screams, ” Yeah, stop smoking. I can’t sing tomorrow. It disturbs my voice, I can’t sing tomorrow you fucking asshole.” (Laughter) And a couple of years ago, after several years, I met him at a festival and he’s lighting a cigarette. I said, “Hey, are you kidding?” He said, “No. Oh, I started smoking five or six years ago“. I said, “You mother-fucker!” (Much laughter). He’s a very nice and professional singer. I love him.

That’s a great story, thanks for sharing.  Charlie Huhn, another one of your former singers, just retired from Foghat. What was it like working with Charlie and do you still keep in touch with him?
I knew Charlie when he used to record with the German band Victory in the studio in the city of Hanover in Germany. We were the same studio, and I met Charlie several times. We became friends, and when it was about time to record the first, solo record, I asked Charlie if he would like to do the vocal. He quit Victory at that time, and he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” And he did it. And after the record came out, everybody said, “Hey, you’re a Dio fan but Charlie’s more like an AC/DC Bon Scott kind of thing.”  I said, “Yeah, a little.” But anyway, they said, “Uh, you need other singers.” I said, “Maybe you’re right.” And you know with Charlie, I tell you the same what I told about Jeff.

He’s a professional singer, he’s great. I love Charlie, and he did a great job on the record. And then I got in touch with him. It was for my 25th anniversary in 2014, where we played at a festival, the Headlining Show, where I invited several guests. I also asked Charlie, and on that day, he had a gig with Foghat, and he said, “I’d love to come over, unfortunately, I can’t do it.” Because he was committed to Foghat, that’s the reason why he didn’t show up.

What do you think has kept you so passionate about music through 22 albums and counting?
The fire inside is still burning, the flame is there, I want to do it. I love what I do, it’s not a job, for me it’s like that’s my life. I write songs all the time, in between the interview periods. I fucking love it, it’s great.

And of course, Charlie Huhn retired from Foghat. Retirement, do you even know what that means, right?
Yeah, sure, definitely. But I will never retire, they will carry me from the stage deck, or even then I will play.

Do you have any messages for Axel Rudi Pell fans here in the States, who are reading this now?
Listen to our new album. It’s the best I’ve ever done. I know I tell it every time but know it’s true. And everybody loves it. Our singer Johnny Gioeli – after the record was done, you had the final mix. He said, “Axel, to tell you really, to be honest to you, this is the best album we did since I joined ARP.” I said, “Thank you, Johnny.” And thank you so much! What else can I say?

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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