Swiss hard rockers, GOTTHARD, were in Paris on February 24th to promote their latest studio-album titled « Bang », which will be out on April 4th. We got the opportunity to meet guitarist Leo Leoni at Paris Hard Rock Cafe to discuss its content.
The previous album, « Firebirth », marked a new beginning for the band. And with this second chapter – the first having been ended by the death of Steve Lee – you decided to renew contact with your musical roots. What can we expect from its successor, « Bang » ?
Leo : This new record will be out in April, 4th. It will be the second record of chapter number two of the band’s discography history. As you mentioned, the first chapter ended abruptly and prematurely by the tragic death of singer Steve Lee. When Nic joined us two years ago on «Firebirth», the pressure on us was naturally enormous, but we had the element of surprise on our side yet we wanted to renew contact with our musical roots. GOTTHARD stayed true to GOTTHARD, even with a new singer. This time around, we wanted to prove that the standards we set on “Firebirth” were no flash in the pan. And I am sure that we have succeeded in doing that. Plus, with “Firebirth”, we were dealing with the death of a friend, we didn’t really have time to work on the album… We pretty much did it in a rush. I mean, we didn’t took the time, as we usually do, to work the songs. We wanted to keep going, we didn’t want to dwell over the hard time we were going through. With “Bang”, we really took the time to work the songs. We immersed ourselves into the recording-studio, into the music. This new record follows the footsteps of the previous album but it is definitely better successfully completed. More time means better stuff.
What do you want to convey with the title “ Bang ” and who did the art-cover ?
Leo : “ Bang ” means : “ Here we are again, boom ”. It means : GOTTHARD is back with lively beat songs ! You know what I mean ? Martin Häusler crafted the art-cover. We have been working with him for years. He is very talented and I love the new artwork. It’s fresh and new. It kinda makes me think of comic books. It perfectly represents GOTTHARD of year 2014. It’s old-school yet very modern, just like us, just like our music.
With insight, what would you say Nic has brought to the music of GOTTHARD and how do you think your music has evolved since you first began playing music together with the band, back in early 1990’s ?
Leo : Nic has brought a breath of fresh air, adding a certain spirit of youth into the songs. He has brought a modern and new approach to our sound. But, he isn’t that young (laughs)… No, no, wait ! I mean, we ain’t that old (laughs) ! With insight, I would say GOTTHARD got better because we have gained experience. We never stop learning. I guess, our music matured. I can’t tell you precisely how our music evolved, I don’t have the necessary distance to examine our sounding evolution. I just think for sure, it got better with age and Nic allowed us to open a new chapter. It is a non-stop evolution, yeah.
The success of the previous record must have been such a relief for you considering the hard time you were going through. This time around, what would you say has been the biggest challenge of the new record ?
Leo : We had, for sure, less pressure on us. This time around, we knew Nic better and we knew the combination would work. We had more time to work the songs so, I would say the biggest challenge we had to overcome was to not repeat ourselves. The biggest challenge was to create a great record, to bring new good stuff, which is probably the biggest challenge of every record.
There is a duet with American vocalist Melody Tibbits on a ballad entitled « Maybe ». How did you come up with this collaboration ? How did you approach it ?
Leo : Actually, we were looking for singers to do the backing vocals on the album, especially for the song “Thank You” for which we wanted angelic voices. A friend of mine, who goes by the name of Danny, told me he knew a woman who had an amazing voice. It was Melody Tibbits ! We were so blown-away by her voice that we asked her to do more backing vocals on the album and eventually we ended-up featuring a duet with her. She was there when we were recording “Maybe”. She started singing just like that, pretty much by accident, and it was simply wahoo ! This duet wasn’t expected at all. We loved what she did, so we went for it. We recorded the song with her. That’s how we came up with this collaboration. I love that story (laughs).
The band as been touring the globe for over 20 years throughout Europe, North and South America and Asia on the back of 14 studio and live albums. You sold almost three million records and played at the biggest festivals on the map of rock. What do you think has been the greatest achievement of the band so far ?
Leo : It’s a very difficult question. I don’t think I can answer it. The greatest achievement is the band itself. I mean, I can’t choose any specific moment. The first record is an highlight of our career, the first record-deal, the first show and now, being able to do it over again, is simply amazing. I’m very grateful to be able to keep making music. Each step is an achievement.