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Interview: Tom Naumann of Primal Fear

German metal icons Primal Fear are on the heels of releasing their latest album, Apocalypse, due out on August 10th. Forming in mid-90s Esslingen, the band managed a homegrown presence of straight-ahead power and speed, at a time when alternative rock reached fever pitch worldwide. Even so, Primal Fear’s initial success overseas proved resonant in further turning industry heads their way, as well as accumulating a similarly-scaled fanbase. Currently sporting a sextet lineup in front man Ralf Scheepers, bassist-vocalist Mat Sinner, the tri-axe attack of Tom Naumann, Alex Beyrodt and Magnus Karlsson, and drummer Francesco Jovino, the band soldiers onward.

I caught up with Tom Naumann, who was open to discussing the key to Primal Fear’s longevity, the setting of their formative grounds, and the importance of music production.

ME: Primal Fear first came together in 1996. What kind of influences continue to solidify that chemistry between you guys to this day?

Tom: We’ve all had the same interests. We love the same soccer club, and we love soccer in general. We have the same taste in music, love to laugh, and talk funny stuff all day long. That keeps us healthy in this music scene. We are also very positive people and do not think that the glass is half empty.

ME: For some perspective, you guys were signed to JVC in a relatively short time since forming. How would you describe the German metal scene in the 90s, especially when it came to record label signings?

Tom: Back in the 90s, there was hardly a metal scene. The former famous bands were still around, but they would rarely play or record albums because grunge was the big thing. If you didn’t wear a lumberjacket shirt, you were out of fashion. As we started, metal was already dead. We just wrote songs for fun and didn’t think about getting famous or being hugely successful. We first got the record deal in Japan, and I guess it was pretty helpful that Ralf and Mat were in the band. That made a huge impact on some record companies and it was much easier to get a deal back then.

ME: Aside from Primal Fear, you’ve been involved in an AC/DC tribute band, Big Balls. It also turns out that your range of influences is pretty much anything thing rock related. In your case, what moves you isn’t necessarily exclusively metal, but music in general?

Tom: I founded Primal Fear together with Ralf and Mat over 20 years ago, and I’ve played in Big Balls for five or six years right now, so Primal Fear was first. Yeah, I like music in general when it touches me somehow. I love good quality production and good melodies. That is a reason why I hardly listen to these new metal bands with their screaming and guttural singing. I prefer if there’s an artist’s or band’s melody that kicks me, and I really don’t care which kind of music it is. I also like listening to rock, pop, and even country. I don’t have any real boundaries when it comes to music. To me, there are only two types of music: good and bad.

ME: As I understand, you left Primal Fear for some time. What was it that gave you the drive to ultimately return?

Tom: There were many different reasons why there was a time when I was not part of the band, but PF is also a part of my life. So, as I was once asked If I would love to play with the guys again, it was a no brainer. I’ve known the guys for so long and there is a special chemistry in the band that it would have been inexcusable not to accept the offer.

ME: Your new album, Apocalypse, is on the horizon. Is there anything that sticks out with this album’s process, or has it just been constant?

Tom: We’ve had the same working process for the last albums. We all collect songs and ideas and try to improve ourselves in the composing and recording mode. After we finished collecting and recording the stuff, we decide which songs would fit best on the album to make this album better than our last one. I already know that there are some new ideas on the way, although Apocalypse is not released yet.

ME: You have new singles out at the moment, “Hounds of Justice” and “King of Madness”. In what ways do these songs speak to you when it comes to representing the album?

Tom: I personally think that these are really good songs on the album and also shows that we added something new in our style. But those two songs do not represent the whole album. These songs are just a part of the whole thing and we were never a single-type band. You should see it more as a teaser than as a description of how the new album will sound overall. We will have different kinds of songs on the album and these are just two of them.

ME: The album was produced by Mat, and Jacob Hansen also had input on the mixing and mastering. What is it you look for when it comes to those aspects?

Tom: Well, it was not the first album that they did together. PF always loved to work with different kinds of people. We did albums with Achim Köhler, Charlie Bauernfeind, Ronald Prent, Mike Frazer, and so on. For us, it’s really important that the guy who is responsible for mixing and mastering understands exactly what the band wants and needs. Jacob and Mat have a very good relationship when it comes to cooperating, and they have the same opinion in many things which makes it easy to work on an album.

ME: How do you feel this album turned out overall?

Tom: For me personally, it`s just another great PF album and another milestone in our career. I am proud to be part in that band and to have the opportunity to work which such talented persons. I guess that this album is another step in the history of Fear!

ME: You’re also ready to release the album on vinyl. Do you feel that especially for this album, listening to it on vinyl would provide the ultimate experience?

Tom: What is the ultimate experience (laughs)? I guess that an album sounds different on vinyl than CD. I do prefer vinyl, but there will be people and fans that totally will be blown away by the sound of the CD as well. So, you can hardly tell which will be the ultimate one.

ME: Aside from the album, what other things are you looking forward to in the future?

Tom: After we will have the album released, we will prepare for the upcoming European tour starting September 28th. It will lead us through 12 countries this time. More will follow for sure. In November we will head to Japan and Australia. December we will have some indoor festivals coming up. So, it will be a busy one for PF for the rest of 2018!

ME: Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Tom: Be excellent to each other, celebrate life and support metal. Hope to see you all somewhere on the road!

Primal Fear Socials:

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About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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