Interviewed by Thomas Schwarzkopf (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Just a few days ago the new Wolfpakk album “Cry Wolf” was released. That was reason enough for me to talk to one of the “alpha wolves”: Mark Sweeney. Although he is very busy in collecting ideas for the third Wolfpakk album, the Swiss singer/songwriter/producer talks about the new record, his solo activities, critics and much more. Check out what he had to say!
Hello Mark, great to talk to you. Congratulations on the new Wolfpakk album. I’m very satisfied with it.
Mark: Thank you, that´s kind.
Before we speak about “Cry Wolf” let us start at the beginning. Please tell us how the Wolfpakk project started. Did you met Michael Voss and the idea was born? Was it planned as an Allstar-project from the very first moment?
Mark: Well, when I left Crystal Ball, I still wanted to continue with making music. Once, when Michael was in Switzerland at my home, I asked him to do something together. He is not only a very talented musician, he also is a good producer and engineer. I had already worked with him with my second solo album. And yes, we called the project “Wolfpakk”, because we headed to invite as many musicians as possible. So the Pakk was born.
So, was Wolpakk the reason why you left your former band Crystal Ball?
Mark: No, I first left Crystal Ball and then I asked Vossi for Wolfpakk.
Who had the idea of this Wolf-theme?
Mark: As already mentioned, it was a good name, because we wanted to work with a bunch of good musicians. Vossi and me are the alpha wolves and the others the pack. That means, Michael and I write all the music and lyrics and then we are heading for guest wolves.
What is so special about your relationship with Michael Voss?
Mark: He is not only a musical master, also a good friend.
How do you two develop the songs? Are you sitting in one room and jam? Do you typically come up with the ideas together?
Mark: Yes, we put the ideas together and then the studio process begins. I live in Switzerland and Vossi in Germany, so I visit him in his studio two or three times a year when Michael is available. And then, we record the gems.
Do you think there is a difference between the songs on the debut album and the tracks on “Cry Wolf”, beside the new guest musicians? To me, the new record feels much more compact and the melodies grab me more easily.
Mark: Yes, you are right. I think in the same vein.
When you are writing songs, do you have a special vocalist in mind? Some tunes seem to be written for specific singers.
Mark: No, not really. When the songs are done – every song is sung by us- , we are looking for the guests. So sometimes they are available and sometimes they are busy, or they don’t wanna join the pack.
On “Cry Wolf” you come along with a true armada of guest musicians. How you convince them to be part of the project? I don’t think it’s easy.
Mark: No, it´s not easy. But we try our best and mostly the stars are hot to be part of it.
Are there any musicians you’d like to work with in the future? If so who?
Mark: Haha… of course… James Hetfield, Angus Young or Steve Harris…. Do you have there phone numbers?! (laughs)
Let’s talk about some songs on “Cry Wolf”. A real highlight to many people is “A Matter Of Time” featuring Johnny Gioeli on vocals. Is there a little story behind the song or recording it?
Mark: Not really. I just wanted to have a “rocker” on the second album and luckily Johnny gave his awesome voice for this track! His performance is stunning!
“Cold Winter” is another highlight to me (due to Amanda Somerville’s fantastic voice), but many people say it’s just the typical commercial ballad to get airplay. Is this song just a calculated thing?
Mark: Calculated for what? To get millions for our account?! You are kidding! On the first record we haven´t had a ballad, on the second output we have one. So what?! We don’t have airplay anyway, so who cares?! It was just amazing to sing this song together with the beautiful Amanda Somerville and she even was part of our second video! I love it!
Like I said, this one is also one of my favorites, but I think in general it’s a problem to put ballads on metal records. On the one hand power ballads belong to a true rock album, but on the other hand all the „hard“ metal heads out there are complaining about them. What do you think about this matter?
Mark: I don´t care, if some metal heads don’t like ballads. In fact, they also have a chick in their bed and I don´t think, that they listen to Slayer while having sex?! And if yes… that´s ok as well. Everybody gets what it needs!
“Wakken” is a hymn to the Wacken festival in Germany. The funny thing is you never played there. It’s time to change this, right?
Mark: Vossi already played there with Mad Max, but not me, that´s right. And we don´t play live, as you know. So it´s just an homage to this great Metal Festival, which has its 20th Anniversary.
What about bringing Wolfpakk live on stage with an own headliner-tour? I know this needs much of organisation, but Avantasia did it for example.
Mark: If someone asks me to play live, I will look and see what we can do. Until then, we will produce another album and see what happens. Avantasia – I remember – also went out only with their third or fourth album… By the way: Avantasia is much bigger than we are.
Let’s get back to one more song on “Cry Wolf” and that’s the title track. It’s over ten minutes long and it feels like you wanted to sound more epic on this one. What is this song about?
Mark: I like epic songs and this song is telling the story from the white man, who destroyed a lot of native cultures. It´s a shame what we did in the past! It was in our intention to cope with these topic on the new album.
Could you imagine to do a whole album with a conceptional story? There are much Metal Operas out there and you come along with one of the best line-ups, when I look at the list of Allstar-projects. So, why not doing it? Could be successful.
Mark: First I wanted to do something like this. But I guess there are others out there, who are better at this, so we do what we can. And that is writing songs and take the best ones and press them on a record. I hope, that people like this as well.
Three years ago you released another solo record and it’s a big musical contrast to the Wolfpakk thing. Your solo work goes more in the Melodic Rock
direction with much calm elements. Can we expect more of this in the future?
Mark: No, I don´t think so. I am very busy with different things at the moment. For example I’m currently writing my first book, it´s a book for children and I´m very excited about it! Hope that I can release it soon it has wonderful stories for the kids.
I also know some critics who say you made this solo records just to be more attractive to the mainstream, because they sound more commercial. How do you deal with such insinuations?
Mark: And what is wrong with sounding more commercial? Do you really think, that I really got one Euro with my solo cds? Haha… no, my friend, no way! This was a try to show that I also have other facets and that I can use my voice in a different way. That´s the whole story behind it. My solo album is a labor of love.
Are there any other projects in the pipeline? Michael will release a new Mad Max album this year. Would you like to play again in an own band?
Mark: My band is Wolfpakk. Ok, it´s not a band in a commercial way but for me it´s my main band.
Do have any bands that you are listening to at the moment?
Mark: Let´s see… Oh, there is a band called Stryper in my player. Disappointed? Well, it is, what it is!
Stryper sounds good! Mark, thank you for taking the time. Final words for your fans?
Mark: I have to say thank you! I hope you like Wolfpakk, even if there is a ballad on it! (laughs).