Interviewed by Zenae D. Zukowski
German/Dutch symphonic metallers Xandria have been around for twenty years since guitarist Marco Heubaum initially formed the group in 1997. Within these two decades, Xandria had a few breakups, a handful of lineup changes, and managed to captivate new and old fans with incredible tunes. With a revolving door of experience, not one Xandria sound repeats itself after each release. Their seventh effort, ‘Theater of Dimensions’ out on January 27th via Napalm Records, is no different. A complete difference from 2014’s ‘Sacrificium,’ making them remarkably unpredictable and one of the unique symphonic metal acts around.
We at MGM noticed this change. We asked bassist Steven Wussow about their latest direction and a handful of exciting questions including his decision to join Xandria.
MGM – Happy New Year!
WUSSOW – (laughs) It’s almost Easter.
MGM – (chuckles) What’s the story behind the transitions of styles and arrangements from ‘Sacrificium’ and ‘Theater of Dimensions?’
WUSSOW – Well, there isn’t a focused plan behind all of it. For us, it’s a natural thing to do. It’s one step forward. We are not a band like AC/DC, who’s been doing the same album for 40 years. With AC/DC, it has to be like that. For us, it’s, OK. We’ve done the ‘Neverworld’s End,’ let’s move on to something else. Ok, we’ve done ‘Sacrificium,’ so the next logical step is ‘Theater of Dimensions.’ That’s all.
MGM – Is there a specific song from the new album you are looking forward to playing live?
WUSSOW – We’re in the middle of our rehearsing cycle, and we were just arguing a lot about which song should be in the first few setlists. In the end, we will play, out of 13 songs, at least 12. Only the title track might be a bit tricky. I don’t want to leave the fans in the audience listening to two minutes of storytelling. This might be a bit tricky, but for the rest, I believe we are really going to do them all. For me personally, one of the most fun songs for me might be, “Burn Me.”
MGM – Awesome. That’s really funny that you guys were just arguing about it. What is your overall favorite Xandria song to play live?
WUSSOW – It differs, really. For the last couple of shows, the last couple of months it was “The Undiscovered Land” from ‘Sacrificium’ because it has such a great width. Before, what’s always fun is, of course, “Ravenheart.” It’s our “Highway to Hell” or “Smoke on the Water” song. We have to play it at every show.
MGM – Do you have a least favorite song?
WUSSOW – This also differs. I just said how “Ravenheart” is a fun song to play live, because of the audience. The people really like this one. They really go nuts when we play. But after playing it like 200 times, a couple of times more in rehearsals, it might get boring. But, if you kick it in live and see the people screaming, throwing their arms up, it’s OK again. The least favorite song turns to the most favorite song. On the other hand, if we don’t like a song we just don’t play it live.
MGM – That’s true. Last November you guys were about to head out to North America for a few shows and unfortunately, it was canceled. I was personally devastated by it since I was planning on seeing you in Montreal and New York City. Can you give any hints on an upcoming North American Tour for us over here?
WUSSOW – First, I would love to apologize to all of our fans in North America. It was beyond our control. A couple of days before we were leaving, they said this visa will not work. We said, what do you mean? They said it will take two more weeks. Fuck no! We can’t do this, we go on tour in Latin America and afterward, straight to the States. So, what can we do? We had to cancel with a very heavy heart. For now, it looks like this year, we will be busy most of the year in Europe. Who knows, maybe we can get something together in autumn. We would love to play the new songs for you people.
MGM – Of course, I understand. Does the band have anything planned for an upcoming tour that the fans might look forward to besides awesome music?
WUSSOW – We will have a completely new stage setup that’s currently in the works. This year, we will travel for the first time with our own light guy. Production is getting bigger and I hope people would like it.
MGM – Awesome. Is there a country that you would love to play and didn’t yet?
WUSSOW – Last time we went to Asia and were asked to do one more show in Australia. It didn’t work out, so maybe this is something I would love to do. This year, we are playing our first time in Africa, we are playing in Tunisia at the end of February, which is really interesting. At the end of the day, anyone that wants us to play, make us an offer and we will come.
MGM – That’s an awesome outlook. Do you have any embarrassing moments you would like to share that happened while on tour?
WUSSOW – (Laughs) Tons. Millions! If you ask me to pick out one, you can write books out of all of the freaky things that happen while being on the road. Picking out one specific one. I’ll think about it maybe I will come back to it in this interview.
MGM – No problem. This brings us to 70000 tons of Metal. You guys are going to 70000 tons of metal in a few weeks and I know you were there back in 2014. What do you look forward to this time around on the cruise?
WUSSOW – Of course, a lot of cool bands that I can’t wait to see.There’s Gojira on the boat. I will definitely check out Annihilator, Anthrax, Testament. A lot of cool stuff. And, of course, there are a lot of people that you only meet when we play together on a festival. We are going to meet a lot of good friends we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s also a party for us, a paid holiday. What more can you wish for? Are you going there too?
MGM – I am yes, very excited.
WUSSOW – Oh! So we will meet there in person.
MGM – You guys were one of the reasons why I decided to go on the cruise.
WUSSOW – That’s awesome. If we run into each other, just say hi.
MGM – I will make sure of that.
WUSSOW – (chuckles)
MGM – Can you share how you joined Xandria and what that meant to you?
WUSSOW – This is a strange and funny story. Before I joined Xandria, I was more of a session bass player. I played for everyone who needed a bass player for short term and I refused to join a band on a permanent basis. For me, this was OK and all of the stuff around being in a band permanently, I wasn’t really interested. After time passed by, I thought, hey maybe I could join a band. But which band? Then I scrolled through some online magazines and I saw this ad by Xandria, ‘hey we are looking for a new bass player.’ Xandria? never heard of this band before but let’s give it a shot. I wrote an email to the management and sent them some videos, sound files. After I sent the email, I checked out the music. I was like, this song ‘Valentine’ this is awesome! I got an email back, and they said, ‘if you want to come up, we’re doing auditions with bass players.’ I said, ‘yeah ok, I’ll do this.’ At this time, my girlfriend was pregnant with our daughter. As it all progressed, I checked out the touring schedule with Xandria. I wrote an email, telling them by the time you are on tour, my daughter is being born and I will definitely not be able to do all of the live gigs this autumn with you. If you still need a bass player after this tour, just give me a call. I was like fuck, this would be cool but, they would never call me again. The band was halfway through the tour and I got a call from the management, ‘hey you still interested?’ I was like, ‘yeah sure! of course!’ They said, ‘let’s give it another shot.’ I said yeah and I came up. The band was back home at this time and it didn’t work out with the guy who stepped in for this tour. I drove up in the middle of a fucking snowstorm to Bielefeld, which is 400KM from where I live. We jammed about four songs and the deal was done. Four weeks later, I was riding my first show with them in Moscow, Russia. And that’s the whole story.
MGM – It’s about being at the right time, the right place, and feeling the right music. Do you have a personal favorite Xandria album?
WUSSOW – For me, a very special one, is ‘Neverworld’s End.’ I’m not playing on this record but, this is the record when I discovered the band. I joined the band in the middle of the Neverworld’s End tour and I played all of the songs live, and I really adopted them to be mine. Another one is the EP ‘Fire & Ashes.’ A lot of people just went over it because, ‘eh, it’s only an EP.’ I really love this thing, because of the Meat Loaf cover. It was really fun to record. And of course, our latest record. I am too close to say, ‘yeah this is the best record I have ever done.’ Of course, I feel like it but I listen to those songs every day, twice a day and I am just too close to it at the moment.
MGM – Sometimes you have to step away from listening to the same piece every day before you find its true value.
WUSSOW – Ask me again in two years, and then I can give you an answer.
MGM – (laughs) Oh, I will! What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
WUSSOW – Hobbies? Do you want to fool me? There’s no time for hobbies. When we are not on the road, you have to earn some extra bucks. There’s no time for having a hobby. The band is time-consuming, in a positive way. When I am home, I am trying to hook up with my family and friends as often as possible. But most of the time, we are away. During the summer we were doing a lot of band stuff, rock, and roll stuff. Hey, this is a dream come true and it is the life I lead.
MGM – I hear that. Are there any newer bands that you are currently listening to?
WUSSOW – A lot. I am a bit nerdy when it comes to music. I try to get all of the new releases every week of those I am interested in. A band that got me really hooked on the last couple of years are the Architects from the UK. Awesome band.
MGM – Oh awesome! I believe they are coming around to the States soon. Do you have any advice for young and starting out musicians?
WUSSOW – Do you want to have a positive answer or negative answer?
MGM – (laughs)
WUSSOW – If you are starting to make music because you want to be rich and famous and want to be a big rock star. Do yourself a favor, do something else. Start playing football, baseball, or whatever. But, if you are starting out making music, you should do it because it’s the only thing you want to do. Start making music has nothing to do with being famous or being a big rock star. It has to do with the passion for music, the passion for rock and roll. This is where I started, I started at the age of far too early, like 12 or something. And from this moment on it was pretty clear to me that this is what I want to do and this should be it for everyone starting out in this business. Always stay true to yourself, don’t let the business aspects take over. Never lose your joy and always keep the fun.
MGM – Well said. I completely agree, music is my passion and I’m definitely not in this for money or to become famously known. Now that I’m about finished with my questions, did you want to go back to an embarrassing moment? Any random memory? The first that comes to your mind?
WUSSOW – This so called funny stuff happens when you are abroad. We were booked for India once and India we were like, oh fuck yeah! India! This was cool. This was some sort of compass fest and there were 5000 people. We were like, ‘Oh! Are we that known in India?’ They were like no, they are just there because there was something. All of those people went completely crazy, cheering along, partying along and then they just went away. It was surreal. Other funny stuff? You know, most of the stuff happens on tour should stay on tour (laughs). I’m really thinking, what can I tell? What’s not too embarrassing for anyone in the band? We have a few people that it’s their job to do stuff like this, “the fuck up kings.” But, no. I won’t tell. What happens on tour should stay on tour. Maybe if we meet on the ship and we have a few beers, I will tell you.
MGM – I will hold you to that! That sounds like fun. It was a pleasure talking to you and am looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.
WUSSOW – If you see me just walking around, just say hi.
MGM – Oh, I will.