Interview by Adrian Hextall
Ever since Orden Ogan released To The End back in 2012, the band have been high up on the MGM playlist. Subsequent releases, Ravenhead, the excellent Book Of Ogan which really showed the band at their live best and now latest release Gunmen have meant that the band are playing bigger and better venues as they go out on tour. From the occasional, rare UK show to a fully fledged headlining tour, it feels like 2017 will be the Year of the Ogan.
Adrian Hextall spoke to Seeb Levermann and drummer Dirk Meyer-Berhorn (a man suffering from some stomach bug and looking rather green as a result so Seeb steps in to handle most of the questions) about the new Gunmen album and forthcoming touring plans;
MGM: The last time we saw you perform live you were on a bill with Xandria and Powerwolf. That’s a terrific line-up that we hope for on a show like that, isn’t it? Typically, you’ll get the headline that everyone comes to see and then maybe a couple of other acts as well that might just fall on the label or something like that. That tour was a great bill.
The reception you got when you were playing some of the songs that night, Cold, Dead and Gone, the entire crowd was singing it back to you. That’s got to be an indication that, “We know you guys. You got to come back and play for us and do it properly and bring a full set and things like that”. So when is it happening?
OO: Yes. We’re going to be doing a headlining tour in October. And we tried to put in some UK dates but it didn’t work out so far so we’re still checking if some of it can be managed with promoters and all that stuff. It’s always depending on a lot of different things like availability of the venue and stuff like that. We’re working with Mike from Continental Concerts, a very experienced booking agent. I fully trust him and when he says it doesn’t work out at the moment and then it doesn’t work out. There’s no way around it. So we’re waiting for it basically to see if that is going to happen in that tour as well. We are hoping as well.
MGM: Any ideas of who you’d want to come over with or is that to be agreed?
OO: No. Our special guest will be Rhapsody of Fire. It’s funny it’s the other way around this time.
MGM: It was the other way around in what 2012 something like that?
OO: But it was really Rhapsody–so now you’re seeing the real Rhapsody. [laughs] If you want.
MGM: And you are doing the headline? That must be quite a thing for you too? The band is clearly making an impact, in terms of thinking “that’s great that clearly people recognise us and want to see us”.
OO: We’ve experienced growth with the public and I think we’re still at the point that there are a lot of people that are underestimating the band. We’ve had quite a lot of conversations about this and previous interviews also in Paris, also in London. And because a lot of people think that Orden Ogan is not that super known, or whatever, if I take a look at the records sales, I would say its not fantastic but it’s doing pretty good in the UK. I think it’s a lack of big press that is for some reason, not happening. I don’t know why. It’s also the lack of big festivals and stuff and also connected to us not headlining and playing here. But it’s all a big circle you know. You have to break the circle at some certain point and we’re trying to do that now.
MGM: It’s been patchy getting you over here. And of course the Brits are notorious about not wanting to travel. So if you don’t come to Britain, they don’t come to see you. It’s how it seems to be which is silly when you think how easy it is to get to say the Netherlands or France or somewhere like that. We’re only going to hop over the Channel on a train for an hour and we’re there. We’ll travel two hours to get to Manchester but wouldn’t travel two hours to Paris. It’s really crazy. A headlining tour for you guys definitely. Is the intention, if it all comes together to have several shows up and down the country?
OO: I think at the moment, we will just try to fit in like at least the London show. But even that seems to be difficult at the moment. So when I said, “we’re trying”,—or at least Mike is trying because I can’t do anything about it except saying, “Maybe”.
MGM: The new album of course is the reason we are talking today. You have Alister Vale back on the cover this time. Previously, on Ravenhead he appeared only on the rear art.
OO: The idea this time was a dark fantasy version of the Wild West, it was around for quite a long time you know. We always wanted to do that and when we started songwriting, the first two songs that we had some sort of like, Wild Western melodies in it. There are some certain chord progressions and melodies that somehow sound like it could be from a Wild West soundtrack. We had that in the first two songs, and then we’re like,”Okay. This is maybe like okay maybe this is the our black version of the Wild West that we always wanted to do”. This is how it all started basically.
MGM: Timing-wise, it’s perfect because in the movies for example Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is coming out as a movie this year. The connection with the West is definitely building isn’t it?
OO: But when we started to work on this concept and so on, we didn’t have that in mind. We didn’t know that The Dark Tower was going to be released also like two weeks later or something like that.
MGM: Pure coincidence?
OO: Pure coincidence.
MGM: Okay. As far as the artwork on the cover’s concerned, you are working with Andreas [Marschall] again on that?
OO: Yes, it’s interesting. We never know at all what we are going to be getting. We tell him what should be on the cover artwork and how it should look like and it’s always looking totally different [laughs] but better, maybe mostly for the better. He’s a great guy. He’s a good friend of mine. I mean he’s got quite the legacy and history. I think he’s not working for that many bands anymore.
MGM: Which is kind of a good thing because it makes the work he does for you more unique than I suppose everybody’s sort of seeing? Because what is it, back in the 90’s? He was doing quite a bit.
OO: Yes. Almost every metal cover artwork.Blind Guardian, Kreator, Sodom, Obituary, Nightwish. A lot of this– there’s almost no band he didn’t work with.
MGM: So you mentioned quite a few of the heavier bands there as well. And I know that for example the heavier component has always been quite favoured by but it doesn’t come out in the music Orden Ogan put out. You’ve managed to carve out a very distinctive sound now. This album, as soon as you put it on, we know it’s yours. And I think that’s one of the things we like about it.
OO: Yes. The thing is Orden Ogan basically doing that version of a band that I personally would like to hear. It is the mixture between all that melodic stuff and the harder sounds because we’re quite riff-heavy as well. That was what I was always looking for in all metal. I don’t think there’s other power metal bands that has got heavy riffs and break down something to what we have as well. I think this is just the gift we’ve managed to achieve.
MGM: You have three release shows coming up in Germany I believe?
OO: It’s north, east, west, south Germany. Well the thing is, we don’t play too many festivals this year. It’s a few of the bigger ones in Germany and the metal fest in the Czech Republic. But we didn’t want to do so many festivals this summer because we knew that the record was released in July and so we want to save it all for the headlining tours. We wanted people to come there.
MGM: The Dark Western theme on the album, take Vampire in Ghost Town, you can see the Western component in there, of course. But then, is it a metaphorical vampire or is it supernatural?
OO: Yes. It’s a metaphor for a vampire.
There are songs in the record like Gunman, the title track, that I just small, dark, fantasy stories. So Gunman itself is just the vigilante thing. The classical Western story that takes some justice.
But Vampire in Ghost Town, I really like using, like, the same imagery if you want so, the same vocabulary and built metaphors out of that that means something completely different. Vampire in Ghost Town, for example, there is a song about a guy who’s in a relationship with the wrong woman, if you want, and he’s starting to act weird and all his friends are disappearing. He’s totally alone and she’s the one who’s telling him, “You’re the guy who’s draining the energy from all your friends that’s why everybody leaves.” I’ve seen that happen a lot of times and I thought it might be a good idea to write lyrics about that. I think it’s pretty interesting to state the same feel of words, if I can put it like this. I still say something completely different actually.
MGM: It’s a track that will grab a listener and draw them in. It is different and it makes you pay attention. Tell me about the closing track as well, Finnis Coronat Opus.
OO: It was actually really the track that I mostly wrote myself. It reaches back to ideas that I had with, I don’t know– sixteen years ago or something like that, I felt almost like mostly keep all the written notes from all those years as well. And I found that somewhere and I was like,”Yeah, this actually looks pretty interesting”. Add the intro and the verse and the chorus and there was like, “Oh let’s try to work on that.” It very quickly became clear that it wouldn’t be like a three minute song. This is one of the things where the title fits perfectly. It means ‘the end crowns the work’.
MGM: That was going to be my next question. [laughs]
OO: This is also why this one is the last track of the record. Lyrically, it’s romanticising death itself. So giving importance to where you go out of this life just the same as like when you were made in this life.
MGM: Which of course fits with the more darker, atmospheric type album anyway, doesn’t it? I mean the romantic element of the process of dying. Fits perfectly. Come With Me to the Other Side, Liv Kristine joining you on vocals as well further adds to that atmospheric, romantic, Gothic feel.
OO: The intro of the song was written. It was clear that we need a female voice for this song. We know Liv and so it was logical to ask her to do that. She has the perfect voice for that song. That’s the main reason.
MGM: If you look at her previous bands, the imagery and the music, it’s not a million miles away from Orden Ogan. Did she come down to record with you or did you send her the track to work on?
OO: Yes, she came to me. Basically it’s like the middle of Germany. I think it worked somehow because of driving. But it was fine.
MGM: Is it one of these things where she already knew what she was going to have to do?
OO: No. Actually, as I said before, I’m not only a musician, I’m also a producer. I really wanted her to do that in a very specific way. She picks up on things like very, very easily and when you say, “Try more like this and that”. And she almost already does it better in a way that you couldn’t imagine before. She’s a fantastic singer. We worked a lot I think on the second verse. A lot of vocal harmonies. It doesn’t sound like a huge choir stuff like that but it was a lot of work. It was like 16 to 20 tracks or something of her voice singing. It took us quite a while but so I keep repeating to myself, “You got other singers who do ten takes. You throw away nine. Keep the one. With her, it’s the other way around. Keep nine and maybe one is crap.”
MGM: Wonderful. Now when we spoke last time before this release, you were looking at doing a live DVD release. Is it out now?
OO: Yes. It’s called “The Book of Ogan”. It’s a four-disc package. You’ve got one CD, a very old demo from 2004. Then there’s other music. There’s one DVD with two live shows. But the main feature happened to be a documentary. It was really because the AFM guys just wanted to release some sort of Best Of. There was like after four albums only. I think we should have something that’s really special on that. We had a camera running from the very, very early days on. I had a lot of footage somehow I managed to get that from artist to artist and keep it. It had all the stuff from the very, very early days and I thought, “Yeah maybe it will take like two weeks to put this documentary together”. Now it’s a 90-minute documentary and it took me four and half months full-time work on it. I personally think it is very, very interesting. Not even for fans of the band, not even for people who are related to heavy metal but musicians in general because of people working in the music industry like journalists or record labels. You can see how the band is developing and all the stuff that happens and all the things that are going around.
MGM: It’s certainly the sound from the early albums compared to where you are these days. It’s a big growth curve.
OO: And also audiences and a lot of funny stories around the things happening and mistakes that we did and stuff like that. Touring stories they’re all in there. For example, I totally forgot about that performance–for example, there’s a story inside there that we were in some years ago, I think after 2010, so must have been like around 2010, we bought some green screen and shot a video in front of a green screen. And after that we had the footage and then we were like, “Yeah, what are we going to do with it now.” [laughs] Nobody had any idea what to do with green screens. Nobody was good at composing and stuff like that. And we were like, “What have we been thinking before? Why did we do that?” We totally forgot about that and it was so funny because it’s just so stupid. It’s just doing something with totally no purpose. And like I said before, also many mistakes if you don’t think through everything and stuff like that.
MGM: Presumably, now that it’s so easy to impose footage on a green screen are you going to go back to that and put something in the background behind you?
OO: [laughs] Maybe if there’s a fan out there somebody who’s like,”Okay let me do that”. Then I will give him the footage.
MGM: If you make the footage available to fans. I mean there’s a great competition that’s waiting to happen there. Who can make the best video for the band?
OO: Maybe. Good idea.
As our time draws to a close, fans should reach out to the band and see if we can get the green screen video idea out there.
‘Gunmen’ the new studio album, which will be released on July 7th.
The three Live release shows are below; (supports will be MOB RULES and HUMAN FORTRESS). Tickets are exclusively available in the AFM webshop. The ticket owners will receive an exclusive ORDEN OGAN Live CD on show day!
07.07. Hamburg, MS Stubnitz
08.07. Bestwig, Fort Fun
09.07. München, Backstage
Pre-order the “Gunmen” album here:
AFM Records have now announced the full limited edition “Gunmen” box set: yes, it’s a COFFIN! Well, a coffin shaped box, to be more precise containing:
– Ltd. Digipak of the new record “GUNMEN” (including “live at Wacken Open Air 2016 DVD)
– “Alister Vale figure (ca. 15 cm tall)
– Orden Ogan Dollar*
– signed autograph card
– certificate of authenticity
This box set is limited to 900 units.
You can order here:
There is a strictly limited version of the box set as well (the limited limited special edition!), the PERSONALIZED version! Limited to 100 units only. You can have YOUR name printed on the outside of the coffin! This upgrade option is available in the AFM shop only.
So in addition to the box set (http://bit.ly/2qrFU66) you need to purchase the “upgrade” (http://bit.ly/2pWBFw5), if you want your name printed on the outside of the coffin. The regular coffin version will have “Alister Vale” printed as name.
You can find all “Gunmen” products (and also tickets for the release shows – which come with a free Live CD) listed here: