Scanner - Axel ''A.J.'' Julius

Scanner - Axel ''A.J.'' Julius

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It's a fact that Heavy/Power metallers SCANNER are back with the killer album "The Judgement" that has already gained rave reviews from the Metal community. METAL KAOZ grabbed the opportunity to get in touch with the band's mastermind Axel "A.J." Julius to learn all the 'dirty' details for the making of this comeback and then get an inside scoop of what is ahead for SCANNER. Read on!

Hi Axel, it feels awesome to have SCANNER back! How do you feel about the band being again back on the Metal map?
Yes, at the moment we are really happy with the situation and we look forward to the publication of “The Judgment” with joyful anticipation, plus we are curious to see how the album will be accepted around the ball. We put a lot of passion and energy in there and we think and hope that people will feel that too.

How does it feel releasing a brand new album after so many years? I think we have to go back to 2002 and see the “Scantropolis” LP…
Well, it was time to do so, finally. The point was the requests for a new album became naturally louder after some time at our concerts we were playing. And then you do not you tell the people that you do not intend to make a new album, but promise a new one coming soon. Then when you are playing for the second time there and the new album was not done in the meantime, things get tight and somewhat embarrassing. However, we had to do something. And at that point, you know as a band, the time has come to make the album finally. After our show in Moscow in November 2013, we have locked up in our studio.

So, how tight is the new SCANNER lineup? How long have you been together with the rest of the guys? How did you meet them?
Well, Efthi our singer did join the band in 2003 after an audition we made. He had a strong and powerful voice and his intonation was accurate. Also, character-wise he totally fits to the band.  So, he was our first choice. He was influenced by opera singing style mainly and we worked on his Rock performance through the years. He is an excellent singer who is able to present the whole range of SCANNER’s vocal challenge. You may say, compared to all our former singers, he is the most reliable and versatile singer and a real friend, what’s indeed so much more relevant than anything else. Around 2007, Efthi brought in his old friend, Andreas, as our second guitarist. They knew each other from Efthi’s former band. Patrick, our drummer, had helped us out for a few gigs in the past from time to time when our former drummer Franz could not play the one and another show. He was in ELMSFIRE at that time. So, after Franz had left the band surprisingly in 2013, we asked Patrick to join the band, since he was already willing to leave his old band. Jonathan, our bass player, came earlier in 2012 at the recommendation of Franz to the band. They knew each other from their music studies at University in Mannheim and from a session with a Jazz band.

Let’s talk a little bit into “The Judgement” now; tell us please a few things about the writing process at first. Did you compose the whole CD (music & lyrics) by yourself or did the whole band participate?
Mainly I wrote most of the songs for the album, but there are also songs which had to be developed from a single riff that Andreas had come up with and the rest had to be worked out for example. I wrote most of the lyrics and I take most of my inspiration from world affairs and processes around our society. I’m kind of sensitive towards things which are getting worse in our world. So, I try to compensate this in our lyrics. I’m always happy about any inspiration from the other members bringing themselves in this process, even if they are not songwriters in the common sense perhaps and also if they do not even have any ambition to this direction.

Before starting writing new songs, did you think of the music direction the album should follow? I mean, did you try to continue from where “Scantropolis” had stopped?
We attempted to receive and revive the sound and the spirit of our releases of the '80s and '90s on “The Judgement” and we were guided by our old stuff from that time. Therefore the album sounds old school Metal by default. Our fans should get an intense and passionate SCANNER album they were awaiting for a long time after our last release. Definitely “The Judgement” stands nearer to our first releases than to “Scantropolis”. It was the first album we could pre-produce, record and mix in our own brand new studio and you can say this was a bit more from a direct approach than with the other albums. For The Judgement”, we have cut off from the outside world and did exactly our thing. The atmosphere was relaxed as always. And we did not mind how it had to sound like what is modern nowadays. This was our main approach with this album; 100% SCANNER.

So, how was the recording process? I think you produced the album by yourself, right? What sound were you aiming for?
Yes, it is the fourth SCANNER album I have been producing now, and I’m still a fan of the old analog sounds and equipment. I prefer to touch things and not to click on buttons in graphics for example. And I am just using the hard-disk recording to avoid “high- maintenance” and slow tape machines while almost all the periphery stuff is real and analog still. I’m half of a Lenny Kravitz in these matters who is totally into the vintage stuff as far as I know. And when I listen to some modern Metal productions, I often wonder about the sound of the guitars for example; there is so much mid scoop that I can’t even recognize it as a guitar sometimes. It sounds like a fluttering beehive sometimes, I don’t like that much. And I tried to let “The Judgement” breath and sound more direct and rough by using our own drum sound for example and not to use triggered samples for the album as done and heard on thousand productions nowadays. You can’t compare our little studio with the big ones neither and I have to compensate a lot of technical detriments with manpower. So, this keeps you active instead of solving problems with the use of one tiny switch. Sound-wise, I have kept my favorite albums over the years now, and most of them are from the last millennium.

The songs in the new album are not short in duration, still the listener will not get bored listening to the CD at once throughout. Was it a natural result to have songs clocking five to six minutes long?
Yes, I mean, I do not say to myself: “This song has to play 6 minutes” when starting composing etc... For me, it is a normal process to come out with 5 or 6 minutes length of a song, I never thought about that. I mean, we are not a pop band writing pop songs or for people with a limited receptivity or something. And honestly spoken, it is the first time that I am talking about the song lengths of a SCANNER album. Perhaps this should make me think. Hmm, I will try a few 3 to 4 minutes numbers next time, definitely.

Really, since I do not still have the full lyrics to the songs: who are the bastards you’re referring to at “F.T.B.”?
At some point of your life, you have enough sometimes. If you notice that all this money, luxury, power, and security did not make you happy in life at all, then you might want to scream this out. And, for example, tell your boss right in the face you had played the game long enough now. Then jumping on a motorcycle and letting the wind and freedom blow around your head can be liberating. Just with a “F.T.B” on your lips, you send to the guys in the rearview mirror. I believe that every Metal fan can understand this in a manner and knows that feeling. This feeling pretends to vanish after the youth for a while, but it eventually comes back much stronger later in your life again.

Another song I fell in love with is “Battle Of Poseidon”. It’s a long epic song and not that much of a typical SCANNER track. Tell us a couple of words ‘bout this one.
Well, as you say, it is an epic one. Inspired by the Greek mythology. And therefore it has its own character somehow. Efthi is Greek and so this song has a special meaning to him as well. Efthi wanted to have a song where the Greek pride and mentality as a nation can be revealed in. And this song was a good opportunity.

You released “The Judgement” video as a special DVD edition; are there any thoughts of making another video from the new album?
Yes, we plan to make another video in summer this year.

Have you ever considered of filming an entire show and make a DVD out of it?
Yes, there are also plans to do this in the near future.

Will “The Judgement” be available on vinyl too?
Yes, it will be available on vinyl soon, also.

I had the chance to see the band live a couple of days ago in my hometown (Athens, Greece) and you really kicked serious Metal ass! Still, you were a little bit at the background… Do you prefer only Efthimios reacting with the crowd? Does this also mean that you’re a low profile person?
Well, Efthi is the frontman, so he has to do handle the crowd in general. But playing in Greece is special. Efthi is talking in his language to the audience and the rest of the band has no clue what he is talking about. At all other shows beside those in Germany, he is talking in English and we can follow what he is talking about, that let's you get into the interaction much easier. But in general, I’m definitely a reserved person and I do not like too much sensation around myself.

Another thing I witnessed at the Athenian gig is that you all wore similar costumes. Is this some kind of the SCANNER sci-fi tradition?
Yes, we decided to document our relation to the affinity thought of SCANNER. And that this means something to us. We want to show the world that we are a band and a unit.

Are there any plans for an extensive SCANNER tour as we speak? What about the US; any offers to play there?
Yes, our booker is already working on our tour in autumn. We will play some Festivals here in Europe until then. And we want to play the US, also. We are just waiting for the right offer still .

Do you still consider yourself a Metal fan, apart from being a musician? Do you listen to new music coming out or you prefer to stick to the old stuff?
Well, I’m still a Metal fan, also. And I’m open minded to new stuff, too. But honestly, I’m not impressed easily that much anymore. I mean, there are so many acts copying another and sometimes I rather prefer to stick to the old stuff or the original.

Axel, thanks a lot for being here with us at METAL KAOZ! We really hope that this time SCANNER is here to stay!
I have to thank you, Grigoris. I hope you will see us soon again. Best regards!

EARTHEN GRAVE - RELENTLESS re-edit w/ Studio track