Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony

In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect from Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony… the singles the band had released on video were pretty cool but not entirely indicative of the overall scope and direction of the new band and material. Having a chance to actually speak with the man, who’s behind this album (as well as the controls for half the power metal albums in the 90s), Mr Sascha Paeth himself is not only a rare treat but also a great pleasure… so here’s a condensed version from over one and a half hours of conversing with him!
Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony band pic
Hello, Sascha! Congrats on the album, we really enjoyed it!
S: Thank you for having me, it’s great to see, that my work is still appreciated, by people around the world! Releasing an album after all this time, made me slightly anxious, even if I liked it very much and seeing the great reception all around, even in the first few days, is just great.
Why did you call this band Masters Of Ceremony? Did you release the album now, due to a lighter schedule at this time? And why did you feel it had to bear the name in front of it? Any chance we might confuse you for that dashing young man who played some devilishly good guitar for Heaven’s Gate?
S: (chuckles at the compliments) Thanks! Well there’s not a particular reason other than the fact that Serafino from Frontiers kept calling me every few years, for a while now asking me if I would like to do something heavy metal oriented under my own name. Initially, he envisioned this as something “close” to Avantasia, which didn’t make much sense to me, as I am already in Avantasia, so I kept saying no, but he would persist and change the formula a little bit. Then about last year as I was winding down a bit, I relented. I was producing the Seven Spires album at the time and Adrienne came into the picture that way.
The inclusion of my name was something that was requested as the people from the company thought it would bring some extra visibility, although I don’t think it is that much important, it’s in small letters on the cover anyway. I am not particularly looking forward to being like the front-person of anything. It is largely, something that I did, because I wanted to express myself in a heavier way, while remaining true to where I come from musically, without having a preconception however of how I wanted it all to sound. I went by gut instinct, doing what I felt was “right”. I am happy with, how it has turned out and how it has been received. In a way, it has exceeded my modest expectations.
Oh and as for the band’s name, we liked how it sound and the double meaning it can have – both musically (MCs) as well as in general.
The album is expertly produced, obviously, but I see that you’ve gone for a sound that’s edgier and less processed, than most things out there now… and I saw in relative interviews that you feel a little apprehensive against productions that sound “too perfect”.
S: I feel that things these days are too edited and too artificial. I only want to fix something when it’s like really broken and sounds really detrimental to the enjoyment of the music. Nowadays, everything is edited, snapped to a grid, so it’s perfectly timed and tuned till all life is sucked away from the performances and it just sounds un-natural and plastic and fake. Bands more and more rely on more and more pre-recorded material to the point where the line between performance and playback gets kind of blurred.
Personally, I like to try and keep edits to a minimum. I mean take any of the albums from the 80s or the 90s that you like, they’re not perfect (far from it), but they are very enjoyable, they have all that range and emotion captured in the performances. While a lot more people this days are becoming more and more technically proficient – augmenting performances with technology takes away tends to take away their spontaneity and spirit and I wanted to have as much of that as possible retain in our effort. I think it’s time; music embraces that idea more, after having gone almost to the other edge of the spectrum. Make music real again!
As both a musician and producer, which role are you happier with?
S: I cannot really distinguish between the two, since I am the same person. I enjoy doing both and I have done them for a very long time, non-stop. Producing engineering etc., behind the scenes is a little bit more nerve wrecking some times as you are responsible for getting everything done, while being a musician, so long as you do your part, that’s usually “it”. But the studio work tends to be more steady than being a musician on an unsteady wage, especially when you’re taking your first steps. I’ve worked hard for almost every day in the past twenty five or so years and I am happy with what I have achieved. Although, I can’t retire just yet. Not that I want to (a joke is made about not being able to afford a new Porsche)…
Are the songs on the album, “Signs of Wings”, all new? Were there songs or ideas that had been with you for some time?
S: Well, I came up with a lot of the music myself, but also co-wrote quite a bit with Adrienne, different combinations of writing the music and lyrics and to answer that question I only had like a line from a song with a vocal melody and one complete song on my phone, from before plus some tiny bits and ideas, so it’s mostly new material that we came up with recently when we got to do some song writing together. Writing songs is something that I did in the past when I had to, but, I’ve done a lot more of it recently, with no particular project in mind and I do enjoy it almost as much as performing or working in the studio.
How did you discover Adrienne Cowan? Prior to her “discovery” were there singers in your mind for this/such a project?
S: Dear Adrienne. Well, it just a little after Serafino had contacted me about doing something and I had reluctantly agreed to do it. Initially I had a male singer in my mind for this project, (i.n.: asking if it was Thomas Rettke, SP is negative), but I was happening to produce her band Seven Spires”at that time, and I was rather impressed by what she could do. Actually since you mentioned HG, it was actually a couple of HG tunes that I tested her with, since it was easy to see what she could do with her voice based on those. Then we met both in NY, but she also came over here and recorded some material in Germany. She’s a very talented young lady and pretty soon we ended up working together on this. I liked her approach, she brought a lot of fresh perspective into it and I think I challenged her to be able to deliver things she might not even know in her voice. And she emotes. She was almost sobbing after finishing a ballad and I like that...
You like seeing people cry, huh?!! (jokingly)
S: (laughs) Of course not, you know what I mean; I love to see raw emotion. That’s something that if you “tinker” with, trying to perfect it, you might just “destroy”. She’s very very talented, but also very down to earth and I feel lucky to have her join me on this adventure. By the way, since I read a comment somewhere, no this is not signs of my “midlife crisis”. I didn’t get a young female singer to prove something and I am not buying that Porsche (yet)!
Man if your midlife crisis soundtrack is so cool, just go ahead, by all means!
S: Laughs… (both laugh)…
Is Adrienne mainly responsible for the lyrics so to speak and could you at least delve a little into the themes of the songs? If you feel that any of the songs warrants any particular “explanation” that is.
S: Well, mostly. I mean, we worked together quite closely and in the future I would love to incorporate the rest of the guys in the band even more. Obviously, she’s important, since she needs to be able to sing the melodies and feel at ease with what she has to do, but she’s a very young and talented down to earth guy… (sorry meant girl); she’s a real pleasure to work with and it was a great experience working with her. As for the lyrics, I don’t want to interpret them too much – some of them – especially the ones that Adrienne wrote, tend to be pretty direct (ie “Sick” it’s easy to see that it’s about a dysfunctional relationship), but I like to write, more in veiled metaphors, I have a more abstract idea about lyrics, so people can put their own spin on the stories and interpret them in their own way, because that makes them invested in them and I’d hate to ruin that. Maybe ten years from now, I could “explain” where I got the inspiration for them
I insist a bit about the title track of the album.
S: Well, it’s still the same thing I mentioned above; it’s open to how you might interpret it, but from my perspective, it’s got a lot to do with the struggle – the growth that has to happen, before you can transcend and move from one situation to another, hopefully a better one. It’s a hopeful and quite “different” song musically too.
You did mention I think in some interview of a second album (at least songs in rough form)?
S: Not really. We’ve got an idea about when we’d like and be able to do it (most likely), but it’s nothing concrete and maybe there are some very rough ideas, but nothing complete. But this album has only been out for a few of days, let it get a bit old… (laughs) before you ask for more!
Let me ask this, before I forget. Nuclear Blast tends to be all over NB related artists and their project and the fact that in the past you had a working relationship with SPV, how did it come that you ended up in Frontiers’ roster?
S: It was simply a matter of timing. Everybody assumed I was too busy with everything that I am doing and didn’t quite bother with asking me to do anything original. This isn’t something that I had done and was shopping a deal for… Serafino (president of Frontiers) was just pursuant of such an album for years, so he asked me about doing it at the right time and here we are. I am actually glad that it happened, it made me realize how much I had missed this, I’m also happy with the way things have turned out and really appreciative of how people have embraced the album. I’ve seen some really good and heartfelt reviews and that really a big thing for me, it “pays” me in a great way to see that people appreciate this.
From a production standpoint are you happy with the results of MOC? Would you want someone else to produce you, to avoid – bias?
S: I am pretty happy, obviously, since it’s getting released! I think I’ve worked for a long time and I know what I wanted this album to sound like. I got the sound inside my head and the ability to create it, so that’s cool. As for having somebody else produce me, I don’t mind it, as it actually takes the “weight” of your shoulders in a way, less work to do, but I wouldn’t do it for this project, it’s something that I want to see through from beginning to end. I do however want to have more creative input from the rest of the band, them co-producing in a sense, next time around. I am completely open, in fact I welcome it.
Out of all projects you’ve ever been involved with which one was the most gratifying (production wise/as a musician)?
S: Wow, there are so many great moments, as a producer, I mean there are just so many, period (chuckles)! I guess Angra’s “Angels Cry” is an important milestone; it was such a nice album. I actually listened to it after quite some time recently and thought “wow, this is really good, still”. I also think it was the start of a long journey, both for me and the band as well and it led down to some very interesting things, for both of us, ie Virgo, that I did with Andre, a band that wasn’t metal, but I still think it was another great moment wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t involved with them.I’ve worked on some great Kamelot albums… I am very proud of; I mean every little era and band, there’s a fond memory in each of them I think. I don’t try to categorize them or reflect too much, at least consciously.
Heaven’s Gate. You had a meeting with the rest of the band member after 17-18 years, you released a best of and there was an aborted reunion. Care to comment and let us know if there’s any smoke, or fire on the “Path of Glory”?
S: Well, I guess some people might have read into out “meeting”, a little wrong. Throughout the years I had kept in touch and met the other members often, but never all of them at the same time. And since there was this big music exhibition in our local town of Wolfsburg, where we’re viewed as quite a big deal/local legends and all, we met there to do press about it and sign any fans albums and all that. It was nice meeting all of those guys at the same time, socially, but maybe it was wrongly interpreted as an action towards a reunion.
We did “check” if there was interest a couple of years prior, but I don’t think there was sufficient interest for promoters to bring us back in a proper meaningful way. Which is a shame. We do keep getting “offers” but nothing on the scale it would need to be to get everyone mobilized. Greece of all places seems to persist along with a few festivals, but it would probably take a bit more time, before there’s enough momentum or at least some anniversary comes around.
Resurrecting Heaven’s Gate is not in our immediate priorities. Won’t say no to it, but it should include all members and make sense to all involved. It’s not something imminent although it might be nice to play those songs again at some point, since quite a few people seem to be craving them.
What’s going on with Avantasia?
S: Well, we still have some touring to do, I think in December? Then it’s all open. You know it’s a bit more centered around Tobias’s, schedule, it’s “his” baby after all!
Just a little prior you spoke of Virgo… how did it come about and did it hurt you guys, when it didn’t do all that well? Since Andre is no longer with us, would you like to eulogize in a way?
S: Having produced Angra, I got to know Andre better and he even stayed at my house while recording some of the albums. He was a lovely person and quite a unique artist. We found out that we shared a lot of things beyond musical tastes and since we both had certain ideas that went beyond conventional rock and metal we decided to embark on that project together. It’s quite special and personally one of the more memorable projects I’ve ever been involved with and one I am particularly proud of. We were both hopeful that it would do OK, despite it not being “metal”, there was still guitars and the dynamic voice of Andre, along with gospel choirs and what not.
Then 9/11 happened and I dunno how you perceived it, but I felt as if it stopped everything dead on its tracks. I was doing an interview on Italian radio and people were out and there was a great commotion that we could see from the windows and then we saw it all, unfold on the TV screens. The world went numb, everybody was afraid to get on a plane – we did fly the next day and the plane was empty. We were even going a little paranoid ourselves – thinking OK, maybe we should rent a car and just get back to our families. It’s to this day the weirdest, hardest to fathom event, I’ve experienced in my life. So many lives wasted, for no reason… I think it didn’t help at all, the entire economy took a big hit after that and didn’t recover for quite a while afterwards.
I met Andre, a couple of days before he died, we were touring with Avantasia and he was supporting us in Brazil, joining us on stage and all. He looked fine. We had a short talk before, we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, so it was a nice reunion with him and we had arranged to dine, afterwards, but it didn’t quite happen, perhaps he was tired and retired early… the last I saw him was on stage… where he shone and I would like to remember him in that “light”, in that way, as they great guy and artist he was. I was absolutely at a loss for words when I heard it, I thought it was a bad joke, or one of those “rumors” on the internet, but it wasn’t! I could not and still cannot believe it… don’t want to accept it. I’ve nothing to say, other than I miss him dearly. He said everything with his music.
Production wise are you involved in something new, that you could “reveal”?
S: I am always working, but I decided to just slow down a bit, to make more time to enjoy things and life, so while I have Avantasia and MOC active things will be slower, but I will still be busy in the near future, I cannot quite reveal though what it is, it would spoil the surprise.
You’re in the middle of the road so to speak, you have a past, a history, but also a future ahead of you… looking back, how do you feel about your achievements so far?
S: I’d say I am quite happy. Doing what you love is important, because it doesn’t tire you. When I was younger, I’d sign anything, any contract, to do this. I just dreamt about being a musician... you know, it wasn’t about the money (of course it’s great if/when it happens) it was about the joy of music. It sounds a bit romantic – I dunno – but that’s how I truly feel. If you live for “it”, you don’t give up and it makes you endure all the bad times. For me to be doing this, it’s a rock‘n’roll dream, come true. I just feel blessed to be able to do it. I am “just” getting some perspective on it all, because I was working almost constantly in the past couple of decades so now, I am able to take a step back and appreciate it all.
What do you enjoy doing?
S: When I am not working or touring?! Which can be fun – if not a little tiresome, but is a nice experience – because you get to see the world. I like being around friends… trying to relax and take it all in. The other day – (thinks a bit) – actually a couple of years ago, jesus… time flies, I was sitting here with Miro (and we ‘ve known each other since first grade of school – like a lot of the guys I’m working with we go back a long way) and we sat down, drinking wine, like we did when we were younger, like fifteen years old and we were playing records and I think we put “The Wall” by the Pink Floyd on the player and just disconnected ourselves from worries and appreciated it all without a care in the world… It was a nice blast from the past … In general I like spending time with friends and family.
If a band that started up at this day and age asked you for advice, what would you give them?
S: Just what I told you, now. Be true to yourself; try to do what makes you feel good. There are a lot of people that don’t do what they like and they follow others and pretend, there’s a lot of pretense in the rock/metal scene. If you’re true to what you do, you will enjoy doing it and it will give you strength and motive to keep on doing it. It’s the basic thing. Also surround yourself with good people… that’s another important thing.
Also as a producer do you try to keep “aflaot” with what’s going on? Do you follow any new bands etc., or do you feel that you’ve pretty much reached a point where you’ve pretty much perfected your “production style” and avoid refraining far from it? (I mention a couple of bands like Dynazty and Myrath, as examples of what I consider nice modern examples of power metal.
S: I do try to keep an ear on the ground, to know what’s happening, but I don’t actively chase projects… they tend to come to me. I think it’s good to have a measured approach. I think that after the amount of production, engineering etc., I have done, I do have a pretty good idea of what I am doing (hopefully) but I am always open to ideas. I want to try and bring the best out of projects I am involved in and the more “transparent” your work is, as long as it gets things done is the best, I think. At least in rock. (i.n.: maybe slightly misunderstanding the question – there was a bit of an audio drop out too)
Tourwise, what are the plans for MOC ? Any chance of seeing you guys+girl, in Greece?
S: Well, there’s some Avantasia touring to finish, but we’ve got our live debut with Masters Of Ceremony in October in Majorca! Which is exciting to say the least and we’ll do more. There are also a couple of tours we’re hoping to get on as a support band around February of the new year but I don’t think I can reveal those yet, I don’t think it’s an entirely “done” deal, but it should be finalized and announced soon. Oh and I do think that there was some interest from Greece, can’t remember if one of those two tours we were trying to get on included a date. One way or another, we’ll try to make it there next year! There was interest for Heaven’s Gate and there’s interest for Masters Of Ceremony now, which is nice. Just so you know, we want also to include a few songs from the other bands I was involved with, just to make the set a bit longer and more interesting, so you never know what we might play?! Maybe some Virgo, maybe some Heaven’s Gate?! It should be exciting!
It’s time for our “weird questions”? If you could live in the past, or the future, which would you choose and why?
S: I dunno. Probably the past, I’d be younger… plus the future kind of looks bleak… I wouldn’t have minded to have been born a decade earlier, so I would have been active in the 70s and probably the 80s. Even the 60s would have been OK. There was some great music that came around at that time.
If you could have a dead musician guesting on your album, who would you pick?
S: I never think about such things. Obviously a lot of the dead great musicians would have been great people like Dio, Andre (I’m happy to have done something with him that will endure), but let me pick a guitarist… I suppose…. Frank Zappa, might have been interesting?! He was such a unique person and artist… not “easy” but certainly, very interesting and I was a big fan of his in my youth and still am.
What are your 3 favorite movies?
S: Pff… again hard to say; I’m not the biggest cinephile. I’ve only found time to go to the “movies”, only recently and weirdly enough I ended up seeing two music biopix, “Rocketman” the movie about Elton John and “Bohemian Rhapsody” the Queen movie. I thought both of them did a good job overall of being entertaining while telling the story of the artists in a compelling way. But I suppose I like slightly more arty or weird films… “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for example, is interesting in my eyes… that’s a good movie.
If you were god for a week, what would you do?!
S: Fix the world, eliminate poverty and egos, auto-tune as well and just maybe get that Porsche, if I had anytime left on the seventh day (hehe)…
If your wife/gf sold all your albums (or equipment for those who don’t collect albums) how would you react?!
S: I sincerely don’t think she’d do it; she loves music herself so no… I don’t even think it could ever happen.
Just close this interview as you wish… thx!
S: Hello fans! Thanks for following me, hope you enjoy the album from Masters Of Ceremony, and I hope to see you on the road! Take Care!