A couple of days before the release of their new album The Living Dead and just before their shows in Greece we had the chance to speak with with talked with their guitarist Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt. Here’s what he had to say:
Greetings from Greece. This is Crystal, welcome to Metal Invader, it’s a pleasure to have you. What has been going on in the headquarters ever since the “Living Dead” album recording were over?
Hi guys. Well, as every time, we performed a lot of shows, had a great time on the road and we just came back from the Full Metal Cruise. An awesome experience!
“The Living Dead” is out in September 14th, and since this questionnaire is being written on September 3rd, the album is not heard yet. What should we expect this time from you?
100% GRAVE DIGGER tunes, but with a lot more views over the edges of the plate. The songs are more sophisticated than every album before and we do have a unique new single with the track „Zombie Dance“.
They say that we shouldn’t change and winning team and in some cases they are right; it’s your 19th record so far and the musical elements have somehow remained the same. So what’s your personal recipe to success? How can you keep a fanbase pumped up for each of your release, even though years go by and new musical styles pop up out of nowhere pretty much every day?
Well, it’s our profession to entertain the people, so we give the people what they want, but not without a personal development regarding songwriting and technical skills. It depends on the personal mood, what direction a record will follow. This time, we had a progressive attitude, maybe next time it will be a pure traditional one, we’ll see …
The band has been through some wild rides; line-up changes, name changes, you even called it quits by the late 80’s. Yet, you’re still here. What keep you going as a team and individually?
Well, everybody of the band does have one or more personal musical activities, which differs from the GRAVE DIGGER style. Chris got a new Tom Waits style German project called „Leiermann“, Jens is playing bass in a AC/DC tribute band „Bon Scott“, Marcus got his rockabilly 3 piece band called „The Gorilla Gunmen“ and I’m the main man of the bands „Domain“ and „Monstergroove“, so we keep our minds fresh for our main act. To keep the GRAVE DIGGER empire going, it’s like a company where everybody got his part to keep it going. This works out pretty well.
“Rebellion” is one of the most played, notorious heavy metal anthems of all time; plus, the Wacken performance with Van Canto and Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kursch is chilling. What do you think made this song that special to the audiences?
It’s the strong combination of a hymn vocal hook with the lyrics „small good against superior bad“. It creates this „we together“ feeling.
Being an active band for so many years can’t help but have ups and downs. What have been the best and the worst moments of the band so far?
Best moment: Wacken Headliner Show 2010
Worst moment: (I guess) Chris had to buy the trademark GRAVE DIGGER back because of bad contracts / deception by paying out former band members.
Germany’s heavy metal scene is monumental; Accept, Warlock, Paradox, Running Wild, Blind Guardian, among others. What is your favorite German metal band?
Difficult to tell, Blind Guardian and Axxis are great friends of us. We like these guys a lot.
Do you keep up with new bands/releases? Any band that has stuck to you lately?
To be honest not really. Whenever there’s a new release, I’m interested in, I’ll listen to it by setting a mark of the release date in my calendar, but most of them are not located in the metal scene. I’m looking forward to the new Paul McCartney album for example, release date upcoming week. He’s one of the gods of songwriting!
How difficult is it to keep a live audience pumped with a setlist that can be special, yet not repetitive at the same time?
Very difficult, but we are the lucky guys with some smash hits, so whenever the mood goes down, we’ll get them back with some classics.
You’re due to return to the Hellenic fields for two shows in September 28 and 29. What’s your opinion on Greek heavy metal audiences?
Greece has been always a warm-hearted place for us and Chris has some serious plans to spend the evening of his life in Greece.
Any last words?
Hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows!