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Angel Dust    
Angel Dust
Angel Dust recently emerged from a decade-long hiatus to release a string of intensely melodic but aggressive power metal albums that have bolstered the German metal legacy. Recent releases, like 'Bleed' and 'Enlighten The Darkness' exhibit a strong preference for Metallica-like rhythms, keyboard embellishments and god-like lung power, courtesy of vocalist Dirk Thurisch. The band is currently working on their next album 'Of Human Bondage' and they are slated to play the Progpower Festival in Atlanta, GA in November with the likes of Symphony X, Evergrey, Vanden Plas, and Dan Swano's Nightingale (can I get an "amen" brother?). Angel Dust hit American shores for the first time earlier this year to join an already potent tour alongside God Forbid, Opeth and Nevermore. Metal Update was able to snag a few minutes with bassist Frank Banx after the band's San Francisco gig to jaw about the band's history, line-up changes and tour problems.

METAL UPDATE: Is this the first American tour you've been on?


MU: How's it been goin' so far?

FB: The business side was complete crap, because we really got fucked on this tour many, many times, but the shows itself were super-good so - it splits my opinion about America, you know? The business side's like "ohh." It's a little strange for us European pussies, you know, but the shows were good - very good. We enjoyed it.

MU: Is this tour being run by the American branch of Century Media?

FB: Yeah, yeah. The Century Media / USA scene.

MU: Were they the ones who pushed to bring you guys over, or was it your own label pushing to get you over Stateside to help promote you here?

FB: It just happened because, originally, this tour should be done by Children of Bodom, and they jumped off. Our label boss, Robert Kampf was in Los Angeles, and he gave me a ring. . . in Germany, "Hey, do you like to do a tour?" I said, "Hmm, yeah." He said, "In America. You have one hour to make a decision - yes or no." So, I had to call up everybody in my band, and reverse the studio date and everything because we should go into the studio on the day after tomorrow.

MU: You guys are recording a new record?

Angel Dust

FB: Yeah, and so we had to cancel the studio to do this America tour. It was a very quick decision - wasn't really planned, this tour.

MU: So, are you glad you put off the record to do this then?

FB: Yeah, yeah, definitely, because we learned a lot on this tour, you know? So, we learned a lot about business, like I said, but also we learned a lot about, you know, America. It's totally different from Europe, but the fans are quite the same. When we're on stage, we feel like we're home again, you know, so that's a good thing.

MU: Was the label not paying you what you expected? Was money an issue, or was the organization not what you expected?

FB: It's everything. Century Media, it's not that it doesn't pay us - we have to pay for this tour.

MU: Out of the band's pocket?

FB: Yeah, yeah, they just take it away from our record results - from the money we get from the records - just take away the tour costs. That's how to tour.

MU: Is that how it always is?

FB: Yeah, with most bands. Yeah, that's part of the business, man, you don't get paid - you have to pay.

MU: If you guys have to pay for it, is it just the playing experience in this country that's the benefit for you?

FB: Yeah, yeah.

MU: I was just curious as to how you justify it. I mean, most people, if they're not making money, they don't do it.

FB: Yeah, I mean, we see it from a different point of view. The way that any record company should see it, in my opinion, is this is promotion, advertising for our music. Advertising costs money. Who owns the most money? Century Media. So they should afford this tour, but their politics is. . . I don't agree with this. I don't like it, but that's the way it works.

MU: So, if you were given the opportunity to do this tour again, and they approached it the same way, would you do it again?

FB: Not under the circumstances. We're used to touring the European way with our tour manager who takes care for all the bands and everything. We need it because we're used to it. Don't throw us into something like in America where we're to find out everything on our own. It's like, "Oh, are we playing tonight or not? What is our time schedule for the night? What's our playing time?" We're to find out everything on our own, and this is very strange for us, you know? We have no tour itinerary, for example. So, we don't know when to show up. We don't know when it's our load-in. We don't know our stage times - nothing. But in Europe, every band member of every band gets an itinerary, so nobody can say, "Sorry, I didn't know that." Everybody can look into his own itinerary. This is much more professional. I miss this on this tour in America, so I would tell my record label, "Well, please make it as professional as in Europe."

MU: In Europe, when you tour, do you get paid?

FB: Yeah, you earn money. When I plan a tour, for example, with my band, I bring up some local promoters. I get paid for it, of course, and if I'm good enough to combine a few cities with each other, you can make a lot of money. In Germany, we get something between five or eight times more than here for a show, so it counts out if you play ten shows in a row. Also, with the hotels the distances are very small, and the streets are much better, man. So, it's very easy to do it this way, to earn much more money, than to do it on your own. Here, we lose money. I mean, it's not real fair from Century Media, but that's the way the business is.

Angel Dust

MU: I've heard you've had some vehicle problems. Your Albany gig got canceled. Have you had any more problems? Was that the only one, or did you have some more cancellations?

FB: Yeah, we had to cancel the show in Rimouski, in Canada. We just could play two songs in Toronto because we'd been late because of the broken car. We missed Albany, and was it another city we missed? Yeah, Cleveland got canceled, and we missed Milwaukee for the traffic jam. Yeah, quite a lotta shows missed, you know?

MU: Did the record label choose the van?

FB: Yeah, they choose the van and this van was not very good for us. It's a little easier since we got this motor home.

MU: So, this is not the same vehicle?

FB: No, it was just a regular van, you know, with a few seats. We had to do this fifteen hours. They had seats like thump, thump, thump the whole time, you know? We're like, "Are they mad, man?" When we play the last show tomorrow, we have to go back to Denver with this vehicle here.

MU: Oh, is that where you rented it from?

FB: We rented it in Toronto, but. . . we have to go back to Denver because our flight back is backwards back to Germany. The flight is from Denver 'cause it's cheaper. It is over a twenty-four hours drive. That's disgusting, isn't it? This is the distance from our city, Dortmund, to Madrid in Spain, you know? It's like, it's sick. . . just to save a few hundred bucks, you know?

MU: After this tour is done, do you guys have more touring ahead of you for this last record, before you go back into the studio?

FB: No, we go back into the studio first, probably.

MU: Do you have any tour plans for Europe or Japan or anything in the near future?

FB: Yeah, I mean, the next record shall be released in January, and I want to have a tour in January / February when it's released, to promote it. It's regular to do it.

MU: Yeah, I was surprised. I didn't know you guys were workin' on a new record already. Is the next one going to be similar, stylistically, to the last couple? Has your sound changed?

FB: No, we speed up a little. Not that much pop songs or ballads anymore, you know? It's more like the hard stuff on the last album.

MU: That kinda leads into my next question. When you guys started out you had two records 'Into the Dark Past' and 'To Dust You Will Decay' that were done ten, fifteen years ago. How do those relate stylistically to what you do now?

FB: The first album 'Into The Dark Past' was very speed metal, you know? It was something like Slayer, Metallica, something like that, very speedy, but still quite a few melodies, but not as much as Helloween, you know? It was different, also not like Kreator, something in between, maybe, Helloween or Kreator - maybe something like that.

MU: Would you say your sound was more influenced by American thrash bands than European bands at the time?

FB: Well, yeah, we've been influenced by bands like Black Sabbath as well as Motorhead, but also Exodus or Metallica or Slayer.

MU: Angel Dust took a ten year break in between records. What were the reasons for disbanding the group and staying out of it for so long? What brought you back to it?

FB: We couldn't work together with the old line-up anymore, so we split up. It was difficult to find the right guys for the band. Now, the most difficult thing was to find the right singer because I don't like these high-voiced singers, you know, like what's modern now. I don't like this kind of singing, you know? So, I was looking for somebody with a voice like Dirk, and that took a long time, man. I had a few line-ups together. I had another line-up with Bernemann from Sodom. He played at least the guitars of Sodom before he played in Angel Dust. Like this, we had many tries for comeback, but we never find the right singer. So, now we got him, and it was easy to do a comeback.

MU: What kind of problems developed with the old group?

FB: Personal problems, like one of the first guitarists, he always missed the rehearsals because he had no money to afford gasoline. So, I said, "Hey, smoke less pot or drink less beer, and you can afford some more gasoline!" I mean, you know, like that - bullshit like that.

MU: The theme behind 'Enlighten The Darkness' has a lot to do with a World War II theme. I read somewhere your grandfather was in the war?

FB: Yeah.

MU: What's the story, what were his experiences that led you to. . . ?

FB: His father, so my great-grandfather, was a resistance fighter, in the active resistance. They smuggled Jewish people from Berlin over Dortmund to Amsterdam, and he wanted his son, my grandfather, to join. This resistance group was called Esperanzo group. My grandfather said, "No, I can't. Look, I have small children, and I'm married," you know?

MU: Your brother, Steven, plays keyboards in your band. Is that weird at all playing with a sibling in the same band?

FB: No, no, it's cool. It's quite easy because sometimes we think very different, but still in the same way. So, when I'm angry about something, he can get me down. If he's very angry, I can get him down because I know the way he thinks. So, it's even easier, I guess. It's more respect.

MU: Where'd you get the name Angel Dust? It's got the obvious drug reference in there. You guys are pretty straight, traditional metal. 'Angel Dust' is kind of an odd name to fit with the band.

FB: It's taken from a Venom album. It's got a song called "Angel Dust". It was in the early 80's. In the middle of the 80's, it was very fashionable to choose a name from a song from a famous band - like "Running Wild" is a Judas Priest song. So, we just chose the Venom song "Angel Dust". We didn't know it's a drug, man - had no idea. It just sounded good, you know?

Angel Dust

MU: Have you had any people questioning the band's sound, thinking that you made more psychedelic sounds because of the name?

FB: No, no. We're known as an old-school speed or thrash metal band that now makes some different kind of music. I don't know what it is, you know? Power metal or whatever - I don't know, some metal. Often people ask me, "Yeah, why you choose your style?" Well, we got a few new members and there are more than ten years between it, you know so, that's why. . .

MU: Your regular guitar player, Bernd, he's not on this tour, right?

FB: No.

MU: What was the reason for that?

FB: We had hard fighting against each other - verbal fighting - and we decided not to work together.

MU: Is he out, then?

FB: Yeah. This is the new guitarist, look. . . Ritchie Wilkison. Ritchie's much more into this harder stuff, you know, and I'm personally much more into the harder stuff, as well. So, next album will be more like. . .

MU: So, who are you listening to these days that's making you go to a more speed / thrash sound?

FB: It's just that it always has been in me, you know? I was just one of a bunch of five people, and all the other guys didn't really want to do the speed metal stuff. It's not speed metal that I want to do, just a little more aggression in the music, like good songs like "Let Me Live" - more aggression.

MU: After Angel Dust broke up, during that period, you played in a band called The Crows?

FB: Yeah.

MU: What kind of band was that?

FB: It was a power metal band, German power metal band.

MU: Did you guys release a record?

FB: Yeah, it's on Century Media Records, as well. So, I did it twice. (laughter. Someone in the room says, "God, man, slit your own throat.") Yeah, I'm a real idiot, man.

MU: Besides the touring, are you happy with how Century Media handles most of your band's business, in general? Were you approached by other labels, as well, that offered something comparable or better?

FB: Yeah, we had a few other offers from other companies, but the Century Media offer seemed to be the best, so we choose that one.

MU: Best in terms of compensation or what?

FB: Yeah, mainly in the world distribution, and they're quite big like that. So, we decided to. . . Well, the big labels are able to push you and give you good tours and stuff to promote your album.

MU: It appears that in Europe, metal is still pretty popular compared to here. In Europe, compared to pop and other forms of music, does metal stack up against that? Can metal bands still sell records and compete with other forms of music? Is it ever on the radio?

FB: No, you don't have that much metal on the radio, just the very popular bands like Metallica or this so-called "nu-metal" or newer metal, like Creed or whoever. You don't hear stuff like, let's say, Hammerfall or Slayer or something. Still, metal is very big in Europe, especially in Germany. Metal does thirty percent of the chart entries each month. That says a lot.

MU: Have you ever heard any of your songs on some of the smaller radio stations? In Europe, does MTV air those type of videos?

FB: No. They used to. We also have a German music channel called Viva. They used to have a heavy metal show once a week, but for some reasons they just take it away. I don't know why. Maybe the metal fans don't really watch MTV, I don't know, but we don't have it anymore. But in the 80's, we used to have a few shows like "Mosh" from Rock Hard magazine. That was quite cool, you know?

MU: Have you guys done a video before?

FB: Oh yeah, we did two videos in the 80's on our own, man, funny stuff, I can tell you. We used to do a video for "Nightmare" and it was a real professional video. I'd been a cable boy, but we had a real director who did promotion videos - advertising videos for companies. He was very good. In the end, Century Media said, "No, we can't afford the cutting." So, we had to pay seven-thousand deutsche marks - that's three-and-a-half thousand dollars - for nothing. They didn't finish it, you know - that's difficult. We could sell a hundred-thousand copies and we don't earn money.

MU: So, the tours that you've done with, like, Jag Panzer and Lefay, were those ones that you put together on your own, or that the label put together?

FB: No, the labels put it together. We had one good tour with Overkill and Nevermore in Germany that was quite good. But, for example, in the 80's we did the tour with Running Wild, and it was a sold-out tour. Every show was sold-out. . . thousand, thousand five-hundred people. Every show was sold out. I miss a little bit this 80's feeling - you know, doing sold-out shows. In those days we pulled in our own six-hundred people. It was cool. Now, we have to fight for maybe two-hundred, you know, that's the difference.

MU: Were you apprehensive at all about coming to the States because your style of music is not popular on a commercial level?

FB: No, that's okay, you know? We've never been here, so this is okay for us. It's okay for us being a supporting act and everything. We don't simply come here and expect to be a big headlining act, but just the way we've got treated on this tour wasn't that good at all. We're not used to that in Europe. I would like to say it's more professional, you know? If you need a new tour manager, for example, you ring up the company and say, "We need immediately a new tour manager."

MU: Does that professionalism come also from the label in Europe?

FB: I don't know. I don't know, but at least the tour promoters, they're no criminals, you know, like here (chuckling in the background). . .


review of Angel Dust 'Enlighten the Darkness'






Interview: Anthony Syme, Garth German
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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